When I was a little kid — like maybe four — I asked my mom: “I used to be a grown-up …right?”
Of course she said “no”, like most parents would. After all she didn’t know me then, and my little kid brain hadn’t quite logicked that part out yet. I just always felt old. Always. I was 5 years old when a friend of the family asked me how old I was and I held up all my fingers. “Wow! You’re getting to be an old lady!”, he joked. That just felt like the truth so I took it at face value.
And I remembered doing things: Sitting around in what I now think was a cabaret, one of those tables with a bench seat wrapped around it, drinking. Another time and place walking around in circles wearing hooded robes, chanting. I got a little older though and I forgot that I had those thoughts about my time before this life, and that I’d remembered those things.
In my 20s I dated a man in a perpetual existential crisis. Most people didn’t see this side of him because he was always making everybody laugh. At home it was a different story; he was an insomniac and would lay in bed watching movies all night long. He said he needed this to quiet his brain activity, that he needed the distraction in order to fall asleep. Otherwise, he said, he would lay in bed awake and think about death. And worry about it. I didn’t really get it, I was like:
“We’re all going to die. Death happens — why worry about it?”
He just didn’t know what happens afterwards. But it wasn’t so much worried that something bad would happen as he was worried that nothing would happen at all. He asked if I remembered where I was before I was born, where I was. I think I just shook my head; I couldn’t remember at that time. He worried that we just flash in and out of existence. I just …knew we were going to be fine afterwards. I don’t know why. I just never worried about it at all.
Kate’s read many of my past lives over the years. I’ve been a lot of different kinds of people in a lot of different kinds of bodies. I’ve been warriors, leaders, creators, teachers. The first of these readings emerged after we contacted one of my spirit guides. She said that we were artists together in the early part of this century, my last life. She showed Kate a big metropolitan city. She said that we were both women in that life, that we were good friends, and that I’d died tragically. I asked how I died and my spirit guide just said, “It’s too awful, you don’t want to know”. Kate took the city to be New York, and I took the scenario to be that I was a starving artist, dirt poor, a victim of violence. We looked at some of my earlier lives, and I forgot about that story for a bit.
One day it popped into my mind again and I thought, “Maybe I was an actress. Maybe that’s the kind of artist I was”. I saw myself in silent films.
Later on Kate said, “I’m really seeing a connection with you and Dali. I think you knew him. I think you were friends”. She names some other artists (I forget which ones) from around the same time period. “I keep seeing you around all these artists”. I noticed they were all European so I ask if it could’ve been Paris. She says, “Yes, my brain may have interpreted it as New York because it’s a big city”.
“Was I famous?”
“So I wasn’t someone I would have heard of”.
“No, someone is saying that you would know who you are”.
More time passes and it becomes this kind of guessing game; Kate gets details but she doesn’t know who I am. I apparently know who I am, but I’m not getting details. I go into meditation and have some really vivid past life recall. It’s like a movie, in black and white. I’m wearing heels and nice clothing, standing on a sidewalk by a street that flanks a river. I’m in a commercial area, and all down the street I can see these hand-painted signs hanging in front of shops. The graphic design looks like it’s from the 40s or 50s. I’m standing in front of one of the shops, in front of a glass door and there’s a stylized eye painted on it. Just an eye, no text. It looks like one of those Egyptian eyes. I have no idea what I’m doing there, or what this place is that just has an eye for a sign. I tell Kate about it in the morning. She nods says, “Yeah — that’s the Eye of Horace. You were visiting a psychic”. Of course!
Some time later Kate says, “Kurt would like you to go talk to Dali”.
I’m like, “Really? Why?”
“He says, ‘That guy has been a pain in my ass for years’. He says all he does is hang out in his room and smoke opium. He says Dali’s really depressed. But he’s always really liked you, so maybe you can go cheer him up”.
I said ok. So, I went to talk to Dali before I went to sleep that evening.
Sometimes — most of the time — I just talk to spirits without preparation. It’s not because I don’t need preparation or benefit from preparation, but because it’s not generally *essential* that I get through. When I talk to George Harrison I meditate because I know that he appreciates it, because he feels it demonstrates focus and discipline on my part. In this case I decided to mediate for a few reasons a) I wasn’t sure what Dali’s energy felt like so I thought I might have to work harder to make the connection b) I was asked to “go” see Dali, so I thought I should actually go, i.e. project myself there, and c) I wanted to see this room he’d been hanging out in firsthand.
My process is to sit in a darkened room cross-legged on the floor or on the bed. I might light a candle, I might grab a crystal or a feather if I feel like those things might help. Then I’ll just close my eyes and hold onto my intention to visit a particular time or a place, or contact a spirit. That’s about it. So I reached out to Dali.
