From Fundamentalism, Through Atheism, Toward Realization
A Video Autobiography by a Kriya Yoga Student of Paramahansa
Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF)
How I remembered my previous life in Kentucky
This video tells the story of how my recent ancestors tried to put their former slave back into slavery. It is significant because I had remembered my previous life in Kentuck some years earlier.
Wathch it here or watch on YouTube or download (be sure to watch full-screen).
Final exam day, May of 1973 (just a few months before I learned about - and joined - SRF): She caught me in the hallway outside the exam room, pleading with me to allow an old man to speak to class in order to fulfill a course requirement. With the old man in tow, I agreed.
It was down this SMU street where that final exam was held.
He presented himself as a former fundamentalist preacher who had resigned when his board of deacons asked him to preach six sermons on the torments of Hell. He said that a few days after resigning, a letter arrived at his Texas mailbox from a stranger in New York who said, “We've been working together for centuries; don't you think it's time to start again”?
Upon traveling to New York to meet the man, he said he was taught how to take people back into their previous lives. And he would appreciate it if someone would volunteer so that he could give a demonstration.
Well, not me! As a level-headed atheist, I'm sitting in the back row, keeping a low profile. This goofy stuff I could do without. But the students had other ideas. “Larry! Get Larry!”
And so, reluctantly, I went to the front of the class. He had me lie down on a large table that was near the front of the class and told me to close my eyes. Then he began to massage my body. I'm thinking, “what's this old guy up to”?
But he said, “just relax. I want you to be calm. That's why I'm doing this.”
Pretty soon he said, “Now I'm going to count backwards from three. Imagine you're up in the sky. When I get to zero, I want you to come down to the ground. When you're on the ground, you'll be in your last life.” So he's counting “3, 2, 1, ZERO.” And he asks me, “what do you see”?
Huh? My eyes are closed; I see nothing. He said, “that's OK, mentally look down at your feet.”
So mentally I look down at my feet. And what do you know! I see old shoes – they look rather like the shoes I wore when I was in the Army in the 1950s. So I told him what I saw, and slowly I began to see that I was walking down a country road, intensely sad, walking toward a gate at the foot of a hill.
And on the hill was a house – a once-yellow house with faded paint. That house was my home. And as I approached the gate, two dogs came running fast down from the house toward me and began barking and then jumping up on me. And then a little black girl – maybe 10 years old – all arms and legs and pigtails – came running following the dogs. When she was maybe 6 feet from me, she lunged at me and grabbed me around the neck and was jumping up and down and giggling and shouting. And then her mother came out of the house, followed by my mother and one of my aunts. Before they arrived, the girl's father came around the right-corner of the house and walked toward me. All arrived with hugs and handshakes. Then the girl's brother, maybe 12, came running. Someone shouted for him to go fetch my brother, who was working in the fields.
Side note: As one who was heavily involved in the civil rights movement - I even had been president of an all-black (except for me) South-Dallas grass-roots organization - I was quite embarrassed by this scene. Who were those blacks? Had they been slaves prior to the war?
Possibly not; the father of Abraham Lincoln, for example, chose to belong to a Southern Baptist congregation in Kentucky that opposed slavery. Eventually, he moved out of Kentucky to Illinois because he no longer could tolerate living in a slave state. So maybe these black folks who worked with my family were not slaves . . .
Later that day, I was sitting on a bench with my brother in the barn. I was so depressed that I really couldn't converse with him.
After I described some of the scene for my class, the old man asked if anyone had any questions. Some student asked, “where are you”?
“Kentucky,” I answered.
“When”? someone else asked.
"After the civil war."
Someone then asked, “Who was your commanding officer”?
Well, I was in the 1st Cavalry Division in this lifetime, and I no longer could remember the name of my commanding officer from the 1950s – much less could I remember who it was during the Civil War.
Nevertheless, I heard a voice that said, “General Bragg,” very clearly in my right ear, as if to make sure that I heard it correctly.
I was ticked off. I thought to myself, “This guy is (messing) with my head. But when I opened my eyes, he looked so innocent . . .
I wept! Right in my high-school American History class! Just a glance at a black-and-white photo of the above painting triggered my tears. I surreptishously looked around to see if anyone noticed. Nope. It was the first day of class, and most were thumbing through the new textbook. So I took out a hankerchief and wiped my eyes and blew my nose.
After I steeled my emotions, I took another look to see who the guy was. The caption in my new history textbook said it was Robert E. Lee, the most famous general from the U.S. Civil War.
