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Shakespeare: Genius, Impostor, or Medium?

Posted on 17 September 2018, 7:43

Much has been written about the possibility that William Shakespeare (below) didn’t author the works credited to him, that he was, in effect, an impostor.  The subject is dealt with most recently in September/October issue of “Atlantis Rising” Magazine, in an article entitled “The Men & The Women Who Put Shakespeare Together,” by Steven Sora.  “William Shakespeare did not write the works attributed to him,” Sora asserts, going on to say that strong evidence now indicates that a handful of much more educated men and at least one woman penned the sonnets and plays.


In making the case against Shakespeare, Sora points out that Shakespeare could not write and that even his children and grandchildren were illiterate.  When he died, there was no indication that he owned any books, notes, correspondence, or copies of plays. Sora adds that Oxford scholar James Wilmot moved to Warwickshire, near Shakespeare’s home, during the 1780s to collect stories and write a biography on him, but came up with nothing and eventually came to the conclusion that Sir Francis Bacon was the true author of the works credited to Shakespeare.  Unlike Shakespeare, Bacon was well educated, versed in languages, and wrote many historical and philosophical essays. 

Sora also mentions other candidates, including Roger Manners, the Earl of Rutland, Christopher Marlowe, a leading literary figure of the day, and Mary Sidney Herbert, the second Countess of Pembroke. Various websites suggest as many as 80 other candidates, including Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby.  But why wouldn’t these people claim credit for themselves?  According to Sora, writing for the stage in Elizabethan England was considered beneath the dignity of the elite class. In fact, playwrights were often arrested for satire and possibly treasonous works.


If Wikipedia is to be believed, only a few Shakespeare scholars and literary historians give any weight to the possibility that Shakespeare did not write the works credited to him.  The vast majority see it as a fringe belief.  It is mentioned there that the lack of documentary proof of Shakespeare’s education is often part of the anti-Shakespeare arguments, but that the free King’s New School in Stratford was only a half-mile from Shakespeare’s boyhood home and could have provided an intensive education in Latin grammar, the classics, and rhetoric at no cost.

So the majority see Shakespeare as the genius history has made him to be, while a minority claims he was an impostor.  However, there is a third possibility that is likely much too fringe for scholarly consideration – that is, Shakespeare was an automatic-writing medium and took dictation from the spirit world.  In fact, in his 1917 book, Spirit Intercourse: Its Theory and Practice, psychical researcher James Hewat McKenzie states that information derived from spirit sources holds that Shakespeare was a medium and received the works from Euripides, the Greek tragedian, and that Francis Bacon collaborated with Shakespeare in the endeavor.  McKenzie does not provide any information as to the spirit sources or the medium through whom these alleged spirits communicated, nor does he explain how Bacon collaborated with Shakespeare.  Thus, his explanation is hardly evidential or convincing.

However, when we consider the cases of both Patience Worth and the Glastonbury Scripts, the spirit explanation does not seem all that far fetched.  And there are many other cases of mediumship and “overshadowing” that contribute to a belief that much creativity comes through the minds of humans from the spirit world. 

Over a period of some 24 years, from 1913 to 1937, Patience Worth would produce approximately four million words, including seven books, some short stories, several plays, thousands of poems, and countless epigrams and aphorisms. She would be acclaimed a literary genius – her works compared with Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Spenser. She was called a wit, a poet, a dramatist, and a philosopher by literary experts of the day. 

Of her book, Hope Trueblood, a reviewer for Lady’s Pictorial of London offered:  “[This book] will stand as a landmark of fiction by a new writer, who will take a prominent place among great writers.” A New York Tribune review of Hope Trueblood called it a work “approximating absolute genius.” A Chicago Mail reviewer referred to the author as a “master word builder.”

Patience’s most celebrated work, The Sorry Tale, a 644-page, 325,000 word novel about the last days of Jesus, was released in June 1917. In its review of the book, The National wondered how the mysterious story-teller became familiar with the scent and sound and color and innumerable properties of Oriental market places and wildernesses, of Roman palaces, and halls of justice. The New York Globe stated that it exceeded Ben Hur and Quo Vadis as “a quaint realistic narrative.” The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch opined that no other book gives one so clear a view of customs, manners, and character of the peoples of the time and place.

Some readers of her books may have thought that Patience Worth was alive in the flesh, when, in fact, she had been “dead” for several centuries.  Her words were dictated through the mediumship of Pearl Curran, an American housewife with only an elementary school education, living in St. Louis, Missouri and never having traveled beyond Chicago. 

As journalist Casper Yost, who was present when much of The Sorry Tale was dictated by Patience Worth, explained, the story was begun without any previous knowledge on the part of Pearl Curran of the time and conditions of Palestine beyond what is revealed in the New Testament. Yet, the story goes far beyond what might be gleaned from the New Testament. “In one evening, 5,000 words were dictated, covering the account of the crucifixion,” Yost reported.

