by: Amy Biddle
Here’s an important installment in the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, as adapted from Joseph Campbell. It’s a wonderful story of humanity’s spiritual journey. The Knights and their King were challenged to find the Grail in the midst of the woods that grew outside the borders of Camelot. This mission sounded easy enough, except that when they all rode into the woods as a group, the Knights got hopelessly lost and somehow ended up right back when they started.
After this happened several times, someone had a light bulb moment, and the Knights realized that each should enter the woods at a different point. No longer would they crash through the woods as an army, as if the Holy Grail could be taken by force. Each man was to make his own journey to find the Grail.
This led to a number of other adventures, of course. Anytime a knight was in the woods and came upon a path cut by another knight, he couldn’t just follow it for that reason. If he tried to do that, the knight would, once again, become hopelessly lost. And then he’d find himself back where he started. The knights who found the Grail were the ones who followed their own path, which was determined by prayer, intuition, and courage – not by others’ paths.
This is not to say the Knights lived lives of isolation. They gathered around their Table regularly, to enjoy the camaraderie of other braves souls. They shared their adventures and celebrated what they found.
That’s the way is it is with our spiritual journey, too. Throughout history, people have been trying to explore the mysteries of life in the safety of a pack. Again and again, that leads to confusion and disappointment, because the spiritual journey is one that must be taken alone. We can take heart from knowing that fellow seekers are in the same woods, and that at times our paths will cross. But if we try to rely on another’s light, we soon find ourselves in darkness and confusion.
You have your own light for your own spiritual journey. Sometimes you have just enough light to take the next step (then the next, and then the next), but as you come to trust that light, you find that this is enough. Sometimes you will share a path with others, but the light within you has the map for your own way.
So how can we see the map, even if all we’re supposed to see is the next step? “There’s a guidance for each of us,” Emerson wrote, “and by lowly listening we shall hear the right words.” He didn’t mean that we have to “lower ourselves” to listen, as if listening were something less-than. He meant that we have to get quiet, get close to the ground of our own being. We breathe and focus, and we find that even in the midst of adventures, there is a quiet place deep within us, from which our guidance speaks.
You can still learn something from other seekers, though. If you pay close attention to the stories they share, you’ll hear which “knights” are skilled in lowly listening. You can’t follow their path and expect to find your own spiritual awakening, but they can teach you to recognize the hallmarks of a genuine path. And when you recover your own Grail from deep in the woods, they’ll rejoice with you and listen to your stories.