Sometimes getting really, really bored is a good thing. I finished the previous entry; tried a self-hypnosis recording (they never work--I can't relax, and then I drop off); and finally decided to do something I'd been thinking about for awhile--to go through my physical collection of odds-and-ends related to my past life as Mathew Franklin Whittier.
As I read through each piece in turn, I came across my copy of the Nov. 25, 1854 Portland (Maine) "Transcript." In this edition, Mathew had written his first of two essays under the pseudonym, "Caleb Leathers." The second one, in the March 3, 1855 edition, is in praise of British writer William Makepeace Thackeray, whom Mathew had had dinner with a few years earlier in London. That's another story. He had also written as "Caleb" several years back, in the 1847 Boston "Chronotype." At that time he protested against the Mexican-American war, and specifically against the hypocrisy of ostensibly liberal writers who would decry this particular war, while at the same time glorifying war, itself. Mathew knew that the glorification of war, for its own sake, was a big part of the problem.
This particular offering by "Caleb Leathers" contains an explanation of the meaning of "Don Quixote," which is generally misunderstood. He says that it was not written to ridicule knight-errantry. Rather, it was intended "to satirize the inflated romances" of the day.
There I had originally left the matter--but my eye had not traveled far enough up the page. That wasn't the beginning--it was the second topic of the column. The first is entitled "The Philosophies," and rather than summarize it, I'm going to reproduce it in its entirety. But first, a couple of introductory remarks.
I have explained, in recent entries, that Mathew was taught the Perennial Philosophy (for want of a better term) by his tutor and future wife, Abby Poyen, beginning when she was 11 and he was 15. Abby, in turn, must have been taught these things by her mother, Sally, whom historians have described as "brilliant." Abby, herself, in one of her first short stories, gives us a semi-autobiographical scene of a young Irish girl discussing her translations of German texts on "deep sciences" with her publishers, as an equal. The first psychic medium I used described Mathew and Abby reading "black-market metaphysical books" together, surreptitiously. So there are plenty of clues.
Mathew was skeptical, at first, especially about occult sciences. But when Abby taught him Hermeticism, the name "Trismegistus," meaning "thrice-great," tickled him, and he used it for a few satirical pieces, in 1828. Later, in 1851, he pulled it out again for the "Carpet Bag." But by this time, 10 years after Abby's death from consumption, he had come around and had embraced those same teachings.
I have asserted that my results clearly show that the higher mind of a person remains the same from one incarnation to another--as my Guru, Meher Baba, also teaches. If anyone has kept up with this blog (I can't imagine how anyone could, with me writing so often, but just suppose), they know that I view the world as essentially spiritual, manifesting into physicality; that I believe man is a spiritual being having a physical experience; and that Truth is spiritual, and can be known in the highest state of consciousness directly, sans senses and sans mind. Truth, in its essence, is supramental, and beyond the physical realm, which is its reflection.
All of that is poorly stated, but the point is that having been raised an atheist, I did a complete about-face and adopted the "As above, so below" perspective around age 19.
You will now see proof that Mathew Franklin Whittier, myself in the 19th century, had the same view. Not only that, he speaks with the same higher mind. He approaches the subject, and phrases his arguments, precisely as I would, today.
Mathew generally kept his light under a bushel, as one of his editors (the editor of this paper, in fact) remarked. But with Abby's training, and a lifetime of private study, he was as deep a philosopher as any among the Transcendentalists. Unfortunately, it appears that even though he moved in the same circles, and knew some of them personally, he wasn't taken seriously in this capacity. I know he was personal friends with Oliver Wendell Holmes; I have evidence that he traveled on one occasion with Henry David Thoreau; I suspect he knew Longfellow personally in their later years; he reviewed Emerson, and probably attended Bronson Alcott's Concord School of Philosophy lectures. This may be just the tip of the iceberg--but though he was associated with the literati in Boston, they only saw fit to make him their bookkeeper, i.e., moonlighting for their publisher, Ticknor & Fields. I have a check from that company made out, as an advance for "Snow-Bound," to John Greenleaf Whittier in Mathew's hand. (There was another check made out to Holmes that I couldn't afford to purchase.)
