The word “deluge” hails from the Latin “diluvium,” meaning to wash away or dissolve. The Deluge, as a world-shaping event, is recorded in the collective mythologies of nearly every ancient culture from Pre-Inca Tiahuanacu, the story of Vishnu and Manu in the Hindu tradition, and the Turtle Island myth of the Anishinaabe to our most antiquated accounts in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and “The Book of Genesis.” The common narrative that binds them is the meeting of a man (often a demi-god) with a greater divinity. The divine being warns the man of the coming flood and gives him instructions to build a ship, in which he is taken away to a Holy Mountain where he waits until the Earth is restored or cleansed by the waters. One of the most interesting details of Deluge mythology is the adaptation of the myth to best suit the cosmological understanding of the culture meant to receive it. Both the ancient Sumerian and primitive Hebrew cultures relied heavily upon the symbolic use of numbers to transmit ideas. Through examination of numerical variations in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” in relation to “The Book of Genesis,” one will discover that although the details of Deluge mythology are as divergent as human culture, this is not a result of the mistranslation of an ancient historical account, but an adaptation of symbols to conjure the same meaning; thus transcending both cultural and religious differences, in order to communicate “the secret of the gods.”
Zecharia Sitchin stated, “the Sumerian tales of the Gods of Heaven and Earth, of the Creation of Man and of the Deluge, were the fountainhead from which the other nations of the ancient Near East drew their knowledge, beliefs and “myths”… It is also generally accepted by now, that the biblical tales of the Creation and of the events leading to the Deluge are condensed Hebrew versions of the Sumerian traditions”(143). The main difference between the Hebrew accounts and Sumerian accounts were in the Sumerian claims and elaborations that their heroes, such as Utanapishtim, Adapa, and Enoch, were awarded their immortality. While Enoch’s ascent to the Heavens is included in the Hebrew accounts, it is relatively brief in comparison to the extreme detail of the Sumerian tablets. The quest against mortality is the quintessential and defining theme of the hero’s journey throughout the collected works of mankind. In fact, the knowledge of our own death seems to be determining factor that separates homo sapiens from the “lower realm” of the animal kingdom. So in order to understand the heroes of these two texts, we must understand their shared myth of man’s beginning.
In the Sumerian and Hebrew records alike, the story of human mortality begins in the Garden of Eden (E.DIN, a Sumerian word meaning “the abode of the righteous ones”). The Adam (plural in Sumerian, singular in Hebrew) were placed in the garden by the creator gods (plural in Sumerian, singular in Hebrew) in order to “dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest therof thou shalt surely die… And [Adam and Eve] were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (King James Bible, Genesis 2:15-25).
We all know this story very well. The serpent (or Ea/Enki in Sumerian tradition) entered the garden and seduced Eve saying, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). Adam and Eve both ate the fruit. When God (or Enlil) finds out what happened, he became angry saying “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever: … So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3: 22-24). This flaming sword cut off man from the presence of God/gods and since that day, man has sought to regain his place in the presence of the divine.
Tablet XI of “The Epic of Gilgamesh” begins with Gilgamesh’s inquiry of Utanapishtim’s achievement of eternal life: “You are just as I am. Indeed, you are not different at all, you are just as I am! … You then, how did you join the ranks of the gods and find eternal life?” (3-7). Utanapishtim replies “I will reveal to you, O Gilgamesh, a secret matter, And a mystery of the gods I will tell you” (9-10). Utanapishtim then relates the tale of the Deluge. This establishes the Deluge story as the very vehicle in which Utanapishtim chooses to deliver the secret of immortality.
Due to familiarity with the narrative, it’s easy to question how the Deluge story has anything to do with immortality. The temptation always looms, especially in the case of mythologies directly tied to the predominant beliefs of contemporary culture, to overlook key details of these texts in favor of a very literal interpretation. However, in order to penetrate the story of the Deluge, the numbers must be considered to gain the tale’s full meaning. In both the Sumerian and Hebrew traditions, numerical values held special symbolic meanings. The Sumerian “pantheon” of the Gods were ranked in order of an assigned number. Anu, in the high heavens, was associated with the rank of 60. Enlil (Lord Earth) was ranked 50, Ea/Enki 40, and so on. The reason for Anu’s rank of 60, being the highest, is that the number 60 showed the relationship between sexagesimal and decimal based mathematics, through its containment of both base numbers 6 and 10. Sexagesimal systems to this day are still used in the measurement of angles, time and geographic coordinates hailing from the Sumerian culture. Not only does the ratio between 10 and 6 reveal the Golden Ratio, but also the reason why it is important in the first place.
