The Grail; Relic of an Ancient Religion – Chapter 4

May 1st, 2013 | By | Category: The Grail


4 – The Rule of Three

  Arthur’s Three Great Queens:

 Gwenhwyfar daughter of Cywryd Gwent,

 and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwythyr son of Greidiol,

 and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gogfrân Gawr. 

Triad 56 

THE TWO groups most associated with the cauldron were warriors and poets.  The latter received their liquor of ‘science and inspiration’ from it; the former were reborn from it.  In the next few chapters, we shall try to understand what processes were involved in the initiation of prophets and heroes. 

At the same time, we need to keep track of the changes imposed on the Grail tradition from the outside.

The Church, as we have noted, showed considerable interest in the Grail in the early years of the 13th century.  This was mostly the work of the Cistercians, whose order had been found in 1098 with the intent of reforming the monastic system.  Their sudden interest in the Grail was unprecedented: there had been no such excitement beforehand.

Arthur, too, had been neglected.  Five centuries has passed since his death before the Church paid him any attention – and then he became a convenient foil.

Starting in about 1100, a slew of legends advanced claims that certain religious establishments had been granted their lands by ‘King Arthur’.  Lifris of Llancarfan’s Vita Sancti Cadoci featured Arthur as a would-be rapist and dupe of the saint.  This ‘Life of St Cadog’ set much of its action in Scotland – St Cadog notably clashes with Rhydderch of Strathclyde, whose sword became one of the Treasures of Britain – and its portrayal of Arthur was clearly designed to exalt the churchman at the expense of ‘the most illustrious King of Britannia’.

In circa 1130, Caradog of Llancarfan compiled his Vita Gildae, in which Arthur is again regarded as an aggressor.  St Gildas was presented as one of 24 sons of a northern prince, several of whom rebelled against Arthur, and a mythical connection between Arthur and Glastonbury was forged to make out that Arthur had gratefully awarded lands around Glastonbury to the 6th-century saint.  In the Vita Sancti Paterni (c 1120) Arthur tries to steal St Padarn’s tunic, which we might recognise as the ‘Coat of Padarn Red-Coat’, another of the Thirteen Treasures.

Evidently, the medieval Church knew of Arthur’s reputation but did not yet see him as the paragon of Christian virtues he would later become.

During this same period, the genuine legends were filtering out of the British heartlands.  Bleddri, the ‘well-known story-teller’, took them to the French court of the Count of Poitou.  His versions of the tales were undoubtedly more favourable to Arthur than those which were then being spun by the Church.

Parts of France already knew about Arthur.  British refugees had fled to the coast of Armorica when Lothian was conquered by the Angles in the 7th century.  Armorica became the ‘Lesser Britain’ – Brittany.  When Lambert of St Omer wrote in about 1120 of Arthur’s palace ‘in the land of the Picts’ he was probably drawing on the race memory of those émigrés who recalled their Lothian homelands as Leonais (the ‘Lyonesse’ of Arthurian romance).

Shortly thereafter, Hugues de Payens, first Grand Master of the Knights Templar, visited Scotland.  The Templars built their Preceptory of St Bernard of Clairvaux beside the River South Esk near Edinburgh, on land secured by Hugues de Payens from King David I, naming it in honour of the Cistercian figurehead who drafted the Rule of their Order.  Before long, the Cistercians had established abbeys of their own nearby at Melrose and Newbattle.

The Cistercians and their Templar protégés rapidly moved into various parts of Scotland, including Galloway, the Borders, Lothian and Aberdeenshire.  These were the regions through which Fergus of Galloway passed in the Arthurian Roman de Fergus (c 1200).  Though that romance is set in the age of Arthur its hero was partly modelled on a historical King Fergus who, along with David I of Scotland, founded the Cistercian abbey at Dundrennan in Galloway in 1142. 

The battle for the Grail
The Cistercians were responsible for most of the Grail romances which appeared between 1200 and 1240.  Under their influence, the Grail was transformed from the original graal of Chrétien de Troyes – which resembled the cauldron of British tradition – into the Saint Graal or Cup of the Last Supper.

The White Monks did not have everything their own way, though.  Their persistent references to Scotland were brushed aside because their Benedictine rivals had laid claim to the ‘Holy Grail’.

Eleanor of Aquitaine, the granddaughter of the Count of Poitou to whom Bleddri the Welsh latimer had told his Arthurian tales, fell out with her first husband, King Louis of France, during the disastrous Second Crusade.  She then married Henry II of England.  When the church at Glastonbury burned down in 1184 it was King Henry who prompted the search there for Arthur’s grave.

The actual dig was carried out under Eleanor’s son, Richard the Lionheart, who would expropriate an Arthurian heritage by naming his sword ‘Excalibur’.  In no time at all the Black Monks were claiming to have unearthed the remains of King Arthur and his ‘second wife’.  The Grail inevitably followed, providing Glastonbury with a major source of income, even though the Grail (like Arthur) had never been there.

Ultimately, the Cistercians lost the propaganda war over the Grail to the Benedictines of Glastonbury.  Another of their campaigns was seemingly more successful.  The papal army, led by the Cistercians, crushed the Albigensian heretics of southern France, massacring them by the thousand.