It's no wonder that Mathew finally had it "up to here" with this treatment, writing in 1869, as his character "Ethan Spike":
Gents:--Ef you'd a leetle livver than not I wish you would hed this thusly:--"From our inteligent and reliable Boston Correspondent." You can help me a good deal in this way. There are everywhere vulgar minds wich dont appreciate inteligence. Some of the Boston mootooal admiration society--would you bleve it?--dont seem to appreciate me in that character. Indeed, I dont think Boston ginrally is aware half the time when it entertains aingills, not that I would profanely class my umble self with hevingly bodies--far from it--but figgeratively speakin.
I can't resist adding back-story to these things--in years past Mathew had somehow sneaked the spelling "heavingly bodies" past this same editor. He wouldn't get away with it again, so here he compromises with "hevingly bodies." In this letter from "Ethan Spike," he goes on to mockingly threaten retaliation by exposing their meagre finances. Since he was managing their accounts at Ticknor & Fields, he was actually in a position to know, though for the letter he pretends he has seen them eating their meals in the basement, through the windows:
Now a endorsement like wich I suggest for this heddin would natterally turn public attention towards me, and if you could manage to intimate that "E.S." is a lively critter wich "ollers cares his eyes in his head," and that "our Boston friends hed better see to the holes in their coats, for a divil of a chiel is among them takin notes"--or suthin of that kind, they might perhaps be afeared ef they didn't respect. I've travelled about a good deal in the aristocratic quarters and have seen a good many things there wich wouldn't look pretty in print. Them high nosed families wich hes their dinin rooms down suller dont seem to be aware that the arrangement furnishes enquiring minds, like your correspondent's, a accurate knowledge of their bills of fare. I dont believe there's a native born Bostonian knows have so much about the scrumpshus parlors and drawin rooms connected with lean kitchens in this metripoleum as does yours to sarve. I've got memorandum of twenty-nine families, already, wich is up stairs and out doors as serene as a june mornin, but wich snarls and jaws over their vittles like pigs over a scant supply of taters--and I'd jest as lief print them notes as not.
Mathew finally made good on his threat, in a manner of speaking, when he prevailed on Samuel Clemens to read aloud a story he, Mathew, had written for the occasion of his brother's 70th birthday, in 1877. It got Clemens in hot water, but he never let on that he hadn't written it. If you are a scholar, you may think I'm blowing smoke on this one--but I have gone into it in some depth in my book, and I'm sure I'm right about it. That piece has Mathew all over it; it was at one and the same time a birthday present to his brother (Mathew is not shown on the seating chart, despite the fact he lived there in Boston), and a jab in the ribs to his high literary friends and associates, who had snubbed him. Scholars, and Clemens himself, insist the story wasn't all that bad, and shouldn't have been taken personally. It was, and it should have. Mathew was mockingly accusing them all of plagiarism, for one thing. Check it out.*
I think the essay below speaks for itself. The only question is whether "Caleb Leathers" is Mathew's pseudonym. I have explained that Mathew would adopt a pseudonym at the drop of a hat. He might use it only two or three times. But his writing style is unmistakable to anyone who studies it as thoroughly as I have; and, as I've said before, I also have the advantage that I can recognize my own past-life literary children. It's Mathew, trust me.**
Mathew is right about this issue, and modern Society is wrong. This is precisely where we have gone astray. If we don't chart a course back very soon, we are doomed, because the toxic effects of this gigantic Error are legion, and they are rapidly reaching the point of no return.
Where he says he received a "rap or two from Roger," this is a joking reference to Spiritualist seances. Where he says he is a "terrible critter," this is a typical saucy MFW challenge to people of greater worldly reputation, who don't know as much as he does. (You may have seen me take a similar tone.) A quick digital search of my archives indicates that Mathew used the word "crittur" eight times over the course of his career, and "critter" 82 times, for a total of 90 (not counting in this piece).
Without further ado, here is Mathew's handling of the "Chips and Porridge" column for the Nov. 25, 1854 Portland "Transcript." Whoso readeth, let him understand--that is, if he or she can.
The Portland "Transcript"
November 25, 1854
[Written for the Transcript.]
CHIPS AND PORRIDGE.
