Addendum to Chapter 2
of William Shakespeare and the Psalter of Fire
In Chapter 2-A of William Shakespeare and the Psalter of Fire, we will present the Mystical Ladder of the Psalms Structures, and show that Shakespeare is in full dialogue with the Ladder in his Sonnets.
However, the individual Psalms that make the Ladder also rearrange themselves to show something else.
The individual Psalms of the Ladder separate and reconfigure themselves to show actual physical pre-natal growth: they show the growing child, the baby fetus, in the expanding womb.
Shakespeare is aware of this hidden dimension of the Psalm Structures. His Sonnets that make commentary on the Ladder also speak of the growing womb of a pregnant woman, just like the reconfigured Ladder Psalms do.
This Addendum also goes well with the introductory essay on the Psalm Structures. However, it is being written now to show how Shakespeare is aware of this mystical reality of the Bible, and his knowledge of this is being intentionally patterned into his Sonnets.
Now we shall present this embryonic human growth that is hidden in the Psalms. To refresh one’s memory of the Mystical Psalms Ladder and its individual Psalms, here again is a link to the introductory essay on this material regarding the Mystical Psalm Structures: https://www.academia.edu/16106922/The_Mystical_Psalm_Structures
Seeing the Growing Womb
as Imaged by the Ladder Psalms
The growing womb, safe within the spherical abdomen, is easy to see. Psalm 84, which is the central Psalm of the Pillar and the Ladder, is also the central Psalm of the Growing Womb.
The ancient Israelites used a lunar calendar, in which the months are 28 days each, and because these are shorter than months of the solar calendar, the ancients considered pregnancy to be 10 months.
So with Psalm 84 as the beginning and center of this growth, we shall see expanding concentric circles expanding out from Psalm 84. These expanding concentric circles represent the growing “sphere” of the womb, and of the pregnant woman’s abdomen. The first concentric circle, and the first month of the 10 months of pregnancy, are formed by Psalms 78 and 90, the closest Ladder Psalms to 84. (Each pair of Psalms that form a new larger circle around the center shall be discussed below.)
Psalms 72 and 96 form the next of the expanding concentric circles. Psalms 66 and 102 are the next equidistant pair centered upon 84.
Psalms 60 and 108 form a striking pair indeed, because 2/3 of each Psalm is identical to each other. They are like twins.
Psalms 54 and 114 are the next of the expanding circles, followed by Psalms 48 and 120.
Psalms 42 and 126 form yet another amazing pair. Like Psalm 84, the numbers of these 2 Psalms are multiples of both 21 and 6, and so they are both Ladder Psalms and Pillar Psalms. Psalm 42 speaks of the difficult forced journey into the Babylonian Captivity, and Psalm 126 celebrates the radically joyful return from that captivity.
Psalms 36 and 132 are the next pair, followed by 30 and 138.
Psalms 24 and 144 are the 10th and final concentric circle/lunar month. This pair is especially appropriate as the final pair, as shall be discussed below.
Thus, 21 of the 25 Ladder Psalms appear in the Mystical Psalm Structure that is the Growing Womb. (Ladder Psalms 6, 12, 18, and 150 seem not to appear in the Growing Womb structure, at least not initially.)
Psalm 84: The Temple that is the Womb
One who is new to the Psalm Structures may see quickly why Psalm 84 could be considered the central Psalm of the entire Psalter. It is the central Psalm of the Ladder and Pillar, which are among the most important Psalm Structures. Yet Psalm 84 is also the central Psalm of the Growing Womb Psalm Structure.
Psalm 84 celebrates the temple as a goal of pilgrimage. It celebrates the temple, and the courtyards of the temple, and—remarkably—a mother bird flies into the temple, builds a nest, hatches her chicks, and raises her family there. So at the beginning of this stunning Psalm, the images and realities of temple, womb, home, and family merge together gloriously. We also have the awesome contrast of delicate life on Earth, compared with the large loving majesty of the divine.
