The Holy Grail in Our Times

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6 16

When the maps for living that we have been following have become irrelevant, the ancient myths continue to provide reliable guideposts.   Here ‘myth’ does not mean something untrue.  On the contrary, it refers to a traditional story based on a profound reality.  Being embedded in the archetypal (universal) level of human consciousness, the truths in myths are timeless.  One myth in particular, which continues to provide direction and wisdom in these chaotic and often frightening times, is that of the Holy Grail.

In studying this myth, what interests me most is how, as Carl Jung observed, it is connected to spiritual/psychological alchemy, that is, our inner transformational process of becoming whole. The two traditions are inseparable - both goals, the Grail and the Philosophers Stone (lapis) are one. In fact, the Grail, in its earliest manifestation, was a stone.

Whether either has been or is an actual physical phenomenon, what is relevant for us is the inner process that leads to the goal. We are knights seeking,  We are alchemists creating the elixir, the healing medicine.  We are also vessel and stone. Both traditions provide windows into the deeper workings occurring in ourselves as well as in the world, as transformation occurs. Not only that, they can teach us how to support this process and show us the next steps when we can no longer find the way on our own. 

Both the Grail legend and alchemy are ultimately about reuniting the feminine and masculine principles, in a mystical marriage known as the hieros gamos. From this union the new self/divine child is born and we enter a new reality. But there is an inevitable and challenging undergoing before the forces come together. Perhaps this provides a context for the polarities and tensions that are so obvious in the world today. If we trust the ancient stories and heed their messages and guideposts, perhaps we will discover a brave new world - and “find rest” for our weary souls.

Art by Edwin Austin Abbey