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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Metaphysics. Cosmology; Part 1: The Instrumental and Communicative View of Nature



The Secret Garden, by Inga Moore

This post is a part of the online book Philosophical Counseling with Tolkien.

A.  Cosmology

Cosmology deals with the world as the totality of space, time and all phenomena. Historically, it has had quite a broad scope, and in many cases was founded in religion. The ancient Greeks did not draw a distinction between this use and their model for the cosmos. Hohwever, in modern use metaphysical cosmology addresses questions about the Universe which are beyond the scope of science. It is distinguished from religious cosmology in that it approaches these questions using philosophical methods like logic and reasoning.

1.  The Instrumental and Communicative View of Nature

In the view of nature in natural science, nature is reduced to atomic particles, empty space, fields, electromagnetic waves and particles etc., etc. Characteristic is, that nature is explained, and is described, in a way, which is a world away from our immediate sense experiences.

The support of a natural scientific view of nature has almost always led the supporters forward to combine it with an instrumental (technological) view of nature. This conception of nature is seeing it as pure material, or alone as a means for the unfolding of Man.

The instrumental view of nature rests on a sharp division between Man and everything else; that is to say: between inner and outer nature. Man is by force of his inner nature radical different from, and is standing over, the outer nature. This is, among other things, due to, that he, with reason and science, is in the position to master nature.

By the way, the thought about Man as a self-producing being, characterizes almost all traditional Western philosophy, where the art of philosophizing is due to thinking alone, even though the theories within this tradition in other crucial points are highly contradictory. You find it in Christianity, in Descartes´ view of Man as a self-dependant being, in the Enlightenment philosophers, in Romanticism´s view of Man as a historical being, in Kierkegaard, Karl Marx and Auguste Comte, who respectively founded existentialism, Marxism and positivism. This thought is called the self-production thesis. It is charactericed by the top-heavy Indo-European thinking, which my concept of the Luciferian movement is a break with.

Naturalism stands for any view, which considers nature, or the natural, as the most common basis for explanations and evaluations. A naturalistic view of human nature is this conception: Man is a piece of nature.

Naturalistic views can be traced back to the oldest Greek philosophy, but all newer forms of naturalism are characterized by modern natural sciences. Naturalism therefore very often advocates the conception, that all phenomena in the world can be studied through natural science. However it is important to be aware, that naturalism in itself isn´t a scientific point of view, but a philosophical point of view. No single branch of science gives anything else than a limited perspective on Man or reality. If you are claiming anything else, you end in reductionism; that is: where you reduce Man and reality to only being a result of a single influence. You accentuate one influence at the same time as you understate all others, and therewith you get a problem with creating unity and coherence in your theory. Both Man and reality are all too complex to be written down to one influence. 

The view of nature, which is characterizing naturalism today, is characterized by three things:

1) Nature is understood as something, which goes off regularly. This regularity can be formulated mathematical, and is what we understand as the laws of nature. Through insight in the laws of nature Man can learn to make use of nature to his own advantage.

2) This regularity is not an expression of any, to Man, understandable reason. That will say: there are no purposes or intentions with how the ways of nature function. They are only controlled by causal regularity of a mechanical kind. This materialistic ontology claims, that the only thing which has real existence, is mass entities in motion. The whole of nature can fully be explained from the knowledge of these mechanical principles. All explanations use the cause and effect relation. They are causal. Teleological explanations -  that is: explanations from purposes - are rejected.

3) Nature is understood and explained from itself. In other words: nature contains in itself its causes. It develops itself by force of immanent powers. It produces itself, is a natura naturans. Naturalism doesn´t set the scene for religious (pre-modern) explanations.

In opposition to this, and under impression of the discussion about the damage, which we have caused nature, there has in the later years been worked out conceptions, which claims, that nature has a value in itself. It is not only a means, but ought to be respected for its beauty and richness. It is by the way a point of view, which also is well known from older times. In lack of better you could call it a communicative view of nature, since it is implying, that we in some sense have a community with nature. This is the beginning of the Luciferian movement; that is:  a movement away from the top-heavy self-production thesis, towards a self-forgetful realm. This self-forgetful realm is the realm that allows the mystical experience, a complete pre-modern concept, which is looked at with contempt by modern and postmodern intellectuals.

