To My Readers In Iowa

If you are a registered Democrat and live in Iowa, please, please consider a vote for Bernie Sanders if you haven’t already.  It is pretty rare for me to openly endorse any candidate, but I’m genuinely impressed by this guy because he’s so different from what we’ve had for the last 40 years in this country.

Some reasons to support Sanders:

*He has been more consistent on LGBT rights and the Iraq War; he was right on these issues before it was popular to be right. Clinton has flip-flopped and gone with the flow.

*He supports de-scheduling marijuana, which could potentially help thousands or even millions of people whose lives might be saved by this plant’s medicinal properties but who live in fear of federal raids and legal consequences for their chosen treatment.  Clinton has been tepid toward reforming the laws at best and antagonistic at worst.  In a speech a few years ago she admitted that the drug war was fueling violence in Mexico, then in the same breath she defended the drug war.  Cognitive dissonance much?

*He supports a single-payer health care system, which is what we really wanted; we got the bloated and unwieldy compromise of Obamacare instead.  Clinton, meanwhile, is dismissive of the whole idea of universal health care (probably because it would cut into her bloated defense budget).

*He is the only candidate in the entire race who is not accepting dark money donations.  If he wins it would send a strong and unambiguous message that our democracy is not for sale.  If Clinton wins, it won’t change a thing and in a country where certain powerful people feel like they ought to have the special right to buy elections, that’s bad.

*He has a better chance of defeating Clinton.  In nearly every poll he is well ahead of Trump, while Clinton’s lead is a margin of error.  A Clinton nomination could easily end up with a Trump presidency.

Tomorrow you can make history.  Go for it!

 

Another Step Forward (present life update)

Today was a good day.

First, while searching for a secure place to temporarily store some personal documents, I came across the notes I took last summer for my ongoing biography of William Longespee.  This will help nicely to pad out the paper I’m submitting as part of my grad school application.  Pity I can’t include any actual memories of that era in the text, but at least I’ve done a more thorough job synthesizing sources than any other modern or medieval biographer has to date.  I am not so unhinged that I can’t distinguish between sound scholarship and quirky anecdotes when it matters, even if I do tend to blur the lines on this blog.

The second big development was my GRE.  For those not familiar, the Graduate Record Examination is the latest fad shibboleth that academia has become fixated on, a grueling four-hour exam that scores on quantitative reasoning (maths and statistics), verbal reasoning (comprehension and vocabulary), and an analytical writing portion that requires two essays, one analyzing an issue and the other analyzing an argument.  Each of the three sections is graded separately and for a history major, the quantitative section isn’t that important (though it is a minor vulnerability).

While my quantitative score was dismal (146 or 25th percentile) my verbal score was outstanding (166 or 96th percentile).  The analytical writing portions will take a couple more weeks to score but provided they don’t ding me on a technicality, I expect no less than 5 out of 6 on both essays (though 6 out of 6 wouldn’t surprise me).

I’m hoping any doubts raised by my extremely weak mathematical skill and the fact that I’m only able to read a little Latin at the moment will be put to rest by my exceptional verbal skills and the work I have done so far in medieval studies (especially the work I have done with historiography and the artistic study of medieval manuscripts).  I hope that this exam and the rest of the material I present will get me into the graduate studies program with no issue.

 

A Brief Note

Barring some big development (which I don’t foresee happening) this will be my last post about having possibly been Philip K. Dick in a previous life.  I’m shifting the content of this blog back to a broader view of theology and metaphysics, toward tracking down possible identities for earlier lives (especially my seafaring life in the mid 19th century) and toward coming to terms with the life I lost on the Western Front in 1915.

I’ve spoken to people who knew me, I’ve been to places I knew, and I’ve written a brilliant science fiction novel (currently in the running for an award) to prove that I still have it when it comes to weird genius.  I’ve gone about as far as I can go in making amends for my past mistakes and making sense of myself in the context of who I may have been, and I feel I’ve turned a corner and need to move on.  To dwell on it any longer would not serve me.

I’m shifting gears in my life, shaping up to be somewhat more of a scholar than a novelist, and I think that’s just fine.  I’ve already gotten further in my education in this life than I have in any other life I remembered and it’s time to get serious about being an academic at this point.  Phil fell back on his writing because he couldn’t finish college; I am fortunate that I don’t have to do that.

