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Three Currents from the Grail
Mythbusting 101 - Lesson Three
2006 03 21


Article recieved from Light Eye

"The Miracle of the Grail" By Wilhelm Hauschild, Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria.

Parallel History in Europe and the East

To confront the Paternal Lie requires a number of aikido moves, set out in these lessons in Mythbusting 101. In the first place, the core beliefs imposed by the patriarchal dominator agenda have to be exposed: for instance, the belief that the Father God conveyed his commands to bearded male emissaries who in turn codified them into rules for personal and social behavior. Men who speak for the Father God and rule in His name are theocrats. They may not openly assert their descent from divine origins, but let's not be fooled by false modesty. True, the age-old claim, popular from pharaonic Egypt down to the time of Louis XIV, to be descended from the gods does not play too well in post-Enlightenment times . But old myths die hard. You can be sure that somewhere, somehow, theocrats of today cherish the belief that they have a privileged connection to the Creator — ideally, a genetic connection. The family of George W. Bush jokingly refer to him as "the Chosen One."

Or maybe it is not a joke.

The script for divine kingship originated with the Annunaki scenario found on cunieform tablets dating from 1600 BCE, but preserving a much older story. The Babylonian creation myth, the Enuma Elish, begins, "And kingship descended from heaven..." At the dawn of the Christian era, this script became conflated with the figure of Jesus Christ, imagined as the immortal, God-sent savior. From the time of Alexander onward, some Roman emperors declared themselves divine, but the emperor Constantine proved more clever than any of them: he had Christ declared divine (by forced vote at the Nicean Council of 325 CE), then he declared Christianity to be the state religion of the empire he ruled. Doing so, he underwrote his imperial authority by divine authority. And he did not even have to belief in the Savior to do it. (Most historians conclude that Constantine's "conversion" was staged, if it ever happened at all. Even Constantine's personal historian, Eusebius, admitted to fudging the story to make the Emperor look good.)

These may seem like paltry antiquarian issues, but they are far from it. The Annunaki model of theocracy, now intimately linked to salvationist faith, is still alive and well in the year 2006. In fact, it is thriving among Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, although in rather different versions.

The commanding image of Christ Pantocrator represents the apotheosis of sacred kingship: the Son of God who rules the world. Such is the supreme historical ideal of Christendom. But squint a little, and it is easy to see this same figure as a Muslim imam or bearded ayatollah clutching the Koran. (Christ Pantocrator, Monstery of St. Katherine, icon on wood, 6th C.) The power of salvationist faith relies heavily on schizoid logic. In the mind-boggling concept of trans-worldly power that rules over this world and, operating from beyond time, decides the outcome of history itself, the theocrats have a potent tool for behavioral programming.

Theocracy is the supreme goal of the Abrahamic religions. Right-wing Christian politics in the USA does not differ from the ideology of imams, ayatollahs, and Muslim clerics who insist that Islam makes no distinction between religion and politics. The neo-cons around President George Bush were trained in ideological strategies by Jewish historian Leo Strauss, the "godfather" of American fascism. Strauss espoused the Illuminati principle of the "noble lie," originally stated by Plato. It is more than likely that Bush was advised by Strauss protegés (such as Paul Wolfowitz) to openly declare that his religious convictions guide his politics. Doing so, he could thumb his nose at the Muslim world, sending the signal that he is as righteous as any ayatollah, if not more so. The President's declaration of faith has been extremely provocative to Muslim sensibilities. His pious posturing provokes the worst in Islam — just what it is intended to do

Parallel History

"While religious people are not generally mad, their core beliefs absolutely are." Sam Harris, The End of Faith

Vehement hatred of Israel is rampant throughout the Arab world. Daily papers and television in all Muslim countries seethe with vilificaton of the Jews and rabid calls for the annihilation of Israel. As Sam Harris observes, "anti-Semitism is intrinsic to both Christianity and Islam; both traditions consider the Jews to be bunglers of God's initial revelation." All three theocratic ideologies spring from the same root; all three are infected with the same pathology; all three rely for their continuance on faith-based violence. One quarter of the world's six billion people are Muslims, another quarter are Christians, and the precarious hinge between these massive (and rapidly growing) factions is Judaism. The hinge is jerry-rigged so that Christians can swing both ways, for and against the Jews. In political terms, the Christian USA is united with Israel against the Arab world. In spiritual terms, Christians reject the Jews for denying and murdering the Son of God. All three religions are "People of the Book," but Muslims insist that they and only they have the Book that will save the world from the decadence of the West..