The communicative view of nature claims that nature is of value in itself, that there is a beauty and richness in nature, which is of non-causal and non-mechanical kind, and that Man as a natural being has a community with this nature. For instance: The Danish theologist and philosopher of life, K.E. Løgstrup, is not naturalist in the way the word was used in the above-mentioned. Through the whole of his life he had an energetic controversy with all positivism and empirical naturalism. His main objection is, that these reduce reality for important dimensions. What Løgstrup calls “the sovereign and spontaneous life-expressions” are given with ”life itself”. You can say, that they belong to our nature, if you thereby understand it as a metaphysical nature. This you can also call naturalism, but it is in that case important to emphasize, that it is a metaphysical naturalism. Metaphysical naturalism is a view I have adopted, and I will develop it further throughout this book.

Another Danish philosopher of life, Mogens Pahuus, has in his book Karen Blixen´s philosophy of life argued, that Blixen, when she speaks about God, is using the word in a quite other meaning than the traditional. According to him she uses it completely synonymous with nature, or rather, the creative powers in nature. In any eventuality it seems, like she thinks of the human nature as being related to the rest of nature. The human nature is a unity of spirit, instinct, sensation, body and feelings, something which you can´t control and master by standing outside it, but which is connected to life-feeling, spontaneity and self-forgetfulness, when you are one with it. Reason, you can say, is lying in an adaption to the realities, both in oneself and the surroundings. Also here we can talk about a metaphysical naturalism, and it is from Karen Blixen I have the concept of the Luciferian movement. This is explained in my Ebook Karen Blixen – the Devil´s Mistress.

In his book The Light of Nature the Danish philologist of Middle Ages, Axel Haaning, is portraying a line of philosophers of nature from the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, who advocate a communicative view of nature, and who try to illustrate both religion, as well as science of nature, in a more large-scale perspective, but who have been standing in the shadow of the Age of Enlightenment, as well as the breakthrough of modern sciences. It is names such as Roger Bacon, Albert the Great, Jean de Rupescissa, Marsilio Ficino, Paracelsus, Gerhard Mandrel, Giordano Bruno.

Finally shall be mentioned Buddhism, which in some areas can sound very materialistic and naturalistic, but again we here talk about a metaphysical naturalism. It is speaking about the Buddha-nature as the final goal of Man. The Buddha-nature is the original and innermost nature of the mind, which always is completely untouched by change and death.

In agreement with such a communicative view of nature Kreeft claims that cosmology is a division of philosophy seldom seen anymore because most philosophers think its questions have all been answered by the natural sciences, ever since the discovery of the modern scientific method.

But he also claims that there are certainly some questions about the cosmos that the physical sciences do not have the method for answering, while philosophy does: for instance, the justification of principles science takes for granted, such as the uniformity of nature, causality, and the correlation between objective intelligibility in nature and subjective intelligence in man´s mind, as well as nonquantifiable questions like the beauty and value of nature, and why we find a mysterious nonutilitarian joy in things like forests, stars, and storms.

The cosmos is the whole, and the reductionisms reduce this whole to the part. Tolkien said: “I have, I suppose, constructed an imaginary time, but kept my feet on my own mother-earth for place…The theatre of my tale is this earth, the one in which we now live, but the historical period is imaginary.”

“Middle-earth” itself is a modernization “of an old word for the inhabited world of Men, the oikoumene: middle because thought of vaguely as set amidst the encircling Seas and (in the northern imagination) between the ice of the North and the fire of the South…” (as Tolkien added, it is definitely not, as many early reviewers seemed to assume, another planet!)

What is most striking about this larger world? Certainly its variety, richness and consistency are extraordinary. The resulting sense of place gives rise to a startling sensation of primary reality. The fact is that Middle-earth is more real to many readers than many “actual” places; and if I should suddenly find myself there (which would of course astound me – but not utterly) I would have a better feeling for it, and a better idea of how to find my way about, than if I had been dropped in, say, central Asia or South America. Many others have felt the same way. “Tolkien´s readers all have the same impression: they have walked or ridden every inch of Middle-earth in all its weathers”

This sense of Middle-earth being more “real” than our own world, has to do with something I will explain throughout this book: namely the concept that the Wholeness, the reality, or the cosmos, can be in three states: sleeping, dreaming and awake. Our own reality is sleeping, all things are closed and grey. It is only showing The Outer Side of the world. In Middle-earth the things are dreaming, more open and colorful. Middle-earth is in addition to the Outer Side also showing the Inner Side of the world, and therefore it is more enchanted, more awake, more real. The whole idea about the attack from Mordor is therefore todepict the attempt to reduce the Wholeness to its parts, to put it to sleep, or directly kill it.

