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Old 01-05-2009, 10:05 PM   #1
Sardy
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Tolkien and Psychedelics

Admittedly, this is a broad topic, and one that I'm not completely positive has it's place in the "Books" forum (Admins, please feel free to move to a more appropriate place). I don't have a specific question, nor a particular avenue for debate, but would much rather open this thread for a wide and general discussion of psychedelics, transformative experience and altered perception in relation to Tolkien and his works.

Such writers, doctors, ethobotanists and philosophers as Dr. Andrew Weil, Terence McKenna, Stanislav Grof, Giorgio Samorini, and others have long postulated a fourth human drive (in addition to sustenance, survival and procreation) to seek, at times, altered states of consciouness and perception. While this could certainly be a discussion in and of itself, there is much in Tolkien's work that falls very much in tune with both this hypothesis and with the associated experiences described...

I am currently beginning a re-reading of The Lord of the Rings and my reading of my favorite chapter Three Is Company (coincidence that the "Three" might also describe the three Elven rings, as well as the three Hobbits?) prompted me to consider this topic.

There is much in Frodo's encounter with Gildor that resembles a traditional psychedelic experience, and the prose is poetically replete with descriptions that lend themselves to the experience of altered consciousness. For example:
"The hobbits sat in shadow by the wayside. Before long the Elves came down the lane toward the valley. They passed slowly, and the hobbits could see the starlight glimmering on their hair and in their eyes. They bore no lights, yet as they walked a shimmer, like the light of the moon above the rim of the hills before it rises, seemed to fall about their feet. They were now silent, and as the last Elf passed he turned and looked toward the hobbits and laughed."
The Elves behavior, and attitude towards the Hobbits in this scene also perfectly describes a state of altered perception. They are at once both perfectly in tune with nature and the woods around them, and at the same time aloof and detached. Tolkien describes the scene, several times, as, "being in a waking dream."

So much of this scene is surreal, from the unlikely appearance of the wooded hall in the greenwood, the beds prepared for the Hobbits in the boughs of the trees, the Elven drink... it's a timeless moment. And one that echoes of the dream world, the under mind, and altered perception. In the trilogy no other scene (save perhaps Lothlorien) speaks as powerfully of the subtly strange and different---and psychedelic---mindset of the Elves as does this.

I'd like to open this thread to a discussion of altered states of consciousness in Tolkien's life and his work.
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They passed slowly, and the hobbits could see the starlight glimmering on their hair and in their eyes.

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Old 01-05-2009, 11:05 PM   #2
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No, no, we must differentiate here.

Eating weird mushrooms and licking paper soaked in LSD is NOT the same as Elves passing by.
Now of course we all sometimes want to be in a fairytale place, and of course we wish we were floating around with dragons etc. but things don't happen like this in the Seventh Age of M-e.

However, back in the Third Age things were different. Firstly, it is important to realise that for the Hobbits the encounter with the Elves was literally otherworldly, they had never seen Elves before, and all these things seemed to be an otherworldly experience, but in the end Elves were a reality of the world and although due to their powers and knowledge they seemed magical they were in the end fairly normal and ordinary. For the Elves all that they were doing was normal, even Galadriel is a bit surprised to hear the word magic used to describe the Mirror I believe.

So, I'd conclude that whatever the Elves were doing it was by no means anything psychedelic for them only relatively perceived as such by the Hobbits.

Furthermore, in these experiences people want to do it, they voluntarily put themselves through a certain process to experience a new state. Elves just were that way, so what should they be doing in that respect?
Also, I am not entirely sure, but as far as I know the Professor was not a big fan of experimental drugs. Firstly, his Catholic upbringing would surely make him an opponent and secondly I believe I read somewhere that he disliked hippies and such, who were at that time some of those experimenters.

The topic seems interesting and I have no doubt that a nice discussion will emerge of this.
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Old 01-05-2009, 11:37 PM   #3
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Thanks for the quick response! Before jumping the gun, I should say that in starting this topic, I specifically shied away from mentioning things like "Eating weird mushrooms and licking paper soaked in LSD" or even specific drug use of any sort (though it should not be demonized or out of the realm of discussion, either). There are many, many forms of altered consciousness besides drugs---from spinning in circles to to transcendental meditation, from lucid dreaming to religious experience, from genetic makeup to brain injury, psychological conditions to evolutionary digression. Many forms of altered consciousness are indeed "normal", and experienced naturally. One thing I wish to avoid in this discussion is a heated debate of the morality and ethics of the drug phenomenon.

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Now of course we all sometimes want to be in a fairytale place, and of course we wish we were floating around with dragons etc. but things don't happen like this in the Seventh Age of M-e.
That's not at all what I am driving at or looking to discuss (although things like Ent draft, Elven wine, pipe weed, etc. might contradict your statement---(I would also defer to Dinah Hazell's wonderful The Plants of Middle-Earth which is an invaluable resource in learning more about the physiological, psychological and spiritual uses of "drugs" in the first three Ages of Middle-earth). Rather, I am looking for a discussion of altered states of consciousness---psychedelic experience (from Aragorn's "vision" of Moria to Frodo's dreams of the sea)---however they may occur: whether invoked by higher powers, sought out through meditation and pipe-weed, prompted by rings of power, or naturally occuring states of consciousness as in the Elves (perhaps in part a side effect of immortality?).

