This entry has already written itself in my head--the task is to "disgorge" it quickly before I forget it.
I was thinking, yesterday, "Suppose I can provide strong evidence (I won't say, 'prove') that I was the past-life co-author of 'A Christmas Carol,' and the past-life author of 'The Raven'--who would I tell?" Because one would imagine that all I had to do was to look up the contact e-mail of a couple of prominent scholars, introduce myself, explain it to them on the phone, and I'd be good-to-go. Inside of three weeks, I would be giving a guest lecture in front of their classes; and in another three weeks, I'd be on the airwaves.
Of course you know what would happen if I tried that. I have tried to argue my reincarnation evidence with one or two prominent people in that field, who blithely dismissed it. There's no way I'd disturb the breakfast, or lunch, of a historian with my "claims." I'm not that much of a glutton for punishment. So if your unspoken logic goes somewhat like this: "His claim can't be genuine, because nobody knows about him, and no experts endorse him," you might want to examine that assumption.
No-doubt it was the same in Mathew's day. Charles Dickens was a literary rock star, even at the time Mathew must have shared a manuscript with him in Boston, in 1842. No less later on in his life. Other people had crossed swords with Dickens about plagiarism, and had lost the fight (one of them, rather badly, his reputation being smeared beyond repair). As for Poe, we have seen that all Mathew did was to put him privately on-notice, by quoting Francis Quarles about preferring his Christian integrity to fame, directly beneath a story about a very small town that incorporates, bringing out "a latent spirit of ambition and pride, which, in the language of Dea. Daniel Libbey, 'had hitherto lain dormouse [and] began to manifest and to mightily exalt itself.'" "The Raven" was originally published under the pseudnoym, "---- Quarles." Mathew had in his possession an original book of Quarles' poetry, which he had quoted from at length, many years earlier. The quote he used here--presumably in response to Poe's explanation of how he supposedly wrote the poem, published in Graham's Magazine a few months earlier--reads as follows:
Self-Knowledge.—As thou art a moral man, esteem not thyself as thou art, but as thou art esteemed; as thou art a Christian, esteem thyself as thou art, not as thou art esteemed; thy pence in both rises and falls as the market goes. The market of a moral man is a wild opinion. The market of a Christian is a good conscience. [Quarles.
Mathew was a Christian (albeit an esoteric Christian)--Poe was not. If you had read as many examples of Mathew's irony as I have--and had seen as many examples of Mathew intentionally juxtaposing his various works on the same page, as I have--you'd know this was quite deliberate. Strangely, these lines were mis-quoted in the paper, which took the teeth out of it. I'm quoting the full original, here.
It suddenly occurs to me that if, as I suspect, Mathew was angrily responding to Poe's essay on "The Philosophy of Composition" in Graham's Magazine, there must be some argument in it about being a moral man, to which he is specifically reacting. I can't tell you the aversion I feel to going back to that essay. Perhaps I can keyword search it rather than having to read the thing again...
Yep. The skunk dares to pretend to have written the poem, while discoursing on morality--and if there's one thing Mathew hated, it was hypocrisy.* Can you discern bullshit? I'm telling you, this entire essay is bullshit. Elephant shit, I would say. In the previous entry I said that I have 100% accurate memory of Mathew's emotions. I'll tell you that this essay really, really ticked him off, and in particular the following portion:
The next point to be considered was the mode of bringing together the lover and the Raven--and the first branch of this consideration was the locale. For this the most natural suggestion might seem to be a forest, or the fields--but it has always appeared to me that a close circumscription of space is absolutely necessary to the effect of insulated incident:--it has the force of a frame to a picture. It has an indisputable moral power in keeping concentrated the attention, and, of course, must not be confounded with mere unity of place.
Mathew's response, decoded? You may be a "moral man," but you ain't no Christian.
Mathew placed the story of the Raven in his room, because he was in his damned room. Sheesh. I could quote other poems, plus a travelogue, where he describes himself studying there, as well. He referred to the "bust of Pallas" because he had a bust of Pallas, i.e., Athena, copied from one found at Herculaneum, which reminded him of Abby (I have evidence for this, too). It represented her wisdom, and he kept it over his door, either literally, or symbolically, or both. This is specifically the wisdom Abby had taught him about the occult, mysticism, and life after death (when he adopted the pseudonym, "Trismegistus"). The same wisdom contained in the old books she had taught him from--which, in his grief and skepticism, he now found difficult to believe. I have said there is a very deep context, a very deep back story, for Mathew and this poem. What do we get from Poe, the plagiarist, as his explanation? Elephant shit. Professors, aren't you smart enough, and experienced enough, to recognize when a student is bullshