Tuesday, May 17, 2011

They hide in a luminous cloud

In our last post (A man a plan a canal etc.) we looked at the place on the Canal du Midi where scientific prowess meets mythological resonance.  Briefly put, there is a monument built upon seven great boulders at the watershed of the canal, which legend states will one day come together and herald the end of the world by a great flood or tidal wave.

It wasn't too great a leap to then briefly discuss the flood myth archetype and its Biblical variant....the story of Noah and the Ark.  From floods and Noah I thought of NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.  Visiting their website, I was amused to see the lead story on their page was titled "Be careful about floods."

An anymous commenter wrote, "Don't be alarmed.  It's only the universe winking at you."  Well, if the universe is going to wink at me coyly, I can't just let it slide past, no?  Basically, I've gotta flirt with the universe.

It would be interesting to learn to what extent the bureaucrats who put the NOAA together were aware of the Noah connection.  Did they notice it after the fact, an utter yet happy coincidence?  Or perhaps they were brainstorming name ideas and Noah suggested itself, so they tweaked the words until they came up with a fitting acronym.  Or perhaps someone had the idea from the get-go and the entire name was developed to fit around it.

Whatever the case, it's a great name.  After all, Noah saved himself and his family and all those animals, ensuring the continuation of life on earth, because he had been forewarned.  For an organization who has a mission to predict the weather (short and long-range forecasting) and plan accordingly, a fitting metaphor indeed.

Forecasting is only part of its mission, performed by the National Weather Service.  NOAA's broader mission is to "to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment and conserve and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our nation's economic, social, and environmental needs."

Just as the Canal du Midi is a masterpiece of engineering and hydraulics, but motivated by commerce, so goes NOAA; it isn't a bastion of pure-science, with lab-coated geniuses gazing at clouds.  The NOAA is part of the United States Department of CommerceIt's strategic vision  is "an informed society that uses a comprehensive understanding of the role of the oceans, coasts, and atmosphere in the global ecosystem to make the best social and economic decisions." (emphasis added).

Applied science at its finest.

NOAA was formed in1970 by Richard Nixon, who proposed it "...for better protection of life and property from natural hazards...for a better understanding of the total environment...[and] for exploration and development leading to the intelligent use of our marine resources..."

At this time, NOAA absorbed the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (1807), the Weather Bureau (1870) and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (1871).

Like I usually do in these cases, I went to Wikipedia for a bit of background on NOAA, which is responsible for the details above.  What led me to write this post, however, is the flag:
NOAA flag.  Wikimedia Commons
The triangle is a long-standing obsession of mine, and this one struck me as particularly worthy of comment (obviously).  It's not a very elegant design but it does resonate.  The triangle with a circle inside (as with the triangle alone or with an eye) is an old Christian symbol for Divinity, evoking as it does the Trinity (see here).  Freemasons also use the triangle, or delta, alone or with the Eye of Providence to represent Divinity.  Triangles with circles have also become associated with the Illuminati (founded 1776).  The circle in the conspiratorial context is taken as a stylized eye and the triangle is more or less interchangeable with a pyramid.  Conspiracy hunters have dozens of sites wherein dozens of logos with variations on the triangle and circle are said to be Illuminist sigils.  This symbol existed well before the Illuminati, but that doesn't stop the conspiracy theorists; it merely proves the Illuminati is much older than "they" are telling you.

The triangle in the circle is another symbol with a long and storied lineage.  Google it and you'll find it in a staggering array of contexts.  It's mosly known as being the AA logo where the triangle represents "Unity, Service and Recovery".  Interesting here is that on the flag we have both the triangle within a circle and circle within a triangle. (The bird is a seagull, representing the ecosystems of the oceans and coasts.  Not only does this reflect the use of a bird as the national symbol, it harmonizes nicely with the Biblical flood narrative in which Noah uses a dove to determine if the floodwaters have begun to recede....)

I don't want to trace the various uses of this symbol, it's simply too vast.  But I would like to link it to a number of previous LoS explorations.  But first things first; the NOAA flag is based upon an earlier flag, that of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey.

US Coast and Geodetic Survey.  Wikimedia Commons
This flag was in 1899 and remained in use until the creation of NOAA in 1970, at which time the design became incorporated into the new organization's flag.  The NGS was preceded by the United States Coast Survey, created by Congress in 1807 to conduct a "Survey of the Coast".  As Wikipedia says:  "This organization represented the Jefferson administration's interest in science and stimulation of international trade." (my emphasis)

Unsurprising.  As I have already written, Enlightenment intellectuals such as Jefferson linked the development of science, laissez-faire economics and representative democracy as interconnected expressions of "Reason".   Jefferson was also responsible for the expedition which left us the Mason-Dixon line.  The accurate measurement and definition of geographical space was crucial to fostering a society which fulfilled this ideal and allowed its expressions to function correctly.

And that is exactly what the flag represents:  "It symbolized the use of triangulation in surveying."  The following link (Sea Flags) has a bevy of historical and contemporary NOAA flags which feature the red, white and blue, the triangle and stars.  For more on the link between this revolutionary tricolor, the star, the circle and triangle see our post ¡Viva la Revolución!


