File That Under “Weird,” Part 2

My cat goes nuts whenever he hears a West Country accent.

I noticed a while ago that whenever I watch clips from “Time Team”  on YouTube, he starts walking around and yowling.  At first I thought it was Tony Robinson’s voice for some reason that he was mistaking for someone else, but then I had a thought: what if it’s Phil Harding’s voice?

Phil Harding, one of the Time Team archaeologists, has a very distinct West Country accent (Wiltshire, apparently).

I played another clip of a Somerset accent, which is another West Country dialect,  and my cat went straight to the door of the room, yowling as if he expected someone to come in.

Incidentally, John probably had a  Somerset accent in his youth that he later gave up for a standard RP accent if my memories are correct.

On a hunch, I tried petting my cat and speaking to him in the best West Country accent I could manage, addressing him as “puss,” and he calmed down immediately.  He’s now curled up next to me perfectly calm.

I was overdue for some weirdness.  Not sure what to make of this; I don’t remember having a cat in that life.  PKD was a cat person but I can’t imagine John would have been, since he was a bit more rugged.  Then again, you never know.

Fascinating Lead

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.

Another One…

Another weird coincidence involving Buddhism and a possible past life of mine has surfaced.

There was my discovery of the Wild Fox Koan (with the potentially useful admonition “don’t forget about cause and effect”) after recalling a possible past life as a fox near a Zen temple.  Then there was the group of Buddhist monks who made sand mandalas at Salisbury Cathedral around the time I had a flash of insight that my experiences following John’s death were actually compatible with what was taught in the Bardo Thodol.

Here’s another one.  It seems that very close to Philip K. Dick’s former high school, Berkeley High School in Berkeley, CA, there’s an institution called the Dharma College, a sort of Buddhist think tank apparently.  And the street it’s on, Harold Way, was very nearly re-named “Dharma Way.”

So Phil went to school near, but not on, a street nearly called Dharma Way…  and when you consider Phil’s erudite but troubled life and the double meanings of the phrase “Dharma Way,” well, it seems downright fitting.  You could say he spent his whole life “near Dharma Way,” but not on it.

File this under “interesting.”

More Coincidences

These coincidences may mean nothing, but I will record them just in case.  Forgive me if I go into “Paul is dead territory,” as my fiance likes to say.

First, a straightforward coincidence: Philip K. Dick attended a high school called Berkeley High School.  My parents met at a high school by that same name in the late 70s (albeit in a different state).  Unless, between lives, I somehow saw their diplomas, I can’t see how this would be anything more than coincidence.

Second, a curious and very roundabout coincidence with Gnosticism involving John’s life.  John spent his late childhood and young adulthood in the tiny village of East Coker.  East Coker was the subject of a poem by T.S. Eliot, which starts with the line “In my beginning is my end.”

Verse 18 of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas (one of the Nag Hammadi Codices) reads as follows (emphasis mine):

The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us, how will our end come?”

Jesus said, “Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end? You see, the end will be where the beginning is.

Congratulations to the one who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end and will not taste death.”

Perhaps it’s just another meme being half-understood and repeated with no mind to meaning.  Lately I’ve been very aware of these memes but unable to discern a clear meaning from them, if indeed there ever was one.  I don’t want to lapse completely into making connections that aren’t there but I suppose it can’t hurt to note these coincidences for future reference.

An Uncomfortable Thought

I have to say, I feel a lot better since making my last post.  Even if I didn’t say who I think I might have been, I sort of put my message in a bottle so to speak and got it off my chest.

Now I can talk about some issues that I have considered, which only make sense in light of my previous life and lead me to some disturbing questions about the nature of time.

Compare William Longespee’s life with John Harris’ life.  They are similar in weird ways.  Similar, but not the same.  Karmic opposites, almost, and occurring at very analogous times in history.

Longespee lived at a time when the Middle Ages had reached their peak, when Wales had been tamed, the Barons’ Revolt had been settled, and England was a solid territory.  There was a great flourishing of literature, knowledge, and mechanical genius in his era too.  He fought in Flanders and was captured in Bouvines, France.  Then after his death, about 125 years later, it all came tumbling down with a disaster.

John lived at a time when the Modern era had reached its peak, when the British Empire had reached its zenith, and rational positivism seemed to be the pinnacle of thought and achievement.  He fought in Flanders and was killed in Houplines, France, only a short drive from Bouvines.  But his death came at a time when the Modern era showed its dark side: the cold, logical application of science and technology to warfare, and the Modern Era is on its way out.

