Recently, I identified what I believe to be one of Mathew Franklin Whittier's humorous poems, published in an 1851 edition of British humor magazine, "Punch." There is no signature, so I have to make that determination by style, and as I have been studying Mathew's work for over seven years, and have collected over 600 of his works, I have a pretty good idea of how he wrote. Of course, I investigated whether it was logistically plausible, as well--whether Americans ever submitted to that publication, when he could have written and submitted it, what his connections were with Great Britain, and whether he could have known the idiosyncratic details which show up in the poem (all check out). Still, there is an element of intuition which goes into such a claim. It is partly style analysis, partly classical detective work, and partly a matter of recognizing my own past-life literary "children."
Some years ago I commissioned an artist to create his own rendering of Mathew's flagship character, "Ethan Spike." Ethan (the name means "firm, or hard") was a 19th-century Archie Bunker (or if you are British, Alf Garnett). He was known for his wild, ignorant and prejudiced speeches, so I sent the artist one of the best ones, with the instruction to simply read it, and create the character at the podium. The speech I sent him is a diatribe supporting white supremacy (the more things change...). I have tried to post it, but it contains so many instances of the "N" word (i.e., in character) that any social media software always kicks it out. Anyway, the drawing the artist sent back was magnificent--precisely as I would have envisioned Spike, myself. Brilliant.
It so happens that this artist used to work for "Punch," i.e., in modern times, and that he, in fact, created their final cover. So, when I ran across this poem in "Punch" of 1851, feeling convinced that it was Mathew's work, I commissioned him again. He's slammed with orders for Christmas, as I gather, so I am on-hold; and while I'm waiting, I'm taking the time to spot-check my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words." I have proofread that book I-don't-know-how-many-times, and I'm still finding mistakes, and things in the writing I want to fine-tune. Most of the mistakes are minor--my worst nightmare is finding that when inserting a new piece of evidence, or a new insight about how things connect, I casually assume that the reader has already been introduced to the topic, when actually he or she hasn't. I found two of those.
But as I go through the book again, I am struck with just how large a role intuition plays in it. This is hard to express in a nutshell. Dr. Ian Stevenson pioneered a method of proving (or he would say, investigating) reincarnation, by isolating young children who had extremely strong and accurate memories of their most-immediate past life. I am taking the opposite approach--and here is where it gets difficult to explain--I started out by identifying the past life, and then, with more-or-less the same degree of past-life memory that everybody has, I set about attempting to prove that it was a real match.
The way you do that is with intuition, because that's what everybody has. Whether they use it, and develop it, is another matter--but everybody has it. And what I mean by this is, I know Mathew's mind. I recognize his own written works. I can feel how he felt about certain people. I can sense whether what a biographer says about him is fair and accurate, or prejudicial and mistaken.
Just how profound a place intuition has had in my method, has been striking me over and over as I spot-check my book. I don't feel I'm really expressing this as well as I want to...it's like this. If you are presented with details about a historical personality, say, in a textbook, and you want to interpret it and extrapolate from it something more about him as a person, there are quite a number of branching possibilities. It depends, first of all, on what motives you assign to the person. He married that woman because he fell in love with her; or, he married her because she was wealthy, or to get at her old man's money. He was a hero; he was a villain. He gave to charity out of the goodness of his heart; he gave to look good to others, or for tax purposes. But when it came to Mathew, I knew what all his motives were. I might not be able to remember the circumstances, but I knew what he felt about it--deep, deep down--and I knew why he was doing what he did.
And my method is designed in such a way, that I was able to prove it.
It so happens that the official view of Mathew--where you can find him at all--is rather negative. They have put the worst spin on him, damning with faint praise. I knew they totally missed it, but how? Was it that I had chosen a historical figure and simply wanted to defend him? Or did it go deeper than that...was I, in fact, remembering intuitively?
I want to describe the subjective experience in a way that people will both understand me, and believe me; because I have the sense this is going "in one ear and out the other." I can't explain just how ubiquitous (my favorite word) I find that process of intuitive recognition is, when I spot-check my book. The best parallel I can think of, that people will relate to, is this scene in "Jurassic Park," where Alexis is desperately trying to get the computers back on line, and she suddenly recognizes it as a UNIX system. "I know this!!"
