PJ's Personal Archives

A post to the discussion list [other lives]

I will tell about a cluster of EHEs here. The context of how they came about may be relevent though, as I think my "connection with history" was much of what opened me to this.

I was in high school in Ventura California, around 1982. I had managed to flunk my semester of sophomore history twice, and was being forced to take it yet again my junior year. According to some instructors I was friends with (I was a TA and worked in the office and library, so knew many instructors well), I was the talk of the staff room. Supposedly at college level in all topics except math (10th grade rank) even by my 5th grade SATs, from then on I was the kid who would read the whole textbook the first day or two, ace tests just to throw the curve -- and read science fiction every other day of the class, pointedly refuse to turn in even ONE item of homework, and end up getting C's and D's out of nothing but teacher sympathy -- they have their rules -- I'd have great test scores but be missing 700 points of homework for the semester.

By high school, I passed 'required' courses when I did only because they felt for me -- more than one teacher had me after class and cried on me about it... very touching. Nowadays, public school has changed: it doesn't depend on homework done at home, which my psycho family home life made impossible for me then. Things might have been different if it had been like that during my days there.. oh well.

In any case, I loathed science and history and failed them religiously from 7th grade onward. (They are my two favorite subjects as an adult. I cannot imagine them being taught any worse than they were.) So I was a junior, and the staff had a talk about me, and my either reading Heinlein or sleeping through history... always.

My first teacher was a good teacher if rather dull fellow who sent me to the Dean for suggesting in class that memorizing the death-date and place all former US Presidents were buried would have zero applicable value to our lives. My second teacher was probably a very good teacher, though he taught world culture East about Russia and China which I had zero interest in at the time. He was openly Christian. I surprised him by occasionally lifting my head from snoring on my desk to make it clear I was a minor bible parrot myself as a former hobby. One day he was talking about Matthew or some disciple, and I sat up straight and burst out astonished, "What?! You mean these people were REAL?!" The entire class was offended, and he sputtered in disbelief at me. Here I'd learned all this stuff in Sunday School or my own reading of the bible, but to me it had been as interesting -- yet fictional -- as myth! Class didn't go well after that. So having done their time, my teachers and the Dean decided to foist me off next on another teacher, Greg Norberg.

Norberg was an American of German descent, a big slightly pudgy guy who was Assistant Football coach as well, and seemed to have that wonderfully vital beat-it-with-a-stick-to-wake-it-up approach to life. He later won teaching awards, I've been told. He should.

He didn't operate the same. He didn't throw some boring textbook at us and tell us to answer questions 1-10. That wasn't his idea of teaching. Previous history had taught me things like, muslims live in tents and africa has pygmies and bushmen. I thought Palestine was a collection of tents outside a chain link fence until my mid-20's when I saw a picture of skyscrapers in a magazine and read they had the highest educational rate in the world at that time. I was astonished... "refugees" to me meant some people with blankets and tents, not a big city. One of my best friends is from Africa and he'd never even heard of pygmies and bushmen... the list goes on... school history was a joke.

Norberg made us put our desks in a circle 3-deep so he could see us all. That was a bad sign. My last name usually got me at the back of the classroom and unnoticed, but I couldn't hide. And he gave us books, we did have to read, and answer a few of the questions. But mostly, he just talked. He was an awesome storyteller.

He told us about how he went to the front where the French and Germans fought at the end of in World War I -- this in the late 1970's. He was with a group, and the guide handed him a shovel and said, "Dig anywhere." A shovel of dirt turned over revealed an entire landscape so drenched with blood that it was still soaked red half a century later.

He told us about the soldiers, all in poverty, underdressed and undersupplied and how the German front surrendered partly because the other side openly barbecued meat so the smoke would drift... and literally starving men threw down their guns and crawled crying through the no-man's land of shelling toward the smell.

