Terence McKenna on Philip K. Dick

A fascinating read:


I’m not sure I completely agree, but I think that McKenna here is right that I probably was mistaken on some level in my efforts to systematize my insights.

I also think he’s absolutely spot on about being clued into the fractal nature of time (I described it in my previous life as “reticulated and arborizing,” being unfamiliar with fractal geometry).  My observations on Count William and John’s lives and their curious similarities across a period of roughly 701 years bears out that the underlying structure of time is essentially unchanging so I am willing to believe that wholeheartedly.

Also, the overwhelming sense that I get is that I didn’t expect to reincarnate after my experience.  As a result of systematizing it too much and relying perhaps too slavishly on antique explanations, I honestly thought I had broken the cycle and would not be back.  I think if anything discovering a past life as Phil is proof that I miscalculated on some level even if I may have had the gist of things right.

What I’m skeptical of is McKenna’s insistence that he knows exactly what I went through and moreover, I’m entirely uncertain about his insistence that the truth is in the King Wen sequence of the I Ching.  Admittedly, I haven’t looked into the I Ching in this life but perhaps I should if for no other reason than I think I ought to have a more informed opinion on this.

Sadly, Terence McKenna died when I was in high school in this life so trying to get in contact to get more insight into his thinking isn’t really a practical option.

Public Perception Versus Actual Experience

The following was from SkepDic.com’s article on reincarnation.  Keep in mind that throughout their article- which glosses over the ideas long traditions in Eastern faiths and focuses heavily on New Age spirituality and Scientology, this paragraph is the sum total of their actual argument against the subject:

Finally, since there is no way to tell the difference between a baby with a soul that will go to heaven or hell, a baby with a soul that has been around before in other bodies, and a baby with no soul at all, it follows that the idea of a soul adds nothing to our concept of a human being. Applying Occam’s razor, both the idea of reincarnation and the idea of an immortal soul that will go to heaven or hell are equally unnecessary.

Though this is technically right in strictly scientific terms, I have one crucial problem with this: it only addresses religious belief in reincarnation and treats it like a religious issue.

My experience has been the opposite; since recalling apparent past lives, I’ve actually approached religion largely as an outsider.  My views are decidedly less cynical than those of the average Internet antitheist, but I have not, to date, given my devotion to any one religion and my explorations of religion in general are secondary to the fact that I had a weird experience.  I kind of like Buddhism and Gnosticism, but I’m not there yet and I’m in no hurry to convert to anything.

To discredit someone who was using reincarnation as a handy explanation in a religious context, SkepDic’s explanation works.  But like so many similar arguments, it’s based on a narrow and caricatured view of the subject and its persistence in culture and doesn’t address the complexity of individual experience that defies the label of “religious.”  It’s easy to discredit Scientology, though, so they go for the easy victory with gusto, even if it is a bit like picking on the slow kid in class.

Gender Double Standards and Supernatural Experiences

I have realized something fundamental about the way society interprets experiences like mine.

If I were to be judged by male standards- the ruthlessly rational scientist and engineer archetype that all boys are raised to aspire to- then I would probably be considered mentally ill.  Men who have these experiences are stigmatized for talking about them because they’re expected to be leaders who only believe in one of a few socially-approved opinions about the nature of the universe.  To believe anything else is to be a pariah.

Women, on the other hand, are expected to be more intuitive and emotional, and are also less likely to be dismissed for believing in supernatural experiences because the men in their lives expect women to be inferior to them in some way.  They see the mystical side of women as validation for the patriarchal view that mysticism is nothing more than female eccentricity.  I have seen comments by determined antitheists that were positively dripping with misogyny toward, for instance, modern witchcraft which is predominately female, describing them as fat and ugly among other things.  While I no longer follow that path, I feel it’s wrong to chalk it up to female eccentricity simply because you don’t understand it or to put down the women who get involved in it simply because you don’t believe the same things they do.

As a transwoman, I get both reactions to my experiences.  Those who still see me as male think I’m 100% off my shit, but those who accept me as female are much more likely to accept the past life thing as nothing worse than female eccentricity.

It’s really starting to sink in how this double standard works and it’s frustrating when you really think about it.

Most Recently

I think I’ve been fluctuating lately between having an extreme emotional investment in these past-life memories and having almost no investment at all.

When I have an emotional investment in them, I become extraordinarily patient and thoughtful about just about everything, and I’m fairly quiet, passive, and easy to talk to.  But the down side is I tend to get really angsty too, especially with the whole question of why I always get weird problems and unhappy memories of a past life is just another cherry on top of that bizarre little sundae.

Other times, when I’m not so emotionally vested, I find that I’m a bit irritable and insensitive, maybe even prone to wanting to join some cause and seething with hatred for certain ideas, and certain words or phrases or an insensitive tone of voice is enough to make me hate someone’s guts.  And it bothers me to be like that because even when I’m not emotionally vested, I understand on an intellectual level that I should know better than to think that way.

I just want to find some middle ground where I can integrate what I’ve experienced without snapping to one extreme or the other.  I want to find peace without becoming gloomy.

Stages of Discovery

When discovering new experiences, concepts, and ways of knowing, there seem to be stages that we go through.

The first stage is shock.  A new concept that challenges what one believed is always met with a great deal of shock because we are not equipped to integrate that experience yet.

The second stage is distrust.  We don’t want to trust this new experience because it requires us to re-think so much about ourselves and how we see the world.  So we greet it with a skeptical eye, cross-examine everything, and test our observations against what we already know.

The third stage is curiosity.  As our inquiry deepens, we become engrossed in it.  We yearn to learn more about what we have just discovered, and we begin to think of ways we can integrate our discoveries into the body of experience that shapes how we view the world.

The fourth and final stage is integration.  Our discovery becomes a full-fledged part of how we see the world, how we measure the whole of our experience, and how we test new discoveries.

I have been through these stages many times in my life, but never really stopped to think about them.  At this time, I have moved from the second stage and onto the third stage in my journey to understand these visions of a long-lost life.  I was not a believer in reincarnation and I’m still hesitant to say that I fully believe this, because it still goes against my ways of knowing, but my distrust is being replaced by curiosity, and that curiosity is being rewarded more fully than I ever expected.

I am in no rush to integrate my experiences fully, but increasingly I find that I want to.  It no longer seems like cognitive dissonance to refer to Pvt. John Harris in the first person, because those experiences that I have confirmed were very much from his point of view.  It all seems to fit neatly into what I know so far, and the more I learn the more sense it makes.  In time, I probably will.

Consider me a hopeful skeptic.