Some years ago, I interpreted ‘Parsifal’ into hexameter, with its rhythmical flow of breath, to benefit therapy in language also suitable for pedagogical use.
The legend itself is also a symbolic quest prefiguring the eventual transmutation of all of mankind. I have recently understood something of why the Grail is related to the Philosopher’s Stone, as described by Rudolf Steiner during the first lecture of the Munich Conference, 1907.
The following content from the Munich Conference has certainly inspired my therapeutic work using rhythms and meter: Learning to bring the breathing process more and more into a rhythmical flow is a step along the path of creating the inner alchemy through which human substance will one day become completely chastened substance. The Philosopher’s Stone is carbon and will form the human body of the future.
Thus let us explore the following old Rosicrucian verses where the Grail is identified as the Philosopher’s Stone:
The Stone Philosophical
Make pure thy sense till thou art dust
That out of dust thy grass may grow:
When thou art hay, then burn thou must,
Thy fire most mightily must glow.
And when at last thy dust is burned,
Thy ash to Wisdom’s Stone is turned.
Then live by the Stone’s grace.
This stone it is of noble race.
The Phoenix by its lightning flashes
Will burn till he is turned to ashes,
Then rises younger from the flame.
This Stone the Grail they name.
In Lecture 1 of The Munich Conference, May 19,1907 –‘The Rosicrucian Initiation’, Rudolf Steiner speaks of the fourth level of Rosicrucian Initiation – ‘The Producing of the Philosopher’s Stone’:
… ‘Modern teachings have made a Fairy Tale of it. That is right in a certain way; because if it were really such as science imagines, it would be a child’s game. It is, however, the highest goal that one can strive for…’
… ‘We only need to focus on a process which the human being is always going through, contemplating it in a cosmic sense. That is the process of breathing. We breathe in and out. Breathing in oxygen, we breathe out into the surrounding world. The out-breath of carbon dioxide is a poisonous gas in which we cannot live. The plant absorbs it continuously, keeps the carbon from the carbon dioxide and builds its own body. The oxygen, however, is given back to the animals and human beings. Thus, plant, animal and humans form a whole in so far as the breathing process is concerned. The human being needs the plant in our time. The corporeal remains of the plant become black coal when they are transformed and dug up out of the earth. They finally become transformed into the transparent diamond. We human beings carry these two processes as potentialities within us, but we cannot use them. We must give carbon dioxide up to the plant as its breath of life. The plant builds up its body from carbon dioxide. It can do something that the human beings cannot yet do, but which we will be able to do later. Imagine this process: taking up carbon dioxide through the plant being, then sending out oxygen – The transference into the inner part of the human (Part of the text here is missing.)…that is we must flow together with the plant world at that point, in such a way that the plant’s process will then be taken up into the human constitutional nature. We could build up a pure chaste body during such a process, as the plant does today within itself. To become a being that can fulfil this process consciously is the goal toward which the human being is now proceeding. When the goal has been achieved, mankind will be in the condition through which the Chalice of the Holy Grail can be developed. So the process of breathing is not a finished accomplishment. It is on the way to becoming perfected in order to finally achieve what is now happening outside our human body, inside us. This will form human substance that is interwoven with ‘Kama’ into pure chastened substance. This is true alchemy. Then man will be able to perform the inner alchemy through which he will transform the cosmos. The symbol for that is the Holy Grail. We must not avoid pursuing this high ideal, just because it is still millions of years away from us. It is likely to be attained out of the principle that ‘Continuous drops of water will hollow out the stone’. It is to be achieved by those who learn to bring the breathing process more and more into a rhythmical flow. Bit by bit, that goal will be achieved. The Philosopher’s Stone is carbon, the substance that will form the human body of the future. This transformation is alchemy in the Rosicrucian sense. Naturally the inmost indications an only be given from teacher to student.
A purification process of feeling begins, as perceived through the feeling organ of the soul. This can be associated with the process in the legend of Parsifal. It is one aspect of a higher parallel, which has been described by Rudolf Steiner. The Grail itself will become the instrument for creative transformation in the far future.
Now let us look again at the plant, which is so important in human and cosmic understanding. It begins in the forces of deep earth, but as Albert Steffen speaks ‘To a Rose’1) in the second stanza:
‘The earth became for you a holy shrine.
Your roots hold fast, you cling to one so dear.
But, I am filled with longing, I perish here,
I seek within the All what’s wholly mine.
How can we learn about evolution from the etheric properties of the plant. Perhaps further lines from the Rosicrucian wisdom in ‘The Water Philosphical’ hold a clue:
The Water Philosophical
Water is water and water remains.
From heavenly water, water downrains.
The Philosopher’s Stone tears of water lets fall.
The world does not relish this water at all.
Their life to this water returns.
Their fire in this water burns.
Fire in water flames higher.
Boil in water the fire
Giving birth to a firey water
Sharp as the salt sea’s daughter,
Which to thy children is water of life,
Swallows up hatred and love in its strife.
Seek philosophic water fourfold
Which remains from of old.
