the Mystical Roots of The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Rosicrucian Title-Page to Bacon's De
(German 1654) depicting Francis Bacon as head of the Rosicrucian Society with three officers, or principals, attending him
(the coloring has been added)
The road less traveled, but what should be the superhighway, of Shakespeare studies, is to determine what the author was doing, before trying to determine what any given play means. What Bacon was doing was constructing plays that had two faces, one looking toward the past, and the other toward the future.What this means,in actual practice, is that he crafts what appears to be merely an entertaining story on the surface, but underneath allegorizes some system of Ancient Knowledge, while at the same time, allegorizing the operation of his discovery device in determining the "form" of some related aspect of future knowledge.
In a letter to Lancelot Andrews, in 1622, in the preface of his "Advertisement Touching an Holy Warre" Bacon said:
His reference to the part of his Instauration which was set out not "long since" was to his Novum Organum which he had published in 1620. But the reference to "some new parts thereof" which will "draw it down to the sense,by some patterns of a Natural Story and Inquisition" can only be to The First Folio of the Shakespeare Plays. The First Folio was in the press for two years before it was produced. So at the time Bacon wrote this letter it was a work in progress, appearing in the following year of a "Natural Story and Inquisition." The phrase " though I break the order of time" is clear also. It has to do with the fact that Bacon's plan had been that a sufficient time would have elapsed so that a large quantity of material would have have been gathered from the facts of nature before his machine could be set into operation.
What truly boggles the mind as we try to muddle through the Plays is that, in actuality (however obscure they may appear to our understanding) they were an attempt to simplify things, to draw the instauration "down to the sense, by some patterns of a Natural Story and Inquisition." The fact is, that in comparison with Bacon, we all fall into the severely mentally handicapped category. In our race to determine the meaning of the Plays, we are like contestants in the Special Olympics. The gun sounds and we're off, malproportioned bodies lurching along at maximum effort. One contestant is really hoofing it. His misshapen legs are pumping at full tilt, and a smirk of idiot glee flashes across his face from time to time, because he knows how well he is doing. The problem is (as idiots are wont to do) he has somehow got turned around and is running in the wrong direction! Each stride he takes, takes him further away, rather than closer to, the finish line! Need I say it? That particular contestant, of course, is the Stratfordian.
In this article I will demonstrate the undermeaning in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona". The system of ancient or mystical knowledge Bacon incorporates in this particular play is Gnosticism. In order to discern the elements from Gnosticism that are utilized in the "Two Gentlemen of Verona" it is necessary to have some background of information regarding Gnoticism. This requires an exposition of some length, so before we risk becoming lost in darkest antiquity, lets glance at the light "A" aspect of the play.
If we examine the first 32 speeches in the play, (the table of presence) the element which is present is friendship. We see two friends talking to each other. This element is absent in the next 32 speeches(the table of absence). Moreover in that jarring denouncement where Valentine says to the apparently perfidous Proteus:
All that was mine in Silvia I give thee."
the narrative points to Bacon's definition of a friend in his Essay "Of Friendship", and to what we may well surmize is the "form" of a friend : A FRIEND IS ANOTHER MYSELF.
This seems to leave us in somewhat of a bind. How can the fact that the "form" of friendship is "another myself" relate to some aspect of ancient knowledge? In The Tempest the connection was easy enough since the Ancient Mysteries (the dark "A" aspect) were the depositories of all knowledge in antiquity, and the light "A" aspect dealt with the "form" of the Existing State of The Advancement of Knowledge, but a relationship between "another myself" and some aspect of ancient knowledge is not at all apparent.
This gives me an excuse to relate a story Scott Meredith claims is true, and is one of the publishing industry's favorite anecdotes (as well as mine).
In the past, prior to the time publishers finally decided they had to have all parts of a story before publishing any part of a serial, writers were known on occasion to dig themselves a hole, leaving no way out at the end of their story. Some years ago, according to Meredith, the editors of a certain publication found themselves somewhat worried. They had just published the penultimate installment of a serial, and the author had left the lead character, Lance O'Neill, in quite a fix. After a long series of narrow escapes Lance had fallen into a deep pit with sides so smooth he couldn't possibly scramble up again. And now sharp spikes were beginning to emerge from the sides of the pit threatening to impale him, and even more chilling, molten lead was beginning to pour out of a pipe into the pit.
