Why Does Melkor Crave the Flame Imperishable but Cannot Find It?

A blooming flower

Why does Melkor crave the Flame Imperishable?

Before aught else was made, Iluvatar sent the Secret Fire to burn at the heart of the world, and the vision of the world came alive (Ea).

The Secret Fire gave Being to the vision of the Ainur, and Iluvatar set this Being amid the Void – as light shining in the darkness.

Melkor is ever seeking after the Secret Fire (Flame Imperishable) but cannot find it because it is with Iluvatar.

But why is he seeking Light if he is so bent on perpetuating Darkness?

It is said:

He had gone often alone into the void places seeking the Imperishable Flame; for desire grew hot within him to bring into Being things of his own, and it seemed to him that Ilúvatar took no thought for the Void, and he was impatient of its emptiness. Yet he found not the Fire, for it is with Ilúvatar.

The reason he craved the Secret Fire is that he wanted to bring into Being things of his own imagining but could not.

When you stray from the Music – the thought of Iluvatar – you cannot sub-create.

You can only mutilate what’s already been created.

Sub-creation is the province of those who are in tune with The Tune.

Melkor deems himself God and wants to create Being.

But, having become the prisoner of the “imagining of his own mind,” he cannot create – he can only distort what’s already there.

His desire to create Being burns hot in him, but all he sees around him is Void.

The emptiness of the Void makes him impatient.

Every heartless villain can feel their own emptiness. They are keenly aware that all their attempts at creating Being end up creating more emptiness.

They grow “impatient of this emptiness” – it burns them from inside – and they want to assuage it with Light.

Wherever they go, they look for the Light but cannot find it because it is with Iluvatar.

Like Ungoliant, Melkor craves and hates Light at the same time.

Thence she had crept towards the light of the Blessed Realm; for she hungered for light and hated it.

And:

The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë…

Ungolint was ever hungry for the Light but no matter how much of it she consumed she remained famished.

In a ravine she lived, and took shape as a spider of monstrous form, weaving her black webs in a cleft of the mountains. There she sucked up all light that she could find, and spun it forth again in dark nets of strangling gloom, until no light more could come to her abode; and she was famished.

Even after destroying the Two Trees and sucking up all their sap, she was still thirsty.

And still she thirsted, and going to the Wells of Varda she drank them dry; but Ungoliant belched forth black vapours as she drank, and swelled to a shape so vast and hideous that Melkor was afraid.

Ungoliant is an echo of Melkor’s own emptiness. It burns him, he seeks to fill it up but cannot because he is out of tune with the Music.

The more Light he consumes, the more Darkness he finds himself entangled in.

So why does Melkor crave the Flame Imperishable?

In every good story, the villain always wants to marry a beauty.

They secretly hope to get to the Flame Imperishable that way – vicariously.

They want to experience it through somebody else who is in tune with the Music.

By tuning The Music out, Melkor cannot relate to Beauty.

He is consumed by his own emptiness and hates Iluvatar for being heedless of the Void.

That’s why he wants to dim the Light wherever he sees it.

What is the Secret Fire and how do we get it?

The Secret Fire is the breath of Iluvatar that makes all things alive.

There’s only one way for us to get it – it is given as a gift by Iluvatar himself.

No one can get it through the back door.

It’s granted freely to anyone who would tune in to The Music.

Never since have the Ainur made any music like to this music, though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before Ilúvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Ilúvatar after the end of days. Then the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each, and Ilúvatar shall give to their thoughts the secret fire, being well pleased.

After the end of days, the Children of Iluvatar will join the Ainur in creating Being.

And Iluvatar will give their utterances the secret fire, being well pleased.

When each comprehends the intent of Iluvatar in their part and fully comprehends the comprehension of each, then we will become sub-creators. Participants in the Great Music.

Whatever emptiness we had, it will dissipate.

The void place we used to roam will blossom:

Thirsty deserts will be glad; barren lands will celebrate and blossom with flowers. Isaiah 35:1

And so it says:

The places of the dwelling of Ilúvatar were filled to overflowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void.

The Void will be filled to overflowing and will no longer be void.

Melkor desires to be a sub-creator, feeling his own emptiness.

But being so full of himself he remains empty.

Consumed by his own imaginings, he doesn’t hear the Music and cannot create Being.

When we are full of ourselves, we live in emptiness.

We walk alone in the void places, seeking the Flame Imperishable, but cannot find it.

To fill our inner Void, we need to learn our part in the Music and sing it along with others.

To him who learns his part and sings it along with the heavenly choirs, Iluvatar grants the greatest gift of all – the privilege to fill the Void to overflowing with the melodies that take Being in the moment of their utterance.

This is the Secret Fire of Iluvatar that burns at the heart of the Ea, and whoever wants to partake of it is invited to join the dance.

