Arthur Edward Waite

MYSTIC ASPECTS
OF THE GRAAL LEGEND


I

THE VICTORY OF THE LATIN RITE


IN the last paper there was put forward the hypothesis of the Celtic Church as it has never beeu expressed previously; nothing was diminished, and any contrary influences were offered so far emperately; but the issues are not entirely those of the Graal legend, and, in view of that which comes after, a few words in conclusion of the previous part may perhaps be said more expressly. It should be on record, for those who have ears, that the Welsh church, with its phantom and figurehead bishops, its hereditary priesthood, and its profession of sanctity as others profess trades, seems a very good case for those who insist that the first Christianity of Britain was independent of St. Augustine, which it was, and very much indeed, but on the whole we may prefer Rome.

When we have considered all the crazes and heresies, all the pure, primitive and unadulterated Christianities, being only human and therefore disposed to gratitude, it is difficult not to thank God for Popery. But it would also be difficult to be so thankful, that is to say, with the same measure of sincerity, if we were still in the school courses, and belonged officially thereto. I mean to say, although under all reserves, that there is invariably some disposition to hold a fluidic and decorative brief for Rome in the presence of the other assemblies. Let therefore those who will strive with those who can over the dismembered relics of apostolical Christianity; but so far as we are concerned the dead can bury their dead. We have left the Celtic Church as we have left carved gods.

A pan-Britannic Church may have been the dream of one period, and if so, seeing that it never came to fulfilment, we can understand why it is that in several respects the Graal literature has now the aspect of a legend of loss and now of a legend of to-morrow. The Anglican Church seems under the present aspect to recall for a moment that perverse generation which asked for a sign and was given the sign of Jonah. It has demanded apostolical evidences to enforce its own claim and it has been given the Celtic Church. Let us therefore surrender thereto the full fruition thereof. There may be insufficiencies and imperfect warrants in the great orthodox assemblies, but in the Celtic Church there is nothing which we can regret. The Latin rite prevailed because it was bound to prevail, because the greater absorbs the lesser.

On the other hand, but now only in respect of the legends, let it be said lastly that the ascension of Galahad is, symbolically speaking, without prejudice to the second coming of Cadwaladr. It does not signify for our purpose whether Arthur ever lived, and if so whether he was merely a petty British prince. The Graal is still the Graal and the mystery of the Round Table is still the sweet and secret spirit of universal knighthood.

Seeing, therefore, that wehave not found in the Celtic Church anything that suffices to account: for the great implicits of the literature and that the watchwords call us forward, it is desirable at this point to consider the position of our research at the stage which it has now reached. I have to justify my statements that

(a) the Graal is a legend of the soul, and is, in some respects, a history which is personal, namely, to all souls at a certain epoch of their experience;

(b) its root-matter is annalogous with that of mysticism;

(c) the chalice, to speak of that only which is the hallow-in-chief, is from the mystic standpoint, a symbol;

(d) a better explanation must be found for its feeding properties than has been so far offered by folk- fore;

(e) the four epochs of the legend-being (I) institution, (2) the Keepership, (3) the enchantments and wounding, (4) the close of the adventurous times- must be held to manifest in part the secret intention;

(f) the remanents of the Graal mystery must be sought not in a castle of the Pyrenees, not in a Spanish church, though there is one in that country which claims to have been its last custodian; nor in respect of its traces at Sarras, that is to say, at Cesarea, or elsewhere, but in certain instituted mysteries, the reflection of which remains to the present day. Before entering into the consideration of these matters, there is a word in fine to be said about official scholarship.

How admirable is the life of the scholar, how zealous the devotion which impels him, and how sorrowful it seems that it enters so seldom into his heart to have concern for the great subjects! Yet there is one respect in which he does excellent service towards things that are really important; he is in some cases devoted with great seriousness and all-ruling honesty to the elucidation of old literatures.

