Morgan, My Love: A book about a writer who finds out who he was in a past life
Morgan, My Love was first released in Dutch and has gotten marvellous reviews, the 7th edition is already released. The book is about the impact of a past life as a soldier during World War II on the present-day life of a writer.
The novel Morgan, My Love from Bas Steman is based on a true story. A Dutch writer experiences a panic attack during a parachute jump. He is encouraged to find out the origin of his fear. A regression therapy session brings to a past life as a soldier during operation Market Garden. An impressive experience to him, but rationally he cannot understand it. He doesn’t actually believe in past lives.
While trying to convince himself this can’t be true it leads him to a small village in Wales, where an old woman never could forget him.
The novel was first published in Dutch (Morgan een liefde) and is now also available in English. It is based on Bas Stemans’ own experiences after doing a regression therapy session with Ilja van der Griend, a member of EARTh Association.
In this interview, past life therapist Willemijn Luijendijk interviews Bas about the book and the experiences that led to writing it.
Morgan, My Love is available on Amazon or in Dutch (Morgan, en liefde) through publisher Nieuw Amsterdam or the local bookstore.
In 2022 a documentary about Bas Stemans personal experiences will be made, by filmmaker Ariane Greep (Filmagine).
So, you wrote the book.
Yes, Morgan My Love.
And how did you get the idea for this book?
Let me say it in a different way how did the idea get me.
I had an idea to write a novel about the possibility that a soul and a body are different entities so I would like to play in a philosophical way what happened. What…
What does it say about life when we are a soul and a body, what does it say about love or what does it say about who we are. And um.. I did some investigations -which means I read books about it and then somebody says to me well you should really investigate by experience.
Who said that to you?
Well, that’s my wife Ariane. She told me, maybe you should do something like a regression therapy or so I said, “come on, regression therapy? Let’s be serious”, you know. But I was in a way—I was also very curious about it, about what will there be on my hard disk then. But uh—I approached this from a rational way so I found a regression therapist, Ilja. I found her because there was an interview written with her in a magazine and I saw a picture that -wow! She looks great- so she just.. she doesn’t -um- seem to me the person who is really from- well guna guna or
Yeah, I think she was very down to earth and that convinced me to call her and to make an appointment and I had an appointment with her and the first appointment I was only checking my questions: how do you know this? Are you certain? What’s the science behind this? And after three hours she said “Oh well, you spent all the time I had for you. You should come back next week and then shut up and go on the couch and you will have your own experience.”
And I had really no idea what to expect because I thought “Well, a regression and that takes an hour, maybe one hour and a half and then I go on with my day” but that turned out a little bit different and that was the moment the idea of the book caught me.
So, what happened in that session?
Well, Ilja, she was looking for a kind of entrance to my subconscious and there was a moment in my life when I was surprised by fear. I worked for television and we had a great
rate so my chief said we go out for a weekend of having fun and drinking booze and for skydiving. And I was in a way really looking forward to it because well, I’m a thrill seeker
and um- especially on that age.
So, how old were you then?
So, uh- but I was caught by surprise by fear then. We were in the- in the dressing room, well, packing our parachute gear and then I was- well I froze. I was completely- uh, well, overwhelmed by panic and there was a voice in me that said, “If you’re going for a jump you will die.” Like what? But okay, I found my escape. I said I’m not going to jump. I take some flying lessons and nobody noticed but, in this regression, or before it, Ilja was pushing me back to that experience and my skepsis was very strong, I said “Oh my God, do you what? What am I doing here?” and I got those that I called the Muppet grannies- well, in my mind, who are always spoiling everything or criticizing everything but they- they silenced after a couple of minutes and then I got an experience and I say “I” because my perspective was from my own view. I was hanging on a parachute, wearing a uniform and there was an instant knowing in my body: oh my god, this is September 1944, Market Garden Ginkel Heath (Ginkelse Heide). And the strange thing was that it was not kind of memory but while not kind of a memory of my mind, it was a memory of my body.
My fear was there. My adrenaline was there.
The rush was there. Yeah, and it was not like a beautiful movie. It was- it were flashes, rushes. But I was so scared. So and that was just the beginning of the regression and I wasn’t prepared for an experience like this.
So you- I think she led you through death.
You can say that because I went through the whole experience of 1944 again and also I experienced my own death and that was very heavy but also a kind of relief because fear stopped.
So it was I was experiencing the fear and I was thinking “Oh, as long as I feel the fear I’m alive.” So I love fear but I hate fear- so just you know what I mean? It was mixed.
Exactly, yeah and then these- these bullets came and um- I was laying on the couch and my body was shaking and I was crying but I was really upset about the authorities who just-
“Oh wow! They screwed us with this idiot war and things” but the strongest feeling that came free was sorrow- there was a like a boom of sorrow that exploded him uh-
About your own life or about loved ones you lost?
