Thursday, January 28, 2016

Timothy Leary on Tolkien

So, yesterday I had to pull out an old piece of Tolkieniana: the 1966 issue of DIPLOMAT magazine dedicated to JRRT, complete with hobbit recipes, a condescending and clueless cover article, and the invaluable 'Tolkien on Tolkien' (which told us a lot of interesting things we had no other way of knowing, until LETTERS came along and reprinted it in re-arranged form).

Looking over it again after a gap of quite a few years, the thing I found most fascinating were the testimonials by figures such as Timothy Leary, Richard Burton, Senator Proxmire, and President Johnson's daughter.

Since this issue is long out of print and I don't think its contents are v. easy to access, here's what Leary had to say:

Timothy Leary

   J. R. R. Tolkien is a psychedelic writer. He "turned on" not with LSD but by immersing himself in the study of ancient languages, transcending space and time, leaving the twentieth century, and seeing himself as a pre-Chaucerian scribe. He has returned from his trip and communicated his views in the great mythic work of our time. The Lord of the Rings is a great epic in the Homeric-Joycean vein.

   Like all great mythic sagas, Tolkien's trilogy is written at many levels and has generated countless schools of interpretation, all of which seek the Message. To me, The Lord of the Rings is a morality play-magical statement of the good-evil situation. Evil is power. (Note I do not say "power is evil", a weaker game statement). Evil uses metal, fire, stone, machinery and atomic energy to control, to manipulate, to conquer good. Good for Tolkien is seed, wisdom, freedom, beauty, harmony of growing things. At a time when our planet is in danger of destruction at the hands of mechanical power, Tolkien's poetic and moral message is to cherish the wisdom and freedom which we find around us in the order and beauty of nature.

   To many of us who have followed the "yoga" of LSD, Tolkien's trilogy is vital.

--so, there it is. A bit odd, but I've read worse.

blurbs that never were:

"the great mythic work of our time" (Timothy Leary)

1 comment:

David Bratman said...

Richard Burton? Richard Burton had a near-connection with Tolkien that I wonder if he knew about. He knew and worked with Nevill Coghill of the Inklings, who directed Burton's film of Marlowe's Dr Faustus. They'd met when Burton, as an air force cadet, was sent to Oxford for a term in 1943, where he played Angelo in a Coghill production of Measure for Measure. Also in that production, and also to become a friend of Burton's, was another Inkling to be, John Wain.