The Alchemical Grail


The grail is a complex symbol with numerous possible meanings. Some believe it to be an actual physical object that is hidden and may yet be found. Many Christians today believe it is and was the cup in which Joseph of Arimathea carried Christ’s blood. But it is a much older symbol than the time of Jesus (which does not negate the significance of the Christian symbol.)

Some see the grail as symbolic of the repressed feminine in the patriarchal culture which needs to be reclaimed or rediscovered before harmony can be restored and the healing of our world can occur. Certainly the early grail stories developed around the time when there was a shift away from goddess worship toward a more masculine based spirituality.

The grail is also a symbol for the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage of masculine and feminine principles. This wedding occurs on a cultural level. Out of the marriage a new reality is birthed. This also occurs on a personal level. Through our own participation in the process of inner transformation, an inner marriage occurs from which a ‘divine child’ is born. This child is our true and whole self which on one level already exists. As the grail legend tells us, the grail is with us all along. It is here now, in this very moment. We only have to become conscious of this, which is different from knowing it intellectually.

Spiritual alchemy is a parallel process to that of the quest for the grail. In alchemy, the ultimate goal was not gold, as is usually believed, but what is called the philosopher’s stone or lapis philosorum. In one well known version of the grail story, and likely in earliest tellings of it, the grail was a stone. In spiritual alchemy, this represents an inner state of being rather than an outer object. When we approach the grail myth and alchemy psychologically and spiritually, we are knight, grail, alchemist and stone.

We may deliberately undertake a Great Work of achieving the ultimate goal in life which is essentially becoming one with the divine, symbolized by grail and philosopher’s stone. Other terms include Christ consciousness and Buddha consciousness. There are many paths.

But what I wish to explore here is not only a path but a way of transformation. It is the grail myth as much from the perspective of the grail as the seeker, and alchemy as much from the perspective of the stone as the alchemist. It is the way of the sacred marriage but it is grounded in the feminine, in the earth, nature, and our own bodies. The essential maps and recipes are already within us. Our own nature is the Way. By following our own inner blueprint, we realize who and what we really are and we embody our ultimate destiny.