The Divine Alchemy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion

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Priester, David, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Suarez, Michael, PV-Book Arts Press, University of Virginia

J. R. R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion demonstrates a philosophy of creative imagination that is expressed in argumentative form in Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories.” Fully appreciating the imaginative architecture of Tolkien’s fantastic cosmos requires considering his creative work in literary and theological dimensions simultaneously. Creative writing becomes a kind of spiritual activity through which the mind participates in a spiritual or theological order of reality. Through archetypal patterns Tolkien’s fantasy expresses particular ways of encountering divine presence in the world. The imagination serves as a faculty of spiritual perception. Tolkien’s creative ethic resonates with the theological aesthetics of Hans Urs von Balthasar, a consideration of which helps to illuminate the relationship of theology and imaginative literature in The Silmarillion. Creative endeavors may be seen as analogous to the works of alchemists pursuing the philosopher’s stone through the transfiguration of matter. The Silmarils symbolize the ideal fruits of creative activity and are analogous to the philosopher’s stone.

MA (Master of Arts)
Tolkien, Religion, Alchemy, Theology
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