St Bernard of Clairvaux had admired the Cathars, declaring that ‘No sermons are more Christian than theirs’, and yet his order was at the forefront of the crusade against them.  Ever since, rumours have abounded that the Cathars were the guardians of the Grail; this explains why Otto Rahn focussed his early Grail-hunting explorations on the Cathar region around Montségur.

The flurry of Grail romances produced by the Cistercians coincided with the crusade against the Cathar ‘Pure Ones’.  This was no accident.  While the Cistercians were reinventing the Grail as the Cup of Christ, the Cathars appear to have represented a separate tradition, symbolised by the Grail.  Their egalitarian, anti-materialistic faith relied on the experience of personal revelation or gnosis.  They repudiated the Crucifixion – for reasons which will become apparent – and rejected the hierarchy of the Church in favour of a direct relationship with the Divine.  The Cathars were destroyed, not because they were devil-worshippers, but because their Christianity was perhaps truer to the original than the version promoted by Rome.

Another body which came to be connected with the Grail was the Knights Templar.  Their militaristic order had developed in tandem with the Cistercians, and if the White Monks were keen to revitalise the spiritual rigor of the monasteries – as their hijacking of the Grail tradition would suggest – the Templars were their favourite jihadists.  Together, the White Monks and the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ unleashed a holy war designed to purify medieval Christendom.

But something went wrong.  Having failed to save Jerusalem, the Templars began to concentrate on growing rich and powerful.  They became, in effect, Europe’s first bankers.  Their arrogance made them enemies.  One of these was Philip IV of France, who owed them money.  With Pope Clement V in his pocket, King Philip prepared his move against the Templars.

On Friday, 13 October 1307, hundreds of Templar knights were arrested in a well-planned swoop.  Many of their leaders were executed; some were roasted alive.  Those who escaped, it has often been averred, found sanctuary in Scotland.

The charges levelled against the Templars were reminiscent of those which had previously been laid against the Cathars.  They were accused of blasphemy, heresy, ‘unnatural sexual practices’.  Some, under duress, confessed that they had spat and urinated on the Cross.  It was also alleged that the Templars required their initiates to prostrate themselves before a disembodied head or human skull, which they called ‘Baphomet’.

Whoever this Baphomet was, the Templars arguably held him in the highest esteem.  Rome insisted that 

… in their assemblies, and especially in their grand chapters, they worshipped the idol as a god, as their saviour, saying that this head could save them, that it bestowed on the order all its wealth, made the trees flower, and the plants upon the earth to sprout forth. 

The Baphomet head was therefore Grail-like in its ability to confer abundance, fertility and victory in war.

The term ‘Baphomet’ had been recorded at the very start of the crusades.  Anselm of Ribemont wrote in 1098: ‘As the next day dawned, [the enemy] called loudly upon Baphometh while we prayed silently in our hearts to God.’  The Occitan form of the name – Bafometz – appeared in a troubadour poem of about 1195, and a poem of circa 1250 referred to ‘Bafomet’ while bemoaning the failure of the Seventh Crusade.  The standard assumption is that ‘Baphomet’ was a corruption of ‘Muhammad’ and thus the Templars were held to have been Muslim converts and idolators.

It ain’t necessarily so.  The word ‘Baphomet’ can be deconstructed to reveal a link between the sacred head of the Templar knights and the origins of the Grail tradition.

The final syllable – met, meth or metz – compares with the German word for ‘mead’: Met (genitive Mets).  This derives from the same Proto-Indo-European root, *médhu, which gave us the Welsh medd, Old Irish mid, and the Latin medo (Greek methu, ‘wine’), as well as ‘metheglin’, a honey wine flavoured with herbs or spices (Welsh meddyglyn – ‘medicinal liquor’ or ‘mead-of-the-valley’).

If ‘met’ signified ‘mead’ – the ‘sweet, ensnaring’ mead quaffed by warriors before battle – then the first syllable of Baphomet might recall the ‘Battle Crow’, Badb Catha.

In Irish mythology, Badb (pronounced ‘bath-b’) was one of three fatal sisters who presided over the battlefield.  Badb took the form of a raven or Hooded Crow (brân lwyd in Welsh).  The great epic poem of Ulster, Táin Bó Cúailnge, sees the goddess Badb terrorising the warriors of Queen Medb of Connacht; the name ‘Medb’ is cognate with the English ‘mead’.

An alternative form of Badb was Bodb.  Bodb Derg (‘Red Crow’), the son of the Dagda, lord of the inexhaustible cauldron, was elected king of the Children of Lir – the Old Irish equivalent of the ‘Children of Llyr’ in the tales of the Britons.

Badb survives in Modern Irish as Badhbh (pronounced ‘bav’) and in Scottish Gaelic as baobh or bàibh: a terrifying vision, a mischievous spirit or fury.

When we recall that the head of Brân, the ‘blessed Raven’, entertained the survivors of his battle with Matholwch, ‘king of Ireland’, for many years after it was struck from his body; that Brân’s cauldron and the Horn of Brân ‘from the North’ were precursors of the Grail; that Peredur of York saw a severed head on a platter in his uncle’s castle – a vision which took the place of the graal in Chrétien’s parallel romance of ‘Perceval the Welshman’- and that Arthur himself was reputedly reincarnated as a member of the Crow family, the chough or brân Arthur, we have to wonder whether the disembodied head worshipped by the Knights Templar was indeed a form of Arthur-and-the-Grail.