The more the editors thought about it, the more the situation worried them. How could the author think of a solution? What if he couldn't pull it off, and they had to publish the story without the final installment? It was a truly harrowing thought.
The publishers began frantically trying to locate the author. Just when all attempts had failed he walked jauntily into the office, holding a large envelope containing the manuscript of his final installment, and wanted to know what all the excitement was about.
"The Lance O'Neill serial," The editor-in-chief said, wiping sweat from his brow. "The predicament he's in,-did it throw you? Were you able to get him out?" Casually, the author took the manuscript of the final installment out of the envelope and pointed to the opening line. It said:
The relevance here is whether I will be able to extricaten myself from the difficulty of showing a relation between the Future Knowledge in the Play,-Another Myself, and the Ancient Knowledge, or will it be necessary to take a "mighty leap"?
To return to the other side of the question, (the
dark "A" of the headpiece) and the aspect of ancient knowledge which
is depicted in the play, lets develop some background
The reign of the Romans was long and cruel. Their
graven image was physical might. Theirs was a life so near death,
only death could move it. As Roman despotism descended into decadence
a steady stream of conquered peoples were fed.
The lot of the conquered peoples was a grim one. They were murdered for the entertainment of the jaded Roman populance. One motto was used so often it frequently appeared only as initials on the tombs of that time:
(I was not: I was; I am not; I care not)
These were the conditions in which, from shortly before the beginning of the Christian Era to around 250 A.D., an unprecedented epidemic of mysticism occurred. The general bankruptcy of values in the entire sphere of external experience resulted in a turning away from the outer world, a widespread asceticism, and an intense yearning for spiritual meaning. As a result a very rare phenomena occurred. For perhaps the only time in recorded history people on a large scale forsook outer experience to seek inner experience.
This outbreak of mysticism began in Palestine, Syria, Samaria, and Anatolia, and attained its fullest flowering at the city of Alexandria in Egypt. In Alexandria lived the most renowned of all the Gnostics,- "...the commanding and mysterious figure of Valentinus himself, universally acknowledged to have been the greatest of the Gnostics." Valentinus was an Egyptian, who lived circa 100 A.D. to 180 A.D. He was educated at Alexandria in all that Alexandria and Greece had to teach him. He was fortunate in his location. During his time the Great Library of Alexandria, renowned throughout the ancient world, still existed, and there was also available the private libraries of the mystics. Valentinus set himself the task of syntheticizing Gnosticism, but in doing so he did not abandon Christianity.
Christ in the Valentian system has the task of enlightening the souls which have became trapped in the phenomenal sphere, and so enabling them to return to their rightful place in the celestial realm above. Christ is like a celestial shepherd who guides the sheep (in this instance the souls) home.
In the melting pot of races and cultures existing around the Eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea at the beginning of the Gnostic phenomena, many influences shaped his new system of thought: the Ancient Astral Mysticism derived from the Egyptians and Chaldeans; The Orphic Theology; The Mystery Religions; Vedanta; Hermeticism; Jewish Merkabah Mysticism; Iranian Theology; Platonic Concepts; and, only lastly, the mystic's own experience.
One of the most basic Gnostic ideas is brought out in a fragment ascribed by Diogenes Laertius to Musaios, the son of the Mystery Teacher Orpheus. We are told that,
The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus has the same idea,
"All things arose from One, by the transformation of The One."
And, in many passages of Gnosticism, we catch a glimpse of the same idea. The Ancient Astral Mysticism dealt with the ideas of influences from the stars, and of the origin of the soul from the stars. This belief had a big role among the Ancient Egyptians and the Chaldeans. The Ancient Egyptians thought the soul had came from the stars, and would return to them after death. They even had the custom of placing a starmap on the inside of the coffin in front of the corpse's face so it could find its way among the stars. This Ancient Astral Mysticism descended to the Greeks and Romans. According to this doctrine the earth was at the center of a sphere surrounded by the concentric rings of the planets. The realm of the fixed stars beyond, was that of the celestial fire, and a Divine Spark from this fire descended to earth to become the core of the being of man. In the descent the vesture of the soul was formed over the Divine Spark. Men's souls were thought to have come to the earth from the Milky Way. Macrobius, who provided the broadest report on this had it that souls decended in order to be born through the "Gate of Cancer" and ascended after death by way of the Gate of Capricorn.
