The Dynamic Power of Transcendent Communion

Tom Bombadil and Goldberry are an enigma, so much so that Peter Jackson left them out. So who are they? Michael Organ has argued convincingly through his biographical analysis of Tolkien’s narrative structuring and also evidence from the evolution of the characters in his imagination, as evidenced through his biography and letter writing – that Tom ​is the Holy Spirit, (and who then is Goldberry?) (Organ, 2019). Michael Organ has reached this perspective not from a Faith perspective, though he was brought up in the Roman Catholic tradition and thus has a familiarity with its spiritual landscape. I have been inspired by Michael’s intuition and the recent scope of a documentary “Finding Tombadil” (Van De Loo, 2019) which argues that Tombadil was “not created but sensed” and follows the quest of Joost, to find convincing empirical evidence for Tom’s presence on our earth (!). These efforts have led me to take the question of Tom Bombadil more seriously. Through this ongoing conversation, it seems that Michael also agrees that Goldberry is of the “same substance” as Goldberry (to borrow a term from Theology); whatever they ​are,they both are,and fully.One is not more or less than the other. Michael and I also agree that Tom and Goldberry inhabit an a-temporal plane and provide a refreshing encounter with those who enter an interpersonal communion with them. Michael notes how the gifts received by the hobbits in the “Bombadil boot camp” episode, gear the hobbits up with gifts akin to the charismatic seven gifts of the Holy Spirit from the Catholic Tradition (Organ, 2019). He also notes that the encounter accompanies dreams and vision that also lead the hobbits to gain the endurance, which later proves so powerful to overcome the seemingly boundless evils of their subsequent journey through Middle Earth. Michael says that in Tolkien’s writing process, Tom Bombadil whose name came from a family doll that was dropped down the toilet, became a personage in Tolkien’s mind who was “known from the beginning,” whilst other character’s emerged through the ongoing writing process itself. Tom was always present to Tolkien throughout, yet from the beginning. (Organ, 2019).

I agreed with Michael’s analysis based on an intuition which I seem to have carried since first ever having encountered Tom and Goldberry, an encounter that has marked me deeply and seems to permeate me through an enigma that seems beyond the text; an invitation into something deeper. I first “met them” just before my English creative writing GCSE at the age of 16, I read those chapters as if for the “first time” and remember being filled with a numinous “sense” that remains with me to this day. In those chapters I remember “knowing” that what was “right” was therein contained in the words, I could not tell you why or how I knew but I had a “sense” that remains with me to this day. It was like a new knowledge, but also like a memory and a dream and a vision all at the same time, and filled with yearning; I knew I could find it or at least seek that which was beyond!

This enigmatic quality of whatever Tom and Goldberry ​are,contributed we can guess as to why Jackson wanted to avoid representation. In doing so, it seems the narrative mechanics and dynamics of Tolkien’ story are changed in a way that is perhaps beyond recognition to the original. Michael makes the point clearly and I agree with him:

Tom and Goldberry provide a causual-strength that provides the spiritual context of the hobbits subsequent victory through endurance. Taking them out is like removing the “womb” from

which the later “fruitfulness” of their spiritual endurance begins in those chapters in an embryonic potential form. In the little chapter, the potential of the totality is conceived and also seemingly held.

Julian of Norwich talks about such a mystical moment or encounter with infinity in the following words. Julian of Norwich, who had no idea her writings would bear fruit seven centuries later, describes in her ​Revelations of Divine Love,“seeing God holding a tiny thing in his hand, like a small brown nut, which seemed so fragile and insignificant that she wondered why it did not crumble before her eyes. She understood that the thing was the entire created universe, which is as nothing compared to its Creator, and she was told, ‘God made it, God loves it, God keeps it.’”

