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Table of Contents
LINES 451-561. AFTER-DINNER CONVERSATION IN PARADISE
Seeing that Raphael has enjoyed his dinner, Adam leads the conversation into a comparison of life in Heaven and on earth. Raphael, the celestial school-teacher, provides information on the natural order. Everything begins the same, then becomes more refined as it approaches God. Even the flowers are more spiritual than the roots of a plant. When man eats the fruits, the nourishment produces the "vital spirits," life, sense, fancy, and understanding, which make the soul reasonable. Reason is the ruling faculty for both men and angels, but angels have "intuitive" reason (line 488), which means they understand at once, while man has "discursive" reason: he has to work things out logically. The food Raphael eats on earth is of the same kind as that in Heaven, but less refined because of its greater distance from God.
However-and there's irony in this-if Adam and Eve "be found obedient," they will probably become angels too and understand more than their human reason presently allows them.
Adam notices the fatal phrase and asks innocently how they can disobey a God who has been so good to them. Raphael offers another lecture, this one on the free will given to man by God. You'll recognize the main ideas from God's explanation of free will in Book III. God has given man and angels free will so that they can demonstrate their obedience: "freely we serve / Because we freely love." But already some have disobeyed and fallen into Hell.
Naturally Adam wants to know the whole story, since until this time he hadn't understood his situation or any of the history of the War in Heaven and his subsequent creation.