IF deeper pitfalls are laid by anything more than by the facts of coincidence, it is perhaps by the intimations and suggestions of writings which bear, or are held to bear, on their surface the seals of allegory and, still more, of dual allusion; as in the cases of coincidence, so in these, it is necessary for the historical student to stand zealously on his guard and not to acknowledge second meaning or claims implied, however plausible, unless they are controlled and strengthened by independent evidence. Even with this precaution, his work will remain anxious, for the lineal path is difficult to find and follow. Perhaps there is one consolation offered by the gentle life of letters. In matters of interpretation, if always to succeed is denied us, to have deserved it is at least something.
Among our aids there is one aid which arises from the correspondences between distinct systems of allegory and symbolism. They are important within their own sphere; and it is by subsidiary lights of this nature that research can be directed occasionally into new tracks, from which unexpected and perhaps indubitable results may be derived ultimately. When the existence of a secondary and concealed meaning seems therefore inferentially certain in a given department of literature--if ordinary processes, depending on evidence of the external kind, have been found wanting--its purpose and intention may be ascertained by a comparison with other secret literatures, which is equivalent to saying that the firmest hermeneutical ground in such cases must be sought in evidence which inheres and is common to several departments
of cryptic writing. It is in this way that the prepared mind moves through the world of criticism as through outward worlds of discovery.
I am about to set forth after a new manner, and chiefly for the use of English mystics, the nature of the mystery which is enshrined in the old romance-literature of the Holy Graal. As a literature it can be approached from several standpoints; and at the root it has a direct consanguinity with other mysteries, belonging to the more secret life of the soul. I propose to give a very full account of all the considerations which it involves, the imperfect speculations included of some who have preceded me in the same path--writers whose interests at a far distance are not utterly dissimilar to my own, though their equipment has been all too slight. I shall endeavour to establish at the end that there are certain things in transcendence which must not be sought in the literature, and yet they arise out of it. The task will serve, among several objects, two which may be put on record at the moment--on the one hand, and quite obviously, to illustrate the deeper intimations of Graal literature, and, on the other, certain collateral intimations which lie behind the teachings of the great churches and are, in the official sense, as if beyond their ken. Of such intimations is all high seership. The task itself has been undertaken as the initial consequence of several first-hand considerations. If I note this fact at so early a stage as the preface, it is because of the opportunity which it gives me to make plain, even from the beginning, that I hold no warrant to impugn preconceived judgments, as such, or, as such, to set out in search of novelties. In my own defence it will be desirable to add that I have not written either as an enthusiast or a partisan, though in honour to my school there are great dedications to which I must confess with my heart. On the historical side there is much and very much in which some issues of the evidence, on production, will be found to fall short of demonstration, and, so far as this part is concerned, I offer it at
its proper worth. On the symbolical side, and on that of certain implicits, it is otherwise, and my thesis to those of my school will, I think, come not only with a strong appeal, but as something which is conclusive within its own lines. I should add that, rather than sought out, the undertaking has been imposed through a familiarity with analogical fields of symbolism, the correspondences of which must be unknown almost of necessity to students who have not passed through the secret schools of thought.
It will be intelligible from these statements that it has not been my purpose to put forward the analogies which I have established as a thesis for the instruction of scholarship, firstly, because it is concerned with other matters which are important after their own kind, and, secondly, as I have already intimated, because I am aware that a particular equipment is necessary for their full appreciation, and this, for obvious reasons, is not found in the constituted or authorised academies of official research. My own investigation is designed rather for those who are already acquainted with some part at least of the hidden knowledge, who have been concerned with the study of its traces through an interest proper to themselves--in other words, for those who have taken their place within the sanctuary of the mystic life, or at least in its outer circles.
In so far as I have put forward my thesis under the guidance of the sovereign reason, I look for the recognition of scholarship, which in its study of the literature has loved the truth above all things, though its particular form of appreciation has led it rather to dedicate especial zeal to a mere demonstration that the literature of the Graal has its basis in a cycle of legend wherein there is neither a Sacred Vessel nor a Holy Mystery. This notwithstanding, there is no scholar now living in England whose conditional sympathy at least I may not expect to command from the beginning, even though I deal ultimately with subjects that are beyond the province in which
folk-lore societies can adjudicate, and in which they have earned such high titles of honour.
