Chasing Smallwood – 1. Marching Through Georgia

[Wednesdays, I am posting pieces of Chasing Smallwood, an early book now out of print. This is a book about four interconnected themes:

  • how to communicate with the dead;
  • the life of a 19th-century American;
  • the massive task facing us today, and
  • the physical world’s place in the scheme of things.]
  1. The conversation

.1. Marching Through Georgia

I wasn’t born knowing how to do this stuff. For my first 40 years, I believed in psychic abilities but didn’t know how to develop or use them. As with most people, I would occasionally know something without knowing how I could know, but, as with most people, I would then put the experience aside, as inexplicable or somehow unconnected to my “real” life.

A series of events beginning when I was already 40 years old led to the belated awakening of my abilities, a slow unfolding over many years. one of the first steps came when I tried to intuit a connection with what I then thought of as past lives.

A session with a hypnotist who specialized in past-life regression yielded the beginnings of four stories, one of which later proved out. But then for five long years (mostly occupied in doing other things, it is true) I could go no farther. Then in October, 1992, I met a very talented young psychic and in the course of six hours at my dining room table we rapidly sketched out several other lives. Sometimes she pulled in a piece, sometimes I would put in a piece out of a sudden inexplicable knowing. One of these sketches was of a New Englander named David Peterson or Paterson who as a young man met Emerson, then went west, and eventually wrote a monograph on Indians. (I finally got the title as “Etymological Dictionary of the Plant and Animal Names of the North West Indians” but have not yet found a trace of it.)

I wasn’t able to find any trace of him in those pre-internet days, and other stories were more urgent, more promising, so for quite a while he remained on the back burner. The only hint of his eventual importance to me was that in November I one day saw the land through his eyes, seeing the asphalt roads and the buildings as a burden that had been placed on the land since his time. Also, I drew a sketch of his face, again proceeding from some inner knowing.

Early the next month – December, 1992 – I experienced quite a psychic awakening at The Monroe Institute’s Gateway Voyage program, and in the course of that week I had a vivid experience of a man visiting Emerson in his house in Concord in the early 1842s.

What was the man’s name? I couldn’t quite get it. Wood? Atwood? Whatever, I assumed that it was the man I had been thinking of as Peterson. Some months later, in a vision – the only time I’ve had such an experience — , I saw a hand writing on a chalkboard the name “Jos. Smallwood” – and that is how I have thought of him ever since.

Now, names and numbers are hard to get in this kind of work. First we tend to get emotional high points – or low points! – and only later do we fill in detail. Unfortunately, we often fill in blank spots using logic or other forms of guesswork, which means that we often wind up unintentionally falsifying the story. The process of teasing out the real story involves many false starts and dead ends. So it was with Smallwood for 13 years. A little bit of data here, a knowing there, putting his story into patterns that might or might not be the truth. Then, all of a sudden, a few days before Christmas,  2005, he came front and center into my life.

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