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Old 03-01-2002, 03:51 AM   #1
Mhoram
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Sting Inherent evil?

Lets discuss the idea of inherent evil using tolkien's works as the example.

Was Melkor evil from the start? Was he fated to be evil? Or is he of such creation that he has the power to do great good or great evil? The paradox by which power is founded. The power to bring peace or destroy it, to make ill or joy.

What about the other Maiar? Sauron and the Balrogs..

What of the orcs? Shagrat and Gorbag don't seem all that bad, a bit stuck on old habits, but not evil.
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Old 03-01-2002, 04:52 AM   #2
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Since this touches a central point in Tolkien's works if there ever is one, I think we need to start with what the man himself had to say:

"The Enemy in successive forms is always 'naturally' concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines; but the problem : that this frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root, the desire to benefit the world and others — speedily and according to the benefactor's own plans — is a recurrent motive." (Letter 131; my italics -- indeed there is power to good there)
Tolkien gives the interesting annotation that this was "Not in the Beginner of Evil: his was a sub-creative Fall". Melkor's motives were thus primarily egoistic.

"But if they 'fell', as the Diabolus Morgoth did, and started making things 'for himself, to be their Lord', these would then 'be', even if Morgoth broke the supreme ban against making other 'rational' creatures like Elves or Men. They would at least 'be' real physical realities in the physical world, however evil they might prove, even 'mocking' the Children of God. They would be Morgoth's greatest Sins, abuses of his highest privilege, and would be creatures begotten of Sin, and naturally bad. (I nearly wrote 'irredeemably bad'; but that would be going too far. Because by accepting or tolerating their making – necessary to their actual existence – even Orcs would become part of the World, which is God's and ultimately good.) " (Letter 153; a draft never sent, though)

The parenthesis deserves being made bold by me -- we can conclude from it that all creations of Eru are inherently serving his cause that is in turn inherently good, even if they are sins. A tendency to the Boethian view of evil being practically non-existant is perceivable; i.e. evil is but the absence of good, unable to create and itself not created, inevitable bound to lose to good, or, in Melkor's case, to only further the good.
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Old 03-01-2002, 04:58 AM   #3
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I think this is all about paradox. Eru sets the music's theme. The Ainur play it, thus making choices within it - and in Melkor's case against it. But Eru's words clarify: "...And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me..." There you have what some call fate (Iluvatar as uttermost source) AND choice (Melkor chose to play themes counter to Iluvatar AND Manwe, for example, chose to play music within Eru's themes). So it's both.

As for Shagrat and the others, evil is in the mind of the beholder. I'll risk a little ire and say that we are far more orcish than in Tolkien's time and can't see our own badness for what it is when we see it in Shagrat.
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Old 03-01-2002, 06:17 AM   #4
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Melkor's motives were thus primarily egoistic.
So would you say that his intentions when getting out of tune weren't to create ill, but to create perfection as he envisioned it? Much like Saruman's plans for ruling with perfect order? But after everything got screwed up and he realized the other ainur weren't going along with his vision, he would be forever after in conflict with them, striving to either finally succeed in his plan or atleast get the other ainur back for messing up his plan?

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They would be Morgoth's greatest Sins, abuses of his highest privilege, and would be creatures begotten of Sin, and naturally bad.
Quote:
even Orcs would become part of the World, which is God's and ultimately good.)
Do these statements not conflict?

Quote:
But Eru's words clarify: "...And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me..."
Eru proving just how hot-to-trot he is by letting Melkor try to mess things up but in the end it all working out just as Eru had intended?
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Old 03-01-2002, 08:56 AM   #5
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Eru proving just how hot-to-trot he is by letting Melkor try to mess things up but in the end it all working out just as Eru had intended
well, knowing somebody is doing something is not making him/her do it, isn't it so? Eru, as a creator, is out of time he created. Melkor, as well as the Valar (not ainur in general, but those who entered Arda) are in it, so bound to move, so to say, along it's line. Any deed thay are goig to make in the future is unknown to themselves before they commit it (though they saw the vision and sang the song, their knowledge of things to come is limited). But Eru, being outside it, sees it as a whole, therefore knows what Melkor (or any of His creatures)has done, is doing or is going to do at any particular moment. In truth, there are no "did", "does", "will do" for him at all.That does not banish the free will conception as well - cause for one moving along time line, the matter of choice is always present - turn this way or that, be good or evil, kill Gollum or jump over it, and so on.
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Old 03-01-2002, 09:01 AM   #6
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Sting

