The Ark of the Covenant refers only to the gold-plated, rectangular box that contained something so holy it could not be mentioned by name. According to the Old Testament, this sacred something was the pair of tablets bearing the ten commandments. But other Hebrew tradition (the Talmud) indicates the Ark enclosed two sapphires written with the “Tables of the Law.” “Sapphires” were not meant to be taken literally, but intended to suggesting “precious stone.” Moreover, the original Hebrew did not specify two tablets, but rather a single, double-inscribed sapphire. Over the course of time and numerous translations, this “single, double-inscribed sapphire” became two, separate, unwieldy tablets carried by Moses most famously as Michelangelo’s renaissance statue and Cecil B. DeMille’s Charlton Heston.
Originally, the “sapphire” was, according to Hebrew tradition, a single precious stone featuring the Ten Commandments. This was the real and sole object inside the ark. Its “covenant” referred to a particular bond, agreement or compact that existed between God and the Israelites. The “law” was only the mundane part of that relationship, which became uniquely special only when Yahweh materialized as a “fiery cloud” above the ark. During such appearances, we are told, the Hebrews became his “chosen people.” Although custodians of the ark for more than six hundred years, they were neither the first nor the last people to possess it. All the cultures through which it passed gave the artifact their own names. To the Israelites, it was the Aron ha Berit, literally, the “Ark of the Covenant.”
To the Egyptians before them, it appears that it was the Ben-Ben, or Bennu, the “stone of destiny,” or “Phoenix stone,” because of the fiery energy that occasionally glowed in the clear stone. In tracing this remarkable object from its mythic origins, through the ancient world into the Middle Ages and modern times, my book, Opening the Ark of the Covenant argues that it was, and still is, a specimen of almost incomprehensibly sophisticated technology crafted thousands of years ago. The “stone” in question was, I am convinced, a solid-state electronic device, a kind of ultra-sensitive capacitor able to receive, store, magnify and discharge various forms of energy directed at it. When, for example, Joshua instructed his fellow Israelites to shout on his command and blare their trumpets, as reported in Exodus, the Ark of the Covenant resonated with their audio input, directing its amplification in an ultra-high frequency that pulverized the fortified walls of Jerico.
As such, I believe, it could have been used as a sonic-cannon, a virtual biblical “weapon of mass-destruction” that could have allowed a numerically out-numbered tribe of shepherds to over power other peoples far more traditionally accustomed to military campaigning than themselves. Its crystal could have been sensitive to other forms of resonance. When installed inside the so-called “King’s Chamber” of Egypt’s Great Pyramid, as I believe evidence shows that it was, it transduced geophysical pressures, transforming seismic energies into harmless and useful electrical discharge, thereby ameliorating the worst effects of earthquake violence. At such moments, the crystal, apparently, produced a dramatic side-effect by generating negative ions that may have interfaced with the consciousness of anyone in its general vicinity.
Negative-ion therapy is today used by modern medical practitioners in the place of anesthesia for patients overly sensitive to conventional treatment. When the hippocampus section of the brain is subjected to an intense concentration of negative ions, persons often experience otherworldly euphoria, visions of gods or angels, spiritual catharsis, mystical epiphany, plus a deep sense of inner peace and well-being. Referred to as “the God part of the brain,” the hippocampus could be the seat of the human soul, or, at any rate, a psychological connection with religious feelings. It was, I suspect, this ability of the “Stone of Destiny” to transform human consciousness that exceeded even its practical applications as a “wonder-weapon” and anti-earthquake device. Exposure to the crystal thus confirmed the reality of life’s spiritual dimension on an intimately profound, personal level, making all other material considerations seem far less significant.
Accordingly, the power stone was always in the stewardship of a select group—sometimes an order or brotherhood, usually a family—of men who understood its proper use. The biblical version of these caretakers were the Levites. They alone administered to the Ark of the Covenant, and only their high priest—the Cohen Gadol—had direct access to it just once a year. Whenever he entered, say some sources, he was dressed in the ephod, a full-length, asbestos-like gown, his right leg shackled to a long chain held at it other end by fellow Levites hiding behind the great doors of the Debir. In the event the Cohen Gadol’s ephod did not adequately protect him from one of the unexpected static discharges from the ark, and he was knocked unconscious or killed, the chain was used to haul his body out of the holy-of-holies into the main hall of the temple.
These precautions were not unjustified. The Old Testament reports that thousands of Jews were killed by the capricious Aron ha Berit. The earliest known guardians of the crystal capacitor it contained, it is said, were the sons of Belial. This was the name Edgar Cayce learned from the akasic records he claimed to study during his “life readings.” Famous as “the Sleeping Prophet,” he was the outstanding psychic of the 20th century, primarily a medical intuitive, but occasionally given to visions of prehistory. Cayce often spoke of the lost empire of Atlantis, an oceanic civilization he described as more technologically and psychically more advanced than anything that has come since. At the center of its magnificence was the Tuoai, or “fire stone,” a great crystal once in the keeping of the sons of Belial.
