Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge And Its Transmission Through Myth by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dachend, both as a 1998 fourth printing paperback from Godine and the 1969 first edition hardcover from Gambit International (which latter is subtitled “An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time“), is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“Ever since the Greeks coined the language we commonly use for scientific description, mythology and science have developed separately. But what came before the Greeks? What if we could prove that all myths have one common origin in a celestial cosmology? What if the gods, the places they lived, and what they did are but ciphers for celestial activity, a language for the perpetuation of complex astronomical data?
Drawing on scientific data, historical and literary sources, the authors argue that our myths are the remains of a preliterate astronomy, an exacting science whose power and accuracy were suppressed and then forgotten by an emergent Greco-Roman world view. This fascinating book throws into doubt the self-congratulatory assumptions of Western science about the unfolding development and transmission of knowledge. This is a truly seminal and original thesis, a book that should be read by anyone interested in science, myth, and the interactions between the two.”
“Contradicting many current notions about cultural evolution, this exploratory book investigates the origins of human knowledge in the archaic, preliterate world. Selecting Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a congenial introductory figure, the authors begin their journey proper with Amlodhi, Hamlet’s counterpart in Scandinavian myth.
The mythical Amlodhi was the owner of a fabulous Mill which, in his day, ground out peace and plenty. Later, in decaying times, it ground out salt. Now, at the bottom of the sea, it grinds rock and sand, and has created a vast whirlpool, the Maelstrom, which leads to the land of the dead. The ultimate significance of this Mill, and of many similar mythical constructions, is what the authors set themselves to discover.
The trail, pursued necessarily by induction, leads around the world through many lands, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Italy, Persia, India, Mexico, and Greece, to mention only a few. it also recedes in time until the beginning is reached several millennia ago in Mesopotamia.
As innumerable clues emerge and begin to interlock, several conclusions become inescapable. First, all the great myths of the world have a common origin. Next, the geography of myth is not that of the earth. The places referred to in myth are in the heavens and the actions are those of celestial bodies. Myth, in short, was a language for the perpetuation of a vast and complex body of astronomical knowledge.
The implications of these findings is no less startling for being self-evident. If, hundreds of centuries ago, man’s mind could formulate a consistent and magnificently intricate cosmology, then clearly that mind had already transcended the influence of any evolutionary process. The authors say, along with the now forgotten Dupuis at the close of the eighteenth century: ‘Mythology is the work of science; science alone will explain it.’
The archaic concept of the universe was stern and merciless, but there was a harmony in it of all things and beings, including men, as there is not in ours. The perceptions of the ancients, revealed and adumbrated here, carry a power and beauty that persuade the spirit as completely as the detailed evidence convinces the mind.” — First Edition
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