The Meaning and Significance of the Holy Grail

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Holy Grail

Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let him who does wrong still do wrong; let him who is filthy still be filthy; let him who does right still do right; and let him who is holy still be holy.
Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End… I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.
~ Revelation 22:10-12, 16

The Holy Grail was, of course, the cup that Christ used at the Last Supper to celebrate the Passover with his disciples before his crucifixion. But despite the many stories surrounding it, there is no evidence whatsoever that the actual cup survived antiquity. So rather then speaking of it as a literal object, most of the stories instead focus on its symbolism. Like the bread used in Christian communion services, the cup is a symbol of Jesus’ body or essence, and the wine in the cup represents the blood of Christ, which was poured out at his death as the ultimate sacrifice for humanity. As Jesus said in Luke 22:20 “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Therefore, the Holy Grail is typically presented as a gateway to immortality, and a means of securing eternal life for those who “drink” of it. The Eucharist—the celebration of bread and wine in remembrance of Christ—is the richest and most complex of all religious symbols.

Since the time of Christ, his followers have celebrated his death and resurrection in this manner, but the actual Last Supper cup did not become a focus of attention until a thousand years later. The Middle Ages was the era when the Holy Grail was invented as a literary concept. In 1136 Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the highly popular work Historia Regnum Britannie, which “documented” the existence of King Arthur. Then several decades later, and especially the years 1180 through 1240 after the first and second crusades, was the time when most of the grail romances were written: Le Conte du Graal by Chrétien de Troyes c. 1190, Le Roman du Graal, Joseph d’Arimathe, Merlin, and Perceval by Robert de Boron c. 1205-10, the Vulgate Cycle (an edited collection of grail and Arthurian stories) c. 1245, and Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach, c. 1216. Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, was written later (c. 1469) and was essentially a fusing of the Holy Grail with the lore of King Arthur. These stories were read and told throughout Europe, and were immensely popular.

This was also the era when chivalry, the Lord and the Lady, and Noblesse Oblige were at their height, and the grail romances had a large impact on the societies of that day. A number of these literary works, especially those of Chrétien de Troyes, were actually commissioned by Henry II, King of France and England, and Elanor of Aquitaine, his queen, for a different and much more prosaic purpose.[1] Nevertheless, one of the main motives of these writings was to elevate the conduct of men-at-arms so that these men would help build up society rather than tear it down. In other words, these stories were not merely entertainment; they also contained a number of moral and spiritual themes:

  1. The need to improve conduct, especially for leaders, and to provide paradigms of highness and nobility for both male and female, each in their own way.
  2. The reality that morality and spirituality are inseparable—that purity and moral standards are an essential aspect of those who would seek for God.
  3. The concept of life being a struggle, which should involve a quest for a higher meaning and purpose.
  4. The idea that a key element of life involves sacrificing oneself for the good of others; that a person is not really living until he or she has something worth dying for. It is significant that the Holy Grail was conceived of primarily as a “serving” device.

Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail

The grail stories have their origin in the symbolism of the Last Supper as indicated above, during which Jesus foretold his own death and resurrection. But they also involve the actions of Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy religious leader. The New Testament Gospels tell us that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish aristocracy in Jerusalem, who were the ones most responsible for having Jesus arrested and crucified. At some point during the day that Jesus was killed, Joseph went to the Roman authorities and asked for the body of Christ. Together with Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin who had become convinced of the reality of Jesus’ divinity, the two men prepared the body of Christ for burial and placed it in Joseph’s own tomb, braving the hatred of their colleagues. After Jesus’ resurrection the apostles and disciples began preaching and teaching very boldly, which drew the renewed wrath of the Jewish religious leaders. The Sanhedrin had planned on killing Lazarus, a friend of Christ, and whom Jesus had raised from the dead, and they continued their hostility to all of Christ’s followers. Joseph of Arimathea, being one of their own, was therefore a traitor to them, and may have been arrested and imprisoned for some period of time. Eventually he was released or escaped, and according to tradition, Joseph, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, and perhaps others[2] boarded a ship and sailed away from Israel in AD 37 (the date of AD 63 has also been cited) in order to escape persecution.

