By Eric Vandenbroeck and co-worker

Finding the Grail and the Celtic Revival in Glastonbury

First mention of a "H. Grail" was in the earliest forms of prose romance, forerunners of the modern novel: "Perceval" by Chretien de Troyes, and some years later "Romance of the Grail" by Robert de Boron.

The most imaginative of Arthurian romance, the one by Wolfram von Eschenbach, the Grail is recreated as the striving towards the achievement of full humanity rather than the divine vision, the Grail nonetheless owes its powers to the Catholic Mass wafer. Or as Malore put it in turn the personal vision of the Eucharist.

But the belief in the real presence at the consecration of the Mass at the heart of the Grail stories were dramatically challenged in the early sixteenth century, and particularly during  the twentieth century, "the holy grail" has come to represent an abstract perfection, the idea that somewhere a perfect solution or object can be found. And this is where books and movies like the Da Vinci Code currently are plugging into.


Today is known for its yearly festival the finding of the Grail at the "Bride's Well" in Glastonbury in 1906, the year Peladan published his booklet about the Grail with the Cathars near the border to Spain, is a strange one.

Known for its yearly festival initially, it was planned as a new Bayreuth whereby when it kicked off in 1914 a performance based on the book by 'Fiona Macleod' as part of the Celtic revival. That until when during the festival in June 2004 Wagner was indeed performed.

Ein Bild, das Text, draußen, alt enthält.

Automatisch generierte Beschreibung

The initial fame of Glastonbury was related to the finding of the Grail in the Chalice Well (owned by the Chalice Well Trust founded by Wellesley Tudor Pole in 1959) started a generation before Dion Fortune (see further below), a group of seekers played out a magical working in the landscape of Glastonbury, concealing and discovering a Holy Grail in the waters of an elusive well associated in legend with the goddess and saint Bride.

Frequent events are held on the grounds of Chalice Well, including annual celebrations for the winter and summer solstices, Michaelmas and Samhain (Halloween).


The story of Wellesley Tudor Pole and the cup

The father of a West Country doctor, Dr. Goodchild, acquired a small howl of blue glass with a green surround, decorated with tiny crosses, on a visit to Bordighera in Italy in the 1890s. It was said to have been found in a cleft in a boulder, by a local peasant, and seemed old. His son, some years later, had a vision instructing him to take the howl to the "Women's Quarters at Glastonbury Abbey," and he did so when he inherited the bowl on his father's death in 1898, concealing it in the well there. The only person he seems to have told about this was William Sharp, otherwise known as the poet 'Fiona Macleod', author of romantic verses about the Hebrides.'' By whatever means, the secret seems to have been passed on after Goodchild's death, and the bowl was retrieved in 1906 after another eccentric character, Wellesley Tudor Pole, had a vision in which he was given directions to send a messenger "pure in the sight of God" to search a well at Glastonbury, which he also saw in his vision. He sent his daughter and a friend, and they identified the spot as Bride's Well. The glass cup was retrieved, and for a brief few months, it was a sensation.

Dom Aidan Gasquet, the distinguished Benedictine scholar, took it to Birmingham for examination: A. E. Waite and Annie Besant, president of the Theosophical Society, looked at it in London. Waite was cautious and a little skeptical, but Wellesley Tudor Pole had known Archdeacon Wilberforce, Canon of Westminster, for some thirty years. Wilberforce believed that Tudor Pole had always suffered from religious mania, but he was impressed by the change in his behavior and his account of the affair. It was Wilberforce who presented it to the world as the Grail on 20 July 1907. It was quickly picked up by the press and was shown to visiting celebrities such as Mark Twain.

The relic was returned to the West Country and was kept at Clifton, in a room known as the Oratory, which was opened to visitors on request. In the absence of any real evidence of its origin, interest gradually faded, and the "Oratory" was closed. The cup was kept by the Pole family and is now the property of the Chalice Well Trust. It was shown to members of the Society of Antiquaries when they visited Wells, and the general opinion was that it was too well preserved to be ancient.


