The Higher Order
Articles By Evelyn M. Holt
"There is a higher order towards which we may climb with the help of the power above".
"Birth is a mystery, and death is a mystery, and in the midst lies the tableland of life, and its struggles and performances." So wrote the son of Lord Alfred Tennyson in reference to his father's famous poem, Idylls of the King. The meaning of this epic goes far deeper into life than the yesterdays of any particular nation, or the fanciful romances and adventures of crusading knights. It is not the history of one man and his followers, or of one generation, but of a whole cycle of generations. Edwin Markham once called poetry "the revelation of the strange in the familiar, of the eternal in the transitory, the impassioned cry of the heart in the presence of the wonders of life." Tennyson's last idyll, The Passing of Arthur, seems clearly to reveal spiritual initiation, for it poetically describes the final experience of the human soul in its conscious ascent towards fulfilment. The principle characters are the ageing King Arthur, whose valiant knights of the Round Table had one driven many heathen hosts from the kingdom, and who well represent the soul-infused initiating disciple; and his faithful knight, Sir Bedivere, symbolic of the active mind, organ of illumination. It is he, "the first and latest left of all the knights" who recounts the final scenes of their long journey where succeeding steps bring loneliness, detachment, isolated unity, and purification. The climaxing point of this expansion of consciousness will bring the King to greater revelations of light, and his knight will become a subjective Voice "among new faces and other minds," the group new man. It is only in group formation, we are told, that the higher energies can be tapped and used in service.
As the story opens we find King Arthur weary and disillusioned from his long seeking for the good in life. "In his ways with men I find him not," he complains. "Why is all around us here if some lesser god had made the world, but had not force to shape it as he would, 'till the High God behold it from beyond, and enter it, and make it beautiful?'" In the workings of nature he had been able to recognise the omnipresence of God. "I found him in the shining of the stars; I mark'd him in the shining of the stars; I mark'd him in the flowering of his fields." "Perhaps," he reasons, "the world is truly fair, only men are blind to see. They know not the end from the beginning." As the fires of divine love descend, the King finds that even the loves and desires of his integrated personality life have been destroyed. " . . . and all whereon I learned in wife and friend is traitor to my peace, and all my realm reels back into the beast, and is no more." In an agony of despair he cries: "My God, thou hast forgotten me in death." Yet at the same time he is urged forward by a growing sense of Divinity, and affirms, "Nay, God, my Christ, I pass, but shall not die."
Then comes a dream in which King Arthur sees the wandering ghost of Gawain, a knight long dead. He represents the desires of the past whose "hollow forms" still float about the astral world. It is interesting to note that in astrological lore Ursa Major, constellation of the Great bear, from which a sevenfold stream of energy is said to pass via Shamballa to our earth and produce transformation, is often called King Arthur's "wain" or wagon. Also that the name Arthur is derived from "arth" meaning bear, and "uthyr" meaning wonderful. Gawain gives Arthur the assurance that his fate will not be ever to wander, but that he, as King, will find eventual peace.
Sir Bedivere then urges Arthur not to dwell on the past. He must attain divine indifference and "let pass whatever will." This means a changing in his point of view toward the aggregate of form encountered in life, for soon he will have to battle the greatest of his enemies, Modred. Modred is the embodiment of all the foes within himself which must now be conquered. To do this Arthur must develop a fiery aspiration and centre his consciousness high in the head so that the Solar Lord, the Real Man, can impose new rhythms and response habits on all his lower nature. "Cling to all high places like a golden cloud forever, and rise, go forth and conquer as of old," is Sir Bedivere's challenge.
The Hardest Fight.
Knowing it to be his hardest fight, pitted against his very self, the King exerted himself to the utmost. He "moves his host by night, and ever pushes Modred, league by league back to the sunset bound of Lyonnesse." Here, in a series of tests on the astral plane, is fought the "last dim weird battle of the West." In the enveloping mists where "fragments of forgotten people dwell" Arthur struggles with the karmic forms of his own making. Some are good, some bad, and he often cannot tell friend from foe. At twilight this preliminary battle ends, and a cold wind from the North blows the mists aside. The tide rises, and the King, now the impersonal observer, looks across the quiet field. There is no life, only dead faces and broken forms. He realises that all he had built up is gone, and he doubts his kingship over anything. However, Sir Bedivere reminds him that "even the dead have kings," and salutes him still as "my King." In the Rays and the Initiations we are told that one of the helps in reaching high polarisation is the reiterated appreciation of the words " I am Self, the Self am I." As the next phase of the battle, the meeting with the Dweller on the Threshold ensues, we note that Arthur rushes to attack Modred shouting "King am I, whatsoever be their cry, and one last act of kinghood shalt thou see, yet 'ere I pass." Raising Excailbur, the many jewelled sword of truth which had won him many victories, the King slays Modred. In so doing his own head centre is rent, separating the veil between the inner and outer worlds, and weakening him to the point of death.