There is some evidence that they may have landed on the island of Cyprus, as there are several churches on the island dedicated to Lazarus.[3] The latter may have remained on Cyprus, but with or without Lazarus, the group purportedly continued their voyage to Gaul and landed near Marseille at the place where the town Saintes Maries de-la-Mer is now located (at that time Marseille was known as Massillia, and was an outpost town of the Roman Empire). The church Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer in St. Maries de-la-Mer still honors the memory of Mary Magdalene and other women who were with her or who met her. Mary Magdalene and Lazarus were said to have stayed in the Marseille area, and there is a strong tradition of their living not only in Marseille, but also in the area around the town of St. Maximin, north of Marseille in the rocky Baume Mountains (Maximin was said to have been one of the 70 disciples that Jesus sent out to preach, and who sailed with Mary to Gaul). The tombs of Mary and Maximin are located in the crypt of the St. Madeleine Basilica in the town, and the supposed skull of Mary Magdalene is also kept there in a reliquary. Near the town and farther up in the mountains there is a grotto where Mary Magdalene is said to have gone to pray, and in some of the stories, to live in isolation for many years.

Mary Magdalene[4] was therefore not directly involved with the Holy Grail object itself, but rather with its themes of service and sacrifice. She was the woman who served Jesus by anointing him and washing his feet, thereby preparing him for his death and resurrection. Thus her life became a representation of the grail principles—a human picture of the grail in action. See the article Mary Magdalene – Fact or Fiction? for more information on her.

Joseph of Arimathea,[5] possibly the first custodian of the grave-cloth that has become known as the Shroud of Turin, had a more direct connection with the Holy Grail. Robert de Boron’s story of him being the original keeper of the grail cup, and holding it under the cross to catch Jesus blood, may well be a literary version of the fact that Joseph was the first owner of the Shroud by virtue of his provision of both the tomb and the cloth used for Christ’s burial. De Boron was a cleric who wrote Joseph d’Arimathe in 1205 after his master, Gautier de Montbéliard, returned to France following the 4nd Crusade. The Shroud had been kept in Constantinople since 944 and was displayed regularly in religious services there, but the city was sacked by the crusaders in 1204, and the Shroud was taken (in one of the many ironies of history, the Crusaders of 1204-5 thus never made it to the Holy Land, and instead destroyed the capital city of the Roman Empire). A number of crusaders had seen or heard of what to them was a mysterious and holy object. If the Shroud of Turin is actually the burial cloth of Christ, then it is a “grail object,” as it contains his blood. So when De Boron wrote his story, he may have “shrouded” the acts of Joseph by referring instead to the cup used at the Last Supper as a way of emphasizing the significance of both the blood of Christ and Joseph’s actions. See the article The True Holy Grail for more information.

There are other fascinating stories and/or legends about Joseph of Arimathea traveling to Britain. It was said that the source of Joseph’s wealth was trading, and especially trading in tin. There are tin mines in Cornwall that were in operation at that time, and it has been speculated that Joseph owned a fleet of ships for transporting tin ore from the mines to buyers. If this was true, then Joseph may have made a number of voyages to England, and was therefore equipped to leave Israel by boat and to take others with him. The Talmud (Jewish scribal writings) indicated that Joseph of Arimathea was Jesus’ great uncle (the brother of the Virgin Mary’s father). It was therefore speculated that Joseph brought Jesus to England as a boy during the “silent” years of Jesus’ youth (the Bible doesn’t provide any information on the life of Jesus between age 12 and 30). William’s Blake’s well-known poem And did those feet in ancient times written in 1808 speaks of this, and the poem was the source of the anthem Jerusalem regarded by many as the national anthem of England. The poem and the anthem inspired the popular 1981 film Chariots of Fire as well as many others.

