Shakespeare in an Hermetic Light

Shakespeare’s World Stage in a Hermetic Light

Angus Hawkins – 1995

 

 

 

Introduction

Mankind and his place in the universe

A Choice of Perspective

Love: Mankind’s highest ideal 

Afterword 

Bibliography


 

 

Introduction

 

 

Bob and Robert are arguing and Bob slaps Robert round the face. Two people, a hermit and a scientist stand by and observe the scene. The hermit says to the scientist, ‘that Bob was fuming with anger so he slapped Robert’. The scientist ridicules the hermit calling him a fool for explaining the physical by means of something non-physical. The scientist replies ‘ I saw nothing of rage, wrath or anger. It is obvious that Bob raised his arm and swung it towards Robert’s face with increasing velocity and that was the cause of the slap.

 

Parables and fables have been used since the year dot to help elucidate simple yet fundamentally important ideas. They help the mind to create imagery so that they can work with the idea behind the story. Had I introduced this chapter with a statement like ‘a scientist looks at the physical reality whilst an anchorite concentrates on the non-physical reality then someone unfamiliar to the subject would have understood the words but not the meaning behind them. It would have been a statement without imagery and according to Aristotle this means we cannot think about it if we can’t imagine it. This for me is the essence of Shakespeare, the ability to depict a scene where the paradoxes of hermetic thinking are put into context.

 

Frances Yates illustrates brilliantly the historical extent of hermetic thinking in Europe during the Renaissance in her books, Astrea, The Occult Philosophy of the Elizabethan Age and Shakespeare’s Last Plays: A New Approach. She also discusses how influential this is likely to have been on Shakespeare. However, I don’t intend to cover the historical setting of these ideas, but instead the ideas themselves.

 

Fortunately the ideas behind hermetic thinking are indeed very simple but it is the implications that these have on a person’s life are as multifarious as life itself. The way of thinking is all encompassing just like the scientific world view, except that it maintains that life can’t be explained in purely mechanistic terms. It is both religious and scientific at the same time. It pre requires a belief in something other than just the physical reality which has deep religious overtones. On the other hand it refuses to accept blind belief and therefore sees that the only way to understand this other reality is to investigate it for oneself. In our world where extremes tend to be the rule esoteric thinking is very much ‘sitting on the fence’. It is situated between the two most important cultural polarities; science and religion. It is the fluid Aquarian mentality that doesn’t see black or white, but instead shades of grey or both sides of the argument.

 

Hermetic thinking bases its Weltanschauung on the 42 books of the mystical Egyptian figure of Hermes Trismegistus, The Thrice-great. These include treatises on alchemy, magic, and astrology amongst others and their relationship to the spiritual world. The fundamental premise on which hermetic thinking is based is that everything on earth is a microcosm of the universe which is itself the macrocosm. This is the essence of the familiar idea: ‘As above so below’. This implies that the same rules in the universe apply every where. It also means that the physical world obeys the same laws as the spiritual. The material or physical world is deemed to be below and the spiritual above. Each are a reflection of the other because the cosmos (Greek cosmos = order) is one.

 

Let us look at how this esoteric thinking differs from the modern scientific approach to live. If we realise that the scientific way of thinking is rarely challenged we can also see how difficult it is to escape from the trappings of modern science. Modern science believes that the ultimate truth can be attained by studying the various sciences and then piecing them together. However this nearly always ends up in specialisation to such a degree that the findings in other branches remain ignored and the ultimate truth remains hidden. Here I should underline that by the often used and abused word ‘truth’ I mean a rule or condition that is universal in its validity. Hopefully we would find if all the scientists of the world clubbed together then a step closer to the truth would come of this, but this does not make the individual any wiser. Esoteric science is also concerned with finding out the truth about the nature of reality, but its approach is totally different. In the pursuit of esoteric knowledge the whole system is reversed. Instead of piecing together the truth an esoterist starts by exploring universal law. Once this law has been recognised the esoterist can then develop it in different areas. Now we return to Hermes Trismegistus the father of esoteric thinking who summarised the quintessence of universal law in fifteen propositions on a slab of green corundum. This ‘Tabula Smaragdina’ reads as follows:

 

1 True is without mendacity, certain and most true

2 That which is below is like that which is above: and that which is above is like that which is below for performing the miracles of the one thing.

3 And as all things are from One, by the evocation of the One, so all things arose from this one thing in imitation.

4 The father of it is the sun, the mother of it is the moon

5 The wind carried it in its belly

6 The wet nurse of it is the earth

7 In it is the father of all perfection of the entire world

8 The power of it is integral when it is turned into earth

9 Earth shalt separate from fire, the subtle from the gross, gently, with much sagacity

10 It ascends from earth to heaven and descends to earth ans receives the power of the superior and the inferior things

11 So shalt thou have the slpendour of the entire world . Therefore let all the darkness flee from thee. This is of all fortitutudes the strongest fortitude, because it will overcome all subtleties and penetrate all solidities

12 In this way the world is created

13 Hence there will be prodigous imitations, the way and the manner of which are described herein

14 Thus I am called Hermes Trismegistus who owns the three parts of the wisdom of the entire world

15 What I have said about the operations of the sun is short of nothing, it is complete[1]

 

To the untrained mind these appear to be non-sensical statements and are no more likely to help us understand the world than from a purely scientific or purely religious point of view. However, just as it would be foolish for a person who can’t read music to ridicule this way of conveying information so it would also be foolish to dismiss the 15 propositions just because they are difficult to understand. If we continue to use music as an analogy then we realise that we must learn to read music before we can hope to understand it in the written form. In this essay I will attempt to give a beginners course in hermetic thinking by means of some of the most wonderful imagery ever created, namely that of William Shakespeare.

 

A word about Rudolph Steiner. The Anthroposophical world view of Rudolph Steiner must be exactly the same as the hermetic weltanschauung because they are both concerned with the investigation of the same spiritual reality. In this essay I will refrain from using the term ‘anthroposophist’ because it did not exist in Shakespeare’s time. Instead I will use the words; hermit, anchorite and esoterist interchangeably when referring to someone who is interested in having a deeper understanding of the spiritual world or when referring to someone who subscribes to other explanations than purely mechanistic ones. The final chapter on love is however inspired by my anthroposophical readings.