Sir Bedivere then bears the King to a ruined chapel near the field. Its broken cross is a fit sign of victory over death. This shrine lies "on a dark strait of barren land," bounded on one side by the ocean, on the other by a great water. The moon is full. Now is a time of heightened consciousness, and heart and mind can become closely aligned with the soul. When the accepting disciple becomes the pledged disciple, it is said, he slips out of a physical plane concentration and of identification with the forms of the three, and finds himself at the midway place between the world of outer affairs and the inner world bereft and alone. Sorrowfully, Arthur tells Bedivere: "The sequel of today unsolders all the goodliest fellowship of famous knights whereof this world holds record . . .I think that we shall nevermore, at any future time delight our souls with talk of knightly deeds, walking about gardens and the halls of Camelot, as in the days that were." He has broken with the past, and is breaking loose from the mass consciousness to which he has been accustomed, but has not yet found his way into the group where he will function. Therefore, he says in despair: "I perish by the people which I made." This experience is a difficult but necessary one. The tangible world must be suspended by the intangible world of values, involving a new sense of proportion, a new range of values, and new responsibilities.
Now that this cycle has ended, and form has been revealed as the "heresy of separateness," a final sacrifice must be made before wholeness can be achieved. The mystic Excalibur must be returned to the source from which it came, for truth seen by man is but a part, and relative to, a greater truth. Sir Bedivere is commanded by King Arthur to carry this weapon of prideful power to the lake, and "fling it far into the middle mere." This well could typify the mental plane, the middle place where the Angel (the soul) is met and known, and the three aspects of the Triad, plus the ego and the lower mind are blended and fused. At its border Sir Bedivere stops to admire the sword's beauty and strength, then feeling it too valuable to lose, he hides it among the dry reeds at the water's edge. The King, now identified with the highest light, knows from his knight's report that the act has not been carried out, so sends him forth again. This time Sir Bedivere allows his own selfish thoughts to convince him that the King himself is not capable of straight thinking. Again he hides the sword, and returns to Arthur saying that only the sound of rippling water can be heard at the lake. Harmony through conflict is the dominant ray of the fourth creative Hierarchy, and livingness can only be gained by supreme sacrifice, so this time the King sends his knight forth on pain of death.
The third time the reluctant Sir Bedivere closes his eyes to the illusionary beauty of the blade, and the strongly wields and throws it. It flies in a rainbow arc of colour. But, ere it dips the surface, projected from the other side, rises an arm clothes in white which brandishes it three times in triadal strength and draws it into the deep waters of understanding. The King now knows the mission is accomplished, and the soul is no longer needed as a mediating body. The illumined mind, driven by higher power, bears the form of the King on his shoulders to where a barge of solemn splendour awaits its coming. Three queens with crowns of gold receive him, and minister to his wounds as they remove the armoured helmet from his head. In his last words to Bedivere the King affirms the fact that, "the old order changeth, yielding place to new, and God fulfils Himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world." Comforted by the assurance that new and better forms must ever succeed the outworn ones, and realising that by invocation contact with the soul can be maintained, for "more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of," Faithful Sir Bedivere takes leave of his Lord. When the barge that bears the King has slowly moved into the distance, a great silence falls. Then Bedivere climbs to the top of the iron crag and hears faint, echoing sounds from afar "as if some fair city were one voice around a king returning from the wars." He climbs still higher, and standing poised and balanced on mental and etheric levels, and "straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand" he projects the light of the antahkarana from centre to periphery. He then "sees or thinks he sees the speck that bears the King, down that long water opening on the deep somewhere far off, pass on and on, and go from less to less, and vanish into light." Thus the consciousness of man which has been centred to so long on the notself, or material world, becomes that of the self, the spiritual man, and passes from the darkness into light, from the unreal to the real, from death to immortality. "Then the new sun rose, bringing the new year."
Keywords: The Higher Order, spiritual initiation, philosophical disciplines, Evelyn M. Holt, intuitive, Intuition, Articles, UK, South Africa, Cape Town