Now consider my previous life and my current one.  Once again a writer, once again living under an increasingly intrusive military-industrial police state where the imaginations of the paranoid are matched or exceeded by the machinations of the powerful.  Once again, reckoning with a feeling of being surrounded by the past, perhaps even immersed in it.  Once again writing, struggling, barely making ends meet out on the West Coast.  Damn me… I might be tempted to think, if I were less resistant to such ideas, that this was not a past life but that my current life is an illusion.

I often wonder if this idea of past lives isn’t just a silly pretext to validate our ideas of linear time.  On the other hand, if it is just a pretext, then this is really 1974 and 1974 was really the First Century…  and I really don’t want to think about that because it makes my head hurt.

Except there’s the sailor, Clyde or Clive or whatever my name was in that life.  That one seems to support the more linear notion of past lives, as does the unassuming vixen who lived in the hills above Takasaki, Japan.  And if these lives are more than just phantoms, they don’t fit with the seeming tendency of lives to cluster or pair into similarities.  At least, not yet.  Maybe I’ll discover lives that harmonize with those in weird ways too.

Perhaps the similarities between lives have more to do with my tendencies, my karmic baggage if you will.  That’s something described frequently among those who have looked into reincarnation.  The Buddhist explanation, so far as I can tell, is that our sense of self is precisely the sum total of those tendencies and attachments which kind of makes sense; it might explain why John unconsciously wanted to fight in Flanders like Longespee, and I spent a year and a half roaming England looking for John’s home.  You could easily argue we were actively looking to repeat our past lives, but unaware of our motives.

In all, the life I may have lived previously has some disturbing implications.  Granted, my memories are of a very ordinary life as a very anxious man. I have no memory of the unusual experiences I reported back then, but the thoughts I wrote down about those experiences come wafting back at me, nagging at me, daring me to ask if my current presumptions are correct.

By the way, check this out.  The building I take some of my art history classes in was built in 1915 (the year John died), and cut into the stonework is this motif.  If you’ve figured out who I might have been in my previous life, you just might shit yourself:


Probably a coincidence.  Probably…

Why I Don’t Believe in God (Yet).

There are several beliefs that I do not hold, but dearly wish I had a solid reason to believe them.

Sadly, a single and benevolent god was one of those casualties, and quite some time before I had past life memories or any sort of unusual experiences.  For a while I embraced a transcendental view in the trappings of eclectic Pagan worship and forged a fairly solid cosmology based on the model of mushroom mycelia (thank you, Terrance McKenna).  But as far as believing in a literal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving god, I didn’t see much in the world that I couldn’t distinguish from cosmic indifference if I thought about them logically.

The past life memories are one of those things.  The way I see it, if the collective soul of Buddhism could just as easily explain it without the need for a god, then Occam’s Razor shaves us toward the Buddhist hypothesis.

But every so often, it’s not so clear-cut.  There are some coincidences- or synchronicities if you like, and although they don’t tell me anything on their own, they’re pervasive, across lives like really solid memes.

Why do rice paddies, Cistercian Monasteries, and intense religious themes run through most of the lives I remember?  Why would I be conceived near a road called “Dorchester Road” in two separate lives?  Why would I remember the same abbey at two points in history, one as an active monastery and one as a ruin?  Why would I have a life as a monk, one as an animal held in veneration, and one as a modern-day scholar of religions that I can locate and approximately date (or in some cases, precisely date)?

And what’s with the initials?  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but my birth initials are JAH.  Now compare that to my initials when I was John, which are JWH.  One is shorthand for the Judeo-Christian God, and the other is very close to the abbreviation YHWH if you consider that Y and J are often transliterated interchangably from Hebrew.

The initials I had don’t always add up that way; they didn’t in my most recent past life for instance; all you get when you type out the initials of my previous life is typewriter diarrhea.

That’s what really makes using Occam’s razor difficult here.  There’s enough going on to say that I’ve found the footprint of some influence, but I can’t say that calling that influence “God” is the best idea.  Also, the coincidences are kind of weak at times (like the initials), but at times they’re solid themes (like this overarching theme of asceticism or proximity to asceticism).

Then there’s the possibility too that this is grandiose self-deception.  That thought has been heavy on my mind since the themes started shaping up with my memories of being John and being that nobleman who became a monk.  It just sort of exploded from there, with the abbey that I saw at two points in history.  Did I just go off my rocker at about that point and launch myself into a fantasy world?  I look back and I read my own work and I wonder if I’m crazy.

What’s going on here, then?  That question hangs over everything I do nowadays.  I’m still waiting to find the answer for myself, since nobody seems to have an answer that works that I’ve found yet (though I’m still looking).  I’ve been hit with some really heavy questions about the nature of pretty much everything because of this.

It was the song “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison that inspired this post, incidentally.