The Once And Future King : Mythology and Motivation from the Arthurian Legends

Introduction

Most people when asked about the Arthurian legends will bring to mind well known tropes from idealised British fantasy. Indeed, the Arthurian legends, in combining medieval history and ancient mythology, created those tropes. There are maidens in flowing dresses in extraordinary castles, brave knights in shining armour, old wizards with long beards, seductive witches, changelings, ghosts, giants, dwarves, elves, goblins, unicorns, dragons, magical swords, and otherworldly lands. There are wise rulers, antagonistic offspring, sibling rivalry, obsessions and madness, dangerous quests, romances both pure and destructive, and competitive love triangles. There is the theme of the end of the old ways and the rise of the new. The only thing missing from what we consider staple fare for contemporary fantasy is hobbits; and we all know where they came from.

For those who are a little more familiar with the story, they might mention a youngster who draws a magic sword from a stone during a time of chaos, which determined the King of all the Britons, receives Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, who rose and united the land against invaders, formed a semi-democratic and multicultural council of knights, the Round Table. They may also mention the establishment of chivalry as a knightly code of conduct as the foundations of 'noblesse oblige', a tradition sorely lacking in contemporary times. They may even mention the illicit romance between Lancelot and Queen Guinevere, and the tragic parallel between Tristram and Isolde, the rise of the Waste Land, and the search of the Holy Grail to cure the ills of the world. They will also certainly mention Mordred, Arthur's nephew and son (think about that for a moment and let it sink in), who eventually fights Arthur at the Battle of Camlann and wounds him, leading Arthur to be sent to the isle of Avalon, where he rests, until he will return again, in accord with the 'King in the Mountain' motif, to save the green and pleasant land of the Britons in the time of greatest need.

But what really is this story? Why has it survived for hundreds of years, with its many and various representations? There are literally thousands of published poems, hundreds of books of prose and plays, scores of films, computer games, studies, and so forth. Is there, stripped of even all the supernatural embellishments, even a kernel of truth to the legend? Why is it still popular to this very day, and doubtless will be in the future? What can we learn from it? To answer these questions one must explore the actual history of Britain when the stories were set and compare them to the medieval stories of the Arthurian legend. One must also look at some of the modern reconstructions and interpretations of the legend. One must also engage in literary analysis, to discover the motivating factors that have ensured the tale's continued popularity.

God is Not Above Logic

I have engaged in some prominent debates with Sydney Anglican (read Episcopalian, if you're American or Scottish) bishops and the like at various universities over the years on such important topics as the existence of God and whether Jesus physically rose from the dead. One of the bishops I debated in the Great Hall of the University of Sydney was Dr Glenn Davies who is now the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney. At least I found him to be a real gentleman.

Problems with Traditional Theism: Five Fallacious Arguments for the Existence of God Propounded by Dr William Lane Craig

‘Better believe in no God than to believe in a cruel God, a tribal God, a sectarian God. Belief in God is one of the most dangerous beliefs a man can cherish.’ -- The Rev Dr Harry Emerson Fosdick, Baptist minister, author and professor of practical theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York (regarded by The Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr as ‘the greatest preacher of [the 20th] century' (Papers 4:536)).

'Deep within the heart of every evangelist lies the wreck of a car salesman.' -- H L Mencken, author, journalist, satirist and scholar of American English.

Religion Without Supernaturalism

Can there be religion without supernaturalism and superstition? Of course. Surely you’ve heard of religious naturalism? Now, naturalism takes various forms including but not limited to cosmological naturalism, methodological naturalism, ethical naturalism, scientistic naturalism, social naturalism, and religious naturalism. I am only concerned with the latter here.

The American philosopher and theologian Jerome A Stone offers the following definition of religious naturalism:

Why Unitarianism?

I am proud to be a Unitarian minister. That means I am also a heretic, and I am proud to be that too. By the way, the word 'heretic' means one who chooses to think differently. We need more heretics in the world---more people who are prepared to think differently. Bring it on.

There are lots of Unitarian jokes. For example, ‘Unitarians believe in one God … at the most!’ Also, ‘Unitarians can believe in any number of gods, except three.’ Of course, you can be a Unitarian without believing in a god at all.

The Transformative Power of Myth in Our Lives

‘[A] mythology is a control system, on the one hand framing its community to accord with an intuited order of nature and, on the other hand, by means of its symbolic pedagogic rites, conducting individuals through the ineluctable psychophysiological stages of transformation of a human lifetime -- birth, childhood and adolescence, age, old age, and the release of death -- in unbroken accord simultaneously with the requirements of this world and the rapture of participation in a manner of being beyond time.’ --Joseph Campbell.

The Pagan Roots and Origins of Christmas

A couple of years ago [viz on 10 December 2012] I spoke on Sydney's Radio Skid Row 88.9 FM on the pagan roots and origins of Christmas. The purpose of this present article is to share some of what I said on the radio.

How to be Free of the Past--or Why Analysis Doesn’t Work

So, you want to be free of the past? Really? If so, you can be, provided you really want freedom and are prepared to go to any length to get it.

Listen to these words from the Indian spiritual philosopher J. Krishnamurti:

Forget About Having a 'Transcendental' Experience!

I am a rather sceptical sort of person. I am proud of that fact. I refuse to accept or believe in anything unless and until I am satisfied that there is sufficient probative material attesting to the existence or veracity of the thing in question.

Of Evil and Cows With Guns

Last Sunday (11/01/2015) was the Poetry and Music Service at the Melbourne Peace Memorial Church. My reading was the Dana Lyons classic Cows With Guns, a comical story of a cow that leads a revolution. But a special dedication also had to given on the day to those assembled, and to visitors to this site to Darren Irvine.

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