Ancient memories

A tourist tells me about his past life as a medieval knight called Sir Roger de Pomfrey. He claims he fought both Moors and Turks before returning to England to have a passionate affair with the future queen. I smile indulgently at the fellow’s prattle. Humouring people with crackpot delusions is a pastime I have always enjoyed.

“Your lady’s heart must have been torn in two when the king proposed to her,” I suggest.

“Too right!” he affirms. “She came to me with tears in her eyes and said: ‘Oh Roger, I shall imagine thy burning eyes and feel thy bulging flesh, even as the king doth porketh me senseless on the royal four poster!’”

“Well that’s political marriages for you,” I remark. “I bet Hillary was thinking of Walter Mondale when Bill swept her off her feet. May I ask how you had the good fortune to recover these golden memories?”

“It all came out under hypnosis,” he explains. “I met a chap who does past life regression for a very reasonable fee.”

“Ah, but of course!” I say. “How else would one dig up the mind’s buried treasure?”

Apparently quite a few humans can remember a past life. Why is it, I wonder, that those who lived in medieval England were always members of the nobility rather than Eric the Serf or Fanny the Fishwife? As 90% of the population of that era were peasants, one assumes the lower orders were doomed to be reborn as hedgehogs or snails. I myself have no recollection of my past lives, perhaps because no one has succeeded in hypnotising me. We gorillas are not susceptible to mental jiggery pokery – our jungle instincts make us too sceptical of the spoken word.

I witnessed the peculiar power of hypnotic suggestion in the circus. It all began when one of our female acrobats approached the cage of a rather magnificent snake, which was asleep at the time. Much to my surprise, I saw her write a little message and slip it beside the slumbering serpent.

I decided to retrieve the note to find out what the dickens she had written. Technically a violation of her privacy, I know, but justifiable in this unusual situation. I mean it wasn’t as if the snake was going to read it himself. So I gently fished it out of the cage with a long stick and was shocked to discover it was a love note. I don’t want to go into details, but the entreaty “O squeeze me in your coils, you enormous python!” gives you a flavour of the contents.

I happened to know that this woman was receiving hypnotherapy from my friend Smacker Ramrod, the circus vet, so I immediately went to see him to find out what he was up to.

“It’s nothing much really,” he said. “I just tell her good things about snakes when she’s under – that they’re beautiful, intelligent, sensitive and so forth. She wants me to cure her phobia.”

“Smacker, you bumbling quackhead!” I exclaimed. “You’ve made her fall in love with the giant python! She’ll jump down the ruddy thing’s throat if you don’t deprogram her!”

So he contacted the woman to arrange a quick remedial session, and reduced her serpentine appreciation to a platonic level by saying things like “Snakes make terrible boyfriends and are very selfish in bed” (which may be true for all I know). It seemed to have the desired effect anyway.

This anecdote illustrates the nonsense that hypnosis can plant in the human brain. In spite of being a firm believer in reincarnation (like most gorillas), I don’t for one minute believe that anyone can remember a past life. The beauty of being reborn is that the slate is wiped clean, so you don’t have to reflect on all the embarrassing things that happened to you last time. That would distract you from all the sordid events in your current life, which will once again be forgotten when you die. It’s part of the cycle of existence.

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