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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

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Facing Death with Hope

Posted on 03 September 2018, 12:43

Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level – Ernest Becker

As Hurricane Lane approached Hawaii, where I live, with 170 mph winds on August 23, I began having visions of my departure from this realm of existence.  Our governor announced that there are not enough evacuation centers for the majority of the population and suggested we stay in our homes, even though it is obvious that most of the single-wall frame dwellings in the state cannot resist such torrential winds, probably not even 70 mph forces.  I had visions of our roof flying off as my wife Gina and I hovered under the heavy mahogany dining room table before we too experienced “lift off” and went flying off yonder.  As Lane moved closer and closer to the island with some “scientific” projections showing a direct hit or the center of the hurricane being at least close enough to cause disastrous winds, I began to feel like a prisoner on death-row must feel while awaiting execution the next day.  My biggest fear, however, was not that I would die but that I would survive it.

Although I have come to view death itself as a transition to a larger, more real life, the dying part of it all has never seemed especially easy or appealing.  I thought that if I were alone it would not be too traumatic, but I was concerned about Gina being able to handle it all.  To put it another way, I was more or less prepared to “go west,” as they used to say about death, but I felt much anxiety about my wife and other loved ones following me at the same time.  Fortunately, Lane decided to “go west” from its path toward our island, about 150 miles short of impact, and we lived to see another day.

It was the third time this year that I thought my time remaining in the physical world was very short, the first being the false ballistic missile alert here in Hawaii during January when someone at the civil defense headquarters pushed the wrong button.  For some 38 minutes, there was considerable anxiety as the people of Hawaii ran for shelters and braced themselves. After the initial alert, I flipped on the television and saw a basketball game still in progress and programs on other channels also in progress, leading me to believe that it must be a false alarm.  But, still, it was an anxious time and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the worst, while hoping I would not survive a nuclear blast.

The second time was just two weeks before Hurricane Lane.  My A-Fib (atrial fibrillation) condition was acting up and resulting in some very shallow breathing. It was the worst I had experienced and I went to bed that night thinking that it was about 50-50 that I would wake up the next morning.  Such are the trials and tribulations of old age.

The closest to death’s threshold I can recall being at before this year was on May 13, 1969 when living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and getting caught up in the middle of the Sino-Malay riots, with bolo knife and machete-wielding rioters headed in my direction less than 15 seconds from me.  Around 200 people – some estimates put it at closer to 600 – were slain on the downtown streets that night, but somehow I managed to survive that one.  There was no time to think about death on that occasion.  My focus was strictly on getting my two young daughters under cover.  My recent experiences suggest that having time to really think about one’s impending demise is not a particularly good thing – unless, of course, the person survives, in which case it might provide food for reformed thought.   

“The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation,” wrote anthropologist Ernest Becker (below) in his 1973 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, “but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”  As Becker explains it, if I am reading him correctly, all our fears, neuroses, phobias, depressive states, however they are classified, are rooted in a fear of death, even if we don’t recognize them as such. To free oneself of death anxiety, nearly everyone chooses the path of repression.  That is, we bury the idea of death deep in the subconscious and then busy ourselves with our jobs, our families, and our toys, escape into fictitious stories in books, at the movies, and on television, and otherwise seek a mundane security that we expect to continue indefinitely, all the while oblivious to the fact that in the great scheme of things such activities are exceedingly short-term and for the most part meaningless.  “We enter into symbiotic relationships in order to get the security we need, in order to get relief from our anxieties, our aloneness and helplessness; but these relationships also bind us, they enslave us even further because they support the lie we have fashioned,” Becker goes on. “So we strain against them in order to be more free.”  In effect, Becker states, “the essence of normality is the refusal of reality,” or to look at it another way, all “normal” people are neurotics and most of those called neurotics are in touch with reality.


Becker refers to this “secure” person as the “automatic cultural man.”  He is “man confined by culture, a slave to it, who imagines that he has an identity if he pays his insurance premiums, that he has control of his life if he guns his sports car or works his electric toothbrush.”  Becker borrows his “automatic cultural man” from Sřren Kierkegaard’s Philistine – man fully tranquilized with the trivial.  As Kierkegaard, referred to as the “father of existentialism,” saw it, most people are so absorbed in philistinism that they don’t even realize they are in constant despair from their fear of death, all the while using repression as a defense mechanism to overcome that despair.