After accepting every explanation of modern erudition as to the origin of the Graal elements, there remain various features of the romances as things outside the general horizon of research, and they are those which, from my standpoint, are of the last and most real importance. A scheme of criticism which fails to account for the claim to a super-valid formula of Eucharistic consecration and to a super-apostolical succession accounts for very little that matters finally. I have therefore taken up the subject at the point where it has been left by the students of folk-lore and all that which might term itself authorised scholarship. Ut adeptis appareat me illis parem et fratrem, I have made myself acquainted with the chief criticism of the cycle, and I have explored more than one curious tract which is adjacent to the cycle itself. It is with the texts, however, that I am concerned only, and I approach them from a new standpoint. As to this, it will be better to specify from the outset some divisions of my scheme as follows: (1) The appropriation of certain myths and legends which are held to be pre-Christian in the origin thereof, and their penetration by an advanced form of Christian Symbolism carried to a particular term; (2) the evidence of three fairly distinct sections or schools, the diversity of which is not, however, in the fundamental part of their subject, but more properly in the extent and mode of its development; (3) the connection of this mode and of that part with other schools of symbolism, the evolution of which was beginning at the same period as that of the Graal literature or followed thereon; (4) the close analogy, in respect of the root-matter, between the catholic literature of the Holy Graal and that which is connoted in the term mysticism; (5) the traces through Graal romance and other coincident literatures of a hidden school in Christianity. The Graal romances are not documents of this school put forward by the external way, but are its rumours at a far distance. They are not authorised, nor
are they stolen; they have arisen, or the consideration of that which I understand with reserves, and for want of a better title, as the Hidden Church of Sacramental Mystery follows from their consideration as something in the intellectual order connected therewith. The offices of romance are one thing, and of another order are the high mysteries of religion--if a statement so obvious can be tolerated. There are, of course, religious romances, and the Spanish literature of chivalry furnishes a notable instance of a sacred allegorical intention which reposes on the surface of the sense, as in the Pilgrim's Progress. Except in some isolated sections, as, for example, in the Galahad Quest and the Longer Prose Perceval, the cycle of the Holy Graal does not move in the region of allegory, but in that of concealed intention, and it is out of this fact that there arises my whole inquiry, with the justification for the title which I have chosen. The existence of a concealed sanctuary, of a Hidden Church, is perhaps the one thing which seems plain on the face of the literature, and the next fact is that it was pre-eminent, ex hypothesi, in its possession of the most sacred memorials connected with the passion of Christ. It was from the manner in which these were derived that the other claims followed. The idea of a Graal Church has been faintly recognised by official scholarship, and seeing, therefore, that there is a certain common ground, the question which transpires for consideration is whether there is not a deeper significance in the claim, and whether we are dealing with mere legend or with the rumours at a distance of that which "once in time and somewhere in the world" was actually existent, under whatever veils of mystery. Following this point of view, it is possible to collect out of the general body of the literature what I should term its intimations of sub-surface meaning into a brief schedule as follows: (a) The existence of a clouded sanctuary; (b) a great mystery; (c) a desirable communication which, except under certain circumstances, cannot take place; (d) suffering within and sorcery without, being
pageants of the mystery; (e) supernatural grace which does not possess efficacy on the external side; (f) healing which comes from without, sometimes carrying all the signs of insufficiency and even of inhibition; (g) in fine, that which is without enters and takes over the charge of the mystery, but it is either removed altogether or goes into deeper concealment--the outer world profits only by the abrogation of a vague enchantment.
The unversed reader may not at the moment follow the specifics of this schedule, yet if the allusions awaken his interest I can promise that they shall be made plain in proceeding. But as there is no one towards whom I shall wish to exercise more frankness than the readers to whom I appeal, it will be a counsel of courtesy to inform them that scholarship has already commented upon the amount of mystic nonsense which has been written on the subject of the Graal. Who are the mystic people and what is the quality of their nonsense does not appear from the statement, and as entirely outside mysticism there has been assuredly an abundance of unwise speculation, including much of the heretical and occult order, I incline to think that the one has been taken for the other by certain learned people who have not been too careful about the limits of the particular term to which they have had recourse so lightly. After precisely the same manner, scholarship speaks of the ascetic element in the Graal literature almost as if it were applying a term of reproach, and, again, it is not justified by reasonable exactitude in the use of words. Both impeachments, the indirect equally with the overt, stand for what they are worth, which is less than the solar mythology applied to the interpretation of the literature. My object in mentioning these grave trifles is that no one at a later stage may say that he has been entrapped.
It is indubitable that some slight acquaintance with the legends of the Holy Graal can be presupposed in my readers, but in many it may be so unsubstantial that
[paragraph continues] I have concluded to assume nothing, except that, as indicated already, I am addressing those who are concerned with the Great Quest in one of its departments. There is no reason why they should extend their dedicated field of thought by entering into any technical issues of subjects outside those with which they may be concerned already. I have returned from investigations of my own, with a synopsis of the results attained, to show them that the literature of the Holy Graal is of kinship with our purpose and that this also is ours. The Graal is, therefore, a rumour of the Mystic Quest, but there were other rumours.
