Esoteric Shakespeare (Part 8)

George Wither’s The Great Assises holden in Parnassus lists names which seem to be some of those who belonged to a secret society hiding behind the “Shakespeare” plays. That secret society was most likely the Rosicrucians. (Background: Esoteric Shakespeare (Part 7), Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of February 23, 2014.)

Around 1614 a pamphlet published anonymously in German, Die Reformation der Ganzen Weiten Welt, had seemed to propose the inauguration of a secret society for the purpose of a “Universal Reformation.” The general opinion however is that the German pamphlet was merely a rough translation of part of a satirical work by Trajano Boccalini: Ragguagli di Parnaso (News-sheet from Parnassus). The German pamphlet is generally thought to have originated from Boccalini’s “Advertisement 77” of Ragguagli di Parnasso, Centuria Prima. [1]

The gist of Boccalini’s satire is offered below. An English translation of the complete text should be available at this link:

The Emperor Justinian presented to Apollo, for the royal approbation, a new law against self-murder.

Apollo was mightily astonished, and fetching a deep sigh, he said, “Is the good government of mankind, Justinian, then fallen into so great disorder that men do voluntarily kill themselves?”

To this Justinian answered, that the law was necessary, and that many cases of violent deaths having happened by many men having desperately made themselves away, worse was to be feared if some opportune remedy were not found out against so great a disorder.

Apollo studied the matter and decided to institute a society of the men most famous in his dominions for wisdom and good life. But in the entrance into so weighty a business he met with insuperable difficulties, for amongst so many philosophers, and the almost infinite number of vertuosi, he could not find so much as one who was endowed with half the requisite qualifications to reform his fellow-creatures, his Majesty knowing well that men are better improved by the exemplary life of their reformers than by the best rules that can be given.

In this penury of fitting personages, Apollo gave the charge of the Universal Reformation to the Seven Wise Men of Greece, who are of great repute in Parnassus. But the Latins were grieved, thinking themselves thereby much injured. Wherefore Apollo, that he might satisfy the Romans, joined in commission with the Seven Sages of Greece, Marcus and Annæus Seneca, and in favor to the modern Italian philosophers, he made Jacopo Mazzoni da Cesena Secretary of the Congregation, and honored him with a vote in their consultations.

The new committee for Universal Reformation went to the Delfick Palace (Delphic Palace), the place appropriated for the Reformation. The Litterati were well pleased to see the great number of pedants, who, baskets in hands, went gathering up the sentences and apothegms which fell from those wise men as they went along.

Windows Into the Heart

At the Delfick Palace, Thales the Milesian was first to speak: Nothing had more corrupted the age, he said, than hidden hatreds, feigned love, impiety, and the perfidiousness of double-dealers. The solution, he proposed, was to make a little window in people’s chests so that all could see what was going on in their heart. “For when those who use such art in their proceedings shall be forced to speak and act, having a window whereby one may see into their hearts, they will learn the excellent virtue of being, and not appearing to be.”

The committee agreed, and Apollo commanded that they should begin that very day to make windows in the breasts of humankind. But at the very instant that the surgeons took their instruments in hand, Homer, Virgil, Plato, Aristotle, Averroes, and other eminent Litterati went to Apollo, and urged a slight delay. If Apollo should unexpectedly open every man’s breast, the philosophers who formerly were most highly esteemed ran evident hazard of being shamed.

So Apollo prorogued the day of incision for eight days, during which everyone attended to the cleansing of their souls from all fallacies, hidden vice, hatred, and counterfeit love, that there was no more honey of roses, succory, cassia, scena, scamony, nor laxative syrups to be found in any grocer’s or apothecary’s shop in all Parnassus; and the more curious did observe that in the parts where the Platonicks, Peripateticks, and Moral Philosophers did live, there was then such a stink as if all the privies of the country had been emptied, whereas the quarters of Latin and Italian poets smelt only of cabbage-porridge.

After about a week, it was time to cut little windows into people’s hearts. But then Hippocrates, Galen, Cornelius, Celsus, and other most skillful Physicians of Parnassus went to Apollo and complained that such incisions would deform the “Microcosmos” (humans) who had been made in the image of the “Macrocosmos” (God).

So Apollo changed his former resolution for the incisions, and by Ausonius Gallus bid the philosophers of the Reformation proceed in delivering their opinions.

Elimination of Metals

Solon spoke first. The true “spring’s head” for hatred “proceeds from the disparity of means, from the hellish custom of meum and tuum (mine and thine),” he said. “From the root of this inequality it then ariseth, that the rich are injurious to the poor, and that the poor envy the rich.”

Solon’s opinion suffered a long debate. But Seneca’s view finally prevailed over Solon’s. Seneca convinced the assembly that if they should come to a new division of the world, one great disorder would necessarily follow; that too much would fall to the share of fools, and too little to gallant men.

Solon’s opinion being laid aside, Chilo argued that gold and silver were the problem. Let us, said Chilo, “for ever to banish out of the world the two infamous mettals, gold and silver, for so the occasion of our present disorders being removed, the evils will necessarily cease.”

Though Chilo’s opinion had a very specious appearance, it would not bear the test, for it was said that if there were no such thing as gold or silver, people would make use of something instead of them, which, rising in value, would be equally coveted, as was plainly seen in the Indies, where cockle-shells were made use of instead of money, and more valued than either gold or silver.

