Thinking About It…

Admittedly, I’ve agonized for a very long time about possibly going back to the UK.

And can you blame me?  The last few times I’ve left and been unable to go back it wasn’t exactly on my terms.  The thought of getting my MA at a prestigious university like Cambridge or Oxford (which I’ve visited) really made me excited.  I’ve also had a lot of trepidation about the next 10 years in my country and whether or not it will descend into total chaos.

But it seems that getting involved with this church, with an eye toward possibly getting ordained, might have answered the question for me.  It may sound dishonest for me to say that “God answered my question” because getting involved was my choice.  As a Gnostic, however, I believe that the instinct that guides us toward constructive decisions in our lives is basically our higher selves (i.e. the Indwelling Light of the Divine) taking the controls.  So in a way, if my heart takes me to explore priesthood in a Gnostic church then I suppose I did have help from a higher source.  And if that decision ends up bearing real fruit in my life, then who am I to question?

I still want to go back to England, at least to visit.  But right now I feel that a higher calling is keeping me in Portland for the time being and I no longer have any plans to relocate to the UK in the next 2 years.

For what it’s worth, Portland is a really awesome place to live right now.  This place seems to be a magnet for old souls!  I’ve often been surprised to discover just how many people here remember past lives and will talk about it openly if you get them on the subject.  You look at the people on the street and about half the people are gorgeous anachronisms of fashions from across the 20th century.  As a result, it’s become a metamodern, cosmopolitan cultural capital.  It’s like Paris during the Belle Epoque in a lot of ways.

We’ll see what happens.  Maybe I’ll decide this isn’t for me.  Maybe my romantic attachments to a past life home will draw me back against my better judgment.  I think I’m better off giving it a try though.

So Much It Hurts…

I think I must have invested a lot in a life as Phil in no small part because it gave me some respite from feelings that I’ve never really resolved.

The fact is, I miss England so much it hurts.  I can ignore it for a while; when I thought I was Phil I ignored it for a very long time.  But with sincere doubts that I was him now taking hold, I am left with that same painful longing to go back.

It really hit full force last night, when I stumbled on an episode of the BBC show “Escape to the Country.”  They had an episodes in Shropshire and Somerset and by the end, I was in tears seeing these beautiful cottages and thinking of how it could have been if I’d stayed at home until I was too old to serve.  I’m sure there was a need for leather workers, hop pickers, and farm hands and I probably could have made enough money doing civilian work to buy a cottage somewhere in the West Country.

I’ve waited more than ten years to get back to England after living there for a year and a half in my current life, always feeling a strange sense of deja vu that I never fully understood until years later; Now that I know why I wanted so bad to stay there, I’m starting to doubt I’ll ever have another chance to go back even to visit.

As for living there, it’s almost impossible now, as expensive as it is and as difficult as it is for a US citizen to get a leave-to-enter permit in the UK (you pretty much have to either get an employer willing to sponsor you, or you have to marry a British citizen and neither is really an option for me).

I’m seriously thinking of applying to Oxford and Cambridge, but I’m still torn about how I’d negotiate the move, how I’d bring my fiance with me, and how I’d pay for it all.

I didn’t need this.  I should have kept telling myself I was the reincarnation of Philip K. Dick, that I was continuing my past life’s work, and that I belonged on the West Coast, even when I knew I couldn’t back that up.  Without that, I’m just a homesick Brit.

One Unsettled Question

One question that remains unsettled about my possible identification as Philip K. Dick in my most recent past life is a simple but fundamental one: Where was Dick’s Englishness?

I’m as English as Blackpool Rock, marked “Made in England” through and through.  I get asked all the time if I’m British because I have an RP cadence to my inflection.  Those who have read my books are even more surprised when they see me at conventions in America as I write with a distinctly British voice that Phil didn’t have.  While I was living in the UK, I experimented briefly with dropping my American accent around the locals and I was able to fit in perfectly; I had planned, for a while, to lose my American accent entirely and settle in England before a lack of money and a chance for love brought me back to the States.  Truth be told, I’ve been a devoted Anglophile since childhood; I seem to have a much stronger emotional impression of England as a “home,” and my memories of my last life in England are actually clearer and more complete than my memories of Phil’s life.