and for orc question I should recommend you this link to consider: orcish fear

[ March 01, 2002: Message edited by: HerenIstarion ]
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Old 03-01-2002, 10:20 AM   #7
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Tolkien's conception of Morgoth may have changed as time passed. He was originally one of a pantheon of "gods" each having their own sub-realm within the bounds of Arda (Manwe - air, Ulmo - water, etc.). These "gods" morphed into angelic Valar while retaining their pantheon-like characteristics of "elemental" power. Each had or assumed a role within the pantheon. Some of Tolkien's latest writings (the Osanwe-kenta for example) suggest that Morgoth's "role" was chaos. But rather than work cooperatively with the Valar, injecting his "wild card" into their works (the effect of chaos may have been the creation of wondrous variation in the natural world), Morgoth instead allowed his role to consume him becoming the ultimate egoist/hedonist. Instead of creating variation, he reveled in destruction and corruption. As Sharku suggests, he was not evil from the beginning but became evil through lack of restraint and utter selfishness.

Sauron suffered from similar flaws. Ironically, he is portrayed as a polar opposite of Morgoth. Sauron is portrayed as a lover of order. But in seeking to impose order in the world, he suffered from a similar lack of restraint which devolved into selfishness. Thus to impose order he uses many of the same instrumentalities employed by Morgoth to create chaos. The distinction being that Morgoth wanted destruction while Sauron wanted control. He too was not evil in the beginning but became so. As is reflected in the letter quoted by Sharku, there is no inherent evil in Middle Earth; nothing is per se irredeemable, though perhaps Morgoth and later Sauron reached a point beyond redemption.
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Old 03-01-2002, 11:31 AM   #8
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In response to Mithadan's earlier comment regarding the 'provinces' of the Valar. Melkors' was heat & cold.

Quote:
..And of these Melkor was the chief. even as he was in the beginning the greatest of the Ainur, who took part in the Music. And he feigned, even to himself at first, that he desired to go thither and order all things for the good of the Children of Illúvatar, controlling the turmoils of the heat and the cold that had come to pass through him.
There are references to support this aplenty through the Ainulindalë, Valaquenta and Quenta. The lands behind the Ered Engrin, Dor Daiedelos or the Lands of Everlasting Cold, were attributed to the work of Melkor.

A truly great quote illustrating the awesome might of Melkor in those primeval times is mentioned at the end of the Ainulindalé


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And he descended upon Arda in power and majesty greater than any other of the Valar, as a mountain that wades in the sea and has its head above the clouds and is clad in ice and crowned with smoke and fire; and the light of the eyes of Melkor was like a flame that withers with heat and pierces with a deadly cold.
But to add my twopennethworth to the debate..

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Was Melkor evil from the start? Was he fated to be evil? Or is he of such creation that he has the power to do great good or great evil?
I'm of the opinion that he was not evil in origin but merely fated or created inevitably to be so to provide the 'balance' to the universe that Eru was to create. He seems, in a nutshell, to be an illustration of the Lord Acton philosophy, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887. 'Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men'. In the Ainulindalë it also says of Melkor:

Quote:
To Melkor among the Ainur had been given the greatest gifts of power and knowledge, and he had a share in all the gifts of his brethren. He had gone often alone into the void places seeking the Imperishable Flame; for desire grew hot within him to bring in Being things of his own, and it seemed to him that Illúvatar took no thought for the Void, and he was impatient of its emptiness. Yet he found not the Fire, for it is with Illúvatar. But being alone he had begun to conceive thoughts of his own unlike those of his kin.
Now I think this is probably one of most important passages in the Silmarillion and goes a long toward explaining the early mind and motives of this great being. There is no mention here of malice attributable to Melkor and neither is there any suggestion the Melkor is behaving in any way other than as a spirit of extreme might and skill desiring, as Aulë did in later ages, to bring things into being with his own innate gifts of sub-creation. It seems to me that Melkor only begins to hatch these 'thoughts of his own' which were incongruent to the rest of his brethren because of a sense of frustration, impatience and the solitude of his existence in the Void places. Maybe the "Devil makes work for idle hands" has some ring of truth in this scene.

During the Music of the Ainur these 'thoughts' are behind the creation of 'discord' and the tumult which ended with Illúvatar's rebuke to Melkor which has been posted elsewhere. But it is the paragraph afterward that I believe to be the first real indication of his "sub-creative Fall"

Quote:
Then the Ainur were afraid, and they did not yet comprehend the words that were said to them; and Melkor was filled with shame, of which came secret anger.

