I pay very close attention to your feedback about my blog posts: the amount of traffic each post generates, the number and quality of comments, the number of clicks on various links, etc. I know what you like and I know what leaves you cold. Like an experienced stage performer, I know what will inflame your passions and keep you on the edge of your seat, and I know what will give you leave to visit the concession stand or take a bathroom break. The whole experience of authoring this blog has been quite an education for me.
What motivates me, though, is not so much the approval of the crowd, but things much deeper and more personal. And I hope you will not take what I am about to say as a lack of appreciation or respect for you when I say that, if your preferences are like those of the majority of readers and you need to take a pee break, skipping this post is probably a good opportunity to do so.
The other night I was talking with Cindy, my close friend and adopted “sister.” She is a New-Ager who is fascinated by my ongoing spiritual discoveries and quest for the ultimate meanings in life. She doesn’t care so much about the “true crime” stories I tell (which draw the greatest number of visitors to this blog); in fact, she doesn’t read the blog all that much, even though she is one of my closest friends.
But she really perked up at something I said… that I believe what I am doing with my life right now for kids is redeeming whatever it is that I did in my immediate past life which needs to be atoned for or resolved. “Oh wow,” she said, “that’s a significant insight.”
So that’s what I’m going to write about today.
I clearly remember an exact moment when I was first struck by a past life memory which has never left me nor lost its impact. In the early months of 1960, when I was still eleven years old, I was shoveling snow at the top of our family’s long driveway and I was overcome by the thought that I had done this before in Russia. At the time I thought it was a flight of imagination, but the impression has been so persistent and influential over the subsequent half-century that I now know it to have been a past life memory.
Ever since I was a young child I have been fascinated by the Germans and all things German. I had always felt a secret sense of shame because I identified more with the Germans, America’s enemies in the war, than with my own countrymen. The war crimes of the National Socialists, and the collective guilt conferred upon the German people by the Holocaust story, have always weighed heavily on me.
Since that snow shoveling “memory,” my initial notion has been supplemented by so many flashes of vision and recognition of things deeply familiar that I now know I was a German soldier on the Eastern Front. From bits and pieces of “evidence,” I have figured out that I was an idealist and former “true believer” who bled to death in the snow of two mortal wounds. I died feeling an overwhelming sense of betrayal and disillusionment with authority. I was 22.
This means I would have been born in 1920 or 1921, and would have been inducted into the Deutsches Jungvolk (DJ) in 1930 at the earliest or at the latest into the Hitlerjugend (HJ) in 1939 (when participation became compulsory for all kids). I am pretty sure, however, that through the scouts I was an enthusiastic early adopter of the new state religion—a “true believer” as I say—until I became an apostate through the experience of war and its cruel realities.
I would have been raised on a steady diet of ideology that glorified Darwinian competition and struggle, subordination of individuality, and mindless self-sacrifice even unto death. It was an anti-intellectual catechism reinforced by potent ancient symbols which still command my reverence and visceral fascination today.
I have devoted more than 25 years of study to the runes and to understanding the legitimate sources of their power, and now I see how the politicians of those days perverted and defiled these sacred instruments to achieve their unholy ends—in much the same way that Christianity and its symbols are being used today to promulgate hate against Muslims, gays, military veterans, or anyone else the intolerant lunatic fringe chooses to target.
I now recognize that the youthful experiences of my past life established a Dharmic trajectory which transcends that lifetime and this. I never recognized until recently what a powerful organizing force and source of continuity it is.
For example, for a period of five years I devoted a substantial portion of my income to amassing a collection of relics from the German scouting movement. It entailed a considerable amount of sacrifice and self-denial that I could never rationally justify as I was doing it. All the while, I had the sense that I was devoting so much money and passion to the effort because I was trying to “remember.” Now that that income has ceased (and with it my collecting activities), this still seems the most plausible and satisfying explanation. Being surrounded by these artifacts of seventy or more years ago imparts a deep sense of comfort and groundedness—in the very same way that it is a comfort to me to be surrounded by familiar books, furniture, and photographs from my youth in this lifetime.
When I lived in Marathon, I was befriended by a gentleman, twenty years my senior, who grew up in wartime Berlin. Like all the kids at that time, he had been a member of the Hitlerjugend. I will always be grateful for the experience of hearing his stories which seemed to me like familiar tales shared between reunited comrades. He was a kind and gentle man, and it is so significant to me that his stories were not about wartime horrors and atrocities, but about kids having fun away from the constraints of home and school.
Anyone returning from their pee breaks about now will likely dismiss these ramblings as fanciful and unprovable products of a too-fertile imagination. Reincarnation, in most instances, cannot be proved but only known. It is the only theory of immortality which makes any sense to me because it is consistent with the cycles of birth, maturation, death, and rebirth one observes everywhere else in Nature—and living here, and not in the city, I am convinced by experience that we humans are a part of Nature and not meant to be apart from it.
I am convinced there is a higher purpose behind reincarnation that has everything to do with the Redemption of Souls. I don’t know what wrongs I may have committed in my immediate past life which require atonement in this one. What I do know from the experience of serving parricides is that kids can do some pretty heartless and horrific things. (If we could remember everything from all our past lives, it would surely be an unbearable burden.) I do know that by the end of my past life, I was withholding my allegiance from the state. But what experiences led me to this change of heart I do not know.
I suspect that because I have been guided to such profoundly challenging work at this time in my present life, I probably have some pretty grievous errors from the last life to counterbalance in this. I suspect it is a reflection of God’s immense love, mercy, and generosity that I, like the kids we serve, am being given a second chance.
Groove of the Day