It's the evening of the 23rd, after dinner, and another topic keeps pressing on me for an entry, even though I've been tweaking this morning's entry off-and-on all day. I finally have that one where I want it. I've had a cold for the last few days, and I'm just now getting over it. That means I've been mostly knocking around the house, and I'm restless. But I think it's more than that. This, somehow, needs to be said clearly, so people will understand it.
The research on reincarnation that we are familiar with, has stressed cognitive memories. However, I am not the first to suggest that the memories which follow us most easily into a new incarnation, are the emotional ones. Past-life therapists make use of the "affect bridge" to access past-life memories; and some Theosophists have even gone so far as to suggest that it is only the emotional self which reincarnates. I wouldn't go that far, but my own study confirms how important this type of past-life carryover is.
I was trying to think whether I had any impressions of Mathew's feelings which turned out to be incorrect, after I had delved deeply into the historical record for some eight years. Was I ever wrong? Did I ever feel that Mathew felt one way about any subject, only to find that he felt differently?
I wasn't able to come up with a single instance. Even where I was embarrassingly wrong about historical details, my feelings were nonetheless correct. It may not be exactly parallel, but it reminds me of medium John Edward saying, "I may be off in the way I interpret the message, but I won't be wrong with the message, itself." Or, he says, "I might be wrong about the name, but I won't be wrong about the first consonant, or the first sound."
There is one significant caveat to this, in my case. I had two psychic readings in year 2010, early in my research. Both psychics, acting as mediums, were given as little information as possible (before the reading, and during at least the first half-hour); except that both were instructed to try to contact my past-life wife in the 19th century. Both of these mediums were genuine, and in hindsight, I can now say that both of them made some very accurate "hits." More importantly, however, they both gave me detailed information on Abby (Mathew's true love, and now my wife in the astral realm). That, in turn, gave me advance information on how Mathew felt about her, about their relationship, and about some aspects of their life, together.
The point is, that I could have built a conceptual edifice on the foundation of these two readings. Or, put another way, it is difficult for me to prove that I didn't build such an edifice. I have to admit those readings gave me something to start with--they set a direction. But I already had matching feelings before the first reading.
For example, I had already been trying to establish contact with Abby before the first reading (that was why I scheduled it, in the first place). I wasn't sure whether she wanted to resume a full relationship across the Great Divide, or not. It seemed to me that, for a period of time, I would feel her presence; and then, it was as though she had abandoned me, and I felt nothing.
When I asked about this (during the latter portion of the reading, when I permitted myself to ask questions that could be leading), I was told that she was not, actually, being inconsistent in her wish to remain connected; rather, the problem was due to "earth conditions." But it wasn't the psychic who suggested to me that I wanted to maintain contact, and re-establish a relationship. I already knew that. (If I had any remaining questions, they were put to rest with the first comment out of the medium's mouth: "I almost called you an hour before the appointment, because I've been getting bombarded with images all that time." :-)
I could explore that caveat in more depth, but just suffice it to say, I always have to keep this in mind. There was one detail in the first reading that the psychic got wrong (or, interpreted wrongly), as compared with the deep historical record. She had Mathew teaching Abby; in actuality, even though Abby was four years younger, it was she who had benefitted from a private tutored education, and it was Mathew who had been denied a higher education, and who desperately desired one. Therefore, it was Abby who was tutoring Mathew, not the other way around. The second psychic got it right, inasmuch as he said "She was educated." I think I always knew that, on some level. It didn't ring true to me, to think of chauvenistically educating Abby, as though I was doing her a favor. I sort of ignored that part of the reading.
But this is a very complex history. The more I delved into Mathew's life, the more I found. Mathew's many essays make his values and his motivations very clear, as does his poetry. His travelogues were, in effect, public diaries. Even his short-stories were so heavily based on his own life, that they stand as diary entries in their own right, once one learns how to "decode" them.
