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  • QUIETUS (The Quaternary Investigation into
    the Evolution Toward the Uniqueness in
    Shakespeare
    ) examines the social and
    political implications of a consistent philosophy
    in Shakespeare's Sonnets and plays.

    The Institute for the Quaternary Evolution in Shakespearen Thought
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    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005


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    The first edition of the 4 volume set William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy [2005] is still available.



    Q UIETU S
    QUARTERLY

    The Quaternary Investigation into the Evolution Toward the Uniqueness in Shakespeare


    Jefferson & The Declaration of Independence


    The relationship of Shakespeare's philosophy to the American Declaration of Independence & the American Constitution


    Thomas Jefferson’s reference to the ‘Laws of Nature’ and to ‘Nature’s God’ in the first few lines of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and his insistence on the religious and political freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the American Constitution (1791) ensured that pluralism became the founding credo of the United States. Yet, despite the widespread recognition of Jefferson as the spiritual father of the United States, the philosophic basis of his framework for tolerance has not advanced much beyond its original enigmatic expression.
          These notes will suggest that the philosophy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets of 1609 not only provides a sound logical base for Jefferson’s pluralism, but that Shakespeare’s application of the philosophy in the social/political dynamic of his 40 plays and longer poems provides an opportunity to enrich the pluralistic dynamic. The notes will concentrate on correspondences between the Sonnet philosophy and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.As Thomas Jefferson was responsible for the wording of the Declaration, it will discuss his understanding of the relation of Nature and God and his campaign to separate Church and State.
          So the logical structure of the Sonnets will be compared with the political structure heralded in the Declaration and legitimated in the Constitution. Then the mythic logic of the Sonnets will be used to identify elements in the Declaration that could elevate it from being an abstract framework, with little other than legislative definition in the American Constitution, to a wellspring for an inclusive mythic logic based in Nature.

    Shakespeare's natural philosophy of 1609

    These four volumes demonstrate that in the period in which the New World was discovered and colonised Shakespeare was formulating a philosophy in his Sonnets of 1609 that set out to critique and correct the traditional attitude toward biblical mythology. In particular he restores the logical priority of Nature over mythology and the priority of the female over the male. And in each of his plays and longer poems he demonstrates how to generate a mythic expression consistent with the natural logic articulated in the Sonnets.
          Although the four volumes are the first in 400 years of scholarship to present the Sonnet philosophy, many students of Shakespeare have recognised that his plays and poems are based primarily in Nature, rather than in biblical mythology. Ironically, though, while commentators admit that Shakespeare’s plays show no evidence of an adherence to traditional beliefs, many feel duty bound to suggest he was at least a closet believer (if only in support of his status as England’s national poet).
          But both Shakespeare in his Sonnet philosophy and Jefferson in the Declaration and Constitution wanted to move beyond the biblical politics of a pre-global Euro-centric world. The plurality of the Sonnet philosophy, which derives the logic of mythic expression from the dynamic of the natural world, anticipated the advance toward plural global politics heralded in the Declaration and guaranteed by the Constitution. This is despite the fact that Jefferson, even though he would have been aware of the general regard for Nature in the works of Shakespeare, was ignorant of the precisely formulated philosophy of the Sonnets.
          In Jefferson’s day the biblical paradigm was fast collapsing as a credible world-view under the philosophical critique of thinkers such as Spinoza, Locke, and Hume. Added to the logical attack was the theoretical critique by social/political/scientific thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Their concern for the consequences of allowing a religion to be instrumental in the politics of a state inspired a new attitude of secularisation when the American colonies asserted independence from their European forbears. The memory of Christian intolerance and even atrocities in Britain, Europe and the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the awareness, by those who wrote the Declaration and Constitution, of a new political order emerging in eighteenth century France created an opportunity to institute a less irrational society.

    The philosophy in the Sonnets

    As this is one of a series of short essays to be incorporated in the four volumes that detail Shakespeare’s philosophy, no more than an outline of the basic elements of his natural logic will be given. It is sufficient to remember that the Sonnet philosophy acknowledges the priority of Nature over the sexual dynamic, and that the sexual dynamic entails the logical requirement for humans to increase if they wish perpetuate themselves. Then, once the logic of the increase dynamic within Nature is acknowledged, it follows that the possibility of increase is prior to the dynamic of understanding or truth and beauty
          The relationships of the major elements of the Sonnet philosophy are represented diagrammatically in the complete template.

