I'm feeling restless and lazy at the same time, so I think I'll get my main ideas across somewhat succinctly. On Saturday evenings, I enjoy re-runs of the British series, "As Time Goes By," and although the words of the theme song strike me as somewhat trite and materialistic (as in "Oh, love is just a part of life, and passes with it,") I find the visuals of the introduction poignant. There are twin portraits of the young lovers on a table; they fade, as they will look a few decades since; and then they dissolve into current portraits of a couple in late middle age. Meanwhile, in real life the male lead, Geoffrey Palmer, is about to have his 90th birthday. Modern media has put the speed of aging in our face, because the people we are accustomed to seeing as youths, are now middle-aged; the middle-aged ones are old; and the older characters are gone.
There is a profound difference between how those embracing Materialism face this enigma, and how someone who understands life in cycles, and in a top-down spiritual view, faces it. Those who understand "As above, so below" and "we are spiritual beings having a physical experience," see this phenomenon of the sheer speed of life, as poignant. Those who cling to Materialism, pretend to a kind of diffidence. "Live for today," they will say. "Stop and smell the roses." "We only live once!" But beneath this bravado, they are terrified, as well they might be.
Because if you are to be terminated, extinguished, wiped from existence--then no morality, no philosophy, no amount of sweet-smelling roses will compensate. In fact, they mean nothing, the entire "damage control" philosophy of Existentialism notwithstanding.
So then there is eternal heaven and eternal hell, which was the previous attempt at damage control, when reincarnation was removed (as the pre-existence of the soul was declared "anathema" in 553 AD). That has been thrown out, as it should have been, because it was a philosophical monstrosity which did its own damage to the psyche of Society. We are all too familiar with the forms that damage took, so I don't need to explain that, here. Just look at Cotton Mather's sermon as he depicts God holding the soul over the flames of hell as one would a loathsome spider. Nice guy, huh?
A family story goes that when I was three years old, and taken to my mother's traditional family church, the minister there began a "fire and brimstone" sermon. As he paused to take a breath, I piped up loud enough for all to hear, "What's he so mad about?"
All that to say this. I was thinking of the travelogue I discovered, written by myself in the 19th century, when I was Mathew Franklin Whittier. If you look it up, you will find that "Quails" was attributed to singer/entertainer Ossian Dodge, writing for the Boston "Weekly Museum" in 1849-1852. But he didn't write it, even though the editor said unequivocally that he did, and Dodge himself maintained credit for it all his life. It was Mathew, keeping under cover for reasons of his own.
This is my own published, weekly diary, and yet, I can't actually remember any of it, cognitively. I recognize it intuitively and emotionally. I recognize that this is my mind--it is precisely how I would feel, how I would view things, how I would react. There are dozens of these entries (and more, when he took it up again for another paper, and under another name, some years hence). Not once does he ever deviate from how I would react. And it goes very, very deep. I can't explain. This is me deep down.
I'm not the only one who uncovered a past-life diary--Capt. Robert Snow found his, written as painter James Carroll Beckwith. But he seems to have wanted to get the process of reading it over as quickly as possible. He looked for that evidence which would disprove or confirm his statements under hypnosis, and finding it overwhelming, once he had accomplished the task at hand, he shipped it back to the liberary. I, however, found mine fascinating.
Two examples came to mind, which prompted me to write this Update. I have said that Mathew's personality was a little different, and of course it would have to be, as he had a different set of life experiences. But his core was the same. A little less mature, I would say. A little more mercurial--perhaps a little quicker, intellectually. But otherwise, the same person. I was, for all intents and purposes, Mathew when I was an adolescent. If I have grown a bit in this lifetime, it is all part of the slow turning of the wheels.
These two vignettes I am about to share are deeply poignant, to me. I am at a loss to explain it further. They speak volumes, and I will have to let them speak for themselves, except to give a little background. First of all, Mathew adopted a persona, with his own alluded-to back story, for each of his travelogues. "Quails" is an older gentleman who travels in some unnamed position of government service, which permits him to occasionally visit various heads of state. This, despite the fact that Mathew is only in his late 30's, and is probably working on a contract basis as a traveling postal inspector in the New England states. "Quails" also has a penchant for visiting authors, artists and various other eccentric and interesting folks, most of whom turn out to have one of two things in common--they are postmasters, or they are abolitionists. Where they are abolitionists, however, everything is mentioned about them except this particular detail. I am not guessing as to their personal convictions--I mean prominent abolitionists, like Elihu Burritt and Alonzo Lewis, leading me to speculate that the main purpose of the column was to apprise his fellow Garrisonians of his contacts, without anyone else being the wiser. In at least one instance, an artist he visits is a spiritualist, and specifically, a Swedenborgian (which I know Mathew, himself, had been some years earlier).
