A Path of Heart: Europe 2010

                                       

The hallmark of modern European tradition is indicated at a point in the Grail myth when Arthur’s knights, spreading out from the Round Table, declare that it would be a disgrace were they to journey into the ‘Dark Forest’ in a group. Each must follow the path of his own Heart, which is unique. This resolution stands in marked contrast to other spiritual traditions where masters or gurus have a path set out in advance and students measure their attainment in stages, relative to an ideal embodied by their teacher. For better or worse, that is not the modern ‘western’ way, which prioritises empowerment and individuation over conformity and regimentation.

It is important to realise that despite tensions this stress on individuation creates with regard to established traditions, it arises as an expression of Love and a commitment to the path of our unique destinies. The Church rightly anticipated that this principle would introduce chaos in relation to feudal political structures and it can be argued that rampant individualism achieved further chaotic expression through the forms of capitalist economics, colonial expansion and consumerism. Individuation was never individualism but it is why Arthur’s knights had to undertake a quest in the first place.

Individuation entails a fulfilment by individual persons of all that we might become in relation to the material and spiritual frameworks of our lives. These categories are ordered differently by different cultures. Nevertheless, fulfilment in relation to context is what Love – the dynamic path ordained by our innermost Hearts – inclines us towards, not rampant expressions of unqualified yang tendencies. Indeed, the Grail myth is precisely about bringing masculine yang energies into right relationship with the Sacred Feminine. The absence of such relationship is shown as a condition of the Wasteland, where nothing grows sustainably. A knight’s quest, however personal, is undertaken with regard to a symbol of wholeness and integrity that was decisively associated with the Divine Feminine and Her values.

The Chinese Tao Te Ching says ‘Know the male but keep to the role of the female’. Many centuries later, at a time and place where the knowing of the male had become dangerously pre-eminent in orders of human culture, a new mythology – that of the Grail tradition – arose to assert essentially the same thing: the female is our ‘parent’ form and links us into natural cycles of experience. Male quests were undertaken in relation to it, entailing cycles of departure and return. This matches the essential pattern of individuation: to set out on one’s necessary (yang) journey with a view to coming ‘Home’ one day, having achieved a sense of right relationship with regard to All That Is (yin, Constancy) while on the Way. At the highest level of realisation, it can be even seen as a paradigm for the journey of all existence/becoming (yang, light) in relation to the Constant of Being (yin, darkness).

It is precisely when the dark yin aspect of the Sacred Feminine becomes eclipsed and overlooked that the balance of the Tao is lost and Wasteland values prevail. Our Grail story presents specific instances of disrespect for the feminine: Gahrumet’s desertion of the Black Queen and Herzeloyde, the Red Knight’s outrage against Guinevere, Gurneman’s presumption in offering his daughter to Perceval and the rapacity of knights who lay siege to unattached ladies’ ‘castles’. These tendencies culminate in emasculation of the Fisher King who, wounded in his youth, lacks not only a Queen but also male erotic power and the ability to maintain Divine Order in his Holy Land. The land, thus deprived, becomes a Wasteland, such as we have made of our Planetary Mother.

The Grail myth charts a course for raising the consciousness of an enlightened ego to that of an awakened Heart. Its lessons were too abstract and remote from streams of popular experience for it to have widespread transformational impact in 13th century Europe but its enduring appeal shows that it addresses a potential human development of great significance. Now, when our whole species is called to awaken into Heart, it has a much broader currency and even more vital relevance. At the end of our modern cycle, indications given at its start can still help us plot a prudent course. The myth explains what was always trying to happen in the individuation process. Our problem is that we have forgotten how to see through its symbolic form.

