Who was King Arthur, the mysterious Celtic king, who defended the post-Roman England against the Saxon invaders without leaving any historic records?
The origin of the name Arthur or Arturus is as obscure as his life. It’s an artificial word that can be linked to meanings like bear, man, or king. Some etymologists suggest that it could also stem from the Latin name Artōrius. According to Latin Gematria, Arturus adds up to 106, the same value as the Hebrew for the phrase Yah’s messenger (MLAKYH), counselor or emperor (MLYKV), and the phrase He praises God (YHLLAL). These associations give us a first clue that King Arthur wasn’t a king-king, but a metaphor for someone or something else.
King Arthur’s Father Uther Pendragon
Uther Pendragon means The Terrible, the Head of the Dragon (Uther stems from the Welsh uthr, meaning terrible). Since ancient times, the dragon symbolizes the raw, bodily life-power that animates living beings. In the East the dragon-power or snake-force is known as Kundalini.
Stepping on the dragon’s head is a metaphor for controlling the dragon-force and engaging it in the great work – the spiritualization of personality (the chariot). The control over the dragon-force is also illustrated by the Pentagram, the symbol of white magic.
The uppermost tip represents the human soul (as well as spirit or ether) and the lower four tips the four elements. Everything is fine as long as we are on top of the four elements. Otherwise, the elements push us around and the Pentagram turns into a symbol of black magic. That’s when the dragon gets a head and it seems that the elements have intelligence and power over our soul.
Some Mary and Fortuna statues step on a serpent’s head. These women symbolize a pure and balanced mind. The control of the dragon-force is also illustrated in Tarot card 8, (the red lion is the same thing as the serpent force). Tarot card 8 shows that strength (the Secret of All Spiritual Activities) is a matter of habit (the woman represents subconsciousness) and love (the wreath of roses formed like the number eight).
So, who was Uther Pendagron? Uther stands for our (terrible) ego or immature self-consciousness. In it’s natural state, our ego is competitive and cunning; hence, it doesn’t surprise that Uther was a warlord. As the head of the dragon he employed the life-power for selfish ends.
Uther died on the battlefield when he was challenged by Odin in disguise. This has a deeper meaning too: since God (Odin) is everything, every adversary (karma) is Odin in disguise.
On a side note: The 20th lunar mansion, Ardra, is ruled by the dragon’s head. People born in this lunar mansion may be attracted to black magic, sorcery, exorcism, crime, and can have a cunning inclination.
King Arthur’s Childhood
If Uther symbolizes a selfish ego, what does his son Arthur stand for?
Arthur was conceived without Uther’s knowledge, who died before he could receive the good news. Arthur grew up under the patronage of a foster father – Merlin, the famous wizard. Successors are supposed to take their parent’s legacy to a new level, so, Arthur stands for a spiritually awakened self-consciousness. He hadn’t perfected the great work yet, he had just seen the light and realized that there is more to life than just conquering and ruling.
In this respect, Arthur compares to Israel. Israel means He-Who-Shall-Rule-As-God-Rules. Israel is a promise: perform the great work and you will be in control like God (Israel began the great work and Jesus Christ perfected it).
On a side note: covenant means promise too, it’s God’s promise to give us a splendid life after we accomplish the great work.
Merlin, The Hierophant
Merlin was not just a Celtic wizard, he stands for wisdom in general, as well as the sixth sense (intuition), and the small inner voice – the priest whisperer. He is pictured in Tarot card 5 as the hierophant or instructor of mysteries.
Are you surprised by the fact that Merlin already instructed and assisted the selfish Uther? Don’t be. We are always guided, however, materialistic our agenda. Mind that Jesus Christ began as Jesus, the Nazarene, and Nazareth means guided-one.
Merlin had the gift of the third eye. Once, a Celtic king tried to build a mountain fortress, but the mountain kept shaking and the building collapsing. Deep inside the mountain, Merlin saw two dragons – a white and a red one – living in a subterranean pool. These two were continuously quarreling and kept the mountain shaking. Superficially, this was interpreted as the Celtic-Saxon war that kept troubling the kingdom of England; however, the red and white dragon could also be taken as the two sidekicks of Kundalini, the male and female forces winding around the spine through the nadis Ida and Pingala. The depth of the mountain is the base of the spine sometimes referred to as an abyss.
On a side note: The Old Testament equivalent of Kundalini is Leviathan. Leviathan means coiled or twisted. The Wikipedia article gives thirty-four quotes, mainly from Job 41. Mind this one: Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope? The fish-hook is Tzaddi, the letter associated with Tarot card 17, The Star, which signifies – among other things – meditation.
On a second side note: the red and white dragon may also represent the white (2nd) and red (3rd) stage of the great work.
