On Divination

I think I understand now why divination can be useful as a source of guidance on one’s own path.

It’s more sensational than just random chance, but less sensational than pulling moonbeams out of thin air.

Imagine for a moment you’re standing before a mirror. Do you see the whole of yourself? Probably not. You see only as much of yourself as a person standing in front of you could see. There are outward parts of the body that are just not easily visible without at least two mirrors and a lot of awkward posturing. We have to go out of our way, sometimes, to see every part of ourselves.

Consider that our minds must after some fashion be ten thousand times more complicated than our bodies. Getting at everything we know, when you really think about it, is really impossible and quite often we discover we knew things we didn’t know. This is why things like reincarnation are so difficult to prove on the strength of memories, because the person experiencing the memories will often find themselves asking how they knew certain things. But whether the mind is tuned into something supernatural or merely regurgitating something it saw in a documentary or film is unimportant for our purposes: my point is we have ways of knowing things that are difficult to grasp.

These ways of knowing are fallible, but not worthless; our minds were honed by about 800,000 years of learning to survive without claws or teeth, and a keen student of human behavior will note that our instincts continue to rule us even when we presume to be above them. It’s not merely a stub of our evolution but a part of who we are, a part of the human experience, and if we brush it off as primitive superstition without understanding the value of the insights we might gain from it, we discard a part of ourselves.

At some point, this enormous capacity for insight became too much for us, and we developed inhibitory mechanisms, both mechanical and psychological, to deal with sorting and filing all that information. The limbic system helps us on a chemical and neurological or “hardware” level. On an internal level- a “software level” if you will- we have a file system sociologists call schema that directs us to group things based on similarity and rank them in order of importance. This can be very useful, as it helps us invent solutions to problems we face. However, it can also be limiting because ruthless optimization of schema after some “ism” quite often destroys our capacity for things like empathy, creativity, and abstract reasoning. We are taught- by religion and irreligion alike- that we cannot trust the whole set of schema we would develop naturally on our own. Almost from birth, we are constantly being prescribed some manner of thought that deliberately limits our options for exploration and understanding by either denouncing the mystical or denouncing the rational. We’re channeled into a narrower band of expressions and experiences and become less than what we’re capable of being.

What every good system of divination has in common is this: it is a schema for understanding things about ourselves and our environment we didn’t realize we knew and probably wouldn’t realize we knew if we limited ourselves entirely to what we can readily observe and measure about life.  They typically rely on archetypes of a broad and universal type, a language representing all of the important aspects of relationships, choices, people, and events that we might care about. The meanings are specific enough to give us a general direction of where to look, but vague enough that broad categories fitting a wide range of possible readings are there.  But the important thing about divination is this: you will not find answers there that you didn’t already have, but it’s nice to have a tool for getting at those hard-to-reach spots of your cognition.  I believe that the true adept is canny of this secret and uses this as a tool to hack into parts of their consciousness that otherwise remain off limits or cloaked or garbed in falsehoods.

Should you bet your farm on a tarot reading, or decide whether or not to circumcise your infant son by casting bones? Of course not. That probably wouldn’t be a good idea. But if the cards tell you not to trust someone and you suddenly realize you’ve had a bad feeling about them that you had tried to ignore until now, you might want to think twice about dealing with them.  Your intuition could be wrong, but quite often you’ll find you were right.

WWI Centenary

While it’s not a huge deal here in the US, I’ve been surprised by just how much attention the WWI centenary is getting.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s good that there are people who are finding out (some for the first time) just how horrendous the First World War really was.

Also, of late more and more people who recall past lives in the war have come forward. I think on the various reincarnation boards there are maybe a dozen or so who have clear enough memories to at least place where they were and maybe 5 or 6 of us who have identified who we were back then. I know of maybe 2 or 3 Americans (one of whom now lives in the UK), 3 to 5 British (two of us now in the US) and maybe 6 to 8 Germans. I can’t recall if any French, Belgian, Turkish, Italian, Austro-Hungarian, or the various colonial troops have surfaced yet. Obviously, there will be cases that are possible cryptomnesia (and I’ve never been entirely sure about my own case), but it’s gotten much less lonely than it was when my memories broke back in late 2012.

