1. Age two months
My very first thoughts are “ I must remember this time. I must, must, must remember this time. I will try my hardest to remember. I will be the first one ever to remember being born again.” I was lying on my back looking up at the blue and white sky through the canopy of a tree, from in my pram. (The pram was just outside the front door of my home; it must have been there as that was practically the only place it could have been at my parents’ home.) The visual memory is pleasant but the main feeling was of desperation to be the first to remember. I knew that I would be the first ever to do so. As long as I could in fact hold on to the memory of being the first to remember. I was fighting to hold the memory of being there before, as I knew it would disappear. That it had disappeared every single time … up until now. I knew that there had been a lot of previous existences. But I didn’t know any details about them. Only the memory remained that they had been there. Only the overwhelming importance in my mind that I needed to remember that I had been alive before. I knew that everyone else had forgotten, but I would be able to remember. I felt unique, and that I was bringing an incredible message through with me this time … if only I could retain the memory of the previous existences. I knew that I was unique and that the remembering was special. And that just made me determined to hold on to it.
A Rational Explanation
I felt, even when I was a baby, but older than in the above, that I had failed, as only the memory of remembering remained. I had remembered no details whatsoever of a previous life. I was born in 1949 and am 57 years old at the time of writing this. Despite the way the above memory reads, it is merely the experience of a newly born baby and cannot be expected to hold a great truth. Although it is an attempt at a true description of my memory, it has a deception of interpretation within it. I now have a completely rational explanation for this ‘re-incarnation’ memory and I most certainly DO NOT now believe that I was re-incarnated. Though I did believe that to be the case when I was a baby. So, as I grew up, I had this irrational, apparently supernatural, memory in me but I just put it aside as I had no details. And, anyway, I am a rational person and do not believe in reincarnation, nor in the supernatural. Yes, I ‘do not believe’ despite remembering being ‘reborn’! That is just one of life’s paradoxes. I simply put that memory to one side as a mystery and carried on regardless. But I solved the mystery eventually, decades later…. I could have solved it much earlier if only I had thought deeper and more often about it. I believe in ‘incarnation’, that is just a single instance of a life. Each of us is living proof of being born. And I hold it as a possibility that when I die, I might reappear as a new baby. But I would not be the same ‘me’. It would be a different ‘me’ with absolutely no link to anything earlier. This is not supernatural and is not a reincarnation. It is simply a belief that when a process exists, things fall into line with that process. There is a process for birth and personality. It has happened to me once. I did not exist … then suddenly, I did. It can happen again. But it won’t really be the same “me”. It may not be in the same time, or species, or universe… and I am not looking forward to it … and even actually hope that I am wrong. But it seems logical. And it would be a paradox. A reincarnation that is not a reincarnation. A ‘me’ that is not really ‘me’, neither in material being, nor in spirit. This is not a strong belief, just an idea that may or may not be wrong.
It is of course just an estimate that I was two months old. It was my first memory. I am sure of that. I have other later memories as a baby, mostly when I am in my pram outside the house. And I was told that I quit my pram at twelve months old. This first memory is long before I even thought of trying to sit up. I don’t remember the first occasion that I sat up, but I remember the first time I turned over. I think that must have been before I could sit up. I have other memories in the pram in which I am positively ‘old’ by comparison.
Prior to the key thought of “I must remember this time” I had no personality, no self-awareness of being a continuing “me”. The earliest memory was more a struggle to think and remember. A little like the struggle to think now when writing. Except it was very isolated. It was the only thought in my head, except for the colours and light of the sky/tree. A very strong thought. Fighting to remember.
One problem is that these very first thoughts could not have been in the English language. Yet I remember them in the English language! I cannot analyse a thought without using English. But I can certainly have thoughts without English. On art holidays, when I have been painting in colour for a few days, and have been out in the sunshine, I sometimes have gone to bed to sleep and, before dropping off, on a few lucky occasions, images flashed through my mind, one every second. Like watching a fast slide show. Some beautiful pictures, too. A hundred or so, one after the other. Originals, apparently, seemingly coming from nowhere. They did not appear to be memories. I certainly could not – and did not need to – translate those into English. I would like to have remembered them long enough and in enough detail to paint them.
