THE GREAT PESHER
(updated here 6 Apr 2008: Shakespeare and Don Quixote)
(updated here 19 July 2007: lead article in the online Baconiana)
Praise for Ugly Dick and the Goddess of Complete Being:
“If 'The White Goddess' collided with 'The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail', and the drivers were Graham Hancock and Ted Hughes, then the sum of the remaining carnage would be christened ‘Ugly Dick’. This controversial look at Shakespeare is challenging, illuminating, and rewarding, and bound to cause heated debate.”
Greg Waldron, Angus&Robertson Bookworld, Imperial Arcade, Sydney
"Pesher": a Hebrew word found in the Dead Sea Scrolls meaning 'solution', and denoting the hidden historical level in scripture.
That the First Folio of Shakespeare should be organized as a strict pesher, in which certain characters, places and things are yoked at their every appearance without exception to a hidden value to form a momentous and indefectibly consistent thesis, should not strike the aficionado of recent biblical scholarship as outlandish, for the great Australian scholar Dr. Barbara Thiering in her Jesus series of books has revealed precisely this previously unappreciated aspect of the New Testament, a discovery which has been endorsed by Sir Laurence Gardner in his recent The Magdalene Legacy. Not only there, however, for Wolfram’s Parzival and the original rituals of Freemasonry were similarly written on two planes, while much of the Old Testament certainly also has an allegorical dimension. This all seems to have been appreciated by the chief strategist (Sir Francis Bacon, as I will argue) of the Shakespeare plays, who also was undoubtedly aware of this dimension of so much ancient literature. It is the purpose of my book Ugly Dick and the Goddess of Complete Being (2003) to elucidate as exhaustively as is reasonably possible the pesher of the First Folio. Fascinatingly, my subsequent work (which is still continuing) on the apocryphal plays, and the works of other of the chief literary figures of the time, which I present in this site, shows many of them to secrete the very same pesher, some very rigorously indeed, in a way comparable to their greater cousins, others more loosely, yet none the less unmistakably.
Dr. Thiering puts it in a nutshell:
A hypothesis like this is capable of being tested. It is subject to a number of tests: for example, if special meanings are assigned to terms, there must be a reason for them; and then the same meanings must be found in every occurrence of the term [my italics]. Each episode which is made of a whole cluster of special meanings must make sense in itself, and be consistent with all other episodes. And the whole history found there must be generally consistent with the known character of the institution whose history is given.
Precisely. What then is the precise nature of the story told by this pesher? Whence the urgency and compulsion which drove the greatest circle of authors in Western cultural history to devote the greater part of their mature creative lives to the task of its elaboration? The Introduction to my book gives the answer. They were fighting for nothing less than the future of the West itself, whose cultural heritage the Puritan sect, in the ascendancy during much of the Elizabethan-early Jacobean era, was threatening to annihilate.
The full Introduction to UDGCB may be accessed through the index. Building on the work of the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes in his epochal Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (Faber, 1992), it reveals a remarkable story indeed. Hughes’ great achievement was to show the tragedies to be of the nature of psycho-allegories, wherein the hero is always a Puritan figure on the road to psychic collapse. Further, he showed their final reference to be to a catastrophic psychological event in Shakespeare’s own life, the immediate knowledge of which informed the tragic vision of the plays. I examine in detail every play of the corpus, and confirm that this was the case, and that the inner life allegorised therein is indeed Shakespeare’s. The scenario revealed in UDGCB is that Shakespeare suffered a colossal breakdown after a long period of enthralment by the Puritan tyranny aet.15-23, which precipitated his flight from his family to London in search of healing and a new life. The First Folio is shown to be a livre composé, a unified allegory of the aetiology, pathogenesis, and crisis of the Puritan disease, in the psyche and the broader society; and of the methods used by Sir Francis Bacon to heal his patient of its devastating psychological effects. Hence the need for the encryption of its theme: for it was intended as an ark that would ride the gathering Puritan flood, which seemed likely to obliterate the Western cultural heritage from the face of the earth.