Professor Roland Greene Usher, dean of history at Washington University, called The Sorry Tale “the greatest story of Christ penned since the Gospels were finished.” He pointed out that the book was written in seventeenth-century English with no anachronisms.  It was noted by Prince that Pearl Curran was not raised in a religious family, and although confirmed in the Episcopal Church, she claimed that she had never read the Bible through and through.

W. T. Allison, professor of English literature at the University of Manitoba, observed that Patience Worth dictated words found only in Melton’s time and some of them had no meaning until researched in dialectic dictionaries and old books. Allison, who closely observed Curran, reported that in one evening 15 poems were produced in an hour and 15 minutes, an average of five minutes for each poem. “All were poured out with a speed that Tennyson or Browning could never have hoped to equal, and some of the 15 lyrics are so good that either of those great poets might be proud to have written them,” Allison offered. He went on to say that Patience Worth “must be regarded as the outstanding phenomenon of our age, and I cannot help thinking of all time.”

Curran’s limited education and travel were totally inconsistent with theories of conscious fraud or subconscious memories. English scholars struggled with some of the archaic Anglo-Saxon language. In one of her novels, Patience dictated, “I wot he fetcheth in daub-smeared smock.” Even in the early 1900s, the word “fetch” was rarely used, but when used it meant to “go and get” someone or something. Patience used it as synonymous with “came” or “cometh,” which philologists confirmed as the word’s original meaning.

So if Pearl Curran actually took dictation from Patience Worth in the spirit world, why couldn’t Shakespeare take dictation from Euripides?  The significant difference here is that Pearl Curran did not take credit for the books.  Patience Worth was listed as the author even though she had died several centuries earlier.

As for the “collaboration” aspect involving Bacon, it should be kept in mind that much of the research in mediumship indicates that the medium and/or the person sitting with the medium must be en rapport with the spirit communicator.  There must be a “sympathetic link” of some kind between them.  Such a link must have existed between Pearl Curran and Patience Worth but not between Captain John Allan Bartlett and the spirits of Glastonbury.  Bartlett, an automatic writing medium, received little or nothing from the spirits of the Glastonbury monks until Frederick Bligh Bond, the excavator of the Glastonbury ruins, placed two fingers on top of Bartlett’s hand as he wrote, thereby adding either psychic power and/or a sympathetic link.  In this way, Bartlett and Bond “collaborated” in receiving message from the early inhabitants of Glastonbury Abbey as to where to dig and in giving them the layout of the old abbey foundation.  Whether this “combined psychic energy” is the “collaboration” Bacon had with Shakespeare is a matter of speculation, but it seems like a reasonable possibility, at least reasonable to the open-minded person who is familiar with the research in this field.   

Consideration should also be given to the case of Rosemary Brown, a widowed London housewife who, beginning in 1964, purportedly received compositions from the spirits of many great composers, including Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart, Chopin, Bach, and Debussy.  Although Brown had taken some piano lessons, she had no real talent and was unacquainted with the technicalities of writing notes.  Mediumistic since her childhood, Brown received a message from Liszt via automatic writing in which he said that a group of composers from the spirit world would be using her to dictate new compositions through her by means of automatic writing.  “You have sufficient training for our purposes,” Liszt told her.  “Had you been given a really full musical education it would have been no help to us at all.”  He further explained that a full musical background would have been an impediment to them as she would have had too many theories and ideas of her own that they might not have been able to overcome.

Applying Liszt’s explanation to Shakespeare and Bacon, we might conclude that Euripides required a less-educated mind than that of Bacon in order to get his words through without distortion, and Shakespeare filled the bill. 

Yes, that calls for even more speculation, but it makes as much or more sense to me than does an uneducated man with no library at all writing the works attributed to Shakespeare, or Bacon or some other educated person writing all the “works” and passing it all on to Shakespeare to take credit for.  I’m not sure where that leaves Shakespeare.  If it was his hand but not his mind, does that make him an impostor?

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post:  October 1


Thanks to August, Rick, and Amos for the additional comments.

I might add that the group soul theory discussed here gets additional support from the story of Cora Scott Richmond, who was discussed in my blog entries of December 2, 2013 and December 16, 2013.  Her story may even exceed that of Pearl and Patience.  I tell her story again in the just-released November/December issue of Atlantis Rising magazine.

Scientists, scholars, ministers, and journalists were befuddled by young Cora.  One theory offered to explain her mediumship was called “psychological absorption,” which held that by merely putting her hand on a book or passing through a well-stocked library, Cora could absorb all knowledge stored in the book or in the library. At the same time, she would have had to discern it, organize it in her mind, and deliver it in a coherent and persuasive manner.  Another theory was that she was mind reading, drawing from the minds of all those present.  Still another far-fetched theory held that she was “en rapport” with the minds of eminent living men.
The skeptics were prepared to buy into anything but spirits of the dead, the explanation given by Cora, herself, or more accurately, through her lips while she was entranced.  It was explained through her vocal cords that there were 12 spirits having different gifts or phases of knowledge controlling her.  Some of these spirit guides were said to be from an ancient period and went unnamed, but several of them were from more modern times and were named.  They included Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Thomas Paine, Daniel Webster, and Thomas Jefferson.  It was reported that the utterances of Clay, Calhoun and Webster were readily recognized by people who knew them when alive.

