Past Life

While unfortunate, it’s not surprising that Past Life was canceled after only three episodes had aired. After all, executives had decided to run it on Thursday nights against the juggernaut of Grey’s Anatomy. A measure of over-confidence in their product perhaps or, more likely, its reverse: lacking the conviction that this series about reincarnation could find a home. Which is a shame. For Past Life is much more ambitious – and way more insightful – than the suits seem to have admitted, even to themselves. For in the making of Past Life, there is a subtle sleight of hand, one that tells a certain kind of story in order to reveal the truth of another. A truth that’s less outrageous than we are so frequently led to believe, particularly when it comes to thinking or talking about the lives that preceded our own.

The very first episode alerts us to the nature of this kind of double-vision, citing Albert Einstein to make a rather unscientific point: “The greater the doubt, the greater the awakening.” Should it come as any surprise to discover that this quote is itself nothing other than a minor deceit, the words coming not from the preeminent scientist but from another continent in another time? A kind of puzzle that has come to be known as a koan.

The greater the doubt, the greater the awakening.
The smaller the doubt, the smaller the awakening.
No doubt, no awakening.

Thankfully, Fox has decided to allow the remaining episodes to air to completion (Friday nights at 8 p.m.). So, for those of us willing to grant leeway to an unorthodox exploration of lives both past and present – and the effect of one upon the other – we have the chance to discover what its makers would have us learn. About ourselves and the nature of cycled existence.

The Principles

In form, the program is a hybrid of a medical drama and investigative thriller. The two principal characters – Dr. Kate McGinn and former detective Price Whatley – reflect competing approaches to the cases that are brought to them, premised as they are on different understandings of the world and the ultimate causes of human behavior. But despite these apparent incompatibilities, they will discover the benefit of eyes different than their own, forms of sight that compensate for the blind spots in their own vision of things.

She is an expert on past life trauma. Her interest, we are told, emerges from an experience with past-life regression as a young adult, and this is what subsequently motivated her desire to help others suffering from the same kind of affliction. According to Fox’s “bio” for Kate McGinn:

Using therapy and her natural gift for reading people, Kate helps solve the mysteries of her troubled clients by investigating their consciousness. She believes there are levels of consciousness and explanations for human behavior that science can’t begin to explain.

It is this reliance upon a kind of second sight which will give her partner pause. As a former homicide detective, he has been trained to believe in facts and facts alone; it also gave birth to a certain kind of cynicism about human nature, particularly when it comes to making sense of the senseless. But he is a fallen soldier in that fight, expelled from the police force after losing his wife. And so, battling grief – as well as the bottle – he will be a reluctant partner to the therapist who unabashedly embraces the idea of reincarnation, at least until that “craziness” actually begins to make some sense. At which point, he will begin to defend his new occupation against those who would doubt his sanity.

We don’t catch ghosts. We save souls.

Is this a set-up for a possible romance between the pair? Perhaps. Is it a corny and predictable premise for yet another television program about a mismatched pair eventually coming to appreciate the world of the other? Maybe. If it appears predictable, there is probably a reason for it that cannot be reduced to what we might consider to be the laziness of the show’s writers. And that reason can be found in the very nature of their work: clarifying how the past impinges upon the present, how past lives so frequently interfere with our own, and how the course of love itself is caught up in the webs that refuse to bow to the imperative of time’s passing.

Despite her experience and training, even the Doctor is not above doing battles of her own. Therapists, healers, and shamans are rarely free of the woundings that have given birth to the gift of seeing what is not readily apparent to others. And we will see this battle played out in the privacy of her home, living with her mother, unsure of which one is taking care of the other. Both caught in different versions of the same dilemmas: one preferring the solitude of her own company, the other surrounded by suitors yet unable to give in to the calling of her heart.

Visions and Compulsions

The word used to describe the “interference” from a past life is regression. According to the Doctor, it’s intimately tied up with the idea of reincarnation: when certain conditions are right – or, more accurately, when they’re wrong – what is normally repressed returns, often with a vengeance. And that’s when the visions and compulsions begin.

