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Was Sir Henry Neville the Author of Shakespeare Works?
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Neville or Shakespeare?

There is public faith and backroom faith and other oddities in life.

The Americanised guru Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), is the originator of Self-Realization Fellowship Church, SRF, headquartered in Los Angeles and with members and centres in over 50 countries. He told among many other things from past lives of his. In one of them he had been William Shakespeare, he said. Followers have repeated it, especially in more closed SRF circles and its spin-off circles, like Ananda [More].

However, fair and fit evidence that he was right, where is it?

There seems to be another complication - that William Shakespeare lacked the education and factual information needed to write at least parts of the plays he gets the credit for. However, with Sir Henry Neville (1562?-1615) it may be different. If Sir Henry was the real author and William his middleman, that makes Yogananda a former middleman, and if so, not so much of a writer. There is seldom much glory in that. (Wikipedia, "Henry Neville (died 1615)")

Scholars have long been puzzled by the great change in Shakespeare's writing career around 1601, when he wrote Hamlet and then the other great Tragedies. While this accords with nothing in Shakespeare's life, it was a clear response to Neville's traumatic imprisonment. There are so many other parallels that they cannot be coincidental. [◦Source]

Several quite new books have been written about this intriguing topic already.

Sir Henry Neville (1562?-1615) was put forward as a candidate for the authorship of Shakespeare's works, after scholars for centuries had asked how a boy who grew up in Stratford-on-Avon could have gathered the breadth of learning displayed in the Shakespeare plays. Authors Brenda James and Professor William Rubinstein, professor of history at Aberystwyth University, find an exact correlation between the subject of the plays and where Neville was at any given time. The chronology of Neville's life and the chronology of the plays always match up, asserts Professor Rubinstein.

Further, Neville, unlike Shakespeare, had access to a detailed story of the Bermuda shipwreck of 1609, which seems to be the basis of The Tempest. There are also striking similarities of style and vocabulary between Neville's private and diplomatic letters and the Shakespeare plays and poems. Word frequency analysis also reveals a statistical correlation. Besides, some scenes of Henry V are written in French, which Neville spoke, but Shakespeare did not, and so on.

New documents known to have been written by Neville while in the Tower of London, contain detailed notes which later ended up in Henry VIII.

Below are some more about seemingly far-out or invented links between Shakespeare and Yogananda. I doubt they will help anyone.

Tragic Health Counsel: "Read Shakespeare"

In the first issue of the swami Yogananda's (1893-1952) East West magazine (1925) he enjoins followers to read Shakespeare along with the Bible and Bhagavad Gita:

What to Read

1. Bible. One verse daily – try to feel it.

2. "Song Celestial." Edwin Arnold's [tedious blank verse] translation of the Bhagavad Gita.

3. Passages from Shakespeare.

[East West. "This and That: What to Read." November-December, 1925 Vol. 1. [◦Link]

Next year, in 1926, Yogananda writes:

Spiritual Recipe

3. Polish your feelings. Exercise them . . .

Intellectual Recipe

1. Read a few lines from Shakespeare every day.

[Swami Yogananda. "Three Recipes". East-West, Volume 1-4 May 1926 - June 1926. [Excerpted]

In a later volume he also tells (excerpts):

Read a few lines from Shakespeare every day.

Fast one day a week on orange juice and use a suitable cleansing mineral oil as prescribed by your physician.

Read and meditate upon a passage from the Christian Bible and a passage from the Hindu Bible, (Bhagavad Gita) obtainable at any large book store.

Read Shakespeare and other classics . . . Don't waste your time on cheap novels.

From 5 to 25 years, take up the study of efficiency, general education, and particular training: (2) from 25 to 40 years, earn money; (3) from 40 to 50 years, live quietly, study, and meditate; (4) from 50 years on, spend life in preaching and meditating deeply.

[S. Y. (Swami Yogananda). "The Art of Living". East-West, May, 1933 Vol. 57. -(Excerpted)]

"Shakespeareananda" and Marc Anthony

Was Yogananda hooked on Shakespeare?

Yogananda seemed keen on telling others to read Shakespeare - or was it Neville? He could have said, "Read Neville - read the real writer," if Neville had got the credit in Yogananda's days.

Who was it Yogananda said he had been earlier, again? Yogananda said he had been William Shakespeare in a previous life, and followers spread it on the level of hearsay. Yogananda said, "I was this one, I was that one" in a former life, and further "apple sauce", such as:

Churchill was the reborn Napoleon. Alexander the Great became Hitler. Julius Caesar became Keiser Wilhelm. Marc Antony became Mussolini, and Genghis Khan became Josef Stalin. Yogananda also said his editor-in-chief disciple had been Leonardo da Vinci and native Americans come back as environmentalists. [Dyp 61].

These examples show what goes on in the cult of Yogananda, and may have no credibility apart from that per se. "Don't believe everything you hear" is often good counsel. "Just because it is printed does not mean it is all true," and further. A possible "Yogananda recipe" is "Name some guy and say he was another famous guy who died earlier." "Fame by unproved, former lives" seems awfully easy, and that's how they do it. If they are right, there are no good proofs. Others write whole books about such issues, on the level of hearsay, with alluring words are "explore" "well-researched" "subtle connections" - all without good evidence. Better stay away freom the obvious cult books, to avoid the cult fever. Examples of flimsy teachings in the wake of Yogananda, based on "I feel it", "I sense it", "Maybe Yogananda meant that". It means a lot to see through the verbiage and study the basis of former lives claims to avoid being hooked on daunting and tenious beliefs.

Some pay for pieces of "doctrination", for nauseatingly loose claims, some of which come from Yogananda-followers tied in with Crystal Clarity/Ananda.

  • Catherine Kairavi. Two Souls: Four Lives: The Lives and Former Lives of Paramhansa Yogananda and his disciple, Swami Kriyananda. (2010)
  • Richard Salva. Blessed Lanfranc: The Past Life of Swami Sri Yukteswar, Guru of Paramhansa Yogananda. (2014)
  • Antonio. The Past Lives of Paramahansa Yogananda. (2015)

In sum: Among crooners and cultists, claims abound, but facts may be in another town. Buyer, beware.

Kriyananda sings in the chorus

One of Yogananda's disciples, the late Swami Kriyananda, writes in his book A Place Called Ananda how SRF's late editor-in-chief Tara Mata once said to him with a chuckle, "Even when he was William the Conqueror [who he told us he'd been in a former life] he never mastered the English language!" It is a joke, in that the English language had not yet been formed back then. [Apa, Chap 28] [More and sourced material].

And in Self-Realization Fellowship Church, the society's church that Yogananda founded in 1935, they claim they do not find faults with his guidelines of "flawless wisdom", although they have abandoned many guru guidelines anyhow [Cf. Dyp 62-63]. A Scandinavian proverb: "You have to hear a lot before your ears fall off."

Now as seen on Yogananda-faithful forums online these days, many have problems with reading Shakespeare daily, also on the counsel of Yogananda. A Google search can show that nicely. Consider Yogananda spoke for dictatorship too, in 1934. There can be dangers in making a dictatorship-fond guru your own boss, although they may not be immediate. We have to discern between eminent sources and other sources.

  1. Primary. First, there is no straight and "hard" evidence to be found that Yogananda was Shakespeare. None whatever; just Yogananda sayings. Reincarnation is awfully hard to substantiate, but at Virginia University, Ian Stevenson and others have collected a library of records for children who talked of former lives, and so on. [Reincarnation research]
  2. Secondary. When sayings "out of the thin air" are recorded faithfully, we have some secondary documentation of the saying, but not the possible facts spoken about.
  3. Tertiary. And when persons who were not present when Yogananda made statements about his former lives, go on repeating pieces and parcels of information they have come across, and spread them on the level of rumours, we have the current state of affairs on several Yogananda-devoted boards on the Internet.

And now for something less marked by "He said, he said". It is more like "Who really wrote what?"

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Sir Henry Neville Again

Henry Neville
Sir Henry Neville

In the book The Truth Will Out (2005), authors Brenda James and Professor William Rubinstein give reasons for claiming Sir Henry Neville to be the real author of Shakespeare plays. "There is far more evidence to suggest that Sir Henry Neville wrote the works of Shakespeare than there is of Shakespeare himself," says James. For some reason or other Yogananda has not claimed he was Sir Henry Neville (1562?-1615).

It was only in 2005, Sir Henry was put forward as a candidate for the authorship of Shakespeare's works, for some think William Shakespeare could not have been the author of the Shakespeare plays, and that some other - for example his distant cousin Sir Henry Neville (1562?-1615) - was a more likely author of them, since it is hard to see how Shakespeare could have acquired what was needed for writing the plays:

Shakespeare was born, raised, married, and died in Stratford-upon-Avon, a market town about 100 miles northwest of London with around 1,500 residents at the time of his birth. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway. They had three children. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, which became the leading playing company in London, and later known as the King's Men. Shakespeare kept a household in Stratford during his London career and appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613, where he died three years later. He was a respected poet and playwright in his own day. informs Wikipedia [s.v. "William Shakespeare"].

However, the documented life of William Shakespeare lacks the education, aristocratic sensibility, or familiarity with the royal court some say is apparent in the works. His background seems quite incompatible with the cultured author displayed in the Shakespeare canon, which exhibits an intimacy with court politics and culture, foreign countries, and aristocratic sports such as hunting, falconry, tennis and lawn-bowling. Also, some argue that the works show little sympathy for upwardly mobile types, for example Shakespeare's father and Shakespeare himself, and that Shakespeare's plays portray individual commoners comically and as objects of ridicule and groups of commoners alarmingly, if congregated in mobs.

Several scholars think that Shakespeare acted as a another's front to shield the identity of the real author or authors, who because of some disabling characteristic - social rank, state security, gender, or some other reason - could not safely take public credit.

And why do some think so? Most of all it is because Shakespeare's eminence seems incongruous with his humble origins and obscure life. The works exhibit such great learning, profound wisdom, and intimate knowledge of the Elizabethan and Jacobean court and politics that no one but a noble or highly-educated court insider could have written them, it is held.

But for all that, most academic scholars accept that William Shakespeare was the primary author and do not accept that anyone but William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was the author. One fair reason seems to be that his authorship was not questioned during his lifetime or for centuries after his death.

[Wikipedia, s.v. "William Shakespeare" and "Shakespeare authorship question"]

A Case for Neville

For centuries scholars have asked how a boy who grew up in Stratford-on-Avon could have gathered the breadth of learning displayed in the Shakespeare plays. So were the works penned by someone else? And where is the evidence, and how solid does it seem to be?

In The Truth Will Out (2005), authors Brenda James and Professor William Rubinstein, professor of history at Aberystwyth University, propose that Henry Neville, who was a distant relative of Shakespeare, is the true author. The book proposes that otherwise inexplicable features of Shakespeare's works thus make sense.

The courtier and diplomatist Neville had travelled extensively to places described in the plays, in particular Italy; was fluent in Italian, French, Latin, and most other current European languages; had a detailed knowledge of both court protocol and law; and in many other respects matched the educational knowledge and societal norms exhibited by the author of the plays.

James and Rubinstein find an exact correlation between the subject of the plays and where Neville was at any given time. He was once the English ambassador to France, and events in his life also shed new light on the development of the plays. He visited Vienna, where Measure for Measure is set, and northern Italy, where a series of Italian plays, such as Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice were set. The chronology of Neville's life and the chronology of the plays always match up, asserts Professor Rubinstein.

Further, Neville, unlike Shakespeare, had access to a detailed story of the Bermuda shipwreck of 1609, which seems to be the basis of The Tempest. There are also striking similarities of style and vocabulary between Neville's private and diplomatic letters and the Shakespeare plays and poems. Word frequency analysis also reveals a statistical correlation. Besides, some scenes of Henry V are written in French, which Neville spoke, but Shakespeare did not, and so on.

Brenda James and William Rubinstein also claim to have discovered compelling evidence to prove Shakespeare was a well-paid frontman for the real author, the true creator of the bard's celebrated plays and sonnets, and that he used "William Shakespeare" as his pseudonym through a particular arrangement.

New documents known to have been written by Neville while in the Tower of London, contain detailed notes which later ended up in Henry VIII.

William Shakespeare has been called "the last person you would imagine able to write such matter" -

[Wikipedia, s.v. "Henry Neville (politician)"] [◦More]

Shakespeare authorship material in support of Shakespeare is still around. [◦Summary] [◦Source 1] [◦Source 2]

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Low Faith Issues

Straining ties are many

Authorship of Shakespeare's works aside for now, the guru guidelines for reading "Shakespeare" seem clear, and yet confusing if you find that Neville is the likely writer of most of what Shakespeare has got the credit for.

What could be sprouting in the minds and lives of those who have got entangled in Yogananda's web? First he tried to inspire or entice others to learn kriya yoga to learn how to die. You don't get many living members that way if something goes wrong with the kriya dying and a return is marred. [More]

Sex. Never, once in a month or once a year might be likely choice. Suit yourself: [Yogananda on sex: Quotations]

Foolish crying. You are also told to "cry for Divine Mother like a naughty baby". Is not that strained? [More]

Unnecessary dictates. Further, in earlier writings the guru gave guidelines for communities, where people were to go "wear sandals or go barefooted and hatless in the snow or burning sun", for example. [Details].

These and other trouble-giving guru words are not the ones that Self-Realization Fellowship hoist up the most. To the contrary. Some guru guidelines have even been taken away, by and large. That means you have to look for them in older teachings of the guru.

There are many ways to get tricked, duped, and enslaved. Some get tricked into submission that contains many dangers, and some "loyal, subservient guys" get promoted, while "Hasty climbers have sudden falls (Turkish proverb)." Kriyananda was a "hasty climber" in SRF. In a few years he became the vice president and in some more years he was kicked out. Then he started on his own, so to speak.

Contents


Sir Henry Neville, William Shakespeare, Paramahansa Yogananda, reincarnation claims in SRF circles, cult issues, probing cultish dealings, sect basics, sectarians at a glance, Self-Realization Fellowship, Literature  

Apa: Walters, James Donald. A Place called Ananda. Rev. 2nd ed. Nevada City: Hansa Trust: 2001. www.ananda.org/aplacecalledananda/.

Dyp: Richard, Poor. Dwarparea Yoga and Yogananda: Blueprint for a New Age. The Noble New/Lulu.com, 2007.

Pesd: Clark, Sandra, ed. The Penguin Shakespeare Dictionary. Rev. updated ed. London: Penguin Books, 1999.

Sir Henry Neville, William Shakespeare, Paramahansa Yogananda, reincarnation claims in SRF circles, cult issues, probing cultish dealings, sect basics, sectarians at a glance, Self-Realization Fellowship, To top Section Set Next

Sir Henry Neville, William Shakespeare, Paramahansa Yogananda, reincarnation claims in SRF circles, cult issues, probing cultish dealings, sect basics, sectarians at a glance, Self-Realization Fellowship. USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
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