This page is about a claimed past life of the Americanised Yogananda as William the Conqueror, a Norman king, and someone to shun for most part. Something else to shun? Faith in claims without a shred of tenable evidence. Such claims are better treated as speculation. That is how physicists treat propositions at any rate. Good claims should be provable, if not proved.
Does life go on after death? [◦German research: "Life persists after near-death"]
William and his coming wife
There is an old story about how William handled his coming wife, Matilda. William found Matilda on her way to church, dragged her off her horse by her long braids, threw her down in the street in front of her flabbergasted attendants and rode off.
Another version is that William rode to the house of Matilda's father in Lille, threw her to the ground in her room by her braids, and violently battered her before leaving. Her father took offense, but Matilda settled the matter before they could draw sword - she did it by refusing to marry anyone but William. A papal ban by Pope Leo IX of their union did not dissuade her. The couple was married in ca. 1051-2.
[WP, "Matilda of Flanders"]
William - not a good man
About fifteen years later, after the autumn of 1066, the offensive suitor got known as William the Conqueror and had many brave Englishmen killed, many maimed. He also had his wife's former bethothed put in a dungeon, where he died. Behaving far worse than a pervert lots of time, he was known as greedy, hard and unreliable, and with a lot on his conscience.
As he lay dying, William confessed: "I tremble . . . when I reflect on the grievous sins which burden my conscience". Then he died. Was he later reborn to become a Hindu guru? Where is the evidence? Is it not lacking?
Historical sources tell how William behaved, and "unflattering facts against unscrupulous royalty duping" could work.
For all that, many silly people "are enamoured by the rich and famous", perhaps blinded by fancies and hopes and facades, without enough regard for the sterling worth of the famous guys, or the lack of it.
How people respond to persons who say they had been kings in a former life, is more uncertain. Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) said he had been William. If so, he was wretched at that time, amassing horribly bad karma, according to ancient Indian karma-and-rebirth teachings. "The idea of karma in its broader sense (including the concept of merit transfer) may well have preceded the idea of rebirth, giving strong grounds for postulating Vedic origins of the karma theory," writes Wendy D. O'Flaherty [Cf. Krt 3, 40 ff].
Telling mentalities abroad
Yogananda disciples in southern, sunny California and elsewhere, think their dear guru's various statements about having been a famous king are not confessions of being so bad. Rather, informed of how badly William fared and given just a little time to "regroup", they idealise William as they do Yogananda, trying to convince themselves that King William was someone for them to look up to.
Below you may see how fond some Yogananda followers are of claiming royalty in previous lives without proof, and how stupid some repercussions of that sort of telling seem to be too. Innate arrogance dressed in an inferiority-suit seems to try impose by clown feathers ("me was royalty"). Or there may be other reasons, not leaving aside experience-hungry, romantisised ones.
Did Yogananda deliver good evidence of a former life?
A sane approach to claims of past lives is good. There is very little evidence or no evidence at all to assert that Yogananda was not William, and no good evidence that he was. What we have are claims, coupled to claims of proselytes, along with a story that Yogananda had visited some buildings in England on a trip in 1935: In the Westminster palace he said to his secretary that he knew of the interior in the next room some times. Yogananda said it was because he had been there in an earlier life. However, the palace had been rebuilt a couple of times since the 11th century, when it was first built.
The medieval Old Westminster Palace had been destroyed by fire in 1834, and what stands there today, is a replacement, the New Palace.
