What is the secret of this ancient love hidden in the Temple’s origins? What is the mystery of the Lost Ark, crowned by her sexually intertwined cherubic lovers? Why is the mythic ark’s metaphorical recovery so absolutely crucial for our lives? Could this ancient and esoteric wisdom have something radically new and important to say about the love lost in our lives and the road to its recovery? In a word, can the cherubs lead us back to love?
To understand the mystery of the Temple and what it has to teach us, we need to approach her more carefully. Indeed, the gradual approach towards the center is always the essential formula in the quest of the spirit. The Temple itself was built somewhat like an exquisite mandala. The mandala invites the gazer to pass through layer after layer of imagery before beholding its wondrous core. Similarly, we find that the Temple was a layered structure. The High Priest would ascend the great staircase to the outer Courtyard of Song, pass through the courtyard, into the chamber called the Holy, and from there into the inner most sanctum – the Holy of Holies. In this sanctum sanctorum of the Temple, behind fine brocaded curtains, stood the golden ark of the covenant. The ark contained within it the two tablets of stone upon which were carved the Ten Commandments.
Magical lapidary tablets, sculpted by the God-gripped hand of Moses himself. Most essential though is that which rests atop the ark. Sitting perched aloft the ark are our two winged figures – the celebrated cherubs.
Indeed, their cherubic faces have graced everything from the greatest works of art to countless covers of Hallmark cards. Yet here, according to the esoteric tradition, these images were not of the Hallmark variety. As we mentioned at the outset, these two cherubs were male and female, face to face, meurim zeh b’zeh – intertwined in sexual embrace. In the language of the Biblical source text the cherubs were, “As one embraced with his lover.” These carved creatures are the focal point, the epicenter of the mandala-like Temple space. They sit, like the guarded pupil of the eye, at the source of the sacred. That such provocatively sexual figurines would have such prominence in the Holy of Holies is mystery indeed. It is called by the Kabbalistic initiates the sod hakeruvim – the Secret of the cherubs. And though full initiation into this secret cannot be wholly transmitted in the pages of a book, together we can at least hint to its wonder and strive to scrutinize the inscrutable.