Various elements of my life are changing at a dizzying speed--I was just telling Abby yesterday, that almost every routine I have, now, is no more than two months old. But while my present-day life metamorphosizes rapidly, I continue proofreading my journalistic work from 1831. It is indeed true, that the "more things change, the more they remain the same." This morning, among other things too numerous to share, I ran across a story which was undoubtedly written by Mathew Franklin Whittier, my past-life self. Like most of his pieces, it is an allegory. And to the matter of that, remember that we are dealing with a reincarnated rabbi. This isn't the first lifetime he has written, or told, teaching stories.
This one is quite complex, meaning, the motivation and insights behind it. Because Mathew knew, even here at age 19, that there was something of nobility about him, despite the fact that he was a farmer's son. And yet, others probably ridiculed him, if he dared express it. There was only one who knew the truth of it--his future wife, now only 15 years old, Abby Poyen. Abby, in case you have never seen me mention it in this blog, was first cousin to the man who introduced hypnotism to America by way of lecture/demonstrations, Charles Poyen. But then, it was called "Mesmerism," which concept included some kind of direct telepathic influence. Now, in materialistic society, hypnotism is grudgingly accepted as a real phenomenon, sans any type of telepathy or unseen influence.
Which of course there couldn't possibly be, because if so, the world would not be entirely material.
Another person who immediately picked up on Mathew's nobility, was the psychic I hired to help me reconnect with Abby, in March of 2010. All she had to go on was an etching of him in 3/4 profile. She began (as recorded in my notes): "Nobility, stature, status."
So here, in this humorous sketch/cautionary tale, Mathew is lampooning himself; which is to say, the skeptical side of him is lampooning the intuitive side. He is also warning himself, as it were, against false pride. Half of him is in the character; half of him is in his character's detractors. He, himself, is probably not certain what to believe. But before I reproduce this sketch in full, I want to present a later piece, which we know was definitely written by Mathew, because it is part of his known "Ethan Spike" series. Just as Seba Smith would write as various relatives of his main character, "Major Jack Downing," so also Mathew would occasionally write in to the editor as one of Spike's relatives. Here, he is writing for the Boston "Weekly Museum," as "Parseverance W. Spike."
Hornby, December 19th, 1850.
Mr. Editor--Gentlemen--Sir--Wal, 't would be kinder curos ef you should put this into the Mewsyum! 'T would, I swaow! But I do n't keer ef you do, on the hull. I wish you would; I should jest like to see haow I should look in print--leastways--not me, but my ideers; so put er threw--will yer, 'Squire? Perhaps you do n't know me--guess you do n't, come to think on't. I knows you do n't. My name is Spike--Parseverance W. Spike! Yes, sir, them is my cognermin, and I haint ashamed on't nyther! Trew, I haint egzactly Ethan Spike, but I'm a brother of hisn--leastways--not quite, as we had tew mothers, an' I do n't know haow many fathers. Howsever, I'm a Spike--thar's no daout about that! I feel it in me, as the praoud blood of that anshunt an' supernewmary race sarches an' circumnavigates threw my vanes. I have had a good many literary attacks, but father's most ginerally whopped me aout of 'em--but this that's onto me naow, is the hardest yet. My geenus must have vent, an' I told father so, this morning. Father, says I, it's no use, yer might jest as well try to stop the tongue of aant Jewdy Kyer, when it's fairly sot in for a run--as attempt to stop the bilin' over of raal, omittygated, natyve talent--says I! Father, I will be a litterytoor, says I! "You shan't," says he! I will says I! "Take that," says he--an' he fetched me a crack on the side of my head, that made me see more stars than is put down in the fundament.--But the permethian spark was lit in me. I was bold as a lyon! I clinched the old un--an' though he is paowerful staout--natyve talent was staouter. I licked him! I did n't let the old feller get up, till he promised I might rite one letter to the Musyum. I told Ethan abaout it, an' he says I done jest right.--Says he--"yourn is a case of parseverance under difficulties," says he. Says I--"if you'd sawn me given it to father, you'd a thought it was a case of Parseverance atop of difficulties," says I. "That ere is a pun," says he. "Show!" says I.