The label Gnostic came from a Greek word "gna", meaning to know. The Gnostics were "those who know" or, "the knowing ones." According to the Gnostics the Divine Spark had within it a faculty of direct and absolute knowing due to it being a portion of the divine fire. It was in this sense the Gnostics were "the knowing ones." They claimed they had contacted the Divine Spark within and knew through direct perception.
Sirius was extremely important to the Ancient Egyptians. Today we recognize Sirius as being located in Canis Major (the greater dog). In the most ancient times Sirius was referred to as the Dog of Orion, or simply The Dog. The calendar of the Ancient Egyptians was based on Sirius. The appearance of Sirius on the eastern horizon just before rising of the sun, occurred once a year. This event was so important to the Ancient Egyptians that gigantic temples were constructed with their main aisles oriented precisely toward the spot on the horizon where Sirius would appear on the expected morning. One such temple to the star Sirius was the temple of Isis at Denderah. An ancient hieroglyphic inscription fro that temple informs us:
Indicating that Sirius was Isis. Without going into lengthy detail it may be noted that other evidence supports that identification.
The Gnostics were also aware that the Parable of The Prodigal Son referred to the Cycle of the soul. Since this is part of the allusion in The Two Gentlemen of Verona it needs to be cited again at this point.
The story is as follows:
A man has two sons. The younger took his portion of goods and journeyed into a far country while the elder remained in his father's house. There he wasted his substance with riotous living. When everything was gone a famine ensued. He then joined himself to a citizen of the far country who sent him into the fields to feed swine. Finally he sank so low he would have eaten the husks that the swine ate, but no one would give them to him. At last he came to himself and said I will arise and go to my father's house.
This parable was almost identical to the form in which Buddha told it. It was the parable of the Samsaric cycle of the soul. In Vedanta, (the teachings that come from the Veda) we are told that in the heart of each human dwells a tiny being the size of the thumb. This being is single and yet dual. It is the Purusha/Jiva. As the Purusha it is identical with Brahma, the Supreme Self. That is, it is the "Knowing Self" that is not born, and does not die. It is birthless, eternal, everlasting, and ancient, and is not killed when the body is killed.
The Jiva, on the other hand, is the individual soul. It is described in connection with the Purusha by the allegory of two birds, united always, closely clinging to the same tree. One looks on without eating, the other eats the sweet fruit. The Purusha is unaffected by the illusory shows of Maya, the Jiva is caught up in the dream of Maya; it is trapped in the cosmic dream, entangled in the endless round of rebirths, and will remain trapped as long as it sleeps. To escape it must awake.
The Purusha is the light, the Jiva the shadow. Here is the root of the oft repeated idea in Vedanta of the phenomenal universe as a reflection of reality. As a shadow is joined to a man and takes its arising from him, so the Jiva is joined to the Purusha and takes its arising from the Purusha. Another similar source the Gnostics would have been familiar with was that of the twins Castor and Pollux, of whom one twin was mortal and the other immortal, a mythic expression of the Purusha and Jiva.
According to Vedanta the Innermost Self was gna (knowing). Intelligence was not merely an attribute of the soul. The soul was pure knowing. But caught up in Maya, or ignorance, the soul endured a prolonged dream. The self caught up in the dream of Maya would awaken only when realization occurred. As a man while sleeping might dream unhappy dreams, but when waking, though he remembered them, would not be deluded by them, so, when man recognized he Self within, realized its divinity and oneness with Brahma He would no longer be deluded by Maya. The Real Man, the inner self was never bound, but the belief that he was bound was Maya, and because of Maya the unreal appeared real.