Anu’s home was on a planet called Nibiru. One full rotation of Nibiru around its orbital axis is equivalent to 3,600 years on Planet Earth or 1 Sar. The 10/6 Golden Ratio was extracted from the relationship between the numbers 3,600 and 2,160. 2,160 is exactly 30 degrees or 1/12th of the Precession of the Equinoxes which occurs every 25,920 years (2,160 is also a common number seen throughout all spiritual systems. For example, the Tibetans believe that the human body contains 21,600 chakras or energy centers- 30 degrees multiplied by the 10 spheres. The significance of this will be expounded upon later.). Anu’s number showed the relationship of Nibiru time to Earth time.
In “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” Ea instructs Utanapishtim “Wreck house, build boat, Forsake possessions and seek life… The boat you shall build. Let her dimensions be measured out: Let her width and length be equal… Ten dozen cubits, the height of her sides, Ten dozen cubits square, her outer dimensions”(11.24-59). These are the directions Ea gives for the ship, but not for a ship we tend to think about in modern, conventional terms. Ea is describing a cube. Another important thing to consider is a common mistranslation of the Sumerian language of the word “shem.” Often “shem” is translated to mean “a name.” Gilgamesh constantly states that he must raise a shem or a name for himself. However, many scholars have determined “a name” may be an incorrect translation. Shem actually means “a ship.” Therefore, Utanapishtim is receiving instructions from Ea on how “to raise a shem.”
Due to our common Western interpretation of the Deluge, we’re likely to think that this ship was constructed with the purpose to navigate literal “waters” and our common sense rebels against the idea of a ship being constructed in the shape of a cube. To understand this reasoning, we must examine the length of each this cube’s sides: ten dozen cubits. Why ten dozen? The appearance of the number twelve is significant. Within the Sumerian/Babylonian pantheon, just as the Greek pantheon, there are twelve gods. Christ also had twelve apostles, there are twelve tribes of Israel, and twelve astrological signs. Most importantly, there are twelve divisions in the Precession of Equinoxes that create the Golden Ratio with Nibiru, that same high heaven in which both Utanapishtim and Gilgamesh wish to ascend. In this sense the number 12, refers to a full cycle of time in relation to the shape of a sphere. Therefore in giving the measurements for a cube, Ea simultaneously gives measurements for a sphere, therefore “sphering the cube.” The “10” refers to the 10 concentric circles of AIN SOPH, which in the Hebrew tradition are correlated with the emanations of God. God is located at the center and our universe at the most-outer sphere. Therefore, what Ea is describing is not an “ark” in the traditional way of thinking, but in fact directions for Utanapishtim to ascend through time back into the presence of the gods.
Ea then repeats himself and gives this same direction in a different manner saying “I decked her in six, I divided her in seven, Her interior I divided in nine” (11.61-64). The number six once again refers to the cube via the six sides of a hexagram. When the centers are connected you have a cube. The number seven refers to the sphere. With any sphere, if you expand its circumference at the vesica piscis, and add an additional six spheres that meet at Golden Ratio cross sections in equal divisions, you will create an outer sphere exactly twice the circumference of the original. This holds true ad infinum. In the same way, if you fit these same seven spheres exactly within the circumference of any other sphere, the circumference of each of the seven will be exactly half of the original, continuing on in infinite progression. This is the pattern of unfolding of the concentric spheres of AIN SOPH. Therefore, once again Ea’s instructions “sphere the cube.” He then refers to the nine divisions within the cube. If you are familiar with pictorial depictions of Ea/Enki, he is often shown sitting upon a cube with 9 divisions within it (This is something he holds in common with another “Lord of the Deep,” Poseidon. Even Homer refers to Poseidon numerically with nine divisions of nine. Ref. The Odyssey, Book III). This nine represents the ultimate threshold or void before the presence of God. In musical terms, this is the last invisible half-step before the shift in octaves.
