This is an addendum to yesterday evening's entry (for anyone who is listening, or will ever listen). I mentioned my frustration at presenting three of the most strongly-proven past-life memories in my case, to Dr. Jim Tucker, successor to Dr. Ian Stevenson at the Univ. of Virginia; and how I felt he blithely dismissed them with sophistry. There was some prior history I didn't have time to go into, there, which should be presented, and it will take an entire entry to do it. In particular, there was a test which I induced Dr. Tucker to quickly work up for me, which I failed. In fairness, this, too, needs to be presented.
In 1997 I began work on my documentary, "In Another Life: Reincarnation in America." I wanted to lead with Dr. Stevenson's research, the intention being to prove to any rational person that reincarnation was a legitimate phenomenon, and not simply an idea. I wanted to address reincarnation the fact, not reincarnation the belief, and I wanted to get that issue out of the way at the outset.
To this end, I requested an interview with the then-aging Dr. Stevenson. Although he was media-shy, he initially agreed, then changed his mind--possibly because of the other researchers (including, at that time, Dr. Marge Rieder) who were interviewed in my rough draft. I then went to Plan B by interviewing journalist Tom Shroder, a skeptic who had traveled with Stevenson and had become convinced that these were real scientific results.
My documentary was released in Jan. of 2003, and aired once, on PBS affiliate KBDI in Denver, Colorado. It was then accepted for distribution by Films Media Group, the media arm of Facts On File, which sells to colleges and universities. Only a handful of copies ever sold, however, partly because they were charging something like $120.
Fast-forward to year 2007, when, in a state of personal upheaval and financial ruin, I managed to travel to the University of Virginia, using the equipment left over from my failed video production business, to interview Stevenson's successor, Dr. Jim Tucker, for this website. So far as I could see, he had only been shown in sound-bites on documentaries which didn't give him, or the Stevenson method, a fair representation. I wanted to let the man speak at length, and answer the tough questions. I found him very likable and intelligent, and the interview eventually went viral, sans attribution.
Dr. Tucker, as I recall, posted it on his Department's website, and included a link to my website. I cautioned him that I was too "far-out," and that he would do better not to be publicly associated with me. That just gives you the tenor of the relationship. He did, however, agree to hold a digital copy of my book, once I released it in 2012. This was against the day that someone might charge me with having worked the facts backwards. Dr. Tucker, a credentialed authority in the field, could respond by saying that such-and-such a memory was, in fact, recorded in this early edition, and that I did not make it up after-the-fact.
I kept in touch with Dr. Tucker by e-mail, inasmuch as I agreed to remain on the lookout for any cases involving xenoglossy; and occasionally we would briefly dispute some fine point of reincarnation research and theory (as, for example, just how common childhood memory of a past life is). But he never showed any interest in reading my book. This is not surprising. I already knew that anybody who presented a reincarnation case which didn't fit the Stevenson method, would probably receive the same treatment.
Meanwhile, as I kept on finding new evidence, my case kept getting stronger and stronger. At some point, I contacted Tom Shroder, and asked him to read the book. He didn't have time, but asked me to share with him some of the highlights, i.e., the strongest proofs. I did so, and he dismissed them out-of-hand. This should have taught me a lesson. (Shroder, then an editor for the Washington Post, did at least compliment me on my writing, based on what he had time to peruse.)
In the meantime, during the course of my research--I think it was 2-3 years ago, but I may not have that right, as I'm bad at dates--I learned of the existence, in the Boston Athenaeum, of a portrait of a man whom I knew Mathew Franklin Whittier had been friends with, in his youth. Or, at least, I assumed they were friends. This minister had given a fiery sermon against slavery, portions of which I strongly resonated with. Not questioning his authorship, I reasoned that Mathew would have admired the man deeply, as a visionary. I had never seen his image; and here was a chance to put me to the test. Would I be able to pick his portrait out from a line-up?
Dr. Tucker graciously agreed to prepare the test, and I promised to include the results in my book, regardless of how it went. I arranged for the image to be sent directly to him. The Athenaeum sent it to me anyway, but I simply forwarded it without looking at it. In a few days, as I recall, the test came into my e-mail box. Dr. Tucker had created a line-up of minor public figures from the period (and one from an earlier century), and this man's portrait--one Rev. David Root, a Congregationalist pastor in Dover, New Hampshire--was among them.
One of the portraits contained the man's name embedded in its digital information (it displayed in the viewer I was using), and had to be discounted. That left (as I recall) five images. One of them I felt particularly drawn to. He was the only one who struck me as a visionary or reformer (which I was predisposed to look for, by my assumptions). Another one looked familiar, though not of the right temperament. The others didn't look familiar at all; and one of them I actually felt a bit of subconscious aversion to, looking back in hindsight. His forehead was much too high, for one thing. And he looked kind of pedantic, hardly the visionary type. I passed him by with only a brief glance.
When the results came in, I had failed. The pedantic one with the exaggeratedly high forehead, was Rev. Root. The one I had been drawn to was Gaspard Monge, a brilliant French 18th-century mathematician and reformer. He looked a bit too much like David Root, however, to have been included in a fair test. The one I felt a bit of recognition for, was a British ornothologist.
