Originally Posted by Boaz
JRRT put much thought over many years into his cosmology of Eru and Arda. After he had categorized the Creator, the Ainur, the Valar and Maiar, the Enemies, the Quendi in all their subcategories, the Naugrim, the Ents, Humans and their subcategories, and all creatures great and small... did Professor Tolkien feel that his world was bereft of mysteries? Linguists, historians, adventurers, and readers of all types have fallen in love with Arda and have tried to systematize it. I confess, that I have.
Perhaps Tom Bombadil is Tolkien's reminder that there are things out there beyond our ability to understand and categorize. Eru's plans and Eru's purposes are too deep too fathom. Inscrutable.
How much fun is it when the supernatural is conveniently systematized?
C.S. Lewis put it this way in The Last Battle, "Do you think I keep him in my wallet, fools?" said Tirian. "Who am I that I could make Aslan appear at my bidding? He's not a tame lion." The words not a tame lion are repeated throughout the the series, iirc. The point is that if we can figure out every aspect of the supernatural and every characteristic of the divine, then the supernatural and the divine are not really special. In other words, the supernatural is not super and the divine is all too human.
Tolkien and Lewis were human. Yet is seems to me that they were not the tamest of writers.
While no believer in the supernatural, nonetheless I hold the numinous in high regard, as it represents a very important emotional state; those who can genuinely feel the presence of the numinous or the sublime tend to be much more aware of the richness, subtleties, and texure of life, language, and thought. Certainly Tolkien and Lewis were well aware of this, and used it in their works. I'm not sure I'd put Bombadil in that category, but he may represent something equally subtle and complex.
As for the general idea of that which is symbolic of the numinous, your post reminded me of a passage from Edgar Allan Poe's "Spirits of the Dead" which has always seemed to me to represent the idea very well:
The breeze, the breath of God, is still, |
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!