Thread: Divine Intervention in the LOTR
(btw, I'm not opposed to the Christian God idea because I oppose Christianity. In fact, you may have found out by now, I am a firm Christian. But I also respect Tolkien and try to find out the intentions in his works without imposing my religion on them.)
Those who seek God, may find him lurking in those pages. For those who seek him not, God will instruct you to good without you faith.
Let me explain. I find there are two general types of Christians, the devout bible thumpers, these are the ones who see on TV, hear on street corners, they're always trying to bring the rest of the world around and save them before they go to hell. Then there are the more passive Christians, I happen to be one of them. This group is where I would place Tolkien. And for this reason.
LotR is full to the brim with tales that promote Christian values. The trick is that many other faiths and belief systems use much the same values. Being good to your neighbors, honoring your parents, not killing, not stealing, in general, being a good person and doing right. Sure, some of the finer points like birth control get a little lost with the changes in the make up of the world since most of today's accepted religions were formed.
[b:20hpzuwn]But I'm getting off track, back to the point[/b:20hpzuwn], Divine Intervention. Eru knows it all, Created the Auinar from his thought and proposed to them a theme for music. Played by the Auinar this music became the world. So the Valar, Auinar who entered into the world, know much of what will be, for they have heard the music of the world, but some is outside their knowledge, but nothing is outside of Eru's. All that is made to oppose him, like Melkor's themes, are but added into his to build the tapestry that Eru imagined.
Very much the one Christian God figure. This also contains much of the Christian reasoning for why bad things happen. It is all a part of God's/Eru's plan.
Was Tolkien concious of this? Maybe... I'm sure the Christians will say he was and the Agnostic Pagans will say he wasn't. The important thing is, it doesn't matter. I take Tolkien and even other writers all like a Warshak painting. You see only what it is you truly want to see. Christians want to see their faith and their hero's in the forefront of the works they love. Those who could care less wont. Or will see hints and not care. That is where I stand.
The bible is a wonderful story known around the world. Since so many peope know the story of the bible and love it as much as they do, then why wouldn't a writer make a story they is reminicent of a more estabilished work?
How many times have you seen the same plot/story line used in books or movies. We even made a word for it, genre. Good vs Evil
[quote:2wi4jye7]I...vehemently oppose the suggestion of the Christian God in Middle-Earth.[/quote:2wi4jye7]
I THINK I have an idea what you are saying. Tolkien wants to suggest and invite the reader, so open options are better--Oh, what's that thing about allegory vs. applicability that Show has pointed out really well?
I'm not sure now what I think of this new book. I was excited at first, and at the moment I am less impressed, so I'll let you know how it goes.
I have alway been puzzled by Tolkien's comment that the LOTR is "fundamentally a Catholic work."--He says that in one of his lettters. I've always thought, "What? Catholic? Not Lutheran? Not Methodist? Not Episcopalian?" Did he really mean to say "Catholic," in a restrictive sense,and if so, what am I missing here about Catholicism or the LOTR or both? And there are little lines here and there that strike a chord because they sound kind of bibical--like the language is right out of the liturgy or common stories or hymns or SOMETHING because you read it an say, "Oh...I know that line....I've heard something like that before..."
So far the writer is pointing out things that I think most of us kind of already know. Eru or Iluvatar is the creator, and he is not just The Great Watchmaker who made things and then takes a hands-off approach. You would kind of THINK so, given the way that evil gets such a toehold so much of the time, but there are these little moments where you think, "No, some other power is at work here nudging things along: Luck, Happenstance, Fortune, Providence...Karma." And I mean, what are the ethics in his world? What is that whole thing about "pity" that Bilbo shows to Gollum? Why was that important? And why does Gandalf get Bilbo involved in th dwarf adventure in the first place? He likes grooming newbies and giving them broadening experiences? And why does Shelob freak out when she hears the name "Elbereth Gilthoniel"?
But right, I don't see why these ethics or forces of good are particularly "Catholic" or "Christian" yet. I'll keep you posted as I read more.
I think there are intresting questions, though. Like WHY, if forces of Good can intervene, do they wait until the very last minute? Why not help out and give some cushion, some wiggle room, so that people don't have to suffer so much anxiety? You know, like why couldn't the eagles have helped more? They seem so powerful. Why not save the poor little hobbits all of that trouble walking?
It seems that Tolkien strove far harder than did Lewis to make his world cohesive and distinct from any known points of cultural reference. But he still held to the truths that are the basis for our own cultures. If there is Divine Intervention in human concerns, there is no way to be certain that God or the Gods are really behind it. Likewise, in Tolkien's works sometimes the hand of the Divine is obvious, such as in the Silmarillion, yet in LOTR or the Hobbit he strove to leave the question of Divine Intervention a mystery with no certain answer.