 

There are a couple of points I need to add before we dive into this rich collection of work. The first being that even though my arguements might not be good, though I shall do my best to make them so, this does in no way disprove the ideas, it merely illustrates that I need to find more persusive arguments. We can understand this more clearly if I were for example to try and explain Einstein’s ‘Theory of Relativity’ and am unsuccessful in my attempt, then this obviously doesn’t disprove the aforementioned theory it just proves that my efforts were insufficient. The second and equally valid point is that it is impossible to teach someone who doesn’t want to learn. Bearing this in mind the reader must also realise if he or she brings neither interest nor volition to learn then this essay will serve merely to bore, tax or at worst vexate.

 

In the following chapters I shall use three plays; Macbeth, The Tempest and The Merchant of Venice, to illustrate how deeply Shakespeare is riddled with esoteric thinking. This is only a drop in the ocean of the vastness of Shakespeare’s writings, but by limiting myself to three I hope to that it will encourage others to seek out the esoteric foundations in other plays. I have created what seems like a logical order and so the first chapter looks at mankind’s place in the universe, whilst the second is about necessity for each individual to create an understanding of the workings of the universe. The final chapter seeks to understand what the ultimate goal of life is, indeed the meaning of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mankind and his place in the universe

 

I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano

A stage, where every man must play a part,

And mine a sad one.

Merchant of Venice Act I, scene I

 

In all esoteric traditions man’s soul is of an indestructible and eternal nature. The physical body is merely a house or temple for the soul to enable it to learn valuable lessons. Life is like going to school to learn one’s ABC so that later, when the physical body rots away, we can become creative beings in the infinite universe. Our physical shell merely serves to aid us to understand the idea of being individual which in reality we are not. Once we loose our mortal shelter we become fully aware again of our link to the spiritual realms or oneness. Just as in the physical life we also find that there are hierarchies in the spiritual world and it is our eternal goal to progress up Jacob’s ladder to realise our oneness with the Godhead.

 

To avoid confusion with the term ‘reality’ I shall use this term when talking of things seen from a spiritual or higher perspective. If I am referring to the physical reality I shall be specific in calling it thus or Maya. The Indians refer to this lower reality as Maya which means illusion. The Vedanta philosophy of the Indians considers that the sole/soul purpose of every individual is to transcend the physical reality or break the illusion of Maya and become one again with the spiritual reality. This is the purpose of the different forms of Yoga, to purge our soul of passions and desires so that we may meet the Guardian of the Threshold and be allowed to pass into the greater spiritual reality. These are all very big ideas and have little bearing on our lives until we integrate this way of thinking into our belief system. So now I will try to put a bit of flesh onto these ideas so that they may become more tangible.

 

Shakespeare often refers to the world as being a stage, indeed where every man plays his parts with many exits and entrances. This seemingly obscure or poetic idea would be seen as none other than the truth to someone subscribing to the hermetic way of thinking. What better metaphor to conjure up the many aspects of hermetic thinking. In accordance with esoteric thinking each player is as important as the other. If one person does not play his part properly then the show is marred although still complete. Harmony between the actors must prevail otherwise the characters will be tainted and not perform the roles as they should. There is a set order for things to happen and all the different elements must find their right time if the performance is to be understood, nobody is to miss their cue. Reality becomes that which the players hope to depict and doesn’t have to obey ‘normal’ rules of life and so is a created physical reality. An actor does not really die he/she just appears to for the sake of

the play. In many of Shakespeare’s play we find plays within the plays themselves which are used to convey messages or discover truths; A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Hamlet though this is not the case with the three pieces that I have chosen as sources.

 

This idea of the eternity of the soul is one of the omnipresent ideas in the world’s different religions. The Bhagavad Gita which is the Gospel of Hinduism and one of the great religious classics has some beautiful words to say on this subject. In the story Krishna is teaching Arjuna about the vision of God in his universal form and tells of the birthless and deathless nature of every individual.

Krishna You are all we know, supreme , beyond man’s

measure,

This world’s sure set- plinth and refuge never shaken,

Guardian of eternal law, life’s Soul undying.

Birthless, Deathless; yours the strength titanic,

Million armed the sun and moon your eyeballs

Fiery faced, you blast the world to ashes,

 

Fill the sky’s four corners, span the chasm

Sundering heaven from earth.

Bhagavad Gita, XI

Chance, Fate and Fortune figure very strongly in almost all the plays. Looking at the element of chance from an hermetic perspective we find that there is no such thing in life if we consider it to mean that something might happen in a totally random, disordered or chaotic fashion. Everything has its place in the universe and everything is subject to the laws of the universe. It is therefore impossible that something can happen perchance. All that a hermit can deduce when a seemingly random event occurs is that he/she hasn’t seen its relationship to other events in the past or future, i.e. he/she hasn’t fully understood. Just because he/she hasn’t seen a connection this doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist. A couple of facts that I stumbled upon recently may serve to elucidate. In 1054 the Pope ordered the sacking and plundering of Constantinople which lead to the split in religion between Orthodox and Catholic beliefs. This is obviously a pretty major event in religious history and is still the source of many disputes in Europe and Asia Minor. Also in 1054 a star in the Crab Nebula exploded causing spectacular fireworks in the skies which were documented in different parts of the world. Using these two facts it is unjustifiable for anyone to claim that these events are unrelated unless that person has knowledge about everything. At best that person can believe that there is no connection. We know that the two events are related to each other by time and can only hope to find further links if we investigate the matter further. However, if we use that convenient word ‘chance’ we can settle our minds and cease to ask questions about it. This is science’s answer to all the coincidences it sees in the universe and cannot hope to explain with the contemporary purely mechanistic view on life. This idea of synchronicity which C.J. Jung has also expounded upon concurs completely with the hermetic perspective on the universe. Synchronicity crops up many times in ‘Macbeth’. Lady Macbeth whilst waiting for news of the murder of Duncan says

 

 

 

It was the owl that shriekt, the fatal bellman,

Which gives the stern’st good-night. – He is

about it:

Act II, scene II

The owl is the sacred companion of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The Romans believed that it was a bad omen and its hooting bodes death. Modern superstition has it that if an owl hoots near your house then disaster is not far of.[2]In another scene outside Macbeth’s castle we find Ross, a nobleman, talking with an old man about the dreadful happenings.

Old man ‘Tis unnatural,

Even like the deed that’s done. On Tuesday last

A falcon, towering in her pride of place,

Was by a mousing owl hawkt at and killed

 

Ross And Duncan’s horses, – a thing most strange and

certain, -

Beauteous and swift, the minions of their race,

Turn’d wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out,

Contending ‘gainst obedience, as they would

make

War with mankind.