I think that there must have been a change of phase at two months. Like ice turning to water. What I was struggling to remember at two months old was being awake and alert in a prior awakening of the same baby. But as soon as I realised that I was a person… as soon as I realised that I was a continuing being who went to sleep and woke again as the same person, I misinterpreted those first memories as that of remembering a prior existence as a prior but different baby, yet still “me”. That is, I thought that I had been reincarnated with the same meaning I would give to that as an adult. But that is an error caused by the change of phase. So by age two months I had a mistaken memory. I wonder to what extent a similar early self-deception in some other people is at the root of their belief in reincarnation?
A fractal analogy is interesting. In fractals, a similar pattern is found on different scales. For example electrons can be pictured going round atomic nucleii. Planets can be pictured going round stars. I was remembering different occasions of being awake (small scale – one day to the next – awake/asleep/awake/asleep etc.), but it seemed like different occurrences of life (large scale – one life to the next). Before the change of phase, prior awakenings seemed like prior lives as there was so little of ‘me’ to remember in them. And as soon as I was old enough to know that I was a continuing ‘me’, ie in the new phase, it was too late… as I had been deceived by the change of phase into remembering it as a prior “life” rather than just a re-awakening.
2. Age 3-6 months ….
I was a baby lying in my pram, on my back, wanting to come into the house. I hated being left to go to sleep when I was not ready for it. I could see the blue and white sky. I was just outside the front door and window. I saw my mother’s big moon-like face inside the house close to a front window pane just above me. I cried for attention, to be brought in, but did not get it. I could not do anything about it. I was too young to sit up. After a long sleep, I woke up and again cried for attention. My father then took me into the house. He carried me over his shoulder into the house through the front door near the pram and the memory fades as we get half way round the room, travelling high and anti-clockwise round it. The picture quickly darkens and vanishes once I am inside the house.
(As I could not sit up I was probably under six months old. Probably younger than that as I felt quite physically helpless. The memory darkened at the end presumably because went away from the stimulation of the sunlight outside).
3. Age 3-9 months….. these are a series of memories rather than a single event. I am lying in my pram outside the house and we were setting out on a ‘walk’ in the pram. I was quiet and happy at first, but then cried and was annoyed because the hood was yet again being put up, as it nearly always was. I was annoyed because I did not want to go to sleep. And I knew that when the hood went up, I would fall asleep. I have quite a few memories like this, as I remember the annoyance with the pram hood as a theme. Some of these memories are of being put down on my back, even when I had been sat up, so I was probably over six months old in those. Placed on my back …hood up … frustration … sleep! I only remember the settings off … not the returning from the ‘walks’. In some walks the hood stayed down longer than in others, and I remember enjoying the sensation of being pushed in the pram… but obviously only when I was awake to enjoy it. (Perhaps this variability in time taken before putting the hood up, and the chance it gave for staying awake longer sometimes, fuelled the annoyance else I would just have been resigned to it. When I was in the infant classes, aged 2 –4 years or so, I also used to dislike having to take the afternoon nap, although I quite enjoying the feeling of waking up afterwards)
4. Age 3-6 months …..I was being taken in my pram round the block. During the ‘walk’ I pretended to be asleep when a woman my mother knew came to look at me in the pram. I did not want to communicate with her. I did not want her to look into my eyes. I was shy of a stranger. I was unable to sit up as I know I would have been even more unhappy if I thought I could be expected to interact even more by sitting up. I made use of the fact that I was a baby to feign sleep to get out of an embarrassing situation. My mother talked to her for a while. The woman made ‘a fuss’ over me for a few seconds while I lay there still and with my eyes closed until she stopped looking. The ‘walk’ was a routine circuit of the block and I think I know where it happened. Near my aunt’s home. But I do not know if the woman was my aunt or just a friend or neighbour. But I did know it was a woman. I don’t see how I could have known where it occurred when I was so young. But later, of course I became completely familiar with the block of streets.