That would surely be the case if ‘Baphomet’ derived from Badb-o-mid, the Battle-Crow of the inspirational mead. 

Like the Cathars before them, the Templars were destroyed by the prevailing orthodoxy.  Both were associated with the reforming Cistercians – as victims of persecution or kindred spirits – and both practised initiation rituals, the content of which was almost certainly misrepresented by the Church.  They were both, it could be said, followers of the ‘hidden stream’ of esoteric spirituality which rejected much in the way of mainstream Christian orthodoxy.

Where the Church imposed doctrine, promoting Scripture as the cornerstone of religion, the adherents of the ‘hidden stream’ emphasised the gnosis of personal revelation, achieved through initiation.  As such, the Cathars and the Templars were indeed the guardians of an authentic tradition at a time when the Cistercian Order was reclassifying the ‘Holy Grail’ as a Heroic age emblem of Christ’s crucifixion.

This begs the questions: how did initiation grant an immediate and direct experience of revelation (gnosis), and to what extent were the Grail mysteries related to rites of initiation? 

And why did those who followed the esoteric ‘hidden stream’ consider the Cross of the Crucifixion an irrelevance and even a symbol of evil? 

The Celtic world had something of an obsession with the number 3.  Goddesses appeared in triple form – e.g. the tripartite goddess of war and death, Macha, Mórrígan and Badb – or were believed to have three aspects.  Gods and goddesses were often represented with three faces in stone carvings (so-called ‘tricephalic’ heads), and it is noteworthy that the ‘Baphomet’ head allegedly venerated by the Templar knights was reputed, in some cases, to have had three faces.

The legend of St Patrick using the three-leaf clover or ‘shamrock’ to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to the pagan Irish reflects this Celtic preoccupation with threes.  The Celts were well-prepared for a God who exists simultaneously in three forms (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) because various Celtic deities already did.  The shamrock legend is, in fact, of late invention: the 5th-century Irish to whom St Patrick preached would have had no difficulty at all in comprehending a three-in-one god.

The Celtic fascination with threes is exemplified by the Welsh Triads.  Like the native tales of The Mabinogion, these are preserved in medieval transcriptions, including the Peniarth 16, 20 and 54 manuscripts, the White Book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hergest.  A total of 86 triads were edited by Rachel Bromwich (1915-2010) and first published as Trioedd Ynys Prydein – ‘Triads of the Island of Britain’ – in 1963 (revised editions, 1978 and 2006).

The triad system would appear to have been a mnemonic device utilised by Welsh bards.  Let us suppose that a storyteller was required to recount three great fables from the past.  These three stories might be connected by a common theme, in the way that Greek tragedies were in the dramatic festivals of the 5th century BC, and so over the course of a weekend, say, the bard could recite the legends of the ‘Three Generous Men of the Island of Britain: 

                        Nudd the Generous, son of Senyllt,
                        Mordaf the Generous, son of Serwan,
                        Rhydderch the Generous, son of Tudwal Tudglyd. 

The moral in this instance would have been that ‘Arthur himself was more generous than the three.’

On another occasion the bard might have been called upon to describe ‘Arthur’s Three Great Queens’ – ‘Gwenhwyfar daughter of Cywryd Gwent, and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwythyr son of Greidiol, and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gogfrân Gawr’ (the last appearing to have been a ‘Cup-of-Brân the Giant’) – and perhaps to contrast this tripartite figure with the ‘Three Faithful Wives of the Island of Britain’ or tell the complementary tales of the ‘Three Faithless Wives’:

And one was more faithless than those three: Gwenhwyfar, Arthur’s wife, since she shamed a better man than any.

The triple death
The grouping of these stories into sets of threes might have been a useful memory aid but it seems to have been carried to excess.  Even the Twenty-Four Horsemen of Arthur’s Court (‘Pedwar Marchog ar Hugain Llys Arthur’) were conveniently bundled into threes.

Thus, Peredur of York was one of the ‘Three Virgin Knights’, while Owain son of Urien (whose wife was one of the ‘Three Faithless Wives of the Island of Britain’) was one of the ‘Three Battle Knights’ and Cynon son of Clydno (who cast one of the ‘Three Surpassing Bonds of Enduring Love’ over Owain’s sister) was one of Arthur’s three ‘Counsellor Knights’.

So insistent was the urge to turn everything into threes that we might ask: was there something more to this?

Could there have been some cosmological or eschatological significance to the concept of triplicity?

The question takes on new urgency when we consider the Celtic motif of the three-fold death.  The records abound with prominent figures who suffered a sacrificial triple death, and it is clear from the historical accounts that this practice was still observed in the time of Arthur.

Myrddin – the original ‘Merlin’ – reputedly died when he was struck by a stone, impaled on a stake and drowned in the River Tweed.  Somewhat earlier, a Celtic prince, whose body was recovered from a peat-bog at Lindow Moss in Cheshire in 1984, was found to have been pole-axed, garrotted and bled to death in about AD 60.

These and other, similar examples of ritual sacrifice would appear to have taken the Celtic rule-of-three a little too far.  Unless of course there was a rationale – a belief which dictated that, in certain circumstances, key individuals had to be killed three times, using different methods.  Whatever that belief might have been it was presumably the same reasoning that inspired the triple goddesses and the arranging of stories in threes, as evidenced by the Triads of the Island of Britain.

