Quest for the Holy Grail
Quest for the Holy Grail
by Jack Courtis
The Quest takes place in its own landscape, a world that we all share. Moreover, it is a world that is consistent with all other inner worlds. Thus Kabala provides a convenient framework for comparison and a good point of reference for the Seeker who is lost in the Waste Land. In these discourses, the myth of the Grail is taking shape along kabalistic lines. Thus there are 10 primary ideas; 3 places and 7 characters. The significance of these numbers is the subject of the Quest. For the present, let us ride out into the Waste Land.
Parsifal is the foolish knight because he begins the Quest in total innocence and complete naivety. He does not even know his own identity or heritage. He is the Fool of the Tarot and he is each of us. We are all on the Quest whether we know it or not. None of us really knows who we are or why our lives are a waste land of broken dreams, hurts and disappointments. Many of us stumble into the Grail Castle but in our ignorance fail the tests and are expelled.
Make no mistake, the Quest is not a pretty fairy tale for children. It is a serious undertaking. The process is full of trials and tribulations. We are tested severely and ruthlessly but with mercy. We are allowed to try again.
That is what happens to Parsifal. Through the ignorance of innocence, he fails to ask the Question and is expelled. Yet ultimately he triumphs. He attains the Grail, and for his reward, he becomes the Guardian of the Grail. He does this by treading every weary path and performing every task demanded of him. The Tree of Life gives us a good map to the inner world so we can follow him. He remains the Guardian for 7 years and then a hermit takes him to the forest. Parsifal brings the Cup, the Spear and the Dish with him. He lives as a hermit for 10 years.
Another version of his name is Percival which can be interpreted as "Pierce-the veil". He is also a Son of a Widow. This is a mystery and is part of the initiatory process. The original Widow in the western esoteric tradition was Isis. At present she is referred to simply as the Goddess. She rules the physical universe and its subtle realms. She appears before the initiate partially covered by a black veil that is the fabric of space and time. The weave of the veil unifies all existence into ONENESS. This weave is currently being examined by materialist science in its own quest for a unified theory of quantum mechanics on the one hand and the space/time of Einstein, on the other. As Parsifal, we seek God but only see the veil. When we look at the material universe we can only see trees, oceans, buildings etc. But the initiate who has already transcended the normal world by properly commencing the Quest, will see the material universe as a partially veiled woman. The initiate sees partially but not completely, the totality of beauty and truth. When the initiate attains reality, the veil is lifted.
The initiate is now an adept. He sees truth directly and understands nature in her true form. He can approach God without the separation imposed by the space/time continuum and its quantum mechanics weave.
Parsifal is piercing the veil as opposed to lifting it. In piercing the veil he seeks God rather than the Goddess. This is an important distinction because as we see the world, God is considered to be unknowable and it is therefore arrogant to try to perceive beyond God's creation. However Parsifal is the Fool and does not know this. Accordingly, he is not limited by the belief that he cannot seek God. That is why the Fool becomes a Grail winner. To be the Fool, is not to be foolish!
Parsifal is a living bridge between our everyday level of reality and the higher levels of reality that we must experience, if we are to achieve the Quest. Parsifal accomplishes this bridging in the end and becomes the Grail King until such time as we arrive at the Grail castle in order to ask the Question and replace him.
Galahad is the supreme Grail winner. He is destined to succeed from birth. His father is Launcelot and his mother is the Grail Princess. At the beginning of his Quest, like Arthur, he draws a sword from a red stone. In this case, it is found floating in the river outside Camelot.
Galahad achieves the mysteries, heals the wounded king and restores the Waste Land. Finally he goes to the holy city of Sarras where he sees the Grail and dies. Why? The Grail brings the opposites, life/death, good/evil, etc. Galahad has reconciled them and thus passes out of material existence.
Using the Tree of Life as a map of the inner world, we realise instantly that the opposites are built into its structure. Consequently, they are a fundamental part of the Quest and cannot be avoided. They must be reconciled. This is how the Quest is performed. How then can Galahad achieve the Grail? This is the mystery of God Transcendent and God Immanent. Kabalistically, this about the 3 Veils of Negative Existence and the 4 Worlds. Part of the mystery is answered by understanding that we have misunderstood the true nature of duality and pursue the Quest on the basis that duality means that the opposites are in opposition to each other. In fact the opposites are in a symbiotic relationship. That is a subtle and difficult distinction. It is part of what we must all learn on the Quest. If the opposites are in opposition, they cause destruction. If they are in symbiotic relationship (yin and yang) then they create wholeness, understanding and healing.
Nevertheless, we must imitate Galahad. Like him, we must take the Grail in our hands, to the holy city of Sarras and there, we shall receive from the hands of the Grail's true master, the bread of life. To do that we must share Galahad's special qualities. First we must understand the difference between mysticism and religion. Mysticism goes to the heart of life whereas religion talks of the appearance of life. Secondly, we must show a single-minded determination for the task. No attack shall dismay us and no temptation shall divert us. Thirdly, we must accomplish the mysteries of the Quest in the same way as Christ accomplished his ministry. Fourthly, we must experience the pain of the wounded king and heal him and the Waste Land. Finally, we must achieve theosis: God-becoming.
