The Power of a story:
Paul McCartney, a dead Japanese au pair and I.
In honour of Hisako Kawahara
In early 1980, when I was 10 years old, our family was invited to stay in a 14 bedroom mansion close to the small town of Tenterden in Kent. Although I did not think about it at the time this was quite a unique event. I do not remember doing anything similar with my family, neither before nor after the event. It was natural for us to visit friends and family, but nothing like this. We only had a very tenuous link to the Millers whose house we stayed at, acquaintances of recently made friends, I think. The only reason that I remember the family’s name is that we had a Millers antique guide book at home for many years. It was a huge tome of a book which I never felt inclined to look in and, to the best of my knowledge, neither did my parents. This disinterest in antiques is totally at odds with my love of history, but is nevertheless deep rooted.
The house was needless to say huge, 14 bedrooms alone would I guess put it in the top 1% of all English houses based on size. My 10 year old eyes had never seen anything like it. On the inside I only remember a huge sitting area, expansive and possibly expensive grey sofas according to memory pictures, around a suitably huge fireplace. In the evening of the day we arrived my parents, the Millers and possibly another family all went out for dinner and we stayed at home with the Japanese au pair girl who looked after the Millers daughter. I learnt the obligatory “konichiwa” and a few other words, but one thing I still remember from that evening and that left a strong “How can that be feeling?” was that when I asked her to write the word “tiger” she was not able to. She explained that each word has it own unique sign and that it was normal not to know this type of thing even if a person was well educated, as she was. I have since learned that there is a simplified Japanese alphabet, but it seems that she was not aware of this or perhaps I just got the completely wrong end of the stick. Not impossible for a 10 year old!
Several months after we had been to the Millers my mum told me that the Japanese au pair that had looked after me and my sisters that evening had been killed in some kind of road accident, hit and run was what she had heard.. The other three facts that I heard were what have kept this story vividly alive in me until today, 30 years on. One fact was that Paul McCartney had somehow been involved, though no specific details were mentioned. This was of mild interest as I liked his music, particularly Band on the Run and the hit from a few years earlier in 1977, Mull of Kintyre. The bagpipes from that song still do amazing things with my feelings. This McCartney angle made it somewhat sensational and if anything made me think it might not be true. Though on reflection I am sure that it is this fact that has kept the story alive in me all these years. Indeed, it turned out that it was exactly this fact that proved so valuable later on when I wanted to dig deeper. Fact number two was that the au pair had been out walking the baby at the time and people said that the only reason the baby girl survived was that it had been extra tightly belted up in its buggy. This was combined with the final fact that the Japanese girl had packed all her bags ready for transportation back to Japan, as if she knew she was going home, even though she was not due to do so for a long time. I do not know if my mum or I linked the facts, particularly the last two, to the ideas around reincarnation. My memory tells me it was mum, but I have no way of being sure (yet). Anyway, the net result was that I was left sincerely believing that this young woman who I had met and spent an evening playing games and watching TV with had calmly accepted that she was going to die. In my mind, she had taken precautions to avoid others getting hurt and had tried to smooth the process for getting her belongings back to Japan. This left a deep impression and pointed I thought to a calm matter of fact idea about living and dying. A genuine fearlessness for death. Later in life I would read many ideas of the immense spiritual value of fearlessness of death and its philosophical underpinnings. But as a 10 year old, prior to all these teachings, I had appeared to meet somebody genuinely fearless of death.