However, one thing I’m worried about is a flood of “me too” cases where people either promote their stories aggressively to the media, steal the stories of others, or make up stories whole-cloth just to sell books about themselves, which could cast some notoriety on those of us who would rather not use our claims to get attention. If I find out that someone has been claiming John as a past life for the money, then I will confront them; I would consider that the equivalent of stealing his medals and pawning them for whiskey. Even if I wasn’t him, I feel I have some duty now, knowing what he went through, to defend his honor against profiteers.

Another thing I’m worried about is that the great tragedy of the war will be obfuscated for political gain and the stories of bedraggled men who went over the top more dead than alive will be polished into a safe, glamorous image of undaunted valor. I hope the truth about the war- derogatorily called the “Blackadder version of history” by its detractors- doesn’t drown in a sea of red poppies and blockbuster movies. It was filthy, it was nasty, and there was nothing noble about it. They’re still picking tiny pieces of men John served with out of the soil near Ypres to this day, quite often no more than a shard of bone or a strip of cloth left of what was once a human being who had no clue what he was getting himself into when he enlisted.

In all, the centenary carries with it a flood of mixed emotions for me. There’s pride in the prospect of being the vessel of memories for a soldier who would otherwise be forgotten. There’s joy at finding others who have had the same harrowing experience of remembering what it was like. There’s sorrow, shame, and fear knowing that the human race, for all our pride, has not evolved beyond the savagery we expressed at Ypres and Verdun. There’s longing to go back to the battlefield and the home John left behind and finally get some closure. There’s astonishment that a century has come and gone. There are emotions that I can’t even begin to name or describe, strong and uncomfortable, and a nagging feeling that there are more memories just below the surface that will be wrenched loose over the next four years.

As to how I’m dealing with it lately, I’ve actually been kind of dealing with it in a detached way.  I simultaneously tell myself “it probably wasn’t real” while my emotions and the memories I’ve confirmed nag at me to the contrary.  The flood of emotions is kind of a dull roar, and I find I’m losing myself in day-to-day distractions more to try not to think about it;  I don’t want to seem like a downer or get any more anxious or depressed than I have to be.

There is no question that it is there, though, and nagging at me to find some outlet.

Another Memory

This memory came to me tonight while at a dive in Portland called the Kenton Club where some good local bands play. They had a weird noisecore metal band called “Power Skeleton” that opened and got everyone’s attention with songs like “Werewolf Orgasm,” then shifted gears abruptly to the prog stylings of “Gamma Repeater” who did an awesome cover of King Crimson’s song “Fallen Angel.” In between bands, though, they had punk music playing on the PA system.

The place reminded me a bit of a dive in OC that was a punk venue back in the late 70s. The place I remembered was called the “Keyhole,” or “Hole in the Wall,” or something with “Hole” in it. As I recall it had been a speakeasy back in the 30s and later became a punk venue.

I can’t find any reference to it online. Wikipedia’s list of notable California punk venues doesn’t list it. I found a “Keyhole Bar” In Mackinaw MI and a “Keyhole Club” in San Antonio TX, and a “Knothole Club” in Anaheim, CA, but none of those are punk venues and the first two of these were in places where Phil was unlikely to be.

Does anyone know of a punk venue somewhere in OC that was called “Keyhole” or “Hole in the Wall” or something similar? Any help would be appreciated. It was probably a very minor venue where obscure local bands played so anyone who lived in OC in the 70s and did the rounds in the punk scene might be able to help.

Memory Fragment

Had a brief memory fragment last night that appeared to be medieval. I was a good bit older, stumbling toward a castle latrine, my vision blurry and feeling dizzy and disoriented.

