Is Merlin a Spiritual show?
It is for me….. and I believe at least one or more or maybe all of the writers intentionally wrote spiritual themes into the whole series; there is more than one scene that was, that is, truly, deeply Spiritual. I do mean Spiritual rather than Religious.
For the sake of clarity I will attempt to define what those terms mean to me. “Religion” to me stands for dogma, institution, rules, regulations, something organized & controlled by those who seek to disempower, control, not to empower. “Spirituality” cannot be separated from life. It is the values by which we live every day. Do we live in integrity? Do we live with honor? Do we focus on building people up or dragging them down? Do we seek out the light and love? Do we make decisions from the heart?
In Merlin, “Magic” is what captivates our hearts and minds; we are enthralled that Merlin can put up a hand and move objects, people, even the Earth. We have that suspicion, that hope that if we try, we too can move energy just like Merlin.
What is it that Yoda says to Luke in “Star Wars”?
“Do or do not. There is no Try”
We have that memory deep, deep in the depths of our subconscious minds, whether from past lives or other dimensions, that we too have the ability to move energy. And we do… there are people walking the Earth at this time that do this and even programs training people. But moving objects in itself is not Spiritual. It is the intent with which it is done, as always, that marks the Spiritual act.
Magic : the force of the Universe
Countless times when Merlin (Colin Morgan) goes to seek the counsel of the wise Dragon, Kilgharrah, he is told that this particular magic is ancient (some magic that has been used & with which Merlin has to contend), that it is “of the Earth itself” and “will endure beyond the time of Men”. What the Dragon is really saying is that Magic is the energy of the Universe, that which binds all things together, moves all things and that when harnessed, it can be used to move or do anything.
Indigenous peoples across the world have very similar spiritual beliefs: they all believe that the Earth is truly our Mother, that there is a counterpart, a “Father Sky” or Father force which is a balance to the Mother energy, thus a Mother-Father God force. They all believe that we come from the Source of the Universe that is the source of all energy: the Earth, the Sun, Stars and Sky.. the Universe. They have known for eons that the force which makes up our Universe can be harnessed by those who understand how and that knowledge is something that they have guarded for thousands of years. There are Spiritual leaders from these indigenous tribes all over the Earth who walk with this energy with true power, connected to the Earth, connected to Source. The healing power they have is tremendous & yet those who walk in this way are truly humble, just as Merlin. For those who truly have power, those who are truly connected to Source do not brag or advertise their gifts, they walk in humility, harmony & grace. When Merlin has lost his faith after he has lost his magical powers, Balinor comes to him, he says : “You are not just my son, you are also the son of the Earth, the Sea, the Stars and the Sun”. It was like listening to one of the Spiritual leaders of the Native peoples of the world: Native American, Maori, Hawaiian, Kogi or any other of the indigenous peoples who have kept these beliefs alive throughout the ages until now.
The Crystal Cave
In the penultimate episode, Merlin goes to the source of all Magic… The Crystal Cave, in hopes of regaining his magical power. No accident of course that the Source of all magic is “The Crystal Cave”; many nowadays are aware that crystals are energy conductors (even at the basic non-Spiritual level they are used to powers cell phones) but they are truly energy conductors… they amplify telepathy, open the connection between the different dimensions. Again, in The Crystal Cave, Balinor says “Rest now and you will awaken into the light”. Wow! What a Spiritual Metaphor! And then Balinor urges Merlin to step into the Heart of the Crystal Cave, like the Heart of Mother Earth herself.. to be reborn into his true dazzling power. It’s the story of being reborn, dying to the old and re-awakening to the new, the Shaman’s death, but always awakening into the Light.
The Druids, Indigenous People of Europe
I am grateful that the writers chose to portray the Druids as peaceful people, as indeed they were. Yes there was the episode when one lost his way (Alvarr) and is actively seeking Uther’s downfall but for the most part, they are shown as they truly were: peaceful, loving, walking with Spirit on the Earth. Arthur comes bursting aggressively into their hideout seeking the Cup of Life and they hand it over without argument. The same with the Triskellion, the key that opens the Tomb of Ashkanar where the Dragon’s Egg has lain undisturbed for 400 years. They live in balance & harmony with Mother Earth and seek only peace. It is because they live in such harmony with the Earth and all living things that they understand and can use the true force of the Universe.
