Shakespeare in Light of Theosophy - A Collection of Essays
---------Contents - Hidden Lessons in Shakespeare - Morris - The Tempest - Morris - A Midsummer Night's Dream - Morris - Theosophy in Shakespeare - Sawtell Essays on Shakespeare (Theosophical Movement) - I. Othello - The Tale of a Hypnotized Soldier - II. Macbeth - A Study in Witchcraft - III. King Lear - A Study in Karma - IV. The Theosophy of Shakespeare's Tempest - V. Hamlet - A Story of Psychic Unbalance - VI. Julius Caesar - A Study in Violence and Bloodshed - VII. Shakespeare and the Adepts - VIII. Shakespeare's Views on Death ------------
Hidden Lessons in Shakespeare - Kenneth Morris "Let the stage manager concentrate his attention and that of his audience on the things seen which are temporal, and such a play is robbed of half its majesty and all its significance. But let him.... raise the action from the merely material to the psychological, and render audible to the ears of the soul if not of the body 'the solemn uninterrupted whisperings of man and destiny,' point out 'the uncertain dolorous footsteps of the being as he approaches or wanders from, his truth, his beauty, or his God,' and show how, underlying King Lear, Macbeth, and Hamlet, is 'the murmur of Eternity on the horizon,' and he will be fulfilling the poet's intention instead of turning his majestic spirits into sepulchralvoiced gentlemen with whitened faces and robes of gauze." Now the above, we take it, is a very beautifully worded expression of a profound artistic truth; but when we find such a gloss put upon it as a certain journalist puts in the following sentence: "The play, in short, should make man realize that he is an embodied ghost in the presence of ghosts not embodied, more potent, more masterful than he - " we begin to feel that it is time to exercise a little caution.
Some one wrote an essay on Hamlet, and devoted the bulk of it to proving that Shakespeare, like himself, was a spiritualist. He did not see that thus he had only succeeded in proving himself, at least, a very thorough-paced materialist, one insisting upon the letter and letting the spirit go. That almost goes without saying. It does not matter to us, and it did not matter to Shakespeare, what views might be held on this matter or that. For example, in some of the plays the whole machinery of old Paganism is taken for granted; in others, the whole machinery of medieval Christianity. It is profitless to assign dogmas to Shakespeare on the strength of the scheme of things made use of in this drama or that; because he makes use of whatever scheme of things is suitable to the local color of the play in hand. He had to say his mighty say, and proclaim the things that are true in all ages. Men may be Buddhist, Christian, or Muslim, Jews, Turks, Infidels, or Heretics; but still the Law works. Truth and art stand superior to all religion and all creeds; and so with the artist there may be this set of personal beliefs or that; but the moment he ascends into the real region of art, those beliefs are lost sight of, and he handles the eternal verities. Half the world is worried that we can get no clue to Shakespeare the man. We deny his existence; we prove that he was Bacon; we write biographies of him, mainly relying on imagination for our facts. What is not sufficiently realized is that this very illusiveness is what makes him so uniquely great. Impersonality is the secret of him; "self-emptiness," as the Chinese say. "Cursed be the man that moves my bones," says Shakespeare from his tomb; in other words simply, Let my personality be; that which is of account came not from it, but from universal and spiritual sources. He could take any belief, any system, and twist the paraphernalia of it into a symbol for world-wide stable truth. No religion specifically denies such facts as that the nature of man is dual, good and evil; that he may follow the evil side of him to destruction, or the bright side to high summits of being; that "whatsoever a man soweth, that also shall he reap." The trouble is that most religions have skilfully overlaid these truths with a tangle of dogmatic perversities, so that they remain concealed and forgotten. But if a man might proclaim them so the truth of them should "bite," as we say; should lay hold upon the minds of men, and force itself insistently into memory - that man would be among the teachers and benefactors of the race. Shakespeare certainly did that. He does not care whether it is Jove that is wielding the thunderbolts, or whether they fall driven by no visible or ascribed hand; fall they shall, it is certain, to smite, not the unbeliever, but the unrighteous. It is true, indeed, that he showed a certain leaning to Pagan symbology, rather than Christian; he does bring in Pagan Gods as agents in the working of his plots, but not ever, I think, a Christian angel or saint. But that was, one may say, because paganism lends itself more readily to the uses of the symbolic treatment of realities. It was more lifted out of the field of dogma, presented a more dispassionate, impersonal arena; and so there was and is more chance of Truth striking home through it. So Shakespeare the Artist, either with or without the conscious design of Shakespeare the personality, used it more often and more intrinsically in the structure of his plays than he used the Christian scheme. But that does not prove that Shakespeare believed in Juno, Iris, Jove, Ceres, etc., in the old exoteric pagan way. No doubt he went to church and conformed outwardly to the religion of his day. Indeed, had he not done so, the results might have been unpleasant for him. It does not matter. What of Truth there is in a man will live after him; it will shout through all his acts and
writings, a voice not to be silenced, a light unquenchable; his creed, on the other hand, is "oft interred with his bones." Not that we can believe that even the man Shakespeare was much hampered with such a thing as a creed; he could put by and rise above it too easily, if it existed at all, for it to have sat otherwise than very lightly upon him. But what we are concerned with is not the creed of him, but the manner in which he handled any creed or material for the purpose of symbolizing his teachings. "The solemn uninterrupted whisperings of man and his destiny": but if Shakespeare proclaims one thing with no shadow of uncertainty, it is that that destiny is made by man himself. All its ministrants are the reflections of man's own acts and character; the spirits of good and evil are whisperings within his own mind. Eternity does "murmur on the horizon"; this deep eternal truth of Karma sounds forever through the tragedies, like the sea-sound in a shell. Nothing could be farther from the spirit of this man and his work than the clammy atmosphere of Spookology. Which of his characters was the victim or creature of any other power, except in so far as some internal weakness made him so? Certainly not the hero of any play, not one of those archetypal figures that represent embodied Man. Rash and ungovernable Lear, without any fixed anchorage or stedfast point within his being, comes to no harm until he has deliberately given himself up into the power of his own evil progeny. Here Shakespeare uses no ghost or "supernatural" figure; but Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia serve him in the same stead as the spirits in certain other plays. They stand for the principles of good and evil; they are the children of Lear, the fruitage of his own acts, the accumulations of his own history. The "Moment of Choice" having come for him, he has to choose in accordance with his character - rashly, seizing the seeming sweetness of the moment; turning from the stern honorable words of Cordelia, who is symbol of the Higher Life; and flinging himself upon the greater promise of ease, delight, and honor held forth by the life of the personality and senses, Regan and Goneril. Says the Bhagavad-Gita: "Those who thus desire riches and enjoyment have no certainty of soul and least hold on meditation." And again: "The uncontrolled heart, following the dictates of the moving passions, snatcheth away his spiritual knowledge, as the storm the bark upon the raging ocean." And does not Shakespeare intend to symbolize the choice between "that which in the beginning is as poison and in the end as the waters of life, and which ariseth from a purified understanding" - Cordelia; and "that arising from the connexion of the senses with their objects which in the beginning is sweet as the waters of life but at the end like poison" - the two elder sisters? It is when he has made the choice, and chosen wrongly, that destiny begins to overwhelm King Lear. In the death of Cordelia we have another mystic teaching foreshadowed, that of sacrifice; on which there is no space to enlarge here. Now there in King Lear we find the pattern of the tragedies, and the main purpose and current of them. The absence of any ghost there, or in Othello; the absence of any so-called "supernatural" figure; shows that supernaturalism was incidental and a mere
convenient method of symbolization, to be made use of when required, but quite apart from the grand purpose. But in every one of the great tragedies, the work of the years when Shakespeare had come to his own, we do find the same insistence upon spiritual, not psychic, things: we do find Karma, not fate, at work; man, not the plaything of ghosts not embodied, more potent, more masterful than he; "but the maker of his own destiny, the victim of his own acts."
II. It is claimed that man is "an embodied ghost in the presence of ghosts not embodied, more potent, more masterful than he." Now three plays stand out pre-eminently as depending upon "supernatural" machinery; and it will be well to examine these briefly, in order to find out how and why this kind of machinery is used. These plays are, of course, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar; and the point to be decided is: Were these plays written to preach spiritualism, or for some other purpose? To take first the least important of the three, Julius Caesar. The story could have been told without introducing Caesar's ghost at all. The conspirators, centering about Brutus and Cassius, constitute the hero. They kill Caesar, whereafter (and wherefore) fate slowly weaves its web around them, and brings them to doom. You have there the elements of a tragedy; a moving, terrible tale. Such a drama would have been tragic enough, and great enough, for the ordinary playwright and for the ordinary audience. There is man at war with fate, and man defeated; all that exoteric drama asks in a tragedy, so it be properly handled. From that standpoint the ghost seems unessential; you might cut the scenes in which it appears, and still have a presentable, and even a great drama. Not so from the deeper standpoint; not so for the great art; not so for Shakespeare. Brutus, let us say, is the embodied ghost; Brutus, symbolically, is that much of the soul of man which is incarnate in the personality and brain-mind. Mark his position, standing as he does between the all-evil Cassius, Envy impersonate, and the impersonal, dominant, superman principle, Caesar. Noble he was essentially; but, as soon as the Cassius idea gains the ear and heart of him, clouded, ineffectual, befogged, worthless. His participation in the murder of Caesar foredooms his own pitiful end as clearly as Macbeth's murder of Duncan foredoomed his. In both cases, the man by a definite act on his own part, put himself in the power of fate. True, Brutus does not lose all his nobility. His is the fate of those whose very good qualities are turned against them, because of some lack of intuition on their part. They will not see clearly; they turn against the Law, the Higher Self, that which is inevitably destined to win; but they are honest in their blindness, and their crime is that they have allowed circumstances and the evil-minded to deceive them. Why did he not see through Cassius? The answer is, that Cassius found a weak spot in him to play upon; there was buried ambition there, ready to be fanned into a potent and destroying flame. He must emulate his ancestor; he must liberate Rome. But clearly Rome was moving in the nature of things
towards that principle which Caesar stood for, and needed Caesar above all things. Let Caesar be taken for the symbol of the dominant Soul in man. Brutus-brain-mind has loved and been loved by him. And yet this Brutus fears the complete submission, cannot take the step, holds back, dreading the curtailment of liberties. On that indecision, allied as it always is, to ambition, the evil forces play. So the blow is struck, Brutus becomes traitor, and Caesar is killed. They could never have done it without Brutus, and would not have dared the attempt. Even materially, in the action of the play, it is the Brutus-stab that kills: "Et tu, Brute! Then fall Caesar!" Which indicates that Cassius in a sense knew what he was doing, and that all blows would be powerless unless Brutus struck too. Now follow the play from that point, and note why art, which is one thing with Truth, when you have reached such a plane as this, demands that the Ghost be brought in. Without it, you have merely the failure of a plot; merely the greater skill of Antony and Octavius overcoming the chaotic counsels of the conspirators. With it, you have the indestructibleness of a Principle. Caesar is more potent, more masterful than Brutus, whether embodied or not. You may turn against that principle, you may stab it; but you cannot kill. Rather, and only, it is your end that you are fashioning. He who fell in the Senate house is yet inevitably victor on the plains of Philippi. He will have another embodiment - we treat these figures symbolically, and do not here imply the reincarnation of a human soul - as Octavius. You kill Julius, but the Caesar is not to be killed. So it must be indicated that he whom Brutus is to meet at Philippi, when he falls, when he runs upon his own sword, defeated - is the same Caesar whom he stabbed at Rome. No other symbol would have told the tale. In effect, the Ghost does not terrorize Brutus, raises no remorse or mental confusion; it appears for only one purpose, to symbolize the indestructibleness of the principle that Caesar stands for. Let it be said that there are many interpretations for a play such as this, according to the plane on which you choose to read it. The thing is as true if you understand it merely from a politico-social standpoint, as an allegory of the awful results of assassination in that sphere. Killing of a personality is the wrongest and most fatuous method; for the principle that was incarnate in the slain one immediately will find some other personality to embody and express it. But whether we take it as referring to the history of an individual or to that of a community; whether we find in the impersonal Caesar a good or a bad force, the lesson remains that it is not a personality, but an indestructible principle; and in order to symbolize this vividly, the Ghost has to appear. But to recur to the interpretation that has been attempted above. There are men who make such fateful mistakes as Brutus made, and remain honorable in spite of it, up to the point of their deaths. We might indeed read the Ghost's warning to Brutus in another way: "Thou shalt see me at Philippi"; the breach between thee and Me is not so complete but that it shall be healed over when thou art dead. We shall meet again. I do not see why it should not be interpreted thus, as a forewarning of forgiveness and reunion when the Karma of the great blunder is worked out on the field of ruin. This would be of a piece, too, with the words of Octavius, the new incarnation of the Caesar, on the battlefield: Within my tent his bones tonight shall lie. With all respect and rites of burial. According to his virtue let us use him,
True, the Ghost's announcement that he is "Thy evil spirit, Brutus," would seem to militate against this; but then to Brutus, persistent in his error, the Caesar would be "his evil spirit." And it is not claimed that there was verbal inspiration throughout the play; or that Shakespeare the personality necessarily fully understood the symbolism of what he was writing. And the Ghost made no appearance to Cassius, which it might have done, had it merely been intended to represent the spiritualistic idea of a dead man's personality, seeking to inspire terror and reap revenge. There is no talk whatever of meeting Cassius again; and yet Cassius was as courageous as a soldier as Brutus was, and it would have been as profitable to endeavor to terrorize him. The point is that the person who errs to an extent honorably, who blunders into such blindness and desertion without becoming altogether base, does meet his Higher Self again, does have another opportunity, either in this or another life, when he has paid the Karma of his crime; but there are those who are altogether base, and they do but with difficulty.
III. Macbeth is steeped in ghost-life; it represents that pole among the tragedies. A ghost walks here and does strike terror, is most ghostlike, a mere haunting, dreadful thing; and beside the ghost there are the Three Weird Sisters. There is more of the ghostly in Hamlet than in Julius Caesar, and more in Macbeth than in either. And let it be said at once that there is this psychic region in the universe; there is such a thing as the Astral Plane. If Shakespeare did not personally know about it, at least he served it up to us in a symbol. But he had to do so. There would have been a type left out, a warning unuttered, if he had failed to devote one tragedy to the exploitation of this thing. But to say that Macbeth (the drama, not the man) preaches ghostology! Why, it is the most fearful warning against it, probably, that ever was crammed into a drama. There are those three types of dreamers: Brutus on his plane, the politicophilanthropic, ruined by personal ambition, even though it was what many would call a noble form of ambition - the old sin under a great disguise of nobility; Hamlet on his plane, the speculative, free from ambition, but marred by indecision and the inability to do; and Macbeth on his plane, the psychic-emotional. And which of these three was irretrievably lost? Only one, Macbeth. And why? Let us remember that each of the three stands for that principle which is the ordinary consciousness in man; the "I" of everyday life. It links the animal and the divine nature; and is the field and instrument of conflict between these two. Thus Hamlet stands between his father's ghost and his uncle; Brutus between Caesar and Cassius; Lear between Goneril-Regan and Cordelia. Hamlet stands highest of them; he is in sharp, if ineffective, antagonism against Claudius; ineffective for long, because of his indecision; yet he does win a kind of victory in the end. We feel that with the entry of Fortinbras, for whom Hamlet himself has prepared the way, the "something rotten" is purged out from the state of Denmark; Hamlet, dying, is victorious and receives the crown. The dead Brutus too is not without honor; Shakespeare preserves for him our sympathy and pity. As for Lear, he has gone far; and yet he too in a sense is redeemed by Cordelia: he stands on the side of the angels at the end: Cordelia returns from France to meet her death, but pays by it, we may say, for the deaths of Goneril and Regan, and Edgar. So also Desdemona dying redeems
Othello from Iago; the Moor at last turns upon his tempter and stabs him, and though he does not kill, leaves him to a worse fate. Of all these the death is not utter loss, nor without some feature and hue of hope; but the case of Macbeth is different. We are not to suppose that he was altogether a bad man, this Gaelic chieftain. Duncan praised and honored him as deserving beyond the possibility of recompense: from Lady Macbeth we have a revelation of his character. Full of the milk of human kindness he was; ambitious, but without the illness that should attend ambition; what he would highly, that he would holily. Each of the tragedy heroes has much that is splendid in him; each has to contend with some weakness or passion; in each play there is some human figure that represents the hero's lower nature, actively evil. Lady Macbeth of course takes that place here. Now up to a certain point, all her workings had failed to destroy his nobility. She had been with him, we presume, for some years; yet still there was that "milk of human kindness;" still he "would holily;" still "would not play false." Then came the change and sudden breakdown. He comes into contact with the psychic world; that is the meaning of the Weird Sisters. "Metaphysical aid" is suddenly poured like naphtha on the smouldering fire of his ambition; and all that was good in the man is burned away. We cannot doubt that those three witches represent astralism. Those who dabble in it should read what H. P. Blavatsky taught on the subject. The lower astral light, she said, is the storehouse wherein are all the seeds of human vice and crime; once open the door of one's nature to it, and one is flooded with the whole mass of the accumulated foul thought of mankind. She quotes Eliphas Levi, who called it "Satan" and the "Great Serpent." It is bad enough for a man to contend with his own personal devil, his own lower, animal nature; yet one might contend with that to the end of life, and die respectable, without being a great hero; even falling under its power, one might part with life without the utter loss of hope, the utter severance of the link with his divinity. So Shakespeare teaches in these tragedies. He confronts Brutus, Hamlet, Lear, and Othello, only with their own passions and weaknesses, symbolized by the "villains" of the plays; and leaves us assured that they will do better in their next incarnations; they die penitent, or still retaining something of nobility. But not Macbeth. He has not only Lady Macbeth to tempt him, his own lower self; but also that supernatural astral world; and so his ruin is complete and without hope of redemption. He kills Duncan, as Brutus killed Caesar; and then he turns and kills Banquo likewise; as if Cassius should out of sheer malice and devilry have killed Brutus. Lady Macbeth dies before him; that is, even the inspiration of his lower self, even his personal potency for evil vanishes; and at the end he is the mere semblance of a man, a wreck, a remnant, a shell; a hollow thing through which surges unadulterated hate and passion. It is that touch with the "supernatural," that "metaphysical aid," which breaks him. Note that after the interview with the witches all restraint ebbs away from him: it is exactly so in real life. The evil of the world, stored there in the lower reaches of the Astral Light, seizes upon the weak spot in the nature of the "fool who treads" there, and inflames that until the whole being is burned away. So we see that Shakespeare taught the danger of Psychism. At this present time what warning could be of greater importance? Now it will be well to look at the ghost of Banquo; the third of Shakespeare's important ghosts; the other two being, of course, those of the elder Hamlet and Julius Caesar. These represent, in the case of King Hamlet obviously, and in the case of Caesar
but little less obviously, the Higher Self. If Macbeth had been no worse than Hamlet or even Brutus; if the slaying of Duncan had been of no deeper damnation and finality than the slaying of Caesar; it is the ghost of Duncan, and not that of mere Banquo, that would have walked: but we hear nothing of such a "spirit." The separation of the Higher Self and personality is, in this instance, absolutely complete. Caesar, being dead, yet lives, as Brutus' innate nobility yet lives. Duncan, being dead, is as dead as Macbeth's own better qualities. All that remains is Banquo; and he only for a little while. Banquo, I would say, represents personal soundness, sanity, and respectable outward showing. As a character apart, we note that he too meets the witches; but he is not ambitious, and neither begs nor fears their favor nor their hate. In all things we find him level and composed, a man of balance. While he remains with Macbeth, he is, if the latter but knew it, a protection to him; being a trustworthy man, and one of good-seeming, upon his side. His murder is the throwing off the mask of respectability; and is the second great step downward in the career of Macbeth. His ghost must be introduced, to fill the king with public terror. Until then, Macbeth has carried things well enough, wearing his mask efficiently; he retains the respect and loyalty of his court, at least to a degree, and has not been driven to foregather further with the witches. But he is obliged to murder Banquo; just as the votaries of evil may walk well in the eyes of the world for a time, but sooner or later are compelled to come forth without disguise, to some action which proclaims them and murders their good name and outward respectability. The appearance of Banquo's ghost is not set there for its surface value; if we think so, we rob it of its whole worth and depth of teaching. It is, no doubt, a psychic possibility; but it has its place in the play to symbolize a spiritual fact. It means the unveiling of the monster before the world; after which he can no more keep up appearances, but must race and riot down into perdition. Now Lennox understands him, and with Lennox the others: now he must go straight again for courage and appeasement to the witches; now comes the useless murder of the family of Macduff; and - Macduff and Malcolm in England begin the work of his undoing. "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." (Theosophical Path, vol. 3, no. 4, Oct., 1912) -----------------
The Tempest - Kenneth Morris The Tempest, with Cymbeline, Pericles, and the Winter's Tale, belongs to the fourth and last group of Shakespeare's plays. Its first recorded performance was at Whitehall before King James on November 1, 1611; probably it had already been acted at his own Globe Theater in Southwark earlier in the same year. It is probably not the last play he wrote; but almost certainly when he wrote it he intended it to be the last, and was consciously giving in it his farewell message to the world. "When I have required some heavenly music (which even now I do)," says Prospero who is Shakespeare - "I'll break my" [magician's] "staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, And deeper than did ever plummet
sound I'll drown my book" [of magic. It is the last of the plays in which he records his own spiritual life and adventures; in this respect following Hamlet, the representative or central play of the third period, as this is of the fourth. The crux of both is that a king, a rightful king, has been ousted from his throne by foul means: a wrong has been done that must be righted. This is a reflexion, or a symbol, of the whole wrongness of life, - the evil in the world and in man. When he wrote Hamlet, say in 1602, Shakespeare saw no means of righting this wrong except through disastrous expiations - deaths and deaths and deaths: by 1610, when he wrote The Tempest, he had discovered that there was another means. Man was not the helpless creature of fortune, doomed to ruin by his own weakness, or to be saved only by sacrifice; instead, there was in him a magician, a being of power, who can command his destiny. So for Hamlet the 'hesitating Dane' we have Prospero the Master of the Elements; and for the old redemption by sacrifice, we have redemption by power and peace: a power and a peace that Prospero has found within himself and imposes upon his surroundings, natural, elemental, and human. Externally, the play was suggested by certain current events; there was much in it of topical interest. In 1609, Sir George Somers sailed with nine ships for Virginia; the fleet was scattered by a storm; some of the ships reached their destination; others returned to England with news of the probable loss of the admiral's ship the Sea-Venture,which, however, had, in reality, been driven to the Bermudas and there put in in safety. In the following year a pamphlet was published in London giving an account of the whole affair. The Sea-Venture had sprung a leak; the sailors, exhausted with working the pumps, had given up all hope, taken leave of each other, and fallen asleep at their work: to wake in calm seas, under salubrious skies, within a stone's throw of land. The ship had been jammed between two rocks close inshore; and all hands were brought off with perfect ease, on to an island uninhabited but delightful, with air mild and delicious, and soil teemingly fruitful. The title of the pamphlet is indicative: The Discovery of Bermuda or Devil's Island. The Bermudas had been supposed to be enchanted; Sir Walter Raleigh in 1596 had given them a bad name on account of the storms that infested them; Shakespeare in this same play alludes to the "still-vext Bermoothes." Here then he found his material nexus, his external suggestion: here was a tempest; an enchanted island; a ship despaired of and wrecked, and as if by magic unharmed after all; and a part of the fleet (or crew) returned home lamenting the supposed loss of their leader. All of these incidents we find reproduced in the play. He used them as a scaffolding for, or a means of setting forth, in its final perfection, his profound philosophy of life. Through a number of plays he had been haunted by the duality of Nature, human and otherwise. He sensed constantly a Hidden Divinity: at his very bitterest - and he did fall to great bitterness - he would have gone to the stake for it that this God in Man did exist, or had existed, or ought to exist; but he also saw clearly that it was in defeat and retirement, obscured by the forces of evil which in this world have it mainly their own way. In his late thirties, realization of these things had begun to oppress him; and grew through seven years or so, creating an internal agony in whose white heat the grand tragedies were forged. Undoubtedly his understanding of the matter - which was intense, burning-clear, and personal - came of the fact that he could watch the contest primarily in his own life; in which, somewhere about 1600, some dark shadow seems to have loomed
up to be conquered or to destroy him. That he did conquer it: that he arrived at a perfect serenity of wisdom, a clear insight at last, The Tempest is there to prove. It was in about his thirty-eighth year, when he wrote Julius Caesar, that he began to notice this usurpation by evil of the sovereignty of good. He was not at first greatly troubled by it. He shared the general view of his age: which saw in the king the head and heart of the nation, a kind of link between it and the Divine Ruling of the universe, - and so, the symbol of Good always as opposed to evil. In Julius Caesar it is Caesar himself, of course, who holds this symbolic position; we see certain of the lower human elements, and particularly envy (impersonated as Cassius) rise against him, involving in their conspiracy the not ignoble qualities that are in Brutus; but we feel that Shakespeare has no doubt of the issue. The conspirators might kill Caesar, but they were powerless against Caesarism: Octavian is Caesar as soon as Julius is dead, and his return and triumph are inevitable as fate. Shakespeare had not yet realized the power of evil. Next came Hamlet; and here the result is far more uncertain. For Octavian sweeping to his revenge, we have Hamlet groping and hesitating after it: when we remember that these two characters have to play the same part, it becomes clear to us how far more deeply Shakespeare had become involved in the struggle with evil in the latter than in the former play; though probably not a year had passed between the writing of them. Still he foresees a final righting of the great wrong: the usurping evil (King Claudius) is to be killed; the murdered good (King Hamlet) is to be avenged; there will be peace at last, he is assured; but at what cost! All is doubt and uncertainty. He was himself his model for Hamlet, and Hamlet's dead father, and Claudius; he foresaw that, before the atonement could be made, Hamlet - his own superb intelligence - would be sacrificed. Measure for Measure, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear followed: each more gloomy than the last. In each he struggles towards the righting of the great wrong, the undoing of the great usurpation; in each foresees atonement; but the price to be paid for it is always greater; until in King Lear it is Cordelia, the divine Soul in man itself, that must be immolated: as if he had said, To undo the evil that humanity is, humanity, with the god in its heart and all, must be blotted out and a new race created. Then came two bitter scourgings of the falsity of women, Troilus and Cressida and Antony and Cleopatra; then the savage Timon of Athens, in which the tortured soul of Shakespeare proclaims its disgust with and despair of mankind; and then, seven years after Julius Caesar, he reached the lowest depths he ever did reach in Pericles; and there, in deep hell, turned, looked upward, and once more saw the light. If he did not write the parts we dislike of Pericles - and very likely he did not - still it is noteworthy, still indicative of his inward history, that he should have turned from the bitterness of Troilus and Timon to take a play by another man, far fouler and bitterer than either, and redeem it into sweet serenity; - come so quickly from the creation of Cressida and Cleopatra, to that of Marina. What is positive is this: a new day had dawned for him; a new sun shone; the bitterness is gone; the tortured soul is at peace; he believes in the divine within himself again, and consequently he believes in the divine in humanity; where a year before he was hating, now he is pitying and forgiving. Then came The Tempest: in which it is the Dethroned Divinity who holds all the power in his hands. A glance at the story will serve to show what a marvelous change had taken place in Shakespeare's outlook:
