THE ARK OF THE COVENANT
It is noteworthy and fraught with great mystic significance that the aroma of VOLUNTARY SERVICE is represented as SWEET-SMELLING, FRAGRANT INCENSE, while the odor of sin, selfishness, and transgression of the law, represented by COMPULSORY SACRIFICE upon the Altar of service, is nauseating; for it needs no great imagination to understand that the cloud of smoke which went up continually from the burning carcasses of the sacrificial animals created a nauseating stench to show the exceeding loathsomeness of it, while the perpetual incense offered upon the Altar before the second veil showed by antithesis the beauty and sublimity of selfless service, thus exhorting the Mystic Mason, as a CHILD OF LIGHT, to shun the one and cleave to the other.
Let it be understood also that SERVICE does not consist in doing great things only. Some of the heroes, so-called were mean and small in their general lives, and rose only to the occasion upon one great and notable day. Martyrs have been put on the calendar of saints because they DIED for a cause; but it is a greater heroism, it is a greater martyrdom sometimes, to do the little things that no one notices and sacrifice self IN SIMPLE SERVICE TO OTHERS.
We have seen previously that the veil at the entrance to the outer court and the veil in front of the East Room of the Tabernacle were both made in four colors, blue, red, purple, and white. But THE SECOND VEIL, which divided the East Room of the Tabernacle from the West Room, differed with respect to make-up from the other two. It was wrought with the figures of Cherubim. We will not consider, however, the significance of this fact until we take up the subject of the NEW MOON AND INITIATION, but will now look into the second apartment of the Tabernacle, the western room, called the Most Holy or the Holy of Holies. Beyond the second veil, into this second apartment, no mortal might ever pass save the HIGH PRIEST, and he was only allowed to enter on one occasion in the whole year, namely, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and then only after the most solemn preparation and with the most reverential care. The Holiest of All was clothed with the solemnity of another world; it was filled with an unearthly grandeur. The whole Tabernacle was the sanctuary of God, but here in this place was the awful abode of His presence, the special dwelling place of the SHEKINAH GLORY, and well might mortal man tremble to present himself within these sacred precincts, as the High Priest must do on the Day of Atonement.
In the westernmost end of this apartment, the western end of the whole Tabernacle, rested the "ARK OF THE COVENANT." It was a hollow receptacle containing the GOLDEN POT OF MANNA, AARON'S ROD THAT BUDDED, AND THE TABLES OF THE LAW which were given to Moses. While this Ark of the Covenant remained in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, TWO STAVES WERE ALWAYS WITHIN THE FOUR RINGS OF THE ARK so that it could be picked up instantly and moved, but when the Ark as finally taken to Solomon's Temple, the staves were taken out. This is very important in its symbolical significance. Above the Ark hovered the Cherubim, and between them dwelt the uncreated glory of God. "Three," said He to Moses, "I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the Mercy Seat, from between the two Cherubim which are upon the Ark of the Testimony."
The glory of the Lord seen above the Mercy Seat was in the appearance of a cloud. The Lord said to Moses, "Speak unto Aaron they brother that he come not at all time into the Holiest Place within the veil before the Mercy Seat which is upon the Ark, that he die not, for I will appear in the cloud upon the Mercy Seat." This manifestation of the divine presence was called among the Jews the SHEKINAH GLORY. Its appearance was attended no doubt with a wonderful spiritual glory of which it is impossible to form any proper conception. Out of this cloud the voice of God was heard with deep solemnity when He was consulted in behalf of the people.
