By David Templeton
Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to interesting movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. This time, VCR in hand, he attends a national past-lives convention to discuss the little-known reincarnation thriller Dead Again with author Carol Bowman and counselor Phillip Schultz.
In the hotel, on the way up to room 2029, I pause to shift my pack–containing a VCR, several connector cables, and a video of Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again–from one arm to the other. The large, sunlit lobby is nicely crammed with people, many of them attendees of the annual convention of the Association for Past Life Research and Therapies, an international group dedicated to increasing the acceptance and therapeutic use of past-life memories.
As the elevator opens, the name-tagged gentleman in shorts who has been standing beside me is spied by another man, also (as the APLR on his tag indicates) a guest of the convention.
“Good to see you again,” they each exclaim. Given the circumstances, I can’t help but marvel at the deeper implications of this remark. The doors slide shut, and with a gentle lurch upwards, I am on my way to meet Carol Bowman and Phillip Schultz.
The subject of reincarnation has been often dealt with in print; there are thousands of books discussing past lives from both pro and con directions. Until Bowman’s recent book, Children’s Past Lives: How Past Life Memories Affect Your Child (Bantam; $19.95), however, there has been almost nothing written about how our past lives–if they exist–might affect us as children. In Bowman’s enlightening, autobiographical how-to book, she describes how she came to believe that her own son’s fear of loud noises was the result of his past-life experience in the Civil War. This eye-opening revelation led her to inquire about other children’s possible past-life stories, retold in the book. She went on to found the Children’s Past Life Research Center in her home town of Philadelphia. She is visiting San Francisco this weekend as the convention’s keynote speaker.
Having discovered that Bowman, like myself, is a fan of Dead Again–the eerie, 1991 reincarnation-themed thriller starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson as lovers who discover they might have been tragically involved in a past life–I’ve finagled this opportunity to watch the film again. Bowman, in turn, has invited her friend Phillip Schultz–another attendee of the convention–to come over as well. Schultz, a Marin County therapist, is the father of David Schultz, the Olympic Gold Medal wrestler whose meteoric rise to fame ended in January of 1996 when he was shot to death by his long-time benefactor, billionaire John DuPont.
As I attempt to hook my VCR to the hotel’s television set, they tell me how they came to meet.
“Well, at David’s memorial, I’d shared the story of something David told me when he was 4 years old,” Schultz explains, looking over my shoulder as I attach and reattach cables. What David had told him was that he remembered a conversation he’d had before he was born, a conversation with 12 men who explained that he would be sent to Earth to be “tested,” and that he was certain he would pass the test. David concluded by warning, “But I won’t be here long.”
The story, when related at the memorial service, had an immensely calming effect on the crowd. Eventually, Bowman heard of it, and contacted Schultz. They’ve been friends ever since.
“To me,” he adds, “when I really think of it, and when my sense of grief and self-pity aren’t in the way, I think David’s death wasn’t anything but what was meant to be. And that David in many ways, in his 36 years, had fulfilled his life, and there was to be no more.”
I’ve apparently hooked the machine up incorrectly. As I disconnect the cables to try another way, Bowman keeps the conversation going.
“I think we come into this world with certain information as to the probabilities of what could happen in each lifetime,” she suggests. “I think children are aware of this when they’re very young.
“And somehow they are taught out of it again,” he adds. “We lose the ability to communicate, to be intuitive, to be ourselves. It’s as if the journey is to lose yourself by the time you’ve become a socialized creature at 5 or 6. Then the rest of your life is spent getting back to yourself.”
“And that’s the journey.” Bowman summarizes.
I’ve stopped. I cannot get the machine working.
“Oh well,” Bowman laughs easily, waving me to a chair. “It must not have been meant to be. What I do remember of the movie, and what I’d liked so much, was that it seemed true to the past-life experience as I’ve come to know it. There’s a lot of ‘bleed-through’ of past lives into our present reality.
“I actually had the experience, in this life, of uncovering my most recent past life in the Holocaust,” she says, matter-of-factly, though with just enough lightness to suggest that she knows how it might seem. “The memories had been coming to me in flashes, through dreams in childhood, and then when I did my first regression, I was able to see the pieces that had been missing. I saw clearly that I’d been married and had two children, and that we had all died in the camps. My husband had been political. I’d wanted to leave Vienna, but he’d said no. And I had blamed him, up until my death, for not taking us away.
“Within four months of that regression, I met someone at a concert–a professional musician, a violinist. I realized immediately that he had been that husband in that life. It was a total recognition. I knew it without any doubt. I believe that we came together because there was something we had to do.”
“What was that?” Schultz wonders.
“I had to forgive him,” she answers simply. “It took three months of crying and sobbing and grieving to do it.”
I remark that her story, with its emphasis on forgiveness, runs counter to the unwatched film’s notion that we are born in each life to revenge the wrongs suffered in the previous one. My companions laugh, shaking their heads.
“Would you have perceived David’s death any differently had he not told you what he did when he was 4?” Bowman asks of Schultz.
“I don’t think I could have put it in a better context. No,” he answers softly, “it would have been more difficult. And it would have been more difficult for everyone else as well. Because that story gave pause to everyone when it was shared. It gave everyone a sense . . . ” He stops, searching for the words.
Bowman, having written the book on the subject, finishes the sentence. “That there’s much more to all of this,” she says. “than meets the eye.”
From the Oct. 16-22, 1997 issue of Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.