I’m a bit skeptical of this one since the walls were rather bare rather than painted as they would have been back then. Also, I doubt there would have been glazed windows in a castle latrine, and I distinctly remember there being one about 1 yard tall and about 1 foot wide with diamond lattice. That alone makes me skeptical.

If I discover a castle latrine with such a feature I’ll be pleasantly surprised. That seems to be the only thing distinctive I got out of this.

At least it wasn’t windows in a bunker (totally an inside joke)…

EDIT: the window I saw had a rounded top so this isn’t the exact one, but after a very brief search in Google images I did find a castle garderobe with glazed windows about the right size, apparently at Chepstow Castle.  This memory has been upgraded to “plausible.”

Recent Developments As A Writer

When I made the claim that I had at least a circumstantial case for having been Philip K. Dick in a previous life, I realized something very crucial: If I was him, I had nothing to show for it in the pace I was able to write stories. Between 2003 and 2012 I had only finished three novels, and only published two of them because one was an attempt to break into mainstream fiction that never went anywhere. The only novels I had actually sold had taken years to complete (Seven years for the first and two for the second). By comparison to Phil, I moved at a glacial pace.

Three things happened in 2013, though. First, I had memories that were tentatively confirmed of personal details of Phil’s life and began noticing striking similarities in personality, taste, tendencies, and even appearance between us; this was when the idea that I might be him first entered my mind. Second, I had a backlog of unfinished or back-burnered projects that had potential to apply new ideas and styles to (I’m still working through that backlog). Third, I hit upon the realization that I already had a publisher who would work with me, and I didn’t need to make it in the mainstream necessarily if I could be a big fish in a little pond, because I had gotten attention from a broader base of fiction readers than the tiny LGBT subgenre I write in.

I had the motive, means, and opportunity to really push myself to become a great writer and live up to a claim that fantastic, without using that claim in connection to furthering my career (I decided early on that using past life claims to promote my work would kill my chances of being anything but a curiosity, like Barbro Karlen).

As I got to know Phil’s life and work and began to remember things that weren’t in the books I read or the documentaries I watched, I eventually found I really had no need to try to become him in some liminal act because I came to see myself as a continuation of the same mind, prone to my own individual differences and free to do whatever I wanted with these ideas. I developed my own idiom, focusing more on questions of competing narratives of identity rather than competing narratives of reality, inspired in no small part by the traumatic effects of gender dysphoria and its social and familial fallout that I learned firsthand.

But one thing I have not managed to do is to tap into some of the other things I have, like the severe physical anxiety symptoms I’ve experienced, or traits like misophonia and hyperacusis that make life difficult for me. I don’t really fit on the autistic spectrum because I don’t have any of the core traits (e.g. I’m not obsessed with fixed interests, patterns, and numbers and I don’t have the expected communication deficiencies), but I have some sensory integration issues that remain undiagnosed because the DSM has no category for sensory integration disorder and neurologists refuse to diagnose adults with it even though they acknowledge that some of us aren’t diagnosed properly as children. It is debilitating and it makes my life much more difficult than it has to be.

I tend to make my characters rather normal for the most part; I didn’t make them as neurotic as I am because I don’t know how to do it without making them hard to relate to, or seeming like an object of pity. The truth is, like Phil, I have a difficult time being entirely stable because dealing with the demands of a noisy, fast-moving world full of hostile people is more than I can deal with most of the time. I guess part of the reason I never write characters like me because I can’t think of any way to give them reason to hope for anything in a future setting, except maybe death by indifference or possibly becoming the most functional mental defective on an offworld colony full of mental defectives (however, Phil already wrote such a story based on his own fears of this happening to him). I could really give my writing some pathos if I could figure out how to do it without burdening the reader with a story too depressing to finish, but I get cold feet or feel like I’m going nowhere every time I try.

I have all the tools to write like the legend whose memories I claim while still being authentic, individual, and genuine; I just need to learn to use all of them. I feel like I’m learning but I still need to figure out how to confront some of the most uncomfortable parts of my experience in my writing before I can really say I feel like I’ve done my very best.