The stories of Joseph tell us that he came to Glastonbury in Cornwall, the location of the Isle of Avalon in the King Arthur tales. If true, he was therefore Britain’s first evangelist, and was said to have founded the first church in England at Glastonbury (a mud and wattle structure that later became the “Lady Chapel,” the ruins of which can still be seen). He was also said to have thrust his staff into the ground, and the staff budded and became the “Glastonbury Thorn,” which has been tended by the monks there for centuries. It was also said that Joseph was the ancestor of King Arthur through his daughter, who supposedly stayed in Britain, married a Welsh prince, and became the ancestor of the Pendragons-the Christian kings of Britain.

But regardless of whether Joseph was an evangelist to Britain, or his daughter was the distaff side of a dynasty of Welsh kings leading ultimately to King Arthur, we do know that Christianity came to Britain very early (possibly as early as AD 37), and that the Celtic people in England readily responded to it, as did the Irish Celts when St. Patrick came several hundred years later. Whether history, legend, or both, the stories of Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene are thus intimately connected with King Arthur, the legendary grail king and Celtic hero.

The Religion of the Celts—Druidism and Christianity

Druid

Druid Priest

The religion of the ancient Celts prior to the coming of Christianity was Druidism. Druidism was, in many ways, the essence of the Celtic spirit—a nature religion that was magic and wild, in which one could supposedly enter the trees, the rocks, the waves, and the birds, and become one with them. It was also very passionate, with powerful desires—for sex, for fighting, and for life itself.

Male-female relationships among the Celts were much less constrained than in other societies of the same era. Although men led and dominated in both politics and home life, women were not restricted as they were in Roman society, and there were many powerful Celtic women. There was a corresponding freedom in Celtic sexuality, which was perhaps a little too free: rapes were common, and when a king was crowned he would copulate with a white mare to demonstrate his virility.

Nature was of central importance to the Druids, especially forests and oak trees; the natural world was seen as being imbued with magic and wonder. A Druid adept could supposedly “shift his shape” and fly with a raven, enter a wave or tree, and become an animal such as a boar or an ox.

However wonderful this magic appeared, there were also dark elements to Druidism and Celtic religion. The “shape-shifting” meant that there was no fixed identity—everything was fluid and the patterns were not predictable. Nature was filled with curses, traps, and taboos known as “gessa,” a Celtic word that also means “obligation.” Like a concealed pit in a forest, a person could easily and even unwittingly stumble into these, or fail in a duty, and so become cursed. Sooner or later it was inevitable that a taboo would be broken and that life would be ruined, leading to fatalism and a sense of resignation. Many young warriors expressed the desire to die young and in battle, and in the Celtic tales, all of the heroes had one or more fatal flaws that eventually and inevitably destroyed them, like the Greek myth of the heel of Achilles.

The gods of the Celts were the source of these “gessa,” and were capricious, cruel, dangerous, and treacherous. They ate humans and were constantly looking to entrap and devour people; consequently they were feared and dreaded. The statues of the ancient Celtic gods display their ferocity and grotesqueness—they were often depicted as killing and eating men. The carved gargoyles and demons from Celtic Ireland and England which now seem rather quaint and amusing were very real and terrifying to the Celts. Thus, ancient Celtic society, inspired by Druidism, was at once full of life and full of death.

The great Gaols of Ireland,
Are the men that God made mad.
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.
G.K. Chesterston

The grotesque and fearful nature of the ancient Celtic and Druidical gods helps to explain the wild and drunken Celtic culture, particularly in Ireland, where prior to a fight the men would paint themselves blue and tear off their clothes. Wearing only sandals and a golden torc around their neck, they ran naked into battle, shrieking and enraged to such an extent that they were no longer recognizable. Celtic warriors spoke of the warp-spasm which came over them in battle and supposedly transformed them into awesome fighting machines before whom their enemies fled. In order to sleep they would drink themselves into a stupor to avoid the horrible nightmares of the gods who called them to dismember their enemies in extreme acts of rage and cruelty. It is said that some warriors died of fright from these alcohol-induced nightmares even before the battle started. Each Celtic tribe continually warred against and pillaged the others, and they routinely went on slaving raids, entering coastal villages at night or near dawn, stealing women for use as sex slaves and children for household and farm work.

