On the release of my latest book Allegory in Stone I was asked by a number of people how it was I could produce so much work over only a few years. I pondered this and reflected on what exactly it is that motivates me to write, and provides the discipline to research and complete my books. It comes down to the need to divert the conscious mind from the self and everyday issues, and to enter a space where knowledge and experience gained can be put to some useful purpose.  Having been a student of esotericism for some twenty years, a student of theology for thirty and a spiritual person always, the confluences of these different steams of thought coincided when I felt called to write.

This was particularly poignant for my research on Shakespeare's funerary monument in Stratford-upon-Avon. I have for many years been a visitor to the main attractions in Stratford and have often been to the Bard's grave in Holy Trinity church. Like many others, I have enjoyed attending RSC plays in the theatres, and have enjoyed Shakespeare as a valuable influence on English culture and the performing arts generally. 

However, some years ago I experienced a series of lucid dreams where I found myself standing on the opposite side of a locked door, to what seemed to be a subterranean crypt beneath a church or building. In this dreams I stood a few feet from Shakespeare's grave, and while he was quite dead yet there was something of him living beyond the door. A sense of his intellect calling me, and that numinous perception of a ghost or disembodied form of a long dead person's living mind.

I thought to do nothing with or about these dreams, not least because I knew that Shakespeare was not interred in a secret crypt or hidden tomb, but lay buried beneath the chancel floor in his parish church. So these stylised tombs of my dreams were messages from my unconscious trying to raise some symbolic meaning to my conscious self. Yet what was that message?

Years later I was contacted by a cousin with whom I had had no prior contact. We share many interests and one of these is family history. My cousin had spent years digging deep into the family's past, and had the distinct advantage of being a transcriber for the Warwickshire records office.  It turned out that our four times great-grandmother on my maternal side was a lady called Winifred Shakespeare. Winifred was born in 1789 and had been raised in St Mary's parish Warwick, prior to moving to Leicester with her husband in the 1820s. From there her daughter married a shoemaker, and thus my mother's family's long association with the shoe trade began.  It turns out that Winifred's grandfather was a John Shakespeare from Rowington in Warwickshire. Rowington happened to be the ancestral home of Shakespeare's uncle Henry, an also where the poet purchased land. We were able to drill back six generations to a Thomas Shakespeare of Rowington, believed to be another uncle of the Bard. This made Shakespeare my first cousin thirteen times removed.

A curious feature of the research was that our branch of the Shakespeare family were Roman Catholics, working on and for the recusant estates at Wootton Wawen and Baddesley Clinton. This all began to make sense of the rumours of Shakespeare's Catholicism, and of the religious sympathies of his father. Might, just possibly, my strange dreams have something to do with an inherited collective unconscious I my family regarding this connection?  More interestingly still, when we began researching more recent cousins and descendants of Winifred Shakespeare, a nuber of fascinating newspaper articles came to light, long forgotten, relating to the legends within the family regarding their famous relation, and indeed even an early census record note concerning one f them claiming “descent” from the Bard! Obviously by that point the nature of the connection had become misunderstood, but the fact of the provenance remembered within the family. We found similar articles from the 1700s concerning Winifred's uncles and nephews stating their “descent” from Shakespeare (although it was in fact descent from his grandfather, Richard). 

Therefore, tying in Shakespeare's potential connection with Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism and alchemy was made all the easier for me because of the genealogical connection. It was a labour of love to put this brief book together and, once I began my work, the ideas just flowed.

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This article is the copyright (c) of M.R. Osborne, 2022