& Breaking the Consciousness Code Part 2
The language that I am going to use in this series to explore the inner dimension of identity and the workings of consciousness is not primarily from the frontiers of scientific research. Instead, I will be re-visiting symbols and archetypes from some of the interconnected tissue of myth and sacred writings that are sometimes called the mystery or wisdom traditions. The main sources I draw on are some of the language and insights of Tibetan Buddhism, as expounded by Lama Anagarika Govinda in his book ‘The Foundations of Tibetan Buddhism’; a few chapters and symbols from the Old Testament Books of Genesis and Exodus and from the Book of Revelation; some references to the sayings of Jesus as recorded in the books of the New Testament; insights from both the Jewish Kabbalah and the Qabalah of the western mystery tradition; the Arthurian and Grail myths; and a few other references to folklore, the I’ching and to some more modern stories that work with symbols from the ancient traditions, such as Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’.
Clearly, these sources themselves divide into two different categories, because the contribution of Tibetan Buddhism is not in the form of archetype or symbol, but in a complex cosmology and vocabulary of consciousness. This cosmology that Lama Anagarika translates and explains is obviously not ‘scientific’, but based on lived experience of a way of attending to the world and to the discipline of meditation. However, many of the insights expressed so long ago seem intriguingly compatible with the findings of quantum mechanics. As I already mentioned, when we learned about the strange and paradoxical nature of the subatomic world, we also began to realize that some of the so-called mystical texts were writing about similar things. We started to grasp in fact that
the ‘mystical’ simply related to the non-physical nature of both ourselves and matter in general. Buddhist and Hindu insights, specifically, were seen in a new light, but I believe that many if not all sacred writings are concerned with the inner dimension of human beings, including the stories and symbolism of the Bible. And, if read with this new understanding, they too can yield very interesting insight about ourselves and the way we perceive and shape our worlds. Additionally today, the meanings inherent in these ancient texts are also borne out by new understanding about the complementary cognitive processes of the two hemispheres of our brain.
One of the advantages of using symbolic language is that we know, rightfrom the start, that these thoughts, these symbols, are displaying insights intosomething that is not literally represented by them. When we buy a new gadget there is usually an instruction manual that comes with it which often uses diagrams to explain the workings of the gadget. The diagram is a simplified representation of a highly complex system. In a similar way, using symbolic language to talk about consciousness makes it possible to represent and consider a simplified version of what is a highly complex reality. And this is very helpful, it is like having a map to orient us in what otherwise can be bewildering territory. But, at the same time, it is clearly a map of reality, not the reality itself. Another reason why symbolic language is useful is that it allows us to talk about what is invisible in terms of the visible. Much of the ‘higher order’ of consciousness and the ‘software’ of its energetic blue print is ‘invisible’ or not obviously available to the ‘empirical ‘ point of view. This is why poetry has always used metaphor and symbol to evoke the metaphysics of human experience.
Moreover, unlike a diagram, or any attempt to figuratively represent a complex reality, the language of symbol has a magical dimension to it, whereby it can demonstrate what it is symbolizing. To use the sun, for instance, as a metaphor for love, or for a loving heart demonstrates to us qualities of the invisible nature of love that are experienced as true: it is warm, powerful, radiant, nourishing, brings light, life, etc, Even though there is not much ‘literal’ likeness or similarity between the sun and a loving human heart or the feeling of love, used as a symbol it nevertheless conveys accurately and vividly the meaning of this experience.
But the real genius of symbolic language is its non-linear, multi-faceted nature This perhaps above all other attributes is what makes it so effective a medium to explore the complexity of identity and consciousness because vast amounts of information and meaning can be condensed into just one symbol. It is in many ways therefore, a true language of wholeness.
The drawback of all this of course is that symbolic language can at first seem obscure. In a way, the meaning is encoded into it, and to be able to access the information, the codes have to be understood. And in order to do that, as any code breaker knows, there has to be some key found, a recurring pattern that starts to show up and correlate meaning between the coded text and plain English.