St. Patrick

St. Patrick

Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in a British (or possibly Scottish) coastal village around AD 387. As a teenager he was captured by an Irish slave trader and sold as a slave to an Irish chieftain. He spent six years in slavery as a shepherd, with little to eat and only rags to wear, despite the fact that he was required to live outside with the sheep he tended. He eventually escaped and made it back to England, but was never at peace until he returned to Ireland in AD 433 and found his true calling. He came to the Irish with the message of Christ, and such was the impact of this one man through the power of his life and the winsomeness of his message, that he profoundly influenced the entire country.

Virtually everyone in authority was initially against him. The ministers to the ruling elite were largely Druid priests (each ruler had a spiritual adviser), and they resented any challenge to their place and position. Patrick was therefore continually and harshly opposed; he indicated that in his early years of ministry in Ireland he feared for his life every day. This intense opposition makes his achievements and the power of his message even more remarkable. The following poem is a ringing statement of his faith in the midst of attack:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven,
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightening,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and near,
Alone and in multitude.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there will come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the power of the Creator of Creation.
The Breastplate of Saint Patrick

He was one of the first persons in history to speak out against the slave trade of which he himself had been a victim, and which was routinely engaged in by Irish chieftains. Due to Patrick’s influence, slave trading in Ireland was abolished by the end of his life or shortly afterward. The violence of the society was also moderated and the internecine warfare between the tribes reduced. The Irish still celebrate this amazing man—St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 was the date of his death.

The nature of the Celtic gods and the brutality of early Celtic culture is also critical in understanding why Christianity had such a powerful impact on Celtic society, first in France and England, and later in Ireland. Understanding that the God of the universe was good, loving, and bountiful was perhaps the most powerful force of all in healing and transforming the Celtic world.

This magical world, though still full of adventure and surprise, is no longer full of dread. Rather, Christ has trodden all of the pathways before us… We only have to be quiet and listen… This [Celtic Christian] sense of the world as holy, as the Book of God—as a healing mystery, fraught with divine messages—could never have risen out of Greco-Roman civilization, threaded with the profound pessimism of the ancients and their Platonic suspicion of the body as unholy and the world devoid of meaning.[6]

The melding of Christianity with Celtic culture thus produced a beautiful thing—a society where people still regarded the natural world with a sense of awe and wonder, but without the fear and dread of their Druidical forbears, and with a moderation of the drunken violence and conflict that had plagued pre-Christian Ireland. Furthermore, they were not burdened with the Gnostic and Platonic notions of the body being evil—ideas which had deeply infected the Roman church and led to its doctrine of celibacy and the suppression of women and sexuality. This somewhat Christianized, but nevertheless, very raw and heathen Celtic society was the world of King Arthur.

King Arthur, the Holy Grail, and Christ

King Arthur

King Arthur

The story of King Arthur is a story of the Celts in Britain, from the second through the seventh centuries, and is the highest and most fully developed of all of the Celtic tales. King Arthur has been identified with a number of historical figures: Lucius Artorius Castus,[7] a Roman military leader in the second century; Riothamas,[8] a little known “King of the Brettones” in the fifth century; Ambrosius Aurelianus,[9] a Roman-British military leader who won several battles against the Saxons in the sixth century; and Artur MacAidan,[10] the son of a Scottish king who held off the Saxon advance at the end of the sixth century.

Artur MacAidan is the historical figure with the most documentary evidence for being the real Arthur and the source of the legend, although he was not a king. Rather he was a prince and warlord of the Scots, and he died in battle fighting with the Britons against the Saxons and Picts around AD 582. Therefore the storied King Arthur was probably an amalgamation of several of the above figures; some believe that he had no actual historical existence and was instead the personification of a Celtic god. Stories of Arthur were sung and retold by bards down through centuries and the tales “grew in the telling” until it became impossible to separate history from fiction. The real significance of King Arthur is therefore literary rather than historical.

