King Arthur

                                      by E. C. Merry

(NOTE—In writing this article it has been impossible to make always a clear line of demarcation between legend and tradition, history, and the spiritual facts of occult research. They must be interwoven. Legends are often the imaginative pictures of fundamental truths. The conclusion is not to be drawn that King Arthur did not exist as an historical personage. He most certainly did. But as the representative of a definite current in human evolution he extends his individuality through the ages.)


Out of the grave of silence and obscurity, Rudolf Steiner, with his incomparable seership, called to life again the Holy Mysteries of ancient times. He gave out the results of his investigations in various lectures over a period of many years; but in the month or two immediately preceding the reconstitution of the Anthroposophical Society at Christmas, 1923, he delivered a course of lectures which embodied a marvellous synthesis of all the Mysteries as an introduction to the subsequent ‘Foundation Course.’ The Foundation of the reconstituted Anthroposophical Society stood for a re-birth of the ancient Mysteries in a new form as the background of the true spiritual life of the modern age—as the background for a renewed Christ-experience.

In these lectures of November and December, 1923, he led his hearers through the ancient Mysteries of Hibernia, through the Greek Mysteries of Ephesus, of Samothrace, of Eleusis, to the dawn of the Mysteries of the Rose-Cross in the Middle Ages. It was not until later, in the summer of 1924, that he, in a measure, completed this background by his description of that beautiful outgrowth from the Hibernian Mysteries, the Order of the Knights of King Arthur and the Round Table, and its subsequent union with the spiritual stream of the Holy Grail. These last lectures were given in London after the Torquay Summer School and Dr. Steiner’s visit to Tintagel.

This article will be an attempt to outline the spiritual-historical setting of the Round Table, drawing the material from the above-mentioned lectures and from legends and traditions which receive a new significance in the light of Spiritual Science.


The Cosmic Background


We must approach the subject from two sides. First from the side of its cosmic significance, trying to realise its evolution from out of the spiritual foundations of earthly genesis; and on the other hand from the light we can obtain through legends

and fragments of history.

The Mysteries of King Arthur are the oldest of the European Mysteries, and their origin reveals why they  are so significant in helping us to understand the present and the future in connection with the spiritual life of the West. To begin with we must

turn our gaze to a remote period when the continent of Atlantis existed. Today it is no longer necessary to make any apology for mentioning Atlantis; it is sufficiently well established as a fact of history or geography, apart from occult Investigations.


It was during the existence of Atlantis that man first began to be similar in bodily structure to what he is today, though with a consciousness utterly different,  and still partly wrapped in fluctuating clairvoyant vision. The earth had not yet become wholly

hardened in its mineral forms. It was a world mingled with mists and rainbows for physical sight, still in a kind of radiance from its birth out of the cosmic interpenetration of Sun and Moon. Human bodies kept pace in their development with the development of the Earth, and were also not yet quite hardened as regards theskeleton. One must imagine that earth and man were in a kind of threefold condition, ‘growing’ into their fully materialised form. Out of the past they were moulded and

influenced by the forces still remaining in the earth from its earlier states, known in Occult Science as ‘Saturn,’ ‘Sun,’ and ‘Moon’ states. Secondly there was the contemporary result of these three combined with the forces proceeding from the

now  externalised Sun and Moon bodies; and thirdly there were the influences pouring constructively into the Earth-substance from the different planets.


All that had gone before was spiritual; it was the spiritual Progenitor of this growing Earth. Man looked up to this as to a Father—to the highest conceivable spiritual condition of earth-evolution, the Saturn state. On the other hand, the Atlantean was faced on earth by the Mysteries of incarnation. Out of spirit, matter Was there as the ‘fixation of the volatile.’ His own being, born out of the Father-Spirit, had to find its way into a body which was itself the materialised expression of

the Saturn force, and which was subject to death. In other words, the great Mystery confronting that ancient humanity was precisely the Mystery of the ‘Heights’ and ‘Depths’—Incarnation. The Heights and Depths—life and death—in their total

circumference, represented the Father, or the ‘Great Spirit.’ No modern man can have the slightest idea of the stupendous content of that primeval awareness of spiritual immanence.