Well, the last. Not my own life. Now my own life was- was done. That was that was the freedom of the relief of I don’t feel fear anymore but at the same time there was the sorrow was about I couldn’t tell the people I love, I love them and that was something that turned to be a very strong drive to write this novel but it was more to do the investigations because when I… Ilja she asked me of that- at that moment after I died, “go back to your youth and describe or well go back to your youth.” Okay, I’ll go back to my youth. No.
The youth of the past life?
Yeah. The youth of- yeah. And uh- “what do you see and who are you then” and well, I described a house; a little white house with a shed and there was something about a bike. There was something with a bike and then Ilja asked “What’s your name there?” and then I became a little bit pissed because how do I know what my name is there, what a terrible question and let’s stop with this and, but then she asked me a very intelligent question: “If you knew, what would have been your name then?” And then I was quiet for a time and then, from some depth of my mind or soul came a name and that was “Morgan”- I said, my name is Morgan and that was a name I never use. If I said Harry or Johnny or Phillip or Billy or-
-I was doing something different now.
Morgan. And Morgan can be your first name or a last name.
Yeah, but I was sure it was a first name and after this regression which took more than three hours I went home. I don’t know how I get there but I got home and after a while I could only cry and was very very emotional but after a while my ratio was there- was there again and then I started my investigation. This is ridiculous, this is a fantasy, so I started looking on the internet to find things that prove that it was all-
That it proved you’re wrong.
Yeah, true- that this was all rubbish, but I found a name. There was only one paratrooper with the name Morgan.
Aged 26 when he died.
26 when he died and he came from Wales, from a little village of Pontardawe which was pretty close to the sea, like I described in the regression and I was curious, I found all the people in that area that with the same name, the Probert was his second name- with the intention can I call them and say what I experienced. I know, this is- this is ridiculous, I didn’t- I didn’t call them and because I thought “hey, there is something with the date”
because in this regression I was very sure I only experienced only one night. We were dropped- one night and he died. And I found out this Morgan died on September 19th and I knew from the school books that Market Garden Operation started on the 17th so it were two nights. So I said “Ah, I’m free.”
“It’s not true!”
That’s not true and I’m Bas again, fuck it- but then I saw he was a member of the 10th battalion which were dropped on Monday 18th and there’s the one night so there was a name-
Goosebumps, emotions and there was a date and then, uh we went to Wales because well, I was curious but still trying to prove it was all not true-
That’s the best way to investigate by the way.
Let’s go on.
I had no choice because my emotions were pretty clear but my- my head said “oh no, can’t be!” so we went to Wales and we were- we met someone in the village who knew Morgan and turned out to be his former neighbour-
Everything is by coincidence.
It’s- um and uh- he draw on a paper where we could find his house which was still there and he said Morgan’s sister is still alive and that’s when I said: “Eee! Not going there.” She’s called Glennis and uh- she still lives on- lived in that village but I said “No, I’m not going there. What should I say? Looking great for my age?! Or what do you say?
“Hey I’m your brother-“
I’m your brother!
Oh my god. I don’t- I even was-I was still doubting, you know, I still am someday, I still doubt but um- the next day with the drawing of the house, we went to the street where the house is and as soon as we entered the street my body started to talk. Goosebumps. Tears. And I saw the house. I said “this is the house I saw in the regression.” Differently. Different because well some- some changes but it was, it was the house. So we drove home and I wrote a letter to the sister with some questions in it uh- because I didn’t know how she would react when somebody asks about her brother.
So, you wrote a letter instead of contacting her in person.
Yeah, the letter was- was more safe so I wrote and she was very glad with the letter because she never talked about the brother since the war. It was blocked, it was trauma, “Go on, go on, don’t look back.” That was the mentality and because of my letter her daughters started to ask about her brother and she- and she was 85 then and she was never- she’s never been here, she never visited the grave of Morgan, And then there came a letter from a guy from the Netherlands and want to ask things about the brother and my cover-up was I was a journalist and just writing about unknown soldiers- ha ha!
Just one of them.
One of them, yeah.
And you picked this one?
Yeah, and I picked this one. And she wrote a letter back and she answered about uh on one of my questions. I asked her about the bike because I saw there was something with a bike in the regression, I saw something like that and my most sceptical friend said to me, well if there is something from Morgan in you, there should also be something of his passion in you; so, I asked about the bike and I got the letter from Glennis with a picture of his cycling group.
Yeah. They were well dressed but Glenys said to me later Morgan was mad about the bike. He was a poor, uh steel guy but in his spare time he worked, he delivered groceries to get a racing bike. So he had a racing bike he had racing gear and every weekend he went with his friends for a tour and they had some competition together.