Phil, on the other hand, seems to have been a much stronger Francophile than an Anglophile.  Granted, I am in the odd position of being quite fond of France myself, and in my English lives I often spent significant amounts of time in France, but his admiration of the French seemed more of a literary obsession than one driven  by past lives.

I have several theories on why I have this essential and anomalous Englishness after having had an earlier past life in the US.

The first and most obvious theory is that I’m wrong about having been Phil.  In fact, my initial impression was that I had lived multiple lives in England in the 20th century with one life as an adult in the 1960s, though no specific memories came up.  Phil’s memories were a bit of a wild card that I hadn’t been expecting, since I first turned to his works and bio as a pattern for what to do with my own experiences.

The second theory is a simple matter of activation.  Perhaps Phil never had an experience that activated that Englishness in him.  The problem is, I find it difficult to nail down any such experience in my current life, since I was an anglophile from a very young age but never actually visited the UK until 2001.  It is possible that one of the numerous films and TV shows set or produced in the UK I watched as a child may have been the trigger, but which one?  There were so many!  What I do know is that by 2005 after living in the UK for a year and a half (with a hiatus of a few months in 2004), clear and present past life memories were lurking just below the surface, influencing my decisions and tearing at my heart strings in profound ways.  However, the exact point it rose to that level is still a mystery to me.

The third theory is perhaps the most unusual and the most problematic: that this progression is evidence of non-linear time.  If I were to go by how clearly I remember things, I would rate John’s life as the most recent, followed by Phil’s, followed by Count William, followed by all the others.  But does that mean that they were out of sequence or, indeed, that these are really past lives per se?  Could some or all of them be future lives?  And if I’m Philip K. Dick’s past life, strange as it might sound, is his destiny fixed or can I choose to live his life differently if I find myself born as him?

I’m rather partial to the second theory right now.  The first theory has some problems in that it doesn’t fully account for confirmed memories and an astonishing number of preferences, beliefs, and character traits that have carried over from Phil, and the third theory is harder to falsify than the first two because I can’t know if I’m destined to be reborn in Chicago in 1928 until I actually arrive there.

I suppose this Englishness is a good thing in that it has distinguished my current life’s writing from Phil’s.  For me to sincerely “copy” his style I have to drop all of the literary idiosyncrasies of a British author and it comes off forced and contrived, so I don’t do it.  I let it roll and embrace it as a part of my unique style.  Still, it does seem strange and I wish I understood it better, since it seems to be one of the most prominent features of my being.

UK/France Trip Cancelled

It’s official, I probably won’t be traveling to France, Belgium, and the UK this year. Dad was going to help out but says the cost would be prohibitive (I suspected as much).

Instead, there is a very good chance that my fiance and I will be spending some time in Marin County, CA seeing some sites from my most recent past life.

A Short Film From 2005-2006

Writing is not the only form of expression I’ve experimented with, and in the mid 2000s I had a brief experimentation with amateur filmmaking.

This was one of those efforts, conceived and filmed in early 2005 in Richmond Upon Thames (mostly in and around Richmond Park) on a cheap digital camera, then edited into a film with Windows Moviemaker in early 2006 (I got lazy).

It became my unofficial goodbye to England, and in hindsight, given the whole past life thing, the choice of music was downright eerie! The song is “In A Graveyard” by Rufus Wainwright.

I’ve had to re-caption it to protect my identity (the original was removed from my main YouTube channel years ago and this version is hosted on my “reincarnation stuff only” channel), but other than the end credits this is pretty much exactly as it was.

Hopefully YouTube won’t mute the audio or pull it entirely.

A Different Life Altogether

I think it’s fair to say I question my ID of a past life as Philip K. Dick quite often (though so far, I think I’m the only one to come forward with that claim oddly enough).  It just seems too extraordinary, especially for someone like me who has been at best a mediocre author with very little in the way of publication credits my entire life.  But it’s more than that; a very large part of me feels like I should have- I must have- come back to England instead.  Being born in Chicago in 1928 just doesn’t make sense, even if I take my fragmented and sketchy memories of brief and/or non-human lives in India and Japan in between for face value.  