Regardless of the cause or the duration, the Elves DO indeed exhibit an altered perception from that of men (and other mortals). I am curious as to discussing how this plays out within the story, as well as breaking down the third wall to discuss how Tolkien perceived and created the different mindsets of his characters and races.

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So, I'd conclude that whatever the Elves were doing it was by no means anything psychedelic for them only relatively perceived as such by the Hobbits.
Well, then---their perception of the world around them, and their state of consciousness, is certainly psychedelically different than that of the Hobbits (and of the reader), isn't it?

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Furthermore, in these experiences people want to do it, they voluntarily put themselves through a certain process to experience a new state.
Not necessarily. Or at the very least, that wasn't one of my intended points. While altered consciousness certainly CAN be a voluntary experience, I don't think---especially in a fictional work---that it must be so.

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...as far as I know the Professor was not a big fan of experimental drugs. Firstly, his Catholic upbringing would surely make him an opponent and secondly I believe I read somewhere that he disliked hippies and such, who were at that time some of those experimenters.
I did some Googling before starting this thread and couldn't find ANYTHING on this topic. But I would be very interested in learning about Tolkien's experiences with and/or feelings about drugs (including pipe-weed and alcohol), altered consciousness, and psychedelic experience! Likewise, I'd be very interested in learning more about how the psychedelic movement of the sixties (and beyond) embraced Tolkien and Middle-earth, how they perceived it and what it meant to them...

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The topic seems interesting and I have no doubt that a nice discussion will emerge of this.
I certainly hope so!!!
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Old 01-06-2009, 01:46 AM   #4
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I see the connection. Both (fantasy and psychedelics) may be used cheaply for momentary thrills, of course. But if taken seriously, both can also open a window on perceptions that are deeply personal--perhaps spiritual. Many who respectfully use natural substances to alter their state of mind report that they experience an enhanced connection to nature, and a reinvigorated love of beauty. Often the shift in focus persists, as if the person suddenly realizes how vain the constructed world around them is.

There is a clear parallel here with the elves, whose connection to nature and perception of the spiritual is fundamental to their peculiar identity. Additionally, how often has reading fantasy aroused some longing in you for a simpler world and a more natural life? A more direct involvement of your inner self in your day-to-day existence? This is exactly the kind of pursuit that motivates many who deliberately alter their state of mind.
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Old 01-06-2009, 02:58 AM   #5
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Hmmmm...I would have to say that Aldous Huxley and JRR Tolkien are at opposite ends of the literary spectrum as far as how they sought inspiration. I don't see Tolkien, a staid Oxford don, as a Baudelairean hashish-eater (Tolkien's poetry is not evocative enough for a full blown trip, like Coleridge's 'Kublai Khan'). And perhaps the anonymous writer of Beowulf hallucinated due to ergot poisoning after eating some bad rye bread, but Tolkien's inspiration came directly from the Norse, Finnish, Greek and Anglo-Saxon, and bedtimes stories written to delight his children.

Reading about his home life, it would seem a few pints at the Bird and Baby was about all the stimulation Tolkien needed to write his mythos. Jim Morrison he was not.
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Old 01-06-2009, 06:33 AM   #6
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Reading about his home life, it would seem a few pints at the Bird and Baby was about all the stimulation Tolkien needed to write his mythos. Jim Morrison he was not.
Though by today's attitudes towards cigs, booze and stodge, he was quite decadent If Tolkien saw the state of Oxford pubs today he'd be mortified - having to lurk on the pavement for a rushed intake of nicotine instead of actually enjoying a langorous smoke of a cigar or pipe while sitting by the pub fire; being monitored on your intake of beer and hectored to get up and do 50 star jumps in every TV ad break...I think he'd be horrified at the freedoms we have given up.

But in any case, great topic!

Yes, I've noticed a LOT of incidents in Tolkiens writing which have struck me as very 'trippy', and even the demeanour of the Elves themselves suggests they are not quite of this world but somehow exist between two dimensions - which always makes me think of Blake's vision of angels amongst many other 'uncanny' things.

Without being near any biographical tomes to check, I can only offer some notions about Tolkien's own experience... For one thing, Catholicism is a deeply mystical and colourful faith with its saints, icons, incense, ritual etc. so if anything his faith would lead him more towards the 'trippy' (I think I'd prefer to call it visionary, actually) imagery, rather than away from it. And another thing to bear in mind is his interest in dreams and the symbolism of them, something we see reflected in his writing - I have often wondered if he did any of this 'lucid dreaming', if such a thing exists...

Anyway, there's a few things...quite randomly as is appropriate for such a topic
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Old 01-06-2009, 08:47 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Sardy View Post
I am currently beginning a re-reading of The Lord of the Rings and my reading of my favorite chapter Three Is Company (coincidence that the "Three" might also describe the three Elven rings, as well as the three Hobbits?) prompted me to consider this topic.

