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ECHOES (Author's Own Personal Past Life Account)
an effort to demonstrate how past life experiences may unknowingly influence
our present life, I present this true story of a man whose life may have been
heavily affected by just such a past experience-an 'echo', if you will,
of another life lived in another time that somehow managed to influence and,
indeed, dramatically steer the course of his adolescence. I do not relate it
here because it is a remarkable story, for it is not. It is a story that is
common to perhaps millions of people, so it is not even unique to the human
experience. It is, however, typical of the human experience and so I present
it here not as evidence that the human soul lives on through numerous incarnations,
but to demonstrate as best I can how, if reincarnation is true, it might manifest
itself in an ordinary life in ways that the person so effected may be entirely
The man I speak of here is, of course, myself. The events I'm about to relate are true insofar as I remember them accurately, and I will endeavor to present them as objectively and dispassionately as I am capable of doing. I realize many will simply dismiss them as adolescent fantasies or, at best, unusual coincidences, and I make no claims to the contrary. I only present what happened to me in a straight-forward manner and let the reader decide for themselves whether my story has anything to say to them.
Adolescence for the Ages
My story begins around the time of my twelfth birthday. Up to then I had been a rather ordinary boy growing up in a large, Catholic family on a farm near St. Cloud, Minnesota. I was not an unusual child in any wayperhaps a bit more precocious than most and certainly imaginativebut from all outward appearances I was a very typical product of the American Midwest. Like most boys at that time, my hobbies tended towards stereotypical male interests such as Dinosaurs, racing cars, and toy trucks, and while my parents had a difficult marriage, for the most part I remember my childhood as being a relatively carefree and happy one. I had no idea what course my life was to take over the next few years.
My parents divorced a year before my eleventh birthday and my siblings and myself had just moved with my step father to Colorado when things began to change. Whereas previously my interests had been rather conventional, as I approached adolescence I began developing an unusual fascination with things having to do with the military. Where I got my newfound interest was unknown, for my family did not possess any significant military background, and so there seemed no obvious external influences that might have triggered my new interest. And yet as I moved into my teen years, my fascination for all things militaryfrom toy soldiers and plastic tanks to war movies on television-grew exponentially. Most of my reading material dealt with military historyspecifically the Second World Warand, not surprisingly, once I became a competent model builder, my bedroom became a virtual museum of aircraft, tanks, and ship models. Further, once I had acquired the financial means, I also began accumulating a considerable collection of bayonets, helmets, shoulder patches, and even a few World War Two era rifles and pistol duplicates. One could say I was a 'military nut' bordering on the obsessed, and while it's not that I didn't have other interests as well, they paled in comparison to the time and energy and financial resources I put into my hobby/obsession. The military in general and World War Two in particular were my life or, at least, a big part of it.
More than that, as I moved further into adolescence I found myself increasingly sliding into a largely imaginary world in which I fantasized being a soldier in combat. Always something of a loner (partially as a result of growing up in a remote area of the mountains west of Denver) I would spend hours in the nearby forests fighting fantasy battles with nothing more than a steel rod as a rifle. Growing increasingly elaborate and complex in detail the more times I played out each 'game', it soon became so focused and grim that I could almost visualize the gruesome carnage in my mind's eye. Additionally, my imaginary battles were remarkably similar in both scope and depth: I invariably imagined myself an infantryman battling an influx of enemy tanks in a forest. The script never varied, and I seemingly never tired of my unchanging role in the drama. It was as though it were a play I had performed a hundred times before.
My fascination for the military also manifested itself in other ways as well. At thirteen I joined a local chapter of the Civil Air Patrol, a paramilitary Air Force auxiliary, which gave me the opportunity to wear oversized Air Force uniforms and march about like a soldier for hours at a time. I genuinely enjoyed the military atmosphere the CAP exposed me to, from drilling to moving up through the ranks, as well as the occasional 'orientation flights' I was able to take courtesy of the Air Force reserve group at a nearby base. I even had the opportunity to spend a week at the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs one summer, an experience which gave me my first real taste of military life, and one that seemed to set my immediate path for me. It was inevitable, then, that I would eventually find my way into the armed forces upon graduation from High School, enlisting in the U.S. Navy in November of 1975. I seemed 'born' to be a military man, and as such was able to endure the discipline and drilling of basic training much easier than many of my shipmates.
