Satan and his rebellious hosts had been cast from heaven to the fiery depth of hell. In spite of his despair, Satan rallied his followers. After an ambitious mining operation in the dismal soil of hell, they built a magnificent structure called Pandemonium.
In response to the summons of Satan, the fallen angels assembled in their newly built edifice. From his lofty seat, Satan made a sort of state of the nation address.
He first pointed out an advantage of their new habitation. In heaven, an angel would probably envy those who enjoyed a higher rank. In contrast, no one would envy his superiors in hell, since higher rank meant a greater share of endless pain. As a result, the spirits in hell could achieve a more perfect union than was possible in heaven.
With this advantage, Satan thought that they could regain their just inheritance. He wanted to hear some opinions on how best to achieve this goal. He suggested two possibilities: open war or covert guile.
Moloch was the first to speak. He was the strongest and fiercest spirit among the fallen angels, and despair made him even fiercer than before. He wanted open war. He suggested that they arm themselves with the flames of hell and make an immediate assault on heaven. He suggested that the Almighty could not punish them more severely than He already had. If he reduced them to nothingness, at least they would no longer suffer pain. On the other hand, if their substance was immortal and could not be destroyed, they could disturb God’s throne by making continual assaults on the celestial realm. Even if they were not victorious, they would avenge themselves to some extent.
Belial spoke next. He was gracious and urbane, and could speak effectively. He could make the worse arguments appear to be the better ones. He was no hero. When it was time to do valiant deeds, he was timid and slothful.
Belial did not want to fight, either by open warfare or by guile. He noted that Moloch had grounded his desire to fight on despair and utter dissolution. By so doing, Moloch showed that he did not believe that an assault on heaven would meet with success.
Belial did not want to be reduced to nothingness. Even though he was in pain, Belial cherished his intellectual being. He valued his thoughts that wandered through eternity, and he did not want to be lost in the wide womb of uncreated night.
In spite of Moloch’s contention to the contrary, Belial believed that the Almighty could give them worse sufferings than they were currently experiencing. For example, He could chain them forever to the bottom of an adjacent lake of fire.
Belial thought that if they quietly suffered the punishment to which they were subjected, the anger of the Almighty would become less fierce, and the fires of hell would slacken. Moreover, they probably would get used to the infernal environment as time passed, so that they would not feel the pain as keenly as they did at present.
Though he clothed his words with the garb of reason, what Belial advocated was ignoble ease and peaceful sloth.
Mammon spoke next. He also spoke in favor of peace. His reasons were somewhat different from those of Belial. He liked the freedom that they enjoyed in hell. In heaven, they would be forced to praise the Almighty with forced hallelujahs, but they suffered no such obligation in hell.
He thought that hell offered interesting possibilities. It had gems and gold, and its inhabitants were endowed with skill. With proper industry, he thought that they could make hell resemble heaven.
Mammon’s speech was greeted with enthusiastic applause. The fallen spirits remembered how they were afflicted by thunder and by the sword of Michael when they fought in heaven. They thought that another such battle was worse than hell.
Beelzebub then arose to address the assembly. He began his speech with the words: “Thrones and imperial powers, offspring of heaven, ethereal virtues, or these titles must we now renounce, and changing style be called princes of hell?” He pointed out that hell was their dungeon, not a safe retreat. Hell was part of the kingdom of the Almighty, who would rule over them with an iron scepter, just as he ruled with His golden scepter in heaven.
For this reason, it was useless to debate whether there should be peace or war. Because of their current situation, war was mandatory. Their only course of action was to dampen the joy of their Conqueror in any way they could.
Instead of trying to make an assault on the difficult fortress of heaven, Beelzebub suggested that they embark on an easier enterprise. The Almighty was planning to create another world for a race called man. Perhaps the defense of this place would be left to its puny inhabitants. If so, they might be able to destroy it with the fires of hell, or they might take possession of it, either driving out the inhabitants or seducing them to their party. This would surely dampen the joy of the Almighty.
Beelzebub’s suggestion had originated in the evil mind of Satan himself. The fallen angels liked the proposal and voted to adopt it as their course of action.
Beelzebub then commended them for their wise decision. He suggested that this course of action might win for them a better home than hell.
He then asked who they were going to send to reconnoiter this new creation. Someone would have to cross the difficult abyss that separated hell from this blessed isle of light. He would have to elude the angels who served as sentries for the Almighty.
In response, the fallen angels sat mute. They contemplated the perilous undertaking and were filled with dismay.
Satan himself rose to speak. He told his followers that there were good reasons for the dismay that they felt. It was difficult to escape from their prison. Hell was a huge convex of fire that immured them round ninefold. It had adamantine gates that prohibited all egress. If anyone succeeded in passing these barriers, the profound void of unessential Night would receive him and threaten him with utter loss of being. If he succeeded in passing this abyss, he might encounter unknown dangers when he reached the new world.
Satan volunteered to go on this dangerous mission. He would accept as great a share of hazard as of honor, due alike to him who reigns. During his absence, he suggested that his followers do whatever they could to make hell more tolerable.
Having uttered these words, Satan ended the debate by rising from his seat, lest other prominent demons volunteer to undertake the mission and thus become rivals of Satan in the estimation of the rank and file. Since further volunteers would certainly be refused, a demon could win cheap honor for himself be pretending that he wanted to go.
The Stygian counsel then dissolved. The fallen angels rose with their chief, and praised him for his matchless courage.
