Elvish Immortality

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Post by idoron » Fri Aug 20, 2004 2:22 pm

That is the entry. Find the corresponding text in the Sil and it will confirm my outline. I just wasn't positive I had the right people (elves). But I did.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Aug 20, 2004 2:31 pm

Oh, sorry, I wasn't objecting to your outline. I was challenging your statement that Miriel didn't really die. From what I see, the evidence overwhelmingly supports that she did and I see nothing to say that she didn't.

Besides, death is defined as the separation of soul from body, so if her spirit left her, she would be dead by definition.
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Post by idoron » Fri Aug 20, 2004 3:09 pm

It depends on your definition of Death in ME. Since her body lives (it continues, ever young, presumably breathing, etc. in Lorien) I would argue she is not dead in any sense that the word could be similarly applied to others.

I.E. she is a special case. However, I think a better definition of Death for Elves would be "Gone to the Halls of Mandos" so, in that sense, she would be dead.

But I think the telling fact is that her husband, even after shes "dies" by your definition and my second definition, continues to go to Lorien and to try and wake her. Unless he is meshugener, he would not try to wake a "dead" body, yes?
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Post by idoron » Fri Aug 20, 2004 3:14 pm

Also, if we define death as "seperation of body and soul" then elves are not immortal. Not even naturally immortal because they can waste away and die of a broken heart, which is certainly not an "unnatural" condition.

Our maybe we just need to clarify their immortality (which tolkien et. al. have been doing since LOTR was first published) and say that by immortal we mean that their spirits/souls remain perpetually in the world. That is actually a better definition because we don't have to qualify it nearly as much.

And then we could define death as "Departure of the soul/spirit from the body and the world."

Fewer loose ends.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Aug 20, 2004 3:15 pm

idoron wrote:Since her body lives
It's been 2 years since I've last read the Sil. Is this a statement directly from the book? Where are you getting this piece of information?

Fëanor could have tried to wake her because he didn't know that elves could just die like that.
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Post by idoron » Fri Aug 20, 2004 3:31 pm

I don't have my Sil. so I can't confirm the state of her body, but I believe the word used is "Continued" as in "her body continued in Lorien" in it's living state, though her spirit went to Mandos.

I would assume that since her husband continued to come until he "got over" her that there was no reason for him to believe she would not wake. Which I interpret to mean her body would breathe, it did not decay, it "aged" normally in the way of elves, etc. Did her hair keep growing? I don't know.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Aug 20, 2004 4:04 pm

"She went then to the gardens of Lórien and lay down to sleep; but though she seemed to sleep, her spirit indeed departed from ehr body, and passed in silence tot he halls of Mandos. The maidens of Estë tended the body of Miriel, and it remained unwithered; but she did not return."

An uncorrupted body means nothing. There are uncorrupt bodies of saints on display around the world today. Things like that happen. But they're obviously dead. Corrupt or not, how can a body live without a spirit? It can't by definition of "life".
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Post by idoron » Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:06 am

By your definition of life. There are lots of different definitions of life. If you want a classical reference:

zoe vs. bios

Miriel (her body) has bios with no zoe
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Post by idoron » Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:11 am

Another example.

Someone in a coma. We have no way of knowing whether they have a spirit/soul "attached" - so for the sake of argument that means nothing, but it could very well be that the spirit is gone and the body lives on.

If they "wake up" then the spirit is there. But If a body remains comatose until the end of the world, well, who knows.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:26 pm

Oh, now don't start with all these alternate moral/philosophical systems again. Yes, it is not a universally held belief that death is the separation of soul from body. You will find other people who claim other things. But I believe that as a Western European (not to mention a Catholic) Tolkien would have held the belief that death is the separation of soul from body. This is very clearly stated by Plato, if you want to get classical, and if necessary, I will look it up, but this is a very traditional western philosophical view, not just something I'm making up. I cannot conceive of Tolkien having other views about something that both his culture and especially religion generally hold to be true.

When someone is in a coma, they can wake up again, they still breathe and that sort of thing. When someone is dead, their heart is not beating. Besides, people have out of body experiences when they're dead, not when they're in comas.