The Philosophies.--The New York Tribune, in an able review of Comte's Positive Philosophy, speaks of Lord Bacon as the "illustrious founder of the Inductive Philosophy." Literary men sometimes fall into egregious blunders. Lord Bacon was not the founder of the Inductive Philosophy. Roger Bacon, of an earlier date, is entitled to the honor of having first suggested it. "He taught," says a North British Reviewer, "the scientific world all that it required to know, that truth could not be observed without experiment and observation, and that no reasoning, however ingenious, and no arguments, however sound, could of themselves satisfy a mind anxiously seeking for what is true,"--he might have added, what is true externally. Old Roger, it was, who dispossessed the old-fogy Schoolmen of their mazy and bewildering vocation.
Let us therefore hear no more about Lord Bacon as the "illustrious founder of the Inductive Philosophy." Honor to whom honor is due. Read literary history more carefully, brother Ripley, or I, Caleb Leathers, Esq., will snub you particularly hard. High up as you may be on the perch of criticism, my switch will reach you. I'm a terrible critter, sir.
N.B. I received a rap or two from old Roger, conveying a modest request that I would set the American literary public right in relation to the authorship of the Inductive Philosophy. Having now done this, I take the liberty to remark that I don't believe that "experiment" or "observation" will induct us to the ultimately and absolutely True. We are assured by the highest authority that the kingdom of God comes not by observation. It is an interior, spiritual kingdom; it is not to be known by the experience of observation, but it is intuited by the spirit. Comte is only an outsider--a shallow philosopher of the senses. Millerism is an exemplification of this gross materialism. They, the Millerites, believe man has no imperishable part, and their soon-expected kingdom is to be an outward affair--one altogether of "observation;" and its expectant subjects are continually crying, "Lo here" and "Lo there!" But truth, however, is spiritual, and transcends the realms of the outward immeasureably. The outward is the negative--an effect, not a cause. The Deductive Philosophy--that is, reasoning from cause to effect--is as legitimate a method of scientific inquiry as what is termed the Inductive. The Ancients pursued the former method, while the Moderns adopt the latter system. The Ancients, "starting from principles, come down with eagle-swoop upon details; the Moderns, long groping among details, at length rise to principles. The former seized Truth while yet in the unembodied Idea, and by brilliant but vague generalization, applied to to the countless forms and phases of nature around them; the latter, gathering together a multitude of isolated facts in the outer world, sift them with patient industry, until, from the shapeless and perplexing mass, emerge the golden grains of truth. The one is a brilliant despotism of the Mind, the other a servile worship of Matter. Bold Speculation must always preceded Experiment, before the latter can be turned to legitimate account; and it should never be forgotten that the main value of the inductive system of inquiry is, to test the results at which the mind has previously arrived by the methods of Deduction."
The mind of man is constitutionally related to truth; the latter is unfolded in the instincts of the former; and thus it spontaneously educes truth. The soul of man contains the embryo of all truth, and under favorable conditions it is unfolded into clear intelligibility. Truth is more within than without us, and is therefore more legitimately e-ductive than in-ductive,--Locke and Comte to the contrary notwithstanding. The inward is positive, and the outward negative. The outward is mainly valuable as the transcript or representative of the inward.
"All, all on earth is change, all beyond is substance."
