GRAIL: 5th response to Catafalque

Peter Kingsley tells us how Jungian psychology is centrally concerned with “individuation”, or the individuation process (109ff). He quickly dispatches this prosaic description of Jung’s psychology by moving quickly into the poetic language of ritual and sacred mystery. He refers to individuation as a mystery—the mystery of the Holy Grail:

It involves a quest and this quest demands everything … almost no one can endure it. 

And even more strangely, he claims that the Grail can be won only by following the unwritten laws of chivalry, and further, that the Grail can be attained only “by simply becoming it.” To give us a taste of the unendurable quest to reach the Grail (by finally becoming it), Kingsley refers us to the Red Book (247a) where Jung describes the Grail as a volcano’s crater, thus linking him directly to Empedocles who underwent an initiatory death in the crater (kratêr) of Mount Etna. The Grail is the volcano, “seething with lava and water and fire—one of the most terrifying examples on earth of nature’s utterly inhuman power to destroy, transform, give birth” (197).  As Jung says, “My deep interior is a volcano that pushes out the fiery-molten mass of the unformed and undifferentiated …” [1]

Becoming the Grail is descending into the kratêr, melting down into the primal stuff of the world and, even more mysteriously, is entering the Amfortas wound—the Grail King who was wounded in the genitals by a lance: “the wound is only healed by the lance that made it.” This wound can be healed only by the initiate’s descending into it, just as the lance descended, creating that wound in the first place.[2] Kingsley makes it so clear that only by suffering the gaping wound of an entire civilisation can the conditions be set for the appearance of the Redeemer or Saviour: “this work of healing the gaping wound caused so long ago [is] the impossible work of the equally impossible saviour or Saoshyant; of the precious jewel, father of all prophets, who comes back after thousands of years bringing a completely new revelation.” (394)

*************************

In 1983, I had a profoundly moving and life-altering dream. I did not know at the time that it stamped my fate, signalling the beginning of my descent in the kratêr, where I would be melted down completely and reconfigured, where I would be suspended on the cross, and where finally the Redeemer would appear with his new message. All this followed over the next twenty-five years with no respite. My body was constantly on fire and dream-visions assailed me. My only way out was to go through it and write down my experiences along the way, thieving from as many disciplines as possible in order to say what was impossible to say.

In this dream I become a holder of the Grail. This vision was to sustain me through unimaginable suffering and blackness:

I walk towards a Sacred Grove with Janet, a young Jewish woman who suffers a lot in her life. I have my arm around her tenderly and she tells me a dream. We talk of the American Indian.  As we enter the Grove, I am met by the following scene:  verdant grass, a fertile English grove contained by cliffs rising up on all sides. In the centre of the grove rises a majestic oak tree reaching up with broad branches reaching out in all directions. Near the tree halfway up the cliff, is a rock shelf onto which tumbles a thin veil of a waterfall. It is covering the mouth of a cave.  The atmosphere of the grove seems beyond description. A feeling of deep serenity pervades everything. People are in the tree, making preparations. A feeling of orderly, excited, though muted anticipation; quiet purposeful mingling. A sense of utter peace with contained excitement. I want never to forget those feelings!  With this atmosphere quickly penetrating every fibre of my being, I move towards and begin climbing the tree with Janet. In the branches of the Tree, Janet’s and my roles change. She becomes the Tarot Reader. I throw the cards with her and every card she lays down on my behalf becomes solid, glorious gold—the interpretation: I am to be in the presence of the Grail King during the coming ceremony and I am to hold the Cup. This is what the preparations are for.

Edith is there. I see her humming quietly to herself, obviously looking forward to the event with pleasure. But now, unbeknown to me, I am to be tested for worthiness, I believe. When I am told by the Tarot that my goal is reached (to hold the Cup), my heart swells with feeling. I can barely contain myself. To my shock I realize I am feeling prideful and I begin to believe that this pride will disqualify me. My feelings fluctuate wildly. Then I understand that it still will happen.

Now I see my cat climbing down the tree to the ground. She looks very scared. I start down after her but there appears a young man of the forest with two beautiful hunting dogs. He sends one after my cat. Looking down from the tree I see the dog seize and apparently crush the cat. I race down and to my amazement he is now holding a wiggling little puppy gently in its mouth. I turn to the young man and say half jokingly that it was lucky he did not harm my cat, as I would have half killed him. Then I develop another frightening belief. Surely my blind rage will disqualify me this time. But as he and I walk on, I realize that my words were habit only, empty. I hadn’t actually felt the rage. What I now feel towards my cat’s death is tenderness, a new feeling.