And what does it have to do with you then?
Well, I’m a race cyclist as long as I can stand on my legs, you know, since the day I had a bike where I was three or four, I changed the position of the handlebar to be a race cyclist and and I’ve been a race cyclist for years in competition. It’s my greatest passion.
So, you have the same passion.
We shared our passions. So and that was for me almost game set and match, the name, the date, the house, the bike.
And your mother came with a box of drawings that you made when you were a little child.
Yeah, because I was still thinking, “Oh, maybe Ilja pulled me a leg with this regression, she just opened my firewall and there’s some side story which entered me, in my mind.” That’s why I was looking for an escape. you know, you got it? And then my mother showed up with the box of all things from the past, from my kindergarten and everything and there were some pictures inside or drawings which I draw when I was five or six or four and you see planes, parachute, dead soldiers. So…
… a little boy with a trauma.
Unfinished business. Yeah. So that would- so the story caught me, I was no longer in charge. I had to do something with this experience.
And you went back to the little white house, did you?
Yes, yes, uh um- Glenys came here, uh um- I invited her to come over and I said “Come in September, then you have these commemorations and there are flowers and veterans and but she said “I can’t make it that day, I will come on Monday 18th.” Okay.
“and we will see each other on the 19th.” And I said “Do you know what date it is?” She, they had no clue so she came here and-
Because the 19th of September
Was the day Morgan died.
And we met at the Ginkel Heath and it was a coach car with 70 grey women and men but I knew exactly which was Glenys and she walked straight into me and said: “You are the reason I’m here.” But she didn’t know yet what I would like to tell her if I had the guts, and I had the guts. I told her what I told you. And she left this travel group and joined me to this place and we stand together at Morgan’s grave and she breaks into tears and I’m holding her, standing on this grave. So, what’s happening there? And then she invited me to come over to Wales and uh-
But her daughter told you something about how shy she normally is.
Yeah, she’s very closed to strange people. Yeah, but she said to me “You never felt like a stranger”. We were so- familiar from the first moment we saw each other, we were touching each other when we walk, we make fun. It was going too easy for a stranger.
Glenys: Whatever’s happened between the last couple of years, between them, I believe in you. I knew you. Did you have that? Do you understand that experience?
Bas: That I knew you, that we knew each other?
Glenys: I came out, you came on to me, I wasn’t meeting a stranger.”
Bas: “It is hard to explain everything.”
Glenys: “Oh, Goodness, yes.”
Bas: “Er Cof Am?”
Glenys: “With loving memory, Er Cof Am”
Bas: “That’s Welsh.”
When she invited us to come to Wales, I visit the white house and I said- well, things are changed of course but I was trying to describe what I saw and have seen in the regression and I remember things about the stairs, I said “Well, I think the door was here, the stairs were- stairs- no, the stairs should be there.” Which was correct, behind the wall there are still the old stairs and I said “there’s something about the front door, that wasn’t the front door I remember, I can recall. It should be a closed wooden- plain wooden door without a window.” And they were saying, no, grandma always had this door in her house. Well, maybe I’m wrong and then Glenys said “Well, no. Till 1942 or 44, toward the end of the war we had this plain wooden door so I remembered the house, of course from longer ago. So, my mind is trying to find an escape
Again or still
No no! Not anymore, now it’s- now it’s part of my life and I accept- I accept the possibility that a part of me or I was Morgan, and sometimes I forget and then I start to doubt again, well maybe there are other possibilities but then something happens like seeing a Canadian flag in a in the landscape for a little remembrance from soldiers who died there and then boom! Or somebody asked me a question and I suddenly break into tears and I can’t-
I just remember when you had a reading about the book and a woman came to you or a couple, and they had one of those wings-
Yeah it was- uh one of my first readings, lectures here in Oosterbeek, and even it was before the lecture, she came into and she had I think she read the book and she came to me and said this belongs to you. Wow. And then she gave me the wings her father found here after the war.
The wings that they wear on their beret.
On the beret. Yeah, yeah. So, I keep it like a treasure but the strange thing is I wrote a novel because I don’t want to write only about- well look at what happened to me. I want to
put it in a bigger perspective so I wrote a love story and when the book came out, I wasn’t
prepared on that people really would read it and say something about it but it’s published in 2018 and so almost three and a half years, and there’s that I’ve had no any sceptic reaction at all, none, even from my most down to earth friends, that’s also maybe because the way I wrote it, I put all the scepticism into the book with a lot of humour and but also after an interview like this or I’ve been on the radio speaking about this, people were -how do you say it- caught by the story but nobody was sceptic and said well you’re now you have to go to the lunatic asylum or so.
Well, it is the wet dream of every regression therapist-
The wet dream!
-to have a client like this. To have a client who can really confirm the past life that came up.
