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Old 07-19-2004, 06:57 AM   #1
Iarwain
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Somehow, upon pondering existence a few days ago, I (again, somehow) arrived at the fascinating conclusion that Good and Evil are not perfect opposites. Perhaps I could spend a few pages discussing some philosophical proofs (if such things exist) that verify my conclusion, but perhaps not (you, reading, will know better than I). I will, at least, begin with an explaination and (inevitably) digress from there. Be warned, this will likely become a sort of theology for Middle-Earth ( hmm. that doesn't sound very good, does it?).

As Middle-Earth is inescapably tied to a reality of "ethical monotheism," all things inevitably find their roots in the divinity who presides over it (Eru), and, just for clarity, as it is ethical monotheism, and not dualism in any way, all things, in origin, are "good". I may be quite incorrect here, but it seems to me that within M-E, Arda, Ea, etc. Eru is both omnipotent and omniscient, and existence as a whole is within his sphere of influence. In the end, we could probably argue (and we will) that all existence is a part of Eru himself.


Yes, well, anyway, back to all beings being (in origin) "good." In the Ainulindale we saw the beginning of Melkor's corruption, his first greed, jealousy, etc., which led centrally to his dischord, bringing an end to the first theme. The battle (if it can be termed as such) was fought in the second theme, and Melkor's dischord was overwhelmed by and absorbed into the third theme.

I seem to be jumping about an awful lot, so I'll just get to the point. Here is my theory, in three points:

1: Because of the providence of Eru, the origin of all things is good

2: Because of the corruption of some created beings, evil exists as (primarily) greed, pride, and fear (from which flow hate, etc.) and drives thoseof it to attempt to separate themselves and be independant of Eru. This constitutes a sort of spiritual suicide, since all existence is a part of Eru.

3: But, becaue of the mercy of Eru, and the rational nature of existence, this is impossible, and the fundamental good found in evil beings, actions, etc. is restored back into the harmony of divine exitence, while the evil ceases to exist of its own accord.

Note: by providence, i mean merely that Eru is in control throughout existence, I don't mean the Calvinist principles of predestination, though that will be argued when I return.

Please enjoy,
Iarwain



P.S. I've done a quick read through, and I believe I've caught most misspellings. It's almost funny how themed most of my threads are.

P.P.S. For a discussion on "goodness," see "All those 'Good' Guys."
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Old 07-20-2004, 11:18 AM   #2
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Very interesting post above. A few brief comments:
It seems to me clear that Middle-earth is not manichæist in philosophy. The primary cause of evil in Middle-earth (aside from its being rather necessary for a ripping good yarn) is free will. In some other forums some have argued for what seems to me to be a form of dualism in Ea, but I see JRRT accomodating free will with Ea being essentially "good". Two examples: Gandalf says somewhere in LOTR that he will not have wholly failed if anything fair survives (to me implying an eventually resurgence of good even if Sauron triumphed in the War of the Ring), and Iluvatar's comments to Melkor in the Ainulindale:
"And thou, Melkor, shall see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined."

This doesn't mean that rational creatures cannot do evil that negatively effects others and the world, but rather that (eventually) this evil will be redressed.

I hope this isn't too much off the topic, but the concept of free will in Middle-earth is interesting and rather ambiguous (especially as related to Turin and his family).

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Old 07-20-2004, 01:33 PM   #3
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By and large I agree Iarwain, and welcome to the Downs Tuor.

However, I would nitpick the following:
Quote:
it seems to me that within M-E, Arda, Ea, etc. Eru is both omnipotent and omniscient, and existence as a whole is within his sphere of influence
Eru is not or perhaps it would be better to say that He rarely exercises omnipotence over the freewill of his children.

I rather imagine you already agree with this but I just wanted to underscore it.
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Old 07-20-2004, 01:52 PM   #4
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1420! Every good has a little evil, vice versa

The point I have noticed is that no matter how "good" someone is there is always that touch of evil in them. And no matter how "evil" someone is there is always good in them.

You have the most powerful "good" people I can come up with right now, just from LOTR here, umm, Galadriel and Gandalf. Galadriel and Gandalf both made it clear that they were "tempted by the ring," now they passed their "tests" and prevailed, but the "temptation" was the little bit of "evil" they have in them. We can make the assumption Bombadil is all good, since he's not persuaded by the ring at all, and the ring has no effect on him. If you ask me Bombadil really couldn't of been Eru, no Istari or Valar, debatable whether he is Maia or Tolkien. Famous Maiar's in the stories fell to evil, not all Maiars were accounted for but seems like Maiar's would be tempted by greed and power. Which leaves me to say Bombadil is Tolkien writing himself into the stories. Anyway I'm getting too far off track.