So what really happened?

Pole's life of experiencing visions took its first lasting step forward in 1902. That year he had a serious illness with some vision. Whether that experience or another, he also later claimed to have vivid dreams of being a monk at Glastonbury, which inspired a strong enough interest for him to visit there that year and had further experiences that led to further trips "to gain inspiration"1

Ultimately a cup was found about which there was much inquiry and news coverage. Pole and his assistants recounted the whole affair as they knew it before a group in July 1907, including Archdeacon of Westminster Basil Wilberforce, saying, "He may be deluded himself, but one thing is perfectly certain, that he is not going to attempt to delude you."2 In the early 20th century, there was a porous relationship between liberal Christianity and esoteric or spiritualist ideas, eastern philosophies, social causes, and eastern religions.3 high-status individuals were at this meeting to discuss the cup and Pole's and assistants' experiences. These 40 can be thought of as a spectrum of interests in this milieu inside and outside mainstream Christianity when they met - some of the leaders in that discourse of ideas, like Pole who can be summed up as a centerpiece of a 'Celtic' network in the sense of Celtic by connotation and reputation, though not history, and Albert Basil Wilberforce who was a leader among the more Christian elements though with a clear proclivity to associate with other kinds of religiosity.

The story was recounted for the group. In later 1904, Pole had a feeling of a pending discovery to be made in Glastonbury that would link the founder of the Christian faith with modern leaders of Christian thought and left word to watch for such a discovery with the Roman Catholic College priest there. Pole was inspired by the idea that a pre-Christian culture existed in Ireland, which had extended itself to Glastonbury and Iona and was the repository of an authentic Western mystical tradition, the true roots of spiritual life in the West.… Still, his pursuits also blended identification with the 'mystic East,' with interest in Hermeticism, Theosophy, and Spiritualism. In some respects, Tudor Pole's pursuits mirror the activities of those promoting the 'Celtic Revival' in Ireland during this period, though distinct alterity in their worldview is acknowledged.

In Pole's second visit, he envisioned three maidens who would help in the "work" in Glastonbury and had brought his sister Katherine in on successor visits there. Then in 1905, he added two friends to the interest and trips - Allen sisters who went in early September and another in November during the latter, of which one had a vision of a woman's hand raising a cup out of a stream and returned. Then Pole envisioned a specific spot while at a business meeting in Bristol and sent the Allen sisters the same day to the particular spot - they had been there a couple of times previous. There, amidst some 3 feet of water and another couple feet of mud, they found a cup but decided it was too sacred for them to handle, so they washed it and left it in the water. 1 October 1906, Pole was able to send his sister on a chill rainy day to get it and brought it to their Clifton house in Bristol. This well was the "St. Bride's Well" (a reference to Saint Brigid of Kildare,) a kind of Holy well.4

Pole began to consult with people about the cup and entertain the visionary experiences of others that appeared to link with his own and led to Pole's quest. In mid-December, Pole consulted with Annie Besant (President of British Theosophy Society the next year) and the British Museum and South Kensington Museum and Swedish Princess Karadja, who connected him with Helena Humphreys, who from then was much involved with the quest. She felt it was a cup from the Last Supper and handed it toward Peter, which a woman attendant kept, and then felt the cup had migrated to a European Church in between until finally at the ruins of Glastonbury. They had this meeting in January 1907. Pole also had felt something important about a "Church somewhere on the Continent" as well.

Pole also consulted with A. E. Waite, who confirmed it had some characteristics of the Holy Grail, details of which were linked with the legend of King Arthur in the vision of Sir Percival of it. However, later in September, Waite disavowed the cup as the Holy Grail itself.

