In the Grail Movement, also known as Grail Message, members, known as ‘adherents and cross bearers’, are told to believe that whatever happens to one in this life is as a result of previous existence, called karmic burden, when the human soul reincarnates from one primordial plane to another in the course of its journey back to paradise. For, according to Abdu Ru Shin, the Movement’s founder, there is an immutable law in creation that demands that every human being must reap what he sows in the previous life, (unlike ‘all your sins are forgiven’ doctrine of Christians) The Grail Message uses a parallel book, In The Light of the Truth, where the body’s canon of beliefs are gleaned from. With over three decades of existence in Nigeria and still going strong, AGOZINO AGOZINO, recently found more when he took a deep tour of the movement’s hermitic world in Iju area of Lagos.
In the heart of Iju Ishaga area of Agege, Lagos, not very far from the popular Pen Cinema, sits a beautifully laid out facility of several well-built structures, flower gardens and serene woodland atop a hill, it is known as the Grail Land, Iju Hills, a property spread on several acres of land, dotted by many buildings that strike a chord of curiosity to a visitor. It is the unusual worship centre of the Grail Movement faithful, where silence reins. For many years, people remain confused whether the movement is a church, sect, fraternity or secret society.
Your curiosity begins on a Sunday morning at the Pen Cinema roundabout in Agege, Lagos, where members file out early to attend a weekly worship at the Iju Grail Land. Like a Christian church, and as early as around 10 a.m. the uphill centre has started to receive scores of ‘adherents’ as the members call themselves. The atmosphere in the Grail Land, however, is always devoid of the usual noisy church setting or the flamboyant dressing and pastors that typify most modern-day churches on Sunday.
Similarly, inside the sprawling compound, where the adherents worship, a visitor will not see loud sounding musical instruments, band, choir, no pastor, and neither statues of saints, but, there is an imposing temple in the heart of the compound.
To effectively understand the enveloping flourish of the beautiful nature that is the Grail Land, this writer quietly sought the experience of one adherent called cross bearer, who knows the faith and the facility in and out.
The cross bearer, whose ever smiling face beamed as the encounter lasted, told the story of the calm large compound. All the stress of the hustle and bustle of Lagos seems to disappear from his face, once inside the large compound. From him, it was learnt that as one passes through the big white gate manned by two security men, the peaceful aura calms the nerves of a visitor.
For a new visitor also, walking on the well-tarred roads, looking at the surrounding green pasture and ever freshly-painted homes, causes a visitor to have a reflection of wonder as he moves into the long stretch of nature into the facility where the temple mounts at the centre. Considering the imposing temple which is similar to that of biblical King Solomon, an attempt to capture what goes inside the worship is a guess work. Unfortunately, non-cross bearers are not allowed to be part of the worship.
Silence reigns within and outside the Grail Land. It was learnt that even outside, the society members hardly engage in arguments about the faith with the faithful of other religions. According to the cross bearer, Grail Movement is not a cult or secret society but a message that leads mankind back to his creator. It is because of the deep spiritual message they have, that their members often avoid being seen as competing with other faiths in the drive for new converts.
Hence, for a non-adherent approaching a cross bearer to learn more about the Grail Movement is always not easy, except you attend the movement’s public lecture. Although, no cross bearer is allowed to be part of the main worship in Iju Temple, but from a distance, the worship appears to be a gathering of people from a big family that knows one another. The smiles on the faces and enthusiastic participation in the worship rites could easily explain how they enjoy and believe in what they are doing.
The Grail Movement’s teaching and worship are majorly based on the book of its Austrian-born founder and philosopher, Abdu Ru Shin, pen name for Oskar Ernst Bernhardt, who wrote a theological work, commonly known asIn the Light of the Truth.
Topics in the teaching of Grail Message, which adherents encourage visitors to read, include What seek ye?; The call for the Helper; The Antichrist; Morality, Awake, Silence, Ascent, Cult, Rigidity, Childlikeness, Chastity, The World, The Conflict, Modern Psychic Science, Wrong Courses, Human World, Errors, among others. The faith has other works such as the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, Book of Javada, and Ephesus among other reading materials.
Music from great classical composers such as Wolfgang, Amadeus, Mozart, Beethoven symphony, George Handel, forms part of the Grail worship as well as prayers and other rites.
The mode of worship appears to be for spiritually-matured cross bearers. It was learnt that in the worship there is no room for offering and tithes, unlike in churches and mosques. The part of supporting the faith through donations, the Daily Times discovered, is left for adherents, who do such of their own volition.
