03 November 2006, 15:46
'The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally Catholic Work'
Tolkien and St. Thomas on Beauty –By Dr. Michael Waldstein.

Heiligenkreuz (www.kath.net)
KATH.NET documents a speech of Dr. Michael Waldstein from 31 October 2006 in Heiligenkreuz (Austria):

When Frodo is at the house of Elrond in Rivendell, having barely escaped the terror of the Black Riders, he encounters a beauty in the music of the Elves that goes far beyond anything he had known in the narrow circles of his life in the Shire. “At first the beauty of the melodies and of the interwoven words in elven-tongues, even though he understood them little, held him in a spell, as soon as he began to attend to them. Almost it seemed that the words took shape, and visions of far lands and bright things that he had never yet imagined opened out before him; and the firelit hall became like a golden mist above seas of foam that sighed upon the margins of the world. The enchantment became more and more dreamlike, until he felt that an endless river of swelling gold and silver was flowing over him, too multitudinous for its pattern to be comprehended…” Before the end of the music, Bilbo takes Frodo by the arm with the words, “Not that hobbits would ever acquire quite the elvish appetite for music and poetry and tales. They (the Elves) seem to like them as much as food or more. They will be going on for a long time yet. What do you say to slipping off for some more quiet talk.” Frodo follows him with regret, just as a single voice begins a new song. “A Elbereth Gilthoniel, silivren penna miriel …” As Frodo leaves, he turns around and sees Arwen and Aragorn standing side by side. “… Arwen turned towards him, and the light of her eyes fell on him from afar and pierced his heart. He stood still enchanted, while the sweet syllables of the elvish song fell like clear jewels of blended word and melody. ‘It is a song to Elbereth,’ said Bilbo. They will sing that, and other songs of the Blessed Realm, many times tonight. Come on!’”

The music of the Elves, though Frodo does not perceive this clearly, echoes a music of much deeper beauty that was sung before Middle-earth existed. In fact, Middle-earth was created and is providentially guided after the pattern of that ancient music. Tolkien’s book The Silmarillion, which unfolds some of the stories that stand behind The Lord of the Rings, speaks about this music. “There was Eru, the One, who in Arda (i.e., earth) is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad.” A little later, Ilúvatar “… declared to them a mighty theme (of music), unfolding to them things greater than he had yet revealed; and the glory of its beginning and the splendor of its end amazed the Ainur… Then Ilúvatar said to them: ‘Of the theme that I have declared, I will now that ye make in harmony together a Great Music. … But I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song.’ … Never since have the Ainur made any music like to this music, though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before Ilúvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Ilúvatar after the end of days.”

Fundamental aesthetic categories are touched upon in this text: beauty is closely related to harmony and splendor or glory and it calls forth the responses of amazement and gladness. Beauty is not an incidental decoration far from the serious purposes of Ilúvatar. It is the very goal of the activity of the Ainur as Ilúvatar describes it. “I will sit and hearken, and be glad that through you great beauty has been wakened into song.” This statement is Ilúvatar’s own account of the purpose of the Ainur’s activity and therefore most certainly true and fundamental. According to St. Thomas, “The end is chief in everything; finis est potissimum in unoquoque.” If you ask the question “why?” about anything, the last and definitive answer, the last and definitive cause, will be the goal or end. “This kind of cause is chief among the other causes: for the final cause is the cause of the other causes.” If beauty is the final cause of the activity of the Ainur, it is truly of the greatest importance.

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After the song of the Ainur is completed, Ilúvatar shows them an imaginary world, including Middle-earth, the form and history of which is shaped according to the beauty of the great music they just sang. There are new things in this vision, not contained in the music, above all the “Children of Ilúvatar”. We find out later that these are the Elves and human beings. “And (the Ainur) saw with amazement the coming of the Children of Ilúvatar … and none of the Ainur had part in their making. Therefore, when they beheld them, the more did they love them, being things other than themselves, strange and free, wherein they saw the mind of Ilúvatar reflected anew, and yet learned a little more of his wisdom…” There is a rhythm of increase in beauty, “anew” and “more”. In St. Ignatius’s words, all things are “ad majorem dei gloriam, to the greater glory of God.” Not just great, but greater. The presence of Ilúvatar’s hidden wisdom in the beauty of his plan becomes deeper and more intense.