I got my second wind and managed to bang out the remaining portion of the book. Total word count according to OpenOffice is 62,392 words, or 141 pages of single-spaced, 12pt Times New Roman text.

I’ll be sending it off to a few readers I trust to look over for basic spelling/grammar and input on the story. For tonight though, I’m calling it and spending the rest of the night doing nothing in particular and feeling good about it for once.

I’ve officially finished as many novels in 2013 and 2014 as I finished between 2003 and 2012.

Almost Done

I’ve nearly finished my sixth novel.

I’m over 60K words now, probably going to have about 62K total in this first draft. It’s been coming in fits and starts of late since I’ve been battling severe emotional exhaustion and depression/anxiety that won’t go away. Over the last few days I’ve managed to scrounge enough energy and motivation that I think I can just manage to finish the book by the end of this weekend.

Considering I actually started writing this book back in March based very loosely on concepts I’ve been kicking around since the later half of 2012, and it’ll be the second novel I’ll have finished this year, that’s pretty damned good. I’ve more than earned a break; a project like this used to take me about two years to complete. I can only hope that working at such a grueling pace will produce something of good quality that my readers will actually enjoy.

I’ll probably be taking the rest of my summer to get out a little, or at least get some cleaning done around the apartment.

Loosely-Associated Thoughts on Liminality

I’ve been having a bunch of scattered thoughts on the purpose and meaning of ritual and religion in a larger context, but I’m having a difficult time stringing them together. I guess for now, a bulleted list might help me put them in order and expand upon them at a later date.

These thoughts are still being refined. Consider this another “thinking out loud” post.

-Religious ritual is a form of liminality, and the lack of liminality is a hallmark of the modern Anglo-American makeup. This void originates from the High Church/Low Church split that sprang from Calvinism and its eventual integration into the mainstream, and has to do with the Calvinist roots of modernism and the rejection of uncertainty and things deemed “superstitious.” However, because modernism rejects subjective experience and emotion as being superfluous, it also denies the need for liminality, thus leaving a void to be filled by any number of low-quality substitutes such as consumerism, television, team sports, and various strains of secular and religious fanaticism. In no way are these intended as direct substitutes, since that would imply a design that recognized the importance of liminality; they are rather seized upon instictively as substitutes for an ineffable something lost in a past now so distant that we scarcely understand that we have lost anything important. It always struck me, when visiting predominately Catholic countries like Spain, how much public ritual and liminality still play an important part in the lives and minds of the people there. Despite my misgivings about Catholicism as a whole, it does at least offer a degree of liminality that our Anglo-Calvinist milieu is distinctly (and perhaps uniquely) deprived of.

-The liminal act is a vital part of the human experience, and one craved by the human psyche. The exact content and focus of the ritual is less important than the creation of a state of otherness wherein the practitioner of the ritual becomes something other than themselves, or enters a time or space other than their own time or space, or makes use of ritual items which become something other than their actual physical presence (for example, the Wiccan ritual of the Chalice and Blade where a cup and knife become the embodiment of the female and male energies in union). The reason and purpose of liminality has been understood by practitioners of esoteric rites for a very long time but has only recently come to the attention of academia, especially in the disciplines of anthropology and sociology.

-It is crass to compare, for instance, consumerists or sports fans to pilgrims, or cartoon characters, products, and mascots to gods. I have certainly heard sociologists (or at least armchair sociologists who see something of a pattern but cannot clearly interpret it) make the comparison, but it is vitally different. What is missing from these surrogates to ritual is the dimension of liminality, wherein these figures are at least momentarily transformed, in the mind of the practitioner, into something more than what they are. There is no equivalent in modernity to the hunter who dons a buffalo skin to ritually “become” the buffalo, or the bread and wine that ritually “becomes” the body and blood of a Messiah. Indeed, we are encouraged to always observe the unreality of things that are unreal, out of a deep-seated fear of superstition that ultimately goes back to Calvinism and its hatred of both Catholicism and its ritual remnants expressed in Protestantism. Furthermore, the structure of the consumer culture seems designed at times to emphasize and reassure us of the insincerity of it all, because a product mascot cannot, by its very nature, foster the sort of reverence of a religious icon.