What I vehemently oppose is the thought that Tolkien purposefully made allegory statements and analogies to the Christian faith in LOTR. In Narnia, Lewis made blatantly obvious nods to Christianity (Aslan dying for Edmund being the most prominent one.) This was not Tolkien's aim. Yes, there are Christian morals and ethics, but he's not drawing parallels between his story and the Bible (or Christian truths.) I guess my sense of indignation comes from the misunderstanding of the author. I absolutely hate it when a person writes something and then the readers try to make out ulterior motives and themes that the author never dreamed of. I want Tolkien to be understood, and not misrepresented. And I think Tolkien would wish this also.
Eru is not the Zeus of the Middle Earth Pantheon. More so he is the monothiestic God of the Univerase. But he created Ea in the void to be governed by the aunair that would go to it. These became the powers of the world, and so were called the Valar. Kind of like if the Catholic God let the angels rule the earth.
For Otto's Worlds comment of why the Powers of Good do not intervene more often. They can't. Or more accuratley, they are wise enough not to. To come to middle-earth in strength to fix things always broke them quite abit. When the Valar first chained Melkor the world was changed. Mountains fell or grew, rivers changed courses, new lakes, drained seas, you get the point. Same thing when the Valar finally stopped Melkor again and ended the war of the Jewels. Power that strong must be used gently.
Imagine, what if a man destined to be twice as persuasive as Hitler and three times as evil was on-board the Titanic when it sank? This leads to my favorite quote of the faithful, God works in mysterious ways.
Otto's World also mentioned by posts about Applicability vs Alegory, I posted those on the Second best Fantasy Fiction thread, I don't know if I can say it they well twice. Perhaps I'll try to just quote some of it here in the next couple days.
Your points about the wise versus the indiscriminate use of power; I think, truly gets at the heart of that matter . And as to mystery; the ultimate question is the only one that can never be answered. Why does anything exist? Anything at all, even God or the Gods if we posit their existence?
[quote:26ehap16]...why the Powers of Good do not intervene more often. They can't. Or more accuratley, they are wise enough not to. To come to middle-earth in strength to fix things always broke them quite abit. When the Valar first chained Melkor the world was changed. Mountains fell or grew, rivers changed courses, new lakes, drained seas, you get the point. Same thing when the Valar finally stopped Melkor again and ended the war of the Jewels. Power that strong must be used gently.[/quote:26ehap16]
Wow. I hadn't imagined it that way, but it makes sense: they're Titans. Well, then, when there IS a little spot of Divine Intervention or Luck or Providence that seems like a definite nudge coming from the better side of The Force, who do we think is doing it?
In a lot of ways I believe this quality or worldview adds a lot to the realism of the story. The world really does seem to work this way. Often the Dark Forces seem to be winning, and for those working in real time, there's always constant anxiety that things may fall apart or go to hell in a handbasket without vigilance and constant work on the part of all people of good will. There's a feeling some of us may have that we ought to get bailed out of hard circumstances of God is good and omnipotent and he loves us. And if this is the case, then holy crap, why did so-and-so's little girl get cancer, and holy sh&t, look at how cruelly it ravished her, and ohmigosh, I can't get my mind around it that it really happened. Or whatever. We can all think of events that have happened where we feel in our guts some sense of surprise or indignation that something bad has happened--like we think that life should be a lot more like a Disney movie and that the puppy really did not die from being hit by a car, but it instead somehow miraculously made it.
So one of my questions is: Since Divine Goodness DOES seem to be capable of intervening now and then in the LOTR, why doesn't it happen more often?
Or another question could be this: Why does Lucky Chance intervene as often as it does in the LOTR?
People have tried to explain this for years. The Greeks imagined that there were a gaggle of gods who often argued and negotiated with each other, and some of them liked some of us as pets and so looked on us with favor, but it wasn't reliable because they were fickle with their feelings and easily offended, and other gods influenced them sometimes, and THAT'S why we live with this Wheel of Fortune that is sometimes good and sometimes bad and there is not always a lot of rhyme or reason to any of it.
Some people imagine that we are assigned Guardian Angels and THAT'S why so often we survive near misses. Think of how many times you have almost had a car accident and didn't, or how many times you almost hit a kid with your car--or a kid or animal ran out in front of your car an you stopped in time. Or how many times you've gotten sick and did not die.
There are a lot of little lucky breaks that happen in the LOTR, and I'm wondering how we are to explain them. One theory I'm having now--which is bolstered and kind of initiated by Show's comment that the Divine Powers really can't help too much because of their not-so-gentle touch--one theory is the responsibility of every creature. What's the idea? Is it Karma? Or "Pay It Forward"? The work of all creatures of Good Will. How many times do you do things for the Good and there's no reward or even necessarily a direct chunk of evidence that the good you did had any impact. Or you did not meet the beneficiary, but you DID have an impact,no matter how small. What if all creatures, working together kind of accidentally as a mass, create these happy chances? The pity of Bilbo. The courage of Merry. The diligence of Pippin. The Stubbornness of Eowyn. The humility, loyalty an faith of Sam. The patience of Frodo. Any number of times, things may have really gone south if any person had dropped the ball and made worse choices. One may say that there's a collective effect that operates, even though no single individual is very responsible. So that divine intervention is kind of an illusion. It is not the work of some cosmic chess player, but the larger effect of the choices all of the little creatures make.
