Woolger, Dr Roger - Other lives, Past Selves - As this highly unsavory individual, I found myself in the thick of hideous massacres
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Other lives, past selves [A Jungian Psychotherapist discovers Past Lives] – Dr Roger Woolger
The subject of past lives came up when a colleague of mine suggested experimenting with a technique for regressing oneself to a past life. I was skeptical, but agreed to the experiment. Jungian training had taught me much about working with visualization and dream imagery in a relaxed, meditative state. So why not?
Imagine my surprise, now eight years after that review, lying on a sofa in a remote farmhouse in Vermont, when images, at first dimly, then very vividly began to form, and I not only found myself in southern France, but in the thick of the Albigensian crusade! Here I was, now a practicing Jungian analyst, having visions that my own training had told me were not possible.
Had the visions resembled the stories in [a] book, my skepticism would immediately have been alerted. But my story, as it unfolded, was not at all focused on the persecuted minor lords and ladies of Languedoc. Quite the reverse. I found myself almost grunting out the story of a very crude peasant-turned-mercenary soldier of that same period.
This rough-and-ready character I seemed to have assumed was originally from the south of Naples and ended up in the papal army raised by the King of France to exterminate the heresy in the South. As this highly unsavory individual, I found myself in the thick of some of the most hideous massacres, in which the inhabitants of whole French cities were hacked to pieces and burnt in huge pyres in the name of the Church.
Images from that first remembrance haunted me for years, and it took three more two-hour regressions to complete a story I was, and still am, loathe to look at. Yet amazingly, it started to explain to me disturbing fragments of torture and killing that had come in dreams, meditation, and unbidden fantasy over the years, images that no amount of psychotherapy had ever really touched.
Also, the way the story ended seemed to explain a phobia, a fear of fire, I have had all my life. After one of the sieges the mercenary I seem to have been, deserted and joined the heretics, eventually only to be caught and burned at the stake himself.
As I reflected on the story more and more, other pieces of my personal history in this life started to fall into place. Since adolescence I had developed a very cynical attitude to almost all orthodox religion, especially Christianity. I found it hard to see any Church as anything but authoritarian and dogmatic, denying people the freedom of personal inquiry and experiment. But even more adamant had been my early rejection of all forms of militarism and a strong inclination toward pacifism. I even refused to join the Boy Scouts for reasons I could scarcely articulate as a teenager.
Could it be that from early on I had unconsciously been reminded of parts of that soldier's brutal experience?