Impressions of The Lord of the Rings

  • In The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien we are presented with a fantasy about a fellowship of individuals who are on a quest to overcome the rise of the dark forces in the land of Mordor in the East led by the disembodied power of Sauren. The method of this quest is to meet the enemy in battle and to place a great ring of power in a volcano in the enemy's territory which will drain them of all their power. Through great travail, courage, and mettle the mission is accomplished in the end. Frodo and Sam bring the ring to the crack of Mt. Doom and the power in the East is destroyed. In the battlefield the forces of the good are about to be annihilated when this fortunate event take place, which causes the forces of Mordor to abandon the battlefield. Aragon, a member of the fellowship becomes king of men.
  • The fellowship consists of four Shirelings (hobbits), a small but powerful dwarf (Gimli), an archer elf from a mystic race (Legolas), men (as us, Aragorn and Boromir), and a wizard (Gandalf).
  • Events begin when Gandalf the wizard perceives the evil emerging in the East. When he arrives in the Shire he comes to realize that the power to destroy the evil has been found in this pastoral land amongst these simple Hobbit people in the form of the ring of power; the One Ring that rules all other rings of power on earth. Frodo has come to own this ring, formerly owned by his uncle Bilbo, who himself found it when the former owner, the creature Gollum lost it.
  • Perhaps we can say that Gandalf is the pioneer who perceives the problems that are emerging, and wishes to undertake a great initiative to combat it. He is not unlike Churchill who meets with great resistance, and yet eventually convinces. As pioneer Gandalf is especially great because he has organized the undertaking in great detail. Like Churchill who made his case before Parliament, Gandalf is wise to gather the tribes of peoples together to discuss the issue, to convince them of the impending doom. From out of that meeting come the members of the fellowship, with representatives of the major races of Middle Earth, excluding Mordor and a few other allies. Gandalf has organized the convincing stage of his effort, even before he has organized the actual effort. Many pioneers are simply at the mercy of society's acceptance in the first place; whereas he has organized the acceptance. He is following the most positive process of success at the level of the pioneer. He has inner powers to help him in that regard. That is a valuable asset and resource for Infinite success, which is what is almost required in this story.
  • It is a story of good and evil, and anyone and everyone sees it that way. Still we can go further for related or deeper truths. One is that the races of Middle Earth were unorganized as a whole; as each one pulled in its own direction, or had hostile feelings to others. We see that the Great Enemy forced them to come together, to work together to overcome the Evil. Thus, the Evil was the great force that enabled them to overcome thousands of years of disharmony, turning it into the first degree of an essential unity. Evil was the cause, the enabler of their progress and evolution. We can, of course, see this paralleling the situation in current Europe, as a result of events of World War II, where unity was forged as a result of the Evil of fascism. Such things as the forming of the United Nations, the forming of a common European currency, and the European Union, would not have come into being without the negative events of World War II. (Negatives are positives in disguise; seen most clearly as one rises to higher levels of consciousness.) Like the races of Middle Earth, the nations of Europe were in disharmony prior to WWII. In addition, the actions they took were often questionable ones, that brought out their own greed and mercenary qualities that in the end only facilitated the rise of Nazi Germany.
  • We see a couple of clear cut examples of this treachery among the races on the Good side of this great battle of Middle earth. King Theoden has been mesmerized by his counsel Wormtongue who is doing the bidding of the evil Sarumen, who is the agent of the Great Evil, the disembodied spirit of Sauren. Theoden is powerless to act, to marshal his forces, in the face of danger because he is under the dark spell of Sarumen through Wormtongue. Likewise, the Steward of the kingship of Gondor (who reigns over another kingdom of men), acts out of complete falsehood, causing his sons Boromir and sFaramir to suffer greatly, not to mention all of the people in his kingdom. He also fails to act in the face of treachery. His falsehood gets entangled in the treachery of Mordor causing so much pain for those around him, whereas Theoden comes around as a result of the wizardry, rationality, and leadership of Gandalf. The Steward is thus an example of the complete anachronism.
  • A Great Threat comes from the outside to the disorganization and (even petty) conflict inside of the Good nations of Middle Earth.