5. Age 5-7 months …. I remember the first time I ever turned over in my pram. I was in a harness and it was not easy to turn over, to get off my back. I remember the sense of achievement in managing to do it for the first time. Lifting the left shoulder up and over the right one. But when I was face down, I could see biscuit crumbs or rusk leftovers or whatever, certainly food debris, in the recesses of the pram. I could move my head to a small extent to look in the recesses round the ‘hood’ end of the mattress. I was rather shocked as I had been very comfortable and clean in the pram and it was my first experience of the concept of dirtiness. I felt disappointed and uncomfortable at what I had seen.
6. Age 7-9 months……… I was sitting in my pram, outside the house, watching my six-year old sister, Frances, and thinking “I will never be able to do what she is doing”. She was running around the pram. She was mostly at the foot of the pram, a little to the right (in a direction round about 7 o’clock if my head was 12 o’clock) 7) and a few yards away. Dashing off out of sight and returning occasionally. She was giving me a little attention but her activity was not focussed on me. I was worried that I would never be able to balance standing up like she was doing; worried that I would never know where to run to, or why I should want to go wherever she was going. I knew that I would have to do so one day. I knew that I was like her, in that I was a person like her. But I was worried that I would never be able to manage to gain all the skills she had.
(I suspect, but am not sure about this, that I had not long learned to sit up, and my fear was of the kind: “right, I have learnt this, what do I do next ….. Oh, no…” .)
7. Age 11-12 months. I remember leaving the house by the back door and walking down the back garden path for the first time, my first memory of walking. I was with both parents and it was certainly an ‘event’ centred on me. I remember the sense of attention I was getting. I only went half way down the path before turning unsteadily back. The memory, unusually, starts inside the house and ends in the daylight.
(There is a photograph of me is at about this time. It is a close-up photo and I am dressed in a white satin suit and am tentatively taking a step while concentrating hard on the task. I am sure that my memory was not created by the photo. And I do not remember there being a photo of me younger than that.)
8. Age around 3-12 months …… This is a simply a memory of blissful comfort. Of lying on my back, in the pram, and feeling that once again, I am in unbelievable comfort. I remember the bliss of just lying on my back in comfort and it being a relief that such comfort existed once more. Heaven! Happy!
(I had a hospital operation at around 12 months old and was told I had been in quite a lot of pain, so perhaps this memory was soon after the operation? Possibly, but it is just a guess. This is not my very first memory as I had a clear sense of being ‘me’. But I can’t place it exactly in the sequence. Perhaps it was straight after the operation and I was a little dopey, and not in my right senses for a few days? I don’t know.)
9. I have other, vaguer memories as a baby, such as having my nappy changed. And of keeping very still so as not to have the nappy pin stick into me. Of crawling. Of getting to my feet holding onto the table leg for support. Of my head passing completely under the table when I was stood up. Of being on my mother’s knees with her playing ‘tigers’ i.e. her pretending to bite and eat me. But in these memories, such as tigers and nappy pins, it was indoors, without the sunlight stimulation, and I was probably older than 12 months.
There are other reasonably early memories, but I am not as motivated to write them all down as I was for the very early memories. Sulking from my mother. Crying in my cot in my parents’ back bedroom. Refusing to wear a second of a set of two short toddler pants because I knew my parents could not afford it (though I never told them that) … so I wore out the first pair for their sake. (I probably did not realise I would grow out of the size and never be able to wear the second, pristine pair!). I remember being in nursery at two years old. Being sweet on two girls at the same time in the nursery: Tina and Lena. Suddenly going ‘off’ Lena for good during early nursery when she wanted to play ‘mummies and daddies’ with a toy pram… because I knew it was a girlish game.
There are two main themes. The first is that sunlight appears to have been essential for these early memories. There is also the frustration of having the pram hood put up when I wanted to enjoy being pushed for a ‘walk’ in the pram. The second is that as a baby I thought that I was re-incarnated, but as an adult I most definitely do not believe that, and have a rational explanation for the misunderstanding: I was simply establishing an understanding of the concept of ‘me’.
31 January 2007