Interesting

The videos I find on Youtube of Point Reyes Station don’t really ring many bells, but this place certainly does:

It’s called Sculpture Beach, and it feels very familiar.  I seem to remember being down there, alone, wearing a blue short-sleeve button-up shirt, smoking a cigarette and lost in thought- or occasionally, with a lady friend though it feels like that was longer ago; by ’63 I think it was a lonely place for me.  Seems my lady friend had a small red car, but I think this was long before Kathy; I think this one might have been foreign, like an early US-model Opel or something like that.  

Add that to the stack of memories from the Point Reyes Station years I would really like to confirm if the chance ever comes.

Dream

Last night, I had a dream that was largely nonsensical, but there was one element that stands out.

In the dream, my fiance said the word “army” with a heavy Somerset accent (maybe he was trying to talk like a pirate?).  Just hearing the word “army” said that way triggered something undoubtedly past-life related within me and soured my mood.  It left me feeling unpleasant even after I had woken up.

What else?  I seem to remember there was also a moment going to one of those small, mid-century grocery stores with tall glass fronts that were still common in my childhood (but seem to be vanishing now that everything’s gone to big-box retail).  The usual colorful kiddie rides and candy vending machines were out front.  I wonder if that means anything?  It was a lot like the Piggly-Wiggly in Goose Creek, SC that we would shop at if we were down that way when I was young.

Beyond that, the dream made no sense whatsoever and I’m still in a hazy, dreamlike state (probably because I took something for anxiety right before bed…  I hate what those pills do to me though so I rarely take them).

A Fascinating Development

It seems I may have memories of the ancient world after all.

Recall a while back, I described a Greek or Roman ritual in which cattle were herded toward a temple past burning braziers and performers beating bronze gongs shaped like cow skins.

After asking a history professor (without saying I suspected this to be a past life), I was told that this sounded like a type of sacrifice known as a Hecatomb, which was a very common sort of sacrifice made in the Greco-Roman world on special occasions, such as before an important battle or during times when the state was in turmoil.

What I cannot find is a firsthand source that describes the ritual in great detail, let alone any source that describes these gongs.  It is important to keep in mind that bronze ritual items from ancient Greece and Rome are rare, since they were inevitably pilfered and melted down to make coinage, new ritual items, or statues of conquerors.

This one might be hard to confirm fully by sheer lack of evidence, but it’s interesting that it sounds at least plausible.

On The Trail of a Clue

For those who haven’t had a chance to go through my backlog of posts all the way through, yhe one past life I’d most like to brag about remembering is that of William Longespee, the Third Earl of Salisbury.  Unsuprisingly, this is the life I am most eager to gather information on, but Count William lived in an age where very few fucks were given about the deeds of royal retainers.  If we were with a king, we got mentioned.  If we revolted against a king or defected from one king to another, we got mentioned.  I just happened to do both; beyond that, the resources on the actual daily lives of medieval nobility are few and far between.

I was once told that in my first novel, the characters don’t behave like medieval nobility, and I kind of internalized that.  But what I’ve never done is had a knowledgeable medievalist look at my work because a few people- most of them with some amateur interest in history- actually really enjoyed my work.

I guess maybe the fear of ridicule has kept me from doing so.  How do you start that conversation?  “Hey, I think I may have been this guy in a past life, wanna take a look?”  And even if I did find one who took me seriously, how would I make it worth their while to look at someone like me without becoming a freak to be examined, or a “Ms. X” in their case studies?

But supposing there was some clue in the characters I created, their dialog, interactions, or my descriptions of medieval life and combat that went beyond what someone with my background (a very casual student of history who seldom reads outside of course assignments and has not studied Historic European Martial Arts… yet) might be expected to know?  What if it’s more than just weird circumstantial things, which is all I can come up with?

I want to know… I just wish there was a way to do this.

Unexpected Reaction

Curious about what it might stir up for me, I listened to some songs from 1948 (the year Phil married Jeanette).

The two songs I listened to were “Now Is The Hour” performed by Bing Crosby, and “Nature Boy” performed by Nat King Cole.

