Tolkien on Modernity, Part I

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Recently it was announced that an old reel-to-reel audio recording of a talk by J.R.R. Tolkien will be restored and released after having been kept from the public for many years. In 1958 Tolkien gave a speech at a dinner given in his honor in Rotterdam, which was attended by about two hundred enthusiasts of his mythology. The entire event was recorded and then forgotten about. Subsequently, the recording was found and then hoarded like part of Smaug’s treasure. Now it has been rescued from the clutches of the dragon and all are about to share in the fortune. It is a wonderful find, especially since it promises to reveal a few new insights about The Lord of the Rings.

It has long been known that a recording was made, but it was lost until 1993 when a collector named René van Rossenberg discovered it in a basement. Only now has he agreed to partner with several Tolkien fan sites to restore and release the recording.

What is extraordinary about the tape is that it contains the entire twenty-minute speech and gives an insightful look at the personality and character of the author. In the speech, Tolkien deals with the serious issues that he is passionate about, but in a playful manner. Tolkien speaks to his listeners as though he were Bilbo giving his farewell speech to the Hobbits of the Shire, though he shows much more insight about the evil of the Ring than Bilbo ever possessed. Indeed, Tolkien has much to say about the evils of modernity. Continue reading

Behind the Looking Glass, and It Ain’t Pretty

I feel like I am caught in a bad fairytale.

I am publishing in-full Rorate Caeli’s follow-up on their Tolkien post and linking to it in my original rebuttal of Father X.

Follow-up: on Tolkien

The post including transcripts of the conferences first posted on Audio Sancto with a somewhat critical view of the value as Catholic literature of the mythological world created by traditional Catholic author J. R. R. Tolkien generated quite a bit of heat.

The reaction from many quarters was stronger than might have been expected if we had posted a denial of an article of the Creed!… In a sense, even though I personally disagreed with much of what Father had to say, it seems to me that this bizarre overreaction validates much of his concern over a sacralization of texts which, as loved as they may be by many, are just a modern piece of entertaining fiction, and, let us be quite honest about it, regardless of the academic brilliance of the author, are not part of the canon of great literature of Christian Civilization.

In any event, precisely because this does not involve an article of the faith, but a prudential judgment on which Catholics may reasonably disagree, we would be more than happy to post a rebuttal of the conferences from a traditional Catholic perspective, in case it is also authored by a traditional priest and is, of course, respectful towards his fellow man of the cloth.

Rorate Caeli (exactly who from RC, I don’t know) made a request yesterday in the comments section of my rebuttal that I provide a link to the above follow-up.  I asked him to provide a link on RC to my post in return, but he declined, saying Continue reading

Is Tolkien’s Fantasy Gnostic?

I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ — though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.

—J.R.R Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, wrote the above in a letter to a lady in which he discussed Frodo’s attitude towards the weapons and war.  He was expressing his own skepticism about how much was possible to accomplish for the good of man through the force of arms.  In so doing he quoted a remark of Galadriel about Gandalf and how for many ages they had together “fought the long defeat.”

History often appears to be a long defeat and under its burden we may break, or we may just live for the day and damn the consequences, or we may fight like hell in spite of it all.  In any case, the “long defeat” itself may contain “the glimpse of victory” in spite of the fact that no such victory seems to be written into the historical circumstances we experience. Continue reading

From the Dungeons of Barad-dûr

A thrall from the Black Land has a bright idea for any old female machine lying around:

A Harvard geneticist has raised eyebrows by declaring that scientists could make a Neanderthal clone baby if they had an “extremely adventurous female human” as a surrogate.

Several days later the Mouth of Sauron offers one of those non-clarification clarifications used when emergency damage control is needed:

Continue reading

Lumen Christi

I

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.
O King of Israel:
Hosanna in the Highest! (Antiphon, Palm Sunday, cf. Mt 21:9;).

Hypocrites, well hath Isaias prophesied of you, saying:  This people honoureth me with their lips: but their heart is far from me (Mt 15:7).

The sacred liturgy offers us an opportunity, in this most holy of weeks, to enter into the history of our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection.  Our presence at the Sacred Triduum is a proclamation of our faith in that the Christ of History and the Christ of Faith are one and the same.  Some scripture scholars have the tendency to demythologize the gospel accounts, and, inversely, some commentators on the liturgy have the tendency to mythologize the Easter liturgy.  In fact, the gospels are historical and the liturgy brings us into contact with that sacred and sacramental history.

Christopher West, as I have mentioned many times before, has tended to sexualize the liturgy.  Most recently, he reposted his Easter commentary on St. Augustine’s reference to the Cross as a marriage bed.  Of course, the patristic analogy is fine.  It is the agenda with which I have a problem.   Inevitably liturgical eroticism connects Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with Hieros Gamos, which is Jungian and best and Wiccan at worst.  It is where myth meets alchemy and shamanism.

Gnostics, liturgical wreckers and liturgical reformers alike have treated the liturgy like magic: “Just do it like this and everything will get better.”  “Change it” or “Don’t you dare change it,” has only served to confirm, however wrongly, what our enemies have said all along, that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is hocus pocus.

Our liturgy is not a gnostic play, an allegorical wedding that symbolizes human life on a psychological, or on some universally valid “spiritual” or “mystical” level.  Our mysticism, our mystagogy is based on real history, otherwise we are of all men most miserable. (1 Cor 15:19).

The Sacraments are neither magic nor mythology.  Alchemy is a lousy metaphor for Christian transformation, but it is a good metaphor the reduction of spirituality to human manipulation. A “chymical wedding” is paradise calculated, prognosticated and resolved upon, and left unrealized.

Some of the liturgical magicians look to the Easter liturgy for an occult answer to even the misery of impurity. Liturgical eroticism is not the answer because sensuality and the imagination gives too free access to demonic.  The Angelic Doctor made distinctions.  The Demonic Doctor makes an infinite amount of distinctions.  His eros is never the impure kind:  “The lumen Christi takes care of that.  Just think sublimely, mystically.  Spiritual marriage is never impure.”  In fact, the Sacraments lead to bliss only by a harder road: the one Jesus took.