Some of the adherents are born members while others were converted to the faith through reading the books after attending public lectures.
The process of converting non-members usually begins when the person attends any of the faith’s lectures which the Grail runs in public places. In the lecture, the participants are led to read volume one of In the Light of the Truth, which will be followed by volume two and volume three of the big green book. Then, the entrant is invited to face a panel of judges which will decide if the interested applicant is mature enough to be admitted or still has to go through more orientation.
Questions are also posed to an interested applicant to answer. Apart from that, the Grail Movement also runs a programme on some radio stations to enlighten the public on the Message and its mission.
Brought into Nigeria by the late international business mogul and estate developer, Mr. Adeyemi Lawson, the movement, which had developed formidably, is made up of mostly business tycoons, military men and women, members of the middle and elite class including captains of industry.
Joseph Eze, a resident of nearby Ajuwon in Iju, said residents of the area are used to seeing all kinds of exotic cars and celebrities who come to worship in the centre every weekend. The membership which was said to have started gradually is now all over the country.
The Grail Movement adherents believe their message is the fulfillment of Jesus Christ’s prophecy about the Comforter, who will come before the end of the earth. The movement established this in its written anecdotes, especially, in one of the volumes of in The light of the Truth. Members use the Bible and, sometimes, other related teachings. They emphasise that the Grail Message is an extension of the fulfillment of many of Jesus Christ’s teachings, and they also hold that since Christ never wrote down anything, evidence abound of contradictions in the Bible, especially, because some of the synoptic gospel writers never met Christ.
Part of the message, which looks like a blend of Eastern philosophy and Christian mysticism, can be summarised thus: “Humanity is moving from the age of Pisces to the age of Aquarius. The Grail Message is the message of end-time. So, it is not just another message, but, one that is given to mankind now as he stands at the threshold of eternity. Jesus Christ and Mohammed, founder of Islam are of the age of Pisces”.
It was also gathered that the thrust of the Grail Movement’s interpretation is that when Christ was on earth, He spoke to people who were still simple-minded and very childlike, and because of this, He (Christ) spoke to them in a language they would understand the spiritual truth using parables to illustrate His points, and, this, was acceptable to the people at that time. However, they were not like the people of today with highly developed intellect, who can ask several questions before they accept anything.
The message is also written in a way that it’s acceptable to the needs of the modern man, taking into consideration all his experiences. In addition to explaining those messages as Jesus Christ brought it, adherents believe Abdu Ru Shin also brought truth that had never been revealed to mankind before.
Some of the truth, according to the adherents, include an emphasis on the immutable laws of God. Out of these laws, every cross bearer believes that he manifests the holy will of the Almighty Creator and the Holy Spirit, which is why Christ warned that ‘any sin can be forgiven but the sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven’.
According to the Grail Message, what one sows he must reap. This is called the law of karma. The Grail Movement also teaches that creation is made up of several spiritual planes and different species, the beyond and the world of gross matter between which there is animistic kingdom. One controversial belief of the movement which, however, made it more that the Dan Brown controversy is its teaching that Christ was not born without physical procreation.
Also stated in the Grail Message is that the biblical story of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden of Eden was not about sexual relationship as people have, generally, been made to assume. Rather, it claims, that they sinned by subjecting themselves to the rules of the intellect and this is man’s real problem. It also maintains that since then, the over-cultivation of intellect in the wrong directions has been the bane of mankind. As against the usual biblical story, Grail Message believes that being driven out of the Garden of Eden, simply, means the disconnection with the luminous heights from which it affirmed much blessing.
Grail Movement also believes in the law of karma and that anyone who dies can reincarnate several times until he or she is able to free himself from the karmic burden before ascending to another plane, “That was why Christ, who is deemed as the Star of Bethlehem, came to show the way and lead mankind home”.
But is the Grail Message right? Many do not think it is right because, what some believe is that over the years, the search for the Grail is one unending enigma. For instance, in the literature of the mediaeval ages, heroes sought the Grail in scores of epic poems and romantic adventures. It became, almost, unimportant that Grail itself was not discovered, the real search was for knowledge, and understanding of the inner self was the true prize.
In many medieval stories, the Grail was, merely, a beacon to lure the hero into the ultimate game of life. This is the Grail as it was portrayed in the Gothic revival of the 19th century, in the paintings of the pre-Raphaelites and in the verses of the romantic Victorian poets, but, these are different from the Grail Message as preached.