Mystical Realms Newsletter for July, 2007
And welcome to my newsletter for July, 2007. Please feel free to
forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up
with me! To receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me a note
or subscribe online at: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms
. Notices of new paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.
We have been living in a wildly Cartesian world for quite some time
now; for many generations, in fact. And the rules of measurement and
scientific method, so powerful for helping us to manipulate our
physical world, have colonized every facet of our lives: education,
psychology, economics, politics, even art and theology. "Scientism"
has become rather like the proverbial man with a hammer; to him, all
the world is a nail. And since nails are dead things, all the world
becomes, likewise, dead.
By the time I reached high school, I had already absorbed large parts
of this matrix of mathematical materialism. I had suffered through
public and private school laboratory experiments, filmstrips on
engineering breakthroughs, and lectures on temperance and proper
hygiene. It was only then that I stumbled onto J.R.R. Tolkien's "The
Lord of the Rings".
And that encounter was like a downpour in the desert.
I'd never heard of a world like Middle Earth, in fiction or fact. And
there was something about the place that I just couldn't shake from my
I had been an aficionado of science fiction as well as of more
conventional fictional fare for years, and I had had my occasional
deep desires to walk with Muad'Dib or Mowgli. But this world of
Tolkien's was not only more complete than Arrakis or Kipling's
jungle; it made sense. It felt "right" in a way that other fiction,
even when set in more "realistic" worlds, did not. And even more than
that, the tales of Middle Earth showed me a completely new way to look
at the world I already inhabited.
I remember summer afternoons reading "The Fellowship of the Ring,"
sitting on the lawn after a day of work at my high school. I remember
traveling with the Fellowship south from Rivendell, through Moria,
Lothlorien, and down the Great River to Amon Hen. And when I looked up
from my pages, the trees around me seemed richer in hue and more alive
than they'd seemed before. The sky was a more brilliant cerulean; the
birdsong was pregnant with hidden portents.
This is "recovery", in the parlance of J.R.R. Tolkien, as described in
his essay "On Fairy Stories". This is the process of allowing the
world to be dipped in myth and magic
so that we can see it anew.
And it occurred to me then, as it often does now, that the process of
dulling ourselves to the wonder of the world around us is, perhaps, a
result of the almost imperceptible accumulation of evil in and around
ourselves. And by this I don't mean the Evil with a capital "E" that
accounts for murder and theft, but the even more treacherous
slippery-slope sort that leads to diffidence and despair.
If we realize, as Tolkien did, that there is a source of evil in our
own world just as there is in Middle Earth, then perhaps this evil
colonizes us in the same way that a false "scientism" colonizes our
western mindset. Perhaps we become dull and hardened because little
evils accumulate in our minds and bodies and stiffen us, like a slow
poison, making us more and more unable to move gracefully through our
world. Beams seal our eyes, eardrums fossilize, and once elastic limbs
lock, preventing us from seeing, from hearing, from touching.
And one of the only ways we can begin to shake loose from our bonds is
to immerse ourselves, as Thomas Aquinas suggests, in the true, the
good, and the beautiful.
Even decades after our first sojourn in the Shire, many of us feel
compelled to return over and over again to Middle Earth, year after
year. And we are always saddened to see Sam return from the Grey
Havens and proclaim "I'm home!" Because we know that, with these final
words from "The Lord of the Rings", the whisperings of the trees
around our houses will fade and then cease, the dancing light on the
rain puddles will dim, and the smell of the damp earth will lose its
But, as with prayer and repentance, we can always start anew. We can
refuse to accept the departure of the light and the deadening of our
souls, just as we can refuse Descartes' Faustian formula. To do this,
we must remember that the path forward is always open. Tolkien showed
us a world that makes sense, but only God can lead us there. And the
only thing ultimately standing between us and Middle Earth is our own
Nai Eru laitalyë (may God bless you),
- I have a couple of exciting event announcements that I should be
able to share before August look for some interesting news soon!
- The July/August issue of the St. Austin Review (StAR)
http://www.staustinreview.com/ ) is due out at any moment. It features
a number of excellent articles on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, plus my
latest "Fenestrae Coeli" article on the paintings of Jason Jenicke.
Jenicke's work is marvelous, and it can be seen online at
- I have completed the preliminary splitting of my website,
www.JefMurray.com, into two different sites. The latter will continue
to highlight my oil-on-canvas paintings of sacred images, imagined
fairy tales, and scenes from Middle Earth. The second site, at
www.JefMurrayWildlife.com , will include all of my oil-on-wood cutout
paintings ("Wildlife Silhouettes") of "critters", both realistic and
whimsical. Please check them out and let me know what you think! I'd
also appreciate pointers to any problems or inaccuracies you come
across with either site!
- At http://www.JefMurrayWildlife.com , I'm continuing the long task
of placing listings of _all_ available Wildlife Silhouette originals
so that they can be purchased online. There are four galleries ("River
& Reef", "Cloud & Cliff", "Field & Forest", and "Myth & Magic"), that
highlight aquatic creatures, birds, land animals, and mythological
beasts. JefMurrayWildlife.com is oriented towards nature/wildlife
lovers, so if you have friends who love the great outdoors, please let
them know about the site! I think scuba divers and aquarists, in
particular, will enjoy it!