The Old Testament flood for which Noah built his ark is a pivotal development in history. Man is portrayed as ending one phase of his existence and beginning again with a clean slate. The ark made by Noah from God's instructions was the means through which humanity was preserved instead of being annihilated. An event which comes close to exterminating a population and altering a landscape made an imprint on the psyche. A complex of images developed around the story of the flood which kept the memory of it alive as a continually developing symbol.
Elements of the multifaceted symbol which developed around the 40 day rain and subsequent inundation include: the ark, the flood, the preservation of the species, the dove, the olive branch, the rainbow. As an event which incorporated negative aspects (such as punishment for sins, and destruction of the environment and its inhabitants), and positive aspects (such as saving of a remnant of the living things on the planet, and resulting in a promise that such an event of destruction would not recur), it offers itself for a symbol encompassing both destruction and reconstruction.
To focus on a single facet of the multifaceted image we look at the ark as Blake incorporated it. The ark is a safe feminine place of refuge as is Beulah.
|Yale Center for British Art Jerusalem, |
|Yale Center for British Art Jerusalem, |
Damon, Page 286
"It is the function of the female to provide a moony space of refuge and rest for the male."
Jerusalem, Plate 69, (E 223)
"& not like Beulah
Where every Female delights to give her maiden to her husband
The Female searches sea & land for gratification to the
Male Genius: who in return clothes her in gems & gold
And feeds her with the food of Eden. hence all her beauty beams
She Creates at her will a little moony night & silence
With Spaces of sweet gardens & a tent of elegant beauty:
Closed in by a sandy desart & a night of stars shining.
And a little tender moon & hovering angels on the wing.
And the Male gives a Time & Revolution to her Space
Till the time of love is passed in ever varying delights
For All Things Exist in the Human Imagination
And thence in Beulah they are stolen by secret amorous theft,"
Damon, Page 300
"As all forms of water signify matter, the flood was the overwhelming of mankind with Matter, which separated them from Eternity. This is the Sea of Time and Space in which we are all submerged. ...
The Ark, which preserved Noah and his family, symbolizes Love: consequently Blake depicted it as a crescent moon."
The achievement of the flood is the separation of intellect and love that each may be differentiated and defined. A tension must develop between the two so that the roles of each may be clarified. They are not meant to be enemies but friends who will be reunited when they have learned the lessons of misguided independence. Interdependence reunites them through the incarnation.
One of the forms Ololon assumes as Blake's Milton is concluding is that of an ark.
Damon, Page 308
"Then as a Moony Ark Ololon descended...into the Fires of Intellect" (42:7-9): love and intellect combined. The Starry Eight become Jesus; Ololon's clouds are his wedding garment; and Jesus becomes one with mankind (42:19). The mystical union has been achieved, and Blake falls fainting on his garden path."
Milton, Plate 42 , (E 143)
"So saying, the Virgin divided Six-fold & with a shriek
Dolorous that ran thro all Creation a Double Six-fold Wonder!
Away from Ololon she divided & fled into the depths
Of Miltons Shadow as a Dove upon the stormy Sea.
Then as a Moony Ark Ololon descended to Felphams Vale
In clouds of blood, in streams of gore, with dreadful thunderings
Into the Fires of Intellect that rejoic'd in Felphams Vale
Around the Starry Eight: with one accord the Starry Eight became
One Man Jesus the Saviour. wonderful! round his limbs
The Clouds of Ololon folded as a Garment dipped in blood
Written within & without in woven letters: & the Writing
Is the Divine Revelation in the Litteral expression:
A Garment of War, I heard it namd the Woof of Six Thousand Years"
In the development of the human psyche a major transition occurs when the mind attains an ability to focus on specific things rather than being immersed in an undifferentiated consciousness over which it has no control. When this happens the mind separates individual objects, events and experiences from one another. This may be described as being flooded with the world of materiality because what was experienced as a unity becomes many. A consciousness of the material, the world outside the mind, washes away the previous diffuse awareness.
Blake's ark is the safety net provided by Eternity in the time of the flood. The focused consciousness (the flood of the material) becomes the masculine side of the psyche and the unifying consciousness (of love, rest and repose) becomes the feminine side.
Four Zoas, PAGE 104 (SECOND PORTION), (E 377)
"Come Lord Jesus come quickly
So sang they in Eternity looking down into Beulah.
The war roard round Jerusalems Gates it took a hideous form
Seen in the aggregate a Vast Hermaphroditic form
Heavd like an Earthquake labring with convulsive groans
Intolerable at length an awful wonder burst
From the Hermaphroditic bosom Satan he was namd
Son of Perdition terrible his form dishumanizd monstrous
A male without a female counterpart a howling fiend
Fo[r]lorn of Eden & repugnant to the forms of life
Yet hiding the shadowy female Vala as in an ark & Curtains
Abhorrd accursed ever dying an Eternal death
Being multitudes of tyrant Men in union blasphemous
Against the divine image. Congregated Assemblies of wicked men.
"For more about masculine and feminine consciousness read Sukie Colgrave's Uniting Heaven and Earth: A Jungian and Taoist Exploration of the Masculine and Feminine in Human Consciousness.