THOUGHT in the Middle Ages moved, like external science, through a world of mystery, and the Christ-light moved through the mist-light filling the bounds of sense with the shapes and symbols of vision. It follows, and this naturally, that most things seemed possible at a period when all things were dubious in respect of knowledge and apart from the power of religion, which tinged life itself with the lesser elements of ecstasy, there was the kind of enchantment which dwells always about the precincts of unknown vistas. Apart also from the shapes of imagination, there were the extravagances of minds seeking emancipation from law and authority, more especially in the matters of faith. The Books of the Holy Graal do not belong to the last category, but after their own manner they are like echoes from far away, because even as the secrets of the Greater Mysteries have not been written, and the Holy Assemblies do not issue proceedings, so the higher life of sanctity and the experiment towards that term, whether manifested in books of mystical theology or in books of romance, reach only a partial expression. The value of the Graal legends is like the value of other legends--I mean, in the mind of the mystic at this day: it is resident in the suggestions and the lights
which it can afford us for the maintenance of the great, implied concordat which constitutes the Divine Alliance. Having found that we are dealing with a body of writing which puts forth the rumour of strange claims and suggests concealed meanings, having found also that it is a literature which was acquired as if almost with a conscious intention to develop these particular interests, and being desirous of knowing the kind of intervention and the particular motives which were at work, if this indeed be possible, we are naturally disposed to ask whether there were other concealed literatures at the same period, and what light--if any--they cast upon these questions. The great school of Christian mystic thought within the official church was concerned wholly with a mystery of sanctity, the term of which was identical with the object that I have sought to put forward as the term of the Graal quest; but it had no secret claim and no concealed motive. We cannot, therefore, explain the one in a complete simplicity by the other, though we know in a general sense that it was from the other that the one issued. There were, however, independent schools of literature belonging to the same period which do give us certain lights, because, in the last resource, they did come, one and all, out of the same sanctuary; and it is obviously reasonable to suppose that so far as there are difficulties in the one path we may receive help from the collateral paths and thus attain some better understanding of the whole. If a particular spirit or secret mind, school or sodality, took over the old folk-lore legends, infusing a new motive therein, which motive is akin to the purpose discernible in coincident literatures, that which intervened in the one case was probably in relation with the others. I propose, therefore, to consider these extrinsic schools shortly, and to show that throughout a number of centuries we can trace successively the same implicits, it being understood that they are always put forward in a different way. In this manner we shall come to
see that there have been several interventions, but taking place under such circumstances that those who intervened may have been always the same secret school, on the understanding that this school does not correspond to a corporate institution and never spoke officially. It is necessary, however, to deal in the first place with one attempt to account for the Graal literature which has been already put forward, because there are certain directions in which it is idle to look and it is well to know concerning them. Prior to the settlement of this preliminary question in the section that next follows, there is a specific point that demands our attention at the moment, and it can be stated in a few words. On the assumption that there has been a Secret Tradition perpetuated through Christian times, the place of which is in the West, it seems desirable to understand what part of it matters vitally in respect of our own subject. There are several schools of secret literature, and each of them, under its proper veil, has perpetuated something belonging to its particular order. There are, for example, the schools of magic, and it is these precisely that embody nothing to our purpose; they constitute heresies of occult practice which find their strict correlation in the external heresies of doctrine, wherein also there is no light, as we shall see immediately. If the resolution has not been made already, and that definitely, it is time--and it is high time--that the whole domain of phenomenal occultism should be transferred to the care of psychological science, with the hope that it will pursue that path of research into the nature of man and his environment which less accredited investigations of the past have proved productive. They are no part of the mystic work and, having regard to the extent of our preoccupations, it is fortunate that neither approximately nor remotely do they enter into the subject of those schools of thought, the remains of which may cast a certain light upon the greater implicits of the Graal literature.