The Terrestrial Paradise and the Holy Grail

The 12th century esoteric Christian mysteries of the Holy Grail can be traced throughout Persian, rabbinic, Irish and Welsh mystical literature and practices of entering the presence of God. In medieval teaching, the hidden manna was a third and spiritual bread, additional to daily bread for bodily nourishment and the Eucharist wafer.

Ordo Rosae Æternae & The Psychocultural Institute


The Terrestrial Paradise and the Holy Grail, a lecture by Dr. Dan Merkur PhD

Saturday July 25, 2009, Noon - 2:00pm

at the Living Institute, 208 Carlton St, just West of Parliament Street.

The word "paradise" derives from the ancient Persian, where it meant "orchard" and referred to the botanical gardens and zoos that surrounded the palaces of Persian kings.  In St. Paul and rabbinic literature, “the orchard” referred to the Garden of Eden, and entering Paradise was a euphemism for entering the presence of God, who indwelled in the divine palace that Eden surrounded.  The motif persisted as late as St. Ephrem the Syrian in the third century, who openly discussed the psychoactivity of the Tree of Knowledge.  The symbolic equation of paradise with the presence of God permitted the Desert Fathers to insist that the ascetic life in the desert was a return to Eden, a terrestrial paradise.

In Ireland, monks transferred the motif to barren islands that solitaries inhabited in the Irish Sea.  By the seventh century, monks with a sense of poetry were telling tales of sea voyages—immrama in Old Irish—to paradise islands that were inhabited not only by Christian solitaries, but also by fabulously long-lived disciples of Jesus, and fairy folk, many of whom ate of the wondrous fruit of Eden, or subsisted on daily occurrences of the biblical miracle of loaves and fishes.

The Christian appropriation of selected motifs from pagan Irish mythology for the immrama coincided with the wholesale invention of Old Irish tales of the fairy folk that seem at first blush to be pagan stories, but prove on analysis to have esoteric Christian concerns.  These are tales of esoteric initiation:  the fairies inhabit paradise islands, subsist on the fruits of paradise, and invite selected humans to join them.

By the tenth century, but possibly centuries earlier, Welsh poets took the further step of appropriating Celtic mythology in its entirety.  They added the motifs of burial mounds, the netherworld, magical enchantments and heroic combats to tales and poems of the terrestrial paradise.  The story of the invention of the new style of story-telling did double-duty as a tale of initiation.  It told of a Welsh invasion and conquest of an Irish fairy castle, whose cauldron of evil magic was destroyed, ending an oppressive enchantment, and freeing up the castle for the conquerors’ use.

When, in the twelfth century, the esoteric Christian tradition passed from Welsh to Old French poets, motifs were adjusted to theological fashions of the age.  The centuries-old circumstance of converting pagan initiates to become esoteric Christians was replaced by the task of educating the uninitiated about the esoteric Christian mysteries.  Rather than a tale of conquest to destroy an evil enchantment, we consequently have tales of progress in virtue, that culminate in the removal of the punishments of sin from the waste land.  In the channel crossing, the motif of a pagan cauldron of evil initiation disappeared entirely.  In its place we have the esoteric Christian mysteries of the Holy Grail, which combine motifs of the mass, the miraculous feeding of manna, and mystical experience, in fashions consistent with the hidden manna of Revelation 2:17, the keystone text for the mystical Eucharistic theology of the cathedral school of Laon.  In medieval teaching, the hidden manna was a third and spiritual bread, additional to daily bread for bodily nourishment and the Eucharist wafer.

The Fee for this lecture is $10.00 per attendee and is payable at the door.   If you have any questions please contact us by email or call us at 416 821-1544.

Ordo Rosae Æternae is a fraternal and mystical body dedicated to the study and preservation of the wisdom and teachings of the Western Esoteric Tradition.

The Psychocultural Institute is a teaching centre committed to facilitating individual, cultural and cosmological evolution.  The programs and activities of the Psychocultural Institute draw on archetypal depth psychology, Western mysticism, Vajrayana Buddhism, the shamanic tradition, transformative leadership and cultural activism.