I tend to be cautious about past lives, especially famous ones. It’s extremely easy, once you’ve remembered one life that is identifiable, to start wondering if every person you identify with from every era might have been you.
Not everything passes the smell test for me. There are a number of past lives I’ve ruled out, or now believe to be unlikely based on evidence.
Some lives I’m fairly sure I’ve ruled out:
William Blake (18th century poet, English)
While my verse can occasionally take on a blakeish tinge, I can easily identify with his spirituality and empathy, and he’d be a fine compliment to Philip K. Dick, ultimately my memories seem to place me elsewhere, in the northeastern US (possibly as a soldier, preacher, or military chaplain), around the 1770s.
Ludwig Van Beethoven (composer, German)
I look like him when I scowl, I have a similar temperament, and I have at least one other past life that was obsessed with him. But while I’ve dabbled in music (and written brief riffs that are vaguely Beethovenish), I’ve never mastered it, and his life would contradict the timeline I have the best memories for, plus I’ve never had any attachment to 19th century Vienna.
William Henry Fox-Talbot (photography pioneer, English)
This one is weird in that I have a circumstantial case for it. My photography is similar in many respects, the name “William” appears a lot in previous lives, the name “fox” could be read as a synchronicity, and he just happened to live in Lacock Abbey, which was built by none other than Countess Ela, widow of one William Longespee (the abbey is home to one of only two likenesses of Longespee in stone). However, once again, the timelines are conflictory. My memories of the 1840s are not of being gentry, like Fox-Talbot, but of being working class.
Another life I have previously suspected was that of William Shakespeare (yes, another William). I’ve been through Stratford-Upon-Avon, I’m a writer and poet, and I have a background in theatre. However, I now feel that if I was anyone of note in that era, I have a better case for having been John Dowland. This is not because of the music he wrote but because of some unusual circumstantial links between him and Philip K. Dick.
Phil once wrote a story under the byline “Jack Dowland” and referenced him often. The title “Flow, My Tears The Policeman Said” is a direct reference to Dowland’s song “Flowe My Teares.”
Phil once wrote letters to the authorities begging his case eloquently when he felt he was under scrutiny; whether or not he was aware that John Dowland had done the same centuries earlier, I’m not sure. I do know that I had considered doing the same at one point in my life but felt it was excessive considering my relative lack of involvement in anything really fishy, though perhaps it’s wise to be just a little paranoid these days.
Once again, however, the relative lack of musical ability and of verifiable memories makes me reluctant to name Dowland as a strong candidate for a past life.