I began my reflections for this post by simply looking up the definition of worship, and there were two aspects to it that most struck me: firstly, that it can be to honor a deity through religious rites; secondly, that it can be an expression of reverence toward a deity. This active, participatory aspect to worship is what first called to my mind the concept of subcreation as a form of worship itself, for it is the active participation of a component of creation in shaping that same creation of which it is a part.
Flieger suggests that there are two primary concepts inherent in Tolkien's philosophy: “One is the inevitability and absolute necessity of change. The other is the centrality of language and its importance as both cause and result” (Flieger 167). For Flieger, these two concepts work together in order to “subcreate a new reality” (Flieger 167). Change is a necessity of creation for creation is a process of development towards ultimate fulfillment, and without change this could not be achieved. Subcreation, within this context, is the act of change itself, which works in collaboration with creation and with the designs of the creator in order to achieve this fulfillment of creation. Subcreation is an act of expression on the part of a single component of creation, and for subcreation to bring creation to its eventual fulfillment, it must be in cohesion with creation. For one to commit an act of subcreation in its purest form, one must do so with reverence to creation and to its creator, making it a form of worship.
Language, for Tolkien, has just as important of a role as change in the fulfillment of creation, for language, according to Flieger, is itself an act of subcreation. Where other forms of subcreation make a physical alteration of creation, language is more a subcreation of the psyche, for it affects and shapes human perception of creation, which is as much a part of creation and its fulfillment as the physical aspects. Flieger points out that the purpose of language is communication, and she then points out the etymological ties of communication with community and communion, stating that: “without communication there can be no community. Without community there can be no sense of communion. Without communion...humanity is truly separated not just from others but also from the source” (Flieger 168). Flieger seems to be suggesting that the fulfillment of creation requires the communion of every component of creation with every other component, and simultaneously the communion of creation with its creator. Language, then, acts as a subcreative force that can construct these bonds of communion, and so further creation toward fulfillment. As such, language too could be seen as an act of reverence toward creation, and therefore also a form of worship. This becomes especially evident in the inherently vocal aspect of praise in religious rites.
As an example of this aspect of worship within subcreation, I would posit the tale of Aule and the creation of the dwarves as played out in the Silmarillion. Aule wished to take subcreation to its absolute extreme: as an act of pure creation independent unto itself. It would seem from this that Aule had distorted the purpose of subcreation as an act of reverence and worship towards creation, since he wished not to partake of creation but create his own. Yet even so, his intentions in this aim are pure as regards the purpose of subcreation. Aule's reason for attempting to commit an act of independent creation was that“so greatly did [he] desire the coming of the children...that he was unwilling to await the fulfillment of the designs of Iluvatar” (Tolkien 37). Aule is not attempting to subvert creation, but is merely trying to hasten the fulfillment of creation. When Iluvatar reprimands him for creating the dwarves, Aule responds: “it seemed to me that there is great room in Arda for many things that might rejoice in it, yet it is for the most part empty still, and dumb” (Tolkien 38). From this, it would seem that the purpose of subcreation is to fill the empty spaces of creation so that it is a cohesive whole. I would also point out that Aule calls Arda “dumb,” highlighting the inherently vocal aspect of praise that can be found in the subcreation of language. Aule goes on to say that: “the making of things is in my heart from my own making by thee; and the child...that makes a play of the deeds of his father may do so without mockery, but because he is the son of his father” (Tolkien 38). According to this passage, an act of subcreation is an expression of the traits that we have inherited from the creator and are done so that we might be in greater communion with the creator. As such, subcreation is not just worship of creation in an external sense, but worship of the self because we too are a part of creation and have been crafted in the image of the creator. Therefore, subcreation, in its purest sense, is the worship of the aspects of the creator reflected in creation by forming creation to reflect those aspects more purely.
Tolkien too was aware of this collaborative aspect of subcreation with creation. In one of his letters to his son Christopher (Letter 89), he described this vision he had of a beam of light shining on a speck of dust floating in the air, and how this beam of light made the speck shine white. He says he envisioned it as God emitting a beam of light, which he equated to an angel, bringing the light of God to that speck, which would be some component of creation in his metaphor. The fulfillment of creation is for all of creation to be bathed in the light of God, and the role of subcreation in this is to let this light into yourself and then to project it outward onto the rest of creation until all creation is filled with light. As Flieger points out: “[Tolkien] also knew beyond any doubt that he was the prism, not the light” (173). For Tolkien, subcreation was not only about realizing the light for yourself, but communicating that light unto the rest of creation, and as such it takes on the language of praise and could be seen as a form of worship of creation.