Unfortunately, they were aggressive materialists, said Cayce, more interested in personal than spiritual wealth, and so abused the Tuoai in their determination to excavate mineral riches that they unleashed geological forces that destroyed their own society. Escaping with the “fire stone” before Atlantis was utterly destroyed, a rival faction known as the children of the Law of One made their way to the distant Nile Valley. There they cooperated with the indigenous inhabitants to build a new home of the Tuoai, the Great Pyramid. This, in brief, is Edgar Cayce’s story of the original Atlantean crystal and its relocation to Egypt. Remarkably, it is at least partially borne out by archaeological information he never suspected.
For example, the land on which the Great Pyramid stands, familiar today as the Giza Plateau, was known during dynastic times as the Place of the Tuoai. Cayce’s name for the “fire stone” of Atlantis and its removal to the Delta coincide with the same name used by the ancient Egyptians to describe the precinct of the Great Pyramid. Once installed in that immense structure, it was under the protection of an elite guard-unit, the Rosthau, or “Watchers.” Like the Levites to come, they allowed no one inside, save their high priest. For nearly two thousand years after the Pyramid’s construction, numerous generations of Rosthau stood watch over the mountainous monument of the Ben-Ben, or Bennu “Phoenix Stone,” as the Egyptians called the old Atlantean Tuoai.
In 1227 B.C., as the story goes, the Nile Delta was attacked and occupied by fleets of “Sea Peoples,” a coalition of piratical veterans displaced by the Trojan War. Taking advantage of the chaos, Ramose Khamenteru, the Pharaoh’s chief vizier, or right-hand man, staged his own uprising against the Egyptian authorities by siding with the foreign invaders. Ramose’s mobs swept aside the Rosthau, allowing him to break into the Great Pyramid, and remove the Ben-Ben from its granite coffer in the King’s Chamber. When Pharaoh’s forces unexpectedly turned the tide of battle against the “Sea Peoples” and expelled them from the Delta, the ex-vizier and his followers, fearing retribution, fled into the Sinai desert with the “Stone of Destiny.” According to this account, it became their own Ark of the Covenant, and Ramose became Moses.
The Aron ha Berit, it is claimed in esoteric tradition, enabled its Hebrew handlers to survive against otherwise overwhelming opposition and to conquer their way to the promised land. There, atop Jerusalem’s Mount Moriah, around 900 B.C., the temple was erected specifically to enshrine the sacred object, which had already been in the keeping of the Levites for some three centuries. Under the stimulus of earth-generated negative ions, Solomon became the wisest man of his times and Israel ascended into its golden age. Over time, abuse yet again engendered catastrophe, when the Babylonians seized Jerusalem, and razed the temple to the ground in their determined efforts to possess the ark. Prior to the city’s capitulation, it is said, the Levite high priest, the Cohen Gadol, had lowered the golden box with its incomparable “sapphire” through a cunningly engineered trapdoor into a shaft descending vertically 150 feet through solid limestone. Thus effectively concealed, it could not even be retrieved by the Israelites themselves when they returned to Mount Moriah after seven generations in “Babylonian Captivity.”
Four hundred years later, King Herod I built the second temple, but he too failed to relocate the ark. It remained lost throughout the Roman era and the fall of the Classical World, well into the Dark Ages that followed. But with the capture of Jerusalem by Crusaders in 1103, local rumors of the ark’s subterranean whereabouts began to surface. The city had been captured by Godfroi de Bouillon, who instituted the Order of the Holy Sepulcher for the purpose of locating the gold box. The order was limited to a handful of his family members, whose most prominent member, Baudoin de Boulogne, became the first Crusader king of Jerusalem. As Baudoin I, he erected a heavily fortified castle called the “Royal Mountain,” Montreal, in the Holy Land, to store and protect the anticipated discovery. But he died before that great find could be made.
The king was succeeded by his cousin, Baudoin de Bourcq, now Baudoin II. In 1119, he inaugurated La milice du Christ, “the Poor Knights of Christ,” better remembered as the Knights Templar, who secretly excavated his palace grounds atop Mount Moriah. After nine years of unremitting labor, it is said, their persistence was rewarded when they retrieved the Ark of the Covenant intact from the bottom of its deep shaft where it had been hidden since the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. The Templars smuggled it out of Jerusalem and into France, determined to prevent their incomparable treasure from falling into the hands of either Muslims or popes.