Prospero, Duke of Milan, in order to get time for his studies, principally of magic, had committed the charge of his duchy into the hands of his brother Antonio; who grew ambitious, and at the price of making Milan tributary to her traditional enemy, Alonso King of Naples, called in the latter's aid; and with it, dethroned Prospero and set him adrift with his infant daughter Miranda in a crazy boat in mid-sea. But fortune or Prospero's art guided the boat safely to an island; where, reigning through his magic over a world of spirits, he brought up Miranda and bided his time. The play opens twelve years later; when, all his enemies being upon a voyage in those parts, Prospero raises a storm which produces on them the illusion of shipwreck, and all are cast ashore on the island. There the heir of Naples, Ferdinand, Alonso's son, separated from the rest, falls in with Prospero and in love with Miranda - as her father intended he should; Alonso, imagining Ferdinand lost, and despondent on that account, is prepared upon the denouement to restore to Prospero his dukedom; Ferdinand and Miranda are betrothed; it transpires that the ship is in perfectly sound condition after all; and the whole party returns in it to Italy: Prospero thus out of the whole adventure having won for his daughter not only his own Milan, but queenship in Naples as well. Here then Shakespeare sees the fearful struggle, which has been life-wreck, ruin, and desolation in the previous plays, as but an illusionary storm raised by the great dethroned magician - the Divine Soul in man, really - in order to bring all the factors in the drama of life, all the principles represented, into his power; and this Prospero does, not for revenge's sake, but that the universal wrong may be righted: that "earthly things made even" may "atone together"; that the hereditary antagonism, Naples versus Milan, may vanish changed into union; that Miranda may be queen in both. He had tried the same theme years before in Romeo and Juliet; but then, without philosophy, with no deep truth in mind to tell, he had found no solution to his problem except that of conventional tragedy. Montagues and Capulets had stood for nothing: they had been, simply, two Italian houses at feud. But Milan and Naples in The Tempest proclaim themselves the eternal duality of evolution: matter that rises, spirit that descends and informs; and when the child of Milan weds the heir of Naples, that atonement takes place which Shakespeare groped after so often half-blindly in the early plays; which had taken place in himself when he wrote The Tempest; which he had always sensed as a faroff bright event, the most tremendous in the history of a human soul. Ferdinand, the heir of Naples, is the highest point of material evolution upwards; that is to say, he is the intellectualized animal-man. Miranda, heiress of Milan, who weds or redeems him, is the ultimate expression of descending spirit, the point of it, so to say, that contacts matter and becomes the redeemer of human life. This then is the core and last word of Shakespearean philosophy: Miranda - the principle she represents - is to be mistress of both worlds; the whole epopee has taken place: Prospero lost Milan at first: that she might possess not only Milan, but Naples too. That accomplished, Prospero will lay by his powers and turn his face graveward. What then, in plain human terms, is Miranda? Shakespeare leaves you in no doubt. The first words she utters tell you: she is Pity, Compassion, the Will to Serve and Save, the Refusal, ever, to Condemn or to allow a harsh solution for any problem. Miranda is the knowledge that you have solved nothing when you have hanged the criminal; that you have gained nothing by your victory at war; that he
who condemns another is himself condemned - self-condemned. It is the last word of human wisdom, said Shakespeare; and, certainly, Jesus thought so too. The mushy-minded and thought-shirking, or thought-incapable, delight to call this sentimentalism; they will have none of it at any price. When a man is down and out morally it is easier to hang him than to cure him; because to cure him calls for stiff fundamental brain-work, and illuminated brain-work at that; but to condemn him, we need but to be befuddled. In just the same way, it is much easier in case of plague and epidemic, to parade your fetish in gala-toggery through town and incense your Mumbojumbo and the like, than to attend to sanitation and science. Shakespeare, however, who by this time knew life inside and out, clearly, sanely, and wholly, leaves this as the sum and finality of his doctrine, his last message to the ages that should follow him: all this grand agonization, life, (he says), exists solely to teach us even the silliest advocate of brute-force and legalized murder among us - that compassion which will not and cannot turn away in condemnation from any living being; the compassion which is the supremest wisdom and enlightenment that can come to man, because it is recognition of the unity of all life. At this point one might take a glance at the Bacon theory; because all this does so forcibly, violently indeed, not remind one of Bacon. The uncritical and ignorant of human nature are fond of arguing that Bacon wrote the plays; it could as easily be true that Disraeli wrote Dickens. Men are naturally divided, it has been reasonably said, into Platonists and Aristotelians: Bacon out-Aristotled Aristotle, and by much; but Shakespeare in the Elysium sitteth on the right hand of Plato himself. Or Mr. Shaw somewhere divides minds into those that look into the past and say, Why? and those that look into the future and say, Why not? Of that latter diviner group is the man that wrote the plays; his lasso was always whizzing about the neck of Perfection; it is a wonder it has not more been noticed, how passionately he asserted the Divine in Man. But Bacon.... No.... Oh dear me no! No two minds could be more unlike. Indeed, though Shakespeare was the very child of his age, and will fit into no niche in European history, except his own niche in Elizabeth's England, there is no other Elizabethan, among the known names, whom we could think of as the author of the plays. Fletcher, perhaps, was the likeliest man; but I think Fletcher took Shakespeare consciously for his model; and at that was spiritually and intellectually a frightfully poor imitation. So if William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon and the Globe in Southwark was not the man, it must have been someone else still more obscure, and much less probable. Bacon's was a very great mind: strong, daring, and ambitious. He seems to have nourished ambitions towards the throne itself; there was a good deal of the paranoiac in him; it is said, I am not sure on what authority, he thought himself the great Queen's son. He never doubted himself or his powers. His weaknesses - ambition, avarice, and a proneness to peculation, he never recognised as weaknesses at all; and when the downfall came, and he was convicted of bribe-taking, he took it all with a sort of solemn grandeur, as "scorning" (says Ben Jonson) "to go out in a snuff." Pride made him strong against the world. An intellectual giant, spiritually he was a kind of embryo, - he had not rightly begun to be. But Shakespeare knew his weaknesses very well. He suffered terribly from them; being of the type that scourges itself unmercifully for every slip. He was highly strung,
sensitive; where Bacon was all masculinity, he had very much, in a good sense, of the woman in him: it has been said that he never drew a really heroic man; but he certainly did draw many ideal women. He fought his way to a divine self-realization, through boundless elations and limitless despairs. Bacon, the strong man, would probably have despised him utterly: Ben, who was something Baconian in masculinity of intellect, but who had - as Bacon had not - a great heart as well - loved Shakespeare "this side of idolatry" as much as any man: loved him really nobly, and could appreciate his genius as well: but even in Ben's admiration for him there was a garlic-soupcon of affectionate contempt. Shakespeare's life came near to being a tragedy: he saw the depths: he descended into hell: but The Tempest is there to tell us that, having escaped final tragedy by a hair'sbreadth, he reached serene undreamable spiritual success. The man who wrote the plays had done that by 1608: Bacon was a peculator until 1621. Bacon's life, proceeding from achievement to achievement statelily, came near topping the last heights of mundane triumph; and missing them by a narrow margin, toppled into infamy and ruin. - But to return to The Tempest: Prospero's power in the island comes of his control of non-human beings; and chiefly of the monster Caliban and the delicate spirit Ariel, both of whom were there when he came. Indeed, Caliban must be called half-human: though his maker is at pains to tell us he is soul-less - incapable of soul - without that inward divinity which makes man man. He is the animal-elemental in man. Prospero holds him strictly enslaved; keeps him busy as hewer of wood and drawer of water: and therein Shakespeare the Life-Teacher tells us what to do with those baser parts of our minds which make all our trouble for us. Put them, he says, to work; keep them concentrated on the common duty of the moment and the day; thus they are in your power, under your control; otherwise they will be attempting wrong against the divinity within you - as Caliban did against Miranda at first, and does in the play against Prospero. Yet there is this curious thing to note about Caliban: he speaks no line of prose, as all Shakespeare's clowns do. Every word he says is in verse; and much of it uncommonly beautiful. The reason is, that he is a part of the great Nature: the inchoate, rudimentary, undeveloped part. The human mind does not work in him at all; and it is a truth that has many times been repeated, that poetry and rhythm are the language of Nature, as prose is of that only part of Nature which is so to say exiled from Nature and unnatural,- our human brain-consciousness. Caliban held down as a slave is useful enough; he becomes dangerous when you lend him a share of your human mind. He falls in, in the play, with a couple of drunken sailors: vulgarians, beside whom he is a kind of gentleman in the comparison; nevertheless they are human beings, - and instantly Caliban becomes dangerous; he plots with them against the life of his master. In vain of course; because Prospero is the lordenchanter of the island, and nothing can succeed against his magical powers. But even Prospero, in the midst of his magic, is perturbed by this revolt, and must take quick action. Through Ariel of course, his other chief servant; and here again profundities of wisdom are concealed. Ariel is one of the Life-Master's most wonderful creations: an intelligence unhuman and immaculate; that craves human love as a child craves the love of its parents, and yet whose own place, always longed for, is the sunlit solitudes of Nature. He is the principle agent of Prospero's power; there is nothing but beauty, delight, and
wonder in him; and yet he must be controlled as firmly as Caliban must; to him, as to Caliban, Prospero seems wholly a tyrant though to him a tyrant beloved. Ariel's songs are little miracles of poetry. There is no more human cerebration in them than in the drowsing of a dumbledar on a summer's noon from blossom to blossom, or the whisper of a distant lazy sea. They do not make any sense at all, as we say; and yet they have perhaps as much as any lyric in the language that supreme power of poetry which is its ability to lead our human consciousness out of itself and into the great consciousness of Nature. This power of suggesting infinity is the highest magic there is in art. By Ariel, then, Shakespeare means the imagination that sees out beyond self into the vast magical universe of non-self: this is the instrument of the universal Prospero's triumph - the means whereby the hidden divinity in man may come into its own and reign. Sympathy is one word of it, or the first letter of it; it is the power to step into other people's shoes, as we say; and not into people's merely, but things' as well. Ariel may be contrasted with the jolly merry mischievous Puck of A Midsummer Night's Dream; whose business there is chiefly to try confusions with the clowns. So here is Ariel's with Caliban and the drunken sailors; but all to a much more serious end, so that we feel that the writing of the earlier play was mere practice for the writing of this. Invisible Ariel is to upset their conspiracies; and to do so, he needs but negate their ill suggestions with the sharp denial Thou liest! And this too is practical wisdom, which who hath ears to hear, let him hear! The truth and beauty of Nature, says Shakespeare, are a magical power which can give the lie decisively to every prompting of the beast in man. Speaking, of the Midsummer Night's Dream, - that of course is the play with which The Tempest most instantly challenges comparison. These are the two in which the Lifeteacher leads us into the realms of Faerie. Hazlitt says that the former is the greater poem, the latter the greater play; but this judgment, especially the second dictum of it, is very disputable. Midsummer Night is the fresh adventure of the Boy-Poet into Fairyland (near Athens-on-Avon in Warwickshire); he riots there irresponsible in company with a pack of hempen homespuns whose antics keep his sides gloriously shaking; - but The Tempest is the stately voyage of mellow perfection and maturity, through magical seas beyond the sunset. For irresponsibility you have a grave and tender wisdom; and the fairies, that were before but petulant poetic children, are now right fairies: - lovely apparitions incomprehensible, - beneficent and exquisite spirits of the vasty deep. There are perhaps, as Hazlitt argues, fewer quotable passages of exiguous beauty; but that is because the whole play is such a passage. In none other is there so glowing, jewel-like, rainbow-like, an effect of color. In Midsummer Night the hues are the flickering greens and browns of an English woodside, blue-flecked above with sky-glimpses, or the staidness of an English dusk, faintly rippled through with elf-lights. Or in Romeo and Juliet we have the burning color of human passion; so too in Antony and Cleopatra, but there with pomp and magnificent opulence, imperial Rome and Egypt, added. But through The Tempest one senses an effect of subtropical sunsets: the splendors and sapphires of a Mediterranean or Caribbean evening, the cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces of the Islands of the Blessed. Like the dying dolphin of mythology, Shakespeare would go out in a glory of color; but there is no riot or wild disordered excess in it: he is all serene Prospero here: master-enchanter - lord of every hue and shadow. It is as if the grandest sweetest music of Nature herself were the
accompaniment played to his exit, because he had achieved perfection and majestic harmony at the last, and went out her peer. (Theosophical Path, vol. 30, no. 5, May, 1926) ----------------
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Kenneth Morris (Professor of History and Literature at Theosophical University, Point Loma, California) The announcement that the Raja-Yoga Players of Point Loma are to give A Midsummer Night's Dream again on May 11th and 12th gives us an excuse for looking a little into this earliest of Shakespeare's masterpieces; the one in which he discovered his poethood and, perhaps more than in any other, was content to exercise the purely poetic function of 'making beauty' and setting fairy lanterns in the twilight world of fancy. It is one of the earliest of his plays; written, probably, in 1590 or '91, when he was about twenty-six years old; he wrote into it memories of his childhood, and from it we get perhaps the only glimpse we do get of what he saw and did as a child. For, in 1575, Queen Elizabeth came to Kenilworth, Leicester's seat in Warwickshire, and Leicester, aspiring to her hand, entertained her royally and made love to her upon the finest scale that the gorgeous imagination of the England of that time could devise. We get an account of the festivities in a letter written by Master Laneham (a mad wag, so please you!), who was a mercer of London in attendance in some kind of domestic capacity upon one of the noble lords present; he wrote the letter to a fellow-tradesman in London, his countryman born and good friend withal; and excellent reading it is. He tells how, on the evening of 14th of August, a fairy masque was given for the queen's entertainment in the park; ladies riding upon dolphins over the waters of the lake, sang greetings to her highness, all of which eleven-year-old William Shakespeare had, it is supposed, been brought over from Stratford-on-Avon to see, since his family was well connected by marriage, and such a privilege was extended to the neighboring gentry. The sight lived in his memory, it seems, and now, fifteen years or so afterwards, he turned back to it for some fairy coloring for his fairy play, and wrote: "Since once I sat upon a promontory And heard a mermaid, on a dolphin's back, Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath, That the rude sea grew civil at her song; And certain stars shot madly from their spheres To hear the seamaid's musick." And then he minds him of Leicester's bootless wooing of the queen, the occasion for all those pageantries, and writes:
"That very time I saw (but thou couldst not) Flying between the cold moon and the earth. Cupid all armed: a certain aim he took At a fair vestal, throned by the west; And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow, As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts; But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft Quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon: And the imperial votaress passed on In maiden meditation fancy-free." - Which is precisely what Elizabeth did. Here Shakespeare takes you out of the hard and solid world of things and facts, and gives you freedom of a world beyond the borders of our common consciousness. Is it a world that exists, or has he indeed given "to airy nothing A local habitation and a name?" - Oh, most certainly it exists! Popular belief - popular intuition, let us say - has always divined in Nature a life, a consciousness half guessable; and so populated pinewoods and gardens and mountainsides with aerial-flamey beings that dance and dance, and whose life is all to wild music. Let the robust of imagination think of Nature as lifeless if they can; poets and peasants and whoever could share her life at all, have, it would appear, caught glimpses from time to time. But here the great poet of humanity invades the fairy world under the standards of the Human Spirit; annexes it, and makes it a province of the Empire of Man. See how he has made his fairies: Oberon is from the French romance, Huon of Bordeaux; he has a fine international genealogy. He was the son of the Welsh Morgan le Fay, King Arthur's sister, and of Roman Julius Caesar; but then before that he was Auberon, Alberon, Alberich - which is a Teutonic name probably of remote Celtic origin, meaning 'king of the elves.' He figures as the guardian of the Rhine-gold in Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungs. Titania, it would seem is taken from Ovid; Puck is the Welsh Pwca, the Irish Puca; a very familiar spirit in those countries. Perhaps Shakespeare found this fairy in its native haunts; for there is a valley in Wales where local tradition says he wrote the play; and this is not impossible; he certainly had Welsh blood and connexions. Still, Puck survived in places in England from Celtic days; witness the wood called Puckpits in the New Forest. But what Shakespeare did was what his predecessors (such as Spenser), who had also drawn upon fairyland, did not do. He gives us a picture of fairy life, which is human life dehumanized. We have that life in us; only all that is nobly human or basely animal in us obscures and militates against its manifestation. There is no conscience in the court of King Oberon; nor is there any real baseness. What will Titania do for her lover? Feed him with 'apricocks' and dewberries, or from the honey-bags of bees. The things they treasure are blossoms and forest-music; their enemies and abhorrences, spiders, bats, and the like. They are gay, sensuous, beauty-
loving, mischievous; they play no part in the eternal warfare of good and evil; but a human being, if he is rightly human, must take one side or the other. And yet, truth to say, there are many of us that do not: who are irresponsible, and live for the enjoyment of the moment; whose actions and motives cannot be accounted for; who think with their senses alone, and whose passing whims and feelings serve them for a human soul. There are many who are like this, and with many more, it enters as a component element in their being; so it is a phase of that conglomeration of many kinds of consciousness which we call human. Then he contrasts with these whose nature is to be aesthetic and who need beauty as we need air to breathe, sweet bully Bottom and his companions, who advance from their native rawness with the conscious intent to produce a play - to make a work, you may say, of art "for the duke and duchess on his wedding-day at night." The fairies' real life is a little frivolous tragi-comedy of exquisite sensuous beauty; these mechanics' art is a piece of clownish, foolish, ridiculously unreal realism, without beauty or imagination, or higher raison d'etre than the chance of sixpence a day for life. And among them we find a really great man - great in that curious rude fashion of greatness which belongs to him - the serious Bottom, puffed up, as much as ever Caesar was, with the vaunting vastness of his dreams. "Let me play the lion, too!" says he; or a part "in Ercles' vein, a tyrant's vein"; or one "to tear a cat in." He is fully aware of his human dignity, is Nick Bottom, and they must treat him with due respect, or let them look to it. And then, between these two poles, there are the lovers. They are not greatly characterized; and for a very good reason. In this business of love you are verging upon the fairy world (this is the teaching of the play); you do not act humanly, upon motions of reason and the human soul; but upon fancy, the witchcraft of eyes; there is something irresponsible in it; you are the victim of external and fairy forces: Cupid's arrow, or the mischief and magic of Puck. This so far as these four lovers, Lysander and Hermia, Demetrius and Helena, are concerned. All for their feelings' sake, Helena will betray the pair of them to Demetrius; Demetrius, flitting from flower to flower, from Helena to Hermia, is the fairiest and least responsible of them all. So of course, they drift upon currents rising within themselves into the fairy-world, the Midsummer Night's Dream; and are chastened by tricks played upon them, and spend a night of fears amidst bog and briar and are at last brought into their sane senses. As for the clowns, they drift in there upon their quest of art: they are going to do great things; perform a tragedy, nothing less; step out of their own sphere of hempen homespuns, and figure as artists and tragedians. Very well; into fairyland they must go, and their chief must have an ass's head clapped on him. But you will note that that fairy-world has a world of significance of its own: it is the place where poetic justice is done, and where each one comes to his own. You fall into it when, upon a whim of your own and personal feelings, you set out to break the laws - of Athens, or say of life; you fall into it when, for such a motive as a probable sixpence a day, you play the vulgarian parvenu and would-be-artist, or strike into spheres higher than those to which you belong.
And once fallen into it, you do not come out without getting some taste of your deserts; and, perhaps, through a measure of suffering, the disentanglement of your problems, the adjustment of your being to its place in the scheme of things. We shall not begin to understand Shakespeare, until we see him throwing floods of light on the hidden places of the inner nature of man. "Our true intent is all for your delight" is often quoted as if it were his own motto and motive; but remember the words are not so much Shakespeare's as Peter Quince's who, with them, introduces the tedious-brief clowncomedy of Pyramus and Thisbe to Duke Theseus and his court. Had Shakespeare spoken for himself, he might have put it: "Our true intent is that you shall know yourselves" - look in a mirror held up to (your own) nature, and see that which escapes you in common life. The play, as given by the Raja-Yoga Players, is excellent throughout, and the fairy parts are especially fascinating: the dancing, the singing, the forest-beauty and magic these things carry you away into another world, the enchanted world of Faerie to the very life. Cobweb and Peaseblossom, Moth and Mustardseed, capture all hearts. The clowns' parts, too, are well done - have been, in past presentations; "excellent good fooling i' faith," well calculated to keep you not much this side of hysterics.
(Theosophical Path, vol. 34, no. 6, June, 1928) --------------
Theosophy in Shakespeare - Michael Sawtell (From a Radio Broadcast) A good knowledge of Shakespeare is indispensable to any English speaking person aspiring to achieve culture. You might think that during the last 300 years or so the plays of Shakespeare have been so often acted and commented upon that there is now very little left to say about the works of Shakespeare. Do not be deceived, for until you are able to see the Theosophical and occult teachings in the plays, your true education in Shakespeare has not yet really begun. The word Theosophy really means "Divine Wisdom", or, as I sometimes call it, "The Ageless Wisdom". Now, if Theosophy is "Divine Wisdom", it must be everything in life. It must be the background to all things in life from the every day facts of life, to the great Scriptures of the world. I also wish to explain that whoever wrote the plays of Shakespeare was a Master Occultist, one who performed the great work of setting the standard of the English language, and of weaving into the plays all the occult facts of life, and many of the teachings of modern Theosophy - such as the twin doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation. True, the author did not use these names, but, if you read the works of Shakespeare discerningly, you will find stated the law of Karma and Reincarnation. Let us, first of all, examine the popular play Henry the 5th. Now, what are the outstanding features of the play? Are they not that the king, Henry, is a wise, patriotic and religious soldier king? These are just the qualities that a wise ruler ought to have. It is a very ancient teaching, that the King ought to be one of the wisest men in the nation. In fact,
the Theosophical teaching behind the very ancient science of politics, is that the first essential to a high state of civilization is a philosopher king. In the very first Act, Scene 1, of Henry the 5th, in the conversation between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely, the Master Occultist who wrote the plays of Shakespeare lost no time in describing Henry as a philosopher king. The Archbishop of Canterbury says, in speaking of the young king: "Hear him but reason in Divinity And, all admiring with an inward wish, You would desire the king were made a prelate." And so on, then later in the same speech, again he says of the king, Henry: "The Gordian knot of it he will unloose Familiar as his garter, and that when he speaks The air, a chartered libertine is still, And the mute wonder lurketh in men's ears, To steal his sweet and honeyed sentences." What a description of a philosopher king! Now, turn to Scene 2, still in Act 1, and you will find more occult teaching about what we now call the three estates of the Realm. In this speech the Archbishop of Canterbury likens a properly organized state to the various functions performed by a hive of bees. He says: "Therefore doth heaven divide The state of man in divers functions, Setting endeavor in continual motion, To which is tied, as an aim or butt Obedience, first so work the honey bees. Creatures that by a rule in Nature, teach The act of order to a peopled kingdom." And so the Archbishop speaks on, drawing an analogy between the work and function of a hive of bees, and the different functions that should be performed by the various classes in a highly organized human civilization. All this Platonic teaching is well understood by students of the Ageless Wisdom. And until our modern, so called, democracy learns that only philosophers are fitted to rule, we will continue to have unintelligent discontent and confusion. When I heard and saw the actor, Lawrence Olivier, act and speak those words of Henry, before Harfleur, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more", I thought how different was that swelling scene, to the one that we used to act and declaim in our school days. Also, what great opportunities the modern school children have of being taught to understand the plays of Shakespeare. All through the play Henry is always telling his soldiers: "We are in God's hand, brother." In Act 4, Scene 1, Henry tells Bedford and Gloucester:
"God Almighty, There is some soul of goodness in things evil, Would men observingly distil it out." Only a philosopher king could say that. Later, in the same Act, Henry visits his camp on the night before Agincourt, and speaks, unknown as the King, to some of his soldiers. In this scene, Henry soliloquizes upon the fate, the duties, and the Divinity of a King, which was a favorite theme with the occult author of Shakespeare. After the soldiers are gone, Henry says: "Upon the King, let our lives, our souls, Our debts, our careful wives, our children, And our sins lay on the king. He must bear all. O hard condition, twin-born with greatness, Subjects to the breath of every fool, Whose sense no more can feel but his own wringing, What infinite heart's ease must kings neglect, That private men enjoy." All this - "Uneasy lies the head, that wears a crown," is pure Theosophy, for the teaching of the Ageless Wisdom is that with the power of a philosopher king must also go the great task of being responsible for the welfare of all his subjects. Henry ends this dawn meditation of his with a prayer, "O God of battle, steel my soldiers' hearts." Prayer is another favorite practice of the author of Shakespeare. You will remember that almost the very first Act of Hamlet, after he had seen the Ghost, was to pray. Notice also, that after the victory of Agincourt, that Henry, the wise, brave and patriotic king, is most careful to say that "God fought for us." Tomorrow is Victory Day, and those who have to speak, what better can they do than remember Henry's speech on Saint Crispin's Day, and remember "Harry, the King, Bedford, the Exeter," and all those who fought for England on Saint Crispin's Day. That speech is one of the most gloriously patriotic in the English language. I again suggest that in this play, Henry 5th, the occult author used the play to hold up to the people the true picture and type of what a King should be. He could only do that by being a Master of the Ageless Wisdom. This same golden thread of Theosophy runs through all the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare. In Sonnet 59, you will read of the law of Reincarnation. In Macbeth Shakespeare refers to the law of Karma when he makes Macbeth say: "Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague the inventor, this evenhanded justice commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice to our own lips." There is no better phrase than calling the law of Karma "this even-handed justice," for that is what the law really means. Shakespeare also knew well that the world is ruled by law, when he made Hamlet say: "There is a divinity which shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will."
