Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
- [Sending this again to make its formatting readable. CFH]
On Jun 11, 2009, at 4:32 AM, John Davis wrote:
> >Catholic thought is not consistent with moral relativism.
> >There _is_ real truth, there _is_ real evil,although
> >there are areas of difficulty in discerning them at times.
> Here I fear you are straying from discussion about myths - be they
> Christian or otherwise - into dogmatic statements of belief in such
No, he isn't, John.
Jef is stating one of the most crucial elements that distinguish the
Catholic world view of both Tolkien and _LotR_ from that of (most)
modernist/humanist/pagan authors and works.
> The lists people have given of evidence of Christian/Catholic
> elements to characters and the world do indeed show this. But
> similar lists could and have been drawn up - often with the same
> elements - to show evidence of non Christian elements.
I would like to see your list. My suspicion (see below) is that you
have a very narrow view of Catholic theology, philosophy, and
metaphysics, and wrongly exclude categories from it.
> What is Theoden's belief in the halls of his ancestors if not a
> version of Norse beliefs?
That there are pagan peoples in Middle-earth no more renders _LotR_ or
its worldview pagan than does the presence of many, many pagan peoples
in the Bible renders it or its worldview pagan. The fact remains that
while Theoden's belief here is never affirmed for Middle-earth, either
by Tolkien or by the Wise, what is affirmed by these shows that the
nature of Middle-earth is metaphysically, theologically, and
philosophically Catholic (again, though, within the context of its pre-
Christian, pre-Covenant setting), and thus amply supports Tolkien's
own characterization of _LotR_ as "fundamentally Catholic".
> What are elves and nature spirits if not the very things that
> Wiccans and neo-Pagans believe in and worship?
Neither elves nor spirits nor even (small-g) gods (which latter are in
fact referred to in the Bible) are inherently excluded by Judeo-
Christian tradition (which moreover positively affirms belief in both
angels and demons): the crucial difference is that they are not
accorded worship, nor do they possess any authority over man (save
what we choose to give them) or any truth independent of God (who is
> What is a barrow wight if not a Neolithic ancestor-god demonised by
> Christianity (they were once fine men, to paraphrase)?
Where on earth does Tolkien give _any_ indication that his barrow
wight is "a Neolithic ancestor-god demonised by Christianity"? His
wights are the lingering spirits of deceased men. Period. Catholic
theology does not exclude the possibility of lingering spirits of
deceased men. Moreover, Tolkien's wight hasn't been "demonised" by
_anyone_: it really truly _is_ a malevolent spirit.
> What is the song of the Ainur if not a very literal interpretation
> of the Hindu Song of Creation?
In Catholic theology God created the angels before He created the
world, and he brought the world into existence through His Word. And
there are in fact among the Church Fathers some suggestions that
angels aided in the creation and ordering of the world. So Tolkien
here extends Catholic theology creatively, but does not contradict it
in any fundamental way.
> Who are the Istari if not Buddhist Avatars?
Tolkien tells us that they are messengers: i.e., _angels_. There is no
hint that they are Buddhist _anythings_.
> The answer, of course, is that they are also representative of
> Christian beliefs, and no doubt many other beliefs besides.
Except that in order to make them "representative" of those other
beliefs, you've imported elements not actually present in Tolkien's
depictions ("worship", "demonised Neolithic ancestor-god", "avatar",
etc.); each of which in fact demonstrates an important _distinction_
between the worldview of _LotR_ and the pagan worldview.
> So to repeat my point, because something is compatible with
> Christian belief, that does not make it solely Christian.
No one said that it did, John. You're defending a position that no one
has (yet) argued against. But neither does the presence of what might
seem at first to be pagan elements render _LotR_ un-Catholic.
> As a final aside - and I admit to a personal bugbear here - I have
> often come upon a tendency of Christianity to claim all that is good
> as Christian. And this seems to be an example of this. Something may
> be good, and/or reflect and be consistent with Christianity, without
> _being_ Christian, or at least, without being other things as well.
Again, you are defending a position that no one has (yet) argued
against. In fact, Jef specifically cited the Catholic concept of
Natural Law, which holds your very point: that goodness and virtue can
and do exist even among pagans. But it also holds that that goodness
and virtue is ultimately due to God, who creates us all and inscribes
the Natural Law in all our hearts.
- Luthien: Alas! My beloved has perished! I must go to the Halls of Mandos to beg --
Beren: I'm not dead yet.
Luthien: Shh! To beg Mandos to bring him back --
Beren: I don't want to go on the cart.
Luthien: Shut up! I'm having a dramatic moment here.
Beren: I feel happy...
Luthien: (Nods to nearest elf with big club)
Big Club: Thud.
Luthien: Okay, I'm off to the Halls of Mandos. See ya. (Falls down)
>From: John Davis <john@...>________________________________________
>Sent: Jun 15, 2009 3:48 AM
>Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
>Perhaps he was just mostly dead.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: scribbler@...
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 4:40 PM
> Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Re: Catholicism and Lord of the Rings
> > I've always wondered -- was Beren really dead? Or was he merely so close
> > to death that no one around could tell the difference? Was he really
> > resurrected, or simply revived?
> > If the Gift of Men is beyond even the Valar's understanding, it doesn't
> > make sense that Mandos would have the power to give Beren back his life,
> > no matter how persuasively Luthien sang.
> > emerdavid
> Well, it would seem incongruous that Mandos himself would not be able to
> distinguish between a "nearly dead" mortal soul and a "dead" one. Mandos
> is made anxious about the situation because Beren WILL NOT GO ON the way
> he is supposed to.
> It seems to me, that Beren's soul held onto the world to an unexpected
> degree, instead of passing out of the world. If he had passed out of the
> world, then I agree, Luthien's singing would have been tragic in that it
> would be to no point -- Beren would not be *there* to be returned. But
> that's not what Tolkien sets as the situation. He has Beren "hanging
> around" unexpectedly.
> I say - Beren was dead, but not "departed". A unique situation that the
> Valar could actually address.
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