Quest for the Holy Grail
The inner landscape of the Quest is full of forests, dark paths, hard places, bridges, gates and castles. It is a very confusing place for us because we start like Parsifal, foolish and ignorant. We do not recognise Nasciens and are frightened of Kundry. What to do? A road map would be handy. That is why the Tree of Life is so useful.
The Tree has given us the broad outline of 3 places and 7 characters. Now we will use it to find the paths we must travel. First, the overall scheme.
Even though the Tree is our road map, it is not as easy as to start with one path and then follow what ever we see. That is how we get lost. It helps to know what the paths mean. We shall begin with the 3 paths on the Tree of Life that are attributed to the 3 Mother letters. The operation of these paths is hard to visualise, but it is the life of the Grail that flows in both directions simultaneously. It is the source of creativity.
These paths have an internal relationship that connects them. Parsifal is the element of Air and the alchemical principle of Mercury. The Fisher King is the element of Water and the alchemical principle of Salt. Avalon is the element of Fire and the alchemical principle of Sulfur. The simultaneous double flow of energy is an inadequate symbol for the sheer power of these paths. They are the archetypal experiences of the Quest.
Parsifal knows too little; the Fisher King knows too much. Avalon is the place of their reconciliation. When we look into a mirror, we see ourselves - foolish. However, we are the fish caught by the Fisher King. Remember that Christ promised His disciples that He would make them "fishers of men". Avalon is the New Jerusalem where the Tree of Life will be found. That is also the place where we will discover that Parsifal is really the Fisher King. We will find our true inner self at the place of our heart's desire; but only after we are judged and have the experience of the Hanged Man.
We turn now to the 7 paths on the Tree of Life attributed to the 7 Double letters. Their characteristic is that they alternate the direction of the flow of life - positive/negative.
The unifying principle of these paths is their male/female nature. Sometimes it is not obvious.
For or instance, Merlin is really the Fool in his ultimate form of development. The Fool is androgynous and therefore so is Merlin. After all, only one who has reconciled the opposites can be a true Magus. Merlin stands behind Arthur; in fact, arranges for his birth. He also arranges for the sword in the stone that Galahad is to draw from the red stone. Merlin constructs the Round Table by magic and gives it the ability to show the names of the knights who are to sit there, including the Siege Perilous. This is the Judas seat and can only be redeemed by the Grail winner, Galahad.
Merlin has withdrawn to his glass tower after his enchantment by Nimue and there guards the 13 Treasures of Britain. Note that there are 12 knights plus Arthur at the Round Table; and Christ had 12 Apostles. This is a mystery and shows Merlin to be an initiator. The Serpent Egg is the symbol. On the Tree of Life, he is on the path of the androgynous Mercury. Merlin is the bringer of Dominance/Subjugation.
Morgan le Fay is the half sister of Arthur. She is the priestess of the Goddess and refuses to yield to the new religion of Christianity. She is the mistress of the inner Avalon. She has an incestuous relationship with Arthur and gives birth to Mordred, the evil one. Yet, she is not evil. Hers is the Path of Blame and that relates her to Mary Magdalene.
She truly worships the Goddess and performs the powerful magic of the feminine. Again, this requires the reconciliation of the opposites, irrespective of the outer appearance. The Cauldron is the symbol of the Goddess. On the Tree of Life, Morgan is on the path of the Moon. She brings Wisdom/Folly.
Igraine is the wife of Uther Pendragon. Her relationship with Uther is arranged by Merlin to ensure the birth of Arthur. She is taken from her tower-like castle to marry Uther. On the Tree of Life she is on the path of Venus. She brings Life/Death by giving birth to her son. She is an aspect of the Great Mother.
The Round Table was created magically by Merlin and given to Arthur. It was modeled on a table made by Joseph of Arimathea, which in turn was based on the table used at the Last Supper. Hence it is designed for 12 knights and Arthur (12 + 1, Christ and His 12 disciples, the Sun and 12 signs of the Zodiac). One seat is left empty, the Siege Perilous, which is reserved for the best knight, Galahad. Note there are 3 tables as there are 3 Grail winners.
