Tolkien’s “planes,” Thomas’s “orders”

In advancing his theory that every event, including the free and even evil acts of creatures, falls of necessity under the divine will, Tolkien repeats in his own way much the same position defended by St. Thomas. (Even Tolkien’s interchangeable usage of sub-creation and free will has a parallel in Thomas, who, in the preface to ST 1.45 says that the eighth and last “point of inquiry” to be considered will be whether creation is mingled with “the works of nature and of the will,” yet the form the question actually takes in the eighth article is “whether creation is mingled with work of nature and art.”) Tolkien’s statement, for example, that “in every world on every plane all must ultimately be under the Will of God” is  expressly defended by Thomas in his answer to the question in ST 1.19.6 as to “whether the will of God must always be fulfilled”:

Since, then, the will of God is the universal cause of all things, it is impossible that the divine will should not produce its effect. Hence that which seems to depart from the divine will in one order, is brought back to it in another order, as does the sinner, who by sin falls away from the divine will as much as lies in him, yet falls back into the order of that will when by its justice he is punished. (ST 1.19.6)

Cum igitur voluntas Dei sit universalis causa omnium rerum, impossibile est quod divina voluntas suum effectum non consequatur. Unde quod recedere videtur a divina voluntate secundum unum ordinem, relabitur in ipsam secundum alium, sicut peccator, qui, quantum est in se, recedit a divina voluntate peccando, incidit in ordinem divinae voluntatis, dum per eius iustitiam punitur.

Like Tolkien, who often speaks in terms of there being a hierarchy of “planes” in the causality of an event, Thomas recognizes that there are various levels or “orders” by which one must distinguish and evaluate the causality of things. Thus, at one level or “order” something can be done which is contrary to the divine will, but that nothing can escape the divine will in an absolute sense is evident from the fact that “the will of God is the universal cause of all things.” In order for an effect to escape God’s will completely it would also have to escape completely the order of being, which is to say it would have to become nothing, and thus cease to be an effect at all: if something “wholly escaped from the order of the Divine government, it would wholly cease to exist” (ST 1.103.7 ad 1). Thus, what departs “from the divine will in one order, is brought back to it in another order.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s