Yeah well. Yeah.
It doesn’t happen so often, so it’s really special.
Yeah, it’s special but if- but even outside this community of regression therapy, therapists-
Even there, they believed, they felt it was heartfelt.
Yeah I think so, they were called by the love story, about the possibility that love is stronger than death.
Because you wrote about your search and you also wrote their love story- of Morgan and Betrys.
Yeah, yeah. Because that’s what it’s all about, you can make a romantic story of reincarnation, we can say well we let’s meet in another life but then maybe uh you are very ugly then or and I am blind or I am born in France and you in Australia, a different moment of time so it’s nice for a romantic idea, so that’s the thing I played with; I don’t want to be romantic about the idea of reincarnation because the sorrow is still there, if you lose somebody; and in this book I follow Morgan and Betrys in their youth and the war came in between their love and he died and she is in a way still longing for him all her life and she’s now very old and now she’s longing to die because she believes he will be there in heaven but in the meantime, there is a younger guy from The Netherlands on his way to her.
And she is- her mind is lingering between there and here.
Yeah, she’s old and yeah she’s dreaming of him, she sees him, she’s going back to the to the days when their love started. Yeah. So it’s I think that’s where the tears in the book are.
Yeah, they sure are.
Yeah. So, this is him. This is the picture Glenys sent me in the first letter and this was -it’s a blow up because in real this is a small picture taken just before he left for Arnhem.
So, show them, show them Morgan.
We don’t- we don’t look very similar I think- the similarity is in the inside.
Yes, that too. Yeah.
So, I can explain now some of my pretty heavy reactions of things that happened in the world or when they send soldiers to a war or- wow. So sometimes I can feel, okay that’s connected to that period. Well, this is the book in Dutch but I got also in English.
Since a couple of months.
Since a couple of months, yeah.
It’s good it had to be in English because his family has to read it, has to be able to read it.
Yeah and I hope it will find its way in the world. Shall I read? Yeah?
The bus stop is on the other side of the village, in front of the post office. A fifteen-minute walk. They slowly descend the hill from the Probert’s white cottage, past The Cross Hands -where people wave- and past the local shops, over the bridge spanning the Tawe to Herbert Street. The shop windows are the town’s eyes; following them across the square by the
village hall and past the cinema where they had seen How Green Was My Valley, Gone with the Wind, and Casablanca; up to the Dillwyn Arms at the crossroads with High Street. Morgan walks beside her, his right arm around her shoulders, the fingers of her right hand entwined with his. But how does she feel? Empty, shattered, like she’s suffocating.
What if the bus doesn’t come, or it arrives too late in Swansea, and he misses the train? She is totally unprepared for the overwhelming confusion she feels. “Don’t go!”
He looks at her, their faces together. “This is a must. I don’t want to let down my brothers.”
Brothers? It’s the first time she’s heard him use that word. Brothers, men who were strangers just a few months ago. She rests her head against his chest and feels his hands around her: a sculpture of two lovers outside space and time. Resolutely, but with a loving tone, he says something about trust, that she should take care of his parents, that he’ll write her again soon. Then follows a sentence he must have read somewhere that has always stayed with her: “Love’s binding force shall not be severed by distance nor time.” He runs his fingers through her hair. She feels his heart pounding. In her mind’s eye she sees him running after her on the beach at Rhossili, feels him swooping her across The Rink dance floor. She hears tools falling in the shed, the squeaking of the chair he’s sitting in, his laughter. Of course, he’ll come back. Montgomery is our best strategist, he won’t take unnecessary risks. A few weeks, it’ll only be a few weeks.
“You have everything?” she anxiously asks.
“So, when I return make sure your hair is done and you look at me the way you did last night.” A smile with a serious gaze directly above.
She sighs. Her body fills with dread again.
The bus approaches with a threatening hum. “Just go” she says, feeling his arms loosen their grip, hearing him say her name.
“Betrys, I will see you soon”, he says. “The war is going to be over in no time.”
“Yes, see you soon”, she repeats, not knowing what else to say.
The bus door opens. Her head is spinning. Morgan gets in, walks down the aisle and finds a spot by the window. It feels like a film, a play: his fingertips against the glass; she dramatically mirrors his gesture. They look at each other, but the reflection in the glass obscures his face. The bus begins to move. She runs alongside, a few paces, her fingertips reaching for his behind glass. She has to let go. She waves. Powerless. He’s off, her love, a shadow in a teetering bus.
There are more than 1700 soldiers. This is the grave of Morgan, so I can put the picture-
I put the books here. Though far away, across the foam-
Your memory lives in our hearts, at home.
It’s weird, weird to see your own grave
Yeah, you could say so, yeah, every time it’s weird too because you try to understand what’s maybe not meant to be understood.