In fall 1906. and again in spring 1907. Pole consulted with a medical doctor and collector, John Goodchild, who slowly unfolded his story. Goodchild claimed to have bought it in 1887 that his father had claimed it with a sense of importance and following a vision in Paris in 1897. and the death of his father (who sent it back by courier) decided to leave it in a well in Glastonbury. Goodchild's Paris vision indicated that his 'visitor' had "came to you at very great danger to myself to tell you..., which may be the first indication of ideas of threatening conditions among the discarnate. Goodchild tried to watch out for its future discovery and even brought a woman friend to the well hoping for it to be discovered. Goodchild had had visionary experiences in August/September 1906 and, as a result, sent Pole a letter with a drawing of one of his visions - a vision of a cup with five stars - to be passed on to whomever "the pilgrims who have just been to Glastonbury" were and was there in late September when the Allen sisters returned after their original find of the cup. However, he did not relate his history with the cup to them but was very enthusiastic about their find. Pole and his sister then visited Goodchild in late September but shared only part of the story. Pole never did find any confirming evidence of Goodchild's statements on the history of the cup. Of the origin, placing, and recovery of the cup, some processes and timings have been associated with Celtic and mystical thought. They may have been a paradigm by which both Pole and Goodchild may have had a common thinking framework. But the importance observed concerning the cup was seen amidst ideas of the matriarchal background of Ireland via Goodchild compared to a more Arthurian context for Pole.

23 June 1907, Pole showed the cup to the Archdeacon of Westminster. Along with reporting on the visionary experiences leading to the finding of the cup, Pole reported other visionary experiences, which he claimed as prophecies. While awake and not through a seance, these were received instructions: There would be definite, tangible proof connecting the cup to Jesus.

The cup will return to Glastonbury. The area would become a site of physical and spiritual healing and advance the idea that it was the place of the first touch of Christianity to the land - see Myths and legends of Glastonbury.

Pole warned of a Divine outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the world… and… great intelligence… preparing channels through which this Divine power, this second coming, this great outpouring of the Holy Ghost, shall be manifested which, conditionally, could be a channeled by and magnify church unity and the high position of Britain. Still, it would no longer remain the great nation she is, and the center of the world will be transferred to a very different country, and other agencies will be found. And a signal event in this process and a kind of deadline for that condition of unity was going to be in 1911 when "those who have been watching and preparing the way for the second coming will recognize a great teacher who will be here and will be recognized by a few in that year. The great teacher will be a woman and recognized by those who are, as I say, preparing the way, by a seven-pointed star that will be worn on her forehead.…[but] not be recognized by official Christianity...

The prophecies were envisioning a rebirth of Christian unity among the islands of Great Britain and a rival to the Roman Catholic Lourdes site. Still, if unity could not be achieved, another situation would be found, and another country takes the fore in the world.

The cup became very well-known and is still commented upon in a variety of contexts.5

Wilberforce accepted the cup as the Holy Grail. Pole claimed it was at one time in possession of Jesus and provided the opportunity for a new wider religious framework in terms of respect for geography and a breadth of ideas that later were taken up as a theme of New Age thought. The fact that newspaper accounts validating the seriousness of the proceedings and reception of the claim is argued to fit into this being about a curio and a meeting of ideas, including but not dominated by differences of ideas.

The meeting had been meant to be quiet and private, but it was published in the newspaper a week later. Indeed it was carried in the news internationally.

Though the cup was soon understood by most to be too modern and Wilberforce's enthusiasm for it caused complications with his superiors, Wilberforce continued his associations and investigations of religious connectivity. For Pole, the meeting introduced him to a higher profile of engagement with the exchange of ideas.

Pole and his sisters and supporters began to host the cup in the upper room of his home in Bristol and called it "the Oratory," which is a small chapel, especially for private worship.

In this period of activity around the cup, various visions developed among Pole and others who became associated with it. Leslie Moore was in South Africa in March 1907 and had vision news would come in late July of a remarkable find. In June, she sailed for England and stayed with a friend, Miss Hoey, and learned of the coverage and "find" and let Pole know of her experiences before the end of July that she had had visions of papers that would give an account of the cup. She envisioned what seemed to her a large Catholic Church with a priest in red vestments when there was a loud banging on the doors, and people became afraid. An acolyte then escaped through a tunnel system which led to a chapel with a scroll and the cup, and then he left with the cup along further tunnels coming out into a church ruin. She wrote to her friend who sent it on to Pole, and he sends a telegram asking her to come to visit him in London. She, Miss Hoey, and Helena Humphreys gathered. There Pole identified the Church as the Church of San Sophia, a part of the Hagia Sophia complex in Constantinople. This encounter solidified Pole's sense of a quest.


Then the doubt came in

The Glastonbury cup "discovered" by Wellesley Tudor Pole was almost immediately challenged by another such discovery in Wales. This was first discussed in a pamphlet published in Aberystwyth by an American visitor, Ethelwyn Amery, who disguised both the place where it was kept and the owner's name.

The house was soon identified as Nanteos, the home of George Powell. Amery described how the cup had been brought from Glastonbury by seven monks, who had escaped in the nick of time, just before the arrival of the commissioners sent by Henry VIII to dissolve the abbey. They fled to the above of Strata Florida near Aberystwyth, where the owners sheltered them even though the abbey had passed into private hands. When the last of the monks died, the cup passed to the family 'until the Church should claim its own. In due course, Strata, Florida came by marriage to the Powells; the cup is not recorded before the middle of the nineteenth century and was probably found at the abbey at some time during the previous hundred years. It was first seen in public in 18-8 when it was described as having marvelous healing powers. Recent archaeological analysis has shown it to be a mater-howl made of wvch-clm, of late medieval date, a valuable but by no means uncommon piece; most monasteries would have owned many of them.

How could a casual find of such a medieval wooden vessel be transformed into a new Holy Grail? The stork of the flight from Glastonbury seems to have been deliberately invented using antiquarian accounts of the dissolution of the monasteries. No historical evidence has ever been offered the stop the reputation of the cup grows by being repeatedly asserted. Such "invented" legends are nonetheless extraordinarily resilient: the Nanteos stork survived the criticism of Jessie Weston soon after it was first published, as well as the hostility of the supporters of the Glastonbury cup. It belongs to a similar genre to the 'urban myths' of modern folklore, where the eye­witness is always known to an acquaintance, and the evidence is never direct. Such stories reveal more about the attitudes and aspirations of the society in which they were created than about any lost history. But the myth of the Nanteos Grail is alive and flourishing, as a search on the Internet will show.

Of these five "discoveries" of the real Grail, the most significant was that at Glastonbury, which was part of the establishment of Glastonbury's image as a center of ancient spiritual power. The development of the modern traditions associated with Glastonbury is far from clear; the name "Chalice Well," with its obvious overtones of the Grail, seems to be the eighteenth century, but many of the other stories that are now given as long-established are probably the result of this early-twentieth-century enthusiasm. The extent to which this had spread is shown because when the abbey itself was put up for auction by private owners in 1907, it was very nearly bought by a group of Americans who intended to found a "school of Chivalry" there. And occultists such as the writer Dion Fortune (Violet Firth) were attracted to Glastonbury; she was a member of one of the successors to the original Order of the Golden Dawn and deeply involved in theosophy. Her book Avalon of the Heart was typical of the kind of enthusiasm that the Abbey and its surroundings now aroused. In her writings, she invoked not only its Christian past but also "the ancient faith of the Britons ... its relics obliterated, its legends bent to a Christian purpose ... shadowy and veiled." The idea of a literal Grail presence at Glastonbury resurfaces from time to time, as in Flavia Anderson's The Ancient Secret,  which offers us a Grail which is a crystal sphere used to generate fire, at the center of mysteries celebrated in "the British Hades," which proves to be none other than the famous caves at Wookey Hole.

Here Glastonbury was involved in the fringes of the occult movement and the search for the physical Grail at the beginning of the twentieth century. A different vision is the above-mentioned that of the town as an artistic center with a Festival for Music and Drama invoking the example of Bayreuth.

