Traces of a Hidden Tradition in Masonry and Medieval Mysticism, by Isabel Cooper-Oakley, , at sacred-texts.com
THE legend of the founding of the City Spiritual—the Kingdom of the Holy Grail * or San Grëal—is so interwoven with myth and superadded tradition that to trace its origin is as difficult as to see through a dense fog the delicate outline of some fair gothic
spire whose lofty head towers beyond the mists towards the blue heights above. But as we gaze with straining effort, slowly through the gloom line upon line reveals itself, and finally the whole structure takes form most definite before us. Thus is it with the priceless "Legend of the Holy Grail," and as we trace it back from Western lands to its Eastern home, gradually from the mists of time's obscurity there stands revealed once more the glorious tradition of the Wisdom Religion, another messenger from East to West bringing the ancient mystic teaching from the old worlds to the new.
In this case the gracious message is vestured, not as usual in religious forms, but veiled in garb of chivalry, so that it may, perhaps, in this new presentation more readily touch the hearts of men, and draw them to seek for the Kingdom Spiritual, the " house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
Gathered round the " Holy Grail" are the Knights—the guardians of the "Grail Kingdom," led by Titurel, * the mystic King, to whom is entrusted the charge of the Holy Teaching. Then later we find the knights Templars taking up the sacred mission. †
[paragraph continues] But everywhere and always is there the inner doctrine for the few who seek the Holy Grail, for it is invisible to all but those who form the "Ingesinde" * (inner circle).
The chief function of the Grail Kingdom was to supply a constant type of a divinely governed society, a society ruled from the inner and spiritual planes, and to train in "the kingly art of ruling"
leaders for such communities as needed them. It was destined to be a practical civilizing power as well as a Palace Spiritual, not a passive force only, but active and powerful for the suppression of all evil on earth. Titurel * is the type and ideal leader round whom revolves the whole of mystic or celestial chivalry. † The Grail kingship is indeed the paradigm of the highest perfection, "the goal of all the saints," but the goal cannot be reached except by the conquest of the lower nature; every human being must struggle and must suffer ere he sees
Let us now trace the origin of this time-honoured tradition, the stock from which developed all the "Arthurian" legends, all the "Graal-sagas" of Germany, and the "Romans" of Provence. Two dominant variants of the earliest traditions have come to us.
1. The Grail as a Secret Gospel ‡ or Tradition.
2. The Grail as a Mystic Cup * with miraculous power.
Both variants are of vital interest to the theosophic student; we must here, however, confine ourselves to tracing.
I. The earliest sources of the Grail Legend.
II. The history of Titurel, the type of divine kingship and spiritual knighthood.
III. The links which prove this popular mystic legend to be part of the great Wisdom tradition which is guarded by the " Masters of Wisdom " yet on this earth.
This can be definitely followed through Arabia to India; for according to a large number of authorities, † the tradition is mainly Eastern in origin,
especially that of the Gral-king and Founder, with which are linked most intimately those of Parsifal and Lohengrin. Rosenkranz divides them as follows: Titurel is Oriental in its inception; Parsifal is Gallic (from Anjou); and Lohengrin * is Belgian.
The most sympathetic and interesting version perhaps, is that given by Görres † in his introduction to the translation of the oldest MS. which is in the Vatican Library. This manuscript was seen by von Hagen, ‡ who gives an interesting account of it in his letters; another sketch of the Gral-saga, but less sympathetic, is given by Dr. Bergman in a small pamphlet printed in 1870. From all these various sources must be gathered the important fragments which will help us to find those details which are a necessity to the student for a clear understanding of the real meaning of this grand old legend.
