Crossroads

I feel that I’ve come to a crossroads in looking into my past lives.

A lot of it hinges on whether or not I can match my memories from the Middle Ages with an actual person or not, but some of it hinges on lingering doubts about my memories of 1877-1915 as well.

If the version of these lives in sequence is correct, then the lesson is clear: the opposite of your worst decisions isn’t necessarily the best decision.  If I joined the army after reflecting on a life where I chose not to be a soldier previously, then I should take that warning to heart.  It would mean that rather than never fighting for anything, or fighting at the first chance I get, I have to make sure the fight is really mine before I join it.

But if this is all just a fantasy that I’ve spun in my head, then maybe I’m just fooling myself and I should go back to living my life exactly as I did before… or maybe the value of the lesson isn’t bound to whether or not the events actually happened.

I don’t know.  I feel lost and confused and completely unsure how to integrate these experiences, or if they can be integrated at all.

The “Human Nature” Excuse

How often, when some injustice has been done, have you heard someone say “It’s only human nature?”

It’s one of the many excuses people rushed to after two world wars ravaged Europe and a third threatened to break out, all before the 20th century was over.  It’s an utterance that has become almost a reflex. We say it without ever thinking. Whenever someone does something cruel or selfish or underhanded, we just shrug and say “human nature,” and walk away with our view of humanity diminished slightly more.

But what’s the truth? What does the archaeological record say about “human nature?”

Consider violence. Now, a lot of us are familiar with the Biblical narrative of Cain and Abel, said for many generations to be an authoritative account of the first murder. For hundreds of years, the Western world has lived with the presumption that it only took one generation for murder to enter the repertoire of human behavior. When one considers it that way, a deterministic outlook on violence is pretty hard to avoid.

However, the archaeological record stands in sharp contradiction to this. While the human species itself dates to 195,000 years ago, according to the fossil record, we don’t really see a whole lot of evidence of violence between human beings until the Upper Paleolithic (about 30-40k years ago).

Now, if a species goes more than 70% of its history without a behavior, then suddenly starts doing it in one short period of prehistory, you can sort of guess that this is not something that just “comes naturally.” In that context, the story Cain and Abel seems like a fairly cruel lie to normalize violence than a parable against it.

So how did early humans and hominids actually treat each other before the Upper Paleolithic? Were they just heavy-browed, heartless brutes walking around in leopard skin tunics carrying heavy wooden clubs as the popular masculine fantasy of “cave men” would have us believe?

While there’s not a lot of material left from that time period, what we do have are a few clues to how the ancestors of today’s human population related to each other and the world, and it’s rather astonishing.

Homo Erectus cared for their injured, young, and sick. We see skeletons with evidence of healed fractures, something that is indicative of a highly social species willing to go the extra mile to save a family member.

Neanderthal made music with reed instruments of bone, and buried their dead in careful, deliberate ceremonies, even laying flowers on the corpse before burial.

Tens of thousands of years before their descendants went to war, a human being on the coast of what is now South Africa drilled holes in seashells and made themselves a lovely necklace out of what would have been just garbage from the previous nights meal.  As we would say in Portland, they were upcycling way before it went mainstream.

Over 30,000 years of sedentary settlements and around 6,000 years of civilization, the true narrative was nearly replaced with a narrative of control, conquest, and subjugation. These things became normalized and enculturated… but they’re not true to the broader spirit of what it means to be human.

In fact, the whole body of evidence for human evolution discovered thus far hints at a gentle creature for whom violence and unchecked egoism is the exception, not the rule. Art, love, and family were with the species long before violence and jealousy.

That, friends, is the truth about human nature.

Also…

One of the places I was fond of visiting when I lived in South Carolina, and one that often stirs memories that I equate with the song “Scarborough Faire” (along with the ruined abbey in Shropshire and the old plantations in Charleston) is Mepkin Abbey.

Mepkin Abbey, interestingly enough, is a Cistercian abbey just like the ones outside Shrewsbury were.  Only it’s active.

I remember once going there and having a very informative talk with a monk there about the breakup of the abbeys in England.  He mentioned something I hadn’t thought of before: the wool trade.  I do know that Henry VIII liberalized the wool trade by breaking the Cistercian monopoly on wool, but I had always considered that to be a secondary consequence of his decision to break with the Catholic Church and that his divorces and remarriages were the catalyst for all this.  But I digress…

Anyhow, it’s fascinating that two Cistercian abbeys figure into this, and that I had meaningful conversations in history with the monks at Mepkin Abbey.  This doesn’t prove anything but it does put it in the “weird when you think about it” category.

It seems that song may have been what caused me to remember that abbey from that earlier life in my previous one when I heard its faux-medieval lilt some time after moving to Hereford (it had only been popular in its current setting around Yorkshire since the 1890s and would have taken a while to get that far south, but I think it’s reasonable that I could have heard it).

I think this isn’t the first time I’ve remembered past lives.  I can’t remember a specific moment when I said “A Ha!  I remember now!” back then, but I have the general sense that I was in that abbey near Shrewsbury and that I knew damned well why I was there.  I think I may have decided that my decision to not become a soldier all those centuries ago was the wrong one.

I think that’s why I joined the Shropshires instead of going into a regiment out of Herefordshire or Somerset like I’d expect myself to.  I can’t prove it but really feel that’s the answer.

What’s With the Helmets?

I found another one of my memories to be implausible, at least in part.

The memory of the long-dead French soldier identifiable only by his helmet couldn’t have happened, since the French didn’t adopt a steel helmet until summer 1915.  I couldn’t possibly have seen a soldier dead for many months in 1915 wearing an Adrian helmet; in fact before then the Germans were the only ones with any sort of helmet at all, and it wasn’t steel.

Thing is, I’ve confirmed enough details and found enough things about me from before I had these memories, that I’m not sure I’m in the realm of an easy coincidence any more.  But when my memory pulls tricks like this I’m never sure whether to trust it for anything.

Is it possible at least some of the memories of steel helmets are true?  The only history I can find on this is of models developed by and for the military, but I don’t know if anyone offered these helmets as an optional commercial accessory before then.  I know a lot of things (like trench watches) were never official kit but a lot of soldiers had them, so this is not such a far-fetched idea.

Also, the Adrian (French) and Brodie (British) helmets were very similar to styles that go back many years.  The Adrian is similar to brass helmets worn by French firemen long before the war. Also, before the Brodie, a similar helmet called the “Chapel-De-Fer” existed in England since before the Norman Conquest.  I honestly can’t imagine, with a war going on and lots of people getting killed by shrapnel from overhead, that nobody thought to resurrect such a simple design before 1916 and I would be surprised if I didn’t find out that French soldiers took helmets from firemen, or that the British often had home-made or privately-retailed steel helmets long before the official issue.

Trouble is, at the moment I have no evidence of this.

Once again, I am in dire need of help for research materials here.  This doesn’t make sense; either I keep seeing these helmets where they shouldn’t be and all of my memories are therefore suspect, or I recall these details because they really happened and I’ve remembered something that historians forgot.  If I were to place my bets on the odds here, I’d put them on my memories being suspect.

But on the off chance I do uncover something, this could be a real watershed moment because up until now, I’ve only confirmed things that were not terribly difficult to research and didn’t exactly rock the boat with conventional history.  This is a whole different thing because my memories are hinting that the history books forgot a very important detail about the average kit we had.

That Corridor at the Copthorne Barracks

I’ve done a 3D model that approximates how that corridor looked.  The globe light is a detail I remembered as I made the model in Sketchup.

I also plan to do a model of the actual dormitory in the barracks, but that will take time as it’s a more intricate model.  I had planned to do a model of the theatre building with the unusual proscenium as well but I have to figure out how to do that without rendering all the fiddly seats and other details that would make the model too large for my computer!

Here’s the corridor:

Resources and Advice for Reincarnated Tommies

I realized that I’ve yet to offer any of the resources that helped me with my research!

Depending on the amount of detail you remember about your previous life, your mileage may vary, but I hope that at least one of these resources will help.

