The difference between the two works, however, is that with Dante we get to know a statically balanced structure, while in the Percival story we observe figures and events that are in a dynamic unfolding.
We can see the Percival story as one of the greatest cultural and spiritual treasures of the time. Wolfram paints the fate of the character Percival in powerful images. On the one hand we are confronted in a fascinating way with a life that takes place in a distant past, while on the other hand a world is mirrored to us in which we can recognize ourselves.
The story of the Grail does not just describe an adventure, but depicts with great eloquence a spiritual reality, a world in the making in which today’s people also have a role to play. It could be argued that the story of the Grail is still ongoing and has not yet reached its end. The Grail story has germination: something new is always growing and blossoming because it is the task of man to work on it himself.
As with Percival, many in our time are searching for the true purpose of life. All seekers who have this goal in mind are therefore by definition ‘grail seekers’. Even in our time, however, the Grail-seeker, like Percival, is led astray, which in most cases leads to the opposing force of the Anti-Grail. The workings of the opposing forces of the grail are particularly highlighted in Von Eschenbach’s story. In this we can read that the great opponent of Percival is the dark magician Klingsor. More about this figure later.
Percival feels in his being an unstoppable urge to search for truth and Light amidst the world of darkness, and he will not stop searching until he has found his goal, his destiny. He cannot give up his quest, because then he would be acting against his own being, which drives him forward. The way to the grail, to deliverance from darkness, is open to all; all one has to do is actually go this way. When we take in the Percival story in this way, we can speak of a road of initiation placed before us, a road of initiation not bound by time or place, and with an eloquence that was, is and will be the same throughout the ages.
When Chrétien, or Chrestien de Troyes, circa 1180, sent his story Perceval ou le Conte du Graal into the world, it fell on fertile ground because after his story several Grail stories appeared within a certain period. This in itself is a striking fact.
All authors who have contributed to the Grail narration are exponents of what might be understood by “exact fantasy.” The term “exact fantasy” comes from Goethe. The concept depicts the fantasy that contains a large measure of truth. It relates to ‘free spirit life’. The spirit that can work on man, within man, is a quality that does not come from man himself, but is received from the cosmos. Man has but the ability to open himself to this source of inspiration.
The living spirit is omnipresent. Now when several persons open themselves to that living spirit at a certain time, it can happen that they simultaneously express one and the same idea. The interpreters of the Grail were therefore by no means slavish imitators of each other, but added their own soul experiences to the existing stories. They felt like knights of the word and in ever new variations they forged a structure that shows the victory of the spirit on earth.
These authors were open to the spiritual forces in the atmosphere and built on the seed planted by De Troyes, which would bear fruit for several centuries.
In 1190 Robert de Boron’s story about the grail cup appears. This describes how Joseph of Arimathea collects the blood of the one who was crucified in the cup that Christ used at the Lord’s Supper.
Another work comes out in 1270. It is Jüngeren Titurel, by Albrecht von Scharfenberg. It tells about the construction of the grail fortress, and he provides impressive images of materials that were used for its creation.
The best-known Grail story is by Wolfram von Eschenbach, who completed the work Chrétien had started in the thirteenth century. Chrétien had to take the Inquisition into account, which is why his story sometimes has a Catholic slant. He paints almost dream-like images, which Wolfram elaborates more. Von Eschenbach’s characters are more of flesh and blood, since his experience of the Christ was different: he felt him, as it were, in flesh and bone.
A stream of inspiring forces swept through Europe for several centuries and led medieval man to impressive feats, which, however, also produced a counteracting impulse. What is meant here is the unbridled passion that led to the crusades and the fanaticism that wanted to root out the resulting gnostic movements. Over time, therefore, a decline also occurred in the Grail stories under the influence of man’s changed soul condition. The images became impure and eventually the stories about the Grail disappeared for a long time.
Nomen est omen
Percival – his name means something like ‘penetrate the depth of the valley’ – is the central character. He does not know his own name, because his mother always called him ‘good son’. The fact that Percival does not know his own name indicates that he had no knowledge of his own destiny. He is the son of the widow Herzoloyde. She has lost her husband, who was a knight, and now does not want her own son to associate with knighthood.