He told us about the Treaty of Versailles, and how the severe conditions set on the Germans after WWI so devastated them and imposed such a terrible cultural-economical burden on the whole land. He talked about the psychology of the Nazi growth and how the previous Treaty conditions had made the people so in need of the promises of union and strength and self-value Hitler promised. Learning it his way, it made sense... and I see many echoes of that kind of situation in the world today... that for some reason our world leaders don't seem to have learned from.

He had a friend who was one of the first soldiers into the concentration camps. His friend copied him slides he'd made from his personal photos taken there. Stuff nobody else in the world had quite that way. We cried until we couldn't breathe.

He didn't just push generic mass-published textbooks at us. He told us about it, like it was a story passed down through the generations, he was hilarious -- or tragic -- in his telling. "Oral history" I suppose it was to some degree, and now I see the value of that tradition, and how the learning we do differs so dramatically depending on the way information is presented to us.

He made history real to me. He helped me understand the conditions in one place or era that caused the circumstance of the next. I finally "grokked" why they say ignorance of history dooms one to repeat it. A true understanding of history isn't about dates and trivia. It is an understanding of humanity, our nature, and ourselves. He got me to read non-fiction autobiographies in the library and my love for fiction could barely compete with my love for a fascinating story that had really happened, too -- huge amounts of self-education resulted from this shift in reading materials over the years.

I got a B+ in his class. More importantly, he changed my life. He gave me a maturity that history is supposed to teach but seldom does these days. A good deal of the self-education I've acquired in the decades since, and whatever understanding I may have of culture and myself, are in part thanks to him.

We were early in the semester, I think studying the WWI era, when I had the first anomalous experience that, combined with others, could be called an EHE or Exceptional Human Experience. It was like a vision, but one I was "in". It consumed my focus -- it was not an "overlay" but a full attention. I think I was eating lunch at school at the time, and not really thinking about much at all.

Suddenly, I was running. I was running so hard, so fast, until my chest ached. My feet felt heavy and I could feel my heart pounding like it weighed 10 pounds and was going to burst out of my chest. I was carrying a large gun, running through trees, it was very hot and I wasn't wearing a shirt, and I wasn't thinking about anything except my very intense focus on getting away. I knew I was in the rear of "my" guys running but I didn't see any others. Finally I felt I'd likely run far enough; I didn't hear anybody pursuing me. I knew I had to stop and rest. I looked around, and backed up against a tree; I stood with my shoulders back against it, the thinnest profile I could make, my gun high against my body, ready to shoot at the slightest motion. I breathed hard but as quietly as I could. And then this -- this feeling at my throat -- cold and yet hot at the same time, and my peripheral vision in that moment registered an arm had just come around the tree and sliced a knife across my throat. I looked down as if at my throat but I saw the ground, and I think I might have taken a step forward; thoughts ran through my head so quickly... I was going to die... I couldn't possibly die, no, I couldn't believe it... this should hurt terribly or will soon... and as I saw the ground coming toward me, the overriding feeling was mostly one of pure astonishment.

That was it. One minute you're dying in a jungle or forest and the next minute the school bell rings. Talk about a reality shift. It was such an odd experience I didn't even process it for quite some time. I knew I was a young man, in the experience... there is a lot of information that is "known" in these, like some kind of electromagnetic cloud of information one exists within, that you don't have to think of consciously yet still somehow you are aware of without being consciously-aware of it. It is difficult to explain... I just have to say that such experiences, for me, have been very "conceptual". It was weeks, at least, before I gave it conscious thought. I understood I had been a soldier in a war and had died. Wildly guessing, I figured Korea or Vietnam, given the landscape.

The problem was, though I wasn't religious, I'd been brought up a Christian, and there wasn't really any space in that model for having lived another life. Allegedly, I lived this life, and either I did not belong to the appropriate church and would burn tormented in hell forever, or my church was indeed the "right" one, and I would go into some endless bliss with God. In the Southern Baptist churches I attended as a child, there wasn't a lot of middle ground. Though I had realized earlier that I was sort of open to this idea, that wasn't the same as experiencing it: I really hadn't thought about it consciously, and hadn't at that time been exposed to religions and philosophies that include "multiples lives" as a concept.