This obsession stayed with for the next few years, only beginning to slowly wane once I left the military and married. Pursuing my talent for art, I attended art school in Denver, but noticed even then that many of my projects had a decidedly military theme to them. This preoccupation continued-albeit in a greatly reduced capacity-well into my thirties, by which time it at last began to fade significantly as I made a concerted effort to expand my areas of interest.
Today I no longer retain my fixation with all things military. My models are long gone and my military collection sold years ago. I still possess a few books on the subject, but they sit on a shelf collecting dust, rarely opened, and while I still occasionally find myself watching a history channel feature on the Second World War, it no longer holds me captive as it and programs like it once did. I have outgrown my earlier obsession, and am now far more the peacemaker than the war monger I once was. In fact, I now look back upon my childhood fascination with a mixture of curiosity and embarrassment, and wonder to this day what might have triggered such a unique adolescence.
Question of Environment
So where did this fascination with all things military come from and, in particular, this obsession with World War Two?
Again, I did not come from a 'military family.' My birth father was a factory worker; my step father, the manager of the local Elks Club. Although I had the usual mix of male relatives who were WWII veterans, their experiences were never recounted (at least around me) nor were they important to our family's dynamics. In my home, 'the war' rarely came up as a topic of conversation, and if it did it was in hushed tones, as though it were something to be fervently forgotten. As such, it was clear I couldn't blame my obsession on a steady diet of war stories told to an impressionable boy by a phalanx of war weary uncles.
Television? Certainly that was an influence. The late fifties and early sixties were the golden age of war theme television programs such as McHale's Navy, Hogan's Heroes, and Rat Patrol, and movies like The Longest Day and Twelve O'Clock High were popular fare at the time. Did these programs trigger within me an unusual interest in military history or did I naturally gravitate towards such programs because of an already inherent interest in the military and then reflect what I saw back into my fantasy world? In other words, did the shows I watch instill within me a military obsession, or did I watch such programs because they fed into the military obsession I already possessed? Undoubtedly these programs enhanced-and, perhaps, even helped define-my growing preoccupation, but what was it about war-theme entertainment that so attracted me in the first place, especially considering my non-military upbringing?
Further, why only the Second World War? I showed no similar interest in the First World War, the Civil War, Vietnam, or other conflicts. Why this particular era only? My collection of airplane models contained close to fifty aircraft, but while I counted a few modern jet fighters and a smattering of ancient bi-planes among them, the bulk of it was made up of aircraft from WWII. I just wasn't as interested in aircraft from other eras, and preferred instead to keep with the theme I had gravitated to.
As I look back over my life, I recall other idiosyncrasies I developed during this time as well. Perhaps the most curious of these was a penchant for only one type of footwearblack Wellington boots. I never cared for athletic footwear or hiking boots (though either might have made more sense considering the amount of walking I did.) Why Wellingtons, which are far from the most comfortable shoes available? And why only black? I didn't care for any other kind of boot, even though Cowboy boots were popular in Colorado when I was growing up.
Students of military history, however, might find my footwear fetish interesting. Boots very similar to what we now refer to as 'Wellingtons' were standard issue for German soldiers during the Second World War (frequently referred to as "jack boots", they became something of their trademark.) Had I developed a preference for such impractical footwear in a vacuum, or were they already unconsciously familiar to me by virtue of having worn them in some long forgotten past?
There were other signals as well: the only foreign language I had ever taken an interest in while in high school was German, and though I never became particularly proficient at it, I enjoyed learning the language. I especially enjoyed listening to the instructors from Austria and Germany who taught these courses, finding their musings about their homes as interesting as learning the language itself. I had an almost insatiable interest in their countries and felt I would be comfortable living there, though I had no particularly compelling reason why I should feel that way.