The festival itself had been started by the composer Rutland Boughton, who had embarked on a cycle of Arthurian operas; it was supported by leading lights in drama and music, Galsworthy, Shaw, Beecham, and Elgar among them. Around the time Rudolf Steiner build his own performance temple in Dornach, Switzerland, intended as a new Grail center,  the first Glastonbury festival was held overshadowed by the beginning of the First World War and consisting of performances with a piano and amateur chorus rather than the professional forces that had been envisaged. But the event has deemed a success and was the first of a series that was to run until 1927; the festivals included performances of Boughton's Arthurian operas as he finished them. In the Grail section of the romances, Galahad owes more to his Communist politics than to the ethereal spirituality of Glastonbury. Instead of achieving the elitist Grail, he emerges as the champion of the oppressed.

This heady mixture of mysticism, romantic nostalgia, Arts and Crafts liberalism, and general eccentricity may, to the casual visitor, still seem to pervade Glastonbury today. And it is from this fertile ground for the imagination that there sprang the most massive work of fiction centered on the Grail ever to be written. John Cowper Powys' A Glastonbury Romance outdoes even the medieval romances in sheer length. It is a vast assemblage of different ideas and observations, veering from the Rabelaisian to the numinous within a couple of sentences. At the heart of the story is the immemorial Mystery of Glastonbury. Christians had one name for this Power. The ancient heathen inhabitants had another and a quite different one. Everyone who came to this spot seemed to draw something from it, attracted by a magnetism too powerful for anyone to resist. Still, as different people approached, they changed its chemistry, though not its essence, by their own identity, so that upon none of them it had the same psychic effect ... Older than Christianity, older than the Druids, older than the gods of Norsemen or Romans, older than the gods of the neolithic men, this many-named Mystery had been handed down to subsequent generations by three psychic channels; by the channel of popular renown, by the channel of inspired poetry, and by the channel of individual experience.

The medieval feudal royals were obsessed with family trees. Many churches show a "Jesse Tree" on the windows, which is the family tree of Jesus. It's possible that to claim legitimacy, they eventually came to imagine some continuity back to Christ.

Thus the Holy Grail during the 19th century was seen as a sacred container of divine (Aryan) blood, as legends linked the holy history of the Bible with the British Isles. The coronation stone at Westminster Abbey had supposedly been used by Jacob, father of the ten tribes of Israel, and brought to the British Isles by Jeremiah the Prophet. Local tradition held that he (his father allegedly Pandora, an invading  Pagan from the north) visited the British Isles during his biography's "missing years."

As early as 1563, in fact, historian John Fox stressed the "uniqueness of the English as 'a chosen people' with a Church lineage stretching back to Joseph of Arimathea." Pioneering British-Israelites took the notion further by claiming that Britons, in fact, were Hebrews.

Presenting himself as "Prince of the Hebrews and Nephew of the Almighty," Richard  Brothers, in fact, promised to lead the lost tribes of Israel back to Jerusalem and predicted the millennium to begin  November 1795.

The predominant idea of the British-Israel movement was that Great Britain was the home of one or all lost tribes of Israel, implying that the inhabitants were God's Chosen People. Its prime source of appeal to advocates, was that it sought to affirm biblical prophecy directed specifically to the Anglo-Saxon race and a unique covenant with God, marking out the elite nature.

This was fuelled by new ideas of evolution and racial superiority imbuing British society with a duty to spread a superior culture, system, and way of life to less developed societies.

But Professor P. Smyth of the Royal Society of Edinburgh gave an account of his measurements of the Great Pyramid, concluding that whatever its subsequent use, it was originally constructed as a standard for Imperial weights and measures.

According to legend, Joseph of Arimathea founded the Abbey in Glastonbury, claimed by New Age- John Michell during the early 1970s to be identical with "the New Jerusalem" ground plan.