The work is often final, or tends in the direction of finality, when these literatures have no consanguinity- absit omen, in the name of all folk-lore societies!- with the decried mazes of mystic thought. With such possibilities on the hill-tops, the work on the lower ground is still precious, but it is necessary at times and seasons to dissent from the official conclusions and the official attitude, because it is not to be expected that scholarship- crowned with "the simple senses" and saying: "Omega, thou art Lord," to many phantoms which for us are mere idols- should be in touch with these possibilities, or should deal with them fully and justly. May it exercise in the present instance a certain reasoning tolerance towards an investigation which, in differing from its own, offers a grateful recognition of all that has been so far accompished!

II

THE MYSTERY OF INITIATION


Like those who said in expectation of an imminent onslaught: "Gentlemen of the guard, fire first!" I will now makewhat must be certainly considered a fatal admission, as follows: The great literatures and the great individual books are often at this day to the mystic as so many counters, or heaps of letters, which he interprets after this own manner and so imparts to them that light which, at least intellectually, abides in himself.

We know in our hearts that eternity is the sole thing which ultimately matters and true literatures should confess to no narrower horizon. It happens sometimes that they begin by proposing a lesser term, but are afterwards exalted, and this was the case with the Graal books, which were given the Perceval legend according to the office of Nature and afterwards the legend of Galahad according to the law of Grace.

Recurring now to the brief schedule of points which call to be dealt with and may be preferably taken at this, rather than at a later stage, I will make a beginning with that which comes last in the enumeration itself, because it is obvious that I can be concerned- for what it is worth- with simple affirmation only, and not with evidence.

There is behind the great quests a Mystery of Initiation and Advancement, to the nature of which I can approximate only in reviews and in printed books, but that which it is possible to say will be expressed, under proper veils, at the close of the present paper. The warant of it is in the secret fraternities which lie behind the surface-pageant of mystic literature.

At this day and for many generations backward, the great secret rites have been like the Rich King Fisherman, either wounded or in a condition of languishment, and it is for the same symbolic reason, namely, that there are few prepared to come forward and ask the required question, on account of the external stress and disillusion.

At the same time, they have been saying, after their own manner, for many centuries: Ask, and ye shall receive. If these statements can be tolerated on the faith of one who, from the writer's standpoint, has perhaps more to lose than to gain by making them, it will follow that the mystic element in the Graal literature cannot be understood at first hand by those who are unacquainted with the interior working of those secret societies of which the Masonic experiment, let us say, is a part only, and elementary at that. The important lights are not in printed books, but in the catholic motive which characterizes secret schools that have never entered into the knowledge of the outside world, and in the secret body of doctrine communicated by these.

It is there only that the student can learn why that sacred and mysterious object which is termed Graal is (I) A stone which is not a stone, and, like that of alchemy, at once a medicine and an elixir; (2) a cup of knowledge and a cup of memory; (3) a symbolic vessel or lamp, wherein is the light of the world and from which that light is transmitted. These memorials have been always in the world and their rumour has been heard always; in so far as the Graal literature can be called a concealed literature, there were other concurrent and more express witnesses, each of them claiming to draw from high authority in the past, in the main always oral but in part also written. III

THE LOST BOOK OF THE GRAAL


Now, if there is one thing which is clear from the whole literature, it is that the Graal romances claimed to follow some book which has not come down to us, and those who are concerned with such matters might, from the sole consideration of the texts, reconstruct in respect of its accidents the kind of apocryphal gospel which could have served as the proto-Graal book of the whole literature.

It would have comprised many curious elements, a few of which may be hazarded in this place: A, power of words, reflected perhaps through gnosticism from the old mysteries of Chaldea; B, Magical elements brought over by nomadic tribes deriving from Egypt; C, an eschatology with a motive akin to that of Origen; D, a special legendary interest in Pontius Pilate and Judas Iscariot; E, an expectation of the final redemption of Jewry symbolised bythe deliverance of an unfaithful disciple named Moses, who appears in the metrical Joseph and in the texts which follow therefrom.

