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"Was Tolkien a Manichean?"

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  • Jan Theodore Galkowski
    BTW, the original article Was Tolkien a Manichean? appears in Amon Hen 179 of the Tolkien Society. ... Diamond, it s called Prophets in English, however,
    Message 1 of 8 , Jun 11, 2002
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      BTW, the original article "Was Tolkien a Manichean?"
      appears in Amon Hen 179 of the Tolkien Society.

      >I know Tenakh, but which book is Nevayyim, please?
      >Diamond Proudbrook

      Diamond, it's called "Prophets" in English, however,
      imperfect a translation that is.

      And jamcconney@... wrote:

      >But of course there is power outside of God's omnipotent
      >control--because
      >that's the way the universe was created. We all were
      created as moral,
      >spiritual beings endowed with free will, and our free will
      is one thing
      >God
      >never will take away from us, even when we use it wrongly.

      Well, some may believe that, but there are a
      significant number of people who believe God created
      EVERYTHING and are willing to deal with theodicy rather
      than diminish God's primacy. The most, for instance,
      the Talmudists were willing to give up was to say that
      the Torah was coeternal with God but everything else
      was created by God.

      This is a non-trivial problem. Indeed, in many senses,
      the animism which is popular through human history in
      many places and survives even monotheism in Judaism,
      Christianity, and Islam in the form of elfin creatures,
      or angels, or sprites, or djinns, or jinis, is a more
      natural sort of belief. Polytheism or animism has no
      problem at all explaining why evil or "unnice" things
      are in the world. Many who are widely considered
      middle-of-the-road archaeologists believe such animism-like
      worship, especially of household or tribal gods, was
      typical of the folks we consider ancient Jews or
      Israelites. See

      http://www.bibleinterp.com/commentary/Finkelstein_Silberman022001.htm

      and

      http://www.bibleinterp.com/news.htm

      As a Jew myself, and in fact a convert to Judaism from
      Christianity, I see no problem with this at all. The Torah
      is how we see ourselves. It's our Illiad, although a bit
      bigger and more compiled. And we all are Leaky's Homo
      narrans after all. Stories are SO powerful, and can drive
      things in themselves.

      Many people recognize not only the size of the
      problem of theodicy in monotheism but its implications if
      it's resolved one way versus another. This has affected,
      for instance, translation of Biblical passages. (This
      shouldn't be a surprise: "Translation is the first and most

      important form of commentary".) I tracked down, for
      instance, a specific reference to God's creation of evil in

      Isaiah, documenting it on my Web site at

      http://www.algebraist.com/isaiah45_7.htm

      And did someone mention gnosticism? That's not quite
      the same as Manicheanism. They influenced each other
      and there's a suspicion a lot of Augustine's writings
      were influenced by the prevailing interest in these, up
      to the limit where what apparently is a
      misrepresentation of true Manicheanism was declared a
      heresy at one of the Church Councils (Trent?). But I
      feel gnosticism is hardly dead. Check out

      http://www.algebraist.com/newgnosis.htm

      Pardon the music there. Can't shut it off just now.
      Sorry.

      --Jan






      =====
      Jan Theodore Galkowski, The Smalltalk Idiom
      CodingWizard@...
      http://www.scguild.com/usr/1707I.html
      ***********************************************************
      Ted Nelson's ZigZag� "It may well change your life."
      See http://www.xanadu.net/zigzag/.

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    • trudygshaw
      ... From: Jan Theodore Galkowski To: Cc: ; ;
      Message 2 of 8 , Jun 12, 2002
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        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Jan Theodore Galkowski" <disneylogic@...>
        To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
        Cc: <tgshaw@...>; <Odzer@...>; <jamcconney@...>
        Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2002 9:50 AM
        Subject: [mythsoc] "Was Tolkien a Manichean?"