Even in 1850, after publishing excellent work for years--albeit anonymously--Mathew still doesn't have the confidence to admit his own genius. He must admit it "around the corner" by lampooning it, in-character, as an ignoramus. Incidentally, Mathew's work is typically chock-full of disguised autobiography. This particular childhood scene is probably based on real life, though you won't read anything like it in his brother's hit poem, "Snow-Bound." As near as I can tell, Mathew, the younger brother by five years, was denied his urgent request to attend Haverhill Academy like his brother; there was a fight; and Mathew ran away to sea for a year or so. Upon his return, he soon obtained a printer's assistant position (colloquially called a "printer's devil") on the Boston "Courier," from where he began regularly submitting work to the "Courier's" sister-paper, the "New-England Galaxy." None of this will be found in the official Whittier lore--I had to piece it together from eight years worth of found clues.
Last entry I had presented Mathew's philosophical musings written under the signature, "Israel Icicle," in 1831. I proofread a couple of those this morning, and I was especially struck by this passage:
Modest Assurance. Nothing helps a man along in the world more than what is called modest assurance. It is not he who knows the most or is most skilful in any particular trade that passes for the wisest and most skilful man, but it is he who succeeds best in imposing upon others the belief that he is such. You may call this quackery, or by whatever other name you choose to give it, but after all, it is, in nine cases out of ten, the true secret of success. Look around you. Here is one--a physician or an apothecary--who puffs himself and his nostrums, so that you would suppose there was no other person in the world whose advice or prescriptions are worth following. He blazons forth the wonderful cures he has performed--tells you of the thousands he has snatched from the jaws of death--mind you, he says nothing about the thousands he has sent there--gives you their names, the particulars of their several cases and all others facts connected with the subject. You, perhaps, may not be gulled by the fellow's consummate effrontery--you may be able to see through the thin veil which hides his false pretensions--but others, many others, cannot see, or seeing, are still credulous and willingly imposed upon; and thus by these arts, these little but reiterated tricks of trade, the fellow goes on till he has made a fortune, while the man of modest merit, and unassuming character, who disdains to imitate this example, grows grey in the midst of poverty and neglect. One would almost incline to the belief that three things are necessary to success in life--Impudence--impudence--impudence.
In this particular installment of "Icicle," Mathew was experimenting with defending the opposition views, relative to his accustomed opinions. Other topics, for example, include whiskers and dancing, which he would normally weigh in against. Here, he starts out advocating "modest assurance," but cannot stay with it, and ends up blasting people who "puff" (what we would now call, "hype"). This is his Quaker background, to be sure, but it would go back to his rabbi incarnation, and perhaps even further.
If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you have seen me struggle with these issues in my current life. I know that I have something significant to share, and yet I abhore hype, and consequently, am relatively unknown, and struggle financially. I rail against the knee-jerk assumption that I am delusional (the only reason I can think of why people wouldn't take my work more seriously); and yet, I don't take those steps of self-promotion which would normally be taken to alleviate the situation.
Look at the implications. One sees, immediately, the carryover of what I have called the "higher mind" as opposed to what some have called the "physical personality," which is peculiar to the circumstances of each individual incarnation. If I was once a rabbi, who knows how far back we are going--and yet, in the 19th century, I was telling teaching stories, and struggling with pride of accomplishment. Today, in 2018, I am dealing with very much the same issues. The more things changed, the more they stayed the same.
Here is Mathew Franklin Whittier, signing under an obscure pseudonym, "ITB" (which probably stands for something meaningful, but which I have not been able to penetrate*). Obviously, he did not want to be identified as the writer of this one! Because he was, in fact, a farmer's son who felt, deep down, that he didn't fit in with his family, and that he came from noble origins. Keep in mind that although Abby was trying to teach him reincarnation, at this time he ridiculed the idea, as he did most of the metaphysics and occult teachings she exposed him to. Yet, here he was expressing himself as the reincarnated rabbi which Abby, who may herself have been psychic, could see in him.
Mathew always wrote in layers, just as a rabbi would teach in layers. Here, the surface layer is the Quaker distrust of fictional writing, i.e., novels. The deeper layers are as described, above.
