THE ONCE and FUTURE KING: a Back to the Future Meditation in Three Movements

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First Movement: Round Table and the Peers


When Arthur realized he was to become king, and not just any king, but the illustrious Once and Future King, he went apart in solitude, looked out over the rolling land and for a long time contemplated the condition of the realm he was destined to guide, guard, and govern. Visibly on all sides, in every direction, was confusion, corruption and conflict. Ruin, despair, and denigration were common, as also abrupt and excessive aggressions, swindling deceptions and devouring violence.  More of his soon to be subjects existed in fear and distrust, under the heavy shadows of suspicion and dread, than lived confident and free by light, a joy of life, and with love permeating their days and night.

How was this brute, pandemic condition to be changed? How to empower dignity and restore to people a common bond of decency, a purpose, and a renewal of trust?

In his probing contemplation, Arthur struck upon two mighty truths on which to build a new reign of abiding difference.

First, Arthur would establish his governance on a Round Table, a profound, powerful circle of peers who would democratize debate, discourse, authority, and decision-making. This Table of Meeting, like unto all other circles (the circle being nature’s most prevalent form) was to have no one at head and no one at tail; none elevated, and none relegated to an inferior station.

Seated at the Round Table, everyone and all of those qualified for peerage would be equals and their decisions made by consensus, according to detailed discernment, appropriateness, and conscientious alignment with truth, favoring the protection and perseverance of life.  Nothing anymore (the new monarch delighted) would be swayed by wealth or status and no wrong excused because of privilege.

Arthur, King and champion, said sagely within himself: A circle dissolves hierarchies, making way for new, more porous, interfacings of recognition, of mutuality and bonding purpose to open, flourish and establish experiential presence.

Secondly, Arthur had the patience, strength, and humility to recognize that his Round Table could only survive and grow if those who were called into the noble peerage of knighthood (in service to Gaia as Earth Spirit Warriors) were personages of the highest standards of spiritual maturity, were great souled and of vital, empathetic character. These would need to be individuals of robust, unassailable honesty, transparency, of courage combined with humility, strength combined with gentleness, of intuition, sensitivity, and discerning intelligence, persons pledged to a chivalric code of inclusive dignity, biotic justice, and indiscriminate compassion.

Such individuals of authenticity, revealing in the spring of their lives noteworthy capacities for such evolutionary developments and striving would be worthy of a place at the Wonderous Circle of Meeting, of the Once and Future King, in the Camelot of Light and Life Affirmation.

To which, Arthur, examining the illuminations of his reasoning, added: the Round Table and light bearing standard of personhood will be exemplary, as well as stand sentinel against both freedom depriving machinations of authoritarian demagogues and oligarchs and the intimidations and bullying tendencies of mobocracy.

Concluding his thoughts on the Table and his Knights, the young king’s mind moved on to what, then and there, he named the Great Work and the Greater Miracle.

Second Movement: Great Work and Greater Miracle

Standing solitary still, as if one transfixed by the presence of a higher power, Arthur spoke to himself into the depth of his very soul. The King said thus:  To detoxify, to cleanse within and outward, restore the realm of Earth to balance and harmony, protect the unifying generation of diversity, defend against greed, mayhem, violence, and chaos, and put into place and maintain the means and methods of sustainable practices of relationships and sanity – that is the work, the validating work of Earth Spirit Warriors, of the Gaia faithful peers of the Circle of Gathering.

The work is necessary, the work is arduous, and the work requires steadfast dedication, some pluck and grit, to never give in, never surrender to the harm of forced extinctions and the evil betrayals of the degrees of death.

The work is good, and the good work is Great.

To change human perceptions and the comprehension of natural reality (the ever expanding and intricate experiences and knowledge), to transform internal and shared values, to change our minds, our hearts, our combined direction in species unity – that is the miracle, the confrontation and soul searching choosing to fulfil the prophecy and promise of Camelot, in the cleansing of awakening and the maturity of time. And the miracle, forever anticipated yet never realized is a Great, and even Greater miracle.

Arthur got it right that the work, this work, and this miracle are two sides of a single, organic body – outside and inside. One cannot be achieved without being accompanied by the other.

Then, his thinking concluded, the King bundled his bright thoughts and hastened with them to his mentor-friend, the magus Merlin.