I think about my affinity for England, I look at pictures and video of how it was after the war, on into the mid-20th century, and I really wonder if I wasn’t dead wrong because the UK around 1960-1980 looks and feels incredibly familiar.

It could simply be the fact that the changes between 1914 and 1980 were surprisingly minimal in many places, or the simple fact that I’ve had my whole life to get caught up on popular products, TV shows, and the cars produced in that time.  Still, it feels strangely right and familiar in a way that simple exposure doesn’t seem to account for.

I’ve heard of people who claimed simultaneous lives in two different parts of the world, but I’m still really unsure about that.  I suppose if time is non-linear then it’s completely possible, but it really makes things complicated.  Also, there is one solid fact that I can’t deny: I have no specific memories of living in England after the war, only a distinct sense of having been there in some capacity and a gut feeling that I should have been there, that Phil’s life represents such a traumatic break with a pattern going back hundreds of years that it just doesn’t make sense.

Hell, I even lived in England for a while in this life and if I hadn’t met the love of my life here in the States, there is no doubt in my mind that I eventually would have emigrated and stayed there; Phil only left California a few times ever, and the only time he ever left the country he only went to France briefly for a convention in Metz.  Though nearly every life I’ve recalled had a period of time in France, Phil’s life just doesn’t fit the pattern very well and I don’t understand.  Was the period from 1928 to 1982 my “lost years,” a break in a pattern caused by what happened to me in the war?

Also, what’s with the break in the pattern with names and initials?  The names John and William or at least the initials J, W, and H all figure into nearly every life I’ve recalled.  Where do I get “P.K.D.” out of that pattern?

It just doesn’t make sense.  I should have been British again.  I should have been born in the south or west of England and had a name like John or William, and I should have had a completely unremarkable life for the most part.  An American author known for mystical experiences just doesn’t fit.

Possible Trigger?

I think, in hindsight, I may have figured out what triggered me to recall past lives, and it’s not what I thought.

In 2011, my father (who knows I’m a big fan of the rock band Queen) got me a book written by Queen guitarist Brian May called “A Village Lost And Found,” because he knows how much of an Anglophile I’ve always been.  The book is about how Brian’s hobby, collecting stereo slides from the 19th century, led him to track down a mysterious village pictured in a series of slides from the 1850s.  It sat on my shelf for several months before I finally unwrapped it and looked at it.

This look at mid-19th century English village life may have helped me connect the dots and figure out why I felt so confused by the overall look of the villages I traveled to in the 2000s, looking for the one that felt like the right place but not sure what I was looking for.  What I noticed in these books was that there were many familiar features- clothes drying on front lawns, different monuments and fences in a churchyard, pollarded willows, and very ragged edges between roads and roadsides- that are missing now from the clean, sanitized, highly-gentrified rows of thatched cottages and pristine pubs that make up the English countryside today.  The feeling I got from it was such that I felt like I’d found the missing piece.  It just looked right to me.

I don’t consider this to be cryptomnesia because what I saw first was not a village like East Coker, but the war itself and then memories going back to the beginnings of Yeovil’s suburban sprawl in a terrace of relatively-new houses in the stark but sufficient life of a Victorian semiskilled laborer’s son.  We lived on a well-traveled road near a rail line and my father worked in a factory.  There wasn’t a single thatched cottage in my initial round of memories, mostly just a life on the edge of reasonably well-developed towns, and discovering that he had lived in East Coker- a village I knew as soon as I saw it- was an astonishing surprise.  

But maybe it was an indirect trigger, something that set off the same deep, repressed recollection within me that drove me to seek out this village in the New Forest, about fifty miles east of where I should have been and starting from a town- Lyndhurst- that was not much smaller than Yeovil.  Finally seeing how these types of villages looked in the 19th century may have somehow jogged my memory enough that the important details of John’s life came back to me shortly after I looked at this book.

I can’t believe I hadn’t considered that this book may have done it for me.  Odd to think that I may have Brian May to thank for remembering John’s life and all the rest of my past lives through more than just his music (which has also triggered memories), although I’m really not sure what he’d think of that!