Act II, scene IV

There is also another indication of some esoteric knowledge because we find out that the murder took place on a Tuesday which according to hermetic thinking is ruled by the fiery and aggressive Mars. The French week days also directly reflect beliefs about the planetary influences on different days. We find: Lundi (lune = moon) Moon day Måndag

Mardi Mars day Tisdag (Tyr, fiercest Nordic God)

Mercredi Mercury day Onsdag (Odin, all seing)

Jeudi Jupiter day Torsdag (Thor, ruler & mightiest)

Vendredi Venus day Fredag (Freya, love & beauty)

(English) Saturday (samedi) Saturn day Lördag

Sunday (dimanche) Sun day Söndag

Fate and fortune are also key elements in ‘Macbeth’, but let us look again from an hermetic perspective. Fate has a more negative meaning in common day language, whereas fortune has a more positive earthly wealth to it. Fate and fortune mean exactly the same thing to the hermit because he/she realises that before we came to Earth, or took to the stage, we were in the spiritual realms and were deciding which lessons we needed to learn on Earth to help us in our process of evolution. In this sense we have been self-determining in our fate. Of course whilst in the spiritual realms we are aware of our eternalness of being this means we appreciated that death, injury and accidents are merely there to make us stop and think. If the result of an accident is countered with a ‘why’ then it has served its purpose to make us take life a little more earnestly and search for a deeper meaning to things. If we persist with asking why then we must eventually come to the reason and are hence a little more enlightened. If we now imagine that we are up in the spiritual realms because we have just died a physical death we can look at further influences on what we feel we must learn next time we descend. Let us say that whilst on stage I deserted my family, I was female perhaps, leaving them motherless and with nobody to love them because their father was at sea. Let us also imagine that I never repented this selfish act and neither did I try to make recompense. Upon my death my life flashes before my eyes and I become painfully aware of my mistakes now that I realise there is more to life than meets the eye. My acts have been contrary to the infinite Love that now surrounds me in the spiritual realms. I feel that when I next descend to Earth I must learn my lessons by putting myself in the same situation as the children that I so cruelly left. Whilst nothing is ever definite about the future, I can from a higher spiritual perspective discern laws and patterns better than I could on Earth. The three witches that predict Macbeth’s rise and fall are doing nothing other than looking into the seeds of time, and the instruments of darkness tell us truths. Knowing which lessons I have to learn I then choose a family which will best help me learn. In my case I might choose a husbandless mother whom shall shortly die, if I feel this will teach me to be more responsible in my actions. Earth is for the hermit merely a training ground, life is in the spiritual realms, but lessons can only be learnt on Earth. Returning to Macbeth who is procrastinating whether he should follow his earthly desires and listen to Lady Macbeth or his conscience which warns him of the consequences. It is a wonderful passage so I shall quote it in full.

Macbeth If it were done – when ’tis done – then ’twere

well

If it were done quickly: if th’ assassination

Could trammel up the consequence, and catch,

With his surcease, success; that but this blow

Might be the be-all and the end-all here,

But here, upon this bank and the shoal of time,

We’ld jump the life to come. But in these cases

We still have judgement here; that we but teach

Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return

To plague th’inventor: This even handed justice

Commends th’ingriedients of our poison’d

chalice

(referring to Duncan) To our own lips. He’s here in double trust

First as I am his kinsman and his subject

Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,

Who should against his murderer shut the door,

Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against

The deep damnation of his taking-off;

And pity, like a naked new-born babe,

Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubin, horsed

Upon the sightless couriers of the air,

Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,

That tears shall drown the wind, – I have no

spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself,

And falls on th’other.

Macbeth Act I, scene VII

When Macbeth says if it were done – when ’tis done- then ’twere well he is hoping that the deed will be the ‘be-all and end-all’ once it is performed. However he realises that if this were so then ‘we’ld jump the life to come’ because the next life is a result of what has or has not beeen learnt in the current life or that deeds will return ‘to plague th’inventor’. ‘This even handed justice’ is none other than the law of Karma (cause and effect) which goes hand in hand with the religions that have a concept of reincarnation. Macbeth also kindly points out, as I did earlier, that ‘in these cases we still have judgement here’ referring again to the idea that we learn our lesson on stage earth and live the results in which ever level of heaven we have aspired to, hopefully seventh. I will deal with the passage referring to Duncan in the next chapter, however it is worth noting that is the ‘vaulting ambition’ which could lead Macbeth to commit the murder. It is the ego egging on Macbeth to act atrociously even though it knows that Macbeths future well being is dependent on repenting for all egotistical acts.

 

Dreams are according to hermetic thought the link that we maintain with the spiritual world whilst we are acting out our parts on the world’s stage. Again in Shakespeare’s works we find this very important theme making its appearance in many plays. The role of dreams can be seen to be twofold. First they give us a clear picture of how life is going to be after the end of the play. The passions, desires and urges will be the world that we live or torment ourselves in until we descend to Earth again to continue learning our lessons. Second is a didactic role which lets us become aware of the world we are creating for ourselves in the afterlife. So, if we find distressing elements in our dreams they can be understood as pointers that we must change the way that we think and live otherwise we will be living them in the life between earthly appearances. The duration of this life in the astral worlds is according to esoteric tradition equal to one third of the life spent on earth. This esoteric fact finds its place at the end of the Tempest:

Prospero And thence retire me to my Milan, where

Every third thought will be my grave.

The Tempest Act V, scene I

We can now understand why dreams have always been so important in history. In the Bible Joseph knew how to interpret dreams and warned of the impending famine that was to beset Egypt. Dreams and visions have been the source of inspiration in all the most important impulses in history, even if they do sometimes end in tragedy as with J.F.Kennedy. Macbeth is tormented in his sleep because of his physical and spiritual crimes and laments

Macbeth But let the frame of things disjoint, both the

worlds suffer,

Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep

In the affliction of these terrible dreams

That shakes us nightly: better be with the dead,

Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,

Than on the torture of the mind to lie

In relentless ecstasy. Macbeth Act III, scene II

 

 

A Choice of Perspective

 

Miranda O, wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is ! O brave new world,

That has such people in it

 

Prospero ‘Tis new to thee

The Tempest Act V, scene I

 

In this chapter I will look at how choice affects our reality and will then link this to the two polarities which are most influential on our thinking. Finally I will link these two aspects and see how they relate to the human being.