This apocryphal gospel-book would, however, and above all, have included the particular great implicits which constitute the Graal literature. It may have been a manifesto of some secret sanctuary or school within the Church, of some hidden sect in Christendom, or some illustration of the Greater Mysteries of Initiation in Christian times. On this assumption, it contained materials and put forth warrants which, falling into the hands of romancers, or being heard Of indirectly and by rumour, were gravely misconstrued.

Indeed, this Sanctum Graal, this Vas insigne electionis, Calix inebrians, in a word, this Liber Gradalis was as much a mythical object to the putative hermit who wrote the Grand St. Graal as it was to Robert de Borron, who specifies his dependence upon this book but who may even have owed his acquaintance with its story to Walter Montbeliard, in whose service he tells us that he was. At what distance therefore he drew, whether, in the speculative case mentioned, his patron was clerk enough to read it in the Latin tongue, whether he, too, knew it by report only, as a tradition communicated in some order of chivalry, are things which we shall never know.

Walter Montbeliard was possibly a Knight Templar; he took the cross, as a consequence of which he died in the Holy Land, and it was subsequent to this that De Borron wrote his poem, or at least its concluding part. On his metrical romance there follows the early history of Merlin, and we can assume that its prose version is a moderately fair presentation of the lost poem. It has brought the mystery of all sanctity into a wild kingdom of the west and many centuries have elapsed, during all which period the Keeper of the Holy Graal has continued alive in the flesh, but serving absolutely no purpose, so far as any official church or the claims thereof are concerned.

From his secret place he exercises no pontificate; he ordains no one; he teaches nothing. His undeclared asylum is one of uttermost refuge, and the scribe of the enchanter and prophet is promised repose therein when he has completed his records. In the meantime, the only consequence following from the presence of the Graal in Northiimbria is that it enables Merlin to appropriate it in all obscure manner to his own use and to connect himself with it in every possible way.

What was to have depended from this we do not know, for the tertium quid of De Borron's trilogy is repeaented by a forged conclusion, or perhaps I should rather say, by an authorized transcript in prose, which reduced the whole cyde to complete nullity. Alternatively, if De Borron never produced his pars tertia et ultima, then the Didot Perceval is an attempt to fill the gap. Therein the secret words are indeed communicated to the questing hero, but the Graal is taken from his custody; no one knows what becomes of it; no one hears of his own fate; all the offices are voided. This, therefore, is the history of the Lost Book in the Lesser Chronicles- one doubtless of long and grievous misconstruction- from which one thing only arises- that there was a secret office of the Eucharist, but outside its custodians no one knew what it was.

On this cycle there follows that which begins with the Grand St. Graal, a work which, whoever was its author, recalls in so many ways the treatise De Nugis Curialium, written by Henry the II's archdeacon, Walter Map. It prsents to us great fictions to account for its origin, but it confesses in fine that it depends from a Latin source, or the hemit of the prologue rendered what he saw miraculously into that tongue. This is only another way of saying that the author spoke as he could of that which he had read or seen as little as Robert De Borron. Now, either a stream of continuations followed from this document or alternatively it constituted an introduction to these.

In the first case the continuations do not present conclusions which conclude, and in the second the limits of the existing texts are exceeded. Alternatively, there is a lost quest of Galahad which may have embodied so much of the Lancelot story as was necessary to its purpose, and no more. In any case, after all the stories have been told, all the adventures achieved, and "the dragon of the great Pendragonship" has been plunged in a sea of blood, we are left with the chief implicit of the cycle, allocated, as it must be irresistibly, to the Lost Book, still undeclared as to purpose. We have indeed the Galahad legend as presented in the Great Quest, forgetting all about Secret Words, all about Apostolical Succession, reverting apparently into the hands of the orthodox church, and thereby re-expressed as a great mystery of sanctity.