At their highest the Arts of the Wise
From the core of this water arise.
Parsifal as well, experiences the longing, living in the darkness of earth existence, to which the human condition is given. He goes astray, becoming lost in the earth forces, and actually physically lost as well, although his legs still carry him on. In his suffering, his banishment from the Grail Castle, he finally arrives at Treversant’s cave, where his karmic relationships are finally revealed to him. Then shines the inner light of understanding through which he is able to feel a new kind of soul-courage to continue his quest. Kundrie can lead the way at that time, back to the Grail Castle.
Parsifal’s error was originally connected to his impulsive will forces. A spiritual fire, called ‘The Fire Philosophical’ in the writings of the Rosicrucians, spans the redemption of mankind’s forces of will through Saturn, Sun, Moon and to the ends of the Earth incarnation. I would like to give as well as the other Rosicrucian writings.2)
The Fire Philosophical
Yearn for the fire, seek for the fire,
Thou shalt become fire.
Bring fire to fire, broil fire in fire,
Throw body, soul, and spirit into fire,
Then hast thou dead and living fire,
Thou shalt become black, yellow, white, red fire
Bear thy children in fire,
Give them food and drink in fire,
Thus they live and die in fire,
Their silver and gold shall all become fire
And shall be in the end a fourfold philosophic fire.
Although Parsifal certainly made errors in the realm of will, each error seemed to be necessary for his final redemption. He needed to think it through and make a sacrifice. After his first visit to the Grail Castle:
‘Parsifal, brave, slow in wisdom – does not understand why he’s banished.
Outwardly ready to win – and pure of intention, his conscience
Needs to be wakened at last.– Experience shall become conscious.
Questions arise, so contrary – to what the old knight Gurnemanz said;
Parsifal must understand: – ‘Meeting others requires self-cognition.’
It’s no unmanly behaviour – to ask someone, what is the matter?’
Amfortas was perhaps too stoical to speak about his illness without being asked, as we all are at times in our various human suffering. Maybe he was destined not to tell. Collectively we are sometimes too ashamed to speak of the illness concerning ‘human’ inhumanity. We, as well as Parsifal need to compassionately discover exactly what is wrong, quite specifically, in order to remedy a situation.
In the end, Parsifal must give up his old image of knighthood to receive the chalice as the Grail King: In the words of St. Paul: ‘I am, not I, but the Christ that liveth in me.” This is a sacrifice of self in service to the earth as Priestly-King:
‘Now can Sir Parsifal proffer – the chalice he’s offered, as Grail-King.
He understands the new challenge. – His questions will link him to answers.
Parsifal’s presence of mind – awakens to know a new courage,
Born of the heart. He will need – all he’s worth to fulfil it in freedom.
Surely Konduiramor too – will partake in this regeneration,
Helping as Queen of the Grail – so the new world can lovingly flourish.
Humans, as fruit of the earth world – will speak forth their sons and their daughters,
Calling them to incarnation – with Christ who is living within us.
Purified, unselfish love – will unite with the cosmic intentions.
All individual humans – will take on the form of a vessel.
(Each time the Grail force is present – we are striving toward this perfection…)
Infinite striving flows forth – to give what experience offers:
Ways to unravel the knots – and to answer the questions of Karma,
Processes calling for deeds – that promote and transform evolution –
So in receiving the chalice – as Grail-King does Parsifal open
Wellsprings for all who aspire – to fulfil universal objectives.
He represents the creative, – unfolding and selfless existence
Linking the earth to the Spirit – transforming the evil to goodness;
Each individual human – will be part of the cosmic endeavour!
The being of Self can live healthily in a selfless condition. A higher law is graciously at work Feeling akin to such thoughts allows a prefiguration of the sixth and seventh levels of Rosicrucian initiation, that are spoken about in the Munich Conference: ‘The Ability to Ascend to the Microcosm’ and, finally, ’Divine Redemption’, a condition where independent consciousness is preserved, but the initiate can feel the highest being. As Rudolf Steiner says at the end of the first lecture: ‘…There is one thing that can be noted: ‘If the human being does not come blundering out of his egotism towards the goal, but rather feels himself to be a part of the evolution; if he comes not out of greed, but rather feels a kind of obligation, if he wants to serve the evolutionary process, if he purifies all that he must purify, there is no danger. And the Rosicrucian schooling will indeed cause a moral purification to take place. The striving to go forth into pure thought must hover before the soul, because pure thought is a powerful moral purification. It works then as a preparation for the six levels.’
In the Grail quest, we all finally become Kings and Queens of our own souls. I will finish with the same quote of J.W.Goethe’s, that Rudolf Steiner uses to end the first lecture of the Munich Conference:
‘Free from the forces which bind all things
Is the human who has conquered himself.’
1) ‘To a Rose’ by Albert Steffen, p.83 Albert Steffen/Translation and Tribute, Special Issue of Journeyman’s Almanac, Adonis Press, 1959.
2) Rudolf Steiner, Lecture in Berlin, 14 March, 1908.