The Scabbard and the Sword Part II – guest post by Marian A. Lee  

Part II: The Purer Archetype and the Warrior King

The second part of this blog explores the warrior king as the Jungian purer archetype with regard to the Qabalistic understanding of the scabbard and sword and its political application.

King_arthur__KarrMost of us know King Arthur as the courageous “once and future king” destined to unite Great Britain and establish the peaceful kingdom of Camelot by creating the Knights of the Round Table. However by examining his shallow understanding of the scabbard and sword, it is clear that he personifies the Jungian archetype of the Purer, and that this more than anything else shapes his destiny. The Purer is the quintessential “innocent” eternal male-child who acts in the world without thoughtful consideration often possessed of an early realization of deeper spiritual truths which are treated in a casual manner without mature judgment and value. Since Arthur chooses the importance of the sword over the scabbard, he acts like the quintessential Purer, unable to relate to the world with mature self-regulation. The Purer has an overly-developed fantasy life; layers of illusion cover the reality of his situation which is perhaps why he is unable to at first realize Morgan’s trickery in switching Excalibur and its scabbard for those of unequal value. According to Kime, the sword serves the psychological function as the “…main means of communication with the material world”. The end result is the misappropriation of the use of the sword.

The sacred task which Arthur must accomplish is to learn how to use the sword and more importantly when to use it. Discrimination comes with maturity, which the Purer never obtains. The sword can be used rightly to destroy illusion, as the sword is symbolic of cutting through falsehood to the truth. However, there are times when the sword must remain within the scabbard, as removing illusion would bring about worse consequences clothed in despair and bitterness. Again, the wisdom that divines truth from illusion is beyond the capability of the Purer. Kime contends that this wisdom involves comfort with ambiguity, and understanding the distinction between absolutism and relevance, as well as the ability to reconcile the human with the sacred.

The sword should only be removed from the scabbard in times of real need as Merlin has advised. King Arthur, conversely, wages unrelenting war and kills Excaliburwantonly, leading to cruelty and vengefulness. As Kime indicates, King Arthur exhibits the neurotic type of hero behavior, often bursting into action after missing signs and ignoring cues and advice so he is forced into desperate heroic action that could have been prevented. War is partly the history of the actualization of the use of weapons. Once we have the weapons, the desire to use them is strong and the ability to control the outcome suffers. Arthur cannot resist the hold Excalibur has over him and suffers as a result. Arthur believes that Excalibur gives him the ultimate power over his destiny, however, the power lies within him to make use of both the sword and the scabbard as complementary opposites so that he may act with consistency and rule wisely.

Since Arthur lacked the consciousness of understanding the sword’s use, it became a base tool to wield and conquer without direction. The use of the sword must be grounded in a more sacred purpose—the preservation of his people and the land. The thrill of battle soon disintegrated into misery and sadness through the misuse of this force unbalanced and ungrounded. The feminine component of use symbolized by the scabbard serves as a check on the sword’s use. The scabbard’s name in Arthurian legend is called “Memory of Blood,” a reference to the feminine aspect of birth and life— an instrument that must sheath a sword that sheds blood to ensure it will only be used justly and in times of real need.

The sword may appear to cut through problems, solving them in a decisive manner, but its use without the understanding of the complementary purpose of the scabbard denotes a limited intelligence. A small mind fears and ridicules complex problems that would yield better results with patience and ongoing discussions. The grandiose display of bravado to heroically deal with a problem is rarely helpful or necessary. It is in the knowing of the sword’s power and potential when it is at rest in the scabbard that true strength can be measured, and a leader rules with a higher consciousness of wisdom rather than the primal energy of reactionary unconscious behavior. Potentiality is the key to understanding the power of the scabbard—the psychological feeling of strength derived from the knowledge of the swords availability and readiness for times of utmost necessity. In this way the sword, as a sacred magical Hallows, is held in veneration and not dissipated through every day banal use, thus maintaining the stature of the sword as a holy object. That being said, understanding the dynamic between the sword and the scabbard does not necessarily include when the time for its use is necessary or not.

