Parsifal Part One
Parsifal has been linked with the Grail since the inception of the legends as the hero, the knight who would eventually be the king of the Grail. He it is who has it in his power according to the legends to heal the king and bring prosperity to the land. In the earlier legends, he failed to ask the questions concerning the Grail and the consequences were disastrous. He however, realised his mistakes, went back, asked the relevant questions, heals the maimed king as a result and succeeds him. Parsifal therefore, becomes king of the Grail. In Wolfram’s work, he was the prophesied knight whose prediction had appeared on the stone after the guardians had prayed for a healer for their king who was continuously in agony.
This theme was pursued further by Wagner in the idea of the coming of “der reine Tor (German), the pure fool or simpleton,” whom the brotherhood were to await. Amfortas himself had received this vision and the brotherhood came to expect this innocent healer. Part of the prediction was that Parsifal would become the king of the Grail and that it would be Gurnemanz hand that would anoint his head. This so much we learn from Act Three of the opera. Therefore, in almost all the writings on the legends Parsifal was the innocent who was always prophesied and who would eventually be crowned king of the Grail. Throughout all the writings, Parsifal would always be the one to attain to the Grail, though in some writings especially those of the Vulgate cycle, others like Galahad and Bors would also attain it but the association of Parsifal’s name with the attainment of the Grail is far more consistent than these other two and in all the works only Parsifal becomes king.
If Parsifal was predicted as Wolfram and Wagner suggested and as can even be surmised from the works of Chrétien, one would normally ask the question: where then does he come from? If the brotherhood had prayed to God for a helper for the sorrows of their first guardian and their prayers were answered through a prophesy, does it mean then that the coming of Parsifal was the answer to this prayer?
One would have to look at the effects of Parsifal’s coming to be able to answer this question. His coming led once more to the uncovering of the Grail as we see in Wagner’s work and the restoration of the land. His coming led to the recovery of the lost spear. His coming led to the healing of Amfortas. In Wolfram’s work, his coming led also to the healing of the maimed king and the rivers flowed again. It would then appear that the coming of Parsifal achieved the desired objective. In praying the knights had a desire, an expectation. This desire and expectation made them pray so that these desires and expectations would be fulfilled. A prophecy came as a result and the promised knight brought about the fulfilment of all the expectations of the brotherhood. If their supplication went up to God, then the question would be: did God then send him? If so, from where? Parsifal then must have his existence somewhere for him to have been in a position to be sent as a response to a prayer from the brotherhood.
Why is his name always associated with Grail? The regularity with which this occurs must make us begin to think that this name must indeed be synonymous with the Grail and probably inseparable from it. It is almost unthinkable to conceive a legend about the Grail without this character. His characteristics are innocence, purity and guilelessness. Somebody who had grown up with no knowledge of the world and who had even forgotten his identity. He was sent on a mission, that much we know, but by whom? And from where? If the brotherhood had prayed to God and Parsifal appeared and fulfilled all the expectations, which the brotherhood would have expected a messenger from God to fulfil then we must conclude that he was sent by God.
Was he then a messenger from God? We can conclude that he was for the reasons already stated. Then we have an innocent, guileless, pure messenger from God whose name is forever associated with the Grail. But why is that? Why is his name forever associated with the Grail? Why is he always the protagonist in the Grail drama. Why must he always be the one to achieve the Grail? Why must he always become king as the legends consistently say? Why is he always the answer to the Grail problem? To put things in perspective once more, we must realise as already mentioned that the Grail Castle where Amfortas failed was the lower-lying imitation of the actual Grail Castle which lies in the highest spiritual heights where the effects of sin can never be found.
If then Parsifal was sent he would have had to descend from where he was to the level where there was affliction. He could not perchance have ascended to that level. If he was coming as a messenger from God, then he would have had to descend in a downward direction as that was the only logical direction he could have followed. If Parsifal then was a higher being who originated in a plane much higher than that of Amfortas, then he could not descend from his higher region to become the king of the Grail in a lower region and remain there. A messenger never tarries on a mission.
He fulfils his mission and returns to his master. If Parsifal then is to fulfil the true meaning of a messenger then he could never have tarried in Amfortas’ realm. After fulfilling his mission he would inevitably have moved on. Then Parsifal did not become king of the Grail in the lower-lying region of Amfortas because as a messenger on a mission he could not have tarried there as king. Then why is Parsifal referred to then as king of the Grail? Parsifal entered the Grail castle in Amfortas’ realm not to become the king of the Grail and tarry there but he entered that Castle as King of the Grail! He was therefore, always King of the actual real Grail in the Highest Heights.