Now I’ll try blogging my fiction. In one of my first posts, I gave a description and some highlights of my first fictional story, The Metamorph, written in 1992. This time I’ll post the actual text of a shorter story, one chapter at a time.
I was inspired by the timeless legend of Parsifal, especially Richard Wagner’s operatic version, and in 1998 I rendered this retelling, with a few new twists. The story drew more glowing reviews and comments from readers than any of my other writings, and it’s the only one that’s ever been selected by a commercial publisher for distribution. A typical example of the feedback came from a man who read the story on the Web in preparation for seeing the opera for the first time. He said: “Your portrayal of the events was so moving that I felt compelled to send this email to thank you for your work. The opera was resplendently magnificent, but I must admit that I like your story better than Wagner’s. Your elaboration of the seduction scenes in particular are more poetic and beautiful than his.”
PARSIFAL and the HOLY GRAIL
1. The Grail Castle
The mythic underpinnings of today’s strange world can be found in legends of the Holy Grail.
In a secret nexus at the center of space-time, and therefore outside of it, is a castle where a King reigns timelessly over all the universe. He never leaves his chamber in the highest battlement, and seems to care not a whit for the fortunes of the material worlds or the endless generations of beings who inhabit them; yet somehow he creates and sustains all these worlds, and his heart pumps the blood and the sustenance into all that lives.
The King possesses two implements, which are all he needs for his eternal task, for they are the source and the origin of life and of death. The one glows brilliantly in the dark night of the Abyss which surrounds the castle; many who see it call it a star, while some come away with a memory of it as a gemstone of the most lucid radiance. The other implement is sometimes seen as a weapon in the King’s right hand — a sword, a spear, a lance, or in modern times a gun. It’s also visaged as a skull, like the one Hamlet held when he sought to penetrate these very mysteries.
The King entrusts the care of the Star of Life to his Queen, who keeps it in a precious cup to carry it forth into the halls of the castle. And his sword the King hands over to his noblest and mightiest knight, who accompanies the Queen wherever she goes and acts as Guardian of the treasure that she bears.
In those times that are today called the Middle Ages, among the people who lived in Europe, the Star of Life became known as the Holy Grail, and the Cup of the Queen was identified as the chalice that Jesus used at the Last Supper, containing the wine that became his blood; and in like manner, the weapon of the Guardian was said to be the spear that pierced Christ’s side while he hung upon the Cross. Embodied thus in these symbols, the mysteries inspired the rise of many orders, whose members pledged themselves to sacred service as knights and maidens of the Holy Grail.
These outward orders were modeled after the true Inner Order of souls who live in the Grail Castle, and venture forth from it into the world on periodic quests of enlightenment and salvation. This has gone on forever, and always will, in every land and every world, in ways invisible to the average mass of sentient beings; but the Medieval Grail legend gave to it all a local habitation and a name. In this way, the ineffable became tangible to mundane folk, and enabled them to be recruited into the sacred work.
Every day in the Great Hall of the Grail Castle there was a convocation in which all the knights and ladies gathered ’round, as the Queen held forth the chalice and the Guardian removed its covering, unveiling the stellar light of the Grail within. Then the cup was passed around the table, and each person in turn renewed their vows to service of the Grail and its King. Then they wished for whatever they might need at that moment, including food, drink, clothing, and any other items of sustenance; and instantly the Grail provided it, for indeed the Star of Life is the sole and never-flagging source of all substance and energy in the universe.
Then the Guardian yielded up his spear to the men, though in some versions of the story it was identified as the sword Excalibur. Each knight in turn would seize it, renew his oath to defend the Grail with his very life, and the sword or spear would be magically replicated into whatever weapon he needed for his next battle.
Thus were the members of the Order sustained so that they could pour all the grace of their souls and all the force of their power into accomplishing the mighty millennial task of bringing the world gradually ever closer to total salvation.