But Mathew traveled extensively, including in London, where the ornothologist lived. For most of Mathew's career, he reviewed lectures for the Portland "Transcript" and other papers. He also attended and reported on Louis Agassiz's lectures in 1846, showing his interest in scientific matters. Under the circumstances, public figures should never have been used, at all, because there was a very good chance Mathew would have seen them lecture, or met them, given the circles he traveled in. Further, Mathew was tutored, in his youth, by his future wife, Abby Poyen, who had received a classical education in the French style. She was a visionary and reformer herself, and very likely would have taught Mathew about Monge--perhaps even showing him the same etching.
But that's not all. When I accessed some of Root's other sermons, I saw that there was a distinct style mis-match. I also learned that Mathew appears to have ghost written for a number of people. Long story short, I can bring it very close to proof, that Mathew, himself, ghost wrote that sermon I felt so much drawn to. In letters to the editor which I am almost certain were subsequently written by him and Abby, together, he re-uses the thought--with nearly identical language--that I had felt so inspired by, in the sermon. And Mathew didn't plagiarize, except from himself, which is to say, he had a habit of re-using his best material.
I told Dr. Tucker that I had learned that Mathew probably ghost wrote the sermon I had attributed to Rev. Root, and hence, Root may not, actually, have been the visionary I assumed he was for the test. This happened many times, that my preconceptions, based on mistakes in the historical record, skewed my past-life recognitions. I felt the appropriate reaction, but interpreted it incorrectly, because of prejudice due to these historical errors.
I then shared with Dr. Tucker the exact wording I was going to use to describe the test, and the results, in my book. His response, as best I recall it, was that it was accurate "(at least) as regards the facts," implying that he did not take my analysis seriously. The matter had come out as he expected, presumably, and he didn't want to waste his time on my excuses. This isn't a scientific attitude. The true scientific attitude is, when you get new evidence, if it holds up, you have to revise the theory accordingly. That is, if you want the truth. Dr. Ian Stevenson was fond of saying, in this regard, "If the ball is in, you call it in; if the ball is out, you call it out." In this case, the linesman had called the ball out; but subsequent developments indicated that it was actually in. Meaning, my past-life emotions had not lied to me. Monge was a visionary, as he may have been presented by Abby in their tutoring sessions. Root was a clerical academic. He was sincerely liberal, apparently, but he did not have Mathew's fire or inspirational genius. I can prove it by a comparison of their respective writing styles.
Finally, the portrait itself is both awkwardly executed, and unflattering. This is probably why it was squirrelled away, uncompleted, in the Athenaeum, never to see the light of day until I requested a copy. There is a "ghost arm" in the portrait, where the arm had originally been painted too long, and re-painted in its proper proportion. But the ghost arm had never been completely erased, suggesting that Root pulled his permission. The forehead is anatomically too high; and his vest buttons are nearly bursting, so that he was painted with an unflattering girth. Whoever executed this painting, didn't like Root. Just how accurate it is, no-one can say. But it may not have been a photo-accurate likeness (rather, I think it actually verges on a caricature). I have found that images of people must be very accurate, in order for past-life recognition memory to be triggered. There are exceptions, but the general rule seems to be that the more accurate the portrait, the closer Mathew was to the person, and/or the stronger the emotion associated with him or her, the more likely that my past-life recognition memory will be triggered.*
It would thus appear that Mathew did not, actually, admire Rev. Root as I previously assumed he did. Nor were they necessarily close. Root was someone who could deliver an Abolitionist speech with relative impunity, because of his position in society, and who was willing to do so. That's all. In a sense, you could even go so far as to say he was a stooge (or to be kinder, a mouthpiece) for Mathew and Abby. This speech was given in Mathew and Abby's hometown of Haverhill, Mass., two days before they eloped to Dover, New Hampshire. Or, it may have been the very same day, if a clue in one of Mathew's stories gives the correct date. In other words, Mathew and Abby probably co-wrote this firebrand Abolitionist sermon, induced Rev. Root to give it there in Haverhill, and then immediately eloped to Dover.**
Dr. Tucker would, no doubt, not be interested in any of these details. In his mind, I failed the test as expected, and "that's an end on't," as Mathew would say.
It is human nature to stop when one finds what one wanted to find in the first place. I have caught myself almost doing this a hundred times, but out of my dedication to truth-at-all-costs, I forced myself to continue. But one must not fool oneself into thinking one is pursuing truth, when one is actually pursuing an agenda. It's the slipperiest slope in the world, and we are all guilty of sliding down it at one time or another.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*This is an example of principles which have arisen in my study which beg for further research.
**Mathew's older brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, an outspoken Abolitionist, requested by formal letter that the sermon be published. There is no indication, however, that Mathew ever told him that he was the original author. There seems to have been a strong sibling rivalry between these two, such that Mathew typically hid his literary accomplishments from his brother, lest he feel threatened. So it appears that Mathew managed to get his and Abby's collaboration first publicly presented in their home town, and then published (perhaps by urging his brother to write the letter), without anyone being the wiser.
Music opening this page, "Won't Get Fooled Again," by The Who, from the album, "Who's Next"