Tolkien on mythopoetics

I just came across an apt addition to the discussion last week on myth and religion. In a letter to C. S. Lewis, Tolkien writes: “If God is mythopoeic, man must become mythopathic.”

Given that all forms of literalism as regards the scientific or spiritual nature of reality are to be rejected, the only remaining path to the achievement of knowledge of a living nature or faith in a living God is through a sensitivity to the poetic origins of meaning. To argue that, due to modern scientistic-mechanistic explanations, meaning can and should be recognized as a social farce or figment of the brain is to fall prey to a kind of transcendental illusion by forgetting that all such supposedly literal explanations depend upon a substrate of mythopoeia as the condition of their meaningful expression. Also, following on Tolkien’s statement, it’s become apparent to me that meaning isn’t just actively constructed or made (i.e., poiesis), it is passively sensed or felt (i.e., pathos). So perhaps both science and religion, in order to overcome the temptation of monological literalism which results from an overly active pursuit of technical control or spiritual certainty, might develop a more receptive practice of listening for divine revelations in the meandering and multifaceted meanings of nature.