In the final volume of her fascinating, comprehensive, and authoritative Camelot tetralogy, Norma Lorre Goodrich examines one of the most enduring themes of all time, the search for the Holy Grail.
About the Author
Norma Lorre Goodrich, Ph.D., K.C., FSA Scot, has been teaching for forty-five years and is a professor emeritus at the Claremont Colleges. She is the author of King Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, Heroines, Priestesses, Ancient Myths, and Medieval Myths. She lives in Claremont, California, with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
The Book Of Jesus
Passing from deduction to induction, we shall in this chapter seek manuscript evidence to prove that the Holy Grail derived from the city of Jerusalem, from the lifetime and ministry of Christ, and from the lives and writings of the Apostles. The first text to be summarized is the Grand-Saint-Graal because it offers a first identification of the Grail itself. Therefore we can come down to business right away. The author argues that the Grail is a Book, associated with blinding light, which we already recognize as a Grail phenomenon. He goes on to argue the pedigrees and genealogy of Lancelot and Perceval, all of which makes us want to identify him as a prototypical Scot. We then offer support for this author from theologians, from the Book of John, from the legend (or fact) of Joseph of Arimathea, from a Bible geographer and the suggested birthplaces of Saint George, the trial of the theologian Pelagius, and the life of Saint Mary Magdalene. Then we move on to Solomon's Temple as pattern and original of the Grail Castle, and include its Oriental treasures also.
We look briefly at several other texts such as Parzival (the German Perceval) and the Perceval Continuations to learn that Jewish scholars wrote the Grail lore in the first place. We there find our second identification: the Grail was a stone fallen from heaven. Turning to the Queste del Saint Graal, we hear Queen Morgan le Fay lecture on the "tables" of the Grail ceremony. Then we allow the wonderful Sir Thomas Malory to speak his piece on the subject. The Grail Queste again appears towind up our derivation of the Holy Grail from jerusalem by supporting the Grand-Saint-Graal not only did Solomon arrange transport for the, missionaries to Britain, but Perceval's sister also there met her death.
Those persons who suddenly saw the Grail in front of them, open and unconcealed, suffered a severe shock. In some cases this sight, or sighting, caused the viewer to experience a loss of memory accompanied by confusion, even by a disorientation that lasted into the following day.
At the moment of sighting the Grail, some persons were actually blinded. Others lost their power of speech, and this despite a prior indoctrination over a long period of time. Relatives and teachers had coached the persons searching for the Grail, and especially cautioned them to speak, to remain conscious, to be alert, to rise to the occasion, and, at least, for God's sake and their own, to ask a question.
The ones who managed to keep their wits about them were so few and far between in King Arthur's day and presence that authors recorded their experiences. Therefore these names are known. As for the viewers' reactions under extreme stress, we could also puzzle that out, and even eventually describe it clinically, as it were, if we were clinicians.
To us also, at this point in time, for we are nothing to ourselves but ordinary people also, trying to live our own lives safely and as best we can, the Grail is a total mystery. We even wonder if we too have already seen it, and can't remember either, in some museum, in some cathedral, at sunrise over a mountain peak, in the treasury of some castle, among the relics of some sanctuary, or in our own temple, or synagogue, or church. It could be. It could certainly be.
For we too have been searching for the Holy Grail, but not all of us full-time, as a career, like Lancelot, or Gawain, or Perceval, or Galahad, or King Arthur himself. They did not merely search.
They quested. They devoted their lives to the Quest of the Holy Grail. We travel.
One person saw the Grail twice, was able to touch it and recall it later, and was even subsequently empowered to write down his experiences with his own hand and pen. He tells us quite frankly at the commencement that he has decided to remain anonymous. He gives us three reasons: firstly, anyone who heard him say that God had shown himself to him by allowing him to write "The Holy Grail," which is the holiest of all stories in the world, would call him a vile, arrogant scribbler. Secondly, anyone who knew the name of such an author, or anyone personally acquainted with such-and-such as author of "The Holy Grail," would not find the account worthy, or even worth reading. We know familiarity breeds contempt. Thirdly, those readers who found errors in his account, or lies, or mistakes in grammar or, worse yet, in theology, would besmirch his name forevermore. To save himself from loss of reputation, then, this author remained anonymous.
One must respect these reasons for anonymity. One must also respect this anonymous, French-speaking author of the Middle Ages for his honorable intent, which contrasts well with those of his contemporaries.
The text in question, where the anonymous author recounts his firsthand, and very traumatic, viewings of the Grail, goes by several names (listed in the Selected Bibliography), from which we choose to call it simply the Grand-Saint-Graal. It is a grand achievement indeed, offering the first identification of the Grail itself. None of the other ten or so Grail texts touches the heart as does this anguished, sincere, personal experience.
Our anonymous author writes prose in the Old French language of northern France, addressing his account particularly to those who believe in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ("saint esperit").
"It was seven hundred seventeen years after the death of Christ," says our author, meaning it was A.D. 717, when he had this terrifying experience of the Grail. Seven hundred seventeen years after Christ's Passion, he says, he found himself in a wild part of a country he does not wish to identify any more closely, and furthermore, it was a heathen land, not Christian, that is to say, but a very delightful, pleasant country.