Thursday 23 February 2023

Don't mention the Gollum! Why doesn't Frodo tell the others in the Fellowship that they are being followed?

I have always been puzzled that - from Moria, to Lothlorien under under its eaves, then down the River Anduin, Frodo never thought to mention to other members of the Fellowship, that he could hear the sounds of someone following - and that he suspected it was Gollum.

(Page numbers are from the Kindle edition of Lord of the Rings): 

p311: Yet Frodo began to hear, or to imagine that he heard, something else: like the fall of soft bare feet. It was never loud enough, or near enough, for him to feel certain that he heard it; but once it had started it never stopped, while the company was moving. But it was not an echo, for when they halted it pattered on for a little all by itself; and then grew still.

OK; Frodo wasn't 'certain' - but why not mention it? 

Just to be on the safe side, and to alert the others? 

Why not?

p314: Frodo's spirits rose a little, but he still felt oppressed, and still at time he heard, or thought he heard, away behind the company and beyond the fall and patter of their feet, a following footstep that was not an echo

p317: [Frodo's] watch was nearly over when, far off where he guessed that the western archway stood, he fancied that he could see two pale points of light, almost like luminous eyes.

Frodo manages to convince himself he was dreaming the eyes, but given the previous twice times he 'thought' he had heard footsteps, and what he knew of Gollum from Bilbo; surely now would be the time to voice his suspicions and put the Fellowship onto alert.

In between escaping from Moria, and reaching the woods of Lothlorien, Frodo is at the rear with Gimli who says he can hear nothing. But then, hobbits hear better than dwarves.

p337: Yet [Frodo] had heard something, or thought he had. As soon as the shadows had fallen about them, and the road behind was dim, he had heard again the quick patter of feet. Even now he heard it. He turned swiftly, There were two tiny gleams of light behind, or for a moment he thought he saw then, but at once they slipped aside and vanished. 

'What is it?' said the dwarf. 

I don't know', answered Frodo. I thought I heard feet, and a thought I saw a light - like eyes. I have thought so often, since we first entered Moria.'

At last, Frodo has mentioned it! But when Gimli hears nothing by lying with his ear to the ground (!) - this supposedly settles the matter negatively, and no more is said or done. 

That same night, Frodo actually sees Gollum's face, after Gollum has climbed up to the tree platform where the hobbits slept.

But Gollum escapes when Haldir the elf returns. Haldir also sees something not an orc, that he thought was like a hobbit, except for being skilled in trees (so Frodo knows for sure he did not imagine it). But the mystery climber is never mentioned to the company, nor his identity speculated upon.

By now, Frodo has surely put two and two together and knows that they are being followed by Gollum; but still says nothing to the company at large. 

Only when, after leaving Lorien, when they are travelling in boats down the Anduin, and Sam reports seeing 'a log with eyes' that is catching up with the boats, and 'puts a name' to this creature; does Frodo actually discuss his previous observations of Gollum, and reveal - but only to Sam! - that he had already noticed that something was trailing the company, and who it was. 

Later that night, after Gollum has attempted an attack and Aragorn has been roused, it turns-out that Aragorn has also known that Gollum has been following them "all through Moria and right down to Nimrodel".

I must say; I find this kind of secrecy inexplicable! 

If I had been another member of the Fellowship, I would certainly have appreciated being told, whether by Frodo or Aragorn (who became their leader after Gandalf's fall) that we has Gollum on our trail. 

Not least, those of the company who were standing watch, ought to have been told what Gollum looked like, and his capabilities, so that they would know the kind of threat to look-out-for. 

In fact; if I had been Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, or one of the other hobbits; I would have been pretty angry if I discovered that such a vital piece of information was known but being withheld (independently of each other) for many days, both by Frodo and Aragorn. 

My assumption is that Tolkien wanted to spin-out the suspense, and not to name Gollum - but instead to let the reader piece-together the clues; and only gradually realize that someone was following the Fellowship, and whom. 

But I think he overdid it! 

To the point of generating pointlessly, and indeed dangerously, secretive behaviour that is implausible from Frodo, and even more so from Aragorn. 

Tuesday 7 February 2023

Charles Williams - his disbelief in the devil, and his convergence with 'oneness spirituality'

I am surprised that so many self-identified Christians disbelieve in the devil; not only because there are so many biblical references, but also because a devil makes strong sense both metaphysically (in terms of an explanation for the world as a whole) and empirically (as an coherent way of explaining and predicting the specific occurrences of this world). 

I commented some time ago that a Christian who was as scholarly, influential and respected as Charles Williams; nonetheless didn't believe that the devil was real

I found this confirmed in my current re-read of his novel The Greater Trumps, where the character Sybil (who is clearly intended to be the depiction of a very-near Saint - although not convincingly to my mind) says this in her internal monologue:

She did not, in the ordinary sense, "pray for" Nancy; she did not presume to suggest to the Omniscience that it would be a thoroughly good thing if It did; she merely held her own thought of Nancy stable in the midst of Omniscience. She hoped Nancy wouldn't mind, if she knew it. If, she thought as, the prayer over, she put on her other shoe - if she had believed in a Devil, it would have been awkward to know whether or not it would have been permissible to offer the Devil to Love in that way. Because the Devil might dislike it very much, and then...* However, she didn't believe in the Devil...   

Elsewhere in the novel in several places, it is clear that Williams regards the most evil thing to be the Ego, the Self; because the characters who are depicted as doing Good are expunging their sense of self of agency, of separateness. 

This is a common trope, indeed, among many self-identified Christians through the past 2000 years - I mean that being a "Good Christian" entails a destruction of any recognition of oneself as a separate being from God - the goal is to merge with God, or at least allow God and Goodness to flow through oneself. The self is ideally to become transparent, immaterial - the self standing aside and - eventually - being discarded. 

In other words; I am suggesting that among those who regard themselves as Christian but who do not believe in the devil; it seems usual to believe that - in effect - The Ego is the devil. 

Sometimes this is even stated explicitly; but even when unstated it seems to be implicit in analysis and discussions of evil; because the attribution of evil tend to converge upon the separate and strong ego of a person - often the separated selfhood of the Christian himself is regarded as the primary evil in the world.  

This substitution of the devil by the ego in a context of the primary desire for oneness is, I think, one path by which someone who regards himself as Christian can come to deny the reality of the devil.

This fits with a metaphysical theology that all Good comes from God, and (therefore) for Men to become Good, requires that they cease to offer any obstacle to the shining forth of God's Goodness. 

When God is regarded as omniscient and omnipotent, it seems logical that Men can add - from themselves - nothing to Goodness; which is (by definition) already complete and perfect. 

Since Men can add nothing to Goodness but only obstruct Goodness by their innate evil; Men should, therefore, ideally become empty, become like conduits for the expression of divine Goodness.  

What I am getting-at here is that this is another version of my old bugbear "oneness spirituality" - the only officially- and totalitarian-approved modern spirituality - once again confusing people and masquerading as Christianity. 

I tend to think that oneness spirituality is a point of convergence both of Christians who really-believe in in a mono-omni-God with whom the Christian ought to assimilate; and those adherents of 'Eastern religions' (Hinduism, Buddhism) who believe in a more pantheistic and abstract non-personal deity - that is 'everything'. 

The conceptual gap is bridged by the soaring abstractions and infinitudes of 'Classical' Christian theology (i.e. using concepts from pre-Christian Greek and Roman philosophy - especially Platonism and Neo-Platonism). In other words; abstractions and infinites applied to God conceptually-merge the person of God into a de facto impersonal deity.   

I mean the "mainstream Christian" theology that has, as fundamental, assertions of the Oneness of The Trinity; God's supposed attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence etc.; and an infinite gulf posited between creator and created.   

What I am saying is that someone who takes seriously, and rigorously pursues the implications of, Classical Christian theology; will find that - one the one hand - he is converging towards a oneness spirituality (and the stance of 'perennial philosophy'); and on the other hand will disbelieve in the devil specifically and the operations of purposive spiritual evil more generally - and will regard Man's self/ego as the biggest spiritual problem in the world. 

Both of these are harmful in the context of the spiritual challenges for Christians in 2023. 

Firstly, because the Western Christian churches have been corrupted and enlisted on the side of evil; this implies that such a fact will be invisible to one who disbelieves that there is a 'side of evil'.

Furthermore, when the churches are corrupt, the individual Christian must operate from that which is Good in his own self/ ego - as the basis for discernment and seeking spiritual guidance. Unless there is the possibility of recognizing and committing to the Good within us, we cannot discern God's guidance from without-our-selves. 

If, instead, we are trying to dissolve our selves into the Omni-God, or into the divine-which-is-everything (it makes little practical difference which); then we are trying to destroy the only thing that might save us in an institutionally-evil world


*Note: This is a quite extraordinary sentiment for CW to put into the thoughts of a supposedly sanctified woman! To express concern that the Devil "might dislike" something we did, and that this should be considered as a reason for Not doing it! 

This suggests either that the devil is not really evil, and so ought not to be made miserable. Or else it confirms that he is being regarded by CW as so certainly unreal; that one may indulge idle fancies about his preferences, and how it might be desirable to 'keep in the Devil's good books...' The "and then..." seems to indicate that unspecified or implied bad things might happen to us, if the Devil regarded us as his enemy.

My interpretation is that Williams may here be hinting (esoterically, to his inner circle - albeit so vaguely as to be deniable) that the Devil does not exist; but that there are personal powers who get called demonic (by many Christians) who can be helpful, of treated with due respect. I would guess that this had something to do with Williams's ritual magical practices. 

Of course I cannot be sure; but we do know (e.g. from surviving letters and records of conversations) that this kind of subtle, deniable, esoteric hinting in his published writing was exactly the way he operated.