When I took a trip to Gettysburg to validate Joseph’s story, I experienced strong feelings, and received messages from the other side. But – I could not and cannot find objective evidence of the man’s existence. In 15 years I have been unable to find it. What’s more, the only evidence I have found for any of the various “past lives” I have seemed to find has all been internal. Strong, meaningful, life transforming, but internal.
Am I being lied to? Did Joseph perhaps not exist? And if the famous men who supposedly talked to me said they knew Joseph, doesn’t that mean they too were illusion? And if the guys upstairs said so too, doesn’t this mean they are lying to me? Yet they have woven themselves into the fabric of my life. They’ve helped me do good. They’ve accompanied a lot of growth. Where am I? And now what do I do? I feel a little bit like Daniel Boone, who was asked in his old age if he had ever been lost in the woods. “No,” he said, “but I was confused for three days once.”
Let me explain.
For many years I have been attempting to discover the truth about what we call “past lives.” New experiences have changed my opinions on the subject repeatedly. I am still not sure of my footing. I do think that much of the support for, and the opposition to, the concept of reincarnation is based upon incorrect or inadequate definitions of who and what we are. I think that when we devise better definitions, many things that now look contradictory will be seen to be opposite ends of a polarity, and things that look impossible will be seen to be inevitable consequences of the way things are. But in the meantime, we are left floundering. As in so many areas of life, our disintegrating culture cannot say to us “I of my own knowledge” about the afterlife.
The only alternative to taking things on faith, or refusing to think about them at all, is to do our own exploring. Explorers by definition move into poorly mapped or unmapped territory, and by their own experience help fill in the map for those who follow. It cannot be required of explorers that they know what they are doing, or where they are going, nor can it be required of them that they not pursue leads that turn out to be dead ends. All that can be required is that they be resolute, honest, and a bit skeptical even of the maps they themselves help to draw.
Therefore it follows that the very last thing an explorer can do or should do is to stick to the “respectable” or the “common sense” explanations and pathways. What kind of exploring would that be?
Even more difficult sometimes, the explorer must be willing to continue despite doubts, suspicions and confusions. Sometimes you just have to keep on going and trust that eventually things will sort out.
All of this is to introduce what will be a very long thread here which I call “Chasing Smallwood.”
* * *
Joseph came into my life in 1992, one of several “lives” that surfaced in the course of past life explorations. Over 15 years the details of the story have altered considerably but the overall feel of the men has not. If he is a projected part of my personality (and I think that he might be that without being any less an individual who lived an individual life in the 19th century) I can easily identify the strains within me that he represents, or embodies, or whatever. He is the part of myself that loves wilderness, and simplicity, and might be described as a nature mystic.
In mid-December 2006, I was about a month into what was supposed to be a six-month sabbatical from my job at Hampton Roads Publishing Company. I was writing a book on using visualization to maintain your health when for no reason in particular I was moved to Google the words and tune of “Marching Through Georgia.” I found myself singing along to the computer with tears in my eyes, not knowing why. That song stayed in my head pretty continuously for 10 days.
Joseph came in as a sort of accompaniment, as I will describe. Every morning, day after day, I sat at my kitchen counter with my pen and journal, and Joseph would talk to me. And I was led to read a book that I had owned, unread, for years — The Tragic Era, by Claude Bowers. And then I contacted Bowers, and got Joseph’s take on Bowers’ thoughts, and then in came Mr. Lincoln, and Carl Jung and it looked like everything had broken open and I was tapped into the cosmic internet.
But was it true? Was it part true and part imagination? Was it all imagination? And if it was imagination, what did that mean? Imagination is not the same thing as fantasy. It can be a tool of perception.
As I say, this could become a pretty long thread.