(I'm not a musician.) I was taught as a child that I must not 'blow my own trumpet' as in talking about myself – especially not to say anything good about myself. I was also taught that much of what I could say about myself was nonsense and I needn't expect anyone to believe it. If I myself believed it, I must be insane. If not, I was obviously a liar. Telling my story, therefore, became a very confronting task. I am now in my late seventies, as I begin this blog, and it is only a preparation – things I write on the way to writing the memoir. Nevertheless, everything posted here is copyright and must not be reproduced without written permission from the author (usually me).

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Refusing Magic

Magical Journey 1. Seeing is Believing

It was a lie I told. I wrote this blithe little poem about my habit of not refusing the calls I receive from the Universe, but rather leaping to embrace them with cries of delight. I included magic in the list of those I'd embraced. And I did in the end embrace it, so long ago already that it feels as though I always had it. And yes, I did always have it. Nevertheless, for most of my life I tried very hard to refuse that calling. There were formidable gate-keepers barring the way.

For me, magic is an extension of the psychic abilities I was born with; or they are inclusive of each other. It's difficult to write an account that keeps the two things neatly separated, because that was not how I lived my experiences of acceptance, refusal, embrace. So I'll tell it as it was.

When I was a small child, my world included experiences others didn't share. But I didn't realise that at first. It was all normal, unquestioned, just the way things were. I saw spirit children (I know now) whom my parents called 'imaginary playmates'. I saw fairies, which I now know as nature spirits; but at the time I identified fairies as magical beings – as indeed they are, by some definitions. I had a grown-up friend too, who was like a nice uncle you could talk to; many years later I identified him as the Egyptian god, Thoth.

When I was little, I spoke openly about seeing these things – to learn that other people apparently couldn't. My parents put it all down to my 'wonderful imagination'. Other children were not so kind. They told me I was mad, or a liar. Some adults credited me with 'making up stories' – which they did not regard as bad in itself. Only my insistence that the stories were true upset them. I didn't understand the upset, and it was hard to believe other people were really so blind. I thought they must be the ones making it up, that they were having a nasty joke on me. 

Yet my parents were clearly not doing that, and they couldn't see as I did either. So I learned fairly early not to tell anyone any more. I laughingly denied the truth of my experiences and agreed they were just stories, so as to fit in better with the other kids and seem more normal to the grown-ups. (Though any precocious, bookish, dreamy, non-sporty loner of a child is never going to seem very normal in the Australian suburbs, nor fit in easily with most other children.) I went even further, and not only denied but firmly shut down that whole aspect of myself, to the point of losing all conscious remembrance.

Much, much later, when I had at last re-opened, I discovered there are many people keeping very quiet about things they think others won't understand. When someone starts tentatively talking, it's amazing what is revealed. It first happened in a poetry workshop I conducted, an adult education class. Something in the discussion sparked one young woman to open up a bit. So I did too – and suddenly we found that everyone in the room had had experiences we might call 'spooky'. But we were all keeping them to ourselves for fear of being thought deluded or just plain deceitful – because that was what we had been taught from an early age. It made me wonder if everyone is keeping a whole dimension of reality secret – in many cases, even from themselves. (Or are poets especially open?)

I think that many people are scared by psychic or paranormal experiences, whether they have them or are told about them. We are taught to fear ghosts, demons, and anything 'otherworldly'. Also, the rational, scientific age which preceded this one (in which more people are starting to 'wake up') was characterised by a contemptuous dismissal of anything that could not be scientifically proved.

You might think that psychic abilities are more a gift than a calling. But I think our gifts are our primary callings. After shutting this gift down in childhood, so hard that I, like most people, believed such stuff was fictional, however did I re-awaken?

It was like being blown open! But it began gradually. I was the mother of young schoolchildren when I read Colin Wilson's massive books, The Occult and Mysteries. It was exciting to contemplate the possibility that the paranormal could be real. I was fascinated and at the same time scared of it. My husband, Bill, read them too and his reaction was much the same. So we allowed of the possibility, but we didn't explore.

