Sightler Publications

Sightler Publications

Sightler Publications

Brooke Foss Westcott, George Macdonald, and J. R. R. Tolkien

Longfellow’s Christmas Carol, 1867

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, brief passage from the prelude to his poem Tales of A Wayside Inn, 1863

“A Theologian, from the school

Of Cambridge on the Charles, was there;

Skilful alike with tongue and pen,

He preached to all men everywhere

The Gospel of the Golden Rule,

The New Commandment given to men,

Thinking the deed, and not the creed,

Would help us in our utmost need.

With reverent feet the earth he trod,

Nor banished nature from his plan,

But studied still with deep research

To build the Universal Church,

Lofty as is the love of God,

And ample as the wants of man.”

If you know about Harvard College it is in the town of Cambridge on the Charles River. This “theologian” was like Longfellow, who was a Unitarian Transcendentalist and did not believe in the Fall of man, the Atonement, or the Deity of Christ. He wanted to see the establishment of a universal and a universalist church. This theologian you will also notice is an environmentalist and did not banish nature from his plan even at that early date in the 1800’s.

Now there is nothing obviously wrong with the carol, I have heard it all my life, but if you look closely at the words and message you will not see the Gospel of the New Testament, unless Longfellow is right about the deed and not the creed, that is, that the Gospel is only the Harvard theologian’s Golden Rule, and that we are wrong to believe that men are sinners and could not pay the debt of sin they owed unless Christ was given to us according to the New Testament for that very purpose, for our utmost need, which is salvation by grace through faith. We must have this because we are fallen sinners and must rely on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us.

James H. Sightler, 12-22-13

It turns out that there are many similarities between Westcott and the “Inklings” of Oxford. The Inklings were a literary discussion group comprised of C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Dorothy Sayers. Tolkien of course was the author of the Lord of the Rings which has now been serialized as a trilogy of movies and very widely viewed. Tolkien was Catholic and probably Rosicrucian. None of these people were orthodox Christians, all were Neoplatonic. Lewis was an Anglo-catholic who believed in salvation by taking the sacraments. He did not believe in plenary, varbal inspiration of the Bible. He accepted the doctrine of purgatory and took the last rites of the Catholic church at death. Owen Barfield was Lewis's close friend from 1919 to Lewis's death in 1963. He was Lewis's legal and financial advisor, and became an executor of his estate. Lewis dedicated his first scholarly book, The Allegory of Love, in1936, to this “wisest and best of my unofficial teachers.” He said in its preface that he wanted to spread Barfield's literary theory and practice, and dedicated the first Narnian chronicle to his friend's daughter. Barfield was a theosophist.

The Inklings believed, like Plato, the gnostics, Westcott, and Gladstone, that myth could teach spiritual truth and that pre-Christian myths foreshadowed and pointed to Christianity. They believed that myth could not keep itself from showing spiritual reality. Tolkien expected Christ-figures in particular to appear in myths, because he saw them as emerging from human minds in which were found all the longings and yearnings that ‘the Christ-event’ was meant to fulfil. They included the Old Testament in these myths and therefore did not believe in the Genesis account of creation and were evolutionists. They all tended toward the idea of universal incarnation, as Westcott did. They all attempted to syncretize or combine pagan ideas with Christianity. Remember that Plato was also, like the Inklings, a myth-maker and intended his myths to convey spiritual truth. Westcott’s syncretism is shown by his statement that Plato was an unconscious prophet of the Gospel whose ideas foreshadowed Christianity. He said that Plato points us to St. John and that Christianity is the fulfillment of philosophy. He said that the religious thought of the ancient Greeks aided the development of Judaism, and that the chosen people gathered to itself the spiritual treasures which other races had won.