Tolkien had a similar experience in vision of “infinite embrace” one day in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in his local parish. Adoration is the Shekinah Glory now Incarnate and fully disclosed as the personal reality of Jesus-Logos, through consecration of the Spirit and for the Glory of the Father “unto all the ages,” in the Catholic sacramental tradition of consecrated Eucharstic bread:

“I perceived or thought of the Light of God and in it suspended one small mote (or millions of motes to only one of which was my small mind directed), glittering white because of the individual ray from the Light which both held and lit it…And the ray was the Guardian Angel of the mote: not a thing interposed between God and the creature, but God’s very attention itself, personalized…This is a finite parallel to the Infinite. As the love of the Father and Son (who are infinite and equal) is a Person, so the love and attention of the Light to the Mote is a person (that is both with us and in Heaven): finite but divine, i.e. angelic.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

We stand then as receiver’s of Tolkien’s illumined vision and sub-creation within an oral Tradition that he received as gift and inspiration, and whose roots he saw as going back to the

dawn of Time in the Logos. Like Gandalf, who is originally unable to fully comprehend Tom Bombadil’s siginificance at the Council of Elrond, as he is concerned with a temporal and martial victory over evil, we need to “see” things differently. After his transfiguration as “servant of the Secret Fire” into Gandalf the White, He returns to the House of Tom Bombadil to speak to the “Master” once the Ring is destroyed… this shows his path into communion and understanding with a Spirit, that seems more akin to the one known to the Prophet Elijah, who finds his Master in the “still small voice” beyond cosmic catastrophe and the dissonance of a fallen world;

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a ​gentle whisper​.” (1 Kings 19:11).

The gentle whisper is the way of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. Their very being seems to be even beyond pre-lapsarian innocence or the glorification and divinisation of the human person in the traditions of the sacramental worldview; they are in a timeless affinity – which is experienced in time by those who come into their presence and relate to them.

Three images from the history of art are noteworthy, in my opinion, as parallels to a transcendent and dynamic inter-personal communion, which is experienced “in time” in Middle-Earth (at least a special mysterious kind of eternally-infused time)… as experienced and encountered by the hobbits in the mystery of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry in Arda. There are many more than these in the Biblical tradition (Abaraham’s three guests and the conjugal bliss of the Songs of Songs, or the New Jerusalem as Bride coming down from Heaven, Convenental fidelity as bridal… in fact it seems a almost relentless image of the infused biblical imagination!);

Firstly in the Jewish tradition, within the Holy of Holy where the “Shekinah filled with the Divine Presence ” dwelt, two seraphic angels who were the closest to glory of God and His Mercy Seat. They were carved in an anticipatory ecstatic intercommunion and verge on embrace with each other in the presence of the Divinity (this was the Highest artistic expression of the relationship of the Divinity to Israel). This tradition expresses that we reach the Divine Communion through the image of the anticipatory embrace of the cherubim angels. This is the sacral, dynamic and the most appropriate way to pass into the Mysteries. What is important is to note the ectstasis (ex – out of/ stasis – movement) of the communion; each angel fully in the process of being given to the other in a constant dialogue of praise.

The second is image is possibly the most famous representation of the Trinity. The Rublev icon. In this sacral painting, we are invited into a tri-personal gaze that expresses the mystery of a Life-Giving communion, that is the Genesis of human inter-personality and is the finality of all human desire when “God will be All-in-All” through Love. This is all at once encounter and beatific vision, we encounter a Presence beyond the veil of the sacral painting.

The Trinity by Andrei Rublev

Thirdly, in the Jewish scriptures. Divine Wisdom takes the form of a feminine dancer at the dawn of Creation who leaps with rapture and ecstacy at the dawn of Time in the presence of the

Master (Proverbs 2: 22-25). This Divine Feminine Wisdom is beautifully envisioned in the tapestry at Notre Dame Church in Central London. Divine Wisdom is fully innocent, blissful as the dappled dawn and filled with vigour and hope; mirroring with Grace, the boundless enthusiasms of the Master. As Michael has noted, Tom Bombadil is “Fatherless” and in this sense makes himself akin or one with the True Father, who Chesterton notes paradoxically is “younger than we.” Boundless vitality in Tom and Goldberry, imbibes the hobbits with strength to fulfil their narratival destiny. They find the strength to understand their story and carry it out, despite their littleness; after being drawn into the communion.