        > And jamcconney@... wrote:
        >
        > >But of course there is power outside of God's omnipotent
        > >control--because
        > >that's the way the universe was created. We all were
        > created as moral,
        > >spiritual beings endowed with free will, and our free will
        > is one thing
        > >God
        > >never will take away from us, even when we use it wrongly.
        >
        > Well, some may believe that, but there are a
        > significant number of people who believe God created
        > EVERYTHING and are willing to deal with theodicy rather
        > than diminish God's primacy. The most, for instance,
        > the Talmudists were willing to give up was to say that
        > the Torah was coeternal with God but everything else
        > was created by God.
        >


        The following aren't meant to be arguments, rather questions on these
        concepts that seem so central to Tolkien's thinking (free will; the nature
        of evil) --

        Do the two beliefs discussed above necessarily contradict each other; i.e.,
        is saying that God created us with free will the same as saying that God
        didn't create everything?

        Is there any form of communication between these ideas and that of evil
        being a lack, or diminishment of good, rather than an actual entity in
        itself, therefore not needing to be "created" as such [per Tolkien's comment
        about Frodo recognizing Gollum's "damaged good"]?

        -- Trudy
      • Jan Theodore Galkowski
        On Wed, 12 Jun 2002 at 07:14:22 -0500 ... Indeed they don t contradict one another, particularly if one accepts God as the all-Creator, including what we
        Message 3 of 8 , Jun 12, 2002
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          On Wed, 12 Jun 2002 at 07:14:22 -0500
          "trudygshaw" <tgshaw@...> wrote:

          >Do the two beliefs discussed above necessarily
          >contradict each other; i.e., is saying that God
          >created us with free will the same as saying that
          >God didn't create everything?

          Indeed they don't contradict one another,
          particularly if one accepts God as the
          all-Creator, including what we interpret as
          evil. Free will is sometimes appealed to as
          the reason why there is what we call evil in
          the world. Take away the need to explain
          evil, and you don't need to blame it on free
          will. Still, free will can very much exist.
          Or, perhaps, one can have free will in the
          sense it is meant in Buddhism but also karma,
          from Buddhism and other eastern religions,
          which influences but doesn't truly determine
          choices.

          The trouble most people have is reconciling
          an all-good, all-powerful God with the
          existence of evil. Yet, earthquakes and
          volcanoes can do great harm but we don't
          usually consider THEM evil and won't until
          our technology (or magic, if you will) gets
          much bigger and they might be harnessed as
          weapons. It could be, and it's a theological
          question, that once God makes rules about how the
          universe works, God needs to obey them. If God
          doesn't maybe something Really Bad happens.

          --Jan



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        • Christine Howlett
          As a staunch Lutheran, I would strongly defend both statements, that God created everything that is, seen and unseen , and also that God endowed creation with
          Message 4 of 8 , Jun 12, 2002
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            As a staunch Lutheran, I would strongly defend both statements, that God
            created everything that is, 'seen and unseen', and also that God endowed
            creation with freewill. Yes, I think that's a good way to phrase what evil
            seems to be at root - the diminishment of good or turning away from good,
            turning back on God as the author of all good.

            The Talmud as coeternal with God?! Hm. Can't quite handle that
            theologically.
            Christine
            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "trudygshaw" <tgshaw@...>
            To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Wednesday, June 12, 2002 8:14 AM
            Subject: Re: [mythsoc] "Was Tolkien a Manichean?"


