Mythologist and Hermetic philosopher/scholar A.E. Waite, was known for writing about the Grail Romances--everything from Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parsifal, The High Prose Perceval, to the Lais of Marie de France (incidentally the Marie referenced here was the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of Henry II the Plantagenet, mother of both Richard the Lionheart and King John of England, subject of the famous film with Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter).
For him, it did not matter whether or not the Grail was a chalice, a plate, or a stone--nor would he have cared about the notion of it being the womb of Mary Magdalene, made so famous by Dan Brown, despite this having been a well-known theory since the first century in the Camargue in France.
His idea was that the Grail was more an alchemical symbol: an inner lapis philosophorum-- the philosopher's stone, that transmuted the soul when one sought illumination with the right heart, transcending the base human tendencies of solipsism that kept us imprisonned--for a oneness with some sense of the Divine, and whatever purpose with which we have been inbued while living our lives.
In writing about the soul of those who quest for something greater than themselves, in a sense his description was embodied by a single line, which could easily have been missed in a tome of several hundred pages:
Young men whom no one knew, went within and out, with a faraway look in their Eternal eyes.
This is how one recognized the Quester's heart: it was the look in his or her eyes, and an overwhelming, pervasive, almost palpable sense of that which resided within--an earnestness, a struggle, a passion for something transcendent.
This sense was reminiscent reading something today--the work of Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881) --whom BrainPickings described as "a man of brilliant mind and tormented soul -- is one of those peculiar figures who, not unlike Anaïs Nin, attained only marginal acclaim for their formal body of work, but whose posthumously published private journals have gone on to become timeless masterpieces of philosophy and literary thought."
The passage that affected me the most, for whether it depicts the love of another human soul or for a passion that is innate within the seeker, it shows why those who have such a passion will forever quest for its culmination, and along the way, perhaps create that which will inspire others, fellow travellers who feel something just as strongly and need only to have their own, singular will ignited:
I am capable of all the passions, for I bear them all within me. Like a tamer of wild beasts, I keep them caged and lassoed, but I sometimes hear them growling. I have stifled more than one nascent love. Why? Because with that prophetic certainty which belongs to moral intuition, I felt it lacking in true life, and less durable than myself. I choked it down in the name of the supreme affection to come. The loves of sense, of imagination, of sentiment, I have seen through and rejected them all; I sought the love which springs from the central profundities of being. And I still believe in it. I will have none of those passions of straw which dazzle, burn up, and wither; I invoke, I await, and I hope for the love which is great, pure and earnest, which lives and works in all the fibers and through all the powers of the soul. And even if I go lonely to the end, I would rather my hope and my dream died with me, than that my soul should content itself with any meaner union.
While here, he is describing his quest for his one true, human love, this is also what the Romantic poets sought, but in a more universal capacity: to become one with what they described as Nature, or the Sublime. The only place where Truth could be found was in the transcendent, and the search for the key to that place within was the true artist or poet's life's work. Should he or she find that key, it would unlock the very mysteries of the soul, and the soul's connection with the Divine, allowing one to see what others could not. For the only way for humanity itself to spurn the evil of solipsism and apathy was in the course of that quest. And only those most worthy had the courage to undertake it.
But most importantly, the ends of this quest were not solely for the Poet, or Quest knight him or herself, it was to ignite something in others. It was to bring back the fruits of that quest for all. For only the most worthy could see that such passion, such love, is not meant to be hoarded. It was meant to be shared, and expressed, and felt, for the good of all.
Here is to the hope that many more will hear this call--take whatever quest one deems most important--seek whatever Grail is his or hers most at heart and soul--and in the process bring back something for the rest of us, if only to inspire us to our own journey within, and to share with others what we have the passion to find.