There is much in Frodo's encounter with Gildor that resembles a traditional psychedelic experience, and the prose is poetically replete with descriptions that lend themselves to the experience of altered consciousness. For example:
"The hobbits sat in shadow by the wayside. Before long the Elves came down the lane toward the valley. They passed slowly, and the hobbits could see the starlight glimmering on their hair and in their eyes. They bore no lights, yet as they walked a shimmer, like the light of the moon above the rim of the hills before it rises, seemed to fall about their feet. They were now silent, and as the last Elf passed he turned and looked toward the hobbits and laughed."
The Elves behavior, and attitude towards the Hobbits in this scene also perfectly describes a state of altered perception. They are at once both perfectly in tune with nature and the woods around them, and at the same time aloof and detached. Tolkien describes the scene, several times, as, "being in a waking dream."

So much of this scene is surreal, from the unlikely appearance of the wooded hall in the greenwood, the beds prepared for the Hobbits in the boughs of the trees, the Elven drink... it's a timeless moment. And one that echoes of the dream world, the under mind, and altered perception. In the trilogy no other scene (save perhaps Lothlorien) speaks as powerfully of the subtly strange and different---and psychedelic---mindset of the Elves as does this.
A fascinating topic! I'm not quite sure I would use the word 'surreal' to describe this scene. After all, "Three's Company" is the chapter with the self-reflective fox, and Sam saying his farewells to the beer barrel in the cellar and Frodo not selling his wine cellar to Lobelia, so many things are possible.

I went back and reread this chapter and one thing that came to my mind was how like the elves are to Buddhists in their compassionate detachment and how like this shimmering is to eastern philosophies of universal light and healing energy. Whether it is Qi Gong, or Ki, or Reiki, or prana, eastern cultures have a strong tradition of mind/body meditation and reflection--to say nothing of Ayurvedic medicine with its herbs and healing hands.

Like Lal, I would not use the word 'psychedelics'. It is of too recent a coinage (Dictionary.com places it at 1956; haven't checked out the OED yet) to suit Tolkien's ethos. After all, Tolkien's work begins with his interest in the historical development of language. In his study of languages, did he learn Sanskrti? Do we know what books and lore Tolkien might have learned of from the east?
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Old 01-06-2009, 04:24 PM   #8
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An interesting idea for a topic indeed, now I am not in a situation to post on lengths here, but I will bring forth only one thing that has not been mentioned yet, and I think it's a point to consider.

At least when I think of Tolkien's imagination and what this journey to Elsewhere means for him, if you read his essay On Fairy-Stories, you get a bit different impression: that is, I believe mainly it was human creativity, respectively, human mind's creativity, to carry one to the lands of Elves. So, if I compare it to the abovementioned methods of bringing one into such states, when the point is in fact letting go your conscious self (be it by means of various meditation techniques or by use of narcotics), I believe Tolkien's vision of Faërie depended far more on creative movement of his own mind, not in "extasis". Now, at least to compare with another fantasy (ahem) author, I also now remembered H.P.Lovecraft (and especially his "Ex Oblivione", if anyone had read that) - when in some of his stories people travel to "dreamlands" or face a different reality (such as in the short story "Polaris", where a man sees a strange city in his dreams and eventually becomes confident that he actually lives there), there are the dreams and again people's subconscious or unconscious mind which are the means to get to the "other place and time". Tolkien vehemently protest against dreams having anything to do with fantasy again in "On Fairy-Stories". This is why I believe he would not actually consider the methods of getting in different states of mind as "true way" (or if you wish, "Straight Road") to get to Faërie.
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Old 01-06-2009, 05:07 PM   #9
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Did Tolkien dream the drowning of Numenor?

I seem to remember from the Notion Club Papers that the character did, but did the author?
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Old 01-06-2009, 05:24 PM   #10
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J.R.R. writing, from Letters:

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"This legend or myth or dim memory of some ancient history has always troubled me. In sleep I had the dreadful dream of the ineluctable Wave, either coming out of the quiet sea, or coming in towering over the green inlands. It still occurs occasionally, though now exorcized by writing about it. It always ends by surrender, and I awake gasping out of deep water. I used to draw it or write bad poems about it.....I began an abortive book of time-travel of which the end was to be the presence of my hero in the drowning of Atlantis. This was to be called Numenor, the Land in the West. - LETTER 257
He goes on to say that he brought the original legend of Numenor "into relation with the main mythology."

So, yes.
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Old 01-07-2009, 12:54 PM   #11
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Thanks Beregond!

I thought I remembered something about that but didn't have sources on-hand.

Therefore at least some of Tolkien's writing was inspired by what one might call an 'altered state' ie dreams.
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Old 01-07-2009, 05:01 PM   #12
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Therefore at least some of Tolkien's writing was inspired by what one might call an 'altered state' ie dreams.
Ah, yes, true on that one. Good you brought that up. But in either case, it seems to be the exception (and still, the main thing was what he made out of it. Although it is funny he makes Faramir and Éowyn talk about stuff like that in the Houses of Healing - which also introduces dreams. I do not recall it correctly, but it looks like interesting projection of own experience with dreams to a character. Though that could go into a different topic). The only other thing I can think of is something somebody said about his son having scary dreams about some hand or what, or am I mistaken? Does anybody know more? I only recall hearing or reading about it somewhere.
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Old 01-08-2009, 07:00 AM   #13
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Ah, yes, true on that one. Good you brought that up. But in either case, it seems to be the exception (and still, the main thing was what he made out of it. Although it is funny he makes Faramir and Éowyn talk about stuff like that in the Houses of Healing - which also introduces dreams. I do not recall it correctly, but it looks like interesting projection of own experience with dreams to a character. Though that could go into a different topic). The only other thing I can think of is something somebody said about his son having scary dreams about some hand or what, or am I mistaken? Does anybody know more? I only recall hearing or reading about it somewhere.
Yes, one of his sons (Michael or Christopher - I can't check which right now) used to have dreams that this black hand shaped 'thing' was crawling down the bedroom curtains. So Tolkien drew a picture of it and they gave it a name, Maddo.