Ilúvatar next creates a real world patterned after this vision and thus at least in part patterned after the great music of the Ainur. “Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the world, and the World shall Be … And suddenly the Ainur … knew that this was no vision only, but that Ilúvatar had made a new thing: Eä, the World that Is.” Amazement and love draws some of the Ainur so deeply into the new world “…that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs.” The Ainur who bind themselves to the new world in this way are called Valar. They are the “gods” or “guardian angels” of Middle-earth.

The greatest of the Valar are the consorts Manwë and Varda. Varda is the true and ultimate queen of Middle-earth. She plays a central though mostly hidden role in The Lord of the Rings while Manwë is not mentioned at all. “Of all the Great Ones who dwell in this world the Elves hold Varda most in reverence and love. Elbereth they name her, and they call upon her name out of the shadows of Middle-earth, and uplift it in song at the rising of the stars.” Elbereth, in the language of the Elves, means star-queen. At the most difficult moment, when he faces the great spider Shelob alone, Sam suddenly cries out words in the Elven language which he himself does not understand, “A Elbereth Gilthoniel / o menel palan-diriel, / le nallon sí di’nguruthos! / A tiron nin, Fanuilos!” In one of his letters, Tolkien translates these words. “Star-queen, who kindled the stars, from heaven gazing afar, to thee I cry now in the shadow of (the fear of) death. O look towards me, Ever-white.”

For a Catholic, which Tolkien certainly was, the echo of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Elbereth is absolutely clear. A Jesuit friend of Tolkien, Fr. Robert Murray, pointed out this similarity. Tolkien wrote in response, “I know exactly what you mean … by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded.”

To summarize: The goal of the singing of the Ainur, a goal given by Ilúvatar himself, is beauty. Beauty is a matter of harmony and splendor or glory. It calls forth the response of amazement and love. Inasmuch as the music of the Ainur is the pattern according to which Middle-earth is made, beauty is also the purpose or goal of the making of Middle-earth. In its actual reality as created by Ilúvatar, Middle-earth is much greater than that music. Peopled by rational and free Children of Ilúvatar, it is so glorious and splendid that the Ainur are amazed and fall in love with it. They see in it a new reflection of the wisdom of Ilúvatar. Ad majorem dei gloriam, to the greater glory of God. In their amazement and love, some of them enter Middle-earth and link their own lives inseparably to this new world, “so that they are its life and it is theirs.” The great paradigm of beauty, who imprints the form of her beauty on Middle-earth as a whole and on its entire history, is Elbereth Gilthoniel. Tolkien’s own understanding and perception of beauty, of its majesty and simplicity, is founded on his Marian devotion which is reflected in the devotion of the Elves to Elbereth. Here we have a key to reading The Lord of the Rings.

Before I turn to The Lord of the Rings itself to make use of this key in reading it, I want to compare the beginning of the Silmarillion with St. Thomas to show how deeply Tolkien’s vision is rooted in the Catholic tradition. In lapidary fashion St. Thomas states, “All things are made, so that they in some way imitate the divine beauty. … Nobody takes care to shape and represent anything, except to (the image of) the beautiful.” “The multitude and distinction of things has been planned by the divine mind and has been instituted in the real world so that created things would represent the divine goodness in various ways and diverse beings would participate in it in different degrees, so that out of the order of diverse beings a certain beauty would arise in things, a beauty which shows the divine wisdom.”

