Beyond The Edge of Recollection

The more I study about the art and culture of the Middle Ages, the more I’m convinced that this was a world I knew well.

More specifically, I think any life I might have lived in the Angevin courts was a fluke; my strongest draw, by far, is to the trappings of monastic life.

I see the vaulted ceilings and cloisters of old abbeys and I feel strangely homesick.  I read of monks commenting on the aches in their back and hands, the strain on their eyes, or the poor quality of the parchment (one monk complained that his still had hair on it) and I feel like it’s all familiar to me, things I experienced regularly.

Also, there’s the places I tended to gravitate toward.  Certainly, the ruins of old abbeys held a strange fascination for me when I was in England in 2003-05.  But more than that, there was Mepkin Abbey, an active, thriving Cistercian abbey near Charleston, SC I used to go to as a child and once specifically requested a trip to on my 21st birthday.  I spent a good half hour talking monastic history with one of the brothers at the abbey and felt strangely at home, though I knew in my heart that this time around, monastic life wasn’t for me (most importantly because I’m involved in a very serious relationship).

I’ve written a few medieval monastic characters into my recent works and I have to say, it comes rather naturally.  I think it’s safe to say that this is a topic I will revisit in my work for many years to come.

It’s a shame that oak galls are so hard to come by in Oregon, and parchment is so terribly expensive, or I’d be tempted to try my hand at making my own ink and writing the old-fashioned way, with a candle for light, a quill, a blade, a stylus, and a copy of my work to be transcribed to elegant miniscule letters (or as elegant as my unsteady hands can manage).

Still, any clear recollection of having lived that life eludes me.  It’s only a vague feeling that I had to have lived- perhaps several lifetimes- as a Cistercian monk some time before or after Count William’s life.  Maybe that was the life I defaulted toward during that period, when I wasn’t born into some prior obligation or a life of privilege.  I feel strongly that I had multiple literate lives in an age when this was not common, though, which is odd.

Depressed

I’ve been fighting it off for weeks, but a full-on depression has set in anyway.

Unable to concentrate on coursework, unable to concentrate on writing, no new ideas.  I’ve spent the whole evening pretty much struggling to stay awake.  If I go to bed this early I’ll wake up too early and then my sleep schedule will be a total mess.

On Starting Religions

I mentioned a couple entries ago that I had toyed with the idea of starting a religion as a bid to maybe give myself a karmic edge (which I considered to be an act of bargaining with the curious fortune of having been who I was in a previous life) but I think the subject deserves more discussion because it’s something I’ve thought deeply about.

First of all, in my life I’ve seen both the very best and the very worst religion can bring out in a person.  I cannot bring myself to see it as unilaterally “bad” or “good” in any respect because you can’t make any such statement without a broad generalization.  I’m familiar with Dawkins and Hitchens’ arguments that religion has nothing good to offer, but I find that their work isn’t very durable outside of a modernist framework.

For me, the considerations come down to what good starting a movement could actually do and what potential for harm it would cause to have someone as flawed as me leading it.  I could go into it swearing up and down that I’ll never be a Rolls Royce guru, but what would happen if I started a big enough movement that I could afford a Rolls?  Would I find a way to excuse my lack of altruism through some ‘greater good’ reasoning and get a blinged-out Phantom, or would I adhere to the same vow of poverty I ask of those I reach out to?

Also, many groups started with the best of intentions soon devolve into sinister cults when a leader becomes too egotistical at being the head of a large congregation.  Would that be my fate too?  Supposing I were to start a Cathar revivalist sect that stressed minimal living as a means of nonviolent revolution by de-funding the military-Industrial complex, only to become paranoid and move my congregation out to a fortified compound in the middle of nowhere?  It could only go downhill from there.

On the other hand, if I simply put an idea out there without taking a leadership role, I’m equally afraid of losing control of it to the point where it becomes a liability.  I could try to create a movement with no leaders, but I’ve been involved in such movements before; generally, my experience tells me that if no one assumes a leadership role, then by default leadership falls to those who do the most to organize and solidify a movement and those people don’t always have the best intentions.

Also- and this is very important- how much of what I preach am I willing to believe wholeheartedly?  My views have shifted so many times in my life, how can I hope to be consistent?  Once I start a movement, I have to devote my life to that movement and I am unsure if I am capable of such constancy.

Another consideration: having a past life like Phil’s puts me in a tremendous double-bind.  I genuinely feel that a Cathar revivalist sect could be a good vehicle for the sort of enlightened Christianity Phil envisioned, and it would be a powerful testimony to talk about how the remembrance of past lives changed the trajectory of my life forever, but it would also look cheap and silly to most people.  Also, I’m sure the media and the blogosphere would draw unwelcome parallels to that South Park episode about Scientology even if I intended to create something that could enrich lives and requires no money to be involved in.

I must admit though, I see Scientology billboards on buses and trains downtown and I’m deeply frustrated.  Nobody took Hubbard’s little cult seriously back in those days, and I’m sure back when I was Phil I couldn’t have imagined that Scientology would become the monolithic destroyer of lives It’s become.