Whereas Aulë accepted the rebuke of Illúvatar in later ages Melkor did not thus his pride conquered him and he became at that moment the tool that Eru destined him to be. He had to be the mightiest to be an adversary for the the other Valar. He had to have a share in all the others' gifts in order to undo or mar them and he had to turn to evil and order to accomplish both of the above. Eru works in mysterious ways.

Sauron and the Balrogs it seems were 'seduced by the dark side' either during the Music or later when Melkor descended to Arda in that vision of power and might.

Quote:
For of the Maiar many were drawn to his splendour in the days of his greatness, and remained in that allegiance down into his darkness; and others he corrupted afterwards to his service with lies and treacherous gifts.
Valaquenta
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Old 03-01-2002, 12:39 PM   #9
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Melkor repudiated all axani [rules]. He would also abolish (for himself) all únati {things impossible to do] if he could. Indeed in his beginning and the days of his great might the most ruinous of his violences came from his endeavour so to order Eä that there were no limits or obstacles to his will. But this he could not do. The únati remained, a perpetual reminder of the existence of Eru and His invincibility, a reminder also of the co-existence with himself of other beings (equal in descent if not in power) impregnable by force. From this proceeds his unceasing and unappeasable rage.
The quote is from Osanwe-kenta and the bracketed materials are translations (more or less from elsewhere in the article. To say Morgoth's "elements" were heat and cold is an oversimplification (just as it is to say Manwe's element was the air). Morgoth sought to break all moral and physical rules out of his own selfishness and egoism.
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Old 03-01-2002, 02:54 PM   #10
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Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven
John Milton, Paradise Lost

Melkor desires to be his own master, to bring into existence beings of his own. At first Melkor may have desired to serve as a teacher and guardian, ("And he feigned, even to himself at first, that he desired to go thither and order all things for the good of the Children of Illúvatar, controlling the turmoil’s of the heat and the cold that had come to pass through him") but the desire to help soon changed into a desire to dominate others and become a God in his own right. Unable to create beings of his own Melkor's pride demands that he take retribution on the works of Illuvitar and the other Ainur. Melkor is mastered by his pride after he is rebuked by Illuvitar. Like Satan, Melkor realizes that he can never overcome God (Illuvitar). Satan's pride will not allow him to repent, and he dedicates himself to corrupting the works of God. Melkor makes that same decision. Melkor covets the work of Illuvitar and his brethren. Melkor can not stand being second to anyone, not even Illuvitar. Melkor does not accept Illuvitar's statement that all themes have their utmost source in the themes of Illuvitar. Melkor's pride deceives him into believing that he can destroy the work of Illuvitar. As Sharku said, Illuvitar does not exist inside of time. He knows all that will happen. This does not take away free will, it merely means that Illuvitar knows the outcome before it happens. Illuvitar knows that Sauron will fall and that Melkor will bring the orcs into existence. Perhaps it is to create a balance in the universe as Matt suggested, or maybe it is for a totally different purpose that human beings can not understand. Tolkien strongly believed in mercy and redemption. With the exception of Melkor and perhaps Sauron I do not believe that anyone, even the orcs were beyond redemption in Arda.

[ March 01, 2002: Message edited by: Thingol ]
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Old 12-19-2002, 05:44 AM   #11
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bringing this up because of Tolkien - Enemy of the Progress thread
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Old 12-21-2002, 10:03 AM   #12
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Perhaps it is to create a balance in the universe as Matt suggested, or maybe it is for a totally different purpose that human beings can not understand. Tolkien strongly believed in mercy and redemption.
This brings up a principle at work in Tolkien’s fundamental world view.

Tolkien was not as much of a Manichaen as he’s often made out to be. He didn’t see the fall of Melkor as a necessary element to provide balance, but a circumstance, regrettable in and of itself, but one that could be given an ultimate purpose by Eru. There is no doubt that Eru’s divine omniscience saw the fall of Melkor, but this in no way places Eru as the efficient cause of Melkor’s fall, that efficient cause, like all sin, resides in the sinner according to the sinner’s free will. Why allow Melkor to fall? Why did Eru create him even if he knew that he would fall and cause so much pain? Simply put: to show forth his glory, his plan to order all things unto himself. The fact that Melkor’s fall is so much unlike the virtues of Eru provides the opportunity for Eru to show his glory even more so by bringing even this fall, and all the chaos thereto, into conformity with his ultimate end. In this is free will and the divine power made manifest in a complete way.