-It was inevitable that Calvinism’s relentless push to eliminate superstition through the application of Aristotelian thinking as the chief philosophical underpinning of all critical thought would ultimately result in atheism. The progression from Calvinism to atheism was the inevitable result of Calvinism’s literalism and materialism. However, the Anglo-American cultural milieu has been made deeply schizophrenic by this split between the persistence of earlier, religious forms of Calvinism and the inevitable progression of their ideas to total atheism among those who followed that progression. This phenomenon seems isolated to the West, and concentrated in those countries that embraced Calvinism though not entirely limited to them. Furthermore, the rise of antitheism is a further and inevitable progression of the stark dualism and black-and-white logic that is the highlight of Calvinism, wherein religion becomes the “other” to be feared and denounced as entirely negative just as a Calvinist might fear other religions or even irreligion as the “other.” This split- inevitable as it is- has made the West vulnerable to civil unrest and will inevitably result in a conflict where religion and irreligion will struggle, either by civil or forceful means, for supremacy unless the culture evolves to reconcile this schism, either by the unlikely event of the complete abandonment of either religion or irreligion, or by the introduction and adoption of new, extraneous ideas of nondualism. It is therefore desirous, in the interest of peace and stability, that nondualist thought be brought out of the cloisters of the esoteric and into the public attention as an alternative to the us-versus-them narrative of the Calvinist cultural milieu.

-Liminality is not entirely positive, since it does represent a moment of vulnerability. The practitioner of the liminal act must suspend disbelief for at least the duration of a ritual for the mechanism of liminality to work; however, the total and continual suspension of disbelief is often the result and moreover is potentially damaging when cynical leadership determines when and where the liminal state begins and ends. It is therefore desirous that the restoration of liminality be taught as the choice of the practitioner and not as the prescribed act of a larger body.

-One can understand the mechanics and underlying purpose of liminality without “losing the magic” so to speak. Liminality is not an intellectual process but an emotional one, and one need only be possessed of the ability to enter the correct mood to practice a liminal act in some form.

Shipwrecks off Point Reyes, California

While information on individual wrecks remains sparse, I’ve found a bunch more shipwrecks that happened off Point Reyes which just strengthened my case for having accurately remembered one.

I had previously ruled out the Labouchere because it was the wrong kind of ship; the ship I saw in my memory had its paddles on the side, but I seem to recall reading that the Labouchere was a sternwheeler.

However, any number of other ships apparently were wrecked there between 1830 and 1870, which is the time frame for “Clyde” to have been involved in such a wreck:

Information on these wrecks is scarce, but this really opens up a wide range of possibilities for having been shipwrecked at Point Reyes in the mid-19th century.

Base Line

Today, I established a base line for the feeling I would get in a place with no past life resonance.

I visited the recreation of Fort Vancouver today in Vancover, WA. It was a site that I considered possible from my mid-19th century life, but I was unsure about. In other words, a perfect control because I had no certain expectations (nor had I planned to go there, but bumming around with some friends from Vancouver we ended up there anyhow).

I got the usual slight tingle of nostalgia from 19th century artifacts and architecture, and a slight feeling of unease that there as no chapel on the site, I did not get the impression that I had been there before as such and left feeling like I’d come no closer to encountering a site from a past life.

On the whole, however, that’s good because it gives me a base line for how it feels to travel to a place where I have no clear expectation of how I’ll feel and don’t stumble upon anything past-life related. I wasn’t just pulling memories out of thin air even though it was certainly plausible that I’d been there as “Clyde” or whatever his name was. That will serve me well when I visit some of the medieval sites in France and England next year trying to figure out if I was at all correct about having been Count William (I have serious doubts).

In all, this was a very useful detour, I think.