I rarely write twice in the same day, but there is a trend developing--a rather disturbing trend--and I want to address it in a more leisurely fashion. When I moved to Portland, Maine, about three weeks ago (has it only been that long?), I had the idea to visit all the major places associated with my past life as Mathew Franklin Whittier, hoping that being on-location might stimulate some past-life flashbacks, or at least some new evidence. I have been able to visit quite a number of sites, now, and with one exception, my internal reaction was unremarkable. But yesterday's visits showed me that even when I thought I was experiencing a past-life memory, I appear to have been fooling myself. I think I remember a doorway beyond two pillars, and a building facade, only to learn that neither existed in Mathew's time. Likewise another building I seemed to remember staring at out of a window.
These kinds of mistakes are very discouraging. They don't cause me to seriously question the entire past-life match, as they might for some of my readers, because I have far too much solid proof under my belt, for that. By the same measure that I disprove these most recent memories, I have proven quite a few. So the phenomenon is real; I'm just not triggering it by this method.
I've gone over the possible variables, before. You need a location, or stimulus, which is very much as it was "in the day." You need strong emotion--the stronger the better--associated with the memory-event. And, perhaps, you actually need both of these in tandem.
At the Boston Custom House, there are significant portions which are as they were during Mathew's tenure there. But while there was prolonged exposure, there was probably not intense emotion associated with that position. Conversely, at the site where the Maverick House hotel once stood, where Mathew died on Jan. 7, 1883, there was no-doubt intense emotion. But the original structure is entirely gone now, having been replaced by a modern health center. Putting my hand on one of the cornice pieces wasn't enough. Being suspended in the air, on the fourth floor (the hotel also had four floors, in precisely the same spot), wasn't enough.
But there is also a more intangible consideration. Can paranormal experiences be had, at will? We are accustomed to inducing them artificially via hypnosis, or drugs. We are accustomed to psychics and mediums who can reliably "perform" on cue, getting information through paranormal means. But can you get a past-life flashback at will, by placing yourself, in normal waking consciousness, directly in a place where you were in the past life? Apparently not--not if I am representative.
Even if you meet my two proposed conditions, i.e., "no change" and "strong emotion," I think there is an element of caprice about it. I might visit such a spot 25 times, and on the 26th time, I might have a flashback. Or, 25 people like myself might visit scenes associated with their past lives, and the 26th person might have an experience. I suspect that trying too hard actually suppresses the effect. I have been eager, even straining, to have an experience--and I only had the one, near the Portland Head Light. And that one can't be verified, proven or disproven. But it is like trying too hard to burp, when you feel you need to. You almost have to stop trying and let it come upon you unawares.
Something else occurs to me. I've been trying to keep my relationship with Abby out of these blogs, lest a prospective employer discover it. But this is the best analogy I have.
Sometimes I find myself strongly attracted--almost to the point of feeling briefly that I am in love--with one or another young lady I happen to see in public, or in the media. Invariably, I later realize that she looked something like Abby in one respect or another. Complexion, eyes, face, nose, hair color, and so-on. Not usually just one of these traits, but put two or three together, and my subconscious mind--which does remember what Abby looked like--triggers the alarm. "There she is!"
Abby has further explained to me not to feel disloyal (so long as I don't begin actively flirting with the girl), because it isn't entirely my fault. She says that subconsciously, I feel her nearness; and feeling that, my mind starts casting about for the source of it. Naturally, by force of habit, I am looking for a physical girl to match Abby's presence; and since my subconscious mind does remember what she looks like, it latches on, so to speak, to a girl who is, perhaps, 70% similar.
That happened to me, today. Her eyes, her complexion, her hair, her face (in some respects), were enough like Abby to trigger that reaction.
My point is, suppose I put myself in a location where Mathew once was, and there is, in fact, emotion around the past experience. What if the same thing is happening? Not being able to find what I actually experienced, as Mathew, my subconscious mind--which remembers this, also--starts telling me, "This is close enough." It is similar enough to trigger the memory, however inarticulate and vague it is.
I then dutifully report it, but lo and behold, that stimulus wasn't there in Mathew's day--any more than the girl was Abby.
That doesn't necessarily mean the entire process was bogus, or imagination. It means the original stimulus is not there, but under the press of subconscious memory, some substitute or other is good enough.
I'm not saying I know that's what's been happening--I'm saying it's a plausible explanation. In that case, Mathew may, indeed, have had a room on the fourth floor of the Maverick House, on the right-hand side as you face it. He may have looked out the window and studied some building, as a way of distracting his attention away from his pain, his fear, or even his boredom. It just wasn't that particular building which I saw out of the 4th floor of the health center.
I still have some major sites left to go. I haven't yet visited Abby's grave. I haven't gone to Dover, Mass., where Mathew and Abby eloped to; nor have I stood on the steps of the First Parish Church there, which they would have attended. I have not yet taken the tour of the Whittier farmhouse, where Mathew grew up.
It is entirely possible--especially if I find myself trying too hard--that I will be face-to-face with Abby's gravestone, and yet not feel anything more than a tourist might feel. It is also possible I could walk through Mathew's birthplace, and get no sense of recognition, at all.
The lurking belch, in other words, may not rise. But then again, if I stop trying so hard...
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page, "Unaccountable Effect," by Liz Story,
from the album, "Unaccountable Effect"