A clear example of the understanding of the power dynamic between the sword and the scabbard can be seen in a more modern context during the Cuban missile crisis of the early 1960s. The military generals advising President Kennedy wanted to bomb the missile silos in Cuba before the Soviet Union could deliver and activate nuclear missiles. President Kennedy overruled them and opted for a naval blockade instead to contain rather than escalate the crisis. The president also refused to acknowledge the war mongering bluster of the Soviet premier. He understood that a violent show of strength was unnecessary and could lead to an escalation of the crisis into World War Three. The knowledge and stature of the United States as a world power with nuclear capability was enough to head off the shipment of missiles by the Soviets. The understanding of the discriminant use of the sword and the power of the scabbard won the day at a fortuitous moment of time in our nation’s history.

DC_king_arthur_Press1Finally, the sword is also given by the feminine aspect, the Lady of the Lake. Its true power transpires through the relationship between the feminine and masculine aspects (scabbard and sword) or in Qabalistic terms, the balancing relationship between form (feminine principle) and force (masculine principle) on the Tree of Life. For the archetype of the Purer, which King Arthur embodies, the lesson is one of discrimination as to the use of the sword and the understanding of the value of the scabbard that holds the sword in readiness for the possibility of its use in moments of great need. The sword and the scabbard are therefore the symbolic embodiment of self-reflective action. The sacred warrior king’s great sacrifice was to be given the gift of a great, wondrous and powerful Hallows, but required to use it with wise restraint. This necessitated wisdom, maturity and strength far beyond the Purer man-child that was King Arthur.

References

Day, David. (1995). The Search for King Arthur. Great Britain: De Agostini Editions Ltd.

Knight, Gareth. (1996). The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc.

Knight, Gareth. (2001). A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism. Boston, MA.: Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.

Kime, Philip. L. (2010). The Purer and the Symbolism of the Sword. Psychological Perspectives. 53(1), 43-61.

Matthews, Caitlin. (1995). The Celtic Tradition. Rockport, MA: Element, Inc.

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Marian A. LeeMarian Lee has studied Jungian psychology and the Kabbalah as a personal endeavor for decades. She has a MA in mental health counseling and is half way through a PhD in political science. She finds that without the understanding of the spiritual/cultural context of mythology and archetypal psychology, these two fields are dry intellectual endeavors bordering on the useless. She has written her first visionary fiction book for middle-grade readers (8-12) and their grandparents, The Lioness of Brumley Hall and Her Most Unusual Grandchildren under the name of Augusta Pearson Benners.

 

 

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19 Responses to The Scabbard and the Sword Part II – guest post by Marian A. Lee  

  1. philipparees says:

    These two posts have been most worthwhile, insightful and relevant to everyday as all myth should be. Thank you!

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  2. philipparees says:

    I have reblogged them both.

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  3. Marian, This second part to your article was just as rich and satisfying as the first! You give us such a wonderful example of how the masculine and feminine principles need to be in collaboration and balance – within ourself, in our lives, in our culture….and when they are understood in the manner which you have articulated, these masculine and feminine principles lend a dramatic, insightful, and profound depth to the transformation arc for the characters in our VF stories!

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    • You are right in referring to a transformation arc of characters that humankind also needs to undergo, politically, emotionally and spiritually. This needs to be done by understanding the balance between masculine and feminine principles and the concept of polarity working to do this.

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  4. drstephenw says:

    I enjoyed both parts of your article, Marian, and am brimming with comments. Having just surfaced from editing Book 2 of my 1001 series, which is called "The Qaraq and the Maya Factor," I relished your linking the Sword and Scabbard theme to the problem of Illusion:

    "The sword can be used rightly to destroy illusion, as the sword is symbolic of cutting through falsehood to the truth. However, there are times when the sword must remain within the scabbard, as removing illusion would bring about worse consequences clothed in despair and bitterness."

    I have been thinking and writing about how the Truth is often too much for us to bear on an everyday basis, and so Illusion can be protective of our souls. The searing vision of higher awareness can be as blinding as Illusion, so we stay within the relative comforts of daily patterns, the Sword of Truth inside the Scabbard of worldly existence.

