The Round Table

Updated: Sep 9

I have been intrigued by the BBC show Merlin for the past couple of months. It aired for five years in the UK, from 2008 through 2012, though I just recently became aware of it. The writing, the acting and creativity of the program are of very high quality. I did a little research and found out that there is a significant fan community and people are still talking about the show in 2020. I watched an interview with the creators and the fans had an opportunity to ask questions. The fans are well educated people and asked questions about the research sources for the show. At first I thought, “Wow, what geeks.” I recognized this as a judgmental thought – and then I realized that I was just as into it as they were!

King Arthur is thought to have lived sometime around 500 AD, though there have been hundreds (thousands?) of epic poems, novels and now TV shows and movies dedicated to the exploration of the Arthurian legends. Why are the stories of King Arthur so profound, so ingrained in the human psyche? For this answer, I go to Joseph Campbell, who was a professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College and wrote the well-known book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

I have been learning screenwriting and storytelling and I came upon Campbell’s work and its association with Star Wars. (George Lucas said one time that if it were not for Campbell’s work, he may still be sitting somewhere trying to write Star Wars!) In the late 1980s, Joseph Campbell filmed an amazing PBS documentary at the Lucas Skywalker Ranch in California. Over two summers he sat in interviews with Bill Moyers and talked about the power of myth. (And, incidentally, resulting from those discussions was a new book titled The Power of Myth.) Campbell speaks about world myths and religious stories – Native American, Hindu, African, Celtic, etc. He mentions the many similarities of themes and recurring structure and narratives, regardless of culture and period. He is obviously well versed in psychology and especially the work of Carl Jung. It is Jung’s archetypes that Campbell says come alive in our collective myths, and that ultimately our stories are road maps for our spiritual journey home. Campbell defined what is now discussed in literature courses as "the hero’s journey." He brings to light a shamanic three-step process of leaving the known, gathering wisdom, and then returning to share it with the world. This is the path of the hero and ultimately a journey that we all take. Campbell’s words are profound, and he displays a deep understanding of human consciousness and that which is beyond the realm of form.

As I thought about Campbell and “the power of myth,” I did some internal exploration about the story of King Arthur. Why is this story so compelling? Part of it is that round table! We are guided back over and over to this story to remember the importance of the round table as a major clue to inner peace. The round table symbolizes equality. There is no above or below, or better than, or less than; there is only Oneness. I recently posted a quote by Michael Drake on my Instagram account. Drake wrote a book called The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming in which he says, “The structures of shamanic cultures are circular. Like the hoop of the drum, the circle represents the wheel of life. All are equal in the circle; no one is above or below. In a circle, each person’s face can be seen; each person’s voice can be heard and valued.”

So, Arthur’s round table tells us that a true leader brings equality. What an interesting topic for this year of 2020! Though rather than an external pointer, I find this myth most compelling as an internal key. A man I met some time ago was very skilled in a system of personal mastery called holodynamics. While I did not personally pursue that path, he did teach me a couple of the practices. A foundational practice is to create with the