The idea of reincarnation is the idea that we’ve all been here before.
We’ve got memories of past lives.
Normally, those memories stay in our deep subconscious.
But sometimes, when our souls are in conflict,
those memories come up to the surface.
It can be very traumatic. We call that a regression.
That’s when a person goes back and experiences events from his past life.

It’s during such times – when our souls are in conflict – that the trauma of past lives return, forcing the person to re-experience events from a previous existence. For a trained observer, particularly one with personal experience of this kind, the signs are easy to recognize. The proliferation of rituals and compulsions that either calm or excite. Repeated behaviors that have no apparent meaning, other than the urgent need to complete them. Sometimes this is evident in things brought home, from the store, from the street, or secretly pilfered from another. Talismans that have taken on a special significance. At times, even something resembling a shrine may be built, honoring a person or an event just beyond one’s field of vision, for all intents and purposes unseen and unknown. Whatever these compulsions may be, they leave their victims confused, angry or depressed, exerting a power over them, as if some autonomous force took delight in asserting its authority, reminding the reincarnated that they will never be the masters of their own destiny. Becoming strangers even to themselves.

And then there are the visions that seem to come from nowhere. Sights and sounds reserved for the reincarnated, alone. Even though no one else can see or hear them, the visions overwhelm those subject to their doings. Another dimension of experience layered on top of the reality the rest of humanity takes for granted, these reverberations from another life invade and penetrate the senses. Flashes of light, incoherent images swallowed by others that quickly pile up on each other, people and places with no relation to the present, forever taunting, dreamscapes of the undead.

Those subject to these visions will doubt their sanity, feeling they’ve been driven to the edge. For if no one else can see or hear them, what are they other than a sign of one’s craziness?

According to the Doctor, such assaults on the mind will produce attempts to numb the senses. By whatever means are available. Many teens, for example, hide themselves, covering their heads and ears; frequently, they will channel music into their brains, cranked to the max, hoping to drown out the sounds of the unwanted. Cutting themselves off from the world in a womb of silence, or its opposite, a wild echo chamber that offers the promise that one might forget. Preferring pained isolation from others to the terrors of the uninvited. Others will turn to substances, primarily sedatives (like alcohol and barbiturates) that also serve to dull the pain. As another kind of isolation, the “highs” they chase will seek to quiet the visions that come from beyond.

The problem, of course, is that such efforts usually fail. At best, they act as a stop gap, a temporary fix for a problem that will not go away. The Doctor has developed a stump speech that addresses precisely this point: the visions are real – and relentless – and unless something else is done about them, they will continue.

You can feel the visions coming on,
but you don’t know what causes them.
They started out as flashes.
They’ve gotten worse, more intense, more detailed.
They’re scary [but] that’s not the worst part.
The worst part is the pain.
They make you feel. Not being able to control them. …
Believe me, if we don’t do something about it,
it’s going to get even worse.

The unwanted visions and the unrelenting pain are the classic signs of regression trauma. Regression, because it speaks of the past’s return, a prior life that refuses to go away. Trauma, because of the awful effects of this temporal migration. The searing pain but also its aftermath, the accumulation of wounds left upon the mind and the body. Over time, the two begin to blend together – the past life trauma and its traumatizing effect upon the present – an unholy marriage of one affliction aggravating the other. A spiral growing out of control.

The Intertwining of Past and Present

For the uninitiated, Past Life can only come across as a form of entertainment poorly conceived, lacking the kind of excitement one has come to expect from a passive relationship to the screen. According to one critic who panned the show:

The only way the premise of Past Life could have been remotely watchable is if the writers had been willing to truly take the theme of reincarnation to the limit, to have victims haunted by caveman crimes, or still tortured by a bad experience at Gettysburg. Then at least it might have been decent pulp entertainment. As it is, Past Life is just a bad premise executed badly, and very unlikely to be given a second life season.

What’s missed in this kind of dismissal is a recognition – much less an appreciation – of the kind of stories that are being told. Despite the familiarity of the form, its primary purpose is not (pulp) entertainment alone. And even though it airs during the eight o’clock family hour, the glimpses we are provided into lives both past and present are more frightening than most R-rated fare, if only we are able to look with eyes different from the ones to which we’ve grown accustomed. Yes, all of the stories involve murder and death, but that’s not what makes the stories terrifying. Rather, it’s the lingering effects of one life upon another, leaving its victims helpless to the unrelenting terror of their previous existence.

