One year ago today, at this time, I was beginning the second leg of my drive from North Myrtle Beach up here to Portland, Maine, to live where I had lived for 21 years in the 19th century.
But that's not what prompted me to write... Yesterday evening, I had the itch to look for physical copies of newspapers that I would like for my collection. I found a dealer who was selling individual editions from a volume of the Boston "Weekly Museum," in which both Mathew and Abby's work appears (Abby's stories being published posthumously by Mathew in 1849/50). I queried him as to whether he had a particular edition in which, on the front page, appears one of Mathew's stories, followed by the first of Abby's in that series, signed with her initials, " A.P." These are obviously not written by Albert Pike, her classroom teacher who published her poetry (sometimes with his modifications) under their shared initials, and to whom her poetry is attributed by historians.
Mathew's story is written in a very strange style which he developed--a parody of bad romance and adventure tales. But when he would write these parodies, the deeper layer of them was intensely personal and autobiographical. The parody was, effectively, a smokescreen for the underlying content, which was practically a personal diary. When he juxtaposed--or caused to be juxtaposed--one of these parodies directly adjacent to the first story in Abby's series, you can bet it had to do with their relationship.
That's in my book, and frankly, it's so personal, I don't want to get into it. I would have to spend five entries interpreting both stories to you, and pointing out cross-correspondences; and this kind of thing is what makes writing these entries stressful, rather than relaxing.
Well, I wrote my query yesterday evening, and I got a message from the dealer this morning, that he has already sold that edition. I have an instinctual dislike for this practice of pulling apart bound volumes of antique newspapers, to make more money selling the editions individually. I understand the economics of it--a bound volume might go for $150--more if it's rare--but if it's a weekly paper, and there are 52 editions, each edition can go for $20, $30, or more. These were $35 and up. So $35 times 52 is $1,820. The market will bear these prices because the seller is holding them at ransom, and if you want one, you either have to wait for a private seller who happened to have one in their attic, or you have to pay up. But it reminds me of the fellow who was bringing in the Dead Sea Scrolls--he was (as I read) being paid by the piece, and he decided he could make more money by tearing what he found into multiple pieces.
I have two bound volumes of the "Weekly Museum," but not early enough to cover this particular edition. I will not be breaking them up and selling them individually. It hasn't even occurred to me, actually. I don't think I could bring myself to do it.
Now, what I was actually wanting to write about this morning--or, I should say, what wrote itself in my head before I even sat down to my computer--was the way Mathew would communicate "in code" like this. Meaning, the ways he would do it, and his various motives for doing so. This was something which came to me immediately, in 2005, when I first read a handful of his "Ethan Spike" stories. They were attached to the only biography ever written about Mathew, a student thesis completed in 1940. I knew, without having any evidence for it, that Mathew had embedded a great deal of autobiography in them, in code of some kind. Everybody does this, to some extent--but I knew, in this case, it was extreme.
This is actually one of the most evidential "hits" I made, and it was in normal waking consciousness. The proof for it came gradually, when I would uncover these hidden messages and link them with Mathew's personal life, as it unfolded over the course of my study. This, in itself, is strong enough to add to the three or four "smoking guns" which prove the past-life match. Had Dr. Jim Tucker been fair and objective with me, I could have added this to my short-list of most-strongly verified past-life memories, when he agreed to listen to them. But I don't think it would have mattered. He would have skeptically assumed it was the generic phenomenon of an author drawing from his own experience.
It definitely wasn't. And my initial impression definitely went beyond that typical effect, also. I got the distinct impression this was far more than normal, and so it turned out to be.
So what remains, here, is to talk a little bit about how, and then tackle the twin questions, to whom, and why?
(Succinctly, if possible.)
The "how" question is fascinating. I don't think it's just me who thinks its fascinating--I think it will be fascinating to my future audience, those people who let it be fascinating to them, i.e., who aren't fighting it so hard that they make a thousand excuses for not enjoying it, such as: "it's an e-book, and I don't read 'off the screen'"; "it's too long"; "I'm too busy"; "it's historical"; "his claims are absurd, so I don't want to waste my time," etc.
