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Old 12-13-2007, 03:48 PM   #1
Enw
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Tolkien Tolkien the freemason/ Priory of Sionist/Gnostic?

This might not so much be connected to the books, but I have a question and there must be someone who can answer. Was Tolkien a Priory of Sionist or at least a Freemason or maybe a gnostic? For example, Aragorn symbolises Christ in a way, but he gets married and has a child. Do you think there is any connection between the similar gnostic beliefs and Tolkien? Did he believe some of this stuff?
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Old 12-13-2007, 05:05 PM   #2
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Not knowing too much about the subject - its too long since I ventured into Holy Blood, Holy Grail territory, & while I've read some of the Gnostic Gospels I can't claim to be an expert on them - I have to say I was reminded of that recent graphic novel, 'Heaven's War' which depicted Tolkien, Lewis & Williams battling Aleister Crowley at the Priory of Sion to prevent the end of the world.

Mad as a bucket of frogs....
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Old 12-13-2007, 06:00 PM   #3
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No, Tolkien was a strong Catholic. It was a long talk with him that brought C.S. Lewis to be a Christian.
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Old 12-13-2007, 06:29 PM   #4
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Pre-Vatican II, for a Catholic to join the Masons was to invite excommunication. Tolkien the hyperorthodox Newmanite would never have considered it.


Now, Charles Williams.....
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Old 12-13-2007, 06:42 PM   #5
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Pre-Vatican II, for a Catholic to join the Masons was to invite excommunication.
Tell that to Mozart.

Seriously, though, there's no evidence at all that Tolkien was associated with Freemasonry or interested in Gnosticism.
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Old 12-13-2007, 08:06 PM   #6
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It was precisely because of the popularity and influence of Catholic Lodges in the 18th Century (and their links to the Enlightenment and revolution) that Church and State banned them. Reactionary governments- especially Austria's- outlawed Masonry in the wake of the French Revolution. Although encyclicals against the Masons go back as far as 1738, it was in the 1917 Code of Canon Law that the explicit penalty came into force.

Incidentally, I was mistaken. Pope Benedict has made clear that despite the 1983 liberalisation on Catholic membership in charitable societies (Elks, Kiwanis, Lions etc), the ban was *not* lifted with regard to Freemasons.
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Old 12-13-2007, 09:23 PM   #7
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Yes - I wasn't actually arguing, just pointing out that the strong antagonism between Freemasonry and Catholicism is a relatively recent (i.e. 20th century) phenomenon.
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Old 12-13-2007, 09:48 PM   #8
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Given that Freemasonry is a private organisation devoted to secrecy, arcane rituals, and hierarchical progression through steps or ranks, that does not sound like something I think Tolkien would be deeply interested in.

Secrecy, especially a sort of conspiratorial secrecy (there's lots of freemasonry themes in conspiracy fiction, going back to the 18C) is something far from the values which Tolkien espouses positively in his tales. I can't see this being attractive to him.

Serious rituals of profound meaning Tolkien participated in throughout his life, more so in his later years. I can't see him needing the sanctification of the little apron with bells.

His professional life was rife with petty progress through the ranks of the academic hierarchy. Why would he need to engage in something similar in his private life or leisure?

Male bonding and comaraderie Tolkien found through the Inklings. Why would he need another boys' club?

I can't recall either that he was much interested in the new findings of Egyptology.

Of course, I could be wrong about him on all counts. He did actively pursue the profit of American money and there's lots of freemason symbols on it. (Most of the signees of the Declaration of Independence were freemasons, iirc.)
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Old 12-13-2007, 11:47 PM   #9
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He did actively pursue the profit of American money and there's lots of freemason symbols on it.~Bb
I think that would most likely be due to the american dollar being quite valuable on the "global market" back in the days. Only relatively recently in history (no expert on this but I'm pretty sure it started in the 80s) the dollar has been losing value.
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Old 12-14-2007, 12:34 AM   #10
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I'm quite sure Tolkien was familiar with Masonic/occult ideas & symbolism - Williams had been a member of the Golden Dawn & knew Crowley - or at least knew of him via Waite (a character in his novel 'All Hallows Eve' is clearly based on 'the Great Beast'), & Lewis was interested in such things in his younger, pre-Christian days. I can't believe such subjects didn't crop up during Inklings meetings given that Williams drew on his arcane knowledge for many of his 'spiritual thrillers'. Carpenter's 'The Inklings' is pretty good on this aspect of William's life.

