On Fellowship

Andrew Sweeny
6 min readOct 29, 2020

Recently, I published a series of short meditations on philia, one of the classical of greek forms of love/friendship, a term which means something like ‘brotherly love’. I drew on Aristotle, who said that there are three kinds of friends: the ones that are useful, those who give us pleasure, and those that orient us toward the good. Aristotle also spoke eros (passionation, erotic love), storage (deep enduring love), and agape (unconditional, divine love). Of course, none of these forms of love are separate and each inform (and form) the other.

There is another type of love/friendship relationship worth exploring, which John Vervaeke proposed to me our recent podcast: fellowship. The notion of fellowship, Vervaeke pointed out, comes from the Pythagorean tradition and was absorbed into the Christian ethos. It can complement Aristotle’s vision.

A fellowship is, according to Wikipedia, ‘a of who share the same or ‘. Having an ‘interest’ means being oriented toward some kind of meaning; having an aim is to be directed toward a future goal. A fellowship therefore could be thought of group friends and associates oriented toward creating meaning and a future. But this definition still seems to me a bit dry: fellowship also has a sacred quality. We can look to JRR Tolkien’s ‘Fellowship of the Ring’ to get a deeper picture.

A fellowship, as exemplified by the Fellowship of the Ring, is a small group of honorable individuals, tied together by filial love and the dedication to some great quest to redeem the world. Tolkien’s ‘Fellowship’ is a rag-tag council of Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, and humans, who struggle to defeat an army of totalitarian subhuman beings called Orcs.

The Lord of the Rings is not about superhuman acts of power or magic-it is not the wizard Gandalf who saves the world, but those short and unremarkable half-human creatures with huge hairy feet called Hobbits. Hobbits become heroes of the fellowship because of the depth of their camaraderie, self-sacrifice, filial affection, and single-minded dedication. It is the bonds of love and fellowship which defeat the Orcs in the end, not powers or technologies.

The heroes of the Lord of The Rings are notorious homebodies, and yet they leave the comfort of family, tribe, and nation to respond to the crisis at hand. Hobbits endure what John Vervaeke…

Andrew Sweeny

Compressed scraps of angel melody, stories, essays, rants against reductionism, commands from the deep.