 

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and ‘ The wise man doesn’t see the same tree as the fool’ are two of many such clichés that point towards an esoteric understanding of the nature of things. We have already been introduced to the difficulty of pinning down what reality really is. In a hermit’s view both the physical and the spiritual are equally valid as one another. A statement that implies that the world is merely as one sees it would therefore be very much in accordance with hermetic thinking. This means that for an anchorite there is no fixed reality, but instead it is only how we perceive it to be. Again I will use an example to clarify. If we imagine Bob and Robert standing by a roadside and a juggernaut goes hurtling past splashing both onlookers. Bob starts fuming and ranting and raving about the carelessness of the driver and how he is going to take down the number plate and report the driver to the police. Robert meanwhile just thinks about why he happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. With this illustration we can clearly understand that the environment is purely the stimulus for thought and it is how we react to these stimuli that determines our Weltanschauung. There is nothing inherent to a physical object that makes us think a particular thought, instead it is our relationship to the object that determines what we think. Whilst there is obviously a world of physical facts it is easy to overlook the fact that we are responsible for choosing how we perceive them. The fact is that everybody has their own version of reality which is equally as valid as the others because to each person his/her version of reality naturally appears to be true. The idea that everybody sees reality in different ways is another theme that occurs often in Shakespeare. In ‘The Tempest’ we find the nobles that have been magically washed onto shore with help from Prospero’s sprite Ariel. They arrive on the same island, but have very different opinions about their situation

Gonzalo Beseech you, sir, be merry; you have cause,

So have we all, of joy; for our escape

Is much beyond our loss. Our hint of woe

Is common; every day some sailor’s wife,

The masters of some merchant, and the mer-

chant,

Have just our theme of woe; but for the miracle,

I mean our preservation, few in millions

Can speak like us: then wisely, good sir, weigh

Our sorrow with our comfort.

 

Alonso Prithee, peace

 

Sebastian He receives comfort like cold porridge.

 

Antonio The visitor will not give him o’er so.

 

Sebastian Look, he’s winding up the watch of his wit; by

and by it will strike

 

Gonzalo Sir,-

 

Sebastian One: tell

 

Gonzalo When every grief is entertain’d that’s offer’d,

Comes to the entertainer-

 

Sebastian A dollar.

 

Gonzalo Dolour comes to him, indeed; you have spoken

truer than you purposed.

Sebastian You have taken it wiselier than I meant you

should.

The Tempest Act II, scene I

 

When Gonzalo beseeches his companions to take comfort in their plight he is trying to put the situation into context and point out that fortune has smiled upon them, which of course he perceives to be the case. Alonso is lost in thought and asks for peace whilst Sebastian and Antonio are merely intent to mock which ever situation they can, by disparaging the island they are merely projecting a reflection of themselves and their situation in the island’s mirror. Again Gonzalo tries to point out that, if grief over a situation is chosen every time, then sadness or dolour will come of it. Gonzalo’s play on the word ‘dollar’ also is a reflection of how people take words to mean what they want them to mean or of the thoughts currently whirling in their heads. In this case Sebastian is clearly more worried about his financial losses than he thankful to be alive. The idea that a word has a fixed meaning is more a scientific or objective thought and might be true if you look it up in a dictonary, but not if you ask different people what a particular word means to them. The word ‘dollar’ has possibly up to five billion meanings, i.e. the population of the planet. Whilst most people know what a dollar is it can have many different meanings. To an American it might represent a candy bar, to a comrade of the former Soviet Union it might be a sign of the scourge of capitalism and therefore both bourgeois and contemptible. Whereas to the poor Peruvian child that scrapes a living from a pile of refuse it is the answer to the child’s prayers to have a better life. Another example might serve to indicate how important it is that we are aware of our own ability to choose our own perspective. If I imagine I’m old and someone comes up to me and calls me an old fogey then normally I’m likely to take a rather dim view of this. However, if I have invented a new meaning for the word this need not be so. I might take it to be derived from the French fougue which means ardent or spirited. Now I find myself in the position to laugh or indeed feel praised at somebody’s slip of the tongue or malediction. By finding a new relationship to the word (world) I am excercising control over my life so that I do not feel offended, enraged or embarrassed because of some gossip or small. Instead of automatically accepting that someone’s insult is true the hermit will look into him/herself and see if he/she agrees. If it is true then he/she will seek to remedy the situation otherwise he/she does not need to worry about it. A bit later in the text we find Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo and Adrian are still arguing about the truth or nature of the island. Their folly being that each character thinks reality is how he perceives it to be, which of course it is.

Adrian The air here breathes upon us most sweetly.

Sebastian As if it had lungs, and rotten ones.

Antonio Or as ’twere perfumed by a fen.

Gonzalo Here is everything advantageous to life

Antonio True; save means to live

Sebastian Of that there’s none, or little

The Tempest Act II, scene I

Shakespeare’s plays are teeming with examples where misadventure arises because a character, I believe without exception a man, is adamant that he is right, whereas the impartial audience has the benefit of overview and can see that he is just falling victim of seeing the world he chooses to. The men fall victim of their own hastiness to see things in black and white and then having committed themselves to a certain standpoint from which they will only budge after some great misfortune has befallen them. If men are seen to be hard headed and paying too little attention to emotion then women are the opposite. They becomes victims of listening only to their emotions and not to reason. If my memory serves me right then an emotionally distraught male without the power of reason does not exist in Shakepeare’s plays. If a woman is in difficulties in Shakespeare’s plays then it is because of her inability to use reason in harmony with emotions. Then we come to the stoic character which can be either male or female and wisely live in a balance between emotions and reason, spirit and hard facts. Sometimes these stoics are kings or queens, yet other times they are called the fool, which of course they appear to be to those that are foolish enough not to be able to understand them

 

