JRR Tolkien: True Blue Roman Catholic — or Closet Freemason?

Discussion in 'J.R.R. Tolkien : The Creator of Middle-earth' started by Barliman Butterbur, Sep 30, 2005.

  1. Barliman Butterbur

    Barliman Butterbur Worthy Keeper/Bree Roué

    Have you ever stopped to think about the original basis of Tolkien's drawings of heraldry, symbols, logos? Have you, like me, simply accepted them as coming straight out of his imagination, having their basis in a private symbolism of his own?

    While researching the symbolism of rings for quite another purpose, I quite by chance (or serendipity) came across a website with a very startling assertion: That a great many of Tolkien's designs — such as the design of Moria's Gate, for instance — are based on ancient Freemason symbolism! Since the discussion depends almost entirely upon the examination and comparison of graphics, instead of talking about it I refer you to http://www.darkstar1.co.uk/ring.html , and let you see and contemplate for yourself. You just might be as startled as I was. At the least, it's food for thought!


    PS: For those who wish to delve further into this: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=tolkien freemason
  2. Arvedui

    Arvedui Stargazer

    There was a time when I was thinking that Tolkien may very well have had some connections with Free Masonry, so that you have found a lot of similarities only serves as more 'evidence' to me.

    But I still haven't found any source that can tell if he really was, though... :(
  3. Thorondor_

    Thorondor_ Registered User

    My first impression was similar to one idea mentioned in your first link:
    His sources are pagan (The Kalevala, the Ring Cycle of the Niebulung, ancient Celtic and Germanic myth, etc.
    So I don't buy the mason theory... yet ;)
  4. SpankusAurilius

    SpankusAurilius Feanorian

    Once again Barley, you have sparked my interest in things which i cannot begin to comprehend. But lack of understanding does not deter my fascination. I'm at the point where I'm looking for my own conclusions on a lot of life's most puzzling questions. I am currently delving into texts of the Sumerians.... if anyone has any input or interesting theories, please....... let me in.
  5. Hammersmith

    Hammersmith Irresistible Ork Child

    Tolkien also borrowed from Greek Mythology. Are you suggesting he embraced polytheism too? Besides, the only similarity I can make out is that both are arches. As far as arches go, they seem quite unique.
  6. Barliman Butterbur

    Barliman Butterbur Worthy Keeper/Bree Roué

    I'm suggesting nothing. I simply offer what I found.

    That's the kind of attitude I love!!! (Don't forget: what we don't comprehend outnumbers what we do, as the aggregate particles of the Gobi desert outnumber a grain of sand...so you're in good company!)

    I would love to get into that with you, aber es ist verboten bei unser Füherer!

    Once upon a time early in my checkered career of spiritual wanderlust, I investigated Theosophy — now there's something as exotic and juicy as a ripe plum! When you're done with the Sumerians, you might look into that too. :D

    Last edited: Feb 18, 2008
  7. octoburn

    octoburn Registered User

    I believe Tolkien's intentions (with all of middle-earth) were to create an extremely large myth that created a "reality" behind (and encompassed almost all of) the mythologies of Europe at the time. this is evident in almost every story within the realms of Middle Earth. every one could be twisted or "perverted" into a modern myth. I think the similarities are merely evidence that he knew of Freemasonry, and it influenced his writings and fictitious world, just like every other story he'd read as a child.
  8. Lady_of_Gondor

    Lady_of_Gondor CityMaiden

    Well, I don't think it is necessarily his belief system. He stated his devotion to Catholicism on more than one occasion. Here's my take: Many writers during the English Renaissance heavily employed Classical myth (Greek and Roman Gods and Goddess) into Christian Literature. Take, for example, John Milton's Paradise Lost, and also much of Shakespeare's work, and many others. John Milton is an example of a fervant Christian (Anglican - hated Catholics, but still). Yet, he used classical allusions to false Gods without feeling as though he was abandoning his faith. Why couldn't Tolkien have done the same thing with the Free Masonry symbols. Every author and artist is influenced in some way or another. That doesn't mean that they necessarily believe ver batum everything they are influenced by.
  9. Haldatyaro

    Haldatyaro Registered User

    It's doubtful that Tolkien was a Freemason. Don't forget that in England during his time, Catholics weren't exactly welcome in the Lodges, nor did they seek membership. It may still be the case, I don't know. I'm an American Freemason and know Brethren from many different religious traditions.