For completeness’ sake as well as for the critical reader I want to point out that I am aware with hindsight that I jumped to all sorts of conclusions based on a few bits of information I had heard. This information could have been true or false as could be my conclusions drawn from them. However, to get stuck in these details would be to miss the point of the experience as I view it completely. The point is that I believed without a shadow of doubt that this girl had been completely fearless of death. It was that child like belief that is often referred to if deep personal change is to be achieved. In religious life, faith and belief perform a similar function. As children we swallow stories like fish, hook, line and sinker, but this gullibility, this land of make believe, whilst full of pitfalls, is of vital importance for the unfolding of a child’s soul life. To reiterate, the truth of the story was in the long run of little consequence, it was the believing that it was true, which I think it was, that was of such huge significance. Ultimately I was left with the puzzle of how this choice of action of the Japanese girl could be possible. To my mind at that time it was inconceivable that, if I somehow knew of my impending death, I would not try to cheat death by for example avoiding all dangerous activities until the danger period was over. This was one thought that played itself in my mind many times. Why hadn’t she avoided going out, if it was likely that it would save her life? In my innocent mind she had an approximate idea of when she was going to die, after all she had taken extra precautions with the baby, and nevertheless she just let it happen. I sensed a huge strength in this young lady and corresponding lack on my part, but had no idea where she got this amazing strength from. This question fascinated me at a profound level. What experiences, insights or beliefs did she have that gave her this unshakeable acceptance of her personal fate? This question lived intensively with me for some time, although I do not think that I talked to anybody about it. I was fascinated that someone could act so differently from how I know I would have acted if somebody or some inner experience had told me that I would die on a specific day. What did she have that I didn’t?
During my late 20s and 30s I read lots of thoughts and ideas concerning reincarnation. I did not then make a link to the events in Tenterden in 1980. I found the clearest and most credible explanation and explication of this in the anthroposopical ideas of Rudolf Steiner, particularly in the 8 volumes entitled Karmic Relationships and, Reincarnation and Karma (GA 135). It is difficult to say when I arrived at that level of fearlessness concerning death that I attributed to the Japanese girl. But, I can say, with no intention of bragging, but simply as a straight forward assertion that sometime in my 30s I arrived also at a complete fearlessness of dying. I will try to describe some of the key thoughts and experiences that contributed to how this unshakeable foundation was created within me. The mapping out of these thoughts is not intended to convert people who consider reincarnation to be an ancient relic from immature thinking. Each person has to decide when the time is right to begin crossing the river Styx’s wisdom filled waters that separate us from knowledge of the other side.
Our modern world conception places many obstacles in the way of holding a belief in reincarnation. However, closer inspection revealed to me that these were in reality token arguments that when assessed critically soon crumbled. In later years and contrary to my atheistic/agnostic upbringing, I discovered a piece in John’s gospel that creates similar feelings of the immense strength (not physical but spiritual strength) that I finally arrived at. It is the piece where Pilate, who is trying to help Christ, is made to understand that he is merely a pawn in an event of cosmic significance.
John 19:6 When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. 7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. 8 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; 9 And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? 11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. 12 And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him:
By deepening my thoughts and reading around this subject this concept became more and more alive in me. Over time this gave me the possibility of finding answers to all sorts of otherwise baffling questions (particularly that of theodicy) and other confusing phenomena (particularly people’s lives, abilities, disabilities and fate). I do not wish to convince the reader through arguments of the truthfulness of the concept of reincarnation. When it is relevant to a person in his or her own life to find answers concerning this questions then they will find these answers. Openness to people’s experiences and unswerving craving for true understanding, irrespective of the personal consequences will ultimately lead to a truthful idea of what reincarnation is and how it works. In the same way that true science leads us to a more accurate picture of the material world around us through a methodical approach so also will an unbiased search for the truth concerning reincarnation also lead to deeper understanding. When this process is performed honestly then spiritual strength will increase.