Rudolf Steiner, when he needed money to build his temple, the first all in wood, burned down 1923, later called Goetheanum; he suggested that the "true history" of Percival would have partly taken place near that same property.

And Rudolf Steiner inspired his student, Walter Johannes Stein, to write a dissertation which came to be published by R. Steiner's Theosophical organization as "The Ninth Century: World History in the Light of the Holy Grail."

W.J. Stein detailed what was considered the historical and symbolic background behind the Grail sagas and contained a genealogical chart Stein calls the "Grail bloodline." One side extends into the royal house of France. Another extends down to Godfrey of Bouillon.

Part of Stein's thesis is that events in the lives of actual historical figures served as models for the characters and some events in the Grail stories. According to Stein, the people associated with this family tree were acknowledged in their time as being of high spiritual nature and having paranormal capacities. Yet, he also stresses that these capacities had vanished from this family hundreds of years ago.

An undisciplined reader of Stein could easily confuse the historical persons with symbols. Stein's intent is actually to illustrate how the positive spiritual forces represented by the Holy Grail are sometimes manifested in the lives and actions of people and how those actions can affect society and events. He did not in any way state or imply that the Holy Grail was, or that it represented, a bloodline. He knew very well that is not the case.

These are some of the sources that, when twisted and distorted, were used to fabricate the fiction that a special bloodline supported by an age-old esoteric society lay behind most of the key political events and mysteries of French history, and even the Holy Grail itself.

There is but one mystery, and that is the book which Philip of Flanders is said to have given to Chretien de Troyes. In Witches, Druids and King Arthur by Ronald Hutton, Robert Mathiesen’s theory is mentioned that claims this was a text similar to the so-called Sworn Book, perhaps already embedded in the form of a Latin allegorical poem.

The Sworn Book is written by a (pseudo) Honorius of Thebes. It invokes Solomon as one of its principal patrons and belongs to the books where magic becomes an extension of Christian practice.

In the first account of the Grail story, Perceval's interview with the hermit in Chretien's Story of the Grail, the hermit whispered a prayer in his ear and contained many of the names of Our Lord, including the secret one. The "secret names" of Our Lord is a highly unusual idea, certainly at the end of the twelfth century.

Chretien, whose name means "Christian," and which might perhaps be a nom de plume, realized that this knowledge could safely be presented as a romance.

It has been argued that there is a reference to it in a work written in 1247, but other scholars believe it to be as late as the mid-fourteenth century, which would date it later as Chretien de Troyes "Romance. Of the Grail." The Jewish Kabbalah, from which the names in The Sworn Book are partly drawn and from which the idea of the multiple names of God and their power is derived, was not accessible in the West until the late thirteenth century. While it is possible that Chretien and "Honorius of Thebes" might both have known of it direct from Jewish sources, this would be quite exceptional. The dating further undermines  Robert Mathiesen’s new argument described in Witches, Druids, and King Arthur by Ronald Hutton.

Others have convincingly argued that the theme of the vision within the Grail belongs not to ritual magic but the perfectly orthodox circles of Cistercian mysticism.

John Dee was also one of the owners of The Sworn Book, but Dee's magic, rather than ritual Catholicism, was more like the version Marcello Vicino strived for, that of the lost word in the form of the Biblical "Adamic" language.

But there is no one "truth" about the Grail. All we can do is suggest how it may have arisen and what it may mean because, I would argue, the force that shaped it is not history, but imagination, the creative thought that is subtly built on an unfinished story and invented the Grail. All we can do is offer a possible account of the history of this interplay between imagination and belief.

At the opposite extreme, the searchers for a physical Grail see the Grail as an emblem of a secret tradition within the Christian Church. The kernel of the idea of a "secret"' about the Grail is, as we have seen, part of the earliest Grail romances: but there it is a theological secret, the secret of the Mass of the Catholic Church. In effect, that secret is the Church's way of saying that the doctrines surrounding the Mass are too subtle for ordinary people to understand.

