15. The mythological backgrounds of
the Grail can be traced back to the time of the Great Mother. In fact the Grail symbolizes
the Cosmic Womb, the Vessel out of which life is flowing and to which it is returning.
This notion possibly first materialized in India. Before having been spiritually
transcended, the Vessel simply represented the physical womb. Therefore, in India a temple
can be found, in which a natural womb together with a continuous flow of blood is being
venerated*. We may assume, that the image of the Womb has then travelled to the West. For
instance, halfway, in Persia, the castle of Takt-i-Takdis is said to have contained the
Grail. Once spread in the Middle East, the legend became interwoven with the existing
myths of the mystery religions. Expressions like "Womb of Astarte" for the Holy
of Holiest of the Jewish Temple during the time of Solomon, speaks volumes. During the
crusades the Knights Templar brought this wisdom under great secrecy - in Christian
disguise, because Mother-related worship was strictly forbidden by the Church - to their
home countries. In the Celtic regions the cauldron of the goddess Cerridwin - totally
independent from eastern influence - had been a symbol of the Great Mother as well. It was
the object of druidic worship for many centuries. Not surprisingly thus, that the two
traditions fused into one. It was to become the fertile soil in which the Grail story
* The menstruating yoni of the goddess Kamakhya
at Gauhati in Assam.
16. The Quest for the Grail has to be understood* as a
proces of individuation, in which the ego has to seperate from its Source in order to
eventually returning to it. The journey itself serves the integration of personality. As a
young boy Parcival (ego) is leaving his mother in order to become succesful in the world.
Through endless adventures - strengthening his ego on one hand, integrating his shadow on
the other - he eventually arrives at the Grail Castle. This castle belongs to the
"fisher king", an old sick and wounded man. Because of his illness the kingdom
is an infertile wasteland. This symbolizes the situation in which the ego - greedy for
power and control - has become alienated from its (lifegiving) Source**. This Source is
available, only the king is unable to make contact with it. This is illustrated by the
fact, that the Grail is kept in the castle all the time. Only somebody from
"outside" - a "fool" (somebody who still is in contact with his/her
true Self) - is able to heal the king. However, Parcival is so totally fascinated at the
sight of the Grail, that it doesn't occur to him to ask the king "what is ailing
him". With the result, that the other day he is thrown out of the castle.
* J.Shinoda Bolen "Crossing to
Avalon", 1994 HarperSanFrancisco
** According to matriarchal myths it is a sign
of a king (in matriarchy a king is only seasonal, symbolizing the coming and going of the
vegetation) refusing to die, not willing to give way to his successor.
17. It will take him another five years "in the
forest" (symbolizing the "dark night of the soul") before being able to
return to the Grail Castle. This time, having learnt his lesson, he doesn't forget the
crucial question. Once the connection is restored - of the paralyzed ego with its Source -
the king is healed, together with his kingdom. The Grail, symbolizing the lifegiving
Cosmic Womb, is sharing its abundance, making the land blossoming and green once again.
The story makes clear, that Enlightenment alone is infertile. Only if it is integrated
with compassionate insight, things will be healed. The combination of personal
integration, Enlightenment and compassion as three aspects of the same process, is unique
in the world*. No other tradition is emphasizing them the way the Grail legend does. After
having disappeared, its full glory has returned through the Vision of the Grail, revealed
to Han Marie Stiekema. One proof - among others - for its authenticity is exactly the
unity, described above. Nowadays we as well as society as a whole are all "fisher
kings". Our existential suffering is precisely the disease the fisher king of the
legend was suffering from. Obscessed by our ego and thus alienated from Heaven, earth and
the community we are "thrown upon ourselves", desperately looking for wholeness.
However, most "solutions" offered are partial at best. Only by acknowledging the
Great Mother as the Ultimate Reality - the life giving and taking Womb of the universe -
and realizing that becoming aware, integration - both personal and with our environment -
and selflessness are three indispensable aspects of the same process, we will find the
harmony we are longing for.
* See: Second
Coming/Vision of the Grail