by Barbara Lamb
Editor’s note: Spontaneous recall of past-life experiences has been well documented. The memories may surface readily in childhood, in dreams, in meditation, or during activities that facilitate a hypnotic state. Dr. Marshall Gilula (Journal of Regression Therapy, Vol. 1, No. 2) has described his experience of reliving past lives while running. The author of the two reports that follow demonstrates that such recall is also possible when visiting geographical sites where one has had important experiences in former incarnations.
Learning Trust in the Forbidden City
I had heard of people in extreme distress turning themselves over to an unseen power, but the thought had never occurred to me that I might one day do that myself. It took a dire emergency to bring this about—and it marked a significant growth in my life.
In May 1987, I traveled to the Peoples’ Republic of China with a group sponsored by the Institute of Noetic Sciences. In Beijing one morning we visited the enormous walled-in district called the Forbidden City, which contains the ancient imperial government buildings, courts, processional areas, and residences of the emperor and his retinue. This Forbidden City is more than a mile long and over half a mile wide. In my characteristic picture-taking zeal, I hung back to get some “arty” shots while my group strolled ahead to the next building.
After we had visited several buildings in this fashion, I saw my group entering a doorway in a long wall which separated this central area from a side area of the vast complex. I took some pictures and, at a considerable distance, followed the group through the doorway. I emerged into a confusing maze of hallways, doorways, small houses, courtyards, and alleyways, all within the Forbidden City walls.
My group was nowhere to be seen! I spent the next half-hour exploring heaven knows how many passageways but could find no trace of them. The more I searched, the more turned around, confused, and lost I became.
As I rushed about, I kept looking for people with whom I might be able to communicate, but all I saw were Chinese groups, and none of them spoke English. Neither did any of the guards I tried to question. Nobody could tell me how to find my group or get to the bus that would be waiting to take us back to our hotel. I finally realized that I was totally lost, and my left brain was yielding no solutions. Even if I should find my way, I knew it would be a long, long walk to the departure area.
I remembered our tour guide saying, as we had entered the front gate, “Anyone who is not at the bus at the rear entrance by 1 o’clock will be left behind, and there is no other way to get back to the hotel. You’ll be on your own!”
Time was galloping on toward that deadline, and I could picture my group walking the long stretch to the rear gate—without me. So, indeed, I was truly on my own, cut adrift from my group, lost and helpless and, yes, desperate.
I realized there was nothing else I could do on my own, and for the first time in my life I turned my problem over to a higher power—even though I was not sure that this would bring results. Standing in the middle of a small courtyard, I spread my arms, closed my eyes, and tilted my head upward. I invoked my higher self, my spirit guides, any sentient beings who might be aware of my plight, and God himself for guidance. I promised to follow without question any intuition, nudge, or idea that might be given to me to help me find my group and my bus.
I began to feel totally open to receiving direction, and soon I felt as if I were glowing with light. Within a minute after that, I suddenly remembered a small map of the Forbidden City, which I had hastily thrust into my camera bag upon entering the area. I had completely forgotten it! The guidance told me to take the map to a guard, to draw a picture of a bus at one entrance and to gesture questioningly for directions. I was even directed to where a guard was stationed.
It worked! The guard pointed down a long interior alleyway and, in gestures, directed me to go through an arched gate, turn right, and walk a long distance to the bus entrance. I followed the nonverbal directions with implicit faith.
Walking along the alleyway, I felt a growing sense of familiarity. A vivid memory began to unfold: I was a female servant in black silk clothes, carrying a tray of food along this same alleyway many centuries ago. Detailed memories of that life came flooding back—my family, my little house in the maze area, my life as a servant, my duties, and my narrow frame of reference. My entire life was lived within the walls of the Forbidden City, as had been true of my parents and grandparents and would be true for my children.