Ea’s further instructions also must be taken symbolically rather than literally. “Thrice thirty-six hundred measures of pitch I poured in the oven. Thrice thirty-six hundred measures of tar I poured out inside her. Thrice thirty-six hundred measures of basket-bearers I brought aboard for oil” (11. 66-68). Ea is not referring to measurements of tar or pitch, but he is referring to Sars, the Elohim’s (council/pantheon of the 12 gods) own measurement of time, described with three sets of three as a description of the threshold. This threshold, is what we know as “the flood.”
Utanapishtim continues his tale, “Six days and seven nights the wind continued, the deluge and windstorm leveled the land. When the seventh day arrived… the sea grew calm, the tempest stilled, the deluge ceased… I looked at the edges of the world, the borders of the sea, At twelve times sixty double leagues the periphery emerged. The boat had come to rest on Mount Nimush” (11. 130-144). Once again, we are given six in relation to seven or the “sphering of the cube.” When the seventh day comes, the rains stop. In terms of the seven spheres, the larger sphere is completed and the threshold is crossed culminating at 360 degrees. The reference to “twelve times sixty” is also significant. Deconstructing the first layer of symbolism, we see the council of 12 or Elohim surrounding the throne of Anu (rank number 60) in the high heavens. The sum equals 720 or 72 times 10. If you take the 25,920 years in one full Precession of the Equinoxes and divide that by 360 degrees, you get 72. 72 is equal to one degree of the Precession. This final degree completes the Deluge and “the boat [comes] to rest on Mount Nimush” (11.144).
We’re all familiar with the Bible, which will be our first and major handicap. Probably the most common predicament in understanding the Bible comes from neglecting the fact the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. Hebrew is a mathematical language. Each of the 22 letters of the ancient Hebrew alphabet are associated with numerical values and hidden meanings. Aleph, for example, holds a value of 1, Beth, 2, etcetera. For that reason, the Kabbalah was established for the express purpose of interpreting the Holy texts with special attention and discipline paid to numerical values. In Kabbalistic legend, the Hebrew language was given to Moses along with the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai as the language Jehovah wished to use to converse with man. It’s been theorized that the 22 letters of the Hebrew language coordinate with everything from DNA chromosomes (the 23rd being the sex chromosome) to the 22 major trump cards of the Tarot. Thus when analyzing the Old Testament, it is an absolute necessity to examine not only the literal meaning of the translated words, but to also examine the mathematics of the language as well. It goes without saying, that without being fluent in Hebrew, true understanding of the text is impossible.
What we can examine are the changes in the numbers of the Hebrew version relative to the Sumerian record. In Genesis 6, we read “And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with outrage by them, and I am now about to destroy them, with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood… This is how you shall make it: three hundred cubits, the ark’s length; fifty cubits, its width: thirty cubits, its height” (“The Hebrew Bible”, Genesis 6. 163). Immediately, we see that the dimensions of the ark are completely different. It would be a simple assumption and a misstep to think that one of the texts must be translated or interpreted incorrectly. If approaching the Bible as a literal history, the ark must have been one size or another. But with the understanding of the Deluge as symbolic, these variations in the numbers can be seen as merely adaptations to the different cosmology of the Hebrews. To elucidate upon this fact, we’ll begin with the number 300, the number assigned to the letter “shin.” In the Kabbalah, shin coordinates to the RVCh AlHIM (Ruach Elohim) meaning the Spirit of God. Ruach means “a wheel” or “wind”- a revolving force. The Kaballah depicts the Ruach Alhim as a sword on fire, spinning in every direction or the flaming sword of Cherubim.