The First Folio of Shakespeare is the greatest Journey of the Hero in Western literature; and William Shakespeare is the hero concerned. However, just as Aeneas had the Cumaean Sibyl as his underworld guide, Dante had Virgil, Bilbo Baggins had Gandalf, and so on in every instance of this genre, so Shakespeare too had a mentor and guide; and it is revealed for the first time in UDGCB that this was Sir Francis Bacon, who had accepted the challenge of leading him out of the Puritan darkness to the highest reaches of Gnostic enlightenment. The corpus of plays would be Bacon’s “baby”, to which Shakespeare would yet make a vital contribution, in the way of the intimate personal revelations of the histories and elsewhere. The principal obstacle to the acceptance of the solo-authorship Baconist position has surely been the fundamental question of whence Bacon, whose inner life was a triumph of the intellect, could possibly have acquired the personal knowledge of tragedy evidenced in the plays, which intimacy is strongly sensed, I believe, even by those who have not read Ted Hughes. The genesis of these greatest tragedies in the Western tradition is rightly thought to have required a different soil to this: and I show that it was Shakespeare who in truth made the difference.
The plays are deeply informed by the philosophy of Sir Francis Bacon. The primary philosophical theme of the First Folio as allegory is the absolute necessity, for the attainment of Gnostic nobility, of engagement with the world that lies unseen below the surface of things: an almost banal axiom in these days of seemingly unlimited scientific, artistic, and psychological discovery, yet which had strongly to be asserted, then, in the face of Roman Catholic and Puritan denial. This underworld Journey of the Hero is raised to a pitch of religious intensity as a Ring or Grail quest – this is the point of the numerous rings in the plays; - and Wolfram’s early Grail saga Parzival is shown, remarkably, to have been the First Folio’s principal architectonic model. Further, as Parzival is a Templar text (as established by Graham Hancock in his The Sign and the Seal), it is clear that Bacon was saturated with the lore of the Knights Templar, via Freemasonry, which was born from the Templars’ ashes in 1307 or shortly after. The Holy Grail of the hero’s questing is repeatedly identified throughout FF as the wisdom based on knowledge of the unseen world, as described in the written word.
There is no doubt that UDGCB is, in places, a challenging book. This reflects the sort of mind Bacon had, and I shirk nothing in engaging with it. It is the purpose of this site to ensure that its plethora of important advances and discoveries are highlighted amidst, perhaps, the selva oscura of argument. For example, one of my favourite revelations is that all the self-concealments behind an arras of a figure – Falstaff, Polonius, Borachio, the Executioner in King John – represent the psychic defence mechanism of repression of the libido, which will later burst back into the conscious ego to precipitate the breakdown. This contributes to the generally powerful demonstration of Bacon as the father of Western depth psychology, anticipating Freud and Jung by some centuries.
The test of a good theory is its capacity to organise the known facts. This was certainly the case with Watson and Crick’s theory of the Double Helix, on the basis of which the jumbled jigsaw of molecular genetics assembled in a striking and beautiful way. Similarly, there is no area of literary studies so full of obscurities and unknowns as Shakespeare and the Elizabethan period; and a multitude of these are illuminated in UDGCB, to paint a striking and wholly consistent picture. For example, the final impenetrability of Hamlet has been a common theme of the critics - T.S. Eliot and Harold Bloom come to mind. Hamlet is shown, on the contrary, to be wholly comprehensible as a study of paranoid schizophrenia, that most disabling and tragic of psychiatric illnesses. Thus, Hamlet’s procrastination over the killing of King Claudius is an expression of the incipient schizophrenic’s defensive suppression of the visual imagination vis-à-vis the written word (‘Words without thoughts, never to heaven go’), in the way of the Puritan; and it is Puritanism that is identified as the principal culprit in the pathogenesis of this type of psychosis. Hamlet is the only play to step beyond the severe anxiety/depression neurosis of acute onset which had stricken down Shakespeare on that day in 1587. Bacon had evidently been pondering the nexus of Puritanism and psychiatric illness for some time; the arrival of Shakespeare still in the acute phase of his disease then provided the catalyst to the genesis of the plays: and Bacon recognised schizophrenia to be a ready extrapolation from his patient’s less severe condition. Perhaps both may have felt that this could have been Shakespeare’s long-term fate, were it not for the intervention of Bacon as minister of the Gnostic tradition.
The journey is only just beginning, and I would invite you to join me on it in these pages.
Michael Buhagiar was born in 1954 in Sydney, Australia. He was educated at St. Ignatius College, Riverview, and at Sydney University, from where, after studying medicine for several years, he graduated Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours (Biochemistry major). He has had poems and book reviews published in The Weekend Australian newspaper, The Chinese Herald (Sydney)(in translation), Quadrant (Apr 99) and Insight (Nov 95) magazines, journals of the Poets Union, and elsewhere. He has worked for some years in the book industry, which he finds congenial. Ugly Dick and the Goddess of Complete Being is his first book.