Sunday, 10 September 2023

No More Sea

Commenters Lady Mermaid and J.M. Smith on the previous post about the oceanic feeling drew my attention to some interesting marine phrases in Revelation. The first comes from Revelation 21:1. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea." The second reference is in Revelation 4:6 where it says "Before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal" and then a bit further on we have Revelation 15: 2 with "I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name stand on the sea of glass with harps from God."

These two extracts refer to the end of time when good has finally ousted all evil from the world and the spiritual journey is complete. Creation is taken up into God as the New Jerusalem descends. However, they are a little different. The first is a factual statement. There is no more sea. The second doesn't seem to be meant literally. It alludes to something that looks like a sea of glass but is possibly not actually such. The image may just be used comparatively. Nevertheless, I think they are referring to a similar phenomenon and one that manifests on both the material and spiritual levels because at this stage in the operation these two have become one in the sense that the outer is now a perfect representation of the inner. The Fall has been reversed and time has fulfilled its purpose.

What does the sea symbolise? It is the primeval ocean from which life emerges once it has been fertilised by the spirit of God moving on the face of the waters. As Lady Mermaid says (and she should know!), it is chaos and formlessness, and as J.M. Smith points out, it is darkness and deep which are the symbols of origin. We know now what the writer of Genesis could not have known, that life started in the sea and only emerged onto dry land once it had reached a certain state of development.  But it's all there in Genesis.

The sea is potential. It is that from which life is formed once it has been impregnated by the Word of God. Hence, no more sea means that potential has been actualised. That which began in the Mother has been born, reached maturity and returned to the Father. What does return to the Father mean here? It means grown up to become like the Father.

In a psychological sense the sea is also the subconscious, that in which monsters lurk but also a source of imagination and creativity when illumined by the Logos. No more sea from this point of view means no more subconscious and that means that the individual, or, at the end of time, the whole human race, has become fully conscious. There are no dark hidden corners in consciousness. Everything has been irradiated by light. The body itself has become light. Occultists talk of the astral plane which is made up of the thoughts, desires, fears, aspirations and so on of humanity but a spiritually ignorant humanity separate from God. It is regarded as a vale of illusion even if it contains beauty. This astral plane is also the sea and for the disciple risen with Christ it ceases to exist, being replaced by that of which it is a manmade distortion which is the quality of love/wisdom.

The sea, then, is the ground of manifested existence, both physically and psychologically. No more sea means that the journey of evolving life is complete, and I would say that the sea of glass points to a similar reality. In the second quote it is mingled with fire which suggests divine love. Watery love implies something rather soft and bland, a generalised state of sentimentalised concern with feelings. But fiery love is intense, creative, genuinely passionate. The sea of glass symbolises emotions controlled, mastered, stilled. The saints stand on it so they can use it but they are not submerged in it, and the fire shows that unstable, changeable human emotions have been transformed into divine love.

Perhaps the whole evolutionary journey is to make water into light. Life must start in the waters which contain the nourishment to make God's thoughts grow. From its depths life emerges onto dry land but then the next stage is to take flight and go through the air up to fire which is the light of God. Could we say that our current refusal to accept the reality of spirit is a refusal to take the next stage of leaving the hard material earth and soar up to the sky, figuratively speaking? Some of want to return to the sea where we will only drown. Some want to stay on the physical earth but God is calling us to mount up to the heavens.


Kristor said...

Tehom; Tiamat; Waters of Chaos; Waters of rebirth; Living Water; Jordan; Baptism; Mikvot. The Sea of Glass was a huge mikveh standing before the portal of the Temple. Priests had to purify themselves before they could perform the liturgy of the Temple by, among other things, washing in a mikveh.

The wickedness must be washed away, must be rendered nil, to make room for in the economy of the spirit for righteousness.

The mikvot must be filled with living water; with, i.e., water that flowed ever fresh from a spring or river (most municipal water supplies these days meet this criterion, albeit distally).

"There is no more sea" then means that in the New Jerusalem, everything is forevermore immaculate, and stands forever in no need of purification.

This does not entail that - there being in it no chaos, no defect of being - there is in the New Jerusalem no longer any creation, no longer any novelty. Chaos - nonbeing, nothingness - is not the only ground of becoming. Orderly actuality is in fact a more fecund ground of novel creation than nothingness.

William Wildblood said...

A symbol can certainly be taken in more than one way so I don't disagree with the points you make but I don't think they invalidate what I have said here either. And yes, in the New Jerusalem creation carries on but it is a new creation, one that has been purged of all sin and decay. And surely the waters are not nothingness? Perhaps they themselves came ex nihil but they are still something not nothing.

Kristor said...

To be sure, the symbolic and literal denotations of the Sea of Glass I have relevated do not conflict with the points you here make. As to the waters, I suppose the right way to parse it is that they are not themselves nothingness – for in that case they would not be so as to be watery, or for that matter to be anything else – but that they are rather symbols of nothingness. The waters don’t refer to any actual thing, in just the way that Aristotle’s Prime Matter does not refer to any actual thing, or even to any form. Even bare potentiality per se is not nothing at all; albeit that, as potential, it is not actual.