The Most Powerful Technology of All: The Ark of Consciousness
Humankind is made up of men and women. Or at any rate of male and female, because teenagers and children are also a part of the mix. And, according to the first chapter of Genesis, we are made in the image and likeness of the creator, who is/are also plural, and male and female:
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …
“So God created man in his own image, … male and female created he them.”
Additionally, my decoding of the symbol of the ‘vesica piscis’ in terms of the similarly-shaped Egyptian glyph indicates that we both inherently are ‘the forces that are the creator’, and that our capacities of heart and mind, represented in Genesis by Eve and Adam, replicate and draw on these forces. And all this makes the temptation by the serpent rather ironic, because it is promising a fake version of what already existed:
“… in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
The phrase ‘as gods‘ means ‘like gods’ — something pretend, something less than the real thing. But Adam and Eve were already creators, or ‘forces of the creator’. So the serpent was offering a kind of swindle. A seducer is often some one who manages to make us feel that if we take whatever he or she is offering, whether literal sexual entanglement, or a slightly too good to be true business deal — we will be initiated into a power that we didn’t already have. We are offered fruits that we think will make us more potent. But the only reason we become entangled this way, is if we have allowed our interior sense of alignment to falter so that we forget we already had power anyway. We can’t be fooled by other peoples’ scams if we’re not participating in our own.
In Essay 11 ‘The Fall of Consciousness’ I began to explore how this same conversation between the serpent and Eve represents the way the balanced awareness of ‘intuitive mind’ gets taken over by intellectual sophistry as the sense of larger identity fades.
‘Let’s bet on this hedgefund’
‘Hang on a minute, I’m not sure this is legal …’
‘Don’t worry about it — nothing bad is going to happen from being really smart.’ — “Ye shall not surely die”
‘But — our primary business is not making any money…’
‘That doesn’t matter — we can pay back our debt out of leveraging our future profits that are on paper…’
Here goes the intellect, getting carried away by its own schemes, by its own cleverness and overriding what is known intuitively in the heart. The schemes proliferate, grow larger and begin to turn into lies. What is complicated becomes deceptive: Enron’s deception of its employees and investors, the Structured Investment Vehicles, Credit Default Swaps and Securitized Assets dreamed up by the Wall Street investment banks become simple fraud. “Your eyes shall be opened” — you will awake from the deluded sense of any moral reason. “And ye shall be as gods”: that line of Goldman Sachs’ executives, seated in front of Carl Levin during the 2010 Senate hearings, all of them in the prime of life, stone-faced, arrogant, without a flicker of self-doubt, assured of their unending smartness and their prerogative to evade the Senator’s questions. You will be “as gods, knowing good and evil’ — you will become masters of the universe, able to control things by dividing the whole into fragments: breaking down viable companies and selling them off piecemeal for short term profit.
Again, as I looked at in Essay 10 (The Very Way We Use Our Consciousness Causes Our Problems), the ego-intellect, once it is no longer participating in the larger context of the whole spectrum of consciousness, is attempting to compensate for the lack of that larger context and larger meaning, by aggrandizing itself, by seeking ‘more’. The inflated self which believes everything is there to serve it. This is the syndrome of ‘feeling the quantity’ and not the quality of what we are creating. We override wisdom for the lesser meaning eg, short term profit. Taken in by the scam, we ourselves then start running scams.
The quantity is only one half of the equation that makes up value. Quality is the other. Yet to state it in these terms distorts the reality of what is involved. Because quality cannot be quantified by a mathematical formula; and it does not arise from intellectual efforts alone, but from out of the depths of the implicate order. Selling quantity in its stead is trying to make up for the loss of wholeness by multiplying digits. We thought it was a bargain, to get more like this, but it was a scam. The serpent, the inflated self that is now duplicitous instead of dual, is offering back to us only half of what is important, of what gives meaning to life. True, those executives and investment bankers made millions of dollars, took home fat bonuses. But they also wrecked their companies, undermined their own clients; ensured that millions of people no longer had any money to invest or buy goods with; and ultimately crashed the economy. It’s a shoddy deal, a depleted version of what we already had: a thriving company, a buoyant stock market. We get more, but we are only getting half. Money made out of selling toxic securities is not the same as sounder investments, that build up an economy instead of destabilizing it. More of half is not the same as less of the whole.
In Essay 11 (The Fall of Consciousness) I looked at the difference between duplicity and duality. Duplicity is the quality of being double: saying one thing, doing or meaning another, double-dealing, lying. Duality, on the other hand, is partaking of a two-fold nature, of inner and outer. Paradoxically, it is when we lose awareness of our dual nature, that we become falsely ‘double’. Whereas participating in both ‘worlds’ we are one whole, a unified system and we deal with others that way, which we often call having integrity.
There is duality at every level of ourselves. We have an inner, deeper, flow of presence and self, which the Buddhists call the transcendent or universal self. And we have a personality self, whose characteristics are shaped by genetic inheritance, culture, upbringing and experience. Then we have two kinds of intelligence — emotional and intellectual (heart and mind, Eve and Adam) and, linked to these, two kinds of awareness, one of the flow of intuition from the inner and one of the factors and choice points in the outer world. We also have the right and left hemispheres of the brain, that focus attention differently. And we have gender, we are masculine and feminine in our bodies and our sexuality. But when identity goes awry in those subtle inner places where consciousness and identity link together, then the whole delicate balanced system falters. Duality becomes duplicity and shrinks the world down into something less than it really is.
