“The Journey of a thousand miles begin begins with a single step.”
A healing journey which had begun with Japanese herbal remedies from the super-market, now had me lying on a padded table in the treatment room of a certified Japanese Reiki master. He had been silently removing what I then only had the vocab to describe as, “dirty big knots of bad mojo,” from my energy meridians. Dredging me up from the depths of a sublime state of semi-consciousness, he intoned casually: “You lived a past life in Japan, about one thousand years ago.”
Later that week, after a few pints of beer down at a local bar, I decided to hazard a half-humorous retelling of the Reiki master’s claim to a group of my foreign teaching buddies: bad idea. A couple of them laughed their asses off. The others paused momentarily with a does-not-compute look on their faces and then promptly went back to bitching and moaning about the difficulties of their lives in Japan.
Despite this bout of self-imposed social leprosy, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I needed to look further into this idea of reincarnation. It wasn’t the first time I had experienced something alluding to a connection with ancient Japan. I’d had a number of vivid reoccurring dream experiences in which I had seen myself as an apparently ancient hunter-gatherer going about my daily business. In at least one of these dreams, I remember stopping to bend down and drink water from a mountain stream and seeing my face reflected in the water. The face however was not mine, but that of an utterly unfamiliar Asian-looking person.
The skeptic in me wrote these dreams off as fantasies or images influenced by romantic tourist brochures and the like. Perhaps it was something to do with a deep need to find meaning and belonging in a culture where I stuck out like udders on a bull?
One connection was a little harder for me to dismiss. It consisted of an incident during a personal sightseeing trip in Nikko Japan, in which I was suddenly compelled to stop my hire car by the side of the road, and venture off into thick pine forest to pick wildflowers for my wife. I soon realized by the putrid yet strangely familiar smell, that the track I had chosen was not human made, but was actually a heavily scent-drenched, wild boar trail.
Although this was a total first for me, I could not escape the most intense sense of Deja vu about having been in this kind of place and confronting this very same experience before. As I nervously backed out along the trail, I instinctively felt that I would have been safer if only I had access to a spear of some kind. The feeling became so tangible that in my mind’s-eye, it seemed that I could almost feel the weight of such a weapon pressing down into the palm of my hand. I could vividly recall calculating it’s center of gravity and somehow knowing what the angle should be for nailing one of those porky beasties, should they come charging around the bend. Strangest of all, I couldn’t shake the perfectly natural feeling that I had done this many, many times before.
Even after I stealthily backed right out of that forest, it took me a good few moments to disengage from that adrenalized hunting stance and realize that I was standing there like a total doosh-bag on the roadside nature strip with my elbow bent and my empty hand cupped high above my head. Odd actions for an animal-loving, vegetarian city boy. Odd actions for anyone for that matter: anyone not recently escaped from a loony bin.
I tried hard to rationalize the situation. My inner-skeptic would make comments like:
“Oh, it’s a normal human reaction wired into our genes, right? When we catch a wiff of wild pig-whiz we automatically think of chucking a spear, don’t we? One of those primal archaic things: like fear of snakes or something? I’m sure it happens to everyone, right?”
However, the defiant little skeptic in my head snapped back venemously:
“Don’t try to worm your way out of this one. Mentally instability is the odds on favourite.”
“But wait,” I pleaded. “I know what I felt. That doesn’t necessarily mean…”
“No dice. El Skepto The Great, has spoken.”
And with that, my inner-skeptic slammed shut the door to the does-not-compute section of my brain. The one with the booming audio tag of my friend’s drunken laughter rising up to greet me, whenever I so much as even thought about turning the handle.
After a while, I almost managed to get on with my life and forget about the whole deal. That was until I had my birth chart examined by a Chinese Astrologer. When the astrologer declared a connection between the symbolism of the wild boar and the planetary alignments of a cycle of incarnation that stretched to one thousand years, I nearly fell off my chair. My head was spinning. The draw in the does-not-compute section burst wide open: “to hell with the laughter,” it said.
“This particular one thousand year cycle ends with this life. As with the completion of all great cycles the beginning and end are as one,” the astrologer calmly explained.
At this point, the intellectual draw fell off its railings and clattered to the floor in pieces, spilling its contents everywhere. This file had to be examined. Could there really be some truth to what the Reki master had claimed? Could this be yet another link revealing to me that I had once actually been incarnated before and had lived in Japan?
I felt compelled to research deeply into ancient wisdom regarding the concept of rebirth and its connections with cosmic cycles of time. Something which I found intriguing was that both the ancient Mayan and Chinese Astrology agreed, that the beginning and ending of certain important cycles of time were marked by the action of unusually powerful natural events. I was stunned to discover that one thousand years previously, there had been a massive earthquake and subsequent Tsunami of comparable size to the one that hit Japan’s Sendai region a couple of years ago.
This set my head spinning even more wildly. At this stage, I was finding it safer to sit cross-legged on the floor to stay grounded. Could it be that what the Reiki master said was true: one thousand years? Were events at the beginning and end of the one thousand year period, part of a cyclic synchronicity with my lives in Japan. And what about the Chinese Astrological boar symbolism?
Whilst not totally discounting the possibility of an over-active imagination, I decided to open-mindedly seek further evidence for reincarnation. But where to start? How do you even begin to look for evidence of something like that? How could I get answers, when I didn’t even know what questions to ask?
After much head-scratching and net-surfing I discovered numerous websites with claims from Buddhist, Hindu and Jainist traditions, that quite matter-of-factly regard human habits, likes, dislikes, appearance, interests, talents and abnormalities, as not just the result of our parent’s genetic material, but also the expression of karmic influences from pervious lives.
I wondered whether there might be any extensive scientific evidence for the possibility of karmic traits being transferred from one life to the next, and was excited to discover that there was. For forty years up until his death in 2007, Canadian-born, US Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, founder and director of the University of Virginia’s division of Perceptual Studies, amassed no less than three thousand independently cross referenced and rigorously scrutinized cases of people from various countries around the world, who claimed to remember past lives. Central to his claims, was the idea that phobias, obsessions, illnesses and unusual abilities could not be explained simply by heredity or the environment. He also offered a theory of, “personality transfer,” but was unsure as to what kind of medium might be used to effect such a transfer.
Perhaps the work of renowned biologist and parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake may provide us with tantalizing clues. Controversially, he also claims that the products of direct genetic inheritance cannot adequately account for all the processes of biological evolution. He asserts the presence of a non-local, higher dimensional organizing principle known as a Morphic Field, through which biological and behavioural adaptations in organisms are said to remain accessible to succeeding generations of their species. Sheldrake likens brains to TV antennas with the ability to transfer data to and from this Morphic Field.
Taking Stevenson’s and Sheldrake’s ideas into account, I decided to venture an examination of parts of my life and see if they contained any trait based clues of a possible previous connection to Japan. In full acknowledgement of the potential of wishful thinking and an overactive imagination, I’m still just going to lay it out for what it’s worth.
1. I’m sublimely comfortable here in Japan for a foreigner. I feel more comfortable in Japan than I do back home.
2. I have a Japanese wife who I fell in love with at first sight. In some esoteric literature, past life Karmic bonding is offered as an explanation for love at first sight. A past life connection between my wife and I was also independently noted by another subtle energy healer with no prior knowledge of my background.
3. I drink gallons of green tea and have an obsession with writing Haiku. It’s not unknown for me to spend hours of contemplation over a period of days, trying to nail down that one perfect poem.
4. I feel a deep kinship with Japanese folklore and mythology.
5. I feel more comfortable in traditional Japanese clothes than everday work or casual clothes.
6. Years before ever coming to Japan, I was already deeply interested in Eastern mysticism; most specifically Zen Buddhism, Chinese Taoist philosophy and Shamanism. (Along with indigenous Shamanic features, Zen Buddhism infused with Taoism became popular in Japan from roughly the 8th C onwards.)
7. On two separate occasions I have accidently stumbled upon (or perhaps was subconsciously guided?) to two different unmarked ancient archeological sites hidden in forest areas of Japan. One was a Yayoi period burial mound (3rd to 6th C) in Tochigi. The other was a sacred Shamanic healing site (dated at 6th or 7th C) in Shinetachi.
8. While the above two points are not exactly consistent with the one thousand year cycle as mentioned by the Reiki master and the Astrologer, it is worth remembering that archeological dating is frequently based on ballpark figures which are revised in light of new findings. It’s also worth noting that historical developments don’t move (contrary to popular belief) in a neat linear fashion, from one period to another.
9. I have an appetite for slimy, traditional Japanese delicacies that often stuns even native Japanese folk. Once while in Nagano, I even relished the chance to gorge myself on a variety of stewed mountain fernery.
Faced with these latest contemplations, my inner-skeptic tried another shot across my psychological bow: “You are connecting way too many dots because you are just so desperate to believe that Japan is part of your manifest destiny,” it said.
One of the major arguments that skeptics use to disarm the possibility of genuine past life experiences, is that people who make such reincarnation claims often say they are important historical figures. However, the past-life dream impressions that I had showed nothing of the sort. I appear to have been a raggedy mountain hunter-gatherer, who seems to have come off second-best in a mortal showdown with what was supposed to have been his spit-roast family dinner. Hardly the stuff of glamorous attention seeking now is it?
I wondered again about the time that I had stopped my car and strolled out into the forest to pick wildflowers. Considered whether a thousand years of astrological cycle had spiraled back to the point where it had started. Had I somehow been unconciously brought there by synchronicity to realize this?
Despite my inner-skeptic’s strong objections, I called upon the extraordinary work of geologist, Gregg Braden, who has traced with stunning consistency the mathematical synchronicities between cosmological cycles and the repetition of certain kinds of events in consciousness and human history over cosmic timescales.
Stunned by the weight of Braden’s evidence, my inner-skeptic fumbled back on the oldest consensus-reality argument in the book.
“Well, it must have been too many of those whacky plants that you shoved down your throat during your wildly misspent youth.”
I reflected for a moment, “well perhaps it was because of those entheogens!”
On that score, I happily referred El Skepto, to the anthropological, ethno-botanical and bio-chemical research of Professor Terrence McKenna and his brother Dennis McKenna.
This kind of dialogue with skeptics both inner and outer will continue indefinitely, as it should. And for their measure of stubbornness and incredulity I salute them. They encourage me to express my spiritual path in ways more practical for the times in which we live. As someone deeply committed to an earth-based spiritual path, I have (perhaps understandably) been guilty of over-romanticizing golden spiritual ages past. In order to compensate, I attempt in ways however small to bring more credibility and accessibility to esoteric subjects like reincarnation or ESP within the current paradigm. Fortunately scientifically rigorous, yet fiercely open-minded explorations from sources such as those mentioned above, are making this work easier and more rewarding all the time.
It’s inspiring to experience first-hand, how spirituality and rationality can motivate and enhance one another. For a long time they remained deeply uneasy partners in my mind; however, meditating upon the interrelationships expressed by the Taoist Yin and Yang symbols, in light of the work of Austrian-born, American Physicist Fritjof Capra, eventually led me to realize that the material and the numinous (non-material) contain elements of one another and indeed are never actually separate, but are driven by a natural mutually-reinforcing unity.
A similar kind of natural unity between matter and spirit was frequently expressed by Albert Einstein; an intensely rational, yet deeply spiritual human being, who openly acknowledged the living intelligence of the universe and it’s role in inspiring him to make his incredible discoveries. So it seems fitting that I should leave you with one of his numerous inspirational quotes:
“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science must be convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man and one in the face of which, we with our modest powers, must feel humble.”
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