Dom Robert O.S.B. Divine Wisdom as Bride or the Blessed Virgin Mary as Immaculate Conception; as St Maximillian Koble noted; Mary is the created Immaculate Conception who is wedded to the Uncreated Immaculate Conception; so that when she reveals who she IS; “I am the Immaculate Conception” to the peasant girl St Bernadette ; it is her and the Holy Spirit speaking as one and revealing their identity as being entwined. The tapestry reads:

“​Cum eo eram cuncta componens ludens coram eo omni tempore
“I was by his side, like a master craftsman, ever at play in his presence”

In these images we see life that is akin to Tom and Goldberry;a vitality, overflowing joy, and beauty in “spousal” (by analogy) inter-personality that invites comunion and enlightenment, visions and dream sequences; through the experience of their hospitable benefaction or tremendous yet simple presence and gaze, speech and song.

Dom Robert O.S.B, God in his “carpet slippers” creating Man

The argument of post-modernity is that there is infinite perception and no “true story” beyond this, only interpretation. Tom and Goldberry seem to invite an enigma of the same standard as the post-modern criticism of epistemology. Tom is overwhelmed by his relationship to Goldberry, who brings him tumbling to the bottom of the River, and in being His “Wife” is a person of infinite perceptive value, playful and life-giving reciprocity of Light; totally free. Is this not what Post-Modernity wants, ​but more (!), She is also the one who receives and dialogues with the outpouring of His song and devotion, knowing His very nature, as Logos, that “He is.” This post-modern infinite playfulness ​is in communion with Logos, not opposed to it; but of one Spirit! As Fr Michael Gaitely has shown, the Trinity is an invitation into interpersonal love, not just looking at two people who love each other at a marriage, but more to “be” the child of their marriage who receives their love and is the personal fruit of their love. In this sense every “birth” of a child gives continuous glory to the transcendent interpersonal communion of the Trinity, by

the coming into being of “new tri-personal” communion from the nuptial ectasy and unity of man and woman bringing new personal life into relational being. This analogy should not be “read back into the Trinity” in a way that de-mystifies a mystery, but it is consistently an icon of the Divine Life from the Juadeo-christian mystical tradition, arguably best typified by the Song of Songs that became a favourite for spiritual exegesis in the medieval tradition (thus engendering spiritual fecundity of the “child” of God who ponders the mystery of the Lover-Beloved, in relation to it actively and dynamically, and thereby finds “food” for a spiritually fruitful contemplative engagement within the world). The mystery has an apex case for the Catholic mind, in the virginal fruitfulness of the chaste and adoptive St Joseph and the Immaculate Mother of God who sheltered and raised the Logos-man. In any case my argument is that tri-fold interpersonality occurs and “invites us” in the Spirit that exists through the hobbits (our bridge into the Story) who bring “us” into a relational encounter with Tom and Goldberry, where we end up being caught within the Spirit of their relation to each other. Truly an enchanting (en-chanson; in a song) and dream-inspiring eternal moment in time. What the Jews call Covenant was a temple in time where God outpoured His Presence to the faithful Jew as communion, and what the New and Eternal Covenant experienced by the Catholic disciple calls Sacramental Communion, where a veil is lifted and the faithful is brought into Trinitarian Communion through their bodily receipt of the Divine and mystical gifts. Tolkien who said the one thing on earth to “adore” was the Blessed Sacrament, as it grants “eternal endurance to earthly love”; seems to invite his reader into the rapture of the life-giving experience of the dynamics of ecstatic Adoration through meeting Tom and Goldberry. His familiarity with the structure of the mystical experience seems to seep into his writing and consolidate the effect. It remains known-enigma to Tolkien, not as a Gnostic secret but as the mystery of eternal-sacrament, experienced in every Tabernacle of the earth by the Catholic faithful drawn into that Love.

A person in the presence of Tom and Goldberry, is seized by:
the Spirit that exists between them, that captures any person who meets them, which is and of itself IS a (person 1)
Tom; fatherless Master/Logos who can speak to the creation with authority – like God in the garden of Eden from Genesis 2, who strolls beside humanity in intimacy (person 2)
Goldberry – Divine Wisdom that dances in the presence of the Master in total freedom (person 3)

The mystery of the Tri-fold communion of person “Father/Son and Holy Spirit” are such that each person is fully in the other and through the other, this is known as perichoresis. As has been shown above, this perichoretic ecstacy passes through the “types” and “icons” of interpersonal and nuptial ecstasy in Judeo-Christianity.

