The next question that arises from whether or not I was Phil is an obvious one: Where was I between 1915 and 1984?
I’ve been thinking aloud about it, and I thought I’d bring some of that process here, so apologies in advance for the rambling.
I think I was too eager to call it solved with Phil because he seemed to fit all the criteria I was looking for: he seemed in every way to be the next logical step between the person I was in 1915 and the person I am now: Somewhat more neurotic, more masculine than I am but with a much larger feminine side than John, a hipster novelist and the same taste in a lot of things including music, cars, and literature, kind of similar appearance, but not exactly like me. I don’t think I can ever be entirely sure I wasn’t him, for the exact same reasons that biased me toward that conclusion in the first place.
If I wasn’t him, then what circumstances led to me becoming so much like Phil in some very uncanny ways? Perhaps Phil was also the reincarnation of a WWI soldier; some things I found out about him in my research suggest he could have been (he had flashes of the war in 1974 which he attributed to Valis, and he was the son of a WWI veteran). It could simply be that this is what becomes of us Edwardian romantics when dropped into a postwar world; we get neurotic because this world is so disrupted after two world wars. Disruption is a common theme in Phil’s writing and it feels just as sound and natural in my hands.
I can’t find any reliable memories for anything between 1915 and 1984; I think I may have had some brief non-human lives and I’ve even tentatively placed one in Takasaki, Japan around 1920 but those are impossible to confirm decisively.
I do, however, have one vision that I was never able to properly account for: the way John Harris’ grave would have looked some time between about 1950 and 1984. I know this was the right grave because it was at the end of a single row (rather than a back-to-back row), right next to a large hardwood tree, near a fence with angled bricks at the top. I went through scores of photos of cemeteries to make sure I had the right one, but I only found one match. The discovery of the only plot matching that description at Ferme Buterne confirmed that I was killed in France rather than Belgium or elsewhere, and that I was a British soldier. It also confirmed- along with an entry in “soldiers died in the great war,” that I was a front line casualty. The grave belonged to a man whose life story revealed exact events and localities that matched many details of my memories.
However, the fact remains that I knew what my own grave looked like. Doesn’t that seem just a bit weird?
I’ve only got five possible explanations:
1. This is an improbable number of lucky guesses that somehow turned out to be right.
2. I visited my previous self’s grave in a subsequent life.
3. I wasn’t John, but his brother Albert, which I still haven’t ruled out.
4. This was an instance of remote viewing.
5. I simply haunted the Western Front as a ghost for many years.
That last prospect is an eerie one to consider. I’m still not sure I believe fully in ghosts. And yet I seem to remember being able to manifest weakly in this plane of existence after death, whenever certain bubbles of potentiality showed themselves and I had the strength to push through.
I love a great British ghost story about a troubled soul that haunts the place where it died, but I don’t know if I’m ready to believe that I’ve experienced one firsthand.