Some of the visitors to this blog might wonder why I give so much importance to Tolkien’s stories, which are after all, they will say, ‘just stories’, entertainment; what they rightly expect here is on the contrary ‘serious Spirituality’ that they can learn from for their own life.
Well, it so happens that the remarkable fictional world invented by Tolkien, besides being most certainly entertaining, is also illustrating very accurately many of the most important aspects of the Spiritual Evolutive Process this blog is dedicated to. It is that way because JRRT himself was a deeply spiritual person, and he couldn’t write for long about anything that didn’t include the spiritual dimension of Life, as it was his own constant preoccupation.
The total faith he had in a God of Love led him gradually to an overall understanding of Life and of Evolution which is quite extraordinary. It goes actually beyond the rigid limits prescribed by the Church and Theology in the Catholic Religion he had chosen like his mother had, but ended up feeling somehow imprisoned by in later years, although his own faith in God remained always the same.
What he has described in his books (including the many documents published later by his son Christopher) seems to me to have been very much a way to put out in a relatively free manner his own deepest beliefs as they evolved along the years, and to work out as much as possible the main questions he was since ever particularly aware of, given the loss of his father at an early age, and then also of his mother when a mere teenager : mortality versus immortality, and the pain of separation, and of course what he called ‘estel’, often translated as ‘hope’, but which is more inner certitude or faith.
On the ‘TORn’ (The One Ring net) Discussion Boards in general, my only regret is that most participants (like other human beings) consider the Primary World as the only ‘real’ one, and don’t seem to be convinced much of the applicability of what ‘works’ in Middle-earth to that Primary World we live in. But after much research and experimentation in my own life since nearly 40 years, I find on the contrary that Tolkien was ‘right on’ about many things … and I admire him all the more for that.
The two worlds were kind of together in his own consciousness, there is no doubt about that, however hard he may have tried (if he really did at all) to keep the two separate. So I don’t think we who are studying his writings should try to set the two apart too much in our own consciousness, otherwise we will deprive ourselves of a lot of inner wisdom we could benefit from by reading Tolkien.
Arguments are often pushed a bit too much to the extreme, it seems to me; while argumenting, people are up there in their heads, losing touch with actual reality, both the Ancient one as really described by Tolkien, and the Contemporary one as we really experience it – which is nowhere as absolutely bleak and uninspiring as intellectual argumentation often makes it to be.
Even if Elves and other ‘mythical’ heroes aren’t very visibly here any more, at least the Hobbity kind of hero is still very much around; if one looks beyond the appearances, one will still find as many of them as Tolkien did, to his own great surprise and awe, in the nightmarish muddy trenches of WWI during the murderous Battle of the Somme in France, July to December 1916. This first huge conflict, and then its renewed rising as World War II, could give the discouraging impression that this rising of Evil to try and dominate the world will never stop, and that in the end it might succeed. The present situation as depicted in the main media everywhere seems to be rather hopeless in many ways; in many people’s minds, including a lot of our youth, the very future of humanity and of the planet seems to be doomed.
And yet at the same time some incredible positive changes keep happening when least expected, that startle us awake again to new hope.
Some of the great spiritual persons of our time, in this case Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, started the experimental place that Auroville is, precisely because things aren’t destined to stay the way they are now; they have explained actually very well the supposedly insolvable problem of Evil and its future solution here in our physical world itself.
It’s all to be seen in the framework of an EVOLVING world, in which the conditions that exist for the time being may not be the absolute laws we believe them to be, and in which an awakening of humanity to its secret divine nature will mean that this divine potential will become the New Reality we will live in then, right here upon this dear little Arda – er, sorry, the Earth!
And perhaps Evil and the beings that enact it deliberately (whether embodied directly as humans or through others who are embodied) are in the meantime the very best puzzle-cum-challenge for both our intelligence and our courage to exercise themselves until we not only understand at last what it’s all about, but gradually reconquer our lost divine powers… and finally win the Game!!!
For the wonderful secret Meaning and Purpose of it all is indeed that it is a great Game, a huge Adventure we have enrolled ourselves into for the challenge it offered to us as the eternal Spirits we actually are, innumerable aspects within the very Being of what we call ‘God’. It is all an immense growth process, in and also out of Space and Time, in this case the specific pocket of Space and Time that is found on the physical reality of the planet Earth.
For our inner sense of discrimination to grow as quickly as possible – which is absolutely indispensable, as Inner Discrimination is the central Key – each of us must be presented all the time with evil possible choices along with correct ones, until we know what we really want, don’t get confused or intimidated anymore, and learn to follow the choice of our soul always, for it is the only part in ourselves that truly sees through all the traps, and knows at each moment what feels right and what feels wrong, as infallibly as a compass knows the North.
In order to help us also from outside to make the right choices while our individual inner sense of discrimination develops, we will find at every step also outer signs, indications, or advice given by some wise person we will happen to meet.
