- a historical figure that really existed (incarnation of Mani)
- a legend story told, with various copies from the 13th century but also artworks such as the opera by Wagner (see below)
- but most importantly in spiritual science: an archetype for Man and the initiate in the age of the consciousness soul. The story is symbolic and contains the challenges for Man in this new age. In that respect Parsifal is to be positioned together with the stories and streams of Arthur and the Holy Grail. For a broader perspective, see also: Christ Module 6 - Principle in image and story, Schema FMC00.118A and Schema FMC00.114
- Parsifal (or Perceval, “pass through the vale”) was the name given in medieval times to all such candidates for initiation into the mysteries. A 'Parsifal' had to undergo three stages in inner experience. The first stage was known as `dumbness', the second `doubt, the third `godliness'.
- the Parsifal storyline
- sources and versions of the Parsifal story
- the opera by Wagner (1813-1883): Wagner's inspiration on Good Friday 1857 near Lake Zurich (as referenced by Rudolf Steiner), he worked on the opera in the period 1857-1882
- stages in Parsifal's experiences from an esoteric perspective
- Amfortas and Parsifal: astrality's struggle with egoism (1913-03-26-GA145)
- the relation of Parsifal, the Son of Light (Abel), and Feirefis, the Son of Fire (Cain) - re Keyserlinck reference below, and Streams of Abel and Cain
- historical people and events
- Parsifal as the only incarnation of an important individuality on Earth, Mani or Manes - re Keyserlinck reference below, and Schema FMC00.117 on Bodhisattva
Parsifal: the storyline in short
Sources and versions
The 13th century version
- Wolfram von Eschenbach (1160/80-1220) largely adapted this story which is dated to the first quarter of the 13th century.
Wolfram von Eschenbach (an initiate, see 1904-07-15-GA092; inspiration see 1904-07-01-GA092) wrote his Parzifal as a plain and simple epic. That was sufficient in his day. People who had some degree of clairvoyance at that time understood Wolfram von Eschenbach
- Chrétien de Troyes (late 12th century) is the poet of the Grail romance 'Conte del Graal' (or 'Perceval, the Story of the Grail'), written in Old French during the 1180s or 1190s , but (probably) left it incomplete.
Wagner's 19th century opera
Wagner (1813-1883) worked on the opera Parsifal in the period 1857-1882
More than anyone else, Richard Wagner made it possible for people to take this in without knowing it. Richard Wagner was a missionary whose mission it was to give something full of significance to the world, without humanity being aware of this truth. .. .. The strange music written by Wagner would create quite specific vibrations in the ether bodies of those who listened to it. The ether body is connected with all the profound motions of the blood. Richard Wagner understood the secret of the purified blood. His melodies hold the vibrations that have to be in the human ether body when it becomes purified in the way that is necessary so that the secret of the grail may be received.
Schema FMC00.116 shows the symbol for Good Friday and Easter: the spiritual sun in the physical sun.
Schema FMC00.114 is an overview table with the key names for the three stories, and the link to the threefold soul (see 1913-02-07-GA144)
Lecture coverage and references
Parsifal <-> subconscious, historical Christ Impulse: "the Christ Impulse flows on as though through subterranean channels in the depths of the soul. " and .. "how the soul of Parsifal is related to the new, subconscious, historical impulse permeated by the Christ aura, the Christ Impulse, although he knows nothing of it"
1914-01-02-GA149 explains how the Christ Impulse works in the subconscious 'under the surface' of contemporary human daily consciousness .. we are not consciously aware that we have a seed or spark of Christ consciousness in our 'I' .. and the etheric aspects of our heart and blood
.. the soul of Parsifal is related to the new, subconscious, historical impulse permeated by the Christ aura, the Christ Impulse, although he knows nothing of it ..
