The Order of the Cross and the Grail

I. Introduction

The Order of the Cross and the Grail is a devotional guild for persons who feel drawn to a spiritual life in which symbols and language associated with esoteric, theosophical, and allegorical interpretations of the Old and New Testaments, and of the Mysteries of the Christian faith, are emphasized. The Order also employs motifs from the worlds of fantasy literature and medieval romance, finding in them themes that, interpreted mystically, can be of great power in motivating and guiding persons on the spiritual path. It emphasizes the romantic side of Christianity and is designed to appeal to those for whom this is a strong and dynamic consideration.

This Order is based on the premise that our lives in this world are meant to be spent in pilgrimage on the Path leading us back toward God and the Halls of Light which are our eternal home. Like the Prodigal Son in the parable, we have left our true home to seek a far country, but as we tire of eating its husks we are led to arise and go to our loving father, who is prepared to greet us with festival and song. On the course of the journey home we encounter many barriers, trials, and adventures; with these we must engage, summoning up all the courage, faith and wisdom we can gather. To walk with other Pilgrims on the journey, supporting them in whatever ways we can, is the purpose of the Order of the Cross and the Grail.

On this great pilgrimage those congenial with this way will be greatly aided by the spirit of romance, which above all holds that sublime images and imagination (literally, the making of images), conjoined with exalted feelings, are splendid guides to go before one on the path, even as the cloud and pillar of flame went before the Israelites in the wilderness.

Of the images of romance, those from the distant past, with the mysterious but compelling overtones of myth and archetype, are of greatest power. For some persons today, images from out of the medieval world of wondrous story, idealized though their picture of that world may be, have a particular potency. This path will probably appeal not only to those who have been stirred by scripture and the romance of the Grail, but also whose vision of Christianity has been affected by such modern tales in the mold of medieval romance as Hermann Hesse's The Journey to the East, the Narnian stories of C.S. Lewis, The Lord of the Rings of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Star Wars trilogy of movies.

Now a few notes regarding the name of the Order. Keeping the Cross before our eyes as we travel reminds us that, following the example of Jesus, we journey not through this world only, but through the valley of the shadow of death, past the place of the skull, and into the land of the spirits in prison. We must die with Christ and be risen with him. The Cross tells us that the Path is a way of death and transfiguration, and that before its end we ourselves must be crucified and rise from the tomb, in whatever form those awesome initiations take in our own lives. The Cross also reminds that this Order places itself definitely within the Christian tradition, for the Cross is Christianity's preeminent symbol. Jesus the Christ, Son of God and Savior of the World, is the supreme exemplar and guide of our Order, the great shepherd of the sheep and bishop of our souls.

We honor and respect all other religious paths which make up the great Path, holding them like our way to have been established by teachers of timeless wisdom in forms suitable to their times and places, and also of universal validity, but we ourselves are most drawn to the way of Christ, his cross, his mysteries, and his glory.

The Grail of medieval Arthurian and Christian romance reminds us that the Path is also a great quest for the Holy, for that which will transform us and the world. There are many versions of the Grail story; it is not our purpose here to sort them out, and in the end the Holy Grail means whatever it means to each individual sincere seeker of the hidden and eternal treasure it represents. One way or another, the narratives generally tell of a knight who came to a blighted land, perhaps ruled over by a maimed king, and in its center dared to enter a castle containing as its great treasure a chalice of imperishable brightness, guarded by knights and maidens bearing enigmatic tokens, such as a broken sword and a lance dripping blood. The knight must not be rendered speechless by this spectacle but must ask its meaning--"Whom does the Grail serve?"--if he is to be transformed and the Waste Land renewed. In all versions there is a feeling of magical strangeness, suggesting that the story is ultimately about initiation, and that this is a transformation which will take place inwardly, at the deepest levels of consciousness from which come dream and inspiration.