The word ‘consciousness’ is sometimes used to mean the state of being conscious — awake, aware. Or, to mean its total content, as in one of the ‘Shorter Oxford Dictionary’s’ definitions: ‘the totality of the impressions, thoughts and feelings, which make up a person’s conscious being.’ But for the most part, in this series, I am using the word to mean a faculty of invisible technology. And so far I have explored the terminology of Tibetan Buddhism and stories from Genesis, along with the ‘meta-symbol’ of the ‘vesica piscis’, to begin to show how in the hands of whole identity, consciousness is an immensely powerful and creative tool, while In the hands of the skewed identity, it becomes destructive.
A few chapters further on in Genesis there is the story of Noah’s Ark and the great flood, and how, when the flood waters subsided, a rainbow appeared in the sky. The rainbow was a sign of a new agreement, or ‘covenant’ between God and humankind that the earth would never be purged through water again:
“I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.”
The wooden ark that was built to carry Noah, his family and the animals to safety and the curved ‘arc’ of the rainbow itself, both anticipate another ark, an object mentioned just over half way through Exodus, which was apparently itself a form of very powerful technology, namely the Ark of the Covenant. Both Noah’s Ark and the Ark of the Covenant are fabled icons, but the accounts of their construction are both curiously detailed, as if they might well have once existed as real objects. A possibility which of course only adds to their allure, and the hope that one day we will dig bits of them up. But even just as mythic symbols, their design and the stories about them add interesting insights to the idea of consciousness itself being a form of powerful ‘technology’.
An ark is both a shape and a container of something precious. The curved hull of Noah’s Ark preserved life on earth during the biblical flood. Noah and his wife and children, and the animals were carried, two by two, to dry ground. All that was needed to let life continue. It was said that out of the population of the world at that time, only Noah was one who stayed true — true to God.
Looking at this story as a parable about consciousness, staying true to God means staying to true one’s inner self, or to the measure of self. The rainbow adds to this meaning. A rainbow throws a great curve into the sky, joining it with the earth.
It symbolizes the place where two dimensions overlap, and so it also recalls the ‘vesica’s’ depiction of human consciousness, the place where the invisible and the visible worlds blend in and out of one another and where the line of agreement, alignment can be drawn between the two centers of the circles:
In the story, the rain bow’s arc symbolized that the agreement or alignment between the two realms of inner and outer, of God and humankind, was drawn once more, and this marked a new beginning for humanity.
This agreement or alignment in consciousness is also the experience of power. Not the power to dominate and control people and events, but the power to summon up the generative order of wholeness itself and the power to shape one’s world in this likeness. This generative order is symbolized by the mathematical ‘seeds’ created by the ‘vesica’s’ geometry, and also in the story by the ‘two-by-two’ of the animals in the ark, ensuring that life would continue. So we see that both the rainbow’s arc in the sky, and the ark that Noah built are symbols of the power our own consciousness has to generate new life. And this powerful and generative nature of consciousness is underscored again by the symbol and story of the Ark of the Covenant.
Built by the Children of Israel according to precise instructions (see Exodus 25 v 10–22) hundreds of years after Abraham first moved his people out of Sumeria, the mysterious Ark of the Covenant incorporated much of the symbolic significance of both Noah’s Ark and the ‘arc’ of the rainbow, its two ancient predecessors. The Ark of the Covenant was a gold-covered box topped with two gold cherubim (or angels). It was carried through the wilderness by the priesthood and placed in the center of the tabernacle or portable temple whenever the company set up camp. The wings of the two cherubim formed a golden arc over the gold ‘mercy seat’ or cover of the box.
The Ark of the Covenant, as its name implies, builds upon the rainbow as the sign of God’s covenant — or agreement — with humankind, for it was the place where God and man met and communed:
“And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims…” Exodus 25 v 22
Between the two cherubims — here the mysterious, invisible presence of God was experienced by Moses and the high priest.
Between the two ‘arcs’ of the cherubim’s wings — again, this echoes the shape of the ‘vesica’ and the intersecting curves of consciousness where the undimensional meets the dimensional:
The two cherubims of gold were “beaten out of one piece, on the two ends of the mercy seat”. So they were two aspects of one thing, representing the two-in-one of heart and mind. This recalls the meaning of the Egyptian glyph, and our consciousness forming the ‘mouth of the creator’ where the ‘forces that are the creator’ emerge and are given expression.
One of the most remarkable properties of the Ark was the charge of power associated with it — gold conducts electricity — which meant that it had to be handled very carefully. There are instructions in Exodus about how to carry the Ark of the Covenant without actually touching it and warnings about getting too close. This charge of power came to focus in the field between the two cherubim. The positive current of being has a charge to it. And when we are polarized in that current, we are in the place of alignment, and in the place of power. Then our consciousness becomes a charged, generative field held between mind and heart in which thought and inspiration combine in a matrix of new possibilities. So the Ark of the Covenant embodied the principles of the law of polarity, and its crucial importance in the correct functioning of consciousness.
