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Old 08-01-2011, 01:56 AM   #1
beorn
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The Eye maiar spirits

hi guys,

i have a question about maiar's and their souls after their earthen forms are slain, for after saruman and sauron died their spirits remained. even after gandalf was struck down by durin's bane he was given another chance, clearly with a little help from iluvatar, who gave him life again almost immediately. less virtuous maia are forced to struggle to regain earthen bodies, which was sauron's ultimate goal. so surely the soul's of durin's bane, ungoliant, saruman, and the like are seeking bodily forms so as to continue their wrath. wouldn't this system tolkien has created just create a perpetual system of strife, endless defeat and revival that continues well after the end of the stories?

of course none of us know for sure, as even the ainur's couldn't foresee the last days of the world, its just a little pitfall that i noticed.
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Old 08-03-2011, 02:22 PM   #2
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Welcome to the Downs, beorn!

As far as we know from the "canon" books, the only "good" Maia to have his physical body destroyed was Gandalf. It seems clear that he was allowed to return to Middle-earth in a similar (though not identical) form in order to continue his fight against Sauron, and because he had made a conscious choice to sacrifice himself to allow the Fellowship to escape from Moria.

Of the others, Sauron and Saruman were, I think, forced to remain in a kind of purgatorial state; a spiritual form that left them conscious and self-aware, but helpless to affect the physical world. For how long, I don't know. This is merest speculation, but I would suspect that other Maia like the Balrogs and Ungoliant, who had shown evil intent toward the Children of Ilúvatar would suffer the same fate. Ultimately, the Maia, as their greater kin the Valar, were directly answerable to the One, and I think any opportunity for rebodiment would have to meet his approval.

That begs the question, though, of how Sauron was able to gain a new body after being "killed" during the destruction of Númenor. The best answer I have is the Ring: having placed a large portion of his power in an inanimate object, as long as that object existed he would be able to rebody himself, though, as seems to be the case after the end of the Second Age, it took him longer if he did not have the Ring with him.
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Old 08-06-2011, 12:30 AM   #3
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Welcome to the Downs, beorn!That begs the question, though, of how Sauron was able to gain a new body after being "killed" during the destruction of Númenor. The best answer I have is the Ring: having placed a large portion of his power in an inanimate object, as long as that object existed he would be able to rebody himself, though, as seems to be the case after the end of the Second Age, it took him longer if he did not have the Ring with him.
I agree. To put it another way, The Ring was Sauron's horcrux.
He could not be reduced to an utterly impotent spirit, unable ever to grow again, as long as the Ring remained.
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Old 09-06-2011, 11:54 AM   #4
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Tolkien addresses this topic in some depth and there is lots of discussion on the subject in various old threads on this forum. However, sedulous champion of veracity that I am, I shall now elucidate the matter in characteristically cogent fashion.

Ainur (including Maiar) are, by nature, incorporeal beings. These beings may "array" themselves in the physical matter of creation, in whatever form they wish. While thus "clothed" (both terms are used by Tolkien) they may indulge in any activity that a naturally corporeal being might do, including eating and reproducing, and may abandon their body or reshape it at will. However, the spirit gradually becomes accustomed to the body, and these activities that I mentioned prove particularly incarnating. At some point on this road, the spirit begins to have trouble appearing in forms different from his habit. Additionally (and perhaps slightly contradictorily), the being begins to become unable to conceal the complexion of his spirit, as when Sauron lost the ability to appear in fair forms that hid his wickedness. Eventually, even a being that was by nature incorporeal will become incarnate virtually to the point that naturally incarnate beings are. At this degree of incarnation, death is effectively final since the remaining disembodied spirit is too weakened to create a new form or otherwise affect the physical realm.

Details and exceptions:

In the case of the Istari (wizards), they were deliberately fully incarnated by The Valar (or Manwe specifically, or Iluvatar--I can't remember) to accomplish a specific task with specific limitations. These limitations were partly proscriptions that could be transgressed, and were partly the natural entailments of incarnation. Gandalf and Saruman both suffered physical deaths, the distinction being that Iluvatar interceded specifically on Gandalf's behalf, whereas Saruman's soul was left homeless.

Sauron's incarnation was a gradual thing, and is clouded by his creation of The One Ring. The Ring was a reservoir for a large portion of Sauron's vitality, and as such it served as an anchor for his spirit. His body could be slain repeatedly, but as long as the Ring remained intact, he was able to draw on its power to re-embody himself. This recovery became slower and more difficult later on. Nevertheless, until the Ring was destroyed or successfully claimed, Sauron would be capable of returning.

The Balrog of Moria was likely fully incarnate, though this was presumably not always the case. The Balrogs probably incarnated due to indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, but it's possible (though unlikely, in my opinion) that Morgoth deliberately incarnated them (assuming he was capable of doing so) in order to exercise greater control over them. The drawback would be that they were one-time-use goons in an age when Elf-lords rivaled their spiritual potency.
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Old 09-07-2011, 02:34 PM   #5
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The Balrog of Moria was likely fully incarnate, though this was presumably not always the case. The Balrogs probably incarnated due to indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, but it's possible (though unlikely, in my opinion) that Morgoth deliberately incarnated them (assuming he was capable of doing so) in order to exercise greater control over them. The drawback would be that they were one-time-use goons in an age when Elf-lords rivaled their spiritual potency.
I would think the balrogs and dragons were given shapes intended for battle, to aid Morgoth in the domination Middle Earth and the defeat of his enemies. Other mythos feature succubi and other dark spirits whose 'magic' might be associated with sex. Tolkien for the most part seems to deal with love more than sex. I certainly wouldn't associate balrogs with either.