In the seventies Bill and I and our little boys made several visits to Bali. We fell in love with the place. When we first arrived I kept bursting into tears at the things I was seeing – not at all in distress, but because in some strange way they moved me deeply. I couldn't understand it! Finally Bill twigged: 'It's the Indian in you.' Bali then was exclusively Hindu, no Muslim population. My mother and her mother were Anglo-Indian. The family migrated to Tasmania when Mum was 15, bringing many artefacts from their life in India.

'Oh yes,' I said. 'That makes sense. I'm seeing all these things I remember from childhood, when my grandparents were alive.' And it was so – but I now wonder about past-life recall. It is common for people suddenly confronted with physical reminders of previous incarnations – revisiting the place, for instance – to burst spontaneously into tears.

On our last visit to Bali, in 1979, we met an elderly Javanese couple who invited us to visit them in their town of Semarang. We had plans to go to Java shortly after this couple's return home, to visit Jogjakarta. We were delighted to add Semarang to our itinerary. We hired a taxi, not realising how far it was from Jogja: from the south to the north of the island, hours each way. It was lucky we set out early!

At one point we passed a small house by the side of the road, little more than a shelter, where I saw through the open door two small children playing on the dirt floor. Their mother, a slim, tired-looking young woman, gazed curiously at our passing taxi. Her eyes and mine met for a moment. Suddenly, in that moment, I knew everything about her life – not details like her name and age, but what it was like to be her, the sort of things she did daily and how she felt. Simultaneously, I knew exactly what it was like to be a small child playing on that dirt floor. At least, these many impressions washed over me in just a few seconds, so vividly that I can re-experience them now, 37 years later. I can't, of course, know in any evidential way if they were accurate, but it felt as if those experiences and memories briefly became mine.

It was, as I said, a long trip; and in an old, uncomfortable vehicle, on a road that was often in bad repair. I thought that the headache I developed as the hours passed was due to all that. For some reason I felt impelled to keep quiet about the headache, just grit my teeth, breathe deep, and bear it. I closed my eyes, pretending to doze. Conversation through the pain would have been too much effort. Then, as we came into Semarang, the headache left and I opened my eyes to take in the town.

What happened next I shut up about, too. I saw in my mind's eye the scene around each bend, before it was physically visible. When we rounded the bends, there it was each time, exactly as I had seen before I saw it. I couldn't have mentioned it; I could barely cope with it. I am one who goes very quiet in situations of stress, never more so than on that journey into Semarang. Then all of a sudden the pre-seeing stopped and I didn't know what was to come.

We had a nice visit with the old couple we'd met in Bali. They took us for some sight-seeing, in the course of which they pointed out 'the old town' and 'the new town'. Their house was in the new town. Yes, you've guessed it – the parts I saw ahead of time were in the old town, and the new town began just where that seeing had stopped. 

One place they took us to was the wharf. I looked out over the harbour and 'saw', as if physically, two long grey warships, World War II vintage. But I knew they were not physically there because I could simultaneously see the scene without them. (Yes, it's hard to explain.) Again I shut up about it. But later, over afternoon tea back at their place, I asked casually, 'Did the War ever come to Semarang?' The old man smiled and shrugged. 'The War came everywhere.'  When I was back home, I looked up the history of the town in Encyclopedia Britannica. There was a photo of the harbour during World War II, with several American warships similar to those I had seen, though more of them and positioned differently.

I said nothing to anyone about any of this. When I got home, I tried very hard over a period of months to figure out a rational explanation for what I had experienced. The warships in particular were hard to explain away as my 'wonderful imagination'. I did briefly wonder if I was having past life recognition, but dismissed that pretty quickly because I was born just before the start of World War II and was alive as a child in Tasmania when American warships were in Semarang harbour. So I was left trying to explain it to myself rationally. I thought and thought, but couldn't find any workable rational way to account for these things. I had headaches most of the time. I thought I was going mad. 

Eventually I realised that I was still functioning in my life, and was doing nothing destructive to myself or anyone else. If I was building some delusional construct in my head, it was at least fairly benign. In the end, I exhausted all attempts to explain away the phenomena in rational terms. One day I decided, 'Well, if I can't find a rational explanation, I may as well believe the irrational' – i.e. that I had experienced some kind of extra-sensory perception, as it was called in those days. 

Well! The instant result was that the headaches stopped, my stress and fear melted away, my mind calmed down, and I realised that it was the effort to resist the truth of my experience that was driving me mad. Finally I felt able to tell Bill and a few other people what had happened. None of them pooh-poohed it. They couldn't explain it either, but they believed it was real.

