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I want to return to a diagram I presented a few entries back:

As I key in my past-life journalistic works, I start seeing patterns in Mathew Franklin Whittier's life. I'm struggling with how to organize this...

Looking at the diagram above, suppose that I start my research project with a few mental snap-shots. These are my past-life memories, experienced either in normal waking consciousness (driven to the surface by the strong emotion still attached to them, via what the late past-life therapist Roger Woolger termed the "affect bridge"); or through hypnotic regression. Finally, I also had, guiding me, the results of two psychic readings.

Armed with this paranormal data, I begin plunging deeper and deeper into the historical record. The surface of that record is both sparse, and inaccurate; which predisposes me to errors in assumption. But gradually, the picture becomes clearer.

Now, the point I wanted to illustrate, this morning, is that I have these "snapshots" set aside from the beginning of the study; and they have to be fit into the picture that is emerging from my historical research. The question then becomes, will they fit seamlessly, or will I have to "jam" them in, like a jig-saw puzzle piece that doesn't really go there?

There is also the matter of recognition memory. This is what people might assume I claim to have. Meaning, I would look at a photograph, or a piece written by Mathew, and I would immediately recognize it and know all about it. This kind of memory is far more capricious, however. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't, and sometimes--more often--I did, but it took awhile to sink in. The following example, which for want of space I can only touch upon, without the deep back-story which is given in the book, will illustrate both types of past-life memory.

Here is where it gets tricky, to present such a rich tapestry in a few words. But we will start with two past-life memory impressions that I had very early in the study. The first, I have shared in a recent Update: I am riding in a sleigh, at dusk, careening through the trees at a rather dangerous speed. Snuggled up against me is my future wife, Abby, but she is much younger than when I know, from the historical record, we married. When we married in 1836, Mathew was 24, and she was 20. But here, she seems a mere adolescent, no more than 15. I smell the richness of her hair as she clings to me in fear--or so I suppose--and she even takes my hand. I feel aroused, but guilty about it--I feel mixed signals. Is she truly afraid, and clinging to me as she might a big brother, or is it more?

These past-life glimpses are like a few frames of a film, frozen in time. It is as though I have five seconds of a video, which never changes. The feelings are the same; the thoughts are the same; the situation is the same. But it is contextless, other than the feeling-context it came with. I can never "stretch" them out. Oh, I can try--but I am fooling myself when I do so. Best that I stick with the core impression. In 1850, in an unsigned essay entitled "Pre-Existence," I described it this way:

Through what brain, in which a thought e'er found ledgment, has not sometimes floated a dim consciousness of a past existence? A flash of light, a momentary glance, a struggling reminiscence, and all was blank again? Sometimes it came to us in the strain of sweetest music; sometimes it was awakened by a look, a word, a thought. Mostly in the dim hour of twilight, when the inward eye sees more clearly than amid the bustle of the world, such glimpses of the past, such haunting, tantalizing visions have startled us. Visions quickly fading; and yet leaving a firm though unsatisified impression.

This memory of the sleighride was somewhat contra-indicated in the historical record, inasmuch as there is no indication that Mathew and Abby were friends this early. All the other memory-glimpses I had of their courtship, would plausibly have taken place later on. This seemed to have occurred several years earlier.

Another memory-glimpse I'll bring in, here, was of Abby playing piano for me. She is somewhat older. I am invited into the parlor, and I sit in a chair facing a window, in the front of the house. The piano is to my left, positioned in a corner, diagonally, facing toward the center of the room. It is a grand piano, and I can just see Abby over the top of it (she being rather diminutive). She plays something that moves me deeply, and in this state, I see her anew, as it were. The thought which keeps running through my mind is, "How wonderful she is! How wonderful she is!" I feel that I am certain I want to marry her--but the feeling which accompanies this thought is, "But how will I ever proceed?" As though it is very unlikely I could ever win her hand, or get permission.

This is a fairly generic scene for the 19th century (though I didn't realize this at the time I remembered it); and some of it, the latter portion, I could have extrapolated from what I already knew of their respective social stations. So it is not one of the more strongly evidential memories in the study. But for the purposes of illustrating how this process appears to work, I am including it. (I did have a very few of the "knock-your-socks-off" variety, which were enough to prove to any rational, fair-minded person that the case is genuine.)

Now, in the course of my research, I gradually became convinced--by the normal, scholastic method--that Mathew occasionally signed his works with a single asterisk. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that it actually symbolized a star; and even longer to understand that stars were very special to Abby. She believed they were alive and conscious, at least in some sense; she believed that they symbolized souls in heaven; and she had, apparently, picked out two which symbolized her and Mathew, together. After she died, in 1841, of consumption, Mathew began signing with his "star" as a tribute to her.