Details emerged of some major events, such as watching the imperial armies march back into the city with pomp and a sense of drama, of serving food to the Emperor, his family, and visiting dignitaries. I felt extremely fortunate to be fed, clothed, housed, and protected in this great city. I considered it a privilege to see these people of power and to overhear their conversations while they dined. This was how I gleaned information about the outside world—information which I shared with my family and friends.
The most notable event of that lifetime was my surreptitious climb up a long wooden ladder to look over the wall of the Forbidden City at the surrounding country side; it was my one and only glimpse of the world beyond those confines. I saw vast, flat fields, small mud-and-stick huts, and peasants in brown clothes digging the earth. No color, no variety—only poverty and hard work. I felt fortunate by comparison. Finally, I recalled dying a natural death in my old age with my children and grandchildren clustered around me.
I was strangely moved as these recollections faded. No wonder I had always felt such a strong sense of affinity with the Chinese in this life—that their vibrations had seemed so familiar to me. Now I realized that I had once been one of them in this unusual place where I had just lost my way.
The guidance from my higher sources proved accurate. I reached the arched gate into the main part of the Forbidden City, proceeded to the right for a half-mile or so, and finally reached the rear entrance, where several buses were waiting. My own bus, however, had left without me! Once again I was alone, with only Chinese-speaking people around me and no way of getting directions.
I spent the next half-hour taking stock of the situation with the rational part of my mind. No taxis came by, and the only buses that stopped were city buses with Chinese characters to identify their destinations. No one understood me when I asked for the Beijing Hotel, where our group was staying, and I had no sense of where it might be.
I expressed my deep thanks to the source of guidance that had brought me to the destination I had asked for. Then I closed my eyes, opened myself up, and asked again, this time for direction to the hotel. I pledged to follow unquestioningly whatever intuition would come to me, since my trust had paid off so well the first time.
Within a few seconds I felt myself being “pushed” along the sidewalk to an approaching city bus. Despite my rational resistance to boarding it and being taken heaven knows where in this huge city, I felt myself being pushed and lifted from behind, as if by a strong wave of warm energy, up the steps and into the bus. The door closed, and off we sped.
I looked at the lady ticket taker and at the Chinese passengers. I asked if anyone spoke English and could tell me where to get off for the Beijing Hotel. No one responded. The ticket lady couldn’t decide how much money to take from me, because neither of us knew where I was going!
I peered out anxiously as the bus snaked its way along a totally unfamiliar route. I looked for signs with English letters, ready to get off if I should see any, in the hope of finding someone who could understand me. But as I thought back to those extraordinary “pushes” I had experienced, my anxiety began to yield to a renewed sense of trust and confidence in my guidance.
Suddenly I recognized a shop I had visited the previous night, and then the Beijing Hotel across the street from it. I pointed and called out, “Beijing Hotel!” and we sped to a stop two blocks down the road. The ticket lady and I hugged and waved goodbye as I got off the bus and ran joyously to my destination.
Had I not lost my way in the Forbidden City, I might never have taken the leap of trust in the guidance of a higher power. I might never have discovered through my own experience that such help does indeed exist. I might have continued to wonder, with envy and doubt, what people meant when they spoke of receiving such help. Now I know.
A Healing Experience in the Tomb of the Sacred Bulls
The past-life recall I am about to describe came to me in April of 1983, before I had witnessed or undergone any guided past-life therapy, although I had an open mind about the possibility of reincarnation.
At that time, I was visiting Egypt with a group conducted by Brugh Joy, M.D. Brugh had been encouraging us to let ourselves be drawn to places that seemed to “speak to” us. He urged us to “deepen into” these places, to sense their vibrations and to be open to whatever lessons they offered us personally.
After a very early morning meditation between the paws of the Sphinx and a further meditation in the Pit Chamber of the Great Pyramid, our group made “tourist” visits to the ancient capital city of Memphis and to the tombs of Sakkara. Somewhere in that general area we walked down a long ramp and into an underground “Tomb of the Sacred Bulls,” previously unknown to me. I entered the tomb in a receptive, perhaps expanded, state of consciousness.