In the series pilot, for example, we are introduced to a teenage boy. In the midst of a basketball match, he is overcome by a vision more aural than visual – barks of anger, more animal than human – that sends him into a sweaty panic, frozen in his tracks and unable to move. Later, upon beginning work with the Doctor, he will be plummeted into another side of this regression, confronted with a man carrying a bat bearing down on him. And this will send him cowering into a corner, transformed into a little girl, frantically tugging at her hair, terrified of the fate that is nothing other than death’s arrival.

In the episode “Dead Man Talking,” a young woman is confronted by scenes of falling to death, endlessly repeating the moment of her demise where frantic efforts to secure her footing, desperate grasps at anything that might prevent her fatal plummet, ultimately fail. There is nothing to learn from the experience, no new strategies or unseen footholds that can be implemented. Instead, the best she can expect is to see herself continually dying. For when one vision stops, another invariable returns, as she is returned to a hurtling descent once again, the ground rushing up to meet her face. An endless cycle of death, endlessly careening toward one’s annihilation. Again and again and again.

In the series’ fourth episode, while in the midst of competing at a spelling bee, a young girl suddenly finds herself marked with what appear to be the signs of the stigmata. Her hands gashed by wounds inflicted by a force unseen, tears of blood giving witness to a torture belonging to another person in another time. Despite the claims others will make about the blessedness of these “spiritual” markings, for the child, this piercing of the body is nothing other than an unholy visitation. A torment that has descended without warning, absent reason. Leaving her unable to do anything except tremble in the face of its senselessness. The media, ever on the lookout for stories that can be sensationalized will – quite cruelly – come to dub her Saint Susan, as if she held the secret for deciphering the nature of the divine.

What makes these more frightening than celluloid visions horror and violence made available to us by means of the Hollywood machine? The bottom line is this: the stories told there, no matter how gruesome, are typically about survival. The lone hero – whether that be a woman or a man – survives the apocalypse, overcomes the never ending stream of beasts, demons, and enemy fire that seems singularly intent on annihilation. But in the end, a survivor stands alone, victorious against the agents of darkness. While there may have been tremendous losses to bear, whether they be the death of a loved one or the decimation of civilization as we know it, when all is said and done, life triumphs over the forces of death.

The trauma of regression, on the other hand, has no such happy ending. There is no survival. No hero that stands amidst the rubble who is able to say, “I survived.” Instead, it is an unrelenting assault that one cannot control, insistently repeating its story in a way that snatches the body of its victims into an unrelenting vortex of terror. There is no pause button. No credits that roll across the silver screen. No commercials during which one can make a run to the kitchen. So even as those caught in the grip of a past life regression may desperately attempt to cobble together a life of normalcy, the compulsions and visions invariably return. An awful reminder that any effort to play the part of a “hero” will come to naught. For the life that’s being relived is about death – not the business of living – and no amount of courage or determination can ward off the imperative that comes from an earlier existence. One that comes on the heels of the soul’s death.

Triggers, Memories, and Soul Work

The year of ensoulment, as we learn during one of the earlier episodes, refers to the period during which the life of a previous incarnation crosses over into one’s own. One could say it identifies the time that gave rise to the migration of the soul. It’s ironic, given our notions of reincarnation, that the experiences its victims are given to see are not fantastic, neither are they remotely romantic. Those who suffer the violence of unwanted visions and visitations would be the first to challenge the kind of sentimentality one so often hears in relation to the idea of past lives.

When the Doctor first meets a client, the visions are usually nothing but a confused jumble of images and sensations. They feel violent precisely because they typically focus on the most traumatic aspect of the soul’s previous existence: specifically, it’s death and extinction. Rushing to the ground from a dizzying height, the tear of flesh that accompanies the piercing of one’s hands, the raucous barks that mark the moment of one’s passing, the body of a girl lying in a pool of blood. In light of such terror and pain, the Doctor’s first task is to identify the triggers that give rise to the visions. Figuring out which aspects of the person’s current existence elicit the sights and sounds that once belonged to another.