I didn’t get any memories, but I got a strong, uncomfortable sense of familiarity from these songs.  I was not expecting to feel so anxious at all.

I have a weird feeling that a lot of things happened during that time that nobody ever spoke of.  I’m still feeling really uncomfortable, actually.  I’d heard music from this era before (I certainly knew artists like Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Dinah Shore, etc) but it has never made me feel this uneasy.

Another Historical Source on Longespee

I finally found a French account of William Longespee’s capture at the Battle of Bouvines.

Indeed, the Bishop of Beauvais, having seen the brother of the King of the English, a man of incredible strength whom the English had on this account nicknamed “Longsword,” overthrow the men of Dreux and do great harm to his brother’s battalion, the bishop became unhappy, and since by chance he happened to have a mace in his hand, hiding his identity of bishop, he hits the Englishman on the top of the head, shatters his helmet, and throws him to the ground forcing him to leave on it the imprint of his whole body. And, since the author of such a noble deed could not remain unnoticed, and since a bishop should not be known to have carried arms, he tries to hide as much as possible and gives orders to John, whom Nesle obeys by the right of his ancestors, to put the warrior in chains and to receive the prize for the deed. Then the bishop, throwing down several more men with his mace, again renounces his titles of honor and his victories in favor of other knights so as not to be accused of having done work unlawful for a priest, as a priest is never allowed to be present at such encounters since he must not desecrate either his hands or his eyes with blood. It is not forbidden, however, to defend oneself and one’s people provided that this defense does not exceed legitimate limits.

-The Philippiad of William of Breton, Song XI, verses 538-58

Actually I’m rather amused now because it loosely parallels what happens to a character in one of my more recent books, though that wasn’t my intention.

On John Harris’ Father, William

William Harris (1851-1891?) is a man that I admittedly know little about.  The only facts about him I know for certain are the basic details of his life of interest to government clerks, and were pieced together for me by friends with genealogy resources at their disposal and a historian from Yeovil.  William was born in 1851 in West Chinnock, Somerset.  I know his wife was named Jane, a former domestic from Dorset.  I know he had so far as I can tell four or five children: Matilda (b. 1871), Florence (b.1873) , John (b. 1877), and Albert (b. 1880) I know for sure, though there also may have been a William Jr though the trail on him goes cold around the time of his birth in 1885.

He may have remarried in 1886 and died in 1891 according to the historian I spoke to.  However, according to someone who pulled some genealogical resources there was a William harris living in St. Owen, Herefordshire in 1911 (I cannot find a town or village called St. Owen but there is a St. Owen Street in the town of Hereford) and I was told that this record also mentions John, but that he doesn’t appear there in 1901 (John lived in a rented room next door to a pub in Ledbury at the time).  At any rate, I have not seen those records with John and William living together in 1911 and the historian didn’t find them so this remains unsolved.  I have no memories of the houses John lived in after childhood or the other people who lived in them.

By trade, William was a glover (as listed in the 1871 census), though the 1881 census says he was a leather dresser.  At any rate, it’s a reasonable guess that he was employed at the glove factory in Yeovil.  It’s also a reasonable guess that he taught his eldest son John the leather worker’s trade as John is listed in 1901 as working in a skin yard.

That’s all I can substantiate.  The rest of him- what precious little I remember of him- is beyond my capacity to confirm.

I remember a man who looked much like Lord Kitchener to me… or at least, he had a similar mustache.  At any rate, part of my memory of joining Kitchener’s Army was of seeing these posters of a man who reminded me of my father, a man I admired and loved, and feeling that Dad would have wanted it.  This seems to support the historian’s assessment that my father had already died by this point.

I remember that he was generally not a bad man.  He made bad decisions and got himself into bad situations sometimes, but that seems to come with the pitfalls of working class life in the Victorian era; I don’t blame him for it.  After all, it’s hard to be “respectable” with the police already convinced you’re a bad element in the town, even if you don’t actually break any laws.

I remember him being a stern, serious man to his children, though I don’t recall being treated much worse than any other child in those days (granted, it was normal for even a loving father to be harsh in the 1880s).

