Reflections on Lord of the Rings,
Mythology, Jungian Psychology,
Bush, Saddam, Astrology, and
the 2004 Presidential Election
copyright 2003 by Tracy Marks

PART ONE: The Mythical Perspective

Watching Lord of the Rings, Return of the King recently, I was flooded with thoughts about its political relevance. As an instructor of mythology, I believe that our country lacks clearly-definable myths to unite us, and that the latent myths that express the deep archetypal dramas of Americans are most reflected in the world of the movies –especially those movies which receive the most national attention.

How synchronistic therefore that the Academy Award-winning blockbuster trilogy of Lord of the Rings, focusing on a battle between the almost-all-good in the WEST and the all-bad in the EAST, has been in national consciousness the past two years. Most notably, the final movie, The Return of the King (completing the momentous journey into/invasion of the East to destroy the source of power there) was released the day after Saddam's capture.

We may view the Lord of the Rings, movies as simplistic because the plot centers upon a polarized battle of good vs. evil; we may fail to grasp its spiritual significance because of its focus on external battles more than the battles within the soul. But Frodo, at the climax, is nearly overcome by his own shadow self. Watching him undergo his loss of self-possession as he experiences possession by the ring may help us become more aware of how we all have within ourselves monsters which we need to confront – evil which we must battle internally if we are to successfully to overcome the evil outside ourselves without succumbing to it ourselves.

Jane Chance wrote in Tolkien's Art:
Because the Fellowship is burdened with the responsibility of bearing the Ring and because its presence attracts evil, the greatest threat to the Fellowship and its mission comes not from without but within. The hero must realize that he can become a monster. The books of the Fellowship trace the process of this realization:  the presentation of evil as external and physical, requiring physical heroism to combat it; and .... the presentation of evil as internal and spiritual, requiring a spiritual heroism to combat it. The hero matures by coming to understand the character of good and evil—specifically, by descending into an underworld and then ascending into an overworld. For Frodo, as for Beowulf and Bilbo, the ultimate enemy is himself.

The key points in the above paragraph, which I will discuss further are: "the presentation of evil as internal and spiritual, requiring a spiritual heroism to combat it" and "the ultimate enemy is himself."

My interpretation is that the ring represents the temptations of power (in today's terms, the power of the government and corporate power), and how easily it can corrupt one who becomes powerful. But "the one ring to rule them all, one ring to bind them" is also the relentless urge for global dominance, a country's or corporate bloc's determination to rule, dominate and control other people in an attempt to expand its realms of power and profit at the expense of the vulnerable.

In Lord of the Rings, Bilbo is a father figure (a la George Bush Sr.) who passes the mantle of power/the ring to his chosen son, Frodo, and with it the responsibility of dealing with power and the threat of evil in the east. The Hobbits are childlike innocents, in touch with their hearts and infused with a spirit of goodness, community and loyalty – important qualities for success in overcoming evil. Until Bilbo presents Frodo with the ring and therefore the temptation of a power far larger than he has known before, Frodo and his hobbit companions have lived in a peaceful self-contained community, uninvolved with larger world issues.

Smeagle, the Gollum, is an external representation of Frodo's own shadow side, whom he must eventually battle. The ultimate battle however is Frodo's confrontation with the Smeagle/ Gollum within himself.

The gollum is a helper, but also a hinderer – a soulless trickster who both serves and undermines Frodo, guiding Frodo into the underworld of Sauron's kingdom, while being motivated by his own selfish and greedy purposes, which are at odds with Frodo's conscious commitment to a higher mission. Frodo needs Smeagle, as we all need the energy and power within our own shadow selves when we face the most difficult challenges. Indeed, Frodo is only able to give up the ring of power when he confronts the temptation of power both within himself and outside himself – in his final battle with the Gollum.

In Jewish lore, the Golem (similar word to Gollum) is a soulless helper made of clay.
And one night the rabbi heard a mysterious voice calling to him, "Make a human image of clay and thus you will succeed in frustrating the evil intentions of the enemies of Israel."

The Golem's power was quite supernatural and he performed many good deeds. But the living spirit inhabiting the Golem was only a sort of animal vitality and not a soul. He possessed only small powers of discernment, being unable to grasp anything belonging to the domain of real intelligence and higher wisdom.

Ultimately he has to be destroyed (returned to clay) because the contributions he made did not compensate for the soulless qualities that undermined the purpose.

In Return of the King, the external battle between good and evil - between Frodo and Sauron - is not the definitive battle which saves Middle Earth. The most significant battle is not the confrontation with the one being who externalizes evil, but rather with the very source of evil itself, as manifested in the seductive power of the ring.

The decisive turning point is Frodo's struggle with his own Gollum. The kingdom of evil crumbles not as a result of one-to-one combat with its leader, but as a result of Frodo becoming possessed by his own shadow, wrestling with his Gollum, and fighting – almost to the death – for the Ring of Power.

Frodo must carry the ring and avoid the temptation of wearing it. He must possess the ring, and hold its power without being possessed or consumed by it. But in the end, for good to prevail, he must temporarily lose his own self-possession – and experience the forces of possession and consumption fully within himself – for the ring to be destroyed.

But Frodo does not succeed alone – as no one can fully succeed alone in the battle evil on so large a scale as manifested by Sauron and contained within the ring. He is helped most of all by his devoted companion, Sam. But beyond Sam, he requires the aid of other hobbits – a coalition of peoples, of allies working together. The destruction of the ring – of the source of corrupt power cannot be accomplished by one person or unilateral action; it requires the unified cooperation of diverse peoples and nations.

Gandalf is the wise wizard, a spiritual helper. The elves and dwarves are also helpers, the elves living in communion with nature and representing our spiritual earth energy, and the dwarves who dwell in the bowels of the earth expressing the concrete, physical, grounded parts of ourselves. We need to bring both facets of ourselves together, and forge a new alliance between them if we are to affectively direct our energies to succeed in the most difficult challenges which face our world.

One of the theme songs of Lord of the Rings is the following poem:
All that is gold does not glitter.
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
This suggests the need for a new king to replace the old, one who was previously "crownless." In Lord of the Rings, the crownless king-to-be is Aragorn, a heroic but ordinary man who unites with his comrades in his dedication to combatting the forces of evil in the world.... and who clearly focuses far more on the task at hand and the mission ahead then on his own sense of entitlement as king.

If we as a country are indeed enacting the Lord of the Rings myth, we might be moving toward having a President who is truly a man of the people, and fully committed to the values he espouses and policies he hopes to implement without being motivated by a desire for power.

We are seeing perhaps, some expression of this process among our current Democratic candidates. But unfortunately, our political system and process of political campaigning appears to require that a candidate overtly assert a great deal of ego, power and determination to become a frontrunner in the race. Expecting that a candidate would not at least be in part motivated by a desire for personal power is unrealistic.

In regard to our Democratic candidates, we have no true Aragorn..... unless we consider the not-very-hopeful Presidential candidate Kucinich to carry Aragorn's banner. But we do indeed have men/women who are far more "of the people" than George W. Bush – Howard Dean, Richard Gephardt, John Edwards - and certainly more committed to the values and needs of the general public. And indeed, in the ten months before the 2004 elections, expectations created by the polls could be overturned and an apparently lesser candidate could rise to the top and win the Presidency.

Currently, we have a President who has very little awareness and understanding of people different than himself, and is inclined to project his own shadow side onto an enemy whom he feels it is his religious task to do battle. (Will he perhaps becomes singlemindedly focused on Osama Bin Laden again – or another enemy, perhaps the Democrats in general – now that Saddam has been captured?). Saddam was/is indeed monstrous, but George W. Bush, in not owning his own dark side and taking responsibility for the dark side of our country (the greed for money and resources, the attempt to dominate globally, the utter disdain for its own vulnerable etc. etc. etc.) becomes guilty of manifesting much of the "evil" that he has been attempting to destroy.

In Marie Louise Franz's book, Projection and Recollection in Jungian Psychology, Franz wrote that projection always has a hook – there is often a reality outside of ourselves which corresponds to the traits we're projecting upon it, AND ALSO that the external qualities/threats may be very real, but that doesn't mean that we're not projecting. Whether or not we're projecting depends not upon whether a particular quality exists outside of ourselves, but whether we're aware of it inside of ourselves and coming to terms with it. If we're not dealing with it inside ourselves, our projection will have a blind, singleminded, obsessive and often destructive quality, which is not likely to be the case if we're coming to terms with our own shadow side AND confronting the shadow outside ourselves.

Bush indeed has been guilty of projecting, and leading the country into a dangerous course of battling the shadow outside of itself rather than confronting and coming to terms with the shadow within.

"Rage...jealousy...lying...resentment...blaming...greed... These forbidden feelings and behaviors arise from the dark, denied part of ourselves - the personal shadow. Everyone has a shadow, which begins to develop in childhood as a result of stuffing away negative feelings in order to build a proper ego. We encounter our shadow when we feel an unexplainable dislike of someone, when we uncover a long-buried, unacceptable trait in ourselves, or when we feel overwhelmed by anger, envy, or shame. "

"But the shadow is not only an individual problem. Groups and nations have a collective shadow, which can lead to dangerous actions, such as racism...scapegoating...enemy- making...and war.

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."

Carl Jung, as quoted by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abraham in MEETING THE SHADOW: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature

PART TWO: The Astro-Political Perspective

Neptune, Pluto and the South Node in astrology are all related to the shadow side of the self or an entity/country. Neptune is the higher dimension, also associated with spirituality and compassion. The South Node is related to the shadow side of one's deepest natural inclinations (in the U.S. chart, South Node is in Aquarius in the 2nd house with Aquarius pertaining to brotherhood of men/global concerns and the 2nd house money and resources ) and often transits to it correspond to a kind of karmic retribution - one faces the consequences of one's previous actions. Neptune crossed the South Node in the U.S. chart for the first time in over 150 years in mid September 2001.