Middle-earth is therefore a primordial image of our own world which is under attack from modernity and reductionism. Middle-earth far exceeds the Shire, and what is most striking about it is the profound presence of natural world: geography and geology, ecologies, flora and fauna, the seasons, weather, the night-sky, the stars and the Moon. The experience of these phenomena as comprising a living and meaningful cosmos saturates Tolkien´s entire story. It wouldn´t be stretching a point to say that Middle-earth itself appears as a character in its own right. And the living personality and agency of this character are none the less for being nonhuman; in fact, that is just what allows for a sense of ancient myth, with its feeling of a time when the Earth itself was alive, dreaming, or even awake. It whispers: perhaps it could be again; perhaps, indeed, it still is, because the Inner Side is still here. And there is an accompanying sense of relief: here, at least, a reader may take refuge from a world where, as in a hall of mirrors gone mad, humanity has swollen to become everything, and the measure of everything. Escaping a bloated solipsism, there is a sense of perspective, context, and sanity.

In his book, Defending Middle-earth – Tolkien: Myth and Modernity, the philosopher Patrick Curry have argued that Tolkien´s works are thoroughly infused with a strong environmentalist message. Curry goes as far as to claim that The Lord of the Rings served as a kind of clandestine environmental manifesto that was later most appreciated during the rise of the radical environmental movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In that way it certainly was viewed in the counterculture in Denmark, where one of the leading figures from that time, lived in a commune where they all took the same surname, Kløvedal (Rivendell). It was names such as for example Troels Kløvedal, who later should be famous and beloved as an adventurer, captain and author. But Tolkien himself, who disliked allegory, would have demurred if offered such a characterization of his own work. When faced with comparisons between the plot of The Lord of the Rings and the events of World War II, he insisted that here was no intended connection to any contemporary events.

Yet it is impossible to ignore the strong environmental themes in the book, especially in the devestations wrought by Sauron and Saruman, keepers of the fictional two towers. For example, at the end of the cycle where the Hobbits return to the Shire and find that Saruman has transformed their pastoral Eden into a nineteenth-century industrial wasteland (a kind of Middle-earth version of turn-of-the-century Manchester or Pittsburgh)., don´t we get a clear critique of the ravages of industrialism pulling apart the traditional connections between people and the land? Under any circumstance Curry gives some wonderful analyses of The Lord of the Rings seen in this light.

Curry says that every forest in Middle-earth – Mirkwood, the Old Forest, Fangorn, even Woody End in the Shire – has its own unique personality. And none is more memorable than the green city of Caras Galadhon in Lothlórien (also called Lórien), “the heart of Elvendom on earth,” the height of whose mallorn-trees “could not be guessed, but they stood up in the twilight like living towers. In their many-tiered branches and amid their ever-moving leaves countless lights were gleaming, green and gold and silver.”

Incidentally, says Curry, these colours receive repeated emphasis. Treebeard´s two drinking vessels glow, “one with a golden and the other with a rich green light; and the blending of the two lights lit the bay, as if the sun of summer was shining through a roof of young leaves.” The light in Sam´s mind, trapped in the arkness with Shelob, “became colour: green gold, silver, white;” and when he awoke in Ithilien, through the leaves of the beech-trees overhead “sunlight glimmered, green and gold.” Even Théodon´s bier was green and white, “but upon the king was laid the great cloth of gold…” The traditional association of gold and silver with the Sun and Moon is plain enough, but as anciently valued I think they also symbolize human civilization, but whose reiterated contiguity with green Tolkien meant to convey a harmonious relationship between humankind and nature. Indeed, an inseparable relationship: when asked rhetorically, “Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?,” Aragorn rightly replies that “A man may do both…The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tred it under the light of day!”

Tolkien does not romanticize nature, however. You can easily freeze to death, die of overexposure, drown or starve in Middle-earth. Curry asks us to consider these remarks by Angela Carter on the wood in Shakepeare´s A Midsummer Night´s Dream:

The English wood is nothing like the dark, necromantic forest in which the Northern European imagination begins and ends, where its dead and the witches live…for example an English wood, however marvelous, however metamorphic, cannot, by definition, be trackless…But to be lost in the forest is to be lost to this world, to be abandoned by the light, to lose yourself utterly with no guarantee you will either find yourself or else be found, to be committed against your will – or worse, of your own desire – to a perpetual absence from humanity, and existential catastrophe…The Wood we have just described is that of nineteenth-century nostalgia, which disinfected the wood, cleansing it of the grave, hideous and elemental beings with which the superstition of an earlier age had filled it. Or rather, denaturing, castrating those beings until they came to look like those photographs of fairy folk that so enraptured Conan Doyle.