I had not the slightest understanding of why I had become so emotional when I merely glanced at his image. But after remembering my intense depression as I walked home after my participation in the war, then I understood.
Robert E. Lee had freed his own slaves before the war had begun and supported the work of his wife and his mother to liberate slaves. He wrote, "... In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country." - Wikipedia Moreover, he had given speeches against secession and in favor of maintaining the Union.
Nevertheless, he was a professional soldier and remained loyal to his vows to his state of Virginia - even after being offered a high leadership position in the Union army. My guess is that he also shared the opinions of his fellow officer Ulysses S. Grant when they fought to take the northern half of Mexico away from the Mexicans. Grant made it clear that, in his opinion, this was a war of great injustice. Robert E. Lee mostly kept his political opinions hidden, but as a moral and sensitive man, it is probably that he felt the same. Nevertheless, he, like Grant, did their best to fulfill the mission that had been given to them - out of a sense of loyalty. What a shame that so few today understand the supreme value of loyalty. He was a truly great man. Painting (probably from 1863 by an unknown artist) copyright expired.
When I got home, I looked up the Civil War in the Encyclopedia Britannica and sure enough, a Braxton Bragg had fought in Kentucky. Pretty clearly I had not remembered his name from reading about the war, for I really had disliked history up until that time.
Finally, I remembered my earlier reincarnation in Korea
And then, reflecting on the encyclopedia article, I remembered the incident that had happened at age 11 and the first seeds of doubt regarding the Bible that had been planted at that time (just a few months before my encounter with Paramahansa Yogananda in 1947). After asserting to my father that I did indeed remember an earlier life (in the Far East, probably Korea), he calmly told me that it I had never lived before.
"How do you know"? I demanded.
"The Bible says so" he replied - and he read me Hebrews 9:27 - "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
But Yoganandaji says the same - "You'll never be John or Mary again; when your life is over, it's done."
But Yoganandaji continued, " . . . the soul will be born in a new body with a new name." (Paraphrased from his audio recording on reincarnation.)
Not yet having heard Yoganandaji's explanation, I wondered, "What else in the Bible is in error"?
Were my memories of Korea faulty? I could not doubt my memories of having lived in Korea, for they were detailed and vivid, and had been with me ever since an incident at age 5 . . .
Back then, my mother had given me a little book about a boy in a land of oriental buildings - shown in drawings. The story was boring, but I asked her to read it to me every night; and I always looked at the drawing on each page. Finally, she asked in exasperation, "Why do you want me to read THAT book? It's boring."
"Didn't we live there"? I asked.
Rice paddies, with paths (see the person on the path - center of photo), in the fog, similar to those I remember from my previous life. Photo copy protection by CC attribution license, by McKay Savage.
"Of course not" she replied
The building that I saw in the distance through the fog looked rather like this one (but the courtyard was smooth dirt, not paved like this modern courtyard). When we visited the building, my mother parked me in the right-hand corner of the courtyard, then went upstairs. I could see her as she walked on that open balcony. CC copy protection, attribution, by Roger_Ro.
"Yes, don't you remember? I used to walk behind you on a little path and there was water on both sides and there was that beautiful building that we could see through the fog and I always asked you to take me there and one day you did and . . ."
The above 27-second animation portrays our visit to that beautiful building that I often saw through the fog. As we approached the entrance, I was afraid that there would be a confrontation. But when my mother showed a document that she carried, the man in the seat waved us through and the guards let us pass. But what most impressed me was the pair of scholars that I saw. Such fine clothes, and how dulcet the sound of their voices - not like the rough, guttural voices of the men in our village.
"Stop it! We never lived there"! she said, with her voice rising.
"But your eyes - something about your eyes - your eyes were different," I continued.
Then she really lost her cool . . .
Spiritual Implications of Reincarnation
It was not God's arbitrary decision to send me to live with parents who beat me (see video - 3-Kriya Cured my nightmares?). Rather, I was magnetically drawn to those parents by my karma that was created by my having beaten my children in the past. I don't have an actual recollection of beating my kids in my previous lifetimes, but surely I did.
Quite possibly I did so in my last lifetime - in Kentucky - for I was very depressed. Many clinical psychologists say that depression is nothing other than self-directed anger - anger that need not always be turned inward.
Generally it starts as outward-directed anger that cannot be expressed. Sometimes it can switch back to again become outward-directed anger (before the switch, it often can be repressed until the cost of repression grows so great by additional pain that the repression must give way to manifestation in the form of aggression or depression). Or sometimes the switch occurs so early in life that no such switch in direction is remembered.
