Thursday, September 5, 2013

Past Lives

A friend of mine is coming over tomorrow and we’re going to try hypnosis and past-life regression. I’m saying try because I have no idea whether it works, especially on me.

All I know is that since I was a small child I’ve had a memory of a moment, and it is just a moment only, of standing on a man-made stone structure looking out across a flat tree-scattered landscape in grave disappointment about the end of all I had tried to do. There is fire and I smell the smoke. The fire creates its own weather and the hot fire-wind blows my hair, which is very dark and my long plain dress against my legs. I hear screams of people being hurt and the shouts of the invaders who are hurting them. My mentor, a wiry, upright and gentle man stands near me and puts his hand on my shoulder, a gesture of affection and farewell. We both know we are going to die. We have been teachers, teaching those who wanted to learn, those who were not afraid that learning was against the gods’ wishes. We taught an easier, kinder way, with science and mathematics and language and logic. And it is now ended at the hands of brutes. I am not angry. I am sad. I think this must have happened so many times before, where knowledge and learning were met with fear and greed. My mentor has told me it is the way of things a long time ago, so many things he said that we need say nothing more in these last minutes of fire and blood.

All that has come to me in a whiff, in a breath, in a moment. And the memory returns and returns, many times since I was a child, strongly with great detail when I was in high school and many times since then.

I told my friend Cindy about it when we were in high school. We experimented with a Ouija board to see if more information could come up, but that really didn’t shed any light on this memory.

We succeeded in scaring ourselves in a séance in Cindy’s bedroom one evening, with a bunch of our high school friends, boys and girls, packed in to the small room. The door and windows were closed. The candle was lit. The plastic planchette moved wildly across the table as if an agitated hand wanted to scratch out the letters on the board, swinging to letters, then good-bye, then more letters, then good-bye. The candle went out in a puff although no one was near it. Some of the girls screamed. We turned on the electric light and stopped, never to use the board again.

I had read about past lives and Bridey Murphy, the controversies, the skepticism, the fact-checking and not the very least the accuracies in spite of everything. I understood how easily someone might try to fool someone else with information they had gained from research or made up from a florid imagination.

While the people dashed off to find evidence of the real Bridey Murphy, someone whose existence was not proven by records, the interesting thing about the case is that the descriptions of the Antrim coast and other things like the grocer’s name and the name of the church, although asynchronous with the time Bridey is supposed to have lived, were surprisingly accurate. Collective memory, some call it. But it is no doubt interesting.

After reading so many of my high school classmates’ stories of the days when we were in high school, what we got away with and what we didn’t, and now seeing them scattered all over from my small town in eastern New Mexico, I tend to think of past lives more in the current lifespan. The memories have grown softer over time. What was once fierce anger and perhaps even fiercer passion is now the fond youth, the springs and summers that seemed endless and fleeting at the same time.

The 6 of Cups is the Tarot card most often associated with memory of days gone by, of a more innocent time. If only we had known then, we muse. And yet, if we were just to live today as if it were that fond memory that, had we only known then, we would have cherished more, today would be as happy as any yesterday.

I think about the episodes of my life, working as a reporter and newscaster for a college radio station, college scholarship kicked into overdrive as I discovered again and again my love of learning, my first awkward steps into the business world, coming into my own self-confidence in my late twenties, and so many more times in my life. They are like little past lives that, like a fire-hot wind, can sear my mind even today with their scent, their touch, their sights, sounds and tastes.

One of my favorite people in tarot, Lon Milo DuQuette, has a song about past lives that I love, so rather than say more, I’ll let Lon sing it for me. Here is “I Once Was the Hero of Megiddo”, lyrics by Lon Milo DuQuette.

Best wishes.

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