I didn't pick up on any of this via past-life memory. It was actually years before I put it all together. Not only that, I came across a gorgeous tribute poem that Mathew wrote for her, some few years after her death, which he signed with his "star," and I didn't recognize it. I thought it sounded trite, and, not realizing at that time that Mathew had used the asterisk so early, I discounted it as his work.

Later, I came back to it, and I realized that it was written to a woman in heaven. Suddenly it didn't seem trite at all; and the feelings associated with it came back to me. Imagination? I'm amenable to that explanation, but no--this is something deeper.

Remember that I am not one of Dr. Ian Stevenson's subjects, who can remember many details of their most-recent past life. I remember, more-or-less, what any average person would remember, when presented with a real past-life match. And what I started out with was a handful of "videos." I could be presented with any number of details from my (genuine) past life, and my reactions would be various. Most of the time, I wouldn't recognize them consciously, at all. Very often, the emotions attendant upon that detail would then steal upon me, in a matter of hours. Only rarely would I have an immediate experience of recognition, which is to say, a new "video" would be triggered.

The significance is that just because I don't remember something that is presented to me, which came from Mathew's life, doesn't disprove the match, itself. This is actually par for the course.

So, back to these two sample memories. In time, I confirmed, through both Mathew and Abby's written works, that she excelled in music, having been privately tutored. She sang, she played piano, and probably played harp, as well. She used to sing and play for Mathew, both before they were married, and after. In this, she was not unusual, for a girl from a privileged family. She had, however, married a Quaker farm-boy. Quakers didn't indulge in music; and Mathew absolutely revelled in his wife's abilities, which, after all, had been intended by her parents to catch her a rich, upper-class husband! So the memory was entirely plausible, both for the period, and for these particular people. I even learned what song she may have played, which affected him so profoundly: Handel's "The Great Jehovah is Our Awful Theme." You may hear a full orchestral version of it at this (cut-and-paste) link:

And in case you're interested, here is my rather amateurish attempt at playing the first couple of lines, directly from the book that Abby may have played from. You will have to imagine it being played with full mastery and expression, to get a sense of what Mathew heard, though...

How did I conclude it was that piece? Long story...In August of 1836, Mathew and Abby had eloped across the border to Dover, New Hampshire. There, they submitted pieces (including jointly-written, powerful pro-Abolition essays), to the local paper, the "Enquirer." I felt Mathew was also working for the editor, who owned a bookstore. The editor occasionally advertised the books he was selling, which list sometimes dovetailed suspiciously closely to works Mathew would have been interested in. But on one or two occasions, it was a list of song-books. Remember that this was an era when, instead of radio, television and the internet, people entertained themselves by privately performing musical pieces together; wives would sing, play and read poetry to entertain their husbands. So I reasoned that this list might represent music books that Abby, herself, played from for Mathew.

I was able to obtain two of them, and I do play enough piano that I was able to pick out the first page of several songs. Certain ones seemed deeply familiar, via past-life memory; and this one in particular. It hit me, as I learned to play it, that this may have been the song Abby first played for Mathew--and then, that it definitely was the song.

Remember that it will only take the discovery of a letter or a diary to historically confirm some of these things. So that in the future, what is here still within the realm of speculation, at least to some extent, may be proven as historical fact.

Abby knew metaphysics and the occult, and may have, herself, been psychic. I remembered very early in the study, that Mathew used to call her his "Magical Girl." Several clues indicated that she, herself, thought of herself as a river sprite (suggesting she probably swam the nearby Merrimack River in East Haverhill, proficiently). Amongst the songs in these two historical songbooks, was one which tells of a singing mermaid:

What fairy-like music steals over the sea,
Entrancing the senses with charm'd melody;
What fairy-like music steals over the sea,
Entrancing the senses with charm'd melody;
'Tis the voice of the mermaid, that floats o'er the main,
As she mingles her song with the gondolier's strain;
'Tis the voice of the mermaid, that floats o'er the main,
As she mingles her song with the gondolier's strain;

I cannot begin to tell you the feelings that came to me when I first picked out this tune, and sang it to myself. Imagination, magical thinking and such-like explanations don't do it justice. I am, once again, fully amenable to these normal explanations--but this was something else. It was as though, for an instant, I was back there, singing it with her, and feeling what I felt at the time. I knew this music; and with it, all the feelings attendant upon singing it with her. As I recall, I even anticipated an unusual variation in a musical phrase of this song (where the note unexpectedly goes up), as I was sounding it out--and this one is so rare, that I seriously doubt I had ever heard it in this lifetime.

