Over the past few days, I've recorded, in real time, my discovery of an authorship conundrum, and its eventual resolution. My former speculations regarding Mathew Franklin Whittier's authorship of a particular travelogue series seemed to be in serious jeopardy, but in the end, it came out in my favor. I remarked that I had gone through this same process many times as regards past-life impressions.
I don't like to leave an unsubstantiated assertion like that hanging in the air, so while I've gone over this example before, I'd like to summarize it again.
In, I think it was, 2009, when I had first begun researching my past-life case, I was working with a volunteer researcher who lived in Amesbury, Mass., very near where Mathew grew up. She happened to ask me whether I had any memories of the memorial service for Mathew's first wife, Abby, in 1841. I was in the process of writing her back that I did not, when a series of impressions began to emerge. I wrote them down stream-of-consciousness as they came to me. I was, of course, not hypnotized or in any altered state of consciousness, and so I didn't know how seriously to take them. But given that past-life cognitive memories sometimes seem to be triggered where very strong emotion was involved, I thought they might be genuine.
These memories started with Mathew arriving at the cemetery (at that time, a burial ground--and we will get to the difference, in a minute), such that more than one carriage was parked on a dirt road which had a bend in it. The convex side of the bend, as I still recall the image, was toward the graves. We then walked down a gentle incline, through scrubby grass and brush, for about 200 feet, until we came to the gravesite. The men stood in a semi-circle, in black coats and top-hats--I didn't recall any women, so this is about 10 men, perhaps--facing the gravestone (which I seemed to recall being horizontal, as I think on it, now). Just beyond the grave was a clump of bushes and/or small trees; and there was a small flowering tree there off to one side (to the left, I believe), perhaps 10-15 feet away.
The rest of the memories had to do with the reception, at a large house which I have tentatively identified. That portion doesn't concern us, here.
This was before we had located Abby's current-day tombstone. When my researcher did find it, it was in a tight row of graves in the cemetery, facing the main road up at the front. Clearly, it was not the location I had remembered.
To make a long story short(er), I finally determined that it was accepted practice, when converting a community burial ground into a formal cemetery, to move the old bodies up into more tightly organized plots. It had, in fact, been done not long before this cemetery was established, with one in a nearby community. Furthermore, the present-day vertical headstone does not look old enough to go back to 1841. Abby, herself, seems to be telling me, through thought-impression, that only a few shards of her bones are actually at the new site. So my original impressions remained plausible, on all these counts.
Looking closely at Google maps, it seemed to me that there was a farm road running along behind the cemetery. In my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words," I made the case that this was the road I had remembered. And there the matter rested, until I moved to Portland a couple of months ago.
When I was able to visit the cemetery in person, I found that there was about a 50 foot drop-off down to the farm behind the cemetery; and that the road I had located on Google maps, could not possibly be the one I remembered as I was writing to my researcher. However, just along this drop-off is a ridge, perhaps five feet high, and along that ridge is a flat area which is now studded with trees. These trees are too young to have existed in 1841. If I walked from this flat area to the middle of the cemetery, in the back, I would be going down a gentle slope for about 200 feet, just as I remembered.
Whether or not it is coincidental, right at this spot there is, even today, an area of bushes and trees, much as I remembered; and, although it was winter and I couldn't tell what variety it might be, there was one small tree. Obviously this would not be the same foliage that existed in 1841. But in a rural area, people have a tendency to keep things pretty-much the same as they have always been; and these could conceivably be the great-great-great "grandchildren" of that foliage.
At any rate, my memory now became entirely plausible, which is all I was really hoping for. One would need a diary or personal correspondence to outright prove such a memory. The point I wanted to make, here, is that I went from an unsubstantiated memory, to one that seemed disproven; to one that seemed plausible; to one that seemed disproven, again; back to one that now stands as being quite plausible.
So that is an example of how this see-saw process has occurred while trying to substantiate past-life impressions. Note that what you get depends largely on how deeply you dig, and how long you persist. If someone wants to disprove a past-life memory, they only need to dig far enough to get to "stage two" of this process; but that doesn't necessarily mean they couldn't have gotten to "stage four" if they had been so-inclined.
Incidentally, for anyone closely following this recent exploration into "J.O.B.," as I was proofreading the first series (which I believe to have been written by Mathew), I did run across evidence--nay, proof--that he considers himself a Portland native. He says:
During the summer and fall months these quarries are worked by several companies, some from Boston. They are a source of much income. It is said the granite of our beautiful "Exchange" in Portland, was taken from these quarries. (Doubted.)
The "Exchange" was a large, dome-shaped government building which contained, among other things, the post office that Mathew would begin working in the following year. He could have been speaking as a resident of Maine; but it's far more likely that Mathew, a resident of Portland whom we know was very attuned to the beauty of certain buildings (since we have seen him write on this subject when he lived in Boston), was expressing pride in his city.
Again, in the fifth installment of this first series, in the April 26, 1851 edition, he writes of Lubec Village:
The streets generally run parallel, crossing at right angles. Its long rows of wharves, crowds of foreigners, and commercial preparations, gives it the appearance of a little Portland.
This does not sound, to me, like a writer in a small town, who is taking into account that the paper, and the editor, are in Portland. It sounds to me like someone who is, himself, quite familiar with the city.
Now look at the writer of the second series, in his second installment, where he clearly indicates that Canaan, Maine is not only his fond hometown, but also his current residence. Here he waxes eloquent about Canaan, signing the piece from there on July 28, 1851 (26 days after Mathew's departure for Liverpool).
Having such unbounded freedom, no matter if I do indulge a bit in the sentimental, in contending that I live where blow the softest breezes, bloom the fairest flowers...
And if there is any remaining question about whether this second author considers Canaan his current place of residence, in the next installment he actually gives its longitude and latitude, as his own, at home. This second writer, having probably been charged with "looking over" the previous entries to make his own consistent with them, either missed the earlier references to Portland, or thought them of little consequence. Finally, the second writer makes a reference, in a subsequent installment, as he writes to Edward Elwell, the editor of the Portland "Transcript," to "your friend Deering." This would be Nathaniel Deering, a prominent and wealthy resident of Portland, who was Elwell's personal friend. However, I also know that he was Mathew's personal friend--in one letter to his brother, Mathew refers to him as "Old Nat," and they were members of the same debate club in Portland. Thus, Mathew would have written "our friend Deering." On all these counts, the second author definitely is not Mathew Franklin Whittier. On the other hand, the clues pointing to Mathew's authorship of the first series--as well as the 1856 and 1857 series--are legion.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Audio opening this page: "The Inspector,"
by Wally Badarou, from the album, "Echoes"