The Symbolism of The Sword in the Stone
The "Sword In The Stone" is a symbol that represents the archetypal test of virtue...
The Arthurian Legend
The Legend of Arthur is an important part of the British mythology and I argue it's a symbol of the principle of duality, with Yin & Yang as stone and sword respectively.
A nice short version of the Legend of King Arthur is given here.
Merlin the Magician came to London’s market square. He stood in the middle of the square. He held both his arms high. And pointed his wand to the stars.
The next morning at dawn, people started to arrive at the market. There in front of them was a block of white marble stood in the middle of the town square. Resting on the block was a giant stone the size of a very large rock. At the very top of the stone there was a golden sword handle and a few inches of the blade, shining in the sun. Yet – the rest of the blade was buried deep into the stone. These words could be seen on the top of the blade:
“Whoever pulls out this sword from this stone is the true king of England!”
To cut a long story short, Merlin sets a magical test to find the true King of England: To pull a golden sword from a large rock. Everyone tries and fails, except for Arthur, who has already demonstrated his selflessness and heroic-spirit in various ways in the story, and so he becomes the King of England.
The stone represents matter / Yin: The passive-principle.
The sword represents spirit / Yang: The active-principle.
It's clear to see how the stone represents matter. It's 3D, solid, inert, heavy, matter.
The sword represents mind, because as discussed in the page on Logos, logic separates parts from each other, like a sword separates parts of a body. The "sword of logic" allows us to divide good from evil, true from false, and it allows us to know things.
The sword is also the cross, the crossroads, the symbol of choice and free-will. To grasp the handle is to exercise your choice, to choose to attempt to remove the sword... How many people, seeing others fail, didn't even try?
The sword in the stone represents: Spirit Trapped In Matter.
It is the human condition, and indeed it's the condition of all life. All life is spirit bound up in a matter body.
We are spirit trapped in matter. We're bound here by our emotional attachments to matter, and by our sense of self-preservation, which is the survival mind, the "reptilian brain". People have forgotten that they're spirits and think they're bodies.
Matter is the test of spirit.
The essential "deception" and purpose of the Goddess is to entwine spirits in a fine and intricate web of sensations, needs, pleasure & pain, hopes and fears, so they think they actually are matter. It's a powerful & convincing illusion.
Our bodies are carefully constructed containers, designed to immerse the spirit so completely in the "matrix" we forget who we are. And that, most elegantly & efficiently, is also the test we have to pass to leave this place.
To "win the game" you have to remember where you are, and who you are. To gain liberation from the wheel of incarnation, you have to overcome the powerful-delusion that is matter.
To remove the sword from the stone represents: Spirit Overcomes Matter.
The Commoner & The King
The Sword In The Stone symbolises the default-state of a human being. A normal person, the "muggle" or "commoner", the person who only thinks or cares about material things.
The "muggle" has the Yin-mind of the child: Irresponsible, immature, ignorant, selfish, arrogant etc. They are literal-minded, emotional, and ideologically driven. These immature spirits don't have the self-awareness or self-control to be a King.
The immature spirit doesn't perceive themselves as being separate from matter. They identify with the body and it's emotions, and consider it to be themselves. They can't differentiate between spirit and matter, they can't separate them in their minds. This means they are unable to control themselves, inevitably becoming puppets of one ideology or another.
The "commoner" is the "herd-mind", the mob. It's the Yin-mind which operates under the "law of the jungle".
The King, in contrast, is the mature, awakened spirit. He knows that his true-self is not the things he experiences. The Yang-mind of the parent doesn't associate itself with matter, instead it sees itself as being separate and independent of it.
The King is able to withdraw the sword from the stone becuase he's able to separate his spirit from matter, and rise above it... This is the act which makes him a King, it's becoming conscious, waking up, or being "reborn in the spirit". It's the act of individuation from the herd-mind, to a state where you gain your independence.
Withdrawing the sword is the realisation of one's true nature, as a spirit who cannot die, and so has nothing to fear. At this point matter loses it's power over you and it's grip on your soul is loosened. It's also the realisation of the goodness of God and mankind's true destiny to overcome their animal nature and leave the wheel of incarnation.
The King has the self-awareness, and self-control of the spiritually-realised man. He is able to rise above the Earth principles of hunger, emotion, and fear, to follow his true will. Instead of being led by the lowest Element: Earth, he is now led by the highest: Fire.
This is the man who has overcome all his emotional attachments to beliefs and ideologies. His vision is not clouded by the delusions of matter. He sees things as they truly are, and is liberated to choose that which is right for all. That's what makes him worthy to be king.
Sacrifice & Virtue
The only true sacrifice is self-sacrifice: The lower-self of ego is given up to God for destruction, by the act of will. You have to want to be free of your ego.
This is perhaps what the Christ-sacrifice symbolises; it's the "Hero-Archetype" of self-sacrifice for a greater good. It's also the path to liberation in general. It's Odin "plucking out his left-eye", so he's no longer distracted by the cares of matter, and has single focus on liberation from the wheel of incarnation and slavery.
I think that's the main meaning of the one-eye symbolism, it means to be focused on a single thing.
A true king must be selfless. His duty is to his kingdom & his people and in this story it's virtue that makes him the King. The implication being anyone can be the King, if they have the virtue.
The story is an allegory. It doesn't mean that the King, the "Realised Man", must rule over other people, it means they are the ruler of themselves. The King is in-charge of his own mind and body. He rules his mind and body, they don't rule him.
No longer is the King a puppet to beliefs and egotistical emotions, he elevates himself to the Yang-mind of Reason and Altruism.
St George & The Dragon
St. George, the patron saint of England, is famous for slaying a dragon. This is slightly different symbolism for the same hero-archetype. He slays the dragon of wild-nature that was terrorising him, his reptilian-brain / ego-self, and becomes free of the predation of ideologies.
That is how I would interpret the story.
These used to be the symbols of Britain, but people forgot what they meant. It seems Britain was a place where people slew their lower-selves, and became enlightened and free to leave the wheel of slavery. (This is the real "great work" of alchemy).
I believe alchemy was the religion of "Golden-Age" and was known about worldwide. It essentially worships of the principles of Truth and Reason as aspects of God, and it considers all of nature to be a divine creation.
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