Finwë: I wish to complain about this wife.
Maiden: What's wrong with her?
F: I'll tell you what's wrong with her. She's dead!
M: No, she isn't. She's uh... resting.
F: All right then, if she's resting, i'll just wake her up. HELLOOOO MIRIEL! I HAVE A LOVELY CUP OF MIRUVOR FOR YOU WHEN YOU WAKE UP! HELLOOOO!!
M: (shoves body) There. She moved.
F: No she didn't, that was you shoving her!
M: I never!
F: Yes, you did!
M: I never... never didg...
F: HELLOOOOO MIRIEL! **shakes body until it falls to the ground** All right, I've had enough fo this. This elf is definately deceased.
M: No, no! She's pining.
F: She isn't pining, she's bleedin' demised!! She's passed on! This elf is no more! She has ceased to be! She's expired and gone to meet her maker! she's a stiff! Bereft of life, she rests in peace! Her metabolic processes are now history! She's kicked the bucket, she's shuffled off her immortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-ELF!!
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Post by Bnielsen » Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:45 pm

::AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!!!!!!!::
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Post by Theremin » Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:25 pm

Hahahaha :lol: !!!
I gotta admit that I'm a little bit confused
Sometimes it seems to me as if I'm just being used
Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise
If I don't stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?

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Post by idoron » Tue Aug 24, 2004 5:36 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:But I believe that as a Western European (not to mention a Catholic) Tolkien would have held the belief that death is the separation of soul from body.
I don't really care what Tolkien believed. :shock: I don't think he really believed that someone's spirit could leave their body while their body remained uncorrupted, even in the nicest of English Gardens. Though the mythology of ME blurrs the line between history and fantasy, ME is not the world we live in, so if we are arguing from sources (which I am) then unless the narrator in LOTR or Sil. says "Death is a seperation of body from spirit" or there is a "historical" case that does not warrant special consideration that indicates so, we don't know.

Now, granted Miriel is "practically" dead. But we don't know if she is "strickly speaking dead." Maybe that is a moot point. One that only I would be interested in arguing. After all, her spirit is in the Halls of Mandos. That's as good a definition for "dead" as I suppose there could be for elves.

If I had my texts I would look up the discussion of the other cases of "death by heartbreak." I don't think the bodies of those elves who mourned themselves to Mandos stayed uncorrupted forever.
Sam Gamgee wrote:When someone is in a coma, they can wake up again, they still breathe and that sort of thing. When someone is dead, their heart is not beating. Besides, people have out of body experiences when they're dead, not when they're in comas.
We don't know if her heart is beating or she is breathing or not. And we don't really have a way of verifying whether or not someone's soul is still present/attached to the body. So we don't verifably know that in cases of terminal comas (from which one never wakes) the soul is still there. Again, probably splitting hairs, but that's what I'm here for.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Tue Aug 24, 2004 6:42 pm

I'm a little hesitant to bring this up because I fear it might be a big ugly monster, so we might have to cut this off. (See, being as violent as I am, I tend to beat dead horses at times.)

But with that warning in mind, here we see the very core of our "morality in middle earth" topic. This is how I understand your stance on the matter: we can't talk about even the most obvious overlying philosophic or theological principles in middle earth unless Tolkien spells it out directly because there is some obscure eastern philosophy which contradicts it, and who knows if that applies here instead. So what, the truth of physical reality mostly applies to middle earth and the truth of theoretical reality doesn't apply at all unless Tolkien spells it out in Summa Theologiae format? I think that just as we assume Middle Earth to obey basic laws like gravity and weather and seasons and such, we can assume that Middle Earth obeys the most basic philosophic or moral laws. It's wrong to kill people. The end doesn't justify the means. Living creatures do have souls. Man possesses reason and free will. Death is the definition of the separation of soul from body. Granted, not everyone believes these things, but should we totally disregard any credibility because of the odd thinker who disbelieves them?

What other definition is there for death? 'when the heart stops beating' or 'when the brain stops working'? Is that what you're proposing? Because that's only looking at it from a purely materialistic point of view and we know for a (spelled out, even!) fact that Middle Earth is not purely materialistic. Am I just crazy? I always thought that "separation of soul from body" was the conventional view of death. Does anyone else share other views? And I'm not talking about what some ancient anatolian cattle herders thought. I mean here and now, what do you think.
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Post by idoron » Wed Aug 25, 2004 12:26 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:But with that warning in mind, here we see the very core of our "morality in middle earth" topic. This is how I understand your stance on the matter: we can't talk about even the most obvious overlying philosophic or theological principles in middle earth unless Tolkien spells it out directly because there is some obscure eastern philosophy which contradicts it, and who knows if that applies here instead.
No, my stance is that like everything, the morality of ME is up for interpretation. I don't have a GUT for ME Morality, partly because of the issues I raised in the No Blame for Boromir thread and in the ME morality thread.