Our attention must first be directed to what may be termed the "setting" of the tradition, that is to say the channel by which it comes to the Western world. The record of Titurel was first made known by Wolfram von Eschenbach, a Troubadour of a noble but poor family; born within the
last thirty years of the twelfth century, he died about 1220; his monument was still existing at Eschenbach in Bavaria in the fifteenth century. He was one of a brilliant circle of Troubadours or Minnesänger * who at that period were gathered at the then famous Court of Herman, Landgraf of Thuringia. Wolfram began a history in verse of Titurel, the old Gral-king, which was however left in an unfinished and fragmentary condition at his death. Then about the year 1270, Albrecht von Schaffenberg wrote a poem upon Titurel which for long passed as the work of von Eschenbach. It was called Der Jüngere Titurel, to distinguish it from the original poem of Wolfram. Speaking of it San Marte † says:
Titurel—two fragments to which, according to the opening lines of the first piece, this title has been given, should according to Wolfram von Eschenbach's own assurances have formed part of a history of Sigune and Schiantulander, for it stands in close relation to Parzifal, the material having been drawn from the same source—remained unfinished. That work, however, and especially the sayings of the Holy Grail contained therein, aroused such excitement, that after Wolfram's death an unknown poet decided to write, in strophe form, the history of the Gral and its race of kings (Titurel), in accordance with the same source. . . . This also remained unfinished until
about 1270, when a certain Albrecht completed it. This so-called Jüngere Titurel and the Parzifal, both of which come from the same source, contain pretty well the whole history of the Holy Grail and in many passages they supplement one another. *
These form undoubtedly the most authentic versions of the Gral legend, but there is another line of tradition written down by Chrestien de Troyes, which eliminates the oriental and gives the purely Christian version of the vision of Joseph of Arimathæa. Of this Wolfram was cognizant, or, as Nutt † tells us,
He knew Chrestien's poem well, and repeatedly refers to it, but with great contempt, as being the wrong version of the story, whereas he holds the true version from Kyot ‡ the singer, a "Provenzal," who found the tale of Parzifal
written in a heathen tongue at Dolêt (Toledo) by Flegetanis, a heathen, and who first wrote concerning the Grail, put it into French, and after searching the chronicles of Britain, France, and Ireland in vain, at length found the information in the chronicle of Anjou.
Later on we shall see why it was found in these chronicles to the exclusion of the rest. The basis of the Christian legend is from the Gnostic tradition, and said to have been founded on the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, which was translated into Provençal verse, a "mystical Gospel" in every sense, says Paulin Paris, * who, in referring to the MS. in the Vatican, further writes: "This latter text was of great antiquity and evidently mystical, showing a profound knowledge of the Apocryphal † Gospels containing the secret teachings of the Eucharist." ‡ This of course refers to the Christian aspect, and had to do with the Christian arcane doctrines, but this aspect must be left for treatment at some future time.
A digression, however, must be here made, the subject of which is so intimately interwoven with the
mystic foundation of the Grail that it is necessary to go into some important details in order to form a clear conception of the many forces which were at play during this epoch.
It has been said that Wolfram von Eschenbach, * the writer of Titurel, was a Troubadour, and according to some authorities Guiot (or Kyot) de Provins was a Jongleur. Who, then, are these Troubadours and Jongleurs who played a part so important in the so-called dark ages? On another occasion we hope to take up this subject separately, forming as it does an important link between eastern mysticism and western development; it will be enough for the present to cite one important Catholic writer, who makes a very clear statement as to the hidden functions of these Troubadours. † Says Aroux:
The Troubadours, hostile to Rome, were, to say the
truth, the journalists of the period; and in this way constituted one of the powers of society and took up sides for republican liberty in the towns of the south, for the feudal suzerainty and its patrons—that is to say chivalry—against the church or authority. . . . for chivalry itself had become a machinery of war on the side of the Albigensian * heresy.
Strange and striking statements, but they can be tested and verified by testimony from all sides. Through these secret mystical channels came pouring the old teachings from the East, and Wolfram von Eschenbach and Guiot de Provins were but instruments or channels for that tradition.