Now whether Tolkien would have incorporated such ideas in his work is another question. He does distinguish between magia & goetia in one of his letters - which indicates that he didn't just lump such things into 'black magic' - he can throw around the terminology with some knowledge. Possibly he picked up bits & pieces from Inklings discussions & gave them his own unique 'spin'. None of which is to imply that he actually believed any of it.
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Old 12-14-2007, 11:52 AM   #11
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The US dollar first started to fall in value under Nixon in the early 1970's when he decoupled it from gold and allowed it to 'float' on the international market. While it is true the dollar had up to that point been hugely overvalued (360 yen and 4 Deutschmarks), that decision coupled with other factors were a significant part of the reason for the massive inflation of the later 70s.

The dollar's fall in 1984-85 had few adverse consequences as it was an organic response to ordinary balance-of-payments issues. The plunge this year, on the other hand, stems as much as anything from seeking a natural level vis-a-vis the artificially *undervalued* Chinese currency- complicated of course by spiking oil prices, and very low interest rates which make US securities unattractive to investors. Sarbanes-Oxley hasn't helped in that latter regard. So whether severe inflation results- we'll have to wait and see.

It is however interesting that so far the housing/subprime mess has caused little damage to the broader economy because the ~2% of GDP lost there has been mostly balanced by a 1.5%/GDP increase in exports- a result of the lower dollar.
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Old 12-14-2007, 12:18 PM   #12
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The dollar is not the topic being discussed here - back to Tolkien, please!
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Old 12-14-2007, 12:32 PM   #13
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Given that Freemasonry is a private organisation devoted to secrecy, arcane rituals, and hierarchical progression through steps or ranks, that does not sound like something I think Tolkien would be deeply interested in.
Umm Bethberry, you are aware that he spent most of his life as a member of Oxford University?

More seriously, what about Opus Dei? I don't think it is a strong possibility since I am sure it would have leaked out but they do attempt to recruit the brightest asn the best in Oxford even now..
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Old 12-15-2007, 08:43 AM   #14
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Well, he might not have believed some of this stuff, but he definitely knew of it. And also, Opus Dei is different to, for example, the Priory of Sion, and if we went along that path then you might be convinced that he bolnged to some other secret/semi-secret/shady society. But the gnostic symbolism is definitely undeniable. I mean, it shows that Aragorn (which some people compare to Jesus) is definitely (in the Lord of the rings) not celebate, I mean, he even had a son!
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Old 12-15-2007, 10:20 AM   #15
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But the gnostic symbolism is definitely undeniable. I mean, it shows that Aragorn (which some people compare to Jesus) is definitely (in the Lord of the rings) not celebate, I mean, he even had a son!
"Symbolism" of this kind was, however, repeatedly and convincingly denied by Tolkien. It also seems to me that even if one were to engage in the misguided game of looking for Christ-figures in LotR, the more natural choices would be Gandalf and, perhaps, Frodo.
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Old 12-15-2007, 10:49 AM   #16
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I suspect one could find all kinds of 'occult' resonances if one looked - but I don't think they were used in the way that is being implied by some. Tolkien stated that he wasn't a student of fairy stories, & that when he read them he sought in them raw material for his own creation. I suspect the same thing was going on here. I can't believe that when Williams, Lewis & Barfield got going at Inklings meetings such arcana wasn't discussed, but I suspect that if Tolkien picked anything up from such discussions it would have been odd images/ideas which he turned to his own uses.
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Old 12-15-2007, 02:23 PM   #17
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Regarding Williams: It is quite plausible that he would have talked with Tolkien & Lewis of his interest in the occult; and I don't doubt it would have kindled Lewis's interest - but not Tolkien's. Consider Tolkien's later comments on Williams:

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I knew Charles Williams well in his last few years . . . But I do not think we influenced one another at all! Too 'set', and too different. We both listened (in C.S.L.'s rooms) to large and largely unintelligible fragments of one another's works read aloud; because C.S.L. (marvellous man) seemed able to enjoy us both. But I think we both found the other's mind (or rather mode of expression, and climate) as impenetrable when cast into 'literature', as we found the other's presence and convseration delightful. (Letter 159)
Later, he went as far as to name Williams as one of the causes of his drifting apart from Lewis (Letter 252); admitting that he (Tolkien) was 'a man of limited sympathies', he said that 'Williams lies almost completely outside them' and that he 'actively disliked his Arthurian-Byzantine mythology' and thought 'it spoiled the trilogy of C.S.L. (a very impressionable, too impressionable, man)' (Letter 259); and he claimed that, though they enjoyed jesting talk, they 'had nothing to say to one another at deeper (or higher) levels' (Letter 276).