Child Past Lives

A forum mainly for children and their parents, but because adult recalls like mine are a bit rare and unusual there are a few adult users there as well.  Good starting point, and some of the users there really helped me with my research (many thanks), but the forum has limitations including a word filter on posts.  Worth a look for anyone experiencing memories of a past life, but look on your own for past life forums elsewhere online too because you’re going to need them.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Before I knew what my name, rank, serial, and regiment were, I had only a memory of a grave next to an old hardwood tree near a fence with angled bricks.  The CWGC’s archive of cemeteries gave me the visual reference I needed to positively identify the cemetery, and has an index of plot numbers by name that is very helpful!  Also, if you’ve ever marveled at the clean, well-kept cemeteries and monuments to British war dead, you can thank this agency for keeping their memory alive in stone, brick, and turf.

Ancestry.co.uk 

Ancestry UK has an exclusive contract with HM government to host digital copies of the records of soldiers from the Great War.  While I personally never could locate my records, a user on the Child Past Lives forum found them and was able to help me fill in a lot of blanks with information from this site.  In addition to military records, they also have census records (which is how I know the streets I lived on and towns I lived in during my previous life, and how I was able to confirm the memory of the street I lived on in the first place).

Youtube

Right now, there are scores of documentaries on YouTube pertaining to both WWI and reincarnation.  Take advantage of them before changes in site administration and internet-killing legislation makes them unavailable.  Just be careful to take some of the videos on reincarnation with a grain of salt, since YouTube is also home to a bevy of conspiracy theorists and loaded with unsubstantiated claims about just about everything.

The Great War Forum

I would not recommend breaching the topic of reincarnation here since it is a serious historic forum.  However, the user community includes people with access to detailed records and they can help confirm a lot of details about battles you fought, the unit you served in, and the everyday lives of soldiers.

In addition, I would recommend all of the following:

*Google Image Search

*The Imperial War Museum

*Regimental museums

*Local libraries

*Any of the research done by Dr. Ian Stevenson

And if any of you are just uncovering a past life, please know this: You are not alone, you are not the first to feel this pain, and chances are, you’re not crazy.  It’s a very harsh thing to deal with, especially if your memories point to war when that’s the last thing you’d want in this life.  It can make your life difficult, and it can certainly reopen a lot of old wounds.  

One important thing to remember is that the present matters more.  It can be easy to start living in the past, to even start identifying more with the era from your most recent past life than with the current one, and to start obsessively digging deeper and deeper to see just how much you can recall.  Never forget to take time to live in the moment and think of yourself as the person you were born as in this life.  

That being said, with a keen memory of the past you can come to have a new-found appreciation for the present!  We really do live in an age of wonders, and it would be a shame to forget that.  For the first time in history, we can come together across long distances and talk about experiences like this and we’re finding that although it’s rare and unusual, there are others who have been through the exact same thing and we’re here to tell you it’s going to be alright.

Most importantly, never forget the lessons you have learned from recalling a previous life.  This is a great gift toward self-improvement and it would be a horrible waste to not consider the past when planning for the future.  Not everyone has such a broad path to these lessons.

Good luck!

More about the Copthorne Barracks

I seem to remember what the actual dormitory part of the barracks looked like.

New recruits were on the top floor of the building, in a loft.  I can’t remember if there were exposed beams or not, but the ceiling was finished with white stucco and sloped upward, or may have gabled above us.

There were windows, it seems they were in large dormers big enough for two or three of us to stand in them comfortably.

The beds were single-level, and made with thick bent steel much like hospital beds of the time.  There were perhaps a hundred of them in all, close together and in 3 or 4 rows.

Once again, I’m at a loss to actually research this.  Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Memory Fragment

Inside one of the buildings at the Copthorne Barracks was a corridor where high-ranking officers each had private offices.  Very rarely, a private would enter one of these for a word with their commanding officer.  I do not remember what my business was.

The corridor had white wooden walls, as if added later in the building’s construction.  Each wall had along its top a series of narrow windows to allow in more light, and these were frosted.  There were office doors with a single pane window in the upper half along the corridor (and these were also frosted).  One of these had an officer’s title or name, or the name of the division or some other words or slogans, painted in gold and light blue.  The floor of the corridor was red tile or brick.

On the bookshelf of one of the officers I remember a statue of the god Aries, who held a staff in one hand.  The index finger on this hand pointed up.  His other hand was free, and seemed to point down.  It resembled the gesture of “As above, so below” attributed to the Hermetic tradition.  He had the form of a sage-looking but handsome man and, curiously, was clean-shaven.  The statue, so far as I can recall, was gilded bronze but the gilding had begun to wear away.  Perhaps it was not Aries at all but one of the Caesars or some other figure of note from the Greek or Roman world, but my feeling is that it was meant to be Aries.

