As soon as Frodo was ready a council gathered for the Meeting of Elrond. Representatives from all over Middle Earth had come together to share their concerns and speak their piece. They had gathered to devise a strategy to beat down the Dark Lord.
The history of the Ring was told, and various suggestions were made as to how the One Ring should be kept from the Dark Lord. Erestor proposed handing the ring to Old Tom. Glorfindal suggested sending it to another land or tossing it into the depths of the sea. Boromir argued that the Ring might be used to defeat the Dark Lord. In the end it was agreed that the One Ring must be destroyed. It was to be taken to the very heart of Mordor and thrown back into the cracks of Mount Doom. There it was forged and only there could it be unmade.
Yet who would take the Ring on this most perilous journey? At the Council of Elrond there were many hardened warriors, but none stepped forward to bear the burden of the Ring.
For a moment Frodo thought that he might have completed his part in the quest to put back the Ring but now he realised that his journey was to continue. A great dread fell upon him. Then at last and with some effort he spoke.
“I will take the Ring,” he said, “though I do not know the way.”
Elrond raised his eyes and looked keenly at Frodo. “If I understand aright all that I have heard,” he said, “then I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will. This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers of the great.”
“But it is a heavy burden,” added Elrond. “So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say your choice is right.”
The global crisis has the capacity to bring together all the nations and warring factions of the world. In 1992 more than 150 nations came together to sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at The Earth Summit in Rio. In 1997 they met again in Kyoto, Japan. There have been many of these councils, meetings and gatherings which have united people under a common banner. The global crisis threatens equally the west and the east, the developed and undeveloped, the capitalist and the communist. The nations of the world now face a common enemy – we now face ourselves.
As to what action is required there has been much debate. At the Council of Elrond, a number of options are presented. These proposed solutions are worth reflecting upon as they mirror our own way of thinking.
The first suggestion was to hand the One Ring to Old Tom Bombadil. Old Tom could keep the Ring from the Dark Lord. Gandalf rejected this suggesting, stating that Old Tom is not concerned by the Ring and would be a most careless custodian.
To hand the ring to Old Tom, the creator of Middle Earth, is akin to leaving our fate to the gods. This is the idea of letting the global crisis resolve itself. Do nothing and hope for the best! This is a completely irresponsible, yet popular, solution to the global crisis.
The next suggestion was to send the Ring to another land. Again, this mirrors our desire to disown responsibility for the global crisis. Since the Kyoto summit the nations of the world have been arguing who is responsible for the global crisis. The developed nations ask the undeveloped nations to stop clearing their forests. The undeveloped nations point to the west to curb their industry. The over-populated look for a solution from the under-populated and vice versa. Elrond notes that the One Ring belongs to Middle Earth and that Middle Earth must resolve its own issues. We cannot hope that another nation or group will relieve us of our burden.
To throw the Ring into the sea is discredited as an option as, eventually, it would again be found. This is the suggestion of leaving the global crisis to be resolved by future generations. This solution is favoured by the nuclear physicists who currently know of no way to deal with the radioactive by-product of nuclear power plants. This ‘yellow cake’ is stored away in concrete silos and left for future generations. Again, this solution absolves us of immediate responsibility, yet is this the fate we wish to leave to our children?
Boromir’s suggestion to use the Ring to defeat the Dark Lord was quickly dismissed. Holding onto the Ring of Power would simply set up another Dark Lord in place of Sauron. Boromir is an honourable warrior, but his suggestion highlights his lack of understanding of the evil force at work within the Ring. Holding onto our power over nature is the mistake that we have already made. To continue down this path is to refuse to acknowledge the destructive force which resides in our technology.
In the end, and as Gandalf had previously advised, the only real solution was to return the Ring to the cracks of Mount Doom. We are to assume full responsibility for the global crisis. We need a complete and lasting solution that will ensure the safety of ourselves and future generations. We must sacrifice our unwholesome power over nature.
The next question to arise was who should undertake this task. And it was at this point that Frodo stepped forward.
Why is it that a simple hobbit must bear the full burden of the One Ring? Why not Gandalf or Aragorn or someone else of greater stature? It seems that Frodo is destined to bear the burden of the ring. But why a hobbit?
Typically, the hero figure of a myth or fairy tale is in some way special. Often, he is a direct descendant of a god, of royal blood or in possession of magical powers. Frodo is none of these. As the ordinary hobbit he is akin to the mere mortal. That is, you and I. No longer can we look outside of ourselves to some great hero or political figure. No longer can we reach out to some Christ-like saviour – instead we are to become that hero and saviour. There is no greater “other” who may relieve us of our responsibility. Our fate now rests with ourselves.
This newfound responsibility, which has been assigned to the ordinary individual, is in keeping with our ongoing spiritual evolution. Just as man aspires toward God, God seeks man. We see this attraction between God and man in the developments of our mythology throughout the ages. In early mythology the gods were of an elemental or animal form. The first gods were the sun, the wind, the sky, earth, and sea. Later the gods took on an animal form. Here we meet the serpent of healing, the trickster coyote, the great mother bear, and many of the signs of the zodiac. In Egyptian mythology the gods were depicted as half human and half animal. In Greek myth the gods became fully human whilst their previous animal form became their mascot or alternate state of being. The eagle remained sacred to Zeus, for example.