It may sound strange in our ears, but it is true to say that the great Initiate-Leaders of these people were able to guide the incarnating human spirits in the right way into the physical bodies. We cannot with our own limited materialistic

thinking, understand the possibility of such a thing; but this ‘guiding into incarnation’ was connected with the fact that the forces of the future were active out of planetary spheres (in cooperation with the Earth) in creating a differentiation of that which was at first a more or less homogeneous humanity into the several races which subsequently wandered from Atlantis over the world. This fact lay at the basis of the existence later of Mystery cults connected with the planetary Gods.


But the central Mystery cult, namely that of the Sun, was universally developed during and after the destruction of Atlantis, and became the guiding influence of progressive civilisations, beginning with that of ancient Persia. It is necessary to realise that for this primeval human consciousness, the Sun—the  Spiritual Sun-Beings or the ‘Elohim’—helped in establishing all knowledge of the external Universe; one may indeed call if ‘Science’;--while the Spiritual Moon-Beings (led by Jehovah) gave the wisdom of the soul, the inner pictures of pure Heavenly imaginations, free from earthly passions—the foundations of ‘Art.’[1] The Earth itself, and the earthly beings, ripened the material substances and Forces in which these cosmic Artists worked.


Since the Earth was there for the purpose of the development of the Human Hierarchy, the Sun, the source of earthly life, was the heart of all the Mystery Schools. From the earliest ages the Divine Leader of the Sun-Beings was known to the Initiates as the Christ. He was called by many Names—Vishvakarman, Ahura-Mazdao, Osiris, Apollo. It was known that this Being would leave the Sun and descend to the Earth. As the time drew nearer for the Incarnation of Christ, so the knowledge concerning the ultimate all-embracing Mysteries of the ‘Father,’ known to the Atlantean Initiates, gradually receded and grew dim. Until, at the time when the very earliest Arthur Mysteries can be spoken of—several centuries B.C.—this  knowledge, outcome of the last remnants of Atlantean wisdom which had remained behind in Ireland, or ‘Hibernia,’ had sunk, so to speak, to realms of Earth.


The polarities of the heights and Depths of the Father-God were then recognized, not in cosmic infinitudes, but in the world of the Elements, where Sun and Earth, in the polarities of Fire and Air, Water and Earth, were seen clairvoyantly as spiritual

beings and forces in living interaction.


This gives the foundation for a wonderful spiritual Nature-Science embodied In the Druid and Arthur Mysteries in the centuries before and immediately after Christ. And far more than this. For this ‘Nature Science’—interplay of ‘Heaven’ and

‘Earth’—which had sprung from the deep foundations of the Mysteries of incarnation as known to the Atlanteans in the sacred ‘West,’ revealed that the lower pole, or ‘Depths,’ brings death to the physical; but that in the knowledge of the destructive forces lies also the knowledge of healing. Creation and destruction and healing—these were the three parts of the secrets of the Mysteries. The healing art originated from them. It came from the sacred West. Rudolf Steiner indicates that

Anthroposophical Medicine arises out of a knowledge of the ‘Saturn’ or Father Mysteries,[2] the spiritual basis of the physical organisation.


To complete our cosmic background to King Arthur, we must add one other Planet. The Initiates, who could foresee the gradual drawing together of the divine and the earthly, the approach of the Christ-Being—and in this drawing together

the increasing invisibility of the divine—wished to guard humanity from all that could still rise out of the depths—Evil. Hence it must come about that in preparing for later eras of civilisation, endeavours must be made to guard the rights of man, who

was a spiritual being. These ‘rights’ should be guarded—not, to begin with, out of love or charity in the Christian sense, but as upholding man’s kingly inner splendour in the face of the powers of destruction. With King Arthur we have to connect not

only the spiritual science of Nature, but the earliest inauguration of the life of  rights—the birth of chivalry. The organisation of the life of rights had its actual origin in the British Mysteries.


King Arthur was not a single individual. It was a name denoting a leader in These Mysteries; but that is not to say that such a leader could not also be a ‘King’ in the ordinary sense.