Where did Tolkien ever get such an idea? Every Easter Tolkien would have heard sung the Exultet which contains the line: “O felix culpa, quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem” (“Oh happy fault, which gained for us so great a Redeemer”). The sin of Adam makes redemption through Christ possible. The sin of Adam is regrettable in and of itself, but through it, God showed forth redemption and the extraordinary lengths of his love and mercy through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

It is an obvious device at work in Middle-Earth. Every hero in LotR is a hero in as much as they sacrifice themselves. Humility is the principle weapon of the free peoples, and pride is their ultimate sin (Fëanor is a good example, as is the internal struggles of Túrin). Galadriel’s redemption comes from her shunning the power of the one, choosing humility over the acquisition of power (illusory though it was). Does not the weight of the ring provoke similar images of the weight of the cross?

In regard to the orcs, there is an obvious conflict in Tolkien, himself. At first he indicates that orcs are corrupted elves, taken when they first awoke, still fearing the world in which they first saw. Latter, Tolkien denies, rather flatly, that orcs are corrupted elves, describing them as “talking animals,” and “extensions of Melkor’s evil will.” The later, I think, comes from Tolkien attempting to deal with the obvious (theological) problem inherent in the first formulation: redemption is a real possibility for the orc as corrupted elves. Orcs as mere talking animals that are extensions of Melkor’s evil will are intrinsically evil creatures, and redemption is not possible. They have no reason or will outside of hatred and loathing, and even in their rebellions they are merely reflecting the rebellion of Melkor.

It can be argued that this is Manichaeism, or at least dangerously close. However, such a criticism is a bit unfair. Tolkien saw first hand the wanton destruction of war; he saw the pitted scars of the industrial age; before his death he was to see the advent of the nuclear weapon. Monsters could be created by a fallen will, and in and of themselves, these monsters are intrinsically evil. The creation of orcs in no way usurps a power for Melkor that belongs only to Eru, for by nature all intellects are creative, but, rather, it demonstrates the utter depravity of Melkor’s intellect.

[ December 21, 2002: Message edited by: Bill Ferny ]
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Old 12-22-2002, 01:05 PM   #13
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[quote]Tolkien was not as much of a Manichaen as he’s often made out to be. He didn’t see the fall of Melkor as a necessary element to provide balance, but a circumstance, regrettable in and of itself, but one that could be given an ultimate purpose by Eru[/qoute]

Though BD policies and regulations forbid posting for the purposes of expression of mere agreement, in this particular case I must break the rule and agree with you without putting forth anything new. But I hope I made it civil, at least. So less civil, but more emotional part to follow:

u r da man, Bill [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 12-22-2002, 03:01 PM   #14
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It seems to me that both Gandalf and Galadriel rejected the opportunity to possess the ring that would have made them become evil. Although neither was inherently evil, each recognized his or her own potential for it..

Saruman started out as the White, certainly not evil. He did not consciously choose to become evil but evil he became due to his association with evil and his belief in his own power to overcome it.

The ring itself presented Isildur, the Nine, Gollum, Bilbo, and Frodo with the same opportunity. It is not labelled "evil", but rather deceived by presenting itself as something that would satisfy a desire each had. To Isildur and the Nine it whispered "power" and to Gollum, Bilbo, and Frodo it enticed with a promise of safety and the specialness one feels by possessing something "precious."

Melkor always had the option of altering his music. He chose not to.

This sort of discussion always leads to the philosophical question of the ages: If the origin of all things is inherently Good, can good be the first cause of evil?

It is my opinion (and reasonable minds certainly disagree) that only within the realms of will or choice rather than a predestination or fate can the Good remain inherently Good. I don't think creating a potential is the same as creating an intent.
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Old 12-23-2002, 09:07 AM   #15
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Greyhavener,

If we assume that potency resides in a thing according to its nature, potency as understood as moving toward that thing’s perfection, then we can assume that the existence of such a potency does indeed indicate an intent for a thing to reach its highest form of act or perfection, according to its nature. Do we have the potency for evil? No, because evil by its definition is a lack of perfection, a lack of Being. Human beings possess only the potency for good, the perfection of their natures as such. What is evil, is when human beings do not reduce potency to act, or act contrary to their natures.

Good and evil then, in the moral sense, is an act of will or choice. It is good when our wills are ordered according to our natures, when our wills are bent on fulfilling our potency according to the “intent” of our natures. It is evil when our wills are ordered in discord with our natures, when our wills are bent on “intents” contrary to our natures. So evil, in and of itself, on the moral level, is indeed an act of will, but one contrary to the predestination or fate that is inherent in our natures.
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Old 12-23-2002, 01:26 PM   #16
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Bill, I see your point starting from your assumption. I'm not sure Tolkien would agree with your assumption given his Catholic views on original sin and redemption from which he operated.
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Old 12-24-2002, 12:57 AM   #17
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So evil, in and of itself, on the moral level, is indeed an act of will, but one contrary to the predestination or fate that is inherent in our natures.
In Tolkien's case (and in mine as well) one should replace the word nature of the quote above with the word Eru (God), since Arda is marred from before it's beginning, and our nature is tainted by Original Sin. That's why elven hroar dwindle and fade, and why human beings can not be morally good just acting according to their nature. But the point concerning origin of evil is exactly true - Evil is just lack of Good. (BTW cf this thread)

[ December 24, 2002: Message edited by: HerenIstarion ]
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Old 12-27-2002, 09:11 AM   #18
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Greyhavener,

I assure you that the above definition of predestination is straight from Saint Thomas Aquinas [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] Of course, this is metaphysics and not theology, but it is a Catholic metaphysic.

If we inject original sin and redemption into the picture: Original sin is an inordinate disposition, arising from the destruction of the harmony which was essential to original justice, even as bodily sickness is an inordinate disposition of the body, by reason of the destruction of that equilibrium which is essential to health. As sickness does not make the body into something other than what it was before the sickness, original sin does not destroy the nature that remains ordered toward the Good, but it corrupts human nature, making it impossible for human nature to achieve that to which it is ordered. Its like a boy being in love with a girl, but not being able to gain her affections because he is simply an ugly person. Redemption was won by Christ’s passion for only He could satisfy the sin of human nature, for he both took on human nature (in and of itself still good), yet retained His divine nature. So its kind of like the girl takes everything desirable about herself and gives it to the boy, so now the boy can gain the affections of the girl (well, the example really breaks down at this point [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] ). Let it suffice to say that redemption makes it possible for our natures to achieve their original, intended, predestined, ends.

I also think the example breaks down in Tolkien’s writings as well. I simply do not see a Christ figure in Tolkien that satisfies the Catholic paradigm. However, we do see in Tolkien the work of original sin in Middle-Earth, and many characters who must suffer, take on the sins of their ancestors, in order to find some measure of redemption. However, in no case is redemption absolute. As my wife likes to point out, there is no happy ending to LotR. Frodo suffers, Arwen suffers, the elves suffer, the hobbits disappear, the dwarves disappear, only humans seem to get a fair shake, and even then the humans still have a big mess to clean up, they are still just as feeble (but I would add, still just as strong in many ways) as they always were. I think this is because, for Tolkien, as he envisioned Middle-Earth as a real, kind of pre-pre-historic time, the real work of salvation, which belonged to humans only, was way, way into the future.

HerenIstarion,

I would hold along with Saint Thomas, that we act morally when we act according to our natures, or, in other words, when we act according to the ultimate end of the human person: life in/with God (divination). Of course, in order to achieve such an end, a Christian would hold that grace is necessary (as did Saint Thomas). The state of original grace existed before the state of original sin. Redemption gives us back the possibility of living once again in that state of original grace, albeit in a world still suffering under the weight of actual sin.

[ December 27, 2002: Message edited by: Bill Ferny ]
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Old 12-28-2002, 04:51 AM   #19
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Bill, accepted. I was too hasty. By nature I meant human nature as it is now, or, in ME case, Arda Marred as a parallel. Human being is unable to rely on resources of it's marred nature, hence the sentence above
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Old 12-28-2002, 10:58 AM   #20
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Heren, I didn’t want to come off as a Pelagian, so I took your post as an opportunity to clarify my position. I wasn’t necessarily disagreeing with you. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] Which of course brings us back to a discussion of redemption in Middle-Earth.

Redemption, the kind that Tolkien knew from his Christianity, is absent from Middle-Earth. There is no Christ figure, so no matter how noble, no matter how virtuous any of these characters are, they never achieve that “happy ending.” The best that any character achieved was a certain amount of satisfaction that they did the right thing, they could achieve some virtue by “natural law,” but the life of grace escapes them. Even at Aragorn’s death there was regret (personified by Arwen’s long, lonely suffering); Aragorn, like all the other heroes fails to find that peaceful death. The end of human beings, what happens to them after death, is unknown, not even by the wisest elves or the Valar. The Núnenóreans fell because they feared death and were jealous of the elves. Death for humans was much more of a risk, because they didn’t have the Halls of Mandos.

Tolkien’s mythology was a set up for the future, which he envisioned as being our present. That is why his writings are so devoid of incarnational theology, sacrament, etc… Its not that Tolkien didn’t hold to these things in his real life, but that these would have been anachronistic to his world. Unlike in CS Lewis’ Narnia, Middle-Earth wasn’t a parallel world, it was our world, so there could be no Aslan in Middle-Earth.

Bearing this in mind, I think there would be as many intrinsically evil things in Middle-Earth as there are in our own world. Evil is not a physical thing, but a thing of intent and will. Orcs, dragons, trolls, etc… are intrinsically evil, not because they are materially evil, but because they are extensions of an evil will. Like nuclear bombs to us, they are not made from inherently evil stuff, but the purpose to which they are made is to do evil, to thwart the achievement of the good and happy end. The disturbing thing about LotR, that which my wife picked up on long before I ever did, is that the thing that made intrinsically evil stuff like orcs and dragons, an evil will, is still present in Middle-Earth despite the War of the Ring and all the other struggles. In the hearts of all people, a remnant of Melkor’s evil still haunts the human heart. Original sin, maybe? Well, I see it that way, whether it was intentionally put there or not.
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Old 01-05-2003, 04:54 AM   #21
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First of all I have to apologise by saying that I am not armed with a Christian scholar's knowledge of exactly what Original Sin is. If anyone could provide a brief explanation (PM or Post) or a link I'm sure it would be helpful.

Mhoram's thoughtful original questions were:
Quote:
Was Melkor evil from the start? Was he fated to be evil? Or is he of such creation that he has the power to do great good or great evil?
I think that he was not evil from the start, because his evil is defined by the results of his actions, and not the underlying emotions that caused them to be taken. I believe that Melkor was created to have Free Will, to have a choice between Good and Evil, but that Eru created him to be more likely to choose the path of Evil. Like Mat Heathertoes said above:
Quote:
He had to be the mightiest to be an adversary for the the other Valar. He had to have a share in all the others' gifts in order to undo or mar them and he had to turn to evil and order to accomplish both of the above. Eru works in mysterious ways.
The Valar, and sometimes even the Eruhíni gained from Melkor's existence. They developed strength and fortitude, and even such gifts as snow or lava (which are surely not evil in themselves) would not have been possible without him. I don't think he was inherently evil. For all we know his Fall into Evil may have been part of Eru's plan. It is only a guess or a wish of ours to speak of a benevolent creator who desires only peace and harmony for his creatures. It is possible that the creator deemed evil necessary, for what purpose we will not fully comprehend until The End.
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Old 01-05-2003, 11:53 AM   #22
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A quick definition of original sin (I’m writing this off the cuff, so please pardon any mistakes):

Simply put, original sin is the sin of Adam. It doesn’t really matter if you think there was actually a man named Adam or not. It is the primordial sin of the human race, a primordial choice for lesser goods over the greater Good (such choice for lesser goods, by the way, is contrary to human nature).

Original sin is not something that affects only human beings and their relationship with God, though it did primarily bring about an irrevocable separation from God. Humans, as the apex of creation, the microcosm of the universe, irreparably damaged all of creation via the primordial sin, ended the harmonious condition of original justice, brought suffering into the world, and brought about violent death (which became a rending of the human person) and corruption of the body.

Original sin brings with it two aspects: irrevocable separation from God, and the irreparable damage to creation. The first aspect is the censure of original sin, the second is the condition of original sin (suffering, doubt, corruption, violent death, etc.). The work of Christ relieves us of the first aspect, and makes it possible for us to find union with the Divine. We will be relieved of the condition of original sin at the Parosia when heaven will descend on earth.
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Old 01-05-2003, 05:24 PM   #23
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Thanks for these interesting contributions, Bill [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

I think we have to also bear in mind that Tolkien acknowledges the philosophical problem inherent in his moral narrative - how evil can arise from apparent good - and in other threads some of us have participated in lengthy (and perhaps rather technical) discussions on the nature of free will in the context of omnipotent creation.

