Tolkien’s Depths

How Jungian of him. This, the “Hithlum passage,” from Morgoth’s Ring as well as Quenta Silmarillion:

But the cry of Morgoth in that hour was the greatest and most dreadful cry that was ever heard in the northern wold: the mountains shook, and the earth trembled, and rocks were riven asunder. Deep in forgotten places that cry was heard. Far beneath the halls of Angband, in vaults to which the Valar in the haste of their assault had not descended, the Balrogs lurked still, awaiting ever the return of their lord. Swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum, and the came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire.

There are other passages in QS that echo this reach into the depths. But I can’t remember them now.

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The Process of Spring

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I hope I don’t get in trouble for copyright violation with these little snippets. Hopefully this site will get such little traffic that the message will get across to interested parties without causing problems!

I like this little passage from the forward of The History of Middle Earth part three, where Christopher is pointing out a period of pronounced creativity for his Father, followed by a satisfaction of a job well done having completed a part of his “task”. So what was the task? Why pour hours and weeks and years into such a rich and deep project? Surely there is something in the process that yields more than just a nice story to tell your kids? In the same way, why am I constantly pulled back to reading the majesty of the Valar and tragedy of the elves and mysteries of Men? So far, reading The History seems to give a little more insight into that process.

I am interested in Tolkien’s process and purpose of writing as much as the content of his stories. For me, finding the underlying meaning of the images and their effect and applicability in my life is really what it’s all about. Although I confess that reading Tolkien also provides a nice and entertaining break from other psychological reading while retaining plenty of fuel for intuitive analysis.

It takes a lot of extra energy to extract answers to those questions from the Tolkiens’ work while Jung and Campbell address them directly. But for some reason Tolkien senior seems to provide the best content for practicing the type of dissection and analysis that can be learned from people like Jung and Campbell.

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Creation as Awakening

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Eskimo, Greenland. From the book Light On Land, pp 65.

Tolkien’s Ainulindale immediately come to mind. The insertion of subordinate consciousness into primordial darkness. The feeling out of the world by the first being(s). The original rejection of evil. The creation of the stars from an earthly source, and finally the awareness of the origination of darkness and the majesty of the light.

The Elves being born in middle earth under the stars is possibly my favorite concept of Tolkien’s stories. There’s something about their existence in the dark and the sensitivity that comes with it that speaks to me heart. It’s as if they were born into the unconscious with a deeper awareness of subtle things. Maybe it’s because I am from Alaska and no summer or daylight experience is as vast as the darkness of winter, or maybe there is a more collective archetype at work here. Either way, the star-lit origin of the elves, and the persistence of the dark elves in particular, speak to my heart.

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In-finite Water

Then the Ainur marvelled to see how the world was globed amid the void and yet separated from it; and they rejoiced to see light, and found it was both white and golden, and the laughed for the pleasure if colors, and for the great roaring of the ocean they were filled with longing. Their hearts were glad because of air and the winds, and the matters whereof the Earth was made – iron and stone and silver and gold and many substances: but of all these water was held the fairest and most goodly and most greatly praised. Indeed there liveth still in water a deeper echo of the Music of the Ainur than in any substance else that is in the world, and at this latest day many of the Sons of Men will hearken unsatedly to the voice of the Sea and long for they know not what. – History of Middle Earth I, pp 56 – The Music of the Ainur

This passage is very similar to the version in the Ainulindalë (Silmarillion, ch1), and has always stuck out for me. Why the water? Because it is seamlessly fluid, and so most like the ultimate reality of all things? Or because the sound itself is so intricate and full of clean noise (in the sound design context). After all, the sound of water might be considered close infinite vibrations sounding on infinite particle impacts at infinite angles, whereas the sound of a sharp metal pin hitting a flat metal plate is closer to a single vibration from a single impact.

I wonder what this means for Ulmo, Lord of Waters? Does Jung have a water, and an Ulmo?

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Snow On The Desert

This morning I was visited by a memory of watching the movie Jeremiah Johnson as a kid. Something that stuck with me was how there was snow in the desert. Until then, I imagined the desert as a hot place with snakes, spiders, and sand dunes. Finding out that there is snow even in “the desert” hinted at the fact that there was more to the story. I was compelled to look deeper.

…which somehow reminds me of the beauty and spirit of ‘merica. “The greatest country on earth.” Hmmm. While I am not a fan of a building the collective ego, there are strains of truth to that label as there are in the soul of every person that loves their heritage. It seems like the feeling of those real, pure, and truth-full values are just what the world needs.But stagnation is always a danger. I might rephrase that proclamation to “Loving your heritage is one of the greatest things on earth.” The kingdom of heaven within, yada yada yada. After all, a political state is just a blink in history’s eye, while love for one’s heritage endures well beyond the person’s death.