But Catholics should not be Roman Missal thumpers either, who think humanity’s problems will be solved simply by the black and red of missal older than 1962.  The Sacred Liturgy is not a wand to be waved over the post-conciliar Church, but a mystery to be assimilated.  The Tree of Life has not been transplanted from paradise.  The old tree points to the new, and the new is a bridal bed of pain.  Why should the liturgy not be painful?  We can be like teenagers who don’t like going to Mass because we don’t get anything out of it.

The Sacred Liturgy is not an academic exercise any more than it is mythological drama.  The unity of the Church depends in a very great part upon the liturgy, and the average Catholic has a real life to live.  He is not a monk.  He is not a scholar, liturgist or controversialist.  He just wants to go to Mass.  He has no agenda, and He probably is not visionary in his outlook.  He is just trying to make it through the week.  He needs to identify with Christ, not with the brocade on a dalmatic.

True mysticism passes by way of real, practical and concrete ascetism that bears down upon the will.   The saint is not an austere superman, but one who has broken his stubborn and incalcitrant will.  There is a big difference.  Liturgical precision and reverence should be a given.  Respect for tradition and an understanding that neither antiquarianism nor novelty are valid principles in liturgical reform must be presumed.  But the fastidious and academic preoccupation, the pained observations of everything than does not conform with the ideal resolved upon, is a sign of a will that is very much like that of the liturgical innovator.  Lest this assessment itself becomes excessively academic, I should just summarize by saying our hope should be that the liturgy break the selfish will.

Holy Week is the Way of the Cross and it is a hard road.  It resists euphemisms and cannot tolerate self-serving stupidity and effeminate mystagogery.  Our passion play is reality.  “Hosanna in the highest!” and “Crucify him!” come out of the same mouths.  It is supreme irony that we solemnize our fickleness, the fact that our piety so often misses the point.  It is a harsh reality we need to face:

I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked them: I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked me, and spit upon me. The Lord God is my helper, therefore am I not confounded: therefore have I set my face as a most hard rock, and I know that I shall not be confounded (Isaias 50:6-7).

Our Lord was like a Lamb, silent before His sheerer (53:7).  Our face is set like flint when our mouths are closed and our hearts are open.  Christ is our High Priest and Victim, not a magician.  The grace is there for us even in the demystified, lowly Novus Ordo.  We should stop deflecting our attention from the real problem by indulging a magical way of thinking and set our face like flint against our selfish will.

II

A new commandment I give to unto you:
That you love one another,
As I have loved you,
Saith the Lord. (Antiphon, Holy Thursday, Mass of the Last Supper, cf. Jn 13:34).

Where charity and love are, there is God (Antiphon, Ibid.).

The small band of apostles in the upper room was not a narrow sect united by an ideology or by a personality.  Our Lord was neither.  The Word of Truth that lived and breathed was the Incarnate Son of God.

He comes among us a one who serves:  and He serves lepers.  He bends down and washes our filthy feet.  He kisses our sores.

He did it more truly in His passion in the Garden and on the Cross, but during the Last Supper He did it ceremonially as an example to His priests, and by way of them to the rest of us.

The ceremony is symbolic.  There are much worse things than dirty feet.  There is not one among us that is not a moral leper.  If we think otherwise we will not leave the Sacred Triduum justified (cf. Lk 18:14).

We do not need to wait for others to get it.  Those who go to the Novus Ordo Mass should not be presumed to be ignorant and backwards.  This is such a huge presumption that reveals a profound ignorance of the reality of human perfection and defect.  It is a calculation that is facile, narrow and conveniently isolated in spiritual fantasy.  We have not gotten it yet if we are convinced the real problem is someone or something else.

We too easily write off those we do not understand, or who, in one way or another, do not measure up to our ideal, and yet this is one of the faults Our Lord most often corrected.  He at with sinners and gave the Pharisees a hard time.   There are silent sufferers who have been making daily communions since before the Second Vatican Council, and they are presumed to be backwards by the liturgical know-it-alls because they don’t understand and do not want a Latin Mass?  One can be too pastoral it is true.  But one can also be too academic.

Truth is objective.  The Sacred Triduum and the liturgy in general enshrine real history—objective revelation and dogma.  We need to fight for the truth, to be sure.  Many are rightly wearied of the fatherless Church.  The problem is that the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is also the Lamb that was slain.  The objective truth is that our militancy must be Christ-like, even if the Church is a mess.

The ideal of the Christian Knight is the One seated on the White Horse, who is called Faithful and True, whose eyes are flames of fire, who wields a double-edged sword from his mouth and rules the nations with an iron rod (Apoc 19:11-15).  Historical chivalry is a poor substitute for the paradox that is the redemptive Incarnation.  The ideal was one thing, the reality another.  Literary chivalry was never entirely Christian.  It was laced with the same erotic Gnosticism that is repackaged today under the title of Theology of the Body (not a criticism of the soon to be Blessed Pope John Paul II, but rather of some of his self-proclaimed disciples).  Military chivalry had the function, and still does, of making a bad situation less bad.  The military vocation is a fine and noble calling, but try making a profession out of killing people, and then see how many of those who wield the sword remain knights in shining armor.  This is not to denigrate the honorable service of our heroes, only to note that military honor is not an easy matter, especially when the ideal is Christ Himself.

This is why in the end, St. Francis, who had sought after nobility with such avidity, rejected status and power.  He got off his horse and gave away his armor to a poor knight.  And then he got off his horse again to kiss a leper.  Christ the Knight is Christ the Leper: Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted (Isaias 53:4).

How many of us have experienced the paradox of a real Christ in our life, who loves in truth and speaks the truth in love?  There is no magic wand for bringing all souls into the embrace of Holy Mother Church.  The only problem with the Church is its members.  And so, we lepers must remember that He says to us:  as I have done to you, so you do also (Jn 13:15).  There is no missal or grimoire that will make that happen.  Sacramental life is a far more ascetical reality.