Am I misunderstanding here?
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Old 09-07-2011, 08:31 PM   #6
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The Balrog of Moria was likely fully incarnate, though this was presumably not always the case. The Balrogs probably incarnated due to indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, but it's possible (though unlikely, in my opinion) that Morgoth deliberately incarnated them (assuming he was capable of doing so) in order to exercise greater control over them. The drawback would be that they were one-time-use goons in an age when Elf-lords rivaled their spiritual potency.
I would think the balrogs and dragons were given shapes intended for battle, to aid Morgoth in the domination Middle Earth and the defeat of his enemies. Other mythos feature succubi and other dark spirits whose 'magic' might be associated with sex. Tolkien for the most part seems to deal with love more than sex. I certainly wouldn't associate balrogs with either.
I agree, blantyr. The shapes taken by the Balrogs appear to have been intended to give them a large amount of physical power, greater than that of the Children of Ilúvatar, as well as an aspect of terror. And my thought would be that the Balrogs had incarnate forms from the beginning of their service to Morgoth, not because it would have given Morgoth greater control over them (which I don't feel was necessary; he already had their allegiance), but because a corporeal form would have been required for a maximum effect on the physical world. If they were just disembodied spirits roaming around, I would think their value to Morgoth would be limited. Even as covert, invisible spies, the terror they projected, like the later Nazgűl, would probable have been perceptible. So a physical form would have been logical.
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Old 09-09-2011, 10:42 PM   #7
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I would think the balrogs and dragons were given shapes intended for battle, to aid Morgoth in the domination Middle Earth and the defeat of his enemies. Other mythos feature succubi and other dark spirits whose 'magic' might be associated with sex. Tolkien for the most part seems to deal with love more than sex. I certainly wouldn't associate balrogs with either.

Am I misunderstanding here?
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I agree, blantyr. The shapes taken by the Balrogs appear to have been intended to give them a large amount of physical power, greater than that of the Children of Ilúvatar, as well as an aspect of terror. And my thought would be that the Balrogs had incarnate forms from the beginning of their service to Morgoth, not because it would have given Morgoth greater control over them (which I don't feel was necessary; he already had their allegiance), but because a corporeal form would have been required for a maximum effect on the physical world. If they were just disembodied spirits roaming around, I would think their value to Morgoth would be limited. Even as covert, invisible spies, the terror they projected, like the later Nazgűl, would probable have been perceptible. So a physical form would have been logical.
Inzil: Physical forms were certainly necessary for interacting with the physical realm, but as I explained, physical forms came in two varieties: "raiment" and full incarnation. Becoming the latter was a graduation from the former, essentially caused by overuse of the body.

blantyr: You are perhaps correct about the physical forms of dragons, because it is unclear what type of spirit inhabited those forms, and there is no indication that they were naturally discarnate beings. Their nature is somewhat mysterious. Not so with Balrogs. We know exactly what they were originally, and less exactly how they became Balrogs. Their spirits were identical in nature to those of Melkor and Sauron (ealar), though Melkor was vastly greater in original potency.

I had more speculation typed here that I decided to delete, but consider the following facts:

1) Melkor's rebellion and his corruption of Maiar to his service echo the Biblical account of angels becoming demons, and Biblical parallels in Tolkien are always worth noting
2) Biblical demons were angels corrupted by their sexual desire for human women
3) Melkor corrupted his Maiarin servants with unspecified "dark gifts"
4) all of his servants apparently became incarnate, as he did
5) the pleasures of the flesh were especially incarnating, particularly eating and begetting
6) one possible origin for Orcs was that they were bred from perverted Elven stock

Timeline issues? Maybe, it's been a long time since I looked at the sources.

I did allow for the possibility, in my previous post, that Melkor had directly incarnated the Balrogs all at once, but it is not likely that he even had the power to do this. If he did, why did he not forcibly incarnate all of his eala enemies? After all, an incarnate eala is subject to the needs and pains of the flesh, it is bound to one shape, its innate power is hampered, it may be physically detained, it is restricted to physical modes of travel, and death becomes final.

Inzil, you mentioned allegiance. It is with respect to this that incarnation's only plus is revealed, and it is not a benefit to the incarnated but rather to Melkor: defection would be much more difficult for a being that is afflicted with all of the limitations of flesh-and-blood. A Maia in its natural form would be much more difficult to control, so the incarnation of Melkor's Maiar was probably intended, even if he could not directly impose it upon them.
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Old 09-09-2011, 11:13 PM   #8
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I had more speculation typed here that I decided to delete, but consider the following facts:

1) Melkor's rebellion and his corruption of Maiar to his service echo the Biblical account of angels becoming demons, and Biblical parallels in Tolkien are always worth noting
Noting, yes– but not necessarily taking completely literally. There are, after all, many other influences on the "Silm". Is there any direct evidence?

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I did allow for the possibility, in my previous post, that Melkor had directly incarnated the Balrogs all at once, but it is not likely that he even had the power to do this. If he did, why did he not forcibly incarnate all of his eala enemies?
But what makes you think he could forcibly incarnate them?
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Old 09-10-2011, 12:03 AM   #9
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But what makes you think he could forcibly incarnate them?
I don't, which was my point.
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