The violence generated by this three-way dynamic guarantees that peace is not an option as long as faith rules the planet.

But in Europe, faith does not rule. This is because the European West is heir to another history, a secret history concealed within the violence-ridden scenario of theocratic religion. Little is known of this alternative history, but it is not difficult to discover, once you know how to look for it. In modern times, this hidden history comes to light through the values and attitudes it has produced by a long and troubled maturation — the heritage of secular humanism, as it is called. As Europe observes the standoff of fundamentalist ideologies, politicians in France, Spain, Germany, Belgium and elsewhere attempt to keep their distance from religious rhetoric and faith-based realpolitik. Early in the first term of George W. Bush, Belgian president Guy Verhofstadt stated on the evening news that if he were to mix religious and political views in the way the American president does, he would immediately be committed to an insane asylum.

The merge of religion and politics is anathema in Europe because Europeans have learned the hard way that theocracy promises social reform, and spiritual deliverance, in order to enforce a doomsday program. Ravaged by religious wars for centuries, Europeans know better than to take a road that always leads to social chaos and material destruction. Many of them who still retain some religious affiliations in private life stand aghast before the current scenario, the "conflict of ideologies" that endangers the entire planet. The outlook of secular humanism applied to the political world allows Europeans to keep some distance from the problem, but does not provide a solution to it. (In fact, from its inception in the Renaissance humanism failed to deliver on its promises - but this is another lesson in Mythbusting 101.)

To defeat the Paternal Lie, we must disengage from the historical scenario driven by theocratic imperatives and tap into the hidden resources of a parallel history. The Lie succeeds by enforcing the master plot of the Father God's PLAN for humanity. To achieve this plan means ultimate vindication for Jews, superhuman salvation for Christians, and totalitarian control of society for Muslims — but there is a parallel history of the West that liberates us from complicity in these perverted, genocidal programs. Unconditionally disowning what the Father God plans for humanity is not an option that is generally regarded to lie within the humanistic scheme of values, but humanism paved the way for such an option. But the belief that the plan for humanity comes from the off-planet male deity who created us, as the Biblical charter story of theocracy says, cannot be rejected unless there is another story to take its place. The humanist tradition in Europe contains the vital threads of such a story: the Quest for the Grail.

Contrary to what some bad-boy French intellectuals hankering for a spanking would have us believe, the human species cannot live without a master narrative of some kind. The story to guide the species must combine mythopoetic and historical elements. However the human species may have emerged in the cosmos — this is the part of story to be discovered and developed through mythopoesis, along Gaian lines — those who aspire to create a humane world here and now must count on what has brought the human race to it current sense of humanity. As I've said before, resorting to a metahistorical sound-byte, prehistory is what made us human, and history is what we have made of being human.Through history we come into a sense of humanity — not to assume, however, that it was lacking in prehistorical people. No, they (this is, we in far-distant times) had great humanity, but it was implicit, whereas the main effect of the drama of history is that it puts the issue of humanness right in our faces.

The opening word of Parzival is zwivel, doubt, and the recurrent motif of the legend is vragen, questioning. The hero swivels precariously on his sense of humanity, and puts into question all faith in the guiding hand of God. He even declares that he hates God. Parzival exemplifies the modern historical self caught in the existential dilemma of being human without an essence, a predetermined spiritual criterion that defines humanity. Yet he is drawn toward a spiritual calling that would allow him to alleviate the suffering of humanity. Although it is his fate to gain access to a supernatural wonder, he cannot and does not rely on a higher power to find his way to it. Life itself shows him the way.

In his zwivel, Parzival senses that he has been betrayed by God. This sense of betrayal is in reality the first indication of his dawning faith in humanity itself, his humanistic criterion. Just because he doubts God, Parzival is a leading exemplar in the parallel history that can free us from the Paternal Lie and lead beyond the genocidal and ecocidal programs through which the proponents of the Lie claim to be accomplishing the will of the Father God.

The hidden history of the three currents proceeding from the Grail is not His story, not the self-legitimating narrative of the off-planet creator. It is our own species-specific legend, the tale that tells how we have come to know what it means to be human. This tale begins with the prehistory of the human species and Gaia, the living planet. The prehistorical scenario tells what made us human in the first place. By contrast, the historical scenario tells what we have made of being human, as just noted. Some hints of the former scenario can be found in Tree Nymphs and Tree-Hung Shamans and other mythopoetic material on site. The lessons in Mythbusting 101 concern the historical dimension of our story, rather than the prehistorical and mythic dimensions. This is the narrative that can guide us toward a generic feeling for the human species, a sense of humanitas.

Consistent with the foundation essay, Children of the Damned, I will use the word humanity for biological definition of the human species, and humanitas for the intuition of what it means to be human in the moral and spiritual sense, and to act humanely.

Social Enlightenment

The Arrival of Lohengrin in Antwerp," By August von Heckel, Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria.
As we have seen, the passing of the Grail from Parzival to Lohengrin was a turning point in the development of humanism in the Western world. Even though it failed as a philosophical program, Renaissance humanism defined the need for a generic intuition of humanitas, including such essential marks as dignity of the individual and universal rights. It opened a brief window of opportunity for social enlightenment reflected in philanthropic ideals. The humanistic zeitgeist matured slowly from the 10th to the 15th century. Lohengrin modelled a new social equation in which a fated couple from the realm of privilege dedicated themselves to social reform, defending the right of common people to live in a decent and humane way. In this way, those who were better off in life could make life better for those who weren't. The unique condition of the new equation required that the couple not reveal their privileged origins, so that the benefits of their efforts did not accrue to the patriarchally founded (and funded) class from which they emerged. In this way, the Lohengrin principle counteracted, or at the least neutralized, the self-rewarding ethos of dominator society.

A noble and wonderful prospect, it seems. It must be said, however, that the new social equation prefigured in Lohengrin was not, and is not, the only humane and generous way to contribute to the betterment of society. It is one model of social enlightment, but not the exclusive model, and perhaps not even the paramount model. To this day, many privileged people engage in philanthropic activity that does not follow the Lohengrin principle. Untold good has been done, and immeasurable improvements in society have been accomplished by those who embrace and practice what Buddhists call "the altruistic intention." This intention is inherent to the Bodhisattva vow, but the practice of renouncing merit — reflected equally in the Lohengrin model and Buddhist ethics, as explained in Lesson Two — appears to be a special option, not an essential condition, of socially enlightened activism.

In short, there appear to be two ways of pursuing social betterment: by working within patriarchy, and by working beyond it. In the first case, merit for acts of social enlightenment accrues to the privileged classes who pursue it: for example, philanthropists receive huge social acclaim and cascading material benefits for their actions. In bettering the world, they always end up better off themselves. They do not engage in any altruism that would risk their privileges. But in the second case, such merit is relinquished and another kind of social dynamic comes into play.

The Lohengrin principle involves this other dynamic, far less likely to be embraced by the privileged classes. Occasionally, this dynamic flashes up in moments of great social unrest — for instance, the Decembrist revolt in Russia in 1825, when aristocratic soldiers in hereditary service to the Czar broke their allegiances and sided with the populace against the empire — but they always fail. Even when represented as operatic kitsch, the story of Lohengrin carries a deep, inescapable pathos, for it points to a doomed ideal.

But the passing of the social mission linked to the Grail to Lohengrin does not exhaust the magical, life-changing capacity of the Grail.

The First Grail Question

Let's return to the climactic moment of the Grail Legend, when Parzival asks the question. Although it is not clear from Wolfram's version alone, there are two questions involved in the Legend. The first one, "Humanity, what ails thee?", directs us to the suffering inflicted on the world by those who are themselves deeply wounded. In other words, those who are wounded in their sense of humanity, wound and afflict the rest of humanity, physically, karmically, and otherwise. Parzival addresses this question to the wounded Grail king, Amfortas, the key patriarchal figure of the Grail Quest. It is crucial to understand that Parzival directs the question about suffering to the one who suffers. but who can neither die of the affliction, nor be permanently cured of it. Doing so, he confronts the pathological evil of the Paternal Lie at its source.

The Grail Legend is a family affair, but not exclusively so. For Parzival, knowing his personal history and the source of the paternal affliction freed him from family conditioning. (Munich Parzival ms., Cgm 19, showing Parzival, Fierefiz, and Amfortas, identified by lettered banners.)

Parzival's action is paradigmatic, as Mircea Eliade would say. It sets the example for all of us. The Quest teaches that in order to face the suffering of humanity at large, we each must address the wounds carried by people in our personal lives, especially parental figures. This is not to say that we reconcile with patriarchy or submit to parental authority and its codes and imperatives. Not at all. The Quest does not teach us to honor parental conditioning, but how to transcend it. To go beyond familial conditioning, we must look deeply into what it is, where it originates, and how it harbors a self-perpetuating pathology (codependency, in pop psych jargon). We must talk directly to the wounded paternal forebear about his suffering, for what he suffers is paradigmatic of the human species. In asking his uncle the first question, Parzival confronted the suffering inherent to his family situation. Through that confrontation, he came to terms with universal suffering.

Buddha's assertion that "all is suffering" — sarvam dukkham — is compatible with Parzival's first question. Eastern and Western wisdom are entirely consonant on this issue.

We are all deeply implicated in the wound of the Fisher King, the fatal affliction of patriarchal society. As long as the Grail family was isolated in the Wasteland, and the knight destined to ask the question had not yet done so, the family could continue to live from the rich resources of the Grail, but Amfortas could not be healed by the Grail, and those who were served by it could not offer its service to others. All this changed with the passing of the Grail to Lohengrin. What does this narrative tell us about the alternative history of the West? It indicates that at some time in the 10th century, a shift in the social life of feudal Europe allowed the noble intention of altruism to emerge in the privileged classes, and this shift led eventually to the birth of humanism in the 15th century. During those five centuries of transition, historical events reflecting the Grail Legend transpired in the Lowlands where the Lohengrin story is set. In fact, several late medieval sources relate that the Grail, considered as a physical relic, was taken to Bruges in central Belgium. There it was kept, preciously guarded, during the Flemish Renaissance.

Humanism dawned in the Lowlands where the Grail was guarded at Bruges, the Venice of the North.

Map of Bruges, 1572, Braun and Hogenberg

Today Bruges is little more than a Disneyesque tourist trap, but this medieval city with its charming canals populated with wild swans still exudes a mysterious aura that does not go unnoticed even to the unenlightened tourist. Like other cities in Belgium, Alsace and Germany, the town of Bruges traditionally celebrates the metiers or trades, such as shoemaking, tannery, tapestry, beer-making, iron-mongering, and so forth. The trades were occupied by working class people whose employment and rights depended on the privileged classes, consistent with the Lohengrin principle. Each trade had its heraldic emblem, imitating the heraldry of the Nobility. The point was so show that the nobility of decent labor was complementary to blood-based nobility. The medieval trade-guilds inspired the original trade unions or syndicats of Europe. True European socialism grew from the humanistic legacy of the Grail, reflected in the guild system. The system depended on a contract of honor and trust between the privileged classes and the common people who worked for them.

Now, we might well wonder, How could the Grail have been kept in Bruges in the 12th Century when it had been taken to India by Fierefiz in the 10th Century? Well, as many people have noted, there is not one single Grail, but a variety of Grails or facets of the Grail. From the 12th century onward, the Church of the Holy Blood in Bruges boasted a chalice containing drops of Christ's blood that acted in miraculous ways, as such relics are said to do. This shameless Christian flummery disguises the presence of a genuine Grail in the Lowlands in the centuries after Wolfram wrote Parzival. The genuine Grail preserved at Bruges was the impulse of social enlightenment modelled by the proto-humanist hero, Lohengrin.