Back in the Tree. I now see a furry rock monkey in its nest. Another furry creature runs in to rob the nest. The monkey adopts a posture of threat. The animal is terrified but at the same time protective of the nest. It displays its threat and fear with every hair on its body, back arched, screeching, eyes wide apart. But it fails and the robber eats its meal showing as much gusto and enjoyment as the monkey its fear and distress as it sits on its now empty nest. I am deeply reminded of our animal nature. I feel the same feeling of deep tenderness towards the situation, towards those animal aspects in all of us, those instincts that energize and act in us all. The whole scene was completely amoral. It is simply how things are on the animal level. I could feel the monkey’s distress and I could feel the robber animal’s pleasure in consuming the food that it needs for life. The whole scene was impressive for its level of LIFE! Energy, total expressiveness! Each giving its all and the outcome being that life goes on! I am deeply moved by this.

Now the ceremony draws near, the people gather and I come in. I think the ceremony is to take place in the cave beyond the veil of water. I once again believe I have disqualified myself. A man comes over and quietly tells me that, yes, I am to hold the Cup. He gives a carved stone cup with a red liquid in it. I collapse in his arms spilling some liquid as he cradles me in his arms. I weep, crying has it finally come to pass. I am to be in the presence of the Cup and I am to hold it!

**********************

At the time of the dream I was only thirty-five years old. Now, some thirty-five years later, reflecting on the dream, I see a young Parsifal, the Fool, the Red Knight, whose passions were far from mastered, whose mistakes (spillages) were plenty, and yet whose deepest intentions were pure—to hold the Grail. I followed the unwritten laws of chivalry: poverty, chastity, and obedience, even with many excruciating errors in judgement along the way.

This initiatory dream indicated that, with all my foolishness, emotionality, and unmastered passions, I would still become a holder of the Holy Grail. The dream laid down my two-fold path: to attain the steadiness of hand needed to hold the Grail and to enter the deeper mystery of becoming the Grail, by descending into the kratêr, by entering the wound, and by ascending the cross and accepting its unbearable suffering, until the Redeemer appeared to me[3]. This poem, along with others, burst forth in revelatory fashion during a sustained period of ecstasy in 1994:

TAHAGATA [4]

jewel rising from the ocean
tahagata
the one thus comeshe awaits . . .
i kiss the old master
tenderly on his grizzled cheekwho am i?you are jesus
god-man

jewel in the heart of the lotus
om mani padme hum

the call of the world is strong now
her suffering is critical
she calls to me

goddess— a mortal woman
too long have they been separated
by man
her suffering is extreme
in her rage-despair she shrieks
her agony is incomparable
for she knows that her rage
in destroying creation
will destroy herself

i am smitten with love

 

she turns her full destructive power onto me
blood gushing out of my mouth, eyes
the primal power of the cosmos
her domain
poures relentlessly into me
skin peeling, eruptingthe imperative
stay conscious through this!flayed, stripped to the bones
boiled down in a cauldron
burned at the stake
bitten and poisoned by her servant
the great black cobra
raped by her animals
snake, bear, pantheri became the butterfly and drank nectar
i became the widespanned eagle
i became the great serpent of healing
i was embraced by grandfather bear
his mantle thrown over my shoulder
i became the great lord lion

though i was but a child
others spent their passion
on my body
while i called out for love

i became a prostitute
i became a psychopathic father
i became a psychotic mother
i became a sex abuser
i became a rapist
i became a child molestor
i became a demon twisting words
i became a pauper
i became a crippled blind beggar
i lived on the margins
rejected and despised
i became an alcoholic
i became addicted to sex,
i abused women
hating them and fearing themin the dark interior
the jewel was formed
heat and pressure combined
and love was created everlastingeros transformed
in his mother’s housenow the way has been found
i am the way

diamond has formed
floating to the surface
from the depths of the black seas

now come forward
the essayists
to try it

**************************

Entire Response in 7 parts

[1]See my essay, Unancestral Voice, which describes the same “cauldron”: 

[2]This wound is abstractly called the gap, spirit/matter split, etc. today. Psychodynamic theory is showing a great deal of theoretical interest in the earliest childhood wounds or traumas (splits). To call it a wound invites participation in Amfortas’ suffering—few are willing to take this step i.e. of actually suffering the wound of Western civilization.

[3]I have recorded all these events throughout my books and essays

[4]Written in 1994 during a period of ecstasy