The creation of threes – or the subdivision of one thing into three things – was not the exclusive preserve of the Celtic imagination.  Christianity, for example, developed the concept of the Holy Trinity.  Likewise, the Moirai or ‘Fates’ of Greek mythology took the form of three sisters: Clotho the spinner, Lachesis the measurer, and Atropos the cutter.  It may be that Kerberos, the Hound of Hell, had three heads for much the same reason, one representing birth (or the ‘past’), one youth (‘present’) and one, old age (‘future’).  These three aspects were mirrored in the Celtic triple-goddess, reflecting three major stages in life: ‘Maiden’, ‘Bride/Mother’ and ‘Crone’.

There is in fact something quite natural about such three-fold divisions.  In 1973, the American neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean (1913-2007) published The Triune Brain in Evolution.  MacLean’s theory proposed that the human brain is, in reality, three brains in one.

The first of these is the oldest.  It is the brain we share with reptiles and fish; MacLean called it the ‘reptilian brain’ or ‘R-complex’.  Comprising the spinal cord, brainstem and midbrain, the reptilian complex governs our most basic instinctual behaviour: reproduction and self-preservation.

The second brain, comprising the amygdala, hippocampus and septum, is the ‘palaeomammalian complex’, which governs much of our emotional and parenting behaviour.  Another term coined by MacLean for this ‘mammalian’ brain is the ‘limbic system’.

The last evolutionary development is the neo-cortex or ‘neomammalian complex’.  This part of the brain is the ‘thinking’ mind (the palaeomammalian complex being the ‘feeling’ mind and the reptilian complex the ‘survival’ mind).  It holds the ability to plan, to conceptualise and to use language.

‘It’ and ‘I’
The point about the ‘triune brain’ theory is that it recapitulates the entire process of animal evolution and exists inside each and every one of us.  At any moment, the logical processes of our ‘thinking’ mind can be subverted by a rush of emotion welling up from the mammalian brain or even the reflex ‘fight-or-flight’ impulses of the reptilian brain (which includes aggressive sexual urges).  Another way of putting this – as Paul MacLean did – is to say that whenever a patient lies down on a psychiatrist’s couch, a horse and a crocodile lie down beside him.

Fifty years before MacLean published his evolutionary theory of the triune brain, Sigmund Freud proposed his ‘structural model’ of the mind.  In Das Ich und das Es (‘The Ego and the Id’), Freud elaborated on a theory he had first put forward three years earlier in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920).

Freud posited a three-part structure of the mind.  He called these parts das Es, das Ich and das Über-Ich – ‘the It’, ‘the I’ and ‘the Over-I’ – although it has become customary to refer to them in Latinate terms as the id, the ego and the super-ego.

The id compares with the primitive ‘R-complex’ of the brain, in that it is active from birth and contains the most fundamental drives.  Freud remarked that the ‘It’ is the ‘dark, inaccessible part of our personality … we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations’.  The ego seeks to reconcile the id’s desire for instant gratification with the realities of life and ‘represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions’.

The third component of the mind is the super-ego, which acts as the ‘conscience’ and ‘punishes misbehaviour with feelings of guilt.’  According to Freud, the ego endeavours to steer a course through the external world while subject to two conflicting internal pressures: the infantile needs of the id and the critical, moralistic attitudes of the super-ego.

MacLean implied that what we call the ‘self’ – a product of the advanced neo-cortex – sits atop two earlier developments, the reptilian and old-mammalian brains.  Freud suggested that the ‘self’ strives to maintain the balance between the demanding id and the disapproving super-ego.  Both men delineated a three-part structure to the personality: a basic, instinctual component, a more developed ‘feeling’ component and a higher ‘thinking’ component.  These three aspects of the personality are constantly dragging us down and willing us upwards.

The theories put forward by Freud and MacLean belong to the Human age, as does the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), out of which grew the notion of the Hegelian dialectic.  This again is a three-part model.  An initial idea (thesis) is stated.  This provokes a reaction (antithesis).  The two battle it out, and a resolution (synthesis) is reached.  Hegel’s own terms were ‘Abstract’, ‘Negative’ and ‘Concrete’.

Ideally, then, the logic of the Human age – when it works – follows a three-stage process:

1)     Thesis, or proposition;
2)     Antithesis, or opposition;
3)     Synthesis, or solution.

For an example of three-fold division in Heroic age thinking we have the Blessed Trinity – in addition to which there were the ‘Three Estates’ of medieval society (clergy, nobility, commoners) and the three-tier model of the cosmos expounded in Dante’s Divine Comedy.  The spiritual journey undertaken by Dante through his epic poem leads him down into the depths of Hell (‘Inferno’), then up the Mountain of Purgatory (‘Purgatorio’) and finally through the celestial spheres of Heaven (‘Paradiso’), where he receives a vision of the Triune God as: 

                        Three orbs of triple hue, clipt in one bound … 

Turning back to the magical mindset of the Divine age Celts we find the triplicities of the ritualistic three-fold death, the three aspects, forms or faces of the goddess (and Arthur’s wife) and the multifarious threesomes of the Triads. 

There is clearly something fundamental – universal and recurrent – about these three-fold divisions.  Such tripartite patterns seem to be hardwired into our ways of thinking about human discourse, the personality and the cosmos.  That is to say, they are archetypal, and what the essential archetype underpinning these various examples of triplicity might be is explained most elegantly, perhaps, by the ‘Huna’ philosophy of Polynesia.