Theodicy: This is the technical name given to the problem of how a loving God can allow pain and suffering in the world. Obviously quite a substantial problem if you really do believe in God. A problem which cannot be resolved without elucidating the idea of reincarnation and karma. From the perspective I gained through believing in reincarnation there is no conflict in the idea of a loving God and the pain and misery that exists in this world. I will try to explain such a bold assertion or in the jargon give a good theodicy.  To be able to do this though I take the concept of evil as intimated in the Bible to be truthful. I do believe that healthy and unhealthy forces exist in the world, but where I perhaps differ from many others is that these unhealthy forces are there for the benefit of mankind. They are divine gifts, godly exercise machines. Nietzsche once wrote: “what does not kill me, strengthens me”.  This is a succinct expression of a necessary component to enable me to understand how a loving God can allow evil to exist. Evil is there for a very good reason. We need resistance! Not too much, but not too little either if we are to grow. We strengthen our bodies by doing gruelling exercise; we strengthen our minds by learning mathematics, languages, sciences etc. But how do we strengthen our souls, that eternal part of us that moves from one incarnation to another. Here it is life experiences that are our teacher here. When I do not give in to selfish impulses then I am allowing healthy forces to flow into my relationships and actions. When the healthy forces in me are stronger than the unhealthy forces in me then good actions will result. If I were only good and had never experienced evil then I would not be able to have knowledge of good and evil and the concomitant free will that can grow from this. Without free will I would be a slave to whatever spiritual impulse happened to enter into me. I would simply have to endure what is served up for me, I would be a TV watcher, without a remote control or TV magazine or like a radio listener without control over the tuning knob. This aspect of free will gained through knowledge is one valuable way of viewing the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This story is an intimation of the spiritual fact that in the distant past a new impulse did come to humanity that would lead it from his spiritual home into a reality consciously divorced from the spirit world. This was an impulse that shifted consciousness from the heavenly worlds to the earthly realms, from the spiritual to the material. This is similar in nature to the process that happens when growing children with their dreamlike consciousness become adults immersed in the material world. At the same time as I awareness began to dawn first for a few and then for an ever increasing number of people.
If life then is the teacher and perfecting the soul is the goal then reincarnation is the vehicle needed to get us there. Anything else is on reflection inconceivable, especially given all the injustices in the world. This conclusion is inescapable whichever monotheistic religion you adhere to. This for the simple reason that if you have not been a perfect ( and who has?) Christian, Muslim or Jew then you will want to come back again to continue becoming more Christ-like, Muhammad-like or Moses- like. If you have been a good Christian, Muslim or Jew then your love for people that do not have a good life will mean that you want to come back to help them to receive the blessings and happiness you have found in a holy life. Only short sighted or lazy thinking can sincerely believe that God and my own spirit is going to be satisfied with me after just one visit to earth. Much more could be said to support how reincarnation resolves the theodicy question, but ultimately it would just be an expansion on the ideas of resistance and reincarnation already stated here.
When I think about questions concerning people’s lives, abilities, disabilities and fate the answer become a lot more palatable viewed through the lens of reincarnation. Why are some lives so tragic, some so inspiring and others so drab? I cannot buy modern science’s half-baked explanation that life is ultimately a product of chance combinations of atoms, for this is the explanation if you dig at the roots. I demand another more credible idea to give meaning to this amazing intelligence permeated thing we call life. Before I look at this in more details I want to paint a picture of the process that we all go through at death. My life flashed before my eyes…..and wasn’t it boring is a wonderful turn of phrase that contrasts what we hold most dearly with a fantastic trivialization. The phrase, my life flashed before my eyes, however is more than just metaphor. It is actually what happens to many people in situations of extreme danger and is a common theme with anyone claiming to have had a near death experience. This flashing past of our lives has two specific features I want to focus on that are of relevance here. The first is that it streams past the viewers eyes, it is there and feels even more real than the world that this person might be just about to leave. In this realm of time (my life time in this case) has become space and the past can be travelled to as readily as I can jump in the car and drive to wherever I want. This is the same time-space concept that Wagner refers to (Die Zeit wird hier zum Raum) in the opera Parsifal. It is significant that this happens when Gurnemanz is commenting on the experience that overtakes him when he views the Holy Grail. For most people this event of experiencing time as space will not happen until they die, but Gurnemanz is an initiate soul with a deeper consciousness of the spiritual world and consequently he can have this experience without having to leave his body, i.e. without dying. This time-space is more real than the most intense dream, you cannot get out of it and is something we all experience on death. Though through special training or karmic events we may have such an experience earlier in our lives. The second aspect that is so relevant and interesting is that this film reel, also called panoramic tableau, which starts at the most recent and goes back to earliest memories has a completely different perspective from the one we are used to in normal life. I see all the events of my life, but now from a ,probably, completely new perspective, namely objectively. Instead of merely repeating all the encounters I have had with people during my life I am compelled to always see my actions through the eyes and feelings of these people. So in normal life I might have had no awareness of the feelings of joy, pain, boredom, love or hate that I caused when I met with people, but now in the transition back to the spiritual world I get a thoroughly objective resumé of how I am as a person. Note this is not the potentially warped pictures I might of had of myself when alive, this is an objective picture, a dispassionate picture that tells me in unmistakeable terms what I was really like as viewed through the eyes of friends, colleagues, lovers, enemies and everyone else I ever came into contact with. Consequently it is a true picture of me. It is after this journey that we find out who we really are and in the same instant we cannot help but too long to improve ourselves, so that we do not cause pain and misery in the future. It is unthinkable to cause others harm whilst having spiritual awareness because of the knowledge from direct experience that harming others is also self-harm. This means that I intimately link the ideas of a panoramic tableau of my life, an objective picture of what type of person I really am and the yearning of the soul for improvement to the idea of reincarnation and karma.
