Pretty Sure I Heard This Song in 1915…

“Le Temps des Cerises” is a 19th century French ballad and an old standard.  The moment I first heard this song I had an inkling that I knew it, but I thought it was written for the movie Porco Rosso.

It turns out it was actually written much earlier, around 1866, and is deeply engrained in the French psyche (the song is strongly associated with the Paris Commune, though it pre-dates this event by several years).

No doubt it would have been known and sung by French soldiers and civilians alike along the Western Front.  Certainly, in a town where French identity is as strong as it is in Armentieres, it would have been a well-known song.

This isn’t the first song I have associated with John’s life and discovered that the songs were very likely songs he knew.  I seem to have a strong memory and tenacity for music across lifetimes.

The first song I had the feeling of knowing from a past life was the song “Henery the Eighth.”  As a child in this life I had heard the Herman’s Hermits version on the radio, and I could perfectly imagine what the song had sounded like being sung in a pub by drunk Edwardian workmen.  It turns out, the song dates from 1910 and was a huge music hall hit for Harry Champion.

As a very young child, the Burl Ives song “Lavender’s Blue” would make me cry.  My mother in this life thought it was the sound of the violins hurting my ears; all I could articulate to her was that the song made me sad.  It turns out it was an English folk song going back at least to Victorian times and I now suspect it may have been a song that John’s mother sang to him before her death in 1885; I still cried when I heard the song more than a hundred years later and never knew why.

Same with Scarborough Faire, also a Victorian song.  I knew the Simon and Garfunkel version from a young age and it gave me a weird feeling, flashes of walking through ruined castles and abbeys but in a more modern age.  This was the song that put the image in my head of a place I knew I had been but couldn’t nail down, the reason I asked to go to Mepkin Abbey (an active Cistercian monastery near Charleston, SC) on my 21st birthday.

Cwm Rhondda was a tune I’d first heard on “One Foot in the Grave” in a parody version.  It sounded terribly familiar and I later discovered it was a melody first performed in 1907 and that John lived in a part of England barely outside of Wales where there is still a strong Welsh identity.

Maybe music will help me remember my current life more clearly too?  It seems music has always been a trigger for me.  I develop close emotional resonances with songs and I know a tune I once loved in another life when I hear it.  I know it over a song that is simply a “favorite” or that I “kind of like.”  It’s independent of whether I like the song too much or not.  It’s a feeling of intense familiarity, sometimes good and sometimes unpleasant.

Maybe this is why I gravitate toward musicians and singers in this life.  I’m engaged to one, actually.  Maybe, if enough copies of his work survive, he’ll be my sign post to remember this life and what I’ve learned so far.

After Some Thought…

After it became clear in a recent entry that I was still unsure about my beliefs, I had to stop and think about what my beliefs really were.

It seems that over the years I’ve actually become quite comfortable as a Gnostic syncretist with my own very personal pattern of beliefs and practices that would never fit any mold.

That said, I do seem to take a lot from Christian Gnosticism and Hermeticism.  If I allow myself to pick and choose the pieces of various Gnostic systems, my beliefs begin to resemble those of the Rosicrucians and the Cathars though I also draw a great deal more directly from Buddhism.

I could do worse than to give fuller trust in this hybrid strain of Gnosticism I follow, and focus on my own life and growth before I try to reach out to others.  I feel like it has helped bring some focus to my life and given me a tool to integrate some strange things that have happened to me with a sort of freedom of interpretation that most religions don’t offer.

Even if I don’t intend to lead others, I think I’ve found a very real spiritual affinity here, one that goes back perhaps multiple lifetimes.  I’ll give it a go.  I’ll make the leap and call myself a Gnostic rather than simply treating Gnosticism as an “interest.”

Found This

I found one of the earliest stories Phil wrote after the experiences of 2-3-74, and it’s of great interest to me for its context more than its content.  It’s called “Eye of the Sibyl”

You can see he was struggling to get across the ideas in his mind at the time.  The more refined books, like “Radio Free Albemuth,” “VALIS,” “The Divine Invasion,” and “Transmigration of Timothy Archer” all came much later, around 1978-1982.  “Eye of the Sibyl” by contrast is awkward and hard to get into.

In a way, this makes me feel encouraged because the first stories I wrote about my experiences were also awkward and hard to get into.  As time passed I integrated these new ideas better and expounded them into novels I am now very proud of, but I had to start from a very awkward place.

I suppose I haven’t changed that much after all, at least when it comes to certain traits I have as a writer.

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.


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.