The Esoteric Meaning of the Ark of Noah and the Bigger Picture of the Flood Myth

by Joshua Tilghman on September 25, 2013

Noah's ArkIt’s been claimed that there are some amazing connections between Biblical stories and ancient Chinese writing. For example, many Christian websites proclaim that around seven hundred years before the Hebrew of the Old Testament was in use, an individual Chinese character that means “boat” seems to reveal the story of Noah and the Great Flood. Some Christians go so far as to argue that it proves the world-wide flood in Genesis literally happened. The argument is based on the following:

The ancient Chinese symbol for boat is made of up three characters, that, when taken together, represent a boat with eight people inside.

The first character means “vessel” or “boat.”

The second character means “eight.”

The third character means “person” or “mouth.”

Chinese character reveals noah's ark

Thus the symbol is eight people in a boat. As you already know, Noah’s Ark carried Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives for a total of eight.

Here’s a few websites promoting such information:

If you really want to get serious, check out the PDF article below:

Of course there are many other websites that seek to disprove the above arguments. One of the more popular ones is listed below. I recommend checking all of them out for yourselves.

So what’s my take on it? I certainly don’t believe it proves Noah’s Flood. Even though China has its own flood story, it doesn’t contain eight people in a boat. This is a big setback for those Christian websites which claim the ancient Chinese character for boat proves Noah’s flood.

I am also skeptical because there seems to be some good scholarly evidence that one of the characters in the ancient Chinese symbol means “divide,” not eight. But in the end it doesn’t really matter either way; both sides of the argument are wasting a lot of energy. Why do I say this? Because Noah’s Ark represents something much more spectacular than a boat.

Noah’s ark represents the causal body. For those of you who aren’t familiar with theosophy and other esoteric literature, the causal body is the storehouse for all the permanent qualities of the human soul. These permanent qualities are developed over many lifetimes, and they represent the real you. A new personality is possible through the process known as reincarnation because of everything that’s stored in the causal body. Although the personality that manifests each lifetime dies at death, there are qualities attained that you learned through experience in every lifetime that are permanent. These certain qualities are stored in the causal body after the dissolution of the physical body. Therefore the causal body is immortal as far as humanity is concerned. Of course one day humanity will evolve and even the causal body will be discarded in favor of something greater, but this is quite a long way off. We shouldn’t be concerned with that now.

Shed in this light, we can see that Noah’s Ark is a symbol for the preservation of our individuality. But the story isn’t just about the preservation of our individuality, it’s also about the preservation of the individuality that attains higher consciousness. This is what is really meant when the Biblical author states that:

“…Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.”

All those who “walked with God” in scripture represent the individual who attains higher consciousness.

Since Noah is the archetype of the individuality of the soul, his ark is the bodily vehicle (the causal body) that makes the evolving soul possible. Because Noah has earned the status of being obedient and righteous before the LORD, the ark/causal body is lifted up to manifest higher consciousness.

The causal body is part of the higher mental plane and the ark’s description fits this perfectly. According to Gaskell’s Dictionary:

“The ‘lower, second, and third stories’  are the three higher subplanes of the mental plane; as the casual body is situate on the higher mind plane above the lower consciousness which perceives it not.”

“The lower consciousness which perceives it not” is simply fancy language for the waking conscious activity of the individual manifested on the lower planes of mind, emotions, and the physical body.

The Real Possible Meaning of the Chinese Symbol and the Connection with Noah’s Flood Story

I have not looked into the Chinese symbol representing “boat” enough to say this with absolute certainty, but if there is a connection I am willing to bet it has something to do with the universal truths that govern the evolution of the soul. Perhaps the ancient Semites did have some beliefs which coincided with China’s ancient spirituality and the Chinese symbol simply reflects a universal spiritual knowledge. If the one of the characters in the symbol really does mean “divide” instead of eight, perhaps this is speaking of the division of the higher and lower self. Maybe this second character of the Chinese symbol meaning “boat” is used to mean both “eight” and “divide.”

Below is some other interesting evidence to consider.

Noah’s Three Sons

Noah’s three sons do not represent three literal people. Rather they are three active principles within the individual soul (Noah). They are will, action, and wisdom. As Gaskell’s Dictionary also points out, we can also refer to these attributes in their lower aspects as works, intelligence, and desire. Shem represents will, Japheth wisdom, and Ham desire.

In a sense, Noah’s three sons represent the attributes of the individual that are built and stored up inside the causal body. In the story of Noah’s ark, the literal sons spread out and repopulate the earth. This represents the life that is disseminated from the causal body into the physical plane in each incarnation.

When we step back and look at Noah’s flood story in panoramic view, we can see that it’s all about the preservation of the individuality so that a person can go from lower to higher consciousness through the manifestation of will, intelligence, and desire over many lifetimes until they reach “righteous” status. Fascinating!

The Bigger Picture of the Universal Flood Myth

We cannot deny the fact that a global flood exists in most ancient cultures all over the world. Many Christians see this as an opportunity to proclaim the Genesis account is literal. But the flood stories differ greatly in the details. Literally, these highly differing details seem to say that we cannot trust any of them as being based in literal fact. However it does make more sense to say that they contain a kernel of universal spiritual truth; rather than saying they prove a literal flood, I propose that they provide evidence of a universal truth buried deep within the human psyche and subconscious: namely, that the flood story represents the evolution of individual consciousness.

I believe that the earth has been through some cataclysmic changes (like major flooding) as a result of global warming and cooling trends over the last tens of thousands of years. There is scientific evidence for this. But to say that Noah’s flood was a reality is ludicrous. I have written about some of the reasons for this HERE.