Let us now look at the two polarities of Science and Religion and see if they can help shed some further light on the subject. As I hope is clear these two polarities are representative of the spiritual and physical nature of things. If we take the traditional church view on things then everything is God given and we should not seek to understand the deeper meaning of natural phenomena as scientific investigation is sacrilege against God’s creation. We might clearly associate this with a Shakespearean woman who is ruled entirely by emotions and refuses to listen to reason. Clearly we can see the dangers of such thinking. If we accept everything as God given then we stand as powerless individuals on the world’s stage. We have no recourse to our fate and are no better than dogs that obediently perform to our master’s wishes. It is in this sense that religious dogmas that were so influential in shaping Europe’s history for the first seven hundred years of this millennium and also served to stymie mankind’s ability to think and use reason to understand life. According to hermetic thinking a fundamental difference between mankind and the other kingdoms, mineral, plant and animal, is the individual ability to use thought to resolve problems. With the blooming of Science mankind’s individual gift to investigate, question and act as a channel of inspiration was allowed to develop. Reason flourished and emotions were relegated to the league of unimportance. The pillars of Science are the use of reason to objectively understand the world around us. Rooted at the very source of Science is, however, the belief that life can be explained in purely physical and mechanical terms. Although, the idea that science itself is a belief may indeed seem abhorrent to a scientist it is nonetheless a fact. One of the father figures of modern day science is Sir Isaac Newton who was by any body’s accounts a genius. The father of calculus, laws of motion, laws of gravitation and many students pre-exam worries. Most of his noted achievements were attained at quite an early stage in his life. However, what is extremely interesting as far as this essay is concerned is that after all this success and insight that he should turn his mind to God and spend most of his later life mulling over theosophical questions. In his ‘Chronology’ spanning some fifty volumes he deals with many aspects of the Bible and he also had a great interest in the hermetic idea of the ‘philosophical stone’ and alchemy[3]. However, these are conveniently passed off as aberrations of a genius, which is a very simple way of shutting one’s eyes to questions that one doesn’t want to ask oneself. Einstein has been quoted as saying ‘religion without science is blind and science without religion is lame’[4]. Whilst these geniuses have realised the great importance of both polarities this is forgotten or ignored by my stereotypical scientist, who really does believe that the world is just a sometimes ordered and sometimes chaotic array of protons, neutrons and electrons. Emotions and morals are accordingly no more than a strange configuration of these three elementary particles. Thus we can see that the two polarities are diametrically opposed because one attributes everything to the spiritual realms and the other to the physical.

 

If we return to our juggernaut example we find that science has no room for such subjective reactions and is only interested in the velocity and masses involved. In this sense science depersonalises itself from the human being and defeats its own purpose which is to enlighten people. Whilst the period of Enlightenment has been truly illuminating the next step will have to be concerned with how this pertains to us as human beings. Now we come to the crunch, what is the point of all this reasoned knowledge if we don’t understand its relevance to ourselves. Here we find Science cannot help us because it is only interested in what is objectively true. This is rightly so because we do not want to regress to the days when we where ruled by superstitious belief.

 

The hermit believes that both of these realities are equally as valid as one another and that both are reflections of the other reality (as above so below), but that the spiritual is the higher of these realities. It is each individuals responsibility to find a balance between the two. The spiritual is life itself, it is the vast array of different emotions that are possible in any human being. The physical is a shell for the spirit to dwell in whilst it goes about learning its lessons. Thus a living being can experience physical pain and spiritual pain and just like a cut can leave a scar on the skin so can a moral crime leave its marks on the soul. This is our conscience

 

At present Science does not demand a highly developed morality in order investigate reality. Thus it is possible that a genius physicist at the forefront of understanding physical reality is also capable of acts of violence or selfishness. However, the laws of the spiritual world demand that hermetic thinking is concomitant with a morally developed conscience. This means that a hermit trying to objectively gain knowledge about the spiritual realms is bound to be morally developed. Knowledge of the higher worlds can only be attained by growing up to them. We are all familiar with the ideas of a clean or guilty conscience, but have in the enlightened age forgotten it relevance. In a purely physical world we have no need for a conscience because there is no live after death so we might as well make the most of it whilst we are on planet Earth even if it is at the expense of others. Obviously this is the very reverse for a hermit who realises that we are being very short sighted in ignoring our consciences. In Shakespeare we find the theme of being wrought by conscience or having a blunted conscience as a result of moral crimes, occurs time after time. Not surprising, after all it affects all of us. In the following scene we find Antonio egging on Sebastian to help kill Alonso who is sleeping. Sebastian reminds him that he had no problems usurping his brother, Prospero.

Antonio True:

And look how well my garments sit upon me

Much feater than before: my brother’s servants

Were then my fellows; now they are my men

 

Sebastian But, for your conscience-

 

Antonio Ay, sir; where lies that? if ’twere a kibe,

‘Twould put me to my slipper: but I feel not

This deity in my bosom: twenty consciences

That stand ‘twixt me and Milan, candied be they,

And melt, ere they molest! Here lies your brother,

No better than the earth he lies upon,

If he were that which now he’s like, that’s dead;

 

Here we see that Antonio’s conscience is so blunted by previous crimes that he has no qualms about having another corpse on his conscience. He says that if it were an ulcerated chilblain then it might give him cause to think. Here we clearly see the materialist’s approach to the world, the only thing that is real is that which can be perceived with the five senses. If we look at Macbeth before he starts his slaughtering we see his conscience battling with his pride and ambitions.

 

To our own lips. He’s here in double trust

First as I am his kinsman and his subject

Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,

Who should against his murderer shut the door,

Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against

The deep damnation of his taking-off;

And pity, like a naked new-born babe,

Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubin, horsed

Upon the sightless couriers of the air,

Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,

That tears shall drown the wind, – I have no

spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself,

And falls on th’other.

Macbeth Act I, scene VII

 

Macbeth’s conscience is warning him of the crime he is about to commit. The double trust that Duncan, the king, has in him makes the crime even more heinous. These thoughts do make him think again, but Lady Macbeth accuses him of cowardliness and unmanliness for listening to his conscience. Shakespeare shows himself to have a great understanding of men when he introduces this element to eventually convince Macbeth to murder Duncan, for it is the minority of men that can endure such insults for the sake of pangs of conscience. It is also in ‘Macbeth’ that Shakespeare shows that the conscience cannot be ignored for ever. The conscience finds other ways of expressing itself. Macbeth starts having hallucinations and these are as real as anything living. Here Macbeth sees the murdered Duncan sitting at the table.

 

Macbeth What man dare, I dare

Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,

The arm’d rhinoceros, or the Hycan tiger

Take any shape, but that, and my firm nerves

Shall never tremble: or be alive again,

And dare me to the desert with thy sword;

If trembling I inhibit then, protest me

The baby of a girl. Hence horrible shadow!