Third Movement: Merlin, Camelot and Sangreal

Young Arthur spoke his mind on the Round Table, the Peerage of Knights, the Great Work and Greater Miracle, setting out the entirety of his thinking before the venerable wizard. Attentively, the magician listened, nodding affirmation at words’ end. After a silence, Merlin added his own wisdom and vision on the meaning of Camelot and the power of the Grail. The magus spoke, as if in a trance, seeing transformation through the mist of time.

Merlin said: O Camelot, shining constellation of enlightened peace, of justice, and the fulfilled banqueting of commensality, you shall not only be a once upon a time place, but Camelot is and ever is to be a state of being, the moveable seat of Earth’s evolutionary dreaming the song of creation into human identity.

Arthur, you and your circle of peers, are Earth’s awakened dreamers and so will stand the tests of generations, as symbols and aspirations of a people’s noble and heroic fortunes.

It is within this once upon and forever state of Camelot that the Grail is kept – the key of keys alive within the Castle Keep. Grail that enshrines the mystic power to invite to the Banquet of All Welcoming, where hunger of body, mind, heart, and soul are nourished to maturity, and the inherited illnesses of human history can be cured – the gathering storm dissipated before lightning strikes to splinter the Earth into embers, cinders-shards, and dead zone ashes.

Arthur, King and champion, consider carefully the task of the Great Work and the promise for posterity of the Greater Miracle as you set in motion what may rise and fall but will perpetually remain in motion.  Consider carefully, the light of Camelot, and the dream within the dream that is the vibrant, heart strong Sangreal.  Of this, let us speak of the shape of all-inclusion, of high culture, and the time of woman.

WORDS and POWER – and the POWER of WORDS

To get under way here, let me say that the first public alarm on impending environmental crisis was sounded by Rachael Carlson with the publication of The Silent Spring, decrying the poisoning of the land through excessive usage of chemical pesticides.  In 1968 Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich published the explosive The Population Bomb. By 1970 a burgeoning Environmental Movement was underway.  From then until now spans over 50 years.  Through the decades a steady stream of books has appeared on ecology, deep ecology, climate crisis, Earth crisis and the culminating identification of Earth Crisis as a Human Crisis, formulated by leading Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki.  The information has become accessible, the arguments for recognition brilliant and often eloquent. Between 1970 and 2022 there has been a significant increase in popular awareness of problems growing into disruptions and natural catastrophes.  An increase as well in the numbers of persons actively engaged at various levels in alternatives of human behaviors and ways of living, in honest recognition and courageously honest proposals for solutions.  This is worthy of promise and yet but an initiating step in a long and comprehensive journey to stabilize and restore planetary habitability, species diversity and human lives with real needs addressed with a non-exclusionary allotment of dignity.

That said, the alarms continue sounding and this is necessary with ever accelerating urgency.  Earth is in trouble and we, the troublemakers, are in trouble as well.  I see two key dynamics in the twofold problematic before us.  One is a point made by philosopher and author Maurice Friedman that in the world as we know it there is yet an unbridgeable separation between conscientiousness and power.  This has not changed sufficiently to proclaim a global shift has taken shape The equation between political, economic, intellectual, and even spiritual power and those who comprehend and can see how structures and norms of society and psyche need alternative direction has not yet systematically tended toward the empowerment of conscience.  Perhaps there are signs of this equation being critically reorganized but work remains to be done and so long as determining power is subject to the vicissitudes of political ideologies, market values and excesses of greed and elitist entitlement, we are without an assurance of sustainable, systemic change.

The second key dynamic has to do with the democratization of awareness and empowerment.  My own formula for this dynamic becoming central in addressing the condition of Earth Crisis as Human Crisis is this: a movement taking place that must be ever expanded from the solitude of awakening to a solidarity of commitment.  The crisis is global and out of every place and habitation and community a global response is called for from within each trust-valued network of local and regional empowerment and the time-space intimacies of transformational dedication.

To make the point precisely: addressing Earth crisis must become binding through an Earth spirituality of sacred space and systems and sacred (existential) identifications beyond reach of the mood swings and partisan vicissitudes of politics – political corruption, violence, entitlement and exploitative manipuklation.

