Esoteric Shakespeare (Part 9)

“Do you not know, Asclepius,” said Hermes Trismegistus, “that Egypt is an image of heaven or, to be more precise, that everything governed and moved in heaven came down to Egypt and was transferred there?”

“And yet, since it befits the wise to know all things in advance, of this you must not remain ignorant: a time will come when it will appear that the Egyptians paid respect to divinity with faithful mind and painstaking reverence – to no purpose.”

Cried Hermes, “O Egypt, Egypt, of your reverent deeds only stories will survive, and they will be incredible to your children!” [1]

After St. Augustine attacked Hermes in his book, City of God, the Latin West shunned the Corpus Hermetica. A debt is owed to the Moslems, who helped preserve the writings. Indeed, the Moslems identified Hermes with the Koranic Idris and the Biblical Enoch. [2]

It was not until 1462 that young Marsilio Ficino, under the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici, began to translate into Latin a 14th-century manuscript of Hermes. During the Renaissance, Hermes and his writings were thought to be contemporaries of Moses. Later there was disagreement about how old the texts were and where they had originated. In 1964, Dame Frances Yates focused on Ficino, Giordano Bruno, and others in her book, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. “Yates also detected Hermetic influence in major figures of the Renaissance literary canon, including [Sir Phillip] Sidney, [Edmund] Spenser and [William] Shakespeare.” [2]

Author William Francis C. Wigston seems to agree: “A study of Sidney, Spencer (sic) and [Walter] Raleigh will discover the prevalence of a secret, and always Platonic language, during Shakespeare’s age.” [3]

It was a time of Reformation. The Protestant Reformation had begun when the Bible became available to ordinary people via the printing press. People began to read the Bible and it caused them to disagree with the Roman papists. A different branch of Reformation, not well known by comparison, was the Universal Reformation. Spearheaded primarily by humanists, artists, and antiquarians, a broad cultural movement emerged that came to regard the ancient world as the peak of civilization and the medieval world as barbarous. It was these groups that sought to restore much of the splendor of the ancient world. [4] Signs of this idea of Universal Reformation began to emerge, for example a pamphlet published anonymously in German, Die Reformation der Ganzen Weiten Welt, which had seemed to propose the inauguration of a secret society for the purpose of a Universal Reformation. (Background: Esoteric Shakespeare (Part 8), Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of February 24, 2014.)

The principal of these secretive sects of the Renaissance times may be reduced to three: the Templars, the Albigenses, and the Ghibellines; who, with one consent, although with different ends in view, conspired together against the Pope. [5]

Marsilio Ficino, adopted son of Cosimo de’ Medici, Doge of Florence, was translating Plato from Greek to Latin when Cosimo acquired ancient texts by Hermes Trismegistus, and their translation became top priority. Florence, at the time, was a safe haven for “heretics,” as was Milan, in what is present-day Italy. In the time of the Albigensian Crusade, Pope Innocent III had complained to Milan about their protection of “heresy.” Florence had a long Cathar tradition. [6]

Two competing factions vied for power in what is now northern Italy. The Ghibellines, aristocratic and interested in new ideas, were contested by the Guelphs, aligned with Rome. Ghibellinism was much more than a simple support for emperors, “it had an anticlerical undertow and it was the most important force in Italy for the protection of heretics, pre-eminently the Cathars.” In turn, many of the Cathar leaders were themselves of an upper-class, educated background. This caliber of Cathar patrons and adherents enabled a powerful influence upon the government of Florence. [6]

Italy, refuge for Cathars fleeing France, became a microcosm of the Languedocian faith. A third force, “pagan” (based upon ancient authors) and folkloric, existed alongside Catholicism and Catharism. When the Ghibellines lost support, the Cathars continued a clandestine existence. In Florence, “heresy” was especially tenacious. Although the Ghibellines were purged there in 1267, and the Catholic-siding Guelphs gained control, still the Cathars were not eradicated. In Florence, whether Guelph or Ghibelline had the upper hand, “there remained in the city an intense suspicion of external interference…” Learning the ways of clandestine existence, the Cathars established safe houses and disguised their activities. Secret signs of recognition were used, not unlike similar tactics once used by persecuted Christians, hiding in the catacombs of Rome. The core of the clandestine Cathars of northern Italy became the artisan class: tanners, furriers, and other producers. [6]

Because the clandestine Cathars became artisans, there is therefore “nothing surprising that papermaking and printing should alike have fallen largely, if not solely, into heretical hands.” [6]

Papermaking techniques arrived in Europe either via returning Crusaders and/or via Moorish Spain. And it “is a fact, the significance of which has hitherto been unnoted, that the early papermaking districts were precisely those that were strongholds of the heretical sects known as the Albigenses.” [6]

Among the symbols of the Cathars was the mythical unicorn, a one-horned beast often represented in company with a Virgin holding a dove. This design is commonly found in watermarks made by different papermakers based in locations thousands of miles apart. The unicorn had such purity, it repelled noxious things; it was the emblem of the Cathari, the pure ones. Other common emblems were the serpent swallowing its tail, the pelican piercing its breast to feed its young, and depictions of troubadours. [6]

The troubadours, “knights errant in the service of Lady Sophia,” first flourished in the south of France. By the year 1240, as many as 4,000 of the Albigensian clerics traveled Europe disguised as troubadours and tinkers (a sort of wandering retailer). (Troubadours are not to be confused with jesters. Not mere buffoons, they were instead evangelical ministers and/or Albigensian Bishops. The jesters were essentially deacons, serving as squires to the knightly troubadours.) These witty singers (somewhat like the later folk singers) were a type of underground press, opposing the Romish “news” outlet of the village priest. Their songs swayed the minds of their listeners, and “Few things could resist their ridicule, and no memories were beyond their power to perpetuate.” The troubadours found audiences throughout Europe and “kept alive the story of Romish barbarity, and added fuel to the smoldering fires of heresy.” The watermarks show the troubadours to have been one of the links in the continued resistance to Rome. [6]

The troubadours gradually were replaced by the theater. The actors and dramatists of the seventeenth century inherited the Jester traditions. Besides the church pulpit, tending to echo the Roman “reality,” poetry and drama were the only other diffusionist power capable of moving the passions or directing the opinions of the people. The so-called “Shakespeare” was “the greatest of the world’s Troubadours.” Tricks of obscurity, such as dimunitive designs at the start of chapters, began to appear in the printed pages. Flower designs woven into the books contained irregularities, seemingly errors but in fact clues to secret matter concealed in the text by various cipher systems. There was also inexplicable italicisation of unimportant words and phrases. “Few realise what an extraordinary mass of Cipher literature arose in the sixteenth century.” Francis Bacon, secret son of the “virgin” Queen Elizabeth I, played a key role in production of the writings designated by the “Shakespeare” logo. [6]

——- Sources ——-
[1] Asclepius. From Hermetica, edited by Brian P. Copenhaver. Cambridge University Press, 1992
[2] Introduction, by Brian P. Copenhaver. From Hermetica, edited by Brian P. Copenhaver. Cambridge University Press, 1992
[3] A New Study Of Shakespeare, by William Francis C. Wigston
[4] Gale Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World: Ancient World, http://www.answers.com/topic/ancient-world
[5] Disquisitions on the antipapal spirit which produced the Reformation; its secret influence on the literature of Europe in general, and of Italy in particular, by Gabriele Rossetti. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1834. https://archive.org/stream/disquisitionsona01rossuoft/disquisitionsona01rossuoft_djvu.txt
[6] Melchizedek Communique, by Brian Redman. 2010. Available from Lulu.com

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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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One Response to Esoteric Shakespeare (Part 9)

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

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