I would be very, very surprised if Tolkien was ever influenced by any of Williams's (or anyone else's) interest in the occult. Beyond the quotes above, it just doesn't seem to me that such things would be compatible with Tolkien's basic (literary) outlook.
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Old 12-15-2007, 03:26 PM   #18
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And yet Tolkien was interested in 'occult' subjects - communication across time, telepathy & the nature of other dimensions - in particular Faery - & how they interact with our own. Clearly, these being subjects touched upon by all three Inklings in their fiction, & by Barfield the Anthroposophist, Tolkien would have been up for such discussions (cf the rather arcane subject matters under discussion in The Notion Club Papers).

Now, I know that Carpenter in particular tends to dismiss any notion of the Inklings having any influence on each other's writings, but in a recent study of the Inklings 'The Company They Keep', Diana Glyer explores this whole idea, & apparently (haven't read it, but know people who have) she reads things very differently. I think the case of the excised Epilogue to LotR speaks to a real influence & refutes the theory that Tolkien would have produced exactly what he did if he hadn't been part of the Inklings. Tolkien states that he had read or heard much of Williams' work & clearly Williams' work would have been discussed at Inklings meetings. So, its not a matter of Tolkien either being directly, or consciously, influenced by Williams (or Barfield), but of ideas being batted around, picked up, changed, interpreted & made to fit a writer's needs. We often look to Tolkien's Catholicism & his love of myth as sources for his writings but we can't completely dismiss the idea that he may have picked things up from Inklings' discussions. I just don't see Tolkien listening in to these discussions & refusing to take part, or making a mental note every time the conversation strayed onto such subjects & deciding 'Right - that's something I definitely will exclude in all its possible forms from my writings!' Its the very fact that he didn't believe such things that would make them usable as source material.
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Old 12-17-2007, 02:41 PM   #19
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Its the very fact that he didn't believe such things that would make them usable as source material.
Exactly. We write what we don't believe. If it is a fantasy, then people write about things that are not like them, otherwise it would be to close to home, and the book would turn into a narrative of self-opinion. Intersting stories and iseas fuel the authors' minds, not only because they aare so interesting, but because they are different.
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Old 12-26-2007, 01:04 AM   #20
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Heh heh heh...Charles Williams...that is very, very funny. I've edited transcripts of interviews with friends of Williams (I work at the Marion E. Wade Center), describing his personal mythology and occult practices. He was really, really weird, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if someone told me that he was involved in all that Dan Brown rubbish.

Tolkien, on the other hand, was about as stubbornly orthodox as they come. No chance, whatsoever.
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Old 02-13-2009, 04:38 AM   #21
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Pipe Was Tolkien a Freemason?

I've been doing a good spot of research on this--have wondered about it for awhile. There is a story that both Tolkien and CS Lewis were briefly members of the Order of the Golden Dawn, but were kicked out for being inept.

I don't think Tolkien was a Freemason--I'm sure he would have been aware of the Catholic Church's stance, and would have steered clear. However, we know that his work is liberally sprinkled with very old mythical motifs, many of which the Freemasons also used. Btw, one of the articles quoted previously stated that the 7 stars on the door to Moria represented the 7 rings held by the dwarves--it was actually representative of the original 7 dwarf lords. I am reluctant to accept the opinion of someone who clearly doesn't know the source material well.

There also seems to be a bit of a Fundamentalist slant to a lot of the material I've found--a definite attitude that "If he used the same symbols as the Freemasons, he must be one too." I think it's inevitable, the way Tolkien incorporated bits and pieces of old legends and myths, that he would end up using some of the same motifs and images that were used by other groups (such as Freemasons).
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Old 04-23-2010, 04:59 PM   #22
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My (uninformed) opinion

I don't think that Tolkien was a Freemason. They seem to snap up all the symbols they can get their hands on, and everything I've read says that Tolkien was a staunch Roman Catholic. But then again, so was Mozart. I do think, however, that Gnosticism and Catholicism are somewhat mutually exclusive. But was Opus Dei formed yet? And aren't we getting a little too Da Vinci Code here?