The Hawaiian word huna means ‘secret’.  The mages who practised the spiritual disciplines of Huna were known as kahuna.

The religion of the kahuna had been outlawed by Christian missionaries before the schoolteacher Max Freedom Long arrived in Hawaii in 1917.  Working alongside Dr William Tufts Brigham, curator of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Long strived to piece together what he could of the ancient secrets of the kahuna.

The revelation came to him in a dream in 1934 that the Hawaiian language must have retained some vestiges of the ideas and thought processes involved in Huna.  He published the results of his investigations in Recovering the Ancient Magic (1936) and The Secret Science Behind Miracles (1948).

According to Max Freedom Long, the Huna practitioners believed that each of us has three distinct selves.  He termed these the low, middle and High selves.  The Hawaiian words given for the three selves are unihipili, uhane and Aumakua.

The ‘lowest’ of the three is unihipili, from a root word meaning ‘sticky’ (the Selk’nam tribes of Patagonia had a similar concept: their yauategn was able to leave the body but remained connected to it by a ‘thread made of gum’).  Unihipili is essentially a nature spirit, the ‘child within’, and is roughly analogous to the id or R-complex.  Attached to the body via a subtle cord connected to the solar plexus, unihipili combines the functions of a life-support system, a database of personal memories and a kind of ever-willing servant eager to do the bidding of uhane or the ‘middle’ self.

Unihipili is, however, rather literal in its understanding.  It also carries the memory of every bad feeling and negative thought which has ever occurred to the middle self.  Consequently, it can struggle with the mixed messages it receives from uhane and, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, inadvertently creates chaotic and unwanted outcomes.

Uhane, the ‘middle’ self, is the thing we call ‘I’: the ego or ‘self’ as we perceive it; the conscious, reasoning mind which sets targets and goals.  These instructions are passed down to the ‘low’ self, which seeks to carry them out faithfully but is frequently hampered by conflicts arising from past experiences and the contradictory nature of the ego’s aspirations.

Each self thrives on a different type of life energy or vitality.  Unihipili uses mana, which has the power to keep the body functioning and to realise and maintain physical forms.  Uhane makes use of mana-mana, a kind of creative energy which powers thought, feeling and imagination.

The purest energy, Mana Loa, is the power of compassion.  It is the life energy used by Aumakua, the ‘High Self’, which is connected to the body by way of a subtle cord attached either to the heart or the head.

Aumakua seems to correspond with Freud’s super-ego, and yet it is never critical or disapproving.  Whereas the super-ego is effectively an amalgamation of authority figures (parents, teachers, religious leaders, the judiciary, etc.), Aumakua belongs to a divine spiritual family – the ‘Great Poe Aumakua’ – which fulfils the noblest parental functions of guarding and guiding without judgement.  These High Selves are all related, like the gods of Olympus, and they hold out the promise of supreme knowledge and wisdom as well as the ability to communicate telepathically and foresee future events.

If unihipili represents our elemental ‘nature’ intelligence, and uhane is our rational ‘human’ intelligence, then Aumakua constitutes our ‘divine’ intelligence.  Many people have a sense of the loving Aumakua presence in their lives and think of it as their ‘guardian angel’. 

Three souls
Each of the selves has its own subtle body or kino-aka.  These overlapping auras are comparable with the ‘Three orbs of triple hue, clipt in one bound’ perceived by the poet Dante when he beheld the triune form of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The most compact subtle body belongs to unihipili.  Known in some cultures as the ‘etheric body’, it is described as a fluid, sticky substance similar to the ‘ectoplasm’ of the Spiritualists.  Less dense, and more expansive, is the subtle body of uhane, sometimes called the ‘astral body’.

The least condensed of the kino-aka bodies is that of Aumakua, which is so expansive that its centre is believed to be above the head, like the crown chakra or ‘Sahasrara’ of Tantric yoga.

These kino-aka bodies interpenetrate each other: three ovals emanating from the physical body, with unihipili’s ‘etheric’ body inside uhane’s ‘astral’ body and both encompassed by the subtle aura of Aumakua’s unconditional love.

Max Long’s reconstruction of the Huna way of thinking allowed him to comprehend how the Hawaiian kahuna achieved their reported miracles.  They were said to have been accomplished healers, psychotherapists and visionaries, their skills seemingly drawn from their ability to harness the elemental energy of unihipili and access the divine wisdom of Aumakua.

Serge King, who was initiated by his father into the secrets of the kahuna at the age of 14, referred to their tradition as ‘the Way of the Adventurer’ (in contrast to the ‘Way of the Warrior’ followed by many Native American shamans), a path which ‘emphasises … the development of hyper-awareness and a goal-oriented self-discipline’.  King described the kahuna as spiritual fishermen ‘able to weave and cast [etheric] nets in order to capture ideas and events, symbolised by fish.’  This insight might provide us with our first glimpse of the true nature of the ‘Fisher King’ of Grail lore, and we shall revisit the concept in due course.

The kahuna could have taught us much about the manipulation of subtle energies, and it is one of history’s tragedies that their practices were stamped out by interloping missionaries – the Heroic age mentality refusing, as so often, to tolerate any knowledge but its own.

But the concept of the three selves was not peculiar to the Polynesian kahuna.  Larry G. Peters studied the Tamang bombo of Nepal and discovered that they too believed in the existence of three souls.