Tolkien believed in reincarnation and included it in the Lord of the Rings in the character known as Gandalf. Tolkien did not see how any theologian could deny the possibility of reincarnation as a mode of existence for certain kinds of rational incarnate creatures. A hierarchy of reincarnation, not universally the same but dependent on the earthly works of a man, was a feature of Platonic philosophy and of Hindu religion as well. Barfield also believed in reincarnation. But the Bible does not teach reincarnation and expressly denies it in Hebrews 9:27: “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”

Following Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Tolkien believed in the concept of root races and in the legend of Atlantis. That legend is the touchstone characteristic of theosophy. He said that the Atlanteans were a superior race operating on a superior “spiritual” and physical plane. Many mystics have said that some of those superior beings escaped when Atlantis sank beneath the sea, made their way to India, Tibet, or Egypt, and gave rise to the Aryan race. Berit Kjos says that Tolkien put the legend into the First Age of his mythical history. The destruction of Atlantis came in the Second Age. The Lord of the Rings takes place in the Third Age. But they all fit together as can be seen in "Lord of the Rings: True Mythology" at Westcott also believed that the Atlantis story was true and historical, as I have shown in my book, A Testimony Founded For Ever.

Tolkien’s ideas about time were mystical as well:

It is not surprising to learn that Tolkien was deeply influenced by the 19th century Romantics, chiefly S. T. Coleridge and George Macdonald, since his friend and literary companion C. S. Lewis was also decisively shaped by them. Nor is it startling to find Tolkienian connections with J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Mary Rose, with the Four Quartets of T. S. Eliot, even with Henry James' unfinished story The Sense of the Past. What comes as a genuine shock is the news that Tolkien's mind and work were marked by the fictional dream-journeys of George Du Maurier, by the psychic experiences of Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, by the time-travel fantasies of H. G. Wells, and especially by the notion of J. W. Dunne that all temporal events are simultaneous. Dunne held that time is no less constant than space, and that by certain habits of mind we can move backward and forward over time as we traverse space, even experiencing events that have not yet happened. (

[Charlotte Anne Moberly (1846-1937) and Eleanor Jourdain (1864-1924) were known to the theosophist William Butler Yeats and corresponded with the English spiritualistic Society for Psychical Research about their supposed vision of Marie Antoinette.] To believe that all temporal events are simultaneous is very close to, I believe, the ancient Greek idea that time is cyclical and to Westcott’s claim that eternal life is here and now. Do not forget the circle of life of The Lion King. Westcott said that all things come from God and go to God in order for Christianity to complete the circle of existence. Westcott’s gnostic belief in the preexistence of souls is a necessary corollary of the idea of a circle of existence, a circle of life. The Biblical concept of time is that it moves from a beginning to an end and is teleological or inherently purposeful and not cyclic.

Tolkien also believed that rationalism and creativity, for example literary work or the creation of a “new” language expressly for his books, were expressions of the incarnation if the Christ spirit into the artist and were from God. He wrote the following poem for Lewis:

Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White

to many hues, and endlessly combined

in living shapes that move from mind to mind.

Though all the crannies of the world we filled

with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build

Gods and their houses out of dark and light,

and sowed the seed of dragons -- 'twas our right

(used or misused), that right has not decayed.

we make still by the law in which we’re made.

This poem illustrates Tolkien’s feeling about creativity as an expression of God incarnate in man. An internet article about Tolkien and the Inklings confirms this in a description of the Silmarillon by Steven A. Armstrong, “There and Back Again: Creation and Reintegration in the Work of J.R.R. Tolkien.” It appeared in the Rosicrucian Digest 80:1 (Spring 2002) pp. 2-5. [] Mr. Armstrong is a Rosicrucian and has an M.A. and M.Div. He is a Ph.D candidate in Church History at the Pacific School of Religion at Berkeley; it is a consortium of 9 theological seminaries using some of the same faculty and the library of the University of California at Berkeley. The schools range from American Baptist to Jesuit to Unitarian. Mr. Armstrong has also given a course of lectures on Hermes Trismegistus at the New School for Social Research in New York. According to Armstrong, “Creation of Language is a sign of the Divine Spark for Tolkien: “By making a language, the Firstborn of Ilúvatar identified themselves as Incarnates, children of the One: ‘The making of a lambe [language] is the chief character of an Incarnate,’ Pengolodh the sage of Gondolin observed.” Westcott believed in universal incarnation of the Christ spirit into all men, the divine spark of the modernists of our day.

