Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Holy Grail II

While the historicity of the romances is certainly open to question, a sober look at works like Parzival reveal an easy link to better-documented historical events.

For example, if Gahmuret is indeed Geoffrey "the Fair" Plantagenet, he is said not to have been heir to a throne, but to have risen to power only through marriage to a widowed emperor. This, of course, was true of Geoffrey who, although a count, claimed a throne only through his marriage to Maud of England, widow of the Holy Roman emperor.

The early romance literature tends to agree in stating that the Grail resided in the West only for a short time -- two or three generations depending on whether the Fisher King is the son or grandson of Titurel. Then it is returned back to the uttermost East. The duration was similar to that of the House of Anjou in Jeruslam, which has been interpreted by many as the Montsalvat or "Mount of Salvation" in Parzival.

That such stories about the Grail and Templars could have circulated so widely -- and the romances were very popular -- at a time when the Templars were still in existence is telling.

Whatever the form of the Holy Grail, in all cases it becomes the object of the quest. Wolfram describes it as a stone that has fallen from heaven -- lapis exilis -- reputedly the emerald that fell from Lucifer's crown during the war in Heaven.

In Kalacakra Buddhism, this reminds us of the Cintamani, the wish-fulfilling fire pearl. The Cintamani is mentioned in Hindu texts as arising out of sea during the Churning of the Milky Ocean. The word "mani" here means "pearl" while "cinta" is "desire, love."

In Tibetan, Mongolian and Korean tradition, the Cintamani is often thought of as a stone that falls or is dropped from Heaven. It is the state jewel of Shambhala in Kalacakra belief, and it is carried out of that realm on the back of a horse known as the "Wind Horse" or the "Best of Horses." The pearl is engulfed in flames representing the inner desires the stone fulfills.

The Tibetan story of 'Indrabhuti and the Wish-fulfilling Gem' has many similarities to the Grail story. Here the "wounded king" is blind and infertile. The infertility extends to the entire kingdom. As his doman sinks into poverty, Indrabhuti makes a decision:

Rather than adopt any policy not in accord with the precepts of the Dharma, the King decided to risk his own life for the good of his people and obtain from the Nagas, who dwelt beneath the waters of the ocean, a wondrous wish-granting gem.

The king sets sail for the "Isle of Jewels," apparently another reference to Shambhala, and after many hardships receives the Cintamani from the "Azure Lady." His infertility and blindness are cured and further yet he is able to see a divine child known as Padmasambhava hidden in a lotus, whom he adopts and makes heir to the throne.

Like the Cintamani, the Grail is credited with giving sight. Not everyone can see and touch the Grail, only those who have reached a certain spiritual level. The Cintamani and Grail fulfill the inner desire (cinta) of the quester but only after they have suffered the necessary trials and learned the important lessons. Simply reaching the destination is not enough.

However the sacred object and the sacred destination are important in their own right as they, like Tantra, provide a "shortcut" to enlightenment. By seeking them one burns through to the inner core to discover what is truly important, and the reality of one's inner desire. At a much earlier period, Gilgamesh also ventures to the bottom of the sea in Dilmun to obtain the flower of immortality but only after a long spiritually and physically ardous journey.

For the Dragon and Bird Clan, in crisis after having reached their pinnacle, the quest also offers a form of political propaganda to help with the geopolitical situation they faced. It was a way of attracting the military/religious elements eastward to head off the Islamic advance.

The relationship between the Grail and the Templars appears inextricably linked with the House of Anjou (Angevins) according to Wolfram. Kyot appears to have had no problem accessing an Angevin genealogy that conflicted with the "official" one and placed the family's origin in the fairy-land of Feimurgân.

The Angevins and the offshoot Plantagenet line were always considered a bit suspect among the high nobility of Europe. Legend says that one of the counts of Anjou had married a half-dragon woman known as Melusine. Bernard of Clairvaux, the founder of the rule of the Templars, was quoted as saying at the birth of Geoffrey the Fair "From the Devil he has come, to the Devil he'll return."

The existence of the heathen calf-worshipping Flegatanis in formerly Muslim Toledo is equally telling. It was from him that Kyot claimed to have learned about the Grail, but he had to confirm some things in the heathen manuscript by consulting the chronicles of Anjou and other kingdoms.

One is forced to conclude that the fairy descent of the Plantagenets is somehow linked to the their close relationship with the lineage of Prester John as found in the romances, and it is at least partly through Anjou that the Grail and other "treasures" come to the Templars.

If the Plantagenets were a bit offbeat, the Templars followed their example well. While the latter were undoubtedly subject to many false accusations, it's hard not to conclude that they absorbed many more "heresies" than other military orders.

In the 1120s, the order had no major sponsors in Europe until Fulk IV "the Rude" came to Jerusalem for pilgrimage. This was the start of the relationship between Anjou and the Templars. He promised to raise funds for them on an annual basis, and became an associate member. He may have also been responsible for the first major land grant -- the Castle of Baghras between Syria and Asia Minor, an important fortification near the city of Antioch.

In 1128, after the Council of Troyes granted papal approval for the order, the first grandmaster Hugh de Payens visited Fulk from April to May. The council's ruling was the beginning of the extraordinary growth of the Templars.

Recruits and donations poured in at an extraordinary rate. In 1131, Fulk became King of Jerusalem through his marriage with Melisende and was brought closer to the eastern Templar activities.

There is no agreement as to why Philipp IV of France and Pope Clement V decided to eventually destroy the Templars some 200 years after their birth. The other major orders -- the Hospitalers and the Teutonic Knights -- survived to present times. While the official explanation was that the Templars were heretics, other suggestions range from fear of their growing power to the debt owned the order by Philipp.

As noted earlier, the order was cleared of charges in Portugal and their name changed to the Knights of Christ. Here they became deeply involved in maritime exploration. Henry the Navigator became grandmaster of the order, and Vasco de Gama was an ordained knight.

When Columbus sailed to America his three ships displayed the red pattee cross of the Templars, which also could have been interpreted as an emblem of the Bird Clan.

Paul Kekai Manansala