What are the parallels between descriptions of Satan in the Bible and the demonic presence in Middle-earth. All is revealed:
Sol Pais, the 18-year-old high school senior from Miami who led police in Colorado on a 24-hour manhunt, fearing that she would mark the twentieth anniversary of Columbine by shooting kids with a gun she had purchased, is dead, a victim of suicide.
JANUARY 15, 2019
lately it feels like time has been moving faster than
usual. or better said, it feels like evolutions in emotions and sentiments
of mine have been occurring faster than usual, my views and
thoughts becoming more extreme and solidified as time
goes by. to be honest, i don’t know exactly where i am, and there is more than one
way that that statement applies to me. i feel like a pot of scolding water on the verge of boiling
over… so dangerously close to spilling over.. and what that may cause is yet
to be seen and most likely a hazard, to myself and others. i’m afraid of my currently unknown
capacity for pain and misery and anger. each time it gets exponentially worse
and worse. my soul is in deep suffering and dis-belonging. i have done
quite a good job at keeping all of the explosive energy
inside of me but every time… worse and worse. and worse. like a new
channel of emotion inside me opens and more anger and frustration and
sadness fills it. there are no adequate words to describe
This young woman was alienated, miserable, despairing and lost.
And she, like countless others her age, found a marketplace that catered to this despair. For one thing, she followed a number of bands that feed these lost souls more of the same, “entertainment” that profits off of such pain and angst. She lists her favorite bands on her blog and gives samples of the lyrics of many of their songs. The lyrics sound like her journal entries.
She also provides a list of links, including pages that advocate anarchy and satanism.
One of her handwritten journal entries makes it clear that she loves a boy. Amidst the sketches of guns, bloody knives, the Columbine killers and a cage into which is etched the words I CAN’T GET OUT is an entry on love.
This boy seems to have returned her love at one point (though she has blocked out his name) – and yet even that is unclear. And, though Sol Pais’s writing does not reveal a psychosis, it is not out of the question that this boy was perhaps an idealized version of one of the Columbine shooters, rather than a living boy she knew in real life. It’s hard to say.
Whoever this mystery guy was, this entry is the only ray of hope in the entire blog.
There are entries in which Sol Pais hints at buying a gun and preparing for “the day”, and reminding herself that she will have to respond to the police.
It is quite sad that Pais was being at least partially public about this – and yet no one intervened before it was too late. And though her online persona “dissolvedgirl” was an attempt at a form of anonymity, apparently the FBI and USA Today were able to access these posts and others – and so one wonders why someone closer to Sol Pais didn’t.
Teens like this young lady are common. I have worked with them for years. This is not an unusual response to life – this brooding and potentially violent nihilism.
This young woman was let down in many ways. Not only were her partially veiled calls for help ignored, but she was given apparently unfiltered access on the internet to sites promoting satanism, violence and the kind of music that only fueled her depression and sense of dissociation and unreality.
We can be thankful that she harmed no one else physically. But her anguish and despair led her to kill herself. May the Lord have mercy on her soul.
It’s not often that we can look to the New York Times for good, interesting and healthy content. This article is a notable exception:
In my latest Faith & Culture podcast, I discuss with Christopher Blum my new book, Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know:
In December, 1948, at Pennsylvania’s Saint Vincent College, Erwin Panofsky delivered the second annual Wimmer Lecture. Founded in the first half of the nineteenth century, the college was run by Benedictine monks, and the lecture series honored the memory of the founder abbot of Saint Vincent, Boniface Wimmer.
As he addressed students and monks and others, Panofsky’s topic, combining the architectural and philosophical fields, was “Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism.” As Norman F. Cantor put it in Inventing the Middle Ages (1991), Panofsky had the Midas touch that turned straw into gold. Cantor cited as an example what was to him “an obscure American Catholic college” asking Panofsky to lecture on Gothic architecture, and the resulting book going through ten printings in a decade.
Erwin Panofsky was born in 1892 in Hanover, Germany, and died in 1968 in Princeton, New Jersey. He was the same age as J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973), but while Tolkien was mired in the trenches of the First World War, Panofsky had earned his doctorate from Freiburg. In 1915 Panofsky published his first book; the following year, he was married. While Tolkien was teaching at Oxford and writing The Hobbit, Panofsky, an assimilated Jew, had to disrupt his own academic career and flee National Socialist Germany for the United States.