Other explanations of Yogananda's room descriptions than past life memories from a twice rebuilt, modified castle may be had too. Here is what a Yogananda biographer says:
In 1935, when [Yogananda] and his party were visiting England during the journey back to India, Yoganandaji and Richard Wright were at the palace at Westminster, Yoganandaji said to Wright, "You walk behind me. Immediately after I enter the palace, I will tell you which room is where before we ever get there; you'll see, everything will match up." Wright said later that Swamiji was right every time about the location of the different rooms. Swamiji himself was there at the telling of this event, and Wright was bearing witness to Swamiji's description of the incident. There was no sense of any kind of 'but' [hesitation] in Swamiji's behavior at all! [Psy 11-12]
Alternative explanations of the incident
Yogananda says in his autobiography that his guru one day struck him gently on his chest above the heart. Yogananda's mind at once streamed out like a fluid, so that people on distant streets seemed to be moving gently over his periphery. "The roots of plants and trees appeared through a dim transparency of the soil; I discerned the inward flow of their sap." Through the back of his head he saw men strolling down a road, and also a white cow leisurely approaching. As she passed by, behind a brick wall, he saw her clearly still. Later he was taught how to summon the experience at will, and also to transmit it to others. This is all described in chapter 14 of his autobiography.
In the light of his White Cow Sight, he could have seen through walls at Westminster too, Supermanlike, and described rooms behind the walls as he saw them thus. - Such a source of error may seem remote, but the yogi's words in his autobiography remain.
Hence, he could have seen through walls, he could have remembered past lives like dreams, and he could have done both - and some other possibilities arise as well:
Satyaswarananda comments the incident: "A yogi who has a bit of yogic power can easily predict these kinds of things; although a real Yogi would not use yogic power an, [sic] be involved in such insignificant event." 
This suggests that Yogananda tellings of former lives are not good evidence in itself, for there are many sources of error. Suppose, for the sake of "filling the sack of possibilities", he lied, was terribly confused, and mistook dreams for real, past happenings or saw the rooms by yogic sight there and then? Confronted with such alternative, tentative explanations to explore or document, is it good and noble to write books, hold seminars, and earn money on fluffily claimed lives of yourself, your father or someone else? Some do.
Modern myth-making and going for royalty trappings?
James Donald Walters, aka Kriyananda, former vice-president of Self-Realization Fellowship:
"Once I asked Master a question with regard to William the Conqueror. [Master said he was William the Conqueror in a previous lifetime.] I asked, ". . . Can an avatar not realize he has attained that stature?" Master said, "You never lose your sense of inner freedom" - a very wise answer. [Is freedom to lie included?]
We are looking into what appears to be evidence-empty, recurrent belief about Yogananda's said, past lives. There is a great risk of being made a fool of where fit evidence is as good as wholly missing.
A little extra help
"They sell books and hold seminars! They idealise and earn money thereby!"
1. From "Paramhansa Yogananda as William the Conqueror" by Kriyananda
"Master revealed to us that he himself had been Krishna's closest friend and disciple, Arjuna. ("Prince of devotees," the Bhagavad Gita calls him.)
"We found it easy to believe that … all pointed to someone with the tendencies of a mighty, conquering hero." [In contrast to such plotting, Yogananda tells of how he once could not manage to hold a baby a little while. It was too bad. [The memorable story]
"He told us more than once that in a former life he had been William the Conqueror … I had always thought of William as one of history's great villains."
"I asked Master once (I was thinking of his lifetime as William): "Sir, is an avatar [a divine incarnation] always aware of his oneness with God's omnipresence?""
"He never loses his consciousness of inner freedom," Master replied." [William had the freedom to maim and kill and repent on his deathbed -]
"I suddenly realized that I had been his youngest son, Henry, who later was crowned as Henry I."
2. Claims of lives
Catherine van Houten has recently published the book Two Souls Four Lives about Yogananda and Kriyananda. She has been one of the "flock" around Kriyananda when he lived. The very Kriyananda-friendly publishers write: "Is it possible that … William the Conqueror and his son, Henry I of England - recently reincarnated as Paramhansa Yogananda … and his close disciple, Swami Kriyananda and if so, what are the subtle connections between the Norman Conquest and the current world picture?"
It smacks of speculative writing - and 'speculative' means "engaged in, expressing, or based on conjecture rather than knowledge." Among synonyms are: based on guesswork, unproven, (perhaps) unfounded, groundless · unsubstantiated and others.
About Catherine Van Houten they write that she "has conducted intensive and groundbreaking research into the past lives of Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda." They do not say how. There is a great risk that her claims are conjectures and the evidence lacking, and that we are faced with "infiltration at work," for what we know. It could pay well to be alert to such possibilities instead of intrigued to our detriments.
The Expanding Light, which is a retreat hosted by the church that Kriyananda set up in northern California, offers retreats. One such: "Yogananda and William the Conqueror: 2-day weekend".  Introducing the weekend, they write such as:
"Are you inspired by Paramhansa Yogananda ...?
"Yogananda told his disciples that, in a former incarnation, he had been William the Conqueror. He also said that his guru, Sri Yukteswar, had incarnated as William's spiritual advisor, Lanfranc.
"After much study and reflection, Swami Kriyananda (direct disciple of Yogananda) feels that he was William's son Henry I of England. He asked Ananda member Catherine Kairavi to study the lives of William and Henry I in great depth. After 10 years ... she wrote the book Two Souls, Four Lives, and shows "compelling parallels between these two great leaders and the two spiritual leaders Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda". ...
"In leading this weekend, Catherine will be joined by Richard Salva ... Catherine and Richard are both long-time devotees, Ananda ministers ...
"Were you with William in a past life? ...
"Prices are all-inclusive ..."
Catherine van Houten. Two Souls Four Lives: The Lives and Former Lives of Paramhansa Yogananda and His Disciple Swami Kriyananda. Paperback ed. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity Publishers, 2010.
The impression: Some guys use both William and Yogananda, and many Americans buy and pay in a way. There is a market!
There ought to be some thin blue line somewhere here. One thing is searching your real-life ancestors and roots in Europe and elsewhere. Digging up one's roots or forming a family tree seems to be largely fun and rewarding. But the moment we get devoid of hard facts or much plausible evidence, and start a business on top of it, we may have entered something worse than thin ice. It is like that with claimed, past lives with little or no evidence given of them. Yet, don't let this caveat stop you in your research. Just calibrate your output to conform with the evidence in question. Put another way: "Don't cry out loud of findings without traces of evidence and give others a too loose or unfounded faith, and then go on to earn money thereby."
At any rate, here is what historical annals tell about William the Bastard. This is what he was called till he took over England in 1066 - called so because his father, Robert the Devil, had him illegitimately by a tanner's daughter he rode by one day. Recommended reading: [Wikipedia, s.v. "William the Conqueror"]
"How to react": The William you learn about, was not a good man, but greedy, ruthless and brutal. The blood of many were on his hands, and therefore he confessed when he was about to die,
I tremble ... when I reflect on the grievous sins which burden my conscience, and now, about to be summoned before the awful tribunal of God, I know not what I ought to do. I ... am stained from the rivers of blood I have shed ... It is out of my power to count all the injuries which I have caused during the sixty-four years of my troubled life. [Confession made by William on his deathbed in 1087. Quoted by Ordericus Vitalis in The Ecclesiastical History (c. 1142)]
In still another passage, in A Place Called Ananda, J. Donald Walters writes of Daya Mata:
Master had told Daya that she was one of his daughters when he was William the Conqueror. One couldn't help feeling that there was a certain regal quality about Daya Mata, as also about Virginia, her sister, who now bears the name Ananda Mata, and who also was closely related to Master during that lifetime. I came to believe, though Master had never told me so, that I was Daya's youngest brother, Master's son, in that incarnation. [Source]
A CERTAIN REGAL UHH: "What have you come to believe about the former lives of yours from what Yogananda never told?
Looks matter. There are no contemporary paintings of William. What is sometimes used to show him, is "William 1" by George Vertue (1648-1756). A detail of it is shown here. The whole picture is in the Royal British Collection. But there is no evidence of any likeness. It is just a "vision" of the 1600s, made almost 700 years after the death of William.