We walked in semidarkness past a dozen or so large, black granite sarcophagi of bulls that had been worshipped as gods at the height of the Memphis culture, 2000 years ago. Here I began to feel surrounded by heavy, dense vibrations and a powerful sense of tragedy. I asked other members of our group if they were experiencing similar feelings, but none of them were.
At the sight of one sarcophagus I was almost overcome by sensations of heaviness, sadness, grief, and doom. This particular sarcophagus appeared no different from the others, and my feelings made no sense to me.
Suddenly I had a mental image of a man lying crushed under a huge slab of granite, his eyes looking at me in agony, as if pleading for help. The slab was exactly the same as the one that formed the lid for this sarcophagus. The sight was so horrifying that I wanted to flee the tomb immediately. But my energy seemed to drain out of me. Without knowing why, I felt a great need to cry—even to sob.
These feelings persisted as we concluded our sightseeing, stopped for refreshments and rode a bus to the Cairo railroad station. While waiting for the overnight train to Luxor, I was aware of an imperative force commanding me to give my full conscious attention to my experience in the tomb. I knew that some healing was in order.
Alone in my train compartment I allowed my feelings and sensations to lead me to what I needed to experience: Reliving that tragedy in the bull tomb many centuries ago, I found myself kneeling in the dirt, desperately trying to lift the huge stone slab off the victim beneath it. I could not budge it. I kept looking at his eyes, which were begging for help. The weight of the slab on his chest made it impossible for him to speak, but he was visibly in unbearable pain.
As the scene filled in, I realized that this man was my closest friend, dearer to me than even my wife and children. He was the one confidant with whom I could share my strong views about the bulls for whom we spent our lives carving sarcophagi. Had these views been known to any but him, I would surely have been killed, for they were in direct opposition to the official religion at that time.
It was my conviction that these “sacred” bulls were not gods at all. Yet we were forced to make the coffins for them. We had to have one ready for each bull as soon as it died, so we spent our days carving sarcophagi in this dark, subterranean tomb. Sometimes the pace was a little more relaxed, but it was difficult work and we resented having to promote a religion we did not believe in.
On this particular occasion we were forced into especially fast carving and lifting because the bull had died suddenly and there was no sarcophagus ready for it. While my friend and I, along with several other men, were lifting the slab, it slipped and pinned him down on his stomach.
I realized I could not free him by myself, and neither could I induce our superintendent to assign other men to assist me. Furious and helpless, I knelt in the dirt, and then lay in it, looking into my friend’s eyes. Grief and guilt overwhelmed me: he was such a good man!
I kept telling him that I could not get help; that I could not even relieve his pain. In fact, I was being whipped as I lay there, but I was determined to be with my only true friend in his last moments of life.
The look in his eyes changed from one of fear and suffering to a look of peacefulness and surrender. In the next moments I realized he had left those open eyes and that I had lost him forever. I, too, felt crushed—by my own emotions. But I was not allowed to give in to my feelings. Though my eyes were streaming with tears, I had to get up and help the other workmen lift the dead bull into the sarcophagus.
Alone in my train compartment, I finally gave vent to my feelings; I cried and sobbed for a long time. A friend knocked on the door, but I told him I needed to work on this by myself. Turning inward, I went back to the scene, and this time I purposely concentrated on forgiving everyone involved: the foreman for not allowing the other men to help; my fellow workmen for not helping anyway, in spite of the threat of punishment; myself for not being able to save my friend’s life; my friend for allowing the slab to slip, and the pharaoh and his priests for insisting on these elaborate, difficult burials for the sacred bull-gods.
The whole scene was so real, the feelings so strong and my ensuing relief so complete, I am convinced that this was a true past-life experience, made conscious for me because of my need for healing that ancient grief. I can only be glad I was open to letting it happen.