I want so badly to become the antithesis to L. Ron Hubbard and create a movement that restores lives and heals hearts.  I want so badly to stand before David Miscavige and say “And where is L. Ron now?  I came back, he did not!  You can threaten me and you can mock me, but I’ll be back again and again until your little cult is destroyed!  Be gone, you liar and thief!  You may promise enlightenment, but I deliver!”  But in reality I know that it would never play out that way, even if I had the support of other movements against scientology, if for no other reason than no one would take me seriously.

Even if I had a stronger case for having been Phil than I do, I feel like have too many regretful facts about my past to be a public figure.  I have no ethos, and I’m sure there’d be plenty of people who already dislike me who would be happy to tell the media all the dirt they know about me, about every prejudiced remark I made or every fetish I have, or everyone I slept with back when I was getting it out of my system.  I’m sure my fluctuating political alliances would come up too; they love giving people who change their mind in earnest a hard time for being “inconsistent.”

And so I have to cure myself of these romantic notions of being hailed as an ascended master returned to bring good news and free the oppressed, even if I have the best intentions, because I know that good intentions are only half the equation.  I can’t bargain my way out of the helplessness of being an obscure writer scraping by on the West Coast once again, with no recourse to past achievements to help me do something amazing.  If I want to be amazing this time, I have to build up from nothing.  It’s a harsh reality but it’s the only sound and solid way to go about my life.

I can get my head around it; just wish I could get my heart around it.

Junk Gnosis

Quite often, when coming across videos or websites dealing in Gnostic topics, you will find sensationalist “educate yourself!” conspiracy theories spouting about things like fluoride an the Illuminati.

That isn’t Gnosis; if anything, I believe it’s a smoke screen to keep serious discussion of Gnosticism on the fringe.  After all, the US government has a long history of demonizing people who don’t follow mainline Christian denominations (from the Red Scare to the Satanic Panic to today’s anti-Muslim crusade); why should we believe for one moment that they’re not seeding disinformation against Gnostic movements?

Of course, to hear many conspiracy theorists talk, you might begin to think that our country is run by a Luciferian elite, though the overwhelming evidence is for a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant dominance in our government.  Truth be told, such conspiracy theories are more common among followers of mainline Christian denominations, or Christian Identity movements, and they mostly validate the persecution complex instilled in American Evangelicals and white men from a young age (I went through this indoctrination myself in my early teens before some time away from that culture and a little thing called gender dysphoria helped de-program me).  If anything, Illuminati conspiracy theories feed into fear of practitioners of the Occult, and might actually serve to frighten someone away from the sorts of inquiries necessary in the pursuit of Gnosis.  They often quote mine from sources and people read these quotes without consulting the actual sources themselves.*

For that matter, for all the crappy, over-prescribed psychiatric drugs (and they are crap, for the most part), additives in the water, chemicals in the food, and the allegations of killer rays or chemtrails or whatever else, there sure are an awful lot of people who, in spite of these supposed population and mind-control measures, are quite openly aware that the system is full of shit.  If we’re under some sort of chemical mind control, it’s very poorly executed.**  As for population control, I could more readily believe that, until I board the Max at 5:00 in the evening and find myself with barely enough room to breathe.

I have an inkling that people who promote a Gnostic vision tainted with this anti-Gnostic “Infowars” brand of hysteria may be propagating the products of psy-ops.  A document produced by British intelligence agency GCHQ, a close partner of the NSA, called “The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations” has, on page 24, a page describing “Gambits for deception” that includes pieces of advice like “exploit prior beliefs.”  Certainly, if a “prior belief” includes a distrust of esoteric knowledge, then it would be easy to exploit that belief by fomenting distrust of Gnostic practitioners.  A well-meaning but ill-informed novice might then mistake these conspiracy theories, seeded on sites they frequent, as genuine insight and make the mistake of believing themselves “awakened” when they are in fact lulled by the same spell as many other would-be dissidents.  Once a meme is forced in one or two places by an agent, it is carried along by people who have no idea that they are spreading someone else’s deliberate misinformation.

I agree that the government, corporations, banks, and various entities that make up the world we live in don’t always have our best interests in mind.  I would agree that more often than not, they don’t want us to know the whole truth because if we knew, we’d hate them for all the lies they’ve told and all the things we’ve sacrificed without even knowing it.  I would agree that mass media is a cruel joke, TV is aptly called the “idiot box,” and the things we’re told to put in our body are probably not as wholesome as we’re led to believe. But be mindful that not everyone who peddles the “whole truth” is pointing you the right way.  Be careful of people who aim to dismantle Gnosticism, or who unknowingly sow the seeds of its destruction in their careless repetition of tired memes and groundless conspiracy theories.

The true light of Gnosis is more than just a rebellion against the power structure or looking down your nose at “sheeple.”  Gnosis is beyond society and politics altogether; it is the sublime realization of our place in the universe as the refracted colors of the single light of God through the prism of illusory reality.  Be careful that you are not distracted by the double-bluff revelations of lesser deceptions.  The rulers of the world will always lie because that has always been the nature of the rulers of the world; they mean nothing to you and you need not fear them.