What, then, is beauty and how does it come to exist in creation? St. Thomas addresses these questions most fully in his commentary on the treatise On the Divine Names by Denys the Areopagite. “Denys shows what the nature of beauty consists in when he says that God gives beauty inasmuch as he is the cause of harmony and splendor (εὐαρμοστίας καὶ ἀγλαΐας consonantiae et claritatis) in all things. … Everything is called beautiful inasmuch as it has splendor of its kind, spiritual or bodily and inasmuch as it is made in due proportion. Denys then shows how God is the cause of splendor by adding that with a certain flash God sends into things a gift of his luminous ray, which is the fountain of all light. These gifts of the flashing divine ray should be understood as a share in likeness (with God) … He also explains the other part, namely, that God is the cause of harmony in things.

There is a twofold harmony in things, the first according to the order of creatures to God and he touches this harmony when he says that God turns all things to himself as to the end … and for this reason the Greek word for beauty, kallos, is related to the word for calling, kaleo. The second harmony is in things according to their order to each other. He touches this harmony when he says that God gathers all in all to the same.” A little later in the same commentary, St. Thomas adds further detail to this picture. “All being comes to all beings from the (divine) beauty. Now, splendor belongs to the account of beauty, as Denys said earlier. Thus every form by which a being has being is a certain participation in the divine splendor. … He also said that harmony belongs to the account of beauty so that everything that in some way belongs to harmony comes from the divine beauty. This is what he means when he says that the agreements of all rational creatures in respect to the intellect exist because of the divine beauty; and friendships in respect to affection, and communion with respect to acts and anything extrinsic. In general all creatures, to the degree in which they have union, have union from the power of (God’s) beauty.”

Both Tolkien and Denys, followed by St. Thomas, use the same pair of concepts to understand beauty: splendor and harmony. These are the two main attributes of the music of the Ainur which is the pattern of Middle-earth. There is a further point of contact. Ilúvatar says, “Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the world, and the World shall Be … And suddenly the Ainur … knew that this was no vision only, but that Ilúvatar had made a new thing: Eä, the World that Is.” There is particular contact with St. Thomas’s statement, “with a certain flash God sends into things a gift of his luminous ray, which is the fountain of all light … every form by which a being has being is a certain participation in the divine splendor.” The flash of light from God has to do with the very being of the beings of this world. In their very being, the beings of this world are a participation in this flash of light, in the Flame Imperishable.

Of course, if one wants to understand anything, one must understand its being. This is the reason why amazement is necessary for understanding. If one is not amazed by the deep fountain of light from which the very being of the beings in this world comes forth, if one has no idea of the rhythm of increase, ad majorem Dei gloriam, then what one understands cannot be the being of the beings in this world. One has reduced that being to some of its aspects, such as mechanical relations as grasped by mathematics. These reduced aspects tend to be in many cases the only thing that natural science focuses on. In the view of many scientists, the world is a huge mechanism determined by mathematical laws.

It is a curious fact that explicit religion plays almost no role in The Lord of the Rings. The name Ilúvatar or any equivalent name of the creator God is not mentioned even once in the whole book. There are a number of songs that might be called religious, especially those addressed to Elbereth. The only scene of explicit ritual practice takes place when Faramir, Frodo and Sam eat their first meal together: “Before they ate, Faramir and all his men turned and faced west in a moment of silence. Faramir signed to Frodo and Sam that they should do likewise. ‘So we always do,’ he said, as they sat down: ‘we look towards Númenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is, and to that which is beyond Elvenhome and will ever be. Have you no such custom at meat?’ ‘No,’ said Frodo, feeling strangely rustic and untutored.” In the letter in which he explains that his perception of beauty, both in majesty and simplicity is founded on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tolkien speaks about this strange absence of explicit religious content from The Lord of the Rings.