Is that what you were saying about Free Will, Show?
Sorry this is all over the board. But I'm thinking about salmon... Somebody should write an epic about salmon. They are totally heroic about breeding and making babies, literally giving their all in the effort. Did you know that, once they enter fresh water, they stop eating and they get energy by consuming their own flesh? Their bodies metabolize their own fat and muscle so that at the end of the journey they are kind of literally falling to pieces. I always wondered, Well why don't we eat loads of salmon then, when they spawn? We don't because they aren't worth eating because their muscles are almost without substance by the end. Very weird. And when they go up these little creeks sometimes, they'll get stuck in tiny puddles, and they'll still try to keep thrashing. It's horrible. And THEN, apparently after the moms drop their eggs, they'll keep thashing around near the nest until they die. Like to protect the eggs or keep the water moving to somehow optimize the conditions for their eggs. They never get to say, "Woo,victory. I think I'll just go have a nap now and fade into the sunset, resting in satisfaction." Nope. They struggle until they DIE. It's like Ranger Boot Camp for them until the very end. We visited a stream of spawning salmon near the end of their season and it was WEIRD. Park rangers were walking around explaining things to people. It was like visiting a cathedral in the way that everyone there was whispering and showing an attitude of great respect and awe. It was also like visiting a battlefield. It was like Brannagh's Henry V movie after the Battle of Agincourt where the plain was littered with dead and dying bodies of men and horses. The whole place smelled like rotting dairy product and there were dead fish everywhere, and every now and then there would be one still alive and thrashing. It really did feel like a religious experience the way everyone was so respectful and quiet and amazed. Hard to believe the dedication, you know? That's heroism. And for what? To create a great Salmon Nation so that salmon can take over the world? NO!! They do it in order to MAINTAIN. Unbelievable. All that effort so that ultimately, through all the drama and heroism and failure (because so many babies die and so many spawning salmon are unsuccessful) they manage to Keep The Status Quo. Unreal.
Ugh. I have to take a breath. I don't know what point I'm making anymore. Maybe it's the idea of the actions of loads and loads of individuals and at the individual level life can seem really pointless and tragic and horrible like God has abandoned us, but then from the massive collective perspective, there really is a system going on that works and makes sense--but it depends on the individual cooperation, work and choices of all of those millions of little minions below to make it work.
Part of the problem with thinking of Providence as a "transcendent" force operating as "the invisible hand of God" is that doesn't explain the millions who die from hunger, disease and violence before they even reach their teens. Surely if a Force for Good such as this existed it would act to prevent such things. This is why Deists like the founding fathers suggested the Watchmaker analogy. Some one who set the ball rolling then left us to fend for ourselves. But this is the "Illusion" that the Mystery Schools would have us reject. That any entity, even God or the Gods, are wholly separate from each other. That mind is separate from matter. Before the Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh, Before the 2 accounts of Genesis--the Goddess and her Consort represented a balance of powers--that was rent asunder by a war in the Heavens. The Earth was "created" from the body of the slain Goddess, and the God that slew Her, Jealously demands fealty as the One above all. The separation is complete. And the Dominator principle subordinates the Partnership principle.
Yet the "Goddess" never really died, and people seeking new partnership models for society keep reviviving Her traditions. The Cosmic Forces interacting beyond our "mortal" senses seem so utterly cut off and alien to us, we cannot hope to be touched by "Providence." This is the illusion we must cast aside. We are the ones We've been waiting for. People and beings acting both for themselves and each other simultaneously, a rebirth of the partnership model. The One Ring has only "evil" on it's mind. Gollum has only Himselves in mind . Yet every act, even the ones done for "evil" intent, reflects an aspect of the Whole seeking to return to balance. Sometimes We see only the Evil, and sometimes we see the Hand of Providence. Look at a sillhouette of two vases is it really 2 vases, a face, or both simultaneously.
In a sense, this is then the true meaning of transcendence--not transcending nature--but transcending the illusion of separation. Being able to see how Sauron and His Ring seeking each other out ultimately lead to Bilbo and then to Frodo and finally Mt Doom. Maybe I've raised as many questions as I've answered . But I have to leave this here for now.
[quote:11beohsz]We are the ones We've been waiting for. People and beings acting both for themselves and each other simultaneously[/quote:11beohsz] That is a great way to look at it. I think that's why I talked about the salmon. From each salmon's point of view, it all must seem like a huge struggle for WHAT?!! But from the perspective of the Department of Natural Resources guy/scientist, it's all a wonderful system made by the actions of individuals but making an impact on a whole that seems to be operating according to some kind of Plan.
