God commands Noah to bring forth all the inhabitants of the Ark that they may “breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply.” Noah opens the door of the ark and leads its passengers out to a purified earth. God reestablishes His covenant with man, a covenant that had been broken by Noah’s ancestors. He causes a rainbow to appear in the sky as a token of His renewed relationship: “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.”
We take the renewal of God’s covenant with man to represent a revival of a lost understanding. Time plays a pivotal role in reducing the most intelligent societies to chaos, so that dissolution is, sooner or later, inevitable. The greatest traditions lose their vitality with Time; civilization replaced by barbarism and culture by ignorance. The once glorious Rome is reduced to blood-thirsty paganism; the once spiritual Christendom becomes a merciless inquisition; Mathematical Islam degenerates into fundamental violence and the industrious Mayans revel in human sacrifice. Time corrupts the best of civilizations, which must then be dissolved and reinvented anew for the continuance of mankind.
Ancient Wisdom Revived
Seen metaphorically, the Ark myth illustrates a process that runs parallel to this inevitable decline. A minority of individuals, elected by their sensitivity to perceive what is happening around them and to value the Ancient Wisdom of their degenerating cultures, set about safekeeping it for future use. But wisdom, being intangible, cannot be preserved physically. In order to be preserved, it must first be embodied in physical form. This marks the birth of great literature, art and architecture, that outlives its authors and seeds new civilizations, just like the members of Noah’s Ark survived to repopulate the new world.
The destructive nature of Time forces this process to repeat again and again, for no human creation can survive indefinitely. This provides another possible explanation to the universal popularity of the ark myth: whether or not a cataclysmic disaster ever happened, all cultures and civilizations became familiar with the principle of creating Arks that would preserve their Ancient Wisdom through the floods of Time. Otherwise, by now, the whole of mankind would have long been reduced to nothing more than savage brutes.