Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hamlet, Hamlet's Mill, and Astro-Theology

image: From Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, E. A. Wallis Budge, 1911 (link). Labels added to show correspondence to characters in the story of Hamlet. 

The previous post, entitled "Shakespeare and the Creation of Reality," examined aspects of Shakespeare's plays, and in particular Shakespeare's love of language and of playing with multiple meanings of words and phrases, relating to the concept of "reality creation" and human consciousness.

That post especially focused in upon one of the most famous scenes from Hamlet, which may well be Shakespeare's most famous play. It is particularly fitting that Shakespeare's Hamlet is so overtly concerned with the question of reality and epistemology (the subject of knowing, and the question of how we know what we know, or whether and what we can know), as well as the extent to which words and thoughts shape and even create reality, because the fundamental storyline of Hamlet is a celestial storyline, connected to the ancient sacred traditions of many cultures. 

As I endeavor to demonstrate in my latest book The Undying Stars, these ancient myths -- to which the plot of Hamlet is so closely connected -- are almost certainly deeply concerned with the exact same issues: the creation of reality, the nature of human existence, and the degree to which reality and in fact the entire cosmos is in some sense contained and even created inside the head of each individual man and woman (and thus the well-known scene of young Hamlet contemplating the skull is a beautiful dramatization of this very question).

The fact that the basic plot outline of Hamlet is a very ancient one, hearkening all the way back to the myths of ancient Egypt, is thoroughly established in the seminal 1969 study of ancient wisdom and astro-theology, Hamlet's Mill: An essay on myth and the frame of time, by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend. In that text, they demonstrate that the legend of Hamlet (or Amlethus, as he was called by Saxo Grammaticus, a Danish historian and scholar of myth and poetry who lived c. AD 1150 to c. AD 1220) in which a king-father is killed by a treacherous brother, and whose murder must be avenged by his son, corresponds directly to the outline of the myth of Osiris (murdered by his treacherous brother Set) and Horus.

The connections between these myths (and the connection to the plot of The Lion King) is discussed in this previous post, among others. 

Hamlet's Mill also demonstrates that this ancient myth -- like so many others from around the globe and across the millennia -- is based upon a common system of celestial allegory that can be perceived underneath the different costumes and cultural trappings of all the various sacred stories. 

However, as many readers of Hamlet's Mill are no doubt aware, it can be difficult to follow the argument at times, due to the book's tendency to come right up to the edge of making the connection before suddenly dancing away to take up a different angle or a myth from a different culture, always promising to come back and "close the loop" later on (the reader can be the judge of whether or not that promise is completely serious). 

This is not to say that Hamlet's Mill is not a valuable text that rewards multiple readings and careful study: it absolutely is and it absolutely does, and it has been seminal to my own understanding and to the work of many other researchers who cite it favorably and indicate its importance to their analysis. Contrary to the extremely biased entry on the text in Wikipedia (and the rambling and completely negative essay that is the only "External Links" source that Wikipedia has featured in the bottom section in their misleading and unfair Hamlet's Mill page for some years now), Hamlet's Mill has not been "debunked," and I believe that its arguments are not only sound but are supported by so much evidence from ancient myth that the conclusion is practically undeniable at this point. My reply to the arguments in that sole reference selected by Wikipedia in their "External Links" for Hamlet's Mill can be found in the previously-linked blog post here.

All that aside, due to the fact that Hamlet's Mill is a somewhat difficult work which generally requires a few complete read-throughs, it may be helpful to read some more straightforward and systematic explications of the ancient system of celestial metaphor prior to tackling Hamlet's Mill itself (although I will say again that it is absolutely worthwhile to eventually tackle it, with the idea that you may have to tackle it again once you've tackled it once!). 

One such book, focusing particularly on the Osiris-Set-Horus conflict is The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt (originally published in 1992), by Jane B. Sellers.

Another, I would respectfully submit, is The Undying Stars, in which I endeavor to explain the ancient system in a clear and thorough fashion, as well as to examine the possible purpose and meaning for the widespread presence of star-myths at the heart of virtually every sacred tradition in the cultures of our planet. The outstanding teaching videos of Santos Bonacci, available on the web in various places including his website here, are also an excellent source and were fundamental to my own analysis as well, as are some of the texts he has listed on his site

Many previous posts (probably over fifty now) have treated specific myths and traced the connections to the motions of the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, stars and planets). Some of these have been listed in previous posts such as this one. Here is another convenient compilation, grouping them this time by general culture or ancient civilization, for those who would like a handy index to past posts dealing with star-myths and astro-theology:

  • Sarah (here).
  • Jacob and Esau (here).
  • Moses (here). 
  • A land flowing with milk and honey (here).
  • Samson (here).
  • Noah and the Ark (here).
  • Elisha the Prophet (here).
  • The Cross (here, here and here).
  • Apostle Peter (here).
  • The Scorpion and the Smoky Abyss of Revelation 9 (here).
  • Hell (here).
  • Demeter and Eleusis (here).
  • Delphi and the Pythia (here).
  • Okeanos or Oceanus (here).
  • Hercules (here and here).
  • Atlas (here).
  • Prometheus (here).
  • Ares and Aphrodite (here).
  • Ares and the Brazen Cauldron (here).
  • Zeus and Aphrodite (here).
  • Hermes and Aphrodite (here).
  • Zeus-Jupiter (here).
  • Pan (here).
  • Asclepius (here).
  • Amaltheia (here).
  • Phaethon (here and here).
Many more in addition to these are discussed in The Undying Stars as well.