This leads me to my second point that evil cannot survive without good. No one is born "evil," a 6 month year old isn't going to say "i'm going to murder 11 million people later on in life." Everyone at one point in time was "good." It was their decisions later on, their choices, and their greed, that led them to become evil. So Evil would not exist if it wasn't for good. And it seems like good can't live without evil. Even after all the good years with Elessar as king, I'm sure down the line someone like a Morgoth will say I want all this to myself and turn evil. So, in conclusion Good and Evil "coexist" without one the other just simply doesn't exist. If some of that is confusing just say so I'll try to clear it up, I just kind of threw all my thoughts down at once.
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Old 07-20-2004, 03:08 PM   #5
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Thumbs up ...and it was good.

An interesting and (dare I say it?) good thread idea, Iarwain.

The way I see it, Eru, being the sole Creator, is the lone arbiter of goodness; his will is the only objective measure of what is 'good'. Melkor was the first entity whose will conflicted with Eru's. Ergo, Melkor is evil. Melkor could not exist, nor have a will to oppose the will of the Creator, without the Creator creating him and his will. I have just deductively proven that, in Middle-earth, 'evil' owes its existence to 'good'. Good is Eru's Will, and Evil is an Opposing Will. Any omnipotent and omniscient God is an ethical God, for it is God who decides (in monotheistic theory, of course) the Ethics.

And no sooner had he typed his first paragraph, than he was called away to give counsel on matters of grave importance (Should sun-tan lotion be brought? If so, how much? What SPF? Etc.) Hopefully I'll be able to elaborate, lest each sentence of my post is angrily refuted whilst I am helpless to defend it.

Ciao, Downers.
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Old 07-21-2004, 01:47 AM   #6
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Pipe Just want to clarify this...

Quote:
...the "temptation" was the little bit of "evil" they have in them. (Boromir88)
I don't think temptation in itself is evil. After, the world's only perfect person was tempted himself.

But I see part of what you mean. Galadriel's temptation...
Quote:
...when at last all that [Galadriel] had desired in her youth came to her hand, the Ring of Power and the dominion of Middle-earth of which she had dreamed...

(UT II 3 - emphasis mine)
...came from her inherent desire to own the Ring and destroy Sauron with it. A good quest, but the dominion of Middle-earth afterwards?

Gandalf's on the other hand came from his desire to do good. [Sorry, no quotes!] So his temptation is not evil. If he succumbed, he would have thought he did good, then it would get evil quickly.

So there. That's it. all other things that I would have said myself had already been said.

Oh, yeah. Evil never wins.
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Old 07-21-2004, 04:39 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nilpaurion Felagund
Evil never wins.
..ultimately. But it does score a lot of smaller scale victories, although in the final battle, Evil cannot win. Heroes die, injustices happen, Arda is marred and villains are allowed to linger on even when an end could have been put to them before they could cause more suffering (I'm thinking of Melkor here, and how the Valar could have subdued him long ago). I guess this has something to do with Eru's passivity. I'm thinking of something Haldir said to the Fellowship, that goes approximately like this: "In all lands love is mingled with grief and its beauty is not dimmed but grows the greater" (I know this is horribly slaughtered from the real thing, so maybe someone can post the real quote).

Is this maybe the reason why suffering and evil is a part of Eru's will? In order to enhance the beauty of its creation?
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Old 07-21-2004, 06:35 AM   #8
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Silmaril Ethics and suffering

Quote:
Any omnipotent and omniscient God is an ethical God, for it is God who decides (in monotheistic theory, of course) the Ethics. (Son of Númenor)
Quote:
I'm thinking of something Haldir said to the Fellowship, that goes approximately like this: "In all lands love is mingled with grief and its beauty is not dimmed but grows the greater" ... Is this maybe the reason why suffering and evil is a part of Eru's will? In order to enhance the beauty of its creation? (Evisse the Blue)
But that's hardly an "ethical approach" as we would understand it, is it?
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Old 07-21-2004, 08:35 PM   #9
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Pipe

Quote:
Quote:
Any omnipotent and omniscient God is an ethical God, for it is God who decides (in monotheistic theory, of course) the Ethics. (Son of Númenor)
Quote:
Is this maybe the reason why suffering and evil is a part of Eru's will? In order to enhance the beauty of its creation?(Evisse the Blue
But that's hardly an "ethical approach" as we would understand it, is it? (The Saucepan Man)
Of course. For Eru to "ethically" cleanse evil from the world, he would have to destroy it. Rather, in his Ethics, he allowed Melkor's music to merge with his themes, instead of destroying him right then and there. I could not understand why he did so, considering there is no eternal life or punishment that we know of in Arda.

Instead of uprooting evil with a force of violence he moved on with his plan, but he used Melkor's discordant themes to improve the Ainulindalë.

So there. The Ethics of Eru's passivity. Personally, I would be scared for Arda if Eru is not passive. Remember what happened to the Flat Earth Theory?
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Old 07-22-2004, 06:57 AM   #10
Iarwain
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Boots

Time for responses!

Tour, I agree with you completely, and your post was as on topic as it could be.

Lindil, you were right, it is extremely rare that Eru excercises his will on "creation," but somehow I still think he has supreme power, but he also excercises judgement on when to use it.

