The portrayal of Gollum/Sméagol in the second installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy provides an excellent demonstration of split/mind duality in action. The conversations, disagreements and arguments iterated by these two characters as good versus evil, victim versus manipulator, self verses self – give us insight to the very same battles that go on, often unnoticed, within our own psyche.
Tolkien introduces the character of Gollum (originally Sméagol) in The Hobbit when Bilbo finds the ring and spares his life. Frodo and Sam first meet Gollum when he attempts to retrieve the Ring – the Precious – while Frodo sleeps. At that point he is subdued and captured, finally being dragged unceremoniously along at the end of a rope, protesting loudly.
Gollum’s obsession with the Ring has so corrupted him emotionally and physically, he is no longer recognizable as one of the River Folk. An analogy with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden can be seen. The Ring is an icon of absolute power for its own sake. It has a will of its own. This is the representation that we have a will separate from God’s. The ring is the symbol of our usurpation of God, using all His power for our own corrupt purpose, wrecking havoc upon all of mankind and ultimately leading to our own demise.
However, Gollum’s total resistance to Frodo begins to waver when Frodo extends compassion to him and defends him to Sam. Frodo, having heard of his Uncle Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum then calls him by his true name – Sméagol. This invokes a memory of an earlier innocence and happiness which creates a pause in the thought process of Gollum and allows for a different response.
Gollum is the character that Sméagol became in his obsessive idolatry of the Ring. He is isolated, grievous, defensive, manipulative and alone. Frodo makes a break in that wall of defense by simply referring to another self that still exists behind the wall. This is the self that existed before ‘the fall’.
The full impact of the split mind becomes evident in the second scene where the internal dialog which is played out between Sméagol and Gollum is shown as two opposing personalities in a debate with each other. Sméagol portrays the essential “goodness” – it is the original condition before the corruption of the ring which made “Gollum”. Gollum is the hard egoic shell created to protect and maintain the self under siege in a world which must be bent on the same destructive premise as he. But Frodo recognizes that Sméagol is not so different from a Hobbit; he sees the innocence behind the corruption as his own, and by the action of forgiveness, ensures his own salvation. The savior saves his brother – and by so doing saves himself.
Sméagol’s ideas are thus protested and countered inevitably by Gollum. “Where would you be without me?” Gollum demands. Sméagol’s response “I don’t need you anymore – master will protect me now” – is his declaration of trust in his savior. It’s here that Sméagol experiences singularity and to his delight Gollum (his split mind) disappears. He immediately experiences a lightheartedness as a result of laying down the burden of self reliance.
In this new, uncertain world, where my own best interest is unknown, Frodo appears to betray Sméagol (but has actually saved his life), Sméagol restores Gollum to the role of protector because “Master has tricksed us!”. His decision to switch allegiance from Frodo to Gollum (himself) is made on incomplete information in which he knows only that he’s been captured and beaten. He is unable to see the larger picture. The split mind (Gollum) as self protection in the dream, reappears.
The nature of passion in duality is that it swings wildly and unpredictably between love and hatred. As Gollum nurses his grievance, he plots the murder of both Sam and Frodo by leading them into a dangerous situation where they will fall victim to “She”, a carnivorous spider. His rage and disappointment at Frodo’s betrayal can only be assuaged by a total revenge. The payment demanded is the death of the savior.
The parallel with the human split mind undergoing a spiritual transformation is obvious. The process outlined in ‘The Development of Trust’ in the Course in Miracles describes how reluctantly but with increasing confidence, trust is moved away from the self-concept, to the Self that knows. It reflects surrender (not sacrifice) to an alternative not within the former mind construct of the Teacher of God. This trust results in a confidence and certainty not previously available.
The scenes with Sméagol/Gollum highlight the impossible dialogue that churns on incessantly within the mind that tries to solve its own problems. It is found to be a redundant and futile exercise which feeds on itself bringing increasing chaos and uncertainty. As Jesus succinctly puts it ‘My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world.” Despite apparent setbacks the journey home has commenced.