“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.“ The reason given by Tolkien is at first sight very strange. The book has nothing religious in it because it is religious and Catholic? One answer to this puzzle lies in Tolkien’s highly effective poetic technique is the great antiquity of the stories, comparable to the stories about the Trojan war and the travels of Odysseus. Explicit Christian contents would bring the story too close into recent history. Even so, why is the religious aspect of these ancient myths not more explicit? The last sentence of the passage just quoted provides a clue, “The religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.” Religion in The Lord of the Rings is not something added to things from the outside, but it lies in the very depths of beings and events. The Lord of the Rings does not preach a sermon, nor is it a book of theology. It is a piece of fiction the purpose of which is to be beautiful, thus to give joy and delight. In the depth of this beauty one discovers a religious dimension which has a deep kinship with the Catholic faith. Elbereth is not the Virgin Mary, but her beauty is drawn with the sensibility of Marian piety.

In tracing some elements of beauty in these depths of The Lord of the Rings I now turn to Frodo’s quest, which is clearly a central thread of the entire story. I will first focus on Frodo’s love of the good that is to be achieved in the quest, a great common good. Then I will turn to the providential guidance of the quest by Elbereth.

We meet Frodo immersed in the ordinary life of a Hobbit. Step by step he discovers the significance of the ring he inherited from Bilbo. The ring is not a local matter. It touches the lives of all in Middle-earth. The quest on which this discovery sends him brings him into contact with concerns that are much larger than those that had moved him in the Shire. His quest is not a merely personal quest. It cannot be understood in terms of pop-psychology as a quest of finding himself. What he finds is much larger than himself and he understands himself more and more as a part of that larger whole. The good of Middle-earth as a whole becomes clear to him as something he comes to love and for which he is willing to walk into death.

Frodo’s task is mainly negative. He must destroy the ring. The positive side of the quest lies in Aragorn. If the ring is destroyed, Aragorn will become king of Gondor at a moment when the presence of Elves in Middle-earth diminishes and human beings come to the fore as the main people that must shape the life of Middle-earth. Frodo’s quest is therefore defined by a great and noble common good, a political good. This transition of Frodo from a private individual with a small radius of life to one who loves the common good of the kingdom established in Middle-earth is one of the most beautiful events in The Lord of the Rings. It corresponds to the rhythm of increase found at the beginning of the Silmarillion, at the very root of Middle-earth. A small story is suddenly enlarged into a story that has greatness, splendor and glory.

The virtue which most defines a Christian, St. Thomas emphasizes again and again, is love (caritas). This love, he argues, is not principally a personal or private virtue. It is principally a political virtue that is defined, not by a personal or private good, but by the common good of a city. “The philosopher says in Book Eight of the Politics that in order to be a good political person one must love the good of the city. Now when someone is admitted to participation in the good of some city and becomes a citizen of that city, he must have certain virtues in order to do what a citizen must do and to love the good of the city. In the same way, when someone is admitted by divine grace to participating in heavenly beatitude, which consists in the vision and enjoyment of God, he becomes, as it were, a citizen and member of that blessed society which is called the heavenly Jerusalem, according to Ephesians 2,19: ‘You are citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.’ Someone who is in this way counted as part of the heavenly city must have certain freely given virtues which are the infused virtues.

The right exercise of these virtues requires a love of the common good that belongs to the whole society, which is God himself as a good, inasmuch as God is the object of beatitude. Now, one can love the good of some city in two ways: in one way in order that it might be possessed, in another in order that it might be kept and preserved. If someone loves the good of some city in order to have and possess it, he is not a good political person, because in this way even a tyrant loves the good of a city, in order to dominate it, which is to love oneself more than the city. He wants this good for himself, not for the city. But to love the good of the city that it might be kept and defended, this is truly to love the city and this makes a person a good political person, inasmuch as one exposes oneself to the danger of death and neglects one’s private good in order to preserve or increase the good of the city. In the same way, to love the good that is participated by the blessed, to love it in order to have or possess it does not establish the right relation between a person and beatitude, because even evil persons desire this good. But to love that good according to itself, that it may remain and be shared out and that nothing be done against this good, this gives to a person the right relation to that society of the blessed. And this is charity (caritas) which loves God for his sake and the neighbors, who are capable of beatitude, as oneself… Therefore, charity is not only a virtue, but the most potent of all virtues.”