The second dimension, the number 50, becomes an important motif throughout the rest of the Genesis account. Noah’s age, the length of the flood, the length of Noah’s life after the flood and Noah’s total age are all multiples of 50. First off, every occurrence of “10” in the Kaballah is in reference to the ten Sephiroth or the ten concentric spheres of AIN SOPH. The Sephiroth, in most vulgar explanation, represent the emanations of God as: Unity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Justice, Mercy, Beauty, Victory, Progress, Foundation, and Man. Thus the number 50 can be reduced to “5 times 10.” The 5 refers to the five- pointed star of the Tetragrammaton. The Tetragrammaton, הוה י or YHWH in Latin, is the secret name of God. The five-pointed star represents the spiritualization of matter or the philosopher’s stone. This process is commonly identified with the cube. Therefore, when used in combination with the “wheel” from 300, we once again have the “sphering of the cube” just as in “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” The final dimension in the Hebrew account of the ark is the number 30, which relates to the divisions of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Multiplied by twelve, thirty gives you 360 degrees and the divisions of time. Although the numbers vary between the Sumerian and Hebrew accounts, they are actually depicting the exact same concept in the context of the cosmology which makes the most sense to either given culture. The meaning of the Deluge can now be defined: “sphering the cube” carries you across the deep to the threshold of time and brings you back into the presence of God/gods.
There is another detail in the Hebrew account that deserves special interest. “The waters multiplied and bore the ark upward and it rose above the earth… and all the high mountains under the heavens were covered. Fifteen cubits above them the waters surged as the mountains were covered” (Genesis 7. 164). The number 15 is the number of the devil trump in the Tarot. Read within this context, the evil spirits covered the earth and Mount Ararat, and the only way in which Noah could survive was aboard the ark. This reading is very closely related to the idea of the threshold introduced with Ea- that before one can enter into the presence of God/gods upon the mount, one must pass over the waters of the abyss.
In Tablet IX of “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” which is one of the most damaged of the recovered tablets, before Gilgamesh meets with Utanapishtim, he “started to advance towards Mount Mashu… After six days, he came unto the Mount… The Mount’s functions required it to be connected both to the distant heavens and to the far reaches of Earth… There was a way to go inside the Mount; but the entrance was closely guarded” (Sitchin 181). After providing an account of his partial divinity, Gilgamesh was permitted entry, “The Gate of the Mount is open to thee!” (Sitchin 182). While the rest of the tablet is broken or missing, there is a recurring motif that has been found upon cylinder seals in the surrounding areas of the original archeological site that illustrate the missing pieces of the storyline. These depictions show Gilgamesh ascending a winged ladder, protected by serpents, to the Tree of Life. The ascent took Gilgamesh to the 11th hour. When the 12th hour came, dawn broke and Gilgamesh saw “”an enclosure of the gods,” Wherein there “grew” a garden made up entirely of precious stones” (Sitchin 184). Before Gilgamesh even met with Utanapishtim, he had already experienced a “Deluge” himself!
So whether you are a Buddhist, traveling through the Bardo states to the jaws of Acala to reach the Rainbow state, a Pre-Inca riding the back of Quetzecoatl over the deep to the Island of the Sun, or found upon Noah’s ark for forty days and forty nights, the Deluge is a symbolic journey regardless of its historicity. It’s the same as “hero’s descent” for the quest of immortality. In the Sumerian and Hebrew cultures, numbers were an important mode of communication. Examining these texts within that context is necessary to unlock “the secret of the gods” from the understanding of their culture. But whether the numbers and symbols mean anything to you or not, what is most important is the question this analysis brings to the forefront: why is the story of the Deluge so universal?
Mythology is important because it communicates to the deeper side of our nature, like a beckon call to what is dark and what is hidden, but must awake and spring forth into life. The Deluge represents that great, deep abyss, the gods’ instructions are the philosopher’s stone, and the ark our innate power to lift ourselves across those waters, reaching the ladder to the heavens where we will find the Tree of Life and partake of the forbidden fruit. It is the immortal human quest against mortality, that we may once again bask in the new sun, “where gods [and Noah] in their dancing are ashamed of all clothes” (Nietzsche 169).
“The Epic of Gilgamesh”. The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Vol. A. Edited by
Martin Puchner. Third Edition, W. W. Norton and Company, New York, 2012.
“The Hebrew Bible”. The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Vol. A. Edited by
Martin Puchner. Third Edition, W. W. Norton and Company, New York, 2012.
The King James Bible. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, 1989. Print.
Levi, Eliphas. Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual. Martino Publishing, 2011.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Barnes and Noble Classics, 2005.
Sitchin, Zecharia. The Stairway to Heaven. Harper, 2007.
Photo by Samira Morrar, @raising_windhorse