Yesterday, I wrote of having completed the recent round of revisions to my e-book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words," which is the story of my attempt to prove a past life of my own, in the 19th century. As I closed that entry, I suggested that it is unique.
Then, today, as I put the finishing touches on the archiving which is also required when I discover new material, during my lunch, instead of playing a psychic reading on YouTube as I often do, I happened upon a British series on reincarnation called "Have I Been Here Before?" In each episode, they hypnotically regress a celebrity, and then set their historian on the trail to try to prove or disprove it.
So what occurs to me, is, "My study isn't unique, at all!"
I've gone back and forth about this. I think this perception may be germane to my lack of sales. Perhaps instead of people not believing me--or feeling uneasy--they simply conclude that they have seen things like this, before. For free, too!
It's true, and it's not true. I'm not trying to launch into a sales pitch, here; but I would like to clarify what I've accomplished, as against this program and others like it (some were attempted in the U.S., but couldn't make a go of it).
Enough details surface in these regressions to yield a few "hits" in the research phase. I've watched three of them so far, and the historical details which emerge under regression are confirmed, historically, to make the case valid to a certain degree. The details remembered are plausible for the period. Sometimes it's generic and common knowledge; but sometimes it's quite startling. A man remembers blue currency for a certain region of Europe and a certain era; and indeed, they had blue money. A woman remembers being a young exotic dancer for a North African "czar," clad not in the commonly-thought-of bellydancing costume, but in silk--and both would have been correct. In a typical episode, you could break it down to a handful of remembered facts, which check out as being plausible; and some of these facts are pretty obscure.
So far, from the ones I've seen (I intend to watch all of them), these shows don't prove reincarnation, as I have done with my case. Obviously, the staff doesn't spend years delving deeper and deeper into one particular lifetime. They don't have multiple regression sessions; they don't add psychic readings. They don't systematically make sure that the person could not have possibly run across the information earlier in this lifetime, and forgotten it. Neither do they have safeguards against fraud, i.e., working it backwards. Still, barring fraud, these results that they are obtaining strike me as far stronger than they ought to be, if this was entirely imagination. (Don't pay any attention to the resident skeptics on these shows. They are, as I understand, required by British law to be there, and they are fools. Their arguments break down logically to "This is ridiculous, so therefore it's ridiculous.")(1)
Hypnosis, at least in my experience, is not like a truth serum. If one has a habit of indulging in imagination, one will do so in the regression session (especially if the hypnotist encourages it, as some therapeutic regressionists do). If, on the other hand, one has long schooled oneself to be rigorous in one's thinking, as I have, one will strictly report whatever one is experiencing. This doesn't mean being overly intellectual--one can be both intellectually and emotionally honest. It just means that when you don't see anything, you don't make something up to please the therapist (or the camera). Capt. Robert Snow, a trained detective, was like this in his hypnotic regression. For the first half an hour, he didn't experience anything, so he didn't report experiencing anything. There are, however, no instructions or controls, that I can see, in the "Have I Been Here Before" regressions to guard against the subject indulging in his or her imagination during the session. This does not, by the way, necessarily invalidate all the information coming out of a session--it would simply increase the amount of "noise" in the final tally. For example, one subject in the program gives a numbered street address for the year 1804; but street addresses weren't used that early. It's clearly impossible, but this doesn't necessarily invalidate everything which came out of that session.
On the other hand, one thing most people don't realize is that the historical record is so faulty--through unintentional, replicated errors, or through deliberate falsification--that a historian with a skeptical agenda can often use it to seemingly prove a past-life memory wrong; a historian who wants to tantalize, without fully proving, can dig a little deeper and find evidence supporting that agenda;(2) but given a real past-life match, you can often dig deeper-still until you find the truth of it, substantiating the memory as being real and actual, after all. I accomplished this, to varying levels of certainty, many times in my study; you will also see it in the "Bridey Murphy" case.(3) For example, my memory of the placement of a grave during a funeral service didn't match the present-day location of the grave. But then I learned that when the "burial ground" was turned into an official cemetery, the old bodies may well have been dug up and placed in a row at the front, to save space--since that had been done at a nearby cemetery at roughly the same time. This, even though I was assured by the current-day manager of the cemetery that the bodies had never been moved. For this reason, and because of what I learned about burial practices in that era, my memory turned out to be entirely plausible. This error by the manager was unintentional; but there are many examples in my study of deliberate tampering with the historical record such as people stealing credit for published works, covering up something embarrassing, trying to improve their legacy, or even, in Mathew's case, trying to hide his legacy.
