The Holy Grail – Part 2

The Grail is the "treasure of the soul". And this treasure is ignited and awakened by love. Love is itself a wild thing and therefore calls the heart into the wilderness. If God is nothing but love, then he is not a regulating god of law, but quite inevitably a wild god full of untamed life force, whose love sprouts and overflows like the green of the earth.

The Holy Grail – Part 2

(to part 1)

A key phrase of Parzival in Middle High German is: “diu menscheit hat wilden art” [1] (mankind is of a wild kind). This phrase is all the more significant because it corresponds with the name of the Grail castle, which Wolfram calls Munsalvaesche [2] (mountain of the wilderness), or elsewhere: Wildenberc [3] (wild mountain). Following on from this, the tale on the hound’s rope mentions a duke called “Ehcunaver von der wilden Blume[4] (Ehcunaver of the wild flower). This wonderful wild flower is the key to the Grail. In its calyx shimmers the whole, immeasurable abundance of creation. A revolutionary break with the official Christian image of God is revealed. The Grail no longer appears in the protected ecclesiastical sanctuary, but in its naked exposure to the inner wilderness. The dawn of the Grail rises in the wilderness of the soul – or it does not rise at all. Accordingly, Rudolf Steiner calls the Grail “the deepest interior of human nature” or also the “treasure of the soul” [5]. And this treasure of the soul is ignited and awakened by love. Through love, which is itself a wild thing and therefore calls the heart into the wilderness [6]. And if God – as is said in numerous spiritual movements – is nothing but love, then he is not a regulating god of law, but quite inevitably a wild god full of untamed life force, whose love sprouts and overflows like the green of the earth.

Another key to understanding lies in the almost simultaneous appearance of the ideal of courtly love with that of the cult of Mary. In the stories about the Holy Grail, the female is on the one hand feared as a devilish creature who tempts men into sin, but at the same time she is elevated as a fair virgin and venerated like a holy relic. For the knight, the beloved virgin becomes the grail of the heart. Analogously, in many narratives the cult of the Grail is performed in honour of Mary. [7] The troubadours even called Mary the Grail of the world. The Grail thus corresponds to the female womb, and the original Celtic cauldron had also already been related to the female mysteries.

The insoluble medieval conflict was nevertheless that in Christianity Mary was the perfectly pure Queen of Heaven who had conceived her child immaculately. In paganism, on the other hand, the goddess was also a fertile earth queen who did not shun getting involved in this world with all her senses. This “Lady Minne”, the holy Mother Earth, the “Sovereignty of the Land” – or, on the inner level, the Soul, Anima and Muse – she has fallen into oblivion throughout the long-lasting rule of the patriarchy and the Logos. Therefore the Grail poets had to bring the night side back to the surface and look for the way back to the wilderness inside the human being, so that they could also rediscover the lost goddess. Or as Aniela Jaffé, a student of C.G. Jung, puts it: “Only when the alienation of Eros from the sacred realm has been overcome can man unfold in his wholeness and unity.” [8] Several Gnostic gospels also point in this direction when they declare Mary Magdalene to be Jesus’ intimate companion. Is it any wonder that Lancelot, Schionatulander and Sigune deviate from the path of the Grail and sacrifice everything to a path devoted to Minne (an idealized courtly love)? Are not the path of the Grail and the path of Minne in truth one and the same?

In the Kabbalah and also in some alchemical treatises it is said that the feminine side of God went into exile on earth together with the creatures. Through this, however, part of the divine lives and weaves right into nature. Thus the search for the Grail turns out to be a path of unity and becoming whole, which seeks to heal the wound of seemingly irreconcilable opposites. The spiritual transformation of the inner human being will also have an invigorating and transforming effect on the outer nature. Especially today, in the midst of the climate crisis and the increasing number of natural catastrophes, the threatened earth is once again becoming the focus of our attention. The eco-movement is campaigning for climate and environmental protection, for species-appropriate animal husbandry and the conservation of resources. But what about the inner “green power”? Doesn’t the life-fresh green inside us need to be protected just as much as the sprouting green of the earth? Why not also speak up for the unbalanced atmosphere of the inner cycles? Is the hidden suffering part of us not worth an outcry? Not only does the “mysterious path” lead inwards, as Novalis says, but the overlooked natural catastrophe, of which the outer one is a mirror image, also occurs within. If the inner nature were still intact, then it would be quite natural to live in harmony with the outer. But the inner ecosystem has long since collapsed, the magic forests cut down, the seas of the water nymphs poisoned, the fairy springs dried up, the dream paths buried, the fate threads of the moirs cut, without anything being done from the “official side” to counteract the destruction.

Therefore, it is invaluable to follow with devotion the Grail Path, which can reveal to us how necessary it is to spare the treasures of the soul as well as the treasures of the earth. In essence, it is one and the same treasure that is illuminated by the divine spirit here as well as there. It is up to us, up to our courage, to embrace the tension of opposition and to rekindle this unifying spiritual light. In the wild chalice of the Grail, in the womb of the Goddess, in the green power of the soul, there is room for everything. Nothing is excluded, everyone is invited to transformation and rebirth, everyone is called to vitality and joy. And so the Grail Castle is also called “Castle of Joy” and “Castle of Souls” [9]. Joy can unfold when the soul is allowed to play in the wilderness again, when it is allowed to love, the creatures just as intimately as the Creator, everything natural just as wholeheartedly as the spirit.


[1] Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzival, Book 9: 489, 5

[2] E.g. Parzival, Book 5: 251, 1ff. & Book 9: 441, 13

[3] Parzival, Book 5: 230, 13

[4] Titurel, Verse 157 (Ehcunat of Salvasch Florien)

[5] Rudolf Steiner, Die Welträtsel und die Anthroposophie (GA 54), p.437f.

[6] Walther von der Vogelweide writes about this mystery of minne (love): “Diu minne ist weder man noch wip, si hat noch sele noch den lip, si gelichet sich dekeinem bilde. ir nam ist kunt, si selbe ist aber wilde.” (L 81, 31 C 289)

[7] E. g. in the prose Lancelot, Perlesvaus, Le Morte d’Arthur

[8] Aniela Jaffé, Der Mythus vom Sinn im Werk von C.G. Jung, Daimon Verlag, Zürich 1983, S.148

[9] Nigel Bryant (Translator), The High Book of the Grail (Perlesvaus), D.S. Brewer, Cambridge 2007, S.196


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Date: August 1, 2021
Author: Martin Spura (Germany)
Photo: Lee Travathan auf Pixabay CCO

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