The Table has its own mysterious personality because it holds the corporate identity of the fellowship of Arthur's knights. It is the great reconciler of opposites and the dispenser of fate, as its image in the Tarot indicates. Ultimately, the Table is unable to contain the tensions of the opposites, thus Arthur and his knights destroy each other. This comes about through the male/female symbol of the opposites, Launcelot and Guinevere. This makes the table an altar of sacrifice.
In a sense the Round Table is the field of fate, the symbolic place where the Quest is pursued. For this reason, the 12 Single letters of the Kabala and the 12 paths of the Tree of Life that relate to them, are right here at the Table. Of the 7 Doubles, this is the middle letter/path and hence balances the 3 on each side. On the Tree, the Table is on the path of Jupiter and brings Grace/Ugliness.
Kundry is the fearsome Grail messenger. We have already met her. On the paths of the Tree, she is on the path of Mars and brings Wealth/Poverty. We already know that her outward repulsiveness hides an inner grace and beauty. This is not a mere fairy tale. Kundry is our own image, the self we dislike because it is so true. And yet, with her help we shall win the Grail and overcome our own inner poverty with spiritual wealth. We should welcome Kundry when we meet her. But that takes wisdom and like Parsifal we are foolish.
Gawain is the first to pledge himself to the Quest and the last to give it up. Time and again, he comes within a heartbeat of winning the Grail, but never quite makes it.
He finds his way to the Grail Castle but like Parsifal before him, he fails to ask the Question and therefore fails to heal the Waste Land and the wounded king. However he does comment about the Spear that drips blood as it is carried in the Grail procession. This is sufficient to perform a partial healing, and since he fails to ask the Question, his quest becomes for the Sword that beheaded John the Baptist. But the Sword is always broken and it is his task to discover how to unite the two pieces of the blade. He is able to do so only after many adventures. That is because his fault is impatience.
His heraldic sign is the pentagram that points to the 5 Transformations of the Grail. His heroic failure is important to us because he is clearly dedicated to the Grail. The Quest is as important as the Grail. Many are called but few are chosen. On the Tree he is on the path of the Sun and brings Seed/Desolation. Within the desolation of our many failures is the seed of our success.
Finally there is the Grail. What is it? The universe cannot contain it, but it shines like a star to guide us on our way. How do we win it? By asking the Question. If it is that simple, why doesn't everyone have it? Because we are Parsifal the foolish knight. How do we become wise? By seeking the Grail. Why must we seek it? Because we are in the Waste Land. What restores the Waste Land? The Question. On the Tree, the Grail is on the path of Saturn and brings both Peace and War.
Why should the Grail Knight go in search of the Grail when its gifts are supposed to be freely available upon the altar of every church in the land? This is a mystery that is uncovered at the same time as the answer to the Question is given.
Good intentions are not enough for the Grail Seeker. It is necessary to believe in the Quest itself and to exclude all other things, however honourable, from the mind. The Grail must be sought in the heart of the Seeker.
Although the Grail is a healing force, it will scourge as often as it will nourish. Those chosen few who pass its rigorous tests are transformed. But those who attempt to grasp its meaning before they are ready, are purged and often destroyed. When Lucifer fell from heaven, the emerald stone in his crown fell to earth. As it did so, it changed from Stone to Sword, then to Spear and Cup, and finally to Dish.
The Grail is usually seen as the centre point of the earth and that place where the earth is joined to the sky. It is the threshold between worlds and is a source of fertility, abundance and life. It is the point from which all directions are established. This also applies to time and all times occur simultaneously.
The hidden yet obvious symbol of the Grail is the Round Table. Let us ride to Arthur's court and take our rightful place at the Table as one of the 12 knights.
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