Elvish Immortality

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Post by Bnielsen » Wed Aug 25, 2004 1:44 pm

I think it would be interesting to go back and re-read all both your posts, and see just how many times you agree, and then argue the point further ;-)

One (hesitant) addition: Tolkien may have been Catholic, so you can argue much of the philospohy would come from that point of view, except that he intended for much to be fantasy, and he created the race of elves, which definatelty isn't from Catholic teaching.

My point is this- sometimes, I think it's easy to read TOO much into his intent. No doubt there is much room for debate that may be brought up by his writings, but I would think (hope) that sometimes JRR just wrote it to be a good story of fantasy.
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Post by idoron » Thu Aug 26, 2004 10:54 am

Sam and I just like to argue.
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Post by Bnielsen » Thu Aug 26, 2004 11:57 am

No kidding?! :P :wink:
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Thu Aug 26, 2004 12:14 pm

Well, I would actually enjoy it if you would help me find some common ground. :roll: ;)

Maybe we can make a truce?

This old one...
"The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. (Letter 142)"

****"I don't feel under any obligation to make my story fit with formalized Christian theology, though I actually intended it to be consonant with Christian thought and belief. (Letter 269)"****

I was trying to say that last part, and didn'd exactly get it across clearly. Perhaps you were trying to say the first part. But here is indeed a statement from Tolkien that is CRYSTAL CLEAR and stating that he intended his work to be consonant with Christian thought and belief, not the practices of Anatolian cattle herders.

About the physical/moral laws: the only way we know that the sun *doesn't* work like it does here is because Tolkien spells it out. Thus, we don't assume nothing and then figure out how the world works as we go along. We start from the assumption everything is the same and freely concede every difference that Tolkien introduces. Otherwise, how would we even have a clue where to start imagining? So moral truth should be the same way, yes?

idoron wrote:In the world of ME for elves I think the serendipitous defintion I came up with earlier is probably the least ambiguous: When one's spirit goes to the Halls of Mandos.
So you DO admit she dies?
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Post by idoron » Thu Aug 26, 2004 4:18 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:Well, I would actually enjoy it if you would help me find some common ground. :roll: ;)

Maybe we can make a truce?
Never! :P
Sam Gamgee wrote:"The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. (Letter 142)"

****"I don't feel under any obligation to make my story fit with formalized Christian theology, though I actually intended it to be consonant with Christian thought and belief. (Letter 269)"****
Right. I knew he said this, but authors say a lot of things. But even though it is conciously Catholic, the belief system and mythology could not be more uncatholic. At least, as much as I understand Catholicsm.

They share values, without a doubt but I couldn't for the life of me find a Catholic equivalent of Manwe.

My point? LOTR is clearly metaphoric. It is very nearly allegory, but not quite. That is unrelated to the mechanics of life, the universe and everything.
Sam Gamgee wrote:he intended his work to be consonant with Christian thought and belief...
And on a high level, he did. Self-sacrifice, duty, fighting the good fight. But on other levels, clearly he didn't. Elves, who live as long as the earth but who perish completely when the world passes away. A soul that is not immortal is clearly not in keeping with Catholic thought and belief. So I think it would be inappropriate to assume Catholic conventions transfer.

I'm not saying that in any specific case the ideal is not in keeping with Catholic beliefs, but we can't assume that because he is Catholic (and even says the story is) that everything in the story is directly derived from his Catholic faith.
Sam Gamgee wrote:About the physical/moral laws: the only way we know that the sun *doesn't* work like it does here is because Tolkien spells it out. Thus, we don't assume nothing and then figure out how the world works as we go along. We start from the assumption everything is the same and freely concede every difference that Tolkien introduces. Otherwise, how would we even have a clue where to start imagining? So moral truth should be the same way, yes?
No, don't agree there. There is very little that transfers when you think about it, and for that reason alone I think it is a mistake to assume so much. Maybe it is the difference of reading the book as a reader/fan and reading it from a scholarly/analytical approach.

If we <i>assumed</i> that ME operated like one of the views of the universe endorsed by the Catholic church throughout history we would be incorrect. But, as near as I can tell, we should assume that because JRRT wanted it to be a Catholic story, according to your application of literary criticism.
Sam Gamgee wrote:So you DO admit she dies?
Never! :P

Oh, I mean, maybe. :)

By that definition yes, but I also maintain that she is a special case. Her body remains intact and preserved. Breathing? I think so, but we don't know. I would say her body is physically "alive" and functioning, but her spirit is gone to Mandos.

