At last, we have arrived at the Lord of the Rings' epic conclusion, and whoa… There’s a lot to unpack in this movie. From Messainic symbolism to the Witch-King of Angmar, this story is filled with nuggets of wisdom…. Not to mention some badass scenes and speeches that’ll make you want to jump up off your couch and slay a dragon!
The movie opens with the cautionary tale of Smeagol and Deagol, giving us the much-requested backstory of how Gollum came to find the ring and eventually become what he is at the time of the movie. As it goes, his brother Deagol finds it after being pulled into the river by a fish...don’t ask…. and Smeagol takes one look at the ring and kills his brother so that he can have it. This scene is especially strong in identifying the power of the ring to manipulate others and the power it has over the weak-minded, a visual that was much needed to grasp the ring's darkness.
Once Smeagol puts the ring on, everything changes. He describes that it cursed him, his people abandoned him, and he retreated into the mountains in solitude to transform into a monster. His tragic account of this transformation is made even more intense by focusing on his forgetting of Nature, as he tells us that “we forgot the taste of bread and the sound of trees, the softness of the wind… and in time we even forgot our name”. He forgets all of the things that make life beautiful, completely disconnected from his soul.
Soon, we’re back with Frodo and Sam, and it seems that the closer they get to Mt Doom, the heavier the ring becomes. Sam remarks that they must have slept in since it’s starting to get dark, but Frodo points out that it's only midday and that “the days are getting darker.” Besides being just literal, it also seems to be an allusion to Sauron’s power, and by extent, the darkness, which is growing and spreading across the world. We may also do well to remember that it is often darkest just before the dawn and that this darkness is signaling the final battle.
The use of weather itself is quite strong in the movies. Remember during Helms deep, when Gandalf brought a new rising sun with him that blinded the Orcs? It would seem as though dark clouds have similar energy in Mordor. Just as Gandalf brings the light, Sauron doesn’t just “represent” darkness, he IS darkness, and his influence is spreading.
Back at Isengard, Merry and Pippin are having a blast and relaxing on a battlefield of dead orcs. Gandalf and company arrive, and a conversation ensues about what to do with Saruman. While Gimli wants to kill Saruman, Gandalf explains that he must be kept alive since he has no more power but plenty of information. Gandalf does his best to convert Saruman to the force's light side, but to no avail, and Saruman's stubbornness eventually does him in.
Now, it turns out beating the Saruman level boss was a good thing. He had one of the best loot drops ever. A Palantir! An ancient Elven Seeing Stone, oh shucks, but it’s cursed, and like the ring - it instantly grabs Pippins attention… He wants it. He does.
Now, these Palantir things are pretty interesting all on their own! Ignoring the fact that there’s a data analyzing company called Palantir Technologies in California, the Palantiri saw stones made by the Elves to communicate before being given to the Atlanteans… Sorry, Numenoreans… and eventually finding their way into the great towers after the fall. Now, the stones actually could be used to see for miles or sometimes show their users' thoughts. Perhaps in the future, we humans could develop something like that, ten generations of the internet from now, we stare into crystal balls and have all of the information and communication beamed to and from our minds.
Anyway, the use of Palantirs in the books goes even deeper too. Denethor’s fear and attachment to his ego that’s seen later in Gondor makes much more sense as Tolkein writes that he secretly had his Palantir and would use it to gain forbidden knowledge. Denethor thought at first he had the might to stand against Sauron, and for some time, was able to withstand his power mentally. But upon seeing the advancements of Sauron's armies in the days before the Siege of Gondor, Denethor turned to complete despair and became the guy we see in the movies…
Spiritually speaking, this theme of forbidden knowledge is present in most mythologies, and almost every time, it comes at a price. Knowledge will always be revealed at the perfect time, and searching for it unjustly will cause nothing but danger. There is a story from Ancient Egypt about the Mysterious Book of Thoth, which upon reading it, would transform mortals to have an awareness of Gods, however upon doing so, tremendous consequences would befall them because this power has to be earned, not taken by force.
Right, Lord of the Rings… So then we jump to Rohan, and everyone is partying it up in the throne room, mourning their dead and feasting, you know, things that go pretty well together… and Eowyn gives Aragorn a chalice to drink from. And this is just an almost perfect mirror to not only King Arthur and the Grail but also the Eucharist ritual celebrated by Christians, further cementing the whole Aragorn/Jesus symbolism… Hey, he even looks like our depictions of Christ, though Gandalf rocks the white robes, for sure.
During the party, Aragorn and Gandalf discuss how Frodo is doing. Aragorn asks Gandalf: “what does your heart tell you?” Now I know this turn of phrase is super common, but it sure does pack weight. Listening to the heart is how we connect with truth, for it comes from both love and the wisdom of the cosmos. In this, Gandalf gives a deep smile, as knowing flows through him that Frodo is alive. It’s also worth mentioning that one of the most profound things you can do for someone is asking someone a profound question - demonstrated beautifully by this scene.
Back on the not-so-yellow brick road to Mt Doom, we find our favorite hobbits asleep and Gollum talking to his reflection. Smeagollum is discussing plans with himself to kill the hobbits, and Sam overhears and, well, he wasn’t a fan of that conversation.
What’s curious is that Smeagollum explains: “Smeagol wouldn’t hurt a fly,” as he kills one accident that lands on his head. But really, it’s here we have this split personality, the Jungean shadow self that we explored earlier. The ring seems to have split his psyche in two and based on the conversations that they have with each other. It seems as though Smeagol and Gollum have different memories or thoughts, so divided inside that they manifest as two consciousnesses in one body.
Anyway, we’ve talked a lot about that party so far, so let’s tag in with Arwen for a moment. Something is interesting about her departure from the world. The scene is very natural, peaceful, yet sad in its tranquility. There is a sense of fleeing from a dying world, but the divine feminine will not let go, upon realizing that there is a greater truth she had not seen before, that while there is death in her future with Aragorn, there is life also. Here we have another message of sacrifice, for staying in these lands, she gives up much of her power, but she has chosen love above all else. In this, she convinces Elrond to reforge the sword of Excalibur!... No, sorry, that was a typo… Master Sword pulled from the stone in Hyrule Fores- no, no, that’s not it either. Anduril! That’s the one.
Now Anduril isn’t any old sword… It’s the blade of the true redeemer king. Anduril means Flame of West in Elvish and is supposed to represent Aragorn’s right to rule. It does seem to have been based on the mythical Excalibur, as Tolkein tells us that “Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen.” This is a direct call back to the King Arthur Legend, where, when Excalibur was drawn, it was said to shine with the light of 100 suns, so strong that it blinded any enemy who looked at it. Aaaaand, when you’re full-on hearts, Master Sword glows and shoots laser beams! Could you imagine?
Interestingly, when Elrond gives him the sword, he states that “the crownless shall be king.” Until this point, Aragorn has still been the ranger, holding onto this lesser perception of himself. Elrond explains that now is the time to switch classes, equip a sword with higher hit-points, and step into his birthright as the true King of Gondor.
From a philosophical perspective, this speaks volumes to self authenticity. Too often, we pretend to be someone else in our lives, attaching labels to ourselves that define us in our society. But what is being said here is that only by shedding those labels and being true to yourself can you ascend to be the highest form of you… and who knows...that new you might even be a king compared to the old you!
Now, Minas Tirith… Dang. This is a city that looks and feels pure, as if you know the good guys live here, although, at this point in the story, it could use some new management, if you know what I mean. The way it's laid out is reminiscent of geometry, built on seven levels, each of concentric circles rising higher than the last one. In a way, it’s like a 3D version of Plato’s account of Atlantis. At the very top, we see the citadel, which has a cross in the center leading to the White Tree in the middle of a fountain. This layout probably wasn’t an accident, given how much Tolkein loved the story of Atlantis. It’s worth mentioning that if we wanted to, humans could build a city like this today. It would take a lot of work, but imagine how beautiful that would be and what kind of things it would inspire if we were to do so?
Until this point, we haven’t yet been properly introduced to Denethor, and when we do… Ugh. Let’s say, probably not what we’d expect from the king of a place like this. Perhaps Tolkein is implying that good and evil are subjective, and it’s a personal choice that determines our reality rather than the positions we are in. This is reinforced later on when Gandalf explains to Pippin that “there was never much hope, just a Fool’s hope,” it seems like he’s placing a bigger emphasis on personal effort than position or fate.
Later on, when Pippin lights the beacons - against Denethor’s command, I might add, they produce a chain reaction of spreading fire that causes all the other beacons to be lit, eventually making their way back to Aragorn who, along with Rohan, begins to ride to Gondor’s aid. This scene reminded us of a Buddhist quote, that “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared, only expands”.
In this line of thought, with fire/light representing enlightenment, all it takes is for one “beacon” to be lit, to start a chain reaction that will eventually allow others to “light their beacons,” so to speak, and ultimately brings about salvation for Gondor, for if Rohan didn’t ride, Gondor would have fallen.
Once again, when the Nazgul begin to attack, Gandalf comes galloping in and shines the light of God in their faces, driving them off. We saw this before, but Light has this amazing ability to dispel darkness, and that’s just a scientific fact AND a great metaphor!
Speaking of Darkness, though, we also have a very important side story, and this truth that descending into it can cause great revelations, as in the Army of the Dead. On the surface, it seems as if the “Evil Mountain” eventually holds the keys to victory, speaking to the idea that to illuminate the darkness within, we must descend into the darkness to come out the other side.
Now, this Army of the Dead is a whole video on its own, but to go into it a little bit. The “Men of the Mountain” were cursed by Isildur when they agreed to help him fight Sauron, only to desert him in his hour of need and so be banished to the mountain until the next true king could release them.
This whole aspect of the story is a part of Aragorn’s hero's journey, in that he goes into an “underworld” type place, the realm of the dead. Interestingly, this “otherworld” is set in the East, the land of life, rather than the dead's traditional land, which is in the West.
When they get to the door, it is naturally shut off because the place is only meant for the dead, not the living, leading to a funny exchange between Legolas and Gimli that “It’s unheard of! An elf running underground and a Dwarf dare not!” Again, this reminds us of the idea of labels from earlier, how it’s almost a complete role reversal, speaking to how much our true natures can shine through once we stop assigning ourselves to certain traits or groups.
Now, when we first meet the dead, they are terrifying… As they probably ought to be… yet, they seem to have created a nice little city/structure down under the mountain, with nice glowy staircases. The Wraith King points out that only the true king can redeem them and thus, command them. Aragorn then shows his rightful position by grabbing the king - being the only one who can touch the dead, and showing him Anduril, confirming his kingship. All this talk of redemption should sound familiar as it’s a key part that signifies Aragorn as a Christ-like figure. The Undead Army is symbolic of the damned, sinners in a way, and only the King of Kings can redeem them. This section is strongly inspired by Messainic Mythology, indicating that even the damned can be redeemed by the noble's grace if they are willing to serve.
Back at the battle, Denethor has resolved to burn himself and his son on a pyre… Oh my god, you are so dumb! Sorry, it’s just, Faramir is still just so alive… and Denethor honestly could probably have noticed, except his ego has seemed to have drowned in a combination of sadness of loss and disgust that Faramir is not Boromir. It’s weird. Thank heavens for Pip and Gandalf come who run in to save the day… Gandalf gives Denethor the ol’ one-two with his staff, eventually showing him that his son is still alive. Illuminated by this valiant truth, Denethor is so excited he screams in fiery bloody murder to his death, and nobody cares because they’re all fighting a much bigger war. It’s kind of funny because as we zoom out and see Denethor fall off of the top of the city, it just shows how petty his ego was in the face of all that they were battling against.
And speaking of that battle, isn’t it curious that the Orcs feel fear too? When Gondor soldiers begin to fight back and launch their catapults, we see the Orcs visibly afraid. It’s as if reminding us that fear is a universal trait, one that isn’t unique to only one side of the warring spectrum.
Meanwhile, in the traveling tribe of short people - Gollum has deceived Frodo into telling Sam to go home, and Sam happens to come across a tricky business, and Frodo and Gollum make their way into Shelob's cave for tea and crumpets… I mean imminent death. Yes, that.
Fortunately, Frodo is armed with the pure light, and after Gollum seemingly falls to his death, Frodo uses his Lorien gift, the Elven Starlight, lighting the darkness around him. This light seems to drive Shelob away, almost as if she can’t touch it, maybe due to it being a pure Elvish tool, or like how purity repels chaos, as we saw with Gollum earlier.
Shelob herself is a very interesting discussion because of what spiders represent. For humans, fear of spiders, arachnophobia is one of the most common fears today. It’s very interesting, why are we so afraid of these little spiders? Is it because they are some of the fiercest predators of the insect kingdom? Perhaps their ability to produce beautiful yet terrifying webs scares us for some reason, or is there a mystery hidden in our ancient past that has left the fear of spiders locked into our DNA as a species?
Whatever the reason, a giant spider was the perfect fit for Shelob, as our human consciousness today instantly associates it with a dark or sinister force, and Shelob only reinforces that. Yet, at the same time, we might just be invited to use this opportunity to reflect on our arachnophobia if we have any. When we see a little spider, and we have a fear response, let’s ask ourselves. “I am a thousand times larger than you. You pose no threat to me. Why am I afraid of you?” And see what your mind comes up with in response.
Anyways, back at the battle - Pippin, and Gandalf, at one point, are faced with a great army of orcs, and in his terror, Pip asks the wizard if it is the end. And in true mystic-wisdom fashion, Gandalf once again delivers a powerful speech that echoes the words of the Hermetica:
“End? Oh, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is simply another path. One that we all must take. Everything rolls back and turns to silver clouds, and then you see it...white shores and beyond, a far green country moving into a swift sunrise.”
A description of paradise seemingly mirroring that of the Christian heaven, but the idea of seeing death as simply another part of our journey is incredibly important in any ascension process. In usual fashion, Gandalf helps to ease fear, but in this sense, it isn’t a physical fear at the moment, but the biggest fear of all, the fear of death. Pippin’s remark that “it doesn't sound so bad” arguably echoes all of our collective thoughts when thinking about transitioning from this life if we look at it from this inherently spiritual perspective.
We also here cannot understate the importance of Eowyn and her killing of the Witch King. The Witch-King himself seems to be a bit like evil Jesus himself, what with his crown of barbed metal thorns, you know? He has a sort of evil blessing curse upon him, no man can kill him, yet Eowyn, in the midst of battle, reveals that she is no man and blows his mind with a sword to the face. Herein we find a subtle reference to the power of the divine feminine and the fall of the patriarchal energy in the world at the noblewoman's hands.
Finally, Aragorn’s arrival scene is interesting as he arrives in one of the Orc boats that was supposed to bring reinforcements. Naturally, the orcs think they are allies until Aragorn reveals himself. Hmm..thinking someone is something else because of an outward appearance… Does that sound familiar? This scene similarly mirrors what happened in the Two Towers, where Gandalf the White first revealed himself to the Fellowship and appeared to look like Saruman… What’s more, we find that the battle is just over the moment they arrive. These dead warriors cannot be beaten, they instantly take down the enemy, and the battle is won. There must here be some wisdom in the sense that, drawing upon forces outside of the physical dimension, we can accomplish great things a bajillion times easier than if we try and brute-force our way through the challenge.
As the Hobbits get closer to Mt. Doom, seeing the garrison makes Frodo lose hope, but Sam reminds him to make it to the bottom of the hill first simply. A kind of… ”the journey begins with a single step” mentality. Something may seem daunting at first, but breaking it down into steps and completing each one is all that’s required. It doesn’t matter, getting to Mordor or spiritual enlightenment, both step by step processes and one that must be approached with patience. Once the hobbits reach the threshold, Gandalf loses sense/sight of them, which prompts an incredibly reflective scene.
GANDALF appears afraid, stating that he “has sent [the hobbits] to their death” and seems to lose a sense of hope. Now up until this point, it has been Gandalf who rekindles the hope when it is lost… This scene begs the question… What happens when the main support guy needs to support himself??
It’s Aragorn who comes up with the plan to march on the Black Gate and distract Sauron, even though Gandalf doesn’t think it will work. It’s like, sometimes, even the best of us are still human and subject to fear. Even those who are on the path of enlightenment doubt themselves.
As the forces of the good march on the Black Gate, we enter the final part of the story. At Mt Doom's entrance, we see a struggling Frodo, weighed down by the ring, unable to continue. Sam tries to rekindle his spirit by reminding him of the beautiful natural imagery of the Shire during Springtime. Yet, at this point, Frodo is so exhausted that he can’t remember any good things in life and “sees only darkness.” At this, the end of the journey, Frodo has lost hope, and without Sam to prop him up and aid him, as is true many times, he would have failed.