By his love for the common good of Middle-earth, Frodo becomes what St. Thomas would call “a good political hobbit”. His narrow life, his small story among the Hobbits of Hobbiton, turns step by step into a story of splendor and glory, into the story of Middle-earth itself and of the good of Middle-earth. This good of Middle-earth is not realized by Frodo, but by Aragorn. Yet Frodo shares in it and in the glory of its achievement.

The good of Middle-earth to be realized by the return of the king is not the definitive and final good. The Elves are a strong reminder of a longing that goes far beyond Middle-earth. Their time in Middle-earth is drawing to its end. Galadriel does not cling to the good she had realized in Lothlorien. She assents to its disappearance through the destruction of the One Ring. She travels west. The love of the Elves had always been a divided love. On the one hand they love Middle-earth; on the other hand, they long for the West, the dwelling of the Valar, especially of Elbereth.

One of the most poignant scenes of the book takes place when Frodo, Sam and Pippin flee east and are almost captured by a black rider when suddenly high Elves come on the scene on their way west, singing a song to Elbereth. Their song turns aside the black rider at the very last moment. “Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear! / O queen beyond the Western Seas! / O Light to us that wander here / Amid the world of woven trees. … O Elbereth! Gilthoniel! / We still remember, we who dwell / In this far land beneath the trees / Thy starlight on the Western seas.” Wandering to the West and traversing the great ocean symbolizes the deep religious sense of the Elves, it expresses a longing that cannot be fulfilled by any particular good achieved in Middle-earth, splendid though that good may be.

Not even in the West, where the Valar dwell, do the Children of Ilúvatar find the final end or ultimate common good. The Valar and the Elves are bound to the material universe in which Middle-earth is located, until the end or completion of that universe. What comes at the end of this universe is not clear to them. Human beings have received a gift from Ilúvatar not granted to the Elves, though it is a partly bitter gift. By their death they leave behind the confines of this world, entering into an immediate relation with what lies beyond it. In the tale of Arwen and Aragorn, which is told in the Appendix to The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn’s last words to Arwen immediately before his death are, “In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound forever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell.” In extreme anguish, Arwen cries out, calling Aragorn by his original name “Estel.” “Estel, Estel!”

This scene is illuminated by a remarkable dialogue about death between the High Elf King Finrod and the human woman Andreth. The dialogue goes back to very early times, before the story of Beren and Luthien, the ancient pattern of the story of Aragorn and Arwen. Andreth loves an Elf, Finrod’s brother, who loves her in return. It becomes clear to Andreth that she will grow old and die, while her beloved remains young and free from death. The realization leads her to despair. “‘Have ye then no hope (in the face of death)?’ said Finrod. ‘What is hope?’ Andreth said. ‘An expectation of good, which though uncertain has some foundation in what is known? Then we have none.’ ‘That is one thing that men call “hope”,’ said Finrod. ‘Amdir we call it. But there is another which is founded deeper. Estel we call it, that is “trust.” It is not defeated by the ways of the world, for it does not come from experience, but from our nature and first being. If we are indeed the Eruhin, the Children of the One, then He will not suffer himself to be deprived of His own, not by any Enemy, not even by ourselves. This is the last foundation of Estel, which we keep even when we contemplate the End: of all his designs the issue must be for His Children’s joy.’” It belongs to the profound religious sense of The Lord of the Rings that the final good, the definitive common good, lies beyond the boundaries of this universe and its time. It is an object of Estel, not knowledge. Estel preserves the rhythm of beauty ad majorem gloriam. That “Estel” is Aragorn’s original name and also the last word spoken in anguish by Arwen to her dying husband is one of Tolkien’s most beautiful inventions.

Let me now turn to the second way of considering Frodo’s quest, namely, its providential guidance by Elbereth. Commenting on the strange event of Bilbo Baggins finding the One Ring, Gandalf says, “Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.” Gandalf had made a similar point, with half ironic humor, at the very end of The Hobbit. “‘Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!’ said Bilbo. ‘Of course,’ said Gandalf. ‘And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!’ ‘Thank goodness,’ said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco jar.” There is a providence at work in Frodo’s quest and many signs indicate that Elbereth is the one most proximately responsible for this providence.

