The Holy Grail, represented in the Tarot by the Ace of Cups (our Ace of Hearts) is a chalice of pure memory. After the Last Supper, it is said that the disciples of Jesus Christ kept the goblet used by their Master in remembrance of him, and the power of this memory so filled it that the Grail became for those medieval believers who pursued it or its traces the ultimate desideratum. The Grail was the vessel of the logos, but the meaning of the logos had long since moved beyond the sense in which Socrates used it – the embodied spoken word. Under Christianity, the Logos, in becoming, as it were, capitalized, had come to mean something different, more abstract, beyond the everyday experience of people.
The Grail, like rasa, the pharmakon and the logos, has multiple meanings. Among other things, it is a vessel (grasale), a book (gradale), the Holy Grail (san graal) and the True Blood (sang real). The Grail was carved by angels from a single emerald that had been set in the middle of Lucifer’s forehead, and which dropped from his brow as he fell from paradise. In this, it resembles the urnã, the third eye or the ability to see eternity along with everyday experience. It is the object of the Quest, the treasure of the inner centre or unmoved mover.
But the Grail, at least in the legends, is always missing, and the ancient King who keeps it, along with his realm, ail in its absence. This loss amounts to the loss of inner cohesion, whether religious or psychological, and is described as a lapse of memory entailing the loss of the primordial paradise, as well as the death and withering up of Nature.
In the Western tradition, these esoterica are couched in elaborate symbolism, but they are presented fairly explicitly in the Radhasoami teachings, which offer a spatially visualised journey or quest to the inner centre, the Logos which is at the same time God, the Master and the Holy Ghost. They too describe our current state as a lapse of memory – we have forgotten our divine origin and yearn to return to it. What this being that originated in God might be, is more difficult to grasp. It is none of the things we acquired or learned in this life, for it predates them in time, and they do not endure beyond death. It is none of the productions of the mind, including the sense of location in a world.
The great Buddhist teacher Nagasena, pressed on the question of reincarnation by King Milinda, replies: ‘There is a rebirth of consciousness but no transmigration of a self. Your thought-forms re-appear but there is no ego-entity transferred. The stanza uttered by a teacher is reborn in the scholar who repeats the words. Only through ignorance and delusion do men indulge in the dream that their souls are separate and self-existent entities.’ He goes on to explain: ‘Suppose a man were to light a lamp; is it the same flame that burns in the first watch of the night as in the second? Or are there two flames, one in the first watch and the other in the second watch? In one sense it is not the same flame, but in another sense it is the same. Now suppose the flame of the first watch had been extinguished in the second watch, would you call it the same if it burns again in the third watch? Has the time that elapsed during the extinction of the flame anything to do with its identity or non-identity? The flame of today is in a certain sense the same as the flame of yesterday, and yet in another sense it is different at every moment. Moreover, flames of the same kind, illuminating with equal power the same kind of rooms, are in a certain sense the same.’
This being a tough proposition for the ego-projects of many satsangis, some have come to prefer a cosmology evolved in part in the West, among the followers of Swedenberg, and in the séances of Victorian drawing-rooms. In this belief there is personal survival, and souls, which are eternal entities, transmigrate from body to body spending time between lives in interim states variously called the astral regions, heavens, limbos, hells and so on. These states are real and spatially experienced, but are located in ‘other dimensions’ and so are undetectable to our senses and instruments, but can be entered by ‘going within’ through the third eye, the urnã. Thus the quest that the satsangi undertakes is an inner, secret one, a journey through regions bigger than the material universe, with each vaster than the next. To strip it of the metaphors, it is a set of techniques intended to alter the consciousness of the practitioner, specifically to dissolve the sense of selfhood, releasing consciousness into a unified, non-dual experience that is indescribable and unnameable. Whether it really leads to the Holy Grail I cannot say, for although I have tried it, I have never got beyond the very beginning, and as satsangis are specifically forbidden to discuss their meditative experience, I have never met one who could vouch for it. Some aspect of the Radhasoami path must have worked for Lesley, however, because she devoted the last twenty years of her life to it, and took quite literally the injunction to meditate for at least two and a half hours every day.