In the play Hamlet Shakespeare makes the greatest statement any man can make about life. He affirms the true spiritual nature of man. Shakespeare revealed his real understanding when he makes Hamlet say: "What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals." This is the occult author proclaiming that the real man is a Soul. This quotation is fit to be included in the Scriptures of the world. For those who wish to study more about the Theosophy in the works of Shakespeare, I courteously recommend you to read: "The Occultism in Shakespeare," by F.L. Rogers. There is not one of the 37 plays of Shakespeare that does not contain some aspect of Theosophy. The play the Tempest is perhaps the most occult of all the plays. In it I am inclined to think that the author would like us to think of him as Prospero, the Master Occultist. In The Tempest Prospero-Shakespeare is careful to refer to the "art", and being rapt in secret studies, and who also has the power to command the invisible forces of Nature. (From Canadian Theosophist, vol. 27, no. 8, Oct. 16, 1946, reprinted from Theosophy in Australia, Sept.-November, 1946) -------------------
Essays on Shakespeare - A Theosophical Interpretation [The following eight essays were first published in The Theosophical Movement, Bombay, in Vol. 13, 1942-43, and reprinted by the London, Ontario, Canada United Lodge of Theosophists.] ------------Contents I. Othello - The Tale of a Hypnotized Soldier II. Macbeth - A Study in Witchcraft III. King Lear - A Study in Karma IV. The Theosophy of Shakespeare's Tempest V. Hamlet - A Story of Psychic Unbalance VI. Julius Caesar - A Study in Violence and Bloodshed VII. Shakespeare and the Adepts VIII. Shakespeare's Views on Death
"We Theosophists, therefore, distinguish between this bundle of 'experiences,' which we call the false (because so finite and evanescent) personality, and that element in man to which the feeling of 'I am I' is due. It is this 'I am I' which we call the true individuality; and we say that this "Ego" or individuality plays, like an actor, many parts on the stage of life. Let us call every new life on earth of the same Ego a night on the stage of a theatre. One night the actor, or 'Ego,' appears as 'Macbeth,' the next as 'Shylock,' the third as 'Romeo,' the fourth as 'Hamlet' or 'King Lear,' and so on, until he has run through the whole cycle of incarnations. The Ego begins his life-pilgrimage as a sprite, an 'Ariel,' or a 'Puck'; he plays the part of a super, is a soldier, a servant, one of the chorus; rises then to 'speaking parts,' plays leading roles, interspersed with insignificant parts, till he finally retires from the stage as 'Prospero,' the magician." - From The Key to Theosophy, p. 34 -----------
Othello - The Tale of a Hypnotized Soldier "The Adepts assert that Shakespeare was unconsciously to himself, inspired by one of their own number." - Echoes from the Orient, Wm. Q. Judge. Adepts cherishing always the purpose to bring enlightenment and reformation among men, and having always to deal with the mind of the race as they find it, are naturally interested in all men and movements, including the literary and the theatrical, that can aid their purpose. Human evils have certain great taproots from which spring many branches. If then one tries to view European life at and shortly before Shakespeare's time with even a trifle of the insight that an Adept must direct to it, he finds prominent several grievous vices, some standing out with horrid clearness. Among them were overweening ambition, egregious self-pride, much ignorance and fear concerning the spiritual, undue intellectualism with lack of ethical balance and clear judgment, weakness of will or passivity, resulting in openness to many forms of degenerating influences, and most excessive, perhaps, sex corruptions. It was (and still is, of course) impossible to give in fiction and drama broad accurate pictures of life and omit these evils. What the Adepts must therefore have wished to do was, first, to lessen the wickedness in actual life; and second, through the inspiring of Shakespeare, to augment the moral goodness by such theatrical presentments as would stimulate interest in the triumph of the virtues rather than in a display of the vices. Herein accordingly lies one of the differences between Shakespeare's plays and most of those of his contemporaries. And even though in his own life he yielded in a measure, there must have been, native to Shakespeare's deeper character, a degree of superiority to all these vicious habits. If his nature had leaned down into the depravities instead of struggling to
rise out of them, he never could have been a focus for Adept Influence. Nor could he have used it. Chivalry was a blend of idealization of war and idealization of sex, intended to lessen the evils of both. Wherever people sincerely followed in each direction the chivalric training, much benefit was experienced. But when in sex life they became Lancelots and Guineveres, their example was all the worse for the idealized cover. Beneath that fair outside, there came to be a social rottenness that "smelled to heaven." So prevalent was sensuality, both open and concealed, that no woman was trusted without secret reservations. The moment calumny smirched her, she was almost automatically condemned as false. Only the most startling proofs of innocence could reinstate her. Thus there resulted from chivalry a very double sided attitude toward women, - one that exalted them as nearly impossible paragons of virtue and beauty, and the other thrusting them like filthy beasts beneath the feet of those deceived. With warriors and in those war-filled ages, the relations of sex and marriage often gained a peculiar intensity. The necessary absence from home of the husband and father, with his consequent fears and quick jealousies, the physical inability of women to be soldiers and the corresponding self-importance of men, the brutal treatment of women prisoners, the degenerating effects of degraded women camp-followers, all these helped to create and intensify that double attitude toward women of idealization and of their debasement. Social customs, too, of the chivalric period and later were extremely ambiguous - as they are today - often permitting personal and bodily familiarities that could and did both suggest evil and yet excusingly shield it. Besides the chivalric traditions, and fusing with them, were the new and equally powerful thought-currents of the Renaissance. The revival of Greek and Roman learning, customs and ideals brought to Europe a great fresh vitality, an eagerness to break away from mediaeval fetters and a determination to develop to the fullest the individual human self. The period was a magnificent outburst of an intellectual energy that had been lying dormant, of a physical energy that was seeking other expressions than war, and of an emotional energy that had been twisted away from its natural outlets both in domestic life and in perception of the truly spiritual. Yet though the Renaissance forces were liberating and enlightening, they were also confusing and disorganizing. Determined not to be restricted, the mind of the time became guilty of great excesses. Although there was refinement and growth, in art and literature, these no more than chivalry could put effective checks on brutal lusts and savage passions. This was especially true in Italy, which set the fashions and moral standards, and produced some particular characters which historians have for convenience called "Italianated." The craving for unrestricted self-development led Italianated men and women to commit the worst crimes without conscience, or even to justify them by a kind of conscience, for self. The crime was little if the individual end was reached. Again, since education and social freedom existed alike for men and for women, and since both were breaking away from accepted standards, including the ethical, a variation of the type was produced which brought about an increase, even over preceding periods, of open sex immorality and disbelief in loyal marriage. Hence, as true domestic and sex life are the foundation and nursery of all other forms of morality, it is not strange that Shakespeare, following the lines of general thought, and also following unaware the guidance of the Higher Influence on him, made several of his plays hinge on that double attitude toward women of unwise exaltation and equally
erring debasement. By his day the attitude had engendered in men a disbelief in women that was inherent, almost instinctive. In A Winter's Tale, for example, the husband, Leontes, turns violently against his wife for no reason except those ambiguous social customs. With Leontes, that disbelief in women becomes an insanity, nothing less. His plan to have the supposedly guilty friend poisoned is frustrated, but he sends away his wife and her just-born daughter. Swift reaction comes upon him by the pining unto death of the little son through grief for his mother. Only gradually and because of the adverse judgment of an oracle, does the husband come to see correctly his terrible and baseless folly. In three other important plays the man is fooled by skillful lies intensifying very slight visible evidence (supposed) of the woman's infidelity. The motive of the deceiver is selfish gain. The psychological reason for the quick credulity is that same deeply inherent distrust of women's loyalty. Shakespeare, by showing the injustice and folly of the man's distrust, by revealing the woman's faithfulness and prompt forgiveness, must have done much to break down that common disbelief. Of those three plays one is a comedy, as its title indicates, Much Ado About Nothing, the poet evidently wishing to show the absurdity of what just escaped being tragic. In each of the three appear the same elements, - the Italianated intriguer working for self-interest, his foolishly credulous victim dominated by palpable lies, and the innocent, loyal, persecuted, yet forgiving woman. All the chief persons have been bred in the chivalrous social thought and exhibit its virtues as well as its grossness. In Cymbeline the young Briton, Posthumus, having received all possible exhibitions of loving loyalty from his self-sacrificing wife, makes a wager - with an Italian - that her faith will stand against any temptations. Why does Posthumus not see that his shrewd designing opponent, delighting in his self-superiority as an Italian compared with a Briton, will do anything at all to win his wager? The answer is that Posthumus too, unknown to himself, is infected with the poisonous distrust of a wife's faithfulness. It is worth noting that of the four plays on this theme, three end in peace and the establishment of proper family life, the possibility being thus emphasized. As for Othello, the disbelief in women and the situations arising out of it here reach their climax of heavy tragedy. There is added, however, in this drama another plot element which greatly intensifies the evil conditions, - that is, the use of hypnotic power. Hypnotism is the compulsive influence exerted and the effects produced by a man consciously entering someone else's mental life and transforming it. When not directed to healing physical disease (and at times even when it is), hypnotism is usually a misuse of the tremendous and mysterious power in Nature called will, - a misuse because the effort is intended to change or destroy another's individual will and make it follow the hypnotizer's selfish purposes. The one hypnotized may or may not remain wakingly conscious, or may not even be aware of the extraneous influence. Hypnotism for selfish ends was certainly one of the crimes of that earlier day (as of this), which Adepts most strongly rebuked, for it is Black Magic. There is, however, an important element in hypnotism that often is not acknowledged, - that is, the victim's own responsibility. For if he remains able to choose his thoughts and acts, and if then his behaviour under the hypnotic influence is quickly and markedly different from what it has been before and from what is expected, there must be reasons in the mind of the victim himself why that transforming influence can operate. In other words, since man is a chooser and a self-
governor, no one's mind can be transformed by another unless he, even though in part unknowingly, permits it to be. Hence when one sees Othello's mind change from loving gentleness to blind fury, the questions arise why, psychologically, can this happen? What forms are taken by that inherent distrust of women? Further, what are the inmost reasons and the innermost character of the hypnotizer - why is Iago at work on Othello and with such merciless methods? Perhaps some light may be thrown on these questions by regarding this play as a complex picture of militarists, one of them being the hypnotizer. Othello, Cassio, and Iago are soldiers of fortune who have pledged their services for a time to the City of Venice. The hypnotism exerted on Othello and Cassio concerned their private lives, but through characteristics common to soldiers, they were easily open to the particular kinds of influence forced upon them by Iago. Cassio was a soldier rather because of the customs of the times. Othello could hardly have been anything else than a warrior. The mass belief in the human consciousness of the need of physical war, of the breaking of one will, individual or national, in order that another individual or national will may rule, the belief in the need and inevitableness of destruction and death, in order that there may be an expansion or a defence of national life, - these beliefs are primitive, prehistoric, racial. What, then, may be expected in the mentality of professional soldiers but the impulses that create war and the effects of war? It is important to see that the war impulses - the tendency to iron-handed breaking of other wills, and the belief in the necessity of destruction, murder and death - do not lift away from a warrior's mind, as mists do from hills, when he leaves war-conditions to pass into private life. They remain with him, somewhat dulling his reason while putting sharp edges on his emotions. Discipline at one end, slaughter at the other, - these nearly make the swing of his mental pendulum. When, therefore, he is angered in the family life, his natural first impulse is to fight. For he expects implicit obedience, and if he does not get it, he often enforces it with severity. All these attitudes and effects may be called part of the race-hypnotism by war. Closely intermingled with these are those attitudes already mentioned toward sex and marriage, which too make a kind of race-hypnotism - that of sex. What is called sex exists only on the lower planes of being. There is no sex in the Upper Triad. Yet it does have its ultimate origin in the very highest planes of manifestation, where appear the active creative principle, Spirit, the Moulder, the Ideation; and with this, its necessary complement, the receptive coordinative principle, the Moulded, the ideated Form and Forms. As the Manasic Beings descended into the lower planes of their evolution, carrying along these essential and opposite principles, and as they became more forgetful of the higher duties and purposes of their long manvantaric experience, and more commingled with the ignorant selfism of animal mind and matter, their active Male principle became clouded with selfish domineering animal lusts; while the recipient Female principle in them grew less able to resist such domination. Therein is the root of man's claim of woman as his property, - a conjoined root of self-aggrandizement on the one side, and on the other of self-passivity becoming weakness. Yet according to the law of Spirit it is impossible for one man to be another man's property. And this individual self-ownership is a thing that sex does not touch cannot give and cannot take away.
But recorded history belies this fact. In earlier history, as the brute type of man seized upon a wife-property with brutal hands, and the higher type of man received her bound with stringent human laws, so either type defended her with a sword, often for no better reason than that she was his. All individuality was claimed by the man, the woman having none recognized as her own. And if she stained that thing called his honour, - which was always partly his privilege of escaping ridicule from his fellows, - he felt justified in holding her to account with her very life because she - his property! - had dared to break his armour of self-esteem. In more recent centuries, if he did not murder her also, he poured his deadly vengeance on the one implicated with her. Few indeed among men and women even today have entirely moved above this traditional deeply entrenched falsity. Divorce and separation do not solve the problem. They only bring postponement. For reasons mentioned the thought of wife as property is very strong in the soldier type of man. In Othello it is intense. His modest doubt at first of his ability to win such a woman as Desdemona leads him, after he has won her, to put her on a pedestal which unconsciously is based and supported by all his own secret, deep, turbulent self-valuations. She is his - she is the apotheosis of HIMSELF. Most gentle toward her he is, full of an adoring wonder, as long as she remains all compliance; so that to Desdemona's early observation the broad river of his nature seems placid enough. Iago, - having seen him in the passions of war, knows or suspects all the other kinds of violence. Iago's nature has been somewhat forecast by the preceding remarks on the Renaissance. If Iago is not seen against the background of his particular time and country, he can hardly be understood, for he is one of the characteristic Italianated men of that period. Students of Italian biography can probably match Iago point by point with men historically authenticated. The steely intellectualism of the time, the excessive egregious vices in self-seeking, produced such men; determined to advance themselves over any obstacles, snatching away another's success and happiness without a qualm, tricking a man out of money, position or good name for the sport of doing it, and then stepping into his vacant place as justly won by shrewdness, suavity and lack of sentimentalism, - selfism towering to the very heavens! Such is Iago. Such were Italianated persons. Iago from the beginning of the play is full of hate, skilfully covered; - revengeful hate toward Othello for unfairly (as he thinks) raising Cassio to a rank over his, and envious hate toward Cassio for having been so raised. To undo them both is his fierce purpose. To him, as the typical Self-Seeker, the injury is the worst possible; his revenge must match that inexpressible unforgettable wrong. Cassio, like many soldiers, is a victim of drink, and despite his better judgment, he is open to temptation. Another flaw in him is the ordinary soldier-type of sex-looseness. To the highly placed woman he is respectful; to the camp-follower, a tyrannical master. Also, when he is displaced for causing disorder through his drunkenness (all of which Iago has skilfully planned), he depends on chance and on intercession by another for his restoration to position. Throughout he is flabby instead of manful. Of these weaknesses Iago makes instruments - they are the traits and habits on which he centers his evil deceptive influence. Thus, Cassio's function in the drama is that of a convenience, a middleman, at once a screen, a repository and an unconscious motor of the forces working between the two great protagonists, Othello and Iago. Desdemona has a somewhat similar function. The supposed love affair in which these two are involved is wholly created by Iago as an aid to his revengeful purposes. Both
have fineness of nature and good or harmless intentions. But Desdemona foolishly becomes Cassio's intercessor; and since neither is quite honest in the tangled net thrown around them each unwittingly draws it tighter. Iago is quite without kindly feeling, but he can beautifully sham fine sentiments; as when in apparently virtuous indignation and loyalty to his superior, he kneels and pledges himself to "wronged Othello's service." Or again when he comforts Desdemona after Othello has openly blamed her for infidelity. Throughout the play he misleads his wife, and in fact makes her also his tool. He uses chance in a truly masterly way, as when he learns from Desdemona's playful reproach to Othello that Cassio had come a-wooing with him. This he carefully cements into his structure of lies. He has no hesitation about stabbing the foolish youth whose wealth he had wasted, because he "ever thus makes his fool his purse." He says: For I mine own gained knowledge should profane, If I would time expend with such a snipe But for my sport and profit. This sentence expresses Iago's conscience, his deepest purpose in life, - everything is for his own sport and profit. As for women, there is nothing to respect in any of them. Love is nothing but lust, and reputation an idle bubble. Religion, if he ever thought of the subject, would be only a "thing of nothing." His mind is as limited and one-sided - though at the opposite pole in keenness - as an imbecile's mind is one-sided. He is what is sometimes called a moral idiot. To theosophists Iago may bring a peculiarly impressive lesson, for he is an example of the soulless being. Said H. P. Blavatsky: "We elbow soulless men and women at every step in life." Such a being is one in whom the lower mind is so gorged with sin and selfishness that it can neither assimilate instruction from its Higher Manas nor produce any thought or action worthy to be assimilated by that High Mind. In this way, the lower portion of Manas which could have been uplifted, is instead thoroughly animalized and lost by being separated from the Higher. True, the intellect, working in the lower fields and sharpened for its own self-interest, may play the part of Beneficence; but it is in fact bloody with its immolated victims. This is the theosophical doctrine of soulless beings still embodied in earth-life, and becoming the dwelling-places of the worst Black Magicians. Only this doctrine can really explain Iago. Othello, in the last part of the play is a wounded giant, led into snare after snare, which Iago has purposefully created, yet always trusting that same "honest" Iago to guide him through the tangles. The word "honest" is applied many times to Iago, who certainly used his power of suggestion to create such faith in him. The word thus comes to be an index of the degree of hypnosis effected. Othello has become incapable of using his own judgment and good sense - they are silent and inert under the magnetic fire of Iago's thoughts and plans and eyes. Iago's eyes are vibrant with power; Othello's, though rolling with fury, are inwardly dulled and impotent, without thought. Iago's mind is all alert and sharp. The mind of Othello is by contrast almost asleep, obeying and acting out with hypnotic passiveness the hints and dictations of Iago. H. P. Blavatsky remarked:
"The eye - the chief agent of the Will of the active operator [the subduing agent], but a slave and traitor when this Will is dormant ....produces the required unison between [the two personal wills] ....unless entirely free from any selfish motive, a suggestion by thought is an act of black magic still more pregnant with evil consequences than a spoken suggestion." * ----------* Raja-Yoga or Occultism, pp. 129, 131. ----------Pitiable indeed is it to watch Othello's downfall, to compare him now with what he was as the high-minded chivalrous gentleman answering the Duke's questions and being acquitted concerning the honourableness of his marriage; as the confiding grateful husband; as the one who gained even from Iago the praise of having "a constant, loving, noble nature." Scrutiny into his past reveals him as trusted servitor of the city of Venice visiting among the aristocracy, yet as a Moor, however cultivated, remaining socially an alien. He has held his own in the intrigues of the "tented field," but says he is "little blest with the soft phrase of peace." As a warrior, he has been either superior, as officer in command; or inferior, as a lower officer. When in command, he could not be a comrade with anybody. Hence he has lacked social contact with his equals, and he is inexperienced in reading others' minds except as inferior or superior. In his relations with Desdemona, if comradery with her occurred to him, his instincts would be against it. He is her ardent lover, and she is his. But when that love relationship is disturbed, neither of them knows how to steady and save it. Thus social ignorance renders him helpless against the wiles of such a supersubtle intriguer as Iago. Besides, military discipline sometimes leads a man to trust a brother officer who is bound to him and has been loyal (as Iago has in the past) almost as much as he trusts his own senses. Also, Othello is not a thinker, he analyzes nothing; but he feels so intensely that his sufferings cause him to fall down in a faint. The cold poison that Iago pours into his mind acts like ice-water in a heated boiler - while the quick manipulator is interested only in catching the energy from the explosion to turn the engines of his own advancement. In the very extremes of his torture Othello shows glimpses of his better self, - he would forget about the handkerchief; Iago carefully and three times recalls it to him. He remembers Desdemona's gentleness, her fine needlework, her beautiful singing, "her high and plenteous wit and invention." Iago answers merely, "Nay, that's not your way. She's the worse for all this." In the scene of the actual murder, when bending over his sleeping wife before "putting out the light," - at that last critical moment he is almost shaken out of his purpose by an inner perception, received from his Higher Self, of her child-like innocence. But he fears her deceptiveness, and decides against the inner monition - so purblind is he through the hypnotic influence, so fixed in his conviction of the wife's fault, of Iago's being "honest." After she has wakened, he is angered by her protests of innocence, by her tears of helpless pity for herself, for him, for Cassio, and the whole situation; and at last he fears he may turn into murder the death he has been justifying to himself as a "sacrifice, lest she pollute other men." Yet even then an observer, facing in full the terrible moral
vanquishment, and because of it, feels the profoundest pity for this man so sinning and so sinned against. In the powerful closing scene, where Justice balances her scales, where the intrigues are uncovered, where the hypnotizer and his victim are forced to see what they have been and done, then Othello is finally roused out of his trance of blindness, then he is puzzled and indeed "wrought in the extreme" by the why of it all. Too great of soul to make excuses, he tries by the human codes to even things by wounding if not killing his opposer, and then to punish his own deeds by stabbing himself. Meanwhile, there in bonds, stands the arch deceiver, the soulless man, facing the devastation he has caused. For this he cares little; but he is also facing and in grim silence his own self-wrought inner destruction. He is recognizing those who have been "his companions by affinity of evil," "companions, alas! no longer; Masters now, inhuman, pitiless; ....the fiends that have all along incited him to laugh at the miseries of his fellow man, and trample under his feet every kindly impulse, every tender sympathy, now make the measureless hells within his own soul resound with their laughter at him, the poor deluded fool whose selfish pride and ambition have stifled and at last obliterated his humanity." * ----------* W. Q. Judge, "Considerations on Magic;" The Path, March 1887. ----------Sex evils, war debasements, and hypnotism were the chief causes of tragedy in Othello's and Iago's lives. Perhaps a few observers of the play, when new and since, have been roused by it to a better perception of the generous true relations of men and women. Also, it may be that the domestic peculiarities of warrior types indicated in it have quickened resistance to the demoralizing effects of war. As for hypnotism, supposedly rather new, it is at present a popular subject of investigation and a sanctioned mode of practice. But far too little attention is paid to the motives behind it. For by the learned it is handled with their prevalent cool disregard of any moral quality, and by the money seekers it is commercialized as an added source of income. But the mills of the gods grind on, even if slowly. Perhaps this old play, with its still fresh pictures of life, may yet stir in a few thinkers more seriousness about the intentional selfish manipulation of men's minds and show the need of preventing indiscriminate use of hypnotic methods. Some may even realize the untold possibilities in themselves of wrongly influencing and being influenced; and will perceive that such selfish power as Iago exerted is now called "personality" and "applied psychology." Seeing this, they will reject it as the destructive vicious thing it is, and will do their duty in making this knowledge more general. All men are susceptible to influence. Life is sustained in part by "influences." What men need is to distinguish, for themselves and others, between the life-giving and the death-bringing. If there is aroused some such understanding of the devastating havoc depicted in Othello, the Adepts' purpose has not failed. ----------------
Macbeth - A Study in Witchcraft
"The Adepts assert that Shakespeare was unconsciously to himself, inspired by one of their own number." - Echoes from the Orient, Wm. Q. Judge. Macbeth is a drama of what is usually called the supernatural, - more strictly, the abnormal or the psychic. This manifests in several phases, the most important being the Witches, their action and their influence. The others of special interest are Macbeth's visions and Lady Macbeth's somnambulism, which are in fact closely related to the Witch elements. The drama is also a tragedy of Envy - not merely the general envy by the less high of those above them, but the sharper, bitterer envy sometimes felt by members of a family toward another member. The ties of family are so magnetic that when envy is allowed to become operative, hardly anything can be more deadly. With the Envy is interwoven Vanity, the particular type of vanity associated with kingly position - with royalty as strongly concentrated personal power, self-display and grandeur. It is likewise a drama of conscience, which works on two minds with subtle exact analysis before and especially after the committing of murders. It is thus a most complex presentation of these three, - the ravages of vain, envious, impassioned desires, intermingled with the psychic activities of abnormal beings and with the afflictions, inner and outer, brought by conscience and Karma. The Witches are the dynamic unifying force in the action, and the field of their activity and harvest is found in those particular evils of excessive self-esteem and covetous longings. In recent times the Witches have been explained as mere symbols of the temptations that assail men from outside - as scarcely more than figures of speech dramatically embodied. But such explanations can come only from those who regard all mysterious beings as no more than superstitions. Witches were and are actualities. Their nature and strange powers have to be accounted for partly by realizing that the Witch-lore carried through thousands of generations of men is not all silly fancy; and partly also by a little explanation derived from the ancient philosophy of the East. Witch-lore gives the facts, the beliefs, the customs and the results of the witch-cult and of witch-craft. The cult, as it gradually formed, was a degraded jumble of old religions and nature-theories, and the craft was the application of these. Both were abominable perversions and almost incredible befoulings of what was in origin true philosophy and science. H. P. Blavatsky,* citing several authorities, shows that witch and wizard first meant a woman and a man of wisdom. (Isis Unveiled, I, 352-356) Usage limited this meaning for a time to those who possessed knowledge unusual but not unlawful; and then further limited it to those who gained their knowledge by some "express or implicit sociation or confederacy with some bad spirits." Thus witch came to be "the name of such as raise magical spectres to deceive men's sight.... [the name] women and men who have a bad spirit in them." To explain what was meant by "bad spirit" she says: "When, through vice, fearful crimes and animal passions, a disembodied spirit has fallen to the eighth sphere - the allegorical Hades ....a strong aspiration to retrieve his calamities ....will draw him once more into the earth's atmosphere.... His instincts will make him seek with avidity contact with living persons.... These spirits are the invisible but too tangible magnetic vampires.... Origen held all the daemons which possessed the
demoniacs mentioned in the New Testament to be [this kind of] human spirits.... They are the blood-daemons of Porphyry, the larvae and lemures of the ancients.... [They are] the subjective daemons so well known to medieval ecstatics, nuns, and monks ....and to certain sensitive clairvoyants; the fiendish instruments which sent so many unfortunate and weak victims to the rack and stake." Such weak men and women through their mediumistic passivity became the dupes and slaves of the daemons or "familiar spirits" who had taken control of them. "Therefore, the words obsessed or possessed are synonyms of the word witch. ....Jesus, Apollonius, and some of the apostles, had the power to cast out devils [or such "familiar spirits"], by purifying the atmosphere within and without the patient, so as to force the unwelcome tenant to flight." But the pitiful possessed creatures were not the only kind of witches, nor were they the only basis of the multifarious witch-lore of the middle ages with which Shakespeare was acquainted. H. P. Blavatsky also called attention to the fact that "....there has existed from the beginning of time, a mysterious science discussed by many, but known only to a few. The use of it is a ....desire to cling more closely to our parent-spirit; abuse of it is sorcery, witchcraft, black magic." The more skilful users of this perverted magic became the masters and cruel tyrants of the poor possessed beings, turning them into tools and drudges for their wicked purposes; while the very greatest of the black magicians were the Satans or chief gods of the witch associations. The word Satan leads at once to another special fact. To the remains forming the slime and froth of older decaying religions and worn-out sciences,* "in the early centuries of the Christian era, [among] ... people fully convinced of the reality of occultism, and entering a cycle of degradation, which made them rife for abuse of occult powers and sorcery of the worst description," black magic had added a demoralized vicious defilement of the prevalent Christian beliefs and ceremonies, which were themselves drawn from earlier antiquities. ----------* The Secret Doctrine, I, XXXV. ----------Witches new the power of mantramic repetitions, the hypnotic effects of swinging dance-circles, and the control or charming of others' will by direct forceful concentrated gazing into their eyes. They knew how to produce and to heighten the terror inspired by their own ugliness, their strangeness, menacing secrecy and fateful powers, and they were able to practise telepathy. Further, besides their masters, who were black magicians, witches claimed to be definitely avowed and accepted servants of the chief evil spirits or devils, and in turn they were given lesser devils to aid them in their own works of evil. These lesser devils, often took the form, tradition says, of animals specially used by
wizardry, such as the cat, the dog, the goat, the toad. Women being by physical make-up more passive, went more easily into hysteria and hallucination; also into the servile obedience desired by wizardry. Women too naturally acquired knowledge of healing. Hence probably there were always more witches than wizards, especially as known popularly in village and country life. Yet there were likewise handsome young women and young men who were believed to practise witchcraft, probably because of their powers as mediums. Wizardry had its close fellowships, which held their meetings or "Sabbaths" on some blasted bare mountain-top or in a desert spot where they performed the wildest, obscenest orgies of degraded superstitions. At these times rewards or punishments were given by the Satans, plans were laid and instructions conveyed in both the lore and the practice. Divination, dream-interpreting, hypnotism, telepathy, juggling, ventriloquism and prophecy were included. Also the traditional use of herbs, narcotic and other, for both poisoning and resuscitation: likewise the qualities attributed to metals and stones, to personal relics, such as hair, nails, fluids and to other parts of human and animal bodies. Clearly, all the foregoing is important in Shakespeare's basic material. Wizardry was a conscious concentration upon the evil, a purposeful dedication of the would-be witch to a life of malignant thought and action. As a cult, wizardry was fed by rebellion against any religion except itself, and by hatred of those having worldly supremacy. It was fostered too by personal greed, envy, resentment and a baneful joy in the power to do evil for evil's own sake. As a practice or profession, wizardry included welllaid plans for attacks on definite persons, undermining their worldly position, ruining their health, or blasting their lives. It was remorseless diabolism. As great Adepts embody white magic and the good results of cooperative effort by the White lodge, so witches embody similar cooperation among the Black Brothers.* -----------* The manifold characteristics of wizardry, including purposeful evil-doing, are illustrated in a number of carefully documented books. Among them are the following: - G. A. Kittredge, English Witchcraft and James the First, 1912; A. M. Summers, History of Witchcraft and Demonology, 1926; Geography of Witchcraft, 1927; M. A. Murray, The Witch Cult in Western Europe, 1921; C. L'Estrange Ewen, Witch Hunting and Witch Trials, 1929; Theda Kenron, Witches Still Live, 1929; W. B. Seabrook, Witchcraft: Its Power in the World Today, 1940. -----------At this point it is important to recall Wm. Q. Judge's remarks on the effect of envy and vanity: "Envy is not a mere trifle that produces no physical result. It ....attracts to the student's vicinity thousands of malevolent beings that precipitate themselves upon him and wake up or bring on every evil passion.... Vanity brings up before the soul all sorts of erroneous or evil pictures, or both, and drags the judgment so away that once more anger or envy will enter, or such course be pursued that violent destruction by outside causes falls upon the being." (U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 18, p. 12)
These passages indicate that the vanity and envy which Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have previously permitted in themselves are what first throw them open to degenerating influence, and direct to them the Witches' attention, thus wakening the wicked witchpurposes and skilful methods of soul-destruction. Since extreme envy and vanity do not overwhelm a man in a moment, some traces may be intuitionally detected even in the pre-play period. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have had in them much of "the milk o' human kindness." She testifies to it in him; and later her own aversions from crime, at times unintentionally revealed, testify to it in herself. These two, who through Shakespeare's treatment are placed among the great criminals of the world, are never hardened criminals. Even in their worst depravity they struggle against their consciences. They still have humanness. But they have long allowed themselves to be very envious of their cousin Duncan's kingship; their vanity craves such grandeur, their self-esteem declares their own worthiness. It is in those earlier days that the Witches, having discovered the wrong desire in these two beings, begin evil telepathic practices upon them, augmenting the desires, stimulating the ambition and suggesting excellent reasons for the contemplated act, to which their blood-relationship points the way. So, even before the play opens at all, they have thought of murdering Duncan. Lady Macbeth's early words to her husband prove this, when to re-energize his will, she says scornfully: "What.... made you break this enterprise to me? ....Not time nor place did then adhere, and yet you would make both.... Was the hope drunk wherein you dressed yourself?" Throughout that early time Macbeth himself, though in total ignorance, is strongly swayed by the dark occult leading; and Lady Macbeth is even more submissive to it, since she shares in the fondness for personal grandeur and distinction of rank and appearance that appeal especially to women. She also shares in the passivity belonging to the feminine nature. In the last part of her life she is almost wholly passive under the terrific effects of what has been done - by her, in action; and in her, through the Witches. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose that when Macbeth "breaks the enterprise" to her, she is passive toward it morally; then, dwelling upon it, she grows more and more fascinated by the charms of royalty, till her desires, fusing with the influence sent upon her, culminate in her positive will to carry the plan through. Her extreme display of will in the central part of the drama is more like a volcanic outburst than a customary activity. The proof of this idea lies in her inner scruples, even during the very height of the action, and also in her withdrawal after the murder of Duncan. The first climax of both her will-impulsion and the strength of the outside working, occurs when she gets Macbeth's letter together with the news of Duncan's coming. These affect her like an electric shock, propelling her forward into an intense excitement of will and action. This afterward lessens and deserts her, but at that moment her mind and will leap toward accomplishment; and at that moment the telepathic influx she has been receiving is extraordinarily powerful. The Witches' purpose is too defined and too strong for them to miss being on guard, invisibly, over their victims throughout that all-important night of Duncan's visit; and Lady Macbeth is their best subject, because more completely governed by them. She and Macbeth would surely be the recipients of strong psychical currents on that night. And hence it becomes natural and almost inevitable that to push him through despite any of his waverings, Lady Macbeth sets resolutely aside all her own physical shrinkings and conscientious qualms.