A few words must here be said about Guiot, or, as Wolfram von Eschenbach calls him in his German tongue, Kyot. As we have seen from the Abbé de la Rue, he was a Jongleur, and Aroux has given a clue as to the real métier of the true Jongleur at that period. He appears to have been a native of the Duchy of Anjou, and was not a noble but a lay commoner, for Wolfram terms him simply Meister. Guiot studied literature and philosophy in the south of France in the Province of Saint Giles—a centre of Albigensian mystic tradition, and in constant communication with northern Spain, which was permeated, at this period, with Arabian mysticism. He also studied for some time in Spain at Toledo
under the learned Arabian philosophers, to whom the Western world owes a heavy debt. Meister Guiot le Provençal found at Toledo an Arabian book compiled by an astrologer and philosopher named Flegetanis, * containing the story of the Holy Grëal. This volume was written in a foreign character, of which Guiot was compelled to make himself master. After reading this Guiot began to search the records of other countries, Brittany, France, Ireland, and he found the legends of this in some old Chroniques d’ Angevin (Anjou). These he used as corroboration, and introduces the Western elements into his history, but, as Warton and Görres both insist, the scene for the most part is laid in the East, and a large proportion of the names are of oriental origin. Then, again, the Saracens are always spoken of with consideration; Christian knights enroll themselves under the banner of the Caliph, † and no trace of hatred is to be found between the followers of the crescent and the cross. Speaking of the widespread development of this mysterious legend, or tradition of the Holy Grail, Görres ‡ says:
From the waters of the Ganeas (Ganges) in the land
of Tribalibot, that is Palibothra * in Tricalinga, the Sanskrit name of the Ganges Provinces, it has spread itself over the Caucasus, or as the poem more correctly says, Kukkhasus, or again, as Titurel says, Kaukasus, where the red gold grows, from which the heathen weave many a beautiful coat (Wat) and over the mountains Agrimontin, where the warm Salamanders weave their glittering uniform amid the fire-flames' dance, and where the Queen Gekurdille rules.
Everywhere can be found the tradition of a sacred cup, † and it is said by Flegetanis, who had carefully recorded the result of his nocturnal studies at Toledo, that this mysterious cup ‡ with the name of Graal emblazoned on it was left behind on earth by a band of spirits § as they winged their way to their celestial abode. This holy vessel is delivered by an angel to Titurel, at whose birth an angel had announced that God had chosen him to be a defender of the faith ¦¦
and the guardian of the Sangrëal. He became, in fact, one of the custodians of that Secret Wisdom which has been left in the charge of the elect, the group of humanity's perfected sons.
137:* See The Theosophical Review, xxiii., pp. 9-16. Hardcastle (Miss A. L. B.), "The Secret of the Holy Grail."
138:* Hammer-Purgstall (Baron J. von), Fundgruben des Orients, vi. 24., n. 33. Vienna, 1818.
138:† See Naef (F.), Opinions religieuses des Templiers, p. 36. Nismes; 1890. "The cult with which this mysterious chalice is surrounded far surpasses in grandeur and exaltation the worship paid by the Church even to the most sacred relics, and it is just this exaltation of mystery and of holiness which unveils so clearly the symbol and the allegory." And again p. 38, "In the Grail does one not see the p. 139 striking symbol of Mystic Wisdom (Sagesse mystique) and of the communion which is established between God and man?"
139:* J. Rutherford writes (The Troubadours, their Loves and Lyrics, p. 43. London, 1873):
"The body of the learned in the Middle Ages—or the inner circle of that body—seems to have formed a secret society, whose purpose was to keep as much knowledge as possible confined to itself, after the manner of the Druids, or of the Egyptians and Chaldean Sages; when compelled to put the more occult portions of their scientific acquirements into a permanent form, they adopted one perfectly unintelligible to the vulgar. Some wrapped up their more valuable secrets in parables, others threw them again into the shape of illuminations, and others again adopted the device of Roger Bacon, who, giving the name of an important ingredient of gunpowder in an anagram, rendered the whole receipt for the composition of the substance a complete mystery to the uninitiated.
"Our reading shows us that much more was known to the few, six or seven hundred years ago, than modern savants are inclined to think. Strange and startling glimpses of this knowledge flicker over the pages of the poets and romancists of the Middle Ages. Selecting but two examples from many, we may remark that no one could have written that passage in the Inferno of Dante (Canto xxxiv., lines 70-84), descriptive of the transit of Virgil and his follower through the centre of the earth, who was not well acquainted with the leading principles of the theory of gravitation, as elaborated by Newton. Nor could any one have evolved from the depths of his internal consciousness a passage so singularly anticipative of the discovery of America as that contained in Stanzas 228-230 of the twenty-fifth canto of the Morgante Maggiore—precisely the Canto in which it is said that the author, Pulci, was aided by the erudite Marsilio Ficino." See Cantù (Cesare), Gli Eretici d’ Italia, i. 178. Torino, 1865.
