The last time I died was in Jerusalem in 1276. Pope Gregory X's Crusade against Islam had collapsed and the Christians of the city would soon be abandoned to their fate. My final hours were filled with death. I was besieged in a beautiful vaulted church along with 100 knights. Smokey candlelight glinted off their armour. Some knights were praying, others resting. As dawn broke over the city they readied themselves for the final conflict with an implacable foe. Even the most devout were terrified. All knew that only a handful would survive the coming day. I watched their preparations for battle. The sharpening of swords and lances. The reinforcing of shields and armour. But most of all, I prepared for my own death. As a monk in a city of Muslims, my chances of surviving the coming assault were slim. Soon after the knights left the church, I retreated to a small side chapel to pray. I was desperate for forgiveness. I had travelled from a small monastery in Kent to the Holy Land so that I could kill Muslims. Although I still hated Islam, I found it hard to love my ‘own' side. The decadence and corruption of the Crusaders had sickened me. Now I wanted to be left alone to live in peace. But it was too late. I watched as the flames roared up the sides of the chapel. I hoped it was only purgatory but feared it was hell. Soon I, too, was on fire and burning like a Roman candle. I didn't feel any pain - I knew I was going to die and that my Lord would make it swift. Out of the blackness I could see a burning white light. A calm voice asked me what I had learned from my life and whether there was any knowledge I wished to carry with me to the next.
It was the voice of David Wells, a past-life regression therapist who had put me into a trance and guided me back to my ‘former incarnation'. To many, the idea of reincarnation will seem like bunkum, but it is garnering a surprising degree of respectable scientific support. Today in London sees a major international conference on the subject in memory of the late Dr Ian Stevenson, an American scientist who spent decades studying the discipline.