Last night, I completed a draft of the novelette which describes the 19th-century relationship between Mathew Franklin Whittier and his soul-mate, Abby Poyen. I have often been advised to write Mathew's life (my own past life) in fictional form; and I have always responded to those people, that there are enough such fictional treatments, and that what is needed, now, is not to permit the audience to suspend disbelief; but rather, to provide strong and compelling evidence to believe outright.
Mathew's long and complicated life defies condensation in a fictional work (though it could certainly be interesting, inasmuch as it turns out he was actually a spy of sorts, for William Lloyd Garrison's movement); but just the 21 years of his relationship with Abby is do-able. That runs from the time she first began tutoring him as a bright, privately-educated 14-year-old girl, to her death from "consumption" in 1841.
So I have completed my first draft of that tale. I think there was always a question in my mind as to whether I could write fiction. While my writer's block for prose has long-since disappeared (obviously), it remains in place when it comes to either fiction, or poetry. On rare occasions I have attempted poetry, in order to honor Abby, and my relationship with her across the Great Divide, today. Whether it has merit in anybody else's eyes besides my own, I have no way to know. I rarely get any feedback; people read my blog, ignore my book, and once or twice a year someone writes out of the blue to thank me for the work I'm doing. I had one stalker who seemed obsessed with me for reasons which weren't entirely clear; I have had one or two detractors (including the stalker, when he was disenfranchised); beyond that, my feedback consists of a vast and thunderous silence.
I have one gauge for all this--I know that some of my photography is as good as anyone's at the top of that art form, and yet, not one single person has ever given me feedback indicating that they see anything out of the ordinary in it. Photography is so cheapened, now that anyone can snap a picture and share it with the world (meaning, with nobody, since everybody is a world), that no-one can recognize art when they happen to see it. The same is true for writing; and, within a smaller sphere, the same has become true for reincarnation novels.
So I wrote this little novel not for my well-meaning advisors, nor for the public, but for myself; and, perhaps, for a future public which has also embraced my lengthy, but absorbing, non-fiction book.
I have not made a careful study of reincarnation fiction. Once, I searched through Amazon.com's offerings on keyword "reincarnation," trying to see just how likely it would be that someone would stumble upon my own e-book, there. I found hundreds of reincarnation novels. Most of them are love stories, and of those, most seem to play fast-and-loose with reincarnation, itself, introducing various sci-fi elements into the mix. Many claim to be based on real past-life incidents, but I seriously doubt that any of these memories have been proven to the extent that mine have. I did the homework first, then wrote the novel. In fact, my novel is actually a series of past-life facts woven into a narrative.
When I say "facts," I mean, everything I seemed to remember, everything I proved as fact, and everything I have at least a certain amount of evidence for. These elements are then strung together, one after another, filling in with imagination and guesswork only where absolutely necessary. I didn't create anything in the plot, of any substance, out of whole cloth--so much so, that when it came to the death of Mathew and Abby's second child, I stepped briefly out of character and admitted that no historical cause of death had been found for her.
In other words, I actually did what dozens and dozens of other reincarnation novel authors claim to have done.
Joan Grant--that's it--I was trying to remember the name of a fairly well-known reincarnation author, who claimed to have done this. I read one of her books some years ago. It was my impression that she took a handful of real past-life memories, and then--by her own admission--stretched them. But from my experience of the matter, I would have to say most of her "stretching" was probably imagination. It was precisely in the "stretching," or extrapolation, that I made my errors. These were the things that turned out to be disproven in my study. I had the core memory, and then I began trying to remember something else about it. Where I got caught, was when I realized I had been assuming something about Mathew's history that wasn't true, based, say, on what I'd read in his biography. Those erroneous assumptions would be ingloriously captured in my "stretches," proving them false.
Case in point, I assumed that Mathew and Abby courted for a few months before their marriage in 1836; so when I "stretched" my memory-glimpses about their courtship, I placed all of it during that time-period. But as my historical data gradually came in, I realized she must have started tutoring him over the winter months (when there were fewer farm duties) from 1830; and that they must have started actively courting in the spring of 1833, after she had "come out" at age 16 the previous fall. There was then a period of several years when they were separated, while he attempted to make something of himself so that he would be permitted by her parents to propose. He failed at all his attempts at business, so that when he returned, the couple finally ended up eloping in 1836. When I had all this data fully integrated, I could see that my memory glimpses were still entirely plausible (in fact, some of them made more sense this way), but everywhere I had extrapolated facts from them, I was in the wrong time-frame.
I'm guessing, then, that Joan Grant's novels are about 95% extrapolation, and about 5% past-life memory. My novelette is about 95% past-life memory (in combination with facts unearthed through traditional research), and only 5% extrapolation.
But how to explain this to people, who don't believe in reincarnation in the first place? Because I would suspect that Grant's novels were popular as fiction; not as actual past-life memory. In other words, if it was fanciful, so much the better for the bulk of that audience.
I'm now returning to this entry after about a half-hour break for my caretaking duties...
That's the objective side of it. This novelette is deeply personal, as well as being historically accurate. Put yourself in my place--I have already been risking myself for years, sharing my work with an audience who silently comes and goes, reading my free material, while hardly one person even considers purchasing my book for weeks at a time. It has to be mostly an audience of mild curiosity, or even morbid curiosity. I will put my findings out there for ridicule; I will attempt to channel Abby's journal, to give her a voice in the world, and to help her reach a few soul-mates divided by death and crushed under the weight of grief. But I balk at displaying my most precious, intimate experience with Abby, in the 19th century, to such an audience.
