Before I begin, I want to mention that I recently presented in this blog an 1851 letter I had purchased on Ebay, written in a handwriting remarkably similar to Mathew's, which appeared to be signed as "Charles Dargni." Actually, it was signed "Charles Durgin." I had thought maybe it only appeared to be a business letter, being actually a communication regarding the purchasing of a slave's freedom.
Here, I'm going to do precisely what I did in my book when I disproved a theory--retain a record of it, and delete the bulk of the description. Long story short, I identified both historical persons, the sender and the receiver of the letter. The sender is a cigar maker in a town just outside of Boston; the receiver is a merchant in Portland, Maine. The handwriting is, indeed, extremely similar, even to little idiosyncracies I thought might identify it as Mathew's. Three hours on Ancestry.com, and I find I was mistaken.
There is one other possibility, which I must mention for the sake of thoroughness. Don't laugh--lots of people couldn't read and write in the mid-19th century. Or if they could, I'm guessing that most tradesmen hadn't mastered formal handwriting, such as what you see on the envelope (it would be typical, for Mathew). Mathew kept his home-base in Boston, and Durgin lived just outside of Boston, in Roxbury (he was writing from Cambridgeport). If this cigar-maker was illiterate, and if he knew Mathew personally, he might have prevailed on Mathew to write the business letter for him. Perhaps 1,000 cigars was a particularly big order, and he didn't want to look ignorant to this Portland merchant. Probably, Mathew was happy to do it for him, in exchange for a cigar. However, the story I generated about buying a slave's freedom, which I thought was intuition, would have been imagination. This is grist for the mill. I take note of it, and know that imagination can play a part in what seems, subjectively, like it might be the influence of past-life memory.
I did find, by accident, that known plagiarist Francis A. Durivage was living in Boston when he was submitting Mathew's humorous sketches, under Mathew's own pseudonym for that series, "The Old 'Un," piecemeal to "Gleason's Pictorial." I also found that Mathew very much disliked that publication (as I thought he did), and specifically says he never reads it. Presumably, that's how Durivage could have kept this up for so long, without it coming to Mathew's attention. (If you ever look these up, about 90% of them are Mathew's, but Durivage wrote some on his own, which are weirdly convoluted and not very elevating in tone.)
Now, I indicated, in the first of my entries for the 2nd (it was offline for awhile, sorry), that I had intended to provide a comparison between Mathew Franklin Whittier's work, and my own, which illustrated that I have the same higher mind as he did. I'm going to do it this way. Many years ago, I responded to a Billy Graham column, in which he dissed the concept of reincarnation. The file date is only 2014--I am sure it was long before that. If it wasn't before year 2005,(1) when I discovered the existence of Mathew Franklin Whittier, it was certainly before I had discovered very many of his essays--especially on the topic of religion or metaphysics. (I'll tell you how old this is--I wasn't even using the close-paragraph HTML code. I've done that forever.) So this would have been written before I had ever seen Mathew's intellectual approach to these topics. It was also before I knew that, during a certain period of his life, he followed the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg. What I had to go on, was the statement of a psychic medium in March of 2010, who said that Mathew and his wife-to-be, Abby Poyen, would study "black-market metaphysical books" together.
There is a sequel to my first response to Rev. Graham, in which I make the case that St. Paul was a fraud. This would have been in direct contradiction to Mathew's beliefs. Mathew argued persuasively for Paul being genuine and sincere (if at times inconsistent in his teachings and examples). I feel that the reason he published that series, is that it arose from an argument he had with Abby about it. Abby, I would guess, was not fooled by Paul; they disagreed, and Mathew published his thoughts so as to organize them for himself.
But note that whether one is fooled, or not, it is the same higher mind. It would be fascinating, I think, to debate with my past-life self in an area where we disagree (there are very few).(2) I'm might actually try it sometime--but it would take some work, and some research. Mathew was very sharp. As I recall his arguments, he says that Paul was unconcerned about making his examples consistent--he sort of "shot from the hip." I would argue that he was faking it, while stealing the best bits from the genuine disciples--just as I have illustrated with regard to Edgar Allan Poe. The cognitive dissonance of Paul turning out to be a fraud was too great for Mathew, so he recoiled from it and defended him. Abby could see through him. It took me some 170 years to come around to her point of view. (It may take you as long to come around to mine.)
Here, Mathew makes a point I have made elsewhere (as have others). The figures in the Old Testament are symbols of inner spiritual and psychological realities. I don't remember precisely where, in this website, I made that observation.(3) But I have been aware of this principle for some time. When God's chosen people are liberated, and cross the desert, and find the promised land, this is all symbolism for the psychology of one person. It's the inner journey that a seeker of Truth goes through.