Rudolf Steiner speaks especially of an ‘earlier’ King Arthur  than the so-called historical Arthur of the sixth century A.D.  But we find King Arthur’s name everywhere, and allusions to him as being ‘Emperor of the World.’ This is to be taken in the

sense of the ‘Order.’ In the same way we find mention of many Gueneveres, his Queen. But any study of King Arthur must clearly distinguish between the pre-Christian and post-Christian conditions of life and consciousness. Before the Mystery of Golgotha quite other conditions ruled in the super-sensible worlds. This difference is the source of all the confusion that arises when investigations are carried our purely in an external way. Similarly, the Grail Mysteries are confused with the Arthur

Mysteries. The Grail stream of spiritual activity was something entirely different, coming from a different source, and the two streams met together in the seventh century. This will be dealt with later.


Of the older literature that deals with Arthur, the more important documents are Nennius’ History of the Britons (ninth century); Sir Thomas Malory’s Mort d’Arthur; and the famous Books of Wales. A contemporary historian, Gildas, has no mention of King Arthur. He is said to have thrown into the sea, out of spite, a book about King Arthur written by Giraldus Cambrensis. It is curious how often in ancient tradition things that are precious are thrown or fall into the sea; but such sayings have a deep meaning for the occultist.


We can now turn our attention—with a brief return to Atlantis—to some of the traditions and legends, and the ‘properties’ of this wonderful drama.



The Mythological Aspect


“The old fairy tales, which are expressions of the ancient spiritual secrets of the world, have

arisen because those who formed them for the world listened to those who could narrate to them the

spiritual secrets. Therefore their construction and composition are in accordance with these secrets.

Hence we can say that within them dwells the spirit of the whole of humanity, of the microcosm

and of the macrocosm.”           (Rudolf Steiner)


A special characteristic that meets us everywhere is the belief that Arthur did not die, but is sleeping, in some cave or mountain side or in the ‘island valley of Avillion,’ and that he will assuredly come again to be King of the West. This is a not unusual feature in many mythologies all over the world. But in the case of Arthur it seems to have taken a strange hold of popular fancy. Indeed the more one enters into the spirit of the legends, the more one feels in them a quality of

conviction. They live; and Arthur lives. With a wonderful artistic fitness, there can slip into our

narrative here a story from Plutarch:--


One Demetrius was sent by the Roman Emperor to explore the British Isles, and in his report of them he says: “Moreover there is an island there in which Cronos (Saturn) is improsoned, with Briareus keeping guard while he sleeps. Sleep, they say, is the bond forged for Cronos.” . . . This is nothing else than the hidden Cosmic Mysteries of the ‘Heights’ and ‘Depths’ mentioned above, which are indeed only sleeping, and from which the Hibernian and Arthur Mysteries were derived.[3]


The name ‘Arthur’ has been the centre of endless discussion. It is said to be derived from Arth-Uthyr, the Great Bear; and many sayings link Arthur with the sacred North. We feel a spiritual reality concealed here, and can find its deep connections with cosmic Mysteries in the following way.


Every great period of civilisation is connected with the currents of the magnetism of the Earth. In Atlantis these currents flowed in a North-South direction. Speaking in the sense of occultism, this North-South influence is connected with the forces that built the human body. Without going into this question we can say with truth, that, as in the ancient spiritual consciousness

the ‘North’ was the birth place of Time (or Saturn) and was the source of Light, so the human head is the ‘North’ of the body; it is born first into the physical world and into time out of the womb; it is the place of Intelligence, or ‘Light.’ From this ‘North’ streams the spiritual substance of the bodily nature, which is then filled with the activity of the earthly forces. On the other hand the South (and this was so also in certain states of historical evolution in wars and conflicts), played its part in the

slow upbuilding of man, but as the source of all darkness and opposition. The ‘South’ of the human body is all that is carried in the blood (not the blood itself) as passions and purely bodily impulses—the mythical ‘Dragon.’ The Great Bear with its seven stars is the Watcher of the North, and the guardian of the secrets of Cronos. And such a picture as that of the sleeping Cronos conceals the reality of the ‘sleeping’ cosmic Mysteries of the beginnings of Earth evolution, the knowledge of  which had to be lost to humanity for a time.