Two coins thrown into the debate
Two coins of William:
Old descriptions of William
Instead of saying "Your guess is as as good as that of George Vertue", one can study old, verbal descriptions of William. On two other pages (links are at bottom of page) you can find out what many historians decree. But here are some samples of that material, focusing on his life as a married man and how he ruled. His own thoughts are largely lacking, except for those of the dying king's confession.
According to a brief description of William's person by an anonymous author, who borrowed extensively from Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, he was just above average height and had a robust, thick-set body. Though he was always sparing of food and drink, he became fat in later life. He had a rough bass voice and was a good and ready speaker. Writers of the next generation agree that he was exceptionally strong and vigorous. William was an out-of-doors man, a hunter and soldier, fierce and despotic, generally feared; uneducated, he had few graces but was intelligent and shrewd and soon obtained the respect of his rivals. [Encyclopaedia Britannica]
The Icelandic historician Snorre writes somewhere in the first half of the 1200s about some traits of William's:
William gathered together a great army in Normandy, and had many men, and sufficient transport-shipping. The day that he rode out of the castle to his ships, and had mounted his horse, his wife came to him, and wanted to speak with him; but when he saw her he struck at her with his heel, and set his spurs so deep into her breast that she fell down dead; and the earl rode on to his ships ... Earl William was ... not considered a man to be relied on. [◦Harald Hardrada's Saga (Section 99)].
The medieval Icelandic chronicler Snorre Sturlason (d. 1241) writes in the above passage from the Chronicles of the Kings of Norway that William killed his wife on the brink of departing for England in 1066. But there are weighty indications that Mathilda lived on: The famous Baueux tapestry of William's conquest is connected with her - it was called "Queen Mathilda's Tapestry" too earlier, and it is also told that she negotiated between her son Robert and William over some territory many years later - and that she died on November 1, 1083, which is a widely accepted year of death for her. [Cf. Glc 2014]
If you are still intrigued by a man who slapped his wife-to-be, tore her clothes, threw her to the ground, and rode off, here is more: The marriage may have been a happy one, but it was condemned as incestuous by the pope in 1049, and the couple was excommunicated along with all their people. But in 1059 William was reconciled to the papacy. As penance the disobedient pair had built two monasteries at Caen. Over the next sixteen years the couple had (at least) ten children. Among them were Robert Curthose, Richard (killed in a hunting accident in 1075), Cecily, William Rufus, Agatha, Henry Beauclerk and Adela. [Main source: Encyclopedida Britannica]
William had paid a visit to the king of England, Edward the Confessor, in 1051. Edward had been raised in Normandy, and he and William were cousins. When Edward died childless on January in 1066, Harold Godwinson was accepted as king by the English magnates. That made William decide on war. He maintained he had a right to the land and claimed that Edward had promised to make him his heir.
He ravaged the English countryside and by the end of the year the people of London, surrounded by devastated lands, submitted to William. On 25th December, 1066, William was crowned king of England by Aldred, Archbishop of York, at Westminster Abbey.
During Christmas in 1066 William was proclaimed king of England. He sent a message to Earl Valthiof that they should be reconciled, and gave him assurance of safety to come to the place of meeting. The earl set out with a few men; but when he came to a heath north of Kastala-bryggia, two officers of King William met him, with many followers. They took him prisoner, put him in fetters, and afterwards he was beheaded. The English call him a saint.
He favoured his own; impartial deals were not for the devout tyrant: After his coronation in 1066, William claimed that all the land in England now belonged to him. William retained about a fifth of this land for his own use. The rest was distributed to those men who had helped him defeat Harold at the Battle of Hastings. In 1067 William and his army went on a tour of England where he organised the confiscating of lands, built castles and established his sort of law and order.