    I think the key is in Tolkien's intentions to create a believable Middle-earth that existed many thousands of years ago. Naturally, he would draw upon (consciously or no) symbolism that can be found in Europe -- the same symbolism that Freemasonry borrows.

    The meaning behind Royal Arch symbolism are intrinsic to Masonic belief, but they aren't necessarily Masonic in origin. Freemasonry draws upon a lot of heterogeneous Western (ie European) traditions, Biblical referents, Renaissance-era metaphysics, and so on and employs them in what could be viewed allegorically. In Masonic ritual, symbols acts as instruments of instruction and knowledge, often presented in parable form.

    However, in Tolkien's conception, the symbolism is contained within his construct, mythology and universe. The two pillars clearly represent the Two Trees, for instance, (or perhaps the Sun and Moon, or even the Lamps of the Valar) and in no way intellectually function like the Masonic pillars. There's no lesson to be learned from the Moria Gate.

    To me, it's like comparing Der Ring of the Niebelungenlied and The One Ring of LoTR. Yes, there are similarities, and rings of magic are part of many old legends, but each is a sui generis object within the context of their respective tales.
  10. Barliman Butterbur

    Barliman Butterbur Worthy Keeper/Bree Roué

    I'm mildly surprised (though gratified) that someone has taken up this thread again (I thought it died long ago), but more to the point has added things of interest!

    My paternal grandfather was a Freemason in his early life. He lost everything in the Crash, and never again had the time nor money (nor, I suppose, the enthusiasm) to indulge it.

    Great and permanent poverty coming hard on the heels of fairly significant wealth can certainly put a kink in one's mystico/spiritual proclivities...

  11. Eledhwen

    Eledhwen Cumbrian

    Presumably you mean This sort of thing. There are also examples chiselled into tombstones of Tolkien-like symbols.

    I think it's far more likely that both Tolkien and the Freemasons drew on older symbolism. I have long been fascinated by pilgrim badges, which I believe have pre-Christian origins and were either re-assigned as was, or adapted from their original meanings, to sell to an eager Christianised populace. The one called the Yorkist Sun looks very much like a the symbol for a Silmaril, to me.

    Haldatyaro speculates about the two trees matching masonic pillars. If they compare to any pillars at all, I would say it was the pillars of fire and cloud that guided the Exodus from Egypt. (fire by night, cloud by day). However, I prefer the more obvious sun and moon representations. Do trees (or a tree) provide the origins of the sun and moon in any other mythologies, I wonder? I'd be interested to know.
  12. Mike

    Mike Beowulf's lost son-in-law

    I've found that Freemasonic imagery has generally been "found" in some of the most unlikely places, as if Freemasonry somehow influences and permeates everything. The problem is, of course, that it doesn't, and a lot of information on Freemasonry is simply, well, wrong.

    A good example is the ascription of Freemasonic imagery to the Whitechapel Murders of 1888, most famously considered in the comic book "From Hell", which drew on other sources. Somehow, the ways the murders were commited prove that Jack the Ripper was a Freemason.

    Except, of course, there is no such evidence. Stephen Knight's books on Jack the Ripper (claiming he was the Freemason William Gull) and on Freemason are both based on the shakiest of foundations.

    That brings me to Tolkien. I would agree that they might have used imagery, but the site you (Barley) posted oh-so-long ago seems to be going into Tolkien's works with the a priori assumption that he was using specific Freemason images. As we might all guess...if you think something is there in the first place, you're bound to find it's true no matter how false your initial assertion may be.
  13. Barliman Butterbur

    Barliman Butterbur Worthy Keeper/Bree Roué

    Nice to see this thread activated again after three years! I thought it pretty much had seen its day.