This is how I investigated a genuine past-life match, carefully documenting the dates of when I recognized something, vs. when I confirmed it in the historical record through detective work. I do believe that detectives use intuition all the time--they use logic, of course, as we know, but what gives you the lead in the first place? I see this argument personified in the series, "Bones," where Temperance extols the virtues of logic, while Booth uses hunches.
We, in the materialistic West, are accustomed to ranking intuition below intellect. But my Guru, Meher Baba, ranked it above intellect, saying that the previous great advance of mankind was from "sensation to reason," while the next one will be from "reason to intuition." Intuition is seeing the thing directly, rather than through the intermediary of intellectual models. One might think of it as the universal language--the thing that comes into awareness before one shapes it into words. This faculty is but feebly developed in those who have relied exclusively on manipulating mental constructs--but it can be strengthened.
Perhaps a lifetime of following my Guru's teachings had strengthened my intuition to the point that it was easier for me to do this. I do seem to have somewhat stronger past-life image recognition; but then again, the skill of image recognition seems to vary among the population generally, so it may be that I simply have relatively strong image recognition, period, and it crosses over into past-life memory.
In any case, I find myself at a loss to explain how extensively I used it in my own study. It is as though people don't believe it, because they don't experience it, themselves, and so they can't relate to it. They automatically and instantly assume that when I say I recognized a particular work that Mathew wrote, or that I immediately sensed how he felt about someone or something, that I was imagining it--just as they would have been, under those circumstances.
But it's not that. When a biographer said that Mathew abandoned his second family, I knew he didn't. When he said Mathew remarried a year after his first wife's death because the "Whittier brothers were attractive to women," I knew that wasn't right. When another biographer described him as a sort of literary hack, whose work was hardly worth the trouble of looking up, I knew that was wildly unfair; and when another, a well-respectived French scholar who specialized in American humorous literature, asserted that Mathew was a "nihilist," I knew that was way, way off.
I didn't just interpret the historical record in such a way that you could say I might be right. I subsequently proved these things--and many others--were wrong. I can quote you, for example, any number of passages in which Mathew expresses his deep faith in God and in the spiritual world. So the great scholar was flat-out wrong. This was partly because he only had the "Ethan Spike" sketches to go on, whereas I had a huge body of work encompassing essays, short stories, poems and travelogues (although I knew it even when I only had a handful of "Ethan Spike" sketches to go on). The skeptic will immediately say that I was wrong about these other attributions. But I wasn't. Even in the works that I can absolutely prove were Mathew's--things that the professor should have known about--I can show that he wasn't a nihilist. Take this poem, for example. Do you know that man's mental state affects the weather? That not only do man's actions impinge on Nature, but his mind affects it, as well? Mathew knew it. He had, as I believe, learned it from his soul-mate, his first wife, Abby; and she, in turn, had learned it from her mother, who had retained it from her Scottish heritage. Perhaps I'll close with this. Mathew was publishing, at this time, under the pseudonym, "Poins."* This is a bit sombre for the Christmas season--but perhaps it is what we are all feeling, nowadays, anyway. This was published in March of 1843, or two years after Abby's death. The excerpting is not done by me, but either by Mathew himself, or by the editor, as this is how it was published.**
A Fragment : : : By Poins.
Over Jordan, vale and mountain,
Silence gathered like a pall,
Stayed the torrent, sealed the fountain,
Boding stillness over all.
On Genassaret's waters playing
Not an idle zephyr roves,
O'er the Mount of Olives straying
Not a breeze the foliage moves.
Over Hermon slowly creeping
Giant shadows silent go,
Round his hoary summit sweeping,
Veil his coronal of snow.
Earth and air are clothed in mourning,
Sheeted dead from graves appear!
From her centre, deeply groaning,
Nature testifies her fear!
* * * * * *
Mete this general fear and sadness,--
Graves should open! mountains nod!
Mortal man are in their madness
Crucifying Nature's God!
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*This is definite, because despite the fact that Mathew's primary biographer calls it into question, he missed that there is a record of Mathew sending an installment of a travelogue to his brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, which was written under this pseudonym, "Poins."
**My hunch is that the omitted portion developed the theme of man's mind influencing Nature, and of Nature as a conscience being, which was duly excised by the editor as being too radical. You can see a foreshadowing of it just where the poem is cut, as Nature responds to the Crucifixion.
Music opening this page: "First Snow," by Skywalk,
from the album, "Silent Witness" (solo by Graeme Coleman)