III

Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Savior of the world (Good Friday, Adoration of the Cross).

O my people, what have I done to thee? Or wherein have I afflicted thee? Answer me. (Reproaches, Ibid.).

Public Scandal is a horrible thing.  A sacrilegious communion piled on top has the makings of hell on earth. Advocacy for child murder and the re-crucifixion of Jesus in a sacrilegious communion is the “matter and form” of a potent curse.  It has been pronounced over our country countless times.  Piled onto to this is the even worse scandal and plague of the abuse of children by priests.  St Christina the Astonishing is reported to have attended Holy Mass many times a day, and upon perceiving a priest in the state of sin approaching the altar, would levitate from the choir loft to the sanctuary and beat him back into the sacristy.

Good Friday is both a curse and a blessing.  The Pharisees made a religious procession of their denial of Christ and consummated it with human sacrifice—indeed with deicide.   It was a pagan execution orchestrated by Satan and given religious significance by the guardians of the law.  He was made a curse for us (for it is written: cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree) that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus: that we may receive the promise of the Spirit by faith (Gal 3:13-14).

How many of those who reviled the Lord on Good Friday had made themselves Satan’s puppets, his acolytes in the unholy rites of hell.  But the foundations of the netherworld itself were rent asunder by the inversion of sin, crafted by our Savior.  The curse became a blessing.  The sign of death became the sacrament of life—the exorcism of the world, the regeneration of souls.

In Graham Greene’s novel The Heart of the Matter, the main character, Scobie, slowly but surely spirals into moral depravity, all the while experiencing remorse without true repentance.  He eventually finds himself approaching the altar rail for Holy Communion in the state of sin because he is not prepared to deal with the deception in which he finds himself.  Not having the heart to look up he sees only the skirt of the priest’s cassock “like the skirt of the medieval warhorse bearing down upon him: the flapping of feet: the charge of God. If only the archers would let fly from ambush . . .”  But God does not intervene and Scobie receives the Eucharist sacrilegiously.  He prays that his damnation will, through his offering, be the salvation of others.

In the light of this power, the great and small, the sinner and saint process down the aisle to eat and drink unto life or condemnation.  We put our trust in the power, but we also sometimes presume on it, as though Christ will turn our indifferent Communions into grace.  It is absurd to offer up our damnation.  How awful it is that we can be so eager to deceive ourselves.

Our Lord at the altar does not discriminate.  He remains silent under the form of bread and wine.  We bring upon ourselves a blessing or a curse.  He is the “hound of heaven” or the “warhorse bearing down.”

Public sacrilege is a curse upon the Church for which those responsible, and those responsible for allowing it to continue, will render an account.  Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh (Mt 18:7).

But the dirty little secret is that the Church does not need pro-abortion politicians or pedophile priests to profane the house of God.  The Lord has long suffered betrayal from his friends.  St. Margaret Mary asked him why thorns surrounded His Sacred Heart.  He replied: “My enemies put a crown of thorns around My head, and my friends have put a crown of thorns around My Heart.”

Reparation for sins committed against the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Jesus is particularly necessary for the outrage of sacrilegious Communions.  On Good Friday the liturgical order is reduced to a state of desolation:  a bare altar, and empty tabernacle, adoration of the Cross, communion without a consecration.  We are desolate without Jesus.

The priest prostrates and begs forgiveness for his sins and those of the people.  We own Good Friday.  We own the desolation.  It is what our sins deserve.

“For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”  We cry for mercy.  The Precious Blood pleads on our behalf.

It is never a public scandal to refrain from Holy Communion.  What is a scandal is cueing up for Holy Communion and neglecting the Sacrament of Penance.  The door of mercy is always open.  The Good Shepherd welcomes back the lost sheep.

The state of a person’s soul is between him or her and God.  If someone refrains from receiving Holy Communion, cast your eyes down and keep your mouth shut—even if it is your own child.  You don’t know what is going on and you don’t need to know.  Let the Holy Spirit do his job and never allow yourself to facilitate a sacrilegious communion.

IV

Christ yesterday and today,
The Beginning and the End,

The Alpha and Omega,

All times are His,
And all the ages.
To Him be glory and dominion,
Through all ages of eternity.
Amen (Easter Vigil, Blessing of the Paschal Candle).

May the Virtue of the Holy Ghost descend into all the water of this font,
And make the whole substance of this water fruitful for regeneration (Easter Vigil, Blessing of Baptismal Water).

The incorruptible flesh of Christ cannot be bound by death.  The Virgin born escapes the tomb without breaking the seal.  The Fathers of the Church speak of the incorruptible Virginity of Mary as unprecedented miracle of Divinity of Christ.  The incorruption of the Resurrection is the unprecedented miracle of the Redemption:  Incorruption is not the expected outcome of Good Friday, and it is for this reason that we experience a kind of bliss at Easter.

Some object to referring to the “incorruption” of virginity as though it implied that marriage and motherhood were something dirty.  But that is to miss the point entirely.  A woman is not corrupted by marriage, but her virginity is.  And the virginal state is a value unto itself, both before marriage and especially when it is consecrated to God for life.   Its joy is the inverse of what the world expects, or what the human mind may calculate.

Both motherhood and virginity are values, different and mutually exclusive values.  Only in one case were both values realized, namely, in the person of the Blessed Virgin, but this includes the Church as well.  Mary as archetype of the Church, and the Church, of which Mary is the preeminent member, are both Virgin and Mother.  Neither Mary, nor the Church is impregnated.  They conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is a miraculous power that shakes the foundations of the earth and changes history forever.

The Virgin Born who is also the First Born of the Dead breaks the incomprehensible blackness of sin, pride and calculation, “bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night” (Easter Praeconium).  Carried aloft, His truth brings about a conformation of our lives to His death, so that His life might overcome our death.  This is power is beyond the will or manipulation of man.  It is the cause of our joy.

Baptism is a virginal mystery, precisely because it belongs to the order of the Incarnation and Resurrection, precisely because, like the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, it accomplishes a miracle of the first order.  It makes a child of wrath a child of God.  There can be nothing more fundamental to the origin of our relationship to God than our divine filiation.  Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration.  The fundamental metaphor is rebirth, not marriage, because this birth is not a function of marriage but of virginity.