“I will commune with thee” — to commune means to communicate without words, without sound. Communion is a direct experienced sense of connection or oneness. And this is what we are able to do by means of our consciousness. We commune with the invisible source of ourselves. Our consciousness is like a receiving station for the signals, intimations, and tonal qualities of the flow of being.
“I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.”
So the communing led to very specific, practical instruction. And again, this is how our consciousness of mind and heart works, it translates the undimensional frequencies of the flow from the deep implicate into ideas, direction and action in the dimensional realm of space and time.
The Ark of the Covenant is also both shape — the arc of the cherubims’ wings echoing the rainbow’s arc — and container of precious things, just as Noah’s Ark contained his family and the animals. Inside its gold-covered box were stored three treasures central to the life of the Israelites: the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments given to Moses, Aaron’s rod and the jar of mana. Taken together, the Ark could be seen as a symbolic depiction of the brain and the body. The arc of the cherubims are the two hemispheres of the brain, the gold lid, the corpus callosum, which connects and separates them, the gold covered box, with its treasures, is the body system. The stone tablets could symbolize the coded designs of life — the laws — the pattern matrix, the two-by-two of the chromosomes; and Aaron’s rod, which flowered magically, the patterns of growth and development, which to this day remain a mystery. They represent designs that are inherited, contained somehow in the mind-body system by means of which life is sustained.
The mana was the sweet-tasting substance that appeared on the ground every morning and which nourished the Israelites during their hard trek across the desert. The continuously renewed substance in the jar links this symbol to a long lineage of magical containers: Celtic cauldrons that never emptied, that could feed an army, porridge pots that overflow and fill the village, the cornucopia or horn of plenty, the grail that bestows wholeness, the philosopher’s stone that grants everlasting life, the magical mill whose owners never lack for money or salt or gold. And so on.
In fact all the magical, life-giving boons that heroes go in search of, whether Perceval of the medieval romance questing for the grail, or Jason seeking the golden fleece of Greek myth, or the other treasures Indiana Jones of the movies goes adventuring for — are symbols of the generative power of our own consciousness (which cannot be cut away from the rest of the body of course). And the search for them is the process of coming to understand this power. We go on the quest to find what we already have.
The climactic scene of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ is when the Nazi leaders finally get their hands on the precious Ark and open its golden lid. They are after the power to control the world, but instead they release energies that destroy them. Spielberg piles on the drama and special effects as a kind of nuclear explosion erupts out of the Ark and first melts then obliterates them all (except Indiana and his girl who keep their eyes closed). But the associations he makes between the misuse of the Ark and the horrors of both Nazism and nuclear weapons tie in well with the idea that the Ark of the Covenant represents the technology of consciousness. Like the Ark, this technology is not inherently destructive, but it is powerful. If misused, it can destroy us and, often, in the process take out a lot of other people as well — the bombed out towns of Britain and Europe during World War II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of that war.
The Ark of the Covenant literally means the ark of the agreement. In the story of Noah’s Ark, this meant the agreement between God and humankind, symbolized by the rainbow. Our consciousness is an ark of agreement, the line of fundamental measure created out of the charged polarity of its compound, complementary aspects — inner and outer, heart and mind, intuition and intellect, feminine and masculine. When we experience that interior alignment in ourselves, we let the current of the flow move into the world and back through this ‘technology’ of consciousness. And this flow and interchange creates new seeds of possibility that are hallmarked with the pattern of wholeness. But if we break the agreement, reverse the polarity, we lose that power and short-circuit ourselves. And then, like the Nazi leaders opening the lid of the Ark, we try to abrogate that power by force, by manipulation, by covert illegalities, by terror. And in this breaking and forcing of things, we unleash a destructive power:
The nuclear bomb is both a literal embodiment of this kind of destructive power and a symbol of it. Its terrifying force is unleashed when the atoms of artificially enriched uranium are concentrated together to break open their nuclear structure in a chain reaction. The natural order of uranium’s atomic structure has been changed, and the forces released are destructive both in terms of the very visible explosion and shockwave that can destroy a whole city, but also in the invisible release of radiation. This is known as the half-life of the remaining radioactive material, capable of taking apart the structure of our cells and those of other living creatures in what is called radiation sickness, and of poisoning land and sea for thousands of years. Half-life is a way to describe what is offered to and by us when we disconnect from the fullness of ourselves. And the invisible blight of our own distorted motivations that can themselves damage and poison everything around us, turning our world into a wasteland.
The Ark of the Covenant features in an ongoing way for several hundred years of the Old Testament story. According to the First Book of the Kings it was eventually placed in the Holy of Holies at the heart of Soloman’s Temple in Jerusalem where it remained until the Babylonians destroyed the temple around 586 BC. What happened to the Ark is unknown, there are simply no more references to it. The fact that it was not mentioned as part of the plunder could indicate that it had already disappeared. But it’s meaning lives on in the stories as a symbol of the ark of consciousness.