Surely it is clear that the Witches in this drama cannot be regarded as the ordinary poverty-stricken old hags. They are skilful experienced knowers of their lore, practised leaders in their craft. Everything they do and say exhibits a high degree of expertness. Their first scene strikes a keynote appropriate to them - a note indicative of their powerful influence and effects. In their "desert place" they at once reveal knowledge of Macbeth's whereabouts; as well as some purpose upon him in future, for they plan to be after "the battle" in another solitary spot where they can meet him. Then, having answered signals from their attendants, the cat and the toad, and "hovering through fog and filthy air," they pass out chanting "Fair is foul and foul is fair." What may this mean? Surely, a misconceiving, a failure to perceive true values. Does it not also show their intention to make fair seem foul and foul seem fair? In the next Witch scene, shortly following, their intention becomes more clear. Here they swing into a circle-dance, by which their "charm's wound up." Such a charm is hypnotic, - and for whom can it be intended but Macbeth, who enters at that precise moment, walks into his fate, as he utters the words: "So foul and fair a day I have not seen;" - words just spoken by the Witches' mouths, proving a subtle link, by him unrecognized. With Macbeth in this scene comes Banquo, whose clean unambitious soul affords high contrast. The Witches surprise Macbeth by addressing him as Thane of Cawdor (a new title that the King's messengers a moment later confirm), and then they startle him by their cry: "All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter." The power of this greeting is proved by Banquo's observantly asking (with unconscious emphasis on "fair"): "Why do you start, and seem to fear things that do sound so fair?" Why indeed, if he has not before harboured the thought with wicked envy? As hypnotizers and fomenters of quarrels among men in high places, the Witches have now reached a point where they can openly and objectively tempt him and move him to definite action. Macbeth is "rapt" with the effect of their words, says Banquo, who, though free from envy, asks the seers for a prophecy concerning himself. They are willing to work their evil influence on Banquo too; and especially willing to use him as a means for further work on Macbeth. So they describe Banquo as one who shall "beget kings though he be none." This acts as prompt poison upon Macbeth. Bluntly he says to Banquo: "Your children shall be kings." Almost accusing he is already. When at once the Witches' foreknowledge is proved by his receiving through the King's officer the new title of Cawdor, Macbeth's mind secretly leaps ahead: "Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor. The greatest is behind." Accepting fully this proof, he immediately feels again the sting of jealousy, and cries to Banquo: "Do you not hope your children shall be kings?" Once more "rapt" within himself, he argues with his temptation. And it is important to notice that in the word "soliciting" Shakespeare describes exactly what the Witches have been doing, for solicit means to arouse, wholly excite. This supernatural soliciting Cannot be ill' cannot be good; if ill, Why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor: If good, why do I yield to that suggestion
Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair And make my seated heart knock at my ribs.... My thought, whose murder yet is but fantast'cal.... And here is given the proof, the secret confession by Macbeth himself of secret guilt, and the evidence of his confusion, doubt and distress of mind. He might have found an answer in Banquo's truly philosophical words uttered just before: ....oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray 's In deepest consequence. In the midst of Macbeth's eager questions the Witches have vanished, using the occult power they have attained to make their physical bodies invisible; but they well know that the mystery of this disappearance only intensifies their nefarious results, through Macbeth's increased feverish desire to know more. To Banquo's wise warning he has been utterly impermeable; and the only decision he is able to make is to "let chance crown him" if it will. Yet this confidence in chance is only desire disguised - a packing of it down, where in smouldering it actually gains added heat. That hidden fire incites an inquiry concerning the Witches; which results in still further confidence, so that he presently writes to his wife: "I have learn'd by the perfect'st report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge." In consequence both he and Lady Macbeth accept as real and valuable this "metaphysical aid." Moreover, even though the Witches do not appear in the swift scenes where the King is murdered and Macbeth takes his place, they are not forgotten. Banquo shows fear of their evil influence, and Macbeth reveals his continuing trust in them. In fact, their fire too, covered from outward view, burns more hotly within. This is indeed the period of their climactic working. Their telepathic hypnotic "heat" is reinforced, thus in both their victims strengthening the will to carry out the dreadful deed undertaken. That psychic "heat" is operative at every moment. This is the "heat" that "oppresses Macbeth's brain" and creates the "air-drawn dagger" so disturbing to him, yet so impelling. This image, first lacking the "gouts of blood" and then having them, is not unlike the appearances created through hypnotism by East Indian jugglers that are testified to by observers but cannot be caught on any photographic plate because not really objective. Like them, the dagger, whether or not produced by direct jugglery, is, as Shakespeare himself says, "a dagger of the mind"; and as a psychic dagger, it possesses far greater power to lead him on. Also, though Lady Macbeth over and again shows her own tortures, yet that same heating current entering her mind from the Witches revives will and enables her to rebut Macbeth's agonies of guilt and fear with fresh encouragement of escape from the dreaded consequences; as when after Macbeth moans that he cannot now join in prayer, she says with pity: "Consider it not so deeply." When he is present she keeps her self-control. Yet even the Witch-stimulus has not been enough. She has needed a physical support, and has found it in drink. "That which hath made them [the grooms] drunk hath made me bold," she says. But after the discovery of the murder, Macbeth, crazed with fear and to save himself from accusation, kills the grooms; an act not planned, an act to which she has not
steeled herself. Then, suddenly, she sinks. The firm hold she has had of her physical self is severed by a quick sharp descent of psychic terror, resulting in a faint - a disconnection between her mind and its normal plane of action. This complete loss of control, though momentary, explains psychically her noticeable retirement through the rest of the play. Her later participation in the crimes is far more passive. Both she and Macbeth, moved by the Witches' prophecy that kings will issue from Banquo, are resentful and worried by his mere existence. Both are watchful of his movements and know when he "is gone from court": Macbeth definitely plans to turn such an occasion against him. She sighs to herself: "Nought's had, all's spent, where our desire is got without content"; and when he bursts out: "O full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife. Thou knowest that Banquo and his Fleance lives," she is ready to strengthen his thought of murder even while she quiets him by answering: "But in them nature's copy's not eterne." He accepts at once this reinforcement. "There's comfort yet; they are assailable"; and then he broadly hints that the "assailing" is to be done that very night. She, "marvelling at his words," asks: "What's to be done?" But he - perhaps to shield her - replies: "Be innocent of the knowledge.... till thou applaud the deed." Thus, subtly, in motive and in heart, she is as guilty of Banquo's death as Macbeth is, though she has no part in the outward action. She is given a hint too that there is to be trouble for Macduff, but she makes no comment. Gradually she draws within herself. Yet she understands at once the cause of Macbeth's strange behaviour in the following scene of the banquet. The Apparitions in that scene (IV, 1) which terrify and completely unnerve Macbeth are visions of Banquo as "blood-boltered." They cannot therefore be his actual ghost; for the ghost, being his double, would look as he did in life. Shakespeare again, through the two personages interprets his own creation, and in the same way, he even recalls and associates with this incident his former psychic interpretation. Says she of the vision at the banquet: "This is the very painting of your fear: this is the air-drawn dagger which, you said, led you to Duncan." And he had called that "a dagger of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain." If then, Witch jugglery, working on and against Macbeth's conscience, produced the dagger, that same jugglery, added to agonies of conscience, produced also the two hideous appearances of Banquo "with twenty mortal murders on his crown." Those unexpected sudden terrors of Macbeth in this scene rouse his wife once more to action, and to scornful reproaches as she tries covertly to waken his courage, while to the guests excusing him, till his too evident self-betrayal compels her to dismiss them hastily. Then, face to face, there comes between the two a most signficant long pause, which is broken by Macbeth's deep-toned groan: "It will have blood." After that, her words are but brief, almost hopeless. She is slipping fast into passive despair. When he speaks of "wading in blood," and having "strange things in head that will to hand," she answers in a half-dead voice: "You lack the season of all natures, sleep." What emotional torture and piercing unintentional irony are condensed in those simple words! Already Macbeth has heard the dreadful Voice crying; "'Sleep no more!' to all the house." Already they have together suffered "the afflictions of those terrible dreams that shake them nightly," those awful revisionings of the day's awful deeds. How can they expect quiet refreshment from "the season of all natures"? After this pitiful wish for him of sleep, she speaks no word till she speaks in her own sleep, when he has piled horror on
horror, and she has lived in the hell they have created, without companioning him into his farther depths except as she lives them over at night. Then, "with open eyes, though senses shut," she re-enacts and retells the frightful burdens of her soul. The pathetic power of that sleep-walking scene is heightened rather than lessened by some perception of the occult forces and qualities in it. Shakespeare himself accurately described such sleep-action as "A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once the benefits of sleep, and do the effects of watching!" That partial mind-paralysis, like the faint, is a disconnection between her normal mind and its usual realm of activity. W. Q. Judge calls attention to the fact that the spirit in the body "approaches the objects of sense by presiding over the different organs of sense. And whenever it withdraws itself the organs cannot be used."* Such a state is a sleep on the physical and a waking on the astral. H. P. Blavatsky remarks that "the human brain is simply the canal between two planes - the psycho-spiritual and the material";** ------------* U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 18, p. 10. ** U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 25, p. 5. ------------"In dreaming or in somnambulism, the brain is asleep only in parts - ....Generally dreams are induced by the waking associations which precede them. Some of them produce such an impression that the slightest idea in the direction of any subject associated with a particular dream may bring its recurrence years after." * -----------* U. L T. Pamphlet No. 11, p. 8. -----------Recurrence is inevitable with these two, for the ideas causing their tortures of mind are by no means slight, nor are Macbeth's added crimes. These, even if he does not tell her his plans or their results, she is sure to see. Either she witnesses them, while dreaming, as pictures or reflections on the astral plane where they are recorded and where she goes in sleep, or, if not in dreams, she perceives them in thought while awake through her unison with Macbeth in psychic vibration. Thus, in her, dwelling on the crimes causes despair so torturing that it becomes somnambulism - that strange complex of action in passivity. The Witches have almost finished their deadly effects on her wicked desires. As her now loathed life drags after her husband's ghastly course, they have only to lead her gradually to accept his idea: "Better be with the dead." On this worst of all possible conclusions she acts, and with "self and violent hands takes off her life." But in Macbeth, after the betrayal of the banquet scene, despair becomes a violent wilfulness that moves to fury of action. "For mine own good all causes shall give way.... My strange and self-abuse is the initiate fear that wants hard use: we are yet but young in deed." And so there is his second fateful meeting with the Weird Sisters, to whom he goes "to know the worst." In a cavern it is, their working-place. Singing their incantation and dancing around their boiling cauldron, the Sisters cast into it those ghastly objects whose
magic makes "the charm firm and good." Macbeth comes blustering and demands answers. Then arise those life-like speaking Apparitions - the Witches' master-works in ventriloquism, jugglery, hypnotism and all the other powers that can "raise magical spectres to deceive men's sight." The result is that Macbeth is stiffened with inflated courage but furious with raging jealousy that "a barren sceptre is put in his gripe" while Banquo's line of kings "will stretch out to th' crack of doom." With the utmost fierceness he now pursues his murderous plans against Macduff, and enters with boisterous valour into war to conquer those who are rebelling against his authority. At first he boasts: "The mind I sway by and the heart I bear shall never sag with doubt nor shake with fear.... Hang those that talk of fear." But as the supports promised by the Apparitions one by one prove false, his despair darkens into ever-increasing reasonless turbulence: "I'll fight till from my bones my flesh be hacked.... Blow, wind! come wrack! At least we'll die with harness on our back." - It is the old story that those "whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad"; mad with overweening confidence, and then mad with equally outrageous despair. And when at last he knows that Birnam Wood has indeed "come against him," and that even Macduff may be called "not of woman born"; when he knows that he has been tricked to the utmost by the "equivocation of the juggling fiends" that "lied like truth," and "paltered with him in a double sense," when life has become a mere "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," - then, "for a moment we see him a haggard shadow against a handsbreadth of pale sky," before his "life's candle is snuffed out." The poignancy of the struggle in this drama lies in the intensity and the seeming unevenness of the battle between the lower and the higher. The great capacities for good in the two tragic figures are proved by that very intensity and by the overwhelming force of their final anguish. The Karmic balance of pre-existing evil with present evil may only be surmised. Yet, apparently, the higher natures of the two sufferers are vanquished not by ordinary degrees of corruption within and without, but by viciousness magnified to regal and supreme power through their own previous wrong acts and the consequent entrance of wicked beings who consciously direct skilful machinations against the human man and woman. Still, they are never wholly under the control of the Witches, or of inner vice. Again and again they are stricken through by conscience, by self-reproach and self-horror, - those intimations of the Higher Self in man, which these two do not understand well enough to obey, crippled as they are by past disobediences. Hence their very monitions to good become changed into wild despair. Since the criminal methods and effects of witchcraft (often called by other names) have existed and will exist for many ages, the Adepts' complete knowledge of these may have been made partly available to Shakespeare, in order that this most occult of all his tragedies might give instruction and warning through a visual presentment of Wizardry, intensest of Black Magic, arrayed as protagonist against Soul and Spirit. ------[In this careful study our esteemed contributor makes no reference to Hecate, a goddess of classical mythology whom Shakespeare introduces in the company of the three Witches. Some commentators regard such introduction as "incongruous." Who is Hecate, whom the Witches themselves obey and who calls herself "the mistress of your charms,
the close contriver of all harms"? Her speech to the Witches in Act III, Scene 5, is a telltale. Who or what is Hecate? H. P. B. says that "the triple Hecate is the Orphic deity" who - "as the personified Moon, whose phenomena are triadic, Diana-Hecate-Luna is the three in one"; and she adds that the Egyptians called her "Hekat.... the goddess of Death, who ruled over magic and enchantments." This mysterious being combines, it is said, the characters of moon goddess, earth goddess and under-world goddess. She is said to be wandering about with the souls of the wicked dead; and her approach is announced by the whining and howling of dogs. - Eds.] -------------
King Lear - A Study in Karma "The Adepts assert that Shakespeare was unconsciously to himself, inspired by one of their own number." - Echoes from the Orient, by Wm. Q. Judge. Adepts use of drama for their purposes is a long story. In the ancient Mysteries which were Schools of Wisdom, Science and Philosophy - teachers and students enacted events that represented some of the basic facts of Nature and of Man. The facts and the Enactments were viewed with religious reverence, and were indeed profound occult realities, though they were often protected by a veil of myth or fable. For the pupil the Enactments were initiations into phases of Adeptship. He learned to universalize his consciousness, to enter through self-experience into those degrees or states of the WorldSoul which the events symbolized. His knowledge was thus greatly increased of other planes of being. By living through them he came to understand the operations of the principles of Man and of Nature; and thus aided by the Enactments, he grew to be a "knower" of the Kosmic principles and then a "knower" of Atman. This is proof of how superior in spirituality were the Enactments in the Mysteries to even the most kosmic dramas of Aeschylus, the initiate who ventured to create exoteric presentations, the actors of which were probably not students of the Mysteries. After Aeschylus drama thus existed as an art, quite apart from the Mystery Enactments. Using the living body and mind as its medium of expression, its appeal is most immediate. Through this fact the Adepts may have seen in it special possibilities of service for the uplift of men. If so, they would encourage impersonally all who were connected with dramatic creation. The ethical intention in the makers of the Mysteries of the Adepts who inspired Shakespeare was the same. From their viewpoint of human betterment, the drama of Shakespeare was only a particular repetition, adapted to sixteenth-century England and its future expansions, of their ancient purpose and perennial effort. Therefore the occult link is between the great tragedies of Shakespeare and the great tragedies of Greece. They are companion activities. In nothing is the spirit of the Englishman's finer tragedies more like the Greek than in the clear proof they afford of the law that to each man comes back what he has given. The higher logic of a situation is not shambled. Understanding of what the Greek called Nemesis and the theosophist calls Karma was an important aim in the Enactments of the
Mysteries. Hence the evidence of karmic law in both the Greek and the English tragic dramas is only natural. King Lear is especially strong in its karmic values. It is Greek-like too in the affinities the personages feel between themselves and the powers in Nature; and like the ancients, they call these powers gods - not God. The theme of this drama concerns the relations of parents and children. It appears in two main lines, at first seeming unconnected. The cause of the tragedy in the one line is indicated unmistakably in the first few words, in which the Earl of Gloster reveals to the Earl of Kent his family secret, - the son Edmund, there present, whose "breeding has been at Gloster's charge," at whose acknowledgment he has often "blushed" but now is "brazed," whose "mother was fair" and "made good sport," who has "been out nine years and shall away again," yet who is as dear to Gloster as the "son by order of law, some year elder than this." Gloster's breezy way of recounting his past fault with its resulting unhappiness for wife and elder son, does not blind an observer to his cruel disregard, past and present, of the son Edmund's feelings of injustice, as with bitter resentment he listens to his father in silence and thinks "base, base, why base?" The whole miserable situation of a bastard son - a situation in which the selfish licence of the husband and father does irreparable injury to everyone concerned, including at last himself, is laid bare in these few lines. Gloster's light manner, Kent's praise of Edmund's fine personality, and Edmund's reserved answers, hint at the mixed and dark colours given to the drama by the Gloster story. The other branch of the twofold theme is shown in the first scene by the arrival of Lear and his court for business of state. Just as Gloster is accountable for a broken family life in the past and is to meet the results, so Lear is now about to do deeds which break his own family life, and meet the results. As types the two stories and the personalities reflect and intensify each other. An apotheosis of self - self-will, self-power, self-domination, - these are Lear. For scores of years he has seen in himself only THE KING - The reverence of feudalism for the one at the pinnacle of its giddy social scale, for the Overmost of the overlords; the reverence of theology for its supreme Regent of God on Earth; combining with the agelong tradition of absolutism from such Single-Willed oriental empires as those of Darius and Xerxes, pictured so graphically in the Biblical story of Esther, - these built up in the West and in minds such as Lear's "that divinity which doth hedge a king." A very different idea of the divinity in a king had been held in those far-preceding Golden and Silver Ages of Man when great spiritual Beings, who by their own persistent efforts had in earlier manvantaras raised their lower selves into harmony and identification with the Divine Self of All, - when these incarnated among men in order to give them the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, and to rule over them in mildness and in observance of Nature's laws: thus inculcating and illustrating by both doctrine and practice the divine and the kingly in man. But as evolution proceeded down into our Iron Age, that noble idea gradually came to be personalized, debased. The King-Being ceased to embody a godlike principle involving duties and responsibilities. Instead, the "king" became only a foisting up of the psychic passionate persona, ethically the mere lower cover and false concealer of the neglected inner Spirit. The precedence which in the true condition had been based on spiritual development, came to be exchanged for the precedence based on mere externals of costume, subserviency and primogeniture. The exaltation of the persona, decked out
with most elaborate trappings, believed in and reverenced with doctrines and conventionalities worked over and matter-clouded from the teachings and customs properly belonging to the earlier pure faiths and ceremonies - this mockery became the absolutism and the absolute monarch, as recorded in Graeco-Persian and in succeeding European periods and kingdoms. Such a monarch was in some cases nothing less than a bestial corruption in himself and a debaucher of others, - though he claimed and used the power of life and death over his subjects. His family affections were bent almost wholly toward gilding and perpetuating his own greatness. Hence, similar in sources to the absolutism of king was the absolutism of father. Lear in the first scene is an exhibition of a mind accustomed to absolute irresponsible rule both as king and as father. After the first scene, when he has given away his powers and made himself a pensioner on his daughters, the play is a complicated presentment of karmic reaction, unfolding from the action of both Lear and Gloster. Lear is then a psychological picture of an absolutist forced out of his former habits and facing life from an opposite position. The change is so sudden and violent, and what it involves is so little understood by Lear, that for a time his mind becomes unbalanced. In that pregnant first scene as he gives their shares of his kingdom to his two elder daughters, he makes a pompous display of his grandeur. Flattery is poured upon him by them, to which he pays little attention; and knowing full well the young Cordelia's love for him always, he tenderly and half jestingly demands: "And now, our joy, what can you say?" He expects even more from her - not of flattery, but such an outwelling and display of affection as he would be proud and glad to have his court witness. Quintessence of fatherly pride and self-satisfaction he expects to enjoy. But Cordelia, knowing her treacherous sisters and despising flattery, is disgusted with what she has just heard. She is hurt at the thought of affection being measured in a contest. Not openly demonstrative by nature, she shrinks from making of herself a public display. She trusts her father's knowing of her love and tries to make him see her sisters' falsity; but, not fully weighing the situation or foreseeing its outcome, she blunders by persisting too far in her reserved answers; till Lear, utterly astonished, furious, feeling himself disgraced in public instead of honoured, bursts into a blind violence that piles mistake on mistake, never to be undone; such an insanity of wrath as may easily befall an absolutist. From this point Lear's mind is in a state of tumultuous confusion, dying down at times to almost quiet, as with the Fool; at other times mounting again to the heights of rage. How these feelings repeat themselves! Beginning with shocking intensity toward Cordelia, they rise through the terrible curse on Goneril, and still higher into the more terrible because more pitiful appeal to the heavens: "If you do love old men, make it your cause." Again they obsess him when Regan asks concerning his personal retinue, "What need (even one follower) in a house where so many have a command to tend you?" To this he can only exclaim: "O, reason not the need.... O Fool, I shall go mad!" And he dashes away weeping in self-pity for the bitter injustice done him. Dazed and frantic, he rushes out into the terrific storm in Nature, "and bids what will take all," - that storm which is an exact parallel in the physical world to the fierce turmoil in Lear's mental world, a precise balancing of action and reaction. The roaring tumults of his fury in those imprecations on each of his daughters have been fierce destructive malevolence, extraordinary forceful volumes of it he has sent forth. It must create its own correspondence, must bring an exact return just such as that cyclonic outburst of lightning,
thunder and rain which breaks upon him and all who are unsheltered. The fact that he recovers after such psychic and moral ravage proves the strength of that convulsed mind when normal, and the karmic merit in him as a Soul. In Gloster selfism has never been so rampant as in Lear. He has never been so high but that he had to admit superiors and equals immediately around him. But his good sense is hardly greater. Foolishly trusting Edmund, his illegal, almost stranger son, to the point of cruelly exiling in anger his lawful and familiar son Edgar, he soon finds himself heartlessly betrayed by Edmund, who is working to get estate and name. Thus the seeming greatness of both Lear and Gloster is overthrown. Both grow morally through the process of their suffering. Lear takes simple lessons in such self-control as he never exercised while he was king. Seeing his hastiness with Cordelia, he says of his other daughters: "I will be patient.... I will endure." and in the cold of the storm he learns pity for the beggars and unclad wretches who in his pomp as king would have been to him an offence. Thus his excessive grandeur and haughtiness gradually disappear through the extreme lowness he reaches; humility and fellowship arise in his wandering mind. The insanity of self-grandeur had afflicted him while he was called sane. Now, through the stages of his mental unbalance, his regeneration proceeds. Gloster's loyalty to Lear, and to Cordelia's French army coming to reinstate Lear by war, the other sisters punish by having his eyes torn out. Yet this result is not unsymbolical of the soul-blindness Gloster was in when young. With Gloster the shock of his downfall and torture does not unseat his reason. It remains more on the outer planes. Yet the moral lessons it can give he sees and takes to heart. He learns much through his agony. Most patient he grows and most humble. And the finest karmic retribution is his when the son he had exiled becomes his nurse and protector, and at last explains it all to the tired old father; so rousing mingled joy and grief that the soul slips away out of the poor mutilated body. The teachings of Theosophy declare that intense selfishness in some form is a prime cause of insanity. The essence of selfishness is the constant direction of thought and feeling to the lower desires or fears and to the lower principles as active with these. Through the strength of the desires and the attention given them, or through some great shock to them, a loosening or an actual disconnection occurs between one or more of the principles and the rest. Anger or terror, for example, may cause a partial displacement without destroying the mental balance; but a further degree of disconnection creates that completer unbalance known as insanity. Adepts by their knowledge and power to act directly on man's inner and higher planes and principles, can heal insanity. Sometimes a suffering individual helps himself,* through moral changes; especially if he succeeds in lessening his selfishness by giving kindly attention to other men. In that way he may bring about his own cure. This is precisely what Lear does. Shakespeare through him embodied the Adept teaching on the subject. Then comes, too, the healing sleep. In this deep sleep Lear's harassed mind regains its poise and control over the lower self. His previously hidden higher nature, with its lovingness and wisdom, is freed enough to act on and through his outer life. When he wakens before Cordelia, the blatant king-self and domineering father are forever gone, his sanity is recovered. ----------* Cf. C. W. Beers, A Mind That Found Itself.