AMERICAN VALUES
  • Forging one’s own destiny. Work hard, be honest, and you will succeed. ADD: Owning the responsibility of your own experience. Loss (an fear) of community. FAULTS: Egocentricity; The belief that “we’ve made it”. Inability to rely on (and trust in) others.
  • The vastness of the West. Expanse of the unknown. Charging into darkness. Opportunity. The wild west and ADD: It’s easy to get comfortable. Snow in the desert (of the west); Watching Jeremiah Johnson. Alaska is the new west FAULTS: Loss of the past. Less than 3 generations of cultural memory.
  • The “United States”. Connection, Unity, Harmony. ADD: Islam also means ‘Peace’.
  • Simplicity. Country. “Folks” ADD: Less is more. Stick to the core.
  • Demanding Proof. “Show me the money”. ADD: FAULTS: Stuck in the concrete. Loss of the irrational.

Some soul:

    http://tinyurl.com/o954t2f


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExAM8D7cfbII find it entertaining and heart-warming that the topic of American soul always brings me back to Hunter S. Thompson’s search for the American Dream in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While his search was tragic and sometimes nauseating, he was looking hard for the truth.And boy, I’ll buy that for a dollar in a styrofoam cup….

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Eärendil, nexus of the times

I seem to gravitate toward finding the most significant character in Arda, and there are quite a few. Is it Beren and Luthien, as they represent the last trace of light in the darkest time of Middle Earth? Or Feanor, as the greatest of all the Children of Illuvatar? Or Turin because of his Christ-like suffering and right of meeting Melkor in battle in The End at Dagor Dagorath?

Who knows, but at the moment, I am placing my attention on Eärendil. He was the original character that Tolkien began with in The Cottage of Lost Play (History of Middle Earth 1), and represents all bloodlines (Men, Elves, Maiar) that sits at the nexus of the old and new worlds at the end of the First Age.

It will be fun to uncover the symbolism of Eärendil and look for traces of this character in other myths.

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Creation

 

Melkor’s inability to perform true creation is tied to the idea that something of his actual being must pass into the things he “created”, in order to give them an effective substance and reality. Melkor could not create anything, as he did not possess the Flame Imperishable; thus he could only create a mockery of those things in Arda. From his Trolls to the Sun (which was made from a flower from a Tree poisoned by Ungoliant, and was thus itself imperfect), Melkor’s power and essence was poured into Arda. Melkor’s individual self was diminished as a consequence. He was reduced to Morgoth, the “Dark Enemy” (poetically elaborated as “The Black Foe of the World”).[19]
Morgoth, once the most powerful being in Eä, spent his will on his vast armies and followers, so that in the War of Wrath, as his armies were swept away before the host of Aman, he was captured by Eönwë and cast off his throne. Morgoth’s spirit was cast out beyond the Walls of Night, yet his presence remains as the pervasive corruption of the world.[19]
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Jung: Night and Day

In general the people asseverated the Creator had made everything good and beautiful. He was beyond good and evil. He was m’zuri, that is, beautiful, and everything he did was m’zuri.

When I asked: “But what about the wicked animals who kill your cattle?” they said, “The lion is good and beautiful.” “And your horrible diseases?” They said, “You lie in the sun and it is good.”

I was impressed by this optimism. But at six o’clock in the evening this optimism was suddenly over, as I soon discovered. From sunset on, it was a different world – the dark world of ayik, of evil, danger, fear. The optimistic philosophy gave way to fear of ghosts and magical practices intended to secure protection from evil. Without any inner contradiction the optimism returned at dawn.

It was a profoundly stirring experience for me to find, at the sources of the Nile, this remainder of the ancient Egyptian conception of the two acolytes of Osiris, Horus and Set. Here, evidently, was a primordial African experience that had flowed down to the coasts of the Nile: adhista, the rising sun, the principle of light like Horus; ayik, the principle of darkness, the breeder of fear. In the simple rites performed for the dead, laibon’s words and his sprinkling of milk unite the opposites; he simultaneously sacrifices to these two principles, which are of equal power and significance since the time of their dominance, the rule of day and of night, each visibly lasts for twelve hours. The important thing, however, is the moment when, with the typical sudden-ness of the tropics, the first ray of light shoots forth like an arrow and night passes into life-filled light.

The sunrise in these latitudes was a phenomenon that overwhelmed me anew every day. The drama of it lay less in the splendor of the sun’s shooting up over the horizon than in what happened afterward. I formed the habit of taking my camp stool and sitting under an umbrella acacia just before dawn. Before me, at the bottom of the little valley, lay a dark, almost back-green strip of jungle, with the rim of the plateau on the opposite side of the valley towering above it. At first, the contrasts between light and darkness would be extremely sharp. Then objects would assume contour and emerge into the light which seemed to fill the valley with a compact brightness. The horizon above became radiantly white. Gradually the swelling light seemed to penetrate into the very structure of objects, which became illuminated from within until at last they shone translucently, like bits of colored glass. Everything turned to flaming crystal. The cry of the bell bird rang around the horizon. At such moments I felt as if I were inside a temple. It was the most sacred hour of the day, I drank in this glory with insatiable delight, or rather, in a timeless ecstasy.

Near my observation point was a high cliff inhabited by big baboons. Every morning they sat quietly, almost motionless, on the ridge of the cliff facing the sun, whereas throughout the rest of the day they ranged noisily through the forest, screeching and chattering. Like me, the seemed to be waiting for the sunrise. They reminded me of the great baboons of the temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt, which perform the gesture of adoration. They tell the same story: for untold ages men have worshipped the great god who redeems the world by rising out of the darkness as a radiant light in the heavens.

At that time I understood that within the soul from its primordial beginnings there has been a desire for light and an irrepressible urge to rise out of the primordial darkness. When the great night comes, everything takes on a note of deep dejection, and every soul is seized by an inexpressible longing for light. That is the pent-up feeling that can be detected in the eyes of primitives and also in the eyes of animals. There is a sadness in animals’ eyes, and we never know whether that sadness is bound up with the soul of the animal or is a poignant message which speaks to us our of that still unconscious existence. That sadness also reflects the mood of Africa, the experience of its solitudes. It is a maternal mystery, this primordial darkness. That is why the sun’s birth in the morning strikes the natives as so overwhelmingly meaningful. The moment in which light comes is God. That moment brings redemption, release. To say that sun is God is to blur and forget the archetypal experience of that moment. “We are glad that the night when the spirits are abroad is over now,” the natives will say – but that is already a rationalization. In reality a darkness altogether different from natural light broods over the land. It is the psychic primal night which is the same today as it has been for countless millions of years. The longing for light is the longing for consciousness.

– Memories, Dreams, and Reflections by C.G. Jung

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On Death

 

I recently wrote a letter to a friend who is a medical resident working with people that are going to die. She said she was not completely comfortable with the idea yet.
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Quite the tag line, huh? I couldn’t resist.

Funny enough, I arrived at my current incredibly positive take on death logically. I believe that life’s troubles are caused by an unhealthy relationship with things that are easily craved or averted, calling them unhealthy attachments. But, all attachments have a positive side. For example, a little beer makes you feel good but too much makes you feel bad. Craving beer when you aren’t getting it can also be a pain. But, none of that will change the fact that a little beer makes you feel good, which is GREAT!

In trying to find balance in my own life, I started to realize that being human simply means that you are stuck to an imperfect body. Things go wrong and it can kind of drag you down sometimes. There is definitely a “burden of life”, and through that down payment you get all of the wonderful things about life! (The “gift of life”) So, at the end of the day, our biggest and one most absolutely unavoidable attachment is the attachment to life itself – the deep connection between our soul and our body.

I have recently personally experienced some incredible releases of old attachments. The feeling of passing through critical doors that once seemed impossibly blocked is indescribable. When I think of death, I can’t help but think of how it comes with the release from the deepest attachment we will ever know.

It seems like there is a period of time just before a transition happens or an event ends where the mind accepts that the change is inevitable, and the release from the attachment begins. I feel this every race about 10-15% from the finish line. You can probably relate, the burden just gets lighter. I can’t imagine what that experience would be like when it comes to death.

“Remember the clear light, the pure clear white light from which everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns; the original nature of your own mind. The natural state of the universe unmanifest. Let go into the clear light, trust it, merge with it. It is your own true nature, it is home.”

– Tibetan Book of the Dead

What is really incredible to me is now this plays out in everyday life for you and me, just on a much smaller scale. That’s the magic.

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From the Red Book

[I:] I feel that I must speak to you. Why do you not let me sleep, as I am tired? I feel that the disturbance comes from you. What induces you to keep me awake?
[Soul:] Now is no time to sleep, but you should be awake and prepare important matters in nocturnal work.
The great work begins.
[I:] What great work?
[Soul:] The work that should now be undertaken. It is a great and difficult work. There is no time to sleep, if you find no time during the day to remain in the work.
[I:] But I had no idea that something of this kind was taking place.
[Soul:] But you could have told by the fact that I have been disturbing your sleep for a long time. You have been too unconscious for a long time. Now you must go to a higher level of consciousness.
[I:] I am ready. What is it? Speak!
[Soul:] You should listen: to no longer be a Christian is easy. But what next? For more is yet to come. Everything is waiting for you. And you? You remain silent and have nothing to say. But you should speak. Why have you received the revelation? You should not hide it. You concern yourself with the form? Is the form important, when it is a matter of revelation’s?

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