Boromir, I disagree with you very much. I recall a point in "The Unchaining of Melkor" when Tolkien states that Manwe could not fathom the will of Melkor, because Manwe's mind was untainted. So, there is one example of good without evil. Also, if we look at supremes, on the "good" side is Eru who has no trace of evil, and Melkor is reverse, but Melkor has traces of good. I think I understand your argument, but please don't mention Tom Bombadil again in this thread, it's very dangerous.

Bravo, Son of Numenor! I like the thoughts, please elaborate.


And now, my 30 minutes of downers time are up for the day. I must get to class, but I hope to respond to the rest tomorrow.

Fare thee well,
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Old 07-23-2004, 06:54 AM   #11
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Boots Responses continued...

I agree with Saucepan. To say that Eru 'willed evil' is irrational. It's sort of like me willing the blood vessels in my hand to rupture. (not the best analogy, I know)

And here, part 3 of my composition comes into focus. Because of the mercy of Eru, Melkor's rebellion was not immediately annihilated. I think this ties in with the fact that there is no heaven or hell in M-E. Perhaps being evil is it's own punishment. Imagine Melkor as a sort of Sisyphus, eternally struggling to separate himself and be victorious over Eru, but doomed to eternally fail. And thus, perhaps Eru was unwilling to remove Melkor because of the remnants of goodness that remained within him. (And the word "good" becomes even more ambiguous.)



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Old 07-24-2004, 05:20 AM   #12
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If I'd wanted to be really sarcatic I'd say: "Thus, the vicious circle of suffering is completed. Melkor suffers because he's evil, the others suffer because he's evil, Eru watches mercifully over all."
But as I did a little more thinking, I realized that putting an end to this neverending misery rests not with the good, but the evil: should Melkor use his free will and decide to be good, it would all end, and he would himself be pardoned. Makes sense. Eru did think of everything. (as did Tolkien).
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Old 07-25-2004, 12:07 AM   #13
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Silmaril

But it could also end in another way. Should Melkor and his minions choose to remain contending with the will of Eru (which they did, I think), the good would have to take the matter into their hands and act upon this "war" once and for all to end it. Eru could finally stop being passive and use his omnipotence to destroy evil, however he will do it. Nothing was evil in its beginning. Even Melkor was not so. It could be that no evil will remain in the end. Since Eru put everything into existence--even evil, but just indirectly--he could probably choose to put something out of existence if it would be for the good of all.

Oh my, I'm actually working with just speculations here.
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Old 07-25-2004, 08:04 PM   #14
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Quote:
2: Because of the corruption of some created beings, evil exists as (primarily) greed, pride, and fear (from which flow hate, etc.) and drives thoseof it to attempt to separate themselves and be independant of Eru. This constitutes a sort of spiritual suicide, since all existence is a part of Eru. (Iarwain)
I perfectly agree with this, particularly the part about evil's want to be independent of Eru and the emotions/'sins' that you pinpoint as the manifestations of evil. In some of these topics, threads seem to stray far into the abstract and philosophical, but your theory, and this part in particular, is very well-grounded in Tolkien's beliefs about his world, imho.

I do not understand, however, your suggestion that Melkor had "remnants of goodness" within him. It says in the Silm (which is conveniently packed away in my luggage in the car so that I cannot quote from it) that Melkor's evil is complete and utter, and that he has become so corrupt that any chance of his thinking a 'good' thought (much less doing a good deed) is beyond hope. This, actually, raises an interesting question: does exercising one's will in an 'evil' way, to become independent of Eru and attempt (as in the cases of Sauron, Melkor, Saruman) to become an omnipotent tyrant, in the end ultimately negate one's Eru-given 'free will'? Does this wilful act of rebellion put an end to the 'free will' so that, as in the case of Melkor, the rebel can no longer act out of goodness, and is utterly controlled by evil?
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Old 07-25-2004, 08:49 PM   #15
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Silmaril

I belive you are right, Son of Numenor. Melkor could have had the false sense of free will, but used it entirely for evil. And without realizing it, he himself is controlled by his desire to wreak havoc in Arda, and all his actions became bent on that desire.

Sauron, however, had the chance to turn his back from this, only he did not. He still had his free will, but when he chose to continue the evil works of his master, he had totally and finally forsaken it. Not that I could blame him, for the seeds of evil were sown deep into his heart.
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Old 07-26-2004, 11:05 AM   #16
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Awesome point, Iarwain. That's actually how I view God/dess, Spirit, the Guy in the Sky, or whatever you want to call that supreme being we all try and get to like us. And I believe it works here, too. The Song does come from Eru/Ilúvatar, and all parts or themes of it come from him/it as well. Therefore, I guess that Eru is neither good nor evil, he simply is everything. (Though this is not to say that he supports Morgoth in any way ) Good and evil need each other to survive, I think, because they play off and feed off of each other. No doubt Eru could destroy Morgoth or any other evil in a second, but he's wise enough to realize that this would throw off the balance that good and evil have, and this would basically wreak havoc on the world. (And as an afterthought, someone else evil would come along later anyway... how cyclic life is...)
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Old 07-28-2004, 09:24 AM   #17
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Boots