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Gahrumet knows only how to fight. He is an embodiment of the alienated warrior. So, more subtly, is the Fisher King, whose service to Love also demands fighting enemies it projects. This causes a pagan knight to manifest in England. A generation later, Gahrumet having sown new seeds of division, the pattern repeats. This time two actual brothers ride against each other. We know this human story has been going on a long time but now there is a difference. Perceval has been to the Grail Castle. Raised in isolation by his mother, he has deep respect for feminine values of constancy and compassion. Feirefiz has been similarly formed. Thus when the sword breaks an alternative mode of relating becomes possible. The Fisher King never had that chance. Reared in his father’s image, he could see only enemy and opportunity, kill or be killed. He still can’t draw healing from a Grail procession that happens in his ‘castle’ every night. A broken man, he is divorced from Nature and the life of Spirit on Earth.

Eventually he is healed by Perceval’s expression of compassionate love. He dies as Grail King so a new King can be born, one who is pledged to protect and revere (the Constant of) the Sacred Feminine. It takes years of difficult experience for Perceval to achieve his marrying of innate compassion and mature understanding. Only his encounter with the Hermit – another archetypal source of wisdom cultivated outside the mainstream – saves him from bitterness and despair. His tenacity then, his constancy in pursuing the guiding impulse of his Heart – sets him back on a true path. Only at this point, bitterness and a tendency to isolation having been overcome, does his Shadow reflection appear. Feirefiz, engaged on a parallel quest to find out who he truly is, manifests and the legacy of a wounded father who knew only how to fight is enacted between unwitting brothers shaped by memories of a different Mother’s love. This gives them options other than killing or being killed.

It transpires that both gain access to the Grail, healing effects of death and maiming brought about by the Fisher King’s misadventure a generation earlier, when he killed his ‘brother’ (and part of himself) in an act of self-righteous disavowal. The reuniting of unwitting brothers also heals effects of alienation created by their father’s actions. Like the Fisher King, Gahrumet had the potential to realise such healing in himself but was unable to do so by virtue of determinations which sundered him from right relationship with the Sacred Feminine. The essence of the Grail Quest is to heal this sundering. Thus, following Perceval’s initiation as Grail King, Condwiramurs shows up with a new son (potential) he has never seen before. A right order of fe/male balance is restored and of this, new life is born. Perceval has known the male and kept to the role of the female, even though he had to break his Mother’s Heart.

This detail marks an element of avoidable tragedy. It shows how imbalance can affect women as well as men. Compare Perceval’s experience with a tale from the Native American tradition that describes what happens when it is time for adolescent boys of the village to undertake a journey that will help to make them men. Tirelessly, their mothers explain the perils and attractions of journeys to the South, East and West. On no account, they warn, should the youngsters go North. The boys conspire among themselves. They want to go where it is most dangerous and forbidden. At an agreed time, they steal away by night. Unknown to them, their mothers are gathered in the women’s lodge. This offers a commanding view of the road North, a place of Mystery and Big Teachings. Carefully, one of the mothers squints through an opening and turns to report that the little warriors are indeed heading North. Excitedly the mothers congratulate each other on a job of promoting individuation well done.

In our unbalanced culture, where women are wounded by men’s absence in different forms, boys are often denied knowledge of their fathers’ ways. Consider the young Perceval’s bewilderment when, as an innately gifted hunter, he kills a bird and finds himself tearful at the suffering this has caused. There is no-one who can hold up both sides of the sky for him, and this would most likely have been true even if his father were still present. His anguish at the apparent paradox that life must feed on life in order to thrive, is overcome only when a mystical vision of Unity Consciousness is achieved. We learn then to act from the compassion of our Hearts. ‘What ails thee Uncle?’ shatters a lie of apparent un-relatedness and unconcern. It restores Love to the centre of cultural life, allowing displaced elements to regroup around it.

When Perceval becomes Grail King he assumes the authority of his experience. This is valued over what he has merely been told. No longer a Fool swaddled in a Fool’s tunic, he becomes consciously innocent. He knows the wisdom of his Heart, which is universal, being one with every Heart. Such innocence is the accomplishment of a Divine Child who realises himself as such in time. It happens as a result of attaining sacred marriage between Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine aspects. Achieving this was always the purpose of his Quest. Jung’s psychology helps to clarify: most ‘marriages’, it advises, occur in the mode of a ‘false conjunctio’, where male and female are turned away from each other, joined only at the base of their spines. They carry the weight of the world on their averted backs, as Eve and Adam are said to have done following their expulsion from the Garden.