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Old 04-24-2010, 11:12 AM   #23
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"I've been doing a good spot of research on this--have wondered about it for awhile. There is a story that both Tolkien and CS Lewis were briefly members of the Order of the Golden Dawn, but were kicked out for being inept. "

Don't keep us in suspense - - where does this information come from?

As for the Priory of Sion - there was a TV programme on Channel 4 a few years ago, when the movie of Dan Brown's first book came out (blessed if I can remember the name now). The whole Priory of Sion thing was shown to be a hoax, perpetrated by some guys in France. It's all rubbish, really.
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Old 04-25-2010, 04:52 AM   #24
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"I've been doing a good spot of research on this--have wondered about it for awhile. There is a story that both Tolkien and CS Lewis were briefly members of the Order of the Golden Dawn, but were kicked out for being inept. "

Don't keep us in suspense - - where does this information come from?

As for the Priory of Sion - there was a TV programme on Channel 4 a few years ago, when the movie of Dan Brown's first book came out (blessed if I can remember the name now). The whole Priory of Sion thing was shown to be a hoax, perpetrated by some guys in France. It's all rubbish, really.
Right. Thanks for pointing that out so that I didn't have to! The Prieur de Sion or Priory of Sion was invented in the 1950s by a chap called Pierre Plantard who fabricated a nine hundred year history for his phony organisation.

The notion that both Tolkien and Lewis were members of the Order of the Golden Dawn seems a bit far-fetched. Lewis I can imagine might have been interested during his agnostic/aetheist phase, but Tolkien? Charles Williams, who was also a member of the Inklings, is really the most likely suspect.

On the other hand, Tolkien does seem to have considered some beliefs that seem to have been of a Gnostic nature. The basis of The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers is the idea that ancient memories can be retrieved by modern people - in this case memories of Numenor. Tolkien himself seems to have believed that his own Middle Earth writings were in some way a recollection or reconstruction of actual events.

However, it is one thing to dabble in Pagan or Gnostic traditions in order to write a work of fantasy but it is quite another thing to practise such traditions in your day to day life! Tolkien was a practising Catholic and this would be quite incompatible with him actually being a Gnostic, a Witch, a Master of the Occult, a Satanist or whatever else he is being accused of.

Note that the accusation comes from people who believe that The Lord Of The Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia are occult books! An example of this sort of thing can be found here, if you can bear to read it:

http://www.tldm.org/News8/JRRTolkien...wis.Narnia.htm

Note that there is no actual proof, just suppositions and circular reasoning. Tolkien wrote many letters, a selection of which have been published, and there is nothing in them to indicate anything other than normal Catholic practise. The logic seems to be "Tolkien wrote an occult book (LOTR) and he spent a lot of time on it so therefore he was an occultist". The reasoning fails if you don't accept the initial premise, for which there is no proof.

Also the article I've linked to has numerous factual errors, such as:

"Tolkiens [sic] occult stories were first published in the 1950's. It is interesting to note that Tolkien took 12 years to write his occult stories and he released them in the 13th year. He was a true occultist and the devil was pleased and blessed his work!"

Although it did take Tolkien approximately 12 years to write The Lord of The Rings, it most certainly wasn't published in the "13th year"! It took about four years for the book to be published once it was completed. Besides, there is no significance to the timing since Tolkien had already published The Hobbit and had expended decades trying to bring The Silmarillion into a publishable form.

Also the claim (in that article) that "a Witch" revealed the information that Lewis and Tolkien were members of the Golden Dawn is hard to believe. Where did this Witch obtain the information? The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was disbanded in 1970 and all of the members are probably dead - so how could anyone now have detailed credible knowledge of such a secret society?

Incidentally, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was an offshoot of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, which most certainly does still exist and even has a website:

http://sria.info/index.php?option=co...=42&Itemid=238

The notion that such groups (related to Freemasonry) engage in occult activities is largely held by the kinds of Christians who believe that every word of the Bible is literally true, and that it contains all the knowledge that you actually need. Such people are dedicated to attacking any work of fiction with spiritual themes that has a large following.
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Old 04-25-2010, 06:19 AM   #25
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In my defence, I was only 13 and had just read the Da Vinci Code when I made this thread...

