I'm taking a break from archiving some historical letters, and it occurs to me there is something I feel I have never quite explained adequately. It's a small thing, but with large ramifications.
I have mentioned recently that I obtained access to the History Channel by accident, as it were, and I have been watching some of their historical research shows. Some are more credible than others, but all use a similar type of detective logic, which is found, also, in my own study. The internal logic is always compelling (or there wouldn't be a show in the first place)--the question always boils down to, "Can you trust the evidence?"
Supposing the researcher is being strictly honest, or thinks he is--even though he sounds logical, is he, in fact, being rigorous? In other words, is he being precise and careful in his logic? Is he pushing and stretching the evidence to fit his conclusion, or is he letting the evidence lead him to its conclusion?
So, what I want to do is to take a hard, honest look at my own study in this regard. To what extent am I torturing my evidence? Or, to what extent is it falling into place naturally and comfortably?
I would have to guess that people do assume I am resorting to magical thinking, in order to force my evidence to support the conclusion that I have identified my own incarnation in the 19th century, and that he was a sort of literary "Zorro" of that era. Here's what I felt when I first obtained his biography (a student thesis written in 1941), which contains a handful of his humorous sketches: I knew immediately that he embedded "code" in his works, deeply autobiographical material, beyond what all authors naturally include. I knew he wrote in layers of meaning. I knew that he considered the humorous character he was known for, the Archie Bunker prototype "Ethan Spike," as his literary toy. I sensed that he had written serious work long before I found his short stories, essays, poems and travelogues. I also knew he intended a masterwork of some kind (as yet undiscovered). Early in the study, I knew that his first wife, Abby, was the love of his life, and that he must have been tricked somehow by mentors or family into his second marriage, a year after Abby died; and that it was an arranged marriage. I knew that Mathew and Abby had eloped, against the wishes of both families (this came up in a psychic reading).
As my research progressed, I knew he was very much like myself in many respects, including his sensitivity, belief in God, study of mysticism and the paranormal, and in many other personal and idiosyncratic respects, too numerous to delve into, here. The evidence for these similarities evolved organically; I didn't try to set down what I knew about myself, and then compare it with Mathew, as his character emerged from my study of his published works over the course of the next seven years. Similarities between myself and Mathew were not the primary focus of my study, as a way to prove reincarnation. But they turned out to be numerous, and deeply personal.
As for his literary and clandestine political accomplishments, I had already made a public statement, in this very blog, year 2006, that I felt he had something to do with the writing of "A Christmas Carol." This prior statement is documented, and that I made it publicly, when I say I did, is indisputable. As I began studying his work, I felt that he interviewed slaves; in one of my hypnotic regression sessions, I remembered him viewing a slave auction and vowing to take down the slave sellers. All of these things were later substantiated by the evidence. It is difficult to prove with certainty that Abby Poyen, Mathew's first wife, was the original author of "A Christmas Carol," with Mathew either collaborating, or editing it after-the-fact. But I was able to take the evidence much, much farther than anybody suspects.
On the other hand, there are at least three important elements of Mathew's life history, that I can think of, which came as a complete surprise to me: that he may have been an undercover liaison for William Lloyd Garrison, that he traveled in Europe, and that he was a teetotaler and "Temperance" advocate for 10-15 years. None of these are mentioned in his biography (though his drinking, at other times in his life, is reported).* I was also somewhat surprised at how prolific he was, and at his penchant for using a new pseudonym at the drop of a hat, such that I now have well over 600 of his published works under scores of pen names. That he had as many as three relationships with younger women--the first of which may have precipitated the break-up of his second, arranged marriage--also not mentioned in the biography--is something I intuited and documented long before I found evidence for it.
The point I'm getting around to--rather artlessly today, I would have to say, because I'm sleep-deprived and battling a toothache--is that whether I had a matching, prior past-life impression or not, the evidence tended to fall into place naturally, because it's a real match. When your theory is correct, all the dots connect themselves. I don't know how to explain this in a way it will make sense to people, such that they will say to themselves, "Maybe this is a real case, I should read the book and see for myself." It's as though people's minds are shut tight against it even being possible. But I am not delusional. I know when I'm trying to force something, and when I'm not. The deeper I went into this study, the more I discovered, and the more it all clicked into place.** Each piece of evidence informed several other pieces of evidence. That's what made my book so difficult to write--add one new piece of evidence, and it suddenly shone light on 20 interconnected lines of inquiry.
There were times I found myself trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. Those were the times that I had made a speculation to fill in the gaps, which wasn't quite right. (Remember--I uncovered a real past life, but I did not suddenly gain the ability to remember it, any more than anyone else would be able to, in normal waking consciousness.) I also found myself in that position when I was relying on something the biographer had assumed erroneously. For example, the biographer assumed that Mathew had split with his second wife in 1858, or after 16 years of marriage. Taking that as "gospel," whenever I speculated about this period of Mathew's life, I worked my theory around that date. Turns out it was mistaken. Mathew split with her sometime in 1849, after seven years of marriage; but he became unable to continue supporting the family (they had three children) in mid-1857, for various reasons. That occasioned the breakup of the family, which the biographer had assumed was also the breakup of the marriage. It was significant because the biographer had it that Mathew remained married for 16 years, then abandoned his wife; when actually, he was tricked into an arranged marriage with a woman entirely incompatible; he finally split with her after seven years, but dutifully supported her and the children in absentia for another nine years, until he himself was unable to continue for reasons which were not only out of his control, but were actually laudable. That is to say, he had been doing undercover work for the cause of Abolition, and when he was outed, he was blacklisted. That, and his business may have failed. But he can hardly be said to have "abandoned his family."
I knew he was not the type to abandon his family. I never bought that--but I assumed the biographer had done his homework well enough to have the divorce date right.
In another instance, I thought a daguerreotype of a young woman was his first wife, Abby. I tried and tried to force that conclusion onto the facts, even arguing with a photographic historian. Finally, I had to admit defeat, because the hairstyle clearly marked it as 1850's; and because Abby died early in 1841, and photography was only just introduced to America in 1840.
But then when I found Abby's actual portrait (or, what I am 99% certain is her portrait, based on triangulating clues), I saw that the young woman in the daguerreotype looks very similar. Mathew may even have had an affair with her on that basis (which was really not an affair, given that he had split with his wife some years earlier). I was not, actually, so far off as I thought, when I had to concede I was wrong.
The vast majority of the time, when I seemed to hit evidence which conflicted with my understanding of Mathew, there was a lie--either his own, intended to maintain his cover as the writer of a travelogue, or someone else's. The other people's lies invariably had to do with attempting to imitate, claim or steal his work. In such cases, it took a great deal of effort to wrest the attribution away from these people--at last count, if one includes Abby's work, there were eleven such attempts!--but I was always successful. I say "always"--there were a few instances where I thought it looked like Mathew's work at first, and it turned out to be an imitator (usually) or someone with a similar style (far less frequently). But where there was a body of work claimed by someone else, and I felt certain it was Mathew's, I was able to prove it.
Barring these attribution disputes, new clues tended to dovetail nicely with the evidence I already had. I just found another one, yesterday. As often happened, this one remains "suggestive," because Mathew was being so careful to hide his identity from the public. But it is in the nature of research that most of the clues can't be considered proof. You can get 100 pieces of evidence that are highly plausible, inasmuch as they lock right into place; but of those, perhaps only a handful stand as proof. So, I was strictly honest about that, in all cases. You can see when I felt or remembered something, when I subsequently discovered a piece of evidence tending to confirm it, and how likely it was I could possibly have encountered it before. You can also see how likely it is to have been a coincidence. It's all there right in front of you. I strove for transparency throughout the study.
As far as proving reincarnation is concerned, this study is like a football game where the winning team ran up the score to an absurd degree. There's no question, if one wants to remain rational and resists the temptation to go into cynical denial. I proved it.
As such, I have the logical, rational right to speak as the reincarnation of Mathew Franklin Whittier. I am not making an irrational, delusional claim. I earned it the hard way.
But then, if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody hears it, did it fall? If I take a beautiful photograph, and nobody sees it, did I take a beautiful photograph? And if I spend seven years painstakingly researching my own reincarnation case, and prove it hands down, but nobody ever reads it, did I prove it?
I say that I did.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*I would have had relatively little in common with the figure who emerged from the biography, a student thesis; this is because Mathew Franklin Whittier was severely marginalized by the primary sources of information about him. These were his brother, poet John Greenleaf Whittier, and Whittier's official biographer--who was also Mathew's son-in-law--Samuel Pickard. JGW appears to have been afflicted with a severe case of sibling rivalry, and there was no love lost between MFW and Pickard, going back to the early 1850's when Pickard may have prevailed upon the editor of the "Carpet-Bag," B.P. Shillaber, to force Mathew (an investor in the paper) to tone down the radical undertones in his submissions. Both Pickard and Shillaber were conservatives. It appears that Pickard's family bought him an editorship on the paper, and Shillaber agreed in order to keep it afloat. It is also true that Mathew kept the bulk of his work a secret by submitting it under a variety of pseudonyms, so that even his own brother may not have been aware of it. Thus, the largest portion of Mathew's legacy lay dormant until I unearthed it. This is fortuitous when trying to prove a past-life match, since there is no possible way I could have known of his work before setting down my past-life impressions. Meanwhile, the MFW who has emerged from my research is very much like myself--an understatement only I am in a position to fully appreciate. The difference between the ne'er-do-well literary hack with only one humorous character to his credit, who "abandoned his family," as seen in the biography, and the person who emerged from my studies--with his good and bad traits--is like night and day.
**Although I'm sure people think that Abby's authorship of "A Christmas Carol," with Mathew either collaborating or editing after her death, is one of those claims for which I had to torture the evidence, it was quite the opposite. I knew nothing about the history of that work when I first began investigating my vague past-life feeling--reported two years earlier, but actually going back to my childhood--that I had had something to do with it. The further I dug into it, the more the clues fell neatly into place. It's actually one of the best examples of this kind of research experience I can think of. This one is still shy of 100% proof. Since Dickens even destroyed all the letters between himself and his proposed lover, Ellen Ternan, one can be sure he would have destroyed any direct evidence of having plagiarized "A Christmas Carol." But the circumstantial evidence is compelling, both for his plagiarism, and for Abby and Mathew's original authorship. And note that my original statement was not that I felt I had written it in a past life--it was precisely that I felt I had something to do with it, which turned out to be the more correct statement.
Music opening this page: "The Great Historical Bum," sung by The Chad Mitchell Trio, from the album, "At the Bitter End"