The Grail that went to India and then Tibet was the ritual-liturgic expression of the original magic. It comprised a formula of cosmic timing, the lunar writing on the Grail that plays such a crucial part in the legend, and the psychodynamic practice of the Wish-Fulfilling Gem.

The Asian Grail Trail

There are a number of interesting parallels between the myth of Shambhala and the legend of the Holy Grail.
- Edwin Bernbaum, The Way to Shambhala.

In the far East, the Grail magic became formulated into the Kalachakra system, and, at the same time, it was internalized into the Wish-Fulfilling Gem, a yidam or magical image used in the "development stage" of Ati Yoga (Dzogchen). These are two remarkable instances of cross-fertilization between West and East.

The key Asian figure in the Kalachakra tradition was the monk Atisha (982 - 1054), a younger contemporary of Parzival and other characters in the hidden historical scenario of the Grail. Atisha's guru was Pindo who came from Java in the southern ocean. Honorifically, Pindo was called Kalki Shripala, the mystical figure "who introduced the Kalachakra tantra during the second half of Mahipala's lifetime," according to Taranatha's History of Buddhism in India. Mahipala was a Pata king who reigned from 988 to 1038. This historical fact is closely linked to the quasi-historical legend of Shambhala, because Kalki Shripala was one of the legendary regents of Shambhala, the mythical realm with which Prester John is associated. (See The Wheel of Time: Kalachara in Context by Geshe Lundrop Sopa, Roger Jackson and John Newman, p. 72 ff.)

Kalachakra practices involve closely guarded knowledge of cosmic and planetary time-cycles, divinations, and "mastery of the psychic powers" (The Wheel of Time, p. 75). One of the first known masters of the system was Naropa, who died in 1030 AD. His guru, Tilopa, was probably born in 988 AD, close to the moment of Parzival's attainment of the Grail, if we place the historical reflections of the Legend in the 10th Century. In The Life and Teachings of Naropa, H. V. Guenther devotes quite a lot of time to explaining the Wish-Fulfilling Gem which played a key role in the yoga system of Naropa. (Sucandra, the first King of Shambhala. The Way to Shambala, plate 5.)

The Arthurian equivalent to Shambhala is Avalon. Pagan revivalist Gareth Knight compares the vigils and adventures of medieval knights like Parzival and Gawain to Asian yogic practices, especially Tantric rites involving the serpent power, Kundalini. He argues that Arthurian chivalric lore, in some respects, at least, presents evidence of "the yoga of the west," although "this knowledge had not been adequately expressed in terms of the Western Mystery Tradition." (The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend, p. 128 and 187). Knight also notes that "the ancient Mysteries of the immediately pre-Christian era were one of brotherhood in more ways than is currently realized" (p. 56). This observation is consistent with Wolfram's story in which we meet knights from all corners of Europe, from Iceland to North Africa, not to mention the extension of the chivalric order into the Near East, and beyond.

The extraordinary cross-fertilization effected by the 10th Century passage of Grail magic to India is central to the plot of parallel history.

Gandhara and After

It is, of course, natural to wonder about direct contacts and exchanges between East and West — for instance, Did a Syrian-French member of the Grail family go to India around 1000 CE and meet Buddhist mystics such as Atisha, Tilopa, and Naropa? While textual evidence of such contacts does exist, such evidence is not the final proof of the truth of our story. The evidence is merely anecdotal, but the proof is in how we, here and now, connect with the pattern of events that comes to be revealed as we recognize and own the parallel history.

Many exchanges and contacts between East and West happened along the Asian Grail trail that led from Europe to Ghandara and then forked down into central India and northward into Tibet. Greek and Buddhist art and philosophy merged in Ghandara in the Hindu Kush after the expeditions of Alexander the Great. Historical evidence of contacts survives from the reign of Asoka, who sent Buddhist missionaries to Egypt. In the Reading Plan for the Nag Hammadi codices, I argue that the Book of Thomas the Contender is not a Gnostic work at all, but a Buddhist sermon on transience and desirelessness, likely to have been imported to Egypt via Ghandara.