Next, Cleobulus said, with much perturbation of mind: “My Masters, banish iron out of the world, for that is the mettal which hath put us into the present condition. Gold and silver serve the purpose ordained by God, whereas iron, which Nature produced for the making of plow-shears, spades, and mattocks, is by the malice and mischief of men, forged into swords, daggers, and other deadly instruments.”

Though the opinion of Cleobolus was judged favorably, it was realized it would be impossible to expel iron but by grasping iron and putting on corslets (a piece of defensive armour covering the body), and it was imprudent to multiply mischiefs.

Appeal to Heaven

Other ideas were considered. Then Periander arose and said, “The fatal error then which has so long confirmed mankind in their unhappiness is this, that while the vices of the great have brought the world into confusion, a reformation of private men’s faults has been thought sufficient to retrieve it.” The ambition, avarice, and diabolical engagement which the swords of some powerful princes had usurped over the states of those less powerful was the great scandal. “Theft which is undoubtedly base, is so persecuted by the laws that the stealing of an egg is a capital fault, yet powerful men are so blinded with ambition as to rob another man perfidiously of his whole state, which is not thought to be an execrable mischief but an noble occupation, and onely fit for kings,” observed Periander. “Tacitus, the master of policy, that he may win the good will of princes, is not ashamed to say, ‘If it be true, as all politicians agree, that people are the prince’s apes, how can those who obey live vertuously quiet when their commanders do so abound in vice.'”

But Solon disagreed with Periander, and concluded, “Subjects, therefore, should correct the faults of their rulers onely by their own godly living, for the hearts of princes being in the hands of the Almighty, when people deserve ill from His Divine Majestie he raiseth up Pharoahs against them, and, on the contrary, makes princes tender-hearted, when people by their fidelity and obedience deserve God’s assistance.”

Cato next spoke: “Gentlemen, the maladies which molest our age equal the stars of heaven, and are more various than the flowers of the field. I, therefore, think this cure desperate, and that the patient is totally incapable of humane help. We must have recourse to prayers and to other divine helps, which in like case are usually implored from God; this is the true north-star.” Things were so bad, the maladies were in number equal to the stars, that Cato proposed, “I do with all my heart beseech the Divine Majestie, and counsel you to do the like, that He will again open the cataracts of Heaven, and pour down upon the earth another deluge.”

Cato was saying things had gotten as bad as they were in Noah’s time.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth… (Genesis 6: 5-7)

But the Assembly could not agree on Cato’s idea that they all pray for a new great flood.

Examine the Patient!

Yet how could the general reformation be begun? The whole Assembly were mightily afflicted. Heretofore they had not looked to Jacopo Mazzoni da Cesena, Secretary of the Congregation, because he was but a novice. Yet at this time Mazzoni made bold to speak. He humbly suggested that although there had been much talk of a cure, no one had bothered to visit the sick party. “I therefore advise,” said Mazzoni, “that we send for the present Age to come hither and be examined, that we interrogate it of its sickness, and that we see the ill-affected parts naked, for this will make the cure easie, which you now think desperate.”

The whole Assembly was so pleased at Mazzoni’s motion, that the reformers immediately commanded the Age to be sent for, who was presently brought in a chair to the Delphick Palace by the four Seasons of the year. The Age informed the attending wise physicians, “Soon after I was born, gentlemen, I fell into these maladies under which I now labour.” Furthermore, said the Age, “When my looks are outwardly good, my malady is more grievous inwardly (as at this present), but when my face looks ill, I am best within.”

The philosophers carefully examined the Age and found that in all the huge colossus there was not one inch of good live flesh, at which, being struck with horror and despair, they put on the patient’s clothes again, and dismissed him.

Conclusions of the Wise Assembly

At this point the Assembly, convinced that the disease was incurable, shut themselves up together, and abandoned the case of public affairs. Mazzoni writ what the rest of the reformers dictated, a Manifesto, wherein they witnessed to the world the great care Apollo ever had of the virtuous lives of his Litterati, and of the welfare of all mankind, also what pains the Reformers had taken in compiling the General Reformation. Then, coming to particulars, they fixed the prices of sprats, cabbages, and pumpkins. Then the palace gates were thrown open, and the General Reformation was read, in the place appointed for such purposes, to the people assembled in great numbers in the market-place, and was so generally applauded by every one that all Parnassus rang with shouts of joy, for the rabble are satisfied with trifles, while men of judgment know that vitia erunt donec homines (as long as there be men there will be vices) – that people live on earth not indeed well, but as little ill as they may, and that the height of human wisdom lies in the discretion to be content with leaving the world as they found it.

——- Sources ——-
[1] The Real History of the Rosicrucians, by Arthur Edward Waite. Originally published in 1887 by George Redway, London


About ersjdamoo

Editor of Conspiracy Nation, later renamed Melchizedek Communique. Close associate of the late Sherman H. Skolnick. Jack of all trades, master of none. Sagittarius, with Sagittarius rising. I'm not a bum, I'm a philosopher.
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2 Responses to Esoteric Shakespeare (Part 8)

  1. Pingback: Esoteric Shakespeare (Part 9) | Ersjdamoo's Blog

  2. Pingback: Esoteric Shakespeare (Part 10) | Ersjdamoo's Blog

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