Unreal mockery, hence

(ghost vanishes)

Why, so;- being gone,

I am a man again.- Pray you sit still

Macbeth Act III, scene IV

 

Of course this is as real to Macbeth as anything for if it were the creation of idle imagination then he would be able to dismiss it as so. Instead he begs the hallucination to be anything other than what it is and then he need not feel afraid. He also falls into the trap of thinking that everyone sees the same images he does and is full of consternation when his wife is unaffected by what his mind has seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macbeth Can such things be,

And overcome us like a sommer’s cloud

Without our special wonder? You make me

strange

Even to the disposition that I owe,

When now I think you can behold such sights,

And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks,

When mine is blancht with fear.

Macbeth Act III, scene IV

 

We also know that he ‘lacks the season of all natures, sleep’. Macbeth is in his sleep experiencing the realities of his actions in the spiritual realms and these must be so frightening that he cannot sleep. Here we see the conscience trying to make Macbeth repent his sins, but when he says ‘I am a man again’ he has returned to normal consciousness and can dismiss anything that is not physical as merely an illusion. Later on we find Lady Macbeth sleep walking and trying to cleanse her bloodied hands clean of the sin.

 

Lady Macbeth Out, damned spot! out, I say!- One, Two; why,

then ’tis time to do’t.- Hell is murky!- Fie, my

lord, fie! a soldier and afeard? What need we fear

who knows it, when none can call our powers to

account? – Yet who would thought the old

man to have so much blood in him

….

 

Lady Macbeth The thane of Fife had a wife; where is she now?-

What, will these hands ne’er be clean?- No more

o’that, my lord, no more o’that: you mar all with

this starting.

….

 

Lady Macbeth Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the per-

fumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.

Oh, oh, oh!

Macbeth Act V, scene I

The doctor attending says ‘more needs she the divine than the physician:- God, God forgive us all’. This is again the idea that only those that will help themselves can purge their soul. There is no medicament for this except for the volition of the sinner to be humble and repent the crime. Macbeth cannot and does not want to hear this when the doctor reports of Lady Macbeth’s disturbed sleep and says:

Macbeth Cure her of that:

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased;

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow;

Raze out the written troubles of the brain;

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuft bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart?

 

 

 

 

Doctor Therein the patient

Must minister to himself.

 

Macbeth Throw physic to the dogs, -I’ll none of it.-

Macbeth Act V, scene III

 

This all complies with a hermetic understanding of the nature of the human being. A person must listen to his/her conscience and understand why it would be best not to perform an intended deed. If the person begins to take other people into consideration then he/she must be moving along the right path because everything is connected at the spiritual level. It is only in physical respects that we can conceive ourselves to be individuals. The saying ‘no man is an island’ refers to this idea. If we look at an island it appears to be separate from the mainland, but if we look below the waves then we see that it is joined to the mainland. Once the hermit becomes aware of the oneness of life then he/she realises that by committing a crime that this will essentially causes injury to him/herself because everything is one. This approach is both altruistic and egoistic at the same time. Seen in this broader light we can understand that having an ego is indeed truly positive because if we didn’t even have self interests at heart then we would find it difficult to have the interests of the whole at heart. The dangers of having an ego only reveal themselves once an individual has forgotten his/her place in the universe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love: Mankind’s highest ideal

 

Portia Away, then! I am lockt in one of them:

If you do love me, you will find me out.-

Merchant of Venice Act III, scene II

Love is one of the single most important themes running throughout Shakespeare’s plays. If my earlier example of using the word dollar to illustrate that a word has many meanings was exaggerated then surely the word ‘love’ comes close to having as many meanings as there are people. In Shakespeare’s plays it is the force that conquers all, leads to the greatest despair and is the most sought after and highest goal. Later I shall discuss how I perceive Shakespearean love and its obvious Christian character. First, however lets look at love from an esoteric point of view.

If we view the world as a complex of sympathies and antipathies we find the universal law that like attracts like. Obviously we can see contradictions to this in the physical world, positive/negative, yin/yang or male/female. This is, however, not a contradiction to the idea that like attracts like. It is so that opposites attract in the physical world, but esoterically this merely confirms the idea that at a spiritual level like attracts like. A human being is made up of the physical and spiritual and these are opposites within each body. So the physical male has the female spiritual body and the physical female has a male spiritual body. As a rough example we could say that man’s tough exterior finds its equal in the resilient nature of a females mind. Or that female softness or weakness has its equivalent in the fleeting nature of man’s desires, or weakness for the flesh. Just how far the physical and spiritual mix must vary from person to person but the important fact is that ultimately physical attraction of opposites is based on the sympathy at a spiritual level and this is esoteric love. By this definition all alchemical and magical practises are based on a recognition of this principle of attraction. Also when put in this context we can more easily understand the abstract idea that love rules our planet. When magic is practised it is done by attracting ‘spirit’ into matter to give it a quality as well as a quantity. It is to this ‘spirit’ that Virgil referred to in ‘The Aeneid’

 

Spiritus intus alit, totamque infusa per artus

mens agitat molem et magno se corpore miscet.

 

In the beginning Spirit fed all things from within, the sky and the earth, the level

waters, the shining globe of the moon and the Titan’s star, the sun. It was the mind

that set all this matter in motion. Infused through all the limbs it mingled with that

great body…

The Aeneid, Book VI, 726-727

 

Spirit is attracted into matter working on the basis of love and in the case of a talisman it is hoped good luck will follow. If for example one wanted to obtain gifts from Mercury then the image should be made of tin or silver, (Mercurial metals) with the sign of Virgo and characters of Virgo and Mercury. This type of talisman would be used to get intellectual gifts from Mercury.[5]We can now also begin to see the significance of astrology to a magician. The alchemist trying to make gold of other natural substances is not necessarily interested in its pecuniary value but probably more in its spiritual value because gold is the metal of the sun. By making gold the alchemist will be able to tap the source of all life in the solar system, namely that of the sun.

Shakespeare’s plays also contain a great deal of magic. The potions of Oberon in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and the bringing back to life of the dead queen Hermione in ‘The Winter’s Tale’. In ‘The Tempest’ we find Prospero is a good magician who uses his ‘art’ only for good purposes and ultimately finds a love for his daughter Miranda. He makes use of two spirit servants to do his work Ariel and Caliban. Ariel is the trusted spirit that Prospero conjured/liberated from of a tree and must work to earn its freedom having already learnt other lessons concerning what is good and what is evil. Ariel had suffered long for not obeying the previous mistress of the island which was the witch Sycorax. Instead of performing her evil desires we can assume that Ariel listened to its conscience and was prepared to let its conscience rule its deeds.

