Eve relates her disturbing dream to Adam: a voice told her to come to the Tree of Good and Evil. There she saw an angelic form eat the fruit, inviting her to do the same.
Adam comforts her. He explains faculties of the Soul: Reason is the divine faculty for gaining knowledge, but Fancy, that gathers data from the senses, mimics Reason and may produce imaginary dreams. It is not the same as doing evil.
They sing their morning prayers, and in heaven , God calls the Archangel Raphael to go to Adam and Eve to warn them of their danger. God explains Adam has free will and could fall through the lies of Satan.
Raphael descends from heaven and visits with Adam and Eve. Raphael hails Eve as “Mother of Mankind.” He then gives an account of “the chain of being” that connects God to the lowest creature. He says that Adam and Eve may evolve from bodily life to spiritual life, climbing ever nearer to God “if ye be found obedient.”
Adam says, what do you mean, how could we disobey? Raphael explains they have free will like all rational beings. Even the angels in heaven stay there because of obedience. He informs Adam that some angels are fallen.
Raphael tells of the war in heaven. It started when God announced the Son as Vice-gerent of heaven. The faithful angels took part in the Feast of Love together with God, but Lucifer (Satan) began his conspiracy to overthrow God as a tyrant.
Raphael tells the story of one of Lucifer’s subordinates, Abdiel, the faithful angel who did not follow Satan. Abdiel argues that obedience is the same as freedom, because without God, what freedom is there? We are all one, he says, and “His Laws our Laws.” Satan, however, claims he is “self-begot” and owes God nothing.
This book is a foretaste of the fall, through Eve’s dream, and the story of the war in heaven. Once again, we get Satan’s view that obedience is weakness, and we see him practicing his divisive tactics in heaven. It is a fearful example for Adam, because if the angels cannot stand, how can a man?
The actual fall of Adam and Eve does not take place until Book 9. The point of getting so much discussion about it before they make the fatal move is to make the audience, as well as the characters, fully aware of the alternatives and consequences. Raphael’s stories illustrate why it is so important to follow God’s command.
Raphael explains the two ways open to Adam and Eve. They can be faithful and evolve to enjoy eternal life with God, or they can follow Satan’s example and know good only as a memory, a contrast to evil. The second way is the way of suffering, as Satan is constantly bemoaning his lost happiness.
Abdiel, like Gabriel, exposes Satan’s false reasoning and is the example of one who has been tested and stands up to Satan. Abdiel explains that divine love is uniting and elevating to all. It is not oppressive. God is not trying to keep anyone down.
In God’s speech to the angels we get the true definition of disobedience: disobedience is not about breaking the rules. He who disobeys “breaks union.” Obedience is thus union with God, the highest good and bliss. Satan can only deny God and thus deny himself, as Abdiel says.
Paradise Lost: Book 5