One of the most beautiful and the truest of all the legends is exquisitely told in Fiona Macleod’s Beyond the Blue Septentrions. The boy Arthur, dreaming on the hills at twilight, watching the stars “climb out of shadowy abysses,” saw in vision the splendid figure of his father Pendragon (the Dragon’s Head) who pointed to the constellation of the Bear as the place to which he must soon return. Arthur, closing his eyes, felt himself “ascend the invisible stairways of the sky” until he stood on the verge of Arth-Uthyr, the Great Bear. There he saw with spiritual sight—the ‘Light of the North’—a company of majestic figures seated at a circular abyss of darkness. Each of the seven lordly Kings wore a star upon his forehead, and these were the stars of that great constellation. Among them all he recognised himself as King of the seven Kings. And then a voice that “rose and

fell through the eternal silences,” like a mighty ocean, proclaimed: “Comrades in God, the time has come when that which is great shall become small.”[4]


Is there any artistry of word or colour that could so delicately portray the tremendous truth that earthly events are indeed the ‘small writing’ of the starry heavens! Seven was the number of the first Round Table; five were added later. In these numbers students of Spiritual Science will find a hint of the great truths of pre-Christian and post-Christian Mysteries.[5]


Fiona Macleod also mentions a modern Slavonic ballad (based on the ancient tradition):--

        “Among the Carpathian Highlands is a nameless ancient tomb lost in a pine forest, where at

        mid-winter a bear has been seen to rise, walking erect like a man, crowned with a crown of iron and

        gold, holding a single shining stone magnificent as the Pole Star, and crying in a deep voice: I am

        Arthur of the West, who yet shall be King of the World.”


Again, Persian mythology shows the Peri Morgiana, or Morgana, who is identical with the Fairy Sister of King Arthur, Morgan le Fay, to have been rescued from the Mountains of Kaph and Taken to the ‘new Europe’—i.e. after the destruction of Atlantis—by Tahmurath. The Mountains of  Kaph were, to the Persians, the mythical boundary of the world in the farthest North of arctic regions.


We have only touched lightly on this question of the name Arthur. There are of course many other sources of the name put forward by different investigators; but what has been said should help to arouse the feeling that a true ‘name’ is in reality a ‘spiritual calling.’ Bearing this in mind it is equally relevant to state that Arthur, as a deity, namely the god Artaius, or Mercury, took the place of the Welsh Gwydion, who represented Science and Light.


The tradition of the Round Table with its twelve or twenty-four seats denotes that the Arthurian Mystery, grown out of its primeval Atlantean origin, was a solar cult. King Arthur in the midst of his twelve was the Sun, Guenevere the Moon. A legend tells that the Round Table was a wedding gift to King Arthur from his father Pendragon. In Wales, this name is synonymous with Pluto, the King of Hades, or the ‘Depths.’ The Table is at the same time the heavenly Zodiac and an Earthly centre from which the Mysteries flowed out. When the twelve eat at the Round Table they Become a world-fellowship.

Man only becomes really ‘man’ by eating the fruits of the Earth. Eating is a transformation of earthly substances into spiritual forces. Christ changed the character of this ‘eating’ when He ate with His Twelve and gave them the new message to ‘love one another’ as brothers. Eating has always been an important part of all the Mysteries; and in the Arthurian legends we read that it was during the meals that the inspirations were brought to the Knights.

Of the twelve seats (with their pairs) five would be representative of the constellations below the Earth, those of the Southern starry hemisphere, the so-called ‘dark’ signs; and there was always one empty seat, called the ‘Siege Perilous’ in which no man could sit without harm unless he was absolutely pure. In the post-Christian Arthurian tradition this seat was said to be symbolical of that of Judas, who had “gone out into the night.”



We can turn our attention from this central object of the Arthurian Mysteries to another one which holds a place of great importance, King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur.

Innumerable legends are woven around its origin; and allowing for variations here and there, we can allow our gaze to fall upon the picture of the great stone, white like fine marble, floating down upon the stream of Camelot, in which Merlin the Magician had embedded Excalibur, and from which it was drawn by King Arthur. Many strange things are said of this sword—that it was forged by the Lady of the Lake, that it had a peculiar tendency to return to the waters of Avalon whence it had come, that King Arthur might not always use it, but only when he was in great danger; that it shone with the light of thirty torches; that once a sham Excalibur had been made for Arthur by his sister Morgan le Fay. What is the meaning of Excalibur?

A legend shows us the direction in which we should go to discover its meaning:--On one occasion Merlin placed the sword in its white stone in the lake, and left the scabbard on the mainland. There he built a perilous bridge of iron and steel only six inches wide, which had to be crossed between scabbard and sword. This is nothing else than the drawing forth of the fire of the Word of Inspiration and Intuition. The Word is uttered through the occult media of ‘Fire’ and ‘Water’—the spirit and the soul. To attain the power of the Word the bridge of blood and nerves—likened to iron and steel—has to be crossed; in other words, the forces in the body which are subject to death, in the physical and moral sense, must be overcome. The Father-force—that out of which man is born—bears also that opposite pole of man’s being which is destructive; but this same force in its aspect of ‘life,’ is able to exist apart from the scabbard of the body, and can be drawn from the transmuted forces of death, the ‘white stone,’ as the creative wisdom of the spirit.

The White Stone is the ‘philosopher’s stone’ of alchemy. Its whiteness, seen in the spirit, is the translucent light of the etheric world where the drawn sword of wisdom ‘flashes like the light of thirty torches.’

Rudolf Steiner has said that the Knights of King Arthur could be called ‘Knights of the Sword,’ but the Knights of the Holy Grail ‘Knights of the Word.’ We shall be able to grasp later in what this difference really consisted. In the Excalibur legends we find that sword and Word have, as it were, been welded into one through the deep meanings woven into this mysterious weapon from various sources. A wonderful truth is expressed in the old sayings that such a sword must be returned to its fountain—or lake—to be renewed. Dr. Steiner says that no one can obtain a complete picture of these Mysteries without a return to their spiritual source of inspiration. Without this, the Word, or Sword, remains broken.

Before we leave this brief outline of the mythical attributes of the Arthurian cult and turn to the deeper aspects, a word must be said about King Arthur’s sister Morgan le Fay.

The Fairy Morgan (in Welsh tales ‘Mary Morgan’) can be either good or bad. She is to be found under various aspects all over the world and wherever she is she creates a beautiful and glamorous fairyland. Some legends represent her living in lakes or streams and luring people into the water. In truth, she is a great Enchantress—for she is that part of the human soul that creates deception out of the pictures of Imagination. She is it who both creates the fairy palaces and lures the human being to live in the illusion. She can be the good or evil genius of legend and fairy-tale, concealing (while also dwelling in) the true source of their inspiration. As represented in the half-actual and half-legendary accounts of that last great battle ‘among the mountains by the winter sea,’ she was the cause, through her illegitimate son Sir Modred, of King Arthur’s downfall. But afterwards, strangely enough, we find her associated with the guarding of King Arthur in the Earth, till he shall return again to rule; and this we shall have to mention once more towards the close in another connection.


The Holy Grail and the Return of King Arthur

What we may specifically call the ‘Arthur Mysteries’ arose, says Rudolf Steiner, a ‘few thousand years ago’; and the places chosen for the cultivation of these Mysteries were places where the elemental forces of Nature could best be experienced in all their grandeur. Out of these experiences arose the impulses to heal mankind from the effects of their wild passions; while at the same time Nature herself disclosed her secrets of physical healing. Dr. Steiner says:

“Up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, Christ had been a Sun-Being, belonging to the Sun. Before the Mystery of Golgotha took place, the Knights of King Arthur’s Round Table from this castle on the rocks (Tintagel) looked out upon the play of the Sun-born Spirits with the Earth-born Spirits, and felt that what lived in this play of the Nature-beings, entered their hearts, and especially their etheric bodies. With it they drank in the Christ-Impulse, which was then streaming out from the Sun, and they lived in the influences of this Sun-stream.

“Thus, before the Mystery of Golgotha, the Knights of King Arthur, seated at their Round Table, received into their hearts the Sun-Spirit, the pre-Christian Christ. They then sent messengers out into all Europe to subdue the fierceness of the astral bodies of the European populations, to purify and civilise them, for this was their mission. We see such men as these Knights of King Arthur’s Round Table, starting here from this Western England, to carry out to the whole humanity of Europe . . . what they had received from the Sun, to purify and refine the astral nature of those fierce Europeans—particularly fierce in central and Northern Europe. Then came the Mystery of Golgotha.” . . .