I was struck here by a similarity to the logo of Météo France, another topic I've written quite a bit about.  It features the red white and blue, a circle and a triangle.  Here the triangle penetrates the circle but is not circumscribed by it.  The colors, as in the the NOAA/NGS flags, refer back to the French national colors.  The circle perhaps represents the globe and the triangle both the revolutionary values of France (more on this to follow) and the triangulation mentioned as the inspiration for NOAA flags.  As a symbol of both Divinity and Reason, it redefines God within a Deist framework and implicity exalts Reason as a means of knowing what hitherto only God could know.

If you're rolling your eyes at this point, stop and consider that predicting the weather is akin to seeing a hazy glimpse of the future, knowing beforehand would be like having an inkling of the intentions of God.  Which brings us back to Noah: Praemonitus praemunitus”.

Now, I was pondering all this stuff on Saturday and I realized that the circle/triangle symbol is used in a painting I'd been meaning to write about: L'Arbre de la liberté by Bernard Prosper Debia, an obscure 19th century painter from Montauban and a friend of Dominique Ingres.

Dig if you will the detail I photographed back in April, currently the wallpaper on my cellphone:

Detail from Debia's L'Arbre de la Liberté
The symbol of divinity here is inscribed withe the words "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité".  This supports my interpretation of the triangle in the Météo France logo.  Here the values of the Revolution have replaced values which had previously been used to justify the power of the Church and the aristocracy, that of divine right.  The laws of Reason and the Citizen replace those of the Church and King.  Here they shine down on a bare-breasted woman, perhaps a version of the Marianne, who, with a kind of mirror or magnifying glass, amplifies this "light of reason" and directs it onto the proceedings below:  the planting of a Liberty Tree.

Debia's L'Arbre de la Liberté, Musée Ingres, Montauban.
Source: http://www.culture.gouv.fr/Wave/image/joconde/0070/m060704_0000721_p.jpg
According to the French Ministry of Culture website, this painting dates to some time before 1876, the date of Debia's death.  (b.1791).  In addition to the triangle and liberty tree, several other revolutionary symbols are pictured.  At least one historical personage is portrayed (Alphonse de Lamartine) but there may be others.  A classical structure in the background is on fire and if my memory isn't faulty a demon of some sorts is billowing away with the smoke.  I'm not sure what that symbolizes.  The quality of this image is pretty crappy, but if you look on the lower right, you see a small America delegation, represented by an American flag, a nod and a wink to the inspiration of the American War of Independence upon France, a depiction of shared values.
In another recent post (In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king) about the Temple de la Sagesse Supreme (aka the "Illuminati Pyramid"), I took Pierre Dortiguier to task for saying that the eleven-panelled bronze tablets at the front of the pyramid represented a rebellion against the Decalogue.  I should have added more clearly that by placing the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen upon tablets in a form ususally reserved for the Ten Commandments, a reference to a famous painting from 1789, the designer was indeed suggesting that new laws, based upon Reason, were replacing the old, based upon blind faith and obedience.  My issue is with Dortiguier's faulty knowledge, reading symbolism into the vagaries of decomposition, finding "proof" therein of a link to September 11th.  But the idea that one law is replacing another is, I think, valid.  But this is due to the very presense of the Declaration on Decalogue-like tablets, not because of the number of panels comprising these tablets.

So all this is a roundabout way of saying that the flag represents, with a mixture of divine and rationalist precedent, the idea that scientific investigation and Reason have (or should have) replaced revelation.  Whereas Noah depended upon getting his info directly from God, modern man must find it via observation and reasoned analysis.    The scientist was regarded both as patriarch, prophet and steward, not to mention facilitator of commerce.


  1. This page on the Horological Foundation website gives a pithy explanation of revolutionary symbols and says that a young woman with a mirror represents Truth. Seems pretty coherent with what I've written here.

    Anyway, here's the list they give. A start on decrypting the painting:

    Anchor - Hope
    Bagpipe - Peace
    Bastille - Emblem of the people conquering tyranny
    Bishop's cross - Clergy
    Broken chain- Abolishment of slavery
    Canon - The power of the army
    Carmagnole - Popular republican song and dance
    Clasped hands - Fraternity
    Corn (horn of plenty) - Nature's abundance
    Corn sheaf - Abundance, Prosperity
    Crown - Monarchy
    Eye - Vigilance
    Fame - Announcer
    Fasces - Unity, Brotherhood, Power. 1)
    Flag - The Nation
    Fleur de Lys - Monarchy
    France - The country (patriotic)
    Globe - Universality
    Guillotine - Revolutionary justice
    Hive - The working class
    Laurel (wreath) - Victory
    Lion - Power
    Oak - Civil virtue
    Palm (branch) - Victory of the armies.
    Phrygian cap - Symbol of liberty
    Pique - The people
    Rake - The third estate or commonalty
    Rooster (cockerel) - Vigilance
    Rosette tri-colour - Emblem of the patriots
    Rosette black - Emblem of the Queen
    Rosette white - Emblem of the Royalists
    Scale - Justice
    Spade - The third estate or commonalty
    Star - used during the restoration period
    Sword - Nobility
    Tree - Liberty
    Triangle - The perfect accord
    Two enlaced 'L's - Emblem of the Monarchy
    Young woman with mirror - Truth


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