To restate the fact that the canonical Hallows of the Graal legend are the Cup, the Lance, the Sword and the Dish will seem almost impertinent at this stage; the least versed of my readers will regard it as a weary reiteration, for he and they all are in plenary possession of whatever need be said upon the subject. I must specify the bare fact, this notwithstanding, because of what follows hereafter. And it may seem to arise from the repetition if, further, I recall to their minds--and my memory--one experience which comes to us all, and startles us when it does come, revealing the fund of unobservance to which we must confess by necessity. When any of us have been studying exhaustively--as we think--a given subject and are surfeited in our familiarity therewith, it may happen that we alight unawares on something which had escaped us utterly. It may be through the .random remark of a stranger, through an apparently detached sentence in a forgotten or unknown book, but the well of other waters is opened and we see the whole thing under a new aspect. On the surface this illustrates the difficulty with which we notice anything that is ever so little outside our special groove; but there are times when it seems to have a deeper root, and we realise in our hearts that anything may serve as a pretext to open another horizon--"a flower, a leaf, the ocean" may touch and kindle "the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound." So falls the "spark from heaven." Now, as an example to the purpose in hand, I wonder how many critical works have been written on the Holy Graal, and yet it has occurred to
no one that its Hallows, under a slight modification, may be somewhere else in the world than in those old books of romance. I might have shown that their bases are in modern high grades of Masonry, but I can understand how this has been missed, and my default means that I have not attached undue importance to the fact. But they are to be found also in the most unexpected of all places, outside the grades of literature, and they have existed there from what would be termed masonically time immemorial. They are in the antecedents of our playing-cards--that is to say, in the old Talismans of the Tarot. These are things which, in a sense, are almost of worldwide knowledge, which have interested innumerable people, which still constitute, as they have constituted for generations and centuries, the most prolific form of divination and the vagrant art of fortune-telling. We know nothing concerning their origin and of their distribution little enough. I trust that I am least disposed of any one to assume the antiquity of doubtful documents or to predate traditions on the basis of their uncertain origin. I leave to those whom it may concern the history of playing-cards and their precedents, this so-called Book of Thoth, nor do I need to recite, even shortly, what has been assumed regarding it, because one class of scholarship which has dealt more particularly with the question of historical antiquity in these matters is that precisely which lies under most suspicion on the ground of its enthusiasm. In particular the measures on the side of speculation are pressed down and running over with . every kind of folly and extravagance. The uttermost of all hazards is expressed in the language of certitude, even as J. M. Ragon expressed the hazard of a root-connection between Elias Ashmole and the institution of speculative Masonry. There is another order of learning which has confined itself to the simple archæology of the subject with sober and valuable results; by such people I shall be challenged scarcely if I say that there are traces of the Tarot cards in the
fourteenth century, prior to which they are not of necessity non-existent because, like the Graal itself, they are lost to sight.
Archaeology is, however, its own term, so that usually there is nothing beyond it; and therefore, having so far distinguished between two schools, I must say that there is yet another side which might rivet attention generally if it were possible to speak fully concerning it.
I record in the first place (a) that the correspondence of certain Tarot symbols with those of the Holy Graal stands rather in the light of a discovery without a consequence which I can pretend to develop here; and (b) the reason will, I think, be evident because this side which I have mentioned reposes in certain secret schools now existing in Europe. In these the Talismans of the Tarot have been pressed into the service of a logical, constructed system of symbolism with results that are very curious. It might or might not be useless to speak about the system in public, supposing that this were possible, but I think that there are considerations involved which would be almost an unknown language to people who have not had their training in a particular school of thought. Those who know regard the results as important, yet those who see the importance have not in most cases any idea of the term. As I must now say that this term belongs under one of its aspects to the domain of occultism, it should be understood that my strictures on wild Tarot speculations ought to carry a certain weight because those speculations are of the occult order. If any of my readers should wish to look a little further into a strange and problematical subject, they may be recommended to consult one book called Le Tarot des Bohémiens, issued by the French school of philosophical Martinism. I can tell them for their consolation that from root to branch it is a tissue of errors, because this school has not the true reading, while specific alternative readings in other academies are also wrong. Except in purely archæological aspects, the inquirer can, however,
get nothing better than the content of this work, and if he misses the major sacraments he will find a limited quantity of fortune-telling rubbish therein which is altogether diverting and may be mastered with a little trouble.