Bors does not have the hard destiny of Parsifal or the glorious destiny of Galahad. He is an ordinary man. He always seems rather puzzled by the events of his Quest. He is constantly called upon to make choices and is usually right in his decisions. Bors never aspires to great deeds and yet achieves the Grail. His attributes are wisdom, loyalty, discipline and the ability to reason even in a crisis. He is the least romantic of the three. He is actually married with a child, at the time of the Quest. It is because of this, that he understands the nature and mystery of human love, desire and procreation, in a way that neither Parsifal nor Galahad can ever understand. He is then, in the world whereas they are only of it. This gives Bors a special insight into the mystery as a whole that makes him the one who returns to Camelot after the Quest is over, to relate all that has happened to Arthur.
Bors is the ordinary man whose aims are not as high as his companions. Nevertheless, he is raised by the Grail to a position from which he may witness and experience the greater mysteries. He does not quite appear to be a hero and yet he succeeds. The very ordinariness of Bors and the greatness of his achievement, are important. He sees the Grail and lives.
Bors does not know why he has been chosen or even what he has been chosen for. Nevertheless he accepts willingly and treads the path. This is far harder for him because he is less spiritually oriented than the other knights. His temptations are always more rigorous. However he knows what is right with inner certainty and does his best to achieve it. He proceeds steadily and cautiously, with single-minded devotion to the Quest. He trusts the inner directives of the Quest and pays the cost often, without knowing for a long time after if he really did choose wisely.
'There are only 3 Grail winners: Parsifal, Galahad and Bors. All others on the Quest, failed. It is significant that there are 3. On the Tree of Life, they surround the Waste Land as shown in the following diagram:
These three knights are aspects of Christ. Bors is "he that has come to bear witness to the truth"; Parsifal is " he upon whom the mystery shall be founded"; Galahad undergoes the transformation of the Grail that is nearest any human being can come to sharing in the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.
The 3 Grail winners are really aspects of the same person. The Waste Land surrounds the Grail Castle and in a deep sense they are the one place in the same location. The inner landscape constantly changes shape yet ever remains the same. It is pure and pristine but appears waste. We need guides to show us the way.
Nasciens is the Grail Hermit. He is a guide and way-shower. When we least expect him, but most need him, he appears to advise and point the path to the next trial and test. He takes many forms both male and female. Nasciens is our personal spiritual director and we can call upon him at any time. He always speaks truth and this is probably why we do not call him often enough.
The Hermit is closely related to the Fisher King and the wounded king. He is an aspect of both. He commands us to follow the way he shows and interprets our confusions on the path. He is well depicted on the Tarot card that bears his name.
Kundry is the most mysterious character on the Quest. At the outset it is important to know - she serves the Grail.
She is ugly and misshapen. She is portrayed as a black-skinned hag who appears after Parsifal has failed to ask the Question. She ridicules him unmercifully and yet gives him good advice as to what to do next. At the end she accompanies Parsifal to the Grail Castle when he finally achieves his Quest.
She is very difficult to work with but gives wisdom, knowledge and assistance to the Seeker. She has a terrible outer form but in fact hides great beauty and divine love. She is as much a guide as Nasciens and is really his feminine aspect.
On the Tree of Life, Nasciens and Kundry overlook the Grail Castle and in a sense, they protect it. That is why they can guide us there.
We still need to know how to get to the holy city of Sarras.
Dindraine is the Grail Maiden and carries the sacred Cup in the procession. She travels with Parsifal, Galahad and Bors in Solomon's Ship. Later, she gives up her life as a blood sacrifice and her uncorrupted body is carried to Sarras in that Ship. She emphasises the mystical importance of blood and service. Although she dies, she points to the Resurrection. She is an aspect of the Widow because in a mysterious way, she is involved with the Resurrection.
Dindraine is Kundry in a higher form and performs a similar function. She is the way-shower of the greater mysteries. The Grail Castle is not the end of the Quest. We must press on to the holy city.
JOSEPH of ARIMATHEA
Joseph takes the Cup used at the Last Supper and attends the Crucifixion where he catches a few drops of Christ's blood in it. Later, with 12 disciples, he comes to Glastonbury and brings the Cup with him. The Grail is not only a Cup. It transforms and therefore can never be defined by any particular shape. The spear that pierces Christ and sheds the blood and water, is the Spear in the Grail procession. It is also another form of the Grail. Joseph is the keeper of the Spear as well as the Cup.
He is the guardian of all the mysteries and a higher aspect of Nasciens. He is also the masculine counterpart of Dindraine.
Thus we have 3 Grail winners and 4 Grail guardians. However, the guardians are really 2 characters, one male (Joseph/Nasciens) and one female (Dindraine/Kundry). Later then, in some mysterious way, the male and female are the complimentary aspects of a single mysterious being who has reconciled the opposites. Who can this be? Only someone who can say: "I am the way, the truth and the life".
We have seen the broad outline of the Quest. Now we must study the paths and look for adventure.