Drawing a comparison between the Easter Vigil and pagan fertility rites is to prefer magic to sacrament.  They are not the same.  The unfortunate association of paganism with this Feast by means of “Pascha” having been englished “Easter,” only underscores the struggle between light and darkness, just as the Feast of All Saints becomes associated with the Druidic witchcraft and struggles, so to speak, to maintain its identity.

Magic is based on the presumed relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm, between the larger world of cosmos and spirit and the little world of man.  Sacred Marriage in the pagan tradition is power because by it man wills to align the psychic energy of ecstasy with the world spirits to produce some effect in the world or the soul.

Sex is not a sacrament, even if a non-consummated marriage can be, in certain cases, dissolved.  It does not produce a sacramental effect.   Sacraments are not based on an alignment of our psychic experience with God, but on the alignment of matter and form with intent to do with the Church intends in celebrating the sacraments.  It is the will of God and His power, His infinite power that effects sacramental grace.  It is a covenant, not a biological process or a psychic experience that accomplishes the sacramental transformation, because in Christ we are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (Jn 1:13).  The efficacy of the sacraments would not be expected except that God has willed it so.

Christian marriage is not natural marriage.  Grace builds on nature, but it also transcends it.  There is no return to the Garden.  Grace is supernature, not preternature.  There is and will be no earthly paradise during our time of trial.  Chastity is supernatural, an unexpected turn from the natural course of a fallen world.

During the Wedding Feast of the Lamb we find the Bridegroom on His White Horse, with fiery eyes and the sword of His word.   The matrimonial ritual is a resistance to opposition, the casting down of the beast and the false prophet and the slaying of the enemies by the sword of him that sitteth upon the horse, which proceedeth out of his mouth (Apoc 19: 7-9, 11-15, 19-21).  It is not exactly parallel to earthly experiences.  Our experience points up and its meaning is informed by the mysteries we celebrate.  But natural ecstatic experience elevated by knowledge, what Renaissance philosophers called “natural magic,” is not an experience of grace.

The power of Easter is entirely unexpected, not the function of a predetermined process.  It is a turn of the tide, a “eucatastrophe,” as Tolkien has written:

it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief (On Fairy Stories).

The joy of Easter is tied precisely to its character of being unexpected.  No one expects a virgin to become a mother.  No one expects a crucified man to rise from the dead.  No one expects one who deserves hell to be reborn into innocence.  No one expects the fallen to be chaste.

The signs of the Knight of the White Horse and the Woman in Travail and Clothed with the Sun are the signs of the “high tide and the turn.”  The passion of the Church is a night “thrice over us,” and sometimes the thunderclouds of vicissitude are like an “iron cope,” that shuts out the light of heaven.  But Christ is yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega. 

He is the Light of the World, in a world that needs an illumination.  At the Vigil the new fire and the light of the Paschal Candle will cause a visual illumination that corresponds to an enlightened regard for the meaning of Our Lord’s suffering and death.

We must choose death to see God.  St. Bonaventure says:  “My soul chooseth hanging, and my bones, death.  He who loves this death can see God, for it is absolutely true that Man shall not see me and live.”  We must pass through the Passion of the Church.  We rightly say in liturgical language:  “Say the black.  Do the red.”  But Catholic life cannot be reduced to rubricism or magic formulas.  We must wait in patience for the “high tide and the turn,” the “wind of the ships and lightning of Lepanto.”

Lumen Christi.  Deo Gratias.

Saints, Martyrs and More

I have been back from my London trip for about five days now. The workshop for the “A Day With Mary” was pretty intense. The day the workshop finished, Friars Roderic, Didacus and I had the opportunity of being driven to Oxford by Claudio Lo Sterzo, the very kind founder of “A Day with Mary.” I had a list of addresses associated with Blessed Henry Newman, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. We did not have much time and I did not know how much we would be able to see, but it turned out very well.

We arrived a the college in Littlemore where Blessed Newman resided for a time shortly before he left the Church of England and where Blessed Dominic Barbari received him into the Catholic Church. The college was closed but Brother Sean, a member of The Work, opened it for us and was kind enough to show us the room in which Blessed Newman lived and the chapel in which he confessed to Blessed Dominic and became a Catholic.

We then sped off to Wolvercote Cemetery and managed to drive through the gate just as it was closing, the caretaker was kind enough to show us the grave of J.R.R Tolkien. It is quite noteworthy how simple the marker is. There is a rose bush with several sets of rosary beads dangling from its branches. Tolkien’s wife Edith is buried there also. She died only shortly before him, and he marked the tomb below her Christian name with the fictional name Luthien. He also arranged to have “Beren” appended to the inscription of his name after he was buried. For those who are not aware of the significance of the names Luthien and Beren, see here.

We ended the day at the Oxford Oratory, where we arrived just before Vespers and were very kindly invited by the Oratorians to attend in choir, which we did. On our way out of Oxford, we passed The Eagle and the Child, known by the Inklings and “The Bird and the Baby,” the pub in which Lewis, Tolkien and the others met weekly to discuss literature and their own writing.

The next day, Claudio drove us to the Carmelite Monastery in Aylesford where St. Simon Stock was given the Brown Scapular. Aylesford is perhaps the oldest Carmelite foundation in Europe, the greater part of the current monastery was built after 1949, when the property was purchased back by the Carmelite Order, after having been lost to the Reformation in 1538.

On our final full day in England Fr Didacus and I went to the Tower of London and spent our time venerating the places were many of the great martyrs of England suffered and died for the Catholic faith.

The Spirit of Mary Victrix

The Spirit of Lepanto is greater than the history in which it is rooted. The recounting of the historic of battle that took place on October 7, 1571 lends itself to the genre epic literature.  The events of that day call for a bard like Chesterton to cast words into the cadence of drum and cannon:

Don John’s hunting, and his hounds have bayed—
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.