But I can't think of a single instance--a single published work--a single travelogue entry--which went against the way I knew that Mathew felt about the subject at hand. I'm pausing to think--I still can't come up with any. Perhaps an exception might be the discovery that Mathew had such a strong vengeful streak. It's not really an exception--it's one of a handful of lessons that I had learned, before I entered my present incarnation. I certainly have the capacity for that--I've just outgrown it. Others might include alcohol abuse (I had an aversion to the idea of getting drunk in this life), and the idea that I could read and out-think every philosophy in the world (I had that conceit as a boy, but painfully outgrew it as a young adult). What initially appeared to be an exception, where he seemed to be half-flippant while protesting the cruelty of slaughtering calves, actually turned out to be his fear of being thought a wimp for these feelings in the 19th century--a time when it was, apparently, considered not only eccentric, but unmanly. He did, however, manage to mention in passing that mother cows grieve for their young.
To some extent, the historical record led me forward. I admit that. It was a hand-in-hand process. I would discover something in the historical record--and it would confirm what I had previously felt. Or, I would read something in the historical record, where Mathew was expressing his feelings about a particular topic, and it would be precisely as I would have predicted.
It would also be precisely as I have felt about it, in this lifetime.
Where Mathew was extremely sensitive, to Nature, to music, and to the arts, I have always been the same in this lifetime. Where he was concerned about cruelty to animals (most of the time he spoke out against it plainly), I knew he would be--and I have always felt that, myself. Where I read that he "broke horses," I felt, "That's not right." But when I saw evidence suggesting he was something of a horse-whisperer, it came to me in a flash--he didn't "break" horses in the traditional way, he did it the way a horse-whisperer would do it. The biographer simply assumed he did it in the usual way.
Where he deeply respected the music of Handel, I knew he would--and so do I. Where he speaks out against war, and chooses "Why do the nations so furiously rage together?" as his example, I knew he would, and I would do the same. (This line is, of course, followed by "Why do the people imagine a vain thing?", which was the primary focus of Mathew's social satire. It has often been worthwhile to look up what followed the quotes Mathew chose.)
Where his editor is poking good-natured fun at him, as "The Sensitive Man," describing him craning his neck in an omnibus to follow the sight of a girl wearing "bloomers," I knew instantly it wasn't because of what she was wearing. It was because the girl looked very much like his lost wife, Abby--and he half-believed he might catch a glimpse of her in a crowd, someday.*
In short, on the feeling level, I had 100% recollection. This also meant that I had 100% correct understanding of his motivation, in any given situation.
The first thing I ever read about Mathew, in 2005, when I had just recently discovered him, was the "Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier," by Samuel Pickard. I obtained it through interlibrary loan, and read it (especially, the introductory biography) in the library. The biography begins with John Greenleaf's childhood, describing things he experienced with his younger brother, Mathew, who was his primary playmate and companion on their isolated farm.
Included are descriptions of how the two family oxen were like pets to the boys, who would lean back on the oxens' horns. There was a story that one of them had saved John Greenleaf's life, by jumping over him when unable to stop, on a hill; and another story in which it almost seemed the animals had human understanding. When I read these stories, my first strong emotional reaction was, "They were sold to someone who butchered them, and I was very, very upset about it, such that it created a rift in the family."
After writing this entry, and asserting that this subjective reaction might be recorded in my notes, I checked on it. Sure enough, in the notes I took when reading this book in the library, I copied all the anecdotes I referenced, above. I then made two comments, at different points, beginning with:
First, that's about the number of animals I feel I remember; secondly, there wasn't much slaughtering going on on this farm, and if an animal was sold for slaughter, it would have been unusual, which also fits with my memories. Thirdly, I don't remember anything about "breaking steers and colts," and in the paragraph above, Pickard has just described that there were not, in fact, very many steers or colts to break--so if this happened, it had to have happened on other farms.
Then, after the story indicating how human the oxen seemed to be, I added the one-line remark:
My feeling is that these oxen were later sold for slaughter.
Remember, this is my first research foray into Mathew Franklin Whittier's life. This was the same month in which I had first discovered Mathew, May of 2005. Unfortunately, I did not express my full feelings in these notes. Even at that time, at this first exposure, they were what I have described, here.