Verlyn Flieger of the University of Maryland and Mary Carman Rose of Goucher College in Baltimore both have written academic articles on Tolkien’s platonic philosophy. Interestingly, both are published by the Catholic University of America. Flieger is author of “Naming the Unnameable: the Neoplatonic ‘One’ in Tolkien’s Silmarillion,” in Diakonia: Studies in Honor of Robert T. Meyer Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1986. These professors hold the same worldview as Tolkien and know very well what he believed.

Tolkien’s cosmogony was gnostic and Platonic. It is described not so fully in The Lord of the Rings as in The Silmarillon, which begins with the statement “There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Iluvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made.” Arda is Tolkien’s name for earth, similar to the German word Erde for earth, and Iluvatar sounds to me as if it came from illuminated avatar. Notice his monism, the One, of Coleridge and Westcott and the modern versions of the Bible, especially the NIV. It goes back to Plotinus. Tolkien’s world was created by a series of beings who emanated from the One, just as in Plato the Absolute gives rise to the logos, the soul of the world, and the ancient gnostic pleroma of 30 emanations from these beings. The last of these created gods, the Demiurge, formed from Sophia’s mixing with matter, organized, but did not create, an imperfect world. Tolkien said that in his mythology the One remains remote, outside the World, and only directly accessible to the Valar or Rulers who are created spirits. He is not accessible to men through the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” as we learn in I Timothy 2:5. Tolkien’s supreme being, the One, is therefore exactly like Plato’s unknowable Absolute. He does not hear our prayers. The One is not the personal God of the Bible who made this world and controls and directs its affairs. To come to a knowledge of the truth Tolkien would substitute man’s imagination and myth-making for the truth of God’s Revelation given in the Bible by the Holy Ghost, who teaches the interpretation of that truth to those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tolkien and Lewis were not composers of original literature, as many believe. 2400 years ago Plato told a myth of the ring of Gyges, a ring which gave supernatural power to its holder and could make him invisible. That is precisely like Tolkien’s “One Ring.” I looked at “The Myths of Plato” in Westcott’s Essays in the History of Religious Thought in the West and found no mention there of the ring of Gyges, but it is hard to believe he did not know the story. Blavatsky knew of Gyges and included a definition of it in her theosophical glossary.

Then there was an obscure 19th century religious and literary figure who gave inspiration to Tolkien and Lewis. His name was George Macdonald, contemporary of Westcott but not mentioned in Westcott’s biography. He was a friend and confidant of Lewis Carroll and John Ruskin. He also knew Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was one of the fathers of the new age. Macdonald was a Scottish Presbyterian preacher who became a follower of F. D. Maurice and Emerson and was dismissed from his church for preaching universalism and denying eternal punishment. Westcott was also a disciple of Maurice. Macdonald then took up writing children’s fantasy. In his book Phantastes he makes the following Al Gore-like statement:

With the sun well risen, I rose, and put my arms as far as they would reach around the beech-tree, and kissed it, and said good-bye. A trembling went through the leaves; a few of the last drops of the night's rain fell from off them at my feet; and as I walked slowly away, I seemed to hear in a whisper once more the words: "I may love him, I may love him; for he is a man, and I am only a beech-tree.

Tolkien also revered trees to a fault and that appears in the Lord of the Rings.