I have found that most people who read Tolkien impose what they want into the story. Which is certainly the mark of a good author. The problem is getting past that to the layer of what is actually there.
Sam Gamgee wrote:So what, the truth of physical reality mostly applies to middle earth and the truth of theoretical reality doesn't apply at all unless Tolkien spells it out in Summa Theologiae format? I think that just as we assume Middle Earth to obey basic laws like gravity and weather and seasons and such, we can assume that Middle Earth obeys the most basic philosophic or moral laws.
In a way, yes. Though i would approach it from the other side. laws (physical, moral/ethical) from the real world don't "default" into ME. In non-fantastical works they do, but I would argue in ME they don't.

The best way to illustrate this is the following:
Tolkien was Catholic, which has a whole historical body of belief to go along with it. If moral law dervies from the nature of the creator of the universe, why would the moral law of ME be the same as the moral law of the actual universe where the Creator is a differnent entity, in Tolkien's view? After all, in ME there was no Garden or Forbidden Fruit or Christ. There is a creator in both worlds, but the method, structure and spiritual reality is very very different. Show me "gods" created by God to rule the world in Tolkien's Catholicism. Shouldn't that crossover if the rest of the moral and spirital realities crossover?

In applying "laws" in ME it seems best to work "up." We don't see Flying Hobbits so i guess gravity exists. Hobbits sleep at night so I guess there are diurnal cycles. They have calendars so there are regular seasons. We would think their world orbited a sun, but we'd be wrong. The Sil tells us that the moon and sun are elves circumnavigating the earth! Do'h! See my point?

So, continuing, I would argue that just because you or I or Carl Jung define "death" a certain way, doesn't mean it is so in ME.
Sam Gamgee wrote:It's wrong to kill people. The end doesn't justify the means. Living creatures do have souls. Man possesses reason and free will. Death is the definition of the separation of soul from body. Granted, not everyone believes these things, but should we totally disregard any credibility because of the odd thinker who disbelieves them?
Well, there is probably far less homogeny on these points that most of us think. in Judeo-christian ethics, those statements are fairly accurate. But there a lot of moral systems where killing is, in various forms right or expected. And is it always wrong to kill? In the Old Testament God sends Israel into Canaan to wipe out or displace all the inhabitants. Was that wrong? Aragorn kills lots of Orcs, is that wrong? Your answer is going to be "No, because..." but my point is that the moral laws you propose are neither simple nor universal as illustrated by the assumed qualifications.
Sam Gamgee wrote:What other definition is there for death? 'when the heart stops beating' or 'when the brain stops working'? Is that what you're proposing?
In the real world those seem like pretty good definitions to me. Or do you think that after someone's heart stops beating and their brain stops working the spirit can hang around as long as it wants? If they are all facets of the same event, maybe the question doesn't make sense.

But heartbeat is a independantly quantifiable fact that can indicate someone is deceased. No doctor has a Soulascope to tell is one's soul is there. So does the "soul leaving the body" definition have <b>any</b> practical definition or indicator <b>at all</b>. Not as far as I can tell. I expect even staunch Catholic doctors use stethascopes.

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.
Sam Gamgee wrote:Because that's only looking at it from a purely materialistic point of view and we know for a (spelled out, even!) fact that Middle Earth is not purely materialistic.
Right and neither is this world. But if someone removed my heart, my body would cease to function and my "spirit would depart from my body". Was my death occasioned by the heart removal of departure of my spirit? The Material directly influences the spiritual, correct? After all, my heart didn't get removed because my spirit left. It got removed because a Mad Scientist wanted it for his Monster.
Sam Gamgee wrote:Am I just crazy? I always thought that "separation of soul from body" was the conventional view of death. Does anyone else share other views?
Well, a Materialist/Nihilist would say death is when your body ceases to function. Answers from anyone whose world view includes a soul or spirit would have widely varying answers.
Sam Gamgee wrote:And I'm not talking about what some ancient anatolian cattle herders thought. I mean here and now, what do you think.
I totally agree with the Anatolian Cattle Herders.
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