Hmm...but then what do we do when we're in the foxhole, panicking...Shelob is coming for us...and we hold out that holy vial and call on Elbereth? The view you describe makes sense and is inspiring in a lot of ways, but do we lose out on the comfort factor then? That would be the burden of responsibility. Your parents are dead. You are now the smartest one in your family...nobody else to go to for advice...More responsibility, free will, must own any damage you do with your choices, But it's nice to be a little minion and know that somebody way smarter and more powerful is in charge.
I'm not even sure that I understand what you are talking about though, so....gotta marinade in it for awhile.
I'm not exactly sure what that means for Free Will, but I have always suspected that the Free Will vs Fate thing is a bit of an illusion too. From the point of view of the photon (light) there is no time (time stops at light-speed). This essentially means that the photon has illuminated the entire Uni(Multi)verse from the "beginning" to the "end" of time (I actually see time as cyclical without beginning or end). But this means then, that everything...every possibility, is frozen--as if captured in amber--in a lattice work of light (a Hologram). Awareness or Consciousness, is like a lens or a mirror focussing on/from a particular thread in that lattice-work; that only looks in one direction--forward (in time). If we train our consciousness, we can look back and sideways and along the multiple (infinite) branching pathways both forwards and backwards. We can see from this vantage-point all possible futures and pasts. We can still Choose to follow a certain pathway. Yet the (infinite) pathways are all laid out before (and behind) us. In a sense then, Free Will and Destiny are two sides of the same coin. It just depends how you look at it.
I've heard several people say this (or some variation). I asked God to help me through the hard times. He wouldn't. So I asked God to give me the strength to make it through the hard times on my own. And with my faith in him, I did.
Their points were all the same. Asking God to make everthing all better never works. He will not do the work for you. But if you put your faith in him, he will make all things possible, no matter how bleak.
Now thinking on this, as the skeptic I've become, raises the question of Faith vs Free will. Or better yet, is this accomplishment a result of their faith in God or themselves?
Many claim their faith got them through hard times, lets say cancer treatment. But I wonder, was it "Faith in God" or the mind convincing itself that success was possible. A kind of mind over matter.
Was God really behind this, or, as they say, is faith what really matters? Does God have to be real for faith in it to be powerful?
Part of the problem is that we ourselves create "God" in our own image. We put God in a box and we don't even Know if the concept of God in and of itself is the "correct" way of looking at the Universal Spirit. So even though I can't "believe" in any particular religion--they all provide us with ways of conceiving the ineffable. I think that in particular, the Mystery Schools of the world's religions point the right direction--like a finger pointing at the moon.
My mother remains an agnostic to this day . But clearly the experience relates [b:2mmojzwh]Something[/b:2mmojzwh]. Was it really a "Higher Power" or was it another aspect of Herself that spoke to her? Could the "Higher Power" and another aspect of the Self be One and the Same, as Hinduism suggests? I think examining consciousness with the Holographic Model in mind points towards something much like what Hinduism and all the Mystery Schools of religion seem to say. That we are not separate from the rest of existence (That is an illusion). And that Existence is more than the sum of it's parts. This is what the Gnostics imply when they say Christ didn't come to free us from sin, but illusion.
I think- in fact Tolkien himself said this- that this is not deliberate allegory such as can be found in Lewis' work. These correlations spring from Tolkien's Christian background. His views on righteousness and ultimate overall morality were based on his faith, and thus his fictional battles between good and evil mirror the real battles between good and evil.
[b:1xuuaea7]Melkor[/b:1xuuaea7] the Greatest singer [u:1xuuaea7]attempted to set himself up as the ruler of Arda.[/u:1xuuaea7] Well this intriguingly is a blend Of Gnostic Christian thought and Babylonian mythology. Melkor is also Moloch or [b:1xuuaea7]Marduk[/b:1xuuaea7] as he is known in the epic of Gilgamesh, Wherin Marduk, one of the greatest sons of the High God (consort of the Goddess Tiamat) after destroying one of the Goddess's favourite forests; In a fight with Tiamat he slays her and splitting her in two he c[u:1xuuaea7]reates the Heavens and the Earth and then sets Himself up as the One True God above all others [/u:1xuuaea7](including his father).
This is echoed throughout the indo-European Pantheons. The Sky Gods Slay or subdue their parents the Titans, and One Male God becomes the Godhead. IIn Greek Marduk becomes Mars,though it is Zeus who claims the Godhead.
Gnostics also see the Creator God who created Earth as a [u:1xuuaea7]Demiurge[/u:1xuuaea7] (Demon God). They see this Demiurge as a [b:1xuuaea7]Usurper of the power[/b:1xuuaea7] of the True God, [u:1xuuaea7]setting Himself up as the One True God[/u:1xuuaea7]. The God/dess of Light who has both male and female aspects capable of incarnating (The Demiurge is seen as the son of the female aspect).
The Valar are the Ainur who chose to shepherd the growth of Arda. The Maiar (a group of Ainur but with lesser power than the Valar) are the [b:1xuuaea7]Istari[/b:1xuuaea7] (the "Wizards" of Middle-Earth). Istari is another variant of Ishtar, AKA Astarte/Isis among others. This is another Sumer-Babylonian name for the Goddess.
