THE REINCARNATIONIST by M. J. Rose (Book Review)

Josh Ryder is an American press photographer who was badly injured in a suicide-bomb explosion in Rome, and ever since has been suffering from what he calls “jerks” back into the past.

He lived in fear of his own mind, which projects the fragmented kaleidoscopic images: of a young, troubled man in nineteenth-century New York City, of another in ancient Rome caught up in a violent struggle and of a woman who’d given up everything for their frightening passion.

When the story opens he has returned to Rome, eighteen months later, now not as a press photographer but as a representative of the Phoenix Foundation, an organisation which specialises in investigating the claims made by children to be, or at least to have memories of being, someone else.

The elderly Professor Rudolfo and the young Professor Gabriella Chase are excavating a tomb where, it is believed, the last Vestal Virgin was buried alive in the fourth century AD. One morning, early, Josh joins Professor Rudolfo in the tomb, and sees for the first time the skeleton of the long-dead priestess. In her hands, she still clutches a wooden box. And in that box are six precious stones, the “memory stones” that reputedly hold the secret to uncovering our past lives. Suddenly, Josh experiences a powerful jerk back to the fourth century and, to Rudolfo’s horror, starts desperately clawing his way into a blocked tunnel that leads out of the tomb by another route.

Then an intruder comes down into the tomb and the elderly professor, trying to prevent him from stealing the gems, is shot. Josh, of course, who was there at the time (but stuck in the tunnel and unable to wriggle back out), becomes a prime suspect.

The story is a thriller, and none the worse for that, but the depiction of living in two (three!) different worlds simultaneously is very convincing, as also is the way in which people who have known each other in previous lives meet again in the current one.

If you know little about reincarnation, this book will be an eye-opener for you. Even if you are an expert, you will not feel let down: the author knows her subject.

I must add that I particularly like the quotations at the head of various chapters. It is amazing how many of the most eminent people believed that they had lived before and would live again. Three examples from this book:

As the stars looked to me when I was a shepherd in Assyria, they look to me now in New England. (Henry David Thoreau)

Finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shall, in some shape or another, always exist. (Benjamin Franklin)

The tomb is not a blind alley: it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight. It opens on the dawn. (Victor Hugo)

Click on the image to read M.J. Rose herself on The Reincarnationist

In My Last Life I Was A Woman


In my last life I was a woman.
I lived in India. Uttar Pradesh.

Sometimes I still feel like
a woman who lives in Uttar Pradesh

speaks Hindi, worships Siva
and the local goddess, Lalita as Candika.

Her man went to the city, never came back.
My man. He died. No one told her but she knew.

Her two sons followed him. My sons. Me,
I never left the village. Hardly ever left

that little yard where I squatted in the dust
and ground the meal, thrusting away the hen –

The lurki – the name comes back –
that I would never kill. I never saw traffic, not like now, here,

crowded streets, traffic lights, people thrusting and swirling,
clucking like a thousand greedy hens

pouring down into the underground and onto the train
locked in and rocketing beneath the city like in a submarine.

I want to get out. I want to get back to
my Indian roots. Or my submarine roots.

I never saw the sea then, either,
except in my dreams. In my dreams

I was a fish.

Your Thoughts at the Moment You Die

If your thoughts are centered on Brahman you will not be reborn, but will know everlasting bliss.

If your thoughts at the moment you die are centered on what might have been, on vain regrets, you will live it all again – but perhaps not do it all the same again.

If your thoughts are centered on a woman you will be reborn as a woman.

If your thoughts are ones of fear and trepidation, you will be reborn as a fearful, timorous beast – a deer or a mouse, or a little bird.

If you are full of anger, you will be reborn as a tiger – or a snarling dog.

Another Time

I kissed
you when your spear hissed
towards that mammoth lost in a silent day-dream,
slid through its eye.

I consoled you after Tibu, running to hide,
laughing, skipping along the banks of the old Nile in flood
slipped and fell;
and though I raced there, crashed
into the water, thrashed towards him
I could not
could not
before that crocodile
and the blood, blood of your child, everywhere.

In a cave, millennia before,
I know I watched you
as flames caught and licked
the little sticks I had laid,
you so young still in the dusk, cold and hungry,
eyes drinking in the fire,
waiting to be fed.

Another time,
I held you in my arms, an old, old woman,
held you so that you could breathe as
your heart laboured and failed –
thought I was helping you let go
when really you were helping me, who would not let you
and was holding, holding, holding …

The tide turns and flows: again I hold you in my arms,
this time young wife, young bride
once more.