I went on to make a lifetime study of the esoteric, in the course of which my understanding of reincarnation changed. I came to believe the soul is much bigger than we usually imagine – that it is pushing one fragment of itself out into this reality, and other fragments into other realities, perhaps simultaneously. In this view, it is not so much the individual personality which gets reincarnated, but rather that it rejoins with the soul and then has access to the memories of all the other personalities or soul fragments. On this understanding, reincarnation is not necessarily linear in chronological time; also it is possible that one soul might have incarnations that overlap in time and even place. On that basis, I thought my soul could have experienced lives in both Java and Tasmania during World War II.

With the young mother, another possibility is that it may have been a kind of telepathic connection. Or perhaps something about her or her children triggered a past-life memory too? (I suppose I should say 'other-life' rather than 'past-life'.) I can only speculate.

There was a third thing that happened on that trip to Semarang. We passed through the town of Malang. As we drove through the main street leading north, a man stepped out of a shop doorway and stood a minute, checking the street. With him, too, I locked eyes a few seconds. There were no psychic impressions. Instead I just gazed at him in amazement. He was the handsomest man I ever saw, then or since. He was brown-skinned like an Indonesian, but taller, and his black hair was curly. I couldn't tell what nationality he was.

He was dressed in slim-fitting pants and an open-necked shirt. He looked like a pirate, I thought, or a film star. He gazed right back at me, with the same sort of expression I must have had. (I was never considered a great beauty in my own country, but my very fair skin and hair made me one in Indonesia.) Then our car went past and that was that. Nothing very remarkable about staring at an attractive man, you might suppose, but he made an indelible impression on me. And there was a sequel.

We didn't know then, being away from news sources, that the Indonesian invasion of East Timor was just beginning. When we returned to Melbourne a couple of weeks later, we discovered what was happening. Two days after we got home, I saw a photo on the front of our morning newspaper, with the headline: 'These men missing, believed dead.' There he was in the middle, my man from Malang. No mistaking him. They were Portuguese engineers who had been working in East Timor, and apparently hadn't got out fast enough when the country became independent of Portugal and the Indonesians swiftly moved in to take it over.

Or had they got out? Was he visiting Malang on business that day, or on holiday, and did he afterwards go back to East Timor and get killed by the invaders? Or was he already making his escape – through Indonesia! – when I saw him? I'll never know. 

Was that encounter a psychic experience? Perhaps not. He was a VERY handsome man. And yet, after that eye contact it was as if his essence was imprinted on me. With no reason to give him any more importance than any other good-looking stranger glimpsed briefly in passing, I found myself dwelling on him – and not on his good looks so much as that deep, swift gaze into each other's eyes. It seemed that there was something even more compelling than our mutual admiration – as though some deep knowing was exchanged in that fleeting instant. But what that might have been, my conscious mind still doesn't comprehend.  

One thing I wonder is whether there was something about the energy of Java itself that made me particularly prescient? Could that have accounted for all these experiences? 

Perhaps they were all sent to wake me up to the fact that our everyday understanding of reality is limited. Once I accepted them –  as valid, if mysterious – I could no longer return to a state of ignorance.

That was only the beginning.

To be continued


  1. What a glorious read this is! I drank it in like strong tea. I find most fascinating the idea of soul fragments going in different directions, that is very cool. This is going to be one amazing memoir. I am staying firmly tuned, my friend.

  2. I've had similar experiences, but along a different path. I've felt other people's feelings when they stood next to me, or seen an image that meant they were in distress or needed comforting or healing. I have no problem accepting your experiences, even though mine have been quite different. I would believe that because we are unique individuals, our gifts and callings are shaped by that uniqueness. Thank you so much for sharing this,


  3. Ahhhhh at long last the memoir begins - I have, as you well know, seen this phenomena yet to arrive fully on the page ...bravo to this entrancing beginning ..❤️

    1. Thank you for waiting so patiently, Pearl!

  4. Must be awfull having to invent a pretend reality to fit into another reality that, for you, simply isn't real, just to fit into an uncomfortable sense of conformity. So glad you can share your light and clear the headaches. Looking forward to reading more.