The ‘lowest’ of these was known as sem chang and was located in the solar plexus.  It provided the elemental energy used in bombo sorcery and was the first soul which the trainee shaman was required to master.  That mastery was achieved through the yidem bhla or ‘heart soul’, the ‘soul of compassion and speech’.

The third soul, che wa, was described as the ‘light of consciousness’, located between the eyes.  Mastery of this soul empowered the shaman with the gift of magical flight.  The final initiatory goal of the Tamang shaman was to release the che wa soul, which would leave the body via the ‘heavenly doors’ at the top of the head.  By doing this, the bombo could reconnect his higher soul with the eternal family of High Selves (‘Great Poe Aumakua’) and climb – like the poet Dante – to ‘the highest heaven’.

It might be objected that we have strayed into the thickets of superstitious gobbledegook.  Modern man struggles with the idea of a single soul – let alone three of them! – but the fact is that we cannot begin to grapple with the beliefs of the Divine age without an understanding of the three-selves/souls paradigm.

And astonishingly, the Human age has found evidence to support the Huna theory. 

Robert Crookall (1809-1981) was a lecturer in Botany at the University of Aberdeen, a geologist for the National Coal Board and Principal Geologist for H.M. Geological Survey; he also held a BSc in Psychology.  In the 1960s and 70s he published a number of books detailing his extensive research into ‘out-of-the-body experiences’ or OBEs.

Dr Crookall analysed numerous testimonies – 381 in one book alone – from people who claimed temporarily to have left their bodies or had witnessed the departure of an astral ‘double’ from someone else’s body.  He came to differentiate between two forms of this ‘replica body’: the ‘semi-physical’ vehicle of vitality, as he called it (which correlates with the ‘vital body’ of the Rosicrucians and the ‘etheric double’ of the Theosophists), and the ‘super-physical’ Soul Body, which Dr Crookall believed was an ‘instrument of consciousness’.

Crookall noted a significant difference in the experiences of those who had died naturally – e.g. of old age – and those who had died suddenly (some of these reports were obtained via mediums).  ‘In many natural releases,’ he wrote, ‘the “double” consisted of the “super-physical” Soul Body only, while in enforced releases the Soul Body was accompanied by some of the enshrouding substance of the “semi-physical” vehicle of vitality.’

The differences between the two types of experience – natural ‘releases’ and sudden or ‘enforced’ ones – are extremely telling.

Many reports garnered from living people who claimed to have left their bodies referred to an initial impression of ‘fog’, ‘smoke’ or ‘mist’ (‘everything seemed blurred and whitish’) often accompanied by ‘darkness’, like ‘a dark night’.  Some testimonies described not only a ‘thick grey mist’ but also a ‘rushing mighty wind’ or ‘cold air’ with a ‘spirit-of-the-wind’ sensation.

(We are reminded of the storm unleashed by Cynon son of Clydno when he poured water from the silver bowl onto the marble slab in Owain, or the Countess of the Fountain, and the ‘peal of thunder’ and ‘a fall of mist’ which engulfed Pryderi and his mother when they became stuck to the golden cauldron and marble slab in the tale of Manawydan son of Llyr.)

The ‘fog’ reported by survivors of OBEs produced a ‘stifled and cramped’ feeling.  This oppressive sensation was often associated with ‘adverse powers’ – blind and jealous ‘hinderers’ who obstructed the released ‘double’ by surrounding and trying to ‘possess’ it.  Commonly reported in cases of the sudden or ‘enforced’ release of the ‘semi-physical’ double, this state was described by Robert Crookall as ‘Hades’.

The attempts of the ‘earthbound’ hinderers to detain the ‘semi-physical’ double were not always successful.  Sometimes the double would pass through a ‘dark tunnel’, a ‘narrow, dimly lit passage’ or a ‘creek with high banks’.  Professor J.H.M. Whiteman described in 1935 the experience of seeing ‘some substance like granite on a sandy beach near the water’s edge.’  A lawyer named S.A. Wildman similarly ‘dreamed’ that he was ‘on the shore of a sea or lake whose waves … carried the fragment of something I was striving to capture and hold.’  On the far side of this water was what Dr Crookall referred to as ‘Paradise’.

Witnesses reported seeing ‘beautiful scenery’, ‘utter reality’ – ‘I [had] never been awake before’; ‘the whole earth was aglow’; ‘Everything looked so bright!’

Professor Whiteman observed that a ‘new personal form’ was ‘condensed out of “the waters”’ as the ‘semi-physical’ vehicle of vitality was shed and the ‘super-physical’ Soul Body made the transition from Hades to Paradise.

When the ‘release’ was natural, the double was more likely to proceed directly to the ‘increasing light’ of the ‘“Paradise” conditions’ (Crookall’s phrase), bypassing the sense of being mocked and choked by the disembodied ‘hinderers’ of ‘Hades’. 

At the start of our investigation, back at the beginning of Chapter 1, we considered Bérenger’s memory (as relayed by Eugène Ionesco in Tueur sans Gages) of ‘that dazzling radiance, that glowing feeling’, when ‘I felt I was there at the gates, at the very centre of the universe’ and an ‘indescribable bliss took hold of me!’  This we compared with Wordsworth’s recollection of a world ‘Apparell’d in celestial light’ in his Intimations of Immortality.  Both instances seem reminiscent of the ‘“Paradise” conditions’ described by Robert Crookall in his studies of OBEs.

