Sir Isaac Newton was a Baconian. So was Thomas Jefferson.No, it's not because they thought that Francis Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare. They were simply in awe of the man for the same reason that modern day Baconians believe he was capable of writing the works of Shakespeare. Like Shakespeare, Bacon influenced the world. Bacon came to the forefront of intellectual history at a time when an Aristotelian renaissance had melded with traditional religion in the natural law of Thomas Aquinas.
However indebted we all might be to a few wise Greek philosophers, Bacon saw through the shortcomings of their philosophy and dared to improve upon their teachings. Bacon was even so brash as to call his philosophy a "Novum Organum", a new method for acquiring useful knowledge.
Where Heraclitus saw a river that would never be the same when stepped in twice, Bacon saw a river whose properties could be measured and whose power could be used for the benefit of mankind! Instead of a Socratic rhetoric, with a disdain for writing down thoughts as a hindrance to the mind, or a Platonic love for dialog and debate that allowed varied interpretation, Bacon embraced the value of the newfound typesetting process and the ability to spread definitive knowledge to all. He was not satisfied to classify nature based on an Aristotelian deduction; he wanted to create an inductive science, to prove what was true and to disprove the false and misleading "idols of the mind", the errors and the bias of human nature and its false authorities and beliefs. And in doing so, to move forward to methodically create a Utopian "New Atlantis".
And for this reason, to assume that Francis Bacon was the author of the works of Shakespeare may be doing a disservice to Bacon, who would not have us accept the superficial evidence (no matter how compelling), but whose philosophy demands that we prove beyond a doubt that this is in fact the case. Was Bacon the mastermind behind the plays? Did he write them all or a significant portion? Was he the influence behind a hidden Marlowe? It's hard to say for sure, but not unlikely. In my life I have lived two concurrent and diverse lives ; one as a computer scientist and one as a writer of fiction. In both cases, I have worked with groups of talented individuals and seen how such processes improve the work of all toward a better end result and a common "house" writing style. I have occasionally written under another name and I have hidden many things in my writing, many never to be discovered, for my own enjoyment and satisfaction. I am no Francis Bacon, but I know how he might have felt.
One thing I can say for certain is that the Bacon-Shakespeare debate has validity. And it has value. I came to this debate with 'small Shakespeare and less Bacon'. My interest in the dynamics of conspiracy theory and the "Velikovskian" nature of this debate, where outsiders attempted to bang on the door of the orthodox Stratfordians, drew me to Bacon and to Shakespeare.
My uninspiring high school indoctrination to Shakespeare studies has been replaced by the sheer joy of the intellectual challenge and haunting remembrances, including a recent fine production of Coriolanus, an often overlooked gem but still relevant today. And what of Francis Bacon, all but forgotten in our educational system, who inspired modern science and politics in ways for which we will be forever indebted? How many people truly appreciate how modern thought, and perhaps all of humanity's understandings of logic, this man shaped?
I have written about Francis Bacon and in a way, I have often put him on a pedestal. In my life I have met some supposed idols that did not live up to my expectations. Others have continued to impress me and have continued to influence me. Unfortunately, most of us know Francis Bacon only through his writings and the writings of others. We can only assume that we know what he was like. I like to dream about what it would have been like to meet him, to shake his hand with a firm grip and a good word. But how can we know for certain? I believe that this is at the heart of the goal to find a hidden cipher or a lost manuscript. There is a deep desire to know this man outside the confines, distortions and bias inherent in history. There is a belief that a hidden message will somehow provide a priceless and pure insight into one of the most impressive and illusive minds of all time.
As modern day Baconians we are often dead set on proving that Francis Bacon could have written the works of Shakespeare. And if we are to believe Ben Jonson, then he might truly have done so without blotting a line. Yes, Francis Bacon could have written the works of Shakespeare. In which case it would rate as the second most impressive set of writings that he ever published.
When Allan Gross is not writing technical documents for his profession as a software engineer he is penning works of fiction at Insight Studios. He has written children's television scripts, coffee table art books, science fiction novelettes, the Tarzan newspaper comic strip, comic books and several on-line comic strips, including the conspiracy theory thriller Doctor Cyborg that features a Baconian hero who has had the good fortune of meeting Francis Bacon in a collected graphic novel called The Clone Conspiracy. Allan is also an avid marathoner and triathlete. His work can be seen at www.insightstudiosgroup.com and their online strip page www.sunnyfundays.com
This essay was written for www.sirbacon.org