January 29th, 2008
Three illustrations from Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth.
“There’s a very interesting statement about the origin of the Grail. One early writer says that the Grail was brought from heaven by the neutral angels. You see, during the war in heaven between God and Satan, between good and evil, some angelic hosts sided with Satan and some with God. The Grail was brought down through the middle by the neutral angels. It represents that spiritual path that is between pairs of opposites, between fear and desire, between good and evil” (p195-6).
Angels carrying grail, The Playfair Book of Hours, fifteenth century (p196).
Another [source for the Holy Grail] “is that there is a cauldron of plenty in the mansion of the god of the sea, down in the depths of the unconscious. It is out of the depths of the unconscious that the energies of life come to us. This cauldron is the inexhaustible source, the center, the bubbling spring from which all life proceeds… [It is] not only the unconscious but also the vale of the world. Things are coming to life around you all the time. There is a life pouring into the world, and it pours from an inexhaustible source” (p217).
Jonah the whale.
“When life comes into being, it is neither afraid nor desiring, it is just becoming. Then it gets into being, and it begins to be afraid and desiring. When you can get rid of fear and desire and just get back to where you’re becoming, you’ve hit the spot” (p218).
“The Grail becomes symbolic of an authentic life that is lived in terms of its own volition, in terms of its own impulse system, that carries itself between the pairs of opposites of good and evil, light and dark” (p197).
The fire-theft. Valeriano, Hieroglyphica, 1586 (p128).
“Many visionaries and even leaders and heroes [are] close to the edge of neuroticism… They’ve moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into the dark forest, into the world of fire, of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and so you’ve got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it or you can’t. You don’t have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experiences for other people to experience — that is the hero’s deed” (p41).