This is not as easy or obvious a task as it might seem since much of the experience exists under a turbulent fog of confusion. But it’s certainly easier than trying to identify the soul’s conflict – the clashing of forces – that elicits the visions of the dead. For it typically exists at the edge of consciousness, too, banished from the light of day. Much better to work with something one can get a handle on, something that connects this life with the one that came before, signs and symbols that harken to the soul’s passing in its previous existence.

Which isn’t that easy, either. Particularly since triggers do precisely what their name would suggest: they set off a terrifying explosion, unleashing a reserve of energy that had remained dormant just beneath the surface, a reserve so vast that it threatens to annihilate those subject to its workings. The enormity of this power is clearly evident on the faces – and in the bodies – of those so afflicted, a measure of the pain and terror that comes with witnessing the awful circumstances leading up to one’s passing. So it should not be surprising that those seeking the Doctor’s assistance will resist her efforts to help, precisely because doing so will bring them face-to-face with the very thing the soul has sought to avoid.

And so, in many ways, the Doctor becomes a terrorist, using her knowledge about triggers to return her clients to the place from which they flee. Inducing the very kind of pain that they have so desperately sought to avoid. For it is only by returning to the original scene of the crime that they can learn about what happened in their previous existence, the kind of death that has left nothing but terror in its wake. The Doctor will have to reassure her patients, even as she continues to push them harder, letting them know that, however painful the process may be, everything will be all right.

Much of what we witness during each episode of Past Life is precisely this: the violent vacillation between escape and return, the impulse to flee and the imperative to investigate, to discover what it is that lies behind the noise and confusion. Seeking to uncover the secrets of the dead. It is a journey that few of us have the courage to embark on since it requires repeatedly confronting one’s demise, the black pit of death and the violence of one’s own annihilation.

Added to this is the torment brought about by gender confusion since, in many visions, the previous body belongs to the opposite sex, in which case the Doctor’s clients are confronted by a person completely foreign to what they would take themselves to be. So, in addition to the teenage boy who reverts to a helpless girl petrified of the fate that was to be her life’s termination, the young woman who continually sees herself falling discovers that, in her previous life, she was a grown man. Similarly, the girl some would call a saint, the one seemingly crucified in the midst of a spelling bee, comes to see herself as a young African American boy.

Each are confronted by a being so completely different from themselves that the visions can only leave them dumbfounded. The pain and terror of death compounded by a confusion that turns their very sense of identity upside down.

As if this weren’t enough, many come to be wracked by an overwhelming sense of guilt, feeling that the deaths they see – not all of them their own – are the result of their own doing. That the limp and tortured bodies that fill their eyes were killed by their own hand. So not only do those in the grip of regression trauma find themselves assaulted by the sights and sounds of the dying, they come to suspect that they are the ones responsible for having taken another’s life. For the visions are typically composed of the body of the dead and a witness, a mutilated body and the one who watches over the scene. And it is through the eyes of the one who watches – the witness – that their visions come, as if they were the ones responsible for the crime of murder.

Isn’t the whole idea that whatever horrible things I did in my past
I have to pay for them now?
What if this is the life I’m supposed to have?

– The idea of karma is that we have the ability to reset the natural balance.
– That’s what we’re going to do.
The girl is dead. She’s not coming back.
How do you reset that?

And this is where the Detective’s skills become crucial, since relying on the the visions alone is not enough. Certainly, the Doctor’s role in pushing her patients past their fears is imperative, for it is only after they are able to confront the initial visions of death that other details come to the fore, other aspects of the previous life that make themselves known. But there are always gaps that need to be filled, cryptic messages that require deciphering, unrecognized connections to be made. The visions, in other words, are never self-evident. The language they speak is not readily apprehended, which is what makes them so confusing. The same goes for the rituals and compulsions that creep into one’s daily routine, long-lost messages from the dead.

The point of the Detective’s work in assisting the Doctor is to broaden the field of vision beyond the site of trauma itself, to help the patient recognize the larger picture that surrounds the moment of death. Working together to identify the context, people, and places within which one’s previous life came to an end. Only in this way can the pieces be put together in a way that explains the original trauma, as well the reasons behind its return.

