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Alexander Shepard

May 29, 2010.

Primordial Traditions.

In Search of the Grail

The Grail is familiar to many in the western world; to some it is an icon of

literature and to others a source of comical amusement thanks to Monty Python and the

Holy Grail. Little does the modern west know that the Grail represents the knowledge

gained at the end of an inward spiritual journey, knowledge that is gradually lost through

the concealment of Solar spirituality, through the Yuga Cycle and its microcosmic

repetitions within each cycle.

Addressing the prejudices

What first must be done is an analysis of the basis for the Grail legends. Once a

satisfactory explanation as to the origins of the Grail has been established, the symbolic

meaning of the Grail and connected artifacts shall be examined. The next task at hand

will be to examine the time period when the Grail legends were being written, and

examine the groups connected to it.

Before any of those tasks can be accomplished one on ought to take into

the consideration the thoughts of the Italian nobleman, metaphysicist, historian, scholar,

poet, and political theorist Julius Evola. Evola demanded that a number of prejudices be

1
eradicated before a study of the Grail can be done.1

The first prejudice to be considered is the Literary Prejudice, which is the

tendency especially prevalent in modern times to examine poetry, mythology and

literature with the impression that traditional works of literature are meant to be literal, or

considered allegorical. In terms of only representing such things like the sex or

contemporary politics.

I am referring to the bias displayed by those who regard romances and legends
merely as fantastical and poetical works, whether of an individual or collective
authorship; these people deny anything that may have a higher, symbolic value that
cannot be regarded as an arbitrary creation. It is precisely this higher, symbolic, objective
and super-individual element that constitutes the doctrines core of sagas, legends, myths,
adventures feats, and epics of the traditional world.2

The mentor of Julius Evola, the metaphysicist, mathematician, historian,

philosopher of science, and comparative religion scholar Rene Guenon wrote extensively

on the symbolic value of ancient symbols that are too often mistaken for being literal;

ranging from the Grail, to the tree, stone, swastika, cross, sword, lance and countless

other motifs. As time progressed, the tendency to pervert the true meaning of esoteric

symbols became more popular. In Guenons first book, Introduction to the Study of

Hindu Doctrines, he identifies this problem while discussing the Greeks.3

The esoteric branch, by bringing to light the deeper meaning which the exoteric
branch contained only virtually, developed and completed the doctrine which the latter
had expounded in a rather vague, over-simplified, and sometimes more or less symbolic
form although with the Greeks the symbol too often came to posses a purely literary and
poetical character which caused it to degenerate into mere allegory.4

1
Julius Evola, The Mystery of the Grail, Initiation And Magic In The Quest For The Spirit, Inner Tradition
International, Rochester Vermont, 1997, 1-13
2
Ibid
3
Rene Guenon, 2nd edition, Introduction to the study of Hindu doctrines, Sophia Perennis, Hillsdale NY,
2004, 107
4
Ibid.

2
What next must be eliminated is what Evola referred to as the ethnological

prejudice. This is essentially the habit of examining possible sources for the Grail and/or

similar stories found in Indian, Chinese, Ancient European, or Middle Eastern cultures,

and coming to the conclusion that the Grail belongs exclusively to one culture. Whatever

the original source for motifs in folklore, the medieval European grail is ultimately

derived from a multitude of sources.5

Essentially, what both the literary and ethnological prejudice lack is an

acknowledgement of the over-embracing, unique science of metaphysics, and what it

furnishes, that being the sacred, symbolic, and super-historical. In the modern profane

reign of quantity, the journey of the spiritual traveler has been forgotten, and the accounts

of such journeys have been reduced to conceptions of political allegory and sexual

symbolism.

The hidden

Now, freed from two of the prejudices that dominate the western world, the motifs

of spirituality must be discussed. It should be noted that the Grail is similar to the vast

majority of religious traditions in the world, the commonality being that it contains

hidden, concealed, forgotten, or lost knowledge.6 This is a common element in virtually

all traditions that had contact with high medieval Europe, and ultimately all notable

traditions of humankind.7

Two Pre-Christian myths which posses this very motif include the Greek

myth of Kronos, the father of Zeus, who was said to lie asleep under the ocean after
5
Ibid
6
Rene Guenon The Essential Rene Guenon, World Wisdom and Sophia Perennis, Bloomington Indiana,
2009, 201
7
Evola 6-8

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having been castrated by his son. Similarly, in ancient Druidism the ancestor of human

kind was the God of the dead who lives on inaccessible islands in the center of the

ocean.8 In another corner of the world, there exists a similar story of a god-King in

