I think that Dr. Ian Stevenson's attempt to prove the existence of reincarnation, by narrowing his focus to children who had exceptional past-life memory, has done a disservice in one particular respect. I do understand why he did that--it handily defeats the "cryptomnesia," or false memory, objection. These children were too young, and too isolated, to have obtained the information by any normal means.*
But by turning up the volume full-blast, as it were, he has made us deaf to softer notes. Specifically, if past-life memories aren't crystal clear, they are not worthy of notice. To study them--as one scientist indicated to me, recently--is not "serious research."
But let's suppose we are straining our electronic ears to catch a signal from extraterrestrial intelligences. If we get a faint signal, are we to ignore it as insigificant? Suppose, further, that we get dozens, or even hundreds, of these faint signals--and that, put together, they comprise a formidible body of evidence which strongly suggests extraterrestrial life. Are we to dismiss it as not being "serious research," because none of the signals, by themselves, were strong and clear?
I think not. My study contains a handful of clear, precise, unique, and strongly verified past-life memories. Enough to establish that we are dealing with a genuine past-life match. Then, it consists--like my hypothetical "SETI" results--of dozens and dozens of lesser memories. But the combined effect is overwhelming, in my opinion, and also fascinating. I thought I'd give a recent example. I have to say that this fascinates me--and since nobody buys my books, or pays much attention to me at all, I have the luxury of writing whatever I feel like writing. You are welcome to read, or not (these blogs are free).
Gradually, gradually, in the course of eight years of research, several points of Mathew Franklin Whittier's early life became clear. He was denied a college education, which he desperately desired. In response, he educated himself, but he got a significant leg-up from an unlikely source. His friend's sister, four years younger that Mathew, began tutoring him. I felt this early-on in the research, and over the course of the study, I found more and more clues substantiating it. Abby was a child prodigy in an upper-class family, who had received a full French tutored education (i.e., not just the standard American education for well-to-do girls, which prepared them for marriage). She began tutoring Mathew--probably, in exchange for chores done around her parents' home, like building a retaining wall (which remains there, today, at the base of a rise behind her family property)--either in-person, when Mathew was in town, or via correspondence, when he was working in Boston, and then in New York City.
Abby appears to have focused on the history, myths, philosophy and literature of ancient Greece, as well as the history of Europe. She taught him French, as it appears, by having him translate La Fontaine's Fables (a French version of Aeosop's Fables, in verse); and she tried to teach him the esotericism (such as Hermeticism) and occult wisdom that her Scottish mother, Sally, had taught her. This last, Mathew was skeptical about at the time. Later, he would embrace the teachings of Swedenborg, and still later, he would fight for the cause of Spiritualism. For now, he simply borrowed lightly from what she was teaching him, for off-hand references and pseudonyms, in the material he was publishing in literary newspapers.
Keep in mind that there was scant evidence for all of this, at first. I had a little bit of historical evidence plus some few hints of past-life memory--a "weak signal," if you will--and then, more evidence came in by dribs and drabs over the next several years. The new evidence, in turn, would occasionally trigger a past-life memory impression, and thus the two sources would complement each other. It was a form of triangulation, the way that two people, standing some yards apart, can find a singing bird in a tree by gradually moving closer and closer.
In our analogy, the parallel would be that we get one weak signal which might indicate extra-terrestrial life; then, three months later, we get a very similar one. From this cross-correspondence, we theorize that these are not naturally-occurring signals, and we begin to compare them and attempt to derive some meaning from them. Then, two years later, a third signal comes in, and now we can see that almost certainly, they are not natural--and comparing all three, we derive a tentative translation. Finally, over the next six years, we are getting an average of one signal per month, so that there is little question about either their validity, or their translation.
Technically (to return to my study), one could say that I deduced it all from the clues, and that there is no proof, here, of past-life memory. But this is what I am trying to explain: my "signals" are typically weak, but they are really there. They inform and direct my interpretation of the historical clues. Keep in mind that I do have a few "knock-your-socks-off" proof memories. I am speaking now of the bulk of them. So in this process, a relatively weak past-life memory suggests a certain interpretation, and it suggests I look in a certain direction. Taking that interpretation, and looking in that direction, I find another piece of evidence, and then, another. These, together, might spark a second weak past-life memory, and so-on.
I'll give another example, before I get to the one I had intended to share, when I began this entry. I first remembered--and then, through this method, substantiated--that Mathew and Abby had been the original authors of the story that Charles Dickens re-worked and self-published as "A Christmas Carol" in 1843 (two years after Abby's death). But I didn't know at what period in their marriage they might have written it, or where they were at the time.