Macdonald began his book Lilith with a quotation from the gnostic Kabala. Lilith, in Jewish folklore is a devil that is an enemy of newborn children. She may be the “screech owl” in Isaiah 34:14. Lilith was known in Babylonian myth, but she also appears in later, post biblical Jewish literature. There she is described as Adam's first wife, who left him after a quarrel, according to the encyclopedia. It is hard to understand why Macdonald would write children’s stories and stories about Lilith as well. Here is the introduction to Lilith:

I took a walk on Spaulding's Farm the other afternoon. I saw the setting sun lighting up the opposite side of a stately pine wood. Its golden rays straggled into the aisles of the wood as into some noble hall. I was impressed as if some ancient and altogether admirable and shining family had settled there in that part of the land called Concord, unknown to me,--to whom the sun was servant,--who had not gone into society in the village,--who had not been called on. I saw their park, their pleasure-ground, beyond through the wood, in Spaulding's cranberry-meadow. The pines furnished them with gables as they grew. Their house was not obvious to vision; their trees grew through it. I do not know whether I heard the sounds of a suppressed hilarity or not. They seemed to recline on the sunbeams. They have sons and daughters. They are quite well. The farmer's cart-path, which leads directly through their hall, does not in the least put them out,--as the muddy bottom of a pool is sometimes seen through the reflected skies. They never heard of Spaulding, and do not know that he is their neighbor,--notwithstanding I heard him whistle as he drove his team through the house. Nothing can equal the serenity of their lives. Their coat of arms is simply a lichen. I saw it painted on the pines and oaks. Their attics were in the tops of the trees. They are of no politics. There was no noise of labor. I did not perceive that they were weaving or spinning. Yet I did detect, when the wind lulled and hearing was done away, the finest imaginable sweet musical hum,--as of a distant hive in May, which perchance was the sound of their thinking. They had no idle thoughts, and no one without could see their work, for their industry was not as in knots and excrescences embayed. But I find it difficult to remember them. They fade irrevocably out of my mind even now while I speak and endeavor to recall them, and recollect myself. It is only after a long and serious effort to recollect my best thoughts that I become again aware of their cohabitancy. If it were not for such families as this, I think I should move out of Concord.

This introduction was written by Henry David Thoreau, the Unitarian Transcendentalist friend of Emerson. When you read it you immediately see the origin of Tolkien’s hobbits.

It is likely that Dungeons and Dragons and Harry Potter are more degenerate offspring of the fantasy writings of the Inklings. J. K. Rowling, creator of the Harry Potter series, has also said that she is a great admirer of the Inklings, especially Lewis. Even Faith for the Family from BJU recognizes the relationship between D&D and Tolkien. But strangely the acceptance of Lewis at BJU comes from a 1954 meeting of Bob Jones, Jr. and C. S. Lewis after which Bob Jones declared that Lewis was an orthodox Christian. Even Ian Paisley, Jr. spoke recently of his father and of C. S. Lewis as “fellow Ulstermen,” without any reservation expressed about Lewis and with no distinctions made between Lewis and Ian Paisley, Sr. Something strange is going on. All these folks are able enough to see the problems with Tolkien and Lewis and with Westcott if they were inclined to do so. I quote from an internet article:

Fantasy is especially dangerous for children. While most children in the 1970s knew enough truth to place divination in the forbidden realm of the occult, today's children -- who often feel more comfortable with occult games than Biblical truth -- see nothing wrong with pagan practices. Fantasy movies, like Disney's The Lion King, are good matches for the new earth-centered paradigm or world view that is transforming childrens' views of reality. While God told us to continually communicate truth to our children (Deut. 6:5-7), today's culture trains children to see reality through a global, earth-centered filter. This "new" mental framework distorts truth, stretches the meaning of familiar words, and promotes mystical “insights” that are incompatible with Christianity. Packaged with entertainment, this message usually bypasses rational resistance, desensitizes opened minds, and fuels general acceptance of pagan spirituality…BJU Press has published Medallion, a popular fantasy reader for elementary age home-schoolers. There are strange similarities between Medallion and two explicitly pagan books -- one a sixth-grade reader for public schools called The Dark is Rising, and a Wiccan manual by Starhawk called The Spiral Dance. In response to a review of Medallion by Berit Kjos, BJU trivializes the similarities, and states, “It appears that what this critique requires of Medallion rules out all fantasy for the Christian. We hold that no story can mix fantasy with the supernatural facts of Scripture without dangerously trivializing Biblical truth by associating scriptural realities with a dream world.” Couldn't have stated the truth more clearly if we had tried! Contrary to the scholarly opinion of BJU's Literature and Language departments, “Christian” fantasy parallels the occultic literature for children, using similar images, story-lines, symbols, and characters. Literary fantasy, rather than being neutral, has occultic roots. (Excerpted and/or adapted from the 10/96, The Christian Conscience, pp. 40-42; see page 41 for a detailed comparison of Medallion and The Dark is Rising.) (See Biblical Discernment Ministry's report on "Christian" Fantasy)

