By the time I sat down to write, in late 2005, I had had 18 years’ sporadic experience of getting stories of “past lives.” Over the years I had discovered (invented?) a cast of characters that included:
Joseph the Egyptian, a member of a priesthood with responsibility for their people’s spiritual and mental health, long before the time of Christ..
Clio, a young diviner in fire, a Roman in about the time of Christ.
Bertram, a Norman English clergyman of the 1200s.
Senji-san, a Japanese monk of the 1500s.
Robert McLean, a Scot of the 1600s.
John Cotten, a Virginian smallholder of the mid-18th century.
Joseph Smallwood, a Vermont man who became a Civil War soldier.
David Poynter, a Welsh journalist and psychic investigator who bridged the 19th and 20th centuries.
Katrina, a Polish-Jewish girl who died at age 8 in a concentration camp in 1942.
My life (unknown to me) had been emotionally overshadowed by Katrina’s unresolved turmoil and John Cotten’s painful response to his life’s tragedy. The Egyptian, Clio and Bertram were (I am convinced) at least largely responsible for certain irrational and unshakable convictions I had even as a boy about divination and magical abilities. Others including others not mentioned here had influenced my life in one way or another. But the most important influences by far were David Poynter and Joseph Smallwood.
David had apparently been a major force shaping my life, mostly unknown to me. His political attitudes, his talents as journalist and psychic investigator, his taste for historical knowledge, and other interests, were very easily recognized once sensed. But it was Joseph Smallwood who more than anyone else helped me break through.
When I first began exploring automatic writing in 1989, I was alone, knowing no technique, half certain that I was fooling myself. By the time I planned my leave of absence 16 years later, I had mastered the technique of moving into altered states at will, and years of experience “talking to the guys upstairs” had expanded my ability to live half here, half on the other side, bridging the two. I had written two books, and I was pretty sure I knew what I needed to say and knew how to say it.
I spent the first delicious three weeks enjoying my new freedom, going through old journals, making notes, planning what I wanted to say. I wanted to write the book explaining what Rita and I had learned in our sessions with the guys, of course. But I also envisioned a book on contacting guidance and learning the art of energetic healing (for the two subjects are clearly and closely linked in my mind). Then I thought, “no, two small books will be better than one larger one,” so I planned to divide the material, even at the cost of some overlap. So now I had three books to write, plus perhaps another one centering on reincarnation and past-life recall, and yet another on the great divorce in our society between spiritual and material reality. Plus, there was a novel I had thought about for so many years. Six books to write, and now time to write them! I scribbled away with pen and paper, and I juggled the computer files that contained the transcripts of various TGU sessions. A lot of work to be done, but fun, too! Then came what at first I thought was a distraction.
Months before I knew I was going to give myself time off to write, I had signed up to do a new Monroe program called a “shamanic weekend” – Friday night, Saturday, and half of Sunday. I had signed up, not quite knowing why. Now that the time had rolled around, I was a little reluctant to interrupt myself, but what could I do? The workshop was being held just up the road. Friends from other TMI programs were coming. I had paid for the course months earlier. Well, it was only a couple of days. How much could happen?
By the time of the shamanic weekend I had written my first draft – nearly 17,000 words – on my book on healing, battling my own health problems (asthma, chiefly) every step of the way. And I had watched episode after episode of Ken Burns’ series on The Civil War that I had taped years before, watching, not knowing why I was watching, criticizing myself for watching instead of working.
As I watched I observed myself reacting to the series. At certain points my eyes would fill with tears, at other points I would feel a grim satisfaction. I began to wonder if it was Joseph Smallwood’s feelings I was feeling. If so, he was a firm abolitionist. He was a Republican, if not a Free Soiler. He served in the Army (not Navy) in the East (not west). Joseph had contempt for McClellan; he kind of liked Fighting Joe Hooker and Ambrose Burnside. Not much feeling for Meade except a grudging respect. Loved Grant and Sherman, a little repelled by Sheridan. Felt Bobby Lee was a bit overrated because of his opponents before Grant. He had no tolerance for slaveholders, plantation owners, or secessionist politicians. Didn’t much like politicians in general, except Mr. Lincoln, whose spiritual nature he recognized and revered. I wondered, for the first time, if Joseph had survived the war. I’d had him dying in 1871, but that was very early in the process of recovering information. Perhaps I should look again.
Rita had said that she had never met anyone who was moved as deeply as I am by stories of the past. And neither have I. But from the time the boy that I was began reading history, it was alive to him in a way that it is not, apparently, to others. When he read of Mr. Lincoln or of Civil War battles, he read with great intensity, wishing to change what he read, half thinking it possible to do so. Where could he have gotten that idea? Where, if not from the same place that told him he could be well if he could just remember the key? And I wondered for the first time if Smallwood’s unprocessed grief from Lincoln’s killing had spilled over into my life when John F. Kennedy was killed.
At the shamanic weekend, I was not at my best, being the whole time either sick, or on the verge of being sick. When I asked the guys, they said simply, “Well, what do you need to know? You are writing on healing, it is as well to remember what it really is like to be sick and be unable to talk it away.” By the 17th, I will be realizing and recording that for the first time, “I am getting a handle on how to deal with asthma!”
Two days after the weekend I begin looking on a Civil War website for traces of Joseph Smallwood. I find at least nine Joseph Smallwoods in the Union army lists, but some of the units seem impossible, and none seems all that likely.
On the weekend following the workshop, I realize that my ideas about guidance have been clarifying. First I had thought of “the boss”; then I had thought of “the guys,” meaning an undetermined number of shadowy personages, not thinking of them as individuals having had earthly lives. Now, I realized, I would sort them into: “past lives” like Smallwood and others; blood relatives from this and other lifetimes; others with whom I or past lifetimes had close connections. Beyond that, helpers assigned to me by affinity; anyone who had produced a work that I had absorbed (writers, painters, musicians, etc.); and, beyond all these – essentially anybody. For we are all connected.
It is good to keep a journal. Had I not, I would not now realize that I got the outline before I got the experience. For I see in retrospect that it was all right there.
So matters progressed around me. On Sunday, I googled “Marching through Georgia” lyrics (why, I don’t remember) and found a site that provided both words and tune. I wound up sitting there singing the words, with tears in my eyes! And I wound up singing the chorus pretty much full time for the whole week following. At the same time, I continued looking for traces of Smallwood. Where could be have served?
And on that day, December 18, 2005, I finally thought to ask the right question in the right way. I asked to be introduced!