That being said, it's probably not unlikely that Tolkien at least considered some Gnostic beliefs while writing his mythology- whether or not they manifested themselves in some way, I'm not sure.
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Old 05-09-2012, 07:54 PM   #26
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an old thread

I just joined the forum after coming quite accidently upon the topic, kind of a stumble in the dark so to speak. If Tolkien had been a member of some secret society, whether he was Catholic or not, by the very definition of secret, I highly doubt that he would have expressed this publicly. Now we cannot assume that simply because he was a Christian, he would have denounced all occult sciences. And in speaking of Williams, perhaps we have here the counter-point of Saruman and Gandalf: one absorbed in the intricasies of ritual and deeply entrenched in dubious and captivating Arts, and the other a patient elementalist, close to nature, and being wise enough to know that delving too deep can waken things undesirable from the depths of the Id. Perhaps the Good Professor and his 4 fellow " Inklings" , discussed magic and mystery at great lengths, and it would behoove anyone to think that there could not have been an influence one way or the other. These 5 'wizards' of the literary world were clearly Gnostic even perhaps without intending to be. And clearly, whether any human intends it or not, we are all Gnostic by our very nature; as Bilbo grows from his child-like innocence to progress thru the story, so do we all, and along the way gaining 'gnosis" of our potential.
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Old 07-13-2012, 05:10 AM   #27
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Not the wandering wizard that gave Old Took a pair of magic diamond studs that fastened themselves and never came undone till ordered? Not the fellow who used to tell such wonderful tales at parties, about dragons and goblins and giants and the rescue of princesses and the unexpected luck of widows' sons?



"Widows' Sons" is a cryptic Masonic phrase.


It means "Freemasons".


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Old 07-13-2012, 02:31 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dreeness View Post
"Widows' Sons" is a cryptic Masonic phrase.
It means "Freemasons".
Yes, and it also means simply “widows’ sons”.

It is very common in folk tales that a male protagonist is the son of a widow. That is ostensibly what Tolkien is having Bilbo refer to.

I first came across this supposed connection in Jesse L. Weston’s From Ritual to Romance originally published in 1920. In chapter XIV she writes:
Once started on a definitely romantic career, the Grail story rapidly became a complex of originally divergent themes, the most important stage in its development being the incorporation of the popular tale of the Widow’s Son, brought up in the wilderness, and launched into the world in a condition of absolute ignorance of men, and manners. The Perceval story is a charming story, but it has originally nothing whatever to do with the Grail. The original tale, now best represented by our English Syr Percyvelle of Galles, has no trace of Mystery element; it is Folk-lore, pure and simple. I believe the connection with the Grail legend to be purely fortuitous, and due to the fact that the hero of the Folk-tale was known as ‘The Widow’s Son,’ which he actually was, while this title represented in Mystery terminology a certain grade of Initiation, and as such is preserved to-day in Masonic ritual.
Jesse L. Weston’s beliefs are now hardly accepted by anyone. But even in Weston’s idiosyncratic belief Sir Perceval was originally called a widow’s son because he was literally a widow’s son. T. H. Eilot’s poem The Wasteland was indeed inspired by crank Arthurian commentary.

As I understand it, the claim is that because Tolkien once mentioned in his writing something that means something different according to secret Masonic allegory, he must have been a secret Mason.

If the supposed phrase is widow’s sons then it is hardly a Masonic secret that one of the Masonic Degrees is Widow’s Son and hundreds of writers have written about widow’s sons without meaning anything esoteric. Just look up son of the widow folklore in Google and you will find thousands of tales among irrelevant sites.

In any case, no evidence beyond a single phrase in all his writing, a phrase that also has a common meaning, comes down to no evidence.

Last edited by jallanite; 07-13-2012 at 02:58 PM.
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Old 07-13-2012, 02:57 PM   #29
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Jack the Giant-killer, he who climbed the beanstalk, was a widow's son; ergo he was obviously a Freemason and perhaps a member of the Illuminati and a bastard son of a Templar knight.

Or perhaps, as Jallanite inferred, the "luck of widows' sons" is such a well-known motif in folktales that it has become stereotypical. Hence, Tolkien references it because it is a touchstone in folklore, as is the mention of "the rescue of princesses".
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Old 07-14-2012, 02:49 AM   #30
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Or perhaps Tolkien was slightly just taking the mick out of Freemasons in general, with a knowing wink to adult readers who would recognize the reference.
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Old 07-14-2012, 08:55 AM   #31
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There is no apparent winking in the reference to the unexpected luck of widows sons.

What would Tolkien be winking at in ascribing this to Gandalf?

The unexpected luck of widows sons is a very common feature of folk tales. It is not commonly noted when speaking of Masons.

Reading a Masonic reference into this phrase in this context is pointless.
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