In early 1128, I believe, they concealed it at the Cistercian monastery of Citeaux, headed by Bernard de Clairvaux, today remembered as Saint Bernard. But close proximity to the holy object effected him adversely, and the Templars removed it from his monastery, placing it into the hands of a new, related brotherhood. For the remainder of the 12th and into the 13th century, the Cathars, known widely as the bons hommes, or “good men,” preserved their sacred charge at another Montreal—Montreal-de-Sos, in central France. The Hebrews’ Aron ha Berit henceforth figured into Western European traditions of the Holy Grail, from the ancient Gallic word for “power,” gral. Learning of its location, Pope Innocent III launched a massive crusade against the Cathars, who escaped to their mountaintop fortress in the Pyrenees.
But with the discovery of the Americas, the De Bouillon-Baudoins began to plan for the artifact’s removal from endemically corrupt Europe into the purity of the New World. To that end, they formed a semi-secret society, the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrament, a covert version of Godfroi de Bouillon’s Order of the Holy Sepulcher and Knights Templar. Some of its members referred to themselves as the Villa Maries, or “House of Mary,” and left for Canada in 1642. In the middle of the St. Lawrence River, on a mountainous island they called Montreal after the other “Royal Mountains” used as repositories for the Ark, they broke ground for the realization of their dream—the New Jerusalem, a re-creation of Solomon’s Temple. After more than thirty years of difficult work compounded by the native Indians’ murderous hostility, the Villa Maries had completed Bon-Secours Chapel, and sent word back to France that they were ready to receive the sacred centerpiece for their holy-of-holies.
In 1667, Pere Jean Beaudoin, a Jesuit priest and member of the Grail family, crossed the Atlantic Ocean with the ark to Montreal, where it was installed in the New Jerusalem. What became of it forms the climax to my book Opening the Ark of the Covenant. For purposes of our discussion here, it is interesting to observe that, throughout its history—as long as that of civilized man himself—this supremely holy object was always in the care of an elite priesthood, a brotherhood, or order of family-related custodians. Beginning in Atlantis, it was possessed and ultimately misused by the sons of Belial before it was saved by the children of the Law of One. I believe that they escaped with it from the destruction of their homeland to the Nile Delta, where they set it up inside the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid, guarded day and night by the Rosthau, the “Watchers.”
When they lost it during the Sea Peoples’ invasion that swept over Lower Egypt, it fell into the hands of Israel’s Levite priests. Godfroi de Bouillon founded the Order of the Holy Sepulcher composed of his relatives to search for the lost ark. As the Knights Templar, they found it, returned with their charge to France, and entrusted it to yet another band of stewards, the Cathars. With their immolation, it passed back into a 17th century version of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, the Compagnie du Saint-Sacrament. Its last caretakers were the Villa Maries, the inheritors of an unbroken tradition extending back over thousands of years and across half-a-dozen different societies to ancient Atlantis. No less compelling than this organizational legacy was the consistency of experience encountered by persons brought into close proximity with the energized artifact.
Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep IV became obsessed with it, so much so, that he created a new religion, an alien monotheism around the Ben-Ben, and changed his name to Akhenaton, “Potent Spirit of the Sun.” In 1355 B.C., he had the “Stone of Destiny” transferred from the Great Pyramid to his private shrine at Akhetaton, a new city he built in the desert wilderness for the practice of his heretical cult. Over-exposure with it, I believe, drove him mad, physically deformed him, and probably resulted in his early death. When Baudoin II was irradiated by the burst of negative ions streaming from the freshly discovered ark of the Covenant, he abdicated his throne over one of the most influential kingdoms of the Middle Ages, even though he had no son or heir, handing over the crown to his daughter, Melisande, a shockingly unprecedented move, and spent the rest of his life in monastic seclusion in Jerusalem’s Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher.
A complete catalog of men and women transformed by this powerful device would be a long one. The Ark of the Covenant epitomizes the dilemma of technology, which, to paraphrase Frederick Nietzsche, is beyond Good and Evil. Technology is amoral, and, if used properly, is the tool by which mankind may ascend toward godhood. If abused, it turns against us. Here is the old story of Promethean fire, which, when misused, burns the home it formerly warmed, or destroys the food it once cooked.
The Egyptian “stone of destiny” that made civilization possible in the earthquake-prone Nile Valley drove a pharaoh to ruin; the Ark of the Covenant that made Solomon wise, electrocuted thousands of his own “chosen people”; the grail that inspired the gothic revival called down upon itself a fratricidal crusade. In the hands of well-intended persons, it illuminates the world. But controlled by ambitious men, its power becomes self-destructive. If so, then perhaps the Ark of the Covenant, given the current spiritual development of humanity, is better off undiscovered.