A New Book from Andrew Collins


What if somebody was charged by supernatural means to find the Holy Grail, today, in the twenty-first century? Where would they be lead? What would they uncover and, more importantly, would he or she find the true Grail?

Quite unexpectedly, I was charged with this very quest back in 2001, following a dream vision experienced by a close colleague of mine. What resulted over the next eleven months was a roller-coaster ride of discovery which paints an entirely new picture of exactly what the Holy Grail represents, and who originally its guardians might have been. Over and above all this, it left me in possession of what is arguably the most authentic Grail cup anywhere in the world today. It is the story I tell in TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY GRAIL, published by Virgin Books in October 2004.

Peoples’ views on the Holy Grail begin with its discovery by the questing knights of King Arthur, the story told in the medieval romances and reflected in blockbuster movies such as John Boorman’s Excalibur, and even Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’. It is a vessel apparently used at the Last Supper and later employed by Joseph of Arimathea to collect drops of the Holy Blood as Christ’s body hangs on the Cross of Calvary. Some see it as a metaphysical symbol of Catholic liturgy, or as having its origins in the Horn of Plenty or Cauldron of Wisdom alluded to in Celtic mythology. Others believe it was brought to Roman Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, a lesser known disciple of Jesus, who first brought Christianity to these shores. For them, it ended its days at Glastonbury, the ancient Isle of Avalon, where King Arthur himself died and was buried. American historian Roger Loomis identified Corbenic, the Castle of the Grail, as Castell Dinas Bran, ‘the castle of Bran’, an elevated hill-fort and castle ruin in the Welsh Marches.

Beyond these popular views of the Grail, there is a darker, alternative side to this holy vessel which shows that its original guardian was not Joseph at all, but John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple and writer of the Fourth Gospel, who emerges as the first priest of Christianity, a role usually reserved for St Peter, founder of the Church of Rome. In Christian art John is depicted holding a Grail cup, out of which emerges the Gnostic serpent, a symbol of the knowledge and wisdom which comes from communion with the divine Light of God, a matter which profoundly influenced the teachings of the Cathar heretics of medieval times, and through them the Knights Templar and troubadours responsible for the first Grail romances at the end of the twelfth century. It is for this reason that these works, penned by the likes of poets such as Chrétien de Troyes, Robert de Boron and Wolfram von Eschenbach are littered with veiled references to the dualistic heresies which seeped into every level of society during this troubled age.

Following the Ascension, the followers of John the Evangelist established a somewhat revelatory form of Christianity, which, like the service of the Grail described in the romances, emphasised direct communion with the god-head, outside the intervention of a priestly hierarchy stemming directly from the Apostles. John’s faith bordered on pure Gnosticism, the reason why John’s Gospel was initially ignored by the Church of Rome. Indeed, some scholars now consider that his gospel, so prized by the Cathars, Knights Templar and much later Freemasons and Templar revivalists, was the original source book of Gnostic thought, with its heavy reliance on the power of the Logos and the Light of God. The book formed an integral role in the Cathar initiation ceremony known as the consolamentum, in which candidates were chosen to became deacons and priests, known as perfectae. This same ritual also very likely influenced the so-called Rite of the Baptism of Fire, said to have been practised by the Templi Secretum, the Templar’s inner order, in which initiates kissed an ‘idol’, thought to have been a head reliquary known as ‘the Baphomet’. Remember, in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, written c. 1200-1210, Knights Templar are guardians of the Grail in the Grail Castle at Munsalvæsche, the Mount of Salvation, often considered to have been a real location on the borders between France and Spain.

More significantly, the original Johannine community saw Mary Magdalene, the anointer of Christ, ‘Apostle to the Apostles’ and saint of choice for the Cathars and Templars of southern France, as not only the material companion of John, but also as the outright leader of the Church after the Ascension. It was for this reason that the Johannine teachings became anathema to the institutional Church, forcing their brethren to either ‘tow the line’ or become outright heretics - the forerunners of those who compiled the series of uncanonical gospels found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1945, and only now being fully appreciated as important to the origins of the Christian faith.