Having no idea how to think about this reasonably, I just didn't. I couldn't process it, so I sort of forgot for some time.

We were just starting into the Nazi Germany portion of our study -- we hadn't got to the holocaust yet -- when the next experience occurred. It was of a similar nature, but not as extreme. Again it came upon me unexpectedly when I was sort of half-spaced-out.

I found myself looking at a group of people. I knew we were in a small room and they were "my" people and we were in a terrible situation. We were all so thin... we were so miserable there are just no words for the degree of it. I knew we were all going to die. Maybe that day. Maybe in 10 minutes. Maybe tomorrow. But soon. It seemed inevitable, the way the sun going down seems inevitable, and as horrible as it was, some part of me fought to just accept it, for my own sanity... in a way, hope hurt on a moment-to-moment basis. A door opened and I turned to look -- I know there was a man there but I don't remember what he looked like -- I just remember thinking so powerfully then that it seemed to burst in my chest and black out vision: now was the time we would die. It was just such a terrible feeling of grief. Not even fear anymore. Just such profound grief for the whole horrible inevitable situation.

Then it was past. It hadn't been as "intense" in physical-feeling as the first experience had been; I hadn't felt much with "my body"; but I had more than made up for it by the degree of emotion.

It was a few weeks later when we got to the first pictures and films of the Jews (and others) in concentration camps. I knew the minute I saw the first film that this was what my weird "reliving-memory" had been about. That I had been there... that I remembered. I remember sitting in class watching this grainy, black and white movie, sort of in a state of shock... yet acceptance. Oddly enough, the black and white films seemed closer to the feeling I'd had in the experience than color would have: my whole existence had seemed so bleak and colorless that the grainy movies were almost an appropriate confirmation to the experience those people must have had.

Though this was as far-out to my belief system as the first experience like that, the weight of two of them carried more evidence somehow, and I sort of accepted that it might seem like nonsense but somehow, on some level, I had been those people. Being a "thinker" even as a teenager, I hypothesized -- as an avid reader of both J.B. Rhine's books on psi science research and Andre Norton fiction -- that maybe I had simply "tuned into" those lives... as opposed to having been them 'personally'... but that upon tuning in to that degree, it had become "my" experience regardless of the detail of time, reincarnation or the destination of my "soul". This was rather far out, but it gave me an acceptable way to deal with it, without invalidating the only religious constructs I knew.

Life went on. I became an adult. Eventually I began studying hypnosis very seriously and for some time, and as a side-effect, got very interested in past-life regressions, not in doing them but in watching them live or on video so I could critically evaluate the whole session. Many seemed more like creatively-projecting for therapeutic reasons than something 'real' (whatever that is). Some were openly "led" by the therapist. But for every dozen or two that were just a session, there was one that profoundly moved me -- that my gut instinct connected to and said, "This is legit."

It couldn't be genetic (my first idea) as they usually involved a death scene. And contrary to the idea that everybody claims to be an egyptian princess or something, that was not at all the case with these sessions that moved me. In fact, usually they were stupendously boring... the subject was deep in trance which made it a long session (lot of delay before replies, etc.)... and the subjects were usually like some peasant around the 1500's who died in the snow... I mean something really DULL. In addition to it being unlikely someone would make this sort of thing up, also it just struck me at an interior, intuitive level as being something real.

After those sessions, the subjects were generally VERY moved. Subjects that talked a lot after session were never the ones I felt the gut-validation of their experiences as "past lives" -- usually those who'd had these profound experiences, they were very quiet afterward. They felt blown away. In many cases, in the course of one hypnotic session they'd had a lifetime of mental constructs wiped out... this is not something that should be done outside a therapeutic context which contains a framework for the subject integrating it.

