A DIFFERENT STORY. From the beginning.

46.   APPENDIX II – THE HOLY GRAIL

From their remote refuge on Pohnpei, the Isle of the Blest, the surviving lords might have looked back and laughed or cried at the bizarre fairy stories that degenerated amongst the descendants of the children of men.  Technical knowledge of nuclear energy survived late into the last centuries BC, but then reality descended into the morass of romance and religion. Familiar phrases and images entered our language but lost all meaning.

Of course the greatest fairy-tale of all was the animation of the sun into a divine being ‘sun-god’ in the sky, and his ‘son’ manifested on Earth. The Egyptian fable of Ra in the sky and his son Osiris on Earth lasted about 3000 years; only to be replaced by the new Christian doctrine of a humanised ‘God the Father’ in the heavens and his ‘son’ Jesus embodied on Earth …  a tale which has so far lasted nearly 2000 years.

More mundanely, perhaps the most absurd fairy-tale was the evolution of ‘angels’. In the earliest records, ‘god’ appeared as a sunburst surrounded by a cloud of radiance emanating from the ‘hosts in their array’ of crystal balls of fire which shimmered and flickered like a living thing. Abraham himself described the indescribable light from the array of crystal spheres in the throne of fire. [1] The Gnostics rendered this image as spherical ‘beings of light’ … which in the humanised Christian version became round ‘faces’ … which grew into amorphous, genderless upper-bodies glowing in the white cloud of the Holy Spirit … which evolved ultimately into little girls with gossamer white costumes with wings attached. They entered our language as ‘little angels’ with ‘cherubic’ expressions.

Never mind that the old God literally rode on a cherub of fire … he was terrible out of his holy places amongst thousands of angels in the cloud of fire … he shone forth from the cherubim’s … he sent evil angels among them (enemies) … wind spirits on the wings of the winds. [2]

But by the power of propaganda these angels of death became the now-familiar images of angelic, cherubic expressions of innocent benevolence.

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Amongst all the embroidery that grew up around religion, possibly the most persistent and enigmatic legend was that of the ‘Holy Grail’… a vague, undefined notion yet curiously persistent and revered, as if it had been something of utmost importance. It entered our psyche and language so that even now we denote something of supreme quality and value as the ultimate ‘Holy Grail’. Yet we don’t know what it is or was. Some say it was the source of eternal light and life; others say, from Christian embellishment, that it was a golden chalice containing the body and blood of Christ. Both are correct in a way, but incomplete.

In the old reality of pre-Dynastic Egypt the recognised ‘primordial entity’ was ‘the one’, hydrogen … the first atom, universal and ubiquitous, before everything, in everything, from which everything was created … the oldest and firstborn son of matter. In the process of solar fusion, hydrogen joined with itself to create higher atoms and to release nuclear energy. It was ‘the one’, the creator, the foundation and font of all life.

But amongst later descendant Egyptians … the ‘Followers’ … that difficult technical knowledge degenerated into a humanised version of religion and ritual where the sun became the supreme ‘sun-god’ Ra. His offspring (child) was manifested on Earth as the ‘son’ Osiris, fostered by the goddess Isis (the mistress of the temple) and the technologist demigod Thoth. The dead (inert) body of Osiris was fed with cakes and ale, placed in a stone chamber, and after three days he arose from the crystal lapis lazuli in awesome brilliance to ascend into glorious union with the aura of the sunshine of ‘his father’ in the heavens. That was the basis of Egyptian religion which lasted around 3000 years.

Despite the popular appeal of the Egyptian religious delusion, the underlying technical understanding survived amongst some initiates … notably the contrarian Pharaoh Akhenaten (Tut’s father), who in ca 1353-1335 BC attempted to suppress the deviant humanised rituals and reinstate literal observance of the sun. But he was opposed by recalcitrant High Priests and on his death the new humanised religion flourished again. Tenuous literal understanding also persisted amongst the Gnostics … who retained ‘the Knowledge’ of the ‘light’ until the last years BC. Their ‘God’ was light; the word was god and god was light. But they too were resisted and with the advent of Christianity the remaining Gnostics were vigorously and cruelly persecuted. The new Christian God was very jealous and commanded ‘thou shalt have no other gods before me’.

The original literal ‘word’ of the old Egyptian lords was the Tetragrammaton expression 34 ; which was transliterated as YHWH; which was vocalised as Yahweh, the ineffable unknowable ‘god’ of the Hebrews;  which became the Judaeo-Christian Jehovah of the Old Testament, a glorious and terrible name ; which eventually morphed into the fully humanised grandfatherly figure of the new Christian ‘God the Father’. The Christian concoction was merely a plagiarised version of the Egyptian religious scheme. Where the Egyptian sun-god Ra manifested his son Osiris on Earth fostered by Isis and Thoth … now the new God the Father sent down his son to be manifested on Earth by his ‘virgin mother’ Mary and the technologist (carpenter) Joseph. After a last supper of bread and wine (cakes and ale) the dead (inert) body of the son Jesus was enclosed in a stone chamber from where after three days it rose again in the glorious ‘cloud’ of the  Holy Spirit to join the Father in the eternal sunshine.