And I still get chills, when for the thousandth time I read the words:

. . . O Lady of Last Assurance,
Light in the laurels, sunrise of the dead,
Wind of the ships and lightning of Lepanto
In honour of Thee, to whom all honor is fled.

I pray that what gives me chills is the true Spirit of Lepanto, and that it does much more than give me chills.

I have always secretly lamented the fact that the Feast of Our Lady of Victory was changed to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and that the language of even the traditional collect for the present feast is void of the bellicose.  We are all familiar with the prayer.  We use it every time we pray the Holy Rosary.

I have much preferred the collect for the Mass Contra paganos (against the heathens), euphemistically englished in the hand missal “Mass for the Defense of the Church”:

Almighty, everlasting God, in whose hand are the strength and man and the nation’s scepter, see what help we Christians need: that the heathen peoples who trust in their savagery may be crushed by the power of Thy right hand.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ. . .

I really don’t question the wisdom of Holy Mother Church in this regard, but I do think that in this feast we have an opportunity to consider with a contemplative mind the Spirit of Lepanto or what Professor Roberto de Mattei calls a “category of the spirit”:

As heirs of Lepanto, we should recall the message of Christian fortitude which that name, that battle, that victory have handed down to us:  Christian fortitude, which is the disposition to sacrifice the good things of this earth for the sake of higher goods—justice, truth, the glory of the Church, and the future of our civilization.  Lepanto is, in this sense a perennial category of the spirit.

It seems to me that this category of the spirit is transhistorical.  It is the recapitulation of the protoevangelium:

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

It is all right there.  That is why Genesis 3:15 is called the first gospel (protoevangelium).  Everything that comes after is all fulfillment, partially at first by way of types (Judith, Esther and the Ark, for example), and then in the fullness of time the Woman and Her Seed bring all things to fulfillment, waging war against the Dragon on the top of the world in the greatest eucatastrophe of all time.

St. John’s vision on Patmos of the Woman gloriously arrayed with the lights of heaven, but militantly in travail, projects into the past, present and future the tribulations of the People of God.  The birth pangs are not of Bethlehem, but of Calvary.  It was only at the foot of the Cross that the Virgin suffered in the throws of delivery.  But surely there is an intimation of Bethlehem in this reference to birth, just as there must be an allusion to the flight into Egypt in the words And the woman fled into the wilderness (v. 6), though the primary reference is the cosmic battle with Satan and the rest of the fallen host.

But St. John was also speaking to the churches of his own time that were suffering persecution and were plagued by heresy.  In the breathless voice of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle proclaims: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

But it is more than that.  The Woman is the promised Victrix, Mary the New Eve, dolorous and glorious, in Her earthly adventure and in Her heavenly reward.  She also represents the churches, the direct recipients of St. John’s revelation, addressed directly in his cover letters to the seven churches.  But She is also the Church Militant of every age that suffers persecution and is plagued by heresy.  Further still, the macrocosm of the Church Militant is reflected in the microcosm of each and every soul, where the Woman and the Dragon contest each other’s dominion.

Lepanto is a parable, a recapitulation of the protoevangelium, just as are the history of Judith and Mary and the churches which St. John addressed.  But so are the chronicle of the Battle of Viena, and the Epics of Tepeyac and Rue du Bac, and more poignantly for our own day, the prophetic history and parable of the Acts of Our Lady of Fatima.  These are the macro-eucatastrophes of the ages, which spell out in the sky, in the medium of light and miracle, the even more fundamental reality of the micro-eucatastrophes (hopefully) going on within our moral and spiritual lives.

The hateful spirits of, pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth claw at the doors of our hearts, or worse, live within them.   We are kingdoms under siege or kingdoms fallen.  We make so much of the macro and so little of the micro and for that we are recipients of the terrible apocalyptic reprimand:

But I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first charity. Be mindful therefore from whence thou art fallen: and do penance and do the first works. Or else I come to thee and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou do penance (v. 4-5).

Perhaps I am all washed up for my secret regret.  Perhaps the Church knows better than I.  Of course she does!  The collect for today’s feast and for every Rosary asks for the grace to transform the vision of truth seen through the eyes of the Victrix into Her very life within us:  that meditating we might imitate.  That is the fundamental art of war upon which all strategies and tactics depend.  Perhaps the bellicose language has been pealed away from the orations because we tend win a few of the battles we do see, while loosing the war we do not see.  The Third Part of the Secret of Fatima is bellicose and macro enough, but it all hinges on individuals, and therefore on praying and living the Rosary more than anything else.

Both St. Pius V and Don Juan prayed the Rosary.  Together they were victorious, inside and out.  Men of Prayer and Action, yes, but in all in its proper order.  The Third Part of the Secret at Fatima refers to realities both micro and macro and in that order.

The Spirit of Lepanto is the Spirit of Mary Victrix.  It (She) is a living ideal that communicates itself (Herself) from Heart to heart.  It is vital and preeminently dangerous, boundless and indomitable.  It is also the Spirit of the White Horse, upon which rides the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, whose head is crowned, whose eyes are fire and out of whose mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword.  The Woman of chapter 12 is the Lady, who girds of the Knight in chapter 19 of St. John’s revelation.  And together they constitute a power, beyond which cannot be conceived.

The great prophetic grace of our age is the message of the modern Marian apparitions, which, as already said, are recapitulations of the protoevangelium, but with this twist:  we live in the most apocalyptic age and the urgency of the prophetic plea for devotion to Her Immaculate Heart is the voice of the Spirit speaking to the churches right now!  St. Louis de Montfort says of the Marian Apostles of the Latter Days that

[t]hey will be ministers of the Lord who, like a flaming fire, will enkindle everywhere the fires of divine love. They will become, in Mary’s powerful hands, like sharp arrows, with which she will transfix her enemies (56).

The enemies of Mary are, in a sense, transfixed with the same sword that has pierced Her heart.  Her apostles know the point of that sword all too well, with memories both bitter and sweet.  It is swordplay that is well-landed upon both friend and foe.