  • We see that virtually all individuals involved on the Good side must rise beyond their current psychological nature to deal with the great threat. A study can be made showing the transition of character each had to make. The most obvious examples are the hobbits who are simple agricultural people thrust into the great conflict. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin must throw off their simple ways to meet the threat. In the end they succeed through a monumental physical and psychological effort, including physical/vital values of courage, determination, and perseverance, and psychological values of teamwork, harmony, friendship, All for One and One for All spirit, etc.
  • Even the evolved person of Gandalf must undergo change. The obvious change he goes through is when he is "reborn" as Gandalf the White to an even greater power. What I found particularly enjoyable is how this great sage and mystic was able to adapt to incidences that challenged his own individual limitations. A few times the Hobbits Merry or Pippin did outrageously stupid things that had near term dire repercussions for the safety of the fellowship and its mission. Yet each time Gandalf came around quickly and saw that each of their foolish actions led to unfoldings which helped out the cause. He thus moved from anger with their stupidity to recognition of its purposefulness in the larger scheme of things. [See thoughts on "Seeing beyond the positive and negative'] This is the workings of a rational man. He bore no grudge; he saw the wider truth in their stupidity, which led to events that actually benefited the traveling community. (E.g. Merry and Pippin were moved to take actions to make up for their stupidity, which were very helpful in the flow of events and final outcome.)
  • Even Galadriel the great seer of the Elves, and narrator of the story, does not quite see the ultimate positive outcome of the story, which comes as a result of the workings of the rise of consciousness of the individual members of the fellowship. (Rise of consciousness and personal evolution transcends the ability of even the greatest seer in that land to perceive the final outcome. Life needs to run its course for the full truth to come out; an obvious yet a profound idea.)
  • Many life responses*[1] can be seen throughout the story. We see perhaps 2-4 major ones in each episode. At least two dozen minor ones can be found in each of the three books/films if one studied them carefully. Some minor ones can be later perceived as major ones upon repeated study. Seeing the global views of life response in the story is yet another fascinating perspective. As we saw the transitions that a group of individuals like Darcy, Mr. Bennet, and Eliza made in response to the single great event of the elopement in Pride and Prejudice (which from their side enabled positive life response when the elopement was suddenly settled), we can see such composite life response around major events or perhaps the overall or ultimate events of The Lord of the Rings.
  • One question that rose in my mind is whether you can see as much life response, or character of life in a fantasy like The Lord of the Rings as you would in a story like Pride and Prejudice. It would seem that Austin is closer to her characters in one sense than Tolkien because she lives in that world. The closeness to the reality of life, and thus a true unfolding of that life including life response is at least currently better suited to the "real" type fiction of Austin, then the fantasy type fiction of Tolkien. On the other hand, in the fantasy we have the opportunity to express the subtlety of a Gandalf, of the inner forces and powers at work in life (though they are in the story more mystical and magical than spiritual; not unlike Harry Potter). This is the current reality. A step further in this evolution of literature is that we can bring in the spiritual into the common stories of man, as Bob attempted in The Legend of Brahman and I attempted somewhat in The Journey. Celestine Prophecy and other works have taken this on; though the great works that marry conscious elucidation of the spiritual truths married to a story of fiction are yet to be produced. Even beyond these are the people who actually live lives of spiritual truths which enable infinite life response, giving a new slant on the term "reality is stranger than fiction."
  • One life response I particularly enjoyed is in the second film, The Two Towers. The kingdom of Rohan has fallen under the spell of Sarumen, the evil wizard who now serves the dark lord Sauren. The king Theoden is under this spell of Sarumen though the treachery of his council Wormtongue. Wormtongue also has eyes for the courageous and beautiful daughter of Théoden, Eowyn. When he approaches her with his affection, Eowyn vehemently rejects his advances, noting his treachery. A moment later she runs out of the castle which overlooks a great plain with mountains in the distance, and sees the sudden arrival of three members of the fellowship, including Gandalf, who have come to awaken king Theoden out of his spell. Her fervent and strong rejection of Wormtongue attracts this positive outcome, which in the moments that follow lead to the reawakening of Theoden from his dark spell through the wizardry of Gandalf, and his commitment of the forces of Rohan to the great struggle.