I found him in a room, as expected. I could see his crazy moustache; it was all I could focus on. It seemed like the room was moving around it like a fluid. At first I thought it was just me and that I wasn’t seeing it properly. Then I realized that no, I’m in Dali’s effed up, Surrealist, room where everything is melting. It was a lavish space with a lot of dark wood and pictures hung floor-to-ceiling, salon-style. He was wearing a velvet jacket and smoking a giant hookah of opium, which I politely declined, since the room was already spinning and I don’t smoke opium in this life. He said,
“You like my movie”.
(Movie, what movie?) He shows me the infamous eyeball slicing scene of Un Chein Andalou. Oh yeah… I forgot he was in that.
“You did a… project about it”. He shows me my video class in college. We had an assignment in which we were to recreate a scene from a classic film. Later on that semester I also bought a 1920s style wig and made a weird Surrealist film in my bathtub, for no particular reason.
Dali seemed pleased. I hoped I had cheered him up. He reminded me of some of the more hermity friends I’ve had over the years who smoke too much pot and don’t leave the house all that much.
I went to sleep, woke up thinking about Dali. Had a shower and thought about college. I’d forgotten about that movie. I remembered the first time I saw it.
And then — I REALLY remembered.
I remembered sitting around in the studio at school watching this movie on the screen my instructor had wheeled in. And suddenly having the distinct impression that I was watching …myself. You know? You know how you see yourself on video and there’s a familiarity because you look like that person you see in the mirror all the time, but there’s also a detachment because you’re not used to seeing yourself from all angles? It was sort of like that, except this person also had a different face. I wasn’t spiritual and I didn’t believe in reincarnation so I couldn’t frame it, I couldn’t really say, “Oh well, maybe she is me” because that didn’t really make any sense. I felt like my head was spinning; all sense of time disappeared.
Then afterwards my instructor casually mentions, “This actress, Simone Mareuil, killed herself by dousing herself with gasoline and setting herself on fire in a public square”. I felt like I’d had the wind knocked out of me. Like I’d been hit in the solar plexus. I was in a total daze the whole rest of that day.
Because I was reeling from that for such a long time afterwards it actually took me a long time to notice that the Pixies song Debaser is actually about that movie. Even though I’ve heard that song, like, a million times. I just didn’t realize that it was this cult movie. Eventually, like my first round of past-life recalls, I forgotten that I’d thought those things and had those memories, and Un Chien Andalou faded into the recesses of pop culture, ceasing to feel personal to me.
I can’t say for sure that I am Simone, I can’t prove it. It feels like the truth. It feels like my truth, anyway.
Simone was born and died in Périgueux, in France.
There is a river in Périgueux, lined with shops, as I had seen in my meditation. (Although it may have also been the Seine that I had seen).
In a subsequent meditation I tried to extract more detail from that life, with the aid of a Szechuan quartz crystal. I saw some architectural details; a concrete slab with a Roman arch cut out of it and a cross attached to the top of it. I had no idea what it was. But later on I watched a YouTube video that someone had taken of their trip to Périgueux and there it was, that exact thing. From the view out the window of their hotel room, attached to the roof of an adjacent building. (Still not sure what it was — not a bell tower or anything functional looking — it looked out of place. Perhaps I had seen it often in my last life and wondered, “What is that thing?”).
I have another memory: I’m in a bathroom, and I’m feeling really sick. It’s not really verifiable based on recorded details, but Kate says I smoked a lot of opium in my last life. So I suspect I’ve smoked too much opium, or had too much to drink. Or both. I’m in a really nice bathroom having a really bad time. I don’t know if it’s that cabaret, or someone’s house, but it’s pretty lavish. I’m sitting on one of those toilets that has a tank way up high with a chain that you pull, and directly across from me is a dark wooden table with a padded upholstered seat. A makeup table. An ornate gold framed oval mirror on the wall, and pink wallpaper with a white scrolling floral pattern on it. It looks Edwardian, or Late Victorian. Probably decorated in 1910 or something. So, slightly out of date by the time I was using it, but beautiful nonetheless. I’ve been staring at this, hiding in the bathroom, fighting the urge to vomit.
It’s not the only life I’ve been able to pull up details from past lives, though. Kate’s seen me in various lives as gladiators, and Roman soldiers. She described one life in which I became the de facto strategist for my group of soldiers, but it was basically because I was completely insubordinate. I would follow my inner guidance rather than the man in charge, and so I would survive while my comrades did not. So eventually they ended up listening to me, promoting me.
Well, I’ve had a chronic pain in my shoulder blade next to my spine for years, it comes and goes. Nothing really seems to work for it — energy healing, massage, acupuncture. It’s an energy block. I went into meditation one night, talked to Devi, asked for healing. She showed up in a long yellow sari and lots of gold jewelry. She said, “You’ve been stabbed in the back”. I’m like, “Oh? Literally or figuratively?” She said, “Both, actually. There’s a knife in your back”. And then she showed it to me.