Do you admit that the definition of death as the seperation of body and spirit is overly narrow and does not provide an independantly verifiable standard that can help us determine whether one is alive or dead?
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Aug 27, 2004 7:36 pm

idoron wrote:
Sam Gamgee wrote:****"I don't feel under any obligation to make my story fit with formalized Christian theology, though I actually intended it to be consonant with Christian thought and belief. (Letter 269)"****
Right. I knew he said this, but authors say a lot of things.
What the heck? So now you're throwing away what Tolkien himself says? It seems to me like you're the one who wants to interpret Middle Earth however he sees fit.

You know, call me stupid, but it took me until now to realize why you're so freaked out of using the word "catholic" in relation to a fairy tale. The word doesn't mean what you think it means. It has far broader implications and many more shades of depth and nuance than I could articulate to you here. I can tell you, though, that when I said Catholic here I did not mean that there was an Immaculate Conception in Middle Earth, or that all the elves went to Mass on Sunday and Illuvatar was a Trinity.


idoron wrote:My point? LOTR is clearly metaphoric. It is very nearly allegory, but not quite. That is unrelated to the mechanics of life, the universe and everything.
Not an allegory, not a metaphor - but not wholly unrelated. Tolkien says that story and allegory start on different ends, but they converge somewhere in the truth, "so that the only perfectly consistent allegory is a real life, and the only fully intelligible story is an allegory." (letter 109) Why do you like reading Tolkien? I love it because it resonates so deeply within me - if it was unrelated to our world and cut off from moral truth, then it wouldn't do that.

idoron wrote:I'm not saying that in any specific case the ideal is not in keeping with Catholic beliefs, but we can't assume that because he is Catholic (and even says the story is) that everything in the story is directly derived from his Catholic faith.
I never meant to imply that.
Sam Gamgee wrote:No, don't agree there. There is very little that transfers when you think about it, and for that reason alone I think it is a mistake to assume so much. Maybe it is the difference of reading the book as a reader/fan and reading it from a scholarly/analytical approach.
So you're telling me that you start with a blank slate every time you pick up a fantasy book? Come on! That's not even possible. Every person has a world view, and he can't get out of it even to try to understand something for one instant. You can start reading with the knowledge that here the rules are shifted somehow, that things aren't the same, but you can't just assume absolutely nothing or the story would not make a grain of sense. You can take each new thing as it comes and accept it fully as the rules of a different system, but unless most of it were the same as your world view, you wouldn't understand it at all because you'd have no basis to put these rules in. Right?
idoron wrote:
Sam Gamgee wrote:So you DO admit she dies?
Never! :P

Oh, I mean, maybe. :)

By that definition yes, but I also maintain that she is a special case. Her body remains intact and preserved. Breathing? I think so, but we don't know. I would say her body is physically "alive" and functioning, but her spirit is gone to Mandos.
Oh, come on!! :roll: You're just a sore loser!
idoron wrote:Do you admit that the definition of death as the seperation of body and spirit is overly narrow and does not provide an independantly verifiable standard that can help us determine whether one is alive or dead?
You're talking about strictly the science of the matter, aren't you? I'm talking in a broader philosophical sense. Apples and oranges.
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Post by idoron » Sat Aug 28, 2004 10:11 am

Sam Gamgee wrote:What the heck? So now you're throwing away what Tolkien himself says? It seems to me like you're the one who wants to interpret Middle Earth however he sees fit.
Well, yes. But not entirely. There are lots of schools of thought when it comes to literary criticism and analysis. The trend of the last 30 years or so is to interpret works through the lens of the author's life or through a philosophical or linguistic construct, like feminism.

Every tool has it's appropriate direct object. Yes, tolkien wrote the books <b>but</b> it has incalcuably wider application than a Catholic world view. Historically, the texts did not attract a lot of fans who were Catholic or even neighboring world views.

Which suggests to me that there is something that touches more "humanity" than "catholity (?)." Tolkien didn't mean it that way, that I am aware of. A lot of artists say with false humility "I am only a vessel." Meaning their work flows through them. Despite the hard work that JRRT put into LOTR I think he wasn't aware of the depth and nuances of his work. So saying it is only what JRRT says it is seems a little exclustionist to me.
Sam Gamgee wrote:You know, call me stupid, but it took me until now to realize why you're so freaked out of using the word "catholic" in relation to a fairy tale. The word doesn't mean what you think it means. It has far broader implications and many more shades of depth and nuance than I could articulate to you here.
Although I tend to be a strict literalist and have probably not conceptualized many of the nuances you have, I am not freaked out of calling LOTR and Sil Catholic. My point was that JRRT would probably have believed that Moral Law is derived from the Moral Creator and the Moral Creator in ME is similar to the God JRRT believed in but is in some ways very very different. Therefore we cannot assume the Moral Law descendant from him would be the same as the Moral Law descendant from the God of JRRT. yes? Very simple.
Sam Gamgee wrote:or that all the elves went to Mass on Sunday and Illuvatar was a Trinity.
There is an elvish worship service in FotR.
Sam Gamgee wrote:Not an allegory, not a metaphor - but not wholly unrelated. Tolkien says that story and allegory start on different ends, but they converge somewhere in the truth, "so that the only perfectly consistent allegory is a real life, and the only fully intelligible story is an allegory." (letter 109) Why do you like reading Tolkien? I love it because it resonates so deeply within me - if it was unrelated to our world and cut off from moral truth, then it wouldn't do that.
I didn't mean unrelated to our lives, I meant that the "deeper message" (if you want to call it) that is unrelated to how the physical world of ME operates.