[A note: At New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, swallows build nests on either side of the upper corners of the church’s front doors. It is a joy for monks, guests, and visitors each springtime to see the swallows return and raise new families there. Occasionally the birds come into the church and sing Vespers with us. I recall in those halcyon days, whenever we sang Psalm 84, everyone’s hearts expanded in happiness.]
Here are the first verses of Psalm 84:
How beloved are your dwelling places, YHWH Sabaoth!
My soul yearns and pines for the courtyards of YHWH, my heart and my flesh pray fervently to the Living God.
Even the bird finds its home, and the swallow a nest for her young,
At your altars, YHWH Sabaoth, my king and my God.* (See note below, after 10th Sphere.)
Verse 6 speaks of the valley becoming a joyful place of growth and springs. This could be an allusion to impregnation and the growth of the new life.
Psalm 84 has the only triple appearance of “ashre” among all the Psalms (there are a few Psalms that have double appearances of ashre, and more Psalms that have a single appearance). “Ashre” can mean both “blessed” and “happy.” The Greek equivalent of this joyful word begins each of the Beatitudes, Jesus’ real first public words of the Bible.
In Luke 1, when two pregnant women joyfully meet and embrace each other, Elizabeth will three times call Mary “happy” and “blessed.” Luke even mentions the number 84 when he discusses the Prophetess Anna, who is inside the temple!
Psalm 84 also speaks of proceeding from strength to strength. This is a verbal picture of the expanding concentric circles of the Growing Womb.
Psalm 84 also speaks of the sun, and it is the only time God is called the “sun” in the entire Bible. Mary is clothed with the sun in Revelation.
First Sphere: Psalms 78 and 90
Psalm 90 also has birds. People become birds and fly away as angels after their earthly sojourn.
Psalm 90 features the event when mountains are “born.” The notion of birth is older than humanity.
Here, in the first month of gestation, the Psalmist wonders at the lifespan of human beings, which is “70 years, 80 for those who are strong.”
Psalm 78, in equidistant orbit with Psalm 90, around Psalm 84, also mentions birds. The first three Psalms of this Psalm Structure have mentioned flyers. In Psalm 78 there is much talk of many generations of people. It also mentions the “firstborn.”
Psalm 78 also mentions maidens and nursing ewes.
Second Sphere: Psalms 72 and 96
Psalm 72 continues the talk of generations of people, and actually mentions Jesse, David, and Solomon, who represent three generations of a family.
Notably in Psalm 72, the wonderful leader of Israel is concerned with the life of every person in the land, including the foreigners, and the indigenous people who were there before him. The leader of Israel is concerned with equal Justice for every single person. Such is the wonder and divine love for each and every human life.
Nature herself responds to the blessedness of this state by yielding abundant harvests to a happy humanity.
In Psalm 96, nature is again joyful, because God has come to dwell on earth. This may sound like the Incarnation. It is certainly a “type,” a forerunner of the Incarnation. This glorious Psalm begins, “Sing to the Lord a new song!”
Third Sphere: Psalms 66 and 102
Likewise, Psalm 66 begins with singing to God, and a joyful unification of the earth, as in Psalm 96. The happiness of the earth may well represent a mother glowing with new life within.
Psalm 66 also says, “You placed constraint upon our loins.” This is the third month of pregnancy, and the mother is beginning to feel the weight of her new child!
Psalm 66 has near its end a pair of words regarding “prayer,” and its partner, Psalm 102, begins with a pair of the same word regarding “prayer.” The mother is dreaming of the future for her child, and praying for God’s blessing upon the child.
Psalm 102 has multiple double-repetitions of the word “generations,” another theme of this series.
And this Psalm has three different words for birds!
The Psalmist shows concern for even the stones and dust of Jerusalem, as the pregnant mother is and will be concerned for every facet of her child’s being. Psalm 102 ends with a discussion of children.
Fourth Sphere: Psalms 60 and 108
As if to emphasize that they are a pair, Psalms 60 and 108 are largely identical.
