Sunday 4 September 2016

Albion and England

Sometimes when people talk about Albion they confuse it with England as though the two were the same thing but they are not the same thing. At least, they are and they aren't. England is the country as generally perceived by the native going about his daily business as well as the outsider making a visit or reading up on its history in terms of hard facts, dates etc. England is what you can see, touch and so on. It is the place as a concrete object with its specific boundaries, its politics and even much (though not all) of its culture.

But Albion is not accessed through the senses or even the ordinary thinking mind. It’s the inner England, the soul of England you might say. In fact, relating this dual nature of the country to the idea of a human being as made up of a soul and a personality (or spiritual and material self) can be helpful in making things clearer. The personality in this instance is the everyday self, the obvious and outer self with which most of us identify. In my case it’s the person known as William Wildblood with his particular character as it operates on a normal day to day basis in this world. But the soul is the true, albeit hidden, self that goes beyond mundane realities. It’s the self of imagination, taking imagination to mean receptivity to spiritual truth and not, definitely not, fancy, fantasy or mere inventiveness which is the source of most creativity nowadays and which comes from the stock of purely human images and experiences.

So Albion is the soul of England, never represented purely and perfectly but contacted and expressed according to their capacity by many of her poets, seers and mystics, and even by ordinary people in their more sensitive moments when they peel back the outer world and look within using vision cleansed by love. Don't mistake England, the England of the industrial revolution, of empire and (heresy alert!) the Beatles, for Albion. I don't even think Churchill was a representative of the spirit of Albion though am open to correction on that point. Albion is the spiritual self of England and not to be identified with the outer country which changes in tone (think of the difference between the Georgians and Victorians or even between the English fifty years ago and the English now). England changes though generally it is quite direct and outgoing. Albion never changes, not in its basic tone anyway though it may develop. But it has its specific quality which is linked to a quality of God though I would be hard pushed to define it. However I have heard it described as embodying the nature of the second ray or divine quality of love/wisdom which is also the ray of Christ, and I do think it is no coincidence that Christ is associated with this country, having visited it, so the legend goes, as a young man supposedly on a trading mission with his uncle Joseph of Arimathea.

So Albion and England are different even if, from a higher standpoint, they are related aspects of the same overall entity. This means that just because you are English you don't necessarily know anything about Albion. It may totally escape you or you may think you know it but are confusing your understanding of England with Albion, the White Country. And I would add that just because you are not English does not mean that you do not know Albion. You may attune yourself to it through heredity or just through an inner resonance or fellow feeling. Indeed, the key is feeling or sympathy or even love. If you feel yourself attracted to Albion, if you are drawn to it through a sense of mystery and enchantment, if you respond to it at all, then you are a part of it wherever you come from because Albion is a country of the imagination. This does not mean it is not real. On the contrary, it is very real as a true spiritual archetype.

It would be a mistake to react to this idea with any kind of false pride or nationalistic attitude. No doubt all countries have their inner side as C.S. Lewis makes clear in That Hideous Strength when speaking of this subject (which does not negate the fact that some countries, at certain times, are indeed more significant than others in terms of humanity's unfolding.) But the real point is that if you are English that does not imply Albion belongs to you. You can only truthfully respond to it through love and in that case it does not belong to you. You belong to it and your purpose is to serve it and help enable it to manifest; that is, to bring Albion more fully into England.

Note: I say Albion cannot be accessed through the senses but, of course, it can be perceived through the landscape but that is the imagination via the senses.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I believe I understand this mindset very well. However, being a Latter-day Saint and an American, for me it is a transposition of "England" for "America," and "Albion" for "Zion, the new Jerusalem."