In true ‘conjunctio’, the man turns towards the woman. They are aligned at all chakra levels and all of life is held in their embrace. This already presents the image of a fulfilled Grail quest. The male has come back into right relationship with the Sacred Feminine in the basically female (yin) form of a Grail vessel, after the great yang adventure of his search. But what does Perceval go looking for? At first, it seems, his Mother, who passed with his childhood. What does he find? The Grail, an emblem of the Sacred Feminine, or Goddess. He goes searching for the Mother of his infancy but evokes the Goddess of his spiritual adulthood instead. His new office entails sacred marriage to her. But what prompted his search? He had no reason to go looking for a Goddess beyond the Mother who was always closely present. Indeed not, he left unwittingly about his Father’s business which was always to come back into right relationship with the Mother/Goddess. This is the essence of all yin-yang interaction. As with our Native American mothers, motivation runs deeper than is clear to youthful eyes, or modern ones which have forgotten heights and depths.

The procession, the outer castle, even the wounded king are all reflections of an inner process. These details would be of no consequence, no healing could take place, if Perceval didn’t already carry the pattern within. It is precisely lack of sophistication and conventional male training that underpins his openness to the promptings of his soul. Innocence promotes openness but suppresses discernment. Perceval needs to be disillusioned, betrayed out of childish innocence, to rectify this. He then needs to overcome bitterness and return to his task, innocent but no longer naïve. Fate obliges and he responds heroically. He is again called to ‘the castle’ – a place in his soul where the Water of Life (Goddess sensibility) runs freely – and on this occasion he is prepared to speak the truth of his Heart, accessing reserves of compassion that routine male training sets aside. This heals old, dysfunctional patterns of Kingship and inspires new ones. It makes renewed marriage with the Goddess possible and restores fecundity to the land. It is exactly what needs to happen in our time. Becoming aware of Perceval’s example facilitates this.

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The yang adventure of existence that we call modernity has almost run its course. The Mayan Calendar shows that even its excesses have not been mistakes. Rather they show that we have always been creators, albeit unconscious ones. Like Perceval, we have an option of becoming more conscious, and thus more consciously creative. We are inherently creators. We become conscious creators by becoming more conscious. Perceval’s modelling of conscious innocence provides a vital example in this regard.  It is his first nature to act from his Heart. His life is an expression of its love. Its purity was maintained because his mother removed him to a place of idyllic solitude, away from his father’s violent world.  His father’s ways are in him none the less. He hunts well without instruction and shows innate aptitude for war. At an appointed hour, he must break his Mother’s Heart. He has no choice in this. It is a matter of destiny.

When the time comes, an innocent, he doesn’t think to ask permission, nor consider that his leaving could have fatal effect. Without even the memory of his father to inspire he sets off. Arriving at Camelot, his innocent skill overcomes the fearsome Red (first chakra) Knight, releasing a power that he also trusts in innocence. This leads him to a teacher who sees through the Fool’s tunic. Even then, innocence tells Perceval that he doesn’t ‘love’ Gurneman’s daughter, despite the economic benefits a marriage would bring. Rather than inherit a ‘castle’, he resumes his adventure and meets a girl for whom he risks his life. Having ‘earned’ her in this way, he acknowledges an affinity (orphaned, same age) that blossoms into love. He has now entered into new relationship with the Feminine. As a result, a new level of innocence is born (first son). When he thinks to return to his Mother, he somehow knows that he must ask permission of the ‘Queen’ who makes him a King (sovereign man). This is already an improvement on his father’s record.

