Turning Difficulties into Healing

In the Arthurian legends, the young knight Parsifal joins the Knights of the Round Table to seek the Holy Grail. His mentor, Gournamond, tells him that to remain honorable, he must follow two rules: First, he should neither seduce nor be seduced. And second, if he reaches the Castle of the Holy Grail, he must ask, “Whom does the Grail serve?” As he travels, he sees all around him signs of suffering and disarray. But when Parsifal finally makes his way to the Grail Castle, he is utterly intoxicated by the court. He meets the wounded Fisher King and is offered a magical banquet that includes everything he could desire. He forgets his purpose and does not ask the essential question. The next morning the whole castle and kingdom disappear and Parsifal must wander and suffer for many years until by hard-won maturity he returns a second time. This time he remembers, “Whom does the Grail serve?” he asks. The Fisher King answers, “The Holy Grail serves the Grail King.” (The Grail King is God.) As soon as the Fisher King is reminded of this holy truth, he is healed, and in being healed, all that has rotted in the fields, all disharmony in his nation, all the sufferings of the kingdom are restored to peace and well-being.

The resolution of the journey to enlightenment comes when we recognize that both our suffering and our awakening are in the service of a higher good. Unless we serve the Divine, our unfulfilled needs can become entangled with out quest, and our spiritual experiences can work only to create a more expanded form of ego. A teacher who is overidentified with spiritual energy may subtly believe that, as the one who carries the teachings, it is her or she who must be served. We should be wary when there is a court around a teacher that focuses more on the person than on the wisdom of the lineage. When the Fisher King forgets whom he serves, the bounty of the kingdom fails, and all suffer from the king’s spiritual sickness.

This excerpt is taken from the book, “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

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