It took me a very long time, but I finally found the record of the sale, or more specifically, an auction listing in the local paper. The oxen were indeed included in the public auction; and this was a time when Mathew was in New York. So he would not have learned about it until it was too late. In the ad, below, a "yoke of oxen" means, a pair.
We don't know that the oxen were, in fact, slaughtered. But we do know that they were offered at auction, to the highest bidder, and that they were getting along in years by this time. Mathew was 18 years old in 1830, which means the events told in those stories had occurred about 13 years earlier, and oxen live about 20 years. Therefore, in 1830, they would have been near the end of their usefulness for farmwork, and hence at risk for being slaughtered. (In case you are wondering, I did not take this calculation into account when the strong feeling spontaneously arose in me, that I had deeply resented the fact that they had been slaughtered. I didn't know, at the time, what year this might have occurred in.) I also know that in 1851, when Mathew purchased a horse and sleigh to drive up to Canada to see his children (i.e., after his separation from his second wife), he became very attached to that horse. When he had to part with it for practical reasons, he reluctantly sold it to a personal friend, with the promise that it would be used for "fancy carriages" or something like that. He made sure it would have a good life.
Incidentally, this business with the oxen points out another feeling which has crept upon me at various times; and that is, that many of the endearing childhood stories which are told about John Greenleaf Whittier, were actually things instigated by, and more reflective of, Mathew. It was, perhaps, Mathew to whom these oxen were like people; it was probably he who leaned back on their horns, or who got the idea to do so (being younger and smaller)--and so-on. John Greenleaf's relationship with animals was much spottier, and it is said that he had a penchant for teasing them. Thus, as I have sometimes remarked, if you have a famous sibling, even your childhood isn't your own.
As further evidence, a few months ago I found a story, told by Mathew, about his Uncle Moses. At the dinner table, instead of killing a fly that was tormenting him, he caught it and released it outdoors. I later learned from the caretaker at the Whittier homestead, that he used to release the fish that he and the boys caught in the creek. But both Uncle Moses, and (just recently) Mathew's father, John, had died by the time the auction was advertised.
It's very frustrating to me, that I know skeptics will instantly dismiss these things. We, as a culture, believe that feelings are not only ephemeral, but that they have no value. Only the mind has value. Even thoughts aren't considered to be real, by Materialists; but if thoughts are unreal, then feelings are not only ephemeral, but insignifcant, to boot.
If thoughts were food, then feelings would be ice cream. Nice, but essentially irrelevant when it comes to nutrition.
Well, I don't know why I wanted to "plant my flag" on this issue. You see, I always leave this profound fact out of the equation, when I try to explain my work in this blog. When I write about what I did or didn't remember, or what I did or didn't get right (i.e., predict), or what I can or cannot prove, I leave out the fact that I always felt precisely whatever Mathew felt about it. And I was never wrong. I am, in short, continually fighting with one hand tied behind my back. Half of my credentials are unfairly inadmissible. There must be a hundred ways to express this--I'm a wealthy man in a foreign country with the wrong currency, would be another.
There is cognitive knowing, and then there is intuitive knowing--knowing on a feeling level. I am never wrong about Mathew on a feeling level. I know him, intuitively, like the back of my hand.
This stood out in bold relief during my first year or so of research, when I was being assisted by a skeptical volunteer. To her, certain explanations for Mathew's behavior would seem plausible. She had been exposed to the rather negative portrayal of Mathew, which one will first run into in the readily-available Whittier legacy. I'll give an example. There is a historical record, an obituary, which has Mathew marrying his second wife, Jane, in March of 1841. His first wife, Abby, died on March 27, 1841; and their eight-month-old daughter, Sarah, had died two weeks earlier. If you take the first date as being accurate, it would mean that Mathew married his second wife two weeks before his first wife died--right about the time their daughter died, while his first wife lay dying.**
In actuality, he remarried almost a year after Abby's death, in 1842. I have a picture of the marriage certificate. But this isn't the only time I've seen this date--it got repeated (once, I remember, with a question mark, so they knew what the problem was with it, but they saw fit to print it, anyway). The question is, "Where, and how, did it enter the historical record?" Was it just a clerical error, a slip of the finger--or was there something malicious behind it, at some point? Perhaps it was simply a clerical error, inasmuch as they are also off by one year regarding when he started with the Custom House (it was mid-1861). This was published in 1883, the year of Mathew's death. His student biographer, Lloyd W. Griffin (who cites the year correctly), explains his remarriage with one sentence: "The Whittier boys were attractive to women." When I first read that, I reacted viscerally against it. I knew that Mathew had been pushed into that marriage by family--either through a clergyman, or directly, or both. Someone had played on his survivor's guilt, while he was still grieving. Someone had told him that Abby wanted it, and he did it for her sake. Not only that, but I seem to have a memory--a cognitive memory--of sobbing after I consummated that marriage, from feeling that I had betrayed Abby.
On rare occasions, cognitive memories can bleed through in bits and pieces, where the past-life emotion was very, very strong. In that case, the "affect bridge" is so powerful, that instead of providing a route for you to go to it, it comes to you, unbidden. On even rarer occasions, these cognitive snippets can be proven against the historical record. This one couldn't be verified (it would take the discovery of a personal diary, and even then it might not be in there), but I did successfully prove a few of these.
Over the course of eight years of research, as the evidence piled up, it became obvious that this second marriage had been arranged by family, with distant relatives in Nova Scotia, where the young lady lived. She was remarkably plain (I have one photograph), and the sense one gets is that Mathew never met her personally before they married, in Portland. Mathew makes it clear in one of his humorous sketches, that they had nothing in common--that she was materialistic, and had little respect for his spiritual life. He felt as though they lived parallel lives under the same roof, and yet, she inexplicably claimed him, even though they didn't really know each other. She could be jealous and possessive--and yet, she had married on just as practical a basis as he had. This isn't me, saying this--it's Mathew, paraphrased from more than one thinly-veiled humorous sketch. I do know that she spent a lot of time back in Nova Scotia. Apparently, what she wanted was not so much him, as being able to say she had a family. Mathew couldn't love her, even though he tried--he was still grieving for Abby. He did deeply love his children. This made Jane, his second wife, jealous, and she retaliated by turning the children against him. She frequently took them back to her family in Nova Scotia, where she made it difficult for Mathew to see them (especially after they split up). Some of this I just know, and knew from the start--some of it shows up in bits and pieces in Mathew's writing, or can be inferred from the situations he writes about.
Here's an illustration for one of Mathew's sketches--a spin-off from his flagship character, "Ethan Spike"--written for the Boston "Carpet-Bag." This is just one of several examples. If you want to get an inside look at this second marriage, read B.P. Shillaber's stories about "Blifkins, the Martyr," which was a benign rendering of stories Mathew had told him about it.
Early on, I had a phone conversation with a Whittier relative in Canada, who is also psychic (you may have seen his case featured in reincarnation programs--Bruce Whittier, I believe his name is). I shared with him my feeling that Mathew had been manipulated into remarrying. His immediate response was, "It was the mother." But having already said too much, as I suppose, he didn't elaborate.
My first researcher, having gotten the distinct impression that Mathew was the black sheep of the Whittier family, was inclined to believe the mistaken date for Mathew's remarriage, and all that it implied. I knew it was nonsense. Not, as you might think, because I had latched onto this historical character and was determined to make him a nice guy. I knew it deep in my bones. Of course, the date turned out to be erroneous. This is an obvious example, but there were many more subtle ones. My researcher, going on her intellect alone (and she was plenty bright), was often wrong. I was always right. Meaning, with all the historical information in, today, I can see in hindsight that I was always right, where my feelings were concerned.
In my previous entry, I quoted a letter from Abby's sister, Annette (born "Antoinette"), written to Mathew's sister. Immediately after the portion I quoted, she remarks:
I esteem Franklin very highly & wish him happiness & prosperity thro' all his journey in life...