But another song, "I Would Not Live Alway," brought up an entirely different set of feelings. This song had come up before, in another context. Apparently this, too, was one of Abby's favorites, in her other-worldly Victorian religious beliefs; but after she died, Mathew would hear it used in funerals, or other public performances, and it would tear so deeply at his heart that he would feel like fleeing from the room. I have tried playing this many times, and I cannot dilute the feeling that immediately arises; to the point that I simply avoid it. Unfortunately, I can find no recorded version of this song online which matches the tune from this old songbook, so if you look it up, don't go by any of those. Here, for those of you who read music, I just found sheet music for the same tune, though this is a slightly different arrangement:

I have already described, in a previous entry, how I verified that the sleighride memory turned out to be entirely plausible. That's because I learned that Abby apparently began tutoring Mathew in 1830, when she was 14, and had fallen deeply in love with him (if she wasn't already) by the end of that year. Mathew was friends with her older brother, and considered himself her friend, as well. He was on the rebound from an infatuation with an older girl in their hometown, and in reaction, had embraced bachelorism. So he considered himself a determined bachelor; but he humored Abby, whom he saw as a mere child, and assured her that he would not be "dallying" with any other girls, while he worked as a mercantile clerk and as a newspaper reporter, in New York City. This was in 1831, when Abby was 14/15. So if the sleighride memory took place even earlier, say, in the winter of 1829/30, it would fit precisely with not only the remembered scenario, but also the thoughts and feelings.

Now, to the asterisk--in this body of work from the New York "Constellation," in 1832, I found a piece which confirms my interpretation, and also ties in to the piano-playing memory. But first I have to mention that all of this is echoed in one of Abby's short stories. She has cast herself and Mathew as brother and sister, named Frank and and Fanny. There, Frank flatters her to get her to approach their uncle for money. So from this and other clues, I learned that Mathew would call her an "angel," and other things, which Abby couldn't quite believe were sincere. I had also early-on remembered some of Mathew's endearing terms for her; but it appears that in true Victorian style, she demurred. (Her self-image was also beaten down from taunting by the local village girls.)

So, here, the editor presents two faux letters to the paper (many years later, Mathew will re-use this literary device); one from a husband, and the other from the wife. The husband says that he had flattered his wife while courting her, as to her piano playing and singing; but that he didn't expect her to ask for a piano, and then play it for hours each day! He protests regarding her "thumping" and "squawling." The wife's letter follows--she protests that he is a different man now that he married her, and that she only practices six hours per day, etc. etc.

I didn't get it at first. But as I was keying it in for preservation, it hit me--Mathew is gently lampooning Abby's charge of insincere flattery, by way of reassuring her that he is, in fact, quite sincere in his praise. Abby would, of course, be obtaining a copy of the "Constellation," when Mathew was acting as the junior editor and had control of the editorial page; and she would be carefully reading all of his productions! So he communicated to her in this way.

But the clincher is that this piece is signed with a double-asterisk. This appears in August of 1832; Mathew had been signing his book reviews, written for a Boston monthly magazine, with a single asterisk since May. Inasmuch as the piece has a letter representing Mathew, and another representing Abby, and it is signed with a double asterisk, this becomes strong evidence that his life-long asterisk signature was precisely what I have presumed it is--a tribute to Abby. It is the only time he will ever double-sign it like this.

This isn't proof of a past-life memory about Mathew's use of the asterisk signature--quite to the contrary, since I was quite "thick" about it for some years. However, it confirms what both of my psychics said about our relationship, and how I felt about it from very early-on, which flew entirely in the face of the readily-available historical record. There, in the record, this first marriage is passed by with hardly a comment--we learn that Abby was attractive, and that at one point, she was "nervous," and that's about all. Primarily we learn that she was not a Quaker, and that Mathew was "disowned" by the Quakers for having married her. One gets the impression that the Whittier family didn't approve of her, although Mathew's sister, Elisabeth, was friendly with her.* Mathew's brother, John Greenleaf, never once mentions her by name, despite saying in a letter that he stayed under their roof on one occasion in Portland, Maine. But from one psychic, we learn that Mathew and Abby were soul-mates, and intensely simpatico; from the other, that Abby was extremely intelligent, and that they were very well suited for each other. So the twin asterisk signature, in this lampoon (which portrays, in caricature, the exact opposite of the actual situation between them), is evidential, for the nature of the relationship as a whole.

All this may give you an idea of how these different sources of information come together. I think my study is unique, in revealing so clearly how this process works. These are the sorts of questions that the reincarnation researchers of the future will study.

I have to get back to my archiving...

Best regards,

Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.

*However, there is not a single reference to Mathew, Abby, or their first-born son, in what has come down to us as Elisabeth's diary, which covers the corresponding period of Mathew and Abby's early marriage.


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Music opening this page: "The Great Jehovah is Our Awful Theme"
by George Frideric Handel, from the oratorio "Joshua"



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