Sam Gamgee wrote:
idoron wrote:I'm not saying that in any specific case the ideal is not in keeping with Catholic beliefs, but we can't assume that because he is Catholic (and even says the story is) that everything in the story is directly derived from his Catholic faith.
I never meant to imply that.
So it follows that unless there is a textual reason to draw parallels, we shouldn't right? I think the major differences between our approaches here is that I stop with LOTR and Sil and go no further. And I think you look beyond and interpret LOTR and Sil. in the light of other texts. And there is nothing wrong with that.

But I think we <b>must</b> do so when looking at the texts from an analytical standpoint, which is what one must do when we are trying to deduce the exact characteristics of Elvish rebirth, yes? I can think of lots of rebirth myths but they don't explain <b>how the physical world of ME works</b>. They don't have <i>anything</i> to do with how elves are reborn and neither does the faith of JRRT.
Sam Gamgee wrote:So you're telling me that you start with a blank slate every time you pick up a fantasy book? Come on! That's not even possible. Every person has a world view, and he can't get out of it even to try to understand something for one instant.
Yes and no. I try to leave as much baggage as I can at the door and read <b>any</b> book for what it is, not what I am. If I (we) didn't then in every fantasy book the hero would be Aragorn and if you sailed West you would find the Undying Lands. especially since the majority of fantasy since Tolkien has been derivative.

But once we start <b>analyzing</b> a work you <b>have</b> to leave everything behind or you aren't doing your job as a scholar. It's hard to question every assumption, but you <b>have</b> to try. I did my best for four years studying literature and language as an undergrad.

That is why, with the exception of this thread (again, books are in boxes) I quote directly from the text.
Sam Gamgee wrote:You're talking about strictly the science of the matter, aren't you? I'm talking in a broader philosophical sense. Apples and oranges.
Not particularly. The "seperation" definition applies to Ivory Tower philosophers. But in the ER it is of no use at all. One can use that definition only in retrospect after dying. I can't cut my soul out or under my own power seperate it from my body. The body is the localized manifestation of the soul and it seems to me that, applying that definition to everyday life, you can't therefore have death at all without making the body unfit.

So why isn't death making the body unfit for the soul?

I don't think the seperation defintion is defensible. It simply isn't clear enough and does not explain how everyday life and death <b>actually work</b>. So what good is it?
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Mon Aug 30, 2004 6:50 pm

Oh yeah, I forgot to reply, didn't I?

My response is this: Ok, I realize I can exhibit more qualities of sophism than intelligence at times, but at least I'm smart enough to eventually realize when to stop. You and I are starting from totally different ground, with totally different means of analysis, general world views, and objectives in mind, and this is why our arguments get us nowhere but a billion splintered irrelevant fragments. So I'm just going to stop. (Tempted as I am to show you how wrong you are. ;))

But in conclusion to the simple original enquiry: she IS **DEAD**. I think we agree on that much, if nothing else.
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Post by Bnielsen » Mon Aug 30, 2004 10:53 pm

I agree, she *is* dead :angel:
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Post by idoron » Mon Aug 30, 2004 11:56 pm

Ok, then.

She's dead.
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Post by theHermit » Mon Feb 28, 2005 3:07 pm

I have enjoyed reading through this thread!

One thing to add off the top of my head is that I've always felt the books were deeply Catholic/Christian in their stressing of forgiveness and redemption and the cost that is sometimes involved. What surprised me about Peter Jackson's wonderful films is that even though he doesn't share the faith there are some (for me anyways) very Catholic moments, such as when Arwen holds Frodo in her arms and says "What grace I have may it be passed onto him." It shows a deep respect for the source material on the part of Jackson IMHO. Also in the EE of the RoTK, Gandalf reminds Grima that he need not share Saruman's fate. Wonderful stuff.

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Post by Losfer Words » Sat May 13, 2006 6:50 pm

I think it may be best if I find that Mithril, Balrog flame proof full body armor before diving into this topic.
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When you comin' home now, son, this world is not for you

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