It’s only because of this kind of work that the girl who (mis)took herself for a killer will learn that her previous incarnation was as a musician. A child prodigy, in fact. One of the main triggers at the spelling bee was the clock on the wall, less its visible appearance than its repeating ticking, the sound of a metronome. They will discover that he had committed suicide by gunshot wound and that the police had found massive scars down the middle of his hands. As if these marks – and the death itself – were a sign of the death of his creativity, his very being. But the unanswered question continued to remain: why?

By following the clues found in subsequent regressions, they will discover that the boy had turned the gun on himself rather than kill, choosing self-termination rather than submitting to the orders he received from another. The one who asked that he mutilate himself as a test of his fortitude and a sign of his commitment. The one who put the gun in his hand, and pointed it at another, saying he amounted to nothing. That his weakness was reason enough for him to die.

And who was this mysterious authority demanding blind allegiance, the one who would require a child to learn how to kill? The answer is found in the second trigger at the spelling bee, in the word the girl was asked to spell. That word was: pedagogue.

As for the one constantly falling, her visions are filled by images of a room in disarray and a dead woman lying in a bed splattered with her own blood. On the floor below – fallen to the ground – is a lamp, an image that repeats itself endlessly, as if it were a needle stuck on a broken record. Or a flashing neon sign. And with her is another man, one insisting that they keep the girl’s death a secret. As lawyers, he says, they have an obligation to the murderer. It’s called attorney-client privilege.

“You’re not supposed to tell. It’s against the rules.”

Wracked with guilt about the knowledge that’s been forced into hiding, the man in her vision heads to the place where the murder weapon – the lamp – has fallen, desperately looking for the object that would shed light on the reason for the girl’s passing. But like the lamp itself, he will find himself falling to the ground, unable to save himself and unable retrieve the evidence that would bring the killer to justice.

When it comes to deciphering the visions, then, there seem to be (at least) three personas to disentangle, particularly when it comes to understanding the guilt so many of its sufferers share: the body of the dead, the witness to the events in question (who also comes to die), and another figure of authority and power. Someone wielding an undue influence on the soul, in the past as well as the present. Ultimately, the question boils down to identifying the nature of the relationships between these figures, for it is this knot of relations that holds the secret to the torment that has migrated from one life to another, the unrecognized link that binds the living and the dead.

This is the nature of soul-work. Finding the strength to push through the immediacy of the pain brought on by the visions so that, ultimately, the cause of death can be found. This work also involves clarifying the kind of responsibility the soul can reasonably take as its own, and more importantly, the kind of guilt that it shouldn’t. For it is precisely the burden of the unwarranted that causes the soul’s reincarnations to live in a constant state of fear, forever falling to their deaths, suffering the torture of public crucifixion, or cowering in a corner like a child … because the circumstances surrounding their previous incarnation’s killing was never fully recognized, much less understood. And it is only when that happens that the torment will come to an end.

Soul Mates

Like the mystical aura that surrounds popular conceptions of past lives and reincarnation, the idea of soul mate similarly floats among the clouds of a lofty ideal, wedded to the belief that nothing short of fate has brought two souls together. It is what springs to the lips of lovers drunk in the joy of their union, falling into each other’s eyes, believing their hearts have finally found their home. If we’re lucky, the experience happens to all of us.

And yet, if we allow ourselves pause, it’ll quickly become clear how this notion is far from romantic at all. For what it ultimately means is that two souls have no choice in the matter, that whatever they may wish for themselves or desire, fate will intervene and dictate differently, insisting on something else, another future already preordained. It also means that this kind of inevitability will follow its protagonists from one life to another, relentlessly imposing its will from one incarnation to the next. An endless chain of imperative absent the possibility of escape. Doomed to repeat itself. Forever.

Such is the dilemma at the center of the episode entitled “Soul Music.” During the week before her wedding and much to her personal horror, a woman finds herself mysteriously – and uncontrollably – drawn to a man other than her future husband. It’s not the first time she’s been hounded by compulsions she didn’t understand. But now they seem to have returned with a vengeance. The period of calm she had taken to be their remission was but an illusion. And the wedding she had so lovingly planned and anticipated comes to be threatened by an external power, like a demonic force.