First of all was this parody style, underneath which was a serious, deeply personal account; or Mathew's internal struggles. This one I looked at, last night, suggests that Mathew got jealous of some opportunistic fellow who chatted Abby up during their courtship, and whom she was naive about; it also suggests he feels he betrayed Abby, after her passing, by remarrying.* It refers to the character who (being heavily disguised) represents Abby, as having breasts like "Bond's biscuits" (she was young, and slight of form when they courted); it talks about something I had earlier remembered, them laughing together so hard that they could barelyt catch their breath. It is almost pathologically personal, you might say. But it is so heavily disguised, that no-one aside from himself would ever guess it.
I found perhaps eight or ten examples like this, including a story of how they first danced together at a fall apple-paring festival. Two versions, actually, but one of them written in this style--except for the final chapter, where he steps completely out of that style and goes to his usual sketch-writing style.
Mathew was never quite "right" after Abby's death. Despite the fact that he could always draw on his native social skills, he became a sort of recluse afterwards. This was remarked upon by our first psychic medium; it also appears in the description that psychic Andrew Jackson Davis wrote of their meeting in 1854. His state was the one portrayed in a song by country singer Randy Travis, in an episode of "Matlock," which I'll use to open this page. He also expressed it, after Abby died, in a poem about the "Great Cat Owl." There are several significant elements in this poem, but note that "Poins" is a 100% confirmed signature for Mathew; that he is careful to give credit to Mr. Klapp, whose style he is imitating; and note also the reference to "Reynard." Reynard the Fox is a character from La Fontaine's Fables, and this was the first clue I had tying Mathew to that work. However, he spells it with a "y," which is not seen in the edition published by Elizur Wright. This was two years after that edition came out--perhaps Wright, as editor, disagreed on this point with Mathew (and with Abby, who was a native speaker). In any case, it's clear enough how Mathew sees himself after Abby's death. He will continue in the work of social reform that they had been engaged in, together, but now as a sort of literary "Zorro," in tribute to Abby and as a man of sorrows.
Another method he used to hide his deeper messages, was inline poetry in his essays and public letters. It was an accepted style to quote poetry within text like this, and Mathew did it frequently. But the poems would have a separate meaning, referring to the hidden theme. Once, he made a humorous reference to a minister preaching from the "seventh chapter, 42nd verse of Nickodemus." There is no such book in the Bible, but somehow I immediately sensed that he meant, not "Nickodemus," but Nostrodamus. Indeed, there is a 42nd verse in the seventh century of Nostradmus's quatrains which was precisely on-target, and which apparently alluded to a very private scene in which Mathew and Abby must have been caught making out in the kitchen.
So that's another method. A third is to quote a poem, or a passage, leaving out a section of it with ellipses. But if you look up the passage, and read the omitted portion, you find the hidden message. It was this method which Mathew used to hint that Ralph Waldo Emerson had praised his merit as a philosopher, in contradistinction to Margaret Fuller.
Or, he would simply drop a hint for a poem. If you get the reference, and you look up the poem, you find the message. This is the method Mathew used in the smoking gun which proves that he charged Edgar Allan Poe with having stolen "The Raven" from him. I cited this example in my recent radio interview.
These are the ones that come to mind--I'm sure I omitted some. A great deal of this was accomplished through allegory, much as one sees in La Fontaine's Fables (which I believe Mathew translated as French homework assignments given by Abby, when she was tutoring him, from a young age). Obviously, the "Indignation Meeting" I spoke of last entry, was symbolic of the Maine Liquor Law, and perhaps of undue societal control over citizens, in general.
Despite the fact that Mathew was against prohibition, having once been a drinker, he became a Temperance man in the mid-1840's, and continued until he fell off the wagon in his later years.** He wrote an allegory about that, too, a poem called "The Oasis," published in 1870. This was one of the last pieces he signed with a star (the same signature he used for the reviews and essays in the 1844-46 New York "Tribune," which historians attribute to Margaret Fuller). "The Oasis" is, I believe, actually written in three tiers. The first is the literal Arab traveler; the second is the drinker; and the third is the philosophical or spiritual layer of the pilgrim moving through life. Here is the page on which that poem appears.
