A recent discussion with Carl Lingard on the nature of Tolkien’s “secret grammar” led to the question of whether Plato’s teaching on the soul might be mapped onto what Lingard calls ‘Tolkien’s Dialectic’.1 In Plato’s understanding, the soul is made up of three “parts”; reason, will, and appetite. These correspond respectively to the head, the [...]
Category: Literary Criticism
Tolkien and Hyperborea – The Four Ages of Middle-earth
It is somewhat surprising, given the popularity of Tolkien’s works, that relatively little attention has been paid to some of the supplementary artwork for The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion. Among the more intriguing pieces produced by the author are the heraldic designs for the various Elven houses. To my mind, no one [...]
Why does Lancelot become a Werewolf?
An Analysis of Charles Williams’ The Son of Lancelot In William’s poem The Son of Lancelot, we are treated to a dramatic tableau of pagans dancing on the Palatine hill in Rome during the Lupercalia festival. This is led by vicars of Rhea Silvia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, who conceived the twins after [...]
From the Madeleine to the Mandala
Sacred Geography and Buddhist Enlightenment in Marcel Proust’s 'In Search of Lost Time' The idea that Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time represents, in one sense, a journey of disillusionment is no new thesis.1 It is the very surface level of the narrative, which nevertheless concludes not in despair, but in several moments of [...]
Owen Barfield’s ‘The Rose on the Ash-Heap’ and the Eternal Feminine
Owen Barfield was a member of the Oxford Inklings, alongside J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, a writer, poet, and devotee of Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy. He is seldom talked about except by academics, yet he had a great impact on the writing of his friends, and his own considerable creative efforts merit attention. His one unpublished [...]
Why is Taliessin a Unicorn?
Following on from my last article on the Octopods in P’o-lu, I thought I would attempt a brief look at Taliessin’s Song of the Unicorn, to see if we can make any interpretations of its symbolism in a traditional vein. While the answer may get very abstract and philosophical, the question I have to ask [...]
Why are there ‘Octopods’ in P’o-lu?
Any readers of this blog unfamiliar with Charles Williams’ Taliessin poems will have to forgive this rather absurd-sounding question, and may pass over the answers given here. But, really, why are there octopods in P’o-lu? The reason, I believe, is linked to Williams’ use of the Zodiac. The octopus corresponds to the house of Cancer, [...]
Symbolism Refutes Perennialism
What is the place of symbolism in Orthodoxy? How do we make good use of this “traditional science”, as thinkers like Guénon describe it? In this brief article, I mean to touch on some of the key distinctions between a Christian and a perennialist understanding of symbolism. Joseph P. Farrell, in his magnum opus God, [...]
Owen Barfield’s ‘Poetic Diction’ – Psyche and Soma Unified?
I have lately discovered Owen Barfield’s deeply fascinating book, Poetic Diction. Barfield is perhaps known to most as one of the tangential members of the Inklings, a loose society of writers operating in and around Oxford in the mid-20th century. A lifelong friend of C.S. Lewis, Barfield was a key influence on the former’s coming [...]
A Discussion on German Romanticism, the Psyche and the Nous, with Fr Alexander Tefft.
In reading about psychology and mental illness (specifically, in a book on the late romantic composer Gustav Mahler), some phenomena strike me as having a spiritual dimension to them: dissociation, for example. What is more, the focus of ‘object relations’ theory seems to me to relate as much to human relationships as to one’s relationship [...]