Tolkien himself was essentially a Catholic, but many of his actual beliefs were quite ‘far out’ as compared to the beliefs of the ‘regular’ Catholic person, and all his life he kept pondering very deeply over questions most people from any religion hardly ever think about – for example Reincarnation. But it was part of his life even as young ‘JRRT’ (the nickname adopted by his friends for John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, pronounced Tolkeen…) while he slept:
His recurrent vivid nightmares, since early childhood, of the destruction of Atlantis, were for him a most fascinating and important aspect of his experience in this lifetime, that quite obviously pointed at another lifetime of his in that remote past of the Earth, but of course it would have been a public outcry if he had called them openly what they were: memories.
On the other hand, in spite of having met again with death and the grief of separation quite soon in this lifetime (he lost his father when he was only three, and his mother when he was twelve), he never lost his total faith in God – a God in his eyes not negated at all by Darwin’s and Lamarck’s discovery of Evolution, but on the contrary revealed as the Consciousness and Wisdom and Power and Love that oversees and guides Evolution itself, and within it the personal evolution of each and every being, human or other.
It is so beautiful how towards the end of his life he was imagining what could have been Eru’s purpose in creating both mortal Men (including the smaller ones he called ‘Hobbits’) and immortal Elves. And I’m not mentioning the Dwarves, or the Ents!… How in the final stage of Arda, Arda itself could and would be renewed, freed and cleansed of that ‘Morgoth’s Ring’ that had affected her negatively in her very substance, something that Sauron’s later Ring had never been able to do… And all this of course was, transposed in his own ‘subcreation’, his inner certitude for the future of this creation as well…
Here are the two main quotes from Tolkien’s Letters, that mention his recurring nightmares:
I say this about the ‘heart’, for I have what some might call an Atlantis complex. Possibly inherited, though my parents died too young for me to know such things about them, and too young to transfer such things by words. Inherited from me (I suppose) by only one of my children, though I did not know that about my son until recently, and he did not know it about me. I mean the terrible recurrent dream (beginning with memory) of the Great Wave, towering up, and coming in ineluctably over the trees and green fields. (I bequeathed it to Faramir.) I don’t think I have had it since I wrote ‘The Downfall of Númenor’ as the last of the legends of the First and Second Age.
That’s from Letter #163 to W.H. Auden, 7 June 1955.
And in Letter #180 (a draft) to Mr. Thompson, 14 January 1956, Tolkien writes:
For when Faramir speaks of his private vision of the Great Wave, he speaks
for me. That vision and dream has been ever with me — and has been inherited (as I only discovered recently) by one of my children.
It is most interesting to see that in the first quote JRRT himself adds in a parenthesis that the terrible recurring dream was ‘beginning with memory’; and the fact, mentioned too in that same first quote, that after he wrote about this whole destruction of Atlantis in the equivalent story that he called ‘The Downfall of Numenor’, the nightmares stopped happening, points indeed to an actual far memory of his, that before had no way to express itself but through those nightmares but when allowed to come out totally through writing it out, stopped bothering him as a nightmare: it was integrated in his present lifetime in a constructive way, also by Faramir telling the same story towards the end of ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
Those two quotes are the only ones where JRRT reveals also this other remarkable fact that one of his four children too had been having the same nightmares – which seems to indicate that the son in question had also lived the fall of Atlantis, long, very long ago, and was still affected by it as well.
It is frequent that beings who have already lived together in a different time period come again together, some of them, in the same family, although usually in a different relationship (if they had been mother and child for example, another time they might be brothers, and so on) So, what may have been the possible personal link before, between that being now born as a child of Tolkien, and Tolkien himself as whatever person he had been at the time of the fall of Atlantis, we have no way to know.
It would have been interesting perhaps to interview that one child who also had those Atlantis dreams, to find out if he had any more precise memories of that time, or of an old relationship with his present father in previous lifetimes. But unless his father himself asked him – and although that is quite possible, I am not aware of any letter or other document about that having ever been published – it is probable that no one ever thought of doing such a thing, so on these family ties from Atlantean times this is the end result that my research has reached!…
The dear Professor and his son perhaps have shared their secret and kept it for themselves…