This might explained the course that my father's anger took. Having been taught that one must obey and respect one's parents, he could not retaliate when his father came home in a drunken rage and beat up all present. Rather than retaliate against the source of his pain, he never blamed his father for choosing to drink. Instead, he blamed the institutions that he chose to see as the cause - the brewers, the sellers of alcoholic beverages, and the Catholic Church that made it seem OK by serving wine in their services. Sometimes we also saw our neighbor loading up his beer delivery truck for a run to the church before one of their socials. Occasionally we'd also see them drinking that beer in the church basement during a social as we passed by on the sidewalk.
To those who don't understand such displacement, this fury against these peripheral institutions instead of against the immediate source of his pain might seem to be irrational. But it is the pattern of displaced aggression that many who cannot bear to retaliate against "their own" take when things go wrong. Hence the frequent historical attacks on Jews in Central Europe (when Genghis Khan attacked the German tribes, they started killing Jews in their belief that the Mongolian attacks were God's punishment for their willingness to let Jews live in their land - a politically convenient way of avoiding self-blame for their inability to defend themselves). Regardless of direction or any switch in direction, anger mostly is destructive.
In my own case, it is quite possible that my sour mood in my Kentucky lifetime eventually was directed outwardly toward my kids. Except for the fact that I rebelled (as explained in the nightmare video), most likely I would have repeated the pattern and again beat my kids in this lifetime (my anger was great until I began to work on it with specific affirmations after practicing Kriya Yoga).
The great ones say that we repeat our patterns until we learn to fix them. Parents who beat their kids come back to parents who beat the kids, who in turn beat their kids (researchers have found that those who beat their kids usually had parents who beat them). That pattern repeats itself until one breaks the pattern by correcting one's anger rather than choosing to manifest it.
Some months after my divorce I moved into this Dallas home. Soon my parents came for a visit. Perhaps on the second day of their visit, I was awakened early one morning by a teenager voice screaming, "Open the door! Open the door"! Soon he was pounding on the door. Then kicking it trying to force it open; and then he ran to the back door and did the same. I presumed it was a family argument. But then I saw flickering lights on my window shade, and I thought, "Oh, no"!
I pulled my britches on and threw on sandals and a jacket and ran outside just as I heard the fire sirens on Mockingbird Avenue. Soon my parents were standing in silence beside me. Before the ambulance arrived, a baby started to scream, punctuated by an occasional shriek of a woman. As soon as the fire department ambulance arrived, a couple of men suited in protective gear ran into the burning house and led a dazed man out to the lawn, where medics attended to his needs. But they did not re-enter the house. Soon the baby stopped screaming, and there were no more shrieks from the woman.
When it was over, the house was reduced to a pile of ashes perhaps a foot tall. Neighbors told me a bit later that the mother and baby of the new family that had just moved in had perished in the fire.
Later that morning, dad and I ran an errand in the car. After a period of silence, he looked at me and asked, "Why would God do that? A baby - just a little innocent baby; how could God do that?
I bit my tongue, for I knew that my father had a short temper and was set in his beliefs. If I would have told him that God did not kill that baby, and, rather, the baby's karma put him in a situation where burning to death might be likely - there would have been an argument.
So why did the baby die in an inferno? Perhaps the baby in its last lifetime had thrown live babies into the Nazi crematorium? Maybe that baby had lived in a third-world country where husbands, wanting to get rid of their wives but not wanting to endure the disapproval that would result from divorce, had arranged for a "stove fire" to take the life of his wife? I do not know; but the magnetic forces unleashed by the law of karma cannot be fooled, and a father who would carelessly leave oil-soaked rags near a gas-fired water heater just might be the place for a child with such bad karma.
In my own case, it was not God that sent me to be born in a home where I was likely to be beaten. To the contrary, even after enduring the beatings, I remember arguing as a fundamentalist that children should be beaten. Can you imagine?
But by God's grace, I was able to overcome my fundamentalism and finally speak what I always knew inside to be true: Children should not be beaten. As one can see, it was very difficult to give up my belief in the efficacy of violence; without having had the terrible experience of the nightmare years, I could not have progressed to the next stage of my spiritual growth.
I hope I have burned out enough anger in this lifetime by Kriya Yoga (an especially powerful technique for breaking such destructive patterns) and by other spiritual practices so that I don't get tempted to fall back into that rut in my next lifetime.
You also may be interested in my Kentucky-reincarnation fictional extension - Seth and Sari.
For a remarkable case of reincarnation, see this YouTube video