The most interesting transition to be found within the history of myth is the increasing degree of interaction between God and man. In Greek myth the gods took a sexual interest in man and thereby created a race of heroes and other semi-divine beings. Zeus fathered such heroic figures as Perseus, Theseus, and Hercules. Next came the birth of the fully divine being. The holy spirit came down from heaven and impregnated the blessed Virgin Mary. God became man in the form of Jesus Christ.
Yet Christ was special, he was born free of original sin. The subsequent stage in the ongoing incarnation of God would be for God to become ordinary man, that is, to manifest within all of us. This incarnation of God within each of us is prefigured by Christ. After the death of Christ, the divine incarnation was quickly followed by the descent of the Holy Spirit – where God took residence within us all.
The descent of the Holy Spirit is a metaphysical fact that is only now being consciously acknowledged. With Jung’s psychology the Holy Spirit has been rediscovered as the archetype of the Self – the central organising principle at work within the core of the psyche. No longer do we view the gods as living on top Mount Olympus, instead they have been revealed as active forces alive within the unconscious mind. As Edward Edinger says “God has fallen out of containment in religion and into the unconscious of man, i.e., he is incarnating. Our unconscious is in an uproar with the God who wants to know and be known.”14
Ordinary man is the new focus for the ongoing incarnation of God. In our story the ordinary man is symbolised by the simple hobbit Frodo. Just as Frodo must bear the burden of the Ring, our current age, with its discovery of the Self and the conscious realisation of the God within, has placed new demands upon the individual.
Our problem is that the God, who has chosen to incarnate and become human, is not simply the benevolent father God of Christianity, but the whole of God, both light and dark, good and evil. In Answer to Job, Jung’s exploration of the dark and amoral face of God, Jung points out that “God in his oppositeness has taken possession of man”15 and that man, “has become a vessel filled with divine conflict.” Jung continues:
…God is not only to be loved, but also to be feared. He fills us with evil as well as with good…and because he wants to become man, the uniting of his antimony must take place in man. This involves man in a new responsibility. He can no longer wriggle out of it on the plea of his littleness and nothingness, for the dark God has slipped the atom bomb and chemical weapons into his hands and given him the power to empty out the apocalyptic vials of wrath on his fellow creatures. Since he has been granted an almost godlike power, he can no longer remain blind and unconscious.16
To contain these opposites, to be a safe ‘vessel’ for the incarnation of God, we must raise ourselves to a new level of consciousness and morality. And to achieve this moral capacity the individual must recognise and suffer the opposites of good and evil as they exist within himself. Just as Christ died for our salvation now “we all have to be ‘crucified with Christ,’ i.e., suspended in a moral suffering equivalent to a veritable crucifixion”17. The global crisis is our modern-day crucifix. It is the moral challenge designed to take our spiritual evolution through into a new era.
Previously the burden of the One Ring had been put upon Frodo. To no avail he had wished that Gandalf or Old Tom might have relieved him of the Ring. Just as Christ willingly took up the cross, Frodo now steps forward and accepts the Ring as his own responsibility. This voluntary acceptance of the burden of the Ring is symbolic of the individual’s decision to take up the moral challenge posed by the global crisis.
Jung felt that free will is the ability to do gladly that which one must do anyway. Clearly, we have little option but to address the demands of the global crisis, which may easily be viewed as the fate and misfortune of our times. Yet in consciously accepting responsibility for the global crisis, it is no longer thrust upon us. With a shift in attitude the global crisis may be viewed, not as an unwelcome burden, but as the spiritual challenge of our times.
Returning the Ring is the next step in the evolution of consciousness. As we consciously suffer, and address, the issues raised by the global crisis we will raise ourselves into a new level of morality. In our suffering we clear a safe passage for the ongoing incarnation of God. Of this, Jung writes:
Although the divine incarnation is a cosmic and absolute event, it only manifests empirically in those relatively few individuals capable of enough consciousness to make ethical decisions, i.e., to decide for the Good.18
Elrond notes that the ethical decision to take up the challenge of the Ring can only be made for and by oneself. It is not something we can ask of another, be they our friend or neighbour. We must live in accordance with our own conscience and hope that others live in accordance with theirs. But, as Elrond adds, “If you take it freely, I will say your choice is right.”
It was thus decided that Frodo must continue with the quest. He would not, however, be travelling alone. At the meeting of Elrond, the Ring party was formed anew.
Gandalf stepped forward to act as a guide for Frodo. Aragorn offered his vast knowledge of Middle Earth. The warrior Boromir offered his service, as did Gimli, the dwarf, and Legolas, the elf. Merry and Pippin also remained with the ring party, as did Sam who, in no way, would be parted from his master Frodo.
With the ring party formed and no further doubt in his mind, Frodo was ready to set out on his journey toward the cracks of Mount Doom.
14 Edinger, The Creation of Consciousness
15 Jung, Answer to Job, CW 11, par 659
16 Jung, Answer to Job, CW par 747
17 Jung, Psychology and Alchemy, CW 12 par 24