140:* There are two Titurels; the poem Titurel of Wolfram von Eschenbach; and, later, Der Jüngere Titurel, by Albrecht von Scharffenberg, written about 1270. An interesting notice on the subject is given by Vilmar (A. F. C.), Geschichte der deutschen National-Literatur, 147, Marburg u. Leipsig, 1870.
140:† Chivalry was divided into Heavenly and Earthly orders during part of the Middle Ages, especially in Spain.
140:‡ Aroux (E.), Les Mystères de la Chevalerie, p. 166. Paris, 1858. Paris (A. Paulin), Les Romans de la Table Ronde, Addenda to p. 102. Vol. I. Paris, 1868. Helinandi Op., Ed. Migne, Patrol., Vol. CCXII., col. 814. Fauriel (C. C.), Histoire de la Poésie Provençale, ii. 332, et seq. Paris, 1846.
141:* Burnouf (Émile) writes as follows: "La vraie légende du Vase Sacré est celle qu’on peut suivre dans le passé en remontant d’aujourd’hui même par les textes chrétiens, grecs, perses et bouddhiques jusqu’ aux hymnes du Véda, où elle trouve son explication." Le Vase Sacré et ce qu’il contient—dans l’Inde, la Perse, la Gréce, et dans l’Eglise chrétienne avec un appendice sur le Saint-Graal, p. 189. Paris, 1896.
The Theosophical Review, xxiii. pp. 12-15. London, 1899. Hammer-Purgstall (Baron J. von), Fundgruben des Orients, vi. p. 24. Rio, L’ Université Catholique, i. p. 241.
141:† Rosenkranz (Dr. Karl), Handbuch einer Allgemeinen Geschichte der Poesie, ii., 84. Halle, 1832. Hagen (F. H. von der), Heldenbilde aus dent Sagen Kreisen, II., iii. 8. Breslau, 1823. Simrock (Dr. K.), Parzifal und Titurel, p. 484. Stuttgart und Tübingen, 1842. Bergmann (Dr. F. G.), The San Grëal; an Enquiry into the Origin and Signification of the San Grëal. Edinburgh, 1870. Bartsch (Karl), Wolfram von Eschenbach—Parzifal und Titurel, pt. i. p. xxiv. Leipzig, 1870. Vilmar (A. F. C.), Geschichte der Deutschen National-Literatur, i. 129-130. Marburg and Leipzig, 1870.
142:* The history of Lohengrin, or Garin-le-Loherain was first treated by Hugo Metullus, in 1150.
142:† Görres (Joseph), Lohengrin, ein altdeutsches Gedicht nach der Abschrift des Vaticanischen Manuscriptes, von Ferdinand Glöckle herausgegeben. 1813.
Koberstein (A.), Grundriss zur Geschichte der Deutschen National-Literatur, p. 50. Leipzig, 1830.
142:‡ Hagen (F. H. von der), Briefe in die Heimat, ii. 305. Breslau, 1818.
143:* Trouvères in Northern France; Troubadours in the South of France; Minnesänger in Germany; Skalds or Scalds in Norway; Bards in Wales and Ancient Britain.
143:† San Marte (A. Schulz), Leben and Dichten von W. v. Eschenbach, xiv. Magdeburg, 1836.
144:* The fragments of "Titurel" written by Wolfram were first made known by Docens (1810). They are in Karl Lachmann's edition of Wolfram v. Eschenbach (1833). The only edition of the Jüngere Titurel, which exists in a good many MSS., is that of Hahn (1842).
144:† Nutt (Alfred), Studies on the Legend of the Holy Grail, p. 6. London, 1888. See The Theosophical Review, xxiii. 10.