In the first few episodes that I watched (I have continued revising this entry over the next few days), they were able to obtain a positive ID on only one of these past-life personalities, even with some of the subjects remembering full first and last names.(4) Getting a full name--or, at least, getting a verified full name--too often, is a bit suspicious to me; it's always been my impression that it is quite uncommon. You have to have a really good hypnotic subject, and a hypnotist who almost aggressively takes them deeper than one normally would for therapeutic purposes. And even then you have to get lucky. I could be wrong--one would have to take a poll of hypnotists, I suppose. Another show which ran for a few episodes in the States, had the suspicious feature that none of the subjects remembered anything about their regression after it was concluded. I'm pretty sure that is relatively rare. It certainly doesn't seem to be happening on "Have I Been Here Before." Yes, it could be because one hypnotist instructed the subjects that way, and the other didn't. In my own personal experience, the subject is not putty in the hands of the hypnotist. Had mine instructed me not to remember anything of the session, I simply wouldn't have complied with the request. But then, I wasn't in a very deep trance. I can still remember mine, and the glimpses I experienced in that state.
I underwent two hypnotic regressions (plus a third for exploratory purposes), in which I was not a particularly good subject, and I used two good psychics. But the bulk of my past-life memories came in my normal waking state, in the form of emotional and intuitive reactions to various aspects of Mathew's life, with a bit of cognitive memory attached to the most intense ones. As opposed to "Have I Been Here Before," where each subject gives perhaps five or six impressions, I recorded over 90, all of them turning out to be at least plausible, while direct, irrefutable "hits" number only from two to five (depending on how strictly one defines it). But hits that I couldn't quite prove come in around 15 or 20 (depending, again, on how high one sets the bar). Clearly beyond chance. Note that the sheer bulk of plausible impressions in my study is statistically impressive in itself. When a subject in "Have I Been Here Before" has five plausible impressions and three disproven ones, that's suggestive; when I have over 90 impressions and all of them are plausible, that's significant. I found that all, or almost all, of my initial impressions were plausible--it was in the interpretation of those impressions that I could be mistaken. Often, that was a result of relying on the faulty historical record, so that I was interpreting my impressions based on false assumptions about Mathew's personal history. For example, Mathew's sole student-biographer said he "left" his second family around 1858. I felt he would not have done that; but I accepted the biographer's timeline, and interpreted my impressions around it. Later, I learned he ended this marriage in 1849, while continuing to support the family as he traveled, maintaining home bases in two different cities; but due to being "outed" as a radical and blacklisted in 1857, he could no-longer continue to support them, which necessitated the break-up of the family at this time.
Another crucial difference between my study, and most of these cases, is that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a case which lends itself to proof. There's a unique set of circumstances, where you have a person who had an extensive footprint in American history, but who hid himself so well that he has been almost entirely passed over by historians. Most of these historical people remembered by the subjects in "Have I Been Here Before" are so obscure that they cannot be identified. I started out by recognizing my past-life person's 19th-century etching as myself, though at first he, also, seemed to be so obscure that I thought I might never be able to prove the case. But the more I dug, the more I found, until I realized that there was actually a vast amount of information, in the form of his published works--works in which he had heavily embedded his own autobiography--which hitherto were not associated with him. (These works include a weekly travelogue running from fall of 1849 to mid-1852, which amounts to a public diary.) And the beauty of this is that there is no possible way I could have seen this information before, because nobody knew this work was his. It is not publicly available--one has to access obscure 19th-century newspapers in order to read it, which is something I can state unequivocally I had never done before engaging in this study. Therefore, the skeptical objection of "cryptomnesia," or false memory based on prior, forgotten exposure, is defeated in my study.