    Complete Template

    Complete Template

          The linear arrangement of the elements captures the logical entailment beginning with Nature as the given, through to the sexual dynamic and the dynamic of sensations and language. The word ‘beauty’ on the right represents all sensations in the mind including idealised thoughts such the absolute as God. In the Sonnet logic, Nature is the possibility that encompasses all else, while the ideal as God is consequential on the development of the human mind in Nature.
          The Sonnets are unique in the way they reflexively lay out the natural logic of life. As well as articulating natural logic they simultaneously acknowledge their dependence as an expression on the priority of the body over the mind. Shakespeare’s plays and longer poems have an unmatched veracity and felicity because they are based in a philosophy that recognises the sexual dynamic of human increase out of Nature is prior to the erotic dynamic of the desires of the mind. Writing that expresses the logic of the priority of Nature and the sexual dynamic over the inherent eroticism of human understanding is potentially mythic.

    The inverted logic of the Bible

    Genesis, as a book begun around the time of the transition from oral to scribal culture, seems, in the eroticism of the relations between God and mankind, to acknowledge the logical limitations of the written word. Genesis recognises the erotic logic of the act of writing in that writing is logically distinct from the biology of the sexual act. While the complete inversion of the natural order in the mythology of Genesis suggests it was originally written to acknowledge the priority of life over art or the sexual over the erotic, at some point in the history of the Hebrew culture the erotic mythology of Genesis was given priority over the sexual relationships in Nature.
          The reduction of the anti-Nature male-based dynamic in Genesis to a religious dogma, enforced as fact by Hebrew and Christian culture, inverts for social, political and personal expediency, the natural priorities of life and art. Because the myth of Genesis is so erotic in its complete inversion of sexual logic, the doctrinaire belief in Genesis as fact has meant the religions based on the priority of the male God have become bastions of their own irredeemable irony.
          When the order of events dictated by religious prerogatives is substituted in the template for natural logic, the result is riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions (as noted by the philosophers of the Enlightenment).

    God Template

    God template

          Whereas in the template for natural logic the priorities follow consistently from left to right, it is not possible to represent the biblical priorities consistently. The God template can only attempt to indicate the consequences of inverting natural logic because the dogmas of faith can be represented only crudely. Some of the familiar inconsistencies are the priority given to the erotic God of the mind over Nature, the unnatural priority of male over female, the confounding of false and true so that evil supplants good, and the life-defying connection of procreation or birth with the finality of death.
          The book of Genesis expresses the mythological awareness of the Hebrew peoples, and provides the mythological basis for the other books of the Hebrew Bible. It is not until the New Testament that the erotic logic of myth is again asserted. The Christian Bible both acknowledges the mythological dynamic of Genesis but, as the founding myth for a new religion, expresses the eroticism of Genesis in terms of Jesus Christ. The eroticism of such doctrines as the Immaculate Conception, the virgin birth, Christ’s death and resurrection without offspring, and the promise of a nonsexual heaven, are key indicators that a new religious myth has been invented. And as with the myth of Genesis, believers in the New Testament accepted the erotic logic of the myth as fact, so perpetuating the inversion of the sexual and the erotic in their minds.
          Biblical myths, old and new, commit the logical sin of accepting as fact their own erotic desires. The lack of irony or any form of humour in the Bible, compared with the pervasive irony and humour in Shakespeare, is a sure indication of the intent to deceive. Shakespeare demonstrates in all his plays that the illusions created through language are useful fictions that need the irony of awareness to ensure they remain useful fictions.
          Shakespeare shows in his 154 sonnets, 38 plays and 4 longer poems, how to create a multiplicity of expressive possibilities with the correct logical consistency at the mythic level from the basic elements of natural logic. Because his philosophy is consistent and coherent, his critique in the Sonnets of over-idealised expectations and his critique in the plays of the tyranny of the ideal provide the appropriate methodologies for operating in a society with pluralistic expectations.