In conclusion, I believe we must admit that the Bible and its sacred stories are much more powerful and productive if we view them as promoting universal spiritual truths about the soul rather than as literal stories.

In the next post I’ll delve a little more of the aftermath of Noah’s flood. We’ll look at more of the details, break them down symbolically, and hopefully come up with a much better alternative to the literal Christian account.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

jimthunderbird September 30, 2013 at 1:31 am

Very interesting post. I am a Chinese and I studied a bit about the symbol of eight and divide:

So really, the symbol for “eight” is base for “divide”.

You articles are very interesting and brings a lot of food for thought in my quest on the true meanings behind bible.

– Jim Thunderbird


Joshua Tilghman October 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm


Thanks for the link. Will be sure to check it out. And thanks for commenting!


anny September 30, 2013 at 10:17 am

Hi Joshua,

This is again a very interesting post. As far as people’s need to prove that Noah’s story literally happened is concerned, I must admit that I am kind of allergic to this need to prove (or disprove) anything whatever. I am not like a scientist who needs proof before he can accept anything and I feel that people are entitled to their own truth.

I am often unable to explain why or how I know what I know (sometimes I do not even have words for what it is that I know) but it is still my truth at that moment. It is as far as I can reach. I am aware of the fact that it might be no more than a step on the ladder but that does not bother me. It makes that I am not devastated when something later proves to be different than I had thought until then and I can gladly embrace my newfound truth as a higher step on the ladder. As it is, I think that we cannot possibly comprehend the Ultimate Truth as long as we live here on earth in a physical body, which is called ‘or’ (animal skin) in Hebrew and can also be read as ‘iwer’ (blind) after all. All we can do here is grow towards this Ultimate Truth by raising our awareness.

As such I agree with you that there is a universal truth that all people on earth share but lost contact with when we, mankind, descended into matter. Religions are nothing more than attempts to reconnect (religare in Latin) with this universal truth and so it should be obvious that we have a lot in common.

As far as interpretation of the Bible stories is concerned, there are many ways to interpret them. The Jewish tradition alone knows at least four different ones and has them stand side by side. Different interpretations can complement each other and do not necessarily contradict the other interpretations. Sometimes they lead to the same truth, as your and my methods often do, and at other times they lead to an additional truth that gives more relief to the whole.

I completely agree with the way you describe the meaning of Noah and the Ark but would like to add some insights from the side of the Hebrew language.

Noah (Noach really) means rest, as you already wrote yourself in one of your posts. The verb to rest is ‘nach’. It also shares the root ‘nach’ with the verb ‘nachem’, which means to comfort, to console.

Noach is written as the Hebrew characters nun and chet, 50-8, 58. As such other words and names which also have the numerical value of 58 such as ‘chen’ (which you find in the name Jochanan = John) have a meaning that has a connection. Chen means love, grace, mercy.

The name of the mountain from which Moses was allowed to look out over the Promised Land before he left this physical life is Nebo, 50-2-6, also 58. You can read this as 50-bo, the fifty (higher awareness) is in him. So when Moses climbed to the top of the mountain with this name, from where he had a complete overview, it meant he had left and risen above this physical life. No wonder no one could find his body! And no punishment here, as it is always interpreted!

When you reduce the number 58 by adding up the five and eight, you get thirteen, which is a magical number in more than one tradition. In Hebrew it is the numerical value of ‘echad’ (one, the One, oneness, unity) and ‘ahava’, love, unconditional love. Of course you can reduce it still further to four and then it stands for this material world in which we live. These meanings of the 58 (chen = mercy, grace, love) and 13, ‘ahava’ (also love), on which this 4 is built show that the purpose of our life in the material world is all about finally manifesting this unconditional love and grace.

Ark is teba in Hebrew. Besides ark it also means word. Logos in Greek as in St. John’s gospel. The word, the Logos, is what carries us above the waters of the Flood, which are of course the forces of the ego when they have gotten the upperhand, to the safe shore of the world of higher awareness. The word is the christ in us that becomes the Logos, the Christ, once we have reached the awareness of a Noach.

You mention the three stories of the Ark but you do not mention the three dimensions it had to have. The lenght of the Ark has to be 300 cubits, the breadth of it 50 cubits and the height 30 cubits. These numbers in a different order, 30-300-50, mean lashon, language. So the words used to describe the Ark are word and language. Maybe we should think or even meditate about the deeper implications of that. At the very least it means that we have to watch what we say and think very carefully.

You describe the three sons of Noach and what they mean. Three again, a trinity? Three, thirty, threehundred. These numbers are used a lot in this story. It reminds me of the word God which is also written in three characters which Deepak Chopra once explained as Generation – Organisation – Desintegration/Renewal. And someone else called it Creator – Creation process – Creation. It is all about a process.

As for the names themselves:

Shem in Hebrew means name; you can also read it as ‘sham’, there. Together they mean identity and place/destination/purpose.

Jafeth I could not find as such in the dictionary but I did see that almost all the words which contained the j and f have a meaning of beauty. I remember that the word ‘jofi’, beautiful, is used a lot in Israel. Or at least it was some thirty years ago.

When you add the numbers of this name: 10-80-400, you get 490, only ten short of 500 which symbolizes the world beyond this one. As you may remember, the last character of the Hebrew alfabeth is 400. 490 and 49 are also a completion of the seven. Moab, which was the last place where the people of Israel rested before entering the Promised Land, is written as 40-6-1-2, 49.

Ham is cham which means hot; this ties in with the interpretation of desire.



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