The image of Plato's cave is given a new shape in the Middle Ages (12th century) in the Parsival Saga. There is told about a castle, 'unreachable for our steps'. There are two famous versions of this saga, a German one by Wolfram von Eschenbach, and the older French version by Chrestien de Troyes. The story by Wolfram von Eschenbach is written poetical, it is a mystic poem, full of rich humor, it is a complete saga. The saga by Chrestien de Troyes is written like a story and makes one experience the mystic side strongly; the story does not have a satisfying ending though.
The castle is an image for the cave in which the 'wounded man' lives, it seems to be an imagination of the human skull. The fisherman king lives in there, le roi pecheur, this wounded man, and with him his father, who lives from the holy Host. Here we find the image of both opposite sides of the human being: the wounded man and the pure man. Perceval reaches the castle - which is unreachable for our steps - by accident during his wanderings. He did not seek the road, did not seek the castle, but finds it nevertheless. He is invited to participate in the meal. He sees a procession entering, a beautiful girl wears a golden goblet covered with precious stones, 'un graal'. In the dish lies a holy Host for the old father, who one does not see. There is also carried along a bleeding lance in the procession.
Perceval looks at the entirety marveling but does not ask for the meaning of it. He has learned that it is not polite to ask. He used to be a boy without knowledge of any rule whatsoever, because of which he made one mistake after the other. But now he is a decent man, because of his teacher Gornemant, and he does not ask. The next morning the castle seems to be abandoned, the chambers where he saw the wonderful happening are locked, the drawbridge is down, but there is nobody to say goodbye to him. Gradually he finds out that he has made a big mistake not to ask...
Because daily life on the one hand passes in sensory impressions and thoughts that invoke desire and on the other hand in being hungry and thirsty and satisfying this desires, the actual thinking human being, the spiritual human being, is wounded by desire. Parallel to that something pure occurs: the most pure impressions of the senses and the purest from the nutrition form a substance that can only nourish the pure and holy human being. These images point to the abstract thinking human being who is locked away from the true spiritual existence and from the human being he will become in the future. But to cure the wounded king Perceval has to come and ask the right question – he comes, but does not ask any question...
'The young knight, who had come here this night, saw the miracle, but withheld to ask how it could be possible. For he thought of the warning from the man who had made him a knight, who had taught him that he had to pay attention not to speak too much. That was why he was afraid that his host would think it to be a shame if he asked for an explanation – and so he did not ask...' (From: Perceval ou le conte du Graal, Chrestien de Troyes)
A scene from 'Perceval' of Chrestien de Troyes.
'Perceval recevant une épée des mains du roi Pescheor'.