Throughout all these schemes the power of the ‘father’ derived from the solar sphere of the sun, and the power of the ‘son’ was manifested on Earth as the ‘Holy Spirit’ radiating from a crystal sphere of lapis lazuli.

This was the ‘Holy Grail’ … the conceptual knowledge of nuclear fusion, and the practical knowledge of its earthly manifestation embodied in a crystal ball … the orb of power.

It was ‘holy’, meaning sacred … from ‘sacrosanct’, meaning dangerous and untouchable. It was variously known in mythology as the Golden Apple, the Golden Apple of the Sun, or the Golden Apple of Discord … alternatively as divine food, a source of eternal life; or a fearful weapon and source of great discord and destruction. Ultimately it was the ‘Forbidden Fruit’ … the lords made little green apples but sternly decreed, ‘thou shalt not touch them lest you die’.

Identification of the Holy Grail as a mysterious crystal ball was clearly recounted in the early tale of the Quest del Saint Graal (or San Greal) … an account of Celtic oral tradition reduced to writing in Latin and French by monks in the early 13th century. The monks had no technical knowledge at all and were doubly burdened by the religious correctness of the period where everything was shaped for the glory of the Holy Church. So the surviving version of the Quest is derived from an originally convoluted yarn, doubtfully translated, heavily embroidered with medieval Christian ideology, and all since overlaid with the romantic nonsense of the Arthurian Knights of the Roundtable. Yet despite all those difficulties, familiar literal elements of the ancient history shine through.

Noble Welsh Knights from the Kingdom of Logres (in Britain) led by Perceval, Lancelot and Galahad (and sometimes Bors) embarked on a journey to the distant land of Egypt explicitly in a ‘quest for the Holy Grail’. Lancelot was curiously advised to wear a hair-shirt … a version of the Biblical sackcloth … as a poor man’s protection against radiation. The Knights reached a great ‘stone castle’ where they met a fair maiden dressed in shining gold and sparkling jewels, and an ancient man clad in priestly (protective) garments (a version of the Egyptian Isis and Thoth). They entered the unoccupied castle and ascended a bare stone Great Hall to an upper chamber containing the ‘Holy Grail’. It shone like a sunbeam and gave off a ‘cloud’ of fragrance. Great light flooded forth with an incandescent brightness as if all the candles on Earth were burning there. The chamber burned with a strange and fierce flame, year in, year out, with great intensity. One knight felt a puff of wind shot through with flame which burned his face with its scorching breath … and he died. But some survived and returned home bearing the ‘magic sword’ enclosed safely within a golden ‘ark’.  It was a fearsome weapon of a ‘single stone’ of multiple colours. with ‘properties more strange and wonderful than any other’. The cover was embroidered with messages in Chaldean (the language of the magi) including in part … I AM A MARVEL TO BEHOLD, FOR NO MAN WAS EVER ABLE TO GRIP ME (understand me).  WHOEVER UNSHEATHES ME IS FOREDOOMED TO INJURY OR DEATH.

Specifically, it was Bors who journeyed home by ship to Logres bearing the fearsome weapon safely enclosed in an ‘ark’ (vessel) of gold. He returned to Logres where he was received with great exultation and the King had the details of his adventures recorded in Latin and French and lodged in the library at Salisbury.

But the locals did not heed the dire warnings. King Mordrain was overcome with curiosity and foolishly looked into the ark whereupon he was struck down and blinded (like Biblical Uzzah and Aaron’s sons), and when a maiden even just passed nearby she was struck with pustulous leprosy (like Moses’ sister Miriam). Finally, when the ark was inadvisably opened, ‘it unleashed such wrack and ruin that never again did the land require the ploughman’s toil, for no corn sprouted there, nor any other crop, nor did the trees bear fruit, and there was a  dearth of fish in pond and stream … and the land was called the Waste Land, seeing that it had been laid to waste.’ The magic was the font of good and evil. The Celtic knights were initially heroes, but they ‘prospered ill, foredoomed to injury and death’. The green and pleasant hills became the Waste Land. [3]

The crystal ball passed into oral legend as the Holy Grail and into royal and religious iconography as the ‘orb of power’ and its weaponised form ‘the mace’. The evolution of the Holy Grail as the orb and the mace can be readily traced through the iconography of secular royalty in Europe and later in visual representations [imaginings] of the new Christian ‘gods’ … the father in heaven, his son manifested on Earth, and the radiant cloud of the Holy Spirit.

