While trying to track down more info on Clyde/Clive, I began looking up information about shipwrecks on the West Coast.
First I tried Oregon but there were no paddle steamers wrecked in Oregon that I could find. I then tried California, expecting the same luck.
Instead, I found one that piqued my interest right away!
In 1866, a British-built paddle steamer called the “Labouchere” on its way from San Francisco, CA to Victoria, BC wrecked at Point Reyes, CA.
This is very interesting because:
1. It’s a paddle steamer.
2. It was in service in BC, a far-flung part of the British Empire at that time.
3. Phil lived at Point Reyes Station in the early 1960s which would make for a very interesting coincidence.
It would also explain my memory of standing on a rocky cliff looking down at a foundered ship.
If I can find a list of names on board, I’ll be very excited! As it stands, I am still unsure if the name “Clyde Starr” or “Clive Sparks” or something along those lines is even correct so it could be a dead end even if I have the correct ship.
I heard this song in a short film a while ago and it took me a few days to find just the song on its own, in anything close to the arrangement I heard.
The song was called “Harbor Lights,” a foxtrot tune from around 1937:
So often I hear these old songs from the 30s and there’s nothing there, no hint of nostalgia at all, or just a vague feeling of genre familiarity without feeling anything for the specific song. But when I heard this one the hair stood up on the back of my neck!
Every now and then I ask myself, what do I want with all this?
Why do I pursue it? Why do I research these memories that come to me, effervescing into my conscious mind like the answer sphere from a Magic 8 Ball?
I guess my biggest motive- my biggest problem- is that I can’t let things go. I can’t have a tantalizing hint, like a flash of memory from something that happened over a hundred years ago, and not try to track down the details of what I saw. The images of battlefields, graves, and terraces of homes somewhere in England were burned into my mind and I became so obsessed with it that I had to find out if there was anything to it.
But what if I’d had the normal capacity for writing these sorts of things off as just a flight of fancy? Wouldn’t I be happier than I am today if I hadn’t discovered the prospect that reincarnation could be a thing?
And once I’d found John, what if I hadn’t tried to integrate my experience instead of compartmentalizing it, setting it off to the side like everything else? What if I’d never looked at Philip K. Dick and thought, “there’s a guy who knew how to make the most of a weird situation,” only to get triggered and start remembering things that weren’t in the documentaries and articles? I’d be saved a thousand disturbing questions not only about myself and my own state, but about the broader universe and the nature of reality.
At times I wonder if my work from the end of 2012 to the current time, as I begin writing my sixth novel, will be regarded as anything but the sad signs of a mind on the verge of insanity. The few people who have read my upcoming work say it’s my best ever, but what if this is just the last shower of sparks before I explode, or fizzle into the night sky?
Or maybe this whole thing has been a sick game that I played with myself until my imagination ran away with me. I suppose a writer who’d had a breakthrough in understanding pathos might very well be carried away by the fates of such people as John. But is that really all? And can that explain, with any satisfactory clarity, why Philip K. Dick had recollections of the Western Front as well, a fact so obscure that no biography even mentions it and that he only touched on briefly in personal correspondence?
But what do I want with chasing this any further? What could I possibly gain? Phil never found the answer. He wrote 8,000 pages of lengthy diatribe to try to understand what happened to him, what makes me any different?
Or am I simply taking this on as a Grail Quest? I think the trouble with that is that, as I’ve discovered, answers do turn up even when you’re expecting perpetual mystery, and quite often it’s a very disturbing answer. So supposing, for once, the Perfect Fool rides off in search of the Grail only to find it? Will I die of ecstasy and ascend to an enlightened form, or will I simply go on living wondering what the fuck I got myself into by figuring this out?
But maybe I am less like Perceval and Galahad, and more like Don Quixote who, fed a steady diet of popular novels, became addicted to them and began acting out his life as a character in them. I did spend much of my early childhood in Torrejon de Ardoz, which is very near La Mancha, after all.
But then, what kind of Quixotic personality counters its drive to prove oneself right with an equal and opposite drive to prove oneself wrong? After all, part of what I’ve been doing in my research is looking for something to disprove me. I certainly want to discover some fact that comfortably dissuades me of the notion that I was ever Phil (or indeed, anyone but a freaked out hipster with a weird inner life).
