March 25, 2017

AND WE'VE MUCH TO BE HUMBLE ABOUT:

Wonder and Wickedness: The Anatomy of Good and Evil (Joseph Pearce, 3/25/17, Imaginative Conservative)

In Tolkien's magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, Saruman the White renounces his title and office, declaring himself to be "of many colours." He is no longer content to see reality as being a battle between good and evil, between the light and the darkness. Too "wise" to be bound to such a black-and-white understanding of the cosmos, he spurns the white, the unity of all light, fragmenting it into a pluralistic spectrum, beyond good and evil.

Scholars of philosophy can hardly help but see parallels with the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose late work, Beyond Good and Evil, sought to demolish all traditional notions of morality.

Gandalf tells Saruman, as he would no doubt have told Nietzsche, that he had "left the path of wisdom." Later, after Gandalf has assumed the title of Gandalf the White, he tells Saruman that he has "no colour now," casting him from the order and from the Council. In rejecting the unity of all colours in the One Light of Goodness, choosing instead the fragmentation of light into a host of relativistic hues, Saruman, in his peacock Pride, does not become resplendent with all the colours of the rainbow but fades into fifty shades of grey until, eventually, he has "no colour" at all. Refusing to be one who reflects the light he has become dark, a black hole of malice, shrivelling into a pathetic shadow of his former self, much as Nietzsche, shortly after the publication of Beyond Good and Evil, descended into the black hole of madness, declaring that he, Nietzsche, had created the world and signing himself "Dionysus," the god of drunkenness and ritualized insanity.

What do the cautionary examples of Saruman and Nietzsche, one fictional and the other historical, tell us about the anatomy of good and evil?

The answer is to be found in the black-and-white understanding of the cosmos that they spurned. It is to be found, in fact, in the light of wisdom and wonder shining forth from the mind of Thomas Aquinas, a light that is to the darkness of Nietzsche what the light of Gandalf is to the darkness of Saruman. It is a light that vanquishes the darkness of relativism as well as the will to power that relativism serves.

According to Aquinas, virtue, specifically the virtue of humility, is the prerequisite to all understanding of the cosmos.

Posted by at March 25, 2017 8:06 AM

  

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