The Riddle of the Grail

I’ve long been interested in perplexing mysteries: the pyramids of Egypt, UFOs, Atlantis. If it was mysterious I was all over it. And if no one knew the answer—as they inevitably did not—then the mystery intrigued me all the more. Because that meant my answers were likely to be as right as anyone else’s. The best mysteries are democratic like that. So, naturally, tales of King Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table was precisely my kind of thing. My real attraction to Arthurian legend, though, was not so much Arthur or even the wondrous Camelot. Rather, it was the great enigma pursued by the king and his knights: the riddle of the Holy Grail.

Over the years I had done a lot of reading on the subject. As one might guess there are all kinds of theories and fantastic speculations about the Grail and its origins. In at least one of those traditions the Grail is not a cup at all but a stone, and this stone is associated with Lucifer. This particular tradition maintains that a sacred gem was dislodged from Lucifer’s crown upon his Fall from heaven. Lucifer, contrary to later Christian tradition, is associated with wisdom, the attainment of knowledge, and enlightenment. This is reflected in the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden. For this reason a number of secret societies, who down the ages also sought enlightenment, honored Lucifer as their patron. In Latin the name Lucifer translates as Bearer or Bringer of Light.

But I stray from my point.

It was about five years ago that I happened across a Grail story I had not encountered before. It was about sir Galahad. In this tale Galahad finds himself on a remote island. The island was called Sarras. On that island was a city which was also called Sarras. It was here in the city of Sarras that Galahad, after years of questing, had at long last laid hold of the object for which he had searched. He takes up the cup, gazes into it, and is instantly spirited up to heaven. He dies on Sarras having successfully completed his arduous quest. But it’s funny how quirky little things can sometimes lead us to great answers. In this case it was a grammatical quirk in the story. I noticed the word “Sarras” was a palindrome, and although I found that interesting it was a few days yet before an idea would occur to me. I wrote down the word on a piece of paper. I took a pair of scissors and cut the word in half right between the two Rs. I then took a hand mirror and placed one half of the word against the mirror. Because Sarras is a palindrome what the mirror revealed was the other half of the word, thus completing the word entire—SARRAS. This experiment led to an insight.

Upon reading the Galahad story the reader is left to ask a question. The question is: What did Galahad see when he peered into the Grail? The insight from the mirror revealed that what he had witnessed in the cup was his own reflection staring back at him. Galahad discovered in that moment that he is divine and immortal. Thus, he realized Christ's words in the Gospel of John: “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” This, of course, is a reference to a similar passage in Psalms.

Many of the Grail stories we’re familiar with today were significantly shaped—though not originally derived—starting around the 12th century and were heavily influenced by Gnostic traditions; traditions which held that all people bear within them the spark of divinity. But it is up to the people, these same traditions tell us, to realize this truth for themselves. The idea of the Holy Grail serves as a tool to lead those who quest after it to this realization. But what the quester also discovers is that a literal cup is unnecessary and never existed in history. The Grail is a spiritual concept to be grasped rather than an object to be obtained. It's the stories that are important, for it is through the stories that the mystery has been preserved and passed down to posterity.

I believe there is yet another pivotal concept underlying the Grail myths, an idea clamoring for its day in the sun. It was for the heretical nature of this idea that the Albigensians, the Gnostic-steeped Cathars of southern France, were in the early 13th century put to the sword by the prevailing religious authorities. Its time is not yet arrived. But if the suggestive smoke signals on the Mythicist horizon is any indication of things to come, its day under a glorious sun is fast approaching.