So it's very clear that Tolkien borrowed many elements of esoteric mythology from both ancient Paganism and Judeo-Christianity to create his own Creation Myth using these "hidden" symbols and names. However, Tolkien was adamant that the works stand on their own as it's own mythology, that applicability was in the hands of the reader, allegory in the hands of the author. So it was a real tightrope--he performed admirably. Christians, Gnostics, Hindus, Pagans, can all see applicable echoes of their spiritual beliefs in the Silmarillion.
Even Lewis in Narnia, though far more blatant and not so careful about allegory slipping in, managed to (barely) save Narnia from Technically being Allegorical. He Manages this by suggesting that Aslan is not a [b:1xuuaea7]representation[/b:1xuuaea7] of Christ, [i:1xuuaea7]but is a fictional christ-like figure[/i:1xuuaea7] as he might appear on another world. And Lewis piles on the connections of Aslan to the Sun and The East, where the sun rises. Thus re-connecting Christ to the Pagan context from whence he originated. Son of God and the Sun God. Most of the ancient Sun Gods of the near and Middle East were depicted as Lions or Lion Headed for fairly obvious reasons (Golden Mane). So in several senses, even the more blatant allegorical slip-ups are saved by his blatant Pagan allegorical slip-ups. They sort of cancel each other out and once again Narnia can happily appeal to Pagan and Christian who can both find "applicable" themes.
As for the ever going religious debate in our world, I just can't wait for the day we discover aliens in space. The six months to a year after that will be a battle ground for religious hiearchy. How would alien life be worked in to modern religion?
I guess an even bigger question would be what kind of life would we find to have to fit into modern religion. What we would think of as intellegent lifeforms would be Earth shattering for religion. Whereas finding simple life would be different. Finding plants and animals and a hospitable planet for humans to colonise would simply be God providing for the eventual size and expansion of it's [i:ea68p21n]chosen[/i:ea68p21n] race.
Sorry, I get off base sometimes.
The idea of extra-terrestrial intelligent life, however, seems far more ludicrous from an atheist point of view (assuming you are an atheist, I am assuming from your post). Think about it. The chance of one protein forming by itself from thousands of different elements, not even necessarily a useful protein, just any protein, is infantecimal. The chance of multiple proteins being formed simultaneously in the right place, order etc., and combining to form a self-replicating organism is almost non-existant. And that's just the first cell. From there, literally billions and billions of genetic mutations would be required to take place in order to change a microbe into a man. Considering every single genetic mutation that we have been able to observe (in our limited experience of genetic scinece I admit) has been detrimental, either getting in the way or rendering the animal sterile, each beneficial mutation would be few and far between, for every single little change.
Now, think how likely it is that this would happen even once, let alone over and over again in various locations throughout the universe.
But, if you take it as given that an intelligent designer made everything we see around us, what's to stop him from doing it more than once?
So, if we did find aliens, and I'm not saying we will, just if, it will benefit the religious standpoint more than the athiest one.
Not that this has anything to do with Tolkien.
As to the actual existence of ETs, one does not have to be a believer. One need not be a monotheist, polytheist, agnostic, atheist, or monist to be convinced that life exists beyond Earth. One simply has to consider the scientific facts available to us thus far . It is a distortion to claim that science posits the existence of life as an entirely random process. The principles of Fractal Chaos/Complexity Theory (or whatever name it currently goes by) enumerate very clearly the concepts of self-similarity and the self-organizing principle. Take these concepts and apply them to Cosmology/Astronomy and Biology--then consider the immensity and vastness of our own Galaxy with 100s of billions of stars, then the universe with it's 100s of billions of galaxies, and now with the current science leading us to consider an infinite variety of universes--a multi-verse. Modern Astro-biology has advanced to the point where it now sees that the building blocks of (carbon-based) life could even be present on the moons of Saturn and the icy hearts of comets. Scientists no longer view the ability of life to emerge as so fragile as they once did. In Jurassic Park the Chaos theoretician Malcolm put it simply "life will find a Way" . It seems the height of anthropocentric and even carbon-based arrogance to think that we are alone in the Cosmos (why not non-carbon based life-forms?). Statistically speaking, there could be hundreds of beings to have developed civilizations at least as advanced as our own [b:25h7yzke]just within our own galaxy.[/b:25h7yzke] The probability of non-terrestrial life then has little bearing on being able to prove the existence of one particular Earth based tribal Deity. At the same time it means that one could have a radical new concept for a Universal Life Force--but does that still translate as God in the sense that Abrahamic Monotheists mean? Or does it give more credence to animist Pagans or panentheist Hindus or Taoists ?