The Unicorn: Symbol of Purity
The episode where Arthur kills the Unicorn is Spiritual expression in its highest form. In his gung ho attitude to please his Father & bring the “prize” of a Unicorn horn home to the Castle, Arthur kills this beautiful animal. Merlin’s anguished “no” falls on deaf ears. Enter Anhora, The Keeper of the Unicorns, beautifully portrayed by Frank Finlay. Now Arthur (Bradley James) must prove he is “pure of Heart” in order to lift the curse upon Camelot and save his people. While at first disbelieving that his act could cause the curse, Arthur has the chance to redeem himself; by showing kindness and allowing the man who is stealing grain to take it anyway and by being willing to die instead of Merlin for his people. Arthur proves he is “pure of Heart” and the curse is lifted. That could have been the end of that episode but ahh… Arthur proved he had truly learned from this experience when he retrieved the Unicorn horn and buried the horn ceremoniously. While Merlin looked proudly on, Arthur apologized for taking the Unicorn’s life and was rewarded with the sight of the Unicorn.. alive once more on their next trip to the forest. The Unicorn is indeed a symbol of purity in myth and Spiritual terms so this episode was one of the most Spiritual in the series.
Excalibur: Symbol of Light
Excalibur, forged in a Dragon’s breath and therefore able to cut through all darkness whether living or dead. The implication is that this is a weapon that can combat negativity in all dimensions, across all dimensions. As Kilgharrah says: “This sword must not be wielded by Uther, it has been forged for Arthur and he alone must wield it”. Well, ok, Merlin can too of course. but other than that, Excalibur must only be wielded by someone who is “pure of Heart” , again, the reference to the importance of purity, of coming from the Heart. What a brilliant job the writers did in telling the tale of how the sword came to be in the Lake…. and how a woman’s hand holds it up for Merlin to take and again, how it came to be stuck in a rock. Terrific writing. The symbology of the sword being able to vanquish all energy, anything that is conjured up by the “darkness” that comes through Morgana and others is a simple validation of the premise that the Light always vanquishes the dark. Light a candle in a dark room and there is Light. Excalibur is the Light which when wielded by the pure of Heart vanquishes all darkness.
Although it is used in terms of taking one life for another (more than once)… the concept of “balance” in the world is also a theme running through Merlin. When the veil between the worlds is torn… Kilgharrah, Gaius and the Willia (the Spirits of the Rivers & Streams who heal Merlin after the attack of the Dorocha , more reference to true Spirituality of the Earth as practiced by the indigenous peoples and more nowdays) refer to regaining the balance of the Earth. That is a concept as old as life itself and present in all Spirituality. Balance on the Earth, balance amongst the creatures of the Earth, the delicate balance of the circle of Life, the balance between male & female, dark and light. What does Kilgharrah say to Merlin when Morgana turns? “She is the dark to your light, the hate to your love”.
Tracing the line between disenchantment & evil
I want to give the writers so much kudos here. Again, here is Spirituality behind the scenes. Morgana & Mordred do not appear as evil incarnate out of nowhere. The writers took the time, especially with Morgana, to show us the journey that took her from sweet natured, wilful ward who has bad dreams to Morgana, her heart turned to darkness, intent on destroying her brother & friends. In today’s world, when awful events happen, lone individuals shoot school children or people at work, the media dives in for a frenzy of blame. There is so much judgement. People do not end up doing these things for no reason. There is always a journey that takes a soul from potentially happy to so unhappy & full of resentment that they feel their only choice is revenge. I believe the key to Morgana’s “turn” is that she had no one to share her lonely experience of feeling she had magic, knowing that it was outlawed, knowing that Uther would probably disown her. As Merlin said to Gaius, had she had the kind mentoring of an Elder such as Gaius, perhaps Morgana would not have turned to darkness. With Mordred too, he so wants to be accepted and part of Arthur’s Camelot. And yes, here the writers needed a reason for him to turn so they had Arthur senselessly condemn Mordred’s love to death…. well hmmm… his reaction was to be expected.