If all goes well, I hope to become a medieval historian.  My dream is to work as a historical consultant for film and television which is both lucrative and exciting.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing; I feel that writing fiction is still very much a part of who I am.  I really want to use my studies in medieval history to write straight-up historical fiction; my last published work had some elements of historical fiction and it went over extremely well.  The well of my inspiration runs deep and I find that the more I study, the deeper it runs.  If I can make a career out of my work, so much the better!

What can I say?  I’m evolving.  An eye toward the past can tell me a lot, but the number one takeaway is that I don’t have to follow the same path in every life.  I’ve had many professions, I’ve been male, female, and several shades in between, and I haven’t even always been human.  Being the possible reincarnation of an author who famously struggled doesn’t make me obligated to struggle the same way or with the same things.

For this reason, unless I have more memories or unless something incredibly relevant comes up (like some really shocking synchronicity), I don’t intend to mention Phil again.  I’m free from the burden of being him in the present even if I was him in the past, and I think that’s ultimately a good thing.

The Building From My Dream

I knocked together a quick 3D rendering of what that building in my dream looked like, from my point of view:

gaol.png

The recessed areas between the timbers were the little bays where we were each assigned a bedding space.  The door is just visible, as are the windows.  There is also a stairway (only hinted at here) to the upper levels which I presume contained a similar sort of arrangements.  There were few walls and no bars, shackles, or restraints of any kind so if it was a jail, it was a very low-security affair.  The thought that this was a debtor’s prison seems very likely.  It might also have been tenements or even barracks (perhaps billets from my revolutionary war life, if I’m wrong about the date?).

There were a number of us in the place, it was dark so I couldn’t see much of the others but I think we were in pretty ragged shape.  The people next to me and the men entering the door in long button-up coats all wore styles suggestive of the late 17th or early 18th century.

This was so vivid in my dream  I was able to remember it well enough to make a model the next day.  I really feel strongly that this is a past life memory.

Odd Dream

I went to bed early, since my cat had woke me up after only two hours of sleep this morning.  While I was sleeping restlessly, I had a dream that I was in what almost looked like a 17th century tenement or perhaps even a jail.  I don’t actually know what it was.

The building itself was brick or stone, and there were walkways that sort of ran from the doorway at angles between little bays that were set up as bedrooms.  These bays were open to the walkway; it was like a house with all the structure of internal rooms, but no internal walls.  If it was a jail, there weren’t any cells internally.  I could try to do a 3D model of the interior I saw I suppose…

There were men walking in the door in long coats, who were asking for me, or perhaps had come to get me for something (a trial?  an execution? to be set free?  I don’t remember but I felt like I expected them).   They spoke English and I had the distinct feeling that I was in England some time between 1650 and 1720.  I can’t remember what name they asked for though.  I think it was James but I can’t remember the last name.

I’m haunted by this dream because it was very vivid, like a genuine memory of the past, but it wasn’t very clear who I was or what sort of situation I was in.

Baptism

My baptism- indeed the entire Epiphany service- was delayed a week due to several illnesses in a congregation. That’s the disadvantage of a very small congregation; if six people out of a congregation of about ten are out sick, you’ve really got no reason to have a service.

The blessing of the holy water was a very beautiful service in which the call-and-response of the normal mass was amplified. The waters were then symbolically blessed by the elements of air (the breath of the bishop), fire (from a candle dipped into the waters), earth (from the sprinkling of salt, which is taken in classical thought and alchemy alike to be earth in a purified form), and spirit (from the sign of the dove made over the waters).

Some of the text I recognized from the Pistis Sophia, which was interesting.

After the rest of the congregation received a brief blessing from the waters, I stepped forward. I was anointed with oil, then from a shell the waters were poured over my head.

I know it sounds cliché, and I might have reasonably expected to feel this since I kind of wanted to, but I did feel a strange sensation of lightness, as if relieved from a heavy burden, when the water was poured over me. I felt it to an extent that rather surprised me. At any rate, it felt more real and complete than the baptism I received when I was twelve, tipped backwards into a Jacuzzi while the congregation groaned out morbid songs about watery graves. There was very little ritual and it was such a common occurrence that nobody thought there was anything special about it.

It wasn’t about the method of baptism; they could have dunked me last night just like they did when I was twelve and it would have still meant more to me, because the baptism I received when I was twelve was done in a mind turned toward death; the baptism I received last night was done in a mind turned toward life, light, and the Holy Spirit. Baptisms only happen about once a year in our church, since our congregation is small and grows slowly, so there was a palpable sense of joy that I had never experienced at a baptism before.

