Normally, I write these Updates on the spur of the moment, as I feel the inspiration. This one, however, I am beginning in mid-December, with ample time for revisions. I want this to be a year-end retrospective; but specifically as regards my work offering a rational perspective on reincarnation to the public, not as regards my personal life, politics or world affairs.
My documentary, "In Another Life: Reincarnation in America," continues to be seen on YouTube in at least three viral presentations, to the tune, now, of over 650,000. That's people who have watched at least some portion of it--one stat I found on Vimeo.com indicated an average viewing time of nine minutes. In these YouTube viral versions, one presenter has sped up the introduction and its music to an absurd degree, presumably to get it over with more quickly--whereas, it was intended to slow down the viewer's mind, to put him or her in a more meditative space. Another uses an old copy of what was probably the VHS tape (with garish colors); in the comments below another, the poster complains of no less than nine commercial interruptions! Meanwhile, if you search on YouTube for my title, my own listing doesn't even come up. Something like 1,300 people have viewed it. I haven't requested YouTube to take down the viral versions, because at least people are being exposed to the information (or some portion thereof--I haven't watched them all the way through to see what else might have been monkeyed with or deleted). What I do, is to periodically post at the top of each with the URL to my original show. It doesn't seem to be working, though.
Films Media Group, which has had exclusive U.S. and Canadian rights to that film for years, renewed recently (at their request) with a non-exclusive contract. They price it at something like $149 for a hard copy, and have sold, perhaps, two in all these years. Films Media Group, which also carries documentaries by Bill Moyers, sells to colleges and universities. With a non-exclusive contract, I could sell it myself, now, if there was a demand for it--I used to charge $25 for the DVD. But with the ease of watching it online, I suppose the demand is gone. I do not have the funds to float any advertisements, to find out.
I'd like to focus on my current project, but first I want to bring any readers who aren't regulars up to date with what I've accomplished over the last 7-8 years, since I first began work on it in 2009. To recap briefly, I had stated in a web interview, in 2003 (the year my documentary was released), when asked about my own past lives, that among others, I felt I had been a minor figure among the Romantic poets. In 2005, I stumbled upon what appeared to be a past life as Mathew Franklin Whittier, younger brother of poet John Greenleaf Whittier. In 2009, I began researching the proposed match in earnest, using techniques I had learned from studying other successfully-proven cases, like the Robert Snow/James Carroll Beckwith case, and the Bruce Kelly/James Johnston case. In 2010, I made contact with my past-life soul mate, Mathew's first wife, Abby, through a medium; and then again, nine months later with a different medium. Both readings yielded information that was later proven to be accurate, including Mathew's first name coupled with the name of a town which, unknown to me at the time, they had once lived in. In 2011, I wrote the first edition of my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words," and it was published as an e-book the following year. However, I continued to discover so much new evidence, that I found myself revising it almost daily, for the next several years (and up to the present time).
This was extremely awkward, and no-doubt made me look foolish (as did several other elements of my presentation), but it couldn't be helped. Gradually, it became apparent--and then, proven--that Abby was helping connect me with much of this evidence, in the same way that people who are grieving experience "signs" from their loved one in the astral realm. Thus, the bulk of the discovery process was actually being driven by her.
More evidence than I can possibly relate, here, came to light; and some of it was astounding. For example, I had been attempting to channel Abby in her own online journal for some years, when I came across clear evidence that Mathew, also, had publicly channeled her on two occasions, ostensibly in letters to the editor written by Mathew, as herself, in-character. I found Mathew's first love poem to her; and her poem to him, presented as a poem about spiritual marriage. I found a poem he wrote to her while she was convalescing for several months in another locale (probably, her father's native Guadeloupe); I found Mathew's tribute poem to her after she had passed. I also found two different versions of the story of how they first met which, when compared, yielded a fairly accurate historical account. All these things were of intense importance to me, personally--but I also ended up identifying well over 600 of Mathew's published works, including adventure stories, essays, humorous sketches, poems (both serious and humorous), and travelogues. The latter amounted to a published diary, which provided a very clear window into Mathew's personality--well after I had already given my assessment of it, which differed significantly from that suggested by the historians. And those travelogues reveal him to be very much like myself. I'm not saying that lightly--one would have to read them, and know me personally, to understand the depth of correspondence.
Almost all of this work was submitted under pseudonyms. Where other authors might use one or two nom de plumes, Mathew used dozens. One of them was his go-to pseudonym, which he resorted to occasionally from 1832 to 1873. Others were one-offs, or were used for brief series. Some of his pieces were unsigned, or literally signed "Anonymous," "Anon" or "Incog." And before you jump to conclusions, you would have to read my book to see how rigorously I attempted to prove Mathew's authorship. Where I remained unsure, I said so, and when it turned out I had been mistaken, I freely admitted it--but when everything is cross-referenced and considered as a whole, I was able to make a very strong case for most of them. Probably a large number of his unsigned pieces have gone unrecorded, simply because he may have been working as a clerk or assistant editor for one or more newspapers, and contributed material which was either editorial in nature, or "fillers," in that capacity. A few of these I have been able to make a strong case for, as being his work; and on at least one occasion, there is a mention by the editor that the author of a piece I feel certain was Mathew's, also contributed unsigned pieces. Other examples of his work escaped my detection because I focused my research on those publications he was known to submit to most frequently; but there were other papers, across the country, to which he might occasionally submit on a whim, or on invitation--again, under some pseudonym or other. I stumbled across one example through a series of clues (a chapter of it was reprinted in the paper I was examining, with a reference to the entire piece in an obscure New York State paper), but I don't know how many more there might have been. These are probably lost to time, although if this study ever becomes popular, scholars may unearth them and argue over them.