It was a very old knife. Not shiny, it felt dull to the touch. A dull grey, sort of mottled surface. Metal for sure, but not modern. Very, very sharp. It was almost like it was sharper than modern metal because its texture created a very fine serration. I did some research, and I found my knife:
Damascus steel. It looked just like that except its handle was wooden. It was my knife; I knew that someone had stabbed me with it while I was sleeping. I remembered making a decision to leave it there, energetically in this body when I came in. That I wanted to remember, and to carry the lesson forward.
Why is it important or useful to know this stuff? Well, I feel like it explains a lot about me. People talk about cycles in our lives, where we feel like we’re back in the same place we were a few years earlier, repeating patterns. I’ve heard it described as an ascending spiral; it looks like the same place but actually we have a higher perspective now, new tools to deal with the same issues. I think the same things happen with our lives. It’s like zooming out on another part of the fractal.
When I think about my life as a Roman soldier I can see how I am still reluctant as both a leader and a follower. I really just want to do my own thing most of the time. I often hear Earth described as a plane of contrasts; Kate’s discussion with Plink Plunk comes to mind. That contrasts and conflicts exist here to further our growth. On some level I always sensed it was an artifical dichotomy, leaders and followers. I think especially as a teenager and a young adult, when I would hear people talk about “natural leaders” but I could see what was actually meant was “pro-social people”, not “independent thinkers”. To me leaders are innovators, not managers. It’s something I still struggle with all the time. Not wanting to have to take on a “role”, leading for the sake of leading or following for the sake of following. I want to live in a world where we just recognize good ideas and decide to implement them as a group without inflating or crushing people’s egos. I don’t think that’s insubordinate. Still, I wonder what I did or said in that life that made someone want to stab me.
In my art life, I can easily see how I set myself up. I went to that particular school for only one semester, long enough to see the movie that I needed to see. I was not the only one who saw it either; I made my own film later that semester wearing a black bob wig over my own, longer hair. It was a bit of a bouffante, a 1960s style thing. Still, it reminded my film teacher of her; he called me “Simone” one day and felt me up like Dali did in that movie. (Okay not exactly like that, but he did come up behind me, call me Simone and put his fucking hands on my waist. It was gross).
Thinking about this, I am reminded of the Belle and Sebastian song Expectations from the Tigermilk album, and the Juno soundtrack. I guess I’ve always looked at my life through the lens of art, and vice versa. I just looked it up, and there’s a girl in a bathtub, with a black bob and bangs, doing something weird… just like my movie.
Anyway I can see how it’s hard as an artist — and as a person — to really know the impact of the things you do. Very occasionally people will say to me, “That piece you made years ago really influenced what I’m doing now”, or, “That thing you said to me a long time ago really made me think about approaching things differently”.
I remember I was in a total funk one day last summer because I couldn’t see the point in making art, and I didn’t want to do anything else. I was having trouble seeing purpose in anything. I was walking the beach and I sat down on a big driftwood log and cried. John and Kurt showed up and started talking to me. “Well, what do you want to do in the world? What would you want your art to do?” I was like, “I want to synthesize things and create comparisons in people’s minds. I want people to look at things I’ve done and think, ‘Oh. I’ve never thought about it that way’. I don’t even care if people agree with me. I don’t want to convince anyone of anything”. Kurt asked if that’s what his work had done for me, to make me look at things differently. I thought for a minute and said, “No… It gave me permission to be myself”. Which is also really important.
I’m weirdly fond of saying things like, “No one understands me or my work!” Half joking. (And I really need to stop saying that, I often feel misunderstood at work, i.e. my job — it’s like that layered on top of the Roman soldier thing, and I’m working it all out at once). But in my life as Simone, we made a film with no plot, designed to shock and horrify, work that was not meant to be understood. At the Paris premiere, it is rumoured, people actually threw up in the aisle. And while I do still enjoy that on some level, maybe it’s time to do something different.
Dying in 1951 means that I would never have learned the following, which I’ve taken from Wikipedia:
- Film scholar Ken Dancyger has argued that Un Chien Andalou might be the genesis of the filmmaking style present in the modern music video.
- Roger Ebert had called it the inspiration for low budget independent films.
- Premiere ranked the opening scene as 10th out of “The 25 Most Shocking Moments in Movie History”.
- Un Chien Andalou is referred to in the Pixies song “Debaser”. The film is cited by Frank Black as being a major influence on the band’s work.
That’s … really awesome.
Here is Un Chein Andalou, edited down to accompany the Pixies song, Debaser. In case you haven’t heard the song, or seen the movie. (The full movie is available to view on YouTube as well, but I like this verson).