So yes… I am now officially baptized into Ecclesia Gnostica. And I have to say, I feel pretty good about that. I like the people, I like the liturgy, I love their taste in music (Rachmaninov, Sibelius, and Hildegard von Bingen are among the composers played in our church) and I like being part of a group that is loving and nurturing without being controlling and manipulative.

Also, before long (possibly before the end of the year) I will probably be ordained as a lay server, and from there I’ll be on my path to priesthood. This was kind of my intent from the beginning and I think I’m ready. Priesthood here is done like it was a long time ago, where the ordination is based on completing a period of study, reflection, and apprenticeship. There is no formal seminary training because what is important is that a candidate has a fair and comprehensive grasp of the Gnostic Christian tradition, texts, and the general concept of Gnosis.

Right now, I just need to keep some other things going on in my life from dragging me down into despair. I have a meditation I’m working on that sort of covers my thoughts on despair and relates some concepts from the Hymn of the Pearl to the threat of despair and what it means to the Gnostic journey.

Another One

I’m already in an agitated state, due largely to the looming deadline for my grad school application, the GRE exam which is heavy on math (which I’m terrible at), and the fact staying in touch with the professors who offered to write me letters of recommendation is like herding cats.

Then a power transformer blew last night, VERY close to my apartment.  That did it.  Shaking hands, hypervigilance, and trying my damnedest to keep my mind in the present so that I didn’t slide back to 1915 again.

This is getting really frustrating.  I thought I was over this shit!  I was doing so well for so long and now it seems my nerves are so raw that I’m living in the shadow of what happened back then.

Took some anxiety meds tonight.  I have some stuff that I can take as needed and although I haven’t been taking it very often because it knocks me out and makes me useless for about a day, I don’t need to be on edge like this any more.  It’s wearing down my body and mind.  It’s not doing me any good; I keep reminding myself that I don’t have to be listening to every little sound and creak, or awake and alert and ready to respond to anything but every attempt to reason it away just meets with a brick wall of instinct.  Just waiting for the pills to kick in; God, I hope they work!  They’re over a year old now.

All Means Must Have An End

I got to thinking about it today, and although it’s been fun keeping this blog, I feel like it’s losing its original purpose: namely, recording and sorting out past life memories and making some sense of the pain of the life I lost in 1915.

The process of making sense of it and coming to terms will be lifelong, but I feel like I’m running out of things to wax about.  New memories haven’t come in a while now, and I’ve moved a lot further on my spiritual path than I had when I first started out in late 2012.

I have decided I will keep this blog going, but only until I have completed a trip to Flanders, France, and England to put these ghosts to rest.  This doesn’t mean I’m not going to write about reincarnation or that I’ll be “better” after visiting these places, but it feels like a natural end point for me: to travel to the place where it all happened before putting an end to the blog where I’ve been asking “What the hell happened to me?” for almost four years.

It will still be a while.  The will is there but the money isn’t.  I think it goes without saying I didn’t win the billion.  Still hoping to make an honest living selling off some antiques I’ve been gathering for the last 20 years or so but there’ll be no easy money for me.

Upon Further Reflection

Sitting back, relaxing to some 13th century polyphonic chant, trying to meditate on the big picture, an insight came to me.

We weren’t only concerned with helping a few people handsomely back in the old days.  We made sure to do what we could to help the spiritual and material needs of others too.  Investing heavily in the wellbeing of close friends is not necessarily to the exclusion of helping strangers and working through institutions; that’s a false dichotomy.

I have a church now that I belong to (the baptism has been rescheduled due to an illness in the congregation but it’s still on).  And I think highly enough of this church that I want to see good things done in its name.  A new sanctuary, a well-organized charitable wing, and the land and facilities for an abbey are all things I have felt out and there’s a favorable attitude toward all of them among our congregation.  If blessed by a large amount of money, why not divvy it up the way I used to back in the old days, some to the church and some to close personal friends who have been very helpful to me?

Motives are another matter, of course; back then I was very concerned with buying my way into heaven and avoiding hell or purgatory.  My personal theology in this life (which is harmonious with the church I attend which is non-dogmatic on the matter) is that this world is some kind of hell or purgatory.  Can’t buy your way out of that, can you?

