On Reality

I made the following comment on a blog post at Circe Institute. I reread it today and thought it could stand on its own.

We tend to grant “realness” to tangible things and “metaphorical reality” to intangible things. In doing so, we wrest the status of ultimate reality from God, whom “no man has seen” according to Christ.

Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty in the Word seems apropos here. Caldecott writes that imagination is the proper tool for thinking about the future, as memory is the proper tool for thinking about the past. If that is so, we dare not fall prey to the tyrannical eye. Ultimate reality, after all, is beyond our eyes but not our imagination.

The Lord of the Rings illustrates this, it seems to me, in Sauron’s great and burning lidless Eye, roving over Mordor (and beyond) seeking the one thing that will assure his future victory and enthronement as lord of Middle Earth. Despite Sauron’s vast knowledge, despite his expansive vision, Gandalf says the Dark Lord has lost the power to imagine anyone refusing, much less destroying the Ring. And it is this “folly” that Gandalf suggests may be a “cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy!”

Some (Peter Jackson included, I think) read our times into the Eye, perhaps seeing in it the 21st century’s constant surveillance. But might it not instead or also represent a slavery to what may be seen, that which St. Paul writes is temporal?

What Gandalf suggests of the heroes of Middle Earth is true of us: our enchantment with the “invisible” Ultimate Reality leaves our materialist foes befuddled and frustrated by our apparent folly. Why, they say, can we not admit the lack of tangible evidence and admit that God is a metaphor? In fact, the veil that once blinded our eyes is torn and the Glory it once hid is on full display, as we realize God is not merely a metaphor but the metaphor, literally carrying over the “unreal” into the “real” world.


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