I CAN HAS COMPARATIVE VIEWPOINTS ON THE GENESIS OF REALITY AND THE MORAL ORIGIN OF SIN?
(reposting and deleting the previous one because it doesn’t show up in the tags)
Tolkien’s “Creation Myth” maps surprisingly well to what we know of the actual genesis of our Universe. Conventional Christian Creation as the video above shows, has to be viewed metaphorically as consisting of 7 days, each of them lasting from a few million years to something like 9 billion years for the First Day. I would not be surprised to learn that, like many “fantasy” writers before him, he was well-educated in matters of scientific discovery.
So let’s start with what we know: in 1912 Slipher measured the Doppler-shifting of distant galaxies, in a time when most astronomers favored thinking of the Universe as a “steady-state”, unchanging environment. In ‘22 Friedmann provided a theoretical basis, derived out of Einstein’s relativity equations, for how the Universe might be in a state of expansion. In 1924 Hubble proves that what Slipher had called “Spiral Nebulae" were in fact very distant galaxies, and that indeed they were moving away from us. It was Georges Lemaître in 1927, who theorised that this probably means that the Universe is expanding. And he went a few steps further, and by 1931 he proposed that, judging the expansion backwards, the Universe must have had a beginning when it was infinitesimally small in volume. In other words, that it had a birth. How fitting that he was both a scientist and a priest.
All this the write could have well enough known while he was writing The Silmarillion. What does Tolkien tell us?
Long they laboured in the regions of Eä, which are vast beyond the thought of Elves and Men, until in the time appointed was made Arda, the Kingdom of Earth. Then they put on the raiment of Earth and descended into it, and dwelt therein.
Eä, Creation, The Universe, is much larger and much older than Arda, our world, Earth. Like with The Bible, the Ainulindalë posits that Arda is the point of Eä, and its eventual habitation by thinking beings is the point of Creation. So that’s for the “facts” of Creation. So far so good.
Now unto the “morals” of the matter:
The fun begins, I think, in the deviations. Biblical creation makes no mention of an evil enemy. The closest thing to it is the Serpent, one of the beasts of Eden, which tempts the original humans into sacrilege. In the Bible evil comes primarily from a human source, from disobedience. For Tolkien, evil comes from corruption, by a higher power, itself disobedient of its creator.
Let’s draw a parallel:
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Biblical disobedience stems less I would say from a genuine corruption, and more from a Temptation. Eve is tempted with knowledge, of good and evil, and this is why she sins. But perhaps she did not consider this: the tree grants knowledge between Good and Evil. But what had her and Eve known up to that point, if not utter good in the bliss of Eden? She already knew what Good is, so really all the tree gave her is knowledge of Evil: her nakedness, and later mortality. Her Creator was trying to protect her from the less pleasant parts of existence, perhaps.
By comparison, the root of Evil in Tolkien’s myth:
But as the theme progressed, it came into the heart of Melkor to interweave matters of his own imagining that were not in accord with the theme of Ilúvatar, for he sought therein to increase the power and glory of the part assigned to himself. To Melkor among the Ainur had been given the greatest gifts of power and knowledge, and he had a share in all the gifts of his brethren. He had gone often alone into the void places seeking the Imperishable Flame; for desire grew hot within him to bring into Being things of his own, and it seemed to him that Ilúvatar took no thought for the Void, and he was impatient of its emptiness. Yet he found not the Fire, for it is with Ilúvatar. But being alone he had begun to conceive thoughts of his own unlike those of his brethren.
… is more classically Lucifer-esque (a figure that doesn’t actually show up in the Bible): the greatest of all the spirits created by the Maker tries to reach further than he was meant to, and supplant or join his father on equal footing as a creator. And the Creator isn’t trying to protect anyone, but rather simply confronts Melkor with the truth: that he will never be able to create something outside of his plan.
One could say that in Tolkien’s world, the Children of Ilúvatar are less responsible for their own wickedness, because there’s always been this one asshole marring creation and insinuating his will into every secret thought and bending it into something bad.
This has been another dumb literary analysis with Preda. Thank you for reading! And thank you damegorthaur for the bingo card edit!