Whom does the Grail Serve? An Interpretation of the Prologue of the Gospel of John

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”[i]

And so we begin at the ‘beginning’ when ‘the Word was with God’ and indeed ‘the Word was God.’

This intriguing combination of time and speech suggests a storehouse of immense cosmic energy awaiting release.  I’m reminded of zimzum, the Jewish mystical concept used by the Kabbalists to signify the self emptying aspect of the creator.

God (know as Ain Soph) withdraws his Light in order to create a vacuum allowing a single thread of his Light to traverse the darkness in a series of ten concentric circles called Sephiroth – collectively know as The Tree of Life.  Each Sephira acts as a vessel containing some of his Light; each represents an aspect of God.

For the Kabbalist, the ‘Tree’ is not only a diagram of God’s unfolding creative impulse, but also a path for spiritual union with the Divine.  Legend has it that after the fall of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, angels brought the Kabbalah down from Heaven to teach Adam how to recover his primal bliss.

It’s important to remember that The Gospel of John was originally written in Greek and what is translated simply as ‘Word’ was originally Logos, one of the most complex concepts of the Hellenistic world meaning nothing less than the natural order of things –  the very rhyme and reason of creation.

Rather than decanting the majesty of Logos into a single human being, a man called Jesus of Nazareth (as is often done), I suggest that John meant to focus our attention more broadly – perhaps on Adam Kadmon, the eternal image of man and God, which historically has been equated with Logos.

In John’s time, the Pharisee mystics expounded the idea of the Son of Man as an archetypal ‘Heavenly Man – the image of God.  Adam Kadmon, the archetypal figure, is the cosmic blueprint for all mankind.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he create him.’ (Genesis 1:27)

But Adam Kadmon is not only the archetypal image of God, but of all men.   If Adam Kadmon is the equivalent of Logos – the “Word of God” – then the awesome truth is that not only did God send his only Son to dwell among us (as the usual translations go), but also in us, as it literally says in the original Greek.

Even more awesome is the implication that it’s our job to do more than simply receive Jesus, the man from Nazareth, as our Messiah, but we must actually ‘receive’ Logos, God’s big-picture plan,  into our hearts and lives.  So how might that be accomplished?  I suggest through Tiphareth.

Tiphareth, the sixth Sephira of the Tree of Life, is also referred to as Adam Kadom – the Son of Man.  Because Tiphareth lies at the very heart centre of the Tree, it forms the balance point where the component forces of manifestation stabilise. allowing God to dwell among us.  Tiphareth, the place of our humanity, represents God incarnate in the form of the Messiah – the sacrificed God.

In the Kabbalistic world, symbols and ideas find association through correspondence.[ii] As well as its associations with ‘the Son’, Tiphareth has correspondence with both the heart chakra and the astrological sun, ruler of the zodiac sign Leo.

Many equate the astrological sun with the quest for Self, or in the words of Joseph Campbell, ‘The Hero’s Journey”, which not surprisingly is a journey of the heart.

This journey is well illustrated by the story of Perceval, who is closely associated with astrological Leo.  Although raised in isolation in the forest by his mother, as the true son of a nobleman, Perceval finds his way into the chivalrous world of knights and kings.

As a Knight of King Arthur’s Round Table, with his head held high he sets off to heal the injured Grail King and redeem the failing land.  But sorely lacking in compassion and understanding of the ways of the world, he fails miserably in his task.   As the result with his head held low, he sets out on the long, painful path of self-discovery.

When finally he puts aside his personal agenda and prays to God to shown the way,  Perceval is at long last able to ask the right question, ‘Whom does the Grail serve?”.  It is with this that the Grail king is redeemed and with him, the land and its people.  It is then also, that the Grail king reveals that not only is he Perceval’s grandfather, but that Perceval is to become the new Grail king.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

So whom does the Grail serve?

Perceval never got an answer.  Perhaps it’s enough to know there’s a question that needs asking.

But I like to think that which the Grail serves is Logos – The Word of God – the natural order – the harmony of all things with all things.[iii]

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[i] “Prologue to the Gospel According to John,” The Revised Standard Version of the New Testament. New York: Thomas Nelson & Son, 1946.

[ii] Imagine two violins that vibrate in sympathy with each other when their strings are tuned to the same pitch.

[iii] Perhaps the strangest aspect of the Grail mystery (and the secret societies dedicated to its service, is that its symbolism seems to have no apparent connection to Christianity.  This has led some to speculate that the Grail tradition has something do with a secret teaching of Christ or perhaps an even more ancient gnosis.

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