I recently had the opportunity to study highlights from the life of King Bartholomew, ruler of a not-very-significant small kingdom somewhere in the British Isles in olden times.
Bartholomew was a promising young prince who married a beautiful commoner and relied upon the advice of one of his closest friends. These two characters were often dishonest with Bartholomew. But he wanted to believe the best of them. So when manipulation and dissembling was afoot, rather than trusting that quiet inner voice that alerted him to the mischief, Bartholomew fell into the trap of pretending. He pretended to himself that things were the way he hoped they would be.
This proved very costly; the psychological dissonance created by his own denial of the reality--a reality that his inner voice was fully aware of--drove him to a nervous breakdown in midlife. He had a son, and his son died, supposedly as the result of an accidental fall but, his inner voice whispered (the voice he could not and would not hear) that his son had been murdered by its mother. A great darkness descended upon him. He was confined within his castle for a period of 8 years, crazed with grief and confusion, while his queen and close advisor ruled, often in ways that were harmful to the people, ways that were motivated by greed and selfishness.
It took eight long years for Bartholomew to regain sanity. There seemed to be nothing he could depend upon, no roots to what was real and true. He wandered around his quarters, mumbling over and over his question: "what can be trusted?" Answers eluded him, and finally he despaired of ever knowing.
Then a day came when he was staring listlessly out an open window at the shifting clouds beyond. A sparrow came and landed on the window sill. King Bartholomew thought, "How lovely is the sparrow!" And he realized that this realization was true, something that could be trusted. Where did it come from, this knowing the loveliness of the sparrow? Finally, as he watched the sparrow he had the breakthrough insight that his inner voice was the source of recognition of the simple fact of the beauty of a sparrow. And in the next moment he realized he had found that which he had been seeking, that which he could trust. It was his own inner knowing; a voice that seemed to come from a source greater than himself, a source that the clergy called God. Bartholomew thought of this voice as coming from "the Mystery" or "The Source." He took up the practice of listening to this source and basing his decisions upon the knowing that it brought. It was a kind of surrender, a bit frightening. But he found that he could trust it. And over the next seven years he ruled competently and wisely, and undid many of the harms that had been done in his name during his time of confinement.
Bartholomew became beloved of the people. He was known as Bartholomew the Restorer, because he engaged the everyone who agreed in dialogues aimed a building understanding, at recognizing wounds, at bringing forth the medicine of the people and of the natural world, and of restoring right relationships. He had a new crown forged, a simple design of woven branches with a single sparrow, and he endeavored to teach the people the lesson he had learned, that he called "the way of the sparrow," which is to follow your heart and to trust beauty.
He was murdered when he was 58 years old. The evidence points to his wife, the Queen, and his advisor, although it is believed neither of them wielded the knife with which a hired assassin took his life. He had no heir, and his Kingdom did not long survive his death before it was absorbed under the rule of a neighboring king.
Seers of that time reported that Bartholomew met after death with a council of spiritual guides, who asked him what he had learned during his recent tenure on Earth.
"I have learned," he is said to have answered, "that the Source that Intends All Things Into Being is present everywhere and always. Its voice is present in the heart of every living thing, and it is revealed in silence and the works of nature. The work of the King is to listen to that voice and to be guided by it; the true work of the ruler is to serve The Source: with humility, surrender, and devotion."
Amos Clifford, Guide and Restorative Council Mentor; trainer in restorative justice, restorative dialogue with nature, and circle-keeping and the way of council; mentor.