The demons scattered abroad and attempted to entertain themselves during the irksome hours that they would have to spend in hell until their chief returned. Some contended in Olympic-like games. Others took a harp and sang of their own heroic deeds during their battle in heaven and concluded with an elegy on their ultimate defeat. Others sat on a hill and pondered such topics as providence, foreknowledge, free will, and fate. Others explored the different regions in hell, hoping to find a more comfortable habitation. They explored the four infernal rivers that disgorged their baleful streams into the burning lake: the Styx, the Acheron, the Cocytus, and the Phlegethon. They even discovered Lethe, the waters of which could cause them to forget all their pain. However, it was impossible to taste its waters. Medusa guarded the ford, and the waters fled whenever anyone attempted to taste them.
Beyond Lethe was a frozen continent buffeted by perpetual storms of whirlwind and dire hail. The hail never melted, but gathered in a heap. Ice and deep snow covered the continent.
The explorers traversed many a dark and dreary vale and many a dolorous region, but they found no rest. They found perverse, prodigious things that were more monstrous than the gorgons, hydras, and chimaeras of fable.
In the meantime, Satan managed to reach the nine gates of hell: three made of brass, three of iron, and three of adamantine rock. Before the gate, two figures sat. One of them was a fair woman on top and an ugly serpent below. She had hell hounds barking continuously about her middle. The other figure was a shapeless mass, with no distinguishable members, joints, or limbs. It was black as night, fierce as ten furies, and terrible as hell.
The monster approached Satan with terrible strides. Satan fearlessly demanded: “Whence and what art thou, execrable shape?” He announced his intention to pass through the gates of hell and told the monster to get out of his way.
The monster recognized Satan and told him to return to his punishment. After this brief altercation, the two antagonists were poised for battle. A heroic struggle would have followed if the snaky sorceress had not intervened.
She called Satan her father and begged him not to hurt his own son. She also urged the monster not to strike his own father with his mortal dart. The monster stopped threatening Satan. Satan was puzzled by the woman’s words. He said that he never saw her before and asked her to explain herself.
Her name was Sin. She reminded Satan that while he was conspiring against the Almighty in heaven, she had emerged from his head fully armed. She was beautiful at the time and looked just like her father (Satan). She pleased Satan and all his fellow-conspirators. Satan dallied with her in heaven, and their dalliance resulted in conception.
When Satan and his hosts were expelled from heaven, she also was consigned to hell. From the Almighty, she received the key to the gates of hell. She was never supposed to open them.
While in hell, she gave birth to the monster. While giving birth, her entrails were severely damaged, so that her nether extremities assumed a serpentine aspect. The name of the monster was Death. Satan was his father.
Death chased his mother and raped her. Their offspring were the hell hounds that barked around her. They occasionally entered her womb and ate her entrails.
Death was hungry. He was tempted to eat his mother for lack of other food. However, he knew that his end was intimately connected with hers. Besides, she would be a bitter morsel.
After hearing this explanation, Satan explained that he was on a dangerous mission that would free Sin, Death, and all the fallen angels from the dismal house of pain wherein they were suffering. He was heading for a new creation where the Almighty had placed a race of upstart creatures. If he succeeded in winning this new abode for himself and his followers, she would live at ease, and Death would have plenty to eat.
Death was pleased with Satan’s words. Although Sin had been commanded not to unlock the gates, she thought that it was better to obey her father than the Almighty, who hated her and consigned her to the torments of hell.
She was able to open the gates, but it was beyond her power to close them again.
For a while, Satan stood and contemplated the abyss that he had to cross. In this chaotic realm, he beheld a terrific battle between hot, cold, moist, and dry. Chaos served as umpire for their incessant wars, but his decisions only added to the confusion. Chance also served as arbiter and governor.
With bold audacity, Satan spread his wings and began to cross the abyss. After he had flown many leagues, he suddenly entered a vast vacuity and began to fall. He would still be falling to this day if he had not encountered a tumultuous cloud filled with fire and niter. This cloud not only stopped his fall, but hurled him many miles aloft.
Satan continued onward, sometimes walking, sometimes flying. Sometimes he had to swim, wade or creep.
Eventually Satan heard a wild hubbub of stunning sounds and confused voices. He headed toward the noise to ask directions. He saw Chaos on a throne. Beside him sat Night, his consort. Orcus, Ades, and Demogorgon stood nearby. Chance, Tumult, Confusion, and Discord were also present.
Satan explained that he had not come into the kingdom of Chaos as a spy. He was merely crossing the abyss to reach the realm of light. He was halfway lost. He asked Chaos how he could reach the confines of heaven, or preferably a place that the Ethereal King had recently wrested from the realm of Chaos. To encourage Chaos to give him the desired directions, he pointed out that he was planning to reduce this new creation to its original darkness and erect the standard of ancient Night.
After receiving the desired directions, Satan continued his difficult journey. Finally, he beheld the celestial realm, where he once lived, and the new creation, which was hanging from the celestial realm by a golden chain. To this new creation he hastened, eager to avenge himself on the Almighty.
While Satan had found it difficult to cross the abyss that separated hell from the world, the passage became easy at a later date. After Satan seduced the human race, Sin and Death, following the path that Satan had traveled, paved a broad and beaten way over the abyss. Since then, the devils have been able to reach our world easily.
Literature.Org: Paradise Lost