Michael Tymn, Tue 25 Sep, 20:25

Finally, somebody agrees with me! One of my oldest friends, who was at the time, the President of a very influential Global Shakespeare Society—and also a well-known author of Shakespearean commentaries—which was often embroiled with other societies who sought to prove a different authorship. My first book, The Risen, was about to be released, and over lunch one day I shared with her my theory (which Spirit had brought to me) that the person who produced the works could very well have been a medium. Even though my friend knew of my mediumship and was open to it, my theory went completely unappreciated and was met with scornful scoffing. I have forwarded this blog to my friend, and it will be interested to see if there will be any response. I doubt it, as this person, as have many others,  has made a lucrative and famous career out of the the popular beliefs of who actually wrote the works.

August Goforth, Tue 25 Sep, 18:00

I want to go off topic somewhat before this thread closes.  Since you mentioned “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, that as you know is a comedy but the productions I have seen always perform it as some high-minded aristocratic somewhat boring show. Thinking about the “rude mechanicals”, I like to focus on the casting of the character “Titania” who, in the productions I have seen is cast as a delicate lithe beautiful little woman, a fairy queen who almost floats across the stage.
But I think that “TITANIA” is the key to some of the humor of that play. And since most or all of the characters in Shakespeare’s time were played by men, how hilarious it might be to cast “Titania” (daughter of the giant Titans) with a man, especially how rollickingly funny it would be to cast that character with a very large grossly obese bearded man, a ’hail fellow well met’ that everyone one in the tavern knew; a winebibber who was a backslapping friend of everyone.  I’d have him speak in a falsetto voice and bounce around the stage chasing after the donkey-headed Bottom as the audience of primarily men lifted their glasses of ale and got falling-down, out-of-their-minds drunk with ale and laughter. - AOD.

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 25 Sep, 13:44


You’re right that the plays don’t always give the impression of a single author. I’ve read that they have internal contradictions (I can’t recall any examples now); and individual plays contain wildly differing moods, ranging from sublime poetry to nearly vulgar comic scenes. Consider A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with its lovely summoning of Nature’s beauties, and the send-up of Pyramus and Thisbe performed by the “rude mechanicals.”

The most likely explanation is that the “real” author was the primary writer, but someone—acting company manager William Shakespeare?—tinkered with the scripts to add some cheap laughs for the groundlings.

I don’t find it credible that the plays were ad libbed by cast members, for the same reason I can’t see these profound works being the product of a businessman who ran a theater company. Professors pushing this orthodox view mostly lack the slightest experience of the actual world of stagecraft, and fail to understand how demanding and time consuming it is.

So who was “Shakespeare”? Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, had the background of a court insider plus the requisite philosophical and historical knowledge. He was also well traveled. But there are problems with the Oxford theory too. For one thing, he died in 1604, while the plays continued to be introduced for years afterward, and were not published until (some) appeared in the first folio of 1623.

It is easy to understand why Oxford might have wanted his authorship to remain anonymous during his lifetime, and to believe that his friends in high places would work to keep the secret. But why crown actor-manager Shakespeare with the byline almost 20 years after Oxford’s death?

After hundreds of years of scholars and other writers digging through every available bit of knowledge about Shakespeare/“Shakespeare,” it’s unlikely any new game-changing information will come to light. The greatest body of literature in the English language, and we’ll never know who to thank for it.

Rick Darby, Mon 24 Sep, 22:41

It is not a good idea to judge the past by the present but I wonder if writing plays during Shakespeare’s time was somewhat similar to writing movie scripts and television shows in our time.  Maybe, the plays were a group effort of sundry people of various abilities and backgrounds, including the actors of the plays who extemporarily ad-libbed a lot of the lines. If Shakespeare was not proficient at handwriting perhaps once the lines were agreed upon a stenographer was brought in to record the script for printing.

That might explain the plays but then there are the sonnets and poems.  I don’t think they could be written by group effort. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 24 Sep, 18:16

Of the scenarios this article outlines, the least likely is that “Shakespeare” wrote all plays and poetry ascribed to him. For the reasons you have noted and others, it almost defies credibility that a busy actor-manager would have known about the worlds that form the background of the plays.

It isn’t that we anti-Stratfordians are snobs who don’t think anyone of what we today would call a lower-middle-class background could be a genius. “Shakespeare” (the man from Stratford) probably was immensely talented in his way—he almost would have had to be to stage so many successful and popular plays. But the academics mired in groupthink cannot account for the insider knowledge of courts, the aristocracy, history, classics, geography, and languages (part of Henry V is written in French). Book learning can take you only so far. The Shakespeare author seems to me clearly a man not only with a deep education but one with an extensive first-hand knowledge of life in various social strata including the highest.

There is also the amazing lack of documentation of the life of a man who presumably would have been famous, at least in literary circles. We have his name on the title pages of the folios and the Martin Droeshout engraving (which could be anyone). That’s about it. The few contemporary references to him are legal documents irrelevant to his supposed plays and poetry.

Much more could be said along these lines, but anyone interested can find additional evidence.

But let’s turn to your suggested explanation about Shakespeare, or “Shakespeare,” as a conscious or unconscious medium. Until fairly recently I would have jibbed at something so far-out. Yet I no longer doubt that spirits can influence the living. In extreme cases, such as Pearl Curran transmitting novels and poetry by Patience Worth, it is hard to devise any other explanation to fit the facts.

At this late date, the Shakespeare-as-medium theory does have one unavoidable problem: it is unfalsifiable, that is, nothing can disprove it so no proof can be confidently claimed. But for brilliance as shown by Shakespeare, ordinary explanations are almost as hard to understand as extraordinary ones.

Rick Darby, Sun 23 Sep, 21:41

I think there might be a tendency to assume that once one enters into the spirit world one gains omniscience; that from that perspective one is able to see and know things which one could not know when in physical form.  Maybe there is some truth to that assumption but if it is true I don’t think that it is all encompassing.  That is, I don’t think spirits have the ability to know all things from all time about all people.

More likely, spirits are not too different from spirits that are incarnated in physical form in that once one achieves a higher position whether on the job, in society or in the afterlife, then one begins to overvalue one’s own opinions and some may even begin to pontificate their beliefs, from the high pulpit so to speak. Perhaps Patience Worth couldn’t help in her weak moments feeling that way too. Or she just might have wanted to accommodate people who presented questions to her and gave an answer which she thought would be clever and well received.

I tend to take what Patience Worth says with a grain of salt much in the same way I regard anything people say in life.  Maybe it is true but maybe not!  Patience was a little distant from Shakespeare’s life although she reportedly did live in the same century although not at the same time.  It is unlikely she read his plays, poems or sonnets and unlikely that she traveled to London or Stratford England to see any of his plays although she might have heard about them.

Pearl Curran thought Patience was around 30 years old when she arrived in the colonies so there wasn’t much time in England for her to do her chores and learn about Shakespeare and she never mentioned him in her ‘table talk’ about her life in England, such as it was.

It is interesting though that Patience Worth or Pearl Curran chose to write a play about Shakespeare set in his ‘lost years’, the time before he was 28 years old.  Since he reportedly married at 18 years old it might be that “The Elizabethan Mask” was written about a time period when Shakespeare was, say, 14-18 years old and travelling around the English countryside with his teenage buddies.

It is perplexing to conjecture how Pearl Curran, a woman with only a grade school formal education, who never read a Shakespeare play or poem and who said she fell asleep during two Shakespeare plays her mother took her to, whose leisure time was spent playing the piano, singing, reading magazines and going to movies, who never traveled abroad; how she could write a play about young Shakespeare in England of the 1500s in a style reminiscent of his works. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Sun 23 Sep, 17:26


Thanks for adding so much to the discussion. Your last entry about Patience commenting on Shakespeare makes me wonder why, just because she lived during the same time period, she would know Shakespeare and if she did, how she would know then whether both his brain and hand were producing the works or just his hand.  Or is it knowledge she has acquired on the Other Side?  Will we be able to get answers to all the unanswered mysteries of life, like did someone collaborate with Lee Harvey Oswald in the killing of JFK?  I’m not sure we get such answers, or if at that point we really care.

Michael Tymn, Sat 22 Sep, 21:24

It so happened that Patience Worth was asked by William Marion Reedy, publisher and editor of a St. Louis magazine called “Reedy’s Mirror” a weekly journal of opinions and literature, “Who wrote the Shakespeare plays?”  According to Irving Litvag in his book, “Singer in the Shadows: The Strange Story of Patience Worth” Reedy was a “skeptic, free-thinker, and non-believer” but a “sophisticated judge of poetry and art.”  Patience responded with a somewhat difficult-to-understand, perhaps convoluted comment which I think Reedy misinterpreted because of his limited understanding of Patience Worth’s use of the archaic language.

Patience answered, “Aye, Lawk!  He [Reedy] hath a taste o’ the brew o’ me and wisheth that I do deal o’ my brother’s brew!” meaning that Reedy had some interest in the writing of Patience and wanted to know if she knew anything about her contemporary’s [Shakespeare’s] work.

Patience continued, “What hath Earth but stones for him who walketh shoon o’ skins, sewn o’ thong and crusts”  I think she is saying by analogy that Shakespeare’s life on earth was beset with impediments and the things of earth as she described his path fraught with stones as he walked in shoes made of skins [leather] sewn with thongs with leftovers for soles.