I think I'll respond to Encaitare first, because your post struck me particularly. I disagree with the system you describe:
Quote:
I guess that Eru is neither good nor evil, he simply is everything... Good and evil need each other to survive, I think, because they play off and feed off of each other. No doubt Eru could destroy Morgoth or any other evil in a second, but he's wise enough to realize that this would throw off the balance that good and evil have, and this would basically wreak havoc on the world. (Encaitare)
But, as Son of Numenor described above, Eru is necessarily good, because good is judged according to the nature of Eru. Also, though you say you agree with me, your post says the opposite in that you think Tolkien's created existence (I'll abbreviate as TCE from now on) is subject to a form a dualism. This, according to my understanding, is not so. In order for it to be true, Melkor and Eru would have to be equals, or a higher being on "Melkor's side" (good and evil would no longer be objective, but subjective- both sides would be "right" according to their diety) would be needed who could and would contend with Eru. However, as TCE stands, Eru is supreme and he stands alone, leaving your statement about "the balance" as a sort of divine masochism. Evil by nature is a disruption in the balance. Eru is perfection (solely because he is Divine), and therefore evil (a rebellion against Eru's will) is utterly imperfect and it wreaks havoc on the world. An instant, forced elimination of evil by Eru would also, however, destroy some good.

This brings me to my "remnants of good." Evil (and Tolkien says this in the letters) can never be complete. The moment a being becomes totally evil is the moment that being ceases to exist, because it has separated itself from Eru, and as Eru is existence, it has also separated itself from existence itself (spiritual suicide). Therefore, it is necessary for all evil beings to have some good in them, otherwise they would not be in the first place. I don't know how else to explain... Hopefully you understand.


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Old 07-28-2004, 10:26 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iarwain
This brings me to my "remnants of good." Evil (and Tolkien says this in the letters) can never be complete. The moment a being becomes totally evil is the moment that being ceases to exist, because it has separated itself from Eru, and as Eru is existence, it has also separated itself from existence itself (spiritual suicide). Therefore, it is necessary for all evil beings to have some good in them, otherwise they would not be in the first place. I don't know how else to explain... Hopefully you understand.
This is very like Meister Eckhart's idea - God is only aware of 'good', which He holds in existence. To the extent that we are 'good' we are held in being by God. If at any point we were to become wholly evil, God would instantly cease to be aware of us, & consequently of the need to hold us in existence, & we would simply cease to be.

Of course, Eckhart complicates things by saying that God is constantly creating Past, Present & Future from a point outside serial time, so that would require God to be aware of, & be creating, the person the person in the past, while they were good, but not aware of them in the present, when they had ceased to be good & become entirely evil. But you'd think He'd notice something was wrong if the person was there, needing to be created (ie 'held in being') in the 'past', but not there in the 'present' or the 'future', all of which periods would exist for God 'now'.
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Old 07-28-2004, 08:51 PM   #19
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Hmm... fascinating. Perhaps my respose was just me trying to get philosphical and failing

But in response, I don't think it's an actual "dualism" as in Eru has an evil equal or anything, but it seems that in his outline of the Song he has a plan for everything and knows what is going to happen, unlike any of the Valar or Morgoth. He's definitely a good force, but he seems to understand that good and evil both have their place.

Hopefully this clears some stuff up...
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Old 07-28-2004, 08:55 PM   #20
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Pipe Re: Balance of Good and Evil

Iarwain got to this first, but I would also like to share my disagreement. Here are my reasons.

1. Evil did not co-exist with good in the beginning. No-one was evil from the beginning, after all.

2. Evil is but a corruption of good.

First, of course, good would have to be defined in the context of Arda.
What is good? It is the fact that creation - the ability to create and the fruits of the ability - belongs to Eru alone, and that the Children of Ilúvatar deserve life.
So, in this context, how did evil begin? Melkor desired to be creator himself, and when he couldn’t do so, he defaced creation instead.

It is said that Morgoth’s worst evil was the creation of Orcs. Why? Because he corrupted the works of Eru both on the outside and on the inside. By inducing this race to hate, to disrespect others’ right to live, he removed the Orcs’ right to live.

I know this seems wrong, but have you noticed that nobody has called a truce with an Orc? It is because they’d either kill you anyway if you sue for peace, or that they wouldn’t understand your mercy and fight to the death.

3. Good and evil could not co-exist forever. They are both locked in a battle for survival. The history of Middle-earth is a testimony to that. In the end, one would have to be utterly destroyed, and the other would rule. Considering the history of Middle-earth, and Eru himself, we could see the outcome of such a battle.

So, in conclusion: Evil did not share its beginnings with good, and it would not share its end. There is no balance of good and evil in Arda, except maybe that evil should be non-existent.

