The Grail was written with an unspoken idea ever in mind – that paganism is the belief system of the future. Modern paganism is often a reaction to organised religion, with its intolerance and inconsistencies, and to the destructive materialism of a capitalist world. The paganism practised by earlier societies was nothing less than a matter of survival. Without water, for example, we die very quickly. Along with those other elements – air, fire, earth – water, clean drinking water, is an absolute must. And yet our attitudes to water are odd: we have commercialised it, privatised it, polluted it and treated it with chemicals. Ever since shrines were de-sacralised during the Reformation, water has been nothing but a commodity. An early pagan would be unable to comprehend our reckless behaviour towards the water we need to survive.
Understanding the Grail, its form and function, is impossible without an attempt at understanding the minds of the people it served. Most of our ideas about the Grail come from people who despised and distrusted the pagan beliefs of the native Britons. It stands to reason, then, that the most familiar Grail stories are, at the very least, perversions of the original accounts. Only by reconstructing, as far as is possible, the way Arthur and his people understood the universe can we begin to approach the true Grail, which lies behind and existed before the tales told by medieval Churchmen.
This also requires an understanding of the psychology of religious fanaticism, for just as we need to see the world – if we can – through the eyes of Arthur and his people, so we need to grapple with the thought processes of their enemies, the people who (re)wrote the legends and sold us a lie. We need to understand this psychology because it is still very prevalent today, and is on the brink of plunging our world into chaos.
Which, paradoxically, might not be a bad thing. I suspect it’s happened before, and the result is always the same. People realise that the things we need to survive (water, for instance) require worship. Because once we get too proud, too selfish, or too “civilised” to worship such natural necessities, we start on the road to our inevitable destruction.
In other words, the paranoia and hatred which is becoming all too familiar might just be what creates the conditions in which a new paganism flourishes, along with the recognition that we either venerate the natural world or we exploit it, the former being sustainable, the latter disastrous. That “new” paganism will – eventually – be much the same as the mindset of Arthur and his people. And maybe, in time, a new Grail will be created.
The original Grail still exists. It can be seen by anyone who has the airfare (or happens to live near Copenhagen). But that’s not important. Unless we know what we’re looking at, the material form of the Grail is irrelevant. What I set out to do was to discover – via history and literature, philosophy, linguistics, physics and metaphysics, biochemistry, neurology, comparative religion – what the Grail was for. Along the way, I uncovered new information about Arthur and his final battle and developed a new attitude towards life and death. I also learnt to spot the hallmarks of the mindset that destroyed Arthur, and that continues its destructive mission all around us. I know how it works. And I see that it may yet be fulfilling Earth’s purpose in bringing us back to paganism. Article by Simon Sterling