I've a postcard from the Bodleian of it, and I can confirm it's flippin' creepy! I'll try and find a picture online, though I've looked before and failed...

Isn't there a theory about how it can help to give fears a face and a name in order to better deal with them? Tolkien seems to do a lot of this - in common with many Fantasy/horror authors.


EDIT

I've found a review of Artist & Illustrator (this book has the Maddo picture in it) from the One Ring site which tells you a bit more about Maddo, extracted from the text in the book:

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"Maddo... ...[was] Michael's imagined boggeys when he was 6-8 years old... Maddo was a gloved hand without an arm that opened curtains a crack after dark and crawled down the curtain."
The guy who writes the review interestingly points out that the drawing of Maddo is like the drawing Tolkien did of the arm of Sauron for a cover for Return of the King!

http://www.theonering.com/articles1-...stratorAReview
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Old 01-13-2009, 10:03 AM   #14
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1420! Praise of alcohol

I agree with this:

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Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
Though by today's attitudes towards cigs, booze and stodge, he was quite decadent If Tolkien saw the state of Oxford pubs today he'd be mortified - having to lurk on the pavement for a rushed intake of nicotine instead of actually enjoying a langorous smoke of a cigar or pipe while sitting by the pub fire; being monitored on your intake of beer and hectored to get up and do 50 star jumps in every TV ad break...I think he'd be horrified at the freedoms we have given up.
In support I quote the famous hobbit drinking song:

Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go
But under a tall tree I will lie,
And let the clouds go sailing by.


Even when reading this as a young teenager in the early 1980s I thought this praise of alcohol somewhat excessive! But we have to remember that Tolkien's Shire, and even the real world he grew up in, are and were quite different from our own. For example, the massive and near-ubiquitous increase in the use of motor transport in the UK and many countries in his lifetime led to the need for regulation, including drink driving laws.

I think the main criticism that could be leveled against Tolkien today would be toleration, indeed encouragement, of obesity! As evidence I give part of the poem 'Perry-the-Winkle', where a kindly troll, grateful that a young hobbit was nice to him, invited him to tea every Thursday, with the following result:

Now Perry-the-Winkle grew so fat
through eating of cramsome bread,
his weskit bust, and never a hat
would sit upon his head;
for Every Thursday he went to tea,
and sat on the kitchen floor,
and smaller the old Troll seemed to be,
as he grew more and more.


What do people think?
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Old 01-13-2009, 10:21 AM   #15
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What do people think?
I despise political correctness. At the current rate, we'll all eventually be placed in individually-wrapped body condoms, and, safe in our prophylactic cocoons, we will no longer need to touch another human being (as intimacy of any sort causes all sorts of infectious abnormalities). In addition, all books will be burned as decadent and leading to thought; art will be purged as immoral; sex willl be eliminated as gross; alcohol, sugar, salt, tobacco, wood and wood byproducts, meat, vegetables, the sun, the snow, and grass will be banned; and safe in our condoms, eating our non-biotic cellulous mash, free from anything that will trouble our minds or hurt our tender sensibilities, we will blandly float about in our plastic bubbles touching nothing and having nothing touching us.
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Old 01-13-2009, 03:33 PM   #16
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I despise political correctness. At the current rate, we'll all eventually be placed in individually-wrapped body condoms, and, safe in our prophylactic cocoons, we will no longer need to touch another human being (as intimacy of any sort causes all sorts of infectious abnormalities). In addition, all books will be burned as decadent and leading to thought; art will be purged as immoral; sex willl be eliminated as gross; alcohol, sugar, salt, tobacco, wood and wood byproducts, meat, vegetables, the sun, the snow, and grass will be banned; and safe in our condoms, eating our non-biotic cellulous mash, free from anything that will trouble our minds or hurt our tender sensibilities, we will blandly float about in our plastic bubbles touching nothing and having nothing touching us.
Superb!

Funny how the once quirky beliefs of the old hippies - their macrobiotic food, organic lifetsyles, their eco lightbulbs and yoga - have become rules and regulations. Nowadays to rebel you must seek out the last meat pie and chips in England and drink beer...
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Old 01-23-2009, 06:39 PM   #17
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1420!