These same hobbits who we are “living through” narratively; are imbued with spiritual gifts for their impending battle through Middle Earth. It is through their encounter as persons, with the persons of Tom and Goldberry and entering by hospitality into the Spirit of their relation, that the hobbits are able to do what they then do. Tom and Goldberry are a crux in the narrative, that is like a “womb” of the later success. To take them out is ​to miss the essential as it is so subtle;perhaps what Gandalf was wrestling with at the Council of Elrond, when considering Tom’s purposes for the future of the Ring of Power, and then leaving him out of the plan.

I am not arguing that this is a strict exegesis to be read as such. Tolkien’s letters when questioned regarding the nature of Bombadil show a playful joy that disguises his biographical and existential familiarity with Tom, in enigma, that invites his correspondent into the mystery.

In September 1954 – in a letter (#153) from Tolkien to Peter Hastings, the Professor is playfully enigmatic;

As for Tom Bombadil, I really do think you are being too serious, besides missing the point. (Again the words used are by Goldberry and Tom, not me as a commentator). You rather remind me of a Protestant relation who to me objected to the (modern) Catholic habit of calling priests Father, because the name father belonged only to the First Person, citing last Sunday’s Epistle – inappositely since that says ex quo. Lots of other characters are called Master; and if ‘in time’ Tom was primeval he was Eldest in Time. But Goldberry and Tom are referring to the mystery of names. See and ponder Tom’s words in Vol. I p. 142 [I.7:129]. You may be able to conceive of your unique relation to the Creator without a name—can you: for in such a relation pronouns become proper nouns? But as soon as you are in a world of other finites with a similar, if each unique and different, relation to Prime Being, who are you? Frodo has asked not ‘what is Tom Bombadil’ but ‘Who is he’. We and he no doubt laxly confuse the questions. Goldberry gives what I think is the correct answer. We need not go into the sublimities of ‘I am that I am’ — which is quite different from he is.* [*Only the first person (of worlds or anything) can be unique. If you say he is there must be more than one, and created (sub) existence is implied. I can say ‘he is’ of Winston Churchill as well as of Tom Bombadil, surely?] She adds as a concession a statement of part of the ‘what’. He is master in a peculiar way: he has no fear, and no desire of possession or domination at all. He merely knows and understands about such things as concern him in his natural little realm. He hardly even judges, and as far as can be seen makes no effort to reform or remove even the Willow. I don’t think Tom needs philosophizing about, and is not improved by it. But many have found him an odd or indeed discordant ingredient. In historical fact I put him in because I had already ‘invented’ him independently (he first appeared in the Oxford Magazine) and wanted an ‘adventure’ on the way. But I kept him in, and as he was, because he represents certain things otherwise left out. I do not mean him to be an allegory—or I should not have given him so particular, individual, and ridiculous a name—but ‘allegory’ is the only mode of exhibiting certain functions: he is then an ‘allegory’, or an exemplar, a particular embodying of pure (real) natural science: the spirit that desires knowledge of other things, their history and nature, because they are ‘other’ and wholly independent of the enquiring mind, a spirit coeval with the rational mind, and entirely unconcerned with ‘doing’ anything with the knowledge: Zoology and Botany not Cattle-breeding or Agriculture. Even the Elves hardly show this: they are primarily artists. Also T.B. exhibits another point in his attitude to the Ring, and its failure to affect him. You must concentrate on some part, probably relatively small, of the World (Universe), whether to tell a tale, however long, or to learn anything however fundamental— and therefore much will from that ‘point of view’ be left out, distorted on the circumference, or seem a discordant oddity. The power of the Ring over all concerned, even the Wizards or Emissaries, is not a delusion—but it is not the whole picture, even of the then state and content of that part of the Universe….

7 June 1955 – letter #163 Tolkien to W.H. Auden: ….But I met a lot of things along the way that astonished me. ​Tom Bombadil I already knew;….