The literary King Arthur came from a line of supposedly Christian Celtic kings possibly descended from Joseph of Arimathea, and from whom a higher standard of morality and behavior was expected. In a total reversal from past notions of rulership, the king was expected to rule for the benefit of his people rather than merely for himself and his cronies, as unfortunately was and is typical of many leaders even in today’s world. A model for the noble and proper use of power was introduced in the tales of Arthur; this model became the essence of chivalry and the core around which the stories of Chretien, de Boron, Malory, and others were woven. For example, here is the knight’s pledge:

Then the king established all his knights, and to them that were of lands not rich, he gave them lands, and charged them never to do outrageousity nor murder; and always to flee treason; also by no means to be cruel, but to give mercy unto him that asketh for mercy, upon pain of forfeiture of their worship and lordship of King Arthur for evermore; and always do to ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen succour; upon pain of death. Also, that no man take no battles in a wrongful quarrel for no law, nor for no world’s goods. Unto this were all of the knights sworn of the Round Table, both old and young. And every year they were sworn at the high feast of Pentecost.
Le Morte d’Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory

The Round Table was created to symbolize the equality of all of the knights that sat around it, and that everyone was worthy of being heard. It did not eliminate royal power, but placed limitations on it and directed it to serve others rather than being merely self-serving.

The Round Table

The Round Table

It must be remembered that the tales of King Arthur were retrospective and written/sung long after the actual people had passed from the scene, and therefore their society was to some degree romanticized and presented through rose-colored glasses. But despite this gloss over the harsh realities of early Celticdom, and even though the characters in these tales express desires for morality and order (e.g., the egalitarian nature of the Round Table), they were all too human and did not live up to even their own self-proclaimed standards.

The story of King Arthur exposes the baseness and sinfulness of humanity; it begins in treachery, and ends in betrayal and tragedy. It starts with Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, who lusts after Igraine, the wife of the Gorlis, Duke of Cornwall. Uther asks Merlin, the master Druid, for assistance in seducing Igraine, and with Merlin’s help Uther succeeds in entering Tintagel Castle on the coast of Cornwall where she lived, and then impregnating her. Her husband Gorlis was away from the castle engaged in a battle, and was killed on the same night. Uther subsequently marries Igraine who then gives birth to Arthur. In some versions of the story, the baby Arthur is taken and raised by Merlin, who had forced Uther to agree to give him Igraine’s first-born child as payment for his help, thus poisoning the Uther/Igraine relationship and insuring that Uther’s crimes would create strife and turmoil for him, rather than peace and satisfaction. Uther Pendragon himself dies in battle soon afterward, and as his dying act, he thrusts his sword into a stone. After his death the country is left without a king because no one was able to draw Uther’s sword from the stone, until Arthur grows up and is able to retrieve his father’s sword.

The betrayal and tragedy at the end of the story involves the adultery of the knight Lancelot with Guinevere, Arthur’s wife and queen. Arthur is forced to condemn Guinevere, but Lancelot rescues her and in the process kills several Knights of the Round Table, thus betraying his oath. Finally, the climax of the story is the fight to the death between Arthur and Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son by his half-sister Morgan le Fey with whom he had had an adulterous fling.

The quest for the Holy Grail is perhaps a metaphor for Arthur’s search for redemption and peace. He had established the Round Table and performed many good works as king, but these were not enough. Arthur is grieved by his own failures and seeks for something beyond this world, something both higher and deeper. The search for the Holy Grail was thus an attempt to go beyond nature and the natural world, to climb higher than the trees, to fly above the eagles, and go beyond the atmosphere. It was an attempt to pierce the magic and the limited power of the Druids as represented by Merlin and the natural world, and to seek for God and heaven.

It is very interesting that Merlin perishes from his own magic used against him by a woman. In some tales he is trapped under a stone, and in others, in an oak tree, and dies. Both of these natural elements, especially the oak tree, were symbols of Druidical power. Merlin, the ultimate Druid, is therefore slain by his own gods and destroyed by the symbols of his own religion. Druidism itself is thus seen as mortal and transient—a false hope—whereas the Holy Grail is immortal and eternal.