But the Grail romances can also be read "as a great attempt in the middle ages to combat the supremacy of Rome in the history of the propagation of the doctrines of the Church, and to substitute another authority for that of St Peter." How real this attempt may have been being very much open to question, but it has been argued by modern scholars that there were just such hidden or heretical trends which relate to the Grail.

One line of argument sees these trends as being within the Church itself. Behind the outward forms of faith and worship centered on the Eucharist, there was a second layer of initiation and secret knowledge, in which the Grail represented the Eucharist. The first and outward layer is represented by St Peter and St Paul; the Second by St John and Joseph of Arimathea. In this scheme of things, Joseph, who is a minor, almost unknown figure in the Gospels, becomes the central figure in the hidden tradition, a tradition which persisted at least until the end of the seventeenth century.

As the "secret disciple" of Jesus and guardian of his body, Joseph is seen as the head of this alternative tradition, the record of which was deliberately suppressed in the Gospels. In St John's Gospel, he is said to have kept his adherence to Christ's teachings secret 'for fear of the Jews; but this is seen as a later addition, making the secrecy of his belief the crucial point - John is indicating that the whole secret tradition, otherwise unrecorded, actually exists. The Grail, in this tradition, is a substitute - more direct than in the Mass - for Christ's body. The problem is that the evidence for such a hidden cult comes largely from two sources: the Grail romances themselves, which, as we have seen, are not a likely means of transmitting discussions about theology (let alone a secret and potentially highly controversial doctrine); and froth selective reading among the huge mass of tracts on the vexed question of transubstantiation. This version of the "secret tradition" is, at the end of the day, only what had once been an orthodox belief, overlaid with the legendary history of Joseph of Arimathea.

A similar scheme for a secret doctrine of the Grail brings in as evidence W'olfram's Parzival, and with it a whole host of exotic elements; here we have a 'defined doctrine,' either contained in a book, as in Robert de Boron or explained by a master (such as Trevrizent in Parzival). "This doctrine concerns a Mystery present on earth, in the fullness of its celestial power, which calls only be accessed through a path of qualification and in danger of death." It is kept in a hidden center (the Grail castle) and has its own special liturgy.

But the presence of this doctrine can only be explained in terms of traditional esoteric teachings, which are self-referring, and cannot be subjected to normal scientific criticism. However, it has been argued that examining the Islamic influences found in Wolfram reveals the sources of this tradition, which also draws on the Jewish esoteric lore. To validate this argument, we have to accept the reality of "Kyot" as Wolfram's source.

Wolfram mentions one Flegetanis, that is really the name of an Arab book, Felek Thani or the second sphere; he is associated with the evangelist's sign of the bull, and so forth.

Any contradictory point in Wolfram's text is put down to the fact that he is protecting "the secret of the transmission lot the story which he was revealing against the horrible misunderstanding of ordinary people." And so the readings and speculations go on: the combat between Feirefiz and Parzival is a symbol of the "essential unity of Christianity and Islam (and implicitly, at least, of Judaism)." Once the Celtic elements are brought in, the Grail becomes the "repository, spiritual and doctrinal, of the primordial Tradition.

This "primordial Tradition" leads us back to the occult revival of the 1890s and the Theosophists. But it was a French writer, Rene Guenon, who regarded the theosophical Society with deep suspicion, who developed this idea about the Grail in his hook Le Roi du Monde (The King of the World).

And as I mentioned in part 1 of this three-part series, during the same occult revival, Peladan wrote a pamphlet with the suggestion that the Grail was associated with the Cathars.

On the face of it, the Cathars are as unlikely to be connected with the Grail as the Templars: the Grail represents exactly those aspects of Christianity which they rejected - the essentially Christocentric rituals of the Church. For them, Christ was not the central figure in their worship but merely the messenger, hearer of the new gospel of love. The Crucifixion and Resurrection were not part of their belief. So the Grail, which meant nothing without these two central tenets, could mean nothing to them. We have seen how in terms of medieval romances, such an association is unlikely.