It is highly significant that this providence chooses the small and insignificant to bring about its great results. There is one great military victory against Sauron on the Pelennor Fields before the walls of Minas Tirith, but the final victory is not a military one. In fact, as Frodo’s quest nears completion, the main goal of Gandalf’s military strategy is to set up a screen, to draw Sauron’s attention away from Frodo, Sam and Gollum, who are slowly approaching Mount Doom.

Despite the growth of a love for the common good of Middle-earth, which so deeply ennobles Frodo, he is not able to complete the quest. When he arrives at the cracks of doom, he does not throw the ring in to destroy it, but claims it as his own. The pressure of the ring is simply too overpowering. The one who saves the quest at this decisive moment is Gollum. In one of his letters Tolkien explains this turn of events by the petition in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In the long conversation between Frodo and Gandalf at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings Frodo says about Gollum, “What a pity that Bilbo did not strike that vile creature, when he had a chance!” Gandalf answers, “Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so.

With Pity.” When Frodo remonstrates that Gollum deserves death, Gandalf answers, “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. … My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many—yours not least.” When he has his first chance of killing Gollum, Frodo hears these words clearly, coming from far off. He then says, “Now that I see him, I do pity him.” Deep down in the very nature of the universe and its history one fundamental principle is at work: mercy is answered by mercy. What wins the victory in the end is mercy, mercy given in answer to mercy.

Mercy is closely connected with Elbereth since she is the one who proximately exercises providence over Middle-earth. In the Salve Regina, the Blessed Virgin Mary is called mater misericordiae, mother of mercy. Of course, ultimately mercy must go back to Ilúvatar himself. He must be of this sort, if indeed the principle of mercy is so deeply written into his creation. “God of mercy and compassion”—this is what Moses hears when God passes by him in his majesty and glory (Exodus 34:6-7). When he unfolds the statement “all ways of the Lord are mercy” (Psalm 25:10) St. Thomas argues, “In every work of God, mercy appears as its first root. The power of this root is preserved in all works that follow. It is at work even more intensely in these (latter works), just as a first cause flows more intensely into (its effect) than a secondary cause.” Gandalf has a deep sense of the principle of mercy and it is communicated supernaturally to Frodo at a decisive moment.

The principle of mercy lends a very specific kind of beauty to the whole story. It lends a feminine and Marian atmosphere to it. What radiates in the story is not the splendor of the god Mars, the masculine splendor of military victory, but the splendor of Elbereth, whose emblem are the stars, not the sun. There is a final gentleness that rules events, the gentleness of mercy. There is a final simplicity of the cosmic order, the simplicity of one principle, mercy. Yet again, we can see the truth of Tolkien’s claim that his own perception of beauty in its majesty and simplicity is founded on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The first purpose of The Lord of the Rings, as Tolkien never tires to repeat in his letters, is to entertain, to give delight by the beauty of the story. Still, a consequence of this first purpose is the sharpening of our eyes for the profound truth of our own world. Amazement is the only rational response to Middle-earth as Tolkien portrays it. Amazement is also the only rational response to our own real world, since it is like Middle-earth in its deep structures. There is an old Latin proverb quoted several times by St. Thomas: ubi amor, ibi oculus, where there is love, there is an eye. Amazement and love for beauty are not emotions that are distant from the serious attempt of understanding our world. They work like a lens or a telescope. They bring the deep structures of the world closer to our eyes and allow us to understand. For such understanding, beauty is not an incidental decorative addition, but close to the very heart of intelligibility, because it is the end the creator has in mind. “The end is chief in everything; finis est potissimum in unoquoque.” “The multitude and distinction of things has been planned by the divine mind … so that out of the order of diverse beings a certain beauty would arise in things, a beauty which shows the divine wisdom.”

Michael Waldstein curriculum vitae

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