Friday, October 12, 2012

Baba and Lord of the Rings

In 1955, Meher Baba published God Speaks, his magnum opus on his vision of the theme of Creation. In it he laid out a view of worldly experience as the mere outside appearance of an inner progress of the individual soul through its imagined journey through illusory Creation, toward its ultimate destiny, the experience of the Supreme Reality. Thus it lays out a kind of quest, where every soul is in fact God on His way to realize his real Self -- a supreme view of nondualism.

In 1955, half a world away, J.R.R. Tolkien, a professor of philology and literature at Oxford University, published his third and final installment of his own opus, Lord of the Rings, in The Return of the King.

I do not have all the facts on the subject, but it has repeatedly been told to me that Meher Baba had Lord of the Rings read aloud to him twice in the 1960s, and expressed great enthusiasm with every detail. In fact it is said that Baba was so enthralled with Lord of the Rings that he even gave nicknames to his key disciples from the book, I believe referring to himself as Galdalf, but I'm not certain of this. I would love any information anyone can provide in the comments to flesh out my own knowledge of this topic.

Of any inner interpretation Meher Baba might have given to Lord of the Rings, I know next to nothing. I had once guessed that Gollum represents the ego (see my first try at interpretation), and later was told Baba concurred with me, which made me happy, but I cannot say this beyond that a rumor reached me that I was in keeping with Baba's own view.

As far as I know, he never said anything that we know of about Tolkien himself. His love of the book remains somewhat a mystery. The only thoughts I can add on the topic, though it adds no real clarity, is that Baba completed two years of college courses at Deccan College before he was God-realized, the jolting experience cutting him off from completing his preparation for his final exams in his second year. I believe Baba was a literature major. He is known to have loved poetry, especially Hafiz, Shakespeare, Shelly, and Wordsworth.

I copy here an excerpt from Meher Baba's main biography, Lord Meher, about his boyhood literary interests.

Merwan [Baba's name as a boy] had a deep passion for poetry and would ask his father to read the Divan of Hafiz to him . . . Merwan knew the bhajan songs of the Hindu Sadgurus Tukaram and Swami Ramdas by heart, as well as the entire Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana. Merwan was also fond of quoting the Sufi Master of the Whirling Dervishes Jalal al-Din Rumi, although he had never read or heard his works either. 
Merwan mainly read books about various religions and spirituality. He did not like romantic love stories or novels and never read any. The only topics he did enjoy besides religious subjects were the detective stories of Sexton Blake and Sherlock Holmes, as well as the Gujarati literary writings of Sohrabji Desai, a scholar in Navsari, India. While at St. Vincent's he took some interest in the works of Sir Walter Scott, William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley. 
During these school years Merwan composed poetry in the languages of Gujarati, Urdu, Hindi and Persian. The poetic themes were invariably spiritual, emphasizing virtues over vices and the forces of good over evil. His poems spoke of the mystical Sufi tavern or wine shop, describing divine madness and God-intoxication, and spiritual longing. Merwan also enjoyed writing short stories; one of his English tales was published when he was fifteen in the British monthly magazine The Union Jack. . .  (Lord Meher, p. 180)

Beyond his love of literature, including English mystic poetry, the full reason for Baba's interest in Lord of the Rings might always be a little mysterious, along with everything else about him. But he did say this:
Baba compared Frodo's journey to the spiritual path. He put his two forefingers together and said, "It's like in the spiritual path. All the things that you go through are similar." (Mehera-Meher vol 3, p. 399)

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