My recent phase in Christian reading has involved the supernatural. I recently read Francis Frangipane’s The Three Battlegrounds, which is about spiritual warfare, and Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth and The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, which are on the relationship between miracles and preaching the Kingdom of Heaven. Needless to say, this sort of reading reminds one of angels and demons, the unseen spiritual world that has a very real impact on the seen world. Readers of my posts will know that I enjoy fantasy books and games and that I am a fan of JRR Tolkien. Being a devout Catholic, intentionally or not, he imbued his created world (Middle-Earth is only part of it) with a cosmology that in many ways parallels our own. He was, of course, deeply interested in fairytales, mythology and folklore from many ethnicities, not only the Germanic groups; the ideas from this realm were also worked into his creation, so the result is a fusion, rather than a pure mirroring.

A wonderful place to observe this is the Ainulindale, which is the story of Eru Iluvatar, the one god, creating his children, the Ainur (singular Ainu), and through them the world (Arda, *ard* being a stem that means earth in Germanic languages). The Ainur are often referred to as ‘gods’ and are known among the elves and humans as the Valar (singular Vala), which means “Powers”. Students of the Bible and mythology will see something interesting in this choice of name. On the one hand, this pantheon of gods who are the powers of the world resembles the pantheons of pagan mythology. Manwe, Tolkien’s sky-god, bears a resemblance to Zeus or Odin as the chief-god among the Valar. On the other hand, Christians know that “Powers” (according to some translations) is an angelic rank, found in Ephesians 6:12 and Colossians 1:16. Eru Iluvatar is in this scheme the one god, and the Valar, although co-laborourers in Creation, from this angle resemble angels rather than gods.

The Creation itself is accomplished through song, and each of the Ainur contributes a part to the theme and melody, even those who will later be manifested as wicked. This theme in the Ainulindale is worth noting. Needless to say, it mirrors how the Father spoke Creation into being through the Word, His Son Jesus Christ. Just as Iluvatar’s children, the Ainur, are co-labourers, so Adam was with God in that God permitted him to name the animals (Genesis 2:19-20) – for more on this co-labouring theme (which incidently is a strong point of Catholic  and charismatic theology as applied to the Church), see Bill Johnson’s book, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind. I struggle to explain it (except to say that I enjoy music and it stirs the soul), but there is something about this Creation through music theme that I find very moving. In pagan thought and witchcraft spells and music are inseparable (the Greek word for spell also means a song and our Latin word incantation has the *can* root, which means to sing) – evidently they thought music had a creative power.

As in our own world, so in Tolkien’s there is corruption and evil. Tolkien’s theology of evil as expressed in The Silmarillion and other works is excellent. He notes that Melkor, his Satan-figure, had no creative power of his own. Although in a sense this evil god is a father of various races (Orcs, Dragons etc), in reality all he is doing is corrupting things that already exist. Orcs are a corruption of Elves, just as Werewolves and Vampires are a manifestion of the demonic in flesh, a corruption of wolves and bats.

Melkor’s sin, like Satan’s, is essentially pride and violence. Just as Satan says, ‘I will exalt myself above the stars [read angels] of God”, so Melkor tries to assert his control over the Ainur. In the song of Creation, while the rest of the Ainur are manking harmonious, united music, he inserts his own arrogant, discordant themes, like the braying of a trumpet amidst the beauty of the strings. He seeks out empty places where he can be by himself, and there his pride, his self-centredness grows, separated from the harmony and the community of the Ainur. Like Satan, he receives a name change. “Satan” is a Hebrew word, and means Accuser or Enemy; this title refers to Satan’s function: he is the enemy of God, seeking ruin everything that God has created, and he is the accuser of Man, especially the Saints; Revelation 12:10 says that Satan accuses the Saints before God day and night. We are not sure what Satan’s name was before his fall; Christians commonly call him Lucifer in this context, a name which is taken from St Jerome’s Vulgate translation of Isaiah  14:12. The Hebrew of this verse says heylel ben shahar”, which means something like “shining one, son of the dawn”. Melkor is, if you like, the “original name”, but he is given a new name by the Elves when he assaults them and steals their creation, the Silmarils. They give him the name Morgoth, which means “dark enemy” a name that clearly parallels Satan in meaning. Just as Satan has his kingdom of darkness, the fallen angels who serve under him, so Melkor has his spirit servants, the chief of whom is Sauron. Sauron is, like Satan/Morgoth, a name given by the Elves and Men to this spirit and means “the abhorred”.

Side note, the Greek word daimon, from which the word demon comes, is used of unclean spirits in the New Testament as cast out by Jesus and Christians, often in the diminutive form daimonion. What people may not know is that this word comes from Greek theology and cosmology and religious practice. While we are used to thinking of the Greek word theos as being applied to “gods” like Zeus, Athene etc, the reader may be surprised to know that the term daimon was also used of the gods as well as lesser spirits and minor gods. For further information, see the entry in Liddel and Scott’s Greek Lexicon: .

I shall leave it here as this post has gotten long, but I’d be happy to write a follow-up on Elves, Men, and the Istari if requested.