Oh, Melkor. You naughty, wayward child.
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Old 07-28-2004, 09:00 PM   #21
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Indeed you are correct... as I said, I tried to get philosophical going on my own opinions and it seems that I completely failed to look at things through the Middle-earth lens.

You're right, Nilpaurion, and looking at it in the context of Tolkien's world I'm realizing that you guys have definitely got it here.

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Oh, Melkor. You naughty, wayward child.
lol, indeed. Oh well, there's always one
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Old 01-26-2005, 12:28 AM   #22
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Pipe I just realised one question remained unanswered.

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Does this wilful act of rebellion put an end to the 'free will' so that, as in the case of Melkor, the rebel can no longer act out of goodness, and is utterly controlled by evil? (SoN)
Well, I think Melkor's consummate fall is not judgment, but foresight. There’s a part in the Gospels where Jesus addresses a group of Pharisees, saying that they could never be saved (or something like that . . . I don’t have exact quotes): I think it’s not that they can’t be saved, but they refuse to. Same as Melkor, perhaps. He is still of Eru. He could be saved. Unfortunately, he’s so consumed with what he wants that he forgot that.

Or perhaps he just no longer comprehends good—cf. Manwë not comprehending evil.

You said "Melkor", Noldo. Noldor don't say that.

Oops.
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Old 02-11-2005, 09:36 PM   #23
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Silmaril

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nilp
Does this wilful act of rebellion put an end to the 'free will' so that, as in the case of Melkor, the rebel can no longer act out of goodness, and is utterly controlled by evil? (SoN)
In the case of Sauron, he has always had the will to refuse Morgoth and remain on the side of the Valar. But he chose power and dominion as Sauron's servant over being "just like everyone else" as a faithful Maia. When Morgoth was overthrown, he chose to continue what his master has begun in him, and he has never been able to retract his steps from the path of evil.

Does this mean that once you become evil, you become evil forever with no hope of redemption? Not so! Sauron had the chance to turn his back from Morgoth's ways and be reaccepted by the Valar, only he has been in too deep with his rebellion that he cannot escape. It's something like what they say about giving the devil a foothold in your heart; once he has stepped in through the door, it would be very difficult to drive him away again. Sauron could return to good if he really wanted to, if he tried his best to get rid of Morgoth's lies and ask for the Valar's pardon (and, perhaps, "salvation"). But he found it too much of an effort, and considered his old ways to be the "easier" road.
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Old 02-12-2005, 09:27 AM   #24
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Actually, Sauron seems to have had a genuine (if shallow) repentence
after the War of Wrath.
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When Thangorodrim was broken and Morgoth overthrown, Sauron put on his fair hue again and did obeisance to Eonwe, the herald of Manwe, and abjured all his evil deeds. And some hold that this was not at first falsely done, but that Sauron in truth repented, if only out of fear, being dismayed by the fall of Morgoth and the great wrath of the Lords of the West.
==========================
And having just rewatched the movie "Death on the Nile",
the French detective, Poirot, advises the chief planner of the convoluted murder plot:
"Do not let evil into your heart, it will make a home there."
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Old 06-10-2005, 07:42 PM   #25
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I'm surprised at myself and all the others who posted on this thread. I was wandering (as always), and I returned here, to reread my original post. At the beginning, I was fine with what I said, but after getting about halfway through I became somewhat disgusted with myself for making an amazingly reckless statement and failing utterly to back it up.

I said "In the end, we could probably argue (and we will) that all existence is a part of Eru himself." Why should this be? In fact, I disagree with my last-year self and propose that such a statement is foolish to the extreme.

Why?

Eru, however ethical and good, is undeniably lacking in a physical Middle-Earthian presence. In fact, the only instance I can give of actually participating within Arda is in the destruction of Numenor. If everything and everyone within TCE is a PART of Eru, somehow I think he would be more involved.

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Old 06-11-2005, 08:59 PM   #26
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On the other hand, I have heard it said once that the entire universe is a figment of the imagination of Eru/God. Which makes it no less real, of course! But of course that's not exactly what you're correcting yourself about.

Perhaps Eru was more involved than it at first seems upon one reading. How many times in all the legendarium isn't there a reference to something "meant to be"? The workings of Eru would, I can imagine, be most subtle and quite invisible to his creatures, even those storied beings in Valinor.

So maybe Eru is passive, or maybe he only seems that way.
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Old 06-12-2005, 02:03 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by LMP
So maybe Eru is passive, or maybe he only seems that way.
Or maybe He's just lazy - as Treebeard says 'Its easier to shout 'Stop!' than to do it'.....
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Old 06-13-2005, 11:47 AM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
Or maybe He's just lazy - as Treebeard says 'Its easier to shout 'Stop!' than to do it'.....
I realise that this was probably intended in jest, but to take it in a serius direction...

If one assumes that Eru = God (of Catholics,etc), then when Eru says "Stop", it must happen. As in creation, "God said, "let there be light," and there was light", etc, etc.