The interest of this passage for us, says Curry, lies mainly in how it doesn´t apply to Middle-earth. In fact, such “denaturing,” which transformed Tolkien´s beloved Elves from “a race high and beautiful, the older Children of the world…the People of the Great Journey, the People of the Stars” into the wee “fairy folk” he so hated, was exactly what Tolkien held against Shakespeare. The Hobbits may go rambling through an English wood on a day´s outing, but as Bilbo soon learned (and as any reader of The Hobbit could tell you), wandering off the path in Mirkwood definitely amounted to an “existential catastrophe.” Tolkien made no attempt to prettify “the hearts of trees and their thoughts, which were often dark and strange, and filled with a hatred of things that go free upon the earth, gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning: destroyers and usurpers.”

Curry says that individual trees figure importantly too. The Lord of the Rings begins with the old Party Tree, and ends with a new one. (It nearly ends prematurely with Old Man Willow.) The tree that blossoms in the courtyard in Minas Tirith is a scion of Telperion the White, which with Laurelin the Golden is one of Tolkien´s cosmogenic trees of life. In the internal mythology of Middle-earth, they embodied the first light in the universe, and before they died bore a great silver flower and golden fruit: the Sun and the Moon. Their light otherwise remains visible only in the “star” of Eärendil. And, of course, Hobbits were not Tolkien´s only unique creation; he also gave us Ents, and the unforgettable character of Treebeard.

Curry goes on to describe the wars on trees. When asked the cardinal question in any kind of war – in fact, the question that is itself (however discreet) the first act of war (however polite): “Whose side are you on?” – Treebeard replies, “’I am not altogether on anybody´s side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me: nobody cares for the woods as I care for them, not even Elves nowadays. Still, I take more kindly to Elves than to others…And there are some things, of course, whose side I am altogether not on; I am against them altogether: these – burárum’ (he again made a deep rumble of disgust) – these Orcs, and their masters’”.

Curry says:

“Without any suggestion of exact substitution, that it is easy to hear the voice of Tolkien himself here. He freely acknowledged his own ‘tree-love,’ writing that ‘I am (obviously) much in love with plants and above all trees, and always have been; and I find human maltreatment of them as hard to bear as some find ill-treatment of animals.’ In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, published on 4 July 1972, Tolkien objected to an editorial description of Forestry Commission plantations as possessing ‘a kind of Tolkien gloom.” Probably writing in view of his “totem tree,” a birch in his front yard, he pointed out that:

In all my works I take part of trees as against all their enemies. Lothlórien is beautiful because there the trees were loved…It would be unfair to compare the Forestry Commission with Sauron because as you observe it is capable of repentance; but nothing it has done that is stupid compares with the destruction, torture and murder of trees perpetrated by private individuals and minor official bodies. The savage sound of the eclectic saw is never silent wherever trees are still found growing.

Curry asks: “Was Tolkien exaggerating?” and looks at the situation in Britain, which is probably average in a global context (the same is the case in Denmark). Half of the remaining ancient woodlands have been destroyed in the last fifty years – as much as in the last four centuries; only 10 % of the country is now forested at all, and most of that is non-native coniferous. The Forestry Commission, supposedly owner of woods on behalf of the nation, is being privatized “sold off to the highest bidders for profit) by stealth. Another priority of those in power has been to build, usually through pristine countryside, yet more roads for the unsustainable use of cars. This was never more vividly symbolized than when the 250-year old Sweet Chestnut tree on St. George´s Green, in Wanstead, East London, was smashed down and cut up, after determined but non-violent resistence, on 10 December 1993.

Nor is the situation better elsewhere, Curry explains. Also the magnificent forests of the Pacific North-west, in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia – some groves of trees 1600 years old, and home to a fantastic array of flora and wildlife – are being felled at a rate that exceeds that of Brazil, leaving clear-cut moonscapes. Roughly an incredible 90 % of Western and Central Europe´s original temperate forests have already disappeared. In both cases, the remaining pockets (and that is all they are) of old-growth are going fast, along with their lynx, wolf and bear, mostly to be replaced with factory forests: the lifeless “green deserts” of monoculture timber plantations. Transnational timber companies are hungrily eyening the last big temperate forests in Eastern Europe and the former USSR. Meanwhile, of primary (untouched) tropical forest – which only occupies 6% of the Earth´s land surface, but contains half of its species – about 40% has already gone; every year, another area the size of England and Wales is felled. And Third World governments use the continuing irresponsibility of rich countries to continue despoiling their own.

