Sunday, 17 August 2008

Chapel Perilous

Illustration by Mackenzie
from Chistine Chaundler's book Arthur and His Knights
In this version of the King Arthur myth, Lancelot is tested at the Chapel Perilous with great danger but his courage does not desert him and he eventually comes out unscathed protected by his valour and fidelity to his love for Queen Guinevere.

I have recently rediscovered Robert Anton Wilson - to be truthful it was my good friend and former partner Kevin who was really into his writing. Back then though, the window of perception had not yet opened for me nor had I realised it was me that needed to lift the catch. Yet it is never too late ...... just recently Robert Anton Wilson (RAW for short) has been mentioned on the Avebury Forum where, apart from discussing the many facets of the wonderful Avebury landscape, occasional surrealism and wit gets batted around.

Robert Anton Wilson was born January 18th 1932 and died on January 11th 2007. His work still sparkles with humour, courage, understanding and tolerance. He was a committed agnostic with regard to most aspects of his life and contended that when dogma enters the brain all intellectual activity ceases.

So I have borrowed and am reading a copy of Cosmic Trigger which was first published in 1977. Here's what RAW says about Chapel Perilous:

Chapel Perilous, like the mysterious entity called "I" cannot be located in the space-time continuum; it is weightless, odourless; tasteless and undetectable by ordinary instruments. Indeed, like the Ego, it is even possible to deny that it is there. And yet, even more like the Ego, once you are inside it, there doesn't seem to be any way to get out again, until you suddenly discover that it has been brought into existence by thought and does not exist outside thought. Everything you fear is waiting with slavering jaws in Chapel Perilous, but if you are armed with the wand of intuition, the cup of sympathy, the sword of reason and the pentacle of valor, you will find there (the legends say) the Medicine of Metals, the Elixir of Life, the Philosopher's Stone, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.

That's what the legends say, and language of myth is poetically precise. For instance, if you go into that realm without the sword of reason, you will lose your mind, but at the same time, if you take only the sword of reason without the cup of sympathy, you will lose your heart. Even more remarkably, if you approach without the wand of intuition, you can stand at the door for decades never realising you have arrived. You might think you are just waiting for a bus, or wandering from room to room looking for your cigarettes, watching a TV show, or reading a cryptic and ambiguous book. Chapel Perilous is tricky that way.......