Patience questions whether or not God’s word would be given to Shakespeare when she says, “Were words of Him [God] for such an one?  Nay, ‘twere better far they be dealt to one who held a measure polished much for hold o’ them!”  In her view, God’s work would be better accomplished if it were given to someone groomed [polished] to receive and understand it.  That is, Shakespeare was not a chosen one to spread the word of God (implying that she was).

“Yea, and yet I do say unto thee, the word of the skin-shoon man, who troddeth ‘pon path o’ sky and Earth be his, e’en though they be o’ thistledown.” Meaning that the words concerning the earthly topics of Shakespeare are his, even though they don’t have permanence, that is, they don’t concern God’s eternal truths. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 22 Sep, 02:24

Thanks Elene for the link to “doubtaboutwill”.

It does provide a lot of believable information suggesting that maybe William Shakespeare was not who we have been led to think he was. That information makes Michael’s suggestion that the writing was dictated from spirit entities more reasonable for me.  Yes, it is a fringe idea but only because most people do not really believe in a spirit world or the ability of spirits to communicate with the living.  If it were the case that the Shakespeare plays were channeled from the beyond then I can understand why there is such an absence of information about how they came about.  People were burned at the stake for being witches during the late 1600s so perhaps punishment of witches was festering during Shakespeare’s lifetime.  That might be a possible reason why Shakespeare never acknowledged the source of his inspiration.  Apparently it is thought that Shakespeare did not have the ability to write by hand so if that is so, then the question that presents itself is how did he transcribe anything he might have received from spirit communication. - AOL

Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 21 Sep, 20:04


Yes, I am familiar with the Course in Miracles, or at least I was about 15 years ago when I met with a weekly study group in Newport, Oregon.  Thanks for reminding me of it and how some of the things discussed here might apply to it.  I will have to reread the Course one of these days.

Michael Tymn, Fri 21 Sep, 19:41

I found this article, along with the comments a fascinating read because I have, for close on 20 years been studying and practicing with a book called A Course in Miracles. Are you familiar with it Michael? It was ‘scribed’ by a psychology professor between 1965 and 1973 with some additional material coming in the handful of years following. Pertinent to this article are two issues - that of group souls and also the need for a ‘sympathetic link.’ In this case the receiver of the material was aided by her boss - another psychology professor - without whom she could never have done the work and would probably never have even commenced it because of her fears of being crazy. The one who heard what she described as an inner voice, initially referred to it as Christ but later she referred to it as Jesus and he has been taken as the author by many followers who have taken up the book as their spiritual path. Because I had been studying Carl Jung’s work for several years before I took up study of the Course, I would often feel in reading it that I could hear his voice and frequently I would come across passages that were akin to paraphrases of sections of his works. The Course is very psychological in its approach. The other fascinating thing about the Course is that huge swathes of it is in iambic pentameter - Shakespearian blank verse - and in fact it settles into that mode almost exclusively as the work proceeds. In spite of its strong Christian terminology, the work actually is more closely aligned with eastern religions - Buddhism, Taoism and especially Vedanta, which adds to the theory that it is a group effort. The ‘co-scribe’ described it as the Christian Vedanta. I personally have never been comfortable with thinking of this work as being from the historical Jesus even though there are many passages where it is in the first person as though it is him. I have long thought it sounds like many voices so I was very interested to read about the group soul idea. I found this comment of yours from 20th September at 1:15 particularly compelling: “Allan Kardec discussed this in his book, <“The Book on Mediums.” commenting that “they identify themselves with the habits of those to whom they speak, and take the names calculated to make the strongest impression on the man by reason of his belief.” “> Helen Scucman, the scribe of the Course, disliked Carl Jung intensely by all accounts so it makes sense that she would not have been able to ‘hear’ anything from him but apparently did have a certain reluctant pride in the fact that Jesus was communicating with her. As I have worked with the Course over the years I have become increasingly convinced that it is from a very high source and could not have been written by any living human being. Everyone who knew Helen said that it could not have been written by her so I also found the information on the receiving medium as having ‘sufficient training for our purposes’ fascinating, as Helen, although she was a psychologist, was steeped in Freudian psychology which the Course employs to a point but also challenges. She also considered herself a ‘militant atheist’ although had a fascination with the Christian religion. The Course stands on its own as a unique and eminently qualified psycho-spiritual path without consideration of the way it was produced but much of the controversy that has been levelled at it is because of its purported origins. This article helps put it into perspective for me. Thank you.

Consideration should also be given to the case of Rosemary Brown, a widowed London housewife who, beginning in 1964, purportedly received compositions from the spirits of many great composers, including Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart, Chopin, Bach, and Debussy.  Although Brown had taken some piano lessons, she had no real talent and was unacquainted with the technicalities of writing notes.  Mediumistic since her childhood, Brown received a message from Liszt via automatic writing in which he said that a group of composers from the spirit world would be using her to dictate new compositions through her by means of automatic writing.  “You have sufficient training for our purposes,” Liszt told her.  “Had you been given a really full musical education it would have been no help to us at all.”  He further explained that a full musical background would have been an impediment to them as she would have had too many theories and ideas of her own that they might not have been able to overcome.