Biblical Discernment Ministries has advanced beyond the thinking of professors of literature at many “fundamental” colleges and recognizes the dangers of Tolkien, Rowling, and other modern myth-making gnostic fanatsizers. But it still cannot see that modern Bibles are also contaminated by the gnosticism which has given us “Christian” fantasy and sadly is not committed to the KJV alone.

The Trinity Foundation recently published an article by John W. Robbins entitled, “Did C. S. Lewis Go To Heaven?” Robbins said that he did not. Here C. S. Lewis is quoted as saying: “If every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights, then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must in some sense be inspired.” Westcott also believed that revelation was not confined to the Bible but could be seen in nature and “advancing” human knowledge and in pagan writings. He said that Christianity was the fulfilment of Philosophy and that God was still speaking to men. C. S. Lewis said: “The question was no longer to find the one simply true religion among a thousand religions simply false. It was rather, 'Where has religion reached its true maturity? Where, if anywhere, have the hints of all Paganism been fulfilled?'.... Paganism had been only the childhood of religion, or only a prophetic dream.” Where, if anywhere, have the hints of all Paganism been fulfilled?'.... Paganism had been only the childhood of religion, or only a prophetic dream. Where was the thing full grown?....There were really only two answers possible: either in Hinduism or in Christianity.” Westcott said, "Can we doubt that India, the living epitome of the races, the revolutions, and the creeds of the East is capable of adding some new element to the complete apprehension of the faith?"

Westcott believed that pagan myths pointed to Christianity; therefore he said that “the vital force of any other great religion is not alien from Christianity, and thus each pre-Christian religion becomes a witness to the Faith which combines these manifold powers in a final unity. These views of Westcott are documented by his own statements in my book, A Testimony Founded For Ever. Westcott and Lewis did not believe in the plenary, verbal inspiration of scripture or in its inerrancy. Neither believed in a vicarious, substitutionary atonement.

Robbins in another web article quotes C. S. Lewis as saying: "For we are taught that the Incarnation itself proceeded 'not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of (the) manhood into God'; in it human life becomes the vehicle of Divine life." This statement is panentheistic. As Westcott had said long ago: "He was not an individual, though truly man: not one of the multitude, but man, in Whom humanity, so to speak, found corporate personality... If He were only an individual man, He could not gather all men into Himself." Notice the word corporate. In another quote Westcott said: "He took to himself not simply a human life but humanity." Lewis and Westcott sound very much alike on Incarnation.

And so we see that there are important historical and philosophical parallels between Westcott and Macdonald and Tolkien and Lewis. Westcott, F. D. Maurice, Macdonald, Emerson, and Thoreau are among the “academic” 19th century forerunners of the new age movement; Madame Blavatsky and Annie Besant popularized this gnosticism as the academics handed it down. Their “academic” counterparts in the 20th century include Barfield, Lewis, Tolkien, Verlyn Flieger, Mary Carman Rose and Steven A. Armstrong. Among the popularizers of our time are Alice Bailey, Shirley MacLaine, Sharon Gless, Lola Davis, Marilyn Ferguson, and many pop culture celebrities.

There are unfortunately many misguided “fundamentalists” who fanatically defend and popularize Lewis and Tolkien and the new age versions of the Bible as well. It is likely that in most fundamental churches there will be some who have watched the Lord of the Rings without knowing the background and realizing the meaning of what they have seen.

Sightler Publications

October 9, 2003

I Timothy 2:5     For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

Hebrews 9:27    And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

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