At the top I spoke of books, mediums for conveyance of ideas and information, for insights, reality-awakenings, inspirations, truth-sharing, and intuitive passions.  I will by and by speak of books again. I will do so as one who is at best a warrior of words in service to the Living Earth. I do so with the recognition that nobody, myself included, can in good faith believe that words and books alone will save the planet and our species from ourselves.  But behind printed words and printed ideas is a living voice, a thinking, feeling and embodied person, often a person of serious and deep concern, and the human voice and human concern is not confined to being in print. There are the lived dynamics of person-to-person expression.  This species identifier is primal, innate to species evolution and rooted in the Grounding Dimension of becoming more dimensionally human.

With that said, I wish to put forth some words concerning former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.  This may strike many as odd as I appear a far remove from Churchill in my own person.  But a writer who only paints word-pictures of images from his own mirror will not reach folk characteristically different from himself. And it is the Shakespearean “and yet” that I would get hold of and invite to dialogue. I am not near to who Winston was and I will not lionize the man.  Nor is my intention in invoking him patriotic or nationalistic. After all, I am not British.

Sir Winston, or Winnie (for those who are familiar in their admiration) was a man, an extraordinary man in an extraordinary position of advantage and ordeal at an extraordinary time in human history, deserving recognition for his courage as well as genius, but still a man and complete with human flaws and failures. Being partial to Gandhi, I have never cared for Churchill’s attitude toward or treatment of the Mahatma, and the command to firebomb civilian Dresden is haunting.  On the opposite side of the ledger, the ordering of the civilian armada to Dunkirk and ordinary English folk coming forth to rescue nearly the entire 350,000 or more men of the British Expeditionary Force, trapped on that beach in France, will stand through time as a testimony to miraculous audacity.  So too the encouragement of his people who stood by him, during and after the Battle of Britain, although he claimed to offer little more than, “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

Winston Churchill was a man of history, who understood that history is about power and all who live today on the side of democracy, owe him our remembrance and gratitude.  The power of history, which can be guided by an ideal of promise or an ideology of malediction, is too often brutal.

Besides being a courageous military and political leader (of whom it is said he was the only man in Europe Hitler feared), Churchill was gifted with words.  He knew how to address, to draw the best from those listening, and what manner of speaking without compromise reached the depths of others and gave direction to multitudes in a time of despair. That brings me to my whole purpose in invoking the memory of Winston Churchill.

I am turning attention here to a mesh between history and legend, between facts and the imagination, which always forms its own terms of truth when greatness of character and stature are concerned.  Coming to the last scene of the 2017 film DARKEST HOUR, Churchill, portrayed by actor Gary Oldman, makes his famous Never Surrender speech before a skeptical parliament. At the conclusion of the speech, which we know to have actually been delivered by Winston, the members erupt in enthusiastic support.  A colleague beside the Prime Minster says, “You changed their minds!”  To this the actor in the role replies (the final words Churchill will speak in the film): “Those who do not change their minds, never change anything.”

The camera moves into the seats of the House and an aide to Lord Halifax asks, “What just happened?” To which comes the reply (closing out the script of the DARKEST HOUR): “He has mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”  Therein is the lesson for me and the reason for this excursion into cinematic history.

Today, those of us engaged, confronting the crisis of Earth and Humanity, as authors, writers, eco-poets and thinkers, own as much to our contemporaries, in the languages we make use of and to the best of our personal abilities, to “mobilize” the words we live by and, while sacrifices are unavoidable and hard choices await us all,  rouse up the human spirit to stand the ground of decency and sanity, and do what we each can do to “Never surrender.” Remaining tenacious instead, until victory for a habitable planet and value-transformed human species is assured.  To be handed with gentleness and humanity to coming generations.

It is in this way I can speak in good faith of books as continuing contributions to recognition, dialogue, and cooperation. Recognition, dialogue, and cooperation, conscientiously empowered, to advance from our bright solitudes of awakening through individual calling and soul infused purpose to merging into a global solidarity of commitment. And what, most basically, do we need to realize this audacious transition? To subvert the hybris of ego and integrate at the depths eco; to find identity of self-realization in union with eco-centric empathy which with light step and light touch strives for inclusiveness and defies the “progress” of extinction. Not only for one species sake, but for all relations, all whose signatures are perpetually inscribed in the interweave of the book of creation.

David Sparenberg is author of CONFRONTING the CRISIS: Essays & Meditations on Eco Spirituality in Earth Spirit Series.  He is an Internationally publishing essayist, eco-poet, and shamanic storyteller, living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.


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