Astrology, Ayahuasca, and Reincarnation
Almost one year ago right now I had my first actual past life regression experience. As an astrologer having studied the big Evolutionary scholars like Jeff Green, Steven Forest, et al, I had already been in the practice of intellectually reading the archetypal patterns of the moon's nodes in the birth chart, their planetary rulers, the aspects being made and the planetary house positions. I was getting good at reading people's current situations and creating metaphors and parables about possible past life scenarios, always being careful to not talk about their "past lives" too literally. Instead I would talk about past lives like a metaphor pointing at our genetics, DNA, ancestory, and so forth.
I knew what I didn't believe about past lives. I didn't believe that they were as simple as the people you meet at new age parties and events and bookstores who open up and blab to you about their past life like it's one big cherry popsicle from childhood that they're still holding onto, hoping to God it doesn't ever melt. True to my Capricorn moon in the 9th house I have generally refused to believe anything too mystical until I've experienced it myself. So when I had my first set of past life regressions, the first in a dream, the second in an ayahuasca ceremony, and the third in a chance encounter teaching astrology at a retreat, all on successive days: 1, 2, 3 in a row, I became a believer that past lives can be literal, too.
I wake up standing at a door. Next to me is a futuristic version of myself, just the presence and the voice, much wiser than I am now, maybe even enlightened. It's a voice I first discovered and connected with in Ayahuasca ceremonies. I don't mean like talking to myself in a wise way. I mean like literally a separate Adam in a future dimension. It sounds crazy, but the experience is far different than when I talk to myself (something I also enjoy). The future enlightened me says, "do you want to go inside?" And I say, "yes I do." The door opens and then I'm sitting in an empty chair next to men and women in Nazi Germany. A man is being executed by a lethal injection of Mercury into his brain via strange tubes going into his head. I know instinctually that the man is or was some kind of mystic or clairvoyant who had worked for Hitler. Then I see a group of people following the man, before his execution, in some kind of cult setting. People are sitting in a circle. The man is speaking and teaching, but he's into his ego and he wants power. The women are under his spell. It's all very real and scary, and I see myself, first as the man, and then as the women and men under his teachings. Then I return to the execution chamber and I watch as the mercury goes into the man's brain. He withstands the mercury for far too long and the guards are terrified. The audience becomes panicked because the man smiles, knowing he is beating the poison. But then, suddenly, his head flinches, and he begins to struggle. The mercury finally wins and the man's consciousness darkens into death. The voice of the future enlightened me says, "they're all you."
I wake up sweating and breathing rapidly. My dog is growling loudly in his sleep, the same way he does when someone is walking down the hallway when he's awake. He's got watchdog in his blood, even though he's approximately two feet tall. Animals sense fear and danger in us even when we dream. I wonder if he was sensing my past life evils or my past life fears, and I wonder if it even matters.
I know intellectually, at this moment, that I've had a past life regression dream. I tell myself it's the symbols that are important, and it's the fact that I'm both the victim and the oppressor in this story. I refuse to believe that I was Hitler's power hungry mystic. That feels dramatic and self aggrandizing.
The Ayahuasca Vision
The very next evening I'm drinking ayahuasca in a ceremony and about three hours into the ceremony I begin to cycle back through my German ancestral heritage until I arrive upstream, again, in Nazi Germany. This time as a Christian monk or priest. I've been put into a camp or prison, and at times it almost seems, within the ayahuasca vision, that I'm also in the medieval period. The vision is multi dimensional. I am either gay and having been found out within my order and am being punished, or something terrible has happened to my order and we are all being punished. I remember my fascination with my great uncle's world war two box. It's a large drawer filled with guns and china and trinkets he took from storming Berlin with Patton in the 40's. I see several of my former employers, catholic priests, and I remember some of their sexually ambiguous behaviors and innuendos. I ask ayahuasca the question "what does this mean?" and again the future version of myself appears and says, "time repeats itself and turns itself like a jewel so you can see your soul." I say, "Wow. That's really smart. Solid straightforward answer. Thank you future self." And my future self doesn't laugh. I had expected my future self to laugh so I ask it, "do I lose my sense of humor when I get more advanced?"" Then my future self laughs.
I'm teaching astrology the next night at a retreat, and I feel angry. I feel angry because many of the people at the retreat are just the kind of hippy, dippy, talk to you about their big past life drama of having been Cleopatra or (there are so many of these) an Atlantean citizen, that make me feel like I'm still hanging out with just as many loonies as I was with in the Pentecostal Christian church in my early twenties. I listen to people talk about oneness as something better than, superior to, less of an illusion than, dualism, and of course many of them are eye gazing and dancing around like nymphs in costumes, and it's all so Neptunian and delusional and self aggrandizing and childhood wounded that I feel like there must be something wrong with me to be there at all. I want to know where the "real" new age is. Now, of course, true to my "Minnesota" nice superiority complex I don't say a word, and I harbor my judgments internally with just as nice of a smile as I can muster. But the truth of our shadows follow us like an odor.