Josephin Peladan’s pamphlet on the subject appeared in 1906, and its title was The secret of the troubadours: from Perceval to Don Quixote. It was really a general study of medieval chivalric literature.

The "secret" was no more than the continuity between medieval literature and the age of Rabelais and Cervantes:

"Before seeking the oracle of the dive houteille lin Rabelaisl, our naive ancestor sought the Holy Grail. In defeat, he is called Don Quixote: this is the secret of the troubadours."

But it was this pamphlet which came to the attention of a  German scholar, Otto Rahn, who, as part of a thesis project, researched the Cathars, also inspired  by the work of Maurice Magre, who in Magicians and Illuminati had linked Hindu philosophy with the Cathars, whom he called "the Buddhists of the West."

Rahn took up the story with enthusiasm and his book Crusade against the Grail, and this is the text in which the story of the Cathar Grail came to general attention.

His thesis depends on using the sparse physical descriptions of places given by Wolfram, finding their equivalents in the Cathar homeland. The identification Of Munsalvaesche with Montsegur, for instance, is based on a line in Parzival which says, "Never was a dwelling so well fitted for defense as Munsalvaesche," which supposedly corresponds to "safe mountain," said to be the meaning of the name Montsegur.

Further confirmation of the identity of Montsegur as the Grail castle is the idea found at the end of the Middle Ages, that the Grail is the Venusberg, home of the pagan goddess of love: Montsegur is claimed as a pagan site.

But Rahn's next book, The Courtiers of Lucifer, recounted his travels in the Cathar lands and elsewhere in Europe searching for the Cathars and their philosophy, and of the troubadours, whom, like Peladan, lie regarded as closely connected with the Cathars. In his travels, lie develops his thesis in terms all too familiar from Nazi propaganda of the period. The Cathars were said to be Aryans who worshipped the morning star, Lucifer.

Christianity was invented by the Jews, who tried to make men worship a Jew, Jesus of Nazareth. The Grail was the symbol of Lucifer and was the great treasure of the Cathars for that reason, while the Church had invented the story of the Grail as the cup of the Last Supper to discredit the Cathar relic, which they knew to be the true Grail.

Because Rahn was an ardent Nazi and member of the SS, stories began to circulate that the Nazis had mounted a search for the Cathar Grail. Rahn was supposed to have had a double identity.

Other sources say that members of a French right-wing society conducted a dig in the Cathar territory in search of the runic tablets, which according to certain rumors, were at the root of the text of Wolfram.

When local people gathered at Montsegur on the exact day of the Tooth anniversary of its fall, a German aircraft is said to have flown over the ruins, tracing a Celtic cross in the sky.

But none of those present seem to have made a formal statement to this effect; even more improbable is the suggestion that Rosenberg was on hoard since Rosenberg devotes a bare four or five lines to Catharism in The Myth of the Twentieth Century.


1. Baha'i Seer - The Extraordinary Life and Work of Wellesley Tudor Pole. Newcastle, UK: Association of Baháʼí Studies Seminar. Retrieved 7 September 2019.pp. 9–10 ff. (

2. Gerry Fenge, The Two Worlds of Wellesley Tudor Pole, 2010, pp18–19 ff. (

3. Brendan McNamara (2014). "The 'Celtic' Dimension of Pre-First World War Religious Discourse in Britain: Wellesley Tudor Pole and the Glastonbury Phenomenon. ( 91 ff.

4. J. Armitage Robinson (1926). Two Glastonbury Legends. Cambridge University Press. p. 24, ff

5. Adrian Ivakhiv (July 2004). "(Book review of) Children of the New Age: A History of Spiritual Practices by Steven Sutcliffe". Nova Religio. University of California Press. 8 (1): 124–129. doi:10.1525/nr.2004.8.1.124. JSTOR 10.1525/nr.2004.8.1.124


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