Pluto in astrology represents the deeper passions, the use of power, and the dark shadow side of ourselves. In the U.S. chart, calculated for the signing of Declaration of Independence, Pluto crossed the ascendant of 13 Sagittarius 17 – the point of external manifestation, in October 2001 for the first time in nearly 250 years (in 1754 to be precise, the year of the Albany Plan of Union calling for a Union of the States and the election of a President, and the start of the French and Indian Wars).

From the Albany Plan of Union of 1754: "It is proposed that humble application be made for an act of Parliament of Great Britain, by virtue of which one general government may be formed in America, including all the said colonies, within and under which government each colony may retain its present constitution....That the said general government be administered by a President-General, ...and a Grand Council, to be chosen by the representatives of the people,"

We do not know for a fact the exact minute of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and if indeed the signing was only one minute earlier at 5:11pm rather than 5:12pm, Pluto would have crossed our ascendant in September 2001, possibly September 11, when it was at 12 Sagittarius 38.

Since the ascendant corresponds to external manifestation or outward projection of the self or larger entity, then one is likely to most outwardly and unconsciously manifest one's Plutonian side when Pluto crosses the ascendant and is in the first house of the chart. The last time the U.S. experienced this influence was 1754 – 1776. The second time period begins with Pluto crossing the U.S. ascendant in September/October 2001, and continues for another fifteen years.

Transits to the U.S. chart have considerable significance in astrological interpretation of U.S. issues and events, but the birthchart of the current U.S. president, and current transits to it, are at least as important.

George W. Bush has bundle chart (self-contained, lacking perspective) with no oppositions (awareness in relationships). Pluto is conjunct his Mercury and ascendant and early in his first house. Since Mercury is the planet of thought and communication, Bush's thinking and speaking are likely to be imbued with an unconscious expression of power, and since Pluto lacks oppositions or squares, with minimal awareness of its influence upon others.

Pluto is now starting to conjunct Bush's south node, and will make its first conjunction in late December/early January 2004. It will conjunct again in June 2004, and then for the third, last and most important time on THE NIGHT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, November 2, 2004.

Barely one out of three people ever experience Pluto conjuncting their natal South Node. The last – and perhaps only President – who experienced this aspect while in office was Richard Nixon. Pluto was approaching Nixon's south node when he resigned after the Watergate scandal, and the transiting South Node was approaching his Midheaven (public life).

The question here is: To what extent will Bush further act unconsciously from his own shadow side, and/or be forced to confront it? And will he indeed experience a karmic undoing, as we unsuccessfully battles with forces outside of himself rather than coming to terms with the forces within which could be both internally and externally destructive.

Apart from Bush, ALL our major Democratic candidates are now – in the time period between November 2003 and January 2005 (inauguration month), experiencing an exact Pluto conjunction. During this 15 month time period, Pluto is between 18 – 24 Sagittarius. The chance of anyone having Pluto crossing a key point in their chart during that time is about 22%; only one out of 4.5 people are experiencing a direct Pluto conjunction on a planet, ascendant, midheaven or node during this time. HOWEVER, George W. Bush AND ALL of the top four Democratic candidates according to the polls are experiencing Pluto crossing one of these key points in this time period.

Gephardt had Pluto on his Mars, planet of energy, action and assertion, in November 2003.
Kerry had Pluto on his Sun in November 2003, and will experience it near stationing on his Sun in late August 2004.

Clark has Pluto on his Mars this month in December 2003, and also in July 2004 and October 2004.

Dean has Pluto stationing closely conjunct his Mars in March 2004 and exactly transiting his Mars in January 2005 (around inauguration time), and also later in 2005.

Each of these candidates is likely to be at a key time in his life for grappling with power, and making choices in regard to responsible or irresponsible use of it. Each of these candidates has a choice in regard to how he comes to terms with the shadow side not only of himself, but of U.S. government – in regard to dealing with domestic policies, the election process, and international
attitudes and actions.

Can we hope in the next year that our candidates will use their power wisely? Can we the people of the U.S. demand that we as a country face our illegitimate uses of power, both home and abroad? Can we trust that our next Democratic candidate will wrestle successfully with his own inner Gollum, and survive his own struggle with his soul as he hangs by one arm above the pit of fire? The most important tests of our next President-to-be are not in the media or in the polls, but in his own soul.

In Return of the King, the external battle between the good kingdom and evil kingdom, or between Frodo and Sauron - is not the definitive battle which saves the kingdom of Middle Earth. The decisive turning point is Frodo's struggle with his own Gollum, and the help of a loyal companion Sam who stands by him when he nearly fails. In the end......

All that is gold does not glitter.
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Ashliman, D.L., editor, The Golem, A Jewish Legend,

Chance, Jane, Tolkien's Art as quoted in National Geographic, Creating a Mythological Identity
 for England

Franz, Marie-Louise, Projection and Re-collection in Jungian Psychology

Judge, Anthony, "The Dark Riders of Social Change"

Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lord of the Rings

Zweig, Connie and Jeremiah Abraham, Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature

Tracy Marks is a licensed psychotherapist, author of four books, instructor of Greek mythology, and trainer in Windows, Internet skills, Adobe Photoshop and computer graphics

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