Nagarjuna, the Buddhist teacher of Madhyamika, the Middle Way, taught at Nalanda University in the 3rd Century CE when the Mysteries first came under fire from Christian ideologues. His Gnostic contemporary Basilides used an idiom of thought that is almost indistinguishable from Madhyamika. Passages in Eugnostos the Blessed (NHC III, 3 and V, 1) could pass, line for line, for Nagarjuna's deconstructive discourse. It is more than likely that Buddhist scholars such as Nagarjuna taught in Alexandria, and, vice versa, that some Levantine Gnostics went as visiting scholars to the far East.

It is difficult to place Gnostics geographically, just as it would be difficult today to place "deans" geographically. Deans are tenured professors found throughout the widespread university system, including the ivy league colleges. Likewise, the gnostokoi were tenured specialists in spiritual matters who taught in many Mystery schools throughout Europa, North Africa, the Levant, and the Near East. One of the strongholds of Gnostic learning was Antioch in Syria. Let's recall that Gahmuret, Parzival's father, was a French knight living in Syria on lands ruled by the Anjou or Angevin dynasty.

Tracing the Asian Grail trail, Joseph Campbell says that an Arabic translation of the Sanskrit Panchatantra appeared in Syriac in the 10th century. The more one looks into this matter, the more it becomes evident that "the passage of literary matter in the Middle Ages from India to Europe was considerable" (Creative Mythology, p. 419.)

Simultaneous Events

So, there is ample evidence that Asian-European exchanges took place from the time of the Greek-Buddhist fusion in Ghandara, around 350 BCE, and continued into the 10th Century when the story of Parzival transpired. That is well over a thousand years. What is to be remarked in all this detail is simultaneity. The alternative history that leads beyond the Paternal Lie is a global story in which interwoven events happen at the same historical moment in different parts of the world. Such events are not normally included in the sequential historical record used by patriarchy to record and legitimate its faith-driven agenda of domination.

In alternative history, events that happen simultaneously are far more significant than events that unfold sequentially. As the vehicle of the Father God's plan for humanity, mundane history is a chronological account of events transpiring in sequence, and presumed to proceed by cause and effect —"just one damned thing after another," as Henry Ford tartly observed. But the hidden dynamic of alternative history is neither causal nor sequential. Chronological events may be symptomatic of the deeper, hidden pattern, but they do not determine it. What then does determine the flow of the "infrahistorical" plot, conceived in alternative terms? It is the success or failure in defining and actualizing humanitas as it emerges, moment by moment, age after age, always exhibiting a new profile with unique challenges and lessons to be learned, always presenting another chance for novelty, innovation, and higher adapatation.

By contrast, the chronological record of history over the last 6000 years shows a trajectory of increasing maladapation due to dominator cultures that overrule and repress more egalitarian, ecocentric ones. As urban civilizations arise, systems of social and behavioral control proliferate, and life complexifies, leaving people with more options and less judgement to make choices in a life-affirming way. Concurrently, human potential degenerates and the earth suffers increasing degradation that turns some areas into human-made wasteland. (The ongoing decline of humanity, by contrast to ascent and progress, is the dominant motif of all indigenous systems of timekeeping. In suggested reading for themes, see Richard Heinberg, Memories and Visions of Paradise for examples.)

Along with secret time-cycles, parallel history involves magical places that are linked, though never entirely identified, with geographic locations. Shambhala is such a magical place, but that does not preclude its being a physical place as well. According to Tulshi Rimpoche (cited by Bernbaum), the spectacular saddled peaks of Kangtega in the Himalayas are said to be a gateway to Shambhala. In Asian and Western folklore alike, terrestrial geography offers entry-points to the Otherworld. The prototype of Arthur's Avalon was Tir-na-Nog, the land of the Dreamtime in Celtic myth. Likewise, the Buddhist kingdom of Shambhala had its prototype in Bon religion. The hidden counntry of Omlolungring (shown above in mandala form) exists in the Otherworld and, simultaneously, interfaces with the physical world. A magical tower of many levels figures in Gawain's adventure in the land of the sorcerer, Klingsor. Both the Bon and Arthurian images do not represent imaginary places, but facets where imagination allows the passage from the physical world into other, inter-nested dimensions.