In Gnostic philosophy and apocryphal legend, John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene were closer than most people imagine, some scholars even considering them to be two sides of the same coin - an androgynous being, exemplified in Leonardo da Vinci’s famous mural ‘The Last Supper’. Such powerful beliefs developed from Gnostic teachings which held that Adam, the First Man, was bisexual and hermaphrodite before a rib was removed to form Eve, the First Woman. Such expressions of the androgyne were conveyed in Gnostic rituals which mimicked the concept of the Sacred Marriage, hieros gamos, practised by the king and a chosen priestess in various pagan religions of the Near East, and reflected in John and Mary’s joint union with the Christ. There is some hint that these rites were sexual in nature, although more certain is that they formed part of the knowledge attached to the Gnostics’ Serpent Grail and its mysteries.

For the earliest Christians drinking for the first time from the original Grail, the cup of communion, known in the Gospels as the Bitter Cup, was a direct path to God, bringing them quite literally within sight of the kingdom of heaven. This powerful initiation ceremony, so institutionalised by the Catholic Church, was practised only once a year alongside nocturnal baptisms at the so-called Paschal Vigil, celebrated on the eve of Easter Sunday. Yet initiation into the Christian mysteries was a double-edged sword - on the one hand it brought the initiate closer to God. On the other, it almost certainly condemned him or her to a slow and very painful martyrdom, in the example not only of Jesus on the Cross but also those saints and martyrs who freely gave their lives in the name of the faith. It is their blood which went to fill the true Grail, seen in John’s book of Revelation in the hands of the Whore of Babylon, a lustful female character created from earlier pagan goddesses of sex and love to express the future excesses of the Mother Church of Rome.

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY GRAIL reveals the hidden history of Gnosticism’s Serpent Grail. In addition to this is also dispels various myths about the vessel which started its life as a symbol of Christian martyrdom, but later developed to become the cup which contained the Holy Blood, Christianity’s most powerful holy relic. The book reveals why there has been such confusion over whether the Grail was a cup or a platter, demonstrating that its etymological root comes not from the Low Latin gradale, meaning ‘in stages’, as is generally accepted, but from the langue d’Oc/Provençal word grasal, or grazal, which means, quite plainly, a pot in which to put liquid. It explains also how in the romances, the Grail was initially not the cup of the Last Supper, simply the vessel in which the Holy Blood was contained, and how Joseph of Arimathea only became attached to the story of the Grail in the twelfth century, the previous collector of the Holy Blood being the little known Nicodemus, the ‘ruler of the Jews’ mentioned in the Gospels, as well the Magdalene herself. It explores the oldest known representation of the Grail cup to be seen on the Franks’ Casket, an art treasure housed in the British Museum which dates to c. AD 700-750, and demonstrates that there is no historical or literary basis to support the belief that Joseph brought the holy vessel to Britain. In addition to this, I show that the cult of the Magdalene in France originated only in the eleventh century, and that it merely replaced a much older pagan belief in the importance of Venus, both the Roman goddess of sex and love and the planet of this name. Over and above all this, I cite evidence to suppose that Mary Magdalene’s alabastron, the vessel in which she kept the spikenard used to anoint Jesus, was itself an aspect of the Grail, even though there is no historical basis to accept that she came to France bringing with her the holy vessel. More likely is that she ended her days in the company of John the Evangelist at Ephesus in Asia Minor, where both died and were buried.

Yet the book goes much further by using the modern art of psychic questing to hunt down the Grail, the ultimate symbol of the mystical quest. A series of profound dreams and visions help reveal hidden geometry overlaid across south-east England, linked with Mithraism, Sufism, the Knights Templar and the mysteries of the Grail. These personal experiences also help throw some light on the mystery of Shugborough Park in Staffordshire and its apparent associations with Rennes-le-Chateau, and lead myself and those around me to discover the sacred centre of Britain, the seat of the Grail. In a manner that seems so simple in retrospect, we take possession of an authentic Grail cup - a high status alabaster vessel of Roman origin, linked both with John the Evangelist and the Magdalene’s alabastron.


Click here for signed copies from Andrew Collins.