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BOOK REVIEWS 479 as to what the Arabs knew or what they thought. Bayard Dodge's careful, somewhat literal translation now puts this wealth of information af the fingertips of the nonArabist . The extensive notes and indices provided should help in securing this work its well-deserved place on the reference shelf of the historian of philosophy, allowing him to replace the too often heard banalities about the "passage of philosophy into Europe" with trenchant specifics based upon primary research. LENN EVAN GOODMAN University of Hawaii Hamlet's Mill: An Essay on Myth and the Frame o[ Time. By Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha yon Dechend. (Boston: Gambit Press, 1969. Pp. xxv+ 505. $10.00) The authors, both seasoned historians of science, have concocted a book that reads like Velikovsky bouncing along the Road to Xanadu. Their thesis is that certain archaic societies in the Far East, Middle East and South America possessed a profound knowledge of the kinematics, if not the dynamics, of astronomy, and that this knowledge, entailing "prodigious feats of concentration and computing," was encoded in their respective mythologies. "The gods are really stars . . .; all the stories, characters and adventures narrated by mythology concentrate on the active powers among the stars, who are the planets . . ."; Hephaistos trapping Aphrodite and Ares in a net refers to "a conjunction of Mars and Venus . . . in the Pleiades"; Phaeton's scorching trip represents a planetary deviation, "a destruction, occurring at long intervals, of things On earth by a great conflagration." Max Mtiller and George Cox in the last century and Leo Frobenius in this held similar views on the correspondence between mythic narratives and celestiaI phenomena; Marcel Griaule's more recent work among the Dogon and Dr. yon Dechend's own study of Polynesian myths are cited here to show that present-day preliterate societies--in the manner of "our great scientific ancestors"--are also disguising esoteric cosmogonies under innocent stories of gods and heroes. This archaic astronomical monomyth, diffused from China to Peru, no longer exists in its pristine integrity but has to be painfully teased out of the flotsam and jetsam that surfaces sporadically in chronicles, epics and latter-day literary myths, and it is to this task that the authors address themselves. The result is unconvincing. Erudite references are heaped together with too little attention to designing a credible argument; tenuous associations are passed off as sensational and indubitable proofs: there is much sleight-of-hand with etymologies; passages in epics are eccentrically explicated to yield the desired interpretation. Though Jung might well have sponsored this enterprise, the authors sneer at both brands of depth psychology. Nor do fellow mythologists fare much better: Dum6zil, L6vi-Strauss and Joseph Campbell are not so much as mentioned, and Cassirer is dismissed in a few ill-natured paragraphs. But what is most exasperating about the book is the authors' coy way of paying out their findings. Just as a train of argument is about to come to the point, a digression is maddeningly introduced to heighten the suspense; the startling promises of topic sentences and paragraphs somehow never get realized in the tangle of forced facts and dubious speculations that follow. To be sure, the book is full of fascinating items of learning and now and then an arresting idea emerges, but these tidbits hardly compensate for the frailty of the thesis and the overly calculated exposition. ALBERT B. FRIEDMAN Claremont Graduate School ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
p. 479
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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