“The Dream of the Rood” is an Anglo-Saxon poem from the tenth century, and one with which Tolkien knew well. Its author makes it a glory of the tree that it forms the Cross and bears the body of Christ. Curry quotes John Fowles: “it is not Christ who is crucified now; it is the tree itself, and on the bitter gallows of human greed and stupidity.”

Even leaving continuity, renewal and joy offered by “tree-love” to one side – which cannot be done forever – Curry makes it clear that we are talking about living things which cool and filter the air, absorbing pollutants and noise; regulate and purify rainfall, and retain and enrich the soil; produce oxygen (a mature tree can produce enough to meet the annual requirements of 10 people) and provide shelter and shade as well as aesthetic satisfaction, historical continuity and psychological refreshment; give wildlife somewhere to live; and provide renewable resources of timber, compost, fuel, and medicines.

“For these attributes alone, trees are worthy of reverence”, says Curry. But they are also living symbols, spiritually and culturally as well as physically. As Jonathan Bate writes, ‘“romantic ecology” reverences the green earth because it recognizes that neither physically nor psychologically can we live without green things…’ And of those green things are the oldest and biggest in the world – the elders of the plant kingdom upon which human beings, along with all other living things, depend utterly. There is no substitute for photosynthesis. As such, they embody (more than just symbolize) both continuity with life in and of the past, in the places and times in which they have slowly grown, and faith in its future, measured in the hundreds, and in some cases, thousands, of years they can live to.

It is thus not surprising that trees have been worshipped as sacred in most cultures and times. The Roman philosopher Seneca (c. 5 BC-65 AD) wrote:

When you find yourself within a grove of exceptionally tall, old trees, whose interlocking boughs mysteriously shut out the view of the sky, the great height of the forest and the secrecy of the place together with a sense of awe before the dense impenetrable shades will awaken in you the belief in a god. And when a grotto has been hewn into the hollowed rock of a mountain, not by human hands but by the powers of nature, and to great depth, it pervades your soul with an awesome sense of the religious.

Nearly two millennia later, Robert Luis Stevenson found that “it is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men´s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of the air, that emanation from the old trees, that so wonderfully changes an renews a weary spirit.” Not a few people feel the same way today.

Conversely, says Curry, there is an awful, sick feeling of wrongness when a big tree falls. As Jay Griffith writes, “felled trees lying flat” are like “the horizontal lines of sadness in the human face, or in the human form knocked flat to the ground. Hope, by contrast, is vertical – in the standing tree, in the standing human figure. The only hope for the tree is that enough people will stand uo for them, answering an ancient and universal call…”

Curry goes on to say: “And it is a universal call, extending from the sublime: the World Tree of Yggdrasil, the Biblical Trees of Life and of knowledge, the Buddha´s Bo Tree – through the tribal-cultural: The English May and Apple-tree, [The Danish Beech], the Greek Olive and Myrtle, Celtic Oak and Mistletoe – to the touching if slightly ridiculous: our Christmas Trees, blithely transplanted in space and time from pagan Germany to Victorian London. The stone groves in Gothic cathedrals, honouring long-lost arboreal ancestors, still inspire wonder; and more local comrades, like our long-suffering urban trees, affection. In the words of the historian of comparative religion, Mircea Eliade, ‘the tree represents – whether ritually and concretely, or in mythology and cosmology, or simply symbolically – the living cosmos, endlessly renewing itself.’”

Curry says that Tolkien would have been particularly aware of Yggdrasil, the world Tree and axis mundi (centre of the unknown world) of the Norse and Germanic worldview, and one which precedes and survives the gods themselves. It was sometimes thought to be an Ash, although the self-renewing and evergreen Yew seems a stronger candidate. Besides these two, other symbolic local trees include the Oak, sacred to Thor, and the Apple, “the favourite fruit-bearing tree of the North,” its fruit the gift of choice from Nob and Bob to Samwise, with a typically Tolkienian emphasis on the plain people and simple pleasures, upon the Ring´s departure from Bree. But what is important here is the mutual dependence of the universal and the particular. To quote Eliade again, “the Whole exists within each significant fragment…because every significant fragment reproduces the Whole.” Thus “in the dialectic of the sacred, a part (a tree, a plant) has the value of the whole (the cosmos, life), a profane thing becomes a hierophany. Yggdrasil was the symbol of the Universe, but to the Germans of old any Oak (or ash) tree could become sacred if it partook of the archetypal condition, it it ‘repeated’ Yggdrasil.”