Hinduism named Mahakasyapa, who lies slumbering under a mountain, and at the end of

times shall reawaken and usher in a new era of peace. In many traditional cultures, divine

or near-divine rulers were said to enter into disappearance upon death, instead of actually

dying.9 In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Grail was said to have been crafted

from a gem that was cut out of Satans head when he was banished from Paradise. The

gem was given to Adam when he lived in the Garden of Eden after the rebellion of the

angels. When he and Eve were cast out, the Grail was lost to him as well. Seth, Adams

progeny, was said to have gained re-entry into Eden and to have recovered the sacred

vessel.10 Significantly, Seth remained in paradise for 40 years. The number 40 is itself a

mystical motif; Moses wandered for 40 years in the desert, with Noah on the ark 40 days

and nights,11 for Jesus was tempted for 40 days.

The Yuga cycle

Complementing the motif of the hidden knowledge, every tradition has a

description of how this knowledge became lost.12 Celtic Paganism and Hinduism have

very similar descriptions of the concealment in terms of a cosmic or Yuga cycle. In Celtic
8
Evola 24
9
Evola 38
10
Ibid
11
Saint Augustine even said that earthly paradise lay untouched by the waters.
12
Guenon, The Essential Rene Guenon, 201

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and other pre-Christian paganism, the original inhabitants of Europe were gods. This age

is generally known as the Solar age. The Solar gods eventually were replaced and/or

overthrown by lesser deities whose power was merely a reflection of the superior deities;

this phase was generally known as a Lunar or Silver age. Following the Lunar age was an

age called a Bronze age, which is an age of giants, wolves or elemental spirits that fought

and rebelled against the divine beings and sacred heroes who served the deities. Finally

the giants were overthrown by modern day humans, ushering in an Iron Age, or as it is

known in Hinduism, the Kali Yuga.13 The influence of this on the Grail can be seen

simply by the legend in which the grail seekers specifically needed the Grail to dispel

magic that was plaguing the countryside.14

The downfall of western civilization

Within each Age, the process repeats itself microcosmically with in each cycle of

the Yuga. For instance, one can see the secretive and spiritual nature of classic European

Paganism as a reflection of the reign of our Solar or Golden ancestors. Rene Guenon

13
Evola 25-29
14
Evola 30

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writes. Pure metaphysics is neither pagan nor Christian, but universal; the ancient

mysteries were not paganism, but were superimposed on it.15

If classic paganism was, for at least most of its existence, a reflection of the

Golden age, then the institution of Catholicism is no doubt the Silver or Lunar

replacement. Some Catholic theologians denied the very existence of the Grail. The age

of the giants, wolves, and elemental beings was no doubt reflected in the Protestant

Reformation, for giants in the aforementioned mythologies serve a love-hate relationship

with the solar and lunar deities. In some cases they are faithful warriors, guarding the

grail and serving their superiors loyally, until they revolt against their divine superiors.16

Any insurgence of a wild and materialized virility against such spiritual forms
characterizes the Bronze Age. This age is characterized by the degradation of the warriors
caste and by its revolt against him who represents the spirit, insofar as he is no longer the
Olympian leader but only a priest. The Bronze Age is also marked by the unleashing of
the principle proper to the warriors caste, namely, pride, violence, war.17

In addition to being defined by the warrior spirit of pride and war, fundamentalist

Protestantism that arose in the Reformation, had at best a tenuous connection to the Lunar

aspect of spirituality, let alone to the universal, superior, Solar aspect of Tradition. Rene

Guenon writes.

15
Rene Guenon, The Esoterism of Dante page, 2nd English edition, Sophia Perennis, Hillsdale NY, 201 3.
16
Evola 19.
17
Ibid.

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Protestantism, in which simplification takes the form both of an almost complete
suppression of rites, together with an attribution of predominance to morality over
doctrine; and the doctrine itself becomes more and more simplified and diminished so
that it is reduced to almost nothing, or at most to a few rudimentary formulas that anyone
can interpret in any way that suits him.18

One such legend of Irish origin seems, if these symbols are true, to describe the

crumbling of western spiritual hierarchy. The legend tells of a race of divine beings in

their Lunar/Silver cycle. In order to construct a fortress the gods turn to the giants to help

them. Once the fortress is completed the giants as a reward want the sun, moon, and the

divine woman.19 The divine entities refuse the giants demands because they are

unreasonable. After the Bronze entities have their reward denied, they revolt against the

gods and defeat them.20

In one legend, a Christian King named Amforus battles a Pagan knight who is

guarding the Grail. The Pagan throws his lance and castrates the Christian. In the end