Gloria Oelman, Fri 21 Sep, 01:40

If one considers people like Pearl Curran, Joan Grant, Geraldine Cummings, Shakespeare and others, it may be that these people didn’t find writing to be difficult at all.  Actually it may not really be a creative process with them as it may be with other writers but simply might just be an effort to report what they experienced in a past life.  Pearl Curran and Joan Grant would have no reason to spend a lot of time researching and creatively piecing together the plots of their stories.  They could just write it as it happened to them or as they observed in a past life in Palestine or Egypt.  Pearl Curran or even Shakespeare perhaps through their past lives would be able to pour out the narrative and dialogue as they seemed to do easily without research, without education or without travel to lands unknown.

One of the difficulties when reading “The Sorry Tale” a long trilogy written by Patience Worth is that it is narrated as if the narrator is present on the scene assuming that her readers are there with her and therefore there is no need to explain every action by the characters in detail or name them; they just act for all to see!  This long story is about a Greek concubine, Theia, banished from Rome when she became pregnant by the Emperor Tiberius. It is set in Palestine during the time Jesus lived there and Jesus appears in the third book of the trilogy whereas the first two books concern Theia and her son Hatte.  As in other novels and plays of Patience Worth female characters predominate, not as pretty decorative flowers but as sturdy earthy women taking life in their own hands; caring for family, dancing, loving, conniving and killing if necessary.  I would think that women of today would appreciate the writing of Patience Worth simply because much of it is about vibrant strong women.  She is thoroughly modern in that her novel “Samuel Wheaton” is about an English woman who lives her life as a man at sea. (This novel has not been published.)

Some aficionados of these writers may tend to believe that these seemingly creative efforts were stupendous one-of-a-kind accomplishments but maybe not!  I think that any one of us with a small amount of effort could easily spill out stories about our own life in our times without research.  We would be able to use the language of our life without effort as Pearl Curran did.

Good writers write about things they know.  Pearl Curran clearly did this when she wrote under her own name a couple of short stories for the “Saturday Evening Post”.  These short stories written by Pearl Curran without the help of Patience Worth were about the lives of young women, living in Chicago, as in the story “Rosa Alvaro”.  Pearl drew from her own life living in Chicago as a store clerk to write a very entertaining story about a young woman living in Chicago and working in a Department Store.  That short story might just be a continuation of a series of stories based on lives Pearl Curran had lived continuing into her current life with no need for the Patience Worth past personality to help.  It was easy for Pearl to write the flapper slang (which was not her normal dialect) of the early 1910s and 20s in her short stories because she heard it spoken or read it on the movie screen or in women’s magazines in her present life.  Similarly, it was no feat of great accomplishment for the Patience Worth personality to use the archaic “table-talk” English language she used in her conversations and poems during the Ouija board séances, or the Medial English language of “Telka” or the Victorian language she used in her novel “Hope Trueblood”. Those were the languages of the times and places in which she lived.  For Pearl it was, as she said, as easy as looking at a “magic picture book” and seeing the scenes roll out before her mind’s eye while at the same time hearing the voice of Patience Worth giving her the dialogue and narration of the story she was writing.
Geraldine Cummings reported a similar experience which she explains in a short “Personal Background” she wrote as an appendix at the end of   “Swan on a Black Sea”.  She made a distinction between her conscious writing and her writing “derived from the unconscious”.  After explaining how she writes with her conscious mind she says, “But when my writing was derived from the unconscious it has been a very different affair.  . . . Its composition emerged from the deeper levels of mind, so much so it seemed as if I were merely a secretary taking down an already fully composed narrative by another author, and my pen travelled over page after page with abnormal rapidity.”
Occasionally a soul group is proposed as having dictated information from the beyond.  I can entertain that idea but in thinking about it,  it may be that that the “soul group” is really the “oversoul” of the spirit entity.  That is, using the “diamond metaphor” each facet of the diamond represents a past life personality—-some developed and some not—- and through some ineffable process that we do not understand yet, those individual personalities of past lives can be retrieved to provide information through trance states of a good medium, by direct voice or automatic writing. While Imperator and his cohorts may present themselves as a “soul group” it may just be a matter of semantics and terminology and our failure to understand the “mechanics” of the afterlife.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 20 Sep, 03:49


Thanks for the link on the Shakespeare doubts and for your comments.

I agree with you that there is so much we don’t know about how it all works and likely will never know.  However, concerning your comment that Rosemary Brown received some message mentally rather than by automatic writing, it should be noted that Pearl Curran, the medium for Patience Worth, first received messages by the ouija board, then automatic writing, then by automatic typewriting and then she also received it mentally and dictated it.  Amos, the world’s foremost authority on Patience Worth, might elaborate a little on this. Thus, it would seem that receiving it mentally or clairaudiently, however it comes, is no less a matter of spirit influence than automatic writing.