It must be explained that the old sheaf of oracles consists of seventy-eight cards, of which fifty-six are the equivalents of ordinary playing-cards, plus four knights; and the remaining twenty-two are pictorial keys, the symbolical nature of which is seen on their surface, though it must be understood that hereon all of them are conventional and many are grotesque, as if they were coarse allegories. The keys are allocated by interpretation in various orders to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and herefrom as a root many instituted analogies with Kabalism have been devised by the divergent schools which have devoted their attention to the pictures. The Sephirotic attributions which have been obtained in this way are especially remarkable. I offer my assurance, as one who has more to lose than to gain by making the statement, that certain secret schools have developed their scheme of symbolic interpretation to a very high point by the allocation of these cards according to a system which is not known outside them.
Having made this explanation, my next point is to state that the four palmary symbols of the Tarot are--
The Wand is alternately a sceptre in the Tarot descriptions, but its proper alternative in the symbolism is a spear or lance, the misdescribed Diamond in the modern suit being obviously the head of the weapon. In respect of the Pentacle that which is depicted under
this name answers to a dish, usually after the outline of a four-leaved shamrock, or alternatively of a circle. In either case the emblem is also misdescribed under the term Pentacle, which must have five angles or flanges. With these modifications, which are in no sense of an arbitrary kind, the Tarot suits are actually the Graal Hallows.
And now, to move one step forward, being the last point to which I can take the subject: The place of the Cup in the extension of the symbolism under the light of all its analogies, corresponds to the place of spiritual life; to the rest of knowledge; to the receptacle of the graces which are above and to the channel of their communication to things which are below; but this is the equivalent ex hypothesi of the arch-natural Eucharist. In a word, it is the world not manifested, and this is the world of adeptship, attained by sanctity. In so far therefore as it can be said in the open day, hereof is the message of the Secret Tradition in Christian times--as it remains among the guardians thereof--on the subject of the Graal Mystery. So also under a certain transfiguration does the Graal still appear in the Hidden Sanctuaries.
But now in conclusion generally as to all the schools of symbolism, successive or coincident: it follows from the considerations which I have developed in what approaches an exhaustive manner that we are confronted by two theses, from the first of which it follows that the Mystery of Divine Attainment is of that order which passes into experience, while dubiously and elusively its traces are met with even in the modern world, though it does not say "Come quickly" to the majority of aspirants. From the second it follows that the great secret--at least so far as its specific declaration and visible existence are concerned--has passed into abeyance in the external sanctuaries. I can scarcely conceive of a clearer issue established by way of contrast. Several accredited scholars have recognised the evidences
of secret doctrine in the Graal literature, more especially in respect of the Eucharist, but some of them have been disposed to account for its presence by a familiarity with obscure apocryphal gospels. This is a source in legend, and of sources in the experiences of sanctity or of perpetuated secret doctrine they knew little enough. In particular they did not dream that such perpetuation could have taken place except in heretical schools. They appreciated the concealment of sects which carried their lives in danger, but not the concealment of the sanctuary. There is, however, the vision of the Third Heaven, about which it is not lawful to speak, the reason being that it exceeds expression, and utterance is therefore only by way of similitude and approximation. The secret school for which I look and of which I recognise the existence did not differ in doctrine from the external ways of salvation, but it opened out the infinite world which lies behind the manifest life of teaching--that world which was recognised by St. Augustine when he said--as we have seen--that the definition of Three Persons subsisting in one God was not an expression which satisfied the mind, but that some kind of expression is necessary. This school never came forward with improvements on doctrine, with proposals to reduce doctrine, or with new opinions on the Eucharist. It carried the implicits of religious teaching to their final issue; the implicits were Catholic and the issue was also Catholic.
