According to Wolfram von Eschenbach, the Graal was the crown of desire understood on the material plane, but it would also respond to the title which was given by Heinrich to his independent version of the legend, for it was certainly the crown of adventure, and on more planes than one. It was borne aloft on a green cushion by the maid who was chosen for the office, and this suggests that the object was, speaking comparatively, small--that is to say, portable. There is nothing in the whole poem to make us connect it with a jewel in the conventional sense, and it is nowhere described actually: it is simply that, object of wonder to which the name of Graal is given. It was light as wool, as we have seen, in the hands of its licensed bearer, but an unprepared person could not move it from the place of its repose.
[paragraph continues] This is rather, however, a question of magic than of variation in specific gravity. Ex hypothesi, it was large enough on one specific occasion to hold a considerable inscription on its surface--that is to say, when the King's healing was promised as the reward of the mystic question. At the same time its possible dimensions were restricted by the counter fact that it could and did repose in the nest of a bird which tradition describes as about the size of an eagle. Indeed, the stone which renewed the phoenix recalls the Lapis Aquila, which, according to another, tradition, was sought by the eagle and used to assist the hatching of its eggs.
This enumeration is made to preface some reflections upon the Latin term which Wolfram applied to his talisman. What he wrote--or his scribe rather--we have to divine as we can from the choice of impossibilities which are offered by the extant manuscripts, and that which has received most countenance among the guesswork readings is Lapis exilis, meaning the slender stone. The scholia of lexicographers on the second of these words indicate some difference of opinion among the learned on the question of its philology--de etymo mire se torquent viri docti--and as an additional quota of confusion one of them has placed the significance of slender upon the word exile as it is used in English. I do not know of such an adjective in our language and still less of one bearing this interpretation; but this apart it would seem that the slender stone connecting with the conception of the Graal is even more disconcerting than any philological difficulty. Further, the word exilis suffers the meaning of leanness, and this in connection with a stone of plenty which paints in the Parsifal an eternal larder, à parte ante et à parte post, is not less than hopeless. It may be said that Wolfram's intention was to specify by Lapis exilis that his talisman was least among stones in dimension yet great in its efficacy, even as the Scriptures tell us that the mustard seed is least among grains and yet becomes a great tree.
[paragraph continues] There is a certain plausibility in this, and students of another school will know that Lapis exilis is a term which corresponds wholly to the great talisman of metallic transmutation, for no adept experienced any difficulty when he carried the powder of projection--which, as we have seen, was in fact the Stone--in his wallet, or even his girdle, yet this was also great in its efficacy, as there is no need to insist. The explanation is shallow notwithstanding, when we know that the true description of the Graal Stone on the historical side, or rather the accurate statement of fact, would be è cœlo veniens. But it is understood of course that this does not enter the lists as a construction of the chaotic readings found in the manuscripts. Their only possible rendering to preserve the verbal similarity with a reasonable consonance in the root-idea of the subject is Lapis exilii = the Stone of Exile, or Lapis exsulis = the Exile's Stone. The correspondence is here twofold, for in the first place there is the exile of Lucifer, who--if the jewel was once in his crown--lost it on expulsion from heaven, and in the second place there is the exile of humanity, which is ex hypothesi a derivation from the fall of the angels. It was given to men as a palladium--perhaps even as a gage of their final exaltation to the thrones vacated above. It so happens that there are some curious lights of symbolism which illustrate a reading that I put forward under every reserve and tentatively. No one will believe at first sight that the Graal Stone and the Graal Chalice can have any affinity between them, unless indeed the cup was hewn--let us say--out of jasper or chalcedony. This notwithstanding, we shall find the analogy rather in unlooked-for places. Let us recur for a moment to the Lesser Holy Graal and its comparison of the Mystic Vessel to the Stone in which Christ was laid--an imputed analogy which is put into the mouth of the Master when He discourses to Joseph of Arimathæa, delineating the purport and perfection of the whole mystery. It seems assuredly the most extraordinary analogy which it is
