Myth and the Frame of Time
Hamlet's Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge And Its Transmission Through Myth
"Inexorable as the stars in their courses, miserationis parcissimae, the Romans used to say. Yet it was a world somehow not unmindful of man, one in which there was an accepted place for everything, rightfully and not only statistically, where no sparrow could fall unnoted, and where even what was rejected through its own error would not go down to eternal perdition; for the order of Number and Time was a total order preserving all, of which all were members, gods and men and animal, trees and crystals and even absurd and errant stars, all subject to law and measure."(p 6)
This is a book that reminds me of the mythological discourses by Joseph Campbell. It is an anthropological detective story that traces the origins of myths throughout the world and finds common elements in their origins. One finding is that the geography of myth is not that of the earth but rather is celestial. For anyone who is familiar with Greek mythology this is not a surprise, but we find here again that mythological language transcends cultural and geographic boundaries.
The author explores myths unfamiliar and familiar. For example he discusses the Epic of Gilgamesh in "The Adventure and the Quest". In it he finds connections with myths from India to Greece and beyond linking the symbols to constellations in the sky. The chapter concludes with a reference to knowledge:
"The notion of fire, in various forms, has been one of the recurring themes of this essay. Gilgamesh, like Prometheus, is intimately associated with it. The principle of fire, and the means of producing or acquiring it are best approached through them." (p 316)
The essence of human knowledge seems bound up in these mythological origins. A difficult read, but worth persevering, Hamlet's Mill should be of interest to all who are interested in the origins of man's mind and his images of the world.
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