“Son of a widow” has an occult meaning. Mother Earth, the Terra Pestifera, had left the original father-nature, and the spiritual leaders who are concerned with the fate of humanity and guide them, then call themselves Sons of the Widow, such as the world teacher Mani.
Structure of the grail story
Wolfram’s Grail story is tightly structured in sixteen parts and depicts in beautiful images the entire destiny of Percival and of man. The number 16 is not a random number. According to Rudolf Steiner, the number 16 is related to the 16 different soul states that are related to the throat chakra. Eight of these soul states man has formed without his own merit in a distant past, when his consciousness was still dull. The last eight must be developed by man on his own. Hence, Buddha spoke of the eightfold path to attain certain qualities in the soul.
The three phases
Furthermore, the story has three stages of development: Dullness of the soul, Doubt and the Saelde or Bliss. Percival is not a cardboard hero, but a human being of flesh and blood who, like us, also makes many mistakes. First, he unknowingly and rashly storms life as a ‘Red Knight’, still completely reacting from his blood nature. He is always guilty of this. Then he is tormented by a great inner self-doubt, and by God, to then, after the doubt, reach his final destination as ‘White Grail Knight’.
Percival lives with his mother in solitude deep in a forest and knows nothing about the world around him. He is dressed in jesters’ clothing, so not in the clothes of ordinary nature, which already indicates that he has a special destiny: after all, he is called to walk the path of the soul. One day he meets King Arthur’s knights in the forest and Percival is deeply impressed. Now he too wants to become a knight and hastens to his mother and asks for a horse. He says goodbye to her, unaware that she dies of grief after his departure. In doing so, he incurs a first debt upon himself.
Percival arrives at King Arthur’s court. He defeats the Red Knight Ither in a rash attack and dons his armor, leaving the knights present dumbstruck with amazement. All the adventures he is about to experience represent the outer knighthood, but he is set on his destiny by Sigune, his inner calling voice or conscience. She recognizes him as her cousin, and gives him his own name: Percival.
Meanwhile he has found his wife: Condwiramur, and that name means: conduit à l’amour. She is the one who shows him the way to Love, she represents the divine spark in his heart, which is still latent. Shortly after their marriage, Percival asks her if he can visit his mother. On his way to his mother (who has passed away) he finds the grail fortress.
Percival will visit the Grail Castle twice. The first time, however, he is not yet worthy and unknowingly participates in the grail meal. He is expected to heal the sick King Anfortas, but of course he fails to do so.
You may be aware that the current personality-man is called to a certain high goal, despite the fact that our whole life is all about forgetting that goal! Indeed, we are also invited every day to partake of a so-called grail meal, that is to say: we are confronted daily, in our sleep, with forces which, because we are not aware of it, leave our system again without being processed.
To be able to participate in the grail meal like Percival, we must first prepare ourselves thoroughly; that is to say: we must cleanse our hearts and open our entire system to the forces that come to us from the other nature. This condition is a development, a process that must be taken step by step, and that is only possible on the basis of a deep desire! It is the desire to actually become whole again, to want to be healed. We must, as it were, set up the grail ourselves, in our own system. If we can keep to the conditions set, we are able to endure and use the powers that are then given to us through the Christ.
This process is depicted in great detail and humorously in the Percival story.
This is how Percival meets Sigune for the second time after he has been in the grail fortress. When she learns that Percival has not been able to heal King Anfortas, she is angry and scolds him in no uncertain terms. When he arrives at King Arthur’s castle, the hideous Cundrie just adds to it. She is the personification of his own astralis not yet cleansed, and hence Cundrie has a ragged appearance, ears like a bear, and nails like lion’s claws!
Like his nephew Gawain, he is overwhelmed with a torrent of grief.
Both knights leave King Arthur’s party with their tails between their legs and Percival now ends up in the second phase: Doubt.
