This is the same in our world. This 'grey' exists in our beings as we struggle between Good and Evil; and it makes the reasons why we struggle to do the good and fall into sin, very complex. But if you remove the Black and White poles, if you remove the Eternal Truths of:
• Justice and Injustice,
• Natural and Un-natural,
... you end up with everything being clouded by a fog of confusion and uncertainty as to what is Truth and what is Lie; as to what is Good and what will lead to destruction of the human person.
You end up being able to rationalize and justify anything because there is no true Good and Evil. The 'first premise' or first principles are wrong; therefore all the reasoning and understanding that flows from this incorrect starting point will be wrong. Truth has become just what each man or society thinks is his own truth or collective truth.
This does not mean that correct moral paths are always easy to discern, but they can be properly reasoned through a process based on Correct Moral Principles [correct 'first premise] which are solid, and flow from Truths of Classical Philosophy [not purely existential philosophy which is often disordered and lacks objectivity] and Revealed Divine Truth [Revelation] about man in his dignity, as a created being of God, and Jesus offering man the Way Home.
While the Lord of the Rings has these poles of Light and Dark in the story; there is still the reality of our human condition that reflects the truth of our complex struggles. The very temptational nature of the Ring, weaknesses of certain characters, and pressures of what is at stake, bring a reality and depth of the human condition at play on the field between the Light and Dark of Middle-earth [c.f. Boromir, Gollum, Frodo, Denethor and Bilbo & Saruman]
This reflects the realities of our world and the 'grey' in each of us as we struggle to live according to justice and love. But we mustn't fool ourselves into thinking everything is grey, including our moral principles and understanding of Truth.
Another key aspect often missed by many Tolkien analysts is the pervading presence of the inviolable Catholic principle: "one can never do evil in order to achieve a perceived or actual good". Or perhaps when written this way more readers will recognise it: "the ends do not justify the means".
This moral principle is one of the most important principles in Catholic morality and this principle is held and taught consistently throughout the Lord of the Rings.
In the book, those who are evil or who are tempted or ensnared by evil want to do the contrary; e.g., use an intrinsic evil (the ring) to try to save the world (Boromir, Denethor, Saruman). Contrast this with Gandalf who knows his weakness, and recognises that he could possibly be ensnared by evil to use the ring to do good; and therefore ensures that he never touches it.
As pointed out in Truth and Myth, Tolkien held that there was a further purpose embedded in writing myth; he wanted to pass these moral and spiritual truths that he held onto all his life. Modern man would do well to heed Tolkien's ideas.
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