Stages in Parsifal's experience
Stages are described as:
- 1/ compassion (also for animals)
- 2/ rising above desire (without killing desire from outside) or: emancipation from a love dependent on the senses
Amfortas and Parsifal: astrality's struggle with egoism
Parsifal and Feirefis
Keyserlingk reports on her esoteric conversations with Rudolf Steiner:
In the Uhland edition of Parsifal with a foreword by Rudolf Steiner, an episode occurs that is not found anywhere else: the journey of the young Grail Queen Repanse, who is awaited in India as the wife of `Fire-Fils' (Feirefis). She had embarked in Marseilles to take the emerald-green vessel, containing the Blood of Christ, the Graul, to the land of Priest-King John. When the Graul was carried ashore, the Graul Castle upon the heights lit up in flames to receive it.
I thought about this for a long while, and the `Fire-Sons' of India who are to appear as magnificent figures at some future time, merged in my mind with the word Fire-Fils, which has the same meaning as Fire-Son. Feirefis is the dark brother of Parsifal, who is to succeed the latter as Grail King.
Following on this thought I then enquired: `Is Feirefis a Fire-Son?'
Rudolf Steiner: 'Yes, Feirefis is the Fire-Son.'
I: 'And Parsifal the Light-Son?'
Rudolf Steiner: 'Yes,' and then he said a few words which I wanted to write down, but could not quite manage, and so he dictated them to me: `'Parsifal is the Light-Son. He is the only incarnation of an important individuality on earth.
- Parsifal, the Son of Light (= Abel), and
- Feirefis, the Son of Fire (= Cain)
are the sons of God, divine brothers of man, whom he has lost
- and whom Seth, the son of earth, must get back again.
They meet us in three streams:
- the golden Arthurian knights or Michael/Sun knights;
- the silver knights, who guard the Grail through the holy wisdom of the moon; and
- the iron knights, who, in black armour and with the diamond lance, tarry in mortality until, conquering death, Christ with His light will penetrate the darkness.
Note regarding 'the only incarnation of important individuality': GA264 maps various incarnations of high individualities to storylines in the gospels and the Bible, and there Mani or Manes is stated to be the individuality that incarnated as Parsifal. However Mani also incarnated in Babylon in the 3th century.
Timing of the Grail narrative
Rudolf Steiner said that the Grail narrative was made exoteric about the year 1180, but the grail stories had been present in the souls of men since the eight or ninth century.
W.J. Stein quotes a visit by Rudolf Steiner to his class on 1923-01-16 where he dates the story to the eight or ninth century, times of bloodshed, armour and fighting in the wild forests. The knights sought to establish, in this bloodthirsty age, an order that was based on bloodshed. The central body of these knights, who were scattered about everywhere, was formed by the Knights of King Arthur with centres in England and Northern France.
References and further reading
See also more under the 'References and further reading section' of related topics such as Holy Grail.
- Charles Kovacs: Parsifal and the search for the grail (1998)
- Ueli Seiler-Hugova:
- Das grosse Parzivalbuch: Wolfram von Eschenbachs Parzival als ein moderner Einweihungsweg, der zur Integration und Individuation führt (2014)
- Table of Contents
- Ellen Schalk: Kyot and Parsifal stellar script
- Hermann Beckh: Das Christus-Erlebnis im Dramatisch-Musikalischen von Richard Wagner's Parsifal (1929)
- Bernd Lampe: Parzival (1986)
- Franz E. Winkler:
- The mythology in Wagner's Parsifal (1968)
- Richard Wagner : Der Ring des Nibelungen ; verbunden mit einer Betrachtung über Parsifal - das Mysterium des Grals ; Versuch zu einem tieferen Verstehen (1981)
- Friedrich Oberkogler:
- Parsifal : eine Bühnenweihfestspiel von Richard Wagner ; eine musikalisch-geisteswissenschaftliche Einführung und Werkbesprechung (1969)
- Parsifal: der Zukunftsweg des Menschen in Richard Wagners Musikdrama (1983)