‘Our story…is much older than its years, its datedness is not to be measured in days, nor the burden of age weighing upon it to be counted by orbits around the sun, it does not actually owe its pastness to time.’ Thomas Mann
Years ago, if time exists, I found myself roaming the streets of a dismal, faded Willesden, looking for an Irishman.
He seemed to have declared a republic, his small flat a minor citadel, its gated entry a bulwark against whatever lay in wait outside. Perhaps we started with small talk about a recent spate of burglaries. I had come from a verdurous Kew and was, I recall, feeling spoilt.
I sat in a recliner and he threw a blanket over me. He then clipped a small microphone to his shirt and we began. He was mesmerising, but he was supposed to be and, in short order, I found myself under, straddling worlds as the hypnotism took hold.
It is hard to remember exactly what brought me to his door; I was already a therapist myself working in addiction, had scratched the addict to reveal the co-dependent, had scratched the co-dependent to reveal the trauma victim, but what next?
What I noticed were recidivists. Every rehab has them. They appear regularly, often tragically, presenting the sort of conundrum that any institution would rather disappear.
I was no stranger to pain myself and felt myself pulled by an invisible thread into Pluto’s realm, the dark domain of the unconscious, seeking answers that could only be found at the bottom of the well.
This was my first regression and soon, in an alternate reality, I was staring at my buckled feet, following that same thread into 17th century England.
My rational mind balked for a while, employed my inner cynic to dismiss what I was seeing but, encouraged to trust myself, I let go and allowed the unconscious to lead me.
I saw myself as a monk seconded to the local squire’s house to teach his children, but managed to fall in love with his wife. With no money nor anything worldly to offer, she refused to come away with me. I returned to the monastery bitterly dejected, was told I had to leave, wandered some sparse common land, finally attempting to end it all in a lake, when the squire’s men arrived and dragged me back to the manor’s keep.
Then something remarkable happened. As that life came to its premature close with a quivering hypothermia, I felt a great wave shudder through my body, while sitting in my chair, which felt like an enormous healing light. It was utterly unexpected and totally blissful. I knew immediately that death could be a wonder.
But before that, something else had happened. My collaborator asked me a simple question: ‘What’s the name of the woman?’ I answered without hesitation, ‘Lady Alicia’.
It is important to say at this point I am not a proselytiser for the veracity of past lives, have no concern if people dismiss my account or possess scientific theories that can explain away such arcane phenomena. I do not waste time on conversion, which is an affront to individual dignity, neither am I interested in debate.
Dr Roger Woolger, the founder of Deep Memory Process, which works with past lives, wrote this on the back cover of his book, Other Lives, Other Selves: ‘It doesn’t matter whether you believe in reincarnation or not. The unconscious mind will almost always produce a past life story when invited in the right way. Even if the conscious mind is highly sceptical, the unconscious is a true believer!’
I can only tell my story, and it is this: I had never heard of a Lady Alicia from the 17th century, nor any other era for that matter, yet after investigation found myself sitting in The Eclipse Inn in Winchester.
The old pub was the site of the final days of Lady Alicia Lisle who, it is said, walked out of her upstairs bedroom window on to the scaffold specially prepared for her execution, where she died by axe on September 2, 1685.
Her crime had been to shelter two state rebels defeated and on the run after the Battle of Sedgemoor at her home, Moyles Court near Ringwood in Hampshire. Dame Alice soon found herself before Judge Jeffries at the Bloody Assizes, he condemned her for treason and sentenced her to be burned. There was no clemency shown, but due to her social stature, King James 11 commuted her sentence and she died with dignity.
She is the last woman to have been executed by a judicial sentence of beheading in England. The judgment against her was later rescinded.
Shortly after my session, I told a friend about it. We were both silenced when she told me that she had been at a conference in Winchester on the anniversary of Lady Alice’s death and had experienced a powerful burning sensation on her lips and face.
It was an arresting development, an easy distraction, but would have been a cul-de-sac; my interest was in the healing power of working with the deep unconscious.
Healing is a word that seems to bamboozle people, is often confused with cure, and is often subtle and hard to quantify. Like meditation, it works on inner planes of consciousness, bringing results not always immediately apparent. What is noticed, often by others first, are changes in demeanour, more contentment, feelings of happiness and life improving.
I had first come across Dr Woolger in the 90s while living at a retreat centre in rural Dorset, was curious about his course and, years later, decided to sign up.
