(Return to part 1)
Tolkien has a nuanced, rather unorthodox view of evil. It does not exist per se in his books, but has emerged from something originally good through distortion or degeneration. Thus, the Ringwraiths were once powerful humans, Saruman (a servant of Sauron) was one of the chief wizards, and Gollum was once a hobbit. The evil in Tolkien’s works is more like an invisible parasite that seeks a host to have an impact on the world. It is only through the decision to let the abysmal in that it can become powerful.
Nor is the writer concerned with condemning evil. Without the cooperation of the earthly greed for power, symbolised by Gollum, the Ring could not have been destroyed. As long as the ring exists, the desire for self-will also exists. Only after Gollum falls into the abyss together with the ring does it come to an end. The abyssal ultimately destroys itself and is thereby redeemed.
The task Frodo takes on leads him to overcome resistance and gain clarity and inner strength. Evil becomes the source of something good. Arriving at the destination of the journey, the companions succeed in destroying the Ring and Sauron’s army crumbles to dust. The ring is returned to the fire of Mount Doom, from which it was forged by Sauron. At this moment a new space of consciousness is created – a space in which man can first be truly free.
The inner transformation
Frodo, the hero of the story, does not possess the necessary virtues from the beginning. He must allow them to develop and mature within him in the course of the plot. Frodo’s journey can be understood as a prototype of an inner process of transformation and realisation.
Can we also follow this path?
We can embark on an adventure journey into our inner being by leaving our comfort zone and exploring our own underworld (our Mordor) ever deeper. From the depths of our being, inklings of freedom emerge to the surface of consciousness. So far, we have mostly translated these impulses into self-will. We have forged our own ring and in doing so have sometimes suppressed others. Only after a long, depriving journey through karmic entanglements does a higher concept of freedom mature.
The situation in Mount Doom is a special moment of decision and liberating action. We are given the opportunity to surrender our will to power, our self-will in favour of the higher necessity and to gain freedom for all time. This is about the distinction between two concepts of freedom: either freedom for me and the mine or freedom for all with the surrender of one’s own will to power. True freedom does not tolerate oppression. It leads us out of isolation into wholeness and means permanent surrender to the higher ideal of freedom.
We also realise that real change can only begin within us. Then we discover the liberating possibilities and no longer let obstacles stop us. Developing confidence and optimism requires that we not let go of the hand that holds the light out to us, no matter how arduous and gloomy the path to the inner mountain of destiny may sometimes be. The light that accompanies us strengthens and uplifts everything that resonates with it – just like the strengthening effect of Galadriel’s vial. The forces at work in the hidden – in the unconscious – can thereby be recognised and redeemed.
The transformation path leads from the adaptation mode into the surrender mode until overcoming. When Frodo leaves Mount Doom, he has changed inwardly. Freedom has been won by him: a wholeness on a higher level. We follow long development paths. In the transition from one stage of development to the next, obstructive forces often get in the way, as when the bird chick has to break through the protective eggshell. The rigid and retaining forces can be protective and nurturing for a long time; they become “evil” when they exceed their measure. The circle (or ring) is actually a divine symbol of unity and perfection. The Ring of Power was forged by Sauron in the Fire of Origin. He used the divine powers to apply them on a lower spiral of development. By individually and collectively overcoming the forces of resistance on the evolutionary path, we make the ring symbol once again a sublime and divine symbol of wholeness.
At the end of the narrative, Frodo is allowed to travel to Valinor, the home of the Valar, the Elven gods, and the world where the elves live forever, in recognition of his deeds. Valar is related to Valhalla, the Hall of the Gods in Norse mythology. Valinor symbolises the pure spiritual world where no darkness exists. This place is the destination of his life’s journey.