Percival and Gawain each decide to go their own way and the former now temporarily disappears from the scene. We then follow the adventures of his nephew Gawain who has a special role in Percival’s life.
His nephew Gawain is the trailblazer and has the function of covering all the mistakes Parzival makes with the cloak of love. Hence Gawain is the personification of the heart activity, as Percival is the personification of the head activity.
We now hear nothing from Percival who is entangled in his thinking. Wolfram thus shows that the path taken by Percival, as a representative of thinking, is a dead end. On the path of liberation, head and heart must work together!
Gawain has all kinds of exciting adventures with fair maidens; a wonderful find by Wolfram to depict the activity of the heart!
Gawain also arrives at the magic castle of the dark magician Klingsor where he has to endure many torments. However, when he successfully overcomes the trials, he becomes lord and master of the castle and has vanquished the magician, who then disappears. With this impressive act, Gawain frees the damsels held captive by Klingsor and a merry evening ensues.
Percival, tormented by grief and shame, still wanders about in the woods, and without realizing it he wanders near Mont Salvat, where the grail castle is located. Here he has a fierce battle with a grail knight who guards the area against foreign invaders. In the end, Percival’s horse falls to its death in a deep ravine, the grail knight disappears, leaving his horse behind, which Percival then takes over. This is an important event: Wolfram shows here that the old inspiration he relied on, his own horse, is no longer there and that a new path has to be taken. A new kind of consciousness is developing.
Peacival lets himself be guided by the grail horse and in this way he finds the hermit Trevrizent. This hermit is an important character for Percival. Here Percival finds a listening ear and after telling of his own situation, he is comforted and strengthened by the hermit and regains his faith. Here Percival learns that Trevrizent is the brother of the ailing king Anfortas and that a knight is awaited who could cure him. Percival then discovers that he must have been that knight and is deeply ashamed of his failure. Trevrizent comforts him and tells him to be confident in God and his destiny.
The encounter with the hermit gives the story a completely different turn and Parzival sets off again full of hope in search of the grail fortress.
Head, heart and pelvis
Anyone who undertakes the soul path should take into account the fact that there must be a unity between head, heart and pelvis.
Man has three stages of consciousness: there is a brain consciousness and a heart consciousness, which is why we can divide man into thinking types and feeling types, but the real motive for action emanates from the pelvis where the subconscious resides. It stores all experiences, qualities and talents from previous incarnations. It is the combined force of karma and self-preservation. All this therefore forms the pelvic consciousness, which can be called guiding and compelling.
Unity of head and heart
When one day the representatives of head and heart, Percival and Gawain, meet each other, a fierce fight ensues, because Percival does not recognize his nephew. He is shocked when he finds out that he has fought with his own family and offers himself as his servant. So the intellect wants to subordinate itself to the heart and then Gawain tells him that Percival has conquered himself.
This is an important fact, because now a fusion between head and heart has been achieved. The first step on the soul path has become reality with this act.
However, that is not enough, because the pelvic consciousness has not yet been conquered. To bring this about, a confrontation ensues between Percival and his half-brother Feirefis.
When one takes into account that all the persons Percival meets are aspects of his own personality, the whole Grail story becomes a lot clearer.
Percival’s father had fathered a child with another woman, but this was unknown to Percival.
When Percival meets his half-brother Feirefis, he is deeply impressed by his appearance.
Feirefis, as a representative of the pelvic consciousness, is a powerful person, for he is overshadowed by the richness of his past. After all, he is the personification of all previous incarnations. A very fierce life and death struggle erupts. Finally Percival breaks his sword on Feirefis’ head, the sword with which he had killed the knight Ither, and he is defenseless. A crucial moment!
No one can fight against the subconscious, and help must now come from outside.
That sword was the symbol of the old will, now broken.
Then Percival does the only thing he can do at that moment: he focuses on his heart atom, his wife Condwiramur, or in other words: he lets the Light of Christ pour into his being that removes all opposition!
Percival could do nothing else; something had broken in him and because there is no empty space, there is room for something new. The Christ Light offers him salvation, for without help one cannot overcome the subconscious.