We must therefore set aside for the moment the question of implicits and see what we can make of this simply as a sacramental legend, having insufficiencies of its own kind, but still offering the second sense of the Eucharist amidst the decorations of allegory, the glory of spiritual chivalry and the enchantments of romance.

IV

THE MYSTERY OF FAITH


Now the mystery of faith in Christianity is above all things the Eucharist, in virtue of which the Divine Master is ever present in his church and is always communicated to the soul; but the Graal mystery is the declared pageant of the Eucharist which, in virtue of certain powers set forth under the veil of consecrating words, is in some way a higher mystery than that of the external church.

We have only to remember a few passages in the Grand St. Graal, in the great prose Perceval and in the quest of Galahad, to understand the imputed distinction as (A) the Communication in the Eucharist of the whole knowledge of the universe, from Aleph to Tau; (B) the communication of the Living Christ in the dissolution of the veils of Bread and Wine; (C) the communication of the secret process by which the soul passes under divine guidance from the pageants of this world to heaven, the keynote being that the soul is taken when it asks into the great transcendence. This is the implied question of the Galahad legend, as distinguished from the Perceval question.

There are those who are called but not chosen at all, like Gawain. There arethose who get near to the great mystery but have not given up all things for it, and of these is Lancelot. There is the great cohort, like the apocalyptic multitude which no man can number- called, elected and redeemed in the lesser ways by the offices of the external Church- and of these is the great chivalry of the Round Table.

There are those who go up into the Mountain of the Lord and return again, like Bors; they have received the high degrees, but their office is in this world. In fine, there are those who follow at a long distance in the steep path, and of these is the transmuted Perceval of the Galahad legend. It is in this sense that, exalted above all and more than all things rarefied into a great and high quintessence, the history of the Holy Graal becomes the soul's history, moving through a profound symbolism of inward being, wherein we follow as we can, but the vistas are prolonged for ever, and it well seems that there is neither a beginning to the story, nor a descried ending.

We find also the shadows and tokens of secret orders which have not been declared in the external, and by the strange things which are hinted, we seem to see that the temple of the Graal on Mont Salvatch is not otherwise than as the three tabernacles which it was proposed to build on Mount Tabor. Among indications of this kind there are two only that I can mention.

As in the prologue to the Grand St. Graal, the anonymous but not unknown hermit met on a memorable occasion with one who recognized him by certain signs which he carried, giving thus the unmistakable token of some instituted mystery in which both shared: as in the great prose Perceval we have an account of five changes in the Graal which took place at the altar, being five transfigurations, the last of which assumed the seeming of a chalice, but at the same time, instead of a chalice, was some undeclared mystery: so the general as well as the particular elements of the legend in its highest form, offer a mystery the nature of which is recognized by the mystic through certain signs which it carries on its person; yet it is declared in part only and what remains, which is the greater part, is not more than suggested.

It is that, I believe, which was seen by another maimed King when he looked into the sacred cup and beheld the secret of all things, the beginning even and the end. In this sense the five changes of the Graal are analogous to the five natures of man, as these in their turn correspond to the four aspects of the Cosmos and that which rules all things within and from without the Cosmos.

I conclude therefore that thc antecedents of the Cup Legend are (I) Calix meus quam inebrians est; (2) The Cup which does not pass away; (3) The vas insigne electiorns. The antecedent of the Graal question is: Ask, and ye shall receive. The antecedent of the enchantment of Britain is the swoon of the sensitive life, and that of the adventurous times is: I bring not peace, but a sword; I come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it should be enkindled?- The closing of these times is taken when the Epopt turns at the altar, saying Pax Dei tecum. But this is the peace which passes understanding, and it surpervenes upon the Mors osculi- the mystic Thomas Vaughan's "death of the kiss "- after which it is exclaimed truly: Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth and for ever. It follows therefore that the formula of the Supernatural Graal is: Panem coelestem accipiam; that of the Natural Graal, namely, the Feeding Dish, is: Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie; and the middle term: Man doth not live by bread alone. I should add: These three are one; but this is in virtue of great and high transmutations.

