Seeking happiness and fulfillment is a good thing. But what we may be seeking, ultimately, is the Truth at the center of ourselves.
Remember the story of the Holy Grail: The Grail was said to be the cup of the Last Supper and at the Crucifixion to have received blood flowing from Christ’s side. It was taken to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, where it lay hidden for centuries.
The search for the vessel became the principal quest of the knights of King Arthur. It was believed to be kept in a mysterious castle surrounded by a wasteland and guarded by a custodian called the Fisher King, who suffered from a wound that would not heal. His recovery and the renewal of the blighted lands depended upon the successful completion of the quest.
Many knights went out to seek the Grail. Most of the legends trace the journey of Sir Percival, who, because of his personal purity and dedication to self-knowledge, was considered the perfect candidate for finding the Grail. The story is that he spent years in the search, through several countries, and finally sat down exhausted under a tree. He looked up, and there was the Grail, caught in the branches of the tree.
The story of the search for the Grail is about the eternal yearning we have to know more about ourselves. We appear to be hard-wired for self-discovery. We go out and try to find everything we can about ourselves — who we are, where we came from, why we are here, where we are going. In the end, we come back to ourselves, where the solutions to our personal puzzles reside.
Percival was looking for the Grail — the answer to all life’s questions, the ultimate healing, and the key to happiness. He found it in the most unexpected place: right where he was. The search for happiness always ends when we realize that we already have happiness in the moment, if we will only recognize it.
At this time of the year, when many people are setting out on travels of adventure in the outside world, you may want to go on a search for your own Grail of self-knowledge. With so many new tools of self-discovery open to us in this Information Age, there are many ways to find out more about ourselves. If you have a few minutes, click here to take an online test based on an ancient tool for self-discovery, the Enneagram.
Sir Percival is the archetype of the Seeker. He is looking for wisdom, love, true, and beauty. The shadow-side of the Seeker is the attachment to his continual seeking; seeking without finding becomes a kind of end in itself — like being on a perpetual spiritual treadmill.
Knowing when to stop the search and enjoy the moment is one of the greatest of spiritual lessons. When Percival finds the Holy Grail, the object of his endless wanderings, it is there where he began his journey.
The essayist Agnes Repplier says, ‘It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.’ Always, the Kingdom of Heaven is right here, waiting for us to look up and look in, and discover It.
Journal Starters and Discussion Questions
The Search: Your Spiritual History
In looking at your personal spiritual history, you may see that your beliefs have changed dramatically over your lifetime. In addition, you may have found spiritual practices that are much more satisfying to you than those you grew up with. The purpose of this topic is for you to think about your own spiritual history, tracing its course and evolution, and where you are now.
Write your History
Write your spiritual history, starting from your earliest beliefs and up to the present. Describe the questions you have had about God and spirituality, life experiences that influenced what you believe, and people who have affected your beliefs. How do you fill your spiritual needs? What gives you solace, ecstasy or hope?
Learn More About the Holy Grail and the Seeker
The Quest of the Holy Grail (Penguin Classics) The images and metaphor and poetry — and just overall radiance — the book gives is out of proportion to the effort required to get through it. It reads easy and comes across as delightful through each page.
From Carolyn Myss: Sacred Contracts
Seeker (Wanderer, Vagabond, Nomad)
This archetype refers to one who searches on a path that may begin with earthly curiosity but has at its core the search for God and/or enlightenment. Unlike the Mystic, which has the Divine as its sole focus, the Seeker is in search of wisdom and truth wherever it is to be found. The shadow side of the archetype is the “lost soul,” someone on an aimless journey without direction, ungrounded, disconnected from goals and others. The shadow emerges when seekers become infatuated with the trappings of a certain practice or guru — what Chögyam Trungpa so aptly called “spiritual materialism” — but never actually change their underlying egocentricity.
Tyrone Power in The Razor’s Edge; Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet; Peter Weller and Judy Davis in The New Age (shadow); Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore; Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath.
A Doll’s House (Nora) by Henik Ibsen
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse; Lost Horizon by James Hilton.
Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie; My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi; Be Here Now by Ram Dass; Longing for Darkness by China Galland.