What’s the real meaning behind the symbol of the rainbow in the Bible? We’ve all heard the story; after Noah’s flood, God places a rainbow in the sky as a token of his covenant to never destroy the earth again in a deluge.
We can assume that there is a deeper mystical meaning to the rainbow since a literal interpretation of its account in Genesis isn’t logical; it would be impossible that a rainbow had never appeared in the sky before Noah’s flood! But this is what the language of the Bible implies. Genesis 9:2-14 states:
“And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, the bow shall be seen in the cloud.”
I once had a Biblical literalist tell me that a rainbow had never appeared on earth before because it had never rained! They cited Genesis 2:6, which states that God watered the earth by a mist from the ground. But rainbows can even form in mist! A surfer spraying ocean water in the air can result in a rainbow. Rainbows can form from the mist over mountains or at the top and bottom of waterfalls. In fact, the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls, produces some of the most gorgeous rainbows every single day!
We know rainbows can form anytime there are water droplets in the air and the sun is shining from the rear of that droplet at lower altitudes. The sunlight is reflected and refracted through the water droplet in a way that breaks up white light into many colors (a prism). Rainbows can form just about anywhere there is water and sunlight under certain circumstances.
Are we really to believe that for thousands of years before the flood no man ever saw a rainbow? Of course not. So what’s the real meaning of the rainbow, and why is it inserted into Noah’s flood story?
The rainbow is an ancient mystical symbol. It is the mystical bridge in the sky symbolizing the higher mental plane, the actual bridge between our higher and lower natures (heaven and earth). God is the divine self in heaven, our highest nature. The earth, the training ground for the ego, is considered our lower nature, and as we’ll see in a moment, the higher mental plane (a vehicle for the development of our consciousness), is the natural bridge between these two natures.
This is what it means when God states, “…it shall be a token of a covenant between me (the divine self) and the earth (the lower self).
Consider how the ancient Polynesian culture viewed the rainbow. In W. Ellis’s writings, Polynesian Researches, he states:
“The god Oro fixed the rainbow in the heavens…forming his pathway to the earth…Every evening he descended on the rainbow, and returned by the same pathway on the following morning to the heavenly regions.”
In the above imagery we see God in man. The divine spark inherent in every soul descends to earth spiritually in the dark (“every evening”) and ascends back to heaven in spiritual light (“the following morning”). And the rainbow is God’s path.
Consider how perfect this symbol really is when we break down the other symbols that actually produce the rainbow. The sun, which produces the light that becomes reflected and refracted in rain droplets in order to form the colors of the rainbow, represents the highest plane and divinity. The water droplets that come down from the clouds symbolize truth. The water droplets originate in the clouds. Clouds are also symbolic of consciousness on the higher mental plane. Another way to put it would be to say that truth (the water droplets) come from the higher mental plane (clouds).
The higher mental plane is the plane of causal matter where objective truth about any situation can be instantly perceived. It makes sense then that this aspect of the divine self is the bridge that links the godhead to humanity.
The rainbow appears in the story after Noah’s flood because it is God’s promise to humanity that union with the divine can be attained again. The deluge represented an end to the great ignorance of man’s spiritual estate in heaven. The story of Noah and the ark is also a story about higher and lower consciousness, not a literal flood that destroyed every living creature. You can read more about that in the post, Noah, the Ark, and Higher Consciousness.
What Are Some of the Ways We Can Activate Consciousness in the Higher Mental Plane?
There are two main ways we can cross the bridge of the rainbow and return, like Noah or the god Oro, to the divine realm. One is the active way and the other is the passive way. The active way involves individual pursuits, like meditation, visualization exercises, contemplative prayer, mantras, and conceptual thinking. The passive way involves forgetting about one’s self and serving others. This doesn’t just mean giving your life up for someone else or becoming a Mother Theresa. You can serve just by “being” with someone in a time of need. Every kind act changes the universe and the consciousness therein.