After the weekend is over one of the men at the retreat, one of the hippy dippy folks I had secretly judged, sends me a sweet letter thanking me for my work and sending me the pictures he took. A few pictures into the set is a picture of me demonstrating a planetary angle with my arm. I had been explaining the motion of the sun rising as well as the way in which the houses are made by angles of perception from the earth's point of view. I was careful not to show my judgment of anyone at the retreat while I was teaching. And I didn't teach from any kind of intense or totalitarian space. Yet, there it was, a shadow of me in front of the bright projector screen. No sign of my visible body, just the silhouette of me raising my arm like a Nazi salute. It almost brings me to tears looking at it in front of my computer after the retreat, and I write a thank you letter back that might as well have been an apology.
After studying the configurations in my chart and considering the recurring themes in my life alongside these three synchronistic past life regression stories that happened in three straight days, I still cannot say exactly who I was in a past life. Apparently I was a victim and an oppressor. I was a monk and an outcast. I was perhaps an idealist and a blind devotee. I was perhaps a power hungry mystical sorcerer. Suffice it to say I was left with an overwhelming body and feeling based understanding of literal past lives that I have lived. These experiences were enough to make me a believer in the evolution of the soul through time and space. And it's not that I didn't believe it was a real possibility before all of this happened. On an intellectual level I would have told you I believe in reincarnation and the soul. I would have talked about what I know about it that made sense to me. As far as what it means I can say a few things.
1. I learned that I have a karmic history with religious and ideologically driven organizations. Has anything changed on that front? I work as an astrologer and drink ayahuasca and write for RealitySandwich. These are all somewhat intense and mystical or ideologically strong currents; though now I am perhaps somewhat more mature than my old catholic monk self, or my old nazi guru/nazi guru devotee self. All of my spiritual studies in the past year have pointed me in the same direction: a healthy skepticism of all religious or spiritual philosophies as an ultimate "answer" to any "question" or "riddle." I took a half year break from medicine work, stopped practicing yoga, and spent several months mostly by myself. The perspective I've gained has been healthy: religions and groups (the south node of the moon in Aquarius in my 9th house) have been my guiding philosophy for a long time. I'm learning to individuate beyond that story. I'm learning not to identify with groups and philosophies about life as much. It's really difficult.
2. Sexually in this lifetime and perhaps in previous lifetimes I've struggled to make sense of sacred sexuality. This year I learned more deeply than any other year of my life that sacred sexual practice is necessary for me to thrive and stay in balance in my romantic partnership. Sex and spirit aren't different for me anymore. This has also been difficult but extremely rewarding and beautiful work. Old stories about male performance and dominance are fading in my life, and I am starting to sense what a struggle this is for so many of us men who want to feel strong but don't know how to be sexually strong without embodying subtle levels of aggression, promiscuity or psychic domination -- in the sex act or as a sexual being living everyday life.
3. Our past lives are not remembered, exactly, because who we are is more complex than who we were. It's as if our memories of past lives are literally blocked from our ego point of view so that we cannot see too deeply into the memory of our past egos but rather only the memories of our soul. And at the soul level our identity is much vaster, perhaps even universal (though I really don't know how big it is at all). Certainly we are victims and oppressors. We are mystic guru and devotee. We are part of an order and we are outcasts, loved and despised, majority and minority. Guilty and forgiven.
I used to hear people say wishy washy contradictory things like this and I would think that it sounded like a spiritual bumper sticker. Until you have an experience of the multi dimensionality of past lives that makes itself real in your body and your lived feelings, it can sound exactly like a bumper sticker. Past lives are like a cliche. At the same time, this experience did not change the fact that far too many people talk about past lives before they've actually felt one. I've learned that I can usually sense the difference, and I've learned to accept people even if they might be delusional or making up stories. I'm learning that it doesn't have to make me angry that people like to pretend spiritual or mystical. Until these visions I'm not sure I would have understood this. Self-righteousness is like an invisible crutch propping up a diseased leg you don't even remember you have. And real insight is like dropping the crutch and learning to heal the leg and walk again on your own. And this leads to the last insight I'd like to share.
Past life memories are generally sobering. In my astrology practice I've begun doing longer, 2-3 hour extended past life regression sessions. I create parables based on the natal position of the planets, and people relax and close their eyes, and we talk for a long time. It's not light work most days. It's not necessarily scary or dark work, but it's humbling and usually implies some deep areas of necessary self-examination and reflection. The evolutionary theory of the soul doesn't imply that we're here because we suck as human beings, but it does imply that we're growing, and that growth is often painful because it is a process of learning how to be truly free, and in order to be truly free we have to liberate ourselves from that which is not free: our patterns of unconsciousness, fear, self-destructiveness, limiting beliefs and embittered attitudes.
At the end of the day, I've learned that we are more than our past lives because the past is always presently cresting, like a rip-cord wave. Our past lives are constantly breaking us over into the newness and potential that is the eternal ocean of our soul. The dramas we remember are the ones that, to some extent, we're currently living through again.