Caption: What appears on first glance to be repulsive and evil actually holds wonder and magic beneath its dark face. The shadow only appears evil because of our own limitations.
The story is told of some students who came to a nineteenth-century Hasidic master in the hope that he could explain the enigma of evil in a world created by a good God. Reb Zusya, they felt, could do this, for he himself was good and pious, yet sick and poverty stricken.
"How, Reb Zusya, do you explain evil," the students asked.
"What evil?" said the rabbi with wide wondering eyes. The students pointed out that Reb Zusya was himself suffering from illness, pain, and poverty.
"Oh that," replied the rabbi, "surely that is just what my soul needs. Our sages have said, a red halter is fitting to a white horse."
Tale told about 19th century Hasidic master Reb Zusya. (1)
What is evil? Does it have any existence at all, or "is that which we call evil but the absence of good?", as Saint Augustine argued. (2) Or even further, is evil actually good, but we just can't see it given our limited human viewpoint. As Reb Zusya says above: "surely that is just what my soul needs." Saint Thomas Aquinas echoes that view when he argues that "there is a reason behind every evil." (3) The main theme of this book has been the positive possibilities hidden within the shadow. What appears on first glance to be repulsive and evil actually holds wonder and magic beneath its dark face. The shadow only appears evil because of our own limitations, and those are often determined by our particular psychological type.
One of Jung's greatest discoveries what that human beings come in more than one type; there are different psychological varieties of human beings. These variations are probably there from birth; if not, they start very early in life. And there is a structure to these psychological varieties. We are each either introverts or extraverts, thinkers or feelers, sensates or intuitives. Since those terms probably mean little or nothing to you at this point, let me talk about them a bit, then provide a simple test so that you can determine your own type. (4)
Introverts and extraverts have an equal and opposite reaction to the world. Introverts are more comfortable in the inner world of their own psyche, less comfortable dealing with issues in the outer world. Extraverts are just the opposite, drawing energy from the people and things in the outer world, paying little or no attention to what goes on inside them. I can remember once walking to lunch with a good friend. He asked me what I was thinking about and I said "nothing." He said "no, I really mean it, what are you thinking about." And I said more firmly that "I'm not thinking about anything. Nothing is going on in my head." He had a very hard time grasping this, as there was almost always a dialogue going on inside his head. That's because I'm an extravert and he's an introvert.
Now, sometimes the differences are less extreme. There can be a range between those who are very strongly extraverted or introverted, and those who are less so. But, make no mistake, no one is in the middle, equally comfortable in both places. Probable the most significant difference is simply where one draws their energy from: a quiet, inner life or a noisier outer life. Another simple difference between extravert and introvert is simply the amount of words that comes out of the person; the more words, the more extraverted the person. This particular differentiation is a little less reliable as there are some introverts who have learned to protect themselves from the world with a barrage of verbiage, but normally extraverts are more verbal than introverts.
The two-way split into introverts and extraverts isn't the end of the binary distinctions in Jung's psychological types. There are also thinkers and feelers, sensates and intuitives. Thinkers are more comfortable approaching the world analytically, classifying the world, determining what things mean. Their opposites are feelers, who are more likely to approach events and objects by how they feel about them, whether they are good or bad, etc. More generally, assigning a value to something rather than deciding what it means like a thinker would. Most commonly, this valuing is done through emotions: feelers react positively or negatively to things on an emotional level. But this valuing can be almost emotionless when needed. Feelers are simply much better at sizing up how important or unimportant an issue is.
There is another split that isn't as obvious as thinking and feeling: sensation vs. intuition. Sensates are totally at home in the physical world; they touch, taste, smell, feel (with their body), and hear better than any other psychological type. They do this so automatically that it is very difficult for them to understand how anyone can deal with the world otherwise. They are very good at absorbing and remembering all the details of reality and are absorbed in the here and now. In contrast, intuitives see less of the details and more of the big picture, less of the here and now and more of the future possibilities inherent in the current situation. One sees the trees and the other the forest, and neither is a superior position.
It's very important to realize that no one psychological type is superior to another. All of us need both introversion and extraversion, thinking and feeling, sensation and intuition. But it is impossible to be fully balanced between all the possibilities any more than it is possible for someone to be both male and female (whether gay or straight). The universe seems to separate us into either introverted and extraverted and then one of the four functions as our primary function.
Even that isn't quite sufficient: whether we think or feel primarily, we need something to think or feel about, and we can only get that through sensation or intuition. And whether we sense or intuit, we need to process that information in some way, and we can only do so with thinking or feeling. Whichever we choose is our secondary function. The big difference here from the primary function is that the secondary function may at the beginning be only very crudely developed, just enough to allow the primary function to work. Later, we're likely to develop it to a much greater extent. And some of us may develop a third function to such an extent that it's difficult to know which is secondary. But we will never fully develop that fourth function, the one opposite to the primary function.
Jung called that function our inferior function; since it was our least developed way of dealing with the world. Instead of the term inferior function, I'm going to substitute shadow function, as it seems more descriptive of both its positive and negative possibilities. It's obvious that if we use our primary function almost all the time, its opposite, the shadow function, lies fallow, undeveloped, like ore than has never been mined. But even if we do work at developing the shadow function, Jung argued that we can never fully integrate it into our personality. That's because it is, for better or worse, our connection to the collective unconscious. For better, it offers possibilities that are totally hidden from our normal approach to life; for worse, since it is totally unfamiliar to us, it seems dark, mysterious, even evil.
But what, then, is the place of seemingly absolute evil? How to explain away sociopaths who operate at any level--from private hells like that of Jeffrey Daumer to positions of public power, such as those of Idi Amin or Pol Pot or Hitler? As Jung said: "It is quite within the bounds of possibility for a man to recognize the relative evil of his own nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil." (5)
In contrast to a given rule, which from the first has been imposed on the child from outside and which for many years he has failed to understand, such as the rule of not telling lies, the rule of justice is a sort of immanent condition of social relationships or a law concerning their equilibrium.
Jean Piaget. (6)
Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget is famous for his theory of invariant stages of psychological development through which a child passes on its way toward maturity. Less well-known was his theory that were also three inborn stages of moral development:
(1) blind obedience stage, in which our morality is merely based on what is allowed;
(2) interpretation-of-the-rules stage, in which we recognize that morality is relative to the particular situation;
(3) interpretation-of-act stage, in which we realize that we each have to develop our own individual moral values
It is important to recognize that Piaget was not just theorizing. As with his model of psychological development, he developed his model of moral stages based on extensive research with children. He presented children with pairs of stories involving morally ambiguous situations, then questioned them about how they viewed the morality of the characters. Here is one such pair:
(1) John was in his room when his mother called him to dinner. John goes down and opens the door to the dining room. But behind the door was a chair, and on the chair was a tray with fifteen cups on it. John did not know the cups were behind the door. He opens the door, the door hits the tray, bang go the fifteen cups, and they all get broken.
(2) One day when Henry's mother was out, Henry tried to get some cookies out of the cupboard. He climbed up on a chair, but the cookie jar was still too high, and he couldn't reach it. But while he was trying to get the cookie jar, he knocked over a cup. The cup fell down and broke. (7)
The youngest children think John deserves more punishment than Henry because John broke fifteen cups and Henry only one. Older children recognize that John only broke the cups by accident and deserves no punishment, while Henry broke his cup because he was doing something that he shouldn't have been doing. Of course, the moral dilemmas become more complex as the child grows older.
Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg took Piaget's model as a starting point, and developed a more complex model of the moral stages of development of not only children, but adults. He began with three stages much like Piaget's, which he termed (1) preconventional or premoral; (2) conventional; and (3) postconventional or principled. So far, these are similar to Piaget's stages (though not identical). Kohlberg then further split each of the three stages into two stages, thus creating six stages in all:
(1) Orientation to punishment and reward, and to physical and material power;
(2) Hedonistic orientation with an instrumental view of human relations. . . . ("You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.");
(3) "Good boy" orientation; seeking to maintain expectations and win approval of one's immediate group . . . ;
(4) Orientation to authority, law, and duty, to maintaining a fixed order, whether social or religious, which is assumed as a primary value;
(5) Social-contract orientation, with emphasis on equality and mutual obligation within a democratically established order; e.g., the morality of the American Constitution;
(6) Morality of individual principles of conscience which have logical comprehensiveness and universality. Highest value placed on human life, equality and dignity. (8)
The first two stages are characteristic of children and criminals. The middle two are those of the majority of the adult population. 15%-20% of the adult population have a stage 5 morality, while only 5%-10% are in stage 6.
Again, like Piaget, Kohlberg's model is richly supported by experimental data. Most people were found to have a dominant stage. About half their values were at that stage, with the rest of their values scattered between the stages immediately above or below. Both a person's expressed values and their actions were consistent with the stage they were at, though those at the upper stages were more likely "to practice what they preach." The same stages were found in a wide variety of cultures throughout the world. In testing to determine a person's moral stage, Kohlberg used stories which illustrated hypothetical moral dilemmas, much like Piaget had done, though not in pairs. Here is one:
In Europe, a woman was near death from cancer. One drug might save her, a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The druggist was charging $2,000, ten times what the drug cost him to make. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, "No." The husband got desperate and broke into the man's store to steal the drug for his wife. Should the husband have done that? Why? (9)
A person in any stage, even the most primitive, still has to decide whether an action is wrong or right. For example, at the lowest stage, one could argue Heinz was right because "if you let your wife die, you will get in trouble." Or he was wrong because "you shouldn't steal drugs because you'll be caught and punished." By the fourth stage, Heinz' theft would be condoned because "if you have any sense of honor, you won't let your wife die just because you're afraid of the consequences." On the other hand, "if you act out of desperation, you'll always feel guilty for your dishonesty and lawbreaking." At the highest stage, the pro and con argument would merge into a sense that if you don't act, you will condemn yourself afterwards, regardless of how society views your action or lack of action. It is easy to see that our view of what is right and wrong, good and evil, is largely determined by our stage of moral development. It is impossible, for example, for someone stuck at one of the early stages of development to understand an abstract sense of justice. (10)
Jung often said that the shadow appears at right angles to our normal morality. It isn't necessarily right or wrong, so much as it presents a different view of things, that doesn't readily fit into our sense of right and wrong. For example, those who are in Stage 4 believe in the importance of conforming to the rules of the society they live in, the religion of which they are a member. When the shadow appears, it may seem to present them with primitive demands that seem totally inappropriate to everything in which they believe. Yet, in coming to a rapprochement with those seemingly primitive desires, they may be forced to develop a more complex morality in which personal values sometimes have to take precedence over society's values. Often they will be forced to a degree of self-knowledge in which they will necessarily develop a Stage 6 morality in the process. Thus evil perceived at one level of development gives way to a higher good.
Sometimes the morality of the shadow is truly at right angles to any and all of Kohlberg's stages of development. One can be at the highest stage, in which the "highest value [is] placed on human life, equality, and dignity," yet still the shadow presents us with moral dilemmas that challenge our value system. Wholeness demands the lower as well as the higher, a concept that is hard to reconcile with any model that presents advancing stages of development. Still, each of Kohlberg's stages can be seen as broader, more inclusive than the stage that preceded it. There are more possibilities open to the individual, coupled with more demands. Life may be cruel at the lowest stage, but it is simple: merely do what has to be done to avoid punishment. By the time we reach the highest stage, we have to accept our individual responsibility for the collective evil in the world. I was forced for the first time to learn that lesson when I was a freshman in college.
I spent my freshman year in college at Texas A&M University, a then all-male military school. I had applied and been accepted at several very good schools; the only trouble was that I couldn't afford them. "No problem," I thought. Because I had done very well the year before on the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test), I had assumed that this year I would do equally well on the SAT and get a General Motors scholarship that would pay for everything. That's the sort of assumption it's hard to imagine making except when you're young and cocky. As it turned out, I did very well on the SAT, but didn't score quite high enough to get a General Motors scholarship.
Now that I didn't have enough money for the schools I wanted, I had to decide what to do. My uncle and two cousins, however, had gone to Texas A&M and had sung its praises. It was a state university and thus, in those days, affordable. For some ungodly reason, that was enough for me to decide to go there. This, despite the fact that there were a number of good and affordable state universities, including one in the city where I lived. The fact that I picked Texas A&M is especially astonishing in retrospect as I had absolutely no interest in a military career. My father had gone into the army before WWII, had gone back to a job in private life briefly before the war started, then was drafted again. By the time the war ended, he was a lieutenant and decided to make the Army a career. So I grew up as an Army brat, and Army brats either become little soldiers or decide that the Army is the last thing for them. I was one of the latter. It helped that my father never, in any way, pushed me toward a military career.
So I ended up at Texas A&M. I knew so little about what I was getting into that I didn't even realize it was totally military! I knew that was part of it, but I was in total shock when I arrived and was issued uniforms, sent to a barber for a crewcut, and assigned to a military company, just as if I was in the Army itself. That's when the fun began.
We lived in dormitories that were more like military barracks with wire-frame beds, military blankets and sheets, etc. We woke at a prescribed hour, studied at prescribed hours, went to bed at a prescribed hour. We marched to meals, ate as a group, exercised as a group, did everything as a group. Only attending classes broke the group routine, but after classes we returned to the barracks, and the regimentation began again. We were totally subsumed within a collective culture. Collective cultures demand that the individuals within that culture subordinate their individuality to the rules and structures of the collective. Military cultures are especially strict in those demands. As we mentioned in the previous chapter, not only individuals, but cultures, have a shadow. We are always dealing with not only our own shadow, but the shadow of the several cultures within which we live. I was to encounter an especially dark shadow in Texas A&M's collective shadow.
It was part of the school's code that fish--as freshmen were termed--were hazed, especially by the sophomores who had gone through the hazing the year before. My particular company, E-2, or Rebel-E as it was termed, kept the school's mascot: a beautiful collie. Thus distinguished, Rebel-E liked to think of itself as the toughest company at Texas A&M. I guess we were: we started with over 60 freshmen and ended with 22, and none were academic drop-outs! The rest left because of the hazing. In most cases, they were smart enough to recognize they were going through torture and to leave. In some cases, they left because they had been broken by the system.
A number of scenes from that year stick in my mind. In one, the company's sophomores had decided I was too cocky for my own good. They told me to wait until lights out, then show up in one of their rooms. When I did, they had me do pushups until my arms wouldn't support me any longer, then I had to crouch with my arms extended--"grabbing butterflies"--until my legs gave out and I collapsed. While this went on, they told me, in graphic language, what a worthless person I was and how I was going to learn to act like a fish was expected to act. Then I would be forced to repeat the cycle. This continued until I threw up. Then back to the cycle. When I couldn't throw up any more, they made me drink water, so I could continue the exercises and throw up some more. Eventually they grew tired of this fun and let me return to my room. Though not everyone was unfortunate enough to go through this regimen, I was hardly a unique case.
We ate all our meals together in the mess hall (as the cafeteria was termed in proper military fashion). As punishment for some unremembered crime, a friend and I were forced to eat "square meals"; i.e., we sat bolt upright, eyes looking straight forward. We then had to pick food off our plates with our forks, moved them straight upward, then back to us at a right angle to eat. If we dropped something, we had to leave the table. This was hardly a punishment, as we also had to drench our food in Tabasco sauce, which, of course, made it inedible. The only other food we could get were from candy machines in the classroom buildings during the day. Though we ate as many as we could, our weight kept dropping off. I can't remember how long this went on, but it seemed like forever. By year's end I was down from 175 pounds to less than 130 pounds and looked like a concentration camp victim in the school yearbook.
Another freshman in our outfit was a gentle boy whose father had died in the Korean War. He had grown up exclusively among women and, though not gay, was more sensitive than fit into such a setting. From the beginning the sharks sensed his weakness and circled around him. I was just trying to survive myself, so didn't pay much attention, assuming that he was subjected to the same sort of hazing I was going through. But his was worse; for one thing, they made him take his mattress off his bed and sleep on the wire bed springs, wearing a full marching uniform of fatigues, boots, and helmet. I think that lack of sleep was what finally wore him out. He had a nervous breakdown and left one day while we were off as a unit on some group activity.
Once I went to another barracks to visit a friend. As I walked down the hall, I passed a door which was slightly ajar. For some reason I can't recall, I stopped and looked inside. A young man was lying next to the sink with his wrists slit and blood running all over the floor. I yelled for help and wrapped his wrists with towels. As soon as others came who were better able to deal with the emergency, I left. I later heard that he had lived, but otherwise nothing. I never found out who he was or why he had come to that pass.
I remember once sitting in my room unable to stop crying. A sophomore in my outfit who had treated me especially cruelly happened to come in while I sat there crying. He stood there and waited, not unkindly, until I stopped, then walked out without saying a word. I expected the worst, but the incident was never mentioned, and he never again mistreated me in any way.
I did have a few small triumphs during the year. I had to get up every morning and make coffee for one of the upperclassmen, so it would be ready when he woke up. Every day I would fill the coffee pot with cold water, then pee in it before I started it brewing. Seeing him drinking his coffee gave each day a little zest for me.
Then there was the time we "Babbo-bombed" the junior who was second-in-command of the company. We took a can of Ajax (Babbo was a similar product of the time; hence the name "Babbo-bomb") and cut off the metal ends, leaving a cardboard cylinder. We put a very strong firecracker inside (a "cherry-bomb," I think they were called), leaving the long fuse outside, then sealed up the ends of the tube with tape. Then we waited for our moment. Late one night, when for some reason the junior was gone, a friend and I sneaked into his room, set down the Babbo-bomb in the middle of the room, lit the fuse and went back to our rooms. When it exploded, the cleanser not only covered everything in the room, it stuck to it, nearly ruining everything. Within minutes, the upperclassmen had all the freshmen standing at attention in the hallway. When asked who did it, I'm proud to say that every single freshman in our company said that he did it. Because they couldn't punish us singly, we were forced to spend our Saturdays marching on the drill field. But we still considered it worthwhile.
Perhaps the most indelible memory was of a junior named Danzheizer. I never knew his first name and don't think anyone else did either. He wore the rattiest uniforms possible and always seemed to be grinning. He hung out exclusively with freshmen, giving them free access to his room, where they played poker far into the night--a rare privilege for freshmen. Late in the year, I heard his story from another upperclassman with whom I had become friendly. Danzheizer had gone through a freshman year much like the rest of us. When he returned to A&M for his sophomore year, he refused to haze the new crop of freshmen. Because of that, he was universally shunned; no one would speak to him except freshmen, who were forced by protocol to answer anyone who addressed them. Somehow he found the courage not to be driven away, but to survive in his own strange way.
Eventually my freshman year came to an end. The next summer, I had a mind-numbing job where I sat on street corners seven days a week, thirteen hours a day, recording when the buses would arrive and leave and how many passengers were on the bus. Obviously I had a lot of time for my thoughts. Two months of the summer passed before I suddenly realized that I didn't have to go back to A&M. I had been so deadened that I had assumed that my only option was to return to A&M and inflict cruelty on a new crop of freshmen. Now that I realized that I didn't have to return, I instead attended the local university for a year where I discovered what it was like to be a normal young college student.
I was so buried within the collective culture of A&M that I had forgotten that I was an individual capable of making individual choices. I think we often forget that even in the worst circumstances, we have a choice. Even during my freshman year, I could have left Texas A&M to attend the university in my home town. I probably would have if I had only stopped to realize that I had a choice. At the time, I was more concerned with showing everyone how tough I was, and wasn't going to let anyone drive me away. So I was making a choice; in retrospect, an unwise choice. Every moment of our lives is a moment of choice, if we open our eyes. And it is always our choice whether to conform to the values of our culture or to choose to go our own way.
For several years afterwards, I chewed over those memories, trying to make some sense out of them, so that I could make some sense out of life once more. I had never before realized that a collective system like Texas A&M could make normal people do things they wouldn't otherwise. I certainly never thought that any system could compromise my morality. Yet I knew that I wasn't as brave as Danzheizer. I wouldn't have been able to do what he did: to stay there and take a stand against what I knew to be wrong. It's a sobering moment to come up against your own limits.
Clearly there was a dark shadow that lay within A&M's culture. But is there some absolute evil that necessarily lies in the collective shadow of organizations like A&M? If we dig deeply enough into the darkness, do we arrive at evil? Everyone has to make their own decision on such issues, and I will talk about it more in the next section, but for me, I don't believe there is any evil in the shadow, no matter how deeply we dig. And I don't believe there is necessarily any more evil in a collective, cultural shadow than in the individual.
Organizations like A&M begin for good reasons: to teach young men the discipline they need to make something of themselves. But as we have seen before, too much of a good thing becomes evil. It is easy to interpret the need for discipline to mean a need for total obedience to the rules of the culture. Discipline sometimes requires punishment. Over time, punishment can become so exaggerated that it acquires an independent existence. Eventually the rules of the culture and the punishments which support those rules are ritualized until no one even remembers their purpose. Unless organizations like A&M (and the armed forces, religions, political groups, businesses, etc.) constantly examine their own process, the shadow will force itself to the surface in a necessary balance to the distorted view that the culture has of itself. The price of success in achieving balance, whether in an individual or a group, is vigilance.
Three rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie,
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
J. R. R. Tolkein. (11)
J. R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings is an epic story of the battle between good and evil for possession of the earth and the souls of those who inhabit it. In presenting this struggle, Tolkein is wise enough never to show the ultimate source of evil: the dark wizard Sauron. Throughout the nearly 1,500 pages of this story, we encounter only relative evil, characters who, though frightening in themselves, serve as pale reflections of Sauron's evil. There are the Black Riders, once mighty warriors, who succumbed to the temptation to wear rings of power offered by Sauron. This gave them immortality but at the cost of their humanity. They are now the undead--"ring-wraiths"--who fly through the air on wicked steeds to swoop down on those who oppose Sauron. Or Saruman the White, a mighty wizard who had once fought against Sauron's evil, but who lost his own battle with the sin of pride and became merely another of Sauron's servants. As we encounter these and other frightening figures throughout the story, we constantly find ourselves asking then what is the evil of Sauron like, that these may be only pale imitations? Perhaps that is the only way we mere humans can ever approach absolute evil as something that must have existence in order for us to encounter its manifestations throughout the world.
Because evil is thus presented as the backdrop against which the heroes struggle, we see over and over again the complexity of the relationship between good and evil. Each time, in some way the One Ring, the greatest of the Rings of Power, serves as the focal point for the struggle between good and evil. On one side are all of Sauron's seemingly invincible forces. On the other, the Fellowship of the Ring, composed of nine companions: the wizard Gandalf; two men, Boromir and Aragorn (also known as Strider); Legolas the elf; Gimli the dwarf, and four little Hobbits, Merry, Pippin, Frodo Baggins, and his servant and companion Samwise Gamgee. Perhaps because only the smallest and least can bear such a burden, the One Ring is borne by Frodo. It proves a heavy burden and a strong temptation for all.
For example, Boromir wants only to accomplish what he regards as the good: to protect his people against Sauron's forces of evil. Surely, he believes, a mighty warrior such as himself is the proper person to possess the One Ring--someone who would know how to make use of its power, not a weak, silly little creature like the Hobbit Frodo. Boromir's failure to recognize the destructive temptations of power leads him to try to kill Frodo in order to steal the ring. By chance, Frodo slips on the ring, finds that he has become invisible, and makes his escape, later to be rejoined by his faithful companion Sam (short for Samwise). Boromir's actions thus split the companions of the ring for the first of several times into separate groups, never to be rejoined until the completion of the tale. Boromir atones for his sin of pride by sacrificing himself to allow two other Hobbits, Merry and Pippin, to escape the orcs (more commonly known in other mythological tales as goblins).
Pride and arrogance is a common starting place for many of us on the journey, as it was for Boromir (and for Ged!) I know it was for me in my life, as I've told in chapter one. I had been raised to feel that I had special gifts and, concomitantly, special responsibilities toward others. This twin combination had already led me to my youthful philosophy that "there ARE relative values!" I struggled with my values and felt they had extra weight because of that struggle. For me, the shadow had to slowly take me down one peg at a time, until I finally realized that everyone has to struggle with their values, that everyone has special gifts and responsibilities, that everyone's life is worth as much as my own life. It is one thing to care for others from a privileged position, quite another to care about each and every one of them because we are all in the same boat together.
A wiser example is the wizard Gandalf the Grey, whose very title expresses the ambiguity of his moral position. Seemingly arrogant and ill-tempered and someone to avoid, he, instead for the first half of the journey, serves as the moral compass for the rest of the fellowship of the ring. He is grey because he recognizes the complexity of the mixture of good and evil in all our actions. Gandalf could himself have taken the ring before Frodo ever began the journey, but he is wise enough to realize that no one is capable of using such power without succumbing to its temptations.
But wizards are very old, living hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It is very difficult for any of us to come to realize our own limits within our short span of three-score-and-ten. Instead the shadow comes to us to present us with our limits. We need to greet it as a welcome friend.