I’m wondering if there is any way in hell I can confirm any of this.  Unless someone with access to the Copthorne Barracks (which is still an active military installation) could confirm my description of that particular corridor, I’m afraid I’ll probably be left wondering about this one.  Given the sensitive nature of asking for highly-specific details about active military installations I won’t be actively approaching anyone about this matter, and I will not ask anyone to tell me anything that is sensitive to the operations of the base, but if anyone knowledgeable about the facility can tell me if my description of the corridor is at least accurate I would greatly appreciate it.

The Coming Tragedy

America so far has been fortunate in that it has never experienced total war close to home in the modern era.

The last time a major war was fought on American soil, it was fought with 1860s technology.  From then on most of the fighting was out of sight, out of mind, and there were always people who managed to remain unaffected.

The remainder of wars have always been fought far afield, and the losses have seldom been more than 5% of the adult male population.  The total US losses in the entire Vietnam war were less than the British lost in a single day at the Battle of the Somme.

This relative lack of cultural experience with the horror of total war, this distance, this relative good luck, is going to come back to haunt us very soon.

Consider the following factors that could easily lead to a bloody civil war on 3 or more fronts in the next decade:

*There is a cocksure and cavalier attitude toward violence and inequality that dominates US culture.  The thought that “might makes right” is the prevailing zeitgeist, and rule by fear- whether a government that fears its people or a people that fears its government- is considered the norm when it comes to rule of law (thanks in no small part to the legacy of the Puritans).

*The government and military are becoming increasingly unconcerned with following international laws and treaties, and have become very well-versed in exploiting loopholes.

*Authorities across the country (federal, state, and local) are becoming increasingly paranoid about the activities of the people, and increasingly heavy-handed toward anyone who steps out of line. Bills are in the works to allow the authorities to be even more heavy-handed than they already are, including bills to censor the Internet and bills to erode protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

*Many overlapping factions, ranging from far right to far left, are calling for revolution in the US currently.  They often use the same rhetoric, the same symbolism, and the same channels of communication, but their end goals are disparate.  You often find hardened anticommunists with theocratic leanings rubbing shoulders with tech-savvy anarchists.  They have identified the US government as a common enemy for various reasons, but they are making a crucial mistake: they assume the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” and have not yet thought about how badly their differences will affect their actual approach to revolt (nor will they, until the first shots are fired).

*Many of these factions (especially the Religious Right) have a good bit of corporate money flowing into them, and some even have cronies in civilian defense contractors who have access to weapons and training far superior to that of the numerous unincorporated militias springing up.

*Some of those trying to whip up anti-government fervor appear to be in the pockets of large banks and corporations.  Follow the money from some of the most shrill pundits and you find names like Koch Bros, Bank of America, and Monsanto among others.  No doubt the big players would be keen on using a coup as a bid to grab power.

*There are large, well-funded, and well-armed mercenary armies in this country (dubbed “defense contractors” in Newspeak).  They are not bound by the same laws as soldiers, and have been implicated in the summary executions of civilians on numerous occasions.  Some will undoubtedly side with the US government, but others- owing to the large amounts of corporate funding from many big business and big religion special interest groups, will no doubt turn on the government and cause substantial problems.

*It remains to be seen just how well US troops will actually follow orders if and when they are ordered to turn on their own people.  Many undoubtedly will, but if large numbers of soldiers desert to join the various revolutionary fronts, a small revolt could mushroom into a full-blown and very long civil war.

*If the US brings in support from allies to fight rebels, then other nations less friendly to the US government will no doubt send money, weapons, and even troops to help support the rebels.  Some countries may even hedge their bets and aid both sides.  If this happens, then a simple revolt or civil war could mushroom into a world war, fought mainly on US soil.

But the worst thing about all these factors is that they are all in place and ready to roll.  I think, shy of our government abandoning its police state tactics and instituting some real reforms (highly unlikely), the tensions are so close to boiling point that it won’t be long before we see another Waco or Ruby Ridge type event; only this time, it will be followed closely by another, and then another.

