Long ago there lived by the banks of the Great River on the edge of Wilderland a clever-handed and quiet-footed little people, said Gandolf to Frodo,
"I guess they were of hobbit-kind...(and) the most inquisitous and curious-minded (of them all) was... Smeagol." (The Fellowhip of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien, p.65)
Smeagol was intensely interested in roots and beginnings, so in his quest for the knowledge of how things work here below he burrowed under trees, tunnelled into green mounds, and dove into deep pools. As he fell further and further away from the personal God of life and creation in his quest for earthly power his soul turned ever inward away from the Light above and into darkness here below until finally, his soul being materialized, he ceased to look up at all.
For Gollum, Iluvatar (God) ceased to exist.
In "Against the Heathen," early Church Father Athanasius reveals that pride and haughtiness preceded pre-flood man's fall into idolatry and paganism. A haughty spirit led them to make light of higher things, and deliberately disregarding what they knew to be true they began to seek in preference things in the lower or natural dimension. Thus they fell into worship of self, sexual pleasures and acquisition of status and things to the living God and His Truths.
The truth as to this evil said Athanasius,
"....is that it originates, and resides, in the perverted choice of the darkened soul" which, "materialized by forgetting God" and engrossed in lower things, "makes them into gods," and thereby "descends into a hopeless depth of delusion and superstition," whereby "they ceased to think that anything existed beyond what is seen, or that anything was good save things temporal and bodily; so turning away and forgetting that she was in the image of the good God, she no longer... sees God the Word after whose likeness she is made; but having departed from herself, imagines and feigns what is not (and then) advancing further in evil, they came to celebrate as gods the elements and the principles of which bodies are composed...." (Against the Heathen, New Advent)
Having descended into delusion and superstition here below they imagined they had no free will and further that "all that exists" is the natural dimension here below. From the pre-flood world to our own from ancient to modern times, the idea that all that exists is the natural dimension has been variously known as a creative energy (pre-flood world), Apsu (Chaldea), Nu (ancient Egypt), Chaos, Mind of the Universe, World Soul, Omega (Teilhard de Chardin), or Quantum Void (modern quantum physicists), a universe of evolving matter, animated natural powers, forces, and deterministic laws, all of which pagans celebrated and attributed miraculous powers to and made a science of.
St. Augustine observed of those who claim that there is no personal God of life and creation,
"(they are) infected by carnal desire or a lust for earthly power or the delightful madness of some showy spectacle. They love such temporal things and seek their happiness in them. They pursue the earthly objects of their desire wherever they lead and fear anyone who seems to have the power to take them away." ( On True Religion, 38,69; "Saint Augustine," Donald Burt, p. 30)
Saurons' Ring of Power represents power here below, thus after Smeagols' covetous eyes fell upon the ring he obsessively pursued this earthly object even unto the murder of his friend Deagol. Now armed with his "precious" he used its' power (Saurons' power) to spy, to find out incriminating secrets and to,
"....put his knowledge to crooked and malicious uses. He became sharp-eyed and keen eared for all that was hurtful (and) he took to thieving and...muttering to himself, and gurgling in his throat." (p.67)
At this, the other Hobbit-kind called him Gollum, and desiring an end of his wickedness and a return to peace, cursed him and expelled him from the family.
Even so, said Gandolf, Gollum was not fully ruined, not wholly desolate, as there yet remained a little corner of his mind that was still his own,
"...and light came through it, as through a chink in the dark: light out of the past...memories of wind, and trees, and sun on the grass...." (p. 68)
But these memories only made the evil part of him angrier, said Gandolf.
In these short passages Tolkien paints a bleak and terrible picture of spiritual desolation, the deadening of conscience and the turning of the will to wickedness resulting in disordered reasoning, pathological lying, unhealthy obsessions, paranoia, psychosis and thoughts of vengeance and murder resulting in an angry embittered soul devoid of hope, peace, love, confidence, truth and light.
Mirroring the Wests' fall into apostasy and search for power here below that began during the Renaissance, Gollum's own search for power here below was a movement of spirit whose source and taproot was Sauron, the first lieutenant of Melkor (Lucifer) who led him to fall away from Iluvatar, the supernatural, living, personal God above Who is the origin and only source of life and soul/spirit. Thus by his own choice Gollum had become a living dead body that somehow speaks, walks and sustains itself in the manner of a parasite or vampire.
Tolkien imaginatively depicts the inner desolation and decay of the souls of Gollum, Grima, and the Orcs (apostate elves) outwardly, with decayed and decaying teeth, fetid breath, blackened gums and fingernails; stringy, greasy wisps of hair, and bodies that obviously reek of death and decay. They are the Walking Dead.
In his "American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828" Noah Webster writes that when men resist the dictates of conscience---as Gollum did--- they bring onto themselves a hardness and stupefaction. Noah defines stupefaction as,
"The act of rendering stupid; a stupid or senseless state; insensibility; dullness; torpor; stupidity..."
According to Scripture, desolation is a judgment rendered by the Holy God in three Persons against a people whose souls have fallen into contemplation of self rather than of God. The book of Ezekiel for example, is a history of the apostasy of God's people and the resulting spiritual desolation:
"Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness, and sorrow: with the cup of grief, and sadness, with the cup of thy sister Samaria." Ezekiel 23:33
Jeremiah speaks of desolation as the cup of God's fury:
"For thus saith the Lord of hosts the God of Israel: Take the cup of wine of this fury at my hand: and thou shalt make all nations to drink thereof, unto which I shall send thee." Jeremiah 25:15
"Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age," by Eugene Rose is a profound analysis of the causes and terrible effects of Western and American abandonment of the God of Revelation. Nihilism is spiritual desolation, and Rose summarizes it with the words, "God is dead in the hearts of modern Westerners:"
"...and it is as true of the atheists and Satanists who rejoice in the fact, as it is of the unsophisticated multitudes....Man has lost faith in God and in the Divine Truth that once sustained him... apostasy to worldliness... has characterized the modern age since its beginning..." (p. 60)
In his Concise Commentary Matthew Henry explains that the evil and the good events of life are often represented in Scripture as cups. Hence spiritual desolation, or nihilism, is a cup of stupefaction poured out upon a people, who like Gollum, have turned their backs on God and seek power here below. This cup deprives men of the use of their reason, it makes them mad. It is a destroying sword that deadens understanding; casts men into a dull, senseless state in which they both readily lie and believe lies. It takes from men all valuable blessings and soon fills a nation with confusion, lying, hypocrisy, perversion, discord, strife, enmity, treachery, greed, gluttony, paranoia, chaos, hatred, power-grabbing, and thoughts of murder.
The road back requires that we make a fundamental choice for the living God of Revelation together with abandonment of a life involving sin, along with a commitment to prayer, examination, and repentance, the road that leads through our culture of desolation into the peace of God's love.