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    • Like the rising of kundalini, if not done slowly and when a person is ready, the effects can be devastating. The Sword of Truth can cause a psychic break if one is jarred too quickly out of daily patterns. Well put.

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  5. drstephenw says:

    I thought your point about Kennedy and the Missile Crisis was brilliant, not just as a modern working out of your theme, but also as historical analysis. After all, the Kennedy administration was referred to as Camelot, Kennedy a modern Arthur. I'm glad JFK made out better in your eyes than poor Arthur, though you have opened my eyes to a whole way of seeing the Arthurian myth. Thank you, and beautifully done.

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    • Kennedy learned about the dynamic of the sword and scabbard from the disastrous Bay of Pigs debacle. Kennedy learned and matured through experience. Poor Arthur not so much until he was dying. He knew enough by then to have his last remaining knight Sir Bedavere throw Excalibur back to the Lady of the Lake. Again, water symbolizing the subconscious where the sword is held until it can be used consciously with wisdom sometime in the future.

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  6. Pingback: The Scabbard and the Sword Part II – guest post by Marian A. Lee   | philipparees

  7. What a wonderful take on this legend. Some Western Metaphysical traditions emphasize the scabbard as the feminine holder of the energy of the sword, giving it its power. Others don't focus on the scabbard at all. You make many important points here. Thanks.

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  8. reanolanmartin says:

    this is lovely, marian! interesting parallel with recent history , too. extremely relevant information for current world events. you should send it to the UN!

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    • The application to current world affairs is brilliant with too many ramifications to list, Got me reflecting on the completely different approaches of our last two presidencies re the crises in the Middle East. Of course, Obama's outcome is still pending, but it explains my comfort with his more measured approach as opposed to the "shock and awe" of his predecessor. Perhaps an actual woman (scabbard) in the White House is what is needed to take it from here–let's hope, as another sword-swinging warrior king would be disastrous.

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  9. I want to put it in eBook and print book form before I send it anywhere. Thanks for your suggestion. I will make other parallels with recent history such as 9/11 which might be a bit daunting. Any other suggestions on political parallels are welcome.

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  10. Love this, Marian. You've put into words, so much that needs voicing during our difficult times, especially the following: "War is partly the history of the actualization of the use of weapons." "Once we have the weapons, the desire to use them is strong and the ability to control the outcome suffers." " A small mind fears and ridicules complex problems that would yield better results with patience and ongoing discussions.' "It is in the knowing of the sword’s power and potential when it is at rest in the scabbard that true strength can be measured, and a leader rules with a higher consciousness of wisdom rather than the primal energy of reactionary unconscious behavior." Well done.

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    • Thank you, Margaret. Yes, America is more active than reflective but the two need to be balanced in order to begin to live in a safer more peaceful world. Of course this also applies to many other leaders and countries as well.

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  11. As a male who has lived this lifetime through to the golden years, I resonated to your distinction between the warrior king (Arthur) as the model earlier in life and the wizard (Merlin) as more appropriate as I matured. I was actually quite surprised, even resistant, when I experienced the change coming over me, but I'm grateful I surrendered and put my sword into the scabbard and allowed reflection to replace the urge to precipitous action. And I know that change has little to do with the actual # of years lived–would that it were that automatic.

    I like your "purer" archetype, but am curious about the term. Don't get anything relevant on Google for "Jungian archetype of the Purer" so wondering if Kime coined the word or is it found in Jung also. Some background would be helpful.
    Thanks for the two very informative posts.

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    • The puer archetype is a bit arcane. I also misspelled it in the article which didn't help. In his chapter on the psychology of the child archetype (pg. 158 in The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious), Jung refers to the puer aeternus, a Latin word meaning eternal youth which comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses. This term applied to child-gods such as Eros. It refers to men who behave as adolescents well into adult years–charming, full of life but very draining to be around. The puer aeternus is explored in great detail in the book The Problem of the Puer Aeternus by Marie-Louise von Franz who was a colleague of Jung for 30 years. Hope this helps.

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      • BTW, found your article on Jung's portrait of the visionary artist very interesting and commented on it. Also referring to the above, although we writers do the creative process well, we should never edit our own work or trust spellcheck.

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