Doing good things just because they are good is such a simple idea, and yet it’s perhaps the most subversive idea there is because it undermines so much of what history has supposedly taught us about human nature.  I suppose that’s where the post-enlightenment ethos of philanthropy for its own sake becomes useful.  It is a social construct, but it is a useful construct and if it’s useful toward the goal of getting human beings to function harmoniously, that’s a good reason to keep it.  A dichotomy between the ancient and modern impulses represents a lack of imagination but a synthesis of the two positions represents the creation of a practical code of personal ethics.

Thinking About Wealth

Recently, the Powerball lottery went over 1.4 billion dollars and yes, I’m playing too.  I know it’s more likely than not that I’m just throwing a few dollars away on this ticket and that the winnings will go to someone else and I’m fine with that.

Even so, the prospect of that much money should really be an occasion for deep thought.  I think nobody should ever enter a sweepstakes of any sort unless they’ve asked themselves what they’d do with the prize and given it a lot of deep reflection; otherwise you’ll just throw your money away playing any game of chance that comes your way.

I know a few things I would do with it right away.  I’d pay off the combined debts of my household, then do some travel to places from past lives.  I’d buy a sensible house and a car in Oregon and a sensible house and car in England.  But I could probably do all of those things for under five million dollars; what about the rest of it?

The last life I can remember being particularly well-off ended more than 750 years ago, and so my perspective on wealth is informed by two competing threads of ethos.

One thread says that if I win I should reward a few good friends handsomely and live the good life together.  I can be a patron to their art and music, pay their debts, give them a grant of land, manage my estate carefully so that I can continue to pay them well for the rest of our lives, and ask their total loyalty in return.  That’s the thread that still remembers how we did it back in the old days; it was pure, unadulterated cronyism and for all its problems, most of the time it worked.

The other thread- the one informed by a twenty-first century ethos informed by post-Enlightenment notions of civic engagement and philanthropy- says that rather than helping a few good friends through splitting my wealth among cronies, I ought to use that money efficiently to help as many people as possible, whether they are friends or strangers.  This is the thread that makes me want to set up charities to help low-income people in the queer community, or adults with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses escape the death by apathy that modern life offers.  This is very personal for me because much of the time I and my partner have encountered so much difficulty in life that both of us believe should not exist.  And if I borrow a page from Sartre’s ethics here, if I choose to behave in such a way that I think everyone ought to behave, then I ought to naturally do the most good for the most people, right?

But is it really better to house ten thousand people in miserable concrete high-rises, or a few good friends who have always been there for you in nice houses?  If you help someone, isn’t it better to help a few people well than many people poorly?  Modern attempts at housing charities and the like often see people put in dehumanizing, cramped, cheaply-built housing projects and I don’t want to build places of misery.

I’m also worried about the fact that the more strangers you help, the easier it is to be taken advantage of.  The advantage of helping only a few people is that if someone tries to take advantage of you, all you have to do is cut them off from the gravy train.  They either get mad but can’t (legally) do anything, or they behave themselves.

And yet, in this age of tremendous social isolation, how else can you fix the problems but by taking the chance to help strangers, even if it means running the risk of being taken advantage of?

I don’t intend to imply that these are my only two options of course.  I just find the idea of using a series of cunning investments to turn the $500m or so I’d have left after taxes into a few hundred billion through a series of blue-chip investments.  I could continue to grow my wealth and capital until I can buy the policies I want.  And with what I’ve got left  I could simply keep accumulating wealth for myself, for the sake of accumulating wealth.  It’s what most billionaires do, after all.  But I can’t see myself doing that; it feels entirely against my nature and every thread of ethos within me.  Then again, who knows?  Maybe the tendency I developed from being poor, to sit on money and keep my purse strings tight at all times, will stay with me.  Learning to give away large portions of my money would be a new experience, and maybe I could never outgrow the tendency.

Even so, I’d like to think I could adapt better than that.  If I don’t have the free will to go against learned behaviors, then what good am I as a person?  We meet again, Monsieur Sartre…

Perhaps it’s lucky I’m unlikely to win; I think I have enough existential crises to manage at the moment.  Thinking of it, wealth poses a serious philosophical dilemma.  If you need it, you shouldn’t turn it down, but once you have it you no longer need it and then what do you do?

Still going to buy my ticket… just not without a lot of rumination.