The song that Mathew refers to in the first vignette, which begins "Come, Philander, let's be a marching," continues with the next line, "Everyone their true love seeking." Thanks to the internet I was able to find it. Mathew is here referring to his first wife and soul-mate, Abby, whom he had lost to consumption about 11 years earlier. So of course he is seeing, in the young man, himself when Abby unexpectedly accepted his proposal. Under hypnosis, before I knew very much about their relationship, when asked what the best experience in that lifetime had been, I responded immediately, "When my first wife accepted my proposal, and when I got something (important) published." Of course, this is generic--I don't mean to offer it as proof, or evidence. Mathew wrote a humorous poem describing his proposal, as well--and some of that does stand as evidence, against memories I had recorded earlier. Here, I am just wanting to share the feeling of reading my own past-life personal accounts. And I can't. I can talk around it, but I can't convey it in words. If you are older, and you have had the experience of going back to the diary of your youth, you will understand, because it is exactly like that--except I had a different body altogether, in a different era, with a different identity. And yet...and yet...it is still me. I would know myself anywhere.
Incidentally, I make nothing of the fact that Mathew chose to give the young man the name "Stephen" (presuming he had not used his real name, upon overhearing it), except that perhaps Mathew happened to like it.
The second excerpt occurs as Mathew is wrapping up a visit to Paris, and leaving the city for London. There, he has visited Victor Hugo at his home. How in the world--and why--would conservative slapstick entertainer Ossian Dodge personally visit Victor Hugo? But Mathew, brother of John Greenleaf Whittier, personal friend of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and secret liaison for William Lloyd Garrison, certainly could, and would.
So don't believe everything you read in history books, or written online by historical authorities. They haven't gone into Mathew Franklin Whittier's personal history at a fraction of the depth that I have.
During our last trip in the cars, we were highly amused at the courtship and comments of a couple of young lovers in the seat ahead of us, on a Daguerreotype of the young lady as taken by Chase of Boston, the day previous.
"I'll bet four dollars," exclaimed the young man, "that Chase made a mistake 'bout the price of that 'ere daggertype, for he only asked me five dollars for the hull consarn, and the flumadiddle ivory stuff is worth more'n that, but I don't care, I gin him what he asked, and I have now got the largest and prettiest daggertype, of the smallest and prettiest girl in seven States, and by the hokey pokey, I'm now bound to get married or else go to Californy."
"Don't speak so loud, Stephen, don't," replied the young lady, "this long nosed, big eyed feller behind us is listening."
"No he aint nuther, he's readin' the Museum," exclaimed Stephen, "so now I want you to say, what'll you do about it. If I go to Californy, I've got to start by the first of April, but if you're a mind to du the fair thing, I'll stop! what do you say, eh?" The sweet young Miss--who was in reality a perfect beauty--here hung her head, sighed twice, picked to pieces two or three of the tassels of her new shawl, and exclaimed, "Well, Stephen! if Pa hasn't any objections, I spose I might get ready by fall." Stephen's innocent breast was here filled with such an immeasureable amount of happiness, that it was impossible to control it,--so suddenly turning around with open mouth and distended nostrils, and looking us full in the face, he stuttered forth, "I say, mister, oh-oh, w'what time is it? Oh dear, w-what'll you take for that paper?"
Although our age, would preclude the possibility of our sympathies being enlisted in the merits of the case, still, having a faint recollection of the time when we were of a party who sung, "Come Philander, let's be a marching," we quickly replied, "three quarters to matrimony--not anything, you're welcome to it." May their path be strewn with roses.
We now look around to scan our traveling companions, who prove to be a mixture of French, Germans, and English. The former class is composed of one gentleman belonging to the upper ranks of society, one lieutenant in the army, and a rather pretty-looking grisette;--the second class, of a couple of German students;--and the third, of an Englishman and his wife, who, we learned from their conversation, had been passing the last two weeks in Paris, and were now on their way home to Birmingham. The French gentleman, with that sociability peculiar to the nation, turns to the Englishman, who is sitting on his left, and makes a remark in broken English on the beauty of the day and the probability of our having a bon voyage. The Englishman stares him in the face with the coolest impudence for about a minute, gives a wink of conceited wit to his wife, and then replies, in freezing tones--
"I don't understand you, sir."
"Pardon Monsieur," replied the French gentleman, his face coloring with mortification at the rebuff his sociability had received.
Without deigning a reply, the Englishman gazed intently with an expression of wonderful wisdom on a small spot of vacancy for about two minutes, and then exclaimed to his wife--
"How did you like your breakfast, my dear?"
"O, not at all; I could hardly endure it," she replied, in a half-simpering, affected tone: "it is quite inendurable to be obliged to eat such hard bread as the French do have."
Feeling for the first time in our life ashamed of our national language, and wishing, if possible, to turn the current of the Frenchman's thoughts, we addressed him in our bad French, relative to the beauties of the country through which we were passing, and the improvements in agriculture that had been made in France within the past three years.
Without making fun of our poorly expressed ideas, or looking at us as if he dreaded our near approach, he pretended to understand more than we fear we were able to explain, and we were soon on as intimate and sociable terms as a Frenchman who could speak English very poorly and an American who spake still poorer French could well be.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
Music opening this page: "Song for Lynette" by Eric Johnson, from the album, "Venus Isle"