Dragon & Dragonlord:
Kilgharrah is the voice of Wisdom, knowledge & Truth. John Hurt’s marvellous voice as Kilgharrah was just right; it seems as though his voice truly is 1000 years old.
Merlin goes to him for counsel. When all else fails, Kilgharrah has the answer. Even when Merlin seeks his advice about mending the torn veil, Kilgharrah knows that Lancelot will offer his life… calling him “the noblest and bravest of them all” and knowing that hearing that, Lancelot will of course offer his own life to save both Arthur & Merlin. Kilgharrah has lived for 1000 years… he is old, he has seen the world turn and he is part of “The Old Religion” part of the Earth. His magical powers come from the Earth itself. His counsel is always wise, truthful and measured. He uses only as many words as needed. The connection between Kilgharrah and Merlin, the Dragonlord is one of honor, respect & wonder. The writing here was superb…. Balinor’s voice coming through the dimensions to say to his son “You’re the last Dragonlord now. You alone carry the Ancient gift. Deep within yourself, you must find the voice that you and Kilgharrah share, for your soul and his are brothers. When you speak to him as kin, he must obey your will”. It is the Spirituality of the Earth peoples: the indigenous races, who believe that the animals, all animals are our brothers and sisters, that there is a connection that binds all living beings. When that connection is honored, respected and called… magic is in the air.
The Cup of Life
The Cup of Life is of course a reference to the Holy Grail.
Whether you adhere to the Christian concept that this is the cup that Jeshue (Jesus) used at The Last Supper or whether your beliefs align with the more commonly now accepted concept as depicted in “The Da Vinci Code”, that the Cup represents the Female, the Feminine part of the World, symbol of creation…. it is the Cup of Life. The symbology of the Cup of Life is yet another example of spirituality in Merlin. The cup can be used for good or for the darkness…the message being as always that it is the intention with which magic is used that is of the utmost importance.
Arthur’s Values: Integrity, Honor, Loyalty
Of course these are not just Arthur’s values, they are also Merlin’s values, Gwen & Gaius and the Knights. But as the leader, Arthur has the opportunity to demonstrate and live by these values or something else. By choosing honor, integrity, loyalty and living from his Heart, Arthur aligns himself with the higher Spirituality of life.
Particularly uplifting and moving are the scenes where Arthur kneels before those he believes he has wronged: to Queen Annis, (His Father’s Son) when he realizes he should not have taken her husband’s life and to the Druid boy inside Elyan, (A Herald of a New Age) whose life he was responsible for taking. On both occasions, he offers himself knowing that that the other may choose to end his life; ; yet he does so anyway.. because he can do nothing else. To remain true to himself, he must do the right thing. To bring peace, he must take the risk of losing his own life, and so he does. Kudos to Bradley’s acting here, particular the scene with the Druid boy/Elyan.
“Alatar of the Cathar” . Perhaps the Writers took a few liberties here with the use of the word Cathar. But perhaps not. The Cathars were the early followers of Jeshue… the ones who heard his words directly and believed in a Mother/Father god, reincarnation and more. They were quashed both around 300AD and again in the early middle ages by the Church. Were they able to perform Magic? Perhaps… but they could almost certainly do what Alatar did with Gaius, reach into another’s mind and see information. But and here is what again is crucial.. only when it is done for the highest good which is exactly what Alatar does. He now knows who Emrys is… but will never tell Morgana and more, will support Merlin in his mission.