So what does this do to our Earthly man-made religions? Will every planet and their civilizations have their own religious groups and atheists and agnostics? Does Jesus then have to make an appearance on every planet to spread the Gospel (as he does in a Ray Bradbury short story)? What if they don't believe in the same concepts of God as humans? What would it mean to those who take the Bible literally if they suddenly become aware that they are no longer God's only sentient Creations? And on what basis does one have to posit that ETs are going to be perfect beings like Angels. There is certainly nothing in the Bible that provides any clue to these hypothetical mysteries (at least not when interpreted in an orthodox manner).
But if there is one thing that does prepare us for the complexities of worlds beyond our own--both mystical and physical--it is Sci Fi and Fantasy. They don't just prepare us do wrestle with mundanely human issues, but the pragmatic possibilities of encountering other beings and how humans fit into a world or universe teeming with life. So Tolkien and C.S. Lewis do perhaps have something to relate that applies to this particular side-track .
What is life? According to chemical principles, there is no difinitive line between living and not living. We use our own artificial moralities to make sense of what we see, and to figure out how we should act given the circumstances. What does a plant have that a fire doesn't? They both consume food and oxygen and reproduce unto their own kind. You could say that a fire is just a chemical reaction, that gives the illusion of life by interacting with its surroundings. But is not a fly? Or a human?
Taking the stance that humans are just organisms, descended from a soup of ingredients, a mass of chemicals; there is no real morality, just the urges of one person to send certain stimulants to their brain through a certain action, that will give them a "good feeling". Why do we want to send these stimulants to other bags of chemicals? Is it because of the ultruistic nature of science, all for one and one for all and every molecule looking out for the well-being of other molecules? Looking at the world around you, that notions seems ridiculous. You could say that making other people happy sends you some more feel-good stimulants. But why care then? Helping starving people on the other side of the world doesn't give you that "warm, fuzzy feeling" as much as helping a friend or a neighbour, but knowing about their plight makes you feel miserable and guilty. So isn't it better, from a purely chemical point of view, to switch off and ignore that Africa even exists?
There is certainly something there, within people, that sets us apart from selfish, indifferent, and survival-of-the-fittest minded animals. You would call it intelligence. Hence, the term: other intelligent life.
But where does intelligence come from? There is no genetic code for it, no chemicals that induce intelligence, or language, or morality, or fantasy, or the appreciation of beauty. These things are purely spiritual. Call it what you may, I believe it comes from God.
P.S. There are mentions of aliens in the Bible. Angels are aliens, in the sense that they are not human and live on other planets, in other worlds. In various prophetic works, angels are referred to as inhabitants of other created worlds. But of course, they don't have religion because they are perfect beings and therefore can gaze upon God without dying, and have a relationship with Him similar to the relationship Adam and Eve had with Him before the fall. Just to clarify.
But first, your aphorism "Life doesn't find a way. Life fades away " is cute, but not very accurate. Life does both. Like the rest of the Universe, life adheres to a balance of opposing physical laws.
Generally speaking, when scientists talk about life, they are referring strictly to Carbon-based Life-forms. Basic protein molecules are the building blocks which when they organize into DNA and RNA molecules are then determined to "live" by biological standards. Some scientists are beginning to see beyond this rather narrow definition--but for all intents and purposes it [u:26118dm4]is the definitive line[/u:26118dm4] you say that scientists don't have.
As it happens though; some scientists, including chaos mathemeticians, quantum physicists and systems biologists, don't hold such reductionist materialist views. The applications of Fractal mathematics to these other disciplines show how indeed goupings of particles, atoms, and molecules organize into functioning units that organize into even greater units, which eventually evolve into whole systems, each piece playing a part in the whole. Darwinian notions are now seen as very crude, and the idea of the Selfish gene is losing favour. The fact is many systems have a number of features that used to be seen as strictly a province of "living" creatures. Storm systems, fires, entire eco-systems all display such features; everything working together in unison. Google Fractals and view the imagery. They are all generated by mathematics, and they demonstrate nicely the concept of "self-organizing systems." More reductionist scientists believe this is what creates the "illusion" of life. I believe the opposite is the case. I think it [b:26118dm4]is[/b:26118dm4] life.
Now it so happens that since the human genome has been mapped, one can find genetic sequences for all the things you mentioned. But, again, I think that reductionists miss the forest for the trees. I think that spirituality, language, fantasy etc. needing an outlet to express themselves organized the DNA and RNA into a physical form that allowed their expression
I think "life" is the animating principle of the Universe--Energy, Spirit, Life-force, Chi, Kundalini. All matter is energy E=MC2. Like you, I see it as silly to say one grouping of Energy is more or less "alive" than another grouping of Energy. I also think the concept that "intelligence" or "sentience" as an epiphenomenon of complex organisms with brains is a mistaken view. In my view the self-organizing principle demonstrated by fractals shows that all Energy/Matter is "Alive and Conscious."
Now you might say that is the Holy Spirit of God, but I see it more that all in the Universe is an expression of various aspects of the Universal Spirit which is more of an Animist Pagan view. But the distinctions between my view and yours are largely semantic. We aren't really so far apart once the semantics are dealt with.