Returning to this after making my breakfast and talking with one of my roommates, something else suddenly came to me. Perhaps Abby, seeing glimpses of Mathew's past, and seeing into his character, has told him that he had past lives as nobility. She, herself, is actually of noble lineage;** and she sees the same in Mathew, from his past lives, and in his countenance and bearing (she has fallen in love with him, concluding that he will "clean up" very nicely, and has commenced tutoring him privately in lieu of a college education). Some part of Mathew is secretly pleased, and resonates with it deeply; but being raised Quaker, another part of him is alarmed, and to protect himself from the temptation of pride, must lampoon his own thrill of inner recognition.
One final observation--the style of this piece is typically Mathew's, but in particular, the slightly cartoonish character names are typical for him. "Jonathan" is a generic name for a Yankee; "Joseph" is Abby's father's name; "cabbage," whatever it meant at the time, frequently comes up in Mathew's humorous works, as does the name "Peter." In particular, Mathew's trademark was to use alliterative double names beginning with this name, "Peter," such as "Peter Pendergrass," and "Peter Pumple." Just as a jazz musician will reportedly sign his solo with an idiosyncratic phrase, Mathew would sign some of these anonymous pieces with the double-P name, where the first name was often "Peter."
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
P.S. Note that I am moving, and unless I try to upload at Starbucks, I won't be able to post another entry until I get my internet connection established. At that time, I may take a break from reincarnation studies, and introduce my new digs (except that where I end up living in Portland seems to have distinct parallels in Mathew's life--but more on that, later).
The New York "Constellation"
October 29, 1831
For the Constellation.
The Novel Reader.
Jonathan Romance, the hero of the present history, was the son of ------ his father, who resided on the banks of the Hudson, about where Peekskill now is. Jonathan had received education sufficient to enable him to read with facility, and soon became very much attached to the reading of novels, with the contents of which he stored his hitherto empty head. He read such a great number of them that he was transported back to the times of chivalry, and he imagined that he was the son of some illustrious man who had abandoned him in his youth, and left him to live an ignoble life. Entertaining this idea, he would appear before his companions with a dignified air, but never had the satisfaction of hearing it observed, "there is something noble about him." Whether this was prevented by his snub nose and knock knees, or not, I do not know; but certain it is, that no one ever for a moment had the least idea that he was a greater personage than the son of Old Romance.
His parents thought he would soon become crazy, (it was very natural to think so), and determined to send him to learn a trade; various were the debates, as to what trade it should be, but at length it was settled that he should become a tailor. When Jonathan heard this, he drew himself up in a noble way, "No," said he, "never shall one of my blood be compelled to live the life of a tradesman. The Eagle will not mate with the wren--the Lion will not crouch to the fox."
The old man told him he cared nothing about eagles and wrens, lions and foxes, he was determined that he should "clothe the naked."
Jonathan would not consent to this. "If I must earn my living," said he, "I'll be a soldier, and fight the battles of my country; with my shield, helmet, and trusty sword, will I make my way through the world; let the insects who oppose me beware of my wrath."
The old man became angry, and seizing Jonathan, flogged him in spite of his nobility. The whipping did no good; but he was sent to his trade with instructions to the master to flog him severely if he misbehaved. This was too much to bear. The son of a prince (perhaps) to be bound apprentice to a tailor! it was too bad.
Jonathan was at his trade about a week, when his master, threatening to punish him, he became furious and snatching a pair of shears, he brandished them in a theatrical attitude--"Here I stand," said he, "and he who touches me shall that instant roll at my feet a lifeless corpse." But his pride had another fall, (so had his body,) for his was caught by the legs and carried off to an adjoining room, where he was tied, and his head shaved by way of removing some of the capping of his dignity.
Joseph Cabbage, (such was his master's name) determined to cure Jonathan, and for that purpose consulted his apprentices. One of them, Peter Pressboard, said he would undertake to cure him; but would not reveal his plan. Joseph consented, and Peter went to work. He embroidered his new suit of clothes, put on his chapeau, and went to a tavern, where, having obtained the use of a room, he sent a note to Joseph, informing him that he was there, and would expected Jonathan to be directed to him, as an illustraious stranger seeking for a son. Jonathan upon being told this, ran to the place, thinking on the way what he should say, and how address the noble gentleman; he went on and entered the room where Peter was sitting.