Fatima is a modern-day apocalypse.  No wonder there in October the Woman revealed herself to be Our Lady of the Rosary and was clothed with the whirling sun.  It’s spirit is the Lepanto of our age, that transhistorical category of the spirit that is both the first promise to mankind and the patrimony of this last age.  However we name this Spirit, it is bigger than the histories in which it enshrined and deeper than the hearts in which it works itself out.

We can continue to bang out solutions of our own contriving that satisfy our egos, like clever soundbites and slogans, and rely on rhetoric and imprudent zeal, or we can look into the skies, indeed, into the Temple of God and make all things according to the pattern shown us on the mount (cf. Hebrews 8:5).  If we do not see this vision and strive to embody it in our own lives, we have not understood, or have refused to understand the parable of Lepanto and the spirit of this feastday.

If you have not made the consecration to the Blessed Virgin, I pray you do, and soon.  Don’t only pray the Rosary, live the Rosary.

Oremus pro invicem, and sing

I cast myself before Thee, Thy bondsman and Thy fool;
Thy patronage is freedom, Thy slavery my school.
I offer Thee my sword hilt and wait for Thy command
To serve among Thy servants who pledge to take a stand.
That I might die in battle, a victim of Thy love:
My wish, my prayer, my promise, thus written in my blood.

I saw the bark of Peter ride dark into the sun,
But darker still the marking of crescent, hoard and gun.
Her sails lay flat and mellow, Her men had pledged their troth,
Left hand on beaded psalter, the right to keep their oath.
The haughty fiend had counted on fear to win the day,
But Thine own breath has countered to turn the wind their way.

My Queen, to Thee be honor and praise through all Thy knights
Who toiled and bled and parted Thy martyrs robed in white.
All courtesy and prowess, all strength and gentleness,
Thy heart a pyx of virtue, Thy face all loveliness.
Then at the hour of judgment my colors Thou may see,
Thy Son upon His white steed, Thou pray to come for me.

Happy Feast of Mary Victrix.

Tolkien and the Mystery of Faith

Jen sent me the following quote of J.R.R. Tolkien to his son Christopher:

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth…by…which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, and take on that complexion of reality of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.

I have read it before, but am stuck now on the way he expresses the relationship between the Eucharist and the chivalric ideals of “romance, glory, honour, fidelity.”  Indeed the Jesus in the Eucharist is “eternal endurance” itself.

Tolken expresses The Mystery of Faith well:  “out of the darkness,” “the one great thing to love,” “which every man’s heart desires.

The Holy Grail of True Knighthood

True knighthood is the Holy Grail of manhood, a revelation attainable only by the pure.  The proud are ever barred from taking a draught from it.

Our very captivation with the Holy Grail consists in the fact that it has not been found and only few have even seen it.  And, of course, the reason that the mysterious cup remains ever out of reach for the ordinary man and is because its quest is fraught with danger:  fearful obstacles, inscrutable riddles, and deadly foes.

To those who possess true manliness, such obstacles are the reason why The Quest is so appealing.  By definition manliness is the penchant to overcome obstacles. The more hopeless the attainment, the bigger and better is the man who laughs in the face perils to be found there.  Those who are lesser men still aspire to the Grail, but fear leads them to experience the danger only vicariously by following along at a safe distance, through spectator sports, litrerature and movies.

And yet there is a temptation in that boldness to which those gallant men of the Round Table too easily succumb.  The bigger and better that a man thinks he is, the more likely he is to fail utterly in attaining the goal.  Gawain, for example, showed himself the fool for this very reason.  And Lancelot had to be taken down a few notches (many actually) before he was even granted a partial fulfillment of his desire.  Galahad attained the grail, not so much by his prowess, but more so, by his humility and purity.

There is a strange and wonderful coincidence of opposites in the embodiment of true chivalry:  courage, strength, boldness and skill, on the one hand; reverence, humility, meekness, and deference on the other.

In a sermon written during his Anglican Period, entitled, “The Weapons of the Saints,” Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman couched the spiritual life in terms of a war in which the stratagem for victory demands an inversion of worldly values:

But in that kingdom which Christ has set up, all is contrariwise. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” What was before in honour, has been dishonoured; what before was in dishonour, has come to honour; what before was successful, fails; what before failed, succeeds.

It is this inversion that constitutes the real difficulty to the attainment of the Holy Grail of true knighthood.  It is the riddle of riddles.  The Black Knight, enemy of our souls, guards the bridge that leads to the hermit who is ensconced away from the manners of worldly men.  It is from him that we are to unlearn our pride and find the real weapons by which we are to succeed in our quest.

Cardinal Newman’s sermon is a commentary on Our Lord’s words: Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first (Mt 19:30).  And he supports his thesis from many other passages of the New Testament concerning, for example, strength made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9), the of putting down the proud and the exalting of the humble (Lk 1:52), the blessedness of those who suffer and the woes of those who are satisfied (Mt 5:2-10; Lk 6:24-26), and God’s choice of the weak and despised to do his work (1 Cor 1:27).  It should be abundantly clear to anyone with a modicum of familiarity with scripture that God triumphs in and through those who have rejected worldly ambition and self-assuredness.

The invisible powers of the heavens, truth, meekness, and righteousness, are ever coming in upon the earth, ever pouring in, gathering, thronging, warring, triumphing, under the guidance of Him who “is alive and was dead, and is alive for evermore.”

Truth, meekness and righteousness, according to Venerable Newman, are the real weapons of the saints, the means by which they are victorious over Satan, sin and death.  The Holy Grail of Christian Knighthood is so hidden that in order to find it the knight must lose himself in the process.

This is that intangible, greater thing, after which young men aspire.  It is the stuff of true nobility.  It is strength without arrogance, command without self-interest.

Venerable Newman notes that “we like to hear marvellous tales, which throw us out of things as they are, and introduce us to things that are not.”  The paradox of the cross and of the victorious King who triumphs through His own death is the cosmic myth, the retelling of which is the incantation that opens the sealed doors of our hearts. He that openeth and no man shutteth, shutteth and no man openeth, is the only one with the key (Ap 3:7).