Now your contention that Angels are Aliens living on other planets is highly unorthodox. I think most Christian denominations would see that as a Heresy. But as I like "Heresies" I say knock yourself out . But even I don't think the Bible says that Angels are ETs.
As for morality, religion isn't necessary for morals. Morality comes from both intellectual and emotional empathy, recognizing that all "life" has the capacity to suffer just as oneself can.
Other denominations might see some of White's visions and predictions as heresy, but she doesn't at any point contradict the Bible.
Well, maybe there's not much of a chemical difference (I'm not entirely sure), but biologically there is definitely a difference between something that is living and something that is not living. Except for viruses, they're a tough nut to crack. In terms of life though: if something consists of living cells, it's probably alive.
Changing the topic back a bit to the original question, there is at least one definite instance of divine intervention in TLotR: Gollum falling to his death. Tolkien himself says that "[i:2zcooueg]Few others, possibly no others of his [Frodo's] time could have got so far [to Mount Doom]. The Other Power then took over: the Writer of the Story (by which I do not mean myself), 'that one ever-present Person who is never absent and never-named' (as one critic has said).[/i:2zcooueg]" (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter #192)
Has anyone ever thought that Gandalf could represent Jesus in some way? For Example, Gandalf Falls to his "Death" with the Balrog, and when they get to the bottom of the "Bottomless Pit" Gandalf slays Balrog.
Could this be something like how Jesus "fought" with Satan,(Gandalf Being Jesus and Balrog Being Satan), and how Satan appeared to win, and Death appeared to take down even the mightiest of Wizards? No, both Jesus and Gandalf defeated Death. Gandalf came back again, clothed in even Mightier clothes before, More powerful than ever, and you could say all his former restraints were lifted.
Then, once Gandalf's Work was done, (Also, This same sort of thing happened to Jesus), he went on the Ship, at Grey Havens, over the Sea, into a land of Peace and harmony, Heaven, sort of.
Now, this is talking of Divine Intervention, isn't it, well, hmm, I really just wanted to throw that out there .
Well one example of Divine Intervention might be purely Wizards. I am not saying this is Christianity at all, but Magic is just purely super-natural, and whatever is "Super Natural" must have some kind of Divine Power, greater power than Men. Gandalf cannot just whip up some Magic Mojo, he has to gain it from some Larger Source, a god methinks?
So, Gandalf in Tolkien's terms is [b:38sc6tom][i:38sc6tom]applicable[/i:38sc6tom][/b:38sc6tom] to the Christian story, but it is also applicable to the many Pagan Resurrected Saviours (as in Mithraism among others). And it's important to remember that Gandalf was not human but Istari (one of many). And he is never made out to be [b:38sc6tom][i:38sc6tom]The[/i:38sc6tom][/b:38sc6tom] Son of God. In fact, Middle Earth's Ainur are co-creators with Illuvatar melding polytheism with monotheism into a form of Monism (Many in One). I go into this deeper on this and many other threads here. As I say in my post on the previous page:
[color=#FF0040:38sc6tom]"The Valar are the Ainur who chose to shepherd the growth of Arda. The Maiar (a group of Ainur but with lesser power than the Valar) are the Istari (the "Wizards" of Middle-Earth). Istari is another variant of Ishtar, AKA Astarte/Isis among others. This is another Sumer-Babylonian name for the Goddess."[/color:38sc6tom]
This leads us to see that the characters and stories in LotR can be "applicable" to Christians and Pagans (and even non-theists) alike.
I know that there are books and essays out there about things in LOTR that match things in the Bible, but, sorry to say, it is all speculation. Yes, they can draw parallels, but Tolkien was not intending anything of the sort.
If one REALLY knows their Middle-Earth mythology, one can see how it really does not line up with Christianity at all. Tolkien was just writing a story, a VERY in-depth one, yes, but he was not trying to mimic anything in the Bible.
While I agree that the most commonly found connection of LOTR and christainity throughout the books are simply good intentions, manors and love. All of which are found in most religions and cultures, so I understand why people would say this means that christianity cannot be directly to blame. But I think there is another way to see it, in that good behaviour itself is not nessasarily Gods requirment, instead its more of a natural product that comes from trusting in God and following in his footsteps.
Therefore I think the general good morals in LOTR are as much a part of how Tolkien wanted to tell others of God, as more obvious bible connections are. To christains every part of life shows God, like every part of nature is evidence of God, etc... so In the same way I think anything good, right and inspiring that comes from LOTR is Tolkien finding a creative way to show God.
But hey, I never met the guy.. I cant speak for him. Its certianly what I like to think.
[quote="Gandalfs Beard":biyl2ez2]I think Tolkien meant catholic with a small c, in other words, universal.[/quote:biyl2ez2]
If we read the actual quote (in Letter 142) we find that this is not the case. Tolkien says is: "[i:biyl2ez2]The Lord of the Rings[/i:biyl2ez2] is a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision." This is the original capitalization, and it is a response to someone who compared Galadriel to the Virgin Mary. So Tolkien seemed to feel that there was a Catholic element to LOTR.
