The story of King Arthur drawing the sword, Excalibur, from a block of marble stone rings through time, inspiring people to this day. Whatever the real history of Arthur, Merlin, and the Round Table may have been, this story of how he came to be king is rich with sacred symbolism. It is the story of how anyone may claim their own sovereignty.
As the story goes, Arthur was the son of the former king, Uther Pendragon. Arthur was hidden away at birth by Merlin in a time of chaos in the kingdom, for fear of his life.
Is this not how it is for most people? By nature, they have qualities of a king or queen. It is their birthright. They are noble, even regal, but they live in a chaotic world that seems to be a threat to their nobility, as if they couldn’t dare to expose their true identity to others. They have the capability to bring peace and order to their world, and to let it prosper. But that capacity is not only hidden to the world; it is hidden to themselves. And for it to be inherited, the capacity has to be developed.
When Arthur came of age, Merlin set the sword, Excalibur, in an anvil upon a marble stone, with the following inscription:
Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all England.
As this transpires, Arthur is the squire to his adopted brother, Sir Kay. When Sir Kay forgets to bring his sword to a tournament, he asks Arthur to fetch it for him. Being locked out of the house, Arthur resorts to stealing into the churchyard alone and drawing the sword from the stone and anvil for Sir Kay. Sir Kay attempts to claim the kingship for himself, but it is only Arthur who is able to draw the sword and put it back again, and thus Arthur who is crowned king.
Arthur represents that guileless reality within all people that has no designs to be sovereign—no need for worldly position. Arthur’s motive is to be of service to his brother. That desire to be of service is the beginning of a person’s journey in life that takes them to their own sovereignty. It is not the ambitious Sir Kay who ascends the throne, nor the bickering lords of the realm. It is the guileless Arthur who, at first, draws the sword from the stone with no audience and no fanfare.
The sword is found in a block of cold marble, sitting in the churchyard at Christmastime. What is that cold marble from which anyone has to claim their sovereignty? It is the stony human heart, without compassion and frozen by fear. Like Sir Kay, a person may aspire to greatness, as they think of it. They may sense that they have something significant to accomplish in their life. But as long as their emotions are like that cold block of marble, they can only pretend to be the person they know they really are. Only the compassion that inspires us to serve can melt the stony heart and transform it, so that it gives us our sovereign power. Only the melted human heart gives us the virility and the fertility to truly serve our world and the people in it.
There are many forms of fear. There is acrophobia, the fear of heights; and arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. There is ablutophobia, the fear of washing. The greatest of all fears is fear of the sovereignty within. Adonai is a Hebrew name for sovereignty, so I think you could call that fear adonaphobia, fear of sovereignty.
A true sovereign—someone who offers real service to their world—brings both love and truth to the realm. Most people are afraid of them both. Love is what makes all people and all of being the same. We are part of one reality, animated by one universal power. There is a deep-seated fear in people of the oneness of all being. There is a fear that we would lose ourselves; that we could lose our uniqueness and what makes us different; we would lose the ability to carve out our own path and our life. There is a fear that we could be cheated by love and that the universe might not really care about us in the end. What looks like love could turn out to be a malevolent force that works for our demise, not our blessing.
Truth is what makes us all different. The universe has order to it; so while we are all animated by the same universal power, we are all different. No two people are just the same. We each have our own unique place in the world. The fear is that the differentiating power of the universe could give us a place that is not the one we want—at the bottom of the org chart, in a lower tier of society, or the black sheep of the family. Or when talents and abilities are passed out, we could be on the short end of the stick. If we submit to the ordering power of the universe, we could end up having to do something we do not want to do.
So often people find themselves fending off love, however it may come to them, from within and from without. And then they try to establish their own self-determined way of being different. In the process, a person can experience themselves as separate from the sovereign power within them, and afraid of it. Fear grips the person’s heart, and they have the ongoing experience of feeling impaled emotionally, just as the cold marble is impaled by the sword.
Adonaphobia shows up as fear of authority. In the world the way it is, there is good reason for people to be afraid of authority. Yet still, the path to personal freedom compels a person to rise above that fear so that a person owns their own authority, their own authorship for their life. Adonaphobia also shows up as unresolved issues with parents. Those issues can be crippling for people, sometimes even into their own senior years.
Turning back to the story, the anvil represents the means by which adonaphobia may be transformed. It is interesting that while T. H. White’s novel was entitled The Sword in the Stone, the ancient texts make it clear that there was an anvil on top of the stone, and the sword was drawn from them both. An anvil is used by a blacksmith to make a sword in the first place. There has to be an application of heat to the steel, and then a pounding on the anvil. Both are needed. Pounding cold steel will not create a sword.
The heat and the pounding represented by the anvil are the living of a life of service that transforms a person. It is the process by which the heart melts and gives a person their sovereignty. Without the fire of love welcomed into the heart, a person is just pounded by the circumstances of life. They are beaten down over time. When the fire of love is present, the substance of the heart becomes malleable. The emotional body is shaped and formed so that it becomes an expression of the sovereign power and authority, which the person had feared. The person’s sovereignty becomes available to bring vitality, fertility, order and love to their world.
This is how the story represents this:
Thereupon Arthur went to the cube of marble stone and he laid his hands upon the haft of the sword that was thrust into the anvil. And he bent his body and drew very strongly and, lo! the sword came forth with great ease and very smoothly. And when he had got the sword into his hands, he swung it about his head so that it flashed like lightning.
I would encourage anyone to claim their sovereignty from out of whatever stoniness there is of their own emotional body; to let their heart be set on fire by love, and transformed by a life of service. Thus we inherit what has been rightly ours all along—the nobility that is our birthright, and the capacity to lead our world and all who are in it to the experience of peace and order and abundant life.