I remember a man who adored his wife but fought to keep his composure when he lost her.  He may have remarried, but if my memory is correct he was always broken-hearted and never admitted it.  I feel that I mistook his forced composure for strength, and took that attitude with me all the way to the Western Front.  I egged myself on, trying to be the man my father wanted me to be, forcing every emotion, every disturbing memory, every battle into a dark corner of my being that stayed lodged there until I’d already been reincarnated at least twice (possibly three times if my more sensational recollections of a life as a fox are true).

I remember him as a good man, and one that we all thought we ought to admire, but a man whose unhappiness I wish I’d been able to see behind the veneer of Victorian stoicism that he fought desperately to hide his true feelings behind.

As to where William Harris may have reincarnated if anywhere, I can’t say, and given I’ve told all I know about him I’d be very skeptical if a stranger said they were him, unless they could prove something about William that I didn’t know.  I’ve often wondered about my father in this life, since he’s as much of an Anglophile as I am, but he has no memories yet (we’ll see how he reacts when he gets to Yeovil).

Whatever happened to him, I hope he learned to be honest about what he was really feeling with less pain than I did.  If my memories are correct, I took over a century to learn that putting up a stoic front is only good for encouraging others to put up a stoic front and not learning from their emotions.

Some Points About Memory

Since the main point of this blog is on dealing with memories that I nominally shouldn’t have, I thought I’d post some observations on this phenomenon.

1. Memory is our primary means of understanding reality.  All sensory information is merely the eye scanning the page, but the “words” it reads are the things we see, hear, touch, taste and smell and the emotional impressions the sum total of these experiences create.  An event is seldom processed as it is happening, but rather each part of the event is parsed after it has happened.  Reason and logic can only be applied to what is remembered or known through recollection.  Thus the senses and emotions are only auxiliary to understanding what we gather to be reality; your eyes, ears, hands, and skin are no more a primary means of understanding reality than a car’s tires are its primary means of moving forward; the primary process, rather, is internal.

2. Memory is our primary means of understanding ourselves.  Everything we have done or said, everything we have been told about ourselves, every group we belong to and what these groups mean to us, every emotion that a given situation creates, and every thought that comes to us spontaneously is locked in memory.  It becomes our means of understanding our roles socially as well as our aptitudes, our abilities, our interest, our knowledge, and how others perceive us.

3. Memory is not always completely accurate.  Even memories from a few days back may misplace walls, tables, chairs, windows, or people, especially if the surroundings are not familiar.  The passage of time seems to increase this effect, so that memories obtained many years or decades ago may have profound inaccuracies.

4. Memory can be falsified.  Suggestion, wishful thinking, mental illness, and any number of other causes can create false memories.  However:

5. In its impression and detail, a false memory is often indistinguishable from a real one.  This is a fact of neuroscience; what we experience vividly in our minds, whether through sensory input or internal processes, becomes our reality.  Therefore:

6. To be of use, memory must be borne out by external facts.  A patently false memory can be disproved readily by the available facts.  However:

7. Even false memories can feature true details through extant schemas of what we already know.  Books, articles, and documentaries can filter in unexpected details that can later be recalled falsely as part of a personal experience.  Moreover:

8. Past life memories, if they exist, must be subject to the same vagaries as present-life memories.  It would be absurd to expect a past life memory to be necessarily more accurate than a memory of something that happened in one’s current life.  It is therefore important to consider how important certain misplaced details might be in light of the memory itself when there are inaccuracies; if one recalls the layout of a room to be somewhat different, but accurately describes a picture on the wall or the people in the room, then it is absurd to fixate on minutia that could be mistaken within the continuity of present-life memories.