For Feirefis there is no more honor to be gained: he does not fight against unarmed men.
They sit down, start a conversation and find out that they are half-brothers. A very important moment, because Percival has now achieved a unity between head, heart and pelvis, between thinking, feeling and willing! He has conquered himself and must now quickly go to the grail fortress where he could heal King Anfortas.
On the way, they meet Cundrie, who now looks like a charming lady. This falls in line with the cleansed astralis of Percival of which Cundrie is the personification. Percival also meets his wife Condwiramur with her two children on his way to the castle. The whole party sets out for the Grail Castle.
King Anfortas had followed the path of ‘Amor’ in the past, and according to his brother Trevrizent, that was not the right method to find a worthy grail queen.
He had to pay a high price for this and suffered a wound on his genitals that could not heal until a knight came who could cure him of this.
When Percival is in the grail castle, he speaks to Anfortas: “Lord, what ails you?”
Immediately the king has a healthy color on his face and is cured.
This, of course, requires an explanation.
Percival has conquered himself and now has a perfect throat chakra. He is able to wield the gift of the magical Word, inspired by the power of the Grail, the Holy Spirit. Percival’s words are no longer gestures of the throat, but are charged with the creative power that is from Christ and can be healing for humanity. Then the word can really become ‘alive’. In this way Percival, as a representative of the new man, can release the king from his misery.
With the union of his half-brother Feirefis, Percival has achieved a unity between thinking, feeling and willing and has become a master of the stone whose actions serve the Gnosis.
The dark magician Klingsor
From the grail castle on Mont Salvat, mighty spiritual powers poured into the world. We find her opposing impulse in the castle of the wizard Klingsor, the Lord of the realm Schastel Marveil. So the workings of the opposing forces of the Grail are also made particularly clear in Von Eschenbach’s Grail story. Here, the magician Klingsor is the great opponent of Percival.
Everything Wolfram writes about the capricious realm of Schastel Marveil is directly related to the Luciferic nature of evil.
Klingsor’s character is based on a historical figure: Steiner connects him to the Duke of Capua, also a wizard and living near the volcano Vesuvius.
Von Eschenbach tells us that Klingsor allied himself with Queen Iblis when he arrived in Sicily. When her husband finds out about their relationship, Klingsor has to undergo emasculation.
In the mythology of Islam, Iblis is equivalent to the figure of Lucifer and, as a Luciferic being, she certainly does not bring salvation to Klingsor!
Klingsor initially tries to become a grail knight, but the old king Titurel saw that his heart was black and refuses to appoint him. Klingsor was so incensed about this that he uttered the following words in anger:
“If I cannot serve the Grail, then the Grail will have to serve me!”
He then evolves into an evil wizard, capturing 400 damsels and 4 queens who must stop the knights who are looking for the grail castle.
The Grail Castle is difficult, yes very difficult to find, but the magic castle of Klingsor, the Anti-Grail Castle, is built on top of a mountain and the negative radiation emanating from it can be felt in the immediate vicinity.
Klingsor holds everyone under his spell and the people around him are forced to follow his orders. With him everything is reversed: the other is there to serve him and his own astralis is activated.
Klingsor had a conjuring device in his magic castle: a column where one could see things in the world up to six miles away. Unlike the Grail Temple in which you are confronted with yourself, we see the other extreme in the magic castle of Klingsor: here you are constantly exposed to the outer world around you. In other words: one learns all kinds of things about other things, but forgets to examine oneself.
Isn’t this wonderful column also present in our own spaces? So we see that the dark magic is still at work, and Von Eschenbach was certainly a visionary on this point!
The power of evil
Sicily, the island where Klingsor owned his castle, had certain properties on which the magician could activate his dark powers.
The history of its castle, Calta Bellotta or Kalot Embolot, goes back to a time long before Christ. The builder was Daedalus of Athens, who was a genius sculptor and architect. First, his fate is linked to that of Calta Bellotta, as he lost his son Icarus, who flew too high with his wings made by Daedalus and plummeted into the sea.