In any case, Eru having been the one to direct the Music that caused Arda, and having been the One to call it into being, and having been the sole creator of the Children of Eru, I think it unlikely that he played NO part in the workings of Arda. I would agree that, if Arda is part of his thought, however, that his workings would be very subtle, being the workings of Arda, Time, and Fate, and as inexplicable to the Ainur as to his lesser children.
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Old 06-13-2005, 12:45 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Formendacil
If one assumes that Eru = God (of Catholics,etc), then when Eru says "Stop", it must happen. As in creation, "God said, "let there be light," and there was light", etc, etc.
Way, way too much of an assumtion for me! Eru is as much an invented character as Frodo or Feanor. Eru sprang from Tolkien's mind, while Tolkien sprang from God's mind. One can discuss the nature & motives of Eru as one can the nature & motives of any other character in the story because on one level all the inhabitants of Middle earth are equal in that they are inventions of an author. One can declare Eru is stupid, callous, lazy, incompetent, etc, because one is 'greater' than Eru. One cannot make the same kind of judgement of God, because God is greater than we are.

Jumping back on my hobby-horse for a moment, this is the danger of bringing primary world baggage into the secondary world. Eru is not, cannot be, God. The most he can be is a reflection of Tolkien's idea of God - but we can't even be sure He's that. We can't make any one to one correlation between Eru & God. All we can say is that Eru is the supreme deity of Middle earth & while we sojourn there we must accept Him as that, but while we are there we must leave God in the primary world (well, to be precise, we must keep the worlds seperate - God is not Eru or vice versa, anymore than Shelob is Lilith ). Our knowlege of the one may inform our understanding of the other, but that is subjective & optional.

(Just wanted to clarify my position in case anyone took offence at my post - I wasn't saying God is lazy)
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Old 06-13-2005, 01:09 PM   #30
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Never said that you did...

However, it isn't such a huge assumption as you want to make it.

Granted, not everyone will take it as assumeable, but I don't think it takes a leap of faith.

Tolkien had Eru and the Valar to reconcile his love for the multiple, Norse gods with his beliefs in a One, omniscient God, who is the God of Catholicism. Therefore, if he is trying to reconcile his world with Catholicism by creating a parallel Eru, then surely it stands to reason that this Eru should, statements contradicting notwithstanding, have the same powers and such as the "real" person on which He is based.

Furthermore, later in life, Tolkien took the time to reconcile "the One" of Eru with the "Trinity" of God (in the Debate of Finrod and Andreth).

So, disagreers statements to the contrary, I stand by my assumption as being reasonable and not far-fetched.
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Old 06-13-2005, 01:50 PM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil
Tolkien had Eru and the Valar to reconcile his love for the multiple, Norse gods with his beliefs in a One, omniscient God, who is the God of Catholicism. Therefore, if he is trying to reconcile his world with Catholicism by creating a parallel Eru, then surely it stands to reason that this Eru should, statements contradicting notwithstanding, have the same powers and such as the "real" person on which He is based.

Furthermore, later in life, Tolkien took the time to reconcile "the One" of Eru with the "Trinity" of God (in the Debate of Finrod and Andreth)..
Still, Eru is Tolkien's invention, God is not. Tolkien may have been attempting such a reconciliation, but are his readers? My position is that Middle earth should stand alone & not require any primary world input/baggage to make it wither understandable or accessible. Therefore, Eru must stand alone as a figure within Middle earth, & not be dependent on God to be meaningful. Eru may have the same or similar attirbutes to God, but does that come across within the story? If you had no knowledge of God how would you understand Eru? Would he seem omnipotent, omniscient, compassionate, involved in the life of His creatures?

Is the Legendarium a 'parable'? Probably, to my mind, but it is not an allegory, in that it is not dependent on, or in the service of, another story - if it was it would not be able to stand alone. As far as the Athrabeth goes, Tolkien himself was uncomfortable with its similarity to the Christian Incarnation. Personally, I think that the incarnation of Eru as predicted in the 'Conversation' fits in with the internal logic of the Legendarium, & its relationship to the Christian story owes more to applicability than allegory, similarity to, rather than dependence on, a primary world event.

He himself stated that primary world religious symbols did not belong in secondary worlds, because they inevitably either make the secondary world into an allegory, or they result in the 'purposed domination of the author'. If Tolkien had made 'Eru=God'. 'Eru's incarnation=Christ's incarnation' then the reader would be 'dominated' by the author's interpretation of the story.

From this perspective, what Tolkien intended is not really relevant - he may have intended what you say (actually I agree with you), but he was also a great enough artist to write his story in such a way that the reader is free to apply a Christian interpretation or not.

So, I'm not saying that your 'application' of God to Eru is wrong, only that it is not an inevitable one-to-one correlation, & that it is not necessary to an understanding & interpretation of the character. I would say, though, that if Eru is only understandable as an allegory of God then the secondary world is not self contained & is merely an aspect of the primary & dependent on it for its meaning & relevance. In other words, the secondary world & its inhabitants are dependant on us to supply the reason for their existence.
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Old 06-13-2005, 06:28 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
My position is that Middle earth should stand alone & not require any primary world input/baggage to make it wither understandable or accessible.
Wither?