So much for the black sheep who would marry a second woman while his first wife and child lay dying. The power of gossip is amazing, isn't it? But then, Samuel Pickard, the official Whittier biographer, who married Mathew's daughter, Lizzie, was also Mathew's long-time nemesis. That's another story. Pickard was a conservative from a wealthy family. His brother, Charles, kept buying Samuel's way into editorial positions on newspapers. Samuel would then ruin Mathew's own aspirations, by prevailing upon the paper's owners to tone down Mathew's progressive message, or to force him out. This happened with "The Carpet-Bag," and then, the Portland "Transcript." I discovered these things gradually--but from the very beginning, I knew that Mathew had been unfairly painted in the official Whittier lore by this character, Pickard. Even today, if you visit the two Whittier museums, they have very little to say about Mathew, and what they do say is trite or subtly disparaging. It's not their fault--they're nice people. It's what they've been taught.
This isn't "all I've got" in terms of evidence and proof. But I really feel the need to get that hand untied from behind my back. What do you experience when you listen to the music opening this page? And what, exactly, does the opening line of the lyrics of this hymn mean, when it says "tune my heart"? Can you tune your heart like an instrument? Or like a radio? And if so, can you then perceive with it? If the feelings that arise when you listen to this clip are as articulate, to you, as any language, then you will understand what I'm saying, here.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*It is not entirely clear which author is writing this series, in the "Carpet-Bag," about the "Sensitive Man." If Mathew is writing them, he is poking fun at himself; if Shillaber is writing them, he is poking gentle fun at his friend, while not fully understanding him. It seems to be a mixture of the two, and a strange sort of collaboration. The same relationship is reflected in Shillaber's stories of "Blifkins the Martyr," an unhappily married man, and another character, "Philanthropos," a bleeding-heart. Whatever portions were written by Mathew or Shillaber, they seem to reflect Mathew as Shillaber perceived him. Mathew seems to have good-naturedly humored his friend in these perceptions--perhaps to his detriment, if Shillaber wasn't as good a friend as Mathew thought he was. Embedded in the Sensitive Man series is Mathew's actual, serious love poetry to Abby in the astral realm, at the height of his involvement with Spiritualism (which he also appears to have introduced Shillaber to). Shillaber seems to sandwich several of these poems, intact, amidst his gentle (or not-so gentle?) lampoon of Mathew. In short, Mathew would make fun of himself by way of self-deprecating disguise; what Shillaber was doing, participating in this, is questionable to me. The following is an example of "Philanthropos" which, at first glance, I would suspect as Shillaber's work, because it describes Philanthropos as a "tall man." Mathew, himself, (being 6'2") might not have taken the chance of being identified. On the other hand, the colloquialism "2.40 speed" (a racing reference) was one of Mathew's favorites, suggesting that he was the author. In a digital search, I found two other examples of "2.40" used by Mathew--but there are also permutations that I recall seeing, like "2 40," "2-40" and "two-forty," which yield a great number of false hits, and would have to be examined individually.
We had lost sight of Philanthropos for some time, but the other day passing up Washington street, we saw a man's new hat blown off by the high wind and speeding along through the mud at a 2.40 speed. Suddenly a tall man jumped to check its course, and planted both his feet upon the erratic beaver, effectually stopping its progress. We recognised the philanthropist, and looked upon him with admiration. The owner of the hat here came up, breathless, but, instead of thanks, bestowed abuse upon the benevolent one who had befriended him. Such is man's gratitude.
**From "The New-England Historical and Genealogical Register," 1883, Vol. 37, p. 228. This obituary has only two obvious factual errors--but since Mathew's writing career spanned almost 50 years, from age 15; and included dozens, if not hundreds of characters and pseudonyms, with journalistic reports, essays, editorials, humorous sketches, adventure stories, reviews, and poetry, plus being junior editor of two papers, and owner/editor of one; and given that it was his work which had primarily driven the popularity of several prominent literary papers (i.e., each one he was heavily involved with); one has to conclude that his legacy is being severely under-represented. Partly, this was his own fault for hiding; partly, it was the result of shunning and persecution for his progressive beliefs. The rest was a direct result of Pickard deliberately short-changing him in his representation of the Whittier family.
Music opening this page: "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,"
traditional, performed by Ted Yoder