Monday 17 October 2011

Spirits speaking - touched in the quick...


From The Notion Club Papers pages 202-3.

In this section, the Notion Club are discussing the nature of verbal communications from 'spirits': from angels and demons.

As argued elsewhere in this blog, in this part of The Notion Club Papers I regard Ramer as essentially a mouthpiece for Tolkien.


'But spirits are often recorded as speaking', said Frankley.

'I know', Ramer answered. 'But I wonder if they really do, or if they make you hear them, just as they can also make you see them in some appropriate form, by producing a direct impression on the mind.

'The clothing of this naked impression in terms intelligible to your incarnate mind is, I imagine, often left to you, the receiver. Though no doubt they can cause you hear words and to see shapes of their own choosing, if they will.

'But in any case the process would be the reverse of the normal in a way, outwards, a translation from meaning into symbol.

'The audible and visible results might be hardly distinguishable from the normal, even so, except for some inner emotion: though there is, in fact, sometimes a perceptible difference of sequence.'


'I don't know what spirits can do', said Lowdham; 'but I don't see why they cannot make actual sounds (like the eldil in Perelandra): cause the air to vibrate appropriately, if they wish, they seem to affect "matter" directly.'


'I dare say they can', said Ramer. 'But I doubt if they would wish to, for such a purpose. Communication with another mind is simpler otherwise.

'And the direct attack seems to me to account better for the feelings human beings often have on such occasions. There is often a shock, a sense of being touched in the quick.

'There is movement from within outwards, even if one feels that the cause is outside, something other, not you.

'It is quite different in quality from the reception of sound inwards, even though it may well happen that the thing communicated directly is not strange or alarming, while many things said in the incarnate fashion are tremendous.'


'You speak as if you knew'said Jeremy. 'How do you know all this?'

'No, I don't to know anything about such things, and I'm not laying down the law. But I feel it.

'I have been visited, or spoken to', Ramer said gravely. 'Then, I think, the meaning was direct, immediate, and the imperfect translation perceptibly later: but it was audible. In many other accounts of other such events I seem to recognize experiences similar, even when far greater'.


'You make it all sound like Hallucination', said Frankley.

'But of course', said Ramer. 'They work in a similar way.

'If you are thinking of diseased conditions, then you may believe that the cause is nothing external; and all the same something (even if it is only some department of the body) muct be affecting the mind and making it translate outwards.

'If you believe in possession or the attack of evil spirits, then there is no difference in process, only the difference between malice and good-will, lying and truth.

'There is Disease and Lying in the world, and not only among men '.


Recalling that the NCPs are broadly based on the kind of discussions had by The Inklings, this is a stunning section for the insights it hints at concerning the nature of their conversations and for Tolkien's probably personal experiences.

The conversation is about spirits, which appear to include angels and demons (fallen angels), and the mode of their communications with humans. Apparently, this is the kind of thing that the real world Inklings discussed - they were not only a literary and social group.

Tolkien displays a strong interest in the subject, and possibly direct experience: 'I have been visited, or spoken to'. I find very convincing the detailed 'phenomenological' description of the experience of being communicated-with by spirits, and indeed the subject matter itself is only marginally relevant to the theme of the novel - so the impression is that it has been introduced because of the beliefs, convictions and personal experiences of the author.

In other words, it seems probable that Tolkien had had the experience of being visited and spoken to by angelic spirits.


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