Again trusting instinct (horse), he is led to the Fisher King, who symbolises the part that most needs healing in the male. This encounter leads on to the Grail but healing fails due to conditioning and inexperience. Perceval’s spontaneity has been corrupted by a rule system that he lacks the awareness to transcend. Bewildered, he longs to know the beauty of the Grail again. This longing persists for twenty years, let us say, from youth into middle age. It is only when his loyalty to Condwiramurs has been proven (when he flees from sexual temptation at Gawain’s wedding) that his ‘pagan knight’ appears. A huge opportunity for healing is at hand. Their fight ends when the sword Perceval was given in the Grail Castle breaks at a crucial moment, as foretold. This too is a matter of destiny.

Prepared by years of knightly service, he is reconciled to a death he thinks must surely come but just as the Fisher King attracted a hostile adversary in his youth, so Perceval has attracted an ‘other’ who mirrors him. Talk confirms their affinity and they return to the wedding (scene of integration) together. This restoration of the natural (pagan) in Perceval provides the energetic impetus needed to grant renewed access to the Grail. Now the Hag acclaims him. The Hermit salutes tenacity which has changed ‘the law of God’: Feirefiz is admitted. His pagan nature sees that the Grail is not just an ethereal cup. The cup-bearer, a woman, is the miracle his eyes behold. It was not until centuries later that Dan Brown spelt out the message: woman as Goddess, bearer of the Christ Child and embodiment of the Sacred Feminine, is the Grail. The Church’s denial of the Goddess has long suppressed this awareness and caused the problem of the Wasteland.

In our story compassion prevails. The land is healed. Condwiramurs, a sexually active Goddess to whom the new Grail King is married, returns with a new son to express new generative potential. Gahrumet’s desertions are redeemed. The split they signify, between male and female aspects of Divinity, is also a split that underpins the agony of the Fisher King. It is healed when waters of compassion flow. And it isn’t, despite Dan Brown, just mothers of biologically distinctive Christ children – distinguished by exclusive Holy Blood or DNA – that qualify as sacred vessels. All children are Christ children as all women embody the Grail, including Condwiramurs and the cup-bearer whose virginal days are numbered if Feirefiz’s Christian zeal is any sign. Readmitting the Goddess means there is no longer a cultural need for sexual guilt, aggressive displacement or sectarian neurosis.

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A daring born of innocence gets Perceval to the Grail Castle first time around. He doesn’t even know he has an absent father when he leaves, and much less that his desertion of Herzeloyde repeats an earlier pattern. The Castle is a place in Perceval’s soul where a promise of integrity is locked away, hidden but preserved. He has never found it before and lacks experience to honour it with truthful words. He is depressed when his vision fades and he finds himself expelled. He now has direct knowledge of how it feels not to belong and yearns for a return on that account. His integrity was always incomplete, for he knew nothing of his father’s role. He stands as a cipher for alienated modern ‘man’ in this respect, lacking inspiration from an absent father/God and an estranged, abused Mother. Perceval has no idea of complexities involved, only a gathering sense of urgency around them.

His task is no longer to visit Herzeloyde. Condwiramurs has become the face of the Goddess for him now but he can’t return to her as long as his quest is unfulfilled. He can’t approach the Goddess without first finding right relationship in himself. She must trust his constancy while questing as he must trust hers at home. Innocence sustains him in this regard. He knows he hasn’t succeeded but doesn’t feel a sense of active shame. This doesn’t arise until acclaim by Arthur’s court threatens to bestow a knightly ego. Then the Hag appears and with her humiliation. This drives him back to solitude, now a wounded man in his own right. But the primal integrity of his early years remains. Bitter experience has come late so he is stung but not destroyed. The Hag also serves the Grail. She comes to deepen his quest. Perceval has no sense of this. Bitterness turns to disillusion as further years bring him no closer to his goal. He has despaired when his soul brings forth the Hermit on Good Friday, a dark time which presages resurrection.