Some centuries after the Mystery of Golgotha we find the indications of a great change. Turning again to what we can read in the different legends of the historical Arthur, we cannot but be impressed by the shadow of melancholy that begins to fall upon the Round Table after the first tidings of the Holy Grail have been brought to King Arthur’s court. It is through Parsifal, of whom Dr. Steiner says he was a ‘modern’ man filled with a concious striving and individual aspiration unknown to the men of his time, that the Grail quest becomes united with the Round Table Fellowship. Parsifal (whose destiny as future guardian of the Grail demands otherwise)—comes to Arthur’s court and feels deeply tempted to abandon his quest for the Grail and remain there as a Knight of the Round Table.

And then the Messenger arrives. But in what form? Her name is Kundrie, and she is compounded of all knowledge—languages, arts and sciences—but is everything that is hideous and repulsive to look upon.

[6]“She wears a blue mantle and a hat of peacock’s feathers, and over her hat lies her plaited hair, black and coarse like the hackles of a pig. Her nose is like a dog’s. Two long tusks stick out of her mouth. Her eyebrows end in long pig-tails. Her ears are like the ears of a bear. . . . Her skin is the colour of an ape’s, and instead of nails she has lion’s claws. We need not look for beauty in her, for she is but the reflection of the inner part of man’s nature when it is still given over to desire. And yet—she is the Messenger of the Grail. No one will be surprised at this who has discovered how beautiful the hideous can be when it is transformed.”

Kundrie upbraids Parsifal as false and untrue; he is forgetting the task to which he was predestined. She reminds him of his first entrance into the Grail Castle and his omission to ask questions concerning the Mysteries there; and she tells him how he should have asked—not only so as to redeem Amfortas the wounded King, but also his brother Fierefis. She recalls to his memory that he has a brother. For no one may approach the Grail alone; he must achieve the quest for the sake of the whole human race. He must take his brother with him.

This story is introduced here because we must try to feel a deep reverence for what lies concealed in these narratives. The great cosmic secrets of which the Arthur Knights still held the fast-fading memories, and which were deeply connected with the earthly mysteries of the human blood, with human egoism and passions and with the shedding of human blood, must be transformed into a recognition of the Divine Ego of the Christ which, in the Cup of the Grail, could be found now and in the future as the ILLUMINATOR of the true meaning of the old secrets of life and death and of incarnation, of which Arthur had been the last guardian in their form as a ‘Nature-Science.’

One who was destined for the Grail could not remain with Arthur.

We can read in the narratives how one by one the Knights of Arthur followed Parsifal in the quest for the Holy Grail; and how one by one they returned to the vanished glory of the Round Table—for most of them “did follow wandering fires.” ….


                “Scarce returned a tithe—

                And out of those to whom the vision came

                My greatest[7]  hardly will believe he saw;

                Another hath beheld It afar off, . . .

                And one hath had the vision face to face,

                And now his chair desires him here in vain.”

With wonderful spiritual insight Tennyson shows Arthur recognising that the Quest was not for him, but that he walked alone wrapped in the vision of what he had to guard for the distant future, feeling himself lost in an outer world that had become for him all ‘vision,’ with himself as a reality that ‘cannot die’—and the ‘High God’ a reality—and the ‘One Who rose again’ a reality. . . .

With the weakening of the Round Table came the last act of the drama, and the final overthrow of the Court of King Arthur, and his own ‘passing.’ As Sir Thomas Malory says: “Here in this world, he changed his life.” “He was had by the Lord Jesus in another place.”

When a human being dies, his physical body returns to the earthly element, his etheric body is dissolved in the cosmic ether, his astral body and his Ego take their way into the spiritual world. Dr. Steiner revealed a great Mystery—the reverse process—in connection with the descent of the Christ from the Cosmic spheres to the Earth. The Christ-Being died to the Sun, and leaving His ‘Spirit-man’ in the sphere of the spiritual Sun, His Ego descended to earthly realm and His etheric body, or ‘Life-Spirit,’ permeated the aura of the Earth.

We have seen that the integral heart of the Arthurian Mysteries consisted in the revelations that were obtained concerning the secrets of Nature and the human soul within the elemental or etheric aura of the Earth; or, as has been stated, as a re-reading of the primeval Mysteries of the Heights and Depths, of the cosmic and terrestrial forces in the sphere of the elements of Fire and Air, Water and Earth. The whole movement of this evolution, beginning in Atlantis, had passed and was passing from West to East. The Mystery of Golgotha then took place in the East. From that moment the tremendous Impulse of the Christ travelled from East to West, in the Mysteries of the Holy Grail.