The beloved disciple saw Him mounted on a white horse, and going forth “conquering and to conquer.” “And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations, and He shall rule them with a rod of iron.” [Rev. xix. 14, 15.]

The Quest of the Holy Grail is a lesser myth, as are all other stories when compared to the gospel myth in which the most fantastic tale is merged with history, and where what Tolkien called eucatastrophe, a literary climax beyond our wildest hopes, is made the substance of all our hopes and the ground upon which we walk in the daylight of this world.

Indeed, the return of the king in Tolkien’s mythology is an ascendency by way of descent.  Aragorn and the Dúnedain are content to be despised if that will better equip them to protect and defend the peoples of Middle Earth.  Aragorn himself must choose the path leading downward, literally underground, through the Paths of the Dead under the White Mountains, like Christ in His harrowing of hell, if he is to triumph on behalf of those entrusted to his care.

After Gandalf  had “passed through fire and deep water,” and had completed his own christic transformation, he delivered a message to Aragorn from the Lady of Light, Galadriel:

Where now are the Dúnedain, Elessar, Elessar?
Why do thy kinsfolk wander afar?
Near is the hour when the Lost should come forth,
And the Grey Company ride from the North.
But dark is the path appointed for thee:
The Dead watch the road that leads to the Sea (Book III, Chapter V).

Aragorn chose the path of truth, meekness and righteousness.  He was prepared to face his fear, and he was not afraid to confront his own ego with the double-edged sword of God’s truth.  He chose to go down in order to go up, to be last in order to be first.  Yet the myth of Aragorn cannot be a vicarious substitute for our own humiliation.  We must really experience it.  Newman has it right:

We so love the idea of the invisible, that we even build fabrics in the air for ourselves, if heavenly truth be not vouchsafed us. We love to fancy ourselves involved in circumstances of danger or trial, and acquitting ourselves well under them. Or we imagine some perfection, such as earth has not, which we follow, and render it our homage and our heart. Such is the state more or less of young persons before the world alters them, before the world comes upon them, as it often does very soon, with its polluting, withering, debasing, deadening influence, before it breathes on them, and blights and parches, and strips off their green foliage, and leaves them, as dry and wintry trees without sap or sweetness.

We must not loose our idealism as we grow older, but “heavenly truth” should purify our tendency to experience knighthood vicariously through its trappings and shards.  Ours is to be the knighthood of the real Dúnedain, a hidden knighthood in search of the hidden, but very real Holy Grail.

As a Franciscan, I have had many opportunities to reflect upon the militant example of Saints Francis and Maximilian, and of the great tertiary St. Louis of France.  The Holy Patriarch of the Seraphic Order, Our Holy Father St. Francis, was well aware of the Arthurian legends and aspired to knighthood and the Holy Grail himself.  Later, after he too had chosen the path downward, he called the simple brothers who lived in seclusion and despised status and pomp, his “Knights of the Round Table.”

In this last week of ordinary time, during the “octave” of the Feast of Christ the King, we look for His return at the end of the world, when he will preside over the cosmic resolution to the perennial struggle of St. Michael and the dragon.  Then He will raise his wounded hands over the universe and all of us will be witnesses of the full revelation of His truth, a more powerful illumination than possession of the Grail itself.  Then we will all know what true chivalry is and whether we are worthy to drink from the cup filled by the hands of Him who carried the sword of truth and slayed the dragon by His humble acceptance of our condition and by His willing suffering and death.

The weapons of the true knight are those of the saints: truth, meekness and righteousness.  They are best fitted to help us along the way of our Quest, a path that leads up a narrow crag in a mountain.  But this path to the heights strangely leads us downward by many uneven steps, until we arrive in the sanctuary of the Holy Grail and find rest in the yoke of Christ on the Holy Mountain of His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Of A Dear Fat Ol’ Elf and Diverse other Heathenries

fatherxmasletters_jpg

I teased Patty a bit about her question, but I am actually glad she asked it:

I have a totally off the subject question for you…There’s Catholics for Obama, right? Well, what’s your whole take on Catholics for Santa? Could you write a post on that?

First off, I think the comparison is a bit of a gargantuan stretch, but perhaps not everyone would agree with me.  I suppose there are those who believe that both Obama and Santa are pure Freemasonic constructions with no other purpose than to destroy Christianity.  While I am less sympathetic to a defense of Obama against this criticism, I certainly think that Santa deserves a fairer shake.

I want to address Patty’s question directly, but in so doing I would also like to deal with a more general and larger question, namely, what should be our general attitude toward all the “heathenries” about us?  I use that term a bit tongue in cheek because there are any number of heathen customs which over the ages have been baptized and purified by the Catholic religion.

The picture above is the cover of the published version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas.  These letters were originally handwritten and illustrated by Tolkien himself for his children.  Each Christmas from the years 1920 to 1943 Tolkien’s children would receive a special letter from Father Christmas himself (the English Santa Claus), or so they thought!  In each of the letters the old elf told the children of the goings-on and adventures in the North Pole.  In the picture below are several of the North Pole postage stamps illustrated by Tolkien for some of the Father Christmas’ letters.

tolk-christmas

I guess my point is that Tolkien’s Catholic credentials are pretty much impeccable.  He even was somewhat of a traditionalist, having a strong dislike for the new rite of the Mass, though he continued to be a daily communicant in his local Novus Ordo parish to the end of his life.  His intuitions were entirely Catholic, but many of his inspirations were of heathen origin.  If it weren’t for these, there would never have been The Lord of the Rings.

It was Tolkien’s love for the ancient literature of the North that in a large measure inspired the form of his mythology.  Such things in the hand of a master produce masterpieces; however in the hands of a knave, the same things can produce atrocities.  One such knave was Adolf Hitler.  Tolkien wrote the following to his son during the great war:

You have to understand the good in things, to detect the real evil. . .Yet I suppose I know better than most what is the truth about this ‘Nordic’ nonsense.  Anyway, I have in this War a burning private grudge — which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22:  against that ruddy little ignoramus Adof Hitler (for the odd thing about demonic inspiration and impetus is that it in no way enhances the purely intellectual stature:  it chiefly affects the mere will).  Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.  Nowhere, incidentally, was it nobler than in England, nor more early sanctified and Christianized. . . (Letters, # 45).

