When I launched the Ancient Wisdom Network earlier this year, I presented it as an experiment in building an online Ark. The idea was inspired by a pattern I had discovered in all previous wisdom schools: from the beginning of recorded history till our day, wisdom has always been re-expressed in renewed form. As humanity changed through technological advancement and globalization, teachings had to either adapt or become outdated and drown in the floods of time.

This perception inspired me to create a network of blog sites and websites that address these topics, and particularly one that is the destination for Ark in Time, a book, currently in development. Since its conception, the network has gradually grown in scope to include more key principles of ancient wisdom. So, against this backdrop of events, I am announcing the launching of a new pillar on our network called consciousness. This site will host regular posts on ancient mythological and symbolical expressions of consciousness, eminent authors on consciousness, and occasional videos.

Worth noting is that the most profound expressions of ancient wisdom that exhort man to awaken and become conscious, spoke in the language of myths and symbols. The Hebrews coined their wisdom in Biblical stories; the Hindus in symbolic cosmology; the Christians in Parables; the Sufis in poetry, and so on. Only in the last two centuries have literary essays overtaken these more traditional ancient forms of storytelling.

Why the Ancients used Symbols and Myths

Why would the ancients teach consciousness in symbolic and mythological language? Peter Ouspensky offers the following explanation:

Gurdjieff-Peter Ouspensky Thumbnail“Man’s consciousness and man’s functions are quite different phenomena, of quite different nature and depending on different causes… [Furthermore] one can exist without the other. Functions can exist without consciousness and consciousness can exist without functions.” – Peter Ouspensky (from the Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution)

Ouspensky on Ancient Symbolism

Ouspensky draws a distinction between consciousness and functions. Thoughts, instincts and emotions are functions of the human vessel that can operate separately from consciousness. They can also operate in unconsciousness, as the mind will often ramble aimlessly in utter sleep. This means that human logic can reason about consciousness unconsciously, barring through conjecture the very door it seeks to open.

Consciousness is not mind activity. It is not thinking ‘I am’; consciousness is being. The seemingly paradoxical nature of the struggle to consciousness lies in using thought to transcend thought. The darkness doesn’t know of the light and may readily imagine it is luminous. Essays on consciousness will lull their readers into a state of sleep unless they bear in mind their inherent limitation. Hence, the images shown in the video above tell a thousand words without speaking. They portray awareness and consciousness without words and thereby bring the educated viewer much closer to the threshold of being.

Gurdjieff on the Wisdom in Myths and Symbols

George Gurdjieff, Ouspensky’s teacher, confirms this aim in the ancient usage of myths and symbols:

Gurdjieff-Thumbnail“Realizing the imperfection and weakness of ordinary language, the people who have possessed objective knowledge have tried to express the idea of unity in ‘myths,’ in ‘symbols’… The aim of ‘myths’ and ‘symbols’ was to reach man’s higher centers, to transmit to him ideas inaccessible to the intellect.” – George Gurdjieff (quoted by Ouspensky , In Search of the Miraculous)

The Wisdom of Consciousness

Of particular interest in our new site is the page on levels of consciousness which outlines four states of consciousness possible for man. This gradation leans on Gurdjieff and Ouspensky’s teachings and deliberately muddies the inflexible line between awakening and sleep, a rigid definition typical of incomplete teachings. Although man’s natural state is sleep, he is not completely unconscious. He is able to experience brief flashes of self-awareness, usually under novel or life-threatening circumstances, that serve to show him his potential.

The series of pages on Cosmic Consciousness ties Gurdjieff and Ouspensky’s modern expression of consciousness into the ancient Hebrew presentation. It approaches the Biblical story of creation not in the usual way we are familiar with and taking much at face value: rather, we aim to show the hidden meaning behind the myth. The key attribute of a ‘cosmos’ is its ability to become aware of itself, or become conscious. God creating man in his own image is a mythical expression of the macro-cosmos creating a micro-cosmos. However, just as man isn’t born conscious, so is God’s mirror-image incomplete until it becomes aware of itself.

This new pillar adds another ‘timber’ to the Ark in Time Network. It forges the path for the eventual publication of the book Ark in Time, which tells the story of a man in search of consciousness and identity. As the macro-cosmos world and micro-cosmos man are closely intertwined, so does the hero of Ark in Time become ever more aware of the larger legacy to which he belongs, by becoming aware of himself. The inner meaning of man created in God’s image means that man has the potential of creating a god within; of becoming master of his own cosmos.

The book is scheduled for publication in 2013.