"I understand," said he, "that you are an illustrious stranger, seeking for a son whom you have lost. From my childhood I have felt noble blood in my veins, and have often wished to hear the happy tidings of my nobility. I have come to offer myself to you--speak and tell me whether you see in me the person you are searching for."
Peter walked forward majestically, and seizing poor Jonathan by the arm, squeezing it at the same time so violently that he could scarcely refrain from crying out; and laying his hand upon the face of the would be noble youth, said, "Ah! 'tis true--'tis true!"
"What is true?" said Jonathan, "Oh, let me hope that I am -----"
"Say no more," said Peter, "I cannot now tell you who you are. Leave me, I pray you."
"Oh! ask me not to leave you," said Jonathan. "Let me share your fate; let the lightning that withers the father, blast the son; let us glide through the river of life in the same bark; let me ------"
"Oh, leave me!" said Peter, "suffice it for the present to say, that you are more than a farmer's son."
"Am I?" said Jonathan.
----- "I thank thee for the word,
It nerves my vein, it steels my sword."
"Now would I die--I am satisifed. But when will you let me know what I am?"
"In a week from now," said Peter, "I'll meet you at your supposed father's house, and there proclaim to the world who and what you are. In the mean time carry this note to the vile tailor, to whom I have heard you are an apprentice, and he will treat you with respect."
"Another embrace," said Jonathan, "before we part." He rushed into Peter's arms and received what is sometimes called "a bear's hug," which was sufficient to let him know that if he had been in the arms of a prince he was a "powerful" one. After this he went away, and during his journey home, was anticipating the surprise of those who had formerly ill-treated him. Indeed, so intent was he upon his new life, that he knocked down his worthy master before he knew he had arrived at the shop.
"Why, what's the matter?" said Joseph, rising; "I presume I'm one of the opposing insects."
"Out of the way, miscreant!" said Jonathan.--"Read that," he handed Peter's letter which ran thus:
"Jo--Bow and scrape to him; go tell his dad the trick. I give him this for you, as he will be at home before me. PETER PRESSBOARD."
"Is it possible!" said Joseph, "I beg your pardon for past offences; [he knelt down]--kneel down, apprentices; curse the bones that would not bend to his majesty."
"Rise," said Jonathan, "on Saturday, at my supposed father's house, you will see the man who heralds my fame and picks me from the dust."
Joseph obtained permission to be present with the "boys," all of whom by this time had learned the joke.
Saturday arrived, and all were assembled at old Romance's. His parents paid Jonathan every respect, and at length Peter arrived, "armed and accoutred." Jonathan rushed into his arms, and the preliminaries being settled, Peter took Jonathan by the hand, and leading him into the middle of the room, said--
"Here is one whom you all have injured; here is one who has been made an object of scorn, in spite of his noble mien and manner, which any person of considerable insight could observe--(Jonathan put out his left foot.) Here he stands; look at his noble person;--look at the commanding expression of his countenance; look at his eye, which is like the Eagle's--But you have injured him; and I, to make amends to him, come to poclaim what he is--(Jonathan's right foot came out.) He is something more than a farmer's son--he is--
"What," said Old Romance.
Jonathan dropped his hand, opened his mouth wide, and gazed at Peter as if he had risen from the dead, while all others were enjoying a herty laugh at his expense.
"And what the Devil are you?" said Jonathan.
"Peter Pressboard, your fellow apprentice."
"Death and the Devil!" said Jonathan. "Villains! Have at ye all;" and so saying he rushed towards Peter, who thinking it better to escape, jumped out of the way, and "Terrible visu!" the nobleman butted his head against the cupboard, much to the injury of his mother's crockery, which then and there became broken and smashed; whereupon he was seized and dragged back to "the vile shop," whence, after several fruitless attempts to cure him of his malady, he was discharged. He wandered about the country in a suit of old regimentals, until his death, which happened soon after. I.T.B.
*What immediately comes to me is that it could have stood for "In The B-----." But I get nothing for the third word. Could it be "In The Beginning?" Whatever it is, I am guessing it controverted the entire preceding narrative, being, as it were, the last word on the subject.
**Her father was a marquis, whose family had historical ties to the French Court.
Music opening this page: "The Song of the Reed," by Jim Meyer, words by Rumi
from the album, "The Ancient One"