    The Declaration of Independence

    When the relevant statements of the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution are compared with the logic of the Sonnets, there is a correspondence that might be expected if the Declaration was a rejection of the social/political dynamic of the old world. Thomas Jefferson in particular was determined to institute a society in which religious dogma could not play a part in the politics of the State. For Jefferson, the idea of a religion having a role in government was a violation of the intent of ‘Nature’s God’. As a deist he believed that God the creator was immanent in Nature so all one had to do was to act in conformity with the Laws of Nature.
          In the first few lines of the Declaration, the rejection of the theistic belief in a God who actively intervenes in the world in favour of a deistic God who creates the natural world and whose intent is evident in natural law is given precise expression. Jefferson reflects the shift in sensibility by mentioning the word ‘Nature’ twice before he mentions ‘God’. To emphasise his belief that the creator’s work is evident in Nature, the phrase ‘Laws of Nature’ precedes ‘Nature’s God’ (just as the word ‘Nature’ precedes ‘God’). For deists it is not possible to know God or the creator of the world otherwise.

    When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. (1)
    Deists like Jefferson believed that once God created the world he did not intervene in its progress and destiny. All ‘men’ were created equal and endowed with ‘unalienable Rights’. Even though, like most of his contemporaries, Jefferson understood the world in pre-Darwinian terms (he believed in the immutability of species, even hoping to find living examples of old world fossils in the American West or elsewhere) he intuitively grasped the Darwinian logic that mind-based rights were derived from Nature.
          Jefferson (and his colleagues) were determined to reject a society based on a belief in a theistic God, who could be petitioned for favours and who made his intentions known through personal revelation. Their experience was that the theistic basis of Judeo/Christian belief led inevitably to a proliferation of feuding sects and to the persecution of atheism, its logical counterpart.
          Because the attributes of theism and atheism are psychological attributes from within the human mind, like gnosticism and agnosticism, they are perpetually opposed. The pluralistic advantage of Jefferson’s adherence to deist logic is apparent in the illogic of coining words like adeistic or anature. The soundness of his philosophic insight into the distinction between the natural logic of deism and the psychology of theism provides the logical precondition for a pluralistic society.
          The formulators of the Declaration wished to remove themselves from all they considered iniquitous and injurious in the English unification of Church, Crown and parliament. Because the sectarian injustice and violence in the old world was seen as a direct consequence of the Church as an arm of the State, Jefferson and his colleagues wished to subscribe directly to the laws of the natural world, which lack the absolute evil of Christian schism and retribution. So in their desire to emphasise the implications of their insight into natural logic, the Declaration appealed to ‘Nature’s God’.
          So it is not surprising that the First Amendment to the Constitution reinforces the Declaration’s emphasis on Nature by forbidding Church involvement in the running of the State. The appeal to the Laws of Nature has a logical significance for the establishment of the State. The pluralism inherent in Jefferson’s deism through Nature meant that logically he was one step away from demoting God the creator to his correct place in natural logic.
          Unbeknown to Jefferson the move had been made by Shakespeare 200 years earlier in the natural logic of the Sonnets. The first few lines of the Declaration, which prioritise Nature over God in human affairs, point in the direction of the Sonnet logic. The significance of Nature in the plays and poems of Shakespeare finds a resonance in a New World that wished to put behind it the worst effects of unbridled idealism, as they showed themselves in the Reformation and Puritan excesses in England and Europe.
          The intent of the Declaration, though, (as in the works of Shakespeare) was not to deny the importance of the psychology of belief for individual citizens. Hence, in keeping with the relationship of Nature and God, the writers of the Declaration talk of the ‘Creator’ providing for individual human hopes and aspirations by guaranteeing ‘certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’. And the First Amendment of the Constitution was enacted in part to protect those who resorted to the psychology of theistic belief.
          The reference to ‘Nature’s God’ is the one mention of God by name in the Declaration. The only other allusion to a deity in the lives of ‘men’ is at the conclusion where ‘the Supreme Judge of the World’ is invoked to ensure the ‘rectitude of our intentions’. Again the Supreme Judge is evident through Natural Laws and Rights. Significantly, against Jefferson’s vehement objection, Congress then added the words ‘with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence’ to the Declaration. Jefferson retained his own version, which he would show in protest.
          Jefferson and his colleagues quarantined the iniquities in religious dogma by subjecting the beliefs based in the God of the Bible to the Laws of Nature. The plurality of the young American nation was guaranteed by relocating the male Gods of idealistic theisms within the laws of Mother Nature. Jefferson had correctly identified the removal of the male Gods of the Bible to their appropriate place in Nature’s logic as the primary logical requirement for a nation to exist in harmony and justice. (The wording in the Declaration recalls Shakespeare’s critique of the idealising Master Mistress in the Sonnets. The male as Master Mistress, who is second to the female as Mistress, is governed by Nature as the sovereign mistress.)