The Diomer – Key to all Knowledge. How appropriate that the key turns out to be a being that looks like our star friends…. an ‘alien’ to contemporary society but one whose features & shape has been drawn and visioned for thousands of years. Many now believe that our world was visited thousands of years ago by “star people’ who were gave us knowledge and taught humankind about life, Spirituality and were the wisdom behind the knowledge that built the pyramids of the world as well as other ancient buildings and sites which we now know could not have been done by simple men.. indeed could not even be built by technology we have today. “Star People” is the name given to these people by the Native Americans and other indigenous peoples of the Earth. The Ancient Hawaiians still do Ceremony to honor the Pleiades from which planet they believe they came.
So Spiritual indeed that the “key to all knowledge” is indeed a “star person”.. the Diomer. And how Spiritually perfect that while Morgana is searching for a “key” to unlock all knowledge, she does not realize that it is a person. Yet Merlin realizes immediately upon meeting the being that this is the “key” she is looking for…. but also has the wisdom to know that asking for knowledge is not the way, for all true knowledge comes from within.
Symbols: Healing, Herbs, Runes, Crystals, Feathers & Sage
The symbols in Merlin are Spiritual indeed.
Runes, feathers, crystals & Sage being used in healing. Prayers said to the Divine Source Energy as when all those with “magic” healed others including Merlin, Gaius, Balinor. Throughout all 5 seasons, all of these props & symbols are seen consistently used underlining the Spiritual nature of the show and its intent in showing the “old ways” of what might be termed Earth Spirituality.
The Disir :
The episode with The Disir is an interesting exploration into The Goddess. “The Triple Goddess” is represented by 3 women who appear to be rather dark. They certainly appear to be somewhat angry. I was not that happy at their portrayal as judgemental women, but I did like the twist that had Merlin thinking he was finally making the right choice in advising Arthur not to agree to their demands to restore magic as he thought this would mean Mordred’s demise…. and then realizing his mistake! Had he kept true to his heart (as evidenced by the tears in his eyes when he says “there can be no place for magic in Camelot… beautiful, soul filled acting, Colin) Mordred would have died and magic would have been restored to the kingdom… ahhh! All too late he realized his mistake. The Goddess .. and God.. are all about wanting us to follow our hearts. When we follow our hearts… we align with divine Source energy.
The Magic of Spirituality though is shown in this episode as Merlin, Arthur and the Knights approach the Cave. Merlin says “this is a Sacred place”.
Later as Arthur and Merlin pass the night in the forest before Arthur gives his decision to The Disir, Arthur asks Merlin “how did you know this place was Sacred?”
Merlin “well, it’s obvious” Arthur “pretend it isn’t”
Merlin: “Everything here is so full of life, every tree, every leaf, every insect, it’s as if the world is vibrating, as if everything is much more than itself…..” (wow Merlin, so utterly Spiritual!)
And not just Spiritual, more & more people are now seeing the truth that all things “vibrate” at a frequency and that this is what gives them form. Mother Earth and all her plants, trees, leaves vibrate at a very high frequency.
Arthur: “you feel all that? ” Merlin : “don’t you?”
The references in this episode to the Sacred Spring, grove of Ewe trees, the pool where The Disir “divine” , hallowed ground, Sacred relics all implying that it is important to respect others Spirituality.
It’s all about the Heart
It is a consistent theme running through Merlin from the outset of feelings, of making decisions from the Heart that underlines the Spiritual nature of the show. True Spirituality is Love, is about living with love, living from the Heart.
Consistently, Gwen encourages Arthur to follow his heart and he does. Consistently Merlin advises Arthur to do the same thing… and he does.
Love is freely shown, affection freely given between men & women, men and men, women & women, young and old.
Merlin is not just a battle between good and evil or a mythical tale about heroes, it is the highest form of Spiritual expression.
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Please also check out the other posts (top right hand corner under “Recent Posts”)
* Why do so many mourn the death of Arthur?
* Merlin: Real Romance at Last
* The Magic of Merlin: Endings & Beginnings: Arthur lives again
* Merlin’s Spell on my Life (by Diane Hamilton)
Francesca Azuremare January 2013 Copyright. You may copy/upload this article to other blogs with permission. Please email me at email@example.com