Some readers may wonder if these stories related by my instructors might have been more influential on my militarism than I imagined, but I do not believe such concerns are valid. These young student teachers-most of them in America on teacher exchange programs and not much more than five to ten years older than myself-were far from militarists. In fact, like most young teachers during that era, they would be more accurately portrayed as pacifists, and they certainly did not easily discuss the war (which often proved to be a sensitive and uncomfortable topic in any case.) While their observations were useful in painting a general impression of their homelands, they were far from detailed or contained much of interest to my military preoccupation.
Finally, another curious interest of mine at the time was dirigibles, those massive lighter-than-air vessels that floated majestically through the skies between the world wars. By the time I was sixteen I had already become something of an expert on them, and spent many hours drawing pictures of the great airships and even produced a few simplistic designs of my own. Interestingly, my fascination with such vessels did not extend to their modern equivalent-the blimp-but seemed fixated upon the great rigid ships of the late twenties and thirties. Was it a mere coincidence that most of these vessels were of German manufacture? And, again, where did this particular interest derive from? There certainly was nothing in my immediate environment (or, for that matter, on television) to have triggered such a fascination.
the Clues Together
What are we to make of all this? Why the fascination with a war that ended over a decade before I was even born? Why the preoccupation with all things military in a boy who had no contact with the real world of the military, and why the preference for black Wellington boots, the affinity for German, and the intense interest in airships?
Any one of these elements in and of themselves would not be particularly significant, but together they seemed to be pointing me towards something. There was a unifying theme to them all, and most of it had to do with Germany and the Second World War (or, in the case of the airships, the immediate prewar years.) But what did it all mean?
Environment does little to account for these obsessions. My five siblings showed no similar affinities despite comparable family backgrounds. Only I had these interests-proclivities that eventually proved to be a source of embarrassment to me while managing to remain strangely natural at the same time. Something was drawing me to these interestssomething outside the realm of my normal daily experiences or cultural inclinations. I assumed they meant I was simply odd, but I wonder could they have been more than inexplicable eccentricities? Could they have been snippets of a past life resonating within my modern incarnation?
I have no conscious memories of having been in a World War Two infantry/armored battle of the kind I described earlier, yet it appears I retained 'impressions' of having had just such an experience imbedded in the deepest recesses of my subconscious. Such battleswhich I assumed at the time to have been 'imaginary' or 'make believe'were actually quite common in Russia throughout much of World War Two. Was it merely a coincidence that Hitler's drive into Russia in the summer of 1941 was a favorite historical theme for me, and the one element of the entire war that seemed most poignant?
What am I to make of this unusual aspect of my adolescence? Are these elements merely-as the rationalist would maintain-the product of an over active imagination, perhaps enhanced by a sense of isolation and lack of maturity? No doubt psychiatrists could offer a purely natural rationale to explain my unusual past: it was just the way my brain is 'wired' or perhaps I was a far more suggestible child upon whom television had more profoundly impacted than even I realized.
There are many possible explanations for my experiences, yet none of them seem to add up. They were too specific, too consistent, too theme oriented to be mere boyhood fantasies. Background, environmental influences, televisionnone of them answers the question of why the extremely limited and frequently Germanic theme to my interests. If it were all a product of television, shouldn't my interests have been all over the board, so to speak, with little correlation or consistency to them? Shouldn't they have likewise extended to other conflicts as well, such as the American Civil War or even some of the great wars of the Roman and Greek eras (all of which were common movie themes of the sixties and seventies)?
The possibility that I was unconsciously recounting a past memorydiluted and incomplete as it wasnever occurred to me until many years later. It wasn't until I began examining the concept of reincarnation that the possibility I had actually lived another lifetimeperhaps as a German soldier in World War Twobecame a consideration. Were the 'imaginary' tank battles, an affinity for black Wellington boots and the German language, and my fascination with World War Two but 'shadows' of a brief and violent past that haunted me into this new incarnation? In fact, doesn't it explain things rather nicely?