Prospero Thou, my slave,

As thou report’st thyself, was then her servant;

And, for thou was a spirit to delicate

To act her earthy and abhorr’d commands

Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee,

By help of her more potent ministers,

And in her most unmitigable rage,

Into a cloven pine; within which rift

Imprison’d, thou didst painfully remain

A dozen years;

The Tempest Act I, scene II

 

Caliban, Sycorax’s son, is the vile earth spirit that must be incarcerated in stone, at least something of an earthy nature, to make sure it doesn’t get up to evil when not being supervised by Prospero. Also in this hierarchy of spirits we find a reflection of the hierarchy of the four esoteric elements fire, air, water and earth. Ariel the airy sprite is above Caliban the earthly evil.

Caliban As wicked dew as e’er my mother brush’d

With raven’s feather from unwholesome fen

Drop on you both! a south-west blow on ye,

And blister you all o’er

 

Prospero For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps

Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up;

urchins

Shall, for the vast of night that they may work,

All exercise on thee; thou shalt be pinch’d

As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging

Than bees that made ‘em

The Tempest Act I, scene II

 

Here we can see that Caliban has only evil intents to anyone who orders something that is against his own will. This is why he must be confined to the basest of the four elements earth. There is also a wonderful parallel here with the folk novel of China, ‘Monkey’. In this epic we also find that Monkey who is always up to mischief because of his own egotistical desires is causing mayhem in heaven. The Jade Emperor who is in charge of heaven and who has also been afflicted by Monkey’s antics eventually decides to tame this mighty immortal. This takes time because Monkey has learnt a lot of magic but eventually they capture him and confine him to a mountain (of earthly nature). After doing time for five hundred years Monkey is given the chance to accompany a Buddhist monk to collect the scriptures from India. Monkey still has all his might powers, but learns how to direct them towards helping other people whilst under the auspices of the monk. It is the parallel of being confined to the earth element that I wanted to illustrate but it also serves to describe another important aspect. That is that eventually all selfish desires must be conquered to serve the greater good. If we consider that at a spiritual level everything is one then we realise that selfish desires are contrary to the well being of the whole if it means that someone else must suffer as a result. Here again is a parallel with Shakespeare for Prospero’s purpose for using magic is purely a didactic one. He doesn’t seek to revenge those who connived against him, but instead he uses his ‘art’ to create situations so that the characters can realise their mistakes and seek to be forgiven. By realising their shortcomings and the implications of their previous misdemeanours they can turn over a new leaf being forever grateful that Prospero had taught them about the nature of forgiveness. Obviously this is a main ingredient of love, below we shall look at more, but we also find Prospero conjures up situations so that his daughter, the admirable Miranda, and her suitor Ferdinand learn to love one another. There is no compulsion on Propero’s part for he understands that love must come from within and cannot be forced. Instead he creates situations to test the two’s love for one another and wonderfully they pass with exalted hearts.

 

Another view of The Tempest will also serve to illustrate that esoteric thoughts are a backbone to this play. First we have the witch Sycorax which is a corruption of Scyros which is the home of King Lychomedes in Greek mythology. Now lycho is Greek for wolf and the wolf is symbolic of the ego in hermetic thought. So in Shakespeare’s scenery we have the implication that the island was once ruled by selfish impulses until it was ridden of them by Propero. Ariel also tells us that Sycorax was from Argier. Argo would be the place that the witch comes from as well as Jason’s argonauts and could also be a corruption of the Latin ego, meaning self. So again we have indications that Sycorax represents evil or egotistical thoughts.

 

In ‘The Merchant of Venice’ we again find Shakespeare coming to terms with the true nature of love and what it means to humans. In the first we have Portia whose future husband is determined by the opening of the correct casket. In the second we have Shylock learning the hard way to be forgiving and more Christian than the Jew he is apt to be. By definition a Christian is someone who shapes his life according to the principles set out in Jesus’ sermon on the mount.[6] A Jew is by definition someone who obeys the law of the ten commandments handed down by Moses and perceives this to be the right way to live.[7] We also understand that it had to be a Jew that was a stickler for the written word, because the ten commandments are law. More of this later. Now let us first look to the three caskets that shall determine Portia’s fate. The first is of gold, second of silver and third of lead. With the arrival of a suitor, the prince of Morocco we learn of the cryptic clue pertaining to the golden casket.

Prince of Morocco ‘Who chooseth me shall gain what many men

desire;’

After choosing this casket he reads inside the following…

 

All that glitters is not gold,-

Often have you heard that told

Many a man his life hath sold

But my outside to behold

Gilded tombs do worms enfold.

Had you been twice as bold,

Young in limbs, in judgement old,

Your answer had not been inscroll’d

Fare you well; your suit is cold Merchant of Venice Act II, scene V

 

We know that Portia’s father was a holy man and sought to find a true love for his heiress daughter and this is why the scheme has been invented. The above message is a clear indication of the dangers of seeking fulfilment of one’s material desires. Material desires are a manifold danger to man in his search for happiness, which itself is none other than experiencing love. Firstly material is dead matter and is transient in nature and is therefore the opposite of the eternal nature of the soul. It cannot be taken into the spiritual realms when the soul departs the body at death. If a life has been spent trying just to fulfil material desires then when death comes about the soul will first have to purge itself of these material desires. There is no material in the spiritual realms which can be very hard to come to terms with for somebody who has spent 70-80 years having material wealth as their life’s ambition. Because love is a life experience of an ever changing nature it also means that greed for material wealth leaves little or no room for true love, the exact nature of which we will look at later.

 

Looking at the silver casket we find that it promises that ‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves’. Prince of Arragon is the person who has chosen this fate and reads the following:

The fire seven times tried this:

Seven times tried that judgement is,

That did never choose amiss.

Some there be that shadows kiss

Such but have a shadow’s bliss.

There be fools alive, I wis,

Silvered o’er and so was this.

Take what wife you will to bed,

I will ever be your head:

So be gone, you are sped.

Merchant of Venice Act II, scene VIII

 

Why is the prince such a fool ? Whilst he might appear to be an improvement on the totally material orientated person he is almost as contemptible in Portia’s ex-father’s eyes. According to the hermetic tradition it is every soul’s goal to aim for the highest heights of spirituality. The hermit can never be satisfied with understanding so much and then stopping because he/she doesn’t deserve anymore and besides how does he/she know that he/she does not deserve any more. Is not he/she assuming when he/she deserves something that it will be given to him/her. No hermit can assume that he/she deserves higher spiritual knowledge instead he/she must eat, drink and live the longing to ascend into the spiritual realms and reap its fruits. The prince is a fool for accepting things as they stand and not trying to improve them, one should not rest on one’s laurels. In respect to love itself he is also proving himself to be a fool because nobody deserves love, it is not a matter of tit for tat, of earning or deserving. Instead one must always be searching to give love.