Psalm 60 says to God, “You breached us . . . you have made the land quake, you have cleft it!.” This is the fourth month of pregnancy (lunar calendar) and the mother may be feeling even more the changes occurring in her body. In the latter part of both Psalms, God is quite rude to other lands too. Perhaps all of this shock and discomfort has to do with the developments that the mother is undergoing, caused not by God but by the little baby within.
The word for “breach” mentioned above is “peraztanu,” which is cognate with name Perez. We shall discuss this below in Psalm 144.
All this talk about changes in the land could also mean that the small sphere of the baby in the mother’s abdomen is becoming more visible.
Psalm 108 has a different beginning than Psalm 60. Psalm 108 presents more of the positive aspects of the developing pregnancy. The awesome love of God is understood to be higher than the heavens, and it reaches to the clouds. For the mother, it also reaches deep within, to the tiny being in her womb.
In both Psalms, God makes promises from his sanctuary/temple.
Fifth Sphere: Psalms 54 and 114
Psalm 114 speaks of Egypt, the mother, giving birth to young Israel. This is parallel to the first page of Exodus, where we see Israel physically teeming inside Egypt, just like a baby grows larger in the womb. Israel will remain unintelligent and unthinking until after they are born and must live life (represented by the forty years in the desert).
Once again, the earth trembles. Mountains skip like rams, and the hills leap like young lambs (literally, “sons of the flock”). Perhaps the baby is beginning to leap in the womb.
In Psalm 54, David is hiding among a people. David is good at getting people to protect and look out for each other. Those influenced by David grow in compassion.
Sixth Sphere: Psalms 48 and 120
Jerusalem is celebrated in Psalm 48, which also mentions the temple. Here, we indeed have the mother in the second half of her pregnancy, and she is carrying Jerusalem inside her. The daughters of Judah are rejoicing (this is an allusion also to Tamar, who shall be discussed below).
And this Psalm has a woman in labor! The men who advance upon Jerusalem in enemy armies see Jerusalem, and go into labor pains! Perhaps this means that men too have to change, in order to become better husbands and fathers.
It is interesting that in Psalm 120, the Psalmist is far away from his beloved Jerusalem, and longs to return to her.
Seventh Sphere: Psalms 42 and 126
Psalm 126 discusses sowing seed. There is also the harvest, and the joyful people return with their arms full—sheaves of the crops, or, a newborn baby. This is looked forward to, as we have the word “dream” in verse 1.
Psalm 42 says “deep calleth unto deep.” The mother is communing quietly and deeply with the child within.
Eighth Sphere: Psalms 36 and 132
Psalm 132 is perfect for this series. It is full of special language for “temple,” including “house,” “dwelling place” and an obvious allusion to the “ark” of the covenant. David is promised generations of sons who will sit upon his throne. A “horn” shall sprout for David. “I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one.” This is a clear reference to the menorahs, which represent children and family also.
Psalm 36 again refers to flight, as “all people take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” There is a feast at a house, a “river of delights,” and a “fountain of life.” Given the context, this “fountain of life” could be the mother.
And there is the remarkable strophe, “In your light we see light.” The pregnant mother knows more of God and the Holy Spirit.
Ninth Sphere: Psalms 30 and 138
At the beginning of Psalm 30, God draws and lifts the person up from a deep place. This is an image birth, which is fast approaching as the pregnancy nears its natural next stage: the time of labor. At the end of the Psalm, God places beautiful clothes on the Psalmist, as the parents will do for the newborn child. Mourning is turned to joy, as the mother and child (and father) all endure the trial of the birth event, to the joy of the new life brought into the world.
Psalm 138 begins by saying “I will praise you among the Elohim”: the “Elohim” could be 1) powerful people, 2) angels on high, or 3) God Godself.