    (And lo and behold — this, on 2/18/08 — turns out to be my 2600th post, long in the coming! I would have been up to 3400, but they subtracted 800 in the "Great Purge" a few years back, a silly attempt to try to weed out posts that deserved to be "not counted" from those that did... :eek:)

    To Mike: Yes, it certainly was a long time ago! Looking at the link I included in the original post, there still seems to me to be startling similarities between those particular/specific drawings and some of those done by Tolkien.

  14. macgyver

    macgyver Registered User

    I am a Freemason and lifetime Tolkien fan. periodically I read the series through again. [as im sure most of you do]

    I would like to point out, that in the early pages of The Hobbit, there is a masonic reference that is unmistakable.

    because of my oath to the masons I can't reveal on this forum the exact phrase. and in fact Tolkien does not use the precise masonic phrasing.

    an argument could be made that the phrase is merely a coincidence or accident, and that no true masonic link exists.

    since the phrase regards Bilbo who is a favorable character. it seems to imply a pro masonic view and not an anti masonic view of the author our beloved Tolkien.

    Given Tolkien's considerable intellect, and knowing what his passions were [launguages, codes, maps, secrets] and the fact the masons are an ancient organization . . . it is fair to say at a minimum: 1) he knew about the organization 2) he took an interest at some point. [wether he joined or not]

    here are some posibilities:

    1) Because of his oath, he deliberatly did not use the precise masonic phrase, but left it as a clue to wary readers.

    2) Maybe he joined and then later renounced his membership, and kept that fact a secret.

    3) Maybe he was a full member, and kept that fact secret.

    4) maybe he was highly knowledgable about the masons, and their symbols, but simply had no desire to join, and left the phrase to play with those of us, knowing we would enjoy the mystery and intrigue.

    somthing else to consider.

    a number of famous authors who are known to be masons, and make subtle and not so subtle references to masonry in their respective writings

    Mark Twain
    Edgar Allen Poe
    Sir Arthuer Conon Doyle
    Victor Hugo
    Alexander Dumas
    Edgar Rice Burroughs

    Poe and Doyle were fond of cyphers.

    Hugo's the Hunch back of Notre Dame. the first 1/3 of that classic book is a mysterious treaties on the subject of architecture

    Dumas: one of the muskiteers, Arimis is also a Jesuit priest, who must keep it secret because the history of the time the Jesuits, are estranged from the larger body of the Catholic church. [the jesuits persue an interest in science considerd heiretical]

    So, anyone want to rethink Tolkien's affiliation?

  15. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

    Freemasonry has been condemned by the Roman Catholic Church since 28 April, 1738; when Pope Clement XII published Constitution “In Eminenti”. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the condemnation was for:
    In his encyclical Humanum Genus, “On Freemasonry”, April 20, 1884, Pope Leo XIII wrote (¶ 2),
    The Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a “Declaration On Masonic Associations” on 26 November 1983. The document was signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect – the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI.
    An article entitled “Irreconcilability between Christian faith and Freemasonry” appeared on March 11, 1985, in L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican organ. It incidentally clarifies the situation at the time Tolkien died:
    John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic. His mother, he, and his brother Arthur were disowned by the Tolkien family when his mother converted to Roman Catholicism after his father’s early and unexpected death; he blamed her subsequent early death in part on the hardship she suffered on behalf of her Faith. Tolkien and Arthur grew up in a Catholic orphanage. The greatest influence on his young life after the demise of his mother was a Catholic priest. Tolkien was intensely devoted to the Catholic Church and participated in its liturgy and services.