So what do I want by this? I guess ultimately, I want to be absolved of the burden of recurring lives by discovering for myself that the idea is preposterous from every reasonable angle or, barring that, to know what I can expect in lives to come and how much control I really have over where I’ll go next. I would give anything to find out that either dead is dead, or that a simple choice of Heaven or Hell lies before me because those options limit your moral responsibility to the moment of death, no further. In lieu of that, I just want to know how- or if- I can make the most of the irritating problem of reincarnation.
I had a memory of a training camp in France, around 1915.
They had us learn to dig trenches, working at it all day long.
An officer stood over me. “Put your back into it! They’re shooting at you! Dig! Dig!” he shouted practically in my ear. The ground had the consistency of peat and came loose in dense clumps. It stuck to everything and had a slight acid smell to it.
The field had been the site of some mayhem in medieval times; several of us found medieval arrow heads and I think someone else found a broken spear tip. We were either in or near Normandy, where I may have trained as a knight more than 700 years earlier.
We had a model redoubt about 100 square yards by the time we were done that day. It was a very basic trench, with little more in the way of refinements than firing steps and small wooden shelters.
It seems I may be a blood relation of William Longespee in addition to having what appear to be his memories.
Family genealogy has it that I’m a descendant of David I of Scotland. David was Empress Maud’s uncle, and Empress Maud was Henry II’s mother. This makes William Longespee David I’s great-great nephew.
Funny how that works out.
Started my sixth novel in earnest this week. I want to try for a chapter a week.
This one will use some of the thoughts, ideas, and Gnostic themes I’ve discussed recently on this blog. It jumps between England and America in an alternate 1939, an off-world colony circa 2305, Laon, France circa 1153, and England in a slightly-less-alternate 1946. Rather than reincarnation, I have something infinitely more bizarre in mind that I think will go over well!
I’m really excited about this one. If I can finish this by the end of the year, then I’ll still have a chance to get my 7th novel out by 2016 which at my current rate would give me one a year starting in 2013. I want to keep that rate up as long as I can.
I’m starting to come around to one singular, very wonderful fact about my life: right now, I have a publisher who wants my work and will print actual paper editions of it uncensored. There are millions of writers who don’t have that. I may be reaching a very limited audience for now, but that’s all the more reason to start writing more and better books.
I may be a long way from snagging a Hugo, but I’m starting to mature into something more than a dabbler.
I think, in hindsight, I may have figured out what triggered me to recall past lives, and it’s not what I thought.
In 2011, my father (who knows I’m a big fan of the rock band Queen) got me a book written by Queen guitarist Brian May called “A Village Lost And Found,” because he knows how much of an Anglophile I’ve always been. The book is about how Brian’s hobby, collecting stereo slides from the 19th century, led him to track down a mysterious village pictured in a series of slides from the 1850s. It sat on my shelf for several months before I finally unwrapped it and looked at it.
This look at mid-19th century English village life may have helped me connect the dots and figure out why I felt so confused by the overall look of the villages I traveled to in the 2000s, looking for the one that felt like the right place but not sure what I was looking for. What I noticed in these books was that there were many familiar features- clothes drying on front lawns, different monuments and fences in a churchyard, pollarded willows, and very ragged edges between roads and roadsides- that are missing now from the clean, sanitized, highly-gentrified rows of thatched cottages and pristine pubs that make up the English countryside today. The feeling I got from it was such that I felt like I’d found the missing piece. It just looked right to me.
I don’t consider this to be cryptomnesia because what I saw first was not a village like East Coker, but the war itself and then memories going back to the beginnings of Yeovil’s suburban sprawl in a terrace of relatively-new houses in the stark but sufficient life of a Victorian semiskilled laborer’s son. We lived on a well-traveled road near a rail line and my father worked in a factory. There wasn’t a single thatched cottage in my initial round of memories, mostly just a life on the edge of reasonably well-developed towns, and discovering that he had lived in East Coker- a village I knew as soon as I saw it- was an astonishing surprise.
But maybe it was an indirect trigger, something that set off the same deep, repressed recollection within me that drove me to seek out this village in the New Forest, about fifty miles east of where I should have been and starting from a town- Lyndhurst- that was not much smaller than Yeovil. Finally seeing how these types of villages looked in the 19th century may have somehow jogged my memory enough that the important details of John’s life came back to me shortly after I looked at this book.
I can’t believe I hadn’t considered that this book may have done it for me. Odd to think that I may have Brian May to thank for remembering John’s life and all the rest of my past lives through more than just his music (which has also triggered memories), although I’m really not sure what he’d think of that!
I may have found an oblique reference to my first published novel in the Exegesis.