144:‡ Many materialistic critics have tried to disprove the very existence of Kyot (or Guiot de Provins), and further have tried to prove that the tradition was invented by Wolfram. But research shows definitely that at this very period there was a Jongleur, or singer, of this name. He is mentioned by the Abbé de la Rue in his Essais historiques sur les Bardes, les Jongleurs, et les Trouvères, i. 216. Caen, 1834. In this passage is mentioned a Satire written by Guiot de Provins; Rosenkranz also mentions him in his Handbuch einer Allgemeinen Geschichte der Poesie, ii. 114. The same conclusion has also been arrived at by San Marte in an interesting article "Der Mythus vom Heiligen Gral," which appeared in the Neue Mittheilungen aus dem Gebiet historisch antiquarischer Forschungen. Herausgegeben von dem Thuringisch-Sæchsichen p. 145 Verein für Erforschung des Vaterländischen Alterthums. (III., pt. iii., pp. I-40). The author identifies the supposed mythical Guiot von Provence with the historical character Guiot von Provins (the town in Brie?) which is called Provîs by Wolfram.
145:* Paris (A. Paulin), Les Manuscrits françois de la Bibliothèque du Roi. Paris, 1848. Vol. vii., p. 377.
145:† "Books withdrawn from public perusal, or in other words, hidden or secret." See Mead (G. R. S), "The Secret Sermon on the Mountain," The Theosophical Review, xxiv. 26.
145:‡ See Fauriel (C. C.), Histoire de la Poésie Provençale, iii. 5. Paris, 1846.
146:* Mysticism was "in the air" at this epoch; in Calabria the Abbate Gioachimo di Flor was preaching his Evangelio Eterno. Educated at the Court of the Duca di Puglia, a pilgrim to the Holy Land, a monk at Mount Tabor, he became a mystic and was according to Cantù deeply tinged with Buddhistic views (Gli Eretici d’Italia, i. 120-135. Torino, 1865). He had a large following. A quantity of important writings were left by this great mystic. His prophecies were known even in England, for we find an English Cistercian, Rudolph, Abbot of Coggeshall, coming to Rome in 1195, had a conference with him, and left an account of it (Martène, Amplissima Collectio, v. 837), and Felice Tocco (L’Eresia nel Media Evo, i. 261-409. Florence, 1884) writes: "The works of Joachim were printed at Venice in the years 1517-19, and his life was written by a Dominican named Gervaise in 1745. A full summary of his opinions, and those contained in The Everlasting Gospel, may be found in Natalis Alexander's Ecclesiastical History, VIII., pp. 73-76."
146:† Aroux (Eugène) Dante, Hérétique, Révolutionnaire et Socialiste; Révélation d’un Catholique sur le Moyen Age, p. 14. Paris, 1854.
147:* The mystic doctrines of the Albigenses will be treated later. They believed in re-incarnation and other fundamental theosophic doctrines.
148:* Flegetanis was both an astronomer and an astrologer. Both Görres and Warton (Thomas Warton, The History of English Poetry, Vol. I., London, 1824) consider that Flegetanis is a corruption of the Arabic name Felek-daneh, an astronomer.
148:† It can be proved from various sources that there was a friendly interchange of visits between the Caliph at Cairo and the Templars. (King, C. W., The Gnostics and their Remains, p. 418. London, 1887.)
148:‡ Lohengrin, p. ix.
149:* "Pâtaliputra (Palibothra des Grecs) qui est aujourd’hui Patna." Burnout, op. cit. p. 109.
149:† In the Persian tradition a similar miraculous and mystical vessel was given to Jemshad, the pattern of perfect kings, in whose reign the Golden Age was realised in Iran. He was the favourite of Ormuzd and his legitimate representative on earth; he discovered the "Goblet of the Sun" when digging the foundation of Persepolis, and from him it passed to Alexander the Great. It is a symbol of the world. See Burnouf (Émile), Le Vase Sacré et ce qu’il contient. Dans l’Inde, la Perse, la Grèce et dans l’Eglise chrétienne, p. 189. Paris, 1896.
149:‡ In Grecian mythology Apollo, or Helios, rises out of a golden-winged cup.
149:§ Blavatsky (H. P.) The Secret Doctrine, ii. 379: "The beneficent Entities who . . . brought light to the world, and endowed Humanity with intellect and reason."
149:¦¦ The Gnosis, or Wisdom Mysteries.