    While I am not privy to JRR Tolkien’s interior thoughts, any secret associations he may have maintained, or any unpublished writings he may have left – particularly had he sought to keep them secret or hidden – given the uncompromising position of the Catholic Church against Freemasonry during his lifetime, a position which has been maintained and clarified since his death in 1973, in my opinion, it is not credible to assert to that JRR Tolkien was a Freemason.
  16. Ithrynluin

    Ithrynluin seeker of solace Staff Member

    Uh oh, I feel a Dan Brown novel coming on. :D

    But seriously, macgyver, that was a very interesting post and I thank you for it. Tolkien's connection to Freemasonry is likely unlikely ;), but it is the lack of complete evidence, that allows the little leeway we need for that "mystery and intrigue" many of us enjoy so much.
  17. macgyver

    macgyver Registered User

    While I am not privy to JRR Tolkien’s interior thoughts, any secret associations he may have maintained, or any unpublished writings he may have left – particularly had he sought to keep them secret or hidden – given the uncompromising position of the Catholic Church against Freemasonry during his lifetime, a position which has been maintained and clarified since his death in 1973, in my opinion, it is not credible to assert to that JRR Tolkien was a Freemason.[/QUOTE]

    I would say those are all excellent points.

    Its also true that from the point of view of the Catholic church. "they" are the one true religion. and all faiths other than Catholic, are heretics. [devil worshipers in effect]

    I was not contesting the Catholic churches view on freemasonry. I was contesting Tolkien s view on freemasonry.

    freemasonry has three plank values. 1) No atheist can be a Freemason. 2) freedom of religion 3) education in the liberal arts.

    #2 is a REAL big problems for [some] Catholics. they don't go along with the whole freedom of religion ideal. your either catholic or a devil worshiper [respectively.]

    many Catholics do not go along with this or many other church issues. there are in fact a huge number of Catholic Freemasons, including members of the clergy.

    you see the problem is that Freemasons accept members of ANY faith. Christians of all types, and Jews, and Hindu's and buddists, and muslims.

    Im in no way contesting Tolkiens catholic faith.

    what I am saying is this: in the early pages of The Hobbit Tolkien has placed a Freemasonic phrase. and that phrase is Unmistakable

    So the question is . . . whats it doing there? If Tolkien is pro Catholic AND anti mason. why is the phrase there? why?

    the weakest possible suggestion is that [maybe] Tolkien was sympathetic to the masons. if not freedom of religion, at least freedom from catholic persecution. In other words maybe he saw some church positions as wrong or at least un-cristian. Maybe Tolkien did not like the chuches anti semitic view, or its sympathy tward Natzi germany in WWII. Thats alot of maybe's

    the strongest possible suggestion is that. He was a full mason, kept it a secret, and left a clue in his writing for the initiated to puzzel over.

  18. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

    This thread might not be the best place to discuss the merits or demerits of Roman Catholicism. My purpose in quoting Catholic dogma is to put it into perspective with Tolkien's well-known and well-documented Catholic faith, with which Masonic membership is incompatible.

    I disagree. Tolkien was nearly ecstatic in his descriptions of his faith in his published Letters. A man subject to prejudice as a Catholic, who believes his family suffered because of their faith, is less likely to deviate from dogma. I do not believe you can make the assertion that Tolkien was a Freemason without also derogating his Catholicism.

    I seem to have missed it. Would you please be explicit? What exactly is the phrase that has so excited you?
  19. macgyver

    macgyver Registered User

    Freeemasonry is not incompatable with ANY faith. Not surprising. Many Catholics are members.

    the phrase is "Not the fellow who
    used to tell such wonderful tales at parties, about dragons and
    goblins and giants and the rescue of princesses and the unexpected
    luck of widows' sons?"

    so Google "widows son" or "luck of widows sons". see what you get?
  20. macgyver

    macgyver Registered User

    Originally Posted by macgyver [​IMG]
    #2 is a REAL big problems for ... Catholics. they don't go along with the whole freedom of religion ideal. your either catholic or a devil worshiper...
    This thread might not be the best place to discuss the merits or demerits of Roman Catholicism. My purpose in quoting Catholic dogma is to put it into perspective with Tolkien's well-known and well-documented Catholic faith, with which Masonic membership is incompatible.

    all im saying is that Tolkien's faith is not a valid reason for claiming that he was not a Freemason.



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