9. Only you have ready access to your memories.  Only you can know what you have read, watched, and experienced and how that may relate to your memories, true or false.  These things in mind:

10. Even apparently accurate past life memories are inherently impossible to prove to anyone but oneself.  One can build a robust circumstantial case by displaying knowledge that they clearly have had no access to (as in the case of someone with no interest in military history suddenly recalling obscure facts, people, places, and things), but ultimately, it is impossible to prove to anyone but yourself that you didn’t know these things before hand.  Certainly, it is easy to dismiss the past life memories of others as fabrication, confabulation, or cryptomnesia because you cannot directly access the mind of the person experiencing the memory.  However:

11. It is reductionist to say those who recall something unexpected are delusional simply because their memories cannot be proved.  Remember that delusion is, by definition, a fixed belief that is demonstrably false.  Except in cases where a memory is held with clear conviction that is completely contrary to known facts, it would be an abuse of the word “delusion.”   Apparent past life memories could be rightly said to be a private conceit, however, inasmuch as any and all memories are ultimately private conceits by their very nature.  Moreover:

12. It is reductionist to say that a private conceit is of no use to the individual, since private conceit is a large part of the human experience.  To the individual seeker, the subjective experience has value.  Where the subjective experience does not have value is in manipulating the conditions of the present with precision; however, the manipulation of outside conditions is not the sum total of human learning and growth.  One must also muster the requisite emotional intelligence, for instance, for dealing with people who inevitably will experience the world through their own private conceits.  However:

13. It is deceptive to say that a private conceit “proves” anything or can be broadly applied to all people.  The private conceit of one person can only be the basis for a logically coherent system of understanding the world to that particular person.  Insights might be shared between people, considered, meditated on, and parsed for their consideration, but to be presented as proof or the basis for a trust-based belief system is an inexcusable deception.  Therefore:

14. Take everything I say with a grain of salt.  If it rings true for you and your experience or what you know, do what you will with it.  But I’ll never sell you any of my claims as 100% proven to be true because I can never make that claim honestly.  Even I am not entirely sold on them; I feel a certain degree of confidence that my memories of John’s life are legitimate but I can never be certain of them because they did not happen during a time when I was alive in the form I know myself currently; and as for the other lives, they fall victim to numerous nuances that cast all or part of them into constant doubt.  I’m not pushing any science or religion here, only my attempts to integrate my own private conceits.  Finally:

15. Be mindful of your own memories, from past lives or your current one.  Keep track of what you’ve read, watched, heard, or seen that might have influenced your memories passively.  Also be aware that others can actively plant suggestions in your mind that can influence your memories.  Be aware of the normal faults and limitations of your memory.  However, do not dismiss any memory out of hand that seems important; look into it and consider it carefully.  And do not dismiss memory as a source of information in a broader sense.  Take care of your memories and master the use of them, no matter what they are, because ultimately, memory is what has allowed you to survive in this world by making sense of yourself and the world around you.

Memory Fragment

I seem to recall that there was a radio station in the Bay Area in the early 70s that played the song “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams before every news break.  They used to fade the song out around the time they had the brass part about 1 minute 15 seconds in.

My uncle in this life was a DJ in the same time period, so I already knew that the FCC regs of the day required DJs to not interrupt any song for a news break except an instrumental.  But I don’t recall if “Classical Gas” was one of those songs.  My father in this life, who was in his early teens at the time, was the one who told me so he would know.  I seem to remember that in my uncle’s case it was “The Horse” or “Grazin’ in the Grass” but I’ve e-mailed Dad to see if that’s correct.

If there’s a chance that this might be more than just confusing my memories with what Dad told me, my next step is to find someone who lived in the Bay Area in the late 60s and early 70s and ask them, I guess.  I know a few people down there though most of them are closer to my age and the oldest of them would have been just toddlers back then.  Obviously, any help from my readers is greatly appreciated.

It’s weird having these memories that would be shared by living people, and it makes confirming them harder because I’ve spent my life in contact with people who lived through that era, whether as children or as adults.  At least William Longespee and John Harris lived in radically different times and places, so there were nuances of everyday life that I had to work hard to confirm and I’m now mostly certain my memories of John’s life may be genuine. The details of day-to-day life aren’t nearly as distinct between 1970 and 2014 because so many of the people, places, institutions, and things from that time are still with us.  Maybe this is why I always find it hard to fully accept my memories of Phil’s life as genuine and wish I could remember more from his childhood and teen years, an era I would naturally know less about.