Am [obviously much in love with plants and above all trees and always have been and I find human maltreatment of them as hard to bear as some find illtreatment of animals [Letters p220

Treebeard and the Ents have come to life in the story through this love of nature and trees that Tolkien possessed. The destruction of the Shire and Fangorn forest are also caught up in this theme. The crushing affect of what Saruman did in the Shire is shown by the text;

"It was one of the saddest hours of their lives..." as the Hobbits witnessed the aftermath of the destruction. [LotR p.993]

The box of dust gifted to Sam by Galadriel to help rehabilitate the Shire is another illustration of the nature theme in the Lord of the Rings; as is the destruction at Isengard and the mass produced machinery of war that Saruman invents.

But they are not the only expressions of this love: all of the sweeping vistas, beautiful landscapes and magnificent descriptions of the surrounding geography in Tolkien's world have arisen from this theme. Lothlorien, Rivendell, the Caves at Helms Deep are examples that reflect this.

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As pointed out later in Metaphysical Elements, the plant Athelas, otherwise named Kingsfoil flows from Tolkien's profession of philology and love of nature. In an article written by George Sayer, a personal friend of Tolkien, he describes a walk he took with Tolkien in the woods near his home. Tolkien often pointed out plants and philologically described where their names had evolved from and what their meanings were.

One in particular was called Herba Benedicta - 'the blessed plant', which Tolkien said was incorrectly translated into english as St Benedicts herb [Celebration p.5]. Tolkien goes on to explain that in that particular region in years gone by; belief was that the plant had a special grace of protection from the devil [obviously a slight error in that region in terms of Christian belief].

He also points out that in ancient times, when picking calendine (a herb) different variations of Our Fathers and Hail Mary's were prayed and this was an example of Christian prayer replacing the recitation of pagan runes as the religion of the region become more Christian. One can see how the plant Athelas was placed into the story.

Tolkien strongly believed that scientific invention and progress must be bounded by morality.

"If there is any contemporary reference in the story at all, it is what seems to me the most widespread assumption of our time; if a thing can be done, it must be done. This seems to wholly false. The greatest examples of the action of the spirit and reason are in abnegation." [Letters p.246]

[abnegation = self-denial, rejection of false doctrine, self-sacrifice].

This is what is happening in our day. We can create life in a test tube. If we can, why not do it?

Knowing Church teaching and having read the Church Fathers and St Thomas Aquinas, Tolkien understood very well the existing hierarchy between all of the sciences. Advances in modern technology which are consequences of a deepening and expansion of knowledge in the natural sciences (e.g. engineering, physics, chemistry, medicine, molecular biology etc.. to name a few) must be informed and enlightened by the higher natural sciences (ethics, anthropology, ontology, and epistemology): which are the 4 main branches of natural philosophy and metaphysics; which are the highest of the natural sciences because they seek to understand the highest causes and meanings of the universe

Then these natural sciences must be informed, enlightened, elevated and purified by the supernatural science...theology (the study of God - which was called the Queen of the Sciences in the middle ages). The data for this science comes from the Old Law (given to Israel) and the New Law, Jesus Christ who is the fullness of God's revelation to mankind.

Hence, any principle or theory, in the lower natural sciences that contradict/differ from proven principles in philosophy (the highest natural science) flowing from the natural light of the reason; and which contradict/differ from proven doctrine and principles in theology (the supernatural science) flowing from faith in Divine Revelation (the Old Law and New Law) must be examined very carefully; and accepted if true or rejected if false.

This is one of the roles of the Catholic Church in the world; to be the pillar of truth (1 Tim 3:15) for humanity; to be a sure guide for mankind to discover the truth of the universe, and come to salvation. Pope John Paul II was amazing at doing this: reminding the world of the truths of God, man and the universe.

On the subject of mass produced objects, factory jobs and automated production and machinery Tolkien once said:

"...because humility and equality are spiritual principles corrupted by the attempt to mechanize and formalize them, with the result that we get not universal smallness and humility, but universal greatness and pride, until some Orc gets hold of a ring of power - and then we get and are getting slavery." [LotR p.246]

Towards the end of WWII Tolkien wrote to his son outlining his thoughts:

"Well the first War of the Machines seems to be drawing to its final inconclusive chapter - leaving, alas, everyone the poorer, many bereaved or maimed and millions dead, and the only thing triumphant: the Machines. As the servants of the Machines are becoming a privileged class, the Machines are going to be enormously more powerful. What's their next move?" [Letters p.111]

But it must be pointed out that he wasn't entirely against technology, as is shown when he used a recording machine to record excepts of Gandalf's style of speaking and from all accounts was very child-like in his enjoyment of using it for the first time [Celebration p.8-9].

Tolkien's attitude is certainly radical in terms of machines and general rejection of advancement but it still flowed from his Catholic faith. He saw the negative aspects of automation and machinery from a human and spiritual point of view. He saw it taking away individuality and turning people into robots: like the drab existence of factory work. He also saw raping of the earths resources to fuel a capitalistic culture and hedonistic existence.

In 1981 Pope John Paul II wrote an Encyclical letter regarding work, employment, technology and the use of the earths resources [download it here]. We can use the earth as God has given us to live as he has intended. We can have legitimate dominion over all creatures and plants and minerals, but this is not a free licence to ransack every resource in the world without thought or regard for its replenishment and on-going sustenance. Nor does it give licence to the maltreatment of animals [it is important to point out that animals don't actually have rights but when we abuse them we sin against our own dignity: that is why it is wrong]. It also talks of the Dignity of Agricultural work.

While there is nothing wrong with scientific advancement, technology and medical research, it must always be carried out within the bounds of the natural morals laws. Automation and mass production often is driven by greed and power, and short term gain is often the push behind a lot of medical options.

While Tolkien loved nature and trees, his love always found reference in the Good Lord:

"...those who believe in a personal God and Creator do not think the universe itself worshipful, though devoted study of it may be one of the ways of honouring Him... "

[Letters p.400]

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