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


Audio Sancto: Ghosts in the Dark: Updated

Someone just emailed me a link to an audio recording of a sermon for the First Sunday of Lent in the Extraordinary Form from the website Audio Sancto.  The sermon is entitled “Quo Vadis Petre–Where Are You Going, Peter?

I will have some things to say about it an a subsequent post.  In regard to the content, for now I want simply to mention that I find it completely reprehensible.

But my reason for this post is a beef I have in general with Audio Sancto, a website with which I have been vaguely familiar with for some time.  I never liked the idea that they withheld the names of the priests whose sermons they post.  Their explanation is that if they were to publish the names, the priests would be inundated with requests for explanations and questions, etc.  Since the priests whose sermons are posted are so busy with pastoral responsibility, we are told, this would make their lives very difficult.

I do not find Audio Sancto’s explanation for withholding the names of the priests adequate for the following reasons: 1) The laymen who run the sight are themselves anonymous. There is not a soul in the world who is willing to take responsibility for Audio Sancto, at least not on the website,  nor anywhere else as far as I have been able to ascertain. 2)  I know a number of priests, including myself up until recently, who regularly post sermons under their name.  Unless you have the notoriety of Fr. Barron or someone like that, the precautions taken by Audio Sancto are not that necessary.  3) I find it hard to believe that anyone would organize a website in this completely anonymous fashion with many priests and technical people involved unless they felt that accountability was to be avoided. Continue reading