Amforus is successful in gaining control of the Grail from the Pagan. Due to the injury

however, Amforus is inefficient in guarding the Grail. Recalling what was said about the

universal doctrine of ages, Paganism has already been shown to be a Solar religion,

while Catholicism was the inferior Lunar replacement. What sheds more light on this is

the fact that those who looked for and possessed the Grail were not Christians, but Pagans

who were friends of the Christians or practitioners of esoteric Solar spirituality who

aided the exoteric Lunar institution.21 One such Pagan is named Joseph, who in some

legends fills his bowl for 40 years with Christs blood while in captivity and in other

18
Rene Guenon, The Reign of Quantity and Signs of Times, 4th revised edition, Sophia Perennis, Hillsdale
New York, 2004, pg 77
19
The symbolism of the sun and the moon has already been elaborated on; the symbolism of the woman
shall be later explained.
20
Evola 26.
21
Evola 74

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versions fills the bowl with Christs blood during the crucifixion.22 Another trusted friend

to the Christians is a Pagan named Olgier who marries the supernatural sister of King

Arthur23. He and his wife settle in the mythological Avalon, Island of the Immortals, until

the archangel Michael entrusts Olgier with a mission that he is forbidden to reveal to

anyone. After a brief failure, Olgier completes his mission and returns to Avalon were he

would remain hidden until the 7th time Christendom shall need him again.24

Symbolism of women

Another piece of the grail story is that woman already possessed the Grail, while

men had to go look for it.25 On the surface this seems to make the Grail look like a mere

sexual symbol. However this is just another piece of evidence that Europes mystics were

in contact with the Solar side of spirituality, the kind practiced by their Pagan ancestors.

Most of Europes ancient deities have a divine bride from which they derived their power.

The term sakti that was used for the gods brides literally means both bride and

power.26 An ancient roman legend told of a woman who would bring men to a

mysterious Island, and her love would turn them into woman and immortalize them.27

Perhaps this sexual symbolism does indeed have a grain of truth to it. The

famed religious historian and philosopher, Mircea Eliade, wrote extensively on the

symbolism of sexuality itself.

22
Evola 55
23
gains spiritual power, the symbolism of woman shall be explained later
24
Evola 44-50
25
Evola X
26
Evola 21
27
Evola 22

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In tantraism (mystical hinduism) woman ends by incarnating Pakriti (=nature) and
the cosmic goddess, Shakti, while the male is identified with Shiva, the pure, motionless,
serene spirit. Sexual union (maithuna) is above all an integration of these two principles,
cosmic nature energy and spirit.28

Even in the Abrahamic tradition, the women were often used to symbolize

spiritual power. The name of Eve literally means life as well as the living one.29 The

holy spiritual was also sometimes described a woman or a feminine force.30 The

considerations of the role of women in spirituality how ever, go well beyond the scope of

this paper.

Symbolism of the Lance

Accompanying the legends of the Grail, there is almost always also a Lance31

which was often thought of as the Lance that stabbed Jesus when he was on the cross.

The Lance seems to juxtapose the Grail; the Grail has a healing power, while the Lance

causes wounds that can only be healed by the Grail or the blood that flows from the

wound. Specific examples of this include a knight named Pellan. Pellan became wounded

in the thigh by the lance and could only be healed by the one possessing the Grail.32 A

similar legend involves a knight named Nescien, who was stabbed by the Lance for

wanting to get too close to the Grail. The injury leaves him temporarily blinded in

addition to being critically injured; however, the very blood that gushes from the Lance

wound heals him when the Lance is removed from his body.33 What the Lance and blood

symbolize is the first stage of initiation, which is the first entry so to speak into the inner-
28
Mircea Eliade The Sacred and the Profane, Harcourt Inc, Orlando Florida, 1987, pg 171
29
Ibid for both names Life and Living one
30
Ibid
31
Guenon, The Essential Rene Guenon pg 201
32
Evola 82-84
33
Ibid

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spiritual world.34 What can further be cited in support of this is a legend in which a knight

named Percieval gains entry into a mysterious castle, and when he is seated at the dining

table a squire enters the room carrying the Lance with blood dripping from it; following

the Lance comes an array of women, the last and most powerful of whom carries the

Grail.35

In the stages of initiation, once one has spilt blood it is often said that one then

possesses the ability the ability to talk to birds. If blood is understood as the inner

spiritual realities, then birds should be properly understood as what the Christians of the

middle ages believed inhabited those dimensions, angels.36 Perhaps the squires of the

castle aforementioned represent the same thing.