Hitler had taken Norse mythology and turned into a diabolical religion of hate and racism.  Tolkien took the same material and Christianized it in way that is almost mystical.  The myth of Santa Claus or Father Christmas is an element of Western culture that has the same quality.  It is what you make of it.

sinterclaus

I most certainly think that we do well to lift the Christian history out from the myth so that we can once again see it for what it is.  We need to celebrate the memorial of St. Nicholas of Myra (December 6), with some solemnity and make sure our children hear the true story and develop a devotion to the real saint.  There are all kinds of Catholic, ethnically based customs that could be adopted to do this.  But that the Father Christmas myth should be banished from every true Christian home?  I don’t see that such a precept should follow from an authentic understanding of the Catholic faith.

True, much of the image and story of the modern Santa Claus takes its origin from heathen mythology, some of which is of that Norse persuasion for which Tolkien had such a fondness.  But so what?  I have heard arguments that the Christmas Tree is of pagan origins also and I have heard arguments to the contrary.  I have never bothered to resolve the issue because I really don’t see the point.  It is true, there are elements of culture that are truly beyond rescue (to my mind, I think Rap and Hip Hop may be such), but I don’t see a historical or doctrinal basis for the narrowest possible interpretation of these issues.

I can’t imagine that Tolkien’s children were harmed by the letters from Father Christmas.  Even though, like all other children who have been told the myth, eventually they had to be disabused of their belief, I can’t imagine that as adults they had anything but fond and wholesome memories of their childhood Christmases.  What would it have been like to be a child at the feet of J.R.R. Tolkien and hear him tell a story or read a letter from Father Christmas?!

merryoldsantaAnd this brings me to the larger issue.  I have no problem with people arriving at their own solution to this question or ones like it, and I don’t see why anyone should be particularly bothered that we might make up our minds differently.  I fully understand the reaction that traditional Catholics have had against secularization, particularly when they have felt themselves left out to sea by their fathers, both within the family, in the government and in the Church, but I grow more and more suspicious of the way that personal opinions become absolutized as the only real “Catholic” option.

I see the attraction of it for sure.  There are so many voices and so many unwholesome influences.  We want to control the environment as much as possible and we want to offer relatively simple solutions that can be explained easily and applied without variation.  I can see a father of a family making a simple and sweeping generalization about a certain kind of music, for example, and then expecting unquestioning obedience.  But the real dimensions of this issue are not confined to this, especially in America, where our individualism leads us either to throw off the yoke of rules completely, or on the other hand, to absolutize our own opinions as necessarily to be followed by all those of good faith.

There is here a larger question of the governance of communities, whether they be loose associations of families or parish communities, or organizations like the MIM.  It is one thing to speak of the relative dangers, say, of rock music, it is another to assert that all men of good shall not have any CD that is not first approved by the local pastor or the acknowledged oracle of the community.  For example, I have been generally willing to talk about cultural issues and the moral implication of Catholics’ participation in world around us, but I am loathe to pronounce generalized condemnations of cultural elements where the Church has not.  I even avoid being the arbiter in disputes about whether this or that movie or music is okay, not because I think such guidance is misplaced, but because my opinion is likely to be accepted as gospel, or on the other hand, if another priest has given different advice, there appears to be some scandal, which there is not.   I think there is a real danger of orthodox and traditional communities and associations of becoming merely sectarian sub-cultures within the Catholic Church.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, not enough of us realize this.  We tend to think that persons who do not wish to live with all the restrictions generally assumed to be necessary in more orthodox circles to not be sufficiently converted, when in fact they merely find our narrower interpretation of what is permissible to be just that, our narrow interpretation.

Once again, with eyes wide open I set myself up to be misinterpreted and misunderstood.  But it is necessary.  I have argued strenuously for the restoration of Catholic Culture (unfortunately I can only find the third part online) and have thought long and hard about it, but I don’t think it can be accomplished by piling rule upon rule, or assumption upon assumption about what is universally best for everyone.

A few years ago, I looked with suspicion upon an effort to build a traditionalist Catholic village in the Eastern United States, because I thought that throwing a pile of money at a mountain to build something that looked like a medieval town and engineering a pristine Catholic culture to be imposed on this little community of people was naive.  Perhaps I am too harsh.  I do understand that these are the days when radically Catholic ideas and the courage to implement them are necessary, but I also think that practical common sense and the good will to know the difference between doctrine and opinion are more necessary today than ever.

The Church has always been in dialogue with the world.  She has sought to escape the world, it is true, but never completely, otherwise the evangelization of the nations and the conversion of souls would be impossible.  I have said this before and I will say it again:  orthodox and traditional circles of people need to direct their attention outside their own little worlds and quit assuming that they have everything all figured out for everyone else.

I know what is likely to happen, I will be quoted out of context as though I am supporting some form of mushy Catholicism.  In the post-Vatican II disarray some have suggested that the only way to counter the disintegration of Catholic life is to fight it with the other extreme, as though if we are left with any liberty to think for ourselves we will be betraying the faith.  This can only be based on revisionist history.  Not even the Middle Ages was like this.  It is myth that there was no diversity of culture and usage among the people of Christendom.  In fact I will go a step further, with Chesterton I say:

[T]here never was a time in the whole history of the human race when it was more necessary to defend the intellectual independence of man that this hour in which we live.

In our world gone wild we don’t need more and more secondary restrictions, we need people who have the fulness of the faith, but who are also intellectually independent enough to find creative solutions to the problems which we face, or in the words of Tolkien who defended his mythology against the supposition that it could be misused and abused:

. . . Abusus non tollit usum [the abuse of a thing does not take away its proper use]. . .[W]e make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker (“On Fairy-stories”).

We should use this power wisely, but use it we must;  and never was it more important that we should do so than now.