There was more to this story. The self went out into the phenomenal universal for a reason. The Samsaric cycle was necessary for it to be perfected. This idea is brought out in various passages in the Gnostic works, as well as in the Gnostic document The Hymn of The Robe of Glory which closely follows, but greatly extends, the general ideas and cycle set out in the Parable of The Prodigal Son. The Gnostic sources also had the idea of the Monad, but (at least in the fragments which remain) did not bring out the idea found in the Theosophy of Madama Blavatsky, that the Monad must first enter the phenomenal sphere before the lower self of Jiva does, since it is contained within the very center of the being that is man, at a much higher, and of a much more subtle form of matter, and must establish a contact in phenomenal matter over a long period of evolution before the soul or causal body can be formed and can evolve to the level of man. This latter idea seems to be the one that Bacon uses, although it is difficult to see where he could have obtained the information.
Gnosticism also had a full exposition of that division of the soul which Bacon follows in The Advancement of Learning. This division is as follows:
1. The Nous(The Thinker) The Rational Soul
2. The Psyche(The Produced Soul)
3. The Soma(The Body)
Gnosticism owed a debt in this to Plato's allegory in his celebrated analogy of the chariot and the two steeds (in the Phraedrus). Plato's analogy gave the driver who controlled the two steeds, and the two steeds-one noble in character, a thing of air, ever tending upward, and the other,- degenerate (black in color and deformed), ever tending downward. This analogy kept the rightful order of things because The Nous should control the other two.
This flood of mysticism was still in full force when it came under attack from a new group,-the fathers of the early Christian Church. Their names were Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen, Epiphanius, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, etc., and they were an odd and motley mixture of liars and saints, savants and fools. It was these men who originated the precedent of labeling this new wave of mysticism,--Gnosticism.
The system which remains of the Gnosis of the Valentinians is very incomplete. The accounts in the writings of the church fathers are fragmentary and so evidently written by antagonistic hands bent on utilizing every opportunity to deride the Valentinians that it is the original system. Nevertheless, something of the grandeur of the original still shines through those sorry scraps, and, with the Valentinian tracts of the NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY some degree of reconstruction is possible.
The Valentinian system postulated states of beingness far above the created universe. The first level was that of the Absolute, also known as the One, the Father, the Monad (smaller than the smallest, yet greater than the greatest), and The Abyss. At this level neither time nor space existed. The second level was The Pleroma, the Divine Fullness. This was the archetypal realm of pure light, existing within the Godhead itself; holding within itself the ideal pattern of all which existed subsequently in the created universe on a lower plane. The powers or qualities in the Godhead were called Aeons (i.e. eternities) since this was eternal, existing above the realm of time which only came into existence with the created universe.
The next realm was the realm of The Sophia, or pure spirit, the Divine Fire which touched on the outermost borders of the created universe. The created universe was the next realm, and it wasm only with this realm that time came into being. In the Gnostic System Sophia(Wisdom) descended to the phenomenal world and aided the soul to return to it's rightful place in the celestial world above just as Christ did.
For those of you who have came in late some
introduction as to what to expect in The Two Gentlemen of Verona may
be warranted. In "Shake-Speare's Other Side of Midnight" I have
pointed out that the entire cycle of the Plays sets out the Samsaric
cycle of the soul. In The Tempest the cycle has just begun, and, at
the end of The Tempest we are told that Prospero (the Duke of Milan)
is about to go to Milan. In The Two Gentlemen of Verona most of the
action is set at the court of the Duke of Milan.
So we should expect the play to deal with this subject matter. .
ALLEGORY AND ALLUSION IN THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
The Two Gentlemen of Verona begins with Valentine and Proteus talking to each other. The name Valentine suggests the heart, or center in one connotation and in the other, the personification of Gnosticism,-Valentinus. But there is a trifle more allusion to aid us with the character of Valentine. In Romeo and Juliet we are told that Valentine is the brother of Mercutio. This is the only reference to Valentine in Romeo and Juliet, but is very interesting since Mercutio would have been Mercury, or the mind, and Valentine (as we shall see later) is the Rational Mind. In Valentin and Orson, the English prose romance of the Charlemagne cycle, Valentin and Orson are twins separated at birth when a bear carries Orson off to feed her cubs. She relents and raises Orson as her own (hence the name).