----------The two elder daughters, having seized on all, are united only in their secret quarrel for the other's share and in their love of Edmund; their very characters being thus the heaviest Karma their souls could have - that lustful jealous love the highest humanness they can reach, and their greed in it so fierce that it leads to their quick deaths. Yet for Edmund this love is in part redemptive. The compassion infused into the soul of Shakespeare could perceive some good in even such love as theirs. Edmund, in the last few minutes of his life obeys the better nature he had before rejected. Faced by his present death, and by the proof of his treachery to each of the two sisters, he admits the justice that has fallen on him as on the father. When Edgar says of the father: "The dark and vicious place where thee he got Cost him his eyes." Edmund places himself in the guilty group: "Thou hast spoken right, 'tis true; The wheel is come full circle; I am here." The deeper import of his reply Edmund could scarcely have seen, but a theosophist knows that if Edmund had not from a past life deserved to be born a bastard son, he never would have been so. As Edgar continues with the touching story of their father's passing, Edmund, much moved, struggles with himself; but when he sees by their deaths the force of the love for him borne by the two unhappy women, he lets the bonds of his selfishness melt away: "I pant for life: - some good I mean to do Despite of mine own nature." The one good he can do - the release of Lear and Cordelia, whose execution he had himself ordered, - he urges and hastens to do. That his release comes too late cannot fully destroy its karmic value to the soul of Edmund. He dies in peace with himself, with his family, and with those he had wronged. Sinned against and stigmatized all his life, this inner redemption at the close is the best retribution he could meet. Though he gives little, it yet balances some of the heavy past Karma and prepares for a future in which his experience of this life will not again be needed. Shakespeare pictures other bastard sons and their revengeful hate, but in no other play does he represent the life of such a man so fully, revealing his sufferings, the hardening of his nature, his tiger-like spitting back at everybody because of the constant injustices shown him, and his final redemption by obeying the impulses that came from his own better self. There can scarcely be a question that this phase of family life, so full of selfish sin, was one that the Adept inspirers were glad to see thus treated with such prominence and compassion as to be truly instructional.
For Edgar, "whose nature is so far from doing harms that he suspects none," Karma operates in the way he most truly would have desired. Though it puts him into the depths as apparently a crazy beggar, yet it permits him thereby to become his father's defender. In his beggarly state he is tempted to self-pity, but with independent unselfishness resists that. Immediately after, he meets his father, now sightless. Again resisting a tide of wondering anger, he quietly takes his duty as a guide, which the blind father himself, psychically perceiving the bond between them, lays upon him. Thus Edgar wins the spiritual victory that redeems his whole family. For it is really Edmund who has been the cause of his father's terrible punishment. Edmund is thus the karmic agent in Gloster's account. Yet, though necessarily so, he must also meet the Karma of his own treachery. Who can be the next karmic agent in this complicated family record but Edgar, the lawful son and harmless brother, when after convincing evidences of his own goodness, he at last by a successful knightly challenge of Edmund as a traitor, wipes off before the world the stains that Gloster had put upon the lives of them all. The Earl of Kent is one of the rare souls that in feudal days were occasionally evolved by the system of vassalage that led a man to bind himself in body and mind to his overlord. Such a vassal considered no service too high, no task too menial, if done for that lord; - just as Kent disguised "followed his enemy king and did him service improper for a slave." But the bond of vassalage, being personal, frequently included error. This relation, when it thus became religious, may be regarded as a transfer and perversion of the relation in the East between disciple and teacher. Such souls are likely erelong to find their way to those who know how to cherish their devotion, remove it from personal attachments, and guide it to its proper aim in the Cause of uplifting humanity. The most recondite phases of Karma are those connected with the deaths of Lear and Cordelia. Often spectators have felt that these deaths, especially hers, are pitifully unjust, unnecessary, and are only the dramatist's way of rounding off his story. But dramatic conventions are not based on mere fancy or convenience. They have inner reasons, consonant with the grandeur of this and other great dramas. Besides, Adept influence would not lead to disregard of dramatic laws. Rather, it would inspire obedience to deeper conditions of mind or soul expressible through such laws and productive of values for soul growth, even more at times than writers themselves realize. In reality, the end of great plays is the completion of groups of karmic causes, - it is a natural end, not artificial, since the causes in the story are developed to some equilibrium. The ideal close of man's life comes when he has gained such moral balance as tends to harmonize it with the equilibrium in Nature. The physical limit of Lear's life is about reached. But though his last grief and suffering are far higher in quality than his former selfish feelings, he has not yet earned a peaceful end; for that he has not balanced enough of his Karma. His past violences demand that he be stricken again and even more poignantly. In the last passages one beholds the poignancy. He is bent down under it. But something else should not be overlooked. In studying Shakespeare's chief personages, one can hardly afford to forget that they have once been actual men on earth; just as the Greek tragedies are founded on deeds of actual beings. In neither case are the figures simulacra of fancy. The source-stories may have been much modified, yet the basic essence of them was preserved and made evident in their final transcendent forms. Therefore in studying the Greek or the English tragic persons, one is as justified in using all possible insight to detect their inner experiences as he is to perceive those of men
recently gone. Hence he may properly consider by intuition that swift vision of the closing life, incidents, cause and results, - which a soul has at the last moments before complete death. That period of vision is the most intensely living portion of the whole life. The fact of such death-vision has often been attested by men rescued from drowning. The teachings of Theosophy record the fact as a universal experience. In a Letter from one of the Masters occurs the following: "The dying brain dislodges memory with a strong supreme impulse; and memory restores faithfully every impression that has been entrusted to it.... that impression and thought which was the strongest, naturally becomes the most vivid, and survives all the rest." During the last hour Lear's mind is fixed on Cordelia, he is most intimately near to her. Therefore his life and hers he sees in the solemn final review in the egoic way, as incidents in a continuous life; he understands her present death as it really was - less a passive or unwilling sacrifice than a beneficent yielding of her life; beneficent to his soul, and thus to her own, by bringing them both into more harmony with the equilibrium of Nature. Though there was brutality and violence with her going, yet her death is not punitive to her. Even in that violence she met some of the Karma of her family, - this, rather than her own. She left France to right the family wrongs by succouring her father, knowing that death for them both was possible. She was no doubt willing to die before him if she could thereby serve him. Mere living, for Cordelia, would mean less than her realization that she has done all she could, that perhaps even her death was not defeat but a help to him who was closer to her than any other being. "We should know," said Robert Crosbie, "that Karma does not castigate, it simply affords the opportunity for adjustment." But whether or not Shakespeare knew the deeper nature of death-visions, he yet obeyed the profound perception that longer life for Lear or for Cordelia would mean a disregard of the subtler demands of Karma, and so would truly be a weakness in his work. The story and problems of Lear and his daughters apply to mankind high and low, and are seen not infrequently. The retention by the old of property which the young may be too eager to get, unfair divisions or even disinheritances, and in general the moral and economic debts of parents to children, of children to parents - these are familiar subjects important in human development and in karmic adjustment. Shakespeare shows the tragedy that may spring out of these questions, and he suggests by reversal wiser answers than many families reach. Because of its universal applicability and highly instructional quality, perhaps he put into this drama special effort to detect and display motives and results in order still further to intensify and extend its appeal. --------* U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 25, p. 1 --------------
The Theosophy of Shakespeare's "Tempest" [Based upon a lecture delivered at the United Lodge of Theosophists, Bombay, on April 26th, 1949. - Eds.]
Our study is conceived merely as an essay in the interpretation of a subject at once Protean and profound. The more one delves into the genius of Shakespeare, the greater is the realization by every honest student of Theosophy that, as veil after veil is lifted, there will remain "veil upon veil behind." Who was Shakespeare? What manner of man was he? What was the power behind his plays? Questions all more easily asked than answered, but suggestions of answers are to be found in hints scattered through the recorded writings of the latest teachers of Theosophy. The vicissitudes of Shakespeare's reputation and the vagaries of critical opinion alike substantiate Madame Blavatsky's statement that Shakespeare, like Aeschylus, "will ever remain the intellectual 'Sphinx' of the ages."* To students of Theosophy, however, the available references in the authentic literature, though few and far between, are sufficiently suggestive to indicate the Occult World's estimate of Shakespeare and his message. "My good friend - Shakespeare," wrote one of the Mahatmas, quoting from him in a letter. In her editorial opening the first volume of Lucifer, H.P.B. wrote that "'Shakespeare's deep and accurate science in mental philosophy' has proved more beneficent to the true philosopher in the study of the human heart - therefore, in the promotion of truth - than the more accurate but certainly less deep, science of any Fellow of the Royal Institution." Again we know from a letter addressed to Mr. A. P. Sinnett that H.P.B. wanted a student to write out "the esoteric meaning of some of Shakespeare's plays," for inclusion in The Secret Doctrine. Lastly, of course, we have Mr. Judge's famous statement: - "The Adepts assert that Shakespeare was, unconsciously to himself, inspired by one of their own number."** ----------* The Secret Doctrine, II, 419. ** Echoes from the Orient, p. 6. ----------Shakespeare, then, we regard as a real and magnificent creative genius of the type described by H.P.B in her article on "genius,"* who, coming under Nirmanakayic** influence, became a myriad-minded master of life and language. His amazing and expansive knowledge of the super-physical and the invisible, his profound and penetrating insight into human nature, his transcendent and kaleidoscopic imagination, his intuitive perception and his inspired passages - all these are at once the expression and the evidence of the inwardness of his plays, and of the influence pf the Adepts. ------------* U.L.T. Pamphlet No. 13. ** "A Nirmanakaya is ....a member of that invisible Host which ever protects and watches over humanity within Karmic limits.... A Nirmanakaya is ever a protecting, compassionate, verily a guardian angel to him who becomes worthy of his help." (The Theosophical Glossary, "Nirmanakaya").
------------Now, what was the nature of Adept influences upon the mind of Shakespeare? It is not to be thought that Shakespeare was, from the first, under the special care and observation of the Great Lodge, but rather that "the superior possibilities embedded within himself were what Adept Inspiration spurred into stronger activity." This was possible because of the largeness of his mind and the receptivity of his soul. The breadth of his Soul-Life could cause the offspring of his Fancy "to share richly in the vital Fire that burns in the higher (Image-making) Power." Above all, he possessed the power, as John Masefield has written, to touch "energy, the source of all things, the reality behind all appearance," and to partake of the storehouse of pure thought. We will not, however, find it an easy task to unravel the mystery locked up in the allegory, symbol and character portrayal of the great plays. For, "the very fact that Shakespeare remained unconscious of the Nirmanakayic influence which his genius attracted shows that we must not expect the unadulterated expression of Divine Wisdom in all he created." Having thus stated the Theosophical position vis-a-vis Shakespeare, we must note the two possible methods of studying any of his plays in terms of the Esoteric Philosophy. The first is the easier one of extracting the essence of Theosophic truth out of the significant lines and passages of the play. The second is the more difficult one of interpreting the entire tale and theme of the play according to one or more of the seven keys of symbolism suggested in The Secret Doctrine. We will use both methods, but concentrate on the second, which, if less easy, will be found more fascinating. Before that, however, it would be useful to place The Tempest among Shakespeare's last plays. It is a platitude of modern Shakespearean criticism that the group of plays* to which The Tempest belongs and of which it is presumably the last, were written in "the final period" of the playwright's life and show certain distinctive features. All these plays are romances, neither tragic nor comic but both, full of unexacting and exquisite dreams, woven within a world of mystery and marvel, of shifting visions and confusing complications, "a world," as Mr. Lytton Strachey writes, "in which anything may happen next." Strangely remote from "real" life is this preternatural world of Shakespeare's latest period, and this universe of his invention is peopled with many creatures more or less human, beings belonging to different orders of life. This romantic character of these plays is reflected in the richness of their style. Here we have the primary facts of poetry, suggestion, colour, imagery, together with "complicated and incoherent periods, softened and accentuated rhythms, tender and evanescent beauties." These plays reach the very apex of poetic art, revealing a matured magnificence of diction and the haunting magic of the purest lyricism, altogether appealing more to the imagination than the intellect. The fundamental feature, however, of these plays of the final period is the archetypal pattern of prosperity, destruction and recreation which their plots follow. Virtue is not only virtuous, but also victorious, triumphant, and villainy is not only frustrated, but also forgiven. These are dramas of reconciliation between estranged kinsmen; of wrongs righted through repentance, not revenge; of pardon and of peace. Tragedy is fully merged into mysticism, and the theme is rendered in terms of myth and music, reflecting the grandeur of true immortality and spiritual conquest within apparent death and seeming defeat.
-----------* Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, henry VIII, The Tempest. -----------Upon the firm foundation of the accepted conclusions regarding the chronological order of the plays of Shakespeare, and of the peculiar features of the final period, modern critics have been only too eager to build their plausible and picturesque interpretations. We have, first, the Dowden doctrine, supported in different degrees by other critics, likening Shakespeare to a ship, beaten and storm-tossed, yet entering harbour with sails full-set to anchor in Stratford-on-Avon in a state of calm content and serene selfpossession. This view gives the final period of the playwright the attractive appellation of "On the Heights," and perceives in these last plays the charm of meditative romance and the peace of the highest vision. The Tempest is reverentially regarded as the supreme essence of Shakespeare's final benignity. Strachey's thesis, on the contrary, echoed partially by Granville-Barker, is that these faulty and fantastic last plays show that Shakespeare ended his days in boredom, cynicism and disillusionment. Dr. E. M. W. Tillyard, in his Last Plays of Shakespeare, like Middleton Murry, not only sees no lack of vitality, no boredom with things, no poverty of versification in these later plays, but, in fact, evidences of the work of one whose poetical faculty was at its height. Dr. Tillyard's theory has much to commend it, but does not pursue its assumptions to their logical conclusions, and is based on the proposition that Shakespeare was an artist before he was a philosopher. The best and latest interpretation is that of Prof. Wilson Knight in The Crown of Life. He regards Shakespeare as equivalent to the dynamic spiritual power manifest in his plays, and finds in the Shakespearean sequence the ring of reason, order and necessity. Shakespeare's plays, he believes, spell the universal rhythm of the motion of the spirit of man, progressing from spiritual pain and despair through stoic acceptance and endurance to a serene and mystic joy. Whereas in the tragedies is expressed the anguish of the aspiring human soul, crying out from within its frail sepulchre of flesh against the unworthiness of the world, these last plays portray the joyous conquest of life's pain. Professor Knight's interpretation comes closest to the Theosophical view of Shakespeare's final period, and many of his conclusions are broadly true. It is, however,important to point out the danger of stereotyping the divisions of Shakespeare's life, and the need to be wary how we apply our labels and demarcations to what G. S. Gordon calls "so mobile a thing as the life and work of man." In the last analysis, Shakespeare was all of one piece; he developed, but in his development cast nothing away; his attitude towards life deepened, but his essential outlook always remained the same. As students of Theosophy, however, we can attribute the surpassing majesty of the plays of the final period to the great expansion of the creative power and dramatic skill of Shakespeare which had first begun to show themselves in their grandeur in the tragic productions of "the middle period." This expansion was the product, as it is the proof, of the Adept Inspiration from which Shakespeare progressively benefitted and on which he increasingly drew. Thus, we are fully prepared by the Theosophical philosophy to regard the final period as the culmination of a spiritual Odyssey which found its consummation in The Tempest, his last and greatest of plays. In this view, then, The Tempest is a broader,
deeper "embodiment of the qualities drawn from the higher planes of man's being in which Imagination rules," a perfect pattern of myth and magic as of music and marvel. Let us now closely consider this masterpiece in the light of Theosophy. The tale of The Tempest is well-known but we shall briefly recapitulate its salient strands. It is, primarily, the story of Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, and his charming child, Miranda, both banished by the usurper Antonio, his brother, and living unknown on a lonely island. Here, through a long period of successful study and practice, Prospero has matured into a master magician, and Miranda has flowered into a marriageable maiden. The play opens with a violent storm and a resulting shipwreck, caused at the bidding of Prospero by the invisible hosts of the elements, of whom Ariel is the chief. The royal party involved in the shipwreck is saved according to Prospero's plan, and is scattered on the shore, in three different parts of the island. Alonso, the King of Naples; Sebastian, his brother; Antonio, the usurper; Gonzalo, an honest old Councillor; and two Lords, Adrian and Francisco, land on one side of the island and most of them fall into an induced slumber, during which the vigilant and vile Antonio persuades the susceptible Sebastian to join in a plot to kill the King. Thanks to the intervention of the invisible Ariel, the plotters are prevented from fulfilling their purpose, and the entire party is led to look for Ferdinand, the son and successor of Alonso. Meanwhile, Ferdinand has met Miranda and has been forced into her father's service; which he patiently undergoes until Prospero is pleased to bestow on him his daughter. At the same time, in a third part of the island, Caliban, the deformed and savage slave of Prospero, has been met first by Trinculo, the King's jester, and then by Stephano, a drunken butler, both of whom foolishly join the faithless Caliban in an abortive plot against his powerful master. These three groups are all, in the last Act, brought together near his cell by Prospero, after Antonio and Alonso and Sebastian have been made by strange and fearful sights and sounds to repent of their folly; after Ferdinand and Miranda have been treated to a visionary masque, played by spirits; and after Caliban and his companions have been brought to their senses - all of which is accomplished through the agency of Ariel. The play ends with the restoration of disturbed harmony, the recompense of the good and the repentance of the deluded, the release of Ariel from Prospero's service, and the reconciliation of one and all to the new order ushered in by Prospero, who shows himself to be a man of wisdom and a master of destiny. Let us first briefly consider the different interpretations offered of the underlying theme before we go to our own. There is first of all the excellent but purely artistic interpretation of Dr. Tillyard whose thesis is that The Tempest gives us the fullest sense of the different worlds within worlds which we can inhabit, and that it is also the necessary epilogue to the incomplete theme of the great tragedies. A more ambitious and comprehensive attempt is that of Professor Wilson Knight, who interprets the theme of the play from various points of view - poetical, philosophical, political portrays a wrestling of flesh and spirit. Politically, Knight interprets the play as the betrayal of Prospero, Plato's philosopher-king and a representative of impractical idealism, by Antonio, Machiavelli's Prince, and a symbol of political villainy. Lastly, the play is regarded historically by Knight as a myth of the national soul. Prospero signifying Britain's severe, yet tolerant, religious and political instincts. Ariel typifying her inventive and poetical genius, and Caliban her colonizing spirit.
Another serious attempt at interpretation is that of Colin Still, whose study of the "timeless theme" of The Tempest has not attracted the attention it deserves. He regards this "Mystery play" as a deliberate allegorical account of those psychological experiences which constitute Initiation, its main features resembling those of every ceremonial ritual based upon the authentic mystical tradition of all mankind, but especially of the pagan world. Still takes Prospero as the Hierophant, and in one aspect, as God Himself; Ariel as the Angel of the Lord, Caliban as the Tempter or the Devil, and Miranda as the Celestial Bride. The comedians, Stephano and Trinculo, led on by the Devil, constitute a failure to achieve Initiation; the experiences of the Court Party, which is of purgatorial status, constitute the Lesser Initiation, its attainment being self-discovery; while Ferdinand attains to Paradise, to the goal of the Greater Initiation which consists in receiving a "second life." The wreck is considered symbolic of the imaginary terrors of the candidate for Initiation, and the immersion in the water as symbolic of his preliminary purification. The Masque is regarded as apocalyptic in character, and the cell is taken to represent the Sanctum Sanctorum, only to be entered after full initiation. And so Still goes on giving every detail the status of a semi-esoteric symbol drawn mainly from pagan ritual. Students of Theosophy will find that Still's thesis, though basically sound, is obscured by theological terminology, and that its detailed application often leads to a certain forcing of analogy. Prospero, for instance, is a man, not God, and Caliban is too clearly a thing of nature to be called a Devil, or Satan. Still's centre of reference is altogether less in the poetry or in the Esoteric Philosophy than in a rigid system of pagan symbolism applied to the play. We shall refer Still's laudable effort in our own Theosophical interpretation. In Theosophical terms, we can approach The Tempest from at least three angles the psychological, the cosmic and the occult. Of these, we shall adopt the last for detailed interpretation of the characters in the play. Before that, however, it will be worthwhile to indicate how the psychological and the cosmic keys may be applied. The psychological key enables us to construe the theme of The Tempest in terms of the principles of the human constitution and the everyday experiences of the majority of mankind. In this line of interpretation, Prospero would represent Atman, the Universal Self, which overbroods the remaining constituents of man, and allows for their rescue from all internal disequilibrium, thus producing that divine and unifying harmony which spells poise and proportion, as well as power and peace. Miranda, the daughter of Prospero, would be that specialization of Atman which we know as Buddhi, the spiritual and at present passive principle in man, the vehicle of Atman, and at once the expression and the essence of pure wisdom and of true compassion.* Ferdinand, the Prince who aspires to the companionship of Miranda, could be made to symbolize the Higher Manas, the incarnated ray of the Divine in Man, while Antonio, the usurper who plans to secure personal power at the cost of his weakening conscience, could represent the Lower Manas, or the Desire-Mind. To complete the picture, Caliban could be taken as the Kama-rupa or the passional part of man in material form, and Ariel as the type of the assemblage of presiding deities, Devatas or elementals, in the human personality. This, in silhouette form, would be the system of symbols that could be constructed on the basis of the psychological key - a system which, interesting as it is in its ramifying implications, it would not be difficult for any careful reader of Madame Blavatsky's Key to Theosophy or Mr. Judge's Ocean of Theosophy to develop. ---------
* It is in this sense, alone, that Miranda represents the fallen and Sleeping Soul of the uninitiated and deluded man that Still takes her to be. --------The second interpretation, which we have called the cosmic, follows from a comprehensive view of the Stream of Evolution in Nature, of the Great Ladder of Being. This interpretation is implied in H. P. B.'s oft-quoted statement that "....the Ego begins his life-pilgrimage as a sprite, an 'Ariel,' or a 'Puck'; he plays the part of a super, is a soldier, a servant, one of the chorus; rises then to 'speaking parts,' plays leading roles, interspersed with insignificant parts, till he finally retires from the stage as 'Prospero,' the magician.'" (Theosophy, p. 34, Indian Edition, 1948) In this line of interpretation, the play presents an image of the glorious supremacy of the perfected human soul over all other things and beings. At the peak of the evolutionary ascent stands Prospero, the representative of wise and compassionate god -manhood, in its true relation to the combined elements of existence - the physical powers of the external world - and the varieties of character with which it comes into contact. He is the ruling power to which the whole series is subject, from Caliban the densest to Ariel the most ethereal extreme. In Prospero we have the finest fruition of the co-ordinate development of the spiritual and the material lines of evolution. Next to him comes that charming couple, Ferdinand and Miranda, exquisite flowers of human existence that blossom forth under the benign care of their patriarch and guru. From these we descend, by a most harmonious moral gradation, through the agency of the skilfully interposed figure of the good Gonzalo, to the representatives of the baser intellectual properties of humanity. We refer to the cunning, cruel, selfish and treacherous worldlings, who vary in their degrees of delusion from the confirmed villainy of Antonio to the folly of Alonso. Next, we have those representatives of the baser sensual attributes of the mass of humanity - the drunken, ribald, foolish retainers of the royal party, Stephano and Trinculo, whose ignorance, knavery and stupidity make them objects more of pity than of hate. Lowest in the scale of humanity comes the gross and uncouth Caliban, who represents the brutal and animal propensities of the nature of man which Prospero, the type of its noblest development, holds in lordly subjection. Lastly, below the human and the animal levels of life, in this wonderful gamut of being, comes the whole class of elementals, the subtler forces and the invisible nerves of nature, the spirits of the elements, who are represented by Ariel and the shining figures of the Masque who are alike governed by the sovereign soul of Prospero. Shakespeare obviously believed in these invisible spirits and recognized their place in the panorama of evolution. This cosmic interpretation, however, though interesting in itself, does not require any special ingenuity for its application, and is neither so comprehensive nor so inspiring as the third, to which we now turn. The esoteric or occult is the highest approach to any allegorical system. The Tempest can be made, on this approach, to yield a subtle and complete account of the ways and workings of the Great Lodge of White Adepts, and the trials and tests on the path of probationary chelaship, leading, through a series of progressive awakenings, to the attainment of the goal of conscious godhood, even amidst the irksome conditions of earth life. This esoteric interpretation is really based on two postulates - of the probationary
character of all incarnated existence, and of the ceaseless unfolding, from within outwards, of the whole of Life. The student will do well to refresh his memory of the scheme of human evolution and occult training as given in the preface to Madame Blavatsky's RajaYoga or Occultism which we shall now proceed to apply to the characters of The Tempest. To start with, let us understand the character of Prospero. By various critics, Prospero is regarded as a magician, a superman, the spirit of Destiny and the symbol of Shakespeare himself. In our interpretation he is a perfected human soul, a godman, an Adept, the wise master of nature and the compassionate despot of destiny, the creator of his own circumstances, and the designer of the drama of the Shakespearean world. Above all, he is the accomplished personification of that super-state which the earlier Shakespearean characters aspire to, but never attain. H. P. B. defines an Adept as "....a man of profound knowledge, exoteric and esoteric, especially of the latter; and one who has brought his carnal nature under subjection of the Will; who has developed in himself both the power (Siddhi) to control the forces of nature and the capacity to probe her secrets by the help of the formerly latent but now active powers of his being." * More simply, she defines an Adept as, in Occultism, "one who has reached the stage of Initiation, and become a Master in the science of Esoteric Philosophy." ** ----------* Raja Yoga or Occultism, p. 1 ** The Theosophical Glossary, "Adept." ----------In the light of these references, Prospero becomes for us a logical conception. We see him at the beginning of the play standing "....like a white pillar to the west, upon whose face the rising Sun of thought of eternal poureth forth its first most glorious waves. His mind, like a becalmed and boundless ocean, spreadeth out in shoreless space. He holdeth life and death in his strong hand." (The Voice of the Silence, p. 71.) This state has been attained through protracted study and effort which had begun even when he was the reigning Duke of Milan. The government I cast upon my brother, And to my state grew stranger, being transported And rapt in secret studies.... I, thus neglecting worldly ends, all dedicated To closeness and the bettering of my mind With that, which but by being so retir'd O'er-prized all popular rate....
