Mixing Memory and Desire: Eight
The Grail legend is a type of Utopian vision, one where we are able to put right what has been made waste. Descended of half-forgotten Celtic theology, it is the belief that man can fix what has gone wrong, that we can heal the Fisher King, only if we admit our mistakes.
It is no mistake that the Grail reappeared during the Industrial Revolution, an age of great upheaval, both in society and nature. The Grail represents the ideal, the state of grace, wherein there is no death, there is no pollution, if only the Grail Knight will swallow his pride and return to the realm of the Fisher King, asking the questions which will set free the waters of regeneration. Despite what some may think, that the meaning of the myth is about bloodlines, pure blood, racial purity, it is in origin about the need for a healing community. The Grail Quest is one of healing, one of restoration. When Perceval begins, he is in the Desolate Forest-the Waste Land-but doesn't know it yet. He must enter the world, sin, experience, become a man, and even fail in the quest, before he can return to the Waste Land and heal the Fisher King. The Fool who exists at the margins of society must make his way in the world; it is his status as a fool, his absolute naïveté about proper conduct, which makes him perfect for the quest: his foolishness leads him to try anything, including sin; yet through sin comes experience, and through experience comes compassion, so that when he returns to the home of the Fisher King, he is mature enough to ask the question which will heal the king.
Our society needs this myth. We live in a world of rampant pollution, exploited third-world workers, racial wars and genocide. The Grail legend teaches us that we must look past ourselves and our own interests if we want to heal the world. We've known this for over 150 years-it is time we listened.
Mixing Memory and Desire: Nine