Analogical Meaning in Lord of the Rings

by Mark Murdock

Biography and
Bibliography

part 3 of 6

To recap: To defeat the dark lord we follow Tolkien's steps:

  1. Recognize that we possess a ring of power and refuse it.
  2. Journey away from our false comfort zone to face our deepest fears.

As I mentioned, we do not go alone. And this brings me to the third step: enlisting the aid of our Fellowship.

The central illusion our ego constructs is a sense of disconnectedness from the greater universe. We believe we are alone. Any help that might be available exists outside of us, in an authority figure, a doctor or priest, or in knowledge contained in books. Spiritually, we seek help from heaven, another dimension apart from the world. We petition these forces for help in prayer, and wait for some outward manifestation of our wish.

But are we truly this disconnected?

We have been culturally brainwashed to believe that we are solely our identities. The voice that is inside of you is monolithic; it is you and you alone — an inner you. To hear “other” voices is tantamount to insanity. You have stepped outside of culturally established limits. You are mentally ill and in need of medication and perhaps institutionalization.

Yet maverick thinkers like Julian Jaynes question this mainstream dogma. In his book, The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Jaynes suggests our consciousness or self-awareness is a relatively recent development in man, and probably emerged when we became literate. Before that point, we experienced other voices as the gods. We were a collection of influences before this single, monolithic ego was born.

When we disconnect from our ego, we become an instrument for reception, like a radio. We can tune ourselves to other frequencies and receive wisdom.

We might imagine for a moment that we are an assembly, or as Tolkien puts it, a Fellowship. There is an Arthurian round table that represents our total wholeness. Here again is the symbol of the circle. Around the table sit aspects of our Self, archetypes, or characters.

There is the Wizard or Magician that guides us along our path. There is the Dwarf, a builder and explorer of subterranean (i.e. subconscious) structures. There is the Elf, our immortal spirit of Truth and Beauty. There is the Hobbit, the innocent child prior to the ego emergence, the nature spirit who cultivates the Earth, the boy prior to initiation. There is the Warrior and the Lover. There is the King, the true leader of this fellowship, but who remains in exile.

And lastly we cannot forget who dominates our table for now, and the source of all darkness in our world and in ourselves. Sauron rules through the ring itself, the ego or egg. He is the serpent that entwines the egg. Here we have another version of the fairy tales of the Dragon imprisoning the princess in the tower.

When we wear our rings of power, there is only one voice, that of our frightened ego, the agent of Sauron. But as Tolkien illustrates, when we take the ring off, we are surrounded by our fellowship, our friends.

We have the capacity to receive needed guidance by accessing these archetypes. In a very similar manner, when Shamans talk to plants for medicines, they hear the responses in their heads.

And since our outer world is but an external projection of our inner world, we may also meet people who embody these archetypes for us. We will meet friends along the way.

Again, central to summoning this fellowship is removing the ring and refusing its power.

We must be willing to let go of our fear-based security and risk the unknown. We must muster our courage and face our fears. We must trust. Like Gandalf's leap of faith from the bridge at Khazad-Dûm, we fall into the abyss not really knowing what awaits us.

It is at this letting go, when we most are in need of help, that we discover these supportive friends. We rely on our intuition and experience the awe of synchronicity. Hidden forces now are free to work.

But if the fear becomes too much, we struggle with returning to the security of our precious monolithic ego, just like Frodo. The all-seeing (all-needing-to-know) eye reappears. Our Fellowship is lost.

All of these characters or voices reside inside us. Man is the Buddhist middle way, Tolkien's Middle Earth. Man is the pot in which all of these archetypes are combined. We are the alchemist's alembic.

We are the Fellowship.

The goal is wholeness. But there is one last archetype that we have not mentioned. This is the shadow that the ego creates from its own light of consciousness. It is a collection of everything the ego insists it is not. It lives apart from our awareness, in the shadows and below in the caverns. Removing the ring lures it out into the light...

It is the creature Gollum, our shadow, and it must be reckoned with....


Proceed to part 4...

Copyright © 2008 by Mark Murdock

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