V

THE DECLARED MYSTERY OF QUEST


And now as the sum total of these mystical aspects, the desire of the eyes in the seeking and finding of the Holy Graal may, I think, be re-expressed as follows:--

Temple or Palace or Castle- Mont Salvatch or Corbenic- wherever located, and whether described as a wilderness of building, crowded burg or simple hermit's hold-there is one characteristic concerning the Graal tabernacle which, amidst all its variations in the accidents, is essentially the same; the Keeper of the great hallows has fallen upon evil days; the means of restoration and of healing are, as one would say, all around him, yet the help must come from without; it is that of his predestined successor, whose office is to remove the vessel, so that it is henceforth never seen so openly.

Taking the quest of Galahad as that which has the highest significance spitually, I think that we may speak of it thus:- We know that a that in the last analysis it is the inward man who is really the Wounded Keeper. The mysteries are his; on him the woe has fallen; it is he who expects healing and redemption. His body is the Graal Castle, which is also the castle of Souls, and behind it is the Earthly Paradise as a vague and latent memory.

We may not be able to translate the matter of the romance entirely into mytical symbolism, since it is only a rumour at a distance of life in the spirit and its great secrets. But, I think, we can see that it all works together for the one end of all. He who enters into the consideration of this secret and immemorial house under fitting guidance shall know why it is that the Graal is served by a pure maiden, and why that maiden is ultimately dispossessed. Helayne is the soul, and the soul is in exile because all the high unions have been declared voided- the crown has been separated from the kingdom, and experience from the higher knowledge. So long as she remained a pure virgin, she was the thyrsis-bearer in the mysteries, but the morganatic marringe of mortal life is part of her doom.

This is still a high destiny, for the soul out of earthly experience brings forth spiritual desire, which is the quest of the return journey, and this is Galahad. It is therefore within the law and the order that she has to conceive and bring him forth. Galahad represents the highest spiritual aspirations and desires passing into full consciousness, and so into attainment. But he is not reared by his mother, because Eros, which is the higher knowledge, has dedicated the true desire to the proper ends thereof. It will be seen also what must be understood by Lancelot in secret communication with Helayne, though he has taken her throughout for another. The reason is that it is impossible to marry even in hell without marrying that seed which is of heaven.

As she is the psychic woman, so is he the natural man, or rather the natural intelligence, which is not without its consecrations, not without its term in the great transcendence. Helayne believes that her desire is only for Lancelot, but this is because she takes him for Eros, and it is by such a misconception that the lesser Heaven stoops to the earth; herein also there is a sacred dispensation, because so is the earth assumed. I have said that Lancelot is the natural man, but he is such nearly at the highest; he is born in great sorrow, and she who has conceived him saves her soul alive amidst the offices of external religion. He is carried into the lesser land of Faerie, as into a garden of childhood. When he draws towards manhood, he comes forth from the first places of enchantment and is clothed upon by the active duties of life, as by the vestures of chivalry.

He enters also into the unsanctified life of sense, into an union against the consecrated life and order. But his redeeming quality is that he is faithful and true, because of which, and because of his genealogy, he is chosen to beget Galahad, of whom he is otherwise unworthy, even as we all, in our daily life, fall short of the higher aspirations of the soul. As regards the Keeper, it is certain that he must die and be replaced by another Keeper before the true man can be raised, with the holy things to him belonging, which hallows are indeed withdrawn, but it is with and in respect of him only, for the keepers are a great multitude, though it is certain that the Graal is one.

The path of quest is the path of the upward progress, and it is only at the great height that Galahad knows himslf as really the Wounded Keeper and that thus, in the last resource, the physician heals himself. Now this is the mystery from everlasting, which is called in the high doctrine Schema misericordiae. It is said: Latet, aeternumque latebit, until it is revealed in us, but as to this: Te rogamus, audi nos.

Scanned from the periodical "The Occult Review", Vol. VI, No. 2; Aug., 1907.





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