This story has elements in common with the mythological story of the twins Castor and Pollux. The name Proteus, who is described in mythology as changing into many different shapes, suggests the form nature, which is the office of Psyche,-the produced soul. My modern text gives the location of the beginning of the play as Verona, an open area. But when I turn to The First Folio there is no location or stage direction given, although the implication would be that the location is Verona. The word Verona can be separated into two parts Ver+Ona, i.e. True-One. The location is kept intentionally vague at the beginning of the Play, since the soul is not actually in the One at the beginning of the Play, but is, instead, in the Pleroma, the plane of ideas, where the idea of everything exists before actually being manifested.
Valentine, the rational soul, realizes the need to go forth into manifestation, but Proteus the produced soul does not. He wants to remain in Verona. He is swayed by his love for Julia who is apparently the ideation of the earthly Venus. A very suggestive allusion is made at this point in the play when Valentine says to Proteus that you would "Wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness." That is, he would evade his responsibility which is to provide SHAPE (or form) to the incarnating soul.
Valentine leaves at this point and the scene switches to Proteus and the servant of Valentine-Speed. The two talk of sheep and a Shepherd. In Gnosticism the cosmic task of Christ is to enable the souls after they have experienced the cycle of incarnations, and become trapped in the phenomenal world, to free themselves and returned to the Ideal World. So this subject is very appropriate at this point. For Valentine is departing to Milan. The word Milan is apparently used as "My Land" and is synonymous with the "Far Country" of the Parable of The Prodigal Son.
The drama now follows for a time the details of Proteus' relationship with Julia until it switches to Antonio, the father of Proteus, and his servant Panthino. The name of the servant with the root of "Pan" is a very suggestive allusion since it derives from "all", "everything", or "the universe". The father of Proteus has The Universe for his servant, and realizes the necessity for Proteus to be "tried and tutor'd in the world" in order for him to be "a perfect man", which reminds one of the idea in Gnosticism that the raison d'etre of the cycle of incarnation was for the soul to be perfected. He orders Proteus to go forth to Milan.
The action now switches to the Duke's palace in Milan where Valentine has become captivated by Silvia. Silvia is a very important figure in our allegory and it is important that we establish her identity right away. We can tell at once that she is something special by the fact that Valentine is captivated by her, and also we remember that famous song which comes later in the drama:
Who is Silvia? What is she,
That all our swains comment her?
Holy, fair, and wise is she;
he heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admired be.
Is she kind as she is fair?
For beauty lives with kindness.
Love doth to her eyes repair,
To help him of his blindness;
And, being help'd inhabits there.
Then to Silvia let us sing
That Silvia is excelling;
She excels each mortal thing
Upon the dull earth dwelling.
To her let us garlands bring.
In this instance we have Launce who assumes the statue of a tutelary deity in the drama to guide us to the correct understanding. Launce comes in leading a dog. In the guise of injecting humor into the drama Bacon sets us on the right track. Launce says,"I have receiv'd my proportion, like the Prodigious Son and am going with Sir Proteus to the Imperial's court. The reference, of course, is to the portion the Prodigal Son received when he went forth on the Samsaric cycle. The context identifies this with the journey of Proteus to the court of the Duke of Milan. Then Launce casually lets slip that the name of the dog is Crab, and later we are told that the dog is intended as a gift for Silvia. Harkening back to the Ancient Astral Mysticism we remember that "The Dog" was a label of Sirius who was Isis. In addition, the soul descended into the phenomenal universe by way of the gate of Cancer the Crab. Going a step further we remember that in his treatise "Isis and Osiris" Plutarch remarked,
"Like these also are the Egyptian beliefs; for they often times call Isis by the name of Athena, expressive of some such idea as this, 'I came of myself,' which is indicative of self impelled motion." [Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, was reputed to have sprung fully-formed from the brow of Zeus. She was not born. She came of herself].
And so we see why Silvia is so important. She is an amalgamation of those transcedental female deities: Isis, The Heavenly Venus, Sophia(Wisdom), and Pallas Athena herself. No wonder the Rational Soul is so attracted to her.