Your position requires an impossibility. No readers can read any book without bringing in their baggage.

As to your other questions, I daresay enough is presented throughout the Legendarium that readers can safely draw conclusions as to the nature of Eru. Based on these conclusions (among which are that Eru is Good and in no wise Evil, is All Powerful which is based on His ability to draw even Melkor's rebellion into His purpose (omnipotent), the Source of Life (holder of the Secret Fire), etc., etc.,), readers can then build an understanding of Eru which .... surprise! .... bears a striking resemblance to the Christian God!

I am so thunderstruck. How amazing. Who would have thought that an author who is a self proclaimed Catholic Christian, would actually subcreate a Creator that is for all practical purposes equivalent to the Christian God?

Spellbindingly obvious, isn't it?
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Old 06-14-2005, 06:33 AM   #33
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Thunderstruck?

*hums under his nose no dark sarcasm in the classroom...

um, I know I'm not Eru and there is no reason my 'stopping' should have an effect, but unless stray Eru-substitute in the face of a mod passes by and puts a stop to whole show, would you mind pleasing old (relatively) windy me by staying cool?

Thank you
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Old 06-14-2005, 07:27 AM   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Wither?
'either'.

I think we may be risking some very boring posts if we start picking each other up on every mis-keying that slips past us.

Quote:
Your position requires an impossibility. No readers can read any book without bringing in their baggage.
No, it merely requires us to distinguish between 'me' & 'not me', between Eru & God. Even if your point is correct, one should still make the effort to distinguish between your baggage & what's already there. You seem to be saying that a kind of 'participation mystique' is inevitable & that its impossible to know where the primary world ends & the secondary world begins, where God ends & Eru begins - or even where you end & 'Frodo' begins. 'Know thyself & Know thy baggage'. Or if you can make those kind of distinctions, then I'm not asking the impossible.

Quote:
As to your other questions, I daresay enough is presented throughout the Legendarium that readers can safely draw conclusions as to the nature of Eru. Based on these conclusions (among which are that Eru is Good and in no wise Evil, is All Powerful which is based on His ability to draw even Melkor's rebellion into His purpose (omnipotent), the Source of Life (holder of the Secret Fire), etc., etc.,), readers can then build an understanding of Eru which .... surprise! .... bears a striking resemblance to the Christian God!

I am so thunderstruck. How amazing. Who would have thought that an author who is a self proclaimed Catholic Christian, would actually subcreate a Creator that is for all practical purposes equivalent to the Christian God?

Spellbindingly obvious, isn't it?
I'd say that Eru is definitely similar to a certain concept of God, but He does not correspond exactly to the 'Christian God' for either practical or non practical purposes. As I said, he may (or may not) correspond to Tolkien's concept of the Christian God, but that 'similarity' or 'correspondence' is not the issue. The issue (as I see it) is: does Eru stand or fall as a figure in His own right, or does He need a knowledge of the Christian God to be understandable? If He does then he is an allegory, dependent on something external to the secondary world in order to be intelligeable. Seeing in Eru the Christian God is applicability - its something you as a reader are doing - it does not 'come with the set'.
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Old 06-14-2005, 08:46 AM   #35
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Eru is not God, Eru is Eru. He is a literary creation, which has some similarities to the God of certain sectors of Christianity, but not all. Eru, and the greater cosmological structure of Middle Earth, also have similarities to the God or Gods of other religions and beliefs. Eru ought not to be 'claimed' by followers of one faith, but if they wish to see the similarities then obviously they are perfectly entitled to! I think that referring to Eru as He much as we would refer to God as He does not help, either (and likewise, some Christians may indeed find that blasphemous).

Yes, Tolkien was a Catholic, but he also did not want to write an allegory, so if we can happily say that Eru is the same as God, then equally we could say that Sauron is Hitler, and so forth. In my opinion, such debates may be interesting, but I'm not sure how useful they would be as one 'given' about Tolkien's work is that it was not allegorical.

I believe Tolkien's Christian faith was visible in the morality of the world he created, but remember that these morals are not exclusive to Christianity, they are universal morals, whatever our beliefs. This is why people from all cultural and religious backgrounds can enjoy and appreciate Tolkien's work. When he said that the symbols of religion had no place in fantasy, I think this could be what he was getting at - that a newly created secondary world had to be concrete within itself, and that symbols which could be divisive in the real world had no place in a created world. I think he was also aware that his work should not be misappropriated, bearing in mind that he wrote at a time when Nordic myth was being misappropriated by political groups.