Note the poem which appears directly under it. This may have been sent in by Mathew, as well. The citation is strange, because it's a poem about brothers, but it came from a lodge of the "Rebeccas," which is the female branch of the Oddfellows. If Mathew requested it be printed underneath his own poem--something he often did--then it's a message to/about his brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, who was helping him fight internal politics at his job in the Boston Custom House. Mathew's relationship with his brother was extremely ambivalent. His brother was a sort of neurotic hypocrite; or perhaps he suffered from Asbergers. He could mimic Quaker piety, and many other things, which he didn't actually feel, in brilliantly-crafted, supremely realistic poems--like a balladier singing songs about other people's experiences, over which he threw magical fairy dust. After his big hit, "Snow-Bound," in which he drew an idyllic picture of his family of origin (it was originally intended as a children's poem), he was required to pretend it was literal for the rest of his life, and he was elevated to a kind of sainthood. But he was actually driven by ambition, and he quickly became too good for his younger brother.*** Mathew is almost never mentioned in John Greenleaf's private correspondence, except when he was sick, in trouble at work, or when he was dying. JGW also appears to have shunned Mathew, after Mathew married out of the faith; and I gather he didn't like Abby, Mathew's first wife, presumably because she could see through him.
But Mathew, being especially naive (and this is mentioned in his biography), tried to believe in his brother all his life. It was very confusing, because just about the time he would see through him, John Greenleaf would do something that actually seemed brotherly, or saintly. I had exactly the same problem in writing about him.
So here, perhaps John Greenleaf had taken the time to use his influence to save Mathew's job. I don't remember the actual timing of that, right now, but I could look it up. There were a couple of instances, and I think one of them may have occurred around this time. So Mathew is praising his brother, and affirming his relationship with his brother. But I think John Greenleaf took it as a nuisance--"my little brother is in trouble again, and I have to bail him out again." I don't think it was so much filial love as obligation. And when John Greenleaf offered to financially support Mathew in his final illness, I think JGW was actually the front man for an effort by his friends, including their mutual friend, successful author John Townsend Trowbidge. I don't think JGW was actually putting up the money, unknown to Mathew--but Mathew was still, I think, wary of the offer, and took as little as possible.
Now we come to the questions, why was Mathew embedding these details in his written works, and who did he think he was communicating with?
We are in murky waters with this one. I feel it, but I am hard-pressed to explain it. First of all, he had been convinced, by his times, by his Quaker upbringing, and (I think) by Abby--perhaps he even pledged it to her on her deathbed--to eschew fame, and to write anonymously. The idea is to avoid the pitfall of pride. As I've discussed before, this is generally a mistake. First of all, it encourages plagiarism, the way that leaving the house unlocked encourages burglars. Secondly, it doesn't conquer ambition. Ambition simply becomes frustrated, and finds a way, just as tree roots will find a way around a sidewalk. To renounce personal ambition you have to sincerely dedicate your efforts to a higher principle--ideally, to God. Mathew understood this, intellectually, but I think somewhere deep down he still wanted to make his mark--as he had a legitimate right to do--and was frustrated by his promise to write anonymously.
Secondly, Mathew was so radical, and his satire so sharp, that he was in constant danger from militant conservatives. When he was finally exposed as the author of "Ethan Spike," it appears that his trading company collapsed, and he was blacklisted in Portland. He did undercover work for the cause of Abolition, and even participated, on occasion, in the Underground Railroad. But I think his most dangerous opposition came from the pro-military people, because he often lampooned the military mentality. Specifically, he ridiculed people who believed in the glory of war (even when the particular war in question was imperialistic, like the Mexican-American War). It is, of course, the primary propaganda tool for powerful vested interests, who want war for their own selfish reasons, to hijack the citizenry's patriotism, and to appeal directly or indirectly to the myth of the "glory of war." Mathew attacked this propaganda tool directly, and with great satirical precision--and he made some powerful enemies thereby.
When Mathew wrote for liberal editors, he hid himself only behind his various pseudonyms. But when he wrote for conservative editors, he built the obfuscation directly into his pieces.
Then there was grief. He remained in grief for his first wife and soul-mate, Abby Poyen, all his life. He told the intimate story of their life, together, as the deeper layer of dozens of ostensibly humorous sketches. Sometimes they were fond, amusing anecdotes, as when he brought home cheap perch for breakfast, again, instead of the promised, more expensive catfish, and Abby, tired of unaccustomed frugality, hit the roof. Sometimes, he expressed his angst over darker themes, like persecution, jealousy or death. Very few, if any, ever guessed it. So who, exactly, was he writing for--for himself, or for posterity?