The same is happening here in Germany: a growing trend to eco health tyranny, purporting to protect us against ourselves. Vaguely reminds me of the horrid things somebody like Gandalf or maybe Galadriel might have done with the Ring: making Good itself seem despisable... Although, let's hand it to Gandalf: he at least wouldn't have banned smoking.
(I write this smoking a cigarette and with a bottle of Salvator (strong Bavarian beer, 7.9 % vol.) next to my computer...)
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Old 01-24-2009, 10:14 AM   #18
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Back to 'dope.' No. Not even a ghost of a prayer. Tolkien was, like, totally a square.

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He goes on to say that he brought the original legend of Numenor "into relation with the main mythology."
But was apparently mistaken in his recollection, or expressed himself obscurely. See HME V The Lost Road- the very first Numenor writings were from the start firmly placed within the Silmarillion mythos.

But, 'expressing himself obscurely,' he might just conceivably have meant by 'the main mythology' The Lord of the Rings, which certainly modified the lower end of the Numenor legend.
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Old 01-24-2009, 12:46 PM   #19
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Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow they will all be illegal......
Hmmm....would that be termed Epicureannihilation?
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Old 01-24-2009, 05:47 PM   #20
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I'm for the high jump if the thought police call round because I now have a growing stash of about two dozen 100w tungsten lightbulbs :P

Anyway...what brought me back onto this thread was a memory of Tolkien's friendship with one of the Inklings who was apparently keen on the Golden Dawn occult 'movement' and for the life of me, I can't remember which one it was.... However, such topics must have been amongst those discussed amongst them?
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Old 01-24-2009, 07:21 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin
Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow they will all be illegal......

Hmmm....would that be termed Epicureannihilation?
Well, it doesn't sound like many here would call it an epicure's eucatastrophe (or would that be epicuecatastrophe?)
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Old 01-25-2009, 04:24 AM   #22
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Anyway...what brought me back onto this thread was a memory of Tolkien's friendship with one of the Inklings who was apparently keen on the Golden Dawn occult 'movement' and for the life of me, I can't remember which one it was.... However, such topics must have been amongst those discussed amongst them?
Charles Williams was a member of the Golden Dawn, & Lewis had apparently been interested in the 'occult' as a young man. Williams was always a bit of an odd cove, as a reading of some of his letters will reveal (he had a bit of a sadistic streak, as anyone who has read his letters to Lois Lang-Sims will be aware). I can understand why Tolkien didn't get along with him. Back on topic though, anyone interested in Tolkien's take on this subject might find Notion Club Papers worth a look.
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:28 AM   #23
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Hello, I found this thread through a random google search of "Tolkien's Elves and psychedelics"....Well met. I first read LoTR and the Hobbit 16 years ago as a 14 year old....I have also been interested in shamanism since that time, and altered states of consciousness.

I don't have much time to read the previous posts right now, my apologies, but want to say that I totally relate to your first post, Sardy. Tolkien's words are magnificent, but even what is between them is, too. A man would not have the drive, creativity and inspiration to bother creating Middle Earth if he were not truly interested in contemplating the unlocked human potential...much of which I think he embodies in the Elves....telepathy, awareness of nature's mind, of the inter-connectedness. Reading Tolkien's books are, at best, a psychedelic experience in themselves...(well, everything that has an effect on the mind and soul is a psychedelic experience!....although the word has been given bad press in our modern culture.)

In this video below, at 1:06:13.....that is totally along the vein of Tolkien's Elves! After all, Tolkien was a linguist....a scholar of the meaning of words....in some sense, a shaman in that he had a fascination with the meanings attached to words.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dD72W57wEJc

I hope to revive this discussion! thanks for starting it, and I look forward to sharing with you.
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Old 01-15-2013, 04:48 AM   #24
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So glad to this thread revived!!! I do have a lot more to say on the subject, and will be back when time permits. For now, here is an absolutely wonderful and brilliant essay discussing Tolkien, mind expansion and shamanism:

http://www.realitysandwich.com/tolki..._consciousness
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Old 01-15-2013, 10:53 AM   #25
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I think this discussion will eventually lead to either smoking or wine, I don't think the hobbits ever were on any psychedelics in the book. If you read it and while doing that found it to be strange or otherwordly. It's probably because you felt you were on psychedelics, not necessarly the hobbits lol. But it's understandable, many of the things Tolkien describes is foreign to most people. Ever been on a lake fishing at noon, ever been on the top of a norwegian mountain flower field? Nature is capable of making one feel one is on psychedelics and Tolkien's description of star light and sleeping in some tree or whatever it was, can to the imaginative reader or maybe unexperienced reader be interpreted as psychedelic.

But how to move away from psychedelics, since the hobbits nor Tolkien ever used them. Was there any wine or smoking god, one would think since smoking is such a big thing in middle earth, there would be some maia "responsible" for it, like Bacchus or Dionysus were to the greeks. I remember the Numenorians came with wine to middle earth, but they must have learnt it from the elves, but where did the elves learn it? As for smoking where did man learn to grow and use that, I don't think the elves were very interested in smoking, more of a hobbit thing. I'm sure some of you would know.
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Old 01-15-2013, 11:55 AM   #26
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The hobbits seemed to be the race in which smoking was the most popular, and they didn't really care about gods or religion. If I remember rightly, the Numenoreans worshiped Eru, and no one else before Sauron came and corrupted them. Does anyone know if the elves in Middle-earth actually worshiped the Valar or Eru? They obviously knew about higher beings, but when it came time to acknowledge them, there was just a nod or a moment of silence out of respect, like Faramir did before he ate. In any case, smoking and drinking were not religious practises in Middle-earth. If anyone has a quote or information that would prove that statement wrong, I would love to hear about it.