            >
            > ----- Original Message -----
            > From: "Jan Theodore Galkowski" <disneylogic@...>
            > To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
            > Cc: <tgshaw@...>; <Odzer@...>; <jamcconney@...>
            > Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2002 9:50 AM
            > Subject: [mythsoc] "Was Tolkien a Manichean?"
            >
            >
            > > And jamcconney@... wrote:
            > >
            > > >But of course there is power outside of God's omnipotent
            > > >control--because
            > > >that's the way the universe was created. We all were
            > > created as moral,
            > > >spiritual beings endowed with free will, and our free will
            > > is one thing
            > > >God
            > > >never will take away from us, even when we use it wrongly.
            > >
            > > Well, some may believe that, but there are a
            > > significant number of people who believe God created
            > > EVERYTHING and are willing to deal with theodicy rather
            > > than diminish God's primacy. The most, for instance,
            > > the Talmudists were willing to give up was to say that
            > > the Torah was coeternal with God but everything else
            > > was created by God.
            > >
            >
            >
            > The following aren't meant to be arguments, rather questions on these
            > concepts that seem so central to Tolkien's thinking (free will; the nature
            > of evil) --
            >
            > Do the two beliefs discussed above necessarily contradict each other;
            i.e.,
            > is saying that God created us with free will the same as saying that God
            > didn't create everything?
            >
            > Is there any form of communication between these ideas and that of evil
            > being a lack, or diminishment of good, rather than an actual entity in
            > itself, therefore not needing to be "created" as such [per Tolkien's
            comment
            > about Frodo recognizing Gollum's "damaged good"]?
            >
            > -- Trudy
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
            >
            > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
            >
            >
          • Jan Theodore Galkowski
            On Wed, 12 Jun 2002 at 18:48:23 -0400 Christine Howlett wrote: Christine, Let me invert the order of responses to your comments, if you
            Message 5 of 8 , Jun 13, 2002
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              On Wed, 12 Jun 2002 at 18:48:23 -0400 Christine
              Howlett <chowlett@...> wrote:

              Christine,

              Let me invert the order of responses to your comments,
              if you will forgive me, to deal with the more
              important to clarify first. You wrote

              >The Talmud as coeternal with God?! Hm. Can't quite
              >handle that theologically.

              No, I didn't write that. I said the Talmudists a.k.a.
              "the Sages" reasoned that the Torah, meaning the
              Pentateuch in this case, was coeternal with God. The
              Talmudists had a high opinion of themselves, sometimes
              deserved, but they weren't _that_ megalomaniacal. I don't
              recall the precise line of reasoning but, as usual, it's
              hermeneutical. I can look it up.

              >As a staunch Lutheran, I would strongly defend both
              >statements, that God created everything that is, 'seen
              >and unseen', and also that God endowed creation with
              >freewill. Yes, I think that's a good way to phrase
              >what evil seems to be at root - the diminishment of
              >good or turning away from good, turning back on God as
              >the author of all good.

              There are two kinds of turning away. One is turning
              away in the sense of having anger at God and going out
              to do harm in response or retribution. The other is
              ignoring God or ignoring the spiritual and other
              aspects of people and existence. Somehow they are both
              manifestations of evil and a "turning away" but it's
              hard to see how they can readily be lumped together.

              The mystical tradition, Jewish and otherwise, held that
              the universe itself has an ethical aspect, that it is
              a property of the universe and that wrongdoing introduces
              disunity and disharmony into it. Thus, the original
              meaning of "tikkun olam" or "the healing of the world"
              (lit. "the healing of everything") was motivated by good
              deads and compassion repairing these rifts. In the
              Jewish mystical tradition there's also a lot of detail
              about Shechinah, one of the aspects of God, the prototype
              for the Holy Spirit of Christianity, being dispersed
              through the universe and the mystic's job of going and
              collecting this light back together again.

              I can't help but feel parallels between this and the
              Valor, and a connection with that enigmatic line that
              apparently moved much of Tolkien's work, quoted by
              the Tolkien Society at

              http://www.tolkiensociety.org/tolkien/biography.html

              namely, the line from the Crist of Cynewulf:

              E�l� Earendel engla beorhtast
              Ofer middangeard monnum sended

              or

              Hail Earendel brightest of angels, over
              Middle Earth sent to men

              Thanks, Jan


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            • Christine Howlett
              There is a great deal about the Jewish mystic tradition that captures my imagination - in a very healthy way, I think - and the tikkun olam is certainly an
              Message 6 of 8 , Jun 13, 2002
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                There is a great deal about the Jewish mystic tradition that captures my
                imagination - in a very healthy way, I think - and the tikkun olam is
                certainly an aspect of that.

                Maybe I'm looking at this in too black-and-white a fashion, but to me there
                is a theological divide between those who engage themselves in the 'ethical
                property' of the universe and those who turn away from from it, whether from
                anger or indifference or love of self or any other motive. I don't see that
                big a difference created by the motive, except in so far as anger might be
                appeased by greater understanding and indifference probably will not be?

                Yes, I did say *Talmud*, but equally cannot handle the Torah as co-eternal,
                unless this is supposed to be a (limited? restricted?) manifestation of the
                Sophia of God. I don't quite like the thought of the third person of God as
                so much paper and ink, good and bad poetry, so much butchery, envy, malice
                mixed with so much love and self-recognition.
                Christine
                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "Jan Theodore Galkowski" <disneylogic@...>
                To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Thursday, June 13, 2002 2:09 PM
                Subject: [mythsoc] Re: "Was Tolkien a Manichean?"


                > On Wed, 12 Jun 2002 at 18:48:23 -0400 Christine
                > Howlett <chowlett@...> wrote:
                >
                > Christine,
                >
                > Let me invert the order of responses to your comments,
                > if you will forgive me, to deal with the more
                > important to clarify first. You wrote
                >
                > >The Talmud as coeternal with God?! Hm. Can't quite
                > >handle that theologically.
                >
                > No, I didn't write that. I said the Talmudists a.k.a.
                > "the Sages" reasoned that the Torah, meaning the
                > Pentateuch in this case, was coeternal with God. The
                > Talmudists had a high opinion of themselves, sometimes
                > deserved, but they weren't _that_ megalomaniacal. I don't
                > recall the precise line of reasoning but, as usual, it's
                > hermeneutical. I can look it up.
                >
                > >As a staunch Lutheran, I would strongly defend both
                > >statements, that God created everything that is, 'seen
                > >and unseen', and also that God endowed creation with
                > >freewill. Yes, I think that's a good way to phrase
                > >what evil seems to be at root - the diminishment of
                > >good or turning away from good, turning back on God as
                > >the author of all good.
                >
                > There are two kinds of turning away. One is turning
                > away in the sense of having anger at God and going out
                > to do harm in response or retribution. The other is
                > ignoring God or ignoring the spiritual and other
                > aspects of people and existence. Somehow they are both
                > manifestations of evil and a "turning away" but it's
                > hard to see how they can readily be lumped together.
                >
                > The mystical tradition, Jewish and otherwise, held that
                > the universe itself has an ethical aspect, that it is
                > a property of the universe and that wrongdoing introduces
                > disunity and disharmony into it. Thus, the original
                > meaning of "tikkun olam" or "the healing of the world"
                > (lit. "the healing of everything") was motivated by good
                > deads and compassion repairing these rifts. In the
                > Jewish mystical tradition there's also a lot of detail
                > about Shechinah, one of the aspects of God, the prototype
                > for the Holy Spirit of Christianity, being dispersed
                > through the universe and the mystic's job of going and
                > collecting this light back together again.
                >
                > I can't help but feel parallels between this and the
                > Valor, and a connection with that enigmatic line that
                > apparently moved much of Tolkien's work, quoted by
                > the Tolkien Society at
                >
                > http://www.tolkiensociety.org/tolkien/biography.html
                >
                > namely, the line from the Crist of Cynewulf:
                >
                > Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast
                > Ofer middangeard monnum sended
                >
                > or
                >
                > Hail Earendel brightest of angels, over
                > Middle Earth sent to men
                >
                > Thanks, Jan
                >
                >
                > __________________________________________________
                > Do You Yahoo!?
                > Yahoo! - Official partner of 2002 FIFA World Cup
                > http://fifaworldcup.yahoo.com
                >
                >
                > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                >
                > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                >
                >
              • Jan Theodore Galkowski
                On Thu, 13 Jun 2002 at 16:29:05 -0400 ... [snip] ... I found a reference to the eternality of the Torah. I was wrong. You don t need to delve in Jewish
                Message 7 of 8 , Jun 14, 2002
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                  On Thu, 13 Jun 2002 at 16:29:05 -0400
                  "Christine Howlett" <chowlett@...> wrote in part:

                  >There is a great deal about the Jewish mystic
                  >tradition that captures my imagination - in a very
                  >healthy way, I think - and the tikkun olam is
                  >certainly an aspect of that.

                  [snip]

                  >Yes, I did say *Talmud*, but equally cannot handle
                  >the Torah as co-eternal, unless this is supposed
                  >to be a (limited? restricted?) manifestation of
                  >the Sophia of God. I don't quite like the thought
                  >of the third person of God as so much paper and
                  >ink, good and bad poetry, so much butchery, envy,
                  >malice mixed with so much love and
                  >self-recognition.

                  I found a reference to the eternality of the
                  Torah. I was wrong. You don't need to delve in
                  Jewish mysticism or in the Talmud to encounter the
                  eternality of the Torah. The Torah's eternality
                  and its, therefore, coeternality with God, is the
                  ninth of Maimonides' 13 principles of the Jewish
                  faith, recorded as well in the ninth stanza of the
                  poem and song Yigdal, e.g.,

                  http://www.torah.org/qanda/seequanda.php?id=413

                  The hermeneutical argument
                  is captured at

                  http://members.aol.com/eylevine/vezoshaberachah.htm

                  It's interesting that some Islamic scholars
                  believe the Qur'an is coeternal with God, e.g.,
                  see


                  http://www.namb.net/root/resources/beliefbulletins/religions/islam.asp

                  in the section about the Qur'an.

                  I want to make a clarification, one that may not
                  really be necessary, but important for the record.

                  In discussions like this, I think it's important
                  to keep separated the things which a tradition,
                  like Judaism, says are normative, tied up with its
                  point of view, and the things which scholars and
                  other students of these matters, present company
                  included, might know and believe from other
                  sources. The former are things like Maimonedes 13
                  principles of faith. The latter come from
                  science, other cultures and traditions, and
                  individual insight.

                  While I try to be familiar with what Jewish
                  tradition says and believes, I very much feel what
                  we call Torah or the Pentateuch was written by
                  scribes and others during the time of Josiah --
                  credited even in the tradition for "finding" the
                  book we call Devarim or Deuteronomy -- or at least
                  redacted from existing sources in such a major way
                  that it constitutes a different book with a
                  different outlook. That is, I agree with the
                  FinkelStein and Silberman view described at


                  http://www.bibleinterp.com/commentary/Finkelstein_Silberman022001.htm

                  This doesn't diminish the wonder of the book, or
                  its tradition, any more than embellishments in the
                  Illiad or the Odyssey detract from the grandeur of
                  those texts. The Torah is how Jews of all ages,
                  and Christians, in part, think of themselves. But
                  to take any part of the Pentateuch literally is a
                  huge mistake, at least in my opinion. Others may
                  feel it is self-contained, e.g., "the fact that
                  the seed of all future Torah interpretation lies
                  within the Torah itself", from

                  http://www.ohrtorahstone.org.il/parsha/5762/terumah62.htm

                  but, to me, this is a kind of unhealthy
                  self-centerness.

                  -- Jan



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                • Stolzi@aol.com
                  In a message dated 6/14/02 8:45:12 AM Central Daylight Time, ... One might point out that Christians see Christ as The Word of God, coeternal with the Father
                  Message 8 of 8 , Jun 14, 2002
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                    In a message dated 6/14/02 8:45:12 AM Central Daylight Time,
                    disneylogic@... writes:


                    > The Torah's eternality
                    > and its, therefore, coeternality with God


                    One might point out that Christians see Christ as "The Word of God, coeternal
                    with the Father and the Spirit" (cf. Gospel of John, Ch. 1).

                    Like the Torah, Christ represents "what God has to tell us."


                    Diamond Proudbrook



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