For the sake of argument, let us suppose for a moment I had been a young German soldier in the Second World War. Further, imagine I had fought a desperate battle in the forests of Russiana battle that may have ultimately cost me my lifeand then, after a brief sojourn in limbo (or wherever it is disembodied souls may loiter) I entered the body of a fetus in a St. Cloud hospital in 1958. What would be the potential consequences of such a 'transfer?' Could the young soldier's death have been so traumatic that even the process of rebirth could not entirely obliterate the deep scars it left on his soul, and so he carried them into this newest incarnationnot as a consciously recalled memory, but as an impression that influenced him in subtle and inexplicable ways? Could it have ultimately manifested itself in this preoccupation with the circumstances surrounding this young man's death as well as left vague 'memories' of a language he had spoken long ago but had since forgotten and even a preference for a type of footwear he wore every day in his forgotten march across Russia? And wouldn't my interest in dirigibles perfectly mirror those of a German boy growing up in the 1930s who had personally seen the great airships glide gracefully across the sky (and who would have been of the approximate same age I was when I first developed such an interest)?
I call these 'echoes' from the past, not memories. Memories are specific and data driven; 'echoes'or, more technically, 'resonance effects'are more akin to impressions or inexplicable affections, interests, likes and dislikes one develops almost spontaneously that shape our nature in subtle ways of which we are entirely unaware. One needn't even believe in reincarnation for them to shape our persona; the process goes on regardless of and, in fact, often in spite of, our beliefs. It is the nature of the soul, and it is relentless.
But why would such residual interests and fascinations remain? What purpose, if any, might they serve?
Who knows? Perhaps my earlier preoccupation were an important and necessary element in my spiritual development. Perhaps in order to evolve into a man of peace, it was required I understand the horrors of waran understanding that might have been impossible without some of my former incarnation's experiences being transposed upon my new psyche. Then again, it may just simply be a flaw in the rebirth processI simply don't know. In either case, I am firmly convinced that what happened to me has happened toand continues to happen toliterally thousands of people around the world. Many quite 'normal' people claim feelings of familiaritya sense of deja vuabout things from the past, and while some and, perhaps, even most, may well be purely imaginary, are all of them to be explained away so easily? I had an active imagination as a boy (just as I still do today) but so do millions of other children, most of whom do not end up preoccupied with such a narrow range of interests for so many years. As such, the mystery for me remains unanswered and, perhaps, unanswerable.
So what is the reader to make of this story? I doubt if it changed any minds about reincarnation: there are enough curious elements in it for it to reinforce the concept of multiple births in those already persuaded of reincarnation's validity, but it lacks the kind of specifics or verifiable facts that might be of interest to the skeptic. Of course, there are those who might argue that my interest in reincarnation is what may have triggered many of these 'echoes,' and the strong desire to want to believe in the concept simply unconsciously created the prerequisite elements necessary to realize that wish. While it is evident there are people who do precisely that, it must be remembered that as a teenager I did not believe in reincarnation (or have much of a belief system of any kind at that point.) I would have probably considered myself a nominal Catholic with only the most superficial religious beliefs, and reincarnation was certainly not one of them. Additionally, once I embraced evangelical Christianity in my early twenties, reincarnation was clearly out of the question. Christianity was about resurrection, not reincarnation, and I spent the next twenty years contemptuous and dismissive of the idea. It was, at very least, a bit of New Age nonsense unworthy of serious consideration and even a dangerous heresy to be fought by every professing Christian. In short, I would not be, in most people's mind, a good candidate for manufacturing evidence in support of an alleged past life.
So where does that leave the debate? Was it all simply my imagination run amok, or is there more to life than we are aware of? I honestly don't know and can only leave it for the reader to decide for themselves. I can only do my best to try and understand my past from various perspectives, of which reincarnation is but one of them; in the end, I can only offer reincarnation as a possible explanation, not the definitive solution. As far as I'm concerned, I simply don't know. And it is that not knowing that often proves to be both the curse and the blessing of reincarnation.
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