This is an addendum to yesterday's entry, and I'm not going to recap, so in order for it to make sense you'd have to have read that entry, first (Archives link at the bottom of the page). Don't look sour, this should be fun, if you like detective work and puzzles and mysteries. I am reminded of my favorite film, "My Life as a Dog," in which the clownish uncle chides his serious wife, when she scolds about him spending so much time building a summer house with his emotionally-scarred nephew: "Fun, Ulla, fun!" She assumes he's just wasting time, but he's actually trying to help the boy. He says, "Ulla, we're building."
Few people observe their own mind closely enough to realize that their knee-jerk assumptions are really theories. And theories are provisional, until they are checked out. I say I have discovered my past life in the 19th century, as a prolific, unknown literary genius who was the real co-author of "A Christmas Carol," and the real author of "The Raven." I say that I have re-established my relationship with my true love, Abby, who was my first wife in that lifetime, across the Great Divide. I also say that I did this with her, for some years, even in that lifetime.
This is manifestly the stuff of delusions, and I would guess that the immediate assumption of many people, encountering these claims, is that I am delusional.
This is a theory. It may be a good theory, on the face of it, but it is still a theory. It is not, actually, a foregone conclusion. Even if there are a thousand delusional people out there with superficially similar claims, still, it is a theory, only, unless and until it has been checked out.
Now, let us suppose (as I know to be true) that psychiatrist Dr. Jim Tucker, at the University of Virginia, is a highly intelligent, logical, sane man. (It is difficult to get certified as a psychiatrist, otherwise). He has not endorsed me, or my work, but he has done enough to indicate that I am not delusional, as I will shortly demonstrate. Remember that he is a psychiatrist, by training, and he is more qualified than you are to make that determination (unless you, also, are a psychiatrist). Psychiatrists, traditionally, are at the top of the psychotherapy totum pole in Society.
I will discount, here, anyone who thinks Dr. Tucker, himself, is delusional. Such people are not scientists, they are fanatical devotees of the religion of Scientism, and are themselves delusional.
I mentioned, in yesterday's entry, that I presented Dr. Tucker with three of my most strongly validated past-life memories, in encapsulated form (and isolated from the total picture of my research, which would have made them even stronger, in context). He casually, as it seemed to me, dismissed the first two. But he grudgingly indicated that the third memory might have merit.
Done deal. He would not have so-indicated, if his private opinion was that I am delusional.
Got it? It's check-mate for your theory that I am delusional.* Which is to say, it may not look like much, but it's enough. That he did not choose to pursue the matter, was his prerogative. My method of research doesn't fit within his accustomed research paradigm, i.e., the Stevensonian method. It would take a great deal of his time to evaluate it properly, and he has other fish to fry.
But note that he did not humor me as regards my sanity. He honestly admitted that at least one of my proof-memories might be genuine, based on the out-of-context summary that I provided. He also did, as I recall, admit that it was possible he would have to study the entire case to make a final judgment on it. He just wasn't impressed enough, or flexible enough, or he didn't have enough time, to pursue the matter.
I don't think he knows about the "claims" that I opened this entry with.** Perhaps he would have responded differently. But it's just as well he didn't, as his mind wasn't prejudiced by them. We now have his professional (albeit private) reaction without knowing of those claims.
So if I'm not delusional, what's left? That I'm sloppy? That I started out rational, and then got carried away? That I'm a sociopathic hoaxter? Or that I really got the results I say I did, but that you won't look at them?
This blog, itself, answers those questions--years and years of daily or semi-daily entries. I'm not sloppy. I've consistently retained the same standard of honesty throughout. And I'm clearly not sociopathic, which I would have to be, if I wasn't delusional, and was making false claims like this. I've shared many of my findings, piecemeal in this blog, and they are compelling even when isolated from the whole. Finally, I have arguably retained much of my writing skills from my 19th-century lifetime--and note that when a talent is carried over from the past life, this is considered a prime indicator of a genuine past-life match, in the Stevensonian method. Whether I could write a humorous sketch at the level Mathew Franklin Whittier achieved, is a question. I have, on occasion, related humorous anecdotes from real life in this blog, very much as he would have done. I can write poetry if pressed, and probably could do the same with sketches, given that I'm rusty after some 150 years, while he spent a lifetime perfecting that skill. I have arguably retained his full power in the prose essay genre, including his prolific output. I have an even deeper grasp of the Perennial Philosophy, today, than he did--and I would be quite capable of out-arguing him, if necessary, on certain points.*** But note that this, also, is a very specific "talent" carried forward, not often found in the general population. There are examples of pieces I wrote before I learned of Mathew, in the Appendix of my book, including a short story I wrote not long after high school, for comparison.
With all the data considered, the answer is that if you stubbornly stick to this comfortable assumption that I am delusional, while continuing to expose yourself to this blog on a regular basis, then you become delusional.
