I am revisiting the idea that these flashes do not constitute past lives but rather the prior hosts of a higher consciousness that may have contacted me in 2012-2013.
Please note the mention of Phil’s flashes of WWI and how he treated these. This has caused me to consider the more bizarre possibility that these are not my own soul’s memories but that I may in fact be a contactee of the same entity that had previously contacted Phil.
The basic facts of the below are more or less up-to-date.
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I’ve been waiting a long time, double-checking, reality testing, even seeing a mental health professional when I thought I really had lost my mind, but I’m no closer to answers.
I’m ready to know, though, so I’m going to take the chance and just say it. The life I believe I may have lived between the First World War and my current life was none other than science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and I can’t describe my longing for closure, to either verify my memories or find out I’m wrong and put this whole bizarre business to rest once and for all.
I first had a hint I might have been him around April or May of last year. I’ve been sitting on this one because, as a rule, famous past lives are notoriously hard to prove and a favorite target of ridicule.
After all, anyone who has looked at reincarnation forums will find dozens of movie stars, Roman emperors, rock legends, and probably a Shakespeare or three. Nobody knows who Pte. John Harris was, and even a lot of dedicated medievalists barely know anything about William Longespee. But Philip K. Dick? I may as well be claiming a past life as Edgar Cayce or Nostradamus.
There are some other issues as well. Foremost on my mind is one thought: what will his family and friends think if they see this post? There are living people who knew this man, and I really don’t want them to think I’m trying to steal his glory. I’m not in it for money or attention, but they don’t know that, and considering I’m a complete stranger to them I wouldn’t expect them to take my word for it. I’ve had to accept that they might never even know I exist, let alone help me find the answers I’m looking for, but I’ll never know unless I go out on a limb and say something.
Then there’s the fact that Phil didn’t necessarily believe in reincarnation as such, and while I’ve elaborated elsewhere in this blog about why I favor reincarnation as a hypothesis, I cannot entirely rule out his ideas as a starting point for understanding my experiences either. I’ve said multiple times that ideas non-linear time, illusory timelines, and multiple simultaneous lives both intrigue and scare me.
The superficial facts might suggest that I’m an unlikely candidate to have been Philip K. Dick. Most of my fiction to date has been anything but what you’d expect from him, I have no memory of his supernatural experiences (most of my memories date from between 1963 and 1972), and certain small personality traits, interests, and tendencies are different. Personally, if not for the fact that I have not yet been patently wrong about anything I’ve remembered, I would be inclined to say I wasn’t him because my case is extraordinarily flimsy.
This post contains most of the relevant details of the memories, but now I would like to add some details which may be helpful in interpreting my post.
First, I know about Phil’s apparent memories of WWI from a letter he wrote to a friend, which was published in the public portions of his Exegesis. However, he does not attribute his memories to reincarnation but to VALIS:
The memory of the spirit contained nothing between the first century A.D. and World War One; that is a clue that an ellipsis did indeed occur.
(The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, Houghton Mifflin, 2011, ed. Jackson & Lethem, p. 200).
There is no further elaboration on the WWI memories, although he did reference WWI in interviews. First, in a 1976 interview he described seeing something that looked like a 12th century helmet or a WWI pillbox in the sky in 1963. He later identified it as an observation cupola near The Marne; however, there is a similar pillbox (though concrete rather than steel) located at Hill 60, where John fought.
Phil’s obsession with WWI might also explain a childhood nightmare of mine, which included a monster that had a gas mask-like face. Gas masks of that particular type were not seen on the Western Front until 1916 (John died in 1915), but Phil often described the fear he got from seeing his father wear his Marine Corps issue gas mask as a child. It could be that my childhood nightmares were not direct from the Western Front after all.
Also, I know from various sources that Phil traveled to France in 1977, but I am unable to find any evidence of how extensively. He was in Metz for the sci-fi convention there, but if he had taken a detour to the area near Armentieres or Houplines, I’m sure he would have said something in his notes. 1977 would be a perfect date for the condition I saw Ferme Buterne in during the memory/vision I had of the place. Joan Simpson, who accompanied him on this trip, is unlikely to entertain such questions (if she is even alive; the only interview I know of with her was twenty years ago).
The person I spoke to who had viewed the unpublished portions of the Exegesis told me that the name “William Longsword” sounded familiar, but he couldn’t place it and it might be nothing more than “a phantom.”
The car owned by a female friend was a Chevy Nova owned by Kathy Demuelle. I did not identify the make and model of the car, only noting it as a small red car of American make. It may be mentioned in one of his books I have not read yet.
The opinion on a specific building I described refers to a feeling of disgust and horror when comparing the architecture of the Marin County Civic Center with the Forum of Trajan in Rome. I was told by someone who knew Phil that I was spot-on about this opinion and that Phil often ranted about how it looked to him like Roman architecture (though I’m not sure how perceptive you’d have to be to see that through the veneer of jet-age sophistication). Phil mentioned Rome often in his work and he mentioned the Civic Center in VALIS, but not together and not in the context of the Civic Center having Romanesque architecture. If he mentions them in any of his other work I have not yet encountered it.