In order to simplify the issues, all the essential materials have been so grouped that those for whom the bulk of the original works is, by one or other reason, either partially or wholly sealed, may attain, in the first place, an accurate and sufficing knowledge of that which the several writers of the great cycles understood by the Graal itself, and that also which was involved in the quests thereof according to the mind of each successive expositor. I have sought, in the second place, to furnish an adequate conversance with the intention, whether manifest or concealed, which has been attributed to the makers of the romances by numerous students of these in various countries and times. In the third place there is presented, practically for the first time--pace all strictures of scholiasts--the mystic side of the legend, and with this object it has been considered necessary to enter at some length into several issues, some of which may seem at first sight extrinsic. In pursuance of my general plan I have endeavoured in various summaries: (a) To compare the implied claim of the Graal legends with the Eucharistic doctrine at the period of the romances; (b) to make it clear, by the evidence of the literature, that the Graal Mystery, in the highest sense of its literature, was one of supernatural life and a quest of high perfection; (c) to show, in a word, that, considered as a mystery of illumination and even of ecstasy, the Graal does not differ from
the great traditions of initiation. Whatever, therefore, be the first beginnings of the literature, in the final development it is mystic rather than ascetic, because it does not deal with the path of detachment so much as with the path of union.
It must be acknowledged assuredly that the first matter of the legend is found in folk-lore, antecedent, for the most part, to Christianity in the West, exactly as the first matter of the cosmos was in the TOHU, BOHU of chaos; but my purpose is to show that its elements were taken over in the interest of a particular form of Christian religious symbolism. That advancement notwithstanding, the symbolism at this day needs re-expression as well as the informing virtue of a catholic interpretation, showing how the Graal and all other traditions which have become part of the soul's legends can be construed in the true light of mystic knowledge.
I have demonstrated at the same time that among the romancers, and especially the poets, some spoke from very far away of things whereof they had heard only, and this darkly, so that the characteristic of the Graal legend is, for this reason, as on other accounts, one of insufficiency. Yet its writers testify by reflection, even when they accept the sign for the thing signified and confuse the flesh with the spirit, to a certain measure of knowledge and a certain realisation. It is only in its mystic sense that the Graal literature can repay study. All great subjects bring us back to the one subject which is alone great; all high quests end in the spiritual city; scholarly criticisms, folk-lore and learned researches are little less than useless if they fall short of directing us to our true end--and this is the attainment of that centre which is about us everywhere. It is in such a way, and so only, that either authorised scholar or graduating student can reach those things which will recompense knowledge concerning the vision and the end in Graal literature, as it remains to us in the forms which survive--in which
forms the mystery of the Holy Cup has been passed through the mind of romance and has been deflected like a staff in a pool.
I conclude, therefore, that the spirit of the Holy Quest may be as much with us in the study of the literature of the Quest as if we were ourselves adventuring forth in search of the Graal Castle, the Chalice, the Sword and the Lance. Herein is the consecrating motive which moves through the whole inquiry. So also the mystery of quest does not differ in its root-matter, nor considerably in its external forms, wherever we meet it; there are always certain signs by which we may recognise it and may know its kinship. It is for this reason that the school of Graal mysticism enters, and that of necessity, into the great sequence of grades which constitute the unified Mystic Rite.
If there was a time when the chaos magna et infirmata of the old un-Christian myths was transformed and assumed into a heaven of the most holy mysteries, there comes a time also when the criticism of the literature which enshrines the secret of the Graal has with great deference to be taken into other sanctuaries than those of official scholarship; when some independent watcher, having stood by the troubled waters of speculation, must either say: "Peace, be still"; or, indifferently, "Let them rave"--and, putting up a certain beacon in the darkness, must signal to those who here and there are either acquainted with his warrants by certain signs, which they recognise, or can divine concerning them, and must say to them: "Of this is also our inheritance."
So much as' I have here advanced will justify, I think, one further act of sincerity. I have no use for any audience outside my consanguinities in the spirit. As Newton's Principia is of necessity a closed book to those who have fallen into waters of confusion at the pons asinorum of children--and as this is not an impeachment of the Principia--so my construction of the Graal literature will not be intelligible, or scarcely, to those who have not
graduated in some one or other of the academies of the soul; it is not for children in the elementary classes of thought, but in saying this I do not impeach the construction. The Principia did not make void the elements of Euclid. I invite them only for their personal relief to close the book at this point before it closes itself against them.
I conclude by saying that the glory of God is the purpose of all my study, and that in His Name I undertake this quest as a part of the Great Work.