Another thing that makes my study unique is who Mathew Franklin Whittier turned out to be. But if I brag on him, am I bragging on myself? He was an unsung literary genius, and a behind-the-scenes social reformer, who was directly associated with many of the famous personalities of the day. He was a facilitator, not a leader, except in the sense that he "led from the bottom." You've seen people like that--the CEO is the figurehead, but if it wasn't for this man, or woman, the work wouldn't be nearly as effective. No-one will ever know the full extent of that person's contribution; and that's how Mathew was. He was an agent for William Lloyd Garrison, an officer of the Portland Spiritualist Association, a founder of the Republican Party (the liberal party) in Portland, a sympathetic reviewer for liberal lecturers (thereby extending their reach through the newspapers), a reporter for the 1851 World Peace Congress in London, a Portland sales agent for a Boston Spiritualist newspaper, a signer on the Spiritualist petition to Congress, and most importantly, an anonymous writer of scathingly funny satires in support of various progressive causes. It was his work, attributed to other writers, which substantially helped build two Boston literary newspapers, the "Weekly Museum" and the "Carpet-Bag." He may have assisted in the interviewing of slaves, in the South, and/or escaped slaves in Canada, which interviews were published by other people. I have found one or two pieces of evidence pointing in this direction, but if he did this work, he kept it very close to his chest. (This last is something I vaguely remembered long before I could find any evidence for it.) Finally, it appears that he had a habit of ghost writing for more prominent persons, so we don't actually know how many lectures he might have had a hand in. There are at least two I suspect (neither of the speakers were famous, just in a better position than he was to be heard). But there was a story read out at a special event by a very famous 19th century writer, which I am almost certain was written by Mathew. It got the fellow in hot water, because Mathew's humor had a hidden "bite" to it; but I won't go into that, here.
Incidentally, many reincarnation cases make extensive use of parallels between the past-life personality and the present one. This is only briefly touched on in the "Have I Been Here Before" episodes, and given that a positive ID has only been achieved once (in the shows I've watched so far), these sorts of parallels can always be chalked up to projection. The skeptics in this program jump on that interpretation, as one might expect! But the parallels between Mathew Franklin Whittier and myself are extensive, deep, specific and well-documented. For example, he had made a lifelong study of mysticism and the occult, as I have; and he actively promoted that world view, as I am doing at this very minute. Projection as an explanation is eliminated because when I made that ID, I simply recognized his eyes in an etching, knowing only that he was brother to the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, and that he was a writer. Mathew's work as a reviewer of speeches closely parallels my own work, for about 15 years, of videotaping speeches. He was attached to a lecture series presented in Portland, Maine by the "Mercantile Library Association"; I was attached to an organization called the "Georgia Speakers Association" (now, "NSA Georgia"). These are just two examples of many--you would have to be me, to understand the extent of it. I am substantially the same person, having the same mind, just with a different background. I don't emphasize this aspect of the case, however, as it is not as strongly evidential as historically-validated memories. I do touch on it in one or two places in the text, and I address it more specifically in the epilogue.
In the course of my study, I rescued a vast treasure-trove of Mathew's work from obscurity (as well as from other claimants, some of them famous), and a hearty sampling of that work is shared, by way of example, in my narrative. Just this material, and the detective work required to uncover it, are well worth the price of the book. (That's an extreme understatement, given my discoveries.) But while TV programs like "Have I Been Here Before" scratch the surface of a past life, offering a tantalizing handful of clues which seem to line up with history, my study goes into far greater depth. It may be the deepest exploration of a past-life claim ever attempted. Furthermore, I considered every possible normal explanation, and I disproved every single one of them, except fraud, which is impossible to eliminate entirely. I mean, of course, so far as anyone else is concerned. Obviously, I know I was strictly honest. In any case, it's highly unlikely that I made this up out of whole cloth. I would have to be a full-blown sociopathic personality to perpetuate a hoax of this magnitude--and there is no evidence that I fit that profile.
