by Edward Reynolds, Ph.D.
A philosophic thread runs through most of my past lives. The less I have been involved with others, the stronger and clearer this seems to be, so my task seems to be to gain the ability to hold onto this thread while being involved with the world. Also, in looking over these lifetimes, it seems as though I work on one facet at a time, holding onto each facet as well as possible while going on to something more difficult. It sometimes has appeared that the earlier lifetimes were the more harmonious, but scrutiny of them shows that there were fewer challenges, and staying centered and philosophical was easier.
In an early life in Rome I found myself a woman, a poetess, who was witnessing Rome’s decline and was angry about it and felt powerless to do anything. It was a feminist feeling. I was privileged and educated and had achieved some recognition for my talent, but I felt dissatisfied and started questioning why poetry did not cause people to change their lives; people appreciated what I wrote, but stayed the same. Yet I had a sort of recognition that the decline of my world was part of the order of things, and that everything had its own time, and one had to let go. My relationships, although harmonious, were rather distant ones and I never married. I remained well-to-do and had all the comforts I needed provided for me. It was a perfectly responsible position to be in, but without any human closeness. I died of old age. Death was like a leaf falling from a tree, a sort of natural end, serene and harmonious.
I lived another lifetime as an American Indian in the 1400’s, in Kentucky, I think. I was part of a hunting tribe who did a little agriculture. We lived a very harmonious type of life with the land, one in harmony with nature. Things I now think of as horrible did happen, such as being attacked by animals and disease, and the lifetime included both rest and strain. However, I was involved with a small band of people who cared about each other and lived in harmony with all of life, so any tension that existed was absorbed into the concept that it was all right. My conscious impression of American Indians is very different: it is one of tribal warfare and struggle to survive. In contrast, the past-life experience was rooted in knowing that we were all part of a plan, and that the important thing was staying in touch with the Center in a sort of Zen-like state. Death and life and loss were not seen as tragic because there existed a deep integration into nature.
During a lifetime during the Civil War as an idealistic young soldier, I experienced much more intense interaction with my world and could not hold onto my philosophic stance in the face of it. I belonged to a southern Ohio family who had three sons, of whom I was the youngest. We all entered adulthood as the Civil War started, and we felt eager to go to war, in spite of the protests of our parents. I was fourteen and was precipitated into the Battle of Gettysburg. I soon grew horrified by what war was really like; it was much worse than anything I could have imagined. I became separated for a time from my company, and wandered around hungry and devastated but eventually found my companions. Even though the North won, I had become so disoriented that when I went home and tried to become a farmer, I couldn’t adjust. I died of TB when I was eighteen. My last thought was that we needed to have a peaceful world, but I was too young to process this concept. Throughout all these lives I was deeply committed to peace. The lifetime in the Civil War especially influenced me and set my commitment to pacifism. My conviction about our need for peace has been so strong throughout this lifetime that I have converted most of my family to it.
In my most recent lifetimes I was the only child of Italian immigrant parents in the late 1800’s. My father had worked his way up to being a professor of chemistry at Syracuse University. My mother, however, was unable to adjust to the new culture and remained a withdrawn and joyless person. I lived an isolated, unhappy life, marginal, with no satisfaction in my relationship with my parents and no aptitude for fitting in with people. I attended Syracuse University as a student, and there did better socially. I was fairly smart and it helped to be in a more intellectual environment, so I felt that I had a fresh start in relating.
When I graduated, I didn’t know how to move on. I became a perpetual student and hung around the university for another five years, taking extra courses in physics and chemistry. I lived for my girlfriend, who became my only interest. She grew weary of my extreme attachment and the dependent quality of our relationship, which she felt was neurotic. When she became pregnant, I wanted desperately to get married but she wanted equally desperately to break away, so I insisted she have an abortion. I did not go with her but instead stayed at home; very worried and guilty. I was waiting for her to come back when I heard an ambulance, and, thinking she had been killed, I rushed upstairs to my father’s lab and took poison. After I died I realized she was still alive.
In reviewing this lifetime from the after-death state, through tapping the wisdom I had developed in my other lives, which had been carried on by my basic essence, I realized that my life thus far had been unbalanced. I then put out an intention that in a subsequent life I would understand emotions and become a more caring person. I realized from that expanded vantage point that my own self-centered life in Syracuse had led to a disastrous ending. I had not understood my family’s dynamics well enough to see how my own personality had been formed by the unhappiness of that childhood. I needed to understand people more in depth. My intention was to never be that selfish again. I understood that even the suicide had been a selfish thing, and that my reason for suicide had not been valid; I had never taken my girlfriend’s needs and feelings into account. My whole life had been external and superficial.
Throughout the last two lifetimes I was not able to hold onto the philosophic centeredness that I had gained in the earlier lifetimes because the impact of the environment was too strong, so I see my task as being able to learn to do this, to stay centered in the midst of pressure and disaster. Certainly my after-death perceptions following the last lifetime, and my wish to understand emotions, contributed to my becoming a psychologist in this lifetime.
Past lives are like threads in a skein. All my threads have worked toward increasing my ability to become an integral and competent part of the fabric of humanity with all its stresses and strains.