When I wrote this entry, yesterday evening, I thought I was missing my photographic copy of the original, because I had it mis-dated. It should have been Oct. 22, 1842, rather than Oct. 11. So you may access that pdf page here. However, I might as well leave the digitized copy below, as I had placed it there yesterday, for those who prefer not to launch pdf pages. My modern commentary on Graham's column is a page in this website, here. I could give many more examples, but this will suffice. The point is to illustrate, not to bludgeon a stubborn skeptic with proof until his eyes roll back in his head, he swoons, and then wakes up shouting "Now I believe!"
Just this morning, as I was changing the date on on the photographed copy and creating the pdf file from a jpeg, I noticed the poem which sits atop the first installment of this essay. It's entitled "Song of the Needy," and it's reprinted from "Punch." I have indicated that Mathew had a habit of sending in clips that he especially liked, along with his own work, when he submitted to the editor, seemingly with the request that they be printed atop his own article. Sometimes they were his own compositions; sometimes not. It's conceivable he had submitted this to "Punch" himself--I did find one example I feel certain of. More likely, however, this is something he found in that magazine, written by a British author.(4) Either way, when Mathew attached a poem to his own work, it always had a personal meaning for him; and generally, it was in tribute to his late wife, Abby. Ostensibly, this poem relates to the "Needy" as a class; but to Mathew, it also represents his own psychological condition. At this time, he is 30 years old; Abby had died about a year and a half previously. Mathew, who had early-on taken to the Stoic philosophy of the ancient Greeks, tends to hide his real feelings. There are multiple examples, in his own writing, indicating that he was quite aware of this tendency; and Abby has also commented on it in some of her short stories (one of which features a character called "Diffident Jim"). I mention this only because it's fascinating to me to catch more of these things; and also because it bears on Mathew's authorship of "Annabel Lee," inasmuch as he appears to have placed that poem above one of his works, as I demonstrated in a recent entry.
I have recently asserted that Mathew Franklin Whittier was in no way inferior to any of the Transcendentalists, as a philosopher. I meant that literally. But when it came to esoteric studies, Abby was even better than he was. That, as I said, is why he was not impressed with the likes of Margaret Fuller--because he had a point of comparison. He had lived with a real prodigy, who had a deep intuitive and intellectual understanding of the esoteric teachings.
As far as attributing this series to MFW, it's his, alright. It meets all the criteria, and matches up with numerous comparisons. I would need three blog entries just to substantiate it, however. Clearly, the one-off pseudonym he adopts, "Judex Falsititus," is in response to the writer he is criticizing, "Philo Veritatis." I don't know Latin in this lifetime, and Google's machine translation seems to be failing me, but I gather that the first writer claims to be pronouncing the truth, while Mathew indicates that he, himself, is acting as a judge of falsehood. I could give many examples, but suffice it to say that if you had read both of my books, as well as about 1,300 of Mathew's published works, you would be certain of his authorship, here. Mathew contributed quite frequently to this paper, but the following month he would settle on the pseudonym "Poins," which he stuck with for about three years, in addition to using his own name. The last time Mathew signed with his own name or initials was in 1847, for an adventure story called "The Fall of Bagdad."
The Portland "Transcript"
October 22, 1842
A R E P L Y
To some late comments in the Mirror, on the
Doctrines of Swedenborg.
Of late there has been a series of comments on the doctrines of Swedenborg, in a religious paper called the Mirror, of this city, edited by Rev. Asa Cummings, who, in the onset, cautions the writer to be correct in his quotations, as in such a case, his paper will be open to no reply. What justice there is in adopting such a course, we will leave it for others to decide.