In this way, says Curry, crucially, a universal sacred symbol is brought back to particular and unique things, places and people (both human and non-human). This is what nourishes the sense of local distinctiveness that is so important for resisting the homogenization of modernity, whereby everywhere and thence everything becomes more or less the same. Such local roots also resist manipulation by abstract political ideologies.

Curry describes how Tolkien once referred to The Lord of the Rings as “my own internal Tree.” It was not the only one: “I have many among my “papers”, he once wrote, “more than one version of a mythical ‘tree,’ which crops up regularly at those times when I feel driven to pattern-designing…the tree bears besides various shapes of leaves many flowers small and large signifying poems and major legends.” The reference, or application, to his own short story “Leaf by Niggle” is obvious: Niggle´s surviving painting “Leaf” was but a tiny fragment of the Great Tree of his ambition and final (spiritual) achievement.

“Tolkien´s trees, whether ‘internal’ or ‘external,’ are indeed mythic” Curry explains. In the context of the hallowed place of trees in mythology – of which, as Curry has said, he was well aware – his dendrophilia was more than a mere personal idiosyncrasy. His “totem” Birch tree, for example, is sacred to indigenous peoples throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Just these kinds of values, rooted in an enchanted world, are still found among surviving indigenous peoples. Their rediscovery, and a consequent re-enchantment, is one of the keys to our collective future survival, let alone renewal; for “disenchanted” people will fall for the first rationalization for exploiting and destroying, and a disenchanted world doesn´t feel worth defending.

Tolkien´s involvement with trees combined the mythically resonant with the personally poignant in a way which led to an extraordinary vivid depiction in art. Curry says that he would have liked John Fowles´ avowal that “If I cherish trees beyond all personal (and perhaps rather peculiar) need and liking of them, it is because of this, their natural correspondence with the greener, more mysterious processes of the mind – and because they also seem to me the best, most revealing messengers to us from all nature, the nearest its heart.”

“But Tolkien´s trees are never just symbols”, Curry makes clear, and in their individuality convey the uniqueness and vulnerability of “real” trees. One was a “great-limbed poplar tree” outside his house in the late 1930s, an inspiration for “Leaf by Niggle,” that was “suddenly lopped and mutilated by its owner, I do not know why. It is cut down now, a less barbarous punishment for any crimes it may have been accused of, such as being large and alive.” As Kim Taplin remarks, after Tolkien, “The wanton felling of trees may have allegorical overtones, but it is also an actual evil…and the presence of trees, and the love of trees, are actual as well as symbolic goods.”

Tolkien was also historically minded, says Curry, and his trees have deep historical as well as mythological and psychological roots. Thus, Middle-earth´s own Old Forest was not so-called “without reason, for it was indeed ancient, a survivor of vast forgotten woods…” But even in the Third Age, those were already a thing of the past. And at the opening of the story in The Lord of the Rings – itself supposedly in the (imaginary) past of our world – even such remnants are on the edge of doom. On the very border of Fangorn Forest, as Treebeard says, Saruman

Is plotting to become a Power. He has a mind of metal and wheels; and he does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.
   …Down on the borders they are felling trees – good trees. Some of the trees they just cut down and leave to rot – orc-mischief that; but most are hewn up and carried off to feed the fires of Orthanc. There is always a smoke rising from Isengard these days.
   …Curse him, root and branch! Many of those trees were my friends, creatures I had known from nut and acorn; many had voices of their own that are lost for ever now. And there are wastes of stump and bramble where once there were singing groves…

And if that were not enough, “it seems that the wind is setting East, and the withering of all woods may be drawing near.” For in what remains of the green garden of Middle-earth, already tormented by Sauron, has appeared “the Ring of Power, the foundation of Barad-dûr and the hope of Sauron.” (It is also the hope of Saruman, of course; but he is no more than one of Mordor´s imitators and servants.) ”The Ring! What shall we do with the Ring, the least of rings, the trifle that Sauron fancies?” Elrond alone permits himself any irony, even as he too, like all the good and great, acknowledges his helplessness before the Ring on the hand of its maker and master.

In short: The Lord of the Rings is a popular defence of a communicative view of nature, facing the instrumental reason of the Ring.

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