By Stephen Leary [Profile: "I work for a research institute in Washington, DC."]
JUNE 20, 2008
Members of the Grail Movement in the Czech Republic ate the flesh of an 8-year-old boy after his mother kept him locked in a cage. Perhaps they thought Jesus was recommending cannibalism when he said "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life."
Earlier this month, Czech police arrested Grail Movement leader Jiri Adam for using slave laborers for nearly 20 years. Another leader of the cult in the Czech Republic distanced his group from Adam.
The Grail Movement traces its origin to a book called In the Light of Truth: The Grail Message, written by Oskar Ernst Bernhardt. This book contains the "Grail Message." Supposedly there are about 20,000 members worldwide, with most residing in Europe. How many are in the United States?
A company profile of the Grail Foundation of America Inc. (Binghamton, NY--the contact address at the group's website) lists 1 employee (Alfred Lewis) and annual sales of $32,000. The Grail Movement of America (Port Chester, NY) lists 2 employees with Gene Ceccarelli as the principal. The Grail Foundation Press (Mount Vernon, OH) lists 2 employees with Micah Rubenstein as the principal. It seems there are few people involved in the US and sales revolve around the previously mentioned book, as well as others in their catalog. The first center in the US was formed about 1939 in Mt. Morris, IL (or in Mt. Morris, MI, according to other sources).
Richard Gehl was apparently the US leader for years until his death in 2003. He was accused of being a "false disciple" and responsible for a schism between two factions of the cult. Alfred Lewis seems to have taken over the US group after Gehl's demise.
The group has published books with its own interpretation of the lives of Jesus, Mohammad, Zoroaster, and Buddha. It seems to be a New Age religion based on Christianity and it's unclear to me (since I haven't Bernhardt's book) how much it relates to other religions that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, such as the Great White Brotherhood, Ascended Masters, Rosicrucians, etc. (someone has written a book on that topic).
Bernhardt wrote under the pen name Abd-ru-shin. His theory is that God sent man in search of self-awareness and maturity. Physical bodies were fashioned for our true selves to function within while on Earth. The purpose of man is to live in harmony with the divine laws that maintain creation. Then man will return to life eternal in the spiritual realm as a self-aware spirit. The Holy Grail is considered the power center of creation. From the description, it seems hardly worth the effort of creating a new religion around it.
The International Grail Movement reported 400 active adherents in the United States (as of 2002), and 1,000 in Canada. The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions (2001) gives the number of US adherents at 330, but these numbers seem to originate from the cult itself and are likely inflated. Even at these numbers, it's a small group and there seems no reason to believe it will gain any significant increase in members, ever.
Cults like this one notoriously prey on individuals with low self-esteem who have problems integrating themselves into the mainstream of society.
There is another Grail movement associated with the Catholic Church that is an entirely separate group from this one. The Catholic movement was begun in the Netherlands in 1921 by a Dutch Jesuit priest, Jacques van Ginneken. It was created to give women a stronger role and voice in church and society.