This will not be nearly as interesting, I think, as the previous entry of three days ago, which contains a bit of detective work (the link for the Archive is at the bottom of the page). But it's a subject I feel the urge to include, as I address different aspects of my book and its creation.
Yesterday was the first time that this website broke the 500 unique visitors barrier--it registered at 525 this morning, and will be more after the overnight contingent is included. That's double what the normal average was a few months ago. Still, there is little interest in my book; and these are not large numbers by internet standards. You know that when you introduce something outside the bounds of conventional wisdom, the first response by Society is to ignore you. Eventually, if you hang in there, or if you start to gather enough notoriety to become a blip on the mass radar screen, you are ridiculed. If, however, you gain ground and persist in it, you are attacked--fairly or unfairly. Sometime in the distant future, another generation may applaud your work. I am still in the stage of being ignored.
I am now 62, soon to be 63 (on Christmas Day). I may or may not make it through the second and third stages--likely I will never see the fourth one. But I was keenly aware of stage three when I wrote this book; and more importantly, as I continued to revise it.
Not being a trained historian, throughout the writing process I was making naive mistakes--some bad enough to make a real academician blush. I thought AET--Latin for "at the age of"--on a tombstone, was "ET," meaning "estimated." I didn't know that "1w" in front of a pseudonym meant that it was an ad which would run for one week. There were many others which escape me, now. But all of this had to be caught and corrected. Oh, one was that the pseudonym "C. Bagg, Jr." obviously referred to the editor of the "Carpet-Bag," B.P. Shillaber, and was in fact created by him--despite the fact that one of the pieces written under that pseudonym sounds more like Mathew's work, and I have determined they did collaborate. Still, I hadn't initially seen the obvious, and it would have looked bad had I failed to catch it.
This happened many times with stories or poems which I instinctively felt were Mathew's work (with the help of several years of studying his style). I would then think to run some of the lines through a search engine, and lo-and-behold, it would be attributed to another writer! Eventually, in most instances, I would find that that author had plagiarized it or falsely claimed the pseudonym it was written under--and it was either definitely, or at least plausibly, Mathew's work after all. But had I not gone to the trouble of searching those lines, I would have been claiming something for Mathew which historians would laughingly point out was written by someone else. Instead, in a number of cases, I have turned mainstream academia on its head. Any one of these would make a good dissertation.
It also happened that I ran across Mathew's own work, but for one reason or another, either didn't initially recognize it or was actually put off by it. For the sake of transparency, I left in a record of these mistakes, since this does have a bearing on past-life memory (or the lack thereof). Usually, the cause was a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the content; or else, simply the difference between Mathew's personality and my own. (I have grown since the 19th century, but that dynamic aside, I would say that my personality is about 85% similar to Mathew's--about the same as our physical likeness.) These instances reveal a principle of past-life memory which is worth further study--that sometimes the sense of recognition would be instantaneous, but sometimes it would be blocked somehow, and would instead grow on me over time.
There were multiple instances; I can immediately think of three. I found a poem that Mathew had written to his late first wife, his soul-mate, Abby. It was signed with his go-to mystery pseudonym, which he used throughout his life, but I thought it was too early. I had not yet found other instances of Mathew using this pseudonym during that early period. It struck me as being trite, so I quoted a couple of stanzas and disavowed it as Mathew's work. I wrote that if Mathew had written it, he would have addressed it to her, directly. This was early in the study. But coming back to it some years later, I realized that he was actually writing to her in heaven (so that it was not trite at all); and that, in fact, it was addressed directly to her. How I could have missed such an emotionally crucial thing I don't know.
Secondly, I ran across a highly stylzed humorous sketch explaining how he and Abby had first met. But this was just an isolated chapter; and it opened with what seemed, to me, a callous ridicule of compassion for animals (specifically, about the practice of killing calves for boot leather). I was repulsed and opined that it must be an imitator, ridiculing Mathew's soft-heartedness about such matters. Later, I proved that it was, in fact, Mathew's story--but that this portion was actually a sort of dialogue between him and his worldly friend who had gifted him the boots; and at the same time, a dialogue between his sensitive side, and internalized Society, which would mock him for this trait. In short, it was his ambivalence on the subject talking, as a farm boy who would be ridiculed by his rural peers for expressing such thoughts.
Finally--and the back-story is too long to present this fully--I came across what I initially believed to be another imitator, mocking Mathew's travelogue style. But the reason I took it that way, was that the writer reported a legend about the devil in the small town she had visited. I thought, Mathew would never have chosen this one--but I was mistaken. Mathew was writing in-character as Abby, having earlier submitted several of her stories to the paper posthumously. Now, he was writing to the editor as Abby; but he knew that Abby would have strongly disapproved of this man, who was worldly, abusive to women and had pro-slavery views; so, as Abby, Mathew was castigating him with this cautionary tale about a man who worshipped the devil. Suddenly it made sense--but it took me quite awhile to realize that this was Mathew's attempt to channel Abby--even though I also attempt to do the same thing, today! So from this, you can get a sense of how low the "signal-to-noise ratio" can be when I approach these artifacts of my own past life, in my normal waking consciousness, today. This is in direct contrast to Dr. Ian Stevenson's method, in which he attempts to isolate young children with extremely full and accurate past-life memory. I am taking a genuine past-life match, and attempting to substantiate it with the normal past-life memory barrier in place.
All of this is far ahead of its time. What I was keenly aware of, as I wrote this book, was that if skeptical historians of the future could show that it was riddled with historical bloopers and silly oversights, they could ridicule my scholarship, and in so-doing, destroy my credibility as regards my past-life case, as well. I know I probably still have some errors in there--but it mustn't be chock full of errors. Same goes for typos and grammatical mistakes. I know, in short, that I will be held to a higher standard than normal, and that I must meet or excel it.
I knew, for example, that when I was attempting to claim authorship of various works for my past-life self, Mathew Franklin Whittier, my evidence had to be as strong as possible. "Possession is 9/10ths of the law," and it is also 9/10ths of authorship. I worked extremely hard at this, and some may find it tedious, but then, some of my evidence is knock-your-socks-off. So in this book, if you have to use your brain a little bit for a few paragraphs, suddenly you will run smack into a significant historical discovery, or else strong proof of past-life memory. And I keep this up throughout the book.
Then, there was the matter of proving that my past-life memories and impressions were actual. I had to show that I had them before I discovered the evidence; and I had to show that I could never have seen that evidence, before. This requires keeping track of dates. What helps is that the first 12 chapters actually form the first book, released in 2012. These include many of the past-life memories and impressions. Then, the 13th and 14th chapters, containing the bulk of the evidence, make up a second book. This simply means that any evidence I present in Chapters 13 and 14 by definition was discovered after the memories recorded in Chapters 1-12.
This kind of evidence isn't easy to find, because past-life memories tend to be linked with strong emotion, and hence personal in nature; but more importantly, these clues are intensely interwoven. The discovery of one piece of evidence might illuminate twelve past-life memories and impressions. Suddenly, twelve different things make sense. It was even more organic than that--so much so that I find it difficult to put into words. The previous entry will give you some idea. I'll give an example which is touched upon, there.
I have already talked about how I stumbled upon a 19th century literary newspaper, the Boston "Weekly Museum," as a rich source of Mathew's work. Starting out, I only knew, from the student thesis that forms his biography, that he had published one or two pieces written under his known pseudonym, "Ethan Spike," in this paper. But I discovered that he actually helped build the paper by making so many contributions of such high quality. One series involves a country bumpkin in Boston, named Jedediah Simpkins, and his family. At first I thought it was written by an imitator, because I knew that Mathew always embedded a deeper theme in his work, and this seemed trite. But I didn't have access to the entire series. When I did, I realized that in this case, the deeper message was personal. He was talking about his own genius, and how it was marginalized in his family--a family which already contained one famous genius, in the person of his brother, John Greenleaf Whittier.
Deconstructing these ostensibly humorous sketches, I determined that John Greenleaf must have written him a letter, pretending to address this issue; but he must have glibly talked around it, based on Mathew's reaction.
Now, I already had the personal correspondence which shed light on this, including a letter in which Mathew was responding to the missing letter from John Greenleaf. But I had obtained these letters very early in my research, and had not gone back to them. So here I was, seven years into the study, archiving them, and checking the spelling on the keying I had done earlier. Suddenly, with a sinking feeling, I came across a statement that seemed to conflict with my claimed attributions--either that, or Mathew was lying to John Greenleaf about not having left town since they had been out of touch the last 2-1/2 years. Well, you can read the previous entry. The point is, suddenly I connected the dots. Turns out this letter was, indeed, Mathew's polite response to the missing letter; but then, he used the "Simpkins" family to respond with his real feelings in the Boston "Weekly Museum" a couple of months later. So my gut feeling and hunch had been right. I just never expected to find the evidence.
This discovery radiates out. It confirms that Mathew was using his humorous sketches to express things he couldn't say directly, including to his family; it also means that he would, in fact, lie occasionally, to remain incognito. The significance of this, is that there were pseudonyms I was reluctant to claim for him, because there was some fact (especially, in his travelogues) that wouldn't fit for him. But if he had a habit of leaving false clues occasionally, to cover his tracks--and I had definitely caught him at it in this letter to his brother--then these could still be his work.
Well, I don't know if I've done a good job of explaining what I was up against. The gist of it is, I wanted to make this study as foolproof as possible against skeptical critics, who I believe will come in after me attempting to debunk it, by finding and magnifying its errors--historical, grammatical, or biographical. I want to give them as little to grab hold of, as possible.
That won't stop such people, of course, because many of them have no qualms about making stuff up--on the principle that if they say it loudly enough and repeat it enough times, it will stick. For example, there is nothing flawed in Dr. Gary Schwartz's laboratory study of mediumship (and I would bet that he has far better academic credentials than any of his detractors). But the debunkers have said there is--and if they repeat it enough times, it may stick. The same goes for Dr. Ian Stevenson's work on reincarnation. There is nothing unscientific about his method, either--but if enough of these skeptics insist that there is, eventually the masses come away with the impression that his work has been debunked.
I can't do anything about that sort of unfair attack. The responsibility rests with the public, to have enough discernment to be immune from these tactics. As far as my own work is concerned, I think it may be awhile; but I am building this "ship" to stand the test of time, and to withstand the battering waves of any fair and honest criticism. This study is tight.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Battle We have Won," by Eric Johnson, from the album "Venus Isle"