When the aspirant has qualified to enter into this place behind the second veil, he finds everything DARK to the physical eye, and it is necessary that he should have another light WITHIN. When he first came to the eastern Temple gate, he was "POOR, NAKED, AND BLIND," asking for LIGHT. He was then shown the dim light which appeared in the smoke above the Altar of sacrifice, and told that in order to advance he must kindle within himself that flame by remorse for wrongdoing. Later on he was shown the more excellent light in the East Room of the Tabernacle, which proceeded from the Seven- branched Candlestick; in other words he was given the light of knowledge and of reason that by it he might advance further upon the path. But it was required that BY SERVICE he should evolve within himself and around himself another light, the golden "wedding garment," which is also THE CHRIST LIGHT OF THE SOUL BODY. By lives of service this glorious soul- substance gradually pervades his whole aura until it is ablaze with a golden light. Not until he has evolved this INNER illumination can he enter into the darkened precincts of the second Tabernacle, as the Most Holy place is sometimes called.
"GOD IS LIGHT; if we walk in the light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another." This is generally taken to indicate only the fellowship of the Saints, but as a matter of fact it applies also to the fellowship which we have with God. When the disciple enters the second Tabernacle, THE LIGHT WITHIN HIMSELF VIBRATES TO THE LIGHT OF THE SHEKINAH GLORY between the Cherubim, and he realizes the fellowship with his FATHER FIRE.
As the Cherubim and the Father Fire which hover above the Ark represent the divine Hierarchies which overshadow mankind during his pilgrimage through the wilderness, so THE ARK WHICH IS FOUND THERE REPRESENTS MAN IN HIS HIGHEST DEVELOPMENT. Three were, as already said, three things within the Ark: the Golden Pot of Manna, the Budding Rod, and the Tables of the Law. When the aspirant stood at the eastern gate as a child of sin, THE LAW WAS WITHOUT AS A TASKMASTER to bring him to Christ. It exacted with unrelenting severity an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Every transgression brought a just recompense, and man was circumscribed on every hand by laws commanding him to do certain things and refrain from doing others. But when THROUGH SACRIFICE AND SERVICE he has finally arrived at the stage of evolution represented by the Ark in the western room of the Tabernacle, the TABLES OF THE LAW ARE WITHIN. He has then become emancipated from all outside interference with his actions; not that he would break any laws, but because HE WORKS WITH THEM. Just as we have learned to respect the property right of others and have therefore become emancipated from the commandment. "Thou shalt not steal," so he who keeps all laws because he wants to do so has on that account no longer need of an exterior taskmaster, but gladly renders obedience in all things because HE IS A SERVANT OF THE LAW AND WORKS WITH IT, FROM CHOICE AND NOT THROUGH NECESSITY.
THE GOLDEN POT OF MANNA
Manas, mensch, mens, or man is readily associated with the MANNA that came down from heaven. it is the HUMAN SPIRIT that descended from our Father above for a pilgrimage through matter, and the Golden Pot wherein it was kept symbolizes the golden aura of the soul body.
Although the Bible story is not in strict accordance with the events, it gives the main facts of the mystic manna which fell from heaven. When we want to learn what is the nature of this so-called BREAD, we may turn to the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, which relates how Christ fed the multitudes with LOAVES AND FISHES, symbolizing the mystic doctrine of the 2000 years which He was then ushering in, for during that time the sun BY PRECESSION OF THE EQUINOX has been passing through the sign of the fishes, Pisces, and the people have been taught to abstain at least one day during the week (Friday) and at a certain time of the year from the fleshpots which belonged to Egypt or ancient Atlantis. They have been given the Piscean water at the temple door, and the Virginian Wafers at the communion table before the altar when they worshiped the Immaculate Virgin, representing the celestial sign Virgo (which is opposite the sign Pisces), and entered communion with the sun begotten by her.