I later found after reading Ubik that Toscanini’s 1940 recording of Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis” is hinted at (but not explicitly described) in the scene where Von Vogelsang is flying Runciter’s body to the moratorium. I should note that Toscanini had at least two other recordings of this piece, one in 1935 and one in 1953, but unless the person I asked was mistaken, I correctly identified the 1940 version as one of his favorites.
Unfortunately, I cannot prove I didn’t read this passage before I had the memory, though I maintain that I had not read nor even skimmed through “Ubik” at the time.
As the chopper left the ground the moratorium owner pressed a button on his control panel. Throughout the cabin of the chopper, from a dozen sources, the sound of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis rolled forth sonorously, the many voices saying, “Agnus dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,” over and over again, accompanied by an electronically augmented symphony orchestra.
“Did you know that Toscanini used to sing along with the singers when be conducted an opera?” Joe said. “That in his recording of Traviata you can hear him during the aria ‘Sempre Libera’?”
“I didn’t know that,” Al said. He watched the sleek, sturdy conapts of Zurich move by below, a dignified and stately procession which Joe also found himself watching.
(Ubik, Mariner, 2012 p.88).
There are also some coincidences that I’ve noted, although these shouldn’t be taken as anything but a curiosity.
There’s the motif in the stone work in a building I’ve had several classes in (mentioned here), that just happens to have been built the same year John died. It bears a close resemblance to the DNA section/ fish symbol Phil drew (which is in the published portions of the Exegesis).
My choice of home town is also rather interesting. As I said, the San Francisco Bay Area was my first choice, but I ended up in Portland, Oregon instead. When I read VALIS I found a passage relating to a scene where Phil’s dualist author avatar, Horselover Fat, has been traveling for a very long time and no one is sure of his whereabouts; I’m reluctant to read too much into it but it’s intriguing:
And then we received a second mailgram. This time from Portland, Oregon. It read:
Nothing more. Just those two startling words. Well? I thought. Did he? Is that what he’s telling us? Does the Rhipidon Society reconvene in plenary session after all this time?
It hardly mattered to us. Collectively and individually we barely remembered. It was a part of our lives we preferred to forget. Too much pain; too many hopes down the tube.
(The VALIS Trilogy, Mariner, 2011, pp. 246-247).
The rational part of me rejects this interpretation, but at times I’ve flirted with the idea that this passage might have been a sort of code that Phil would re-emerge in Portland after a long absence. I’m not seriously suggesting that this is the true meaning of the passage; whether this represents a delusional idea of reference on my part or merely a creative reading of the text, I am unsure.
Also, like a lot of my suspected past lives, I have been to sites relevant to Phil’s life without fully realizing their significance. I visited Fullerton during my trip to check out job and home prospects in Portland. I stayed at a (now former) friend’s house and was deeply uncomfortable the whole time. Even though I forgot my friend’s directions to the freeway, I remembered exactly the way to go to get out of Fullerton and head north on I-5.
Most of the coincidences, however, revolve around my background, physical appearance and likes/dislikes. I have close to the same height and build, hair color, eye color, personality, career goals, types of pets (always have been a cat person but fond of dogs too), political outlook (decidedly pro-worker), and musical tastes. When I discovered Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and the works of John Dowland, it felt as if a part of my soul had been restored… though this, once again, proves nothing.
In case anyone is curious as to whether or not I could have read any of the things I remembered in a book or saw them in a documentary, I have attempted to compile a comprehensive list of every PKD-related media I have seen or read to date, so that anyone who wants to cross-examine my claims can check for themselves that the information in my confirmed memories cannot be found in those sources (with the possible exception of “Ubik” which I read more recently). I will furnish this upon request to anyone interested, though I would rather not post it here because it would register several pingbacks to fan blogs on WordPress (specifically, the page where I found Phil’s physical description and FBI file), and I’d really rather not draw extra attention from pingbacks.
If anyone has any information about the memories that I have not yet confirmed, wants to see the bilbliography I’ve compiled, or wishes to clarify something, or if you are a member or representative of the Philip K. Dick estate who wants me to remove this post, I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I cannot state this emphatically enough, though: It is not my wish to harass, intimidate, or to claim any financial reward from the estate of Philip K. Dick. I have nothing but respect for Phil and everyone who knew him.
I also want to state that I will not be in attendance at the Philip K. Dick festival this year. I’ve been to SoCal in this life, I have no desire to go back, I don’t want the attention, and I can’t afford to attend anyhow, so anyone at the festival who claims to be “OneCalledThree” is lying.
Well… this is a relief. I apologize for the months of vague, circumstantial posts that glossed over so many details but maybe now you all understand why I was so reluctant to say anything.
EDIT: It seems this post has remained popular despite the fact that I have never been able to pin down anything that makes it clear, for my purposes, that I was in fact Philip K. Dick. I simply never had any memories from his life of the quality I had from John’s life. I have had a handful of apparent memories which could simply be the product of logical deduction, and I did find Marin County California strangely easy to navigate despite never having been there, but as for memories of things that only he could know I have yet to find anything really solid to stand on. I remain uncertain as to whether or not I was him and I have basically called off the search because I have decided to devote more energy into Gnostic pursuits. Maybe I was him, maybe not… I really don’t care any more.