This is considered by many a critic to be his "fatal flaw" whereas actually Prospero was obeying "the inward impulse of his soul, irrespective of the prudential considerations of worldly science or sagacity." Far from having been, therefore, a scholar unfitted for direct action, he was a spiritual recluse on the brink of magical power, who has spent his period of retirement on the lonely island in perfecting his adeptship. This retirement is symbolic of the mental renunciation by the chela of the material things of life. When he attains to full adeptship and complete mastery over himself and nature, Prospero, as a member of the White Lodge, now performs one of its two tasks, viz., to bring, in his turn, prospective members and probationary chelas to the island on which he has attained perfection. It is on this sacred mission that he is engaged throughout the play. Personification of wisdom and compassion that he now is, he has become one with destiny, one with the purpose of the great law of Karma. His name itself is allegorical of his beneficent benignity. In this light, we should regard Antonio and Alonso, not as Prospero's personal enemies, but as types of humanity who, in their ignorance and delusion, disturb the divine harmony that they are then compelled by their destiny to restore, and who, in their folly, curse the aspiring chela who returns amidst them as an Adept, only to bless. Prospero, then, uses his tempest-magic only to draw the deluded to his island, teaching them through disaster to repent of their evil doings, and then raising them through his forgiveness. He is, thus, the eternally compassionate one who redeems the society that rejects him by the dynamic spiritual power which he radiates, even in repose. Prospero's consciousness is already set beyond the horizon of ordinary men, in eternity; he is elevated above the petty, personal motives of average humanity, and he feels the profound pain of the Great Instructors at perceiving the unteachability of some of their pupils. Finally, we must note the true significance of his final speech, the Epilogue. Having consummated his purpose and performed his first task, Prospero, the Adept, renounces the formal robe of the magician and resumes the ceremonial appearance of a duke. He has attained to a higher degree of Adeptship. He will return to earth-life as a Rajarishi,* or divine ruler, and now undertake the more difficult task of directing, under royal guise, large masses of men, and reestablishing righteousness on earth. When he does this, Prospero, the Adept, like Padmapani of the Buddhist legend, completely identifies himself with the sufferings of mankind and assumes the burden of helping men to find their salvation. So much for Prospero. -----------* One of the three classes of Rishis in India; the same as the King-Hierophants of ancient Egypt." (The Theosophical Glossary, "Rajarshis") -----------II. Now, turn to Ariel. Critics have considered Ariel as a symbol of the subtle powers of the imagination, the personification of poetry itself. Theosophically, however, he must be taken as belonging to the highest class of elementals, sufficiently individualized to be marked off from the Nature spirits, the nerves of Nature, in the play. Ariel, stamped by his master with a Manasic impress, becomes the agent of his purpose, and his instrument in
controlling the congeries of elementals to develop the action of the plot. He helps raise the tempest, being part of it; he puts some of the people to sleep, so tempting the murderers, but wakes the others just in time; he thunderously interrupts the feast, drawing the moral. He plays tricks on the drunkards, overhears their plot, and leads them to disaster. He puts the ship safely to harbour, and later releases and conducts the mariners. All this shows the intelligence and the reason with which his master has endowed him. He is impressed, however, not merely with reason, but also with emotion. As the opening scene of the closing Act indicates, Ariel, though non-human, aspires to be human and seems to have caught a faint reflection of human feeling through Prospero's influence. His earlier imprisonment by Sycorax and his release by Prospero are both suggestive of tests undergone by elementals before they are used by the perfected Adept. Further, his instinctive impulse to become free, and the pure joy he shows when finally released by Prospero, are indicative of the higher points of evolutionary progress which he desires and deserves to reach. All this about Ariel can be substantiated by statements in our philosophy. In The Secret Doctrine, H.P.B. says that while the lowest elementals have no fixed form,* the higher possess an intelligence of their own, though not "enough to construct a thinking man."** Mr. Judge defines an elemental as "....a centre of force, without intelligence, without moral character or tenderness, but capable of being directed in its movements by human thoughts, which may, consciously or not, give it any form and to a certain extent, intelligence." (Vernal Blooms, p. 123) It is indisputable that Ariel is a highly evolved elemental which progresses towards the human kingdom by its service of Prospero the Adept. -----------* Vol. II, p. 34. ** Ibid., p. 102. -----------Caliban has been over-philosophized by critics of the eminence of Browning and Renan. The mass of interpretation which his character has evoked is second only to that on Hamlet. In all literature, it has been contended, there is no being so mysterious as this brute, earth-born, halting on the confines of humanity. His character, according to Hazlitt, grows out of the soil, and he has the dawning of understanding, though without reason or the moral sense. The gulf between him and humanity has been proclaimed to be unbridgeable even by Prospero's influence and teaching. According to Prof. Wilson Knight, Caliban is a combination of man, savage, ape, water-beast, dragon and semi-devil, and symbolizes, among other things, all brainless revolution, the animal aspect of man, the anomalous ascent of evil within the creative order, the external quality of time itself. It has, however, been claimed by some critics that Caliban, though carnal and of the earth, earthy, is neither vulgar nor unlovely. Coleridge, especially, has been very kind to Caliban, and considered him, "in some respects, a noble being." Towards the end of the last century, Prof. Daniel Wilson put forward in a famous book the proposition that Caliban is the exact missing link, connecting Man and the anthropoids, the highest ape and the lowest savage.
All these interpretations of Caliban's character, though suggestive and interesting, fall far short of the theosophical explanation. Even at the hands of Colin Still, Caliban fares badly. He makes of Caliban the Tempter, the personification of Desire. Actually, however, there is enough textual evidence to indicate that Caliban represents the material line of evolution and the lunar side of nature. He is man in form, but not man in mind. His is the lower intelligence of the Shadow of the Barhishad or Lunar Pitris, closely connected with the earth. They are our material ancestors who give the Chayyas or Shadows that must, to become self-conscious men, be lighted up by the Agnishwatta Pitris, the "Sons of the Fire," as they are called in The Secret Doctrine. Caliban, then, has intelligence, but not enough to make a thinking man. He may be taken to allegorize "the vanity of physical nature's unaided attempts to construct even a perfect animal - let alone man." (Ibid., II, 102 and 56.) This imperfect physical form cannot be lighted up by the Great Lodge of Adepts until it develops into a proper human shape. All this is brought out by the play itself. In the first Act, we have Prospero saying to Caliban: ".... Abhorred slave Which any print of goodness wilt not take, Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee, Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour One thing or other: when thou didst not (savage) Know thine own meaning; but wouldst gabble, like A thing most brutish, I endow'd thy purposes With words that made them known; but thy vile race, (Though thou didst learn) had that in't, which good natures Could not abide to be with." (Act I, Sc. 2) Again, he is called "A devil, a born devil, on whose nature Nurture can never stick...." (Act V, Sc. 1) Later in the play, he is termed a "misshapen knave," a bastard "demi-devil," a "thing of darkness" which is "as disproportion'd in his manner as in his shape." And yet this same Caliban, when he shows the first signs of repentance and realization at the end of the play, unfolds the possibilities of future progress, saying "....I'll be wise hereafter And seek for grace...." (Act V, Sc. 1) In our interpretation Ferdinand is an accepted Chela, who, having successfully passed all the tests and trials set by Prospero, becomes united with Miranda, the personification of wisdom, Buddhi, similar to the Egyptian Isis and the Gnostic Sophia. It is significant to note that Ferdinand first falls in love with Miranda, but soon realizes the
importance of serving a Master before attaining to wisdom and exclaims, in the last Act, that he has received a "second life" from his gracious Guru. Again, Ferdinand is warned by Prospero in the First Scene of the Fourth Act against the dangers of falling prey to his carnal passions and thus forfeiting his right to enjoy wedded happiness. The same warning against the awful consequences, for one who has pledged himself to Occultism, of the gratification of a terrestrial lust is given by H.P.B.* Similarly, the indispensable prerequisites for psychic development which she gives - "a pure place, pure diet, pure companionship, and a pure mind"** - are fulfilled by Ferdinand before he is initiated into wisdom. He has successfully undergone the discipline of ascetic diet and of arduous labours, and is therefore rewarded with the hand of Miranda. --------------* Raja-Yoga or Occultism, p. 36. ** Ibid., p. 42. --------------"If I have too austerely punish'd you, Your compensation makes amends; for I Have given you here, a third of mine own life, Or that for which I live; who, once again, I tender to thy hand: all thy vexations Were but the trials of thy love, and thou Hast strangely stood the test: here, afore Heaven I ratify this my rich gift." (Act IV, Sc. 1) Lastly, it is important to note that Miranda, the symbol of Wisdom, is consciously considered by Ferdinand as vastly superior to a number of sweet-tongued ladies who represent the many pleasures of the senses which hold down in bondage the winged spirit of man. "Admir'd Miranda! Indeed the top of admiration, worth What's dearest to the world: full many a Lady I have ey'd with best regard, and many a time The harmony of their tongues hath into bondage Brought my too diligent ear: ....But you, O you, So perfect, and so peerless, are created Of every creature's best!" (Act III, Sc. 1) In taking Miranda as the symbol of wisdom, we are assigning her the right role in the scale of significance in the play. Had she been more weakly drawn, she would have been too insignificant to be of any interest, and had she been more strongly delineated, she would have been too dominating and individualistic to be sweetly subordinate to Prospero.
As it is, however, Ferdinand and Miranda together represent, at the end of the play, a new order of things that has evolved out of destruction; they also vouch for its continuation. Having attained to Divine Wisdom, the initiated Chela can help to carry on the mission of his Master. Having briefly indicated the esoteric significance of the main characters, it is enough summarily to dismiss the remaining persons in the play. Antonio, the deluded and defiant villain; Sebastian, the weak-willed and cynical evil-doer; Alonso, the gullible and guilty ruler, - all these represent the considerable portion of selfish and ambitious humanity which is given ample chances by the compassionate Adepts to repent of its past and to reform in the present. Stephano, the drunken and ambitious butler, and Trinculo, the stupid and cowardly jester, typify the grosser section of sensual humanity which, far from realizing its folly, rebels against the established order of things and is, therefore, for its own sake, made to suffer. Then we have the good Gonzalo, type of the loquacious and large-hearted dreamers who, for all their naivete, are the quickest to come to a discovery of their own inward divinity. It is he who exclaims, at the end, that they have, at last, found themselves, and thus takes the first step on the path of chelaship. Finally, we may consider the members of the crew who are immersed in a state of stupor as representing the dormant and ignorant mass of common humanity that is unaware of the probationary character of the school of life, in which they, nevertheless, continue to learn. Thus, from the highest to the lowest, everyone in the mighty march of evolution is elevated a stage higher than before, at the end of the play, through the noble efforts of Prospero. Having considered the characters, let us take note of some of the symbols in the play, and their esoteric and psychological significance. Esoterically, the tempest can be taken to stand for the tremendous thrill of Nature at the attainment by a human being of complete perfection, at the birth of a Divine Adept. This is thus magnificently described in The Voice of the Silence: "Know, Conqueror of Sins, once that a Sowanee hath cross'd the seventh Path, all Nature thrills with joyous awe and feels subdued. The silver star now twinkles out the news to the night-blossoms, the streamlet to the pebbles ripples out the tale; dark ocean waves will roar it to the rocks surf-bound, scent-laden breezes sing it to the vales, and stately pines mysteriously whisper 'A Master has arisen, a Master of the Day.'" The same rare and solemn event is wonderfully delineated in poetic detail by Sir Edwin Arnold towards the close of the Sixth Book of The Light of Asia. The raison d'etre of this disturbance and delight produced in Nature by man's attainment of perfection is to be found in a well-known statement by Mahatma K.H.: "Nature has linked all parts of her Empire together by subtle threads of magnetic sympathy, and there is a mutual correlation even between a star and a man." Further, this tempest is no awful cataclysm of nature, but has its benedictory aspect, as is clearly seen in the play. It is a necessary prelude to the peace and calm that spell the hope and joy of the whole of creation, as it is also a blessing and a boon to the striving souls of humanity. Psychologically, the tempest may be regarded as a condition of terrible
internal disequilibrium, an intense ferment of the human consciousness which stirs the turbulent soul to its divinest depths and awakens it to the austere reality of the life of the spirit. If thus we understand the dual significance of the tempest, it will be easy to explain the meaning of the symbol of the sea. It would stand for the sea of Samsara or the great Ocean of Life with its boisterous waves of Being, and the timeless tide of the EverBecoming, as The Voice of the Silence says: "Behold the Hosts of Souls. Watch how they hover o'er the stormy sea of human life, and how, exhausted, bleeding, broken-winged, they drop one after other on the swelling waves. Tossed by the fierce winds, chased by the gale, they drift into the eddies and disappear within the first great vortex." Psychologically, this stormy sea may be taken to signify the emotional nature of man, with its waves of varied passions, and its tide of deathless desire. The Island is no casual creation of the poet's fancy, nor does it typify any terrestrial place known to history or guessed by geography. It may be taken to symbolize Shamballa, the Sacred Island referred to in Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. This, once an actual island in the Central Asian Sea, is now fabled to be an oasis in the Gobi Desert. The island of The Tempest, then, stands, in our interpretation, for the dwelling-place of the Divine Instructors of mankind, those mighty Maha-Yogins of whom Prospero is at once a type and a symbol. Psychologically, this island could be taken as a new dimension of awareness, a magnetic and enclosed environment of the indwelling soul of the Chela, inaccessible to the thoughts and the things of the world. Esoterically, Prospero's cell would stand for the Hall of Initiation, the Sanctum Sanctorum, into which Ferdinand is invited to enter only in the Fourth Act, with the close of the Masque; the Court Party is invited only to "look in" at the end of the play, in the last Act. This cell is similar to the Saptaparna cave near Mount Baibhar in Rajagriha, the ancient capital of Magadha, in which a select circle of Arhats received initiation from Gautama the Buddha.* This cell, then, is a most solemn symbol, corresponding to the Christian Holy of Holies and to the "Adytum," "wherein were created immortal Hierophants."** Psychologically, this cell may be taken to stand for the "inmost chamber, the chamber of the Heart,"*** the Brahma-pura or the secret closet into which Jesus asked us to retire for prayerful meditation. -----------* The Secret Doctrine, I. xx. ** lbid., 470. *** The Voice of the Silence, p. 10 -----------Now, Prospero's wand is a protective and creative instrument, the same as Vajra* or as Dorje, a weapon that denotes power over invisible evil influences, a talisman that protects its owner by purifying the atmosphere around him.** Psychologically, it may be taken to stand for the protective purity of the heart of the Chela progressing on the path of Occultism.
----------* "In mystical Buddhism, the magic sceptre of Priest-Initiates, exorcists and adepts the symbol of the possession of Siddhis or superhuman powers, wielded during certain ceremonies by the priests and thurgists." (The Theosophical Glossary, "Vajra") ** The Voice of the Silence, p. 59 ----------Finally, a word about the visionary Masque, conjured up with the help of naturespirits by Ariel at the bidding of Prospero, for the benefit of Ferdinand and Miranda. This vision of the gods, raised by magical evocation, is a part of the ceremony of initiation and is partly intended to remind the successful Chela of the existence of higher powers and potencies in the universe. We have Prospero telling Ariel, "....go bring the rabble, (O'er whom I give thee power) here, to this place: Incide them to quick motion, for I must Bestow upon the eyes of this young couple Some vanity of mine Art; it is my promise And they expect it from me." (Act IV, Sc. 1) The purpose of this masque is, however, more than that; it is also, "A contract of true love to celebrate; And some donation freely to estate On the bless'd lovers." (Act IV, Sc. 1) The fertility, purity, chastity and virility invoked and represented by the goddesses and the daring nymphs define a particular relationship, not only between husband and wife, but also between Guru and Chela. Without going into details, it is enough to state that this masque, though mechanically contrived, makes a deep impression upon Ferdinand and is proclaimed by him to be a "most majestic vision," that "makes this place Paradise." The spirits acting the parts of gods and goddesses are merely nerves of nature or centres of force having astral forms, partaking to a distinguishing degree of the element to which they belong and also of the ether, and acting collectively as a combination of sublimated matter and rudimental mind."* Psychologically, the vision of the Masque may be taken as a subjective experience of the ever-varying pageantry of the invisible universe. ------------* The Theosophical Movement, xiv, 125. -------------
Having interpreted the characters and some of the symbols of The Tempest, let us now illustrate the use of our second method of studying the play, viz., to pick out passages and lines that either embody or point to the pure essence of Theosophy truth. The first important passage we shall consider is the famous speech of Gonzalo in the First Scene of the Second Act, which is an excellent parody on the pretty Utopias that men, in their immature but charming idealism, dream about and vision forth. His rejection of all the implements of war and machinery and his reliance on nature's abundance express an admirable yearning, while his dream of a new golden age is delightful in its universality. Yet, the bounties of nature and freedom are not to be had on terms so easy, certainly not by sinners, nor can they be described in categories so simple. Gonzalo, like all eager and impatient revolutionaries, forgets that a perfect society is inconceivable without perfect men, that Utopias must be peopled with Prosperos, if they are to be realized on earth. The answer to his inadequate vision is to be found in Miranda's exclamation in the last Act when she sees, for the first time, a substantial slice of humanity in Alonso, Antonio, Sebastian, Gonzalo, Adrian and Francisco. "O, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't!" Yet, when all is said on the side of rationalists, Gonzalo's dreams, though naive, are both natural and necessary; they are the visions in which thousands of eager youths and high-spirited men have revelled, the visions of Coleridge and Wordsworth, Blake and Shelley, William Morris and Samuel Butler and H. G. Wells, visions which, though illusory and incomplete, have a call for the nobler souls among us. As things exist, however, such visions only invite the cynicism and the scorn of the Antonios and Sebastians of this unimaginative world. A beautiful exposition of Theosophy is in the famous speech of Prospero at the end of the Masque, which portrays the mayavic nature of all manifestation, and the changing character of all conditioned existence. "Our revels now are ended. These our actors, (As I foretold you) were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd Towers, the gorgeous Palaces, The solemn Temples, the great Globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep." (Act V, Sc. 1)
This profoundly philosophical speech is a splendid statement of the idealistic Doctrine of Maya, of Appearance and Reality. Earth-life is proclaimed to be a short sleep, and the material world a delusive dream. This conception is beautifully brought out and elaborated in the first volume of The Secret Doctrine, pp. 39-40. "Maya or illusion," says H.P.B., "is an element which enters into all finite things, for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute, reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for any observer depends upon his power of cognition.... Nothing is permanent except the one hidden absolute existence which contains in itself the noumena of all realities." The whole passage should be read. The last long passage that we should mention is Prospero's farewell address to the elementals, in the First Scene of the Fifth Act, and his renunciation of the ritual (but not the knowledge) of Magic,* ending with the words: "....But this rough magic I here abjure; and, when I have requir'd Some heavenly music (which even now I do) To work mine end upon their senses, that This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, And deeper than did ever plummet sound I'll drown my book." (Act V, Sc. I) This speech must be taken together with the last, in the Epilogue. These two speeches are, in a sense, self-explanatory, in the light of our interpretation of the characters and symbols of the play. It will be enough to point out that, while the first is addressed to the elementals, and delineates the type and technique of the magic that Prospero has used in the past, the second is addressed by him to humanity in general, as well as to his Chelas in particular, and indicates the new and difficult future that is opening out before his prophetic gaze. -----------* "Magic is the science of communicating with and directing supernal supramundane Potencies, as well as of commanding those of the lower spheres; a practical knowledge of the hidden mysteries of nature known only to the few." (The Theosophical Glossary, "Magic") -----------The Tempest, we have found, gives us a complete view of human existence in the timeless soul of poetry. The central thought of the play is that the whole of existence is probationary and progressive, that true freedom consists in the service of fellow-men, that the Lodge of Masters exists, that the way to the attainment of Their wisdom is open to all,
and that one great key to success in Occultism is untiring and selfless persistence in the effort of self-education. Music and magic meet in The Tempest, so wedded that none can put them asunder. The denouement is full of grace and grandeur. As Hazlitt says, "The preternatural part has the air of reality, and almost haunts the imagination with a sense of truth, while the real characters and events partake of the wildness of a dream." Creatures of rare loveliness are here created for us by Shakespeare who, through reconciliation, forgiveness and good-will, renews the promise of a better and more beautiful world. -----------------
Hamlet - A Story of Psychic Unbalance As there is equilibrium in Nature, so there is equilibrium in man, and likewise between man and Nature. Sanity properly defined is that equilibrium. It is mental, moral and physical health. It is a right balance between all the human states and all the principles. Very few men in the present age possess such health and sanity. Most of us have only compromises. Certain average conditions are looked on as standard and normal, therefore healthy. Whatever departs much from these is called diseased, abnormal or subnormal. The principles in man, those instruments through which his soul works, both protect and manifest his Spirit-Power or Life-Force. Because of some past errors of thought and action, these instruments and defenders may be poorly connected in a man, and the result in the parts of his nature called psychic is comparable to the action of a loose-jointed physical body, in which bones or muscles sometimes slip out of place. In general usage "psychic" and "psychism" are not clearly defined. They include both correct and partially incorrect or at least vague limited conceptions. They are made to refer not only to a division of man's nature and to some of his important powers and principles, but also to many life-phenomena. Each of these uses is proper enough, yet it is well to see that the psychic powers and principles largely make up in fact man's nature as a human being; likewise that they are the means by which human nature operates and manifests itself. And it should also be understood that the life-phenomena referred to, both subjective and objective, result from the inter-relations and activities of the principles and powers. The phenomena give evidence of the existence and characteristics of the Psychic as a great Department in Nature and in man. Much of the confusion is due to the limited concepts of what psychic phenomena are. Many things actually such are not so named; for example, what people call "brain storms" and emotional "upheavals," either of enthusiasm, fear or anger, are psychic phenomena. Popularly, however, the expression psychic phenomena is chiefly applied to the extraordinary or the abnormal. For this is the point to be particularly noted: it is the abnormal, the weird, wrongly-called "supernatural" - it is what science ignores or does not explain - that is especially referred to, by custom, in the word psychic. This limitation in meaning is indeed unfortunate, though even so the word covers a wide range of experience and a very important tendency in humanity. The fascination, often hypnotic,
exerted by the weird and the uncanny is a source and an abiding-place of superstition, excessive emotionalism and strange fears. Naturally too it has always been - never more than now - a rich pasture for commercially minded mystery-mongers and "psycho-" specialists under many names. The welter of ignorance thus indicated can be removed and men's minds enlightened as to Psychism by a study of the Theosophical teachings in regard to the sevenfold division of man's nature. In that teaching Psychic is a big general term for all of man's elements except the very highest or purely spiritual, and the very lowest or purely physical. Men have therefore higher psychic phases of life and lower phases. It is thus the Psychic in humanity which undergoes evolution in the long course of experience, which either remains mortal and transitory or becomes pure and lasting, according as it moves downward to undeveloped matter or upward to Spirit, according as it follows wisdom. Most men of today know little of the higher psychic phases; they live too largely in the mere physical and its close companion, the low psychical. There is also in Theosophy another and a special use of the term psyche. It is a name in particular for the fourth or middle division of the seven in man - for the principle or section that hangs in the balance, the one that sways between good and bad, true and false. In this special Theosophic meaning, the drama Hamlet may be called "psychic"; for in the behaviour of that middle balance principle in the chief character the action is central and the tragedy is found. Without opposing directly any of the arguments for or against the sanity of Hamlet, a Theosophist may say that in insanity there is some actual disconnection between organs and functions of the brain; that insanity is of course Karmic; and that its cause is really moral. In the man Hamlet the middle principle tips in some actions far over toward uncontrol. Yet it soon recovers its balance. The unbalance is a kind of temporary insanity. In a man whose principles are not firmly connected (and are thus comparable to the loose jointed physical body), the middle balance principle, always changeable, is especially unstable, his mind is wavering, easily open to outside influences high or low; he may have daring flights of fancy, - sudden gusts of passion, moods of exalted enthusiastic action, or times of drooping melancholy and doubt which check any action. Such a man lives chiefly in his lower psychic nature, and fails to control it, for in will he varies between violence and laxity; the physical in him is a close adjunct to the lower psychical, the ethical impulses are inconstant and the operation of the purely spiritual is almost choked. Possibly not enough attention has been directed by critics to the phases of Hamlet's life that may be called ethical. The special touchstone given by Theosophy as a test for insanity is the degree of a man's selfishness, his intensity of personalism. Hamlet is certainly not an altruist, yet he is not especially selfish in the way that might be expected. The fact that his uncle has supplanted him as heir to the throne seems not to be the chief element in the melancholy that veils him at first. He has had a strong confiding filial love for his father and mother. The father has suddenly gone. Astonished that the mother so promptly married the uncle, he distrusts them both. His self-love is less wounded than his filial love. This feeling affects him much throughout the play and fills him with dismayed wonder. He does not think of fighting for his legal rights but wishes against his mother's and his uncle's desire, to withdraw to his university again where he may continue to live in quiet. These facts,
made evident at the very first, before he has seen The Ghost, show traits that should be observed. He is a student, a thinker, a dreamer. He prefers passiveness to action. A question as to what throws his middle principle somewhat out of gear and leaves it undirected by Will from his higher nature, is answered as the drama proceeds. The shock to his filial love causes the first unbalancing, namely, the undue melancholy. The shock given by the coming of his father's Ghost carries him into amazed terror. The revelations of the father's death by murder, of the uncle's other vile treachery, of the mother's weakness, mental and moral - these plough up all his solid foundations. On this terrific overturning comes the command "Revenge!" But before obeying that command, while he is hesitating about it, while his soul is harrowed by suffering, he forms a relation with Ophelia which soon creates much added mental disturbance and unbalance. In this relation he moves farthest over the border toward insanity. Unhappy at home, he has gone to her at first because she is winsome and may give him comfort. He loathes the proved sensuality of his mother; Ophelia seems sweetly pure. When later she obeys her father's hasty command to give Hamlet no more time, he is hurt by the unexplained change and coldness in her. Brooding over all these heart-shaking experiences, his feelings rise at times almost to frenzy. At one such moment, with thoughts distraught and clothes awry, he privately seeks her out to learn what indeed she is - can he trust her, can she be what he needs? He gets the answer from her blank face, her silent lips, her fright. With such response to his moment of sick longing for help, how can he regard her as more than a weak child? He leaves her in great grief, in lingering silence, slowly seeing that he does not wish to woo her farther. Ophelia's own grief at the father's command which deprives her of her lover, is now intensied by pity for that lover as mad - mad for love of her. This leads Polonius and the King to test Hamlet as to that possibility. With characteristic double-dealing, of which Ophelia is fully aware, they place her where they can watch Hamlet unexpectedly come upon her. But he soon suspects and assures himself that he is being overheard and tested. In a flash he determines to turn the test on her for at least truth-telling. Bluntly he asked, "Where's your father?" "At home, my lord," she sweetly answers. Stung to fury by her lie, and by the contemptible behaviour of the two men, feeling his own folly, and hers, and all the world's, he rails at her in terms that bow her down like a reed before a storm. His private hurt is so great that he would ease it by thrusting the injustice of it partly on her. For some time thereafter Hamlet feels chiefly rage and disgust for Ophelia and her father; while the poor little weakling girl shudders off into the melancholy caused by blighted affections. Then soon comes the startling death of her father through her one-time lover. After this her melancholy rapidly passes into actual insanity. There can be no question that her reaction to these blows is intensely personal. "Blighted affections" means just that - single-eyed concentration on one's self, one's dreams of marriage and one's beloved. The mind has no other object, the soul no broader outlook. There is no capacity to resist disappointment. Thus with Ophelia is proved the Adept teaching that insanity springs from some form of concentrated selfism. From this point of view, Ophelia's manner of death may seem to have symbolical colourings. As she falls into the water (matter), her wide feminine garments puff out with air and support her for a time, she scattering her flowers and songs and dainty graces till the clothing is water-soaked and drags her down - the sense
attractions in her and for her pulling her finally into the sense-element (matter) from which they first came. Her death is pitiful, but the contracted little soul-life she has led is more so. The perception of this weak extreme passivity makes admiration of such a woman impossible. To describe her as worthy of great praise and to be much stirred by her death are philosophical errors into which many critics have fallen. Hamlet's behaviour in the grave scene is just such an unreasoning outburst as an unbalanced psychic nature may be guilty of when it is surprised, grieved and personally offended. Previous to this for some time Ophelia and the feeling she had stirred in him have been partially put aside, his mind preoccupied by that command "Revenge!" still not obeyed, and by the complications caused by the delay. Due to his absence he has had no recent news of the girl he had loved. Just after his return he is idly philosophizing beside a newly dug grave, when he is wildly startled by learning that the approaching mourners and the grave are for Ophelia. He sees her brother leap into the grave in excessive lament. Then the old half-forgotten love sweeps violently over him. Disgusted by that artificial sorrowing, he flies into a passion and even jumps into the grave to fight with the brother in a mad contest as to whose grief is greater and worthier. This is the least sane act of the unbalanced Hamlet. Yet all these mental agonies of disappointment and grief connected with Ophelia pass with little lasting effect. Such experiences come in course of nature to every man; but for Hamlet they are rather obstacles and byways in his path. They do not constitute the chief line of his mental action. They leave him still facing his permanent problem: The Ghost laid upon him a command as a duty, he accepted it as such, he has not fulfilled it. Why? It is very important to perceive that The Ghost is not a mere shadowy wraith, or a mere picture in the minds of several persons. The Elder Hamlet was murdered, thrust out of life before his time. In Theosophical teaching the physical aspects of men in the first stages after death are in general called Kama-rupas; but the Kama-rupas of those murdered, either by accident, by law or otherwise, differ from the rest. Such beings are not dead to the same extent. The Force in Nature named Cohesion which held their principles together in physical life still holds them together in their Kama-rupas, and must do so till their particular portions of that Force are ended by natural exhaustion. Hence the Kamarupa of King Hamlet is strongly cohesive and can materialize to living men, as he does to the Watch and to the son, in the form of the armed King - a form indicative of the feelings with which he materializes. There is of course some dramatic embroidery attached to the story by traditional superstition; yet the statement may be unhesitatingly made that The Ghost of King Hamlet is a genuine materialization of that Kama-rupa to living eyes. All that this being lacks is his physical body, the instrument through which his principles could still function; but a Kamarupa is not able to function or to affect physical earth-life except through some living physical man. Since his physical instrument is all that the ex-King has lost, his character is just what it was before his body died. His mind remains the same collection of theological, feudal and other race beliefs prevalent in his day. As a living man and as a king, he seems to have been the usual proud, aristocratic, commanding type, unquestioningly accepting his rank, its emoluments and his own deservings. His codes of honour are those customary. Hamlet the son from childhood has been imbued with all these beliefs and has never much questioned them, but his egoic nature is more given to
philosophy and learned pursuits. King Hamlet when alive had thought punishment the only proper return for any dishonour shown him. Lately as a Kama-rupa, he has been brooding over the wrongs he thinks he has suffered by being unjustly deprived of continuing life, on earth and of his possessions. The rankling sense of injustice and the knowledge of his brother's treachery and his wife's falsity rouse all his lower-desire principles into full activity. He sees only two things - the revenge he wishes and the son as the one in physical life who should execute the revenge. This all-potent desire is what enables him to materialize to those alive, and his demand on the son for vengeance, though not ranting, is imperious and compulsive. Revenge means, of course, killing the brother-uncle-king and seizing the throne. But such a demand for vengeance is in itself wrong. It is almost wholly selfish and therefore against Nature's law. When one remembers, as a student of Theosophy must, that each man is not only his father's son, or a member of a family, but is an independent Ego and a sevenfold being with his own virtues and vices and his own Karma manifesting on each of seven planes, one sees that such an act of revenge cannot affect a man only externally, as is commonly assumed. The thought and act of murder must reverberate through the whole and therefore affect the entire life and nature of the one who kills. The knowledge and vision of Atma, or the Higher Self in every man, is the true ethical standard. According to that knowledge and vision, revenge and murder are never right; and the Voice of that Self is heard as "qualms of conscience" in any man not quite deafened by wrong-doing. What, then, from the higher point of view, is Hamlet's relation to that Kama-rupa and its demand? During the actual interview, though he is in shivering fear, he is convinced that the Apparition is the living remainder of his father, able to move, speak and declare the truth. He fully accepts at that time The Ghost's word. His quick agreement in the first excited moments is a natural outcome of his filial affection and of his beliefs by education, such as the false sense of honour which requires murder for murder. But also his own mind has long been full of suspicious resentment toward his uncle. Hence while The Ghost is speaking Hamlet has little or no power to feel that the demand for vengeance may be questioned, or to see what the Kama-rupa embodies and would instil into him. His resentment throws him wide open. He is not then or later exactly obsessed by the Kamarupa, but he remains throughout the play constantly under its influence. Previously, though possessing native goodness, Hamlet has grown selfish through indulgence of the intellect. Prevailingly mental, he has gratified himself by years of continued university study and life, absorbed himself in that, instead of becoming at home the chief companion and the counselor, hence the guard, of his beloved father against the designing uncle and the crafty time-serving Polonius. He has thus become passive toward actual life, remote from it. Though he admits much sin in his past, he is not striving to grow better. The prime mover in him is not Spirit but the lower intellectual mind. Well trained in logical analysis, he is yet slow to discriminate between his wrong and right motives or to analyze the subleties of his thought ethically. Also, he is incapable of taking a practical masterful position in the court (probably the uncle counted on this weakness); and just as incapable of perceiving the real cause of his dilatoriness and hesitation. Thus as the days pass, though he proves that the Kama-rupa is genuine and gives true information, yet he does not progress far enough morally to perceive that its demand for vengeance is unrighteous, is merely conventional, and that his promise to take vengeance by the
conventional means of murder has put his whole life on a false basis through a mistaken concept of duty. Instead of seeing this, Hamlet shares and cherishes the resentment expressed by the Kama-rupa, and thus fails to detect the danger in such "commercing with the dead." He does not comprehend that, in the general ignorance concerning the dead, a man's confidence and obedience in such an experience may prevent due attention to practical duties in the world of the living. Though he has a sense of being part of a nation, his thought, like the Kama-rupa's, is much more to get revenge than to clear away the court wickedness and serve the Danish people. Nowhere in his talks or the Kama-rupa's, is there definite recognition of obligation to them. King Hamlet, like other kings of his time, had lived for his own satisfaction and glory. His son's patriotism is no higher. But through all his misunderstandings and omissions, Hamlet does have "qualms of conscience" regarding the vengeance. Far within - too far for him to interpret them for what they are - his higher Egoic Self is sending them out in a struggle to enlighten him. His hesitations and delays are partly due to these admonishings of his Higher Self which he does not comprehend. They are in fact blurred by a slackness of mind in him, by a strong averseness to action, which is the other reason for his delays. Active and keen Hamlet's mind is - on the surface; and it delights in using these qualities of itself. But back of the surface is a layer of thick passivity, a heavy sluggishness and inertia, a resistance to change. Most men have to contend with much of this mental inertia. In Hamlet his Will in the outer life is quick, even violent. But within the outer shell his Will often remains swamped in that deep layer of psychic sluggishness. The monitions of the higher Egoic, the Conscience, struggling to stir that heavy mass, to make it less dense and unreceptive to the spiritual, do not have much power. The reason is that in past lives, as in the present, they have been too little obeyed to permit their free action now; hence there is a mental deposit of torpidity. Caring much intellectually about philosophy, Hamlet has not grasped its deeper phases that are morally regenerating. He has been content to abide by the prevalent religion and the prevalent ethics. Such inactivity in the higher reaches of thought, such psychic sluggishness, is due to the lack of practical application of what his intellect has stored, to the failure to put it into service for others and for his own growth in ethical understanding. Of such practical application, especially for others' benefit, the drama gives almost no evidence. This failure, now and previously, to make useful what he knows, is the reason why the Ego has such difficulty in leading Hamlet to question the moral rightness of that murderous revenge he has promised. The egoic monition does cause him to hesitate - only that - for even when he finds the King in prayer, there is no impulse toward mercy. Sensing hypocrisy, he feels merely an added motive for a still fiercer revenge, a "more horrid heat." Thus, instead of recognizing any prompting of his own higher nature, he blames himself furiously - "unpacks his heart with words" - for his slackness, his puzzling procrastination and seeming incapacity. Or, understanding his deeper self so little, he at one time droops into mourning over his inaction, or again flies into sudden often unwise action. That procrastination affects him almost from the beginning, as soon as The Ghost is gone. Even in the very first wording of his eagerness to do something, his vehement impulse is weakened by intellectual analyzing and his student-like search for his "tables"
(his notebook) to set down his conclusions about his uncle, his country and the wretched situation; to set them down for what? Some activity in the future? The companions of the Watch beg him to explain about The Ghost. In defending his privacy he flashes into the plan of "putting an antic disposition on" (playing insane), which involves just that, - action in the future, delay in the present; because, not knowing what to do, he feels incapable, and because, under the effect of his conscience and his inertia, he really does not wish to do. This immediately passes into self-pity - "The time is out of joint" indeed; but "O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right." Thus, though perceiving a need for action but unable to decide what action, he pauses, lets days slip by while he plays the antic, philosophizes and broods. Gradually he comes to excuse all this to himself by harbouring doubts of The Ghost and its word, by believing he should get better proofs, "grounds more relative than this." For many weeks he thus drifts and dives alternately; drifts into love for Ophelia, bringing about her mental undoing; dives into the Play Scene, which gives strong proof by exactly "catching the conscience of the King," as a consequence the aptest opportunity for his revenge (while the King is at prayer), but puts it by, thinking to make his vengeance even more complete. Then immediately afterward, in angry excitement with his mother, he plunges into a sudden unplanned action that swiftly puts out of life the eavesdropping Polonius. After such blundering, perhaps with a feeling of self-contempt, he permits the frightened King to send him out of the country as a dangerous person. Only once does the higher monition pierce through these blinding clouds successfully, - that is when his very life is threatened. Then, by quick action, he learns that the King has really sent him to his death, manages to escape and get back; - but not without committing his guards (his former friends!) to their death, an act unnecessary and unjustifiable. His conscience as to right and wrong is now nearly silenced. Still further he passes into incompetence; his life, purpose and opportunity are frittered away. The action of the play reflects that weakness, but with no loss of interest, for this wasting into impotence is the tragedy. Once more, near the close, the higher monition warns him of grave danger to his life and could save him; but this time he does not obey. He refuses to listen to the "divinity that had shaped his end" before. At this point a vicious intrigue by the King is proceeding successfully, entangling Hamlet in its deadly folds, and soon by mistake enwrapping the Queen and others. Then Hamlet sees what has happened, and at last satisfies himself by rushing upon the King and forcing the death. So impotent is his revenge, so worthless! Regarding him and the other chief persons as once living beings and this story as in some measure their actual story, a Theosophist shrinks at the Karma it depicts in that present and hints at for the future. Wasted lives, vitiated characters, lost opportunities, repetitions and agonies to come, because so little of that present has been understood and corrected. Yet there is no fatalism in the drama. Hamlet is never once compelled by any outside force to a given line of action. He always has the power of choice, and the chance that every living man has to sweep away his temptations and to act on his higher intuitions. The stage history of Hamlet shows that this play was always popular, for various reasons, with both actors and audiences. In the nineteenth century it was praised by some German and English critics as the greatest accomplishment of Shakespeare. If it is accepted as the greatest, it must be so because it presents the problems of a vast number of men. What are those problems? First and foremost, psychic sluggishness or mental
inertia, blinding their discrimination, silencing their higher voice, stifling their better aspirations; then, the intellectualizing of life and imagining that to be the highest attainment; also, the insistence on revenge by punishment or death as the means of redressing wrongs; further, and perhaps worst, the brooding on the dead and being misled by their influence actual or supposed; all of this being Karmic, all due to men's present and past habitual careless disobeying of their higher monitions, to their following the conventional and selfish instead of the freshly vital and serviceable to their fellow-men in general. Around us constantly are men struggling under these errors, needing to be understood and encouraged, and when possible advised and guided. The fact is instructive that those critics who originally stated that high estimate of this drama, found in it a picture of themselves. Search into their lives proves them to have been of the Hamlet type, their minds brilliant, unstable, their course of action not much more firm or truly intelligent than Hamlet's own, and their ends perhaps no richer in soul-values than his. In fact, the everyday-ness of the problems presented in this play is what endows it with its most compelling power. Aside from the special effects of the old period and fashion, it is on the level of the character and the needs of general humanity, and thereby holds its special rank. This practicability for men's everyday lives may often not be recognized consciously, yet it does carry a measure of its advisory power to those who feel a kinship with Hamlet. If they are spiritually intelligent enough to enter really into the deeper causes and effects of his character, they may benefit much by the half-hidden instruction. Practical application to actual life was what Shakespeare's Adept Inspirers always wished to encourage. They would naturally, therefore, give some particular esteem to Hamlet as a drama. -------------
Julius Caesar - A Study in Violence and Bloodshed "The Adepts assert that Shakespeare was, unconsciously to himself, inspired by one of their own number." - Echoes from the Orient, by Wm. Q. Judge. The carrying on of government is of far too much importance in human life for the problems of it not to attract the attention of a great dramatist, and the interest of the Adepts in those same problems would fuse with his own to increase his perceptions and intuitions. Political plays were not a new field for Shakespeare when he approached the story of Julius Caesar. His long series of English chronicle plays were in essence political and governmental problems, and through his close following of history gave him varied study of councillors and conspirators, mobs and armies, patriots and self-seekers, and good or poor queens and kings. Hence the play Julius Caesar exhibits the treatment of an expert in dramatic effects and also in the intricacies of human nature. For many generations Rome had had a republican form of government, the people having some voice in their concerns. But conditions now seriously threatened these popular rights; republican citizens were facing a great extension of monarchy and curtailment of the people's privileges. Caesar had retained the preceding governmental forms, but had nearly emptied them of validity. Gradually he had enforced measures that
gave him entire control of Roman affairs everywhere. His government had at first been regarded as a necessary but temporary dictatorship; he had been reappointed, however, and planned for permanency and greater importance. He used as the first in his list of titles the grand word Imperator; and most of the policies he introduced became foundation stones of the later Empire. The pivot of this tragic drama is Brutus. A man of noble nature and unselfish motives, knowing that he was a chief traditional leader among republican citizens, and that they were out of sympathy with Caesar's policies, he was led by his own sense of duty, and even more by the urging of his party, to assist a movement for change. How this should be made was the problem. He had been brooding over it long before Cassius suggested conspiracy and murder. Neither of these men realized the prime fact that solution by murder must always meet ultimate failure, because of the inherent moral ignorance and injustice. In the Roman conditions of the time that solution had little chance of succeeding even temporarily. For in truth most of the citizens had lost, ethically, their right to liberty through their neglect of their own responsibilities under liberal government. To Caesar's political aggressions many people of the higher classes, though not desiring a king, were half blind; while the populace was little more than a mob, switching suddenly from one leader to another, from one policy to its opposite. Yet those who like Brutus stood for popular freedom did not realise the existing political weakness; they did not see that if as conspirators they should be successful, they could hardly expect lasting moral support for any government they might create. There is no escaping the Karmic law that a government is the outcome of the people who make it and live under it, and that to cause a change by violence is certain to bring violence in reaction. The Romans of that period, having laid themselves open by their weakened moral fibre to a dictatorship, may be thought fortunate, so far, in having a ruler as prudent and moderate as Caesar. His imperialistic tendencies were evident enough, but Brutus in condemning him seems to have forgotten that Rome was no longer a small city-state. It had acquired by war vast outlying colonies and provinces settled by peoples of varying civilisations. Caesar was the only general who had shown capacity to handle problems arising from these conditions. To murder such a leader was the poorest way possible to free the state from his policies without resulting anarchy. Lack of executive prudence in the conspirators is proved by the oversight of these facts. Besides, they were moved largely by personal resentments, Cassius being the chief spokesman of these. Brutus alone was free from selfish motives. He said: "I know no personal cause to spurn at him, but for the general." Yet Brutus's opposition to Caesar and imperialism was partly due to custom and theory. It was sentiment as much as statesmanship. With republicanism representing to him the only political good, he had been considering heavy sacrifices. To Cassius he replied: "What you would work me to, I have some aim." Thus he showed that the thought of violence toward Caesar had already roused his feelings for and against it, - the two selves in him making the inner "war" and the "passions of some difference" that he declared had been troubling him. In such an inner "war" a man's Higher Self would ever be his guide and literally his "guardian angel"; would prevent the lower self from becoming a demon of darkness; would ever reject violence, treachery and secret betrayals, such as easily lead to murder. But the
lower self clings to its opinions, sees no solution of problems except those of his own desire, and thus becomes so blinded that it often through mere desperation or weariness of the conflict bursts into extreme irremediable actions. Brutus himself described this situation exactly: Between the acting of a dreadful thing And the first motion, all the interim is Like a phantasma or a hideous dream; The genius and the mortal instruments Are then in council; and the state of man, Like to a little kingdom, suffers then The nature of an insurrection. - Act II, Scene 1 But though within himself he saw this image, his lower mind did not follow the monition thereby conveyed. He remained theoretical. In such an experience, just before that point of outbreak, there is so much intervention by the lower self that the force of the Higher can hardly pass through; hence it cannot prevent the "insurrection." So it was with Brutus. When he decided to enter the conspiracy, to lead the revolt, to share in the murder, he took his stand on the belief that noble ends, such as he thought his to be, could justify the ignoble murderous means. Indeed, as pictured in the play,* Brutus did not have the sagacity supposed to be his. Every time he and Cassius differed as to policies, Brutus insisted on a way that contributed to their final failure. And if there was little or no justification beforehand for the murder of Caesar there proved to have been none afterward, when as a result the country passed into long civil war, the later conditions being worse than before the revolt. -------------* The drama is said to be based on North's translation of Plutarch's Lives - Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus. -------------From the standpoint of Theosophy, this story is overcrowded with brutality and grievous moral errors - treachery, conspiracy, murder, suicide - these are the great crimes; the lesser ones are many. But the people whose history was therein recorded, as well as the people who were given the play, did not regard the events as indicating a special measure of depravity. Rather the contrary. The narrative still forms one of the hero stories of the "grandeur that was Rome." The moral standards and practices of Roman civilisation passed along with its political conquests throughout Europe, all the conquered countries adopting the habits and ideals of the Empire. By them they are still living - and dying. Romans for the most part were not studious or meditative; they lived a life greedy of sensation, luxury and excitement, full of self-will and self-glorification. They were of course unhumanitarian, ignorant of the life-principle and irreverent of it, being by long mental habit strong in the killimpulse, weak in the mercy impulse; for they were a warring, blood-sodden people.
By men living under such dark lights, murder and suicide are neither understood nor deplored. Judged by Theosophy, both are among the worst crimes, because they attack the very foundation of Nature. The purpose of Life being a long development of soul into Spirit, by contact and experience with matter, these crimes throw effective and far reaching barriers against her evolution upward. They check the progress of both the killer and the killed. The conditions of each after death are in general not known or even considered, death being thought of as "the end of all" or - by the most religions - as a means of "knowing all." The teachings of Theosophy are very definite on these subjects. Man in essence is a spiritual, bodiless, formless being. Entering Earth-life he assumes a body for the purpose of living, learning and evolving with other beings like and unlike himself, who have reached the Earth-stage of evolution. Only through such a body can a man do outward acts on this plane. Murder kills the physical body but nothing more. If mind and soul have been wicked, they remain just as wicked. They still form a mind-entity. The Karma of such a murder as that of Caesar could but be terrific - for the state, in the ensuing war; for the conspirators, varying in accordance with the unrighteousness of their individual motives. The drama shows only two of these. After long uncertain strife, the conspirators had gathered their forces for a final effort. Evil omens had been frequent, even the sceptical Cassius feeling their genuineness. Brutus, dreading failure, was afflicted too, by grief over his wife's desperate suicide and the torturing manner of it. On both men was the overwhelming weight of wasted struggle and lost cause. The conflict of the next day was only a fight against time - and a short time a fight confused by blundering directions and misunderstandings, the broodings of Nemesis clouding the field like a pall. Cassius, straining to see the movement of the battle, said of his physical sight that it "was ever thick." But had not his moral and political sight also been thick when he ensnared himself and Brutus in the conspiracy? In those final moments these blindnesses led him to his self-inflicted death. Brutus too, moved by error, that shows "to the apt thoughts of men things that are not," became the victim of fear and of over-confidence. At the end both men killed themselves through ignorant pride. To them suicide was less terrible than to be taken as prisoners through Rome amid the jeers of their former friends and inferiors. Romans thought that suicide through loyalty to a friend or a cause, or to escape disgrace, was honourable. They prided themselves on this kind of honour. Three persons took that means in this case of escaping what they regarded as worse than death; a fourth did the same through desperation - a pitiful psychic exaggeration and weakness. There was no thought in any of them of a definite result afterward. Death seemed like a bare wall. They went up to it - jumped over - and all was ended; without accountability, without good or evil effects, - mere blankness. The laws of nature as stated by Theosophy - and physical science as well - declare that energies centred in a living form cannot meet destruction. They are only changed in their appearance. Having animated the form, they leave it again, thus breaking down that form; but the energies are themselves still busy at shaping other forms. Theosophy applies this also to the many and varied energies constituting a living man. Hence for a man there can be no blank wall of death with nothing on the farther side. In the case of one who kills himself; as of one murdered, those energies - that is, those thoughts and feelings - which compose his mind and soul, are as alive and as
connected after expulsion from the physical body as before. They necessarily undergo a continued acting and reacting between themselves. Into thoughts such as murder and suicide men have put tremendous will-energy. Those thoughts have fused with and coloured all the other lines of thinking of the life-period. Together they all have formed a mental unit, joined by Nature's law of Cohesion. As the Cohesion making an individual man ceases, the opposite law of Dispersion breaks up the unit and sends the energies elsewhere. That time, for a being who has remained in his body, becomes his natural moment of death. But for an entity who has been thrust out of his body, the power of Cohesion between the mind-energies is not destroyed. The thinking goes on; and since it has now no new objective experiences, it is compelled to busy itself with those it has had; especially with those later and very powerful thoughts that brought on the suicide. Therefore one who kills himself inevitably rehearses the lines of his thinking that led to his last Earth-act, - his despairs, his wrongs, his fruitless desires, wicked deeds, and the sudden lawless taking-off. He does this till the time, whether months or years, when the Cohesion between his energies reaches its natural lawful end. That is what the suicides in the bit of history seen in this drama were obliged to face, - Brutus and Cassius ever forming their conspiracy, conducting their winning or losing battles, and their final pushing themselves out of life; - Portia, "true and honourable wife" of Brutus, forced to undergo over and again her impatience of his absence, her grief at his enemies' success, and in distraction her torture of swallowing fire. And as also murderers, those suicides who were conspirators were compelled to be always repeating their stabbing of Caesar. This is the special and otherwise unexperienced torment they brought on themselves by their suicide. They could not say, as Brutus thought he could, "Caesar, now be still," merely by going out of their physical bodies. Their gaining of quiet could not be so easy as that - for they had too greatly disturbed the equilibrium of the forces of Nature. The pity is that Brutus knew better. On the morning of the last day he and Cassius conferred (Act. V, Scene 1):Cas. If we do lose this battle.... What are you, then, determined to do? Bru. Even by the rule of that philosophy By which I did blame Cato for the death Which he did give himself. - I know not how, But I do find it cowardly and vile, For fear of what might fall, so to prevent The time of life: - arming myself with patience To stay the providence of some high powers That govern us below. Cas. Then, if we lose this battle, You are contented to be led to triumph Through the streets of Rome? Bru. No, Cassius, no; think not, thou noble Roman, That ever Brutus will go bound to Rome;
He bears too great a mind. Thus Brutus lacked the strength to obey the philosophy he knew, which would have led him to face his own results and actually to "stay the providence of the high governing powers." He thereby proved himself to be as theoretical in his philosophy as he was in his statecraft. Psychism of the Play This play gives emphasis to some unusual psychic phenomena, mostly examples of prophecy. However little Romans in general knew or practised the ancient Eastern philosophy, they did retain some of the old beliefs that concerned forecasting of the future. In these were mixed much superstition and falsity. The fictitious exaggeration was perhaps exemplified in the accounts of the terrifying storm and the mysterious happenings of the night before Caesar's death. A few of those incidents, however, may be recognised by theosophists as possible psychic occurrences. The prophetic phenomena concerned not only individuals but bore directly on the most important political events, - the death of Caesar and the failure and death of Brutus. Theosophists know that Adepts, though neither mixing in particular temporary politics nor attempting to interfere with "the general drift of the world's cosmic relations," do watch and work for both individual and national benefit. Said one of Them: "There never was a time within or before the so-called historical period when our predecessors were not moulding events and 'making history.'" Genuine psychic phenomena are among the means used by Adepts for "moulding events" through the individuals who experience the phenomena. It may be that the disturbances of the "strange disposed time" just before Caesar's death were used or even in part produced as advisory monitions by invisible Adepts acting at that time for the welfare of Rome. If then the people as a whole had recognised that the fearful events were indeed "portentous things unto the climate that they point upon," and if they had really taken to heart these warnings, they could have found a way even then to improve their political-ethical condition. If Adepts were at the time giving special attention to Rome, Caesar as head of the Government would naturally be a chief focus for their observation. Foreseeing through their spiritual perception the coming dangers to him and knowing that his death would avail nothing, they could impress their guidance publicly by soothsayers' prophecy and more occultly by dreams. These means indeed may have been so used. Soothsayers or truth-tellers were men possessed of some degree of natural clairvoyance, which they strengthened by various means of focusing their eyes and attention till their minds were closed to external matters and were open to conditions visible in the astral light. This light surrounds and interpenetrates the earth, and in it are impressions of past and future events which may be read by those who know how. Whether used by Adepts or not, the Soothsayer in this story faithfully declared his message of danger for Caesar on the Ides of March; but he met a frequent fate of truthtellers, for he was called by Caesar a dreamer and disregarded. On the morning of the Ides he warned again, but with no better result. Too many others were claiming Caesar's attention. For Caesar it was a time of display and self-gratification. Soothsaying is as well known today, under other names, as in the past - and perhaps as much (and as little) credited. The difference is only in externals. So too with
dreams. Great numbers of intelligent people believe that dreams have forecasting value, but do not confess the belief. Theosophy declares that these inner experiences have some validity and it gives a true explanation of them. That for soothsaying has just been indicated. As to dreams, some come from psychological causes and have little value. Those that are important spring from the deeper Egoic nature. Said H. P. Blavatsky, "The Ego is the actor, the real man, the true human self." In egoic or "real dreams.... something of what was seen, done or thought by the Ego impressed itself on the physical brain.... our dreams are the waking state and actions of the true Self, the dim recollection of which at the moment of awakening becomes more or less distorted by our physical memory." Since dreams are true impressions of "things seen," "facts witnessed," they may and do convey to the physical brain happenings that for men are not yet present. Dreams of warning, such as Calphurnia's are "real" and they require "the active co-operation of the inner Ego.... Prophetic dreams.... are impressed on our memory by the Higher Self, and are generally plain and clear: either a voice heard or the coming event foreseen." There are also "warning dreams for others who are unable to be impressed themselves." Caesar was one of those so "unable." It may be that keen intuition led Shakespeare to heighten Plutarch's account by making Caesar's report of Calphurnia's dream, and the conspirators' later enacting of it, exactly correspond; for in this way could be intimated that "Egoic cooperation" needed for a warning dream. Also, the effort put forth by Calphurnia's Higher Self may have been indicated by Caesar's saying that she "thrice in her sleep cried out, 'Help, ho! They murder Caesar!'" The dream by another personage - Cinna the poet - of danger to him, and his inattention to it leading to his death, subtly though powerfully reinforces the occult values of Calphurnia's warning dream and Caesar's disregard of it. There is no question that to Shakespeare and the people of his time dreams and other modes of prophecy had the importance attributed to them in this drama. There is also no question that Theosophical teaching, while it would most carefully analyze specific examples, does recognise the actuality of such experiences. The other important psychic phenomenon came to Brutus in his tent on the night before the last battle; Act IV, Scene 3. "A monstrous apparition, which made his blood cold and his hair to stare, and which named itself his evil spirit" (Plutarch's Life of Brutus); a "terrible and strange vision of a huge and frightful figure standing by him." It told him in the next battle he should see it again, "his evil genius," "his evil daemon." This vision Brutus interpreted as the Ghost of Caesar warning him that his "hour had come." The figure, however, never names itself the ghost of Caesar, nor does Plutarch call it so. Theosophy states that a "ghost," technically regarded, is the astral double of a previously living man and as such must look like that man. The entity of Brutus's vision was undoubtedly of another order. For an understanding it is necessary to consider the ancient belief that men have attendant spirits. Hastings' Encyclopedia gives valuable information. The statement is made that an "evil spirit was often conceived as a ghost," at times the ghost of a "hero," possibly one murdered; in some stories "the two terms are used without distinction." The vision of Brutus is cited as an example of an evil demon "specially attached to an individual." But not all demons (daimones) by any means were evil. Plato remarked in the Phaedo (107D): "Every man has a distinct daimon which attends him during life and after death." Menander said: "By every man at birth a good daimon takes his stand, to initiate
him in the mysteries of life." Likewise Hastings states that "an avenging daimon was thought to be appointed to punish the crimes of a particular family." Plutarch said of Caesar: "the great genius which attended him through his lifetime, even after his death remained as the avenger of his murder." Hastings also remarks: "By the Pythagoreans a belief in demons was always fostered, especially ....as representing the souls of the dead.... All the air, they said, was full of souls, and these are called demons and heroes." * -----------* Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. by James Hastings, IV, 590. -----------These beliefs are in general corroborated by H. P. Blavatsky, though of course expressed with stricter shades of occult meanings. "Daimon was a name given by ancient peoples ....to all kinds of spirits, whether good or bad." "....the word 'demon' ....in the meaning given to it by the whole of antiquity, standing for the guardian Spirit, an 'Angel,' not a devil of Satanic descent. Satan ....is simply the personification of the abstract evil, which is the weapon of karmic law and Karma. It is our human nature and man himself, as it is said that 'Satan is always near and inextricably interwoven with man.' It is only a question of that Power being latent or active in us." "Porphyry, speaking of evil spirits, said: 'Demons are invisible, but they know how to clothe themselves with forms.'" "Destiny which ....every man is weaving around himself, ....is guided either by the heavenly voice of the invisible prototype (the guardian Angel) outside of us, or by our more intimate astral, or inner man, who is but too often the evil genius of the embodied entity called man." "The whole endless catalogue of bad spirits are not devils [as distinct from humanity] but spiritually incarnated sins, crimes and human thoughts." These passages seem to indicate that the Apparition to Brutus was a form taken by that complex of thought-energies - it was the "spiritually incarnated sins and crimes" - his own and others', which caused those gigantic evils of the murder and the war. Coming at a late quiet hour, when Brutus was weary and troubled, his mind in a passive astral state, the Appearance shot into his inner vision a ghastly realisation of his accountability. His hour indeed had come. That "terrible appearance in the human form, but of prodigious stature and the most hideous aspect," was also a close corresponding embodiment of what the conspirators' inhuman acts drew forth from Caesar in his last moments. Just before stabbing him they had insidiously begged for the return in freedom of one whom he had exiled, - their motive being to find in his denial a public excuse for the murder. Astonished and growing irritated, Caesar had finally refused with a haughty magniloquent self-importance. Then with the stabs were roused in him fear, anger, burning resentment, and deep sadness at the deception and injustice practised on him. All these feelings were dominant in his mind at the moment of his bodily death. And it is certain that that mass of ambitious and conscious
powers, of disappointments and desires, hatreds and fears, which constituted the mind of him who "bestrode the world like a Colossus," could not be shunted out of life by sudden treacherous stabs of supposed friends, without carrying into death a profound melancholy and a towering revengeful fury. This weight of feelings would by its own fierce grisly nature image itself in a figure frightful to see. There is, moreover, a special and subtle reason for its visit to Brutus as an evil genius and as representing Caesar. This reason is in the bloodbath, pictured by Shakespeare with graphic hideousness. Brutus set the example as he shouted - Act III, Scene 1: Stoop, Romans, stoop. And let us bathe our hands in Caesar's blood Up to the elbows, and besmear our swords; .... And waving our red weapons o'er our heads, Let's all cry, Peace, freedom and liberty! He thereby strengthened tenfold and poisoned the magnetic ties between Caesar, himself, and the other murderers. For blood has most powerful magnetic qualities. It was the magnetic life-bearing nature of blood that led to the beliefs in its mysterious power and caused such practices as are indicated in Shakespeare's line: "great men shall press for tinctures, stains, relics and cognizance." Various religions have taught veneration of blood and its sacramental power to unify into some strong and sacred bond those who shared in it, who were touched by it or "purified." Though these beliefs were of course easily degraded into savage excesses, nothing could destroy the peculiar qualities of blood. In this case these qualities acted not only to create a particularly close bond between Caesar and his murderers, but they bound in stronger unity those terrible psychic forces sent out by Caesar's mind at the time of his death. By bathing their hands in his blood and waving the stained metal of their swords, they called down upon themselves those strange forces in Nature that became united and visible in the monstrous figure which visited Brutus because of Caesar's murder, and which, in Plutarch's words, was "the avenger" and pursued "through every land all those who were concerned in it, and suffering none to escape." The old Chinese philosopher Lao Tse said quietly: "If a kingdom is governed according to the Tao the spirits of the departed will be as peaceful as are the people, and will molest no one, for they too are governed by the Tao. When this harmony prevails between the living and those who have left, their good influences are combined." Besides the physical magnetism in Caesar's blood, there was another bond, an even more occult reason for the visitation to Brutus. There was likewise soul-magnetism between the two men. They were friends, attached by affection. Brutus had been rescued from political danger by Caesar, had been given honours and dignities. Caesar trusted him. All these magnetic ties of soul Brutus ruptured, tore into quivering shreds that dripped with the ethereal fluids of the unrecognised inner life.
Further, since Brutus was always the centre and chief mover of the unit of action constituting the drama, it may be that Shakespeare regarded him both ethically and dramatically as a synthetic symbol; a symbol representing himself, his fellow conspirators, the entire government and the state, broken into fragments by his treachery, unwisdom and political incompetence. When so regarded, and when his possible accomplishments are compared with his actual failures, Brutus and the drama depicting him, tower up among the great tragic results of Shakespeare's creation, - heart-moving images of nobility blinded by false ideas of what constitutes man's duty to himself and other individuals, as also to his country and its government. -----------
Shakespeare and the Adepts "The Adepts assert that Shakespeare was, unconsciously to himself, inspired by one of their own number." - Echoes From the Orient, Wm. Q. Judge. The quoted statement may naturally raise questions of why such aid was given to Shakespeare, and what evidences of it appear in his work. Theosophical teaching declares that every activity humanizing enough to shed a little brightness is brought by its own light under the direct observation of Higher Minds. No surprise, therefore, need be aroused by the remark that Shakespeare received help from the Adepts who were guiding the Theosophical Movement in the West. For certainly such a literary and dramatic efflorescence as that of the Elizabethan period in England would attract some special attention to the individuals creating it. Those Adepts would see in the dramatic growths of the time a means, free from sermonizing, of clarifying many men's judgment on their own life-problems, by viewing similar ones and the outcomes of them as presented in the theatres. Shakespeare's pre-eminence was indeed not fully known by contemporaries; but vaster Souls would clearly perceive that though he handled the same mixture of good and evil material as other writers, and by no means minced the evil, yet by putting less emphasis on that, he in fact sent out more of an upward call to the low, as to the high, in his theatre audiences, and in general he reached a more humane breadth in his plays than was to be found in others. Even his Sonnets, more than those of other sonneteers, showed flashes of the divine discontent that draws men to the Beyond; while here and there throughout his early works were drops "o' the milk of human kindness" which gave their own proof of the generosity of the soul that scattered them. Thus from the first Shakespeare unconsciously exhibited such largeness of mind as is necessary to receive, and to work under, Adept Influence. Evidences of this Inspiration as found in the works are of an internal kind, since the field of higher dramatic action is fundamentally in the mind and soul. Indeed, the inwardness of Shakespeare's plays has always compelled study from this standpoint which of itself is one of the evidences sought. Hence a student of Theosophy does not presumptuously expect to reach conclusions greatly different from those usually held, but only occasionally to perceive for them deeper reasons and foundations. Nor is
Shakespeare to be regarded as one of the rare beings who are under special Adept observation from childhood. Like other and more ordinary men, Shakespeare had to win his help; and when it began, he did not fully know its nature or its origin, but felt it to be, as in fact it was, a broader, keener alertness of his own higher mind. The superior possibilities embedded within himself were what Adept Inspiration spurred into stronger activity. Greater influxes of perception then came, truer visions in mind and soul revealing springs of character hitherto half-hidden from him. Remoter causes, results, and unexpected complications became clearer. Secret relationships were felt, or subtle impulsions between being and being. Ignorances or intuitions were detected that betray or deliver. These perceptions he strove intensely to embody in his personages. Hence this man's creative character-work began to be much deepened and broadened by his glimpses unawares into the Eastern Psychology - Soul-Knowledge - which must in truth have constituted the very essence of the Higher Influence sent upon him, and which led to those manifestations of the Life-Verities recognized by men as operative in that world known as Shakespeare's greater plays. The inculcators of the Ancient Wisdom could not in that age appear openly as Adepts. They worked as philosophers, and also through other individuals or groups whose nature or activities permitted. Their continuous purpose was precisely to spread through all possible channels their Wisdom or Psycho-Spiritual Knowledge; which in the parts concerning men may most fittingly be called Psychology, and which was later to be known as Theosophy. Hence for Adepts to shed a particular light on drama as a presentment of human action and its Soul-source, and to give particular aid to a noble-minded dramatist who had obtained a large following, were only natural expressions of their purpose. A great creator of fictional characters is great because he is able to embody with truth in persons called imaginary the experience actual people have had, either in their present or in their past lives. More especially, he is great because within the soul-memory of his own egoic past are the qualities and effects of a very wide range of Life-Stuff, and because this mental wealth lies near enough to his present consciousness to permit him to draw from it in order to re-incarnate, or in semblance put into flesh once more, phases of his very own former lives and personalities. Moreover, that wealth of his past, like similar wealth of his present, resulted from a fusion of his actual individual experiences with keen observation and understanding of the lives of other men. Thus, knowingly or not, such a character-portrayer possesses and constantly uses a large intuitive power which he has gained through ages of varied experience and contemplation. These statements may give a hint of why Shakespeare, Sophocles, and others of the finest portrayers of character have not used as a basis for their pictures the supposedly ideal, the notional, or the desired. They have not been satisfied to present the necessarily slighter images offered by their fancy, or the plot-structure formed by the logic of their intellect. Instead, they have chosen veritable personages and actual incidents, - a crosssection of life as it has been lived. By a genuine visional apprehension they have entered into the real gist, colour and stability of Life-Fact. Of the vast Life-Record, they have literally relived that portion considered by them, have bound it into their very selves, and have thus experienced quite naturally a larger encompassing of life and a surer guidance of their artistic embodying or expressing power. For the Life-Record when thus again
revived mentally into present actuality, inevitably carries into fictional portrayals an undeniable convincingness. The reason is that the Image-making Power possessed by man - his "King-faculty," Theosophy teaches - is working with living Substance even when producing fictional portrayals. The same great Power - Imagination - is active, whether it brings forth a live human being or a vivified picture of one, though of course it operates on different planes of Nature and by different laws. At some time, Imagination co-operating with Desire and Will produced the living being. Later, Imagination, still co-operating with its two necessary aides, brings into another phase of Life a mentalized copy or version of that same being. In each case genuine Akasic substance is the basis of the Imaginative operation. Both the living being and the fictional portrayal are the offspring of a desire to create, a desire to energize life-atoms through Will and in accordance with the Image before Thought or Mind. The Image-making Power manifests in two great degrees, ordinarily known as imagination and fancy. The discrimination between them, as commonly stated, is not so fundamental and sharp as is the distinction made by Theosophy. In the Adept Psychology the difference is deeply inherent in man's inner constitution, and corresponds to the difference between his upper principles and the lower aspects or reflections of these. Of the two, Imagination is the Originative Power. Fancy is technically the imitative or reflected power, - a smaller, weaker, or even vitiated reflection of the higher. Both make Images, both mould Life-Stuff into other forms of Life. But Fancy is less "Kingly" in its modes and results. Fancy works with grosser material, denser matter, lower in evolution, matter less plastic; and therefore its results are often more distorted into unreality. Again, Fancy works frequently with less noble purposes, and always it works with much less of the dynamic Fire of Life. Therefore fictional art that mainly embodies Fancy (technically regarded) really does possess less of Life. It is thinner-blooded, remoter, and cannot touch so intimately the life in its observers. This is the true reason why great character-portrayers choose for their pictures actual beings and real stories. In the activity, however, and outward production of minds like Shakespeare's, the results of the lower Imaging power are shot through like shimmering silk with the lights of the higher. For the breadth of Soul-Life in such minds causes the offspring of their Fancy to share richly in the vital Fire that burns in the higher Power. Readers or observers of fictional art have felt, far within, this basic Theosophical distinction, and hence have praised the character-portrayals derived from Imagination as "living"; while, however pleasing or otherwise the Fancy-portraits, they have recognized these as slighter or merely temporary. For example, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest are both surpassing instances of charming Fancy. But The Tempest is something more, - it is also a broader, deeper embodiment of qualities drawn from the higher planes of man's being in which Imagination rules. Now it must be remembered that Mahatmic influence is directed not to the physical but to the inner and especially the upper planes of man's nature. Thus a man "inspired by an Adept" would certainly experience added Imaging power, particularly the higher phases of it. This explains the appearance in Shakespeare's work of the transcendent dramatic imagination critics ascribe to him by general agreement, though they have been puzzled to account for it. They have noted too, with wonder, the great expansion in creative power, in intuitive perceptivity, and in dramatic skill shown by the productions of his middle period
as compared with his efforts earlier. Many critics have regarded the expansion as sudden, and as especially connected with the tragedies, declaring in explanation that Shakespeare must have been enlightened by some tragic experience of his own. To these propositions a Theosophist may reply that the expansion was the effect as well as the "evidence" - of the Adept inspiration, and may suggest that it was proceeding for some years before the time of the tragedies. In most cases such inspiration does not come suddenly. It is like a dawn; and its progress or increase depends on how worthy the recipient continues to prove. These replies do not at all negative the statement that Shakespeare must have had himself some far-reaching unhappy experience. Most likely he had, and his Adept helpers made use of it. For Adepts work by natural means and turn to a man's advantage the greater receptivity of Soul that may come with suffering. Preceding the period of Mahatmic influence were the early Chronicles, which included both comic and tragic material, and the early comedies. These indicated loosely and faintly the general lines of Shakespeare's interests and abilities. An early effect on him of the inspiration may be represented by Romeo and Juliet, that supreme tragedy of blind, childishly wilful impulse, in both the older and the younger. The strong emphasis on the foolishness of family feuds seems to indicate such guidance. Some of the more vitalized Chronicles and the comedies associated with them, in which vice meets its just deserts yet with true charity, may also express that inspiration. The story-material and characters in these plays were on the level of large groups in the theatre audiences, and the results in them were so just and so free from tiresome moralizing, that they must have caused many minds to see more clearly that what ye sow ye shall reap. It would seem therefore that in these plays too the higher Imagination and the higher influence were at work. And in both comedies and tragedies dated by critics near 1600, the operation of each phase of the Imaging Power is richly unfolded. A noteworthy degree is exhibited in the finer comedies, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Twelfth Night. These belong within that period of influence not only for the pure clean fun they contain - and for the example given by this - but also for the gems of philosophic wisdom in them, uttered at some time by nearly every personage. These comedies are perennial delights, full of a sunshine that is contrasted only with shadows more suppositional than real. The Merchant of Venice is indeed nobler, the shadows deepen, the struggle and effort intensify, and the tragedy for Shylock is for one supreme moment de-personalized into the tragedy of a race. Here was surely a bit of direct transmission of the influence. For in spite of all the evil selfish revenge in Shylock, who that has a spark of genuine humanity can utterly fail to hear the Adept basic teaching of Brotherhood in that cry: "Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, senses, affections, passions?" The immediacy of the response to this in us is truly another evidence of the influence. Many admirers of Shakespeare have been much puzzled to account for some of his portrayals of women. Where did he find beings like Cordelia, Imogen, Hermione; very quintessence of loyalty they are, under conditions most difficult and tragic. How did he think of Miranda and Perdita, sweet and retiring as lilies of the valley? What of Viola delicately self-effacing and well rewarded; and the saucy-patch young sister of all these, Rosalind, with her rival in comedy-making, Beatrice? Chief of all, perhaps, how could he create Portia! Excellent materials of study for some of these he could find in the two Roman stories he himself reworked and wherein he portrayed the noble wife of Brutus, and the equally noble mother of Coriolanus.
But if there is cause for wonder concerning the women, why not concerning the men? Does one not see, whatever their rank, as many of "nature's noblemen" among them too? There are Kent and Edgar, Horatio and Banquo, quiet staunch upholders of the right and of their particular words, like the supporting timbers of a building. There are the heartwinning elders, Duke Senior, Polixenes and Gonzalo. That fine, old student of life and of magic, Prospero, is unique. So too is Antonio, at least in his parent-like sacrifice for his young friend. Close to them are the romantic younglings, Ferdinand and Florizel, by no means weak, yet as fine as the flower-like girls they love. Brothers to these are Benedict and Orlando, older and more worldly-wise, but not beyond being teased and satirized by their mischievous mates. A trifle larger in conception is Sebastian, and superior still is Bassanio, both being chosen more than choosers in their wedlock, yet worthy of the choices. Also the philosophic Brutus and Hamlet, tragic labourers with duties they cannot make their own. And as a fine contrast to these last two, Henry the Fifth, reformed madcap Prince Hal, wholly changed by awakening to his responsibilities, and marching confidently into duties that are emphatically his own, - more loved in memory than any English King. Through the big fabric of the Shakespearian world these beings move; and not one of them "too pure and good for human nature's daily food." It is surely not too much to say that for three centuries these men and women have been ideals and moulds, though perhaps unrecognized, of the thought-life of many young people. If models for them are insisted on, some may easily be found in contemporary English life. Even Italy too, in spite of all the evil existing there, produced individuals notably generous and high-minded. Besides, it must not be forgotten that there are always such beings. They do not entirely disappear even in low periods. Spontaneously and unconsciously, they are the levers that lift mankind a little further up in its evolution, and are the carriers and users of the traditional truths of humanity and Nature. They are scattered through all ranks and conditions, and there would be small hope for the advancement of the world without them. All akin they are, too; for the greatness in each is of the kind that belongs to the higher egoic nature of man. With one or two exceptions, these personages of Shakespeare all exhibit or struggle with the middle range of passions and conditions, are played upon constantly by good and evil forces that are in opposition but not entirely out of balance. Theatre audiences found their own likenesses in these characters. The large number of them, their convincing vitality, and their relative importance in the world of Shakespeare, may furnish another evidence of Adept assistance. The mental life - the psychology - he depicted in this middle range of humanity, is by everybody recognized as permanently true, as genuinely human under whatever conditions. Just as true, however, is the mental life exhibited by the two great extremes - the weaklings in general, such as the low women and the drivelling men, including some of the clowns; and on the other hand those characters who embodied such force of will and power of intellect that necessarily, when their strength was turned downward into selfishness and evil, they became the great tragic heroes and heroines. Other Elizabethans made their low and vicious mostly disgusting, and their towering tragic figures are less humanized than Shakespeare's are, while the backgrounds of secondary characters are less rounded and vital. The aid given to Shakespeare may well have resulted in this extraordinary humanization of his persons. This inference is indicated also by the wide difference in the degree of humanness between the later plays of Shakespeare
himself and his earlier - those rather mechanical first comedies and histories. Yet even these are regarded as better than the corresponding early work of other writers. He who best held up the mirror to a large portion of nature, thereby giving Adepts the broadest field of operation, was for them the best instrument. There is, moreover, another special reason why those women and men of the middle range in character were a particularly fruitful field for Shakespeare's helpers. For centuries the conditions of Europe, either war-filled or monastic, nearly destroyed all forms of middlerange life. The religious, political and social systems were all cut from the same cloth of personalisms and their opposites, i.e., religious infallibles, religious know-nothings; political tyrants, political imbeciles; social Eminences pinnacled too high to see their own base, social slugs ever leaving behind the trail of their slime. Those conditions were the mirror of the contemporary theology, under which Mind and Soul were either manacled or swamped. Virtues of the home existed, but were shut up in fortresses. Citizen and community characteristics were deflected so as to become either duties owed by vassals or the place-proud behaviour of overlords. In that civilization women were far too much regarded by their fathers as valuable pawns in making princely marriages for the expansion of domains; and by their husbands as social centres important to retain the homage of large followings of knights and squires. Below these of highest position were numerous attendants, - imitative ladies-in-waiting; much lower still were the slavish houseworkers, unnoticed, mere ciphers, useful only to increase the number of serfs. Say the Laws of Manu concerning women and married life: "Where women are honoured, there verily the Devas rejoice; where they are not honoured, there indeed all rites are fruitless." But the honour indicated by Manu was not that paid to the chatelaines; its root was not economic. It was an honour paid in spirit, an expression of true understanding of women's spiritual functions in the great whole of existence. Again, in speaking of the connubial life - which is surely best exemplified by the middle range of conditions and persons, and in which men bear equal share with women - the Laws of Manu state clearly the foundational service rendered to humanity by family relationships: "As all creatures live supported by air, so the other Orders (of society) exist supported by the Household er." "As all streams and rivers flow to rest in the ocean, so all the Orders flow to rest in the householder." The great leaders sending to the West those impartations of Eastern Wisdom that were to aid in human evolution, would encourage and strengthen in Shakespeare's mind his natural pleasure in creating those middle-range characters, natural because he himself had sprung from that kind of family life and continued to experience it. Superlative tragic figures are extremely impressive to men's minds, and are much praised; partly because of the opportunity afforded to actors' egotistic ambition. But such displays of purely personal powers, directed to the re-creation of the evil in mankind, may well have been less interesting to Adepts, whose chief concern was for a general uplift of all humanity. They would wish to increase Shakespeare's inherent perception of the dramatic values of those middle-range characters that were his finest models of true, natural, evenly developed womanhood and manhood. The mystery of where he found such beings is solved by perceiving that wide unperverted Nature contains them in fraternal union, and he who works along with Nature learns how to see and depict them.
Shakespeare's Views on Death From the 14th century onwards there was a great revival of learning in Europe. Giordano Bruno visited London and became a friend of Queen Elizabeth, though some years afterwards he was burnt at the stake in Italy for believing in what we now call the Theosophic knowledge of the universe and of man and God. Loyola, the great Jesuit founder, had risen to power; Copernicus lived, Pythagoras's teachings were revived, and Shakespeare wrote his plays. It is not surprising, therefore, to find many truths about man and the universe scattered throughout the plays of Shakespeare. It is illuminating to read the plays between the lines, as a student of Theosophy ought to. Only a very few examples can be given here, but it is hoped that these will be sufficient to send the reader to the plays and help to see for himself how some of our Theosophical tenets have been put so practically before us. Shakespeare hints at the dual nature of man and refers to the soul as distinct from the body: Her body sleeps in Capel's monument, And her immortal part with angels lives. (Romeo and Juliet, Act V, Sc. 1) Now, quiet soul, depart when Heaven please. (Henry VI, Part I, Act III, Sc. 2) Further the Friar in Romeo and Juliet (Act IV, Sc. 5) while comforting the parents points to the right attitude towards the living and the dead: Heaven and yourself Had part in this fair maid; now heaven hath all, And all the better is it for the maid: Your part in her you could not keep from death; But heaven keeps his part in eternal life The most you sought was her promotion; For 'twas your heaven she should be advanced: And weep ye now, seeing she is advanced Above the clouds, as high as heaven itself? .... Move them [the heavens] no more by crossing their high will. Shakespeare links man with the planets and suns in The Merchant of Venice (Act V, Sc. 1): There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st, But in his motion like an angel sings, Still quiring to the young-ey'd cherubim:
Such harmony is in immortal souls; But, whilst this muddy vesture of decay Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it. We are reminded of the Ramayana and the Gita in the following extract from Hamlet (Act I, Sc. 2). In the Ramayana the court is comforted at the death of King Dasaratha by being reminded that death comes to all. In the Gita we are taught the cyclic return from death to life and life to death. In The Light of Asia we have the beautiful story of how the Buddha comforted Kisagotami for the loss of her baby, for at no house where she asked for mustard seed did she find that no one had died. Here, in Hamlet, the queen tells the young Prince not to mourn for his father, for "all that live must die, Passing through nature to eternity." And the usurper-murderer consoles him by saying: ....you must know, your father lost a father; That father lost, lost his; and the survivor bound, In filial obligation, for some term To do obsequious sorrow: but to persevere In obstinate condolement is a course Of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief: It shows a will most incorrect to heaven; A heart unfortified, a mind impatient; An understanding simple and unschool'd: For what we know must be, and is as common As any the most vulgar thing to sense, Why should we, in our peevish opposition, Take it to heart? Fie! 'tis a fault to heaven, A fault against the dead, a fault to nature, To reason most absurd.... The necessity for the acceptance of death is also brought out in Julius Caesar (Act II, Sc. 2): Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, It seems to me most strange that men should fear; Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come. Also in Act IV, Sc. 3, Brutus, speaking of his wife's death, says that With meditating that she must die once, I have the patience to endure it now. As in the Gita we are told to meditate on death while still alive, so in Measure for Measure (Act III, Sc. 1) we are asked to.... ....Reason thus with life, -
If I do lose thee, I do lose a thing That none but fools would keep: a breath thou art, Servile to all the skyey influences. ....Thy best of rest is sleep, And that thou oft provok'st; yet grossly fear'st Thy death, which is no more. Why do we fear death? Because, as said in Measure for Measure (Act III, Sc. 1), "The sense of death is most in apprehension." . There is an important lesson about facing the consequences of one's actions and preparing oneself before death in Henry V (Act IV, Sc. 1). On the night before the battle of Agincourt, the King went disguised among his soldiers and spoke with them. He found some of them discussing the coming battle and blaming the King for what may happen to them if his cause was not just. They argue that they owe him obedience and therefore are not responsible for the carnage that will result in the coming battle. It is the King himself who "....hath a heavy reckoning to make when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all, We died at such a place; some swearing; some crying for a surgeon; some upon their wives left poor behind them.... I am afeared there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; who to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." But the King replies: "....the king is not bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers.... Every subject's duty is the king's; but every subject's soul is his own. Therefore should every soldier in the wars do as every sick man in his bed, - wash every mote out of his conscience: and dying so, death is to him advantage." The same idea of the importance of one's thoughts at the last moment of death comes out in Hamlet (Act III, Sc. 3). There the young Prince, who has vowed vengeance on his uncle, sees him at his prayers and thinks that now he will kill him. On second thoughts he remembers:He took my father grossly, full of bread; With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May.... ....am I, then, reveng'd, To take him in the purging of his soul, When he is fit and season'd for his passage? No. Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent: When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage....
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven; And that his soul may be as damn'd and black As hell, whereto it goes. Karma and the right attitude towards it are spoken of in many places: 'Tis good for men to love their present pains Upon example, so the spirit is eas'd. (Henry V, Act IV, Sc. 1) "There is occasions and causes why and wherefore in all things." (Henry V, Act V, Sc. 1) Cure is no cure, but rather corrosive, For things that are not to be remedied. (Henry VI, Part I, Act III, Sc. 3) "....there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow." (Hamlet, Act V, Sc. 2) There is a terrible lesson in Richard III (Act 1, Sc. 4): Clarence in his dream thought he was dying and met the ghosts of those he had harmed in life: ....methought what pain it was to drown! What dreadful noise of water in mine ears! What sights of ugly death within mine eyes! Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks; A thousand men that fishes gnaw'd upon.... ....my dream was lengthen'd after life; O, then began the tempest to my soul! I pass'd, methought, the melancholy flood With that grim ferryman which poets write of, Unto the kingdom of perpetual night. The first that there did greet my stranger soul Was my great 'father-in-law, renowned Warwick; Who cried aloud, "What scourge for perjury Can this dark monarchy afford false Clarence?" And so he vanish'd; then came wandering by A shadow like an Angel, with bright hair Dabbled in blood; and he shriek'd out aloud, "Clarence is come, - false, fleeting, perjur'd Clarence, That stabb'd me in the field by Tweksbury; Seize on him, Furies, take him to your torments!".... ....I have done those things That now give evidence against my soul.
The two men sent to murder him talk with him first. Clarence hopes to escape death by reminding them that the great King of kings Hath in the table of his law commanded That thou shalt do no murder: will you, then, Spurn at his edict, and fulfil a man's? Take heed; for he holds vengeance in his hand, To hurl upon their heads that break his law. The murderer answers: And that same vengeance doth he hurl on thee For false forswearing, and for murder too.... How can'st thou urge God's dreadful law to us, When thou hast broke it in such dear degree? A necessary reminder as to the animal or insect's right to life comes in these lines: And the poor beetle that we tread upon, In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great As when a giant dies. (Measure for Measure, Act III, Sc. 1) These are just a few extracts. Other aspects of the philosophy appear over and over again. "We defy augury," says Hamlet; the trouble "is not in our stars, but in ourselves." Yet there is a destiny which surrounds us, to which we must bow, willingly and wholeheartedly. ------------------