As for Euripides as the source, my guess is that it was the Euripides group soul, i.e., many souls belonging to the Euripides School of Thought, much as the 49 spirits belonging to the Imperator group communicated.  Allan Kardec discussed this in his book, “The Book on Mediums.” commenting that “they identify themselves with the habits of those to whom they speak, and take the names calculated to make the strongest impression on the man by reason of his belief.”  He goes on to say that these communicating spirits are “elevated” by the name they take, much as humans take a baptismal name to distinguish them from other members of the family.  In effect, he says, they are commingled in one common thought, in such manner that they are indifferent to personality.  “It would be fraud on the part of a bad spirit who might want to deceive; but when it is for good, God permits it to be so among spirits of the same order, because there is among them a solidarity and similarity of thought.”

I certainly don’t know if that is the case, but it is one possible theory.

Michael Tymn, Thu 20 Sep, 01:15

‘. . .although there may be a link between group souls and past lifetimes that is beyond human comprehension.”

I second that conjecture! That idea may soothe those who are afraid that their personality may be lost when they cross over. Perhaps all personalities just become part of a group soul and are still active under some circumstance unfathomable to the human mind.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 19 Sep, 13:43

Yes indeed how could I forget Chico Xavier the most prolific automatic writer having written close to 500 books with his guide ‘Emmanuel’.  It’s just that most of his writing has not been translated into English from Portuguese, Chico’s native language so, as he is well known in South America he is not that well known in North America.  I wonder how many other automatic writers guided by discarnates there may be that are not known in the English-speaking world because their work has not been translated. Surely there must be many.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Wed 19 Sep, 13:37

For those who may be interested in the reasons why one might believe someone other than Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him, here is a fine source:
It seems to me that almost any candidate who’s been proposed is more likely to be the author than William Shakespeare the actor and owner of no books whatsoever.  I personally like the idea that a woman was the author, or at least part of the team.

As Karen said, spirits make about as much sense as anything in this muddy picture.  It’s difficult to imagine Euripides as the source, though, since the author manifested not just a command of language but so specifically and virtuosically a command of the English of the time.  It’s hardly a wilder speculation than we are already considering, but Euripides doesn’t sound very plausible to me. 

Ramanujan seems to me to be a rather different case.  His attribution of his ideas to his “spiritual advisor,” the goddess Mahalakshmi (if I remember correctly) seems more like the common feeling of creative people that their works are coming from some source outside themselves, which is not necessarily a channeled entity in the usual sense.

One might ask, in a case such as Mrs. Brown—if “dead” folk are dictating music to her, where are THEY getting the music?  Many composers feel that they are simply writing down notes that come to them from something other than their own minds.  This all raises so many questions about what the limits of our “own” minds may be….  And then, if Shakespeare channeled “his” writings from spirit sources, again, where did those spirits get the inspirations?  It’s the same question once removed.  We still understand little or nothing of where art “really” comes from.

(BTW, as I remember it, Liszt’s message to Mrs. Brown saying that various composers would give music through her was told to her in her head rather than through automatic writing, but I’d have to look that up to be sure.)

The subject of Patience Worth is so stunning that it’s hard to wrap one’s brain around.  Thank you for the reminder to look into it further.

Elene, Wed 19 Sep, 07:33

Thanks to all for the interesting comments and additional examples of spirit influence or “overshadowing.”

By email, one reader suggested that Chico Xavier is one of the best examples. I might add Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” who said she really didn’t understand much of what she was writing and that it all came “from God.”

By email, NDE researcher PMH Atwater referred me to her book,“Future Memory,” and the evidence that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote the works of Shakespeare.

We also need to keep in mind the possibility that the dictators were group souls, not individual spirits.  As William Stainton Moses was told, many of the messages given him were not the product of a single mind, but the collective influence of many spirits speaking as one (see prior blog post).  “We deliberate, we consult, and in many instances you receive the impression of our united thought,” the spirit adopting the name Imperator communicated through him. This would explain the various dialects dictated by Patience Worth.  While it may very well be, as Amos suggests, different lifetimes of Pearl Curran were coming through, I would lean toward the group soul aspect, although there may be a link between group souls and past lifetimes that is beyond human comprehension.

One more point I neglected to mention in the blog, much of the history of mediumship points to the need for two people to be present—one a positive charge and the other a negative charge.  This seems to have been what Bligh Bond provided in the Glastonbury scripts.  By putting his two fingers on Bartlett’s hand, he provided the required positive or negative charge to make it work.  Perhaps Bacon sat with Shakespeare to provide the negative or positive charge.