Arthur includes others in the search for heaven and beyond, sending his knights on the quest because, like ripples in a pond, the problems in his family affect others, and ultimately the entire kingdom. The knight Percival succeeds in his quest and finds the Grail because his life has been transformed by the Grail’s power. But all of the other knights fail and perish, including Arthur himself, who does not find redemption until his death. In the concluding fight with Mordred, a symbol of the evil that had arisen within his own family, Arthur kills his son, but is himself fatally wounded. He returns his sword Excalibur to the lady of the lake, surrendering his power and authority, and then dies.

King Arthur may have been a mythical invention of Geoffrey of Monmouth (it was said that Geoffrey needed to fill in the blank spaces in history of the sixth century). But there is some evidence that the character of Arthur was at least partially based on one of the last kings/princes of the Celts prior to the Saxon invasions and re-invasions that finally ended Celtic power in Britain, perhaps the Artur MacAidan mentioned above. The Saxons gradually forced the Celts farther and father south[11] and eventually wiped them out. There are hints that the last Celtic king or prince committed or was involved with a transgression against the people, a betrayal and/or some type of adultery, that led to a spiritual crisis in his life and to conflict in the kingdom (the real Artur MacAidan had a sister named Morgan). However, the crisis was never resolved—the Celts and Scots went into battle with the Saxons and were badly defeated. Arthur was slain and Celtic power in Britain was eventually crushed, never to rise again. Thus the legendary line of Joseph of Arimathea, the Pendragons, and the Christian kings of Britain came to an end in treachery, sorrow, and tragedy.

King Arthur’s story therefore symbolizes the following:

  1. Our desire for nobility, honor, fairness, justice, and love.
  2. Our innate selfishness and sinfulness leading us to betray our own principles and do wrong.
  3. Our search for God and heaven—for a higher meaning and purpose in life, as well as for mercy and divine forgiveness.

This is the real significance of the tales of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. But the story goes on: the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes who defeated the Celts in the fifth and sixth centuries were themselves defeated by William the Conqueror and the Normans in 1066. Furthermore, legend says that one day King Arthur will rise again to fight for Britain. Other countries have similar stories. For example, in Denmark there is a legend of Holger, a Danish warrior who traveled to many countries but finally came back home and fell into a long sleep. It is said that in a time of national crisis, he will awake and return to fight for Denmark. In World War II the Danish resistance movement called themselves “Holger Dansk,” and there is a statue of him in the dungeon of Kronberg Castle (“Hamlet’s Castle”) in Helsingor, asleep with a sword in his hands, waiting for the day of crisis at the end of the world.

King Arthur is therefore not merely a symbol of human nobility, failure, and the subsequent quest for God. With the inclusion of the Holy Grail, the story is also becomes a paradigm for divine redemption—a symbol of Christ who died a sacrificial death so that those who seek him like the knight Percival would find the mercy of God and live.

The Contemporary Significance of the Holy Grail

As indicated above, the Holy Grail is much more than just historical and literary entertainment. It is a prophetic object that is intended to convey a message from God to people, with the same content for today as was given in the time of King Arthur. The message, as succinctly stated in both the Old and New Testaments, is as follows:

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. And let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him. And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah 55:6-7

Everyone who names the name of the Lord must depart from iniquity.
II Timothy 2:19

We understand that people in the past needed rebuke and correction, but are we equally willing to see the faults of our own culture and change?

In our own day many have abandoned the “grail quest,” the quest for God, in order to focus on self—the religion of humanism. Surveys in America reveal that people are almost universally interested in “spirituality,” but they define that word in whatever way suits their own desires, essentially as a set of roll-your-own designer religions. Prophets, such as Isaiah above, were always unpopular because they spoke of our responsibility to God, and the consequences if we failed to obey Him. In contrast, we are continually focusing on rights and entitlements. As our society has become increasingly secular and self-absorbed, we have developed sophisticated ways of tuning out prophetic messages, marginalizing God, and excluding Him from life.

