Saturday, June 9, 2012

Parzival and the neutral angels



Fresh from contemplating 'Lost Christianity', I read Lindsay Clarke's fabulous re-telling of Wolfram von Eschenbach's poem, 'Parzival and the Stone from Heaven' from which 'Christendom' is lost!

Von Eschenbach was a sacred poet but one of ecumenical sympathies where not only is Parzival's final battle (unknowingly) with his brother, the piebald Saracen, Feirefiz, essential to his self-discovery but the two of them enter the Grail castle together and are granted together a vision of the 'stone' that is the Grail.

When Feirefiz asks whether it is permitted to see this Christian mystery, Parzival answers (in Clarke's version) yes for, "all Nature's increase is there, so I think that this stone from Heaven must be a living emblem of the earth itself, which is mother and father to us all."

There are knights, ladies, sorcerers, hermits and wise old hags abounding in Eschenbach's world but interestingly for a medieval text, no organised religion!

Meanwhile, remarkably, given what I had re-read in Needleman's Lost Christianity this same week, the grail is guarded by the angels who, when there was war in heaven, between 'good' and 'evil', stayed neutral. They are the guardian point within us, within the cosmos, from which we see the forces that gather up and those that dissipate and from that point offer reconciliation. They are the point of "apatheia' (see http://ncolloff.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/apatheia.html) that allows us to see and create the space whereby out of this purity of heart, we can reconcile the warring forces within us into a renewing wholeness.

To come across this so nakedly present in the next text read (without any expectation) is one of those nurturing moments of synchronicity that life throws you way, and encourages there by.

Clarke is an admirable writer both as a novelist and, as here, a re-teller of others' stories. I am, I confess, a poor reader of medieval literature, wanting a greater interior psychological realism inhabiting more rounded characters, but Clarke, in an afterword on the story, offers a very illuminating way of reading these texts as archetypal, as you might read a dream, embodiments of aspects in your psyche. It is a suggestion that gives me hope that I may be able to read more, and the originals, profitably.

Parzival is, read like this, an illuminating story of a journey from an unknowing fool to a wise one - and  a hymn to the importance of listening to the heart and a genuine obedience not to our projected self, approved by others, but to the more complex listening that is an awakened conscience (itself not a social construct but an inner, abiding image of the good).

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