The earliest known image of the crystal ball … weaponised as the mace … is from the Narmer palette of southern Egypt from ca 3200 BC showing King Menes brandishing the mace at his enemies. Notably, even at that early date the mace was fully formed as if it had been imported … which it had. Narmer’s mace was already fully evolved … in the same style and proportions as has continued down the ages to today.

There follows in ca. 1423 BC an excellent ‘real’ representation of the royal mace in a statue of a guard from Tutankhamun’s tomb. He holds the royal Sceptre of Rule called ‘giver of winds’ (radiation) which was blazing like the sun when it shone. And similarly a little later in ca 1250 BC, Pharaoh Ramses II owned a special weapon of the sun-god … described as a royal snake which spat all-consuming fire.

In the wider region from the period ca 900-700 BC there are several museum examples of relief representations of Babylonian/Assyrian and Hittite kings or warriors bearing their characteristic maces … some embossed with sun symbols. This ‘sword’ of old was called the SHUHADAKU … supreme strong bright weapon. Later Persian armies of ca 500-400 BC included warriors called the ‘Immortals’ or ‘Apple Bearers’ clad in elaborate robes and golden jewellery and bearing spears with butts of golden apples. These warriors were supported by ‘Magi with altars of sacred fire’ carried on a chariot which no mortal (man) could approach.

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From that period of the last millennia BC, the reality of the orb and the mace declined … but the symbolism persisted very strongly in the regalia of secular royalty throughout Europe. Despite the advent of Christianity the European royals knew where their real power came from … the orb and the mace.

Roman Emperor Constantine, ca 293-337 BC (ironically a founder of Christianity) was prominently depicted holding the orb of power in characteristic pose; and the following Holy Roman Emperors from ca 800-1806 AD were all regaled with the typical golden orb and mace. That pattern flowed on through European royalty … exemplified by Queen Anne of England, 1702-1714, in a statue holding the golden orb and mace; and similarly by the last Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz-Joseph, 1848-1919.

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From the mid 19th century European royalty faded away, or were assassinated, but their regalia of power was preserved at least in museums and even in the formal rituals of parliamentary democracies to this day. When Ukrainian President Poroshenko was installed in office in June 2014 he was pictured brandishing the (royal) mace of office… described as a hollow golden tube, and sphere originally containing the ‘apple’.

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In parallel, European Christianity evolved its own trappings of power … adopting and adapting the traditional secular symbols expressed in religious art dominantly in early churches, and now in museums. Of course the new Christian gods were wholly invented so the visual representations were likewise totally imaginary. Curiously though, Church art displayed a great deal of conformity, even identicality, across Europe and beyond … as though there had been some sort of central design office.

The traditional pagan supreme power of the sun (‘sun-god’) was transferred to the new figure of ‘God the Father’ …  typically depicted as a human, bearded, grandfatherly figure holding (usually in the left hand) a crystal ‘orb of power’. Reflecting the position of the sun ‘God’ was typically positioned ‘above’ in the heavens, often surrounded by sunburst radiance and a ‘cloud’ of the Holy Spirit.

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Imaginary depictions of God the Father were popular in the 15th-16th century, after which the Old Testament (Hebrew) ‘God’ was abandoned by the emergent Christian Church in favour of the new invention of the ‘son’, Jesus Christ. The old orb of power was transferred to the newborn Christ Child … often depicted crowned, standing on (or emerging from) a blue sphere; or holding the orb in the left hand in characteristic regal pose.

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The Church readily adopted the symbolism of the orb of power but didn’t quite know what to do with the weaponised mace … which was unsuitable for a child and did not sit well with the new doctrine of universal love and peace to all men. In some instances the mace was transferred to the mother, Mary, but over time it faded away completely. The church adopted the glory of the orb, but not the grief of the mace.

The Christ child naturally grew into a man … depicted by the Church as Christ the King in traditional regal pose with the orb in his left hand. As the King ruled over the peasants so Christ ruled over the faithful … with the orb of power. These depictions were typical in 11th-12th centuries and persisted into 19th century even into the furthest reaches of the Church empire.

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The Church adopted the emblem of the orb of power but moved away from the overt symbolism of the weaponised mace. The new Jesus and his Church was a power of love and peace to all men. In early times the symbolism of the orb was implicitly understood as the real source of power of Kings. But as ages passed the Church struggled to explain why Christ posed so explicitly with a pagan symbol … what did it mean? They knew the golden orb contained the mysterious ‘power’ of ‘god’… the source of eternal light and life … which was glorious and radiant. So glorious and radiant that it had to be restrained within a closed, insulating sphere of gold

So was born the concept of the golden chalice … originally a semi-spherical, closed cup vessel, only later morphing into the now familiar open-cup form. The semi-spherical golden closed-cup was an adaptation of the golden sphere of mace … containing the golden apple, the forbidden fruit. Typically the early iconographers Christianised the vessel with a cross, and depicted it within a sunburst and sometimes a ‘cloud’.