I still do not see how this problem is 'solved' as such in a metaphysical sense - rather, I feel it is resolved in the narrative, with the necessary allowances for our experience of literature and our human ability to work through contradictions (faith and mortality might be profound examples of this aspect of our humanity).

In narrative terms, Evil IS a "thing" in itself, for example in the sense in which 'it' is ultimately self-defeating. The argument that, in Tolkien, evil is also an adjective, has to be allowed - since the creations of Eru, of ultimate Good, can be and are the authors of evil subcreation ... yet, as very importantly pointed out, the Christian concept of redemption is NOT explicitly available in Middle Earth, Arda etc. This means that a teleological interpretation of the narrative chronology towards an ultimately Good conclusion is more difficult.

The paradox of evil arising from good is of the same order as free will and omniscience (I do not accept the 'letting your kids put their hands in the fire' as a valid rationalisation of free will [img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img] ).

Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes and Spinoza haven't really killed off the arguments, neither does Tolkien ... and I can't either [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] ...

Peace [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Kalessin

[ January 05, 2003: Message edited by: Kalessin ]
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Old 01-05-2003, 09:10 PM   #24
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Quote:
I still do not see how this problem is 'solved' as such in a metaphysical sense - rather, I feel it is resolved in the narrative, with the necessary allowances for our experience of literature and our human ability to work through contradictions (faith and mortality might be profound examples of this aspect of our humanity).
Absolutely true. Every philosopher should bear in mind that when God decided to speak to us, he didn’t use philosophical speculation and metaphysical discourse, but simple narrative and myth, a.k.a. Scripture.

There is a difference between a philological understanding of the term evil and a metaphysical meaning of evil. From a linguistic stand point its nearly impossible to avoid verbalizing evil as a thing. However, from a metaphysical stand point, we can still understand evil as an absence of being that ought to be there.
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Old 01-06-2003, 05:32 AM   #25
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So, in a sense, are the two of you saying that evil is best described by how it operates, rather than trying to derive why it exists? In such a case it may be self-defeating to engage in an in-depth discussion on the topic.

Hope you don't mind, Fernmeister, but I wanted to bring across some an excellent post from the Eru Letting Melkor Go thread:
Quote:
When ever the Eru issue pops up, its seems that most want to limit Tolkien’s vision the Christian mythos. This is probably accurate to some degree, as the monotheism in the Silm is most like Tolkien’s own Christian beliefs. Its quite possible that to some degree Tolkien modeled Eru and his cosmology on the Christian mythos. Its pretty much all there, creation from nothing, a fallen angel, and a fallen creation. But I don’t think that Christianity is the only influence at work here, and I think that Tolkien consciously diverged from the Christian mythos in some very notable ways.

What always strikes me is the ambiguity around fallen Middle-Earth. Is Middle-Earth fallen because of Melkor’s fall? This seems to be the direction that Tolkien took. Middle-Earth is stained by the presence of Melkor. It was Melkor’s music that marred Arda to begin with. That, however, is very different from the Christian mythos. In the Christian mythos, Adam’s fall, not Satan’s, corrupts the world. Death, suffering, etc., etc., is brought about by sin, the sin of human beings. For those who reduce Eru and Tolkien’s cosmology to the Christian mythos, this is a huge inconsistency.

There are fundamental differences between the cosmology of Middle-Earth and Christian cosmology (not to mention anthropology as well). No doubt there are certain Christian elements in the Silm; for example, the emergence of evil becomes an opportunity for Eru to show forth his glory. This is very much like the sin of Adam becoming an opportunity for God to show forth his infinite mercy through the cross. However, Tolkien is not CS Lewis. Tolkien was not only a devout Catholic, but from all I’ve seen he was a very knowledgeable one as well. So, I’m forced to conclude that he knowingly diverged from the Christian mythology. Why? I don’t know, but in a way, I’m glad he did.


- Bill Ferny
So, man was sinless until Adam/Eve? Then how about Elves, Dwarves, Men, Ainur in Tolkien's world? Did Melkor commit the original sin? Did Fëanor?? Or was every sentient being brought into Ëa with the capacity for sin?

Incidentally, here's another good thread that you may or may not have read called
Melkor - Evil by Will or Nature? which might support my vision of a not entirely benevolent Eru.

[ January 06, 2003: Message edited by: doug*platypus ]
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