“This stream, flowing from East to West,” says Rudolf Steiner, “is now not impressed in the winds and waves and air and water, or in mountains and the Sun’s rays as in the old way, but it flows through the blood, and into the hearts of men, taking hold of them. The one stream (the Arthur stream) lived in Nature, the other in the blood and hearts of men. . . . The Arthur stream came from the West, the other from the East. It was a meeting between the actual Christ Who came to Earth, with His Own etheric Form. Christ, the Brother of humanity, met with Himself in His cosmic Image.”

We need not feel this as something abstract. For always ‘that which is great becomes small’ as it writes itself upon the Earth in all the details of human life. It is played out in the destinies of men. Feeling this we can confidently include another character in the cosmic writing which Spiritual Science reads.

We live today in an epoch which is governed by the same Spirit of the Age Who ruled at the time when the ‘pagan-Christian’ Arthur Mysteries played an important part in world-evolution a few centuries before Christ. This Being is known to us as the Archangel Michael. Whenever, at definite epochs, His influence streams into the Earth with the powers of the Sun, a cosmopolitan or ‘world’ current affects civilisation. History, in the light of Anthroposophy, shows that this same force was active in Greece, whence the last great aftermath of the Atlantean Mysteries was carried all over the Eastern world, wherever Greek civilisation flourished, by Alexander the Great, three hundred years before Christ. This was a twin stream to the Arthur stream. And this stream also met and united with another, even as the Arthur stream met with the Grail; and this was the current of Arabian culture, which is the foundation of our modern materialistic Natural Science.

In the early Middle Ages all four streams met together. They met in the spiritual world and they met on the Earth in individual human aims and actions, as history can testify. And in the ninth century[8] a fourfold knot of spiritual and human destiny was woven, out of which is working today the destinies of individual human beings, the destinies of nations, and of the whole civilisation of the Western world.

If we wish to know why it is that in the West the interest in King Arthur is deepening, it is because of this very fact. In the sublime Nature Science of the ‘pagan Christians’ who saw the workings of the Sun-Being in the etheric aura of the earth, the revelation was still incomplete. But with the union of the Christ-on-Earth in the Grail Mysteries with this Nature Science—the meeting of Christ with His etheric Form—the germ of something infinitely precious for humanity was created. But it could not come to fruition until, after a thousand years or more, the fourfold knot of destiny could begin to be unravelled. Till then, Arthur must remain asleep. The time for the beginning of the awakening is in the present century, when Michael is again the Spirit of the Age.

Rudolf Steiner has taught those who tread the path of Initiation that they must learn to distinguish ‘vision’ from spiritual reality. The difference between them is that in the ‘reality’ the Being, who was previously only ‘vision,’ has entered into the vision. If we look then at the great and wonderful Mysteries of the Round Table and the Mysteries of the Grail, we see that in the latter the Being has indeed entered the vision and will now make it fruitful for the world through a newly apiritualised Natural Science! Anthroposophy, with its art, its school of medicine, its science of the etheric forces and its agriculture, is like the shepherd who found his way into the cave in the hills, and blowing upon the horn, wakened the sleeping Arthur and his Knights.

In the last hundred years modern natural science has discovered, in a purely materialistic way, the secrets of the ‘Depths’ in all forms of mechanisation and electrification. A wholly Platonic Round Table is being fashioned. The ‘Heights’ are unknown. The reverse picture of Michael’s cosmopolitan impulse is the dazzling glamour of Morgan le Fay, who unites East and West, and gives an illusion of ‘world-brotherhood,’ on the waves of electricity and the under-earthly forces. With prophetical insight an old Italian legend tells that she guards the sleeping Arthur in a wondrous fairy palace over the volcanic fires of Mount Etna, the grave of Empedocles, who sacrificed himself to the powers of the elements.