This is very important, because generally in Lord of the Rings, Frodo is glorified, and Samwise is often considered the comic relief, or as Gollum puts it, the stupid fat hobbit. We even see this in pop culture today. There’s an episode of the Big Bang Theory where everyone is fighting over who gets to dress up as Frodo for a costume party, but Sam? Psh, nobody wants to be the sam. Yet, Sam is one of the most important heroes of the story. Of course, Frodo had to carry the ring, but by the end, he was mostly an empty shell, his spirit worn away by the Ring. Because of Samwise, Frodo was able to make it at all, and he deserves just all of the medals for such courage and bravery.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not understating the importance of Frodo. There is some especially strong Messainic symbolism here that cannot be ignored. Much like Jesus carrying his cross for the sins of mankind, Frodo carries a burden of evil on behalf of the whole world. Frodo walks his own “Via Dolorosa" to Mount Doom, just like he makes his way to Golgotha. And as he approaches the Cracks of Doom, the Ring becomes a crushing weight, just as the cross was for Jesus. Sam, who carries Frodo up to Mount Doom, parallels Simon of Cyrene, who helps Jesus by carrying his cross to Golgotha.
Once making it up Mount Doom, overlooking the fiery lava below, and overpowered by the might of Sauron, Frodo's spirit gives in, and he declares he will keep the ring. At long last, the crushing burden that he bore has broken him, and all the darkness within has taken over.
Parallels have been made here to Jesus’ time in the desert where the Devil tempted him. Oh, look, it’s Gollum! Isn’t it so interesting that Gollum, in his final moments, returns just in time to become the tragic hero, leading to the destruction of the ring? This also fulfills Gandalf's ideas from long ago, that Gollum still had a part to play in this story, a very important part. Could you imagine if he wasn’t there? It probably wouldn’t have ended well for anyone without Gollum.
Further, it’s also no accident that the Ring can only be destroyed in the fires of Mt Doom, where it was created. It’s as if to say that darkness can only truly be destroyed at its source. What’s more, after the ring is gone, Frodos spirit returns, and he can once again see the natural imagery that Sam mentioned earlier.
Now, after waking up back in Rivendell, Frodo is reunited with the Fellowship and his old friends, and the general energy and tone are, as expected, quite cheerful. The darkness is gone, and a new age is beginning. Aragorn is crowned the rightful king, and we have this incredibly touching moment where everyone bows to the king, and the king says, my friends, you bow to no one. Think about this for a moment. The king bows to the hobbits. This is such a powerful scene, demonstrating humility, respect, and honor to those who have sacrificed more than anyone in the entire story. How can we relate this to our own lives? Who do we know in our lives who have made incredible sacrifices? Who can we show our respect and honor by honoring them for their service to the greater good?
As their time in the east comes to an end, the Hobbits return to the Shire. We see a funny little scene where Sam resolves to ask out his crush Rosie after a few drinks, signifying that even after all the questing, all the darkness and epic battles that happened… and epic tale, love still prevails. There is a classic archetype about the sacred wedding in the completion of the story, and Lord of the Rings hits it perfectly, not once, but twice, both with Aragorn and Arwen and Sam and Rosie.
Yet, something stirs in the heart of the Shire. Frodo shares a feeling relatable to anyone who has been or is currently going through an awakening process. He asks…
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when
In your heart, you begin to understand
There is no going back.”
This arguably is one of the hardest parts of experiencing a spiritual or transcendent awakening. Once you begin to see the world differently, you will never want to return to old paradigms or ways of thinking from an inherently spiritual perspective. Your old life and paradigms will often be changed and stretched so dramatically that it feels as if your world may be falling apart.
Yet, the overriding message is that if we stick with this inner transformation, it will lead to amazing things. While growth can sometimes be painful, it will always lead to something better, like how strange a caterpillar must feel in the cocoon, but boy is flying awesome once the transformation is done! When Frodo accomplishes his mission, like Jesus, he says, "it is done." Just as Christ ascends to heaven, Frodo's life in Middle-earth comes to an end when he departs to the Undying Lands of the Elves, a place where only the pure of heart may go.
Frodo, Bilbo, and Gandalf depart into the west, which is truly symbolic of the soul's final ascension. Upon finding completion, they move from one world into another, a greater kingdom beyond their world's borders. It is a majestic ending, and could not be more perfect, topped with a cherry at the end with a scene of Sam returning home and finding his child and wife waiting for him. A beautiful scene shows the cyclical nature of the world order and the transition into a new life.
To us, the hidden spirituality of Lord of the Rings is not so much hidden, but rather, is woven into the story in such a way that it expresses philosophies, mystic ideas, and wisdom in ways that illuminate our consciousness about concepts such as good, evil, and the ascension process. I trust that we, too, have helped to shine deeper light for all of us the next time we go to enjoy this story throughout this exploration.
With that, thank you so much for watching, and I’ll see you again soon on the next episode of Spirit Science!
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