On a third side note: the first picture Merlin and the Knight hints at Tarot card 7, the Chariot. The chariot represents personality, the sphinxes the senses, the (invisible) reigns the mind and the charioteer the Higher Self. Why is there also a knight in that picture? The knight is the ego (King Arthur), like Arjuna and Chrishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
Whoever takes the sword will perish by the sword. – Jesus Christ.
Since Uther didn’t know that he had a legal heir when he died on the battlefield, he couldn’t appoint Arthur as his successor and therefore drove his sword into a rock, leaving it for the rightful heir to draw it out and claim kingship.
In spiritual psychology, the sword symbolizes the intellect (the mental ability to differentiate). The intellect is tempered through experiences – that’s Uther’s heritage. The sword in the rock, however, is a beautiful Alchemical image: the rock signifies the Philosopher’s Stone, the universal substance, or First Matter. Pulling the sword out of the stone means to discover the First Matter and that event is known to kick off the great work.
On a side note: in the Norse mythology of Siegfried his father Siegmund draws the sword out of a tree trunk (the Tree of Life).
Arthur was fifteen when he claimed the sword and kingship. 15 is an important number in Hebrew Gematria, since it’s the number of Yah – a short-form of Jehovah. Yah and Jehovah are associated with Chokmah (wisdom) and Hod (splendor), the 8th Sephirah, the latter signifying intellectual comprehension of wisdom. This is Israel’s state of mind, a person who is performing the great work – such a person has already an intellectual grasp of spiritual truths, but hasn’t achieved a full realization or gnosis yet.
Noteworthy, 15 is also the number of Abib (ABYB), the month of Exodus, which signifies the departure from a materialistic lifestyle (Egypt and the pharaoh – Uther) and the embarkation on the spiritual journey – the great work.
I didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword. – Jesus Christ.
Naturally, our intellect is separative and often deluded. As Einstein said: We should take care not to make the intellect our god. It has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.
In its natural state, the intellect can be equaled with Satan, the Slanderer and Mother of Lies and yes, Satan is an inner demon – an unregenerated intellect as Jung put it.
As long as we are like Uther, caught in a separative state of mind, we use our intellect mostly to analyze or destroy. And this holds true for a long time while we are already performing the great work. We tend to knock down our spiritual roadblocks, instead of working on our weaknesses. That’s why Uther’s sword didn’t last. When King Arthur met Lancelot, he destroyed the sword by stubbornly trying to subdue one of his personal traits (Lancelot is likely to signify Scorpio and sexuality).
King Arthur received a new, regenerated intellect in the form of Excalibur. The earliest form of Excalibur, Caladfwlch (Welsh), means Hard Lightning. Mind that both – steel and lightning – are associated with the planet Mars and Tarot card 16, The Tower. Later, Caladfwlch metamorphosed into Caliburn (meaning to cut steel) and became Excalibur in the French version of the King Arthur’s myth. The Latinization of Excalibur, Caliburnus, has some interesting Gematria in store for us. Caliburnus adds up to 108, as does the Hebrew for to grasp, to hold (AZQ) – that’s the intellect again. The second interesting association is the Hebrew for to be sharp as well as to be gold (spelled ChMS). The latter hints at the intellect’s ambivalence and its transformation into Mercury, the Universal Solvent (that’s Alchemy).
The sword bearer was a woman known by various names. The two most important are Nimue and Vivienne. Nimue was a water goddess. This links back to the Gematria of Caliburnus, since 108 is also the value of MNHYG, meaning driver. MNHYG is used in the phrase MNHYG H’AChDVTh, Driver of Unities or Driver of the Chariot (we are back to the first post picture). This is the title of the 13th path on the Tree of Life, the path of Gimel, connecting Kether and Tiphareth, the Father and the Son. Gimel is the letter of Tarot card 2, the High Priestess. Have a look and you won’t have difficulties understanding who Nimue is.
On a side note: Nimue or the High Priestess is also the clue to the spiritual meaning of Christ’s virgin birth. Mind that the literal meaning of knight is Christ-awakened-being (Israel or King Arthur).
On a second side note: 108 is also the value of MYNCh, which are the waters of Noah giving a clue to the meaning of the deluge in the context of the great work. The water of the deluge originates in the robe of the High Priestess, the deluge is shown in Tarot card 20, Judgment.
Vivienne, the Lady of the Lake, gives us a bigger picture since she had been Merlin’s spouse. When he was young, Merlin had fallen in love with Vivienne and transferred all his wisdom to her. Viviane (ab)used her powers to imprison Merlin. The stories differ in describing Merlin’s trap, sometimes it’s a spiral crystal tower suspended in the air, sometimes a tree trunk, and sometimes beneath a stone. This story is a beautiful allegory of Chokmah’s and Binah’s interaction on the Tree of Life. Binah receives and encapsulates the life-power that she receives from Chokmah into her substance. As she does so, she creates the World’s Light, the heavenly substance from which all universes were created, formed, and made.