Caption: But wizards are very old, living hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It is very difficult for any of us to come to realize our own limits within our short span of three-score-and-ten. Instead the shadow comes to us to present us with our limits. We need to greet it as a welcome friend.
Each of the members of the quest serves in some way as a touchstone for the shifting balance between good and evil in the story. But more than anyone else, the Hobbits Frodo and Samwise and the once-Hobbit Gollum, show us how complex the balance between good and evil actually is. Since no one is wise enough to wear the ring, it must be destroyed. Yet it can only be destroyed by casting it into the fires of the volcanic Mount Doom, in which it was originally forged. And Mount Doom lies in the middle of Mordor--the dark land--the heart of Sauron's evil kingdom. So while the other companions of the ring have great adventures and fight great battles, Frodo and Sam must simply plod deeper and deeper into what Conrad called "the heart of darkness."
It is impossible to deal with evil by mere avoidance, one has to visit the dark lands, go to the edge of doom itself. We saw this in Ged's story, and we see it in our own lives. I remember when I was working as a counselor and night manager at a halfway home for severely disturbed young adults. I'd get up before any of the residents and spend the early hours of the morning in the kitchen with "Nick the Cook." I never knew him by any other name. Nick had been a heroin addict. He beat heroin by using cocaine. Then he beat cocaine by using booze. Finally he beat booze by using Alcoholics Anonymous. I don't know much about AA, but Nick told me they believe that we all have a dark place inside our soul, and we have to pass through that dark place in order to become whole. That's been my experience. No one can come to wholeness without coming to terms with darkness.
Several times along the way, Frodo is forced to slip the ring on his finger in order to become invisible and escape detection. Each time, his gain is also his loss because the ring gains some power over him, tempting him to covet the ring for himself. He fights that temptation with all his will. By the latter part of the journey, Frodo is so worn by both physical wounds and the draining power of the ring that he can no longer even walk.
"I can't manage it, Sam," he said. "It is such a weight to carry, such a weight." (12)
When Sam offers to carry the ring for him, Frodo's avarice takes over and he refuses, for a brief moment afraid that Sam is trying to take his precious ring from him, before he realizes that Sam is only trying to help him.
"No, no, Sam," he said sadly. "But you must understand. It is my burden, and no one else can bear it." (13)
Each of us in some way comes to a point in our lives, where we realize that no one else can bear our burden, no matter how much they love us. This is the loneliest place on our journey, but also in some way the beginning of the last stage of the journey. Only someone who has struggled with the shadow can come to this recognition.
Frodo and Sam toss away everything else they carry in order to lighten their load. But the weight of the ring grows ever heavier. Finally Frodo can go no further. So Sam, unable to carry the ring for Frodo, carries Frodo.
Sam looked at him and wept in his heart, but no tears came to his dry and stinging eyes. "I said I'd carry him, if it broke my back," he muttered, "and I will!"
"Come, Mr. Frodo!" he cried! "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he'll go." (14)
There are few scenes in literature so touching as that of Sam struggling forward, bearing the full weight of his master Frodo, who in turn is nearly unconscious from carrying the moral weight of the ring. This marks the point where we know that only we can carry our burden, yet we no longer have the strength to do it alone. At that point, we find that if we are willing to give up our last vestiges of pride, there are loved ones who can carry us, even as we carry our burden. Even when there is no actual person around us to serve that function, we will find within us a force, humble and probably taken for granted, that can support us during these most difficult of all times.
Sam carries Frodo as far as he can. When even brave Sam can go no further, Frodo finds he has the strength to crawl. Somehow he comes to the edge of the mighty volcano--the point of his destiny where he must destroy the One Ring. And he finds the ring has won. Carrying it for so long, wearing it so often, now that the time has come, he can't part with it.
"I have come," he said. "But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!" And suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam's sight. (15)
Just at that moment, when it seems all has been for naught, Gollum appears. We talked of Gollum in chapter one, as an example of how we have to deal with the shadow at its most repulsive. Gollum, once a Hobbit, had found the ring and, under its influence, had evolved into a repulsive, slimy creature, nearly eternal but condemned to live hidden away in caverns, far from the light. As you may recall, Frodo's uncle Bilbo Baggins cheated Gollum out of the ring and managed to get away. That forced Gollum out of his caves to hunt by night for the ring. Eventually he finds Frodo. Sam wants to kill Gollum; instead Frodo treats Gollum with firmness, but with charity as well. Gollum serves as their guide to Mordor until, due to his treachery, Frodo and Sam are forced to leave him and go on alone.
