II. The Grail Symbol As the Basic
Form of the Grail ‘
2nd Excerpt from From Grail Christianity to Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy
f art is – as Goethe says – the revelation of secret laws of nature that would not be revealed without this art, then we can ask ourselves what kind of natural laws are woven into a building like the one designed by Titurel.
From Wolfram’s description of the events in Munsalvaesche we know that the surface area of the hall in which the Grail was ‘shown around’, was elliptical.* In the centre of the hall was the stage. Its wooden floor was covered with a great round or more exact: oval carpet. Placed around this carpet were sofas for the spectators. Above the seats a hundred chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Behind the seats led a passage, which allowed the spectators to get to their seats. From there they were served during the Grail meal. Also the lance was carried through this passage. Beyond the passage was the windowless outside wall with the “kleinen kerzen umbe an der want” (small candles on the wall). This wall was interspersed in the south, west and north with great marble fireplaces. In these drî vierekke fiwerrame (three square fireplaces) the aloe wood was burning that heated the hall. In the east was the steel door leading from Titurel’s living quarters to the temple room proper. In the front, the fires and the door of the safe, which divided the surrounding outside wall in four parts, the row of seats was interrupted. The four radial shaped passages together with the concluding fireplaces and temple-door constituted a cross. Opposite the small steel door in front of the western central fireplace, but still on the stage – on the western focus of the elliptical stage as it were – stood the bed of the main character Anfortas. Next to him on this excellent seat on the stage also sat Parzival.
From the described set-up, it is apparent that the palace was not conceived as a temple, but as a temple theatre. Wolfram accordingly never calls this space a temple. The actual temple space with the font in which 5½ years later Feirefiss was baptized, was situated behind the small steel door and Titurel’s living space and was – this may be concluded from the position of the palace in front of the rock wall on the Hornikopf hill (in the Arlesheim Hermitage) – cut out of rock. That the place of worship, thus the temple proper, is to be found there and not in the palace, is not only evident from the fact that the Grail was carried out of this door to Anfortas and afterwards returned therein, but also by the fact that Wolfram treats this space, so to speak, as the most Holy of Holies of Munsalvaesche. Wolfram changes his stance, as it were, depending on whether he speaks about the Grail or the lance. The bleeding lance is carried into the hall through the only door from the outside or from an adjoining room, which we may suppose to be situated next to the northern fireplace. The Grail, on the other hand, is not carried into the small steel door, but from a storage room inside Munsalvaesche onto the stage. After the Grail ceremony was over, the Grail is not carried out of the palace, but into the rocky interior again. Wolfram says (P. 240:21):
si brâhten wider în zer tür They carried back through the door
For his baptism, Feirefiss is asked to take the same way into the Grail temple that the Grail took. In this temple stands the font made out of ruby mounted on a round pedestal of which the layers are made of jaspes (jasper). Wolfram says that Titurel fashioned it thus at great cost (P. 816:23). The room in which the font was placed must not have been large, for the many knights who were awaiting Feirefiss as he went to be baptized were not in the temple, but in front of it in the palace. From there Feirefiss then proceeded into the interior to the place of baptism. This must be concluded, because Wolfram says (P. 816:18-19):
Sarjande, rîter, grôziu schar dâ stuont. Companies of men-at-arms and knights stood there.
And then continues:
nu gienc der heiden în. Now the Infidel entered.
The knight thus went – away from the other knights in the palace – into the temple. The position of the Grail in this temple was probably on an altar cut out of ‘jaspes’
It can be concluded from something Wolfram said that the font must have had a size that one would hardly expect from a vessel made of ruby. Titurel “plunges” the persons to be baptized – in any case the children – into the font (P. 817:9-10). The original text suggests that also the adult Feirefiss must have been covered by the water from the baptism. I leave it open as to whether only his head was “plunged” into the water, or whether the font was big enough for completely immersing Feirefiss in the water. A classical German scholar would have to translate the baptism scene literally. As I understand the text, the one to be baptized must have in one way or another with at least his head completely disappeared under water according to the practice by John the Baptist, for Wolfram says (P. 818:21):
ê der touf het in bedecket. Until the holy water covered him.
Note that the circular or elliptical layers winding around the pedestal of the font were again made of jasper.
One could perhaps begin to suspect that I had in a psychoanalytical sense some sort of jasper-complex and that I am continually bringing up this jasper in order to wrongly transform something of minor importance into the essence. But I see in the description of the jasper a further indication of the supersensible goal of the baptism: the achievement of “saelde” (bliss). The pedestal of the font could with good reason be made of jasper, for the stone jasper was a true symbol of the etheric for the Grail Christians. Jasper is in the physical world of course only a symbol. In the etheric world on the contrary, that which is symbolized in the physical world by jasper, is a supersensible reality.