This concurs with Genesis 1.2-3 where Elohim’s waters receive the Spirit and produce the world’s light. Mind that one of Binah’s title is the Great Sea, meaning she is the mother of Vivienne, the Lake Lady. Why is Vivienne Binah’s daughter? Because Binah is concerned with creation and Vivienne with evolution. Accordingly, Excalibur is the sword of evolution. Excalibur wasn’t drawn out of the stone (the First Matter), but out of the water, the heavenly substance, which is known as the Kingdom of Heaven (Jesus), the Stone of the Wise (Alchemy) or the Sacred Grail (the King Arthur myth).
On a side note, the relationship between God Mother (Binah) and Vivienne provides a clue to the understanding of the two Shekinah – the heavenly and earthy.
Jesus’ Two Swords
Uther’s sword is the sword of creation. Creation proceeds by continuous division, starting with God (in the beginning Elohim separated the heaven and earth), and carries on until the appearance of the infinite kaleidoscope – the physical universe.
The sword of creation is sacred but can become destructive in the affairs of humans. That’s the sword by which we will perish in case we take and keep it.
Excalibur, on the other hand, is the sword that Jesus brought instead of peace, but mind that he didn’t mean people, but rather ignorance and selfishness. Excalibur is destructive too, but only to wrong thinking and negative feeling. It is wielded by the woman in Tarot card 11, Justice, who eliminates and cuts away all errors until only truth and love remain. Noteworthy, the Astrological connection of Tarot card 11 is Libra, which rules the kidneys, who eliminate bodily waste.
Having said all this, these two swords are still one and the same (understanding). There aren’t two swords only two way of using it. This is shown by the Gematria of 67, which includes Binah, zain (ZYN, sword), but also the Latin Jesus.
King Arthur’s Kingship
The word King rings a clear bell in the ears attuned to Qabalah. It’s a title of Tiphareth, the sixth Sephirah, which is the sphere of Adam and Christ, who symbolize the One Self of mankind. Mind that in a spiritual context, King Arthur didn’t become king. With the help of Excalibur and the High Priestess he became aware of his true identity and resurrected the Inner Christ, who reclaimed his kingship over personality. This is the true meaning of the Second Coming of Christ.
His kingdom is, of course, Malkuth (literally kingdom), which signifies either the physical universe or the physical body.
King Arthur and Queen Guinevere
King Arthur’s wife and the queen was Guinevere, which means White Enchantress, or Fair Fay. In Qabalah, both queen and bride refer to Malkuth, in particular, the matter from which the physical universe and body are made. Accordingly, Guinevere wasn’t a woman-woman, but rather the First Matter. On the Tree of Life, she rules Yesod, the Purified Intelligence – that’s where Guinevere’s fairness comes in. Mind that fair has various meanings, such as white, pure, just, bright, beautiful, and benign.
On a side note, the side story of Guinevere becoming the lover of Lancelot, the greatest knight, hints at the secret relationship between Mars and Venus. Mind also that Yesod is the seat of the regenerative powers of the world – the Mars force.
King Arthur’s Kingdom
The capital of King Arthur’s kingdom (the physical universe or physical body) was Camelot. The etymology of Camelot is obscure as well. Taken as a Latin word, it adds up to 61, offering the following Geometrical associations: gen (γην, Greek for earth), materia (Latin for substance), and the adown (ADVN, the Hebrew for master or lord.). Adonai is the name under which God rules Malkuth, the physical universe.
But the Gematria of 61 also hints at the physical body, since it embraces the terms NVH (Hebrew for home or habitation) and aniy (ANY, the Hebrew for I or myself), symbolizing our self-consciousness – that which inhabits and rules the body.
Camelot stood besides a river, downstream from a place called Astolat. Not much is said about Astolat, except that it was the home of the fair maiden Elaine. Taking the word downstream as a clue, Astolat would be Yesod as well. The downwards stream is mezla, the Influence, that originates in Kether and flows through all Sephiroth and paths. Mezla turns into a four-fold stream when it flows into Malkuth. This rhymes with the four-fold river that flows out of the Garden of Eden (likely to be Yesod as well).
Camelot was surrounded by large plains and forests (Yesod’s fertility), and owned a magnificent cathedral, referring to the fact that the human body is God’s temple. In this respect, Camelot is Kether of Malkuth (Yekhidah, the Indivisible).
When the great work is accomplished, Camelot will descend and turn the body into the New Jerusalem, a city that isn’t in need of a temple anymore, since it can host God and Christ. The New Jerusalem was described as a cube with twelve gates, which signify the twelve zodiacs. Analogue, the center of Camelot was the king’s court that hosted the Knight’s Round Table of twelve seats (just like Jesus’ twelve disciples).