Visiting the places associated with magical locales, such as Kangtega in Asia or Tintagel in England, tunes the mind to the constant frequencies of the Legend. Parallel history is best remembered in these places, preserved in the memoria naturae, the memory of the earth itself.

Tintagel, England. Source: See: more images.

The alternative history of humanity is a kind of planetary folklore, a narrative of immense participatory appeal, not excluding touristic appeal. Its power does not reside in the predetermined certainty of the unfolding of God's plan in historical time, but in our intimate and voluntary participation in the self-actualization of the human species, defined and developed exclusively on human terms. For humanity there is no divine plan, but there is a process of self-direction that surpasses any plan. However, it takes a master narrative to engage the human imagination with the self-directional skills inherent to our species.

The Second Question

Once Parzival had asked the question that addressed his familial karmic link to universal suffering, another question came to his mind. This one concerned his own spontaneous enlightenment and deep inner understanding of the moral-creative magic of the Grail. To capture the sense of the second question, imagine that you are seated in the company of the Grail with Parzival standing right beside you. Before him, set on an ornate table, is the sumptuous wonder of the Grail — like a huge mound of gleaming, pearl-white ice cream. Parzival, holding an ice cream scoop, is about to dip into the mound. He stands right before you, and the Grail gleams within your reach. As Parzival leans forward with the scoop, he asks the second question, "How do I serve thee?" He puts the question, not to you, but to the mound of ice cream. He asks the Grail itself how it wants to be served, to be dished out.

Imagine a substance or supernatural source of power that communicates with those who are inwardly awakened to its presence. A substance that can tell those who encouter it how to transmit it, how to serve it up to others. What manner of miraculous substance is this?

Wolfram said that the Gral was a stone. Not a chalice or cup, such as occurs in Christian cooptations of the Legend. Not even a wide serving dish, as some versions of the Legend describe it. Yet in Wolfram's version the numinous Stone does act like a serving dish. It is a virtual cornucopia that pours forth healing serum and all manner of delicious food and drink. Wolfram did not invent this artifact, nor did he add the special effects. The Gral-Stone is a late medieval epiphany of the cauldron of Keridwen, the White Goddess of the pan-European Celts. It is an image of the suprabiological source of life on earth.

In some way it is, not just the magical vessel of the Goddess, but the body of Goddess herself.

The unimaginable has to be richly imagined. Pre-Christian traditions of a Grail stone that doubled as a serving dish were drawn from Celtic artifacts such as the Belenus "offering table." Like Wolfram's Gral, it comes complete with writing around the rim.

From the nature of the second question, we can infer that Parzival had a genuine mystical awakening in the presence of the Gral-Stone, whatever it was, but the Lohengrin sequel does not derive from this aspect of the Legend. Of the three currents that proceed from the Grail, one goes outward into the world, in the direction of social enlightenment, after the model of Lohengrin. This leads to Renaissance humanism. This is the noble philanthropic current, the path of service through privilege, with the Buddhist option of renouncing merit. It is the mundane, pragmatic, socially oriented expression of indigenous magic — the exoterically manifesting current from the Grail.

With Parzival's mystical realization, allowing him to pose a question to the Gral-Stone itself, other developments arise. Two other currents proceed from direct encounter with the supreme numen of indigenous magic. They are both deeply mystical and do not find expression in social life, but rather in anti-social trends, in esotericism, counterculture, and underground movements that tend to assume a cryptic and cultic character. Both of these currents deeply inform the plot of alternative history. They emerge through historical events from the 10th century onward, but they originate in earlier times. Unlike the social activist initiative represented by Lohengrin, which did not exist before the 10th century, the other two currents have an ancient provenance. But they come to a thriving expression in a unique manner after the pivotal moment when Parzival attained the Grail: 968 CE.

In parallel history, the reflections of these two currents are the European cult of Amor and the Great Work, the art of alchemy.

jll: Flanders March 2006

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