I don't have a faith, but I follow broadly unitarian principles in that all faiths have equal merit and deserve equal respect. Coming from this angle I see that while LotR was written by a Catholic, it is no more about Catholicism than about any other faith. Likewise, if you wish to see such similarities in Tolkien's work then you are perfectly free to do so, and indeed, such discussion is interesting, but it is important to bear in mind that LotR is not an allegory. I'm hoping here that we can all be careful when aligning Tolkien's work with our own faiths.
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Old 06-14-2005, 08:51 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
The issue (as I see it) is: does Eru stand or fall as a figure in His own right, or does He need a knowledge of the Christian God to be understandable?
The answers (as I see them) are yes and no.
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Old 06-14-2005, 10:31 AM   #37
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I'll try and be a good boy, H-I.

Just to pick a nit, I said "striking resemblance", not "is the same as".

Tolkien referred to Eru in the masculine pronoun when he used it at all. I am following his precedent, with no intent to offend.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saucepan Man
yes and no
You elf.

As to wither/either, davem, I really didn't know what word you were shooting for.

I'm not even sure how this applies to the discussion, but it strikes me that there is much more held in common by Tolkien's readers than not. Of course, there are bound to be slight variations which reveal themselves in discussions like these. But the fact that there can be such a site and that we can actually hold (semi-)intelligent discussions at all, demonstrates the commonality as being far greater than the differences. This, I imagine, would hold just as much for Eru as any other character in the Legendarium.
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Old 06-14-2005, 01:15 PM   #38
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I can't help wondering whether a Muslim reader would have much of a problem with Eru - quite possibly seeing in 'Him' a certain 'applicability' with Allah. Perhaps the only problem they would encounter would be with the possibility of Eru's incarnation prophesied in the Athrabeth. I don't think a Hindu would have difficulty even with that.

Even an athiest, if they weren't too 'militant' could accept Eru within Middle earth, because Eru is a given within that world. There are some 'blatant' Christian references for those with eyes to see - the Fellowship setting off from Rivendell on Dec 25th, the Dark Tower falling on March 25th, but it is not necessary to know that those dates have primary world references to appreciate the story. Even when such symbolism is present it can be ignored or missed even by Christian readers.

If Tolkien's readers share any belief or worldview I suspect it is along the lines of what Lewis referred to as 'natural law' - something he finds in all religions (even pre-Christian ones). As Tolkien stated, the 'religion' has been absorbed into the story. By that 'absorption' it becomes something different. Originally, as John Garth has shown, the orcs of the mythology were closely associated with the Germans of WW1.

Applicability is all we can expect because of the absorption of the religious dimension into the story - it is not present in its primary world form. But even then the process will be different in each case - I may apply the account of the Dead Marshes to Tolkien's WW1 experiences, but my 'application' will be 'accademic', because I never experienced seeing dead soldiers rotting in the foxholes of nomansland, whereas for Tolkien or another verteran, it would be much more visceral. My 'application' would be optional, the veteran's would quite possibly be overwhelming & unavoidable. Yet other readers would not make such a connection at all. For them the Dead Marshes would simply be what they are stated to be in the book. Whose experience of reading the book would be 'better' or 'deeper'? Impossible to answer, though I would say that the latter's reading would be 'purer' because it would be an experience onlyof the secondary world. Such a reader, I would say, would be more likely to be 'enchanted' - because rather than having to leave their 'baggage' at the door, they would have no baggage at all.
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Old 06-14-2005, 08:09 PM   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iarwain
I said "In the end, we could probably argue (and we will) that all existence is a part of Eru himself." Why should this be? In fact, I disagree with my last-year self and propose that such a statement is foolish to the extreme.

Why?

Eru, however ethical and good, is undeniably lacking in a physical Middle-Earthian presence. In fact, the only instance I can give of actually participating within Arda is in the destruction of Numenor. If everything and everyone within TCE is a PART of Eru, somehow I think he would be more involved.
Iarwain, please accept my humble apologies for leading this thread on that wild tangent that got mixed in from another thread and would have done well to stay there.

I think that you are correct that "all existence" is not "a part of Eru". There's simply no evidence for it in the Legendarium, and much against it.

Maybe, fellow dead, we could reserve comments on "broken enchantment", "werewolves", "the movie sucked", or whatever, for threads more appropriate to those topics, and leave discussions of Eru on this one. Sound good? Just a suggestion.

Last edited by littlemanpoet; 06-14-2005 at 08:18 PM.
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Old 06-14-2005, 09:25 PM   #40
Aiwendil
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Aiwendil has been trapped in the Barrow!
Davem wrote:
Quote:
Even an athiest, if they weren't too 'militant' could accept Eru within Middle earth
Well, thank you, I believe I will.

Seriously, I think that unless an author is using his or her story as a veiled platform for some specific political or philosophical message, a wide variety of readers who do not share all the beliefs treated as premises in the story can nonetheless enjoy it. Indeed, if this were not true to some extent, then we could not "suspend disbelief" and accept such trappings of Tolkien's world as Elves, magic, etc. For me, accepting the existence of Eru is no different at all from accepting the existence of Gandalf.
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