    The Constitution and the First Amendment

    The Declaration’s determination to remove the theistic God from political power is given direct expression in the Constitution. No mention is made of the idea of God in the seven Articles of the Constitution or the ten Amendments of the Bill of Rights. Instead, in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, the logical divide between the State and the Church is stipulated. The express intention is to forbid any one religion from becoming the religion of the nation. As with the Declaration, though, the right for any individual to exercise their psychological right to believe what they will is defended, on condition that their religion is second to the logic of the State based in Nature.

    Amendment 1
    Freedom of religion, speech, and the press;
    rights of assembly and petition

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.

          A comment is added in the World Book from which the above text was taken.

    Many countries have made one religion the established (official) church and supported it with government funds. This amendment forbids Congress to set up or in any way provide for an established church. It has been interpreted to forbid government endorsement of, or aid to, religious doctrines. Congress may not pass any laws limiting worship, speech, or the press, or preventing people from meeting peacefully. (1)
    The Declaration of Independence and the Articles and Amendments of the American Constitution create a nation in which no religion can become the established power of the State but in which all religions have freedom of expression and assembly. The obvious intention and effect is that if any religion (all the major religions prioritise the male God over the female) were to assume control, the consequence would be a return to intolerance and so to sectarian bloodletting.
          Of immediate interest then is the logical status of the structure or framework provided for by the Constitution, which has successfully contained the sectarian tendencies of the multitude of religious denominations active in the United States of America. The issue is a profound one for a country whose citizens frequently voice their belief in a male God, even when the belief leads to bizarre expressions of self-interest. It is not uncommon for Americans to thank their God for small miracles but excuse him the responsibility of overwhelming disasters, natural or man-made. And, despite the injunction of the First Amendment, theistic practices, such as prayers in schools and in Congress, have accrued political sanction in American public life.
          What, then, is the logic of the structure of the Constitution that guarantees a peaceful co-existence in a veritable Babel of beliefs. If the intent of Jefferson and others was to base their nation in the Laws of Nature, a philosophy is required to articulate the natural logic of their hopes at the mythic level.

    Beyond singular mythologies to Shakespeare’s mythic logic

    Other than for the philosophy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, there is no philosophic system based in Nature with the appropriate logical structure that fulfils the pluralistic expectations of the Constitution. All other philosophies in some measure explicitly or tacitly conform to the idealistic programme of the Judeo/Christian paradigm or, having rejected the illogicality of such beliefs, espouse if not scepticism then at least pragmatism.
          The Constitution as it stands is a very pragmatic document that outlines the role of Congress, the Executive and the Judiciary. Other than for the Declaration of Independence, and the First Amendment, it creates a bare framework under which the various belief systems and moral attitudes of the nation are then constrained to co-exist.
          Somewhat ironically, the Declaration and Constitution are enshrined in Philadelphia and Washington, effectively superseding the biblical Commandments or the dogmas of the Churches. And Jefferson is regarded as the political, poetic and spiritual father of the nation. Americans look to the founding documents as if they were more than abstract principles even though they might wish their own religious beliefs had priority.
          If the acknowledgement of the logical relation of Nature and God was integral to the establishment of the nation, then the current level of religious belief across the nation seems retrograde. But because the Declaration and the Constitution do not elaborate on the pan-mythic intent to establish a nation under the ‘Laws of Nature’, is not surprising that the populace seeks psychological consolation in the old mythologies.
          The continued belief by many Americans in the illogicality of biblical transcendence has coincided with the absence of an expressive elaboration of a logico/mythic basis for the Constitution. And the absence of a philosophic paradigm capable of doing justice to the intent of the founding documents and providing for the mythic needs of citizens has created a vacuum in which constant public avowal in the old beliefs is required.
          Compared with the retrograde persistence of biblical dogma within the American culture, the interest in Shakespeare’s plays is growing exponentially. Whereas once only a select few plays were acted irregularly, there is now a virtual competition to stage or film every play, even those plays once considered traditionally obscure or offensive to the old beliefs.
          The growing recognition that the works of Shakespeare have a mythic resonance for the modern spirit, suggests his works contain an understanding that might develop the abstract guarantees of the Constitution into a consistent expression of mythic logic. When it is realised that Shakespeare’s Sonnets articulate the philosophy behind all his plays and longer poems, and that the philosophy articulates the logical conditions for any mythic possibility, the significance of the philosophy for the contemporary pluralistic American society should be evident.
          The mythic depth of Shakespeare’s plays has been acknowledged by a number of commentators. The plays have frequently been compared with the Bible for their profundity of insight into the psychology of the human condition. Many commentators prefer the works of Shakespeare because they lack the self-serving dogma of the male-based Bible. They are aware that Shakespeare’s works, with their true to life characterisations, faithfully represent the dynamic of life and art.
          Until the discovery and elaboration of his Sonnet philosophy in these four volumes, the relationship between the works of Shakespeare and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution has been restricted to the allusions made to him or his works by thinkers such as Jefferson, Emerson, and Thoreau. It is not surprising, though, that the efforts of the thinkers of the American revolution created a framework that expressed a more consistent attitude toward humankind’s place in Nature, and simultaneously enacted Articles and Amendments that forbade any religion, and particularly the male-God based religions, from any association with the State. Since the late 1700s, however, there has been no development of their insights into the logic of life and the illogicality of male-based beliefs.
          The tendency in American philosophy to look to Nature for succour, especially in the natural philosophy of Emerson or Thoreau, has been overly romantic in its rejection of idealism. Shakespeare’s logic in contrast shows precisely how to contextualise the romantic and idealist temperaments within the mythic logic of life. But because commentators have gravitated to either an idealist or romantic approach to myth, Shakespeare’s articulation of the logical conditions for all human thought out of Nature has remained insuperably difficult for them to understand.