Christians believe that God created this world for us, that the mountains and trees and oceans, all of the beautiful things found in nature were created as a sort of love letter for us. Obviously, there are many spiritual things to find in nature, or at least things that appear spiritual, because there are many religions and movements centred around it. Many Christians go into a place of natural surroundings, like Denali or Yellowstone to grow closer to God. If we are including religious worship and devotion in with "psychedelics" then, I think, that we could include communing with God in nature. J.R.R. Tolkien was a lover of nature, and I think that he may have specifically searched it out for a spiritual experience. That is evident in his writings. The elves and hobbits had a soft spot for natural surroundings. There are many gardeners (perhaps all) who feel a connection with the dirt that could be described as spiritual.

I'm afraid I've gone off topic, or at least strayed from whatever I was trying to say. I think the main point of this was J.R.R. Tolkien probably had something like one of those "experiences" by communing with God in nature.
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Old 01-15-2013, 04:17 PM   #27
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I think the main point of this was J.R.R. Tolkien probably had something like one of those "experiences" by communing with God in nature.
Most people who have spent some time in real nature has experienced this, to confuse such an experience with LSD and drugs is however not really well. Maybe the hobbits had eaten some weird mushrooms though, before they encountered the elves.
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Old 01-15-2013, 05:23 PM   #28
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Pipe

Upthread I'd mentioned the scary dream Christopher Tolkien used to have of 'Maddo' and now I've found a picture for you. I still find it creepy:Maddo.

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Old 01-16-2013, 12:56 PM   #29
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You're right, Lal! Maddo certainly is creepy.
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Old 02-07-2013, 06:09 PM   #30
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Sardy, thanks for that article link from reality sandwhich. Brilliant article....summarizes my sentiments regarding this visionary element in Tolkien's work...which is the very essence of his work. And that is the reason I am so drawn to Tolkien's work...it's beyond his work, it's what his work so eloquently and compellingly points to: illumination.

Psychedelics are not the point...they are the tools. Tolkien didn't use them, but that is irrelevant. It is the visionary experience that is the point.
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Old 02-07-2013, 10:51 PM   #31
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...
Psychedelics are not the point...they are the tools. Tolkien didn't use them, but that is irrelevant. It is the visionary experience that is the point.
I agree.

Psychedelics do fit the bill, but then why do psychedelics do what they do and what, when you think about it, actually constitues a 'psychedelic'? Some, like Mormons I've spoken with, regard caffeine as a drug to be avoided. We are so accustomed to this drug that we play down our tea and coffee, calling them 'stimulants', forgetting the ceremonies which once surrounded them.
Tobacco and alcohol have been mentioned already in this thread, but the same can be said of chocolate which, when prepared to certain recipes, produced various effects from the erotic to the hallucinagenic. I'd also add antidepressants to the list since they too are designed to alter the mind, though perhaps in the opposite way to stimulants.

That said, I'm left with the question of what it is drugs do. Surely they would not work at all unless our brains had a natural equivalent:

I am thinking of something pointed out by Lalwende in another thread concerning the effect of the Rings of Power. Tolkien apparently created ME terms which seem to correspond to the conscious and subconscious, or to the physical and 'Dreamtime' worlds, and that the Rings broke down the barrier between them.

Saruman's ring and his facination with 'many colours' looks rather suspect in the context of drugs. However, I do not believe or mean to suggest Tolkein himself needed to use 'hard' drugs. In fact I'm inclined to think that the transformative powers of the Elves, Maiar and others has its roots in JRR's religion (the shining face of Moses, Elijah's chariot, the face of Stephen...).



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... Does anyone know if the elves in Middle-earth actually worshiped the Valar or Eru? ...
What does worship actually mean? If you mean "making a lot of noise with the the name of Eru constantly repeated" then no. Thank Eru they do no such thing!
Is silent meditation worship? Among the Quakers and monastic orders it emphatically is. Is contemplating images of heroes worship? Among those who love Icons it is. Is singing among the trees, chanting, making poems and manuscripts worship? If one sets one's mind on what is noble then even washing the dishes can be transformed from drudgery to an act of worship. The Dwarves, Elves and Men of ME all have their own way of expressing the Song which made them.

"...so carefully, carefully with the plates."


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Old 02-11-2013, 07:15 AM   #32
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Just a thought - when we are considering whether Men in Middle-earth 'worshipped' the Valar, it's probably important to note that the Maiar walked amongst them. They were living with their own 'gods' and I wonder whether that would somewhat remove the need or urge for actual 'worship'. I'm comfortable with Men offering thanks and respect, as there's evidence of, but not sure if they would actually 'worship'. I'm not even sure there's evidence they did.

And another thought on 'psychedelics' for the discussion - what about the time shifts experienced in Lorien? Something I have read is that certain experiences can mess with your concept of time. Why do the non-Elves in the Fellowship experience their time in Lorien as fleeting:

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"Legolas stirred in his boat. 'Nay, time does not tarry ever,' he said; 'but change and growth is not in all things and places alike. For the Elves the world moves, and it moves both very swift and very slow. Swift, because they themselves change little, and all else fleets by: it is a grief to them. Slow, because they do not count the running years, not for themselves. The passing seasons are but ripples ever repeated in the long long stream. Yet beneath the Sun all things must wear to an end at last.'

"'But the wearing is slow in Lórien,' said Frodo. 'The power of the Lady is on it. Rich are the hours, though short they seem, in Caras Galadhon, where Galadriel wields the Elven-ring.'"
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Old 02-12-2013, 09:15 AM   #33
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Just a thought - when we are considering whether Men in Middle-earth 'worshipped' the Valar, it's probably important to note that the Maiar walked amongst them. They were living with their own 'gods' and I wonder whether that would somewhat remove the need or urge for actual 'worship'. I'm comfortable with Men offering thanks and respect, as there's evidence of, but not sure if they would actually 'worship'. I'm not even sure there's evidence they did.

And another thought on 'psychedelics' for the discussion - what about the time shifts experienced in Lorien? Something I have read is that certain experiences can mess with your concept of time. Why do the non-Elves in the Fellowship experience their time in Lorien as fleeting:
That is Tolkien touching on the folklorish motifs of Faery, where a mortal misstep lands one in a different dimension (like Tir Na nOg) which moves outside of time. Such time shifts can be seen in everything from the Irish tale of Oisin to Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle to Queen's song '39. Although guitarist Brian May, an astrophysicist in his spare time, was also inferring space travel in the song.
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Old 02-13-2013, 07:18 AM   #34
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I appreciate that the relationship of the Eldar and the ainur is different to contemporary religion, a matter of knowledge rather than faith, but surely "A Elbereth Gilthoniel" is a hymn of praise to Varda not just a song. So, in a small way, worship..
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Old 02-13-2013, 12:07 PM   #35
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I appreciate that the relationship of the Eldar and the ainur is different to contemporary religion, a matter of knowledge rather than faith, but surely "A Elbereth Gilthoniel" is a hymn of praise to Varda not just a song. So, in a small way, worship..
I don't think the matter of knowledge over belief is that clear cut in ME. The Eldar got their creation story from Rumil, who must have written it down for some purpose, even if only to inform the younger races. Gandalf, a Maiar, had to struggle to recall his memories as a disembodied being:

"... since we parted. I have forgotten much that I thought I knew, and learned again much that I had forgotten." The White Rider.

"...Olorin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten..." The Window on the West.

If the reciting of hymns and rhymes is a natural means of reminding an embodied being (Hröa = body/consciousness) of their Fëa (spirit/subconscious) existance, then the Rings of Power can be seen as an artifical means of doing so. The Rings seem like psychedelic drugs; they break down the barrier between the Fëa and Hröa but take hold of their owners in a way which sounds like addiction. Like a lamp which burns faster than its wick can absorb or replenish its oil, they can leave their wearer/addict feeling 'stretched'.

Perhaps the Hobbit ability to withstand the One was because they didn't have addictive personalties. They certainly enjoyed the pleasures of pipe and ale but nowhere is there a nicotene patch or AA meeting mentioned.

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Old 02-13-2013, 01:48 PM   #36
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I don't think the matter of knowledge over belief is that clear cut in ME. The Eldar got their creation story from Rumil, who must have written it down for some purpose, even if only to inform the younger races.
Yet, even in the Third Age, there were still Elves who would have had personal knowledge of the Valar, apart from any written or oral traditions. Círdan, Galadriel, and probably Celeborn, to name a few. No others of any alien race could claim that by then.

And I doubt that Rúmil of Tirion had much thought of making any sort of records for the benefit of Men and Dwarves. Later generations of Elves I could see being more on his mind.

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Perhaps the Hobbit ability to withstand the One was because they didn't have addictive personalties. They certainly enjoyed the pleasures of pipe and ale but nowhere is there a nicotene patch or AA meeting mentioned.
I've always thought the Hobbits' resistance to the call of power and dominance was more responsible. The Rings of Power called most loudly to those who had ambitions and the desire for power beyond their native abilities to accomplish them. Hobbits as a race seem to have had a greater sense of contentment with their lot than other denizens or Middle-earth, hence their lack of fighting. either among themselves or with other races.
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Old 02-13-2013, 05:57 PM   #37
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I appreciate that the relationship of the Eldar and the ainur is different to contemporary religion, a matter of knowledge rather than faith, but surely "A Elbereth Gilthoniel" is a hymn of praise to Varda not just a song. So, in a small way, worship..
Surely to those of deep faith, it's also a matter of 'knowledge' that their God exists? A song of worship or reverence can just as well have no religious connotation - surely there are many examples of what I might call 'faithless wonder'? The thought that springs to mind is the starry eyed wonder of astrophysicists for the Universe - they are creatures of Science and usually reject religion completely but almost always display total wonderment and reverence for the cosmos...