This is in Tolkien’s world the role mostly of the three Beings from the spiritual dimension sent on a mission in the form of three old Wizards to help the populations of Middle-earth resist the dark power that another such Being, Sauron, has alas turned into. But there is no guarantee that the three missioned ones will remain faithful to the voice of Truth in themselves either… The true attitude in a Wizard should be always one of compassion for those other beings he has come to help. The Wizard called Gandalf will indeed, in his own grumbling manner, be full of compassion and even tenderness, especially for the little people called Hobbits, and some of them will respond most genuinely to that love.
When the persons’ problem is primarily pride, though, like in the case of the High Wizard Saruman the White who after a while became a traitor to his mission and finally a most dangerous ally of Sauron, however compassionate you might want to be towards them, they will always feel humiliated by it and just throw your compassion in your face. Or they will see your compassion as a weakness, and you as a fool to be abused even more than before, whenever the possibility may arise again… *sigh* What to do?…
Also, the problem not to be forgotten is that showing mercy is not the only thing that matters; what matters most is that something should genuinely change in the person concerned; Gandalf knows that very well, and knows that unless Saruman is able to humble himself at least to the extent of acknowledging and regretting publicly the terrible wrongs he has done to others, nothing will have really changed in him, his pride will still have the better on him just as before.
Only when Saruman would make the genuine inner progress that he absolutely needs to make FOR HIS OWN SAKE first of all, would the true result be obtained, that is the most important one.
For behind all the mutual wrongs (and also good things) that we may find ourselves doing to each other in this immense Story of Life, behind the surface events that we label positive or negative, at each moment is given to each of us the opportunity to grow closer to the true, divine nature that is our potential. Every time, whether we seize that opportunity for inner growth, or on the contrary to debase ourselves ever further, is left to our individual choice; no one can make that choice for us. This is each person’s inner freedom, our most fundamental and inalienable right, whether we use it wisely or not.
In the same way as Saruman, and for the same reason, Denethor, Steward of Gondor, unable to curb his arrogance and his jealousy of Gandalf, meets the terrible death he has chosen for himself, and even tried to impose also on his younger son Faramir, saved only by the direct intervention of Gandalf. With Théoden King of Rohan Gandalf’s inner influence is more successful, and finally Théoden makes the right decision: to go with his full army to the defense of besieged Minas Tirith, although Gondor itself had not come to the help of Rohan in its time of need.
As for Aragorn, the last Heir of the Numenorean Kings of old, and so the rightful Heir to the throne of Gondor, he has been raised in secret by Elrond among the Elves of Imladris/Rivendell, so his genuine inner nobility has never disappeared: it is only natural for him to be aware of what Gandalf truly is and to not only trust and respect him fully, but to love him deeply as well. Gimli the Dwarf is at first dubious, but between Aragorn and Legolas the Elf, who both become his unexpected but staunch friends, he soon blooms into the truth of his own being as well, to the extent of trusting Gandalf completely… and of even falling head over heels in love with Galadriel, the Elvish Lady of Light that Dwarves in general thought to be an evil Sorceress!…
At the other end of the spectrum the least expected heroes Gandalf has to take care of are the three young Hobbits, Sam, Merry and Pippin, who get involved because of their love for Frodo; and Frodo himself, already heroic enough to have brought the malefic Ring, to his own deadly peril, from his home in the Shire to Rivendell. There, having felt again, during the Council of Elrond, and to Gandalf’s briefly visible sorrow, that he was the one ‘meant’ to go on with this task and to take the Ring to its destruction, right back in Sauron’s Mount Doom, he has the courage to volunteer, but then is comforted because his dear Gandalf is also coming, as well as this great ”Strider’ who has turned out to be Aragorn the Dunadan; Legolas and Gimli are joining, and even his three Hobbit friends are coming too, so it all seems much reassuring. But Gandalf secretly knows that he may not be for ever there to guide and help them all, and that Frodo might one day find himself alone to accomplish his impossible mission; so it is to Frodo’s inner training that Gandalf gives all the attention he can, aware of the few defects the exceptional young Hobbit does have to conquer if he is to succeed.
These few but important flaws start appearing when the whole group has to cross the abandoned but Orc-invaded Dwarvish Mines of Moria, and Frodo becomes aware of an additional presence discretely following them: this ‘Gollum’ whom Frodo’s uncle Bilbo should have killed when he had the opportunity, as Frodo says to Gandalf with utter disgust and fear of the ugly creature only glimpsed vaguely from afar.
‘You have not seen him’, Gandalf retorts, and for the first time really scolds Frodo, for his lack of that pity that stayed Bilbo’s arm when he was indeed tempted to kill Gollum.
The way I would explain what Gandalf meant is this:
As long as we haven’t met someone in person, the bad actions or even crimes he/she may be responsible for will tend to appear in the cold light of reason only, as purely objective facts that no ‘attenuating circumstances’ could possibly make more excusable.