These comments purport to be a fair exhibition of the principles taught by Swedenborg; or at least, the writer would have his readers to understand, that they can see from what he has written, a just representation of the above principles. The writer styles himself Philo Veritatis. But the writings appear to exhale a kind of spirit so strongly tinctured with acidity around that name, by which its lustre is so much tarnished, that it is difficult to determine whether he really is what he represents himself to be or not. At any rate he follows the old path of those who have gone before him in his way of thinking, which is by finding fault and condemning principles he knows but little or nothing about; of principles he does not appear to wish to know anything about, right or wrong, any further than to discover something that does not accord with his own; and if they do not do this, they are bad of course in his view, because he sets himself up as a standard by which all writings are to be tried and proved as to their truth and validity. But he seems to lose sight of one important fact to be regarded in this matter which is that those who have embraced the doctrines of Swedenborg, are those who have investigated them; and also know his own doctrines as well as he does himself, and therefore they must be more competent judges, than either he or any one else who has not examined them: or have examined merely with a determination to find them bad. But he seems to have no capacity of seeing any thing bad in his own views, and blames Swedenborg as erring greatly for saying that the church is now in a ruinous state and its ancient glory has departed from it,--and this is owing to its dividing the God-head into three persons, and declaring each of which to be God. Now when the mind becomes so extremely stupefied as to see no ill consequences to result to the church from believing in three persons in the God-head, we may suppose it would not be likely to see any, however far it may have fallen away from its former state of simplicity and purity--for it evidently sees nothing wrong in its present distracted state, when it is infested with evils of every name, and is at open rebellion against its principles and leaders, and refuses to acknowledge the one or the other as having authority from revelation, and when every day more and more evinces the church has lost its power and influence, and the minds of men, instead of exercising love and charity towards each other, are let loose and are making war with one another. What can be more ruinous to the church than to ascribe to God qualities that do not belong to him, and which is done by believing that there are three infinitely wise and perfect beings, and yet so differing in their natures and dispositions, that it is necessary to address one in prayer for the sake of another. Just as if one of these was disposed to do what the other was not.
Who is there that seriously reflects on the character of God, that cannot see that such a view of him must be attended with serious, if not fatal consequences to the church, for whatever is predicated of him, must necessarily affect every other point of doctrine in connection with it, and it will wear the features and aspect of the original, whence it is deduced.
But this writer seems to make very light of it, as if no ill consequences could be expected from such a belief, as if truth had nothing to do in this matter, as if there were some way of getting to heaven besides the knowledge of him who creates heaven. We hope this writer, whoever he may be, may find it necessary for him to alter his views on this subject, and be led to believe that right views are essential to salvation, and that indeed, without them, there is no salvation at all.
We do not know who this writer is, but we suspect he may be a preacher; but whether he is or no, we will ask him one question, by which we think he can determine whether he has right views of the character of God, or not, that is, whether he feels sure that he knows in what heaven consists? If he can give a correct answer to this question, we believe he will not be far from right, in his view of the character of God, as this question and answer are very closely connected.
If a man can look upon the state of the christian world as it now is, when it is entertaining so many different faiths, and addicted to so many vices of one sort and another, as to embrace nearly the whole amount of iniquity that has any where been practised in the world, and yet see no indications of a falling off from what we may reasonably suppose it once was, then we may conclude that he would not be likely to see any ill results to follow, in seeing the three persons in the Godhead; but would believe as pure a system of belief and practice in life, would result from such a view, as would in seeing the whole Godhead in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This writer seems to think of it very little consequence whether he rationally understand the scripture or not, and appears determined to be guided by the literal sense, at any rate. He finds much fault for the reason given by Mr. Noble, for many of the commands of the Lord to the Jews, as that they were ordered to make war on the Canaanites, and expel them from their own land. And thus it would seem, according to his way of understanding scripture, he would follow the literal sense, and do now, perhaps, to his neighbors, as the Jews did to the Canaanites, expel them from their possessions.
He seems to be unwilling to allow any one to exercise his understanding when he reads the scripture, but that he must take it as it is, whether he can understand it or not, or at least, he would restrict those he calls Swedenborgians, to this rule. But we hardly believe, with all his sensual mode of interpreting scripture, that this is the course he always takes himself. But we have generally observed that such as see with his eyes, resort either to a spiritual or a sensual sense, as best suits their case.
But now to be consistent with himself, he would have his readers adhere strictly to the literal sense, however conflicting and apparently inconsistent with itself that sense may be, as he very well knows it often is. But this is just as consistent as it is to believe in many other things he does, or as many others like him, do, who hold to his system of doctrines. It is wonderful he should be so zealous in assailing the doctrines of Swedenborg, when he holds to so frail a system, himself--a system that needs no argument for its overthrow, but crumbles to pieces from its own frailty.
A system based upon the notion of three Gods, making contracts and devising schemes among themselves, concerning salvation, but not of sufficient foresight to discover what scheme is best; but when one fails, resort to another; for so it is represented. Plans and schemes are attributed to the infinite mind as much as if he were a mere man. And if a faith in three Gods results in such a belief, we would ask whether such a faith is not an evil to be avoided as it is altogether degrading to the divine character.