From Image to Imagination – Transcending Modern-Day Idolatry in Owen Barfield’s Fairy-Tale The Silver Trumpet

rose leaves

In his 1925 fairy-tale The Silver Trumpet, Owen Barfield expressed mythically what he would later expound philosophically in Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry:

The life of the image should be none other than the life of imagination.

In other words, without imagination images are dead. Imagination is their lifeblood. Their substance. Their content.

When we look at the phenomena and confuse their appearance for what they represent, we take life out of them. The images are lost. They have been turned into idols by our refusal to see through them.

The moment I say: “The appearance of the tree equals the tree,” I am making an assumption that there’s nothing else to the tree than meets the eye. This mental concept is no more than an assumption (I don’t really know if the appearance of a tree equals a tree).

But I choose to see the tree through a non-participatory lens. In doing so, I refuse to go from an image to imagination.

I refuse to transcend the images with imagination (properly speaking, with faith as the ability to see the invisible). I refuse to go beyond the symbol to what it symbolizes. I take a sign for the thing it points to.

In The Silver Trumpet, this curious relationship between an image and imagination is captured in the relationship between Prince Courtesy and Princess Violet.

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Who is Tulkas? The “Expecto Patronum” of Tolkien’s Universe to Fight Off the “Darkness of Unlight”

A sailboat at sea

Who is Tulkas in The Silmarillion? What is the symbolism behind this myth?

C.S. Lewis once defined a good myth like this: 

The narrative is more of a net whereby we catch something else.

The story itself may be quite ordinary – a sculptor carved a lady out of a block of stone, and it became alive (Pygmalion and Galatea).

Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, and her mother Demeter prevented all plants from growing until Hades was commanded to let her go for some months out of the year.

There’s nothing extraordinary in the story itself. Yet, we feel there’s something behind it.

Elizabeth Browning put it like this:

Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

It’s how we choose to look at the common bushes that determines whether we see them burning.

According to G.K. Chesterton, such is the function of our imagination:

The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange.

And such is the function of mythopoetry – a genre that allows us to look at ordinary things through the eyes of Faerie and discover a world of extraordinary meanings behind them.

The key to entering Faerie is inside each and every one.

In Owen Barfield’s philosophy, this change of lens happens when a person allows their state of consciousness to be shifted by a line of poetry. And then they follow the call ringing through “this verse that lifts the curse” and enters the perilous realm of Faerie.

The cosmogonic myths of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion are of the same nature – they are an invitation to enter through the door of the external story and into the invisible realm behind the story, which is the land of Meaning.

One such myth is the myth of Tulkas the Valiant.  

How did Tulkas beat Melkor?

Greatest in strength and deeds of prowess is Tulkas, who is surnamed Astaldo, the Valiant. He came last to Arda, to aid the Valar in the first battles with Melkor. He delights in wrestling and in contests of strength… he is tireless. His hair and beard are golden, and his flesh ruddy.

Who is Tulkas? Why did he come to Arda last to aid the Valar in their battles with Melkor? And most importantly, why was Melkor so afraid of him?

So came Tulkas the Strong, whose anger passes like a mighty wind, scattering cloud and darkness before it; and Melkor fled before his wrath and his laughter, and forsook Arda, and there was peace for a long age.

Of all the Valar, Melkor hated Tulkas the most.

There’s a spiritual and mythical significance to this. Tulkas is hated with bitter hatred because he represents the laughter of Iluvatar in the Great Music.

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How Owen Barfield Saved The Appearance Of Princess Violetta In The Silver Trumpet

A book with rivers flowing out of it

Once upon a time there were two little Princesses whose names were Violetta and Gambetta; and they lived in Mountainy Castle. They were twins, and they were so like each other that when Violetta came in from a walk with her feet wet, Gambetta was sometimes told to go and change her stockings…

The Silver Trumpet

So opens The Silver Trumpet, a fairy-tale written by Owen Barfield in 1925. It was his first published book and the first fantasy book ever published by the Inklings. According to the author himself, he felt that in all his books he was “saying the same thing over and over again.” But what is this “one thing” he was saying over and over again? And how did he say it in The Silver Trumpet?

The Silver Trumpet is a mythical depiction of what Owen Barfield would later unfold in his other works and, in some way, a prelude to what seems to be the overall message of the Inklings — the world is God’s music clad in matter. In Saving the Appearances, Barfield points out that we live in the world of unsaved images — images that have been taken literally and turned into idols.


The images (or appearances) we observe around us are so much “like” the things they represent that we have a hard time distinguishing between them. We take a representation for the reality behind it. For us, the image and the thing it represents look alike, almost indistinguishable — like the two little princesses, Violetta and Gambetta, who were so like each other that even the Queen had a hard time distinguishing them.

The Queen used to be so fussed and worried by the confusion that, what with one thing and another, she persuaded the King to appoint a special Lord to distinguish between them [the princesses]. And he was called the Lord High Teller of the Other from Which.

The Lord High Teller of the Other from Which was the only one who noticed the difference between the two princesses. But it was not in their appearances but in what transpired through the appearances.