When the race was on in 1814–22 to decipher the hieroglyphics on the Egyptian Rosetta stone, Thomas Young first discovered the importance of the ‘cartouche’, an oval shape that he realized was drawn around proper names. A few years later, building on this insight, Champolions was able to correlate the hieroglyphics that recurred inside the cartouche with symbols and phonetic ‘letters’ that spelt the name Ramses. Once this correlation was made, the waywas opened to decipher the rest of the text. During World War II, Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park figured out the recurring patterns of letters in coded messages intercepted from German intelligence and eventually were able to break the code that the Enigma machines used to encript information.
When it comes to decoding the information about consciousness contained in the myths and sacred texts, the master key is a simple geometric shape that is formed by two equal circles whose circumferences intersect each other’s center:
A mathematician might look at this shape and call it a ‘Venn diagram’ that shows relationships between different sets of numbers, a language arts teacher might use it as a visual aid to organizing ideas. But there is a much older tradition associated with this symbol. It was known in the early civilizations of Mesopotamia, Africa and Asia and has been used for millennia to create the building-block shapes of geometry — including the square, the equilateral triangle and the pyramid — which can all be derived from it. One of its earliest known appearances is on a gypsum and alabaster threshold step from one of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal’s palaces, dated to 645 BC (now in the Louvre, Paris) on which it is carved as part of a more complex shape known as the ‘Flower of Life’. This same symbol is also found on the Osirion temple complex in Egypt where it has been carefully drawn on one of the pillars in red ochre. The date of the drawing is most likely much later than that of the temple, some suggestions put it around 500 BC — the time of Pythagoras. In India the shape formed by the intersecting circles is called the ‘mandorla’ meaning almond, and in the west it is most commonly known as the ‘vesica piscis’ which is Latin for ‘vessel of the fish’ because the shape also looks like a fish.
Many spiritual meanings have accrued to this symbol in both western and eastern traditions and as I will show, this is because as a symbol it can help us think deeply about the nature of consciousness and the higher causal field of identity. My interest in this symbol began when its ‘fish’ shape (and name) alerted me to a connection with the mysterious Wounded Fisher King in the grail myth. The ‘fish’ shape is where the two circles overlap. The next ‘clue’ that fell into place for me was when I came across the Buddhist idea that consciousness is the overlap between inner and outer worlds. The ‘vesica’ symbol perfectly represents this idea. This allowed me to connect the theme of the Wounded Fisher King with the nature of consciousness, and ultimately coalesced insight that helped open up the meaning of the Grail and Arthur myths.
Building on these understandings, the symbol and meaning of the ‘vesica piscis’ has helped me read the codes of many other seemingly disparate symbols, from the Tree of Life and Adam and Eve’s plight in the Genesis story, to the meaning of the Ark of the Covenant, to the magical mill in the Finnish saga of the Kalevala.
It was Kennedy who said ‘when power corrupts poetry cleanses’ and to me all the sources I draw on are a form of poetry, that is to say, of a language of wholeness, stemming from a deep synthesis of insight. These stories and ancient texts can therefore help us understand how our sense of self and theworlds we create because of it are inextricably woven together. In ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’ David Bohm went on to write:
“ ..men who are guided by such a fragmentary self-world view cannot, in the long run, do other than to try in their actions to break themselves and the world into pieces, corresponding to their general mode of thinking.”
Breaking the world into pieces is a very good description of the actions of the executives of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Enron, Citibank, and so on. And of course,the list does not stop there, the fragmentary inheritance of flatland issystemic within our global society, and it is not simply because its juggernauts of power bear down upon the system to prevent any shift in its structures, but because in the absence of the language of wholeness we lack the deep moral framework to talk about its symptoms.
So I offer the language of symbol and its interpretation in terms of my own personal experience and spiritual journey, as a contribution toward a language and an understanding of wholeness. My aim is to decode what I have come to view as the operating instructions for ourselves and our consciousness, that we ourselves wrote in the form of myth and sacred text. and render their meaning into clear, consistent and actionable terms.