Some of the best of Mathew's material had been either attributed to, claimed by, plagiarized or imitated by other authors (not unusual in that era); so a great deal of detective work was required to reclaim them. But all of this was in order to prove the reincarnation case, since the bulk of my evidence was this published work; and before I could assert that the clues found therein confirmed my past-life memories and impressions, I had to first prove that it was, in fact, Mathew's.
As regards proving reincarnation, I kept careful track of when I recorded past-life impressions, vs. when I uncovered historical evidence tending to confirm them. In the book I list over 90 such impressions, with a summary of the evidence bearing upon them, and an indication of how plausible the memory is in light of the evidence. I also indicate how likely it is that I could have ever seen that evidence, prior to recording the memory. At least three of these memories rise to the level of very strong proof. First is my 2003 statement, itself. Indeed, it appears that I did live in the 19th century, in the social orbit of the Romantic poets (and no, I did not choose the match on that basis(1)). The second is a very personal memory involving Abby, and a very unusual design of stairs and a closet leading off them, with its door seemingly cut directly into the wall before one reached the second floor landing. This rare architectural design, which I remembered, was verified historically. It is so rare, I could not possibly have seen it earlier and forgotten it ("cryptomnesia"), even in period films. Thirdly, I remembered, under hypnosis, an event which turned out to be a city-wide meeting to discuss the impending Civil War, in Portland, Maine. Several elements of this vision turned out to be historically accurate, and this, also, is something I had never read about or seen in a film.
There are only two memories which I can recall being fully verified in this past year, 2016. The first is of Mathew witnessing a slave auction, and vowing to "bring them down" (i.e., the auctioneers). This was confirmed in the historical record. The only problem with this memory is that it is somewhat generic, given that I already knew Mathew had been an Abolitionist, when I glimpsed this scene under hypnosis. Whereas, the two memories described, above, are something I could not possibly have known about or guessed at, based on prior knowledge. I also verified a vague feeling, previously recorded, that Mathew, in his capacity as a reporter, interviewed slaves. In this case, I confirmed that he interviewed a girl of about 15 escaping on the train into Canada, where if you read between the lines, it appears that he was actually escorting her there.
Some of the discoveries I made during 2016 include Abby's series of short stories, edited and submitted by Mathew about nine years after her passing; evidence tending to confirm that Mathew was the author of one of the most popular parodies of "The Raven," and possibly the original, as well; that Mathew appears to have collaborated behind the scenes with popular humorist B.P. Shillaber(2); that Mathew was attempting to maintain a spiritual relationship with Abby after her passing; an essay by Mathew about reincarnation; an anti-slavery tract published in Boston by Mathew in 1856; that Mathew may have accompanied Henry David Thoreau on an excursion to Cape Cod, subsequently writing a favorable review of Thoreau's lecture about the experience; that Mathew appears to have been personal friends with black Abolitionist William Lambert, and to have participated personally in the Underground Railroad; and that Mathew appears to have published a satirical poem in the British humor magazine, "Punch."
During the course of my research, I also learned that Mathew seems to have been a spy, of sorts, and the strongest evidence for it emerged during this past year. How convenient, for me as an author, the cynic will say! But the evidence suggests that as of 1850-52, Mathew was traveling in the New England states as a postal inspector; but at the same time, he was acting as a secret liaison for William Lloyd Garrison. He kept everyone in the network informed of his contacts, by writing a public travelogue under a pseudonym. One can see that he reports meeting with a disproportionate number of known Abolitionists, such as Alonzo Lewis and Elihu Burritt; except that he relates everything else about them, never mentioning their affiliation with that movement. Likewise potential donors to the cause, like famous singer Jenny Lind, and former actress and divorced plantation wife, Fanny Kemble. He also meets with government officials (including several governors and the President), and, of course, a number of postal inspectors. All the while, he allows someone else to publicly claim the column, presumably to throw people off the trail. Mathew's association with Garrison began when excerpts from Mathew's own 1838 paper, the Salisbury "Monitor," were reprinted in "The Liberator," and it continued at least until 1857, when he is listed in "The Liberator" as a delegate from Maine to Garrison's "disunionist" convention in Cleveland. This, in itself, forms an interesting sub-plot in the book, along with the detective work necessary to reclaim Mathew's authorship of various disputed pseudonyms and works.