But how much more wonderful is this fairy-tale when we look more deeply into it! For Rudolf Steiner tells us that Empedocles was the first philosopher—in the fifth century B.C.—who spoke of the four elements fire, water, earth, and air, and taught that everything that takes place in matter is caused by the mingling and commingling of these four elements in accordance with the principles of love and hatred ruling in them. Moreover, he says, “it is he who by his wisdom specially worked to bring about important conditions of the state of Sicily, and who went about trying to lead people into a spiritual life. It is an adventurous as well as a deeply spiritual life which we look back upon in Empedocles. Perhaps the truth of what is to be related may be doubted by some, but Spiritual Science knows that Empedocles moved in Sicily as a statesman, while at the same time he was both a magician and an Initiate, just as Hector in Troy was depicted by Homer. And in order to characterise the remarkable attitude of Empedocles to the world, we have the fact, which is true and no invention, that in order, as it were, to unite himself with all existence around him, he ended by throwing himself into Etna, and was consumed by its fire”[9]     

And now a new spiritual natural science dawns in our age, the Michael Age, with Anthroposophy. Hand in hand with this spiritual natural science must go the healing force which will act—not now with the Sword, but through the Word—as the creator of a new social organism in which a new ideal of chivalry rules. Then the East will perceive that the terrible mechanisation and death-bringing forces of Western civilisation can be transmuted and healed by the wisdom of the Grail.

The healing force which alone can create a spiritualised social order rises out of the wisdom of the Grail as knowledge of re-incarnation. Re-incarnation illumines the Mysteries of Incarnation, and gives meaning and splendour to all the tangled threads that bind human beings together in a mighty brotherhood of the Round Table.


From another aspect King Arthur may also be connected with planetary lore; and therefore I should like to draw attention to the mention earlier of King Arthur as the god Artaius, or Mercury (connected with that planet). Mercury represents the healing principle in the Universe. In Christian esotercism he is called Raphael, the Archangel. The staff of Mercury (otherwise the rod of Hermes) is the life-giving force that connects physical man with the spiritual worlds. It connects ‘Science’ with ‘Light’; and is the force which overcomes the ‘Dragon of Blood.’ Britain has for its patron Saint, Saint George, who overcame the Dragon. Saint George is the earthly prototype of the Archangel Michael, and as such appears in a certain relation with Raphael; for Raphael is the Spiritual Being who carries out in the sphere of Humanity what Michael accomplishes in the Spiritual world. St. George’s Day falls precisely at the season when the influences of Raphael work most strongly—in the spring; while Michaelmas is at the opposite pole, in the autumn. St. George, with King Arthur (as ‘Mercury’), may thus be said to be human representatives of the Powers which (a) as Michael, give strength to the Will-impulses, in the great conflict between Life and Death—pictured for man in the falling leaves of autumn and the ripening of the seeds; and which (b) (as Raphael), continually renew the connection between man and the spiritual world, healing him; and this is pictured in the ever-recurring life of spring. It is not for nothing that Great Britain, which is the gateway between East and West, has given birth to the idea of these great human representatives of ‘Mercury’ and the ‘Sun’; and that it possesses (though the meaning is forgotten) an “Order of St. Michael and St. George.”





[1] Exemplified in Hiram (Sun), and Solomon (Moon), and the building of the Temple.

[1] See True and False Paths in Spiritual Investigation (Lecture 10).  Anthroposophical

Publishing Company, London.

3 Compare, in Greek mythology, the whole story of Uranus and Gaia.

4I deeply regret being obliged to curtail the exquisite writing of Fiona Macleod.—E.C.M

5 Seven is the number of Time and is connected with the population of the Earth through the

generations, and hence with the oldest Mysteries. When five is added, making twelve, it is the number of Space and of the Sun ruling in the Zodiac; and it points to the Christ-Mystery and the

brotherhood of humanity all over the Earth.
6 From World History in the Light of the Holy Grail by W. J. Stein. In this book Parsifal is shown to have been an actual historical personage.
7 Sir Lancelot.
8 The Eighth Ecumenical Council in 869. The dispute on Trichotomy, and the denial of the ‘Spirit.’

9 The Gospel of St. Mark, Lecture II. Anthroposophical Publishing Company, London

From: ANTHROPOSOPHY, A Quarterly Review of Spiritual Science, No. 4.  Christmas 1930 / Vol. 5. London: Anthroposophical Publishing Company





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