What's Your Code?

"That which is called the Grail Code is itself a parable of the human condition, in that it is the quest of us all, to serve and, by serving to achieve."
 Laurence Gardner in Bloodline of the Holy Grail

"The object of life is not happiness, but to serve God or the Grail. All of the Grail quests are to serve God. If one understands this and drops his idiotic notion that the meaning of life is personal happiness, then one will find that elusive quality immediately at hand."
Robert A. Johnson in HE: Understanding Masculine Psychology.

Long before the word "code" had to do with algorithms, encryption, or local dialing areas, people of honor lived by a code, a guiding rule. In the medieval literature of Arthurian Romance the code of chivalry promoted the ideal of knights who lived a life of virtue. The chivalrous knight was good-natured, educated, generous, and brave. He was a defender of the weak, saviour of the oppressed. His life transcended its meager personal boundaries, perhaps through dedication to his romantic ideal, his lady love. The chivalrous individual was one who honored bravery, courtesy, and honesty.

Within this romantic world another code existed as well. This was the Grail Code. The Holy Grail was popularly imagined as the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper or a cup that caught the blood of Christ at the crucifixion. The grail was said to nourish the body and the soul, but only the pure of heart could find it. The quest for the Holy Grail was central to several of the legends of King Arthur and his knights. The quest was not only to find the Holy Grail, but to know its truth and its meaning. Only one with the qualities of valour, wisdom and virtue could attain the Grail.

The Grail Code was a princely code. It was a reminder to those in authority that with their position came the obligation to serve. The king was not an overlord by this code, but a servant of God and the people. The Grail Code encouraged the leader to serve the people in the spirit of Jesus, who humbly washed the feet of his followers. In the story of Sir Percival and the Fisher King, it was only when Percival asked the key question, "Whom does the Grail Serve?" that his quest was fullfilled and the king's torment was lifted.

The Grail myth is told in a masculine frame of reference, but women are not excluded from the search or from the code, for we all hold the secrets of the Grail mystery within us.


Take some time to ponder these questions. It may be useful to you to write out your answers.

By what code do I live?

Do I quest after personal happiness?

How well is that quest going?

How do I feel about the idea that happiness is the consquence of compassionate service rather than an end in itself?

How do I serve?

What virtues are most important to me?

What virtues would I like to see in other people?

How would my life be different if I more fully embodied those virtues?

What can I do today to express the value of compassionate service?

 Can I form my personal code into a key phrase or sentence that I can hold in mind to remind myself of the nature of my quest?

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© 2000 Tom Barrett