Oh Holy Light: The Case Of Sherry
This case is from Dr. Roger Woolger’s book Other Lives, Other Selves (page 303). It was originally intended for Chapter 4 of Children's Past Lives, "The Moment of Death", which summarizes what past life therapists have discovered about healing complex psychological and physical problems with past life regressions.
This case goes beyond psychological healing. It teaches a beautiful spiritual lesson. It is an example of the infinite ways the soul comes to know itself. For every one of the countless ways in which human beings have died, there are countless opportunities for openings of grace and enlightenment.
Sherry was an attractive young woman suffering from depression and a general sense of poor self-worth. "I don't want to be here," she said. "It all feels hopeless." Relationships always seemed to fail for her. She felt doomed to do it alone. Yet she yearned for some kind of religious experience that had not been fulfilled either.
Most of the lives that came to her to begin with had themes of victimization, abandonment, desolation. But among them there were lives as a monk and then of a nun that reflected her religious seekings. It was in this context that the following story of religious awakening emerged in one of our sessions. Sherry saw herself as a Roman soldier in Rome at the time when the early Christians were being persecuted by the official decree of the Emperor Decius.
It's the army. You obey orders. If not, you are killed. I'm in charge of part of the prisons under the Colosseum. Those who don't worship Caesar are sent here to be killed by the animals and gladiators. It's very bloody, they them all: women, children, everyone. But they are amazing people. I can't help being struck by their courage and patience . . .
I am walking through a corridor in a prison. There is a woman singing. I hear a lion roaring in the background. This woman has been set apart for some reason. She is quite beautiful. I ask if she wants to change her mind. She looks at me directly and intently. "Do you want to change your mind?" she says. I ignore this and say that I could help her get out if she wanted to.
Over the next few days I keep returning to her. Her beauty, her self-possession, her light and calm are affecting more than I realize. Am I falling in love with her? I want to save her, but it's too late. Her calm faith makes me feel that I'm not good enough, that must be close to damnation. After all I've done, I could never be a Christian.
I think of moving her to the room of women where the soldiers take their pleasure, but it would only prolong her agony. She says I'm missing the point if I only want to save her for my own peace of mind. One day I'm watching her and it seems she is surrounded by a kind of golden light. It grow and envelops me. Suddenly I am expanded and out of my body. I'm above the Colosseum. For a brief moment I experience the other side of death. I see choirs of departed martyrs like a dome over the arena. It's all over suddenly. I feel I must do something for her so I stay with her until the soldiers come to take her. In those last moments she talks to me about Christ and his love. I don't know what I'm going to do now. I've never felt my heart open before. She talks about forgiving, of the need to forgive myself. I'm awed by her. She's not afraid to die. It's part of her faith in life. I realize I set the scene for her fulfillment.
They take her away. I stay in her cell and the light around me is there even when she has left. I feel her physical agony in me somehow. I feel enraptured but at the same time a big hole within me. It's as though she's still trying to help me. I hear her voice like a whisper: 'Be at peace.'
[He has more unearthly visions, that are described in Dr. Woolger's book]
This experience shatters the soldier's life. He manages to relinquish his post in the army and retires to live in a small village by the sea as a farmer. Secretly he is baptized and attends secret meetings with other Christians where they sing, heal, and pray. He live to old age and dies one night out on the beach under the immensity of the stars. As he leaves the body he reflects:
I am deeply grateful that my life turned around. I no longer have any issue around power, but now I know I have something to learn about love. The vision of the Colosseum I had earlier returns to me and once more I am above the arena. I see all the martyrs. Not all of them are pure, some of them are caught up in their own bitterness. I feel tangled up among these, since I feel in part responsible.
I see a vision of the woman. She tells me to go still higher, into the realm of Christ, where it is clearer, more full of being. She tells me I can't help those from down there. I can only call them up.
I realize as I reflect that much of that life and of this one has been motivated by self-interest. I must want others to advance for their own sakes, not for mine. It's time to let go of my self-interest. I still feel the grief for this woman: she was a kind of soul mate. She will always be with me.