 

Finally we come to the lead casket which bears more of a threat than anything else and reads: ‘who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’ It is Bassanio that chooses this casket that bears the following fortune.

You that choose not by view,

Chance as fair, and choose as true

Since this fortune falls to you

Be content, and seek no new

If you be well pleased with this

And hold your fortune for your bliss

Turn you where your lady is,

And claim her with a loving kiss

Merchant of Venice Act III, scene II

 

Portia’s deceased father can well have assumed that the chooser of this chose not by view. We have already discussed how each and every person is responsible for their own world view in the previous chapter. We can also assume that Bassanio is aware that love is a state of mind and not some action or artefact. True love is to be able to overlook people’s shortcomings and instead to seek out the wondrous nature that all creation possess in one form or another. It is in its highest form a state of always wanting to give or do one’s best for the person one loves. It is being altruistic in the sense that by giving love one can make another person feel happy or loved. It could also be viewed as being egotistical because the giver of love also derives happiness from his sacrifice. Thus in true love we find the merging of altruistic and egotistical actions because it is for the benefit of one and the One. Shakespeare also points out that whilst everyone can know what their ideal should, it is a very different matter when it comes to putting this into practise. Below, Portia is discussing this theme with her waiting maid, Nerissa

Nerissa They would be better, if well follow’d

 

Portia If to do were as easy to know what were good

to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s

cottages prince’s palaces. It is a good divine that

follows his own instructions: I can easier teach

twenty what were good to be done, than be one of

the twenty to follow mine own teaching. The brain may devise laws for the blood; but a hot

temper leaps o’er a cold decree: such a hare is

madness of youth, to skip o’er the meshes of

good-counsel the cripple…

The Merchant of Venice Act I, scene II

 

If Bassanio is the model of selfless love then Shylock, the Jewish money lender, comes close to being the paradigm of selfishness, wolfishness and anti-love. When his daughter Jessica steals away with Lorenzo and some of his money, his curses are against his loss of wealth. He thinks nothing of his flesh and blood Jessica, instead of the two thousand ducat diamond that he has lost. He says he would rather she ‘were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear’. As if this isn’t sufficiently reprehensible we learn that he rekindles his happiness on Antonio’s misfortune of losing a boat full of merchandise.

 

Tubal Yes other men have ill luck too: Antonio, as I

heard in Genoa,-

 

Shylock What, what, what? ill luck, ill luck?

 

Tubal Hath an argosy cast away, coming from Tripolis.

 

Shylock I thank God, I thank God! – Is’t true, is’t true.

 

As the story goes Antonio is unable to pay his debt to Shylock at the appointed time because of his losses at sea. It is now that Shylock decides to be a stickler for the law so that he can feed his hatred of the Christian Antonio. He is no longer interested in financial gain as others have offered to pay two, three or four times the sum owed. Instead he demands his pound of flesh which was the forfeit if Antonio defaulted. Many attempts are made to encourage him to re-think but he remains adamant

 

Shylock I’ll have my bond; I will not hear thee speak:

I’ll have my bond; and therefore speak no more.

I’II not be made a soft dull-eyed fool

To shake the head, relent, and sigh and yield

To Christian intercessors. Follow not;

I’II have no speaking; I will have my bond.

Merchant of Venice Act III, scene III

 

Eventually the law becomes the undoing of Shylock because it gets to the intent behind his stubbornness. Through judicial inference Shylock is accused of intending to kill Antonio which is against the law. Now he is the accused and it is only the good will of the Christian Antonio that can spare his life. Here we find Antonio’s love is prepared to forgive and forget. Love is not interested in revenge for this just serves to increase the vicious circle of retaliatory measures. Instead love must be magnanimous and stand as an example to everyone as the highest ideal. Revenge against Shylock would in a spiritual or loving sense have only served to make him seek his revenge when he returns to the stage to play another part. By showing compassion Antonio makes Shylock aware of this ideal and hopefully of its inherent sense and beauty. If Shylock has been converted to a more Christian outlook on life then all’s well that ends well. Shakespeare’s understanding that love is not something that is taught, but instead something that must want to be learned and experienced is an essential theme in all plays. The volition to love can never be thrust down somebody’s neck, instead it must stem from a deep yearning to want to give love. Crusades against non-believers will only serve their purpose if they are loving crusades. The best that any individual should allow him/herself to hope is that by being loving that others feel inspired to live the same way.

 

 

 

Afterword

 

I have omitted wirting a conclusion because I feel each chapter concludes itself. Instead I would like to reflect on what Shakespeare represents to someone with an esoteric outlook on life. Shakespeare had a great understanding of what life is all about. It is because of these understandings that he was capable of writing plays that are still valid 400 years after they were written. This in itself is proof for me that he has hit on something approaching some kind of truth. Shakespeare’s plays are works of art and like all art forms reflect a personal perception of the world. Art therefore is inspiration coloured by the artist’s brush and is a metaphor for the beauties that lie waiting for us in the spiritual world when we eventually wake up to the fact that there is more to life than meets the eye.

 

 

Bibliography

 

The Holy Bible: King James Edition

 

The Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God. Translated by Swami Prabhavananda & Christopher Isherwood, Mentor Books 1954

 

Bullfinch, Thomas The Golden Age of Myth and Legend, Senate 1994

 

Dethlefsen, Thorwald The Challenge of Fate, Coventure 1989

 

Hodgson, Joan Planetary Harmonies, The White Eagle Publishing Trust 1980

 

Pirsig, Robert M. Traité du zen et de l’entretien des motocyclettes, Éditions de Seuil 1978

 

Potter, Carole A -Z of Superstitions, Chancellor Press 1990

 

Schuré, Edouard, Les Grands Initiés: Esquisse de L’Histoire Secrète des Religions, Libraire Académique 1925

 

Steiner, Rudolph, Das Ereignis der Christus Erscheinung in der Ätherischen Welt, Rudolph Steiner Verlag 1984

 

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[1] The Challenge of Fate p16

[2]A-Z of superstitions

[3] Starseekers p149

[4] Oxford Dctionary of Quotations

[5]Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition p70

[6] St -Matthew 5

[7] Exodus 19-24