Most people realize, though perhaps do not always accept, the fact that our actions one day have consequence the next or at some later stage. When I wake up in the morning and perform my daily tasks, go to work, return home, meet friends etc etc. People consider it perfectly natural that deeds done today will affect what they do tomorrow and the next. The reason I work hard might be to get that promotion. The reason I dedicate myself to the kids is because it feels right to do so for their futures. The reason I get blindingly drunk is because I want to hide the crushing emptiness in my life. Each one of these actions has its causes and consequences. Reincarnation and karma is quite simply the logical progression of this idea. The lives we lead today are in part determined by what we have done in this life and also by what we have done in other lives and by extension will also affect our future lives. Often, it seems to me, an emphasis is put on the punitive side of reincarnation, emphasizing the ultimate justice that ensues as people make repairs for misdeeds in former life. First though I want to consider good karma. If I have had a loving relationship with somebody then when I meet that person again we have something to build on. Clearly such a relationship will be experienced as rewarding and solid even though we might have only just met. So for example I might meet somebody and within a very short period of time have a distinct feeling that I really know and like a person. There is a strong feeling of attraction, but most likely devoid of a sexual nature. There is a feeling of nearness which is contradicted by the short time I have known that person. Such friends are very different from friends that we have acquired through meeting them many times over a longer period time. I am aware that such a thought can be perceived as naïve or wishful, but a thorough reflection on such immediate friends reveals unique qualities that can be made understandable through the concept of “good karma”.
Contrast such warm, rewarding and meaningful relationships to a relationship full of fear or hate. Here we have a completely different dynamic from the point of view of the meaning of the relationship. It is a spiritual law that if I have lead a life that caused much pain, then at the end of my life and for a certain period after death I will relive these events, but this time from the perspective of the person on the receiving end of my actions, hence gaining a truer picture of who I really am. If these had been loving actions then this phase after death would have been enjoyable as I experience what it is like to be on the receiving end of love. However, when my actions have caused much pain I have to feel all of that pain. Even though I might not have been aware of it during life, I now receive an objective picture of who I am. And, because I am a spiritual being I resolve to repair the damage I have done. I will want to meet those people again, to make right my wrongs. I will want to put myself in situations that cause me to feel the pain I caused others so that I learn from these experiences. I want to learn to never make those kinds of mistakes again. With these intentions in mind I together with the spiritual powers (karmic) prepare a new life so that I can meet with the people I need to meet with for pleasant or unpleasant karmic reasons. In each life we live we live with the fruits of old karma and create new karma. It is precisely this aspect that is so liberating for the soul. If while reading these thoughts you experience a strong feeling of “yes, something about this feels so true”, then a deeper part of your soul, which actually knows these truths will begin to feel stimulated and energized. Repeated meditation around such thoughts leads to spiritual strengthening and ultimately, if practised with enough intensity, will lead to a more conscious experience of the spiritual world. The concept of reincarnation creates the most intimate feelings of security as we become fully responsible for our lives. It has to our dawning spiritual consciousness true eternal value. We see the value of persevering because that is how we become stronger. We will carry those hard one fruits of persistence with us into our future lives. It is also clear that I will not want to cause others pain because that will come back to me, instead I will work hard to make relationships into mutually beneficial ones or perhaps even completely selfless ones.