  • There are many such rapid abundant positive responses to be seen from this story; fantasy fiction that it may be. The same with negative responses. Still I believe the true richness of life depicted in literature will bring out life response in is greater fullness. It can span the details of the true realities of life, to a portrayal of the subtle and spiritual powers that are consciously being utilized by the characters. Melded together it would be the beginnings of a Great Literature. If lived, then Great Life on Earth.
  • To return to the earlier theme of the necessity of evil: We see this clearly in the relationship between the treacherous creature Gollum who guides Frodo and Sam to Mt. Doom where the ring is dropped which ends the power of evil in the world. Gollum, a former Hobbit himself, since he initially came in possession of the ring, has become monstrous, with two sides to his nature; one sweet, and the other villainous as he covets the ring and all of its power for good and evil for himself. Though it is known by Sam that his motives are mostly dark, we see that even Sam's justifiable anger [no anger is actually ever justifiable, even Gandalf's miffs with Merry and Pippin] and hostility towards Gollum cannot overcome the fact that Gollum was the one individual who could guide Frodo and Sam to Mt. Doom. And he does so, enabling the successful outcome of all events, though Gollum's own demise. Thus we see evil, or at least a kind of split-personality treachery of Gollum's, at work that enables the final outcome to take place. Gollum's treachery serves a greater truth than his own evil. In fact, it moves events forward. Without him there would be no great positive outcome. (Unless Frodo and Sam were to become conscious individuals who can use inner resources to marshal other positive forces towards them that would have more easily enabled their success. These are speculations of the spirit.)
  • Gollum's split-personality can be seen as an embodiment of good and evil that represents the conflicting elements of good and evil in society.
  • As the seer Galadriel points out in the narration of the story, men cannot overcome the allure of the power of the ring, as when Boromir's great forefather (men) could have destroyed it an permanently, eliminating evil from returning to the world, only to keep it for himself, which enabled the Great Darkness to come back through Mordor. (Parallels to the greed that enabled the Great Depression which supported the rise of the Nazis can be made. Other events in history will serve this purpose.)
  • The true hero of the story can be said to be Sam, who provides psychogical strength and protection for the heavy load that Frodo carries around his neck (the ring.) His positive attitude is unyielding, and helps Frodo complete his mission at Mt. Doom. Enough cannot be said for the role of Sam; just as enough cannot be said for the active and involved mysticism and truth awareness and leadership powers of Gandalf (mirroring or even surpassing the character of a similar Merlin in literature), and the bravery of Aragon, Gimli, and Legolas. Aragon the man transcends his former physical bravery at the end as he summons a power of great faith to bring on board the banished but frightening invisible warrior race who eventually help in the destruction of the army of Mordor. [The faith comes through the great sword of power reforged by the mystical-like elves, which had been used hundreds of years earlier to fight back a previous iteration of the dark force.] At that point, through depiction of faith, Tolkien has brought in a touch of spirituality into the story. This is but a small example of the possibility of the merging of spirit, fantasy/creativity, and character in a future great literature an film.
  • It is interesting that just as the Two Towers film was completed the two towers of 9/11 fell. Thousands of people around the world have had some premonitory experiences such as seeing sign of 9/11 before it came about.
  • Jackson the director has followed the process of accomplishment to a great extent, through vision, values, direction, goals, organization of the details, and an unyielding persevering effort; all of which gathers, focuses, the energy behind into a great power for accomplishment. The results is great achievement, art, as well as financial success.
  • For 25 years the baby boom generation wanted Tolkien's story of the Ring brought to life in film. This monumental effort is the realization of their dream, a dream of creative idealism. It was written by a man of a previous generation who knew the threats of world war; who married this dire experience to the pastoral, poetic, culture-expanding, freedom, fantasy themes and values appreciated by the baby boomer and later generations.
  • Much of the fantasy literature and film of recent decades owe their origins to Tolkien.
  • A true spiritual influenced literature, i.e. where people call in the Divine spirit, the spiritual Being, into the Becoming moments of events, can even replace, reinforce, and ennoble such mystical/magical literature. There is a spirit beyond the mystical or magical that can take the younger generations beyond the magic/mysticism of the enormously successful Harry Potter series (whose magic is a kind of training wheels for spirit).

