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Hamlet's Mill: An Essay Investigating the…

Hamlet's Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge And… (1969)

by Giorgio De Santillana, Hertha von Dechend (Author)

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  jwhenderson | Apr 25, 2017 |
  Jway | Apr 18, 2016 |
Fascinating, if somewhat dizzyingly presented and unsystematic. The project is to show that mythic ideas about cyclical time, world ages, their characteristics and dominant players, were actually based in close observation of the heavens and the complex apparent movements of planets and constellations, and particularly the precession of the equinoxes. Since the whole universe was thought to be ruled by the same living, volitional forces, it was by no means a simple “primitive” or childlike fantasy that what happened in the sky was related to what happened on earth in describable ways.

The authors’ point is not to dismiss the modern scientific method but to say that there is a tendency to look at the history of human knowledge in a reductively linear way, from less to more sophistication and mastery of complexity, and that such a view actually runs counter to the evidence provided even by what little we have of these early cosmologies.

For folklore fans, the stories themselves are from a treasure trove of not-the-usual-suspects sources: Guyana, Peru, India, Persia, Africa, Northwest and Plains Indians, as well as the Norse and Greco-Roman standbys.
( )
2 vote CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Molto interessante, pone i miti antichi in una nuova prospettiva con riferimenti molto ampi in una lunga serie di culture e civiltà. Le spiegazioni astronomiche avrebbero beneficiato di qualche illustrazione in più, mentre quelle presenti prima delle corpose appendici sono utili ma un po' slegate dal contesto. Inoltre le parole greche usate a più riprese senza traduzione e con l'alfabeto greco sfuggiranno a chi, come il sottoscritto, non ha fatto il liceo classico. Tuttavia è un libro che consiglio proprio per la sua capacità di spiegare e ricomprendere le leggende base della mitologia in chiave astronomica. ( )
  CarloA | Feb 14, 2013 |
Cannot possibly say what this book is, finding science in myth would be a lot of understatment. Have read this about five times and have dipped into so often.Yet I totally disagree with the premise.
1 vote laurencejude | Oct 14, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Giorgio De Santillanaprimary authorall editionscalculated
von Dechend, HerthaAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0879232153, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:07 -0400)

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