Perhaps it is clearer now why the truthfulness from an objective point of view of the story was of secondary importance. The story, which I took to be true, awoke questions in me which I then felt compelled to find an answer to. It was only when I realized that I had come somewhere close to the strength that I had believed to see in that Japanese girl that it also dawned on me how significant the brief crossing of our paths was.
Long afterwards I realized thanks to the developments of technology I also possessed a potential tool to see how much truth to the story there was. Eventually after trying several search criteria Google came up with the goods. As you can see from the extract below I got a couple of answers to my questions from a McCartney fan on a Russian site.
For McCartney the spectre of untimely death was nothing new. Throughout his turbulent life he has had to endure the unnatural passing of not only his mother, Mary, but also Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, Brian Epstein, Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, as well as his close friend, Keith Moon. Although deeply moved, he was generally quite stoic. Ironically, it took the tragic death of a stranger to emotionally uncork the naturally reserved McCartney and force him to begin to come to terms with the tenuous nature of his own life journey. It occurred in October of 1980 in the tiny village of Tenterden, in Kent. Wings had been rehearsing in a manor house rented from prominent London publisher Martin Miller when they heard the terrible sounds of a car crash outside the main gates. Laine recalls: “Apparently, this young Japanese au pair girl who worked for the Millers was taking their infant daughter, Cara, for a walk in her pram when this supposedly drunken driver tried to overtake another car and knocked them both down. The baby flew up into the air and landed unhurt by a hedgerow, but the poor au pair was very badly injured.”
Dashing outside, McCartney and Laine instructed Wings’ road manager Trevor Jones to get the van and drive the little girl and her hysterical mother to a nearby hospital while they did what they could for the semi-conscious young woman until the summoned medical help arrived.
I was actually the first to reach her, but Paul dove right in and started nursing her, trying to do what he could. I mean he certainly wasn’t frightened of blood. It was obvious to both of us she had suffered very severe internal injuries and that unless there was some kind of miracle she probably wouldn’t make it. I remember there was blood pouring out of her ears, and her eyes were rolled way back in her head. It was just terrible.
To make matters worse, being so far out in the countryside the ambulance took well over an hour to wind its way through the area’s twisting, largely unmarked, lanes. McCartney, however, never moved an inch, all the while sitting there by the side of the road, cradling her head in his lap. Laine reflects: “Paul was just saying things like, ‘It’ll be alright, luv, don’t worry,’ but we were getting no response. At one point he glanced over at me and slowly shook his head. He knew. We both knew. Still, he just sat there stroking her long black hair, talking and sometimes even singing softly as she lay there dying.”
That evening, in an East Sussex hospital, twenty-one-year-old Hisako Kawahara died of her injuries. Out of respect for the privacy of the Kawahara and Miller families, McCartney ordered his London office to enforce a tight media ban on his assistance.
“I’m a bit of a cover-up,” McCartney commented in October of 1986. “There are many people like me in the world who don’t find it easy to have public grief. But that was one of the things that brought John and I very close together. We used to talk about it, being sixteen or seventeen. We actually used to know how people felt when they said, ‘How’s your mother?’ and we’d say, ‘Well, she’s dead.’ We almost had a sort of joke; we’d have to say, ‘It’s alright, don’t worry.’ We’d both lost our mothers. It was never really spoken about much; no-one really spoke about anything real. There was a famous expression: ‘Don’t get real on me, man.'”
I still do not know if it is true about the packed suitcases or whether Hisako Kawahara did even believe in the idea of reincarnation. However, I am convinced that the story around her death was an important meeting and because it was so important it must have been a karmic event That is to say, planned for in a pre-existence for the sake my own evolution and possibly Paul McCartney’s too.
 The term theodicy comes from the Greek θεός (theós, “god”) and δίκη (díkē, “justice”), meaning literally “the justice of God”, although a more appropriate phrase may be “to justify God” or “the justification of God”
 Götzen-Dämmerung (1888) Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker.