Friday, 15 September 2017

Northern Lights... by John Fitzgerald

The Northern Lights have been seen over Britain...

An apocalyptic part of me wants to protest at this. Surely the coming of the Lights is a sign? A foreshadowing of some great event to come, as the appearance of Halley's Comet in April 1066 gave notice retrospectively of the impending Norman Conquest. A balance needs to be struck, therefore, between a rationalistic, unimaginative reading of natural phenomena and a credulous 'signs and wonders' mentality, which leaves us finding messages in cloud formations and the like...

The eye of imagination, the eye of faith, sees beyond the physical components that make up the universe. It does not deny their existence but neither does it view what something 'is made of' as its sole and absolute reality. It goes past the material level (the validity of which it respects) to the spiritual essence which lies at the heart of every created thing...

This theme is illustrated superbly in a passage from Rosemary Sutcliff's Arthurian novel Sword at Sunset (1963). Ambrosius Aurelianus, the High King, is dying of cancer. He takes his lieutenants, Artos (Arthur) and Aquila, on a winter retreat in a remote hunting lodge to secure the succession. A tense political discussion is interrupted by the appearance of the Northern Lights. The tone and flavour of the evening is altered dramatically as new perspectives open up for all three men.

Hearts start to soften. The display outside triggers deep-lying memories in Artos and Aquila and sparks a moment of fraternal understanding. Ambrosius, when he rejoins the conversation, speaks with an imaginative fluidity that was lacking before. The political becomes the mythical. Something hard and tight has been broken apart, creating a space for the deeper pattern behind the flow of surface events to emerge.

This is the lasting impression left on the reader by Sword at Sunset - the political transformed into the mythical. Artos, in the end, follows Ambrosius' recommendation and succeeds him after his death, though not as High King but Emperor of a restored Romano-British Empire. Artos has many scars - physical, emotional and spiritual - and gains little satisfaction from his twenty year reign. He does, however, bring peace and security to the land, and through his words, deeds and presence, sows the seeds of the great national myth that has sustained the imaginative life of our country ever since.

The Northern Lights, on this occasion, are heralds of restoration rather than harbingers of doom, signalling the advent of a mythic, archetypal hero and the flourishing of the realm. Let us hope that their most recent manifestation prophecies equally glad tidings. There is no reason why not. 'We live in a time of revelations,' wrote the maverick English mystic, John Michell. 'When our minds are ready, the pattern will appear.'...

Edited from a longer piece at Albion Awakening.

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