However, that doesn't mean that it can only appeal to Catholics (obviously ). And Tolkien himself had a well-known dislike for allegory. So while some parallels can be drawn (Melkor's rebellion bears more than a passing resemblance to Lucifer), it is not entirely Catholic. And many of the supposed parallels that I have seen (such as Frodo being a Christ figure) are quite silly.
I guess my point is that even though Tolkien said that LOTR was fundamentally (Roman) Catholic, it still has catholic (universal) appeal.
Though, I [b:3r2pwrmg]think[/b:3r2pwrmg] Tolkien would be pleased that his books were as "catholic"--small c--as they were .
I think it is safe to say that he succeeded.
'History books are written by the victors'. Suppose Sauron had won the war of the rings? Then orcs would have taken over the world, and humans would have been these obnoxious beings that tried to prevent His Will from being done. But through a number of small lucky moments (or Sauronine intervention) the balance was tipped toward the right outcome.
There are bad moments as well as good moments for the good side (as we deem things). Frodo being taken by the orcs was not excactly beneficial - would it not have been preferable if Frodo and Sam had been able to walk down from the mountains without trouble, go to the mountain, and throw the thing away? But one tip of chance got Frodo captured by the orcs, while another freed him. Whoever won the battle is the one with the most lucky strikes.
Ultimately, both sides had their own god(s) in the form of Valars (or demi-gods, if you prefer). These are empowered by Iluvatar, and I don't think it is said anywhere that he rejects Melkor for doing what he does. Sure, he looks mad when the song of the Ainur is disturbed, but is that because Melkor disturbes it, or because it is not sufficiently disturbed - after all the disturbtion only makes the third song more beautiful, and ultimately leads to the creation of the world as it is now?
In the end, we only know that 'our' side won the war of the rings, and that we therefore have inherited that particular set of morale (remember here that Tolkien's work is supposed to be a kind of ancient history).
And just to stay on topic...
What we in everyday life define as, well, life, is simply a continued chemical reaction (as has been mentioned several times). But what is special about this type of reaction is that it maintains a state of energetic imbalance. A crystal grows, but is not alive, since it simply organizes itself in the most balanced way (from an energetic point of view). Viruses are only partially alive - they are a mixture of crystal and 'energetically unbalanced structures'.
I am not sure what point I am trying to make with the above. I think my opinion is that there is no divine intervention in LOTR, just a battle fought on many levels. Some of these levels involve so much power so that if it was unleashed unrestrained, the world would be destroyed. Therefore these powers fight through as small interventions as they can, rather that in mighty blows.
No, it is never said that he rejected Melkor, as the Christian God rejected Lucifer. But when Melkor tried to draw attention to himself, Iluvatar was "stern," and he composed a song that was solemn and "blended with immeasurable sorrow." Melkor's music contended with it and tried to drown it out, but Iluvatar's music merely took those sharp notes and blended them into its own. So, although your statement is mostly correct, it does leave out one thing. Although Iluvatar never rejected Melkor, [u:2nwdi1o9]Melkor rejected Iluvatar.[/u:2nwdi1o9] But, as you say, Iluvatar took this and wove it into his story, making his story unfathomably more beautiful, but also unfathomably more sorrowful.
[quote="Hador":2nwdi1o9]I think my opinion is that there is no divine intervention in LOTR, just a battle fought on many levels.[/quote:2nwdi1o9]
Like GB said, Tolkien left it so that some people, if they wished, could see it this way. But it doesn't matter how people see it. What matters is the TRUTH. In truth, Tolkien's world was very much influenced by Divine power. First of all because Iluvatar is sovereign, and he was composing the music (the history) of the world. But also because the Valar were using their influence to bring the events about. You could say that the Istari were divine intervention because they were sent by the Valar, and were bestowed certain divine powers.
However, when it comes to LotR, with it's blend of Pagan and Christian Myth I don't think one can refute that Divine Intervention and Providence factor into the story. [b:2ioque9i]But[/b:2ioque9i]...Tolkien did try to write his story in such a way as to appeal to the Religious and Non-Religious alike. There are non-religious ways to describe things such as Destiny or Fate without appealing to some sort of Higher Power(s). And the stories can be read in such a manner.
Though, there are many clues for the theologically inclined strewn throughout the books (and the movies too ). These clues are made Explicit when one reads the Silmarillion and other material that demonstrate that Tolkien did indeed factor in the Divine Presence of a Supreme Deity, and (as you yourself point out) many Demi-Gods.
I agree that Demi-Gods is a more appropriate term than Angels--which is how some view the Ainur--as they are "co-Creators" of Middle Earth and Govern various aspects of Nature. I also like your notion that Melkor isn't necessarily outside of Illuvatar's "plan". In essence his "discord" represents the necessary element of Chaos, and even Destruction.