“...human meanings are fragile, ephemeral; they are constantly being discredited by historical events and natural calamities,” Becker continues. “One Hitler can efface centuries of scientific and religious meanings; one earthquake [or hurricane] can negate a million times the meaning of a personal life.”

Becker explains that one’s basic narcissism is increased when one’s childhood experiences have been securely life-supporting and warmly enhancing to the sense of self.  “We might say that [a man’s] repression of the idea of his own death is made easy for him before he is fortified against it in his very narcissistic vitality.”  He mentions an increase in anxiety neuroses in children living in Southern California as a result of a number of earth tremors there.  “For these children the discovery that life really includes cataclysmic danger was too much for their still-imperfect denial systems – hence open outbursts of anxiety,” he writes, adding that adults display this same manifestation of anxiety in the face of impending catastrophe.

Although I am not aware of any study resulting from the false missile alert here in Hawaii during January, there were certainly indications of such anxiety reported in the media following the incident, and I suspect that Hurricane Lane has served as an eye-opener for many, perhaps getting them to wonder what life will be like if they have no electricity and no smartphones to play with 24/7 and thereby escape from death anxiety. However, as with the tragedies of September 11, 2001, such an awakening seems to last only a few weeks or a few months at most before people return to the ways of the Philistine. 

I can’t imagine being close to death without a conviction that my real self would survive.  Being blown into oblivion by a nuclear blast, falling asleep into oblivion as my heart gives out after more than 80 years of faithful service, or flying off into oblivion with the winds is a bit more than my psyche can handle or endure.  I know there are some nihilists who claim the idea of total extinction doesn’t bother them because there will be no consciousness to realize that one is extinct, but I suspect that such stoicism is just so much bravado (pretend courage) designed to protect the ego. 
As Becker saw it, when Science replaced the Church during the nineteenth century, it extinguished the ideas of soul and God and threw man back hopelessly on his own resources, on himself and those around him.  “Even lovers and families trap and disillusion us because they are not substitutes for absolute transcendence,” he wrote.  “We might say they are poor illusions….”  Becker saw religion as the best of all solutions for death anxiety, pointing out that it meets the two ontological motives of the human condition – the need to surrender oneself in full to the rest of nature and recognize some higher meaning, and the need to expand oneself as an individual self-sacrificing personality, “Finally, religion alone gives hope, because it holds open the dimension of the unknown and the unknowable, the fantastic mystery of creation that the human mind cannot even begin to approach, the possibility of a multidimensionality of spheres of existence, of heavens and possible embodiments that make a mockery of earthly logic – and in doing so, it relieves the absurdity of earthly life, all the impossible limitations and frustrations of living matter,” he offered. “...Religion takes one’s very creatureliness, one’s insignificance, and makes it a condition of hope.”

Becker recognized that the answer was in finding “an all-embracing and all-justifying beyond,” one that was more sensible than that subscribed to by orthodox religions.  And yet, Becker was a non-believer, at least an agnostic. He makes no distinction between religion and a non-religious belief in survival based on the research carried out by many credible scientists and scholars, and there is no indication that he was even aware of such research.  He died at the age of 50 in 1974, the year after his prize-winning book was published, and just before the introduction of near-death studies by Dr. Raymond Moody.  Nor did Becker appear to recognize that the anthropomorphic God of religion is not necessary for a belief in survival. They come across as concomitants in his discussion. He clearly struggled with his own despair and lack of hope, and surely envied Kierkegaard who was able to make a “leap of faith” into the belief of a larger life.  “What characterizes modern life,” Becker wrote, referring to the early 1970s, “is the failure of all traditional immortality ideologies to absorb and quicken man’s hunger for self-perpetuation and heroism.”

All I can end with is that I am glad to have found an ideology that Becker couldn’t find.  Moreover, it goes beyond Kierkegaard’s “faith” to “conviction” and provides hope to overcome the despair that Becker and many others have experienced in dealing with man’s greatest fear.  And now to prepare for the next hurricane, already headed in this direction.

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:  Sept. 17. 

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“Children and the Light” by Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick – ALF Rose had this experience many years ago when he was ill with pneumonia as a young child of four or five. Suddenly I was out of my body and floating near the top of the window in my bedroom. I could see myself in bed and my mother kneeling at the side of the bed. She was crying and looked very distressed. I gazed at this scene for a little while and remember that I didn't feel any emotion at all and was completely indifferent to what I saw. Without any warning at all I was travelling very swiftly through a dense forest. Read here
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