This is a volume for which I have been searching for many years. I first found a reference to it in the original Index Librorum Prohibitorum. By the fourth edition of this list, Pair of Dice Lost had been removed from the list, perhaps an indication of just how seriously the Catholic Church took this heresy.
While I have still been unable to find a copy of Ludlow’s work, I have at least found a review written by Tad Tuleja in his Catalogue of Lost Books.
An engraving from the original manuscript shows that Michelangelo was aware of this heresy although he could only code an allusion in his work.
It is also probable that Albert Einstein had access to this manuscript and his reading of it, coupled with his rejection of the heresy, led to his famous comment that, “God does not play dice with the Universe.”
Pair of Dice Lost (1671), Jeremy Ludlow
John Milton’s great poem Paradise Lost covers the biblical ground from the revolt of the rebel angels to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. Milton’s younger contemporary Ludlow, who was “enthralled by Mr. Milton’s sonorities,” nevertheless felt the epic lacked something, and he endeavored to provide it in a “predendum.” What was lacking, he felt, was a fuller depiction of Heaven before the revolt, when Lucifer was still the Son of Light and the favorite of God’s admiring legions. “It was Mr. Milton’s own picture of the Archfiend,” he explained, “that compelled me to intrude myself into his poem: for I felt that a Being so fully tortured must speak his case with the lacrimae doloris sui, and not the bombast of a Drunkard caught out at tippling.”
Ludlow was not the first or the last to question the rhetorical excesses of Milton’s “Archfiend,” though he was certainly unique in his response. Pair of Dice Lost describes the “halcyon aeons” from the beginning of Creation to Satan’s defection, during which the Creator and his luminous companions amuse themselves by running interplanetary races (Satan has the record for the Mercuryto-Jupiter circuit), quaffing an ethereal beverage called “nebula,” and when they tire of these exertions, gambling. Using polyfaceted “cosmic” dice, they play not for gain but for preeminence: the winners get to oversee the Milky Way for the next millennia, or (an even more coveted prize) to sit closer to God’s throne.
All goes well in this celestial entertainment palace until, around nineteen aeons A.C., Satan comes to a disturbing realization: since God is both omniscient and omnipotent, there is no assurance He is not cheating at the game, either by placing his bets on a foreseeable outcome or by manipulating the dice as they fall. The favorite angel broaches this sticky subject, and is informed magisterially, “Have you then invented Morality, my shining One? And when I breathed upon the waters, where were you?”
Understandably upset at this response, Satan muses darkly, “If the Almighty will not then set down Rules, why his loyal subjects must need set down their Own.” So thinking, he steals the cosmic dice, hurls them cavalierly in the direction of the planet Earth, and waits for judgment. It is not long in coming. Unable to tease an apology out of Satan for “rashly picking up My marbles and going home,” God banishes him from the celestial presence and condemns him to an eternity below on Earth. “On thy belly thou must goe,” Ludlow echoes Milton, “and eat dirt with the creatures that I send you; so much thou must endure until thou save my dice, and restore them to their proper horne.”
Satan never does find the dice – which is why, in Ludlow’s wry estimation, “This green yet besieged orb of mud and mistiness/ spins yet uncertain, the Almighty’s plan defied.” The Latitudinarian implications of this comment won Ludlow no friends among the Puritan hierarchy, and indeed his “spirited despatch” was soon made anathema both by Canterbury and (redundantly) by Rome. In the bitter whimsy of its theme – his hint that God himself may be out of control-it speaks more strongly to the modern temper than to Ludlow’s own.
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