Perceval needed to reach the abyss of cursing God. Only thus could the pattern of his journey become a template for everybody else’s. Awakened by the Hermit’s counsel, he returns to the promise of ‘wedding’. In essence still, he retreats from the ladies out of fidelity to his Queen. Then, having countenanced shame, faced despair and proven loyalty, he is ready for the dark secret of his soul. Feirefiz, his ‘other’, appears and is reconciled. The broken sword shows that early ‘failure’ was part of a design. The culture’s dissociation from pagan nature needed to be healed. Strengthened by this integration, Perceval is emboldened to return to wedding.  A path opens back to vision. Scattered parts come together again.

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Perceval could be any boy, an innocent who must grow to be sovereign. A first step is ‘killing’ his mother. Thus released he journeys North, open but also naïve. Experience curbs his naivete but threatens his openness. Innate compassion and a sense of destiny sustain him past bitterness. Attempted return to the mother of his childhood evokes a new face of the Goddess, a woman he has earned, a mother but also an age-mate and lover, his equal in authority and generative power. Any boy who would grow to be a King must find his way to Mother-beyond-mother, the Goddess in Everywoman. He must win independence and enter new relationship with her as an individuated man.

This is what Perceval attempts. His real quest is to discover the Grail as symbolic of Goddess integrity and as embodied by Everywoman. To complete this work a man – having won independence from one all-powerful woman must surrender to another – not in a mode of helpless relinquishment but rather of clarity and devotion. In such surrender he finds renewal and rebirth. This is necessary if the male is to be known and the role of the female adhered to. It is symbolic of the path of individuation in its dual aspects of breaking free and coming Home, renewed, with greater awareness.

This symbolic aspect is primary. Our tale doesn’t apply obviously to the case of a woman who journeys to express her masculine potentials in right relationship with her feminine disposition but it does counter gender polarisation. In modern cultures, men and women are seeking to integrate both masculine-assertive and feminine-receptive aspects of their human being. Although our story points this way, a new perspective is needed to demonstrate its relevance to issues of contemporary fe/male inner marriage.

This is readily accomplished in an age of psychology, for which myth used to double. Now, at the end of modernity, reflexive awareness encompasses knowledge of soul, making it as explicit as our sensitivity permits. A political reading would make all the points made so far. There are still lessons to be learned about how men behave in the world and the consequences of our behaviour. But myth projects from untold depths of soul. It isn’t about actual men or women but masculine and feminine potentials in both. The Grail story tells us now, because we are ready to hear, that all humans need to bring both potentials into right relationship within ourselves.

In order to achieve integral humanity, every wo/man must integrate their feminine and masculine aspects. A man must connect with the Sacred Feminine inside and around him. Inner transformation is required for this. Our yang aspect must make necessary journeys, remembering always to come Home. The same is true of any modern woman. She too is asked to individuate, to discover and deliver her gift. Perceval is a model for her also. In the course of achieving her integral humanity, she must make necessary journeys and remember to come Home, open beyond ego to the Goddess that she is, having found right relationship with the Divine Masculine inside her (1).

Condwiramurs is not an orphan just for purposes of needing to be defended. A much deeper affinity is implied. She too must be about her Father’s business, which – in mythological coding – means that she also has a destiny to fulfil. On this level of spiritual reading, the story is not suggesting that women must stay at home while men go off to have adventures and find Grails. It is not about actual wo/men but potentials found in all humans that need integrating if a right order of living is to be attained, within and without. This arrangement is a microcosmic reflection of the integral order of Cosmos, where yin-yang (fe/male) expresses fundamental polarity.

The spiritual imagining of 13th century Europe didn’t permit widespread realisation of this but we need to ‘get’ it now. Perceval’s exploits were fore-grounded because i) constancy doesn’t make news, ii) handling male aggression is a problem every culture needs to face, and iii) the yang aspect maps new paths by straying, or seeming to. Yin is the Constant. The Sacred Feminine is always present, everywhere, making Home simply by virtue of this. Modern men need to realise it in ourselves, and so do modern women, not instead of but in the course of necessary journeys. Inner marrying is a signal accomplishment of the spiritual warrior, male and female. Perceval is a model for all humans in this respect, operating out of innocence into greater wholeness.