These statements could be understood in the context of Tolkien’s comment about the first layer of his writing being pregnant with a latent “unconscious” Catholicism, as his work is “fundamentally religious” in nature, but by a later “conscious by revision” (Letter 142). For Tolkien who was passionate about the Logos in his relentlessly fruitful zeal for philological Wisdom, it is no surprise that the mystery of the Trinity, the enigma within the story of his own life, should play a definitive role in his narrative… ​But the absolute subtlety of the handling of the One who “is” was though perhaps totally unconscious, it still however continues to provide an enigmatic invitation. Are they the crux and apex case of the enigmatic Presence “known” to Tolkien and that suffused his imagination with illumination, all at once a concealed and revealed spiritually refreshing mystery, that even Peter Jackson had to leave out because it was too intriguingly simple:

Proverbs 1:4, KJV: “To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.”

Into the mystery

His very being is turned to her
With Tom and Goldberry there
Goldberry is infinite playfulness and perception
Water’s infinite spirited conversation
Reuniting the Logos (Eru)
through Tom Bombadil (Master of the Secret Fire)
… to the infinite playfulness of perception (Goldberry)
We are part of the continuation of this story through Tradition! – eternal revolution –
Is in a tumbling River!
we are part of the eternal playfulness…within history…
Of something deeper than death; more innocent than sin History is just one moment – Logos/mind
And Evangelisation is presence and innocence
All at once and “kind” (from “kin” by etymology)
Goldberry – Tom
– interpersonal dynamic communion
… it’s like a womb within middle earth

that within
the hobbits find reunion
(an atemporal womb where they can dream)
and being empowered they can then go out
Tom and Goldberry – Master and Divine Wisdom dancing at the dawn of creation

Ecstatic illumination and the Trinity-invitation Laden table within the fable, but REAL. Connected to the Source;
Pilgrims can then perform

the “Great Excorcsim” of Middengeard
Ton and Goldberry are timeless and entering time,
we via the hobbits are brought
into their fruitful interplay and communion
This reveals
a tri-fold interpersonal
that breaks the boundaries
of the liminal realm of time and timelessness
Passing through the
of pre-lapsarian innocence
and transcendent sacramental perichoresis
… of which sacramental fruitfulness is the outpouring of A Doorway into radiance
(we through the Theotokos,
stand in that communion
– Mary, “simplicity and magnificence”

– the knowledge about ​all beauty as Tolkien said. Adam as ​catalogospriest
and Christ as ​logos​-priest
(the dynamism of exitus and reditus)

Bursting with innocence and new speech so ancient! Tom is ​not in the martial-plane
(the still silent voice, not at war with itself or other) – hence at the council of Elrond, Gandalf not sure Of the martial world (in the fallen world)

It’s surely not the final voice?
but the deepest innocence is greater even than any martial victory (!),

… Source of the Transfigured Gandalf
(who going into the a-temporal Source,
then becomes fully-imbued with the White-Light of the Secret Fire;

“servant” still but more?)
… that Well of transfiguring innocence

is older than time and transcends creation, it’s a life-giving ecstasy
that gives itself in outpouring
joy of rapturous overflowing…

When a creature encounters this Source,
it strengthens
equips them to “complete the story of the world”

according to their role…
Tom is at once Father-less (such is the Father!) …Logos…
There then is a divinised and transfigured Incarnation – he can put ON the ring
(as contemplator within exitus and reditus
and Goldberry as the (“post-modern”)

constant interplay of wonder and interpretation (Water-Spirit // Ruah over chaos)
Divine Dance/Wisdom/Unceasing
Mystery of Fecund Contemplation

… that which will be in the Beatific Vision (Rublev Icon)…

we through the hobbits are brought into Tom and Goldberry as Real Presence and Communion,
that which we are drawn into…

links to Tolkien’s Eucharistic vision of the ​mote … it parallels to St Julian of Norwich
and the acorn holding totality
Cosmic in the simple;

Hildegard – illumination and life-giving Viriditas… Tom talking to the “Tree of life”//
a-temporally but incarnate through the song
The ​broken tree listens still​!

… beyond the Fall (prelapsarian innocence
now subsumed in transfiguration beyond poison and glorified!) Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! and merry-o!
Goldberry, Goldberry, merry yellow berry-o!
(“All shall be well, and all shall be well
and all manner of thing shall be well.”)
― Julian of Norwich

written Feast of St George and, William Shakespeare Day 2020 and published on the eve of St Therese

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