Life & Soul

Heretic of the week: Neville Goddard

A sign points to Wilshire Ebell Theatre (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Neville Goddard (1905-1972), was born to a white family in St Michael’s, Barbados. Regardless of whether they were wealthy at his birth (accounts differ), his father and brother became so – the Goddard corporation is now a multimillion-dollar enterprise.

Neville would later claim that this was because both of them would relax every morning and visualise exactly how they wanted their day to go – and so it would, business meetings and all.

But at 17, young Neville was bitten by the showbiz bug and emigrated to New York. There he became a dancer and broke into vaudeville. Unfortunately, he did so just as it was giving way to motion pictures.

Nevertheless, the young Bajan lad kept at it, and as the years went by, found some success both as a vaudeville dancer and Broadway actor – though he would supplement these flashier roles with elevator operating and clerking during lean periods.

He claimed to have met an Ethiopian rabbi in 1931 named Abdullah, who instructed him in various mystic arts, including Kabbalah. What these turned out to be in Neville’s case was an amplified version of what his family had been doing all along: visualising success.

Using only his first name, he published 10 books on his teachings, which included the notion that none of the characters in the Bible were real: all had been visualised by Jesus – but not God.

After World War II (out of which, through his “power of imagination”, he visualised and achieved an early discharge) he moved to Los Angeles, and like many other New Age champions became a regular speaker at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre – which also hosted Joseph Murphy, who in turn claimed to be a fellow student of Abdullah. Morality did not play a big part in Neville’s teachings, and he was married twice.