  • Our psychological paradigms and counseling methods constantly places the focus on our feelings rather than on our responsibilities—“how can it be wrong when it feels so right?” Rogerian or “values-free” counseling is one of the most popular methods; the counselor is never allowed to provide any solutions, and instead assumes that the answer is already present somewhere in the counselee’s mind, and simply needs to be explored and brought to the surface. This is in contrast to Biblical counseling, which is based on the counselee learning and absorbing God’s standards, and changing their ways to bring his or her life into conformance and obedience to God. We are therefore very uncomfortable with the words “morality,” “obedience,” and “submission,” and there is a wholesale rejection of absolute standards for right and wrong. People can then lie, cheat, steal, and philander without being held accountable, and even can be proud of themselves and encourage others to do the same. When they are troubled and feel guilty, they are told by psychological “experts” that guilt is a figment of their imagination. Psychology has thus become hostage to and a mouthpiece for humanism; a means of insulating us from God, and from the judgment to come.
  • We are obsessed with self-image and hesitant to discipline our children lest we damage their supposedly fragile egos. Forces in contemporary education seek to dilute and compromise parental authority, and to promote “outcome-based education” in which grading is eliminated. Therefore, we are removing the notion of striving for good that ultimately provides a child with a strong self-image and sense of purpose. [12]
  • We cling to the increasingly bankrupt theory of Darwinian evolution as an explanation for the origin of the cosmos, refusing to allow intelligent design to be considered in the classroom, lest, God forbid, some elements of Christianity could possibly creep in as well. The ACLU and other organizations have managed to convince people of the ridiculous notion that intelligent design is “unscientific” because it involves elements of religion, when the Darwinian theory of evolution is equally religious and requires a much larger leap of faith and suspension of disbelief to accept that it is true. Meanwhile scientists are increasingly questioning and discarding this theory as being unworkable and inadequate to explain the incredible complexity of life and the huge unbridgeable gaps in the fossil record. In other words, scientists are acknowledging that the amount of faith necessary to continue to believe in Darwinian evolution is far too high for a reasonable person to accept. The Darwinian Emperor is Naked The consequence of widespread acceptance of evolution is a cultural despair and hopelessness. If all we are is a random collection of molecules that accidentally got together on a cold impersonal piece of rock that is devoid of any higher intelligence and love, then what is the point to life?
  • The notion that students attend school to receive a well-rounded education from all perspectives is pure myth. Our public educational institutions are aggressively intolerant, censoring any world-view except that which is propagated by educational elite – see Ben Stein’s movie Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed for a critique. Prayer in schools is banished; the pledge of allegiance is being thrown out; students cannot refer to God in their speeches; the Ten Commandments cannot be displayed in public places even though they were the foundation for our legal system; and teachers are being fired for allowing any of their religious convictions to come out in their teaching, unless they are secular humanists or wiccan, in which case they are encouraged to do so. Witches are encouraged on Halloween, but Christmas crèches, symbols of Jesus, and now even Christmas trees and carols are rejected and replaced by “magic trees” and kwanzaa. Organizations are even stopping the use of “Merry Christmas” as a greeting. Anti-Christian bias is vigorously promoted in schools, media, and government, and many lies are told about Christianity—that it is oppressive, anti-female, anti-sex, anti-minority, anti-environment, pro-war, the source of slavery, and so on in an continual attempt to justify its exclusion from the marketplace of ideas. This is also true of public colleges and universities, which should be places that promote freedom of thought, but instead are typically bastions of censorship. The spirit of our age is one of militantly intolerant political correctness.
  • Those who claim to be Christian live in the same mileau and are steeped in the same relativism as the rest of the culture. It is hard to rise above and reject the secularization that is foisted on us by government, media, and the public schools. Therefore, divorce rates and family issues are almost as high in the Christian community as elsewhere; many seem to be “Chinos” (Christian-in-name-only) and exclude God from daily life.

It is certainly true that some throughout history who called themselves “Christian” did bad things and brought shame to the name, and leaders who were in a position to speak for God sometimes led people astray. We must recognize both in ourselves and in others the universal human tendency to twist and distort things for one’s own benefit—“The heart is deceitful above all things and deeply corrupt. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Many of the popes, especially those who ruled while the church still owned the Papal States prior to 1815, were essentially crooked politicians concerned mainly with their own power, wealth and prestige (see the article Criticism of the Church for more information).

But the blame for their acts must rest upon those people and not on the faith that they claimed to represent. We are always human first, and Christian (or anything else) second. Regardless of the transgressions of some Christian leaders, a study of the past reveals that rather than being an instrument of oppression, Christianity has instead been the single greatest force for good in the history of the world—for the promotion of justice, equality, the rights of women, credit and business development, prosperity, mercy, humane treatment, medicine, addiction remediation, and caring for the sick and the disadvantaged.

The cost to society for ignoring God and morality is astronomical.[13] Social problems will never be eliminated, but would be mitigated and reduced if people would turn back to God.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

An individuals, we may have little control or influence over the large forces of government and media, but each of us can make an individual choice to seek to do that which is right for our own life. Furthermore, God’s nature is unchanging and is unaffected by what we think and believe about Him. Regardless of a person’s orientation or beliefs, or how much he or she wishes to escape personal responsibility, each one will still have to stand before God one day and give an account. Therefore the following verse from Galatians 6:7 is true for everyone: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, this he will also reap.”

The entire history of mankind is the story of “unholy grail”—how people have sought for the wrong things and how authority and power has been misused down through the ages. Throughout time there has been a cri de cour for leaders who would rule in justice, mercy, and peace.

The tales of the return of Arthur and Holger are fictional, of course, but they are a metaphor for a deeper truth that there is a Redeemer who will one day return in a time of great crisis, who will establish his kingdom, and will wipe all tears away. In the meantime, Christ is the Holy Grail, and he stands with open arms to welcome those who will seek for him, and who are willing to have their lives transformed by His power.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:20

The Spirit and the Bride say “Come.” And let the one who hears say “Come.” And whoever is thirsty, let him come and let him take the water of life without cost.
Revelation 22:17

Beyond the Blue – Thoughts on Immortality


[1] Henry II, who was the cleverest and most powerful of all of the Angevin rulers, had his own purpose for commissioning these literary works. They were funded not simply to improve public morality, but also as a subtle form of propaganda, meant to associate himself and his Norman (French) lineage with an ancient and mythic past, and so legitimize his reign in the minds and hearts of his Celtic and Anglo-Saxon subjects in England. The latter were resentful of Norman rule which was often overbearing and high-handed (Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe provides insight into the tenor of those times). Henry II was the Count of Anjou in France before becoming King of England, and the Angevin dynasty, which included Richard the Lionhearted as well as Prince John of Robin Hood fame, was based in Angers, France. The Angevins were more French than they were English, and the many conflicts in this royal house were for the most part responsible for the long and destructive wars, and the hatred between France and England.

[2] Some say that the group also included Mary the Mother of Jesus, Martha the sister of Mary Magdalene, and Philip the Evangelist.

[3]See the notes on Lazarus in the essay Character Research on the website www.unholygrail.net for more information on his history.

[4] See the article Fact or Fiction – Mary Magdalene for more information on her history and identity.

[5] See the notes on Joseph of Arimathea in the essay Character Research on the website www.unholygrail.net for more information on his history.

[6] Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Doubleday, 1995, p. 133

[7] Kemp Malone

[8] Geoffrey Ashe, The Discovery of King Arthur, Owl Books, 1987

[9] Historia Regnum Britannie by Geoffrey of Monmouth

[10] Arturius—A Quest for Camelot, The Legend of King Arthur

[11] The setting for the seduction of Igraine by Uther Pendragon was in Tintagel Castle on the coast of Cornwall, in the far south and west of England.

[12] Educational programs like “Outcome Based Education” sponsored by the NEA and academia seek to eliminate grading and all objective standards for students, in a drive to socialize the education system.

[13] A large percentage of social spending is required to deal with and protect us from the dysfunctionalism of our society: to lawyers, judges, prisons, police, bureaucrats, security systems, addiction treatment programs, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, and drug companies. All of these are “medicine” and not “food.” Even worse are the emotional, psychological, and medical trauma due to divorce, unfaithfulness, wife and child abuse, run-amok feminism, latch-key kids, teen pregnancy, abortion, crime, drunk driving, and drugs. Worst of all is that many of these social pathologies are a direct result of deliberate government, educational, and media policies – our tax dollars at work.

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