Titurel, the architect of the temple, apparently had at that time in the woods of Bertane when he stood in the spirit face to face with the Trinity, not only received the impulse to choose jasper as the Grail symbol; he must in his vision also have had construction details of the temple situated behind the small door and probably also of the whole principle of construction of the palace.
This drawing is also taken from Greub’s second volume Willehalm-Kyot as Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Source. It shows a side view in east-west direction of the former Roman quarry located three quarters up the Hornichopf hill at the back of the Arlesheim Hermitage at an elevation of about 500 meters above sea level. The vertical view shows the oval stage with the three fireplaces (Kamin), small steel door (Türlein) between the stage und the subterranean rock temple, and the adjoining chambers. The front view shows the construction with the oval shaped ceiling and roof. According to Greub this subterranean steel door must still be there.
The oval ground plan of the palace suggests a definite relation with the form that jasper has. This symbol of the etheric must constitute the basis for the architectural design of the whole palace.
The question as to how this can be pictured concretely can be answered as follows: if we imagine placing a huge jasper on the stage floor, then this ellipsoid with three axis must just touch the furthest end of the outside-wall of the palace. The ceiling arched over this cylindrical wall would have to cling to the hypothetical jasper like the shell to an egg. The height of the outside wall would correspond accordingly to one half of the smallest, perpendicular jasper axis. The height of the nut-shaped ceiling would be the same, so that the total height of the room from the ground floor to the highest point in the partition of the dome would correspond with the smallest perpendicular axis of the ellipsoid. The east-west axis of the elliptical ground surface of the palace would thus correspond to a projection of the longest jasper axis on the ground floor of the palace. The cross axis between the southern and the northern fireplace would be a projection of the central jasper axis on the ground floor, and the third, smallest axis would be identical with the greatest height of the hall. Such an enclosure of a merely represented jasper form is inconceivable without supports and braces, which uphold the nut-shaped ceiling and absorb the median thrust of the roof construction.
Wolfram mentions no supporting columns, nor architrave’s or braces. We may therefore conclude that in Munsalvaesche these constructions built for the sake of static were situated outside the hall. The best way to uphold the wooden enclosure of an ideal jasper form from the outside would have been by triangles made of wooden beams with Pythagorean proportions. We therefore imagine roundabout on the outside a number of triangles in the ratio 3:4:5 that absorb the weight of the dome and on top of everything a roof structure with braces that support the rain-canopy. The vaults would thus be hanging from this roof. This wooden structure, seen this way, would approximate the profile of an Egyptian pyramid.
In the second part of my research report Willehalm-Kyot – Der Gewährsman Wolframs von Eschenbach (Willehalm-Kyot as Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Source, not yet translated), I derived the fundaments of the palace described here from Wolfram’s text and mentioned that already the Egyptians saw the etheric foundation of the universe in the form of jasper or the cosmic egg with the proportions of the Pythagorean triangle (5:4:3). If the axis of the ellipsoid on which the building is based are also in the ratio 5:4:3, then we have the ideal shape which Titurel must have given his palace in order to make it look like a physical reflection of the spiritual universe. Titurel would thus have designed his mystery theatre in such a way that the aspirations of the Grail family – to achieve “saelde” (bliss) or knowledge of the higher worlds, which amounts to the same thing – could also be seen with physical eyes. The palace corresponds in its form to the spiritual archetypal form of organic evolution during the time of creation, thus to the actual plan of creation.
As such Titurel would have created in the sense of Goethe a work of art that makes the laws of the etheric world – in terms of the building blocks of the organic-biological realm – also visible to the physical eye. This homogenous, in its succinct simplicity, most beautiful and profound mystery stage is only conceivable, when “spectators” and “players” are not only that, but when they form a company in which everyone is involved and engaged in the same way, dining together like “diu werde gesellschaft” (that entire noble company) of which Wolfram also says (P. 239:7): they “hete wirtschaft vome gral” (wined and dined from the Grail). A closed society, which had set itself the task of keeping a Christian stream alive and which was absolutely not yet meant for the general public, allowed this intimate unity among the participants.
The consciousness of humanity has developed today to such an extent that what was intended for an elite in the 9th century and only understandable by an elite, now seeks its way to all human beings. A mystery theatre must therefore also have another form today….
* * *
* This was done in
chapter 5 New Sources – New Findings
of Werner Greub’s second volume on Willehalm-Kyot. Two drawings of the