The Sacred Grail
The Grail Quest is an allegory of the great work. It’s a complex subject and deserves a blog post on its own. Interesting for this post is the fact that the Sacred Grail healed King Arthur’s illness that caused him and the entire kingdom (Malkuth, the body) to deteriorate. When the Sacred Grail was found and brought to King Arthur, he had a vision and exclaimed that the king and his kingdom are one. This refers to the Alchemical secret that the First Matter (Yesod or Malkuth’s substance) is identical with mankind (the Cosmic Christ) – that’s the same thing as the affinity between Christ and the Sacred Spirit.
King Arthur’s Death
King Arthur died in a battle fighting his son Mordred, who was either his nephew (and knight) or his son conceived by his sister Morgan Le Fey in incest. In a spiritual context, incest isn’t a big deal, even Biblical patriarchs committed a lot of incests without God complaining. Why is this so? Because we are talking about the marriage of forces and powers, not people.
Anyways, Mordred was a cunning person and therefore represents our selfish ego that tries to usurp personality as long as it exists (same as Uther). It continuously fights back while we perform the great work (even Solomon was still fallible).
King Arthur’s final battle indicates an important milestone of the great work: when constructive and destructive mental forces assimilate each other into a spiritual state of mind – beyond good and evil. Another mystical description of this battle is Ragnaroek, the dawn of the gods, during which ambivalent gods kill each other to give way to a new world. The death of King Arthur and Mordred is paralleled by the duel between Heimdallr, the god of wisdom, and Loki, the mischievous god prankster (the intellect).
King Arthur’s After-Life
After King Arthur died, he migrated to Avalon – the legendary Celtic island. Avalon is derived from the Welsh afal, meaning apple. It has titles like the Island of the Blessed or Fortunate Island, since its fruits and crops grow magically and abundantly. The queen of Avalon was Morgan Le Fay. She was one of nine sisters – and yes we are back to Yesod, the ninth Sephirah on the Tree of Life (Avalon and Astolat may be two alternative names for the same realm).
On a side note: Morgan Le Fay was both King Arthur’s antagonist and rescuer (she healed him from his wounds, and she’s hugging him in the picture). This hints at the secret relationship between the Redeemer and Adversary, we elaborated in this post.
Why All This Secrecy About King Arthur?
Well, at the time the King Arthur myth was fabricated, it was quite dangerous to promote spirituality, except in the forms that were sanctioned by the church. It is quite likely that Jesus Christ’s esoteric tradition found a temporary haven in British monasteries, remote from Italy and the Vatican. And it is likely too that the secret custodians of the great work wrapped the Arthur myth in chivalric storylines in order to catalyze its distribution (chivalric stories and songs were very much in fashion that time). They would do the same thing a few centuries later, by creating the Tarot and distributing ageless wisdom disguised as playing cards.
King Arthur’s Return
A couple of stories indicate that King Arthur didn’t die during his last battle, but was brought to Avalon to heal from his wounds. Supposedly, the king that was and shall be, is waiting there to return to Britain in the time of its greatest need – just like Jesus Christ – and bring back the Golden Age.
In a psychological context, King Arthur returns every time a baby is born. Each one of us is born as a King or Queen Arthur. Every one of us will, one day, see the light and draw the sword out of the stone. And when we work hard enough on our spiritual career, we will also receive Excalibur from the High Priestess and send out our twelve knights (twelve zodiacs) to seek the Sacred Grail.
In a spiritual context, King Arthur stands for the savior or liberator. But don’t think the Messiah (Christ) is a person. It’s a power, an inner power to be precise. And as such it returns a few times every day to knock at the door of your mind, hoping you will allow more spirituality to enter into your mind and life.
Featured image attribution: “Merlin and the Knight” by Unknown engraver – The Rose, 1847, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
“Idylls of the King 15”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
“Beguiling of Merlin” by Edward Burne-Jones – Scanned from Wildman, Stephen: Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998, ISBN 0870998595. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –
“Merlin And Vivien by Speed Lancelot” by Speed Lancelot (1860-1931) – The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights, 1912., 9th edition. Ed. Sir James Knowles, K. C. V. O. London; New York: Frederick Warne and Co., 1912. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
“Idylls of the King 3” by Gustave Doré – Enid, by Lord Alfred Tennyson. London: Edward Moxon & Co., 1868. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
“How Mordred was Slain by Arthur” by Arthur Rackham – The Camelot Project http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/images/arm&a.htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
“Frank William Warwick Topham Voyage of King Arthur and Morgan Le Fay to the Isle of Avalon 1888” by Frank William Warwick Topham (1838-1924) – Sotheby’s New York, 27. Januar 2012, N08826, lot 652. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons