Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 22, Vol. 3. Vernal Equinox 2012

Merlin and the Grail Tradition,Gareth Knight. Skylight Press, 2011.
123 pages.  $17.99 USD (or £10.99)
review by Samuel Scarborough

One of the more well-known esoteric writers of the late 20th century has been Gareth Knight, who continues to produce material for those interested in esoteric subjects, particularly those relating to the Arthurian myths of England. Heavily influenced by his early work with Dion Fortune’s Society of the Inner Light and its drawing upon, as well as weaving together the elements of esoteric Christianity, Arthurian and Merlin legend, and Hermetic works, Mr. Knight continues to explore these rich tapestries of images for magical use.

Merlin and the Grail Tradition is a look at these various threads of myth and symbolism, especially as they relate to Merlin, and how these threads have played and still continue to play an active role in esoteric thought not only in England, but also in the rest of the world. The book is a collection of thirteen essays stringing together various Merlin, and even Arthurian, myths and workings that have become a large part of the esoteric scene in Great Britain and elsewhere. These essays cover the gamut of discussing the archetype of Merlin and how that can, and does, apply to magic and magical persons, to how the faery tradition in the Arthurian legends also harkens back to an early time in the collective consciousness.

One of the more fascinating essays, in a book filled with captivating essays, is one comparing the life of Dr. John Dee with that of Merlin and how similar their lives and impact upon England were. Mr. Knight goes so far as to call Dee the Elizabethan Merlin. In many ways this gives a unique insight to the life of Dee and his studies, both esoteric and scientific.

Other points of note in this collection of essays are, of course, the influence that the Arthurian legends, and Merlin, had on Dion Fortune. Her work revolved on uniting the three principles of Hermetic philosophy with esoteric Christian thought and the native legends of Great Britain, particularly those of Arthur. Mr. Knight details some of the more interesting inner contacts and workings of Dion Fortune and her group, especially during the early years of World War II. It is interesting to see just how some things spontaneously manifest during these workings as part of a series of weekly letters with meditational instructions that Fortune sent out to a group of members of the Society of the Inner Light during this time of turmoil in England.

The final entry is a ceremony or group ritual in the Grail Tradition that Mr. Knight wrote, or as he states “wrote itself” as he began working on a series of notes for a ritual to be conducted in a few weeks using the catechism approach to material. It is an interesting and full of relevant symbolism of the Grail and Arthurian Traditions.

While the book is only 123 pages, including index, do not let the number of pages fool you. These essays are well written, which is typical of Mr. Knight’s work, and convey a deep love of the subject matter and esotericism in general to the reader. The articles convey a great deal of material and give hints to those interested in all aspects of esotericism.

Few subjects and legends have impacted the Western Esoteric Tradition like those of the Grail and Merlin. I can certainly say that reading the Arthurian legends as a young man influenced me, and even more so when I became older and understood some of the more mysterious material contained within those stories. Gareth Knight presents solid and reliable material for any person interested in the Grail Tradition and Arthurian legend to be used in an esoteric manner; shedding light on many of these Mysteries in this collection of essays.

This book is entrancing, giving an intimate glimpse into the esoteric tradition of the Grail and its use particularly in England. Merlin and the Grail Tradition is likely to become a favorite of those interested in the Grail symbolism and mysteries. Once again, Gareth Knight has produced a ready classic in this area of esotericism.