That evening in December of 1948 the more perceptive members of his audience knew that Panofsky’s Wimmer Lecture on Gothic architecture and Scholasticism filled a niche in the field of medieval studies. Like many great ideas, it is a wonder no one thought of it before. And yet, what Panofsky revealed in that lecture was how a cathedral such as Notre Dame or Chartres was like a book by Saint Thomas Aquinas or Blessed John Duns Scotus.
Panofsky simply said by way of preface that it was but “another diffident attempt at correlating Gothic architecture and Scholasticism,” and one that “is bound to be looked upon with suspicion by both historians of art and historians of philosophy.” The hard to please Norman Cantor said that this “fragile jewel . . . is a beautiful piece of speculative interpretation.”
Characteristically, Panofsky drew upon his encyclopedic knowledge of Western art and philosophy and saw parallels. He saw that the medieval Schoolmen knew that reason could not prove religious doctrine, but reason could make it manifest by shedding clear light upon it. Panofsky understood that the Scholastic mind “insisted upon a gratuitous clarification of function through form,” and equally it “insisted upon a gratuitous clarification of thought through language.”
Function and thought, form and language: Panofsky summed up what he called a Scholastic mental habit given to manifestatio, clarification. “A man imbued with the Scholastic habit [of mind],” he said, “would look upon the mode of architectural presentation, just as he looked upon the mode of literary presentation, from the point of view of manifestatio.” All the elements of a Gothic cathedral or a Scholastic argument were carefully articulated and clearly went together to form a reasoned whole.
As did Catholic theologians, Catholic architects of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries sought clarity of function through form. Just as the intellect functioned to study and contemplate God, so a church functioned to worship God through the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. The Catholic faith teaches that Christ, while being fully divine, was also “of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting,” to use the words of the Athanasian Creed.
What follows from the Christian creed is the importance in Catholic culture not only of the intellect, but also of tangible material, whether bread and wine or stone and glass. Panofsky’s insight was that through proportion and distinction of parts, a Gothic cathedral was as solid and precise in its service of Catholic doctrine as was the treatise of a Scholastic theologian.
Like his Catholic contemporary, Tolkien, Panofsky was captivated by the Christian civilization that emerged from the Roman Empire. In his Histories, Tacitus had written that in Judaea under Tiberius, all was quiet (sub Tiberio quies), and yet any astute observer today can see that there developed, like a minor theme in music that recurs until it reaches crescendo, the literature and liturgy of the Catholic Church.
For Tolkien and Panofsky, medieval culture was vivid and complex. Craftsmen created formulae for stained glass never again equaled, and scholars in then new universities debated questions of universal reality. It was a world appreciating intricate patterns and rich colors, whether in illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, or jewelry. Alongside those achievements of art and intellect roared the violence of war and the cruelty of nasty people. In short, it was an era like our own, because human nature never changes.
While Tolkien used his love of the Early Middle Ages to create his own Middle Earth, Panofsky studied the art and architecture of the High Middle Ages and related it to the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas and the poetry of Dante Alighieri. Their various writings show that these twentieth-century students of medieval culture, one from Germany, the other from England by way of South Africa, felt an affinity for what has survived within Western civilization because they came of age when so much of that civilization was cracking apart under hammers and sickles.
As the tide of the twentieth century recedes, the books left on what William Shakespeare called in Sonnet 60 “the pebbled shore” are worth our while. Within that span of a hundred years more books were published than ever before, yet few will survive time’s erosion of public memory. Works once declared instant classics are forgotten. Nevertheless, as Joseph Pearce noted twenty years ago, much to the chagrin of the intelligentsia there stands Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, still around after almost seventy years. Also among the books surviving from the last century is Panofsky’s Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism.
People long to enter into a realm that takes them beyond this world. For that reason they will continue to follow Bilbo and Frodo deep into Middle Earth, a journey like that of pacing contemplatively through a labyrinth in the floor of a medieval cathedral, or following the logic of a Scholastic argument. As their guides through these mazes of prose and stone, they will return again and again to Tolkien and Panofsky.
(A much longer version of this essay appeared in the August, 2015, issue of American Theological Inquiry.)
The Inner Sanctum of my personal website (jpearce.co) now has over five months of exclusive content, available to donor-supporters of my work. New exclusive content is posted every week.
Each week a new lecture in a 45-part lecture series on Tolkien and Lewis is released.
There is exclusive access to the rough-cut of a future Tolkien documentary.
There are so many things for which we should be grateful for the legacy of G. K. Chesterton, not least of which is the renewal of Catholic education: