WHAT IS THE SECRET OF THE GRAIL?
A New Book from Andrew Collins
Peoples’ views on the Holy Grail begin with its discovery by the questing knights of King Arthur, the story told in the medieval romances and reflected in blockbuster movies such as John Boorman’s Excalibur, and even Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’. It is a vessel apparently used at the Last Supper and later employed by Joseph of Arimathea to collect drops of the Holy Blood as Christ’s body hangs on the Cross of Calvary. Some see it as a metaphysical symbol of Catholic liturgy, or as having its origins in the Horn of Plenty or Cauldron of Wisdom alluded to in Celtic mythology. Others believe it was brought to Roman Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, a lesser known disciple of Jesus, who first brought Christianity to these shores. For them, it ended its days at Glastonbury, the ancient Isle of Avalon, where King Arthur himself died and was buried. American historian Roger Loomis identified Corbenic, the Castle of the Grail, as Castell Dinas Bran, ‘the castle of Bran’, an elevated hill-fort and castle ruin in the Welsh Marches.
Beyond these popular views of the Grail, there is a darker, alternative side to this holy vessel which shows that its original guardian was not Joseph at all, but John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple and writer of the Fourth Gospel, who emerges as the first priest of Christianity, a role usually reserved for St Peter, founder of the Church of Rome. In Christian art John is depicted holding a Grail cup, out of which emerges the Gnostic serpent, a symbol of the knowledge and wisdom which comes from communion with the divine Light of God, a matter which profoundly influenced the teachings of the Cathar heretics of medieval times, and through them the Knights Templar and troubadours responsible for the first Grail romances at the end of the twelfth century. It is for this reason that these works, penned by the likes of poets such as Chrétien de Troyes, Robert de Boron and Wolfram von Eschenbach are littered with veiled references to the dualistic heresies which seeped into every level of society during this troubled age.
Following the Ascension, the followers of John the Evangelist established a somewhat revelatory form of Christianity, which, like the service of the Grail described in the romances, emphasised direct communion with the god-head, outside the intervention of a priestly hierarchy stemming directly from the Apostles. John’s faith bordered on pure Gnosticism, the reason why John’s Gospel was initially ignored by the Church of Rome. Indeed, some scholars now consider that his gospel, so prized by the Cathars, Knights Templar and much later Freemasons and Templar revivalists, was the original source book of Gnostic thought, with its heavy reliance on the power of the Logos and the Light of God. The book formed an integral role in the Cathar initiation ceremony known as the consolamentum, in which candidates were chosen to became deacons and priests, known as perfectae. This same ritual also very likely influenced the so-called Rite of the Baptism of Fire, said to have been practised by the Templi Secretum, the Templar’s inner order, in which initiates kissed an ‘idol’, thought to have been a head reliquary known as ‘the Baphomet’. Remember, in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, written c. 1200-1210, Knights Templar are guardians of the Grail in the Grail Castle at Munsalvæsche, the Mount of Salvation, often considered to have been a real location on the borders between France and Spain.
significantly, the original Johannine community saw Mary Magdalene, the anointer
of Christ, ‘Apostle to the Apostles’ and saint of choice for the Cathars
and Templars of southern France, as not only the material companion of John, but
also as the outright leader of the Church after the Ascension. It was for this
reason that the Johannine teachings became anathema to the institutional Church,
forcing their brethren to either ‘tow the line’ or become outright
heretics - the forerunners of those who compiled the series of uncanonical gospels
found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1945, and only now being fully appreciated
as important to the origins of the Christian faith.
the earliest Christians drinking for the first time from the original Grail, the
cup of communion, known in the Gospels as the Bitter Cup, was a direct path to
God, bringing them quite literally within sight of the kingdom of heaven. This
powerful initiation ceremony, so institutionalised by the Catholic Church, was
practised only once a year alongside nocturnal baptisms at the so-called Paschal
Vigil, celebrated on the eve of Easter Sunday. Yet initiation into the Christian
mysteries was a double-edged sword - on the one hand it brought the initiate closer
to God. On the other, it almost certainly condemned him or her to a slow and very
painful martyrdom, in the example not only of Jesus on the Cross but also those
saints and martyrs who freely gave their lives in the name of the faith. It is
their blood which went to fill the true Grail, seen in John’s book of Revelation
in the hands of the Whore of Babylon, a lustful female character created from
earlier pagan goddesses of sex and love to express the future excesses of the
Mother Church of Rome.
Yet the book goes much further by using the modern art of psychic questing to hunt down the Grail, the ultimate symbol of the mystical quest. A series of profound dreams and visions help reveal hidden geometry overlaid across south-east England, linked with Mithraism, Sufism, the Knights Templar and the mysteries of the Grail. These personal experiences also help throw some light on the mystery of Shugborough Park in Staffordshire and its apparent associations with Rennes-le-Chateau, and lead myself and those around me to discover the sacred centre of Britain, the seat of the Grail. In a manner that seems so simple in retrospect, we take possession of an authentic Grail cup - a high status alabaster vessel of Roman origin, linked both with John the Evangelist and the Magdalene’s alabastron.
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