As Ladder Psalms, 138 and 144 form the top rung of the Ladder, above which is Psalm 150, the heavens. So there is the feeling of ascent here, as the Psalmist is at the tip-top of the Ladder; this is supported by the language of the Psalm, which clearly says, “I will praise you among the Elohim,” which could certainly be in what we might call the “heavens.”
In their role as a part of the 9th circle-sphere of the Growing Womb, Psalms 30 and 138 both have a strong sense of ascending motion. Psalm 30 moves from Sheol (shadowy afterlife, an underworld through which all pass) up to a restoration of healthy life on Earth. Psalm 138 moves from life on Earth up to a place in the choir in heaven, praising God.
In this penultimate month of pregnancy, the child in the womb looks even more like a babe, like a small human person. And the pair of Psalms of this Sphere trace the entire trajectory of this new creation: Interpreting freely, Psalm 30’s shadowy underworld is the mysterious 10 months (lunar months) of life in the womb. As the midwife, or father, brings the baby, at birth, from the birth canal into the light of day, so does God lift up the Psalmist of Psalm 30 into life. And this is merely the beginning of the journey. The path of this child will lead her or him to grow and, as the Psalmist of 138 does, express a desire to praise God before the angels and before God Godself, Elohim. In God’s time, this desire that we sing in 138 shall blossom into reality, as we all join in song in paradise.
A final note on this Sphere: Psalm 138 is next to Psalm 139, which speaks of life inside the womb. The Psalmist, now looking back via memory and imagination, says, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” This young child is almost born, this amazing process of God’s “knitting” the youngster is nearly done, at least in the womb. An entire life of growth awaits.
And this “knitting” can be seen in yet another literary connection between Psalms 30 and 138. The last word of Psalm 30 is “odeka,” which can mean “praise” or “thank.” The first word of Psalm 138 is the same word exactly, “odeka.”
Tenth Sphere: Psalms 24 and 144
Like the 9th Sphere, the 10th Sphere celebrates radical birth, and also the glorious growth that happens after birth, in life on earth. One of the marvels of Psalm 144 is that we see a paired mention of both daughters and sons here. Their appearance is complimentary. The sons are imaged as young trees, and the daughters as pillars in a house, palace, or temple.
Although the growth of young beings is clearly evident, so is the fact of birth: In Psalm 144, thousands and tens-of-thousands of sheep and cattle are being born in the joyful fields.
Yet there is a human birth too, a very special birth.
Here we have the opportunity to mention Perez, and the Red Line of Hope. The verb PRZ in Hebrew means “to breach,” and the baby twin Perez is given his name in Genesis 38 because he has made a breach and a path, which his younger brother Zerah will follow in a few moments, and the twins shall be welcomed by their mother, Tamar. Recall that at the end of John’s Gospel, much emphasis is placed upon Thomas, whose name in Hebrew, Ta’am, means “twin.” To emphasize this, John calls attention to it by giving Thomas an extra Greek nickname: Didymus, which also means “twin.”
After Tamar, the three women of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) who make up the Red Line of Hope are Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba.
Perez, the “breachmaker,” has a reminder of his name make a rare Psalms appearance in Psalm 144:14, with the word “breach,” in this Psalm about birth and children.
When Perez is born in Genesis 38, it is one of the most amazing deliveries on record. Zerah, his brother, stuck his hand out first, and the midwife tide a red thread in a circle around his wrist. Then the hand disappeared back into the womb, and his brother Perez came out first. So the Red Line of Hope literally is born from the womb of Tamar.
The name of Perez or his brother will appear in or near the stories of Rahab and Ruth, the next two women of the Red Line of Hope. Cognates of “perez” will appear in the David story, not far from Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon.
But the name of Perez also appears almost instantly at the beginning of the New Testament, as he is literally mentioned in the 3rd verse of the New Testament, in Matthew 1:3. In fact, all four women of the Red Line of Hope (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba) are mentioned in the first six verses of the New Testament; the first three women are named, and Bathsheba is clearly alluded to as the wife “of Uriah.”
