Ainulindale as (Proto)Evangelion

Metaphysics of the Music, part 46 (conclusion)

In summary, then, we see that the fundamental movement of the Ainulindalë from the world as it exists in the Ainur’s Music and Vision to the world as it exists in its own created right, is hardly the Neoplatonic, emanationist story of a gradual, metaphysical decay or demise, but is the same comic, or rather “eucatstrophic” pattern which Tolkien, following St. Thomas, saw as constituting the being of our own world. In its representation of the Ainur’s own “fairy-story” being gifted with the “fulfillment of Creation,” as well as its prophecy of a day when Ilúvatar will give the thoughts of his children the “secret fire” so that they shall “take Being in the moment of their utterance,” we realize that for Tolkien the Ainulindalë is as much a mythical retelling and foreshadowing of the Christian story of salvation, or re-creation, as it is a rehearsal of the original story of creation itself. In Tolkien’s hands the creation event itself has become a kind of protoevangelion: if the Music is a beautiful, yet abstract, metaphysically disinterested “Dream,” and the Vision a desire-inducing “fairy-story,” then the sublime, concept-defying joy of the Ainur in response to the creation of the actual world reveals the latter as nothing less than an image of the Gospel. With the angelic doctor and over against the essentialism and idealism of much Greek and modern thought, Tolkien shares the metaphysical insight that a thing in its act of existence enjoys a higher status in the order of being—and as the Ainur exemplify, a consequent higher status in the order of desirability—than what a thing’s essence, form, or concept alone provides, precisely because the act of existence is what completes or perfects that essence. The move from Music to Vision to Reality, from intelligible or conceived essence to existing, mind-independent reality, is metaphysically speaking not a tragedy, but a eucatastrophe, not a Fall, but a Fulfillment. Through his Thomistic creation-myth Tolkien thus portrays the real existence or being of things as a surpassing and gratuitous gift, anticipated in but never necessitated by their forms or essences alone, hoped for in the promising and received with joy in the giving, a gift freely given by a good, all-powerful, personal God who himself must transcend all conceptuality because he is Being itself.

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