...Richard Dawkins would probably beat me with one of his polemic books for that, but I have seen Prof Brian Cox so I beg to differ with him

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I don't think the matter of knowledge over belief is that clear cut in ME. The Eldar got their creation story from Rumil, who must have written it down for some purpose, even if only to inform the younger races. Gandalf, a Maiar, had to struggle to recall his memories as a disembodied being:

"... since we parted. I have forgotten much that I thought I knew, and learned again much that I had forgotten." The White Rider.

"...Olorin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten..." The Window on the West.

If the reciting of hymns and rhymes is a natural means of reminding an embodied being (Hröa = body/consciousness) of their Fëa (spirit/subconscious) existance, then the Rings of Power can be seen as an artifical means of doing so. The Rings seem like psychedelic drugs; they break down the barrier between the Fëa and Hröa but take hold of their owners in a way which sounds like addiction. Like a lamp which burns faster than its wick can absorb or replenish its oil, they can leave their wearer/addict feeling 'stretched'.
Hmmm, I like where this is going I think...What about how this would affect an Elf? How would it be different to how it might affect a Man or Hobbit?

And what about Dwarves? We know that the effects of the Rings on them were somewhat unexpected to Sauron. They changed them, perhaps made them greedy, but they did not come under his control - and we know they were created in a different way.

We certainly know that the One Ring had effects similar to a drug on the bearers, that analogy has been drawn many a time, and I think it's a fair one. Hobbits might be able to deal with beer and cigs, but Rings are another matter.


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That is Tolkien touching on the folklorish motifs of Faery, where a mortal misstep lands one in a different dimension (like Tir Na nOg) which moves outside of time. Such time shifts can be seen in everything from the Irish tale of Oisin to Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle to Queen's song '39. Although guitarist Brian May, an astrophysicist in his spare time, was also inferring space travel in the song.
The Perilous Realm...often danger is linked to the timeslip in faery, which may go some way to explaining the fear that some have in Middle-earth for Lothlorien.

I keep thinking about Diviner's Sage, which apparently when chewed throws the user into a deep altered consciousness frequently involving significant time shifts, yet it is all over in five minutes.
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Old 02-13-2013, 07:39 PM   #38
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...And I doubt that Rúmil of Tirion had much thought of making any sort of records for the benefit of Men and Dwarves. Later generations of Elves I could see being more on his mind.
Which goes with my point that awareness of Eru among the Eldar was not a constant. There was a need for telling and hearing the tales of old: in poetry, song, tapestry, writing...



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...I've always thought the Hobbits' resistance to the call of power and dominance was more responsible. The Rings of Power called most loudly to those who had ambitions and the desire for power beyond their native abilities to accomplish them. Hobbits as a race seem to have had a greater sense of contentment with their lot than other denizens or Middle-earth, hence their lack of fighting. either among themselves or with other races.
I think Bandobras Took might put that rule to the test, but we seem to be saying the same thing: addiction is the result of losing one's contentment.
The proverb "contentment is wealth" is, like the Golden Rule, endemic to all systems of wisdom. One could say that the Hobbits represent 'every-man' and The Ring 'anything that threatens to become an addiction'.


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...Richard Dawkins would probably beat me with one of his polemic books for that, but I have seen Prof Brian Cox so I beg to differ with him



Hmmm, I like where this is going I think...What about how this would affect an Elf? How would it be different to how it might affect a Man or Hobbit?...
Well we have some notion of how the Ring would effect Galadriel: we would all be worshipping beauty and trembling in anticipation of the next Miss World contest. Aweful!
If Treebeard or Radagast got it they'd cover all the world with trees, the Green Party would be the only voting option and we'd be forced to live in eyries under the eye of the Eagles.
If a sheep farmer got it we'd have a new Enclosures Act and if a heroine addict got it we'd literally have opium for the masses. As for Mr Dawkins, I think we'd see another round of Social-Darwinism, only instead of the Ubermensch dictum "survival of the fittest" we'd have "survival of the most selfish" manifesting in consumer driven economies, self regulating banks...


As to the effect of the Ring on different races;
A human or other mortal using the Ring would consume their allotted 'life'. This would, logically, lead to the exhaustion of either the Fëa, Hröa or, what seems to me a better fit, the link between them. To extend the analogy of the lamp, their 'wick' would burn out.

Eldar and Maiar like Sauron would not have this limitation. Elrond had human, Eldar and Maiar blood but had chosen the fate (immortality) of the Eldar, so presumably he would have gone on like Sauron.

The resilience of the Dwarves may have been in part due to their long life span (relative to humans) and in part due to some aspect of their culture, perhaps their love of precious things which took precedence over love of power. They were, after all, the bankers of ME; not great dragon slayers but all to quick to lay claim to unguarded hoards.

The Hobbit resilience is similar to the Dwarves except they have more of a love of simple pleasures. This might be characterised (by the likes of Boromir) as stubbornness or lack of ambition. Like a lamp which refuses to shine too bright they have a cultural resistance to posessing things. I am thinking of the custom of mathomry, which Bilbo exhibits in giving away the Necklace of Girion as well as the Ring itself.

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We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal. That is not a tree, but the back of a tree ...everything is stooping and hiding a face. ~ G.K. Chesterton

Last edited by Ardent : 02-15-2013 at 12:30 PM. Reason: mathom
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