Recently, I visited the Methuen, Mass. museum, which was originally Richard Whittier's farmhouse. Methuen is very near Mathew and Abby's hometown of East Haverhill, and Richard was Mathew's second cousin (as I just recently learned). In fact, in the material published by Mathew at age 15, which I just discovered on this same expedition to Massachusetts, he writes to a "Cousin Dick," suggesting that they were childhood friends. In any case, I had clues suggesting that when Mathew and Abby's first child, Joseph, died of scarlet fever in August of 1838, they went to live for a time with Richard, in Methuen.
The instant I saw the smaller of the two original bedrooms, I knew that was where they had stayed. This is not proof, i.e., not to anyone except myself. It is an inner confirmation, one might say. But keep in mind we are dealing with a verified case--which means that neither the reality of reincarnation, nor the accuracy of my past-life match as Mathew, are at issue, here, at this point.
As I was preparing this book, and glancing once again at the image of the room that I had inserted there, it suddenly struck me: "This is where Abby and I began working on that manuscript." Not only that, but the back-story came to me along with this impression. Abby was in deep grief for her son. Mathew had found her a safe, warm place (the room had its own little hearth); but he had to distract her mind from her loss, to keep her from being pulled so deeply into her grief. I know, from stories and poems, that Mathew and Abby would make up stories, together, and that they in fact collaborated on some shorter published pieces. Here, Mathew must have suggested they work together on a longer story, a small novel or a play. His purpose was specifically to distract her, to keep her mind busy with something else. Mathew would write "Scrooge," while Abby would write the spirit guides and the visiting philanthropists. Both, together, would write Bob Cratchit and his family; while the "Tiny Tim" character (being similar to those she had created for her earlier stories), was her own.
And on re-read, as I was proofreading this entry, something else just struck me. Do you see it? "Tiny Tim" (and I am fighting back the emotion as I write this), represented her son, Joseph. I had never seen that, before. He was her son whom she desperately, desperately wanted to live. Little Joseph's death was partly due to poverty caused by shunning; and this was her plea for others who were forced to live in poverty, and who likewise struggled to protect their children from disease.
Do you know what Charles Dickens' back-story is for this book? He was desperately afraid of falling into debt (having been living the life of a literary rock star), and needed a quick "pot-boiler" for his bank-account, so he dashed off this book inside of six weeks. He dashed it off, alright--except it wasn't his.
Now, to the example I had originally intended to give. In the "New-England Galaxy" of 1828, when Mathew was 15 years old, he wrote a letter to the editor giving his opinion about the glut of bad poetry in the modern age, now that it was relatively easy for anyone and everyone to publish. In later years he would sound the same note, as regards both prose and poetry, for other publications. Keep in mind that his brother will someday be a famous poet; and his young tutor, Abby, is also very skilled in that art, so he knows whereof he speaks, even at age 15. Here, he signs the piece--for the first time--as "Trismegistus," a clear reference to the ancient mystic, Hermes. He will use that pseudonym again in 1851 for the "Carpet-Bag," but that's another story. He has, as it seems, simply borrowed the name from his tutoring sessions with Abby, as its meaning, "thrice-great," must have appealed to him. However, in the second letter under this signature, suddenly he adopts the character of an ignorant Andrew Jackson supporter. This is a technique he will use throughout his literary career, adopting the persona of the enemy, to subtly (or not so subtly, as the case may be) make him look ridiculous. So we know this is Mathew Franklin Whittier. But in the P.S. of the second letter, we see a brief (albeit deliberately garbled) reference to one of La Fontaine's fables--one which would have been a favorite of Mathew's, dealing as it does with hypocrisy.
Elizur Wright, Mathew's personal friend and editor of the Boston "Chronotype," came out with a published translation of La Fontaine's Fables in 1841--the year of Abby's death. Mathew had embraced the teachings of the Greek Stoic philosophers, being that part of Abby's curriculum he resonated with most strongly. After her death, it appears that he took this brave (if emotionally unwise) stance, and gave away everything that reminded him of her. He must have given his homework assignments, his translations of La Fontaine, to Wright. This, also, was my sudden past-life memory "hit" on the subject.
The particular fable that Mathew refers to in the P.S. by "Trismegistus," is, in fact, included in Wright's publication.
It's a little thing. But as I had dimly remembered, I would say that Abby was, in fact, tutoring Mathew in French, by having him translate these verses into English. If one reads Elizur Wright's translations, some portion of the delightful humor one sees therein, is actually Mathew (and Abby, as she corrected his efforts).
There. It's just a weak signal. But it has profound, cascading implications.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Dr. Stevenson's advocates will say that he did this for the sake of scientific rigor; but there is another point. He also was forced into this corner by his skeptics. Had he not been so severely pressed by his peers in the mainstream scientific community, he might have applied the same rigorous standards to cases which did not require "star" subjects. Being atypical, such star subjects are more difficult to draw general principles from. Specifically, most of these children had probably been earthbound before reincarnating.
Music opening this page: "Starlight," by The Free Design,
from the album, "Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love"