But Gollum has continued to track them and now jumps on the invisible Frodo, fighting for possession of the ring. After a bitter struggle, Gollum bites off Frodo's ring finger, and holds finger and ring aloft in triumph. But in his struggle, he has moved too close to the edge of the volcano and falls in. Thus the ring is finally destroyed. Once destroyed, Sauron's power are gone, and the darkness he has lived with so long lifts off Frodo. Characteristically, the first thing Sam thinks of is Frodo's "poor hand" and the first Frodo thinks of is Gollum.
"Do you remember Gandalf's words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do. But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him. For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam." (16)
The shadow is a necessary guide along the way, even if there is a part of it which can, and should, never be integrated into our consciousness because it belongs in the darkness. The challenge of the shadow is not to try evil in order to become whole. Beyond the relative evil that can transmute into gold may, in fact, lie true evil. And we must never yield to that. Yet still, it is far wiser if we refrain from judging it, for we may find that even evil may yet serve a purpose in our lives . . . like Gollum.
It would seem that the story ends here, but this is a very wise story and there is still one further lesson it has to teach us. With the Ring destroyed and Sauron's evil dispersed, the tale is filled with triumphs and celebrations. Aragorn becomes king and has a grand wedding. When the Hobbits return to their beloved land, the Shire, they find that evil humans are running things. After what they have gone through, Merry and Pippin, the youngest of the Hobbits, have little trouble righting things again. Sam returns to his loved one, Rosie, to marry and live happily ever after.
But with the destruction of the ring, not only Sauron's evil has died, but an age has died, the Third Age when elves and wizards still lived on Middle Earth, as the world was called. Gandalf and the elves prepare to sail away from Middle Earth, to leave the world as we know it. And Frodo goes with them. For there is no place left for Frodo among normal Hobbits and humans. He has seen too deeply into the darkness and can never again feel well and healthy in the normal world. Nor, for that matter, will he be wholly at home even at the destination where Gandalf and the elves must go. Frodo has passed beyond living anywhere except inside himself.
Chapter 5 - Notes
1. Herbert Weiner, 9½ Mystics: the Kabbala Today (New York, Chicago, San Francisco: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1969), p. 7.
2. Saint Augustine in his Enchiridion, quotation in Anthony S. Mercatante, Good and Evil in Myth & Legend (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1978), p. 7.
3. Saint Thomas Aquinas, quotation in Anthony S. Mercatante, Good and Evil in Myth & Legend, p. 8.
4. See Robin Robertson, Beginner's Guide to Jungian Psychology (York Beach Main: Nicolas-Hays, Inc, 1982) for a full treatment of Jung's model of psychological types.
5. C. G. Jung, Collected Works, Volume 9ii: Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, 2nd Edition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XX, 1959), p. 10.
6. Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgement of the Child (New York: Free Press, 1965).
7. Kenneth Gergen, et al (editors), Social Psychology: Explorations in Understanding (New York: Random House, 1974), p. 69.
8. Sara Sanborn, "Means and Ends: Moral Development and Moral Education", in Annual Editions: Readings in Psychology '74/'75 (Guilford, Connecticut: Dushkin Publishing Group, 1974), p. 167.
9. Lawrence Kohlberg, "Stage and Sequence: The Cognitive-Developmental Approach to Socialization," in D. A. Goslin (ed.), Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1969), p.379.
10. See Kenneth Gergen, et al (editors), Social Psychology: Explorations in Understanding, pp. 69-72.
11. J. R. Tolkein, The Fellowship of the Ring (New York: Ballantine Books, 1965), p. vii.
12. J. R. Tolkein, The Return of the King (New York: Ballantine Books, 1965), p. 263.
13. J. R. Tolkein, The Return of the King, p. 263.
14. J. R. Tolkein, The Return of the King, p. 268.
15. J. R. Tolkein, The Return of the King, p. 274.
16. J. R. Tolkein, The Return of the King, p. 277.