In 2016, I also continued to confirm that Mathew helped successively build two different Boston literary weekly newspapers, by submitting large amounts of high quality material, in various genres, all of it disguised with different pseudonyms. This, from a man who is credited by historians with only having written one character, in one genre! The skeptic will assume that I simply claimed other writers' works for Mathew to enhance his posthumous reputation--but I did my homework diligently. When I say that I have identified over 600 of his works, published from 1832 to 1875--even though he is only supposed to have published something over 60 works from 1846 to 1863--I have backed it up with careful scholarship. These are groundbreaking discoveries in the field of American literary history, especially when you consider that a few of these works were claimed by now-famous authors.
In all of this, I was collecting physical evidence, as well as digital. Both types needed to be archived; so a great deal of what I accomplished in 2016 was to put all of this material safely in order. That job is now complete. Every published piece (whether Mathew's authorship is confirmed in my opinion, or merely suspected) is digitized (and hence searchable); many are photographed; and the physical originals are archivally stored. All the digital material is, of course, backed up several times over. I have a hunch that someday, there will be a small museum dedicated to Mathew and to this work...so I have to make sure these items survive.
Having digitized such a large quantity of Mathew's work came in very handy when attempting to verify new pseudonyms. If I saw one of Mathew's favorite colloquialisms in a new, proposed piece, I could search on variations of it in this body of digitized work, and report how many times it was used. For example, Mathew used the word "palladium" in at least 22 different pieces. The Palladium was that statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, which once stood guard over the city of Athens--otherwise known as the "bust of Pallas."(3) Others were simply his conventions of intentional misspellings, as he imitated and lampooned the New England dialect. For example, he used "arter" instead of "after" in 94 of his sketches, from 1846 to 1875. Other writers might use some of these conventions (especially, by way of imitation, as Mathew was frequently imitated); but when I found several of his unique mispellings in a single piece, I could make a strong argument for his authorship.
So far there seems to be very little interest in my book, though recently an expert in a different field permitted me to send him a copy. Perhaps the length puts people off. Recently, I ran across another expert online who has written 26 books. I have written far fewer pages than he has--only, mine are all in the one book, and the high number of images, plus an appendix with 27 of Mathew's own works, makes it appear longer, as a text, than it really is. Personally, I feel that the reader who eagerly immerses him- or herself in it will find so many exciting discoveries, and so many excellent examples of Mathew's work liberally scattered throughout, that he will be sorry to see it end. Perhaps it is because people don't buy e-books, or because if they do, they expect a low price. This book is too long, with too many illustrations, to publish physically. Sometimes I wonder whether its very length functions as a sort of gate, to keep it out of the hands of the merely curious. I certainly don't intend to lower the price of something that could justifiably be sold for $40, to $4.00, just because people expect cheap e-books. But I'm telling you, if you catch the spirit of it, if you have a nose for detective mysteries, and if you aren't terrified of reincarnation being proven as fact, it's a rollicking good ride!
I think I have simply pushed people too far beyond their "boggle threshold"--that, and there is such a glut of presentations in the paranormal field (many of them bogus and sensationalized), that people become jaded and don't believe anything, including my own genuine study. There is little I can do about this, except to continue to do my best work, and to be honest. For this coming year, I anticipate that there will be few, if any, major revisions to my book. I am ready for the next stage, which is to say, interviews, reviews, and so-on. I refuse to use hype, and even if I was willing to compromise myself in this regard, I can't afford to advertise. People who are awake and aware will have to come to me; and while their first impression may be that I am delusional, I think they will come back, because if they are intuitive, they will sense truth in my presentation. How I will get from "Point A" to "Point B," from total obscurity to the level of interest which will inspire a small museum, I don't know. But I think it is destined to happen.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
1) The story of how I stumbled upon this past-life match is told in the book, and also in my video interview. Looking for names of female writers on the West Coast, in the early 20th century, per a psychic reading in which it was described, I felt I recognized the name "Sarah Orne Jewett." But Jewett was one of the Romantic writers of the 19th century, living on the East Coast. I sent the website URL to a friend, and he felt drawn to a brief listing, with an etching of Mathew Franklin Whittier, noting that he looked like me. Gazing at the eyes of the figure in the etching, I felt immediately that I had once been this person. It was that simple--at no point did I think, "In 2003 I said I had been a minor figure on the periphery of the Romantic poets, so now I have to try to find a historical person who matches."
2) For any of you who are scholars, it appears that in "The Life and Sayings of Mrs. Partington," Mathew wrote the biographical introduction to the character. (Note that Shillaber signs himself as the "editor," not the "author," of this work.) The evidence is in my book, and if anyone uses this information in a thesis, dissertation or scholarly publication, I expect a citation. Don't be like the professor who, going public with a theory similar to one of my own, after mine was made public (and having unsuccessfully tried to claim that she announced hers first), gave me the excuse that my work "wasn't directly relevant."
3) Which, in one obscure reference, Mathew indicates reminded him of Abby--the second time he has felt there was a resemblance to her in a statue.
Audio opening this page: philosophy professor Dr. Robert Almeder, speaking of Dr. Ian Stevenson's work,
interviewed around year 2000 for "In Another Life: Reincarnation in America."