    A pluralistic society in a pluralistic world

    Jefferson gave physical expression to the disestablishment of theism when he designed the University of Virginia. By insisting the University be funded by the State, and by putting its library instead of a chapel at the centre of the campus, he created the world’s first secular university.
          And 200 years previously, Shakespeare and his colleagues had staged plays across the Thames to escape religious intolerance. In all his plays Shakespeare argues against the injustices that arise when the idealising tendency in humankind overreaches the logic evident in Nature. Each play begins with a situation of gross psychological posturing and ends with the restoration of philosophic balance. To demonstrate the applicability of his logic to a complete social dynamic his characters range from kings and cardinals to lovers and beggars, any of who is capable of destructive self-delusion.
          Because Shakespeare’s plays and poems express a consistent mythic philosophy, which specifically addresses the negative consequences for individuals and societies that exhibit excessive religious idealism, they seem purpose made for a society in which the intentions of the founding documents are so often subsumed in an excessive faith in religious transcendence. The Sonnet philosophy, and its practical exercise in 40 plays and poems, provides a natural antidote to the psychological excesses of malebased faith. As the most profound and extensive set of deliberations on the logic of myth out of Nature ever written, the plays give detail and colour to Jefferson’s bare intention to ensure Church and State are separated for the good of the State.
          The present legislative status of the Constitution proscribes religious hegemony so that the logical inconsistencies behind the mythological beliefs of the Hebrews, the Christians, the Muslims, and others, are controlled to ensure their peaceful co-existence within the State. But, because of the headstrong tendency of theism to place itself above the Constitution, the advantage of having a comprehensive mythic philosophy that provides an overview of all mythic possibilities should be obvious.
          The works of Shakespeare not only foreshadow the framework of the Constitution as an abstract of the natural logic of life but, by recovering the status of Nature as logically female and the priority of the female over the male, and by generating a consistent understanding of aesthetics and ethics, they give added legitimacy to the Constitution, and enhance its philosophic potential as a mythic recourse that can mitigate the psychological differences in a society that accommodates competing beliefs.

    Epilogue

    The global world has not yet caught up with the pluralistic philosophy of Shakespeare. But neither has it appreciated the mythic logic in the art of Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp, a naturalised American of the twentieth century, is the only other artist to create work at the mythic level and note the logical conditions of its operation. Duchamp’s pervasive influence on American and world cultures is considered elsewhere in this volume.

    References

    1 See 'Constitution of the United States', World Book Encyclopedia, Chicago, World Book Inc., pp. 996-1016. Back


    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005


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    THE SONNET PHILOSOPHY   +   SONNET COMMENTARIES    +   PLAY COMMENTARIES   +   SHAKESPEARE @ LOVE . NATURE
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