I’ve had panic attacks ever since I started dating.
I’d be out to dinner or at the movies or in bed, and I would wig out.
Guys just couldn’t deal.

– But Cole [your fiancee] hung in there.
Sometimes he’d just hold me.
When we moved in together, they stopped.
But now the attacks are back, and they don’t make any sense.
And I’m seeing these awful things.

– What kinds of things?
In the visions, I’m with this man and we’re having sex.
And it’s crazy. And erotic. And dangerous. And it feels good.
I love Cole so much. Why am I seeing myself with this other guy???

– It might have to do with past life trauma.

Unlike the other cases brought to the Doctor, this one does not merely revolve around death, although there are hints of that here as well. Instead, she sees a melange of images both dangerous and exciting. Riding in a shiny convertible, a handsome boy at her side, with a bagful of money. Simultaneously, another set of images – also from her point of view – of a man removing her blouse, his hands roaming the length of her body. It’s the stuff of adventure, illicit desires seductive enough to allow oneself to get carried away. Strangely, in the background she hears the thin melody of a music box.

And then she meets Him, or someone who reminds her of Him. And that’s when fate steps in, despite the fact that her wedding is just days away, despite the fact that she’s already committed herself to another whom she loves deeply. For there’s another world out there that’s beckoning, one filled with the kind of thrill that married life could never offer. But lest we take this as a mere preference for one kind of man – or one kind of life – over another, it’s worth recalling that this is not what she wants.

How could I do this to Cole? He’s my life and I’m about to ruin everything
because some twisted obsession with a guy I don’t even know!

– You’ve got to stop beating yourself up …
You don’t understand! Cole is it. He’s the one.
– You were acting on forces out of your control.
– Your regressions have been a mixture of of passion and violence.
– Your soul’s obviously in conflict.
I’m getting married tomorrow, and all I can think about is this stranger!

If it was merely a matter of finding a resolution to this conundrum, her dilemma wouldn’t be so bad. But she is also haunted another set of visions, not unlike the others with which we’ve become familiar, in which she finds herself running through the streets in panic. Frantic. Everything that surrounds her is a blur. Only the feelings she carries with her remain in focus, sharp as a razor’s edge: sheer fright, running to save her life. Moments later, after escaping into an alley that turns into a dead end, the sounds of gunfire come. Immediately after, screaming bullets that pound into her chest. And then darkness comes.

At first, she will think that He is the one responsible for her death. That for some perverted reason, she is drawn to her own killer. But with the benefit of additional regressions, they will discover that the both of them were running – chased by the law – and both were met by the same fate. So with this newfound knowledge, her hesitations will melt away, the wall of protection lowered, giving in to what fate seems to have in store for them, despite the fact that, at some level, deep down, she already knows it will end in her death.

So, on the day of her wedding, she will find herself eloping, irresistibly drawn to this other man, the echo of the One from her visions, much to the chagrin of the Doctor. With the help of the Detective, they had already learned that they were dealing with two timelines here, not just one. It is the first, the adventure and the excitement of an illicit desire, accompanied by the sounds of a music box, that has caught her in its grip. Even the convertible reappears. The second, the one marked by visions of their deaths, is clearly set in a different time, gunned down by officers of the law. But the connections between the two have yet to be made, leaving the Doctor unsure of the causes of the compulsion, much less the reasons for the two souls to repeatedly seek out the other, from one life to the next.

But after her initial light headedness has worn off, the woman will soon discover what some of those connections might be. Other aspects of her visions which she had managed to forget force themselves back into her memory, in large part because He reenacts the very script before her very eyes, one that would seem to be already written. Perhaps because of the excitement of their trek into the territory of the forbidden, carried away by the thrill of the taboo, he will commit a robbery, using his gun in the process. Out of the blue, the bag of loot, the shadow of which she had seen before, will become a reality. And the stain of blood will begin to blot the dreamy landscape she thought she was entering and was ready to call her home.

When she comes out of that trance and begins to raise her (wavering) protest, his demeanor will change. The prospect of her changing her mind, asserting a will different from the fate they’re supposed to share, will send him into a rage. At first, he will attempt to persuade her, convince her to reconsider, not realizing the appearance of the gun will have already sealed her decision. And so, even as she finds the courage to break away from the compulsion, he will fall into it even deeper, unable to imagine a life without his lover, the one to whom he belongs and who, in turn, belongs to him. Taking her as hostage and cover in the face of officers already poised to play their role: putting them out of their misery so that, in yet another future incarnation, they can play out the same scenario once again.

