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.

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.

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

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.

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