From the 7th century, Sicily was attacked by the Arabs from Kairouan and a group of magicians of the Aissaou sect took up residence in the castle of Calta Bellotta.
This Aissaou sect carried out occult practices with gruesome torture and consciousness exercises until before the Second World War.
From this castle they spread their pernicious Iblis culture that was directed against the Grail. The connection of Klingsor with the essence of the Iblis culture is one of the most damaging of all earth’s developments. It brought about a disharmony that can still be observed occultly in Sicily today and that has its shadow effect on modern society.
Soil conditions have a great influence on people and it is no coincidence that the anti-grail fortress was able to establish itself in Sicily. Here is the largest active volcano in Europe: Mount Etna. The volcanic condition of the soil is directly related to the moral character of man. After all, the earth is a living organism that can respond to the psychological disorders of its inhabitants. The earth has 9 layers or strata, each of which has its own characteristics. Everything about the cosmos is known today, but only a few kilometers are known about the earth. This parallels man: he knows a lot about the other things, but has little or no self-knowledge!
Man’s task on earth is of the utmost importance, for he is central between the ninefold angelic hierarchy and the ninefold earth strata below him. High powers work from the cosmos on the earth while polar forces work upwards from the earth. When the earth cooled, these forces fled to the interior of the earth and when the earth hardened, these forces were, as it were, held captive.
From the 6th layer, the fire earth, a number of shafts run to different places on the earth that form the volcanic craters. The 7th Earth Stratum gives a faithful representation of what is happening on the earth on a moral level. With an increase in immorality, forces in this layer are dissolved and the fire earth is set in motion, resulting in a volcanic eruption.
The 8th layer is called the shatterer: all living organisms are infinitely multiplied here after death. This layer is also the seat of disharmony and immorality. If a black magician manages to reach this area, his anger is infinitely increased.
Not surprisingly, Sicily is ideally suited to the activity of negative forces because of its volcanism and its past history associated with black magic practices.
Moreover, it is not surprising that an anti-social or anti-Christian movement such as the mafia could arise there.
The opposing forces of the Grail cannot create anything of their own: they only imitate, turning everything upside down. ====here
The knights who would approach the grail had to realize the lofty purpose of Love. In order to approach Love, they had to practice the 7 knightly virtues, 4 lower and 3 higher soul states, namely: measure, courage, wisdom and justice as the four lower and faith, hope and love as the 3 higher.
Well, we see in our world that these soul-conditiond are often reversed daily: indeed, the truth has become a lie and the lie has become the truth!
But the knights of the Percival were not concerned with the lower; they freed the beautiful in themselves, in the stories a beautiful damsel, and with this drove away their own demons.
It may have become clear that modern man has a great responsibility towards what is happening with the world. He must decide whether to serve the Grail or the Anti-Grail.
Christ already said: ‘He who is not for me is against me.’ This means that whoever does not consciously serve the Grail connects himself, often unconsciously, with the anti-grail, and is thus bound to the dark forces of Klingsor!!
It is better to follow in Percival’s footsteps. He has left his fears and delusions behind and completed his quest. His way-of-the-cross has come to an end, to merge into the center of Nothingness, where the Divine All is to be found. The Red knight of the combatting sword has given way to the White grail knight who can effectively wield the sword of the Word.
The Grail Road of Percival is finally illustrated with a poem by Mani, also the son of a widow:
Take up your cross
Shake off the world.
Break free from the bonds of the blood.
Subdue the old man.
Fulfill the holy way.
Give space to the dove with the white wings.
Put no serpent next to her.
Rejoice, my beloved.
Wolfram von Eschenbac, Parzival
Jan van Rijckenborgh, The Coming New Man, Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem 1999
Benita Kleiberg, Het Gaalmysterie van Parzival [The Grailmystery of Percival], Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem 2022
Max Heindel, Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, or, Mystic Christianity : an elementary treatise upon man’s past evolution, present constitution and future development, 1923
Mani, Mani’s Lichtschat [Mani’s Light Treasure], Rozekruis Pers, Haarlem 2017