well, now parzival went home and told his dear ol’ ma ‘bout his day and that he’d decided to become a knight and she was not at all happy to hear it which is no surprise when ya consider that she’d gone to considerable trouble to prevent that exact thing from happenin’. but she took the news as best she could, in her own passive-aggressive sort of way, mumblin’ under her breath, “oh, i always knew t’would come to this”, as she pulled down the curtains and sewed together a ridiculous get-up for parzival to wear when he went off to make his way in the world, hoping that he’d look so stupid when he got to king arthur’s court that they’d laugh him outta town and he’d come back home, tho’ she really didn’t think it’d work. and parzival threw a bedquilt across the olde plowmule and packed his bible and a change of socks in his rucksack and kissed his ma and off he went, down the ol’ plank road to become a knight. his ma stood and waved her kerchief and when he went around the bend she thought, “oh, i’ll ne’er see my boy again” and just to make sure she was right, she fell down dead in the road which is sad and tragic, but also exactly what she what she deserved. she had, after all, built her whole miserable existence around the false and wrong-headed notion that she could prevent someone else from achieving their own fulfillment. and deferred her own dreams in the process.
the world is full of people like that. people who, becos of ignorance or fear or prejudice or greed or plain old stupid dedication to their ideas of how-things-oughtta-be, refuse to take up the challenge to discover and manifest their own true, genuine, unique and god-given lives. they settle for less and less and convince themselves that they have no other choice but to make do and then they try to drag anybody down with ‘em that they can get their claws into. arguably, they may deserve pity more than hate, but there’s so goddamn many of ‘em and they’re so goddamn good at what they do, goddamn their eyes, that some measure of contempt is their due and myths ain’t very kind to ‘em. let the dead bury the dead.
parzival, o’ course, had no idea becos he was facing forward and away he went and had a few kooky misadventures and eventually found his way to king arthur’s court where he was recognized for what he was: a dumb country bumpkin with a good heart and the honest desire to become something. the student was ready so a teacher appeared and schooled parzival in the proper conduct of knightliness. he was taught some gentilities and formalities and the use of weaponries and salad forkeries and among the many details of chivalries he learnt was the importance of keeping his fool mouth shut. mind yer own business and hoe yer own row. don’t go pokin’ around askin’ a lotta questions. and keep yer armor shiny.
well, one day all the knights were at the round table, discussing their various past adventures and someone happened to make mention of the sad fact that they had been without any of same for some time, which caused all t’others to murmur their assent. adventures had been sorely missed as of late and t’wouldn’t it be lovely to embark upon one, but what, oh pray, should it be? when all of a sudden, a deus ex machina descended from yon rafters bearing upon it a most radiant and wondrous vision such as took the breath away from all and sundry, being clearly a sight most sacred and holy that none present could fail to perceive as such. and when the thing had vanished, all present agreed that what they had been shown was the sight of nothing less than the holy grail.
we are used to thinking of the holy grail as the chalice from which jesus christ drank and gave his disciples to drink at the last supper and which joseph of arimathea used to catch christ’s blood and then, rather inexplicably, took as far away from the holy land as he possibly could to great britain and there entrusted to the care of some persons of good repute to hold onto in esoteric secrecy until the 12th century or so. this was not always the case. at the time the grail stories were coming together, the grail was sometimes said cup, sometimes the platter from whence christ ate and served bread at the last supper and sometimes a big, glossy, green rock. seriously. the tales of king arthur’s knights certainly have their roots in prechristian, celtic myths and heroic legends and there is some little speculation that before the monks got hold of the material and christianized it all up, the artifact that became the grail was a cauldron which had the delightful property of always containing something to eat. this wondrous cookery turns up in myths quite frequently, food being a basic necessity and it in abundance being a symbol of the good life. all of which is fine and dandy but somewhat less important than what the grail represents and what that is is what myth is all about: the genuine, true, real and unique life of the individual. platter, cauldron or shiny rock makes no nevermind, this is about fulfillment.
so they all decided that the vision of the grail had occurred in response to their discussion and that it was a challenge to take up the quest, a challenge that they, brave, stout men of action that they was, were not about to shy away from. up they upped and saddled their chargers and girded their loins and buttoned their armor and rode they forth in gallant fashion with many a “hey” and “ho” and “devil take the hindmost” all the way to the edge of king arthur’s lands whence they encountered the great forest. and there they conferred and were all of one mind that t’would be a shame to ride into the wilderness as a group. each of them, then, would enter the wilderness alone, in the place of his own choosing, where there was no path.
this is crucial. several things have happened here, all of which deserve some little consideration. one thing is the deliberate undertaking of a quest. earlier, when parzival was home with his ma, the quest took him. he wasn’t looking for it, didn’t have any idea and it caught him up. here, parzival, along with the other knights, chose to ride forth, conscious of the dangers and willing to accept what happened in the course of the quest. and we also see that parzival’s earlier quest – to become a knight at king arthur’s court – having been fulfilled, placed him in the position to undertake this, his major quest. and the grail quest is exactly the major quest of any life. the quest to become a knight was a smaller, introductory quest for the real biggie. there may be many small quests, necessary steps, before the real big one becomes apparent. all of the small ones are essential. all of the minor goals must be successfully accomplished before the major one will appear. and when the major one does appear, it must be sought by the individual alone, in his/her own way. each one must leave the known realm – king arthur’s realm – and enter the world – wilderness – charting their own coarse. you cannot realize your true, real, genuine, unique selfhood strolling down a well-worn path. that might get you to the privy, but it ain’t getting’ ya to heaven.
psychologically, the wilderness is the unconscious mind, the dream mind. to delve into this realm, as do shamans and other visionaries, means travelling with the collective dream, which is the group of knights, which is the cultural myth/religion, all the way to the very edge and then breaking away from it to plunge into the unknown alone and going forth to discover what may be there.
or in the case of the young person growing into adulthood, this section may refer to the move from mom and dad’s place(s). we saw parzival leave his mother and what went down there. king arthur then became his sort-of father figure archetype and the kingdom then, the known sphere of parental control which is control but is also security. in reality, the little birds may take a measure of security with them, but they must, if they are to become actual adults in the real world, take on the responsibility for themselves, their actions and their lives.
and so they went and parzival went also, alone into the wilderness, questing for the holy grail, which was and always will be themselves. the main body of the story takes place in this questing and it jumps around from knight to knight, showing the adventures of some and the misadventures of others. some fatal character defects cause fatalities. some knights get sidetracked or discouraged or caught up in shenanigans that have no truck a’tall to do with the holy grail and let that be a lesson: its all too easy to be led astray. occasionally, two or three of the knights run into each other on the road and sit down a spell to talk about what they been up to and how’s it goin’? and that’s all fine and well, its good to share information with others along the way and enjoy a can o’ beans around the campfire, but then its back to the lonely road in the mornin’.
and when his way got rough and he was down in the dumps, parzival always had his faith and his bible, which here shows the importance of a guiding principle, a light, a resource of energy. the road is hard and strewn with many stones. the quest is oft weary and the end nowhere to be seen, nor any guarantee t’will e’er be found and what’s a young knight to lean upon when sorrow is his only companion and fatigue his only ration? whence cometh the strength to travel on if not from the example of the myth? aye and here the myth is showing the importance of the myth within the myth and the liberation of the individual thru the surrender of the individual to the influence of the myth. this sort of contrariness is to be expected, as the road to paradise is paved with paradoxes and of these, liberation via surrender is the most ubiquitous, which may seem strange to some amongst us who was raised with the concept of a stern, vengeful and law-making god of the purityrannical sort, the kinda deity that goes around smiting and blighting and sending plagues and locusts and being generally calvindictive. god doesn’t have to be thought of as a celestial cop waiting to pop out and condemn people for having unpure thoughts or striking matches on saturday. it may be and indeed it is that the “laws” gifted down from on high are less rules imposed upon us to restrict our freedom and more guidelines to help us attain to greater happiness and harmony with our fellows. f’rinstance, it has been well said “judge not lest ye be judged” and oft’ interpreted that as meaning that if’n ye look down upon an other, yer father which art in heaven shalt looketh down ‘pon ya, but mayhaps it means that if’n ye enter into the business of down-looking, you will yerself look down upon yerself and then live within the sphere of constant comparison wherein ye wilt ne’er have peace for as long as ye find an other lowlier than your sorry self, it follows that ye wilt find an other against whom ye art lesser than. hence, to ne’er judge means to be equal to all and hear, hear let us hearken to the words of one who knew well this sooth, old railroad hand, eugene v. debs:
“your honor, years ago i recognized my kinship with all living beings, and i made up my mind that i was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. i said then, and i say now, that while there is a lower class, i am in it, and while there is a criminal element i am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, i am not free.”*
and one who knows he is no better than the worst is also no worse than the best, and all are equal in the sight of god, amen. many many more examples could be shewn o’ that what has been taken as commanding being really showing of the way, but suffer this to suffice and assumeth ye henceforth that the purpose of god is always the liberation of the individual, never the condemnation of same**.
so tho’ he recognized hisself as in service to the god of his religion, parzival understood that the reason of his being was to become fulfilled thru the service of his god and that the quest upon which he was embarked, that being to seek until finding the holy grail, which was his own true fulfillment, it follows that god’s reason for being was to gift onto parzival the knowledge of the means through which his fulfillment might be found and the power to find it, thus fulfilling the purpose of god and parzival both, both of whom having the same fulfillmental purpose, namely the finding of the holy grail, here representing personal fulfillment. so god was on his side. and he knew it.
**cf. john 3:16 &c for clear exposition of this posit.