Here's where it gets tricky. I think he secretly wanted his legacy to be found and pieced back together. He persisted in thinking that, surely, someone would pick up on it and begin researching his life and work. At one point, it seems that he was even trying to tell his future incarnation that he had been the real author of the "Quails" travelogue in the "Weekly Museum." The details of that are also in my first book. I think it's pretty remarkable, because if my interpretation is correct, this is the first acknoweledged instance of a person sending a message to his future incarnation, and of that message being succesfully received.
Another first which should put me squarely on the map, but which is completely ignored.
This whole business is deeply poignant. Forgive the comparison, but I am always reminded, when I write about this, of a story about the Bal Shem Tov in Martin Buber's book about the early Hassidic masters. From memory, the Bal Shem Tov begins to weep, and is asked why. He replies, "God says, 'I am playing hide-and-seek, but nobody comes looking for Me.'"
So Mathew was playing hide-and-seek, and nobody ever came looking for him. Lots of people ripped him off and became famous by imitating or even outright claiming various of his works--Charles Farrar Browne, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, the future Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Margaret Fuller--but nobody cared about Mathew. John Greenleaf's unofficial biographer, William Sloan Kennedy, disparagingly referred to Mathew as being "also a versifier" (i.e., of sorts); and said that his "Ethan Spike" sketches were hardly worth the trouble of looking up.
So Mathew, himself, reincarnated with the mission of discovering himself, and of restoring that legacy. It took me ten years to do that, with Abby's direct assistance from the astral world--but now, nobody cares. Nobody will give me--or Mathew's legacy--the time of day. Even though I have proved the reality of reincarnation through it.
I also think that sometimes Mathew was just playing. He knew that hardly anyone understood him, which was disappointing--nobody was looking beneath the surface layer of his work. So he figured he might as well just have fun with it. Since he was so effectively shielded from view, he decided he was free to say whatever he wanted inside that layer. And he did. He had immense fun with it.
He didn't invent this modus operandi. He had studied the great writers and humorists of past centuries, who had also written this way. La Fontaine's Fables, for example, and many others (I've listed some of his influences in my book). But he certainly became expert at this method.
Still, today, nobody cares. They are content with these false claimants, and our false literary history--one dare not challenge it without being thought mad. And what struck me, as I was writing this entry in my head before I started committing it to the page, is that I have reproduced Mathew's same situation, or condition, today. As I write this blog, I don't dare make it public, because someone working for my company might discover it. Bad enough they can easily find my website, and my interviews and articles on the web. But at least they can't find this blog on my website, anymore (nor Abby's). I am writing under cover, just as I did in the 19th century--and for much the same reason. So far as I know I don't have any conservatives after my neck--perhaps because I'm so much marginalized, that I'm no threat to anybody. But I am certainly blacklisted by expressing my beliefs publicly. In the 19th century, people could learn about your unorthodox views by word-of-mouth--but now, we have the internet. Anyone is one or two clicks away from learning that for the past nine years, I have believed I was married to a ghost--a ghost from a past life.
Some employers do Google your name, I understand--or if they don't, an idly curious fellow employee or manager might do it. I'm pretty sure I lost one job that way, years ago, before I even discovered Mathew, in the days when I was just educating people about the concept of reincarnation. Can you imagine what would happen, now? It means that probably 95% of the employers who might consider hiring me, will reject my application just in the vetting process, for this reason. If you only get considered by 5% of the jobs you apply for, now I am getting considered by only 5% of those.
Some people think I'm exaggerating, and perhaps I am. But my poverty is not exaggerated, and I am still not linking publicly to this blog.
So why do I do it? For the same reasons--to express myself, and for the chance that posterity will take an interest. Except, I don't hide my meanings in layers, anymore. I speak plainly and openly at all times; and then block access to it, if I feel I must.
Thus do we deal with the same issues from one life to another; but we experiment with different approaches.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Over time, I was able to logically prove that my initial emotional/intuitive reaction was correct, that Mathew had been pressured into remarrying by his mother, when he was vulnerable and suffering from survivor's guilt. This was also briefly confirmed in a telephone conversation with Canadian psychic Bruce Whittier, who, being a descendant, would only comment, "It was the mother."
**He appears to have interpreted "Temperance" literally, not as complete abstinence, though out of consideration for others in the movement he didn't advocate his interpretation openly, or drink wine or ale moderately, in front of them.
***Unlike Mathew, John Greenleaf Whittier always signed his works with his own name, and hence could build up a following.
Music opening this page, "The Life of the Party," by Randy Travis,
as peformed on "Matlock"