Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Taking all in all, I have been developing a way to see in Romeo and Juliet a sacred meaning which parallels the literal secular meaning. This is as the vision of an apparently spiritual day world shown as evil and dark. The night is the truth of that day world, what it is when seen truly, including the god or gods of that world. Within that night we can begin to see a different light, coming from within but seen in the other rather than in oneself. Its truth becomes manifest when the image experiences the angel, i.e. a person sees another person as his or her other half. This culminates in the sacred marriage, the union of the human with the divine, in which each human steps into the divine apprehended in the other, becoming for that time divine as well. The true day, or perhaps an image of the true day, appears when the two halves of an androgynous being, two people in love as though from all time, make one life. This is living in something like the Gnostic pleroma, a state some will want to preserve at all costs, even of one's life.

In the course of this investigation we have also seen how the imagery of certain art and poetry before Shakespeare lends itself to such an interpretation as well, from the Song of Songs to the troubadour albas. (For more on this tradition, see the Appendices to this essay) It also lives in Shakespeare's play. Seeing the tradition helps us to recognize the imagery and play of meanings that animate the play.

I have tried to argue that this tradition should be characterized as Gnostic, as opposed to, e.g., Neoplatonic, as in the Christian Neoplatonism of Ficino. Let me reiterate the main point. The world presented in the play is much darker than the Neoplatonic world. For Neoplatonism, more or less good images of the True World are everywhere in our world. But in Shakespeare's world, conventional images of the divine are seen as evil and ignorant; and these images rule and suppress anything else. Images that accurately reflect the light can only shine in the darkness, and then only briefly.

Plotinus himself, the founder of Neoplatonism, polemicized against the Gnostics for their doctrine of the ignorant or evil demiurge. But which describes the human world better, whether of pagan Rome or medieval Christendom, and despite the beauty that these worlds created? Are those days really behind us? In our own time we have had the dreadful massacres and inquisitions of the 20th century. Even the peace, as at the end of Romeo and Juliet, is a superficial one that buries Truth, and not only in the esoteric sense of Gnosticism and alchemy. In Jungian terms, the demiurge is the insecure, ignorant ego with its numerous defenses against whatever appears to threaten its control of its world. The dark acts of modern times derive from such defenses, which still very much rule nations. Yet descriptions in literature, by Shakespeare and others, of both the darkness and the light, remain to give us hope.

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