What the heck, why don't I attempt a sketch from real life, which is to say, my own life?
Do You Believe It?
In 1993, I managed to obtain a job at a small, struggling public television station. They were so desperate for "air operators," the proper name for which is "master control operator," that they hired me--at the impressive starting salary of $5.79/hour--even though I'm colorblind in red and green. The air operator's job, which in status was considered just above janitor, despite the fact that the look of the entire station depended on him, was to put the shows on the air. At that time, this was an all-manual operation, so that you had to be a kind of frenetic octopus--at one and the same time, running the tapes for the current show, checking the log for the upcoming transition (which included "breaks" and promos), and recording shows for later in the day. To top it off, the equipment was breaking down and some of the tapes were so old, that the oxide was coming off on the "heads," so that they needed to be cleaned after each use. Finally, there were two machines for educational channels set up behind me. One was automated, but one of them had to be put on the air manually at the same time that the main channel's programs went up. I would literally push the bottom for the main channel, wheel around in my chair, and push the button for the educational channel. When it rained, they jury-rigged a long sheet of plastic to catch the water from the leaky roof, and direct it away from the machines into a waste basket. They really were desperate.
This station was owned and operated by the school board, in contradistinction to their larger, prosperous rival which was state-owned. The little station had the genuine NPR radio channel, so they got more in their pledge drives than the television station did. Funds were quietly shunted from the radio to the television, to the point that the radio announcers complained they couldn't even procure a new microphone when their old one was wearing out.
Something had to give, and eventually some wise executive brought in a team of local white businessmen to whip the station into shape. It was given the bombastic name of the "Atlanta Educational Telecommunications Collaborative." Clearly, there was going to be a shake-up, and sure enough, a meeting was called, headed by one Mr. White. Mr. White gave a classic corporate pep-talk, as he kept an eagle eye out for the dead weight and the malcontents which they were going to be culling. Looking for all the world like an evangelist, he would make a grandiose statement about how wonderful things would be at the station, how they would rise to great heights, together--and then he would level a pointing finger at this one, and that one, openly challenging him or her, "Do you believe it? Do you believe it?"
Each frightened employee, desirous of retaining his job, would enthusiastically nod his head, "Yes, I believe."
Fortunately I wasn't called upon, as I had no stomach for this sort of thing. But Mr. White made the mistake of pointing at Ben, the black janitor. Ben had already arranged to be transferred to the school system. When his turn came, he paused for a moment, as though thinking it over, and then responded, for the entire group to hear: "I believe you believe it."
The camera crew, who had been there since the early days of television, when all shows were live and cameras had three revolving lenses of different focal lengths, were either dismissed or assigned part-time duties. One of them, a black man and a Christian of great integrity, was assigned to fill in part time for Ben. Part time on camera, and part-time emptying trash baskets. He never complained, but with admirable dignity took it all in stride. The radical NPR announcer, with a patch over one eye, who (as I had heard) once reported on the Civil Rights struggle in the 1960's, was either fired or left before they could fire him. The fellow who had a physical disfigurement, who used to joke "It's good enough for government work," but actually did very high quality work, himself, was let go. I saw the handwriting on the wall. Being physically burned out from arising at 4:00 a.m. for the morning shift, and doing this impossibly stressful job for about a year and a half; and having been blocked at all opportunities for career advancement, I left, as well.
But had Mr. White pointed at me, there's no way I would have said "Yes, yes, I believe!" to save my job.
Okay, here's one of Mathew's anecdotes (obviously, he was the perpetrator--and since men rarely carry pins in church, Abby was probably an accomplice):
Let go my Hair.
An old minister once stated that in the whole course of fifty years' preaching, he never laughed but three times in the pulpit, during the exercises of the Sabbath, and one of these occasions was the following.--
The pews of the church (said he,) were those old fashioned square ones, so that people in different pews often sit back, merely separated by a low railing for a division.
Now (continued the pastor) it fell out, one Sabbath, that two old deacons, in two contiguous pews had fallen into profound meditations, after closing their twice two eyes, had thrown their heads back until their long queues dangling therefrom had met together, and were quietly reposing for the benefit of the aforesaid internal meditations.
There were some wicked people present, (continued the venerable narrator) who scandalously insinuated that the two deacons were asleep! but I looked upon the imputation as mere persecution for righteousness sake. However, there was an awfully depraved young man in the pew that cornered upon the two where the deacons meditated, and what does this sacreligious sinner do? Why he takes the dangling queues aforesaid, and softly ties them closely and firmly together. And then, as if that were not enough to send him to perdition, he takes a pin and cruelly sticks it into one of the deacons.
"Well, the deacon jumped of course, like a stuck pig, the jump gave a horrid twitch upon the queues of both heads.
"Let go of my hair!" cried deacon number one.
"Let go of my hair!" cried deacon number two.
'Twas now twitch and twitch! hit and hit! and (continued the pastor,) the conclusion I must leave you to imagine.
Now, observe the workings of your own inner skeptic. He, or she, is frantically generating theories! "Sakellarios has probably taken creative writing or journalism classes in college." Actually, I haven't. I'm entirely self-taught, except for the usual required English classes. As a result, you will probably see me break a few rules from time-to-time. (Mathew did the same, including the occasional spelling error.) Well, how about "He had read hundreds of MFW's sketches--that he can imitate his style means nothing." Oh? Could you do it? Or he might be saying, "He stole someone else's story." I think not. Every detail in this story is true-to-life. The fellow giving the pep talk (who was fired, actually, not long afterwards) was in fact named Mr. White. Hopefully they won't sue me. Or, "It's easy to write humorous stories like this. Every Tom, Dick and Harry does so online in Facebook." Even Samuel Clemens, as we have recently seen, couldn't do it when he was 16 years old. But go ahead and write one of these, at the same quality level. Send it to me by e-mail--I'll be eagerly waiting for it. (Shall I grade it for you?)
The point is, we are increasing the odds. Now, in order to claim to have the same talents as Mathew Franklin Whittier, you have to have a deep grasp of the Perennial Philosophy, and you have to be able to write a humorous anecdote of this caliber. You also have to be able to churn out a sharp, competent essay every day or two, for years on end.
How many people can do all of those things? Are we talking perhaps 1% of the general population? I know a few folks who could qualify for two of them, but the numbers drop off sharply when you require all three. For example, right now I can think of someone with at least as deep an understanding of the Perennial Philosophy as I have, who has a Ph.D. in religious studies and could probably write an excellent essay on a daily basis. He's also a world-class musician, but whether he could write a humorous sketch in Mathew's style, is another matter. Same with Mathew's friend, author John Townsend Trowbridge, who also had a very deep grasp of the Perennial Philosophy, and who could write adventures stories as well as Mathew could. But whether he could write this type of humorous sketch, is doubtful. So far as I know he never tried, not really having the personality for it.
As I recall reading Dr. Ian Stevenson's studies, he got very excited when a boy inexplicably knew how to run a milk machine, or something like that, as he had done in his previous lifetime. But here we have three relatively rare skills, combined, which drastically increases the odds. Whatever you may be thinking, they are not things I could have quickly acquired after making the match. I had all three long before I ever heard of Mathew Franklin Whittier; though I would say that immersing myself in his literary legacy has probably re-awakened my writing skills to some extent.
Think, for a minute, what this means. Not looking for it, I stumbled across a portrait of a 19th-century author, because of having recognized a female author's name. The page only told me he was the brother of John Greenleaf Whittier, and that he was an author. I had no idea what kind of author. Looking into his eyes, I knew that had been me. Coincidentally, it turned out we shared three skills, which are found, in combination like this, in perhaps 1% of the general population. (That's actually generous--I'll bet it's less.)
Clearly, even if I am delusional, I have some significant portion of Mathew Franklin Whittier's unique skill-set. But I have much more than that--I have his higher mind. I didn't imitate his style, with the story which I wrote, on a whim, to include with this blog. Those are my values, attitudes, and world-view, which line up with Mathew's on all counts. That's quite a coincidence.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Granted, he only said it might have merit; but I know it's very strong. Tucker's admission was an understatement, inasmuch as he would not have said it had merit if he could possibly have avoided doing so (I was pressing him and he was digging his heels in). It only takes one of these, which don't admit of any normal explanation, to demonstrate that the match is genuine. If the match is genuine, 95% of the basis for the theory that I am delusional, falls apart. The next skeptical fall-back is trickery, and that theory doesn't work, either, in my case. Then the skeptic has to invoke chance, but the memory in question destroys that theory, being extremely unique. What I remembered seems to be only associated with the two houses across the street from Abby's family home, one of which is said to have been originally on her property. All of these theories--self-delusion, trickery, and chance--fail. If any of them had merit, Dr. Tucker, who, ironically, is probably the best debunker I know of, would have invoked them. Without explicitly saying so, he probably was invoking "chance" for the first two memories, though I think he did so unfairly. He would have for the third, as well, but apparently he couldn't bring himself to do so, and instead made the most lukewarm affirmation of possible merit that he could. What's odd is that this memory is very strong--really, a smoking gun for anyone who is being objective about it. And yet, he chose not to pursue it.
**It's also possible that he did know, which would go a long way towards explaining why he was reluctant to publicly endorse my work.
***As, for example, his loyal defense of St. Paul.
Music opening this page: "Won't Get Fooled Again," by The Who,
from the album, "Who's Next"