possible to institute, and I do not pretend that it assists us to understand the substitution of a Stone for a Chalice in Wolfram's version of the legend, which is devoid of any connection between the Graal and the Passion of Christ--almost as if the Repairer had returned to the heights after the institution of the Eucharist and henceforward Himself--as Pontifex futurorum bonorum--sent down the efficacious sacrament for the sustenance of his chosen people. In the ordinary Eucharistic Rite one would tolerate the comparison in respect of the Pyx, though the elucidation of things which ex hypothesi are alive by means of things which are dead is scarcely in the order of enlightenment. One thing at least seems to follow from all the texts, and this is that the sacramental Chalice in the Graal Mass was rather the receptacle of the Consecrated Bread than of the Consecrated Wine. The Chalice, which corresponds to a Stone, and this Stone the Rock in which Christ was laid, must symbolise the Vessel of the Bread. In the Book of the Holy Graal and in the Quest of Galahad, Hosts were taken from the Chalice; in the Parsifal, Bread in the first instance was taken from the Talismanic Stone; in Heinrich, that Reliquary which was itself the Graal had a Host reposing therein; Chrétien is vague enough, but his undeclared Warden in prostration seems to have been nourished after the same manner as Mordrains and Heinrich's ghostly Keeper.
The analogy of these things, by which we are helped to their understanding at least up to a certain point, is Scriptural, as we should expect it to be; it connects with that other Stone which followed the people of Israel during forty years in the wilderness, and the interpretation is given by St. Paul. "Our fathers . . . did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." It will be inferred that the root-idea of the story is based upon the natural fact that torrents or streams flow occasionally through rocky ground, but the masters
in Israel knew of the deeper meaning, or divined it at least in their subtlety, seeing that their whole concern was with a spiritual pilgrimage. It is said in the Zoharic tract entitled The Faithful Shepherd, that a Stone or Rock is given, and yet another Stone is given, the Name of which is the Name of Tetragrammaton. Now, this is a reference to the Prophecy of Daniel which says that the Stone which struck the statue became like a mountain and filled the whole earth. It is applied to Messias and his Kingdom by the preface to the Zohar, which says further that the Israelites, during their exile in Egypt, had lost the Mystery of the Holy Name. When, however, Moses appeared, he recalled this Name to their minds. It follows herefrom that we are dealing with another legend of the Lost Word, and of course if Christ was the Rock or Stone which supplied sustenance to the Jews, we can understand in a vague manner not only the correspondence between the Graal and a Mystic Stone but also the manner--otherwise of all so discounselling--in which the cycle ascribes to its Great Palladium, whether Stone or Cup, a marvellous power of nourishment. The allusion is therefore to the Corner Stone, which is Christ and which became the head of the building. It is the old Talmudic and Kabalistic tradition that the Lapis fundamentalis was set in the Temple of Jerusalem under the Ark of the Covenant, even as the Rock of Calvary, by another legend, is called the centre of the world. All these stones in the final exhaustion of symbolism are one Stone, which does not differ from the white cubic stone which the elect receive in the Apocalypse together with the New and Secret Name written thereon. This stone in its symbolic form would no doubt be the least possible in cubic measurement--that is to say, in the correspondence between things within and without, even as that which is given, strangely inscribed within, to the recipient in one of the most deeply symbolic of the Masonic High Grades.
Analogies are subtle and analogies are also precarious, but those which I have traced here are at least more in consonance with the spirit of the Graal literature than (1) The Sacred Stone, called the Mother of the Gods, which is mentioned by Ovid and of which Arnobius tells us that it was small and could be carried easily by a single man; (2) the Roman Lapis manalis, which brought rain in drought, as it might have brought food in famine; (3) the Bœtilus or Oracular Stone which gave oracles to its bearer, speaking with a still small voice.