Alfred - a master of strategy with integrity.
Alfred is rightly known
as "the Great", beloved by those whose kingdom
he effectively created singlehanded - England.
Alfred lived at another
time of acute crisis - his older brothers had all been
killed by the Danes, the marauding Vikings, and his
whole kingdom was threatened with annihilation. Not
just the people, the ancient sacred pagan centre and
heart of Christendom at Avalon, was threatened. At that
time, Christianity had not become as dismissive of pagan
aspects of Good Spirituality as it became in time, after
the Inquisition. There was far more sensitivity, openness,
and cooperation between different traditions of Good
Spirituality. Pilgrims to Glastonbury even today sense
this ancient magic.
Alfred ruled a kingdom of
farming smallholders, under whom the Roman towns had
become derelict. The former Saxon marauders had settled
down to farm the land and had become Christian. They
had little use for towns since they did not need to
defend themselves - clearly, following the Druid inspiration
that would still be present in the land, they had achieved
a high level of peaceful, cultural integration with
the earlier inhabitants. The "islands" of
higher civilization, the monasteries and nunneries,
were only concerned with education and the growing Church
Now the whole of Alfred's kingdom
was being ravaged, fast, by heathen Vikings who camped in
the old fortified towns and who knew how to plunder but not
how to cultivate. All Alfred's elder brothers were dead at
the hands of the Vikings. While Alfred and his court were
celebrating the old Christmas (Epiphany), news came that Guthrum
the Dane was attacking - though he had sworn an agreement
that he would not attack at Christmas. Alfred did something
unthinkable for those times. What was normal was to fight,
or to ride off to get help. He did neither. He fled, on foot,
with his wife and two small children.
At this point, English people
recognize the familiar story. Alfred and his family came to
the monastic settlement at Athelney, where it is said he "burned
the cakes" while pondering strategy, and was soundly
beaten by the farmer's wife. I've been in spirit with Alfred,
and I know parts of the story that are not in the books. I've
been there because I too have been effectively "in hiding
and on the run" and "fighting for the kingdom"
- so you see why I'm passionate about Transition. I've been
a cake-burner too, and for the same reasons! Burning the cakes
was a lesson Alfred grasped, which was this: Without
taking into account the whole cycle of sustainability, no
strategy to overcome Guthrum would be of any use.
So before Alfred could plan to defeat the Dane, he had to
work out a plan to make it a sustainable victory.
During this time of planning,
Alfred visited Guthrum, disguised as a minstrel.
Alfred realized that he needed
garrison towns to defend the realm, and to maintain a stable
land to raise crops and livestock. For part of each year,
each yeoman farmer would have to be mobilized into his local
garrison. These towns had to be strategically placed at no
more than a day's riding distance. Alfred could see the need
to establish garrison towns. But others might not. He had
visited Europe as a child, together with his father, and had
seen Roman towns still in use. This must now have seemed like
Providence - he had the blueprint. Some of the old Roman towns
could be rebuilt, but in other areas, new towns would be needed.
Alfred realized that if he gained victory, it would be necessary
to take absolute control of the kingdom, to establish these
with lightning speed, to prevent future attacks.
Now Alfred could act. He sent
out word in secret, and his loyal thanes gathered at the place
commemorated by a much later "Alfred's Tower". They
travelled stealthily and took Guthrum by surprise at his summer
Then came the real surprise. As
I've seen it in Spirit, Alfred was himself taken by surprise,
when Spirit directed him to offer Guthrum the option of death
or conversion to Christianity. But he and his thanes had taken
a magical oath, to enable them to act as one, and this required
obedience, after forming the tight marshalling formation they
used, to do whatever Spirit prompted. So Alfred himself was
bound by his magical oath, just as much as Guthrum was bound
by Alfred. Alfred, it is said, looked after Guthrum like his
own son, instructing him in the new faith...
In hindsight one sees the wisdom
of Great Spirit in converting Guthrum. He'd be shown that
ransacking could never have lasted anyway, and in ruling East
Anglia, he himself now became a bulwark against further invasion.
And even more importantly, his navy and Viking seafaring expertise
were grabbed - this is what actually underlies the foundation
of the English navy, which Alfred is credited with founding.
Now came Alfred's longer task,
to build the realm. Garrison towns need organizing, with rotas
and supplies, and organizing requires literacy. He gave his
thanes a year to learn to read, with the threat that otherwise
they would forfeit their lands. Then with unparalleled speed,
Alfred established the garrison towns one by one, until the
whole of southern England had been restructured into what
we now know as the counties and the county towns. Alfred re-established
the ravaged centres of learning - monasteries and schools
- knowing how precious and important this was. Alfred had
never learned the Latin and Greek that his elder brothers
had learned - the monks had been killed before he could learn.
Alfred died young, but he had
set the standard. This was then taken up by his daughter,
and her work together with his laid the foundations, and name,
of England as we know it. It is another curious turn of Fate
that without the work of Alfred's daughter and son-on-law
in Mercia, Alfred's work might not have lasted. But his daughter
- not his son - made it permanent.
Alfred was a consummate strategist.
He'd learned the sustainability lesson of the cakes, he'd
learned from the Romans, he’d taken lessons in strategy
from Guthrum, and he incorporated them all to rebuild the
new kingdom. Alfred was also profoundly spiritually motivated
- although, as his paths were already too pagan for the Church's
comfort, this side of him is not officially known. But it
is there in the "akashic record" for anyone to look
at. We remember the burning of the cakes precisely because,
in that spiritual record, this event is luminous - it is visible
to check by those who have respect for the mysteries of Great
Spirit, which usually includes children, who have not forgotten
wonder, who have not got weighed down with earthly doubts.
Here was a profoundly practical strategist,
working under the guidance of Great Spirit. The two can perfectly
well work together, though it is rare. But it is precisely
such rare events that have paved our history with precious
gemstones which have laid sustainable foundations and given
us inspiration to draw on at moments of crisis, and reasons
to be proud. And it is such rare strategists whose histories
I can draw on. Winston Churchill was another. Moses was another.
I’ve taken time out to
help grasp the place for a developed sense of spiritual integrity
in the matter to hand, namely Transition, planetary Transition
– because this is really important, and realization
of its importance will increase.
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