Values in The Lord of the Rings

Values abound throughout The Lord of the Rings, whether it be the personal values of the individual players, or the social values of the communities and the greater collectives. To point out some examples-

  • The value of All for One and One for All can be seen amongst Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas.
  • The value of teamwork and common purpose can be seen in the Fellowship
  • We see the value of close communication and coordination as the fires rise throughout the different lands to signal one another of the impending great battle against Mordor
  • We see family values in the Shire amongst the Hobbits
  • We see a kind of cosmic punctuality when Gandalf tells Aragorn to look for the light in the East in five days hence exactly as the sun will rise. Gandalf arrives just at that time just as he said with his army to save the day.
  • We see organizational values of planning, coordination, etc. by Gandalf to organize the fellowship. (Planning is a skill, which is different than a value. e.g. Aragorn had the skills of tracking and hunting, Gandalf and Elrond of negotiation, Gimli of the ax, and Legolas of the bow and arrow.)
  • We see respect for the individual (of other's opinions) when Gandalf is tolerant of nay-saying opinions of Boromir and others at the forming of the fellowship in Rivendell
  • We see the value of service to others in society as people give of themselves to fight the evil.
  • We see endless examples of physical courage. We see other examples of vital courage, as e.g. demonstrated by Sam. We see mental courage by Gandalf and Elrond, the leaders of the elves, who look out to the deeper truths and realities of the situation, and embrace it. (These are also values of strength and toughness.)
  • Boromir fights the Uruk-hai trying to protect Merry and Pippin, showing great courage and heroism.
  • We see the self-givingness and the goodness of Sam, which are spiritual values.
  • We see Aragorn's value of reason and diplomacy in the face of arguing parties.
  • We see the value of seeking meaning in the world as Gandalf explains to Frodo Frodo's life's purpose, or when Sam pleads to fight for goodness and everything decent in the world.
  • We see Gandalf's fierce pursuit of the value of Truth; i.e. the truth, the reality of the situation that must be understood and confronted head on.
  • We see the persistence of Sam's right attitudes; i.e. his positive attitudes in the face of grave difficulty and danger.
  • We see the persistence, perseverance and determination of Frodo and Sam
  • We see the cooperation that develops amongst the races; e.g. the Elves with the peoples of Rohan. (They have had a difficult relationship in the past. Thus we also see negative values and attitudes as well throughout the story.)
  • The value of sacrifice is everywhere.
  • Even Gollum trusts (Frodo) on one side of his nature; while the other distrusts.
  • Gandalf makes reasonable decisions everywhere; even has the supra-reason of intuition, revelation, et al, as he sees into the truth of things and senses the future. This relates to his own value of knowledge and wisdom. (Sarumen's wizard's pride and love of power overcame his wisdom.)
  • Gandalf, Elrond, and King Theoden demonstrate leadership skills, and value it.
  • Merry and Pippin share the values of fun and enjoyment no matter how frivolous and simple-minded.
  • Bilbo sought adventure; i.e. "Romance of life," a great value at some points in his life. (The other hobbits are ordinarily the opposite; they seek the security of the Shire, which produces one of the dynamics of the story as they confront the reality of Mordor which requires them to journey out of the Shire.)
  • The value of friendship is seen in many places; as in the relationship between Merry and Pippin, and Frodo and Sam, and between Aragorn and Legolas.
  • True love is embodied to a large degree in the relationship between Arwen and Aragorn; as it is for Eowyn. Arwen demonstrates virtue.
  • Loyalty is expressed in many places. E.g. it can be seen in Gimli and Legolas, and ultimately in Samwise for Frodo. Even Faramir is loyal to his father the Steward who sends him on a ruinous mission.
  • Resourcefulness is in many places as they make the best of difficult situations; e.g. in battle, within the constraint of unfolding events, etc.
  • Merry and Pippin learn to take responsibility for their foolish actions.
  • Gandalf is calm and quiet in the face of difficulty. (This is more of an attitude than a value. Attitudes issue more from the feelings and emotions of the vital tinged with a little mind, whereas values is a mental ideal and sentiment shaped by the emotions.)
  • Positive values toward nature and the environment come from Tolkien, expressed by Tom Bombadill (in the book), and is embodied and symbolized by the tree Ents.
  • Gandalf, Galadriel, and the leader of the elves (Elrond) embrace the value of having the Global view of things.
  • The elves value serenity and deep contemplation.
  • Men value power, as in the power of the ring. As Galadriel points out, it has been their downfall. (Obviously, Sarumen and others on the dark side also value the same. They also value force.)
  • Frodo feels gratitude toward Sam for his support; which is a spiritual attitude and value.
  • Sam values the gallantry and nobility of Faramir when Faramir saw the truth of the situation.
  • Eowyn shows strength against the treachery of Wormtongue.
  • The Hobbits value pleasure; i.e. the simple physical pleasures.
  • The values of tradition are seen in varying places and cultures.
  • Tolkien values the quest and the beauty of surroundings, architecture, nature. He also values the beauty and fullness of language.
  • Sam likes to nurture (as he does with Frodo), just as he likes to nurture plants and trees as a gardener.
  • Aragorn values what is right and just and acts (action) on it.
  • Elves value solitude; hence where they live is hidden from sight.
  • Samwise has a certain degree of faith, which is another spiritual value.