The Grail in other forms

Legends of the same time period speak of other objects with the same types of

powers that the Grail had. Most significant, perhaps, is a legend involving the mythical

King Prester John, who sends the Emperor Frederick three magical stones. In some

versions the stones are individual, in others they are conjoined in a ring. However they

are of no use, because Frederick is only concerned about their material worth. The three

stones possess the power of invisibility, invincibility, and the ability to breath underwater.

The ability to become invisible represents the ability to penetrate the spiritual world, the

power of invincibility represents the ability to complete the journey, and the power of

breathing underwater represents the ability to survive the journey.37

34
Ibid and Guenon, The Essential Rene Guenon
35
Henry Osborn Taylor, The Medieval mind, Macmillian and Co, London, 1927, 11
36
The Language of the birds, Studies in Comparative Religion, Vol. 3, No. 2, Spring 1969, no page
number listed.
37
Evola 43

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Dantes Divine Comedy possesses many similarities to the adventures of the Grail

knights; it is reasonable to believe that Dantes spiritual ascension symbolizes a spiritual

path through Metaphysical reality.38 Dante himself belonged to a secret, spiritual society

of mystical poets that was highly influenced by the Sufi Ibn Arabi.39 Similarities include

having a non-Christian Pagan and a woman as his spiritual guide.40 Dante and the Grail

knights both began their journeys in the center of dark forests and both present scathing

criticisms of the church in their symbolic journeys.41 Another

minute aspect worth mentioning is the significance of there being 12 knights of the Grail;

this of particular importance because the motif of the number 12 is in virtually every

tradition, ranging from the 12 supreme Olympian gods, to the twelve stumps of the

Delphic center, the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, the 12 signs of the zodiac.42

The location of the Grail

The Grail, or Grail like object is generally located in the center of a floating or

rotating center, which is almost impossible to enter. To gain entry into the castle one

must be loyal, brave, and trustworthy.43 Julius Evola writes:

38
Ibid
39
Rene Guenon Insights into Islamic Esoterism and Taoism, 1st English edition, Sophia Perennis, Hillsdale
NY, 2003, pg 43
40
Evola 19
41
Evola 52
42
Evola 33-34
43
Evola 33

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Arthurs is a kingdom separated from the human world by a large river, and it can
be accessed only by crossing a dangerous bridge. This Kingdom is defended by giants; in
it there is a castle that is constantly revolving. In this castle, which is called regal castle
(Caer Rigor) or rich mens castle (Caer Golud), there is a supernatural vessel that
according to the tradition of The Spoiling of Annwn, was taken by King Arthur to the
other world. This vessel-which, like the Grail in the castle of the rich king, is a
facsimile of the vessel Dagde, one of the symbols proper to the hyperborean tradition of
the Tuatha de Danaan- satiates everybody, heals all wounds, and protects from the
erosion of time, all the while denying its gifts to cowards and oath breakers44

The symbolism of the floating Island has parallels to the aforementioned

symbolism of the woman on a floating island, who would turn her lovers into women and

keep them on the island with her. The possible meaning of the Grail being hidden inside a

rotating castle is the gradual concealment of spiritual knowledge previously mentioned

via the cosmic cycle, and the inaccessibility of esoterism to the masses.45

The time period in which the grail was written

Writing about the Grail was most common during 12th and 13th century. Europe

experienced many dramatic events for better or for worse during this time period. Saint

Thomas Aquinas in the 1200s was introducing many eastern and pre-Christian concepts

to medieval Europe in his synthesis of pre-Christian philosophy with Christian Theology

44
Evola 34
45
Ibid

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that had been preserved by Muslim scholars. Other important events to note include the

Crusades, the formation of the Knights Templar, and the writing of the famous European

masterpiece, Dantes Divine Comedy. At the beginning of the 13th century however, as if,

in the words of Evola obeying a password, Europe tragically ceased writing about the

grail. In the 14th and 15th centuries there seemed to have been an attempt to revive the

writing, but in altered and often stereotypical forms, perhaps because true meaning of

the grail had been lost.46

Floating castles, bleeding lances, gems cut from the helm of rebellious

angels cast out of paradise, Pagans filling bowls with the blood of Divine saviors, women

living on floating islands. Some might say that it was only the work of fanciful

imaginations attempting to relieve psychological pressure caused by sexual repression,

but what the Grail truly stood for was the final end of Solar warriors, in battle against

the Lunar, elemental and demonic hordes incapable of comprehending Divine

reality.

46
Evola 57

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