Michael Tymn, Tue 18 Sep, 21:30

I see that Ingersoll reportedly said, as quoted in “The French Connection”, that “Not satisfied that one with such limited advantages [Shakespeare] could possibly have written the masterpieces of literature, it has been by some contended that Bacon was the author of all Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies.”
Does Ingersoll go on to state specifically that Bacon, as a contemporary of Shakespeare actually wrote the comedies and tragedies of Shakespeare?  Because further on, Ingersoll says that “All the Shakespearean works were, beyond a doubt, the product of his [Shakespeare’s] pen. . . “ although he was influenced by spirit suggestion. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 18 Sep, 14:00

It’s an interesting theory Michael that the writings attributed to William Shakespeare might have been dictated from the spirit world through an unknown medium or channeled by Shakespeare himself. Many writers have attributed channeled information from the spirit world in helping them to write novels or various other materials .  In addition to Pearl Curran, James Merrill comes to mind along with W.B Yeats, William Thomas Stead, Geraldine Cummings, William Stainton Moses and perhaps Joan Grant all of whom either claimed spirit helpers or far memory of past lives.  It seems to me that many every-day writers, including myself sometimes suspect that what we write comes at least in part from some source outside of ourselves. 

I have considered the Pearl Curran writings for many years now and tend to lean toward past life recall as the source of her inspiration similar to the way in which Geraldine Cummings wrote   “The Scripts of Cleophas” or the way Joan Grant wrote “Winged Pharaoh” and other novels of ancient Egypt but then again Patience Worth was such a vibrant personality it is difficult for me to dismiss the evidence, such as it is, in her writings that she was a discarnate spirit dictating quality literature to Pearl Curran from the ‘other side’.  To her dying day Pearl Curran thought Patience Worth was a discarnate personality.

In the early 1930s Pearl and Patience wrote a play about the young Will Shakespeare before he became famous titled “An Elizebethan Mask”.  She made no claim that the play was written or dictated by Shakespeare in any way.  Since she is reported to have been born about 33 years after Shakespeare died in 1616 she may have been familiar with his writing style however.  It is an interesting piece of writing for Patience Worth in that it is nothing like her previous works and is arguably somewhat imitative of the style of Shakespeare in his off moments.  Here is a brief sample as spoken by ‘Dan’:

“Tonight, when taper wicks be lit
There be a throat that must be slit.
A gentle task!  All unsuspecting shall the knave,
Athout e’en a blade that might to save,
Walk to the trap and ne’er detecting,
Nor seeing the hand so sure directing
The ready blade that itcheth for its plunge,
Take its bare kiss and feel his body lunge
Back to the clay from whence it came.

Can he then tell the man, or name his name
That he who doth the deed may take the blame?
Nay, but another dungheap richer be.
Minstrelling some lady, and she
Applauds his gallantry!
Eah!  I’m sick to puke upon the rotten fare!
Rather would I snap my sword and dare
The wrath of court, or yet the queen. . .
Bawdy old slut who taketh not a king!”

This writing is nothing like the writing style of The Sorry Tale” which is actually a contrived style peculiar to Patience Worth that can not be placed in any place or time period.  Neither is it in any way similar to the style of “Hope Trueblood” which is written in the Victorian English of England and totally different from her literary masterpiece “Telka” which was written in an English Medieval style. The different writing styles of Patience Worth might lead one to think that the writing perhaps came from a group soul with more that the Patience Worth personality doing the dictating.  Perhaps so, but at the present time, I prefer to think that Pearl Curran was drawing from her past lives in those distinct time periods and thereby was able to authentically write in different period styles. Probably Pearl Curran would not agree and I am not committed to the idea.

Nevertheless, even if the writing of Pearl Curran came from her subconscious mind with no outside influences, it is a tremendous and unique artistic accomplishment that remains unchallenged to this day by any other writer.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 18 Sep, 03:47

Great article, as always, from one of our best writers.
If I may add something, please see in my book, The French Revelation, the Various Subjects chapter under the heading entitled, Power of Suggestion. Robert Ingersoll, speaking in the direct independent voice, talks specifically on the spirit influence which guided most of Shakespeare’s work, if not all of it. It is mind blowing. Bacon, he said, played a significant role.

riley heagerty, Mon 17 Sep, 20:02

Mike I read a book once that told the story of the 17th Earl of Oxford and how he was Shakespeare I can find it and send if you are interested in reading -  The Earl would have understood the workings of royalty and was certainly educated enough to have been Shakespeare.  It makes so much sense that Shakespeare didn’t write what he was give credit for and spirits make about as much sense as anything.  Blessings Karen

Karen Herrick PhD, Mon 17 Sep, 17:44

Another case of “overshadowing” is that of Srinivasa Ramanujan a Indian mathematician who despite no formal education, developed theorems that have helped develop our understanding of physics. He is now considered to be one of the finest mathematicians ever.

He was happy to attribute his theorems to his spiritual advisor.

Chad W Luter, Mon 17 Sep, 15:03

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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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