Since it is apparently accessible to the public without an account, I will link to the page:
Phil had a dream that he should write a book about death camp victims and how they died, disguised by eroticism. I don’t believe he ever wrote this book but I may have.
My first published book (the dieselpunk one) was erotica on the surface; what it was actually about was political persecution by a cruel pseudo-theocracy masking corporatist imperialism (in fact the ruler’s title in the story is “Emperor”), brought to a halt seemingly by a miracle, albeit an entirely invisible one. But it is part of a series and in the remaining books (which I have already written) the nature of the “miracle” such as it was is explained and the lines between life and death become blurred in an unanticipated way.
At the same time, the connection feels tangential and weak. I really wish I could find an elaboration on this dream Phil had to know for sure if my book has anything at all to do with what he was saying, but it seems he got tired and did not elaborate. This may not be a direct reference at all and without more evidence I can’t say it is without sounding like I’ve descended into delusions of reference. Even so, the passage really jumped out at me.
I may well find myself with nothing more than a frustrating bundle of near-misses after going through the entire text but there’s enough here to keep me tantalized long enough to finish what I started.
I have found only one more small, oblique reference to WWI in the Exegesis so far. That being said, I’ve spent less than 8 hours actually looking at the Exegesis so far, and this was in the first folder I started reading over! It’s a small encouragement I suppose.
On the whole though, I get the impression that if Phil had memories of WWI, he didn’t make much of them (which is exactly the impression I got from his published work and interviews). It made enough of an impression to be worth mentioning but not enough to warrant being a major part of the discussion. The various folders all seem to have themes to them, so I’m hoping that I will find a folder dedicated to describing Phil’s actual experiences from 2-3-74 or his trip to France in more detail.
That said, what I have seen is more of a meta-similarity between what I’m doing here, now, in this blog and what Phil did in the 70s and 80s with his Exegesis. I see someone much like myself, dealing with a very unusual experience in a very similar way, by writing it all out in a way that people seem to find interesting (much to my surprise). I see someone who lived a similar life to me, loved similar things, and felt similarly about injustice and suffering. Even if that’s not some past life or alternate present life I’m seeing, I see someone so much like myself that I find I’m questioning my ability to discern similarity in a rational way.
One major difference, and one that puts me to shame, is just how erudite he was. I must admit that between 2010 and 2012, I was just a dabbler in the esoteric with a superficial knowledge, enough to scare my conservative Evangelical mother maybe but not enough to get a good grasp on the truth of the universe. My original wordpress blog from long before I created this one is a perfect example of how clueless I was. I look back at how I went about it and I missed so much by not giving Gnosticism a closer look.
I still have not yet had a chance to really give Boehme or the neo-platonists a serious survey, though after reading this I feel I might want to. Also, I began examining the existential philosophers after the first memories of John’s life broke (mainly academic darlings like Sartre, Hesse, and Camus) but not Heidegger, whom Phil refers to often.
I have to constantly remind myself that Phil was in his late 40s and early 50s when he was writing this and had been at this business of trying to figure out his own weird sense of reality since the early 1950s. I only started to question the modernist paradigm around 2010 so I’m still just a pupil.
As far as Phil’s specific ideas, I’m still starting to question his assessment that what he experienced was not knowledge of a past life but a glimpse of true reality through a hypnagogic vision. He seems to acknowledge that there were variations on the meme in between that might appear as past lives, but he doesn’t take much ownership of them, nor does he examine them for any sign of cause and effect between lives. For me, that has been the hallmark of my observations; to me, there seems to be an obvious progression between John, Phil, and me and my actions in this life seem to show consequences related to both of their lives.
On a related note I’m starting to doubt, even if Phil was John, that he would have figured it out or left enough information to conclude that. He seems so excited by Thomas and his apparent visions of ancient Rome projected on to Fullerton, CA that he doesn’t look at these other “accidents” as he calls them. Maybe, if he did remember John’s life, he didn’t think the life of one Tommy would tell him anything about the nature of God or the universe. It could be that my experience in 2012 was by way of some correction for an intellectual error on his part in overlooking John’s life and what it did to him.
Then again, maybe I’m reaching. It could also be, if I find nothing, that I was simply wrong.
But I think it will be impossible to call it until I’ve gone over everything. I’ve already found several credible references to WWI in Phil’s notes, letters, and interviews and I haven’t even been trying that hard. That’s a promising sign that maybe he did write down just enough to tell me what I want to know.
If anyone could help out on this search of mine, I would greatly appreciate it. This is a huge undertaking and I’m doing what I can, but it looks like it’s going to be a while.