The compulsion – and the dilemma – is a two-way street. It is as much hers as it is his. And the task with which they’re repeatedly faced is finding a way to refuse the hand of fate. In this lifetime, it’s something she found the strength to do. Telling him this cycle of love and death had to come to an end. But as is so often the case, it is He who wavers, unable to find a different way through the noise and confusion, another way of dealing with the irresistible urge that draws him to another. To her.

But he can’t help it. The Doctor calls it a case of soul recognition: when two people feel each other even when they’re not present. For this pair, in this lifetime, the fateful occurs in the Doctor’s office when, on the heels of one of his regressions, he “sees” her through a one-way mirror. Shocked and taken aback because she thought her presence was unknown, she will first be frightened and then, later, enthralled by the scary thrill of being seen in this way, through a darkened glass. The EEG readings from his regression will show that he was still in a deep hypnotic trance. He may have looked like he was awake, but his brain was asleep.

Both the Doctor and the Detective will mull over this experience, trying to find an explanation for this eerie pairing of souls, an attraction that would seem to cross lifetimes.

Maybe their souls always reincarnate together, reuniting time after time
trying to solve whatever unfinished business there is between them.

– Yeah, except they never get the chance.
– In each lifetime, Jenny winds up dead.
You’re right.
And in the regressions, [she] feels like the victim and [he] feels like the attacker.
He follows her. He seeks her out.

– Is there such a thing as a soul stalker?

For her, the answer to the dilemma will come when the Doctor finds them at the motel at which they’ve been staying. She brings with her a music box, much like the ones in her visions, and this will help trigger additional memories that had, until now, remained beneath the surface. She will see the events leading up to the kind of adventure that had filled her eyes until now. Something closer to home when, in a previous life, she was caught between the thrill of an illicit love and the disapproval of her father. In the midst of the struggle, she had grabbed the closest object at hand – a music box – striking her father over the head. Killing him with the sounds of childhood.

She would stand transfixed by the accidental death brought about her hand – a killing in defense of her lover – unsure of what she should do next. Until she heard Him calling out to her, saying they should run away together. In a split second, the decision was made, and they would become outlaws, in their own eyes as well as others. Her father replaced by another. Caught up in the excitement of a Bonnie and Clyde, like the two adolescents that they were. Unaware of the death waiting for them just around the corner, or the number of lifetimes in which they would be doomed to the fated task of repetition.

It’s in this way – revisiting the events surrounding her previous incarnations – that she’s finally able to extract herself from the workings of fate. Learning to recognize what lies beyond the adventurous excitement and the thrill of the taboo, forcing herself to see the violence that will by necessity come as a result, thereby putting herself in the position to make a decision different from the one made by in an earlier existence. For now, she’s no longer a teen. No longer does it have to be a choice between an illicit love and an empty existence. Now that she’s had the opportunity to learn from her soul’s previous mistakes, she grabs the opportunity, no longer willing to put her life in jeopardy. No longer willing to submit to the one who would claim to call her his own.

As for the soul stalker, as we know he comes in many shapes and forms. But for him, the task is no different. It involves the same kind of soul work which she has so painfully undertaken. He must learn to divine the relation between what he sees (in her) and the very essence of his being, the soul that reincarnates from one lifetime to another, tracking how the powerful draw is tied to those travels, as well as the original year of his ensoulment. The trauma that give birth to it all. For when this work is done, one will be freed of the awful tug of compulsion, the kind of neediness that so often falls under the name of fate, finally free to live a life of one’s own making. A life aligned to what one wants rather than what is compelled by the past, and the awful secrets hidden there.

For those who find their way out of such a predicament, whether it be on this day – or yesterday – or another that is yet to come, it is surely a cause worthy of celebration. For it’s nothing short of liberation, the effect of which is like being born again, freed of the terror of one’s previous deaths.

Happy Birthday!
May you live a long and happy life.

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~ by mistified on 2 June 2010.

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