But when you actually see the person, if your heart is not totally shut, you will almost always start to get another feeling from the person: no more a mere abstraction in your head, but a real person within a whole subjective world of his/her own, that person may unexpectedly send a different message inwardly to you, touch you, move you, make all your dry and judgmental assertions crumble at once, and instead of scorn and hatred and disgust you may be surprised to feel in yourself pity for that person.
I think this is exactly what happened indeed to Frodo later on in the Emyn Muil, when he did see Gollum and really looked at him.
But what Frodo had to learn was not just pity, that means, more capacity to love even what doesn’t seem to deserve love; he needed also to learn to make decisions in a different way, through intuition instead of the normal thinking process.
Intuition is not only for the Gandalfs…
It is something that can be developed, as anything else.
What a pity that the way to do just that – to develop one’s intuition – isn’t taught widely, I would say, for then it would be handy for everyone who would really be interested enough for taking the trouble to train oneself…
This talent is latent in all of us, only one has to call upon it instead of always calling upon the mind as most people do (unless their individual temperament predisposes them to use their non-mental faculties as much as the mental ones, or even more).
One has to learn to silently and calmly ‘listen’ within, in an aspiration for the Truth, instead of allowing the intellect or/and the emotions to react, which immediately makes so much ‘noise’ and agitation inside, that everything becomes blurred, so to say, and one cannot any more perceive the indication given by our intuition.
Much later, movie-Aragorn surprises Gandalf when they are wondering if Frodo is still alive, and Aragorn quietly asks Gandalf:
‘What does your heart tell you?…’
The Wizard realizes then (and so do we) how much Aragorn has grown inwardly…
But Frodo himself goes beyond what had been told to him previously by Gandalf in Moria; already it had been the memory of some of the words from Gandalf that had given him the courage to cross the river alone towards Mordor; once he meets effectively Gollum, and sees that indeed he pities him, that connects him back again to all he can remember Gandalf advised him to do and not to do. By concentrating in that way inwardly instead of listening to the angry but apparently good advice given to him at the same time by Sam (‘Let’s tie him and leave him!’), Frodo remains very quiet and listens within; and, lo and behold, this is how he is able to suddenly get the inspiration to take Gollum as their guide to Mordor!…
No one in their good mind would have thought of such a thing, which goes against all common sense and the most elementary prudence: Gollum actually just tried to strangle them both!!!
But Frodo knows better, and chooses anyway to follow his intuition: Gollum is the God-sent guide they needed so badly…
And he is indeed, but if Frodo hadn’t called up on his intuition, and instead had followed Sam’s advice, they would probably be still turning around in circles in the Emyn Muil!
The only thing really needed for developing the capacity to receive the intuition is to learn to rely more and more upon the Divine Presence in our heart (or the divine Wisdom high above our head, it doesn’t matter), to sincerely call inwardly for that Help… and then to listen.
Some people would say it’s the voice of their angel they hear, some others call upon the friendly Universe they feel they are a part of, the name we give to it is of no consequence.
In its on-going further evolution, the human species will develop more and more that latent capacity of intuition, so let’s all go for it already!…
A warning, though, for those of us who would learn from all this:
In Moria, when meeting finally the Balrog, the huge demonic creature hiding there, Gandalf, who all the time has to be the example that will inspire the others to also do their best, finds himself confronted to his own destruction.
It is through that self-sacrifice for the sake of the others and of the general good, that he comes indeed to his death (something one could easily harp on and on, as a proof that Gandalf was a fool: ‘See the result!…’); but then, as we know, he is soon revived as a new Gandalf, deserving now to be the one called ‘The White’ and to be invested with even greater power than before (and that’s the true result…).
So, self-sacrifice is there all right, no doubt about that; but at the same time, through the challenge he or others may accept to take up, of an apparently impossible task to be done, inner powers that were only a potential before, get called upon and become active.
In that way, all the main characters who have that kind of inner courage get closer and closer to the full plenitude of the divine nature secretly dormant in them as in all of us.
This glorious, exciting element of progressive inner Victory of the Divine in each of us should not be forgotten when we are trying to see the Purpose we may all have, somewhere in our depths, in our willingness to participate in Eru’s great Story…
These inner victories, however small and unnoticed by others (even small children experience such victories all the time as they grow) give us some of the most powerful joys and most intense satisfactions a human being can experience in life: the sheer exhilaration of our own secret but irresistible divine power to win against all odds. Yes, that’s the ‘Warrior’ aspect in us that is then called upon, even if the Battle is actually within…
This, too, is part of why we are here, and part of what we call ‘Spirituality’, although we don’t usually know it, and don’t imagine at all this gloriously joyful aspect in it !…
‘True spirituality is simple, very simple’, the Mother used to say; no need of high intellectuality or much knowledge. Only the sincerity of our being is needed for it all to start happening, and then to go on happening more and more: this, even those who would be called ‘Hobbits’ among us, can do it…