Saturday 12 August 2023

The sacred kingship of Arthur, and the role of Merlin (from Gareth Knight)

Having magically engineered his conception; Merlin carries Arthur, son of Uther and Igraine, into hiding.  

From The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend: the archetypal themes, images and characters of the Arthurian cycle and their place in the Western magical tradition. Gareth Knight, 1983. Excerpted from pp 123-4.

In the matter of Britain the days of the dawn of our epoch, man was far less individualized than he is now. Man was more group-minded and open to inner plane influences. Those who could best guide the destiny of their particular group were those who could be most readily receptive to teachings of a higher order of consciousness from the inner planes. 

Certain blood lines had a natural clairvoyance which was an important corollary of power and vision. This was the foundation of the concept of aristocracy and the 'divine right of kings' - a concept so deeply ingrained in human consciousness that Charles I was proud to be a martyr in defense of it. 

The importance of this sacred kingship, and our inherited ease of contact with the inner planes, is clearly demonstrated in the Arthurian legend of Arthur's conception and birth, which reveal a specific policy of genetic engineering on the part of Merlin. 

Arthur, according to Merlin's intention, was meant to be a priest-king in the ancient tradition of Atlantis, chosen before birth, as a result of a mating carefully planned in the light of esoteric genetic considerations. 

Merlin chose the two parents with great care. Arthur's father was to be Uther Pendragon, of the ancient British royal lines. On his mothers side, Arthur had the blood of an Atlantean princess, Igraine. She was one of the Sacred Clan, who had come to Cornwall and become the wife of the local chieftain; known as Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall or Duke of Tintagel.


Gareth Knight was a scholar of Owen Barfield, and aware of the idea that human consciousness had developed through the centuries, in a particular direction from groupish to individualized, from obedience towards freedom; and in accordance with a 'divine plan'. Here he explains and imagines this in terms of the Arthurian legendarium - with the purpose of using the result as a focus for ceremonial magical activities. 

In particular, GK homes in on the transitional stage of human consciousness - the 'classical and medieval' centuries which came in-between the remote era of immersive and unselfconscious groupishness of tribal Man, and the current individualism of modern Man. 

This was a time when group-identity and clairvoyance could be found most strongly in certain blood-lines of inheritance; and when contact with the spiritual world was still achievable - but only by such people, and/or by the use of initiation, ritual, symbol and other 'technologies' and disciplines. 

This passage triggered thoughts of the English then British monarchy, and the occasional rulership of monarchs who - to some degree - approximated to the 'priest-king' ideal. There were several such in the Anglo-Saxon era - most notably Alfred; but the Norman invasion, which was an alien and hostile takeover, caused a considerable disruption. 

Not until Henry II (the first Plantagenet) do we find a monarch that might be supposed to have had some 'magical' attributes - mainly by the female influences of his mother Matilda (who was descended from the Saxon kings) and his wife Eleanor of Aquitane (who had many of the attributes of an fairy enchantress). 

From then, through to the end of the Stuart line (with the death of Anne), there were from time to time English kings or queens with a touch of magic about them, and an apparent capacity sometimes to connect 'clairvoyantly' with higher guidance: e.g. Richard I, Edward III, Elizabeth I.   

By my understanding, this form of natural magic gradually but inexorably dwindled, but persisted as at least a possibility into the 20th century - however it is now so weak a stream that it has become ineffectual. 

Such is the nature of these times, and of our predicament. 

There are three basic possibilities: 

We can yearn for, and try to restore, ancient ways -including the group-ish enchantment of those times; including to hope for the restoration of a sacred monarch, with divine right and naturally 'clairvoyant'  who serves his people by his own subjection to divine guidance. 

We can (and this has been the response of our official and mainstream culture) dispense altogether with the magical and spiritual aspects of life - except maybe as a hobby and lifestyle choice that does not affect our primary motivations (and these motivations are some mixture of political ideology with whatever is currently hedonically-expedient: i.e. the bureaucrat-careerist archetype). 

Or... we can look forward, through, and beyond the present aspiritual, mundane, ideological and hedonic world; and consciously seek as individuals for a qualitatively-different kind of spiritual knowledge and guidance. 


William Wright (WW) said...

Of what you have listed as possibilities, I do not think that the first and third options are necessarily mutually exclusive. A mix of both options may be the likeliest outcome in any successful strategy. A restoration of ancient ways and people, including divine monarchs, that actually allows for and ushers in a new path forward, including the kind of qualitatively different experience for individuals that you've highlighted. Something both old and yet absolutely fundamentally new.

Just introducing the thought that a successful path forward might not be contained exclusively within either possibility 1 or 3.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WW - They are not mutually exclusive in a serial fashion - because we are all inconsistent. But they arise from different world views, different primary assumptions - and represent different directions of endeavor.

the outrigger said...

OT. Came across an instance of hunter gatherer participatory language of a tribe in Victoria, Aus. Their number system is tied to their body. The first five numbers are the digits of the hand, 6 is the wrist, 7 the forearm... [skip]... 15 the crown of the head. The word for index finger represents 4 and to point. The middle finger 3, was the same word for the tallest tree in the area...[snip].

(h/t wiki)

Bruce Charlton said...

@to - Interesting. I must be significant to have numbers understood in his way. Very much the kind of multiple-simultaneity of meaning that Barfield describes for Original Participation.

(If what I have read is correct) The Australian Aborigines seem to be somewhat off the line of human development elsewhere; in that they were 'simple' hunter gatherers (who did not practice agriculture or anything like it) but had a 'totemic' religion which had a specific symbolism and ritual practices that were (as far as possible) preserved intact through generations.

In the rest of the world, totemic religions only occur when a static society (not nomadic) or something like agriculture has developed; and Aborigine-type societies have much more fluid and shamanic spiritualties (without fixed symbolism); not so much handed-on but as-it-were somewhat reinvented each generation.