The youthful experience of wonder – that moment of transcendence which, as Robert Johnson observed, ‘usually happens around fifteen or sixteen years of age’ – is perhaps a sort of presentiment of the ‘Paradise’ state which exists in the afterlife and can be apprehended if and when the individual is momentarily in touch with his or her High Self.  This awakening of consciousness is seemingly consistent with the Grail experience, which starts with mist and confusion and ends with radiance and magical flight.

We have only begun to scratch the surface of astral projection and the adventures of the soul after death.  Already, though, two things stand out from Dr Robert Crookall’s research.

Firstly, except when the release of the astral ‘double’ was natural, the journey of the Soul Body towards ‘Paradise’ was through a dark and windy environment (‘Hades’) populated by ‘adverse powers’.  Crookall thought of these earthbound ‘hinderers’ as ‘weak and feckless discarnate souls’.

They could also be thought of as ‘semi-physical’ vehicles of vitality which, having left their bodies, never progressed to the Paradise state.  Unable to accept that their physical bodies are dead, or simply too attached to the material plane, they seek to restrain those doubles which have been newly released.  To proceed to Paradise, the double has to pass through ‘Hades’, shed its ‘semi-physical’ form in the waters of the second death and then re-emerge as a ‘super-physical’ Soul Body.

The Huna philosophy teaches that the way to the High Self, Aumakua, is through the low self, unihipili.  The middle self has ‘no direct connection with the High Self’ (although Bérenger’s adolescent experience suggests that a connection can exist before the ego becomes fixated on material things) and so uhane must first learn to communicate with unihipili, which can then act as a channel to Aumakua.

Between the conscious ego and the super-conscious High Self or ‘instrument of consciousness’ lies the gloomy realm of unihipili.  At death, the low self (‘vehicle of vitality’) is released from the body, hopefully to lose its ‘semi-physical’ nature in the water which separates Hades from Paradise.  If it is held back for some reason – doesn’t know it’s dead, or clings hopelessly to the material realm – it cannot be reborn in the ‘super-physical’ state of pure consciousness and ‘utter reality’ which is Aumakua, the eternal Soul Body.

Dr Crookall also noted that the ‘semi-physical’ double (unihipili) is attached to the physical body by a ‘“silver-cord”-extension’ extruding from the solar plexus.

Professor Whiteman, for example, described a sensation which he had felt at the solar plexus, ‘about one to two inches above the navel and perhaps two inches within the body’, when his ‘vehicle of vitality’ was released from his body: ‘I saw my own “silver cord” … attached to the solar plexus.’

Many references to this ‘silver thread of light’ emanating from the subject’s abdomen were recorded by Dr Crookall.  Each one recalls the Huna tradition that unihipili is connected to the solar plexus by a subtle cord, the Tamang shamans of Nepal concurring that the ‘lowest’ soul, sem chang, is located in the solar plexus. 

Lost souls
More rarely, a silver cord pulsating with vitality was reported to have emerged from the head.

Thus, a Dr R.B. Hout observed a ‘silver-like substance that was streaming from the head of the physical body to the head of the spirit double’ of his dying aunt.

Robert Crookall was moved to assert that the ‘extension between the vehicle of vitality and the physical body is at the solar plexus, whereas that between the Soul Body and the physical body is at the head.’

This is precisely what we would expect if we accepted the beliefs of the Hawaiian kahuna and the Nepalese bombo: the ‘low’ self leaves the body from the solar plexus (to which it is attached by a ‘thread made of gum’) while the High Self exits via the ‘third eye’ or the ‘heavenly doors’ at the top of the head.

There is no record of a silver cord extruding from the heart, the seat of the ‘middle’ soul – yidam bhla – in the Tamang shamanic tradition.

In Ancient Egypt, the heart was the Ib part of the soul, where emotions, thoughts and intentions were based, and which was judged (‘weighed’) in the afterlife.  The Ka, meanwhile, was the vital spark or essence.  Ka required food and drink to sustain itself.  Death occurred when the ka left the body (the word ka was formerly translated as ‘double’).

If the ka was the equivalent of unihipili, the Egyptian answer to Aumakua was the Ba, which lived on after death.  Often depicted as a human-headed bird, the ba represented the unique character or personality of an individual or a thing, as well as the aspect of a deity which could intervene in mortal affairs (this idea can be traced back some 15,000 years to a cave-painting at Lascaux, where a bird-headed man of the Upper Palaeolithic is shown lying recumbent, his soul having left his body in bird-form and alighted on a nearby pole; the man appears to be alive, though: his penis is erect).  Ka and Ba were therefore similar but played different roles in the aggregate, tripartite soul, the one being a person’s life-support mechanism or ‘vehicle of vitality’, the other their spiritual essence or Soul Body.

Larry Peters, writing of the Tamang shamans, remarked of the ‘lowest’ soul (‘sem chang’) that, ‘When an individual dies, this soul may stay on earth and cause trouble as an evil spirit.’  This would account for the many tales of hobgoblins and elementals the world over, as well as those ‘adverse powers’ which hinder the passage of the soul through ‘Hades’.

