Green World Trust
- Strategy -
King Alfred
 

King 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 influence.

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 camp.

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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