Our view of religion generally is comparable to this way of looking at the Grail legends. Without denying the historicity of many of the events in scripture, or their prophetic relevance to the transformation of society, our view is that their true importance for those on the Path is as empowering myths and allegories of that which we all, in our own way, must undergo of suffering and redemption, of seeking and finding, of contending with demons within and finding hidden gold. This ultimately spiritual "intrapsychic" view of the symbols of the Faith is in line with the methods of such great interpreters of scripture as Philo Judaeus, Origen, the Gnostics, Gregory of Nyssa, the Kabbalists, Swedenborg, and in recent times theosophists like C.W. Leadbeater and Geoffrey Hodson. It is similar to the inner reading of myth of such scholars as C.G. Jung and Joseph Campbell. Thus the Exodus of the Children of Israel out of Egypt and across the Red Sea is not only a historical event, and a symbol of the need for liberation of oppressed beings everywhere, but also an eternal sign of the progress of all souls out of slavery, past deep waters and through parched deserts, into freedom and abundance. The celebration of Christmas honors not only a birth many centuries ago, but also of the eternal descent of the divine Light into the depths of matter and the hearts of women and men, betokened by the burning of Christmas lights at the darkest season of the year, and the sweet mystery of midnight Christmas eve worship.

The ethos of inner high adventure and kingly splendor, so well reflected in the outer lights and shadows of the Arthurian tales as told by Sir Thomas Malory and others, resonates with the spirit of this Order. Rides past fair castles in strange countries, the disciplined devotion of those on Quest, rich revels at Camelot with mirth and joy at which all were guests held in honor, King Arthur's custom at the high Feast of Pentecost never to eat on that day until he had heard or seen some great adventure or marvel: all such wonders may be parts of the companion's inner treasure from which stream mysteries of faith to hearten one's own soul, and thereby bring joy to all whom one meets, friend and stranger alike.

The Order of the Cross and the Grail is an ecumenical fellowship, open to persons of all churches or religions, or of no formal religious affiliation, who are comfortable with its language and basic outlook. Several Companions are members of the Theosophical Society in America or the Liberal Catholic Church, but there is no obligation to adopt the particular perspective of these organizations.

II. The Order as a Path Within the Path

The great Path is comprised of many individual paths, and along those winding trail some persons will wish to travel together. Here are some specifics of the way embraced by those who choose to travel among the Companions of the Cross and the Grail. This rule is based on the familiar triad of study, worship, and service, but in keeping with the medieval motif the terms Lore, Vigil, and Chivalry are used.

1. Lore

Each Companion of the Order is expected to study regularly in books relevant to the spiritual path, emphasizing scripture, works on philosophy, theology, theosophy, psychology, mythology, the Grail legend, and the esoteric or exoteric interpretation of scripture. At least fifteen minutes a day should ordinarily be devoted to this study of the lore.

2. Vigil

Each Companion is expected to practice devotions daily morning and evening, and to meditate daily. The form of devotions is left to the devising of each. Some may wish to read Morning and Evening Prayer, or Matins and Vespers or Compline, according to a Breviary, the Book of Common Prayer, or the Liturgy of the Liberal Catholic Church or other liturgical church. Whatever form is used, it is recommended that these formal devotions in some form include spiritual reading and prayer. These devotions should take no less than ten minutes each. The prayers should include petition for oneself and intercession for others and for the world.

Companions are also expected to meditate for at least fifteen minutes daily. The meditation may be in any form to which one feels drawn. Many may wish to begin with an image or insight from their spiritual reading or the Grail legend, seeing where that may lead. For suggestive interpretations of scripture, see Geoffrey Hodson, Hidden Wisdom in the Holy Bible. For examples in regard to the Grail, see Matthews and Green, The Grail Seeker's Companion.

Companions will join together in cell meetings of no more than ten persons once weekly, absenting themselves only for reasons of ill health or conflicting responsibility. Ordinarily, the service will begin with the lighting of three candles, pink, blue, and white, reciting "Sentient beings I vow to befriend (pink); the costly truth I vow to learn and speak (blue); with God I vow to unite with all my being (white). I can do all things through Christ who empowers me." Next is reading of scripture or work of fantasy with spiritual implications; discussion of the text and its application to our lives; a short meditation; singing of the OCG theme song "Follow the Gleam" or some other song or hymn suitable to the text being studied. The meeting concludes with recitation of the motto "Let us take the adventure that is sent us." Meetings are not restricted to members; friends of similar interest are welcome, but for the sake of liberty of discussion, numbers should not exceed ten. As of January 2001, the moderator of the Ojai cell is Sister Faith. Contact her c/o, The Ellwoods, 14 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA, or So far as possible, decisions affecting the cell are to be made by consensus.

Recognizing the importance of corporate worship for the development of Christian love and charity, for the receiving of grace and the Holy Spirit as did the Apostles and the apostolic Church when gathered together, and for the sake of the public work and witness of those on this path, Companions will also ordinarily participate in denominational public worship services weekly, with whatever body of faithful they are called to unite. When attendance at a public service is not possible, for either inner or outer reasons, companions will make their morning devotions on Sunday especially full, and will pray in such a way as to unite themselves spiritually with all who worship that morning. On passing any church or other house of worship, Companions will pause to bless those who gather there.

Because of its alignment with the spirit of medieval tradition and romance, Companions will, each in his or her own way, make much of festivals and the innocent affirmation of the festive mood. These are happy waystations in time, as are churches and temples in space, on the great Path for those in the Christian tradition. Most will perhaps celebrate Christmas and Easter, and Thanksgiving where it is a national holiday. Some will also find deep meaning and cause of festive joy in such other holidays as Whitsunday or Pentecost, the Ascension, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and All Saints Day with its Halloween eve.

3. Chivalry

Companions are expected always to serve the poor and destitute, to protect the weak, and to labor for justice among persons, nations, and all other beings, in the way to which they have been called. The Order countenances no discrimination or injustice among its members or in society on the basis of creed, race, gender, sexual orientation, relative wealth or poverty, or education or lack thereof.

In particular, each Companion is expected to have an ongoing commitment to a serious and important labor of unpaid, volunteer work for human, animal, or planetary good, which demands at least two hours a week.

Companions will also seek whenever possible to be peacemakers, to be among those who strive to mediate disputes and reconcile those at odds. Interpreting the accounts of armed conflict in the Bible and the Arthurian and Grail legends as essentially allegorical, and honoring the Sermon on the Mount, they will stress the power of nonviolence and the chivalrous courage its practice requires. However, the question of when forceful means may nonetheless be required, and the issue of vocation to the police or military professions, is left to individual conscience.

In conclusion regarding chivalry, some may wish to make an additional vow. The following is a suggested modification of the words of twelfth-century English philosopher John of Salisbury when he defined the function of knighthood:

"I vow (or undertake) to protect all spiritual paths; to speak and work against lies and treachery; to respect learning, culture, and spirituality; to fend off injustice from the poor and defenseless; to make for peace in my own home, neighborhood, and land; to defend all my sisters and brothers, by nonviolent means insofar as in me lies; and if needs must be, to that end to lay down my life."

III. Lifestyle

The following prescriptions are to be seen as aspects of lifestyle that are ultimately necessary to the vision of true human nature and of life on the Path. Some may at times require difficult choices within one's individual consciousness. The supreme imperative is always love or compassion: putting the good of the other ahead of oneself, harmlessness to all beings, and affirming in word and deed the deep equality of all humans, and indeed of all beings. The pilgrim lifestyle of a Companion of the Cross and the Grail means above all fervently affirming and practicing universal Love and Oneness.

In matters of eating and drinking, for example, love may entail on one hand the obligation of commensality, or eating together, the sublime sign by which Jesus broke down barriers between high and low, prince and pauper, accepting a place at the tables of all, and offering his table to all, even as Arthur's Table Round rejected signs of discrimination based on rank. On the other hand, there is the obligation not to set a harmful example in the contents of plate or cup, to avoid that which harms any sentient being, and to keep oneself clear in spirit.

Though this may initially seem difficult, yet as one lives with this rule and with the Path in all sobriety and seriousness, one will find that ways open, and that in time forms of self-discipline that once seemed beyond oneself will become possible and, indeed, attractive.

A. Vegetarianism. For the sake of health and spiritual sensitivity, for the sake of the overcrowded earth which could sustain its population far better without the diversion of vast land and water resources to the production of meat, and for the sake of compassion toward those innocent beings raised to suffer and die, the Order requires that permanent vows include commitment to a vegetarian diet. Because commercial dairy and egg operations involve separation of mother and new offspring (often deeply traumatic), killing of male infants, and killing of "spent" females at half or less of their normal lifespan, products of these industries will also be avoided. Judicious consumption of eggs or milk products from animal-companions receiving personal, loving care is not ruled out.

B. Companions who have taken permanent vows will avoid the use of tobacco.

C. Temperance. For the sake of health, clarity of thought, purity of mind in prayer and meditation, availability for service, and example to others, Companions who have taken permanent vows will avoid the ordinary social use of mind-altering drugs or alcoholic beverages. The moderate consumption of wine or similar drinks at great festivals, as a way of celebrating their special sacred character, is in accordance with Judeo-Christian tradition and is acceptable. The sacramental use of these substances, and tobacco, as by Native Americans or in the Eucharist rites of some churches, is recognized and respected.

D. Sexuality. Companions will avoid all sexual relationships not undertaken in a spirit of love, commitment to joint responsibility for all possible consequences, and mutual consent freely given by persons of age to do so. In virtually all cases, this will mean the expression of full genital sexuality only in the context of marriage or comparable solemn commitment. Companions will also avoid all use of pornographic literature, shows, or movies that exploit the sexuality of others and degrade its sacred character. Understanding the importance of self-discipline in these areas is important. Only that which fully recognizes and brings out both the spiritual and physical nature of a human being, and which encourages growth in sensitivity, idealism, and sacrificial love in the spirit of the Cross and the quest for the Grail, is compatible with the Order.

E. Simplicity. Like Arthur's knights on quest, Companions are expected to live in cheerful simplicity, with a firm self-discipline, eating moderate quantities of wholesome food, holding no more possessions than are necessary, always ready to give freely to help those in need to help themselves. At the same time, the degrading effects of deep poverty are recognized, as is the value of a clean, attractive, and healthy environment for the best spiritual life. Appreciation of the arts is also important, and the recurrent festivals of the Order's way of life means that one should also be free with generous and joyous hospitality. Each Companion must work out the implications of all of these expectations in the context of her or his own life.

IV. Membership

To become a Companion of the Order of the Cross and the Grail, one repeats to herself or himself solemnly the following pledge. One should offer this vow only after prayer and meditation, extensive conversations with committed Companions, perhaps kneeling before a holy shrine or altar.

I, (Name), before God, [before the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, before the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, St Michael and all the Holy Angels, before all the prophets, apostles, saints and martyrs of the Faith,] and before the Holy Grail and its guardians, vow (or affirm) that I will keep the rule of the Order of the Cross and the Grail, in season and out, when easy and when difficult, recognizing the importance of discipline in my life of following the Path to my eternal home.

I will keep the rule of lore (in such and such a way).
I will keep the rule of vigil (in such and such a way).
I will keep the rule of chivalry (in such and such a way).
I will also keep the lifestyle ideals (in such and such a way).
May God be my help, and the holy angels be with me. Amen.

The portion in brackets [ ] may be omitted if desired.

It is recommended that Companions renew their vows at least once a month.

Prospective members will take temporary vows for a period of six months, to be repeated for a further six months, before taking vows intended to be permanent. It is also recognized that over considerable periods of time one may change in such a way that individual vows once taken must be recognized as no longer suitable or binding. Such a decision should only be taken after much prayer and reflection, and discussion with other companions, lest the spiritual life be made trivial.

Those who regularly join in cell meetings but do not feel called to permanent vows will be called Friends of the Grail.

V. Optional

Some members may wish to take a name representing their identity as a Companion of the Order.

Members are encouraged to make, or have made, for themselves a modest ring set with three stones of white, pink, and blue as emblems of the obligations to vigil, service, and lore, respectively, and to wear it as a constant reminder of the obligations and opportunities for inner wonder and beauty this path offers. Members are also encouraged to make or have made a simple poncho-style robe to wear during their private devotions and during group meetings, weather permitting.

Members are encouraged to re-read the Rule at least once monthly.

Every blessing to all seekers in all worlds.