This critic upon the doctrines of Swedenborg, we suppose, would have his readers believe him really a spiritual man, endowed with spiritual eyes; but what evidence does he manifest that it is so, when he denies there is a spiritual sense in words divinely dictated, and stigmatizes Mr. Barrett and others as infidels, and classes them with Thomas Paine, for attempting to rescue the scriptures from the imputations of inconsistency by infidels, by reconciling the literal sense in the spiritual sense which i9s represented by it. But this does not seem to suit his purpose, but he sticks merely to the literal sense, and would have it understood that none but infidels see any discrepancy in it. If he finds infidels, and no doubt he does many, is it not because he and others like him have made them so! Are they not most of them, such as are unbelievers in his way of thinking, and not disbelievers in revelation? And if he finds real disbelievers in revelation, they are not so without a cause, it is because they have not, like him, been thoughtless and trusting to a blind path leading devious ways, but are such as have exercised their faculties, and have not passed over unnoticed, apparent inconsistencies, as there are many such in the literal sense of the scriptures, as those, who hold that the understanding must be kept in obedience to faith, and because they could not make them harmonize with reason, have refused to own them as coming from divine authority--they are what they are because the scripture has been so interpreted as to have made them what they are--they require evidence consistent with reason; but it is evident from what has passed, that the literal sense alone is insufficient to do this; but there is a sense, which is consistent with reason; and if they can be made to see this, they will be no longer infidels. They are such that will be sooner convinced of an error, than those who have not exercised their reasoning faculties, but have taken upon trust what others have told them, but have never reflected whether it was right or wrong, and believe as we conclude this writer does, that it is wicked to be a rational christian.
Of how much discernment this writer has of spiritual things, we seem to have some evidence from his remarks on what Mr. Noble says concerning the command given to the Israelites to make war on the Canaanites. Mr. Noble says this command would not have been given if it had not been from its representative sense, as it would be absolutely contrary to the divine nature, and therefore contrary to his will that one man or nation should make war on another; and therefore this command was given as a law of permission, as it was representative of things of more consequence than the literal sense, which were the removal of evils from the mind, and which were represented to have been done by the Israelites expelling the Canaanites from the land of Canaan. This is the purport of what Mr. Noble says, though not in his own words. And this writer says to this, and this is declared to be a higher meaning than that which is usually given by christian authors, meaning no doubt that it is not. Almost every one knows it has been understood merely literally; that it simply means the expelling of the Canaanites; and consequently relates merely to the bodily state; while the other meaning relates to the soul--the inward man which is imperishable.--And which meaning is of the most consequence we will leave for others to say. But this writer thinks there is not much difference.
But we will here be a little more explicit in giving the meaning of the command requiring the Israelites to expel the Canaanites from Canaan. We who are the adherents of the insane Swedenborg believe that all scripture that is purely divine, is to be interpreted in ourselves, and that we are not to go out of ourselves to find its meaning; that it really treats of our inward states, though it may seem to treat of other things. And therefore that all names of persons and places in the word have a representative meaning, and thus the land of Canaan represent the human mind; and the Israelites, because of their representative sense, and not because they were better than other people, signify the truths of the word stored in the mind; and the Canaanites represent the falses of evil which are from man himself; for such is the state of every unregenerate mind; there is in it something true and something false, something good and something evil. And so long as the false and the evil prevail over the true and the good, and rule them, the man is evil.--And it is the will of the Lord that it should not be so, but that truth should have the ascendency, and thus that the man should be ruled by the truth and not by the false and evil. And this the Lord really commanded to be done, and commands now to be done, and not that the Israelites should literally make war. But inasmuch as they were inwardly disposed to do so, he suffered it so to be, that thereby might be represented that war which is lawful for every man to wage against his enemies, which are the evils of his own household. And the man who obtains a victory over these enemies, we believe, obtains by far, a more important victory than would be obtained by the children of Israel literally expelling the Canaanites from the land of Canaan.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
1) The file date for the response to the second Graham column is 2008, the year before I began serious research on Mathew Franklin Whittier--but as said, I think I began routinely using the HTML coding for closing paragraphs much earlier than that.
2) Ironically, Swedenborg didn't accept reincarnation, so at this time in Mathew's life, that would be another topic we would disagree on. Later, he seems to have been more open-minded, until eventually he seems to be hinting that he knows of a past life as a "Jewish high priest."
3) I briefly mentioned it in year 2007, in the footnote of this essay.
4) For the record it strikes me as being Mathew's mind, but I find myself too reticent to claim it. The style, while not exactly his usual, is close enough to be plausible. Certainly, Mathew would have admired "Punch," and it would be surprising if he didn't submit to it occasionally, as some other American humorists did.
Music opening this page: "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor," by Johann Sebastian Bach