Christ also explained at that time in mystic but unmistakable language what that LIVING BREAD, or manna, was, namely, the Ego. This explanation will be found in verses thirty-three and thirty-five, where we read: "For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven and giveth light unto the world--I am (EGO SUM) THE BREAD OF LIFE." This, then, is the symbol of the golden pot of manna which was found in the Ark. This manna is the Ego or human spirit, which gives life to the organisms that we behold in the physical world. It is hidden within the Ark of each human being, and the Golden pot or soul body or "wedding garment" is also latent within every one. It is made more massive, lustrous, and resplendent by the spiritual alchemy whereby service is transmuted to soul growth. It is THE HOUSE NOT MADE WITH HANDS, eternal in the heavens, wherewith Paul longed to be clothed, as said in the Epistle to the Corinthians. Every one who is striving to aid his fellow men thereby garners within himself that golden treasure, laid up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust can destroy it.
An ancient legend relates that when Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden, he took with him three slips of the TREE OF LIFE, which were then planted by Seth. Seth, the second son of Adam, is, according to the Masonic legend, father of the spiritual hierarchy of CHURCHMEN working with humanity through Catholicism, while the sons of Cain are the CRAFTSMEN of the world. The latter are active in Freemasonry, promoting material and industrial progress, as builders of the temple of Solomon, the universe, should be. The three sprouts planted by Seth have had important missions in the spiritual development of humanity, and one of them is said to be the Rod of Aaron.
In the beginning of concrete existence generation was carried on under the wise guidance of the angels, who saw to it that the creative act was accomplished at times when the interplanetary rays of force were propitious; and man was also forbidden to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. The nature of that tree is readily determined from such sentences as "Adam KNEW his wife, and she bore Cain"; "Adam KNEW his wife, and she bore Seth'; "how shall I bear a child seeing that I KNOW not a man?" as said by Mary to the angel Gabriel. In the light of this interpretation the STATEMENT of the Angel (it was not a curse) when he discovered that his precepts had been disobeyed, namely, "dying thou shalt die," is also intelligible, for the bodies generated regardless of cosmic influences could not be expected to persist. Hence man was exiled from the etheric realms of spiritual force (Eden), where grows the tree of vital power; exiled to concrete existence in the dense physical bodies which he has made for himself by generation. This was surely a blessing, for who has a body sufficiently good and perfect in his own estimation that he would like to live in it forever? Death, then, is a boon to the spiritual realms for a season, and build better vehicles each time we return to earth life. As Oliver Wendell Holmes says:
"Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul!
As the swift seasons roll.
Leave thy low-vaulted past,
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut tree from Heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell
by life's unresting sea."
In the course of time when we learn to shun the pride of life and the lust of the flesh, generation will cease to sap our vitality. The vital energy will then be used for regeneration, and the spiritual powers, symbolized by Aaron's Rod, will be developed.
The wand of the magician, the holy spear of Parsifal the Grail king, and the budding Rod of Aaron are emblems of this divine creative force, which works wonders of such a nature that we call them miracles. But let it be clearly understood that no one who has evolved to the point in evolution where he is symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant in the West Room of the Tabernacle ever uses this power for selfish ends. When Parsifal, the hero of the soul myth by that name, had witnessed the temptation of Kundry and proved himself to be emancipated from the greatest sin of all, the sin of lust and unchastity, he recovered the sacred spear taken by the black magician, Klingsor, from the fallen and unchaste rail king, Amfortas. Then for many years he traveled in the world, seeking again the Castle of the Grail, and he said: "Often was I sorely beset by enemies and tempted to use the spear in self-defense, but I knew that THE SACRED SPEAR MUST NEVER BE USED TO HURT, ONLY TO HEAL."
An that is the attitude of everyone who develops within him the budding Rod of Aaron. Though he may turn this spiritual faculty to good account in order to provide bread for a multitude, he would never think of turning a single stone to bread FOR HIMSELF that his hunger might be appeased. Though he were nailed to the cross to die, he would not free himself by spiritual power which he had readily exercised to save others from the grave. Though he were reviled every day of his life as a fraud or charlatan, he would never misuse his spiritual power to show a sign whereby the world might know without the shadow of a doubt that he was regenerate or heaven-born. This was the attitude of Christ Jesus, and its has been and is imitated by everyone who is a Christ-in-the-making.
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