For my part, I’ve already made it clear that I don’t intend to be involved in any capacity.  My first priority will be to get myself and my partner somewhere safe and stay there until things blow over.  Sadly, I fear that once this is unleashed, the country I was born in during this life will no longer be a place worth returning to.  I predict that either big business interests will win over the government and install a plutocracy, with a theocratic figurehead to keep the masses obedient and ignorant, or that the US government will win but will become so paranoid and tyrannical in the aftermath of the revolt that it will become a military dictatorship.  The things that have made being born in this country worthwhile are bound to be lost if things continue on their present course.

I feel angry and frustrated beyond words.  I feel like I really did sacrifice everything in vain back in 1915.  The “War to End All Wars” has been a cruel joke, and soon the nation that benefited the most by staying out if the early years of that war- a nation of bright, promising, and dynamic people and landscapes of indescribable beauty- will become its blood-soaked punch line.

Did I Ever Love Before This Life?

I’ve often said that I have seen no sign that anyone I loved in my previous life is with me in this one.

While I have a strong suspicion that my father in this life (as much an Anglophile as I am, especially after accompanying me on a trip there back in 2001) may have been my father in the previous one, I have nothing to tell me so and he doesn’t remember.  I’m hoping if he and I can go back to Hereford together it might jog some memories, and he seemed strangely eager to possibly plan a trip in the future (though it’ll have to wait a while yet).

As far as romantic love, I don’t really have anyone I feel strongly may have been a love in a previous life.  I’ve had suspicions about one or two former loves from this life but aside from their being British and being people I felt strong affections for, once again I’ve got nothing and it would be wrong to assume my feelings in this life mean anything for the past.

My true love in this life, the one I fell hardest for, is probably the least likely to have been anyone I loved in a previous life.  We met by random chance via the Internet while I was in England and he was in the Midwest US, so it wasn’t like we grew up near each other or I came across him in a tiny village in England very near one I lived in.  He’s an awesome guy all around, but I really do feel like my love for him is completely new to this life because I can’t place him.

I sort of thought he might have been the round-faced little girl who was always smiling that I remember from my childhood in Yeovil, but even that link is tenuous and intuitive.  Then again, my intuitions have been right from time to time (I knew by intuition to look in France first for my grave), but in this case it would seem more like wishful thinking to link them with such a tenuous connection as a brief flash of intuition.

When I think about it, the whole thing just makes more sense if I consider the possibility that our love is new, to this life, and that I had never been this far in love before.

For the first couple of years he and I were together, I was… well, a restless lover.  I often talked about polyamory and the like, and I developed strong feelings for several guys (one of whom later became an abusive stalker, sadly).  I was addicted to the rush I got from playing the field, checking my luck with every guy who seemed smart enough that I could have a real conversation with.  There were also times when I missed England so much that I thought of leaving him and going back instead.

When I finally landed a guy who really loved me, I didn’t know what to do, like a dog who’s chasing cars and has one finally stop for him; he thinks he’s caught it and now he doesn’t know what to do with it, so he goes chasing after another one.  In all, it took a good many years before I finally found myself learning to give him my heart fully, and often I thought I had made that step, then found I had more to go.  I had so much to learn about love; my body was experienced but my heart was virgin and naive.

I see a lot of signs of that same restlessness I had earlier in my life in my memories from my life as John.  Though I certainly thought highly of my wife and was fond of her, I fear I may not have let myself love her as fully as I should have, perhaps because I simply didn’t know how.  I wasn’t as faithful as she deserved, and the readily-available amusements of the Western Front was only icing on what I believe I may have done before the war.

I believe I may have walked away from a marriage in my life in the Middle Ages as well.  I have a vague memory of getting married wearing what looked to be 14th century attire in a church with thin black columns, but I also remember becoming a monk, which no doubt would have meant I had to annul the marriage.

Maybe this is the life where I finally learn to love.  But I won’t be content just thinking so.

I want to leave a clue for my partner and I to find in our next life, but I can’t think of anything that’ll be easy to remember.  I don’t know if I’m capable of “choosing to remember” things, though once again, the fact that I remembered enough about the gravesite to find it sort of hints that it can be done.

If anyone can suggest something we can leave as clues for ourselves, I’d appreciate it.  If it’s at all possible, I want to find him in my next life.  If I never loved before, then I hope at least this time we’ll find a way to stay together.