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Church iconographers knew the closed-cup chalice contained a ‘sunburst’ … and also that the sun’s radiance could deliver a fatal ‘sting’ like that of the ‘royal snake’ of Pharaoh Ramses II or the ‘sting’ of Moses’ Biblical rod. When Moses and Aaron confronted the Pharaoh and his ‘magicians’… they cast down their rods and they [the rods] became serpents (variously translated as snake, serpent, dragon or monster). (Exod 7). This imagery was captured in visualisations of Moses’ adder/rod in the ‘old’ iconography … and as a serpent/snake emerging from the open chalice in the new scheme of things. However, the notion of a fatal sting emerging from the communion cup was not palatable and disappeared from mainstream iconography.

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The Church dispensed with the serpent of Moses’ rod but persisted with the imagery of the sunburst. The open-cup chalice was sufficient for everyday ritual but on special occasions the priests observed High Mass at which the celebrant displayed ‘god the son’ of the sun in the glorious radiance of the monstrance … Christ in his crystal ball at the centre of a glorious sunburst. The High Priest, clad in full protective paraphernalia, elevated the monstrance for display … acolytes waved censers of incense to simulate a ‘cloud’ of radiance and the altar-boy chimed a bell of warning … at which the faithful bowed their heads, because no man could look at God and live except thru dark glasses.

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The new Christ was both divine god and mortal man. He was a divine god in his heavenly sunshine but also manifested on Earth by being fed with bread and wine (borrowed from the Egyptian cakes and ale). With great dexterity the Church proposed (in the 13th century) that if mortal Jesus could be resurrected into heavenly sunshine via bread and wine, so too the faithful could aspire to salvation via the sacrament of communion. The Church fathers had no understanding of nuclear physics but they did have insight into the gullibility of human nature. As unlikely as it seems now the stretch proposal of ‘communion’ proved to be enormously popular. In a miraculous ritual the priest murmured the magic mantra Hoc est enin corpus meum and the mortal body of Christ was transubstantiated into divine radiance. The faithful lined up in their thousands to achieve purity (be without sin like the Egyptian ‘son’), to receive bread and wine (cakes and ale), and climb the stairway to heaven to join with The Father in his solar home of eternal sunshine.

The Holy Grail of the Christian Church became a mystery of faith expressed in the power and the glory of the radiant risen Christ … but that was only half the story. The original Judaeo-Christian god was both the alpha and the omega … the birth and the death … both glorious and grievous. The Grail ended up as golden chalice … but it was a poisoned chalice.

The original ‘god’ of the Egyptians was called ‘Dreadful of Fire’ … which became YHWH who was also dreadful in his risings … he went forth out of Zion with a devouring fire to break nations and destroy kingdoms. So it was that the intrepid Knights of the Grail ventured to the ‘Holy Land’ and returned home with a sacred (untouchable) crystal ball encased in gold shielding. But when they opened that Pandora’s box it released all the troubles of the world … and their land was plagued and barren for generations, like a Wasteland.

The Holy Grail was the very soul of the nuclear sun-god; it radiated the power and the glory, but also death and destruction.

That is why, thousands of years earlier, the Egyptian Book of the Dead concluded with a dire warning … ‘this text contains a deep secret, do not reveal it to ordinary men’. That ancient Gnostic ‘knowledge’ of light disappeared into the depths of the human gene pool for generations, not to re-surface until 1907 when it re-emerged from the mind of Albert Einstein in the modern form of the ancient Tetragrammaton … e=mc2 … the ineffable name of the sacred solar creator. Einstein’s insight enabled nuclear technologist Robert Oppenheimer to engineer yet another mortal manifestation on Earth. He was a descendant of Solomon who arranged everything by number and by weight until he got it exactly right and the new creation exploded in awesome glory over the desert sands of New Mexico in July 1945 … moving Oppenheimer to exclaim from Hindu scripture, ‘Behold I am become death, the destroyer of worlds’.

With unconscious irony, the second coming was code-named ‘Little Boy’ (the ‘son’) and its terrible purpose was recorded long ago in Hebrew scripture as … ‘the rod of your inheritance, the Lord of hosts, the weapon of war with which to break nations into pieces and destroy kingdoms, to make the land a desolation without inhabitant.’ [4]

[1] The Apocalypse of Abraham

[2] Psalms 18, 68, 78, 80, 104

[3] Anon, Quest del Saint Graal. (Matarasso trans)

[4] Jeremiah, 51

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