The subjective side is how I found it affecting me, while writing it. Normally, one is not so much aware, when going through life, of the difference between feeling and thought, intuition and intellect. In past-life memory, however, and in immersing myself in this self-study, I have found a sharp distinction. Intuitively, emotionally, I remember everything. I have often said it--and as often as I say it, I think people dismiss it--that I have full and complete intuitive recall of being Mathew Franklin Whittier. But I have very, very few intellectual memories--just a handful, some of which provide extremely strong evidence of this being real, in my opinion.
I have found that the emotional side often percolates slowly up to consciousness. With a few exceptions, it isn't instantaneous. It steals upon me unawares, perhaps a couple of hours after having immersed myself in the facts. This phenomenon has been observed in other cases, most notably in the Bruce Kelly/James Johnston case, where the subject was taken aboard a submarine precisely like the one he remembered having served on in WWII, and for a time, reverted to the emotions of his previous incarnation. You can see the more immediate and dramatic type in the video of one of Dr. Peter Ramster's cases, where the woman is brought from Australia to the scene of her past life in France, and as soon as she sees the ruins she had described under hypnosis, she begins wailing.
So I experienced "past-life bleedthrough" while writing this novel. It can be quite disconcerting.* I am talking about things, here, which will someday be common knowledge, but which now are perceived as so much pseudo-science. So my audience, today, won't believe me; whereas if anyone reads this in the future, they will be thinking, "Okay, okay, I know all this--get on with it."
I discovered, in the course of my research, about two years' worth of weekly blogs, published from fall of 1849 to mid-1852; and then again in 1856 and 1857. Of course, they weren't called "blogs"; but then, the word "blog" hadn't been invented yet, when I started this one, either. In the mid-19th century, they were called "travelogues," and these were published in a Boston literary paper which had a fairly hefty subscription. The series achieved some degree of fame--for the wrong person. Mathew allowed someone else to take the credit for it, because he was working undercover for Garrison and had to keep his own identity strictly secret. It appears that he was using the column to keep the other Garrisonians apprised of his contacts.
Pretty cool, don't you think? It's the least of what made Mathew's life interesting, in my opinion, and the least of what makes my larger book worth reading.
In any case, I read that entry yesterday, and the poignancy of it struck me forcibly. Everything was precisely as I would have put it; and precisely as I would have felt. His thoughts and reactions were precisely as mine would be, in those circumstances--and yet, I couldn't remember any of it. I might as well be reading the thoughts and experiences of someone else. An entire lifetime of experiences like this, and it was all foreign to me, meaning, intellectually. And yet...and yet...there have been rare moments, while reading this material, when I felt as though I could almost remember it, if I could only remember who I was. So far back, so far back, that I wasn't even the same person...I'm trying to capture a feeling, not state the obvious here, intellectually.
Why can't you remember your childhood? Because you were someone else, then. It's the same with a past life.
So while I was writing that column for other people, it turns out I was preserving my memories in a time capsule, to be unearthed by myself in a future century, when I had almost total amnesia about that entire life.** I can read all of these experiences, and my wry comments on them, and the brilliancy of my own writing (sorry, but it is manifestly true); as though for the first time. And while I do so, the feelings are as fresh as if it were yesterday--even though this was in a completely different physical body.
Now, one would think that this would be inherently interesting enough to spend $12 and a few weeks of one's time on it. Wouldn't you? Even if you weren't sure it was real, just to give it a fair chance. I mean, we spend so much time and money on everything else...
Maybe it's that I don't advertise. But I have tried, briefly, with Google ads, as I recall. Nothing.
I think Society is ailing, and failing fast. I think we, as a Society, have lost the pole star, the inner compass, and I think we ourselves are lost. My study is like a beacon on the open sea; but people are grasping at mirages and phantoms. To their deluded eyes, the sea is dotted with flashing lights; but each one turns out to be merely a piece of tinfoil which, when grasped, bears them down to their doom. Of the myriads of "lights" out there, only a very few are real beacons.
So even if I advertised, I would be advertising among this sea of tinfoil, and no-one would take any particular notice. That's not the answer. The answer, I think, is that everybody is going to have to drown, and then reincarnate with a serious urge to discover the truth. Those people will readily recognize, and ignore, the bits of tinfoil. To their eyes, there will be only be a few beacons visible.
This will be one of them.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*For example, after completing this entry, I took a walk on the beach. The big, tall blonde wearing the skimpiest of bathing suits, walking in the opposite direction, was of only academic interest; but the little, light-complected brunette 30 yards up the beach, with her back turned to me, was rivetting, because to my subconscious mind, she looked just like Abby; and my longing for Abby was stimulated by having so recently immersed myself in that period of Mathew's personal life. The subconscious mind appears to have very little discrimination; but it is fully and separately awake to past-life memory. When it sees something it recognizes through that haze, it triggers the emotions all by itself, so that the conscious mind is left entirely unaware of the memory, but experiences the attending emotion in its full force.
**In one instance, in the opening to the 1856 travelogue, Mathew appears to have been doing it deliberately--sending a message to me, his future incarnation, to the effect that he had been the author of the earlier series. There is evidence indicating that Mathew did accept reincarnation, or was at least open-minded about it, by the mid 1800's. I've gone into this in some detail in an earlier Update.
Music opening this page: "Starlight" by The Free Design, from the album, "Stars, Time, Bubbles, Love"