THE WASTE LAND

Pope Innocent III himself called his clergy a sty of swine.  Their behavior was disgraceful, and yet these men held the keys to heaven, and everyone had to submit to them.  Now, this question of a clergy misbehaving and forcing beliefs on people brought about a condition that was spiritually terrible, and this is the condition represented in the mythological image of the Waste Land, which is the basic motif of the Grail romances.  RG 25

In the Middle Ages we find two principles of social life: living as one ought on the one hand; and on the other hand love, which ripped one out of this social norm.  The dislocation between these two is represented in the Grail legend as the Waste Land.  

   In the Waste Land, life is a fake.  People are living in a manner that is not that of their nature; they are living according to a system of rules.  And this is represented in turn by a wounded king whose wound has turned the whole country to waste.  The aim of the Grail Knight, then, is to heal that king.  How can that king be healed, that wounded king?  And where does this Waste Land come from?  And where do the heroes come from?   RG 149

   (Need) of the medieval world was symbolized in the Grail romances in the image of the Waste Land: an enchantment of sterility cast over the whole society, which it is to be the task of the hero to undo.  T.S. Eliot, in his poem The Waste Land, published in 1922, applied the motif to a characterization of our own day and general problem.  Many will recognize the memorable lines:  “What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow/Out of this stony rubbish?”   RG 149

   The Waste Land, then, is the land of people living inauthentic lives, doing what they think they must do to live, not spontaneously in the affirmation of life, but dutifully, obediently, and even grudgingly, because that is the way people are living.  That is what T.S. Eliot saw in the Waste Land of the twentieth century; and that is what Wolfram von Eschenbach – Eliot’s model – saw in the Waste Land of the thirteenth.   RG 151

The Grail King, who represents the champion, the guardian of the highest spiritual symbol, goes forth in quest of love.  And he encounters on the way a man, a pagan who represents the natural principle in quest of the Grail.  And these two, one a Christian and the other Muslim, immediately go into combat.  And what happens is that the Moor, the Muslim, sends his lance through the genitals of the king so that he is rendered impotent.  That is the symbol of the Waste Land.  The king who represents the land’s health, its spiritual fertilization, is symbolically rendered impotent.  And that king, at the same time, slays the Muslim.  So as a result of the fact that the lord of the spirit is inadequate to his function, both the world of the spirit and the world of nature are rendered impotent.