Friday 3 November 2017

The British Myth

The notion of Albion Awakening is tied up with the so called British myth as described by Geoffrey Ashe in his book Camelot and the Vision of Albion. This includes such ideas as the discovery of the Holy Grail and the return of King Arthur. Taking the second first, the well known story is that Arthur did not die after his final battle against a treacherous usurper, a kind of Judas figure, but was spirited away to a realm somewhere between heaven and earth to be healed of his wounds prior to one day returning and leading his country to a new Golden Age. I suppose the parallels with Christ can't be helped but Arthur is also believed to have absorbed some characteristics from pagan and classical sources, notably the story of a deposed giant, sometimes associated with the Greek Titans, the gods before the gods, sometimes with Albion himself, who lies slumbering on an island in the far West.

The Holy Grail is more mysterious. Was it the cup used at the Last Supper and therefore symbolically or even literally the container of Christ's blood? This is how it is usually presented but it has antecedents in a Celtic cauldron which had the power to bring dead men back to life. It is a feminine symbol and therefore associated with new birth, in this case spiritual. It is also a receiver of the spiritual life force which is why most of the stories that surround it insist on the purity demanded of anyone who would see it and benefit from its virtue. Its loss has led to the desolation of the natural and spiritual worlds as experienced by human beings ever since. Its rediscovery by the worthy leads to spiritual transformation.

Nowadays King Arthur is just seen as a legendary figure built up from a composite of real and imagined sources. He's not even a king, just a war leader who may have won an important battle against the Saxons and perhaps held them at bay long enough for them to have become more Christianised when they eventually did conquer this country. Clearly a real dark age Arthur was more like this. But the Arthur of the imagination is not like this at all. He is a far grander and more noble figure. The trouble is that by reducing Arthur to history we lose contact with the imaginative version and with the power of that version to inspire. But the historical version is the true one, you might say. Is it? True in one sense, of course. However the Arthur of the imagination is also true and perhaps it is true in a more profound way just as, for example, The Lord of the Rings, is truer than practically any 20th century novel set in the real world you might care to name.

It's the same with the Holy Grail. The more you reduce this to an actual cup or physical object the more you diminish its ability to kindle the imagination and open it up to new ways of being, though the association with Jesus would always have a magical effect of some sort. But what we require so badly now is something that connects us to a higher level of reality, something that shows us that our everyday mode of consciousness actually restricts the amount of truth we can receive. We don't need change. We need transformation. This means we need something which shows us that our current way of life is so false and so wrong on every conceivable level that it must be rejected utterly. It just cannot fit into a new way of being. It must be left behind.

The truth of the Holy Grail is that only the worthy can see it. To be worthy is to be pure and very few, it appears, are sufficiently pure. But all are called to this purity because it is our true state. We genuinely are holy beings in essence. All men and women are manifestations of the divine but we are so in seed form and that seed has been corrupted as well.

So it’s tough to put it mildly. At the same time it is what we absolutely are required to do and then again perhaps it’s not so tough after all. For what we need to do is actually very simple. We just have to take up the cross (which means renounce our worldly self and be prepared to accept the suffering that will inevitably incur) and follow Christ. The rewards will almost certainly not be discernible in this life but the spiritual path is about the life in the world to come and that is what our eyes should be fixed on.

Perhaps when the symbolism behind the story is opened up this is what the British myth is all about.


Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Great stuff.

Geoffrey Ashe has become the most influential living prescence on this blog - because, although born as long-ago as 1923, he is still alive and was even making public appearances as recently as 2015; when he gave this really excellent talk based on one of his best books Camelot and the Vision of Albion...

Since all three of this blogs authors - that is you, me and John F - have found such spiritual nourishment and inspiration in the works of Geoffrey Ashe - maybe he deserves the Albion Awakening (Virtual) Award of: Greatest Living Englishman?

What do you think?

William Wildblood said...

I can't think of anyone who deserves it more, Bruce. Certainly when you think of all the so called national treasures you hear about (naming no names) he's far above them.

I first read Camelot in around 1979 along with some other books by Geoffrey Ashe. The Ancient Wisdom was one but I don't recall any more though I know there were some. I enjoyed them very much but haven't thought of them for ages. However I saw a second hand copy of Camelot recently and bought it and have been re-reading it and that's what inspired this post.

Chiu ChunLing said...

It is notable that the Holy Grail isn't invisible to the unworthy, merely unrecognized for what it truly is. And what it truly is isn't a matter of what its own intrinsic qualities but of what it contains, and what purpose it serves.

John Fitzgerald said...

Outstanding writing in every way, William. And yes, Geoffrey Ashe gets my vote too!

William Wildblood said...

Good point CCL. If I remember correctly isn't the question the Grail seeker should ask 'Whom does the Grail serve?'?