Now we have a situation which develops, where instead of just Valentine, there are three suitors of Silvia:
and we immediately notice something familiar about the trio. For one, the three are in descending order of importance with Valentine first, Proteus second, and Thurio, a foolish rival, a distant third. Furthermore we are told that Thurio is a BLACK man, the customary symbol Bacon uses in the Plays when he wishes to symbolizes the physical body. What we have here is the tripartite human soul:
1. The Nous (Rational Soul
2. Psyche (The Sensitive Soul)
3. Soma (The body)
and, going from bad to worse, the two lower parts of the soul get the upper hand. The tripartite soul is not functioning in manner that it should. The sensitive soul is collecting and processing the data as it should, but it is then bypassing the rational soul altogether and sending the data directly to the moving faculty of the sensitive soul. The passions, with no control by the judgment of reason, or the moral choice of will, are aroused by what is pleasurable, or what is painful, and not by what is true or false, good or bad. How can this disorder be set right?
While we are waiting for Valentine to get his ducks in a row (and do we doubt even for a moment that he will?) we can take another glance at Proteus and Julia. Since they are of the lower self we may suppose that Bacon will give us some clue of this. We remember how in Vedanta the Jiva is depicted as a shadow of the Real Self, and likewise the things of the phenomenal world are all depicted as shadows.And we note the curious passage in which Proteus begs Silvia for her portrait:
Vouchsafe me yet your picture for my love,
The picture that is hanging in your chamber;
To that I'll speak, to that I'll sigh and weep:
For since the substance of your perfect self
Is else devoted, I am but a shadow;
And to your shadow will I make true love.
And Silvia for no other reason than to enable Bacon to complete his allegory-consents:
I am very loath to be your idol, sir;
But since your falsehood shall become you well
To worship shadows and adore false shapes,
Send to me in the morning, and I'll send it.
Julia as the earthly Venus is also a shadow. So we see her saying in the scene where she picks up Silvia's portrait:
Come, shadow, come, and take this shadow up,
For 'tis thy rival.
verifying her identity likewise.
In the meanwhile Valentine leaves the court of the Duke of Milan and we next see him on a highway running through a forest. The banished Valentine, with his servant Speed, comes along the road, and the outlaws spring upon them. There is a brief parley. And it is soon evident that these outlaws are not the common robbers we expect:
"Know, then, that some of us are gentlemen
Such as the fury of ungoverned youth
Thrust from the company of awful men"
And after a few more words, they make Valentine-a chance
wayfarer entirely unknown to them-an astonishing offer:
" -be the captain of us all:
We'll do thee homage and be ruled by thee,
Love thee as our commander and our king."
If we have a feeling for Baconian allegory, everything about this scene-which is quite unrealistic, but highly symbolic (a forest is a place where all the accretions of society are stripped away and the consciousness is thrown back in upon itself)-suggests that there is a meaning below the surface.
Kingship or death: it is the alternative in respect of the soul's inner kingdom, that Bacon presents. And we remember the sonnet:
"Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
Fool'd by these rebel power that thee array-"
These are the outlaws that Valentine governs. It is obvious that we are dealing with an allegory of Self Knowledge, and sovereignty over Self. The ancients had it nailed. According to tradition there existed a place several thousand years ago where a person might go and have answered any question whatsoever. This was the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, on the southern slopes of Mount Parnassus in Ancient Greece, Here the august Sibyl dwelt, and dispersed knowledge received directly from the God of light. Strangely enough, however, it so happened that anyone entering the temple already knew the answer before consulting the Sibyl, for the god had once formulated the one universal answer to all human enigmas, and caused it to be engraved in bold letters on the front of the temple where no one who entered could fail to see it. There it stood, directly above the entrance, the sum of wisdom in just two words,-GNOTHI SEAUTON,- KNOW THYSELF.
Valentine gains Self Knowledge (i.e. Inner Illumination) and Silvia comes to him, as is appropriate to this allegory. For in Inner Illumination one does not go out into the phenomenal world to find Wisdom, it finds you. At the same time Valentine acquires sovereignty over Proteus and Thuria. In the allegory of the samsaric cycle of the soul, the soul has attained the self realization that frees it from the wheel of rebirth.
Furthermore "Know Thyself" is directly related to "Another Myself" so a "Mighty Leap" is not required.
Comments can be sent to Mather Walker
See his book: The Secret of the Shakespeare Plays