But I hadn't had a regression session myself. In fact, in testing I registered as in the top 3-5% of hypnotic susceptibility, which pretty much made me avoid being a subject if I could help it -- the best thing studying the subject did for me was teach me how to stay OUT of it in my daily life, which immediately improved my life and psychology in a number of ways.

It was a year or two later when I had a couple more memories. One had a death scene; one didn't. Both affected me, especially the second one: I had always sworn I would never had children, had zero interest in them, and was terrified of childbirth. But one day I just slid into this memory... but reLIVED as opposed to reMEMBERED... I knew it was just a mental-thing at the time, I mean I knew I was also sitting in my chair, but the revivification was very intense.

I had just given birth to a child. It was my second child, and I was marveling over how much easier it had been giving birth the second time, than the first one I'd had (in my memory-inside-the-memory of my earlier life). I was in a small, narrow bed close to the floor that had some kind of dark metal-type thing as a headboard, and I was alone. My lower back ached so intensely I couldn't believe it. I came out of the re-lived-memory, my eyes wide and my back aching. I had to get on the floor and do slow stretching for about 15 minutes to make the ache go away.

But it had a profound effect on me. It was like both my reluctance and my fear of childbirth was washed away. I felt like it was a 'known' in my psychology now: I had already done it. To this day I wonder if I would have the child I now do, had it not been for that experience.

I sometimes have "flashes" that are not whole memories, but are like 2-second film clips or something... very visual, yet with a "knowing" attached. For example, less than a year ago (not sure of the date) I was working one day, looking down at paper, and when I went to look up at my computer screen, I had a maybe 2-second different experience.

I looked up -- and I was in a room, there was a desk in front of a window to the right where a man of rank sat, and the door was to the left behind me, and another German Officer -- higher rank than I -- had just come into the room toward where I was facing. (I didn't consciously think of it but knew from context I was in Germany just prior to or during the second World War.) I admired this man a good deal, and considered him a friend. A rather intriguing aspect of this was, as I looked up "here", I was just lifting my head and looking up at him "there", like the exact same motion in tandem in two worlds. 'There', I lifted and clicked my heels together and saluted in a fluid motion that was totally comfortable to me.

Now here's the odd part... I "knew" -- I clearly recognized him although he was a completely different person in a different time -- that this man was a man who I know now, in 'this' world -- a brilliant scientist who is, coincidentally yet ironically, Jewish. The vision or perception vanished and I was looking at my computer screen in astonishment thinking, "Holy moley! That was HIM! We were THERE!" And I couldn't decide which seemed more strange -- that my Jewish friend had been a German officer, or that I had so clearly 'recognized' someone who was 'here' in some 'other life'. It also seemed interesting to me that we had a vaguely similar relationship: in both situations, he was a man I admired a good deal and saw as somewhat more skilled or educated ('superior' -- I looked up to him) although he was much closer to my own age in the 'vision'.

There have been other experiences in my life which are 'related' to the topic of other-identities in various ways, but those above are the cluster that would specifically fall into the "past life" category I suppose.

How does it affect me? Well, in many ways. I know we are probably everybody on some level. It is more difficult for me to feel separated, now; to feel the polarity of good and evil when it comes to people; and war seems outright ludicrous. That did not happen immediately as a result, though: I nearly joined the Marines just a couple of years after high school!; it took years for these things to settle in my psychology and work themselves out.

Whether it is an anomalous creation of my mind, a psychic tuning-into lives like library books, or a literal memory of some other-travels of my 'soul', doesn't matter. One has to begin to define themselves by the qualities important to their soul, rather than by their current identity or circumstance.

There has to be some "continuity of identity" despite the different bodies/lives, and there is, but there is no word in my language for how to describe that. In trying to define myself, given these experiences, if I think, "Who am I?", the only answer that seems to work is: I AM.


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