The English, however, did not so readily accept him as their king. A series of rebellions broke out, and William suppressed them harshly, ravaging great sections of the country. Titles to the lands of the now decimated native nobility were called in and redistributed on a strictly feudal basis (see feudalism), to the king's Norman followers. [Columbia encyclopedia]
William was not generous to the church with his own property. The reformer-clerical Lanfranc was one of his advisers; but perhaps even more to his taste were the worldly and soldierly bishops Odo of Bayeux (William's brother), and Geoffrey of Coutances.
King William and the chief men loved gold and silver and did not care how sinfully it was obtained provided it came to them. He (William) did not care at all how wrongfully his men got possession of land nor how many illegal acts they did. [Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Version E, entry for 1087]
In a few years William had ruined the highest English aristocracy and got a distaste for his newly conquered kingdom after putting down the revolts. Old sources tell about these happenings:
In his anger William ordered that all crops and herds ... and food of every kind should be brought together and burned to ashes, so that the whole region north of Humber might be stripped of all means of survival. [Ordericus Vitalis: Ecclesiastical History describing what happened after an English rebellion in the winter of 1069. (c. 1142)]
The whole country from York to Durham was laid waste, and we learn, for example, from the Domesday Book, that in the district of Amunderness, where there had been sixty-two villages in the Confessor's time, there were in 1087 but sixteen, and these with a vastly reduced population. Neither was this the only instance of such ruthless severity. A terrible penalty was exacted in other centres of rebellion, and we read not only of a wholesale use of fire and sword, but of mutilation and blinding in the case of individual offenders. [Catholic encyclopeda &9702;Link]
He had many freedom-loving people mutilated, imprisoned, blinded and killed. In 1071 another revolt broke out. Led by Hereward the rebels captured the Isle of Ely. William personally led the Norman army against Hereward. He punished the rebels with mutilation and lifelong imprisonment and built a new castle at Ely.
He (William) made large forests for the deer, and passed laws, so that whoever killed a hart or a hind should be blinded. The rich complained and the poor murmured, but the king was so strong that he took no notice of them. [Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Version E, entry for 1083.]
The mutilating, blinding William was a Christian tyrant:
William, Duke of Normandy, ... was moderate in drinking, for he deplored drunkenness in all men. In speech he was . . . skilled at all times in making clear his will. He followed the Christian discipline ... whenever his health permitted he regularly attended Christian worship each morning and at the celebration of mass. [ William of Jumieges, Deeds of the Dukes of the Normans (c. 1070)]
In later life William became very fat. In 1087 William was told that King Philip of France described him as looking like a pregnant woman. William was furious and mounted on an attack on the king's territory. On 15th August he captured Mantes and set fire to the town. While fighting the French at the Battle of Mantes, he was thrown against the pommel of his saddle so violently that his intestines burst. Or, more diplomatically: "While the town burned he suffered some injury from which he never recovered".
In a suburb of Rouen, where he lay dying for five weeks, he prepared for death and made a confession:
I tremble my friends[,] when I reflect on the grievous sins which burden my conscience, and now, about to be summoned before the awful tribunal of God, I know not what I ought to do. I was bred to arms from my childhood, and am stained from the rivers of blood I have shed... It is out of my power to count all the injuries which I have caused during the sixty-four years of my troubled life. [Confession made by William the Conqueror on his deathbed in 1087. Quoted by Ordericus Vitalis in The Ecclesiastical History (c. 1142) - our emphasis]
He commended his soul to Virgin and Mother Mary, "that by her holy prayers she may reconcile me to her Son, my Lord Jesus Christ".
On September 9, 1087, England's conqueror died. His servants stripped him bare and abandoned his body, but a kind-hearted knight arranged a funeral for him at the abbey of St. Stephen in Caen.
FREE COUNSEL: Rather than sucking up to notorious nobility, strive to be someone of worth. [More details here]
William became a famed Norman. However, parts of his fame was based on notorious greed, vindictiveness, mutilations and killings. But how worthy was he if the sources you have seen sections from, are good enough to draw good conclusions from?
Now, what about a sect guru's claims to have been William in an earlier life? Options:
The Norman soldier and mass-violator: Is it really of worth to be a violent killer, a maimer and murderer? William was, and brutal too.
Of an incestuous wedding: William negotiated with Baldwin V of Flanders for the hand of his daughter, Matilda. The proposed marriage was condemned as incestuous by Pope Leo IX, but three or four years afterward the wedding took place anyway. As penance the pair had built two monasteries at Caen, Normandy. The couple got several sons and daughters.
Sturdy in what counted: According to an anonymous author, William was just above average, with a robust, thick-set body. He became fat in later life, even though he ate sparingly. He had a rough bass voice and was a ready speaker. Writers agreed he was unusually strong and vigorous, fierce and despotic, generally feared - and intelligent and shrewd even though somewhat uneducated. He was a leader marked by simple plans and direct methods; if he found himself at a disadvantage, he withdrew at once. And he was prepared to improvise as well.
Not over-lenient: The Norman administrator among other things invaded Scotland and Wales and quelled English rebellions. On his death-bed he repented his nasty and ruthless ways, we are told.
No fugitive: The son of a Norman nobleman and a tanner's daughter, he went for solid buildings, and the Tower of London shows how far he went to bulwark against impending enemies by "much lifting of stone" - but to some there are perhaps smarter ways: acquiring mountains to build on top of and settle there. Some do that. It is an old custom in San Marino, and many, many others, in several countries. There are ruins in the countryside of such castles and citadels.
At times the question is who wins the tricks involved.
ALLUDING PICTURE COMMENT:
"Ninety-nine percent of all people fail under this test. Tell a person, for his own good, to do a particular thing, and he will do exactly the opposite. - Yogananda, [Ak 321]
Do some of these maimings and killings tell us anything useful about the genius of Paramahansa Yogananda? Don't forget to ask for reliable evidence first, before forming any rigid and stupid faith.
In the light of sayings by Yogananda and his disciple Kriyananda above, question if you will:
"Is killing and maiming very many the way to express one's realisation and guru freedom? Is harrassing one's future wife one more idealised way to behave? Aha!"
Is the looting and killing of very many Anglo-Saxons a hallmark of gurus-to-be, long before they turn into the skull-garlanded goddess Kali and say such as "I am your Divine Mother!"?
I think it is better go for one's own firmness and stoutness than sucking up to bigwigs by proxy or whim, reincarnation theories or not.
Advanced yogic training is suggested by Yogananda here, and may very well been how he arrived at his claims of having been such as William the Conqueror:
Those who want to prove for themselves the scientific truth of the doctrine of reincarnation should first prove the principle of continuity of consciousness after death by learning the art of consciously separating the soul from the body. This can be done by following the rules laid down many centuries ago by the Hindu savants: Learn (1) to be conscious during sleep, (2) to be able to produce dreams at will, (3) to disconnect the five senses consciously, not passively as during sleep, and (4) to control the action of the heart, which is to experience conscious death ... [Ak 215]
NECESSARY QUESTION AND ANOTHER: Did Yogananda tell Americans tens of thousands of things "for their own good", to make them "do exactly the opposite"? Uh? And had a former bully (William) refined his arse ways?
Ak: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. Los Angeles: SRF, 1975.
Ap: Mieder, Wolfgang (main ed.), Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie E. Harder: A Dictionary of American Proverbs. (Paperback) New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946.
EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2007.
Glc: Compain, Frédéric, et Jacques Dubuisson. Guillame le Conquérant.. Documentaire français. Arte (Association Relative à la Télévision Européenne), 2014.
Ha: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 12th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1981.
Krt: O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger, ed. Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. London: University of California Press, 1980.
On: Mata, Daya: "Only Love". Self-Realization Fellowship. Los Angeles, 1976.
Pa: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), 1971.
Say: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.
Harvesting the hay
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