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J.R.R. Tolkien knows the sunlight. He may not be a wizard but he possesses a wizard’s wisdom. To see as he sees is to see everything in the glorious sunlight of Ilûvatar, the One who sees all and knows that it is Good…

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It might be stretching things a little to describe the author of The Lord of the Rings as a wizard. He is, however, a Seer.

He sees.

He sees with the eyes of Tiresias, beyond the eyes of the flesh to the truths revealed by faith. Like Tiresias, he sees with the eyes of the dead who are alive, sharing the vision of the souls who have entered eternity. Yet unlike the blind seer of the Ancients, who was blinkered by paganism, he sees, with Dante, through the eyes of those beatified souls whose will and desire are in harmony with the Love that moves the sun and the other stars. He sees also through the shadows of suffering; through the eyes of those who purgatorially embrace it and through the eyes of those who infernally inflict it upon themselves and others. He sees it through the eyes of the Good Thief and the repentant Magdalen and Boromir, who accept their suffering and are baptized by it into everlasting life, and through the eyes of the Bad Thief and the unrepentant Satan and Sauron, who hate their suffering and turn it into the torment of pride everlasting. Like Odysseus, Aeneas and Aragorn, he has taken the Paths of the Dead and has lived to tell the tale.

He sees with the eyes of Gandalf the White, discerning the will and the presence of the gods and the angels. He sees with elven clarity and Christian charity.

He sees.

He sees into the mystery of things because he sees that there is a mystery to be seen. He sees that the failure to see the mystery is due to the failure to believe in it. Seeing really is believing, and there really are none so blind as those who will not see. Knowing these axiomatic truths, the author of The Lord of the Rings also sees the blind, though he does not see as they see.

He does not see as Sherlock Holmes sees because Sherlock Holmes doesn’t see. Holmes is blinded by his elementary misunderstanding of the cosmos, believing with Lucretius and the atomists that there is nothing but matter and that nothing else matters. It is, therefore, wrong to describe the detective stories of Conan Doyle as mystery stories because the stories are devoid of mystery. It would be better to describe them as puzzles to be solved rather than mysteries that mystify. Holmes fails to see the elemental truth that Shakespeare sees and which he voices in the words of Hamlet that “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio [or Sherlock], than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Nor is blindness the preserve of the materialist. At the other extreme, those who see the supernatural superstitiously are blinded not so much by the ignorance that leaves the materialist in the dark as by the ignis fatuus of the ignoble and the ignominious, which prefers the darkness to the light. “The issue is now quite clear,” said the great G.K. Chesterton shortly before his death. “It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.” How much worse, therefore, is the willful sinner, the denizen of darkness who hates the light, than the materialist who is only in the dark because he doesn’t know that the light exists? How much worse is the one who worships the darkness than the one who is merely wandering in it?

The author of The Lord of the Rings sees as Chesterton sees. “The more truly we can see life as a fairytale,” wrote Chesterton, “the more clearly the tale resolves itself into war with the dragon who is wasting fairyland.”  The Seer sees life as a fairytale in which wicked witches and dragons are causing havoc and against which the virtuous must struggle in order to live happily ever after. The Seer sees as Chesterton sees because he sees as Saint George sees. Whenever he sees evil, he sees a dragon; whenever he sees a wicked man leading a damsel into distress, he sees a dragon. Whenever he hears the salacious and seductive sophistries of sin, he sees the serpent and the forked tongue with which it speaks. He sees as Father Brown sees, recognizing that the crime is also a sin and that the failure to recognize the sin eventually leads to the condoning of the crime. He sees with Chesterton that the choice is between light and darkness and that there is no ambivalent twilight zone beyond good and evil. He sees that Dracula is a dragon, and that those who cannot see the dragon in Dracula are living in a perpetual twilight because they do not know the sunlight.

The author of The Lord of the Rings knows the sunlight. He may not be a wizard but he possesses a wizard’s wisdom. To see as he sees is to see everything in the glorious sunlight of Ilûvatar, the One who sees all and knows that it is Good.

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2 replies to this post
  1. This is beautiful, ty. I wish I had time to quote from CS Lewis’s Space Trilogy. There’s a passage there where good and evil are purifying for a sort of final battle. Each must choose a side.

    I especially like this line from the above article: “It is, therefore, wrong to describe the detective stories of Conan Doyle as mystery stories because the stories are devoid of mystery”

    Regarding acknowledging sins as wrong, political science though is so dirty that those willing to lower themselves seem to obtain power. So, that really brings into question what’s justifiable with the right intentions.

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