Tolkien, Fabre d’Olivet, and the Great Triad (A Note)

It behoves me to issue a self-correction, with regards to my last post about the Platonic Soul in Tolkien’s work. On reading into the symbolism of the right-angled triangle, in René Guénon's The Great Triad, I realised I had mapped out the correspondences between the Soul and Lingard’s geometry poorly. This is how Guenon expresses [...]

Regarding the Platonic Soul and ‘Tolkien’s Dialectic’:

A recent discussion with Carl Lingard on the nature of Tolkien’s “secret grammar” led to the question of whether Plato’s teaching on the soul might be mapped onto what Lingard calls ‘Tolkien’s Dialectic’.1 In Plato’s understanding, the soul is made up of three “parts”; reason, will, and appetite. These correspond respectively to the head, the [...]

Tolkien and Hyperborea – The Four Ages of Middle-earth

It is somewhat surprising, given the popularity of Tolkien’s works, that relatively little attention has been paid to some of the supplementary artwork for The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion. Among the more intriguing pieces produced by the author are the heraldic designs for the various Elven houses. To my mind, no one [...]

René Guénon and the Vedanta

Now known as the founder of the traditionalist school, René Guénon would probably have objected to this title, insofar as any “ism” implies a historically contingent, ideological movement. A certain resistance to the particulars of history is characteristic of his thought, given its firm basis in a metaphysics that infinitely transcends all contingency. That said, [...]

From Bruno to Descartes – The Problem of “Infinite Space”

In his five dialogues on Cause, Principle and Unity, the Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno cites the famous idea that a circle of infinite size is a straight line. He uses this aphorism, attributed to Nicolas of Cusa, as a justification of his own theories of the universe consisting of infinite space. At first hearing, this [...]

Wagner’s Parsifal – A Musical Analysis

https://youtu.be/DJwf8xsg_zg In this video, I’m looking at the prelude to the third act of Parsifal, the last music drama by Richard Wagner, and one of my favourite pieces of music. I won’t go into too much depth of analysis, but I do want to note a few things that may help us to appreciate the [...]

Billy Budd – A closer look at the score

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZhTAcO0r9o I want to look at a particular passage from Benjamin Britten’s great opera, Billy Budd, to see how we can learn from his orchestral writing. Billy Budd is a truly masterful work, and really rewards repeated listening; I recommend especially the 1966 BBC production that is, at least currently, available on YouTube, if you’re [...]

Some Sketches for Charles Williams’ The Vision of the Empire

The king's poet gazed in the mirror of the Horn... Phosphorescent on the stagnant level a headless figure walks in a crimson cope, [...] His guard heaves round him; heaven-sweeping tentacles stretch, dragging octopus bodies over the level;

Composing the Sea

A Scene from Britten's Death in Venice It may seem strange to focus on Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice in talking about how he composed his seascapes; after all, he returned to the subject many times throughout his career – perhaps more than any other composer – and often treated it more directly than in [...]