The Physicality of Lord of the Rings

In watching the third film of The Lord of the Rings, it struck me that this is a story about the evil that rises in the East, which is attracted by the UTTER PHYSICALITY*[2] of the "good" nations of the West. What enables the victory of the West is their ability to come together and overcome their own physicality -- accomplished through an alliance of these disparate nations; where before each nation pulled in its own direction, or was simply oblivious to the concerns of the world (e.g. the Hobbits). This is analogous to WWII. Everything in the story issues from that fact, and even Gandalf's wisdom is the wisdom that calls for physical courage, strength, heroism, practical organization, collaboration, etc. -- fundamental ways to overcome the physical challenge induced by his own peoples' physical view of the world. Any deeper knowledge expressed in the story is shallow. The action is all at the material plane, something we in the modern West easily identify with; which is one reason for the popularity of this story. I.e. we relate to the expression of positive Western material values, avoiding the deeper meaning of things.

Compare that to the Bhagavad-Gita where Krishna, against the backdrop of similar battle, addresses the issues of causality, soul, etc. At play are more than the physical values offered by Gandalf to the people to overcome the physical threat self-induced through its own physicality. At play is the very meaning and purpose of life, especially for the individual.

The wisdom Krishna's brings to Arjuna is a distillation of the ancient Rishi experience of the spirit. Now man needs to find that. In the West, the physical age, or the era of the physicality of man is coming to an end. It can be seen in the emergence of the European Union. The USA needs to take the next step, perhaps an even greater step. A movement to rationality, collaboration, etc. may be a necessary interim step.

The Process of Creating Great Cinema: The Lord of the Rings

We see the qualities needed for great success in life by viewing director Jackson's personal qualities in bringing Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings to the screen. First, there is a great interest in bringing this work to the public. This is his vision. Second, he has specific goals in mind for carrying out that vision (e.g. make three films in one go round, raise $500 million, earn $3 billion in revenues, etc.) Third, we see that his interest includes deep values as demonstrated by his dedication to the deepest meaning and spirit of the books. This is the key hidden secret to his success! Fourth, there is his organization of the quantitative goals and qualitative goals (i.e. his values) into the myriad of objectives necessary for their achievement. E.g. the required departments, the project plans, the right marketing, finance, people, etc. This turns the directed energy into a vast power for accomplishment. Fourth, there are the right strategies and time-bound action to dos that will enable the objectives to be carried out in a myriad of details. Fifth, there is an enormous, tireless, and persevering effort born of his great physical and vital energy (established in part by his very positive attitudes) to carry out the action to dos to perfection. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, there is a great creativity and dynamism unleashed in the process, revealing the infinite variations, potentials, and possibilities of life. Together these ingredients are the recipe that enables an overwhelming success, and engenders a great Delight of Being. (One other thing: He has captured, got hold of, something deep that is emerging in the subconscious of society. He is a pioneer individual uncovering an aspect of an emerging higher consciousness in the world.)

This article was originally published by Roy Posner for Growth Online

  1. *"Life Response" is the way life suddenly, abundantly, and miraculously responds positively on the outside to a corresponding change of your consciousness inside, apparently defying notions of cause and effect, and space and time. E.g. you change an attitude and suddenly a moment later someone who you never knew before contacts you from half way round the world with news of a big contract, of monetary gain, or other success for you. We can learn to make such responses from life occur all of the time, enabling vast accomplishment, success, and happiness in life.
  2. *On "Physicality" -- Man's lowest consciousness is expressed in his physical consciousness, aka his "physicality." That physicality expresses not only as brutality, but as unconsciousness, inertia, unwillingness to change, anachronistic tendencies, inflexibility, lack of tolerance and openness, a material only view of the world, expression of ego, ritualistic religion, etc. Nature breaks the physicality of nations when those peoples experience natural disaster, when the nation is attacked by another, and in other ways. Nature, as an instrument of a Higher Consciousness (the Spirit), enables that people to progress to a higher consciousness through such negative means. The same occurs for individuals, through the difficulties of life. A higher approach to progress is through conscious self-awareness, through rationality and spirit. the progress of man through Soul instead of the difficult path of Nature is the future that awaits man.

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