Therefore so it remains to this day, while we in our spiritual isolation are conscious of loss everywhere.
The great rites are celebrated, the high offices continue, the moving liturgical formulæ are recited from day to day and year after year; we pass hurriedly through the crowded streets, over the quiet countrysides; we pause by solitary seas. The veiled voices signify the Presence, yet the Master is taken away, and we know not where they have laid Him. The great legends tell us that He has been assumed into Heaven
because of the evil times, or that He is in a place of concealment, or that He is not seen so openly. Prohibited, spoliated and extirpated with fire and sword, the memory of the dead sects of Southern France can offer us at their highest only the lips of the noble lady Esclairmonde communicating the osculum fraternitatis--consolamentum of all things saddest--through the flames of the auto-da-fé. One Masonic chivalry consents to protect us from the insidious attacks of the infidel if we visit the holy fields, but it is confessed that the sepulchre is empty and we know that the worst danger is from the infidel who is within. A later and more obscure chivalry, with a vainer office of observance, keeps ritual guard over the shadow of a sacred legend, we asking the daughters of Zion whether there is any greater desolation. It pledges us to maintain the Sepulchre when it is agreed that the Master is not there, and we continue to say with our lips: Et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam, with a certain unconscious relief that the word Credo stands far away in the symbol. Saddest and proudest of all, the great craft legends of Masonry tell us that until that which from time immemorial has been lost in the secret places is at length restored to the mysteries, the true temple can only be built in the heart. The Kabalistic sages are also waiting for the word, that there may be mercy on every side, and the stress and terror of the centuries is because Adonai has been substituted for Jehovah in the true form thereof. It is only the higher side of alchemy which, without faltering, has continued to point the path of attainment, speaking of no change, no substitution therein--telling us of the one matter, the one vessel, the one way of perfection, yet also saying that except the Divine Guidance lead us in the path of illumination, no man shall acquire the most hidden of all secrets without a Master, which is another mode of expressing the same thing. I suppose that there is no more unvarying witness continued through the ages,
amidst all which we have felt, as we still feel, that only a small change in the axis of inclination would transform the world of greatest inhibition into that of the greatest grace. It is as if we were in the position of Perceval, according to the High History--as if we had failed only on account of "one little question." But we do not know what it is, or rather we know it only in its external and substituted forms. We go on, therefore, sadly enough and slowly, yet in a sense we are haunted men, with a voice saying ever and again in our ears: "Ask, and ye shall receive"; search your heart, for the true question is within and the answer thereof.--A sad and strange enchantment has fallen even over the animal world, and all the gentle creatures with kind eyes are waiting with us for the close of the adventurous times, the term of enchantment in Logres, and the unspelling quest. Of these three things, two are of the Order of Mercy and one is of the High Order of the Union. All this is not to say that the high offices fail, that the great conventions are abrogated, that the glorious sense of chivalry towards our second mother in those sodalities which are external--but yet in that order are some intellectual and some also spiritual--that this sense is not of the highest counsel. But a time comes when the "glory to God in the highest," having been declared sufficiently without, is expressed more perfectly within, and we know in fine that this glory is to be revealed.
The same story of loss is therefore everywhere, but it is never told twice in the same way. Now it is a despoiled sanctuary; now a withdrawn sacramental mystery; now the abandonment of a great military and religious order; now the age-long frustration of the greatest building plan which was ever conceived; now the Lost Word of Kabalism; now the vacancy of the most holy of all sepulchres. But the sanctuary is sacred, the king is to return, the Order of Chivalry has not really died; at some undeclared time, and under some unknown circumstances, the Word which
gives the key to some treasure-house of the building plan will be restored in full, and meanwhile the quest is continued for ever; the true Word will also be restored to Israel, and so from age to age goes on the great story of divine expectation. Meanwhile the Christian mystics say: "Take no thought for the morrow, because it is here and now"; and to this grand antiphon the response of the Hermetic Mystery is: "Even so, in the place of wisdom there is still the Stone of the Wise."