This last week, one of the articles I'd written and submitted by invitation some time back was published online on ThinkHolistic.com. Here's the link on this site. Apparently the hold-up had been the example I was using, of a man who habitually used his electric shaver while sitting on the toilet reading the morning newspaper. The editor felt this image was "distracting," and so I reluctantly agreed to replace it with a slightly less on-target example. I also reminded my editor-contact at Omplace.com about a second article I'd submitted to them at about the same time, and she, also, suggested that she might be able to publish it soon, and that the next edition came out Sunday (yesterday, as I write this). However, no sign of it yet. The first of these articles includes a good bit of the concepts I worked with in a manuscript I wrote in 1980, entitled "Eastern Mysticism and Psychotherapy: Appropriate Therapeutic Intervention from the Mystical Perspective." That book came out of a personal attempt to integrate what I was learning in my master's-level counseling program, with the Eastern mysticism I'd been study the previous seven years or so. I was in my late 20's at that time, and the popular leaders of the Transpersonal Psychology movement were just starting to publish. I felt my Eastern sources were better and I had a stronger grasp of the subject, but being a "nobody" (and, perhaps, because my material wasn't watered down for public consumption), I couldn't get published. Not so much has changed--the flashier, better-funded people with more sophisticated PR and a watered-down message still get more attention (witness the popular success of the movie, somewhat similar in format to "In Another Life," "What the Bleep Do We Know," which has gotten national attention, at least among the new-age crowd). The second article, the one I've submitted to Omplace.com, "Gnawing Through the Knots," was in fact published on the 21stcenturyradio.com website, after I was interviewed by host Dr. Bob Hieronimus. This one is really the culmination of all my observations about what it's going to take to move us forward, and where reincarnation awareness fits in. I feel that these two articles are the strongest I've ever written, and they confirm, for me, my feeling that I must have been a writer in more than one past life.
This brings us to some personal news, and before I share it, and how I came to it, I want to be clear that I have no proof and that I'm just considering it possible at this point. I think I may have finally located one of my past lives in history, and this is how it came about.
As said, I'm a natural writer. I've always been able to write, and even as a child I'm told I spoke with large words and more as an adult would speak. As a teenager in high school, I went through a phase of wanting to be a short-story writer, and in fact I did write a couple which weren't too bad (if I can find them, I might put a link to one here). I was never published, but practicing so much, and taking a typing course in high school, made me a very fast typist, and so it was easy for me to get typing jobs in college. Being unable to find a counseling job when I graduated in 1981, I fell into typesetting, and worked in that field until it was replaced by desktop publishing around 1990. By that time I had fallen in love with photography, and decided to follow my dream into video and television production. (That field took me some 15 years to break into--just now I seem to be having some more success with it.) As a child, I felt a strong kinship with the Romantic writers, as though I'd been one of them, and I remember, when I was a bit older, also having a strong pull toward the coast of Maine. I felt an especially strong fondness toward the skiffs that are used there, and the rocky coast, and for the region in general.
Several years ago I had a psychic reading by someone who I think is genuine, meaning she gets genuine images (probably through a disincarnate helper or helpers, as I gather most psychics do), and she identified my most recent lifetime as a female writer on the West coast in the 1800's, who had some degree of fame by publishing "serials." So from time-to-time I would search through the female writers from that period on the internet. Occasionally a name (usually, a publisher) would seem familiar, but I could not find anything that fit and eventually stopped looking, returning to the search occasionally over the next few years. In the meantime, I had had a recurring nightmare of approaching a large white house with a white picket fence around the yard, after a long trip (i.e., what was probably a normal trip for that time, 2-3 weeks). The house was too quiet and I approached with a sense of foreboding, but woke up before I found out what had happened. I tried to "extend" the dream after waking, but I think that kind of information is notoriously subject to imagination, so I won't share that here. In any case, on the internet I found a website about Sarah Orne Jewett, and I recognized that name. Her house looks like the house in my dream--but, then, so do probably a huge percentage of houses in New England! I did, however, find something interesting. One of her short-stories felt so intensely familiar to me that I could swear I'd written it myself. But I had no sense of having been Ms. Jewett. Her companion, Annie Adams Fields, also seemed familiar, but I didn't feel I'd been her, either. So it made no sense, and I just left it to "cook on the back burner," on the "I'm not sure" shelf.
Recently, I was drawn back to this set of websites about Sarah Orne Jewett again. Now, of all the mystical American poets, I had always felt most drawn to John Greenleaf Whittier, and in particular, to his poem about the Oversoul. So I was intrigued to learn that Annie Adams Fields was very close friends with John Greenleaf Whittier. As I poked around the website, I found a listing of people in Ms. Jewett's circle of friends and acquaintences, and many of those names, also, seemed familiar. I felt like I was definitely on to something, but that's as far as it went. Finally I got the whim to send the website to my friend Jeff Keene. Jeff seems to have a strong knack for synchronicity. That's a bit of a paradoxical statement, since it's not intentional on his part. But increased synchronicity seems to happen around him, and in fact, I have a theory that it happens any time one gets close to the facts concerning a past life. Here, for example, is the "anecdotes" sheet I wrote up for the press kit of "In Another Life." I stopped sending it to people because I'd never hear back from them. I finally began wondering if people simply couldn't believe me, and so dismissed me as a nut-case when they read it. At any rate, when I sent Jeff the Jewett website, he quickly came back with the following reply:
As if guided, I went right to "Main Contents" then to "Portraits" then to the very bottom name "Matthew Franklin Whittier" clicked on it and said BINGO! Looked at the picture and said to myself, "he looks a bit like Steve." Sent along a file. The paragraph below the picture was the only thing I could come up with in a Google search. When I read that I said, "sounds like Steve In Another Life." By the way, I checked all the other people listed in "Portraits" but saw no likeness of you in any of them. Sense of humor, writer and anti-slavery, yup, if you're in this group I would put my money on Matthew.
This is not a perfect match for me physically, but it's quite close, and I feel the name is one I could strongly identify with. Immediately I noticed the eyes and expression, and it feels like me looking out of those eyes. The "facial architecture" (as Dr. Semkiw calls it) is similar, and, though you will have to take my word for it, his hair in the photograph is behaving just as mine used to before I shaved it short, including the annoying piece that flies out to the side. It's also right, I felt, that he would be wearing the great coat (that name seems right--is it historical?) over his regular jacket and clothing. When I say it's not a perfect match physically, I also have to say that, as this image has sunk into my mind over the past few weeks, I keep feeling as though this is more the way I should look than the way I look now. I have never felt entirely "at home" in my own face. I have no idea if anyone else feels this way because I've never heard anyone say it, and I don't generally share this feeling with people.
Other than this gradually deepening sense of it being right, I haven't had any past-life dreams or flashback memories. I've studied as much historical information as I can get hold of, and if Matthew wasn't me in a previous life, he was a kindred spirit and had a similar personal history, including being a writer who had a minor degree of local fame for a satirical column, writing as a fictitious character, "Ethan Spike" from the fictitious New England town of "Hornby." As Jeff points out, my sense of humor is similar (see my "Lighter Side" page, and note the somewhat confrontational tone I take with many of my comments and articles). I've actually worked hard to play down this aspect of myself in this life. I tend to wield influence behind the scenes, being in contact with better-known people, as I think Matthew did. He did years of clerical work, primarily, as I gather, because he was so much of an iconoclast that he burned too many bridges to become successful in the world. I have done likewise. He had difficulty in his relationships, partly for the same reasons, but finally found stability in his third marriage, later in life. I had a terrible time with relationships until I finally found my current girlfriend, who I've been with for five years. Matthew changed jobs and residences often, as I have done. Like his famous brother John Greenleaf, he was an abolitionist, and wrote for that cause. I have taken up the cause of reincarnation education with a similar zeal (I know you, the reader, may not agree that reincarnation education is as pressing a social issue, but it suffices for this discussion that I believe it is.) I have always felt sympathetic to the Civil Rights cause, and found Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech electrifying. Recently I found myself videotaping the commencement ceremonies for two black colleges, Morehouse and Spellman, and felt a kind of secret admiration and support.
There are only two facts I've uncovered about Matthew's life that don't seem to fit my intuition. Keep in mind, first of all, that in history there are very few "facts." That's because everything is subject to interpretation and the influence of one's point of view--current events as well as historical ones. And then, add to that the tendency for history to distort over time as things are passed along. In any case, John Greenleaf describes Matthew as being the more physically fit one who handled the large animals on the farm, the oxen and horses, when they were boys, despite Matthew being five years younger. (I should say that recently when I looked at a portrait of John Greenleaf for what I believe was the first time, I felt a very strong sense of recognition along with a strong sense of being protective, which didn't make sense at first when I learned Matthew was so much younger, until I read the above account.) I don't have any sense of having handled large animals, although I have a soft spot in my heart for animals in general and prefer not to eat red meat. I enjoyed trail-riding when I was in my teens, but was just an adequate rider. I have no sense of ever having broken horses, as Matthew is said to have done. So that one is on the "I don't know" shelf. Now, there is a brief account of a fan of Matthew's satirical column visiting him at his place of work. The visitor relates being surprised that this writer of a humorous column seemed "ministerial" and serious--and this is very consistent with how people would perceive me upon meeting me. However, he also describes asking for an autograph, and Matthew obliging with a "neat, bookkeeper's hand" (paraphrasing from memory, I don't seem to have the manuscript where I can find it as I write this). My handwriting has been sloppy all my life, and I've always been embarrassed by it (what you see below this Update is as neat as I get and took several tries). This may not be as inconsistent as it first appears, because if Matthew was inordinately proud of his handwriting, it would make sense that I am inordinately embarrassed by mine. Which is to say, the situation is opposite but it still remains a "hot" topic. This would be a typical, if small, example of one basic principle of karmic law, that certain aspects of a person or their situation appear to remain similar, while other aspects appear to become opposite in subsequent incarnations.
Well, I'm left in the position of not knowing. I will say that I have felt a certain intangible sense of personal empowerment since identifying this possible past-life match. If that's a real phenomenon, I can't account for it. Perhaps, as rolfing (deep massage) is said to do, contacting a past incarnation may free up blocks of one's karma somehow, loosening some old restrictions and freeing up psychic energy. That's just a wild guess. In any case, some long-standing blocks in my career appear to be loosening up lately.
Just a couple days ago, as I write this Update, I worked on a television shoot with a young woman who told me she had lived in Portland, Maine (which is where Matthew lived and worked). She explained to me that the culture in New England is not to put oneself forward, not to brag or try to stand out. This has been my tendency in this life, so much so, that I have been told it hampers my efforts to promote myself for my career. Recently someone wrote me asking how much I would charge to lecture at his university in Canada. I wrote back very honestly, and told him that I am certainly not in demand as a speaker. Which is true. But the reason is not that I'm a bad speaker or don't know what I'm talking about. The reason is that I'm simply an unknown who isn't taken very seriously. People are attracted to flashier presentations, and if a dash of spiritual ignorance is thrown in to make it more palatable, so much the better, because people resonate with it more when it's diluted. But, why did I purposely play myself down? If in fact I was Matthew, I was taught this as a virtue in that culture, and it has stayed with me. Except that in this culture, the U.S. in general in the year 2005, it's not so much considered a virtue. In fact, if you don't use superlatives, people assume you must really be terrible. It's similar to resume references, where if your references don't say you are the most outstanding worker they've ever had, the prospective employer assumes you must be awful. I avoid all that hype, and as a result when I honestly appraise my own work in an understated way, people who are expecting superlatives must assume it's really nothing to write home about. And by the same token, when I state something remarkable because I believe it to be true, people assume I'm exaggerating. For example, I recommend seeing guitarist Eric Johnson in concert sometime before you die, because missing him will be like having had the opportunity to see Handel conduct the "Messiah" and not bothering to go. Probably would embarrass him if he ever read that. But I mean it. Does anybody believe me? I don't know. When I say that Dr. Ian Stevenson, despite his own understated assessment of his work, has proven reincarnation through 40 years of solid, painstaking scientific research, do people think I'm making it up? And when I state simply that his supposed debunkers are resorting to intellectually dishonest sophistry, do people think I'm slandering them out of my own bias?
It occurs to me that despite having tried to back off from social satire in this life, I think I'm "this far" from launching into an "Ethan Spike"-type column...
On other fronts, I am still trying to follow up with some 30 or so PBS programming directors, film buyers and distributors who agreed to evaluate "In Another Life." I can't seem to get them to move on it. I've had some 10-15 rejections, with various reasons given. Either they are looking for something sensationalized and spooky, or they want what I call the "ADD" (Attention Deficit Disorder) style of editing, with stacks of rapid "sound-bite" interview snatches and copious special effects, or they react against the topic itself, calling it "pseudo-science" (see previous Update). I try to keep on doing what I do with a certain sense of detachment. I just do it because I do it, and I enjoy doing it. To be honest, I get discouraged sometimes, but after all, I choose to be on the cutting edge of something, so being misunderstood and unappreciated goes with the territory. I also don't know what effect this website and the documentary may have on individuals. Hopefully good overall.
This brings up another subject. My girlfriend recently rented the movie "Kinsey" for us to watch, and while she thought it was slow, I found it fascinating. Not for the sex, nor even for the science, though I thought the characters were well-developed and it was well done in general. It occurred to me that what Dr. Kinsey was attempting to do with his report is very much like what I'm trying to do with "In Another Life." He was changing social attitudes and educating people on a topic that they were deeply ignorant in, due to societal suppression of a "taboo" subject, by showing everybody that they aren't the only ones. He showed everybody what everybody else is experiencing, and that opened the door. One might say, it opened Pandora's Box. So this got me thinking--am I opening Pandora's Box? Certainly, I was amazed, and had forgotten, just how ignorant our society used to about sex in the very recent past. When I overhear people saying things like "We only get one time around," and everybody nods sagely in agreement and laughs, to me, this is like seeing people in the movie "Kinsey" making ignorant comments about sex. Was the Kinsey Report a good thing for society? If society is educated about reincarnation principles, will people be justifying affairs with past-life lovers, experimenting on each other with hypnosis, becoming obsessed with their past incarnations, or imagining themselves to have been prominent historical figures? Probably. Will society move out of this "green" phase into a more mature understanding of life? I feel sure it will.
I'll close this longish Update with some comparison images of Matthew Franklin Whittier and myself. I only have the one image of Matthew, and I don't have any photos of myself which match the camera angle, age and hair length. I suspect there was a lifetime in-between Matthew and me (if I was indeed Matthew). In my younger photograph, taken at my wedding, I think you can even see that tuft of hair on my left side jutting out, despite the fact that when my hair was shoulder-length, the sheer weight used to keep it down somewhat. I'm not offering this as any kind of proof--I am not convinced myself. It's just something I'm sharing, this being the page on this site where I share on a more personal basis, and this being something I'm exploring.
This past Saturday I got a call from the local Theosophical Society lodge in Atlanta that their scheduled speaker, an American Indian, had had to cancel for health reasons, and would I fill in for Sunday afternoon? We already had a tenative agreement for the Fall, but I wasn't expecting it so soon. Incidentally, the Indian who was scheduled to speak appears briefly in the opening narrative segment of "In Another Life," where I had videotaped him in a context of teaching children about Native American culture and history. I didn't know he also taught adults about his culture's spirituality, but had sensed that he was a spiritual person.
So I worked up a talk based roughly on the "Knots" article described above, drawing specific parallels between individual neurosis resulting from the removal of some important fact in a person's life, and the societal neurosis resulting from having removed the truths relating to reincarnation. I also invited Angela Grubbs to present her case in second half of the program. She's organized it into a formal legal presentation, and she did a wonderful job. She's a sweet Southern girl with a sharp legal mind, and quickly wins over an audience. What surprised me yesterday was that for the first time, I felt as though I was really functioning fully as a speaker and educator. Which is to say, something "kicked in" and I wasn't just an adequate speaker, as I felt I had been during the previous talk I gave with Walter Semkiw at the local Unity Church--I was suddenly coming into my own and I was actually functioning as a good speaker. I don't know where this came from, whether a past-life ability kicked in or practice is starting to pay off, but now I know I can do it. I've thought about trying to more actively market myself in this capacity, but it seems right for now to just be available and let people ask if they're so-inclined.
Stephen S., Producer
Music opening this page: "High Landrons," Eric Johnson (Ah Via Musicom album)
All I can say is, if you have a chance to see Eric in concert, don't pass it up...