All of these television programs end up with the popular teaser, "Is it real or imagination? You decide." (or something to that effect). Reincarnation is suggested, but not proven. The question is, what does it take to move it from this subjective realm, to "yes, it's objectively real"? That's the difference between my work and "Have I Been Here Before"--I spent seven years making sure there is no wiggle-room in my case. To any rational, fair-minded person, it proves reincarnation. That is, if you read the study cover-to-cover. The question then becomes, how badly do you want to know the hidden truth of life and death? If you are desperate to know the answer, you will find it, here.
Well, I suppose this did turn into a sales pitch of sorts, but I'm not much for sales. I recently copied one of Mathew's letters to the editor, in which, writing from Philadelphia, he tells how P.T. Barnum was swindled by a fellow who pretended to have a huge chunk of California gold. He got Barnum to pay him $500 for the privilege of putting it on display, and then promptly skipped town, leaving Barnum to discover that it was a fake. I think it did Mathew's heart good to see Barnum "get his." So I never approved of hype, even in the 19th century (being personally acquainted with the founder of modern advertising).
My e-book is available for sale online; all the archiving is done. I have over 600 of Mathew's published works digitized, and many of them photographed; as well as a fairly substantial collection of originals. Now I go back to my ordinary life, take walks, ride my bicycle, do some photography...and wait. Somehow, someday, someone is going to discern what I've accomplished, here, from the various programs and books available on the subject. I've said this before, and I'll close with it--this book will fascinate the person who eagerly plunges into it with an open mind. It is that kind of book, and it deserves that kind of respect.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
1) Their arguments are all variations on the theme that past-life memories are merely imagination. The standard skeptical objections are false memories ("cryptomnesia"), projection, and fraud. But the a priori assumption behind all these arguments is that philosophical Materialism is correct, and all phenomena have a material cause and basis. Therefore, no past lives can ever exist, under this assumption, and one must find an explanation which fits with this paradigm. However, this flies in the face of the proven cases. If any one person's past-life memories have ever been proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, to be reflecting an actual historical person's lifetime, then past-life memory is a real phenomenon, which in turn exposes a deadly flaw in philosophical Materialism. Quite a number of cases have been so-proven. Therefore, all cases deserve to be taken seriously; philosophical Materialism has demonstrably failed; and the ridicule of these skeptics is revealed to be an expression of dogmatic fanaticism, the dying gasps of a failed world view, rather than a true scientific attitude, which attitude they are only mimicking. They are, in effect, the priests of a dying era. Incidentally, the hypnotist in this series uses a pendulum on the subject, for some reason, when first being introduced to them. This is not standard procedure in hypnotic regression, and it seems to me that it deliberately makes her look more unscientific in comparison with the skeptics.
2) In some instances, their researcher didn't follow through as thoroughly as he could have. In one case, for example, he is sent all the way to New Orleans, having enough information to obtain a positive ID, but he only digs to the level of establishing plausibility. I can't help but wonder if he was instructed to stop there. Clearly, his budget wasn't the problem. The question arises in my mind, "If they had proved one of these cases outright, would they have told us? Because if they did, it would change the entire format of the show; and it would make everything the skeptics had said up to that point, look ridiculous. At that point, the host can no-longer end each program with (to paraphrase), "What matters is what you believe." As it stands, the unspoken conclusion of the entire series is that memories gained through hypnotic regression cannot be definitely proven historically, which is false. They make of it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Actually, they have been proven in a few instances, at least to a high standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt," as in the Bruce Kelly/James Johnston, case, or the Robert Snow/James Carroll Beckwith case, as well as in Dr. Peter Ramster's work--and in my own case.
3) Look at my discussion of Benjamin Franklin's belief in reincarnation, for another example. Read the first part if you want to be tantalized--read the second part if you want to be reassured--and read the entire page if you want to be shocked.
4) The name remembered by Jonathan Coleman was matched to a plausible historical identity. The first and last name he gives under hypnosis, the name he gives for his mother in that lifetime, the city, and the date he gives for being conscripted into the British Navy, all agree with the historical record. This is actually getting too strong for the "What do you believe? format of the show.
Music opening this page: "A Leaf Has Veins," by The Free Design, from the album, "You Could Be Born Again"