The initial hints of all unfolded truth were given from within; corroborative testimonials of that truth are had from without, doubtless, but the soul is first cognizant of, because more cognate to, the truth. The kingdom of God, the innermost centre of truth, is within us. The WORD is nigh to us, ever within our hearts. The outward and rudimental witnesses of the spiritual, central truth, which glide in through the senses, are only of a symbolical or representative character. The much vaunted Inductive Philosophy--Comte's Postive Philosophy--can have no just precedence of the Educative Philosophy. The latter, rather than the former, is the sovereign method of acquiring truth. That pervading wisdom which is from beneath, and which is earthly, sensual, and devilish, is mainly the offspring of this usurping Inductive Philosophy. Whoso readeth, let him understand--that is, if he or she can.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*This one is really a no-brainer, inasmuch as Mathew was the senior writer and humorist; it was Mathew's style; it was Mathew's modus operandi; it was Mathew's friends and peers (Clemens being much younger); and it was Mathew's brother's birthday. How embarrassing for the "penguins" (a la Sylvie Ivanova) that they were all of them fooled, and it took me, the nutcase, to straighten it out for them. The lesson is, don't trust so much to public reputation. I recall that in private correspondence, Clemens remarked that this was the best thing he ever wrote. Actually, it was the best thing he never wrote, and in fact he wasn't capable of writing it, any more than Dickens was capable of writing "A Christmas Carol," or Poe was capable of writing "The Raven." Clemens can at least be excused because Mathew must have sworn him to secrecy. As for Mathew's humorous charge of plagiarism, I don't know how serious he was with these three, Longfellow, Holmes and Emerson. Again, I think Longfellow and Holmes were personal friends. But it struck me recently, scanning one of Emerson's essays, that essentially he was paraphrasing the Bhagavad Gita (which text we know he had access to) without citing it, as though the wisdom was his own. Whitman did something similar in "Leaves of Grass," but he seems to have garbled it, writing half as an earthbound spirit, and half as Krishna. Thoreau, on the other hand, in "Walden Pond," praises the Gita directly. So it may have been the high and mighty reputation of Emerson that Mathew was specifically targeting. In 1852, Mathew wrote a piece which included a scathing satire on the late Margaret Fuller, who had once edited the Transcendentalist newspaper, "The Dial," portraying her as a pretentious, egotistical pseudo-intellectual.
**I'm extremely careful in claiming a pseudonym for Mathew Franklin Whittier. For example, directly next to this piece on the same page, is an exceptionally well-written reflection on sleep, signed "Juniper." When an author is this good, I perk up and take notice, because Mathew's work is generally a cut above the usual fare. However, this author speaks of sitting up, as a child, "for whole hours on bright moonlight nights, to gaze on the unconscious face of the three years' cherub who shared my room and bed." Mathew's sister Elisabeth was three years younger, but the question is whether she would have been put in his bed, when he was six years old. Mathew suffered from insomnia all his life--very likely what he's really saying, here, is that he was awake with insomnia for hours, even as a child--and that during that time, he would sometimes gaze at his little sister's face while she was sleeping. The phrase "human face divine," used in this piece, is one of his go-to expressions (I found seven examples, with variations, in my digital archives). The author also speaks of watching a little girl sleeping at the time of writing the column--this is possible for Mathew, as his youngest daughter, Ally, would visit him in his flat in Portland--and, in fact, this would have been the inspiration for the entire article. The writer is a bit rough on overweight men and women who crowd one in public conveyances, but Mathew might have written in this vein, as he did regarding "bores." Mathew's works often appear side-by-side on a page, under different pseudonyms. The writer does appear to be male, despite the signature, because he speaks of taking Christmas gifts home to the children in one's pockets. I found no indication online of any writers using this pseudonym, "Juniper." Finally, while it is a piece I would be proud to claim, it didn't quite ring true for Mathew, intuitively. After a few read-throughs, however, I felt differently about it, and this wouldn't be the first time I was wrong like this, initially. Part of the problem was that "Juniper," which is usually feminine, didn't strike me as the kind of silly and/or meaningful pseudonym Mathew would choose, until I looked up its various meanings. One is a reference to Saint Juniper, the "jester of the Lord," also called the "Saint of comedy," who was praised by St. Frances for his patience. If Mathew, a humorist, was babysitting his youngest daughter Ally at the time he got the idea for writing this piece, "Juniper" would be a natural pseudonym to adopt as a one-off. In fact, Mathew published an unsigned poem about Ally visiting him in his apartment, for her birthday, only 2-1/2 months after this piece was published. Much of this hinges, then, on whether Mathew and his younger sister Elisabeth shared a bed when he was six, and she was three. I have seen no indication of it in the Whittier lore; but if rooms and beds were in short supply at the time, they might have. Finally, the author casually adds in spiritual philosophy, just as Mathew typically would. If I wanted to pursue the matter, as I have with other pseudonyms, I would have to scour the paper to glean all the work under this signature, then examine it for any contra-indications of Mathew's authorship. My guess, however, is that I wouldn't find any, and that Mathew simply concocted it, true-to-form, to reflect the particular situation he found himself in at the time.
Music opening this page: "Awaken," by Eric Johnson
from the album, "Up Close"