Myth has to separate these elements because duality prevails in time but a deeper Unity Consciousness is also implied. That is what the symbolism of quest and (ever deeper) marrying points towards. Perceval is not an historical figure, nor is he meant to evoke one. The same is true of Condwiramurs.  He represents a masculine potential that is present in everybody’s soul and she a complementary feminine potential. In the 13th century duality ruled, and polarisation: yang/masculine was equated with male and yin/feminine with female. In the 21st century, we know this doesn’t work.

Depolarisation is under way. We must all realise this as a condition of achieving full human integrity. Girls too must ‘kill’ their mothers and leave home to find their way. The challenges of individuation apply equally to them. If they have no father to assist, they also must make good this deficit from within. Then a need to contribute their gift brings them Home, filled with new awareness and compassion. But what of the Grail itself, which has now been identified as symbolic of the Sacred Feminine, embodied by all women? This identification is correct. It signals a vital historical awakening and must stand. But it is not the whole story. There is a deeper mystery yet to unveil.

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The great yang wave of existence, the light show of our virtually infinite universe, arises as a dream of Being, out from un-manifest (yin) Void. The tai-chi diagram shows both waves in a state of balanced existence. It doesn’t show that both arise from unfathomable reaches of No-thing, whose dark imprint registers in the empty vastness even of atomic structure. Yin bestows form and holds it through existence, retreating into the hidden emptiness of every form it bestows. Yang is super-structure, that which is (visible) and ‘acts’ (per-forms).

It is the same with the order of a soul. Light codes which manifest as existence and equip us for it draw primary attention. But soul essence is woven from dark reaches of Void, heavy with the promise of Becoming. This is true whether the soul is that of a woman or a man. There is no avoiding Nothingness in the core of our Being. Light inflections create us at surface as vibrant, colourful, unique. The male inflection is one chromosome out of 46, a necessary supplement to parent female form. This suggests divine hindsight, an added stroke to speed the unfolding of Creation, making it throb with longing for a wholeness that was known elsewhere and before.

Outside existence, God is neither male nor female. Inside S/He manifests as one or the other, never both. Our efforts at love attempt to transcend this sundering in time. Only by becoming Love can we succeed. The dark ground of Nothing is always present behind superstructures of existence. The soul is mysterious, feminine and dark; not just in women but men too. We are all remembering this together now. Any wo/man, having focused their aggression towards a goal of recollection, is already in quest for the Grail of their feminine soul. This means that men also can embody the Grail (2).

We do so by raising memories of Goddess in ourselves, of the Divine Feminine as Mother-beyond-mother and Lover-beyond-compare. Achieving this ensures that we never wilfully mistreat another Goddess form again. Condwiramurs and Perceval are ciphers in this respect, not of 3D gendered types but of yin-yang spiritual dispositions intent on finding right relationship within the order of a unitary human soul (3). Its masculine aspect is dynamic, precarious and brilliantly insecure (4). It needs yin to hold form. Marrying the two is necessary in order that we may become integrally human in our own distinctive ways. The quest ends when we become light vessels for channelling love into all worlds. This is what it means to become the Grail.

Notes

(1) Many ‘strong, independent women’ skip this stage. Thus, while they may manifest projections externally, they never quite make Home or become Love.

(2) This can be seen clearly in the geometric structure of an activated human light body, as in Drunvalo Melchizedek’s Mer-Ka-Ba meditation, where only inversion of the tetrahedrons distinguishes fe/male forms. See ‘The Flower of Life’, Part 1.

 (3) They have ‘sons’ to indicate development. Yang drives evolution in time, including for women. This doesn’t mean the Feminine lacks developmental potential but that ‘she’ is beyond need of it.

(4) Think of all the sperm cells that never make Home, of boys who don’t come back from war and heroes who strut for fear of death.

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