*It isn’t like sources on esoteric societies are rare manuscripts hidden from public view either, though to hear the conspiracy theorists you would think they were; you can read the founding documents of the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, the Golden Dawn, OTO, and a whole slew of other groups for free online.  If you’re a literate person with a functioning cerebrum, you have no excuse to be afraid.

**That isn’t to say that various types of thought reform don’t exist; that is the primary apparatus of the mass media.  However, thought reform is not very effective when a person maintains a strong enough will or escapes from the controlled environment.

The 5 Stages of Grief Applied To Past Lives

Discovering past lives isn’t all fun and games.  Often, it’s a painful process and it isn’t unusual to go through all 5 stages of grief described by Kübler-Ross, especially if it’s a life that ended abruptly or with some lingering regrets.

Chiefly, John and Phil’s lives are the ones I went through this process the most acutely with; Count William’s life just seems too remote and complete to feel too sad about.

Here’s how the stages played out in my case:

Denial

In the case of John, it was something along the lines of “No!  It can’t be!  This must be just a thick string of coincidences!  I couldn’t possibly have remembered being killed in 1915, it’s not possible!  I’m just psychotic or pitying myself or something.”

In the case of Phil, it was more like “Damn it, you’ve let your imagination run away with you and it didn’t come back.  You’re crazier than Philip K. Dick if you think you were actually him!  You don’t really believe something so preposterous, do you?”

Anger

In the case of John, I was extremely angry at myself for getting involved in the war and inflicting nearly a hundred years of pain on myself.  I wondered if I was still just as gullible and idealistic in this life, and I began to doubt my ability to make good decisions when it came to backing causes.

In the case of Phil, I was angry that of all people, it had to be me, because I knew having a past life like his would be problematic from the get-go and I really had to learn how to talk about it and who to talk about it with.  I was lucky enough to find people who were famous in previous lives and were open about it to various degrees but it felt like a burden I didn’t need all the same.

Bargaining

In the case of John, the bargaining phase actually led to positive developments.  Inititally, it simply became a mad scramble to become less angry, violent, and politically involved in hopes that I wouldn’t have to go through the same thing again but in hindsight, I think it may have actually made me a more mindful person with healthier priorities.

In the case of Phil, it’s harder to say what constitutes bargaining because I wasn’t really trying to avoid anything that hadn’t already happened.  I guess the spike in my writing activity that marked the first year after I discovered my past life as Phil (3 novels completed) might have something to do with it, but ultimately that was a positive development too.

Depression

In John’s case, there was a lot of this.  Mostly listening to WWI-themed songs and crying my eyes out, or wandering aimlessly trying to tune out all the little things that reminded me of that life.  It meant creative doldrums and a lot of wasted evenings.

In the case of Phil, it led to an immense feeling of helplessness.  I remember standing by the Pacific with my fiance about a year ago, looking at sand castles destroyed by the incoming tide, and saying how I felt like everything I did in that life was just a sand sculpture, washed away by circumstances I couldn’t control.  The only response either of us could think of was to build it all again but it seemed so futile.  I felt frustrated too that I could have had the career I always wanted as a writer but died before I could reap the benefits of a hard life, and I wondered (still wonder) if that fate is what awaits me this time around.

Acceptance

In the case of John, the acceptance was just sort of a mellowing of feelings.  Yes, I probably was an unlucky Tommy who met a bad end.  At least that wasn’t the end of the adventure, right?

In Phil’s case, I’m not sure I’ve reached full acceptance yet.  There’s still a part of me that is bargaining, wondering if I should start a religious or social movement to better my chances of having a life worth remembering next time, still pushing my writing hard because it’s the strongest and most consistent thread that ties the last 85 years together for me, and still hoping that I can re-capture a bit of the person I was without sacrificing the person I am.  But I don’t feel like his life is integrated into the story of how I became who I am yet; I feel like he’s an external model that I’m trying to live up to and I’m not always comfortable with the comparison even if I am better at important things… like relationships.

The Old Record Store

As some fans of Philip K. Dick might know, he worked in a music store in Berkeley fairly early on.  At the time it was called University Music, but it changed to Rasputin Music while Phil was still in Marin County.

Here we have a video inside the store.  It’s been remodeled a good bit, but there were a few moments where my nostalgia went into overdrive:

First, that stairway to the loft looks more or less the same.  I think the colored steps were done after it became Rasputin, but the aluminum trim on the edges of the steps was definitely there.  My gut tells me the loft has been majorly remodeled because I seem to remember there being a cozy, paneled, carpeted space with a hi-fi and a couch.  I’ve been trying to track that memory down for months, though, and information is sparse.

Second, they still have the 50 cent record bin!  Incredible!  I didn’t even remember it until I saw this but I remember them having it back when the place was still called University Music.  They’ve long since moved it to the basement with the rest of the vinyl, but after I saw this I distinctly remembered it being to the right as you walked in the door.  Now I’m hoping against hope someone can confirm this for me.  A brief look at information on the cost of records in the 1950s-70s shows me that 50 cents would have been cheap for a record even then, so it seems plausible.