Why are these twin babies, and the 4 women of the Red Line of Hope, mentioned as the first reality of the New Testament? Because Matthew’s Genealogy opens his Gospel and leads to Mary and the birth of Jesus Christ. Mary and the birth of Jesus are a conclusion to the Red Line of Hope.
The 10 circles of the Growing Womb of the Psalms, this Expanding Sphere of the Mother’s belly, represents the Old Testament, and human history, leading to the birth of Jesus at the first Christmas. The Nativity. (The word “Nativity” appears in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60.)
John’s Gospel speaks of a pregnant woman, and the time of birth, in Jesus’ farewell discourse.
As mentioned above, Luke’s early chapters are full of pregnant women. Luke especially celebrates the woman as the temple. On the 8th Day after the Nativity, the Holy Family goes into the temple. Metaphorically, the old stone temple comes to life in the elderly persons of Anna and Simeon. They represent and speak for the joyful temple, which has accomplished its mission in the Holy Family and young Jesus. Simeon sings the Nunc Dimittis, which Christian religious sing before bed each night. It means that his work is done, and the Lord can dismiss him, and he can die a happy death. The old temple of Jerusalem did its work in welcoming Jesus into the world. Mary is the new temple, the new Ark. The temple would last only a few decades after Jesus.
As Paul says repeatedly, “You are the temple of God.” And he says, “You are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.” The Shekinah (Presence of God) left the temple. God’s Spirit now dwells directly among humanity.
*(From above in Psalm 84) Similar terms used in humanity’s addressing God are at the beginning and end of the Book of Psalms and John’s Gospel. See Psalm 5 and 145, and John 1 (the shocked Nathanael) and 20 (the shocked doubting Thomas). Surah 114, the final Surah of the Qur’an, is in profound dialogue with these pairs of divine-human descriptors at the beginning and end of the Psalms (Zabur) and Gospel (Injeel) of John, and also in the center of the Psalms in Psalm 84.
There is not time here to discuss this more fully, but here are the pertinent verses:
John 20:28 (Initially, this was in the final verses of John’s Gospel, before Chapter 21 was added later.)
Surah 114:1, 2, 3 (The Qur’an beautifully and rightly sees the human heart as the place where our relationship with God can grow, a spiritual womb.)
Additionally, a revolution happens in Psalm 84. In the equidistant “twin” Psalms 60 and 108, discussed above, God considers humanity to be the Beloved, “yedidekah.” This is how humanity is sometimes addressed by God. This is the root of David’s name. Additionally, Solomon is given an extra name by God, Jedidiah, signifying that he is beloved to God. In the New Testament, Jesus is likewise called “Beloved” by God.
However, in the Psalm 84, the most amazing reversal happens. Humanity is the lover, and God is the Beloved, as if God is become a little baby.
And “The Bible, the Qur’an, and Science,” by Maurice Bucaille, mentions how the Qur’an also has amazing insights into the formation of a baby in the womb, centuries before scientific knowledge made such realities better understood.
Two Ways of Imaging the Growing Womb
. . 42
. . 48
. . . 54
. . . 60
. . . . 66
. . . . 72
. . . . . 78
. . . . . 84
. . . . . 90
. . . . 96
. . . . 102
. . . 108
. . . 114
. . 120
. . 126
Note that the growth of the womb expands from right to left, which is the Hebrew way of proceeding on the page. It is good for us to experience how the Hebrew mind can think differently.
And here is another way:
If this resembles a Christmas Tree, that may be a joyful plan of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 84, at the top of the tree, mentions the heavenly hosts, the angels.
Additionally, the arduous pilgrimage recounted in Psalm 84 brings one to the conclusion and high point of the trip, the arrival at the top of Mount Zion, and the temple/womb.
Additionally, Psalm 24, the first Pregnancy Psalm, and the furthest away from Psalm 84, asks questions about who is worthy to ascend the mountain and experience the temple. Psalm 84 is the temple, the womb.