At their most mindlessly repetitive, these earthbound spirits behave as ghosts, endlessly reliving moments of stress.  The more childishly mischievous spirits become poltergeists, feeding on the vitality of a living person (usually a teenager) and utilising that energy to make noises and hurl things; as Dr Crookall noted: ‘Some “doubles” (which contain very much of the vehicle of vitality) can move physical objects’.  The candomblé cult of Brazil, which has its roots in African paganism, seeks to attract these restless entities with offerings of rich food, alcohol and tobacco, bribing them to plague the victim of a black magic ‘job’ or trabalho.

Closely related to the poltergeist are the phenomena of possession, in which a disembodied spirit invades a living body, and ‘multiple personality disorder’, in which one or more spirits take control of an individual.  It could also be averred that hypnosis works by putting the ‘middle’ self (ego, ib, uhane) to sleep, leaving the ‘low’ self (id, ka, unihipili) to do the hypnotist’s bidding.

Properly directed, unihipili can work wonders.  At the command of a hypnotist, or a convincing physician, it can produce a miracle cure or present all the symptoms of illness.  It does as it is told, and we should do well to be aware of this, for whatever thoughts it is programmed with, it will do its utmost to make them happen. 

‘Mr. Sludge’
Some of the most impressive demonstrations of supernatural powers ever witnessed were attributed by Daniel Dunglas Home to discarnate spirits.

Born near Edinburgh in 1833, Home (pronounced ‘Hume’) became something of a sensation after he moved to America at the age of nine and began to manifest mediumistic abilities.

He returned to Europe – and a mixed reception – in 1855.  Staying at a London hotel, Home held séances in full daylight.  Heavy objects moved, seemingly of their own accord; musical instruments played themselves then disappeared; hands would materialise; spirit voices spoke.

Naturally, he had his detractors.  Charles Dickens railed against him, though he declined to attend any of Home’s séances, and Robert Browning slandered him in a long and vicious poem, Mr. Sludge, ‘The Medium’ (1864).  Browning’s spite was probably provoked by his wife’s fascination with Home, but that does not excuse his unwarranted vitriol.

More recently, in his Servants of the Supernatural (2008), Antonio Melechi presented an excessively cynical review of Home’s career.  In such ways does the Human age exhibit its intolerance.  The true spirit of science would give exceptional individuals like Home a fair hearing, but this seldom happens.  Rather, the inherent materialism of the scientific era produces an extreme reaction where the insubstantial is concerned, and then the Human age shows itself capable of an irrational dogmatism worthy of its Heroic age predecessors.

There were, however, scientists who remained open-minded and empirical.  One of these was William Crookes, a pioneering physicist and chemist who chose to investigate Home’s performances.  Much to the alarm of his peers, Crookes’s report – published in the July 1871 issue of the Quarterly Journal of Science – found no fault with Home’s methods.

Crookes had observed the medium levitating, elongating himself, handling red-hot coals and rubbing them into his face without a trace of injury, as well as the more familiar spirit-related activities – grand pianos floating in mid-air, accordions played by invisible hands, flowers falling from the ceiling, etcetera, etcetera.  He professed that his rational mind knew that the things he had seen were impossible.  But he had studied them and discovered no evidence of trickery.  As far as Crookes could determine, Home was genuine.

It was Viscount Adare, later the 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl, who was present – along with Captain Wynne and Lord Lindsay (elected president of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1878) – when Home drifted out of a third-storey window, which was open about a foot wide, and then back into the room through another window.

The sheer range of Home’s repertoire, the huge number of witnesses (many of them utterly reputable) and the fact that he was never exposed as a fraudulent charlatan argue in favour of Home’s authenticity.  And yet he often seemed at a loss to account for his gifts.  It was, he would say, all down to the ‘spirits’.

For a whole year, from 10 February 1856 until midnight on 10 February 1857, the spirits withdrew their services because they were unhappy with Home’s snobbish affectations.  Some years later, a publisher named Vizetelly met Home in a café.  Home was fasting and explained that ‘the spirits will not move me unless I do this.  To bring them to me, I have to contend with the material part of my nature.’

When Home allowed himself to become too materialistic he lost the support of his ‘spirit’ helpers.  Just as we, who are so preoccupied with material concerns these days, have little or no awareness of the spiritual dimension.

Unlike our Divine age forefathers, who saw the universe in three parts: a lower, middle and upper realm, reflecting the three selves or souls present in every living person. 

Crane, E 1980 A Book of Honey. Oxford: OUP.

Crookall, R 1992 Out-of-the-Body Experiences – A Fourth Analysis. New York: Citadel Press.

De Martino, E 1972 Magic Primitive and Modern. London: Tom Stacey.

Hoffman, E 1981 Huna: A Beginner’s Guide. Atglen: Whitford Press.

Hoffman, E 2012 New Brain, New World. London: Hay House.

Nicholson, S (ed.) 1987 Shamanism. Wheaton: Quest Books.

Wilson, C 1979 The Occult. St Albans: Granada.

            – 1981 Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive Haunting. London: Caxton Editions.

Simon Andrew Stirling trained as an actor at LAMDA before turning professional as a writer.  He has written for several hit TV drama series, as well as adapting an opera libretto and providing scripts for the Open University.  An avid historical researcher, he is the author of The King Arthur Conspiracy: How a Scottish Prince Became a Mythical Hero (The History Press, 2012) and Who Killed William Shakespeare? The Murderer, The Motive, The Means (The History Press, 2013).  He lives in Worcestershire, UK.

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