Theology and Treebeard’s Eyes

David Burrell (“Creation and ‘Actualism’: The Dialectical Dimension of Philosophical Philosophy”) makes a passing comment about how “theology operates far more historically than many philosophers are accustomed to proceed.” Having read a bit of contemporary analytic philosophy of late, this statement rings profoundly true for me. It reminds me, moreover, of Pippen’s reflections on the fathomless depths of Treebeard’s eyes in The Two Towers, an image Joseph Pearce (Tolkien: A Celebration) has interpreted in terms of G.K. Chesterton’s defense of traditionalism as the “philosophy of the tree.” As Pippen describes Treebeard’s eyes,

“One felt as if there was an enormous well behind them, filled up with ages of memory and long, slow, steady thinking; but their surface was sparkling with the present: like sun shimmering on the outer leaves of a vast tree, or on the ripples of a very deep lake. I don’t know, but it felt as if something that grew in the ground – asleep, you might say, or just feeling itself as something between root-tip and leaf-tip, between deep earth and sky had suddenly waked up, and was considering you with the same slow care that it had given to its own inside affairs for endless years.”

I think that’s fantastic as a description, not only of the simultaneous stability and dynamism of tradition, but also–and to go back to Burrell’s comment–of the historical-rootedness of theology vis-a-vis the rootlessness of much contemporary philosophy: “filled up with ages of memory and long, slow, steady thinking; but their surface was sparkling with the present… considering you with the same slow care that it had given to its own inside affairs for endless years.”

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2 thoughts on “Theology and Treebeard’s Eyes

  1. Interesting with the ents. Tolkien writes in his “Letters” that he don’t know what to do with them. Maybe they could fill the gap, if someone would like to carry on the saga in the Middle-earth future, after The “Fellowship of the Ring” –

  2. Pingback: Salt Lake City vs. Treebeard’s Eyes: Tolkien and Descartes on Tradition | The Flame Imperishable

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