Moreover, he “knew a thing or two about the magic power of names,” and so he found a way to tell the two princesses apart — by changing their names. By calling them Violet and Gamboy he brought out into the light of day what was otherwise invisible — the princesses were “as different inside as a Church and a Booking Office.”

In Barfield’s mind, the two little princesses who were almost identical in appearance represent the confusion of the modern mind about observable phenomena. We tend to equate appearances with the reality they point to. This anthroposophical dilemma Owen Barfield would later explore in Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. 

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The Third Theme of the Music of Iluvatar – a Mighty Echo of Owen Barfield’s “Final Participation”

Sunrise over a lake

If there is one connective tissue between the fantasy imaginations of the Inklings, it is the theme of our participation in the Divine Music – the Music of Iluvatar.

The worlds of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield are born in Music and governed by Music.

In Tolkien’s legendarium, the Ainur descend into Arda, the created Realm, as individual themes of the Music of Iluvatar to behold their unique part becoming incarnate in the visible elements of air, earth, water, and other substances.

Enamored of their part in the celestial symphony, the Ainur follow this “music-made-flesh” into Arda and dwell therein because each yearns to participate in the Divine Thought.

They didn’t yet know how the Music would end – the only thing they knew was that the discord of Melkor would somehow be resolved by the coming of the Second-born to whom Iluvatar gave “strange gifts.”

The Third and final theme in the Music of Iluvatar announces the coming of Men in a soft, slow, and immeasurably sorrowful theme, from which its beauty chiefly comes.

How does Narnia start?

C.S. Lewis’s Narnia also begins in Music, the Song of Aslan, which is “the deeper magic” of his fantasy world – the magic of growing that opposes the black magic of domination.

Aslan sings his world into existence, and all the stars join him in the Song.

Owen Barfield’s The Silver Trumpet is a metaphor for the Music from the invisible realm that awakens us from the spell of unconsciousness when we hear the call. Its call is irresistible and shatters all man-made idols, or the “unsaved images,” so our transformed consciousness can commune with the Music.

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Embrace All Your Feelings To Be Transformed – A Lesson From The Gospel of Thomas

Two girls hugging

Since ancient times, people intuitively knew that if you reject your feelings, you will be consumed by them, and if you embrace all your feelings, you will be transformed.

Blessed is the lion which becomes a man when consumed by man; and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, for the lion becomes a man.

The Gospel of Thomas

One thing my alcoholic father passed on to me is a feeling of emptiness and a desire to fill myself from outside in.

He chose to medicate the feeling with alcohol. I have tried to do the same with food, people, and workaholism.

If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. Richard Rohr

The more I numb out my feelings on food, people, or work, the emptier I feel. The feeling is strong, and often comes without warning – regardless of what I do on the outside to alleviate it.

In fact, using external means to get rid of it doesn’t work.

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Amazon’s The Rings of Power Review – An Alternative Way to Begin the Series

I wasn’t planning to write a review on Amazon’s The Rings of Power, but my son asked me a question I couldn’t ignore.

And thus there awoke in the world the Two Trees of Valinor. Of all things which Yavanna made they have most renown, and about their fate all the tales of the Elder Days are woven.

As we finished watching the first episode of The Rings of Power last night, my son asked me after a pause:

“What do you think?”

“Don’t know yet,” I answered, “not too bad, I suppose, but I hoped there would be much more Tolkien in it.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, “there’s Galadriel, Elrond, Sauron, hobbits. What else?”

“Hm…” I scratched my head, “I guess to have more Tolkien there you need to start the tale how he started the tale.”

“Do you mean with the creation of Arda?” he pressed.

“No, with Music. The Music. The world of Tolkien began in Music.”

“So, how would you have started the series?” he finally asked.

I smiled.

“Let me think,” I said, and there was silence in the room for about half an hour broken only by the chirping of a cricket outside.

And silence was over all the world in that hour, nor was there any other sound save the chanting of Yavanna.

 Finally, I broke the silence.

“All the tales of Elder Days are woven around the fate of the Two Trees. Do you have any idea why?”

He shook his head.

“Imagine Galadriel and her brother Finrod sitting by a murmuring brook at twilight. He asks her: ‘Do you know how Elves came about?’

‘No.’

The camera zooms in, and we see the following scenes unfold in Galadriel’s big blue eyes as she listens to Finrod’s tale.

‘By the starlit mere of Cuivienen, Water of Awakening, the Elves rose from the sleep of Iluvatar; and while they dwelt yet silent by Cuivienen their eyes beheld first of all things the stars of heaven. Therefore they have ever loved the starlight, and have revered Varda Elentari above all the Valar.’

Galadriel sees in her mind’s eye the mere of Cuivienen and then looks up and suddenly sees Varda walking among the heavenly hosts.

‘Who is it?’ she asks her brother in amazement.

‘Varda, the spouse of Manwe, the chief of the Valar.’

‘Who are the Valar?’

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