A brilliant academic and free thinker, with a PhD in comparative religion, Roger later trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich as an analyst and followed his own thread after seeming to hear fragments of memory from other lifetimes from his analysands. Finally, he tied all the threads together, in one powerful synthesis that included bodywork, spirit release, psychodrama and more into a powerful cocktail easing trauma release.
Although I met him because of his training, we became closer when I wrote a magazine piece about his work he wanted to use in the reprint of his book.
His method does not involve hypnosis rather the embodying of the past life character which, as I soon discovered, is not always easy to achieve.
It was spring, bluebells blanketed an expanse of ground nearby, dog roses climbed, prettily, around a large yew, but we were in the hut, in pairs. The atmosphere was anything but spring-like.
Working with art, I had found myself aware of another lifetime yet, lying on the ground eyes closed, with my partner taking her turn facilitating, I was aware of being stuck in my head. Embodying means just that but I was – rather than being in my body – out of it, something not uncommon for those who have experienced trauma.
There was a palpable stuckness as any progress ground to a standstill; my partner had slowed to a depressive silence and did not know how to move me forward.
Suddenly, I received an almighty slap round the face which instantaneously shot me into my body, and there I was at The Somme, a teenager collapsing while confronting the unspeakable horrors of war. All around me were dead, all of my friends, the carnage was unbelievable, worse still was the terrible aloneness amplified by loss. I was there and it was impossible to stop sobbing.
Roger’s slap was both unconventional and courageous and I continued to release a deep pain. Often in past life work, one looks for connections to this time and for those souls who may be here again, companions who may play different roles over many lifetimes. The revolving nature of the Self as victim-perpetrator-rescuer was noticed by Carl Jung who termed it enantiodromia.
As a young boy at a time of heightened anguish, I had been sent to a penfriend in France, near Le Mans, and had spent a week in bed, distraught and sobbing. Yet although life then was tough, I had never quite understood why I had been in quite so much pain. Suddenly, the cosmic dice came tumbling down. At last, it made sense. I took a breath. It can be hard to describe the bodily experiencing of certitude but this was it.
Often, when we are able to re-contextualise our trauma, we experience deep relief as the veils between worlds are lifted. Returning to my recidivists, it struck me that it is perhaps impossible for people to heal while looking in the wrong place. Both belief and experience tell me that childhood is a time when all that lies hidden from us, in our deeper self, is hinted at and carries echoes of our earlier experience. There is then no tabla rasa, we come in pre-loaded with our karma which obliges us by unfolding over time.
What I have found again and again is that I attract clients of two basic types: those, like myself, who experienced severe intra-uterine or childhood trauma and cannot seem to find a way out of their suffering through conventional therapy; and those who cannot find reason or explanation for their symptoms in anything that has happened in this life. Both groups, I believe, are suffering from wounds to the soul that have happened in other lifetimes: research would indicate the clients who experience trauma in early life are in a sense starting where they left off in another life and quickly find themselves entangled once more in the same old drama. The second group are more unconscious and have fewer clues to help them from the life they are actually in.
Both feel stuck, desperate and hopeless, unaware the problems lie deep within the soul’s long experience and that they are endlessly incarnating into lives where their particular complex (samskaras to use the Hindu term) will intensify until they find resolution. Clients can be helped whether they believe in past lives or not. The unconscious and physical body stores the memory of trauma, which moves from lifetime to lifetime within the etheric body. Just like in conventional therapy the process of remembering, recollection and reunion has to happen for a complete healing to occur.
Sadly, Roger died before I completed my training and I decided not to continue, although my belief in the efficacy of working with the deep soul continued and I pursued an interest in a soul-based astrology.
What I am certain of is resolution and the relief of unhealed physical ailments are remarkable when people choose to work in their own depths. Unfertile, hopeless women become pregnant, physical symptoms disappear, guilt evaporates when understood and success descends on a life after years of abject failure not supported by conventional means. It is one of the great ironies that psychotherapy, which originally meant study of the soul, does not attend any more to the part of us that it names as needing healing. The soul is missing from modern therapy, which is why I despair when I hear about the perpetuation and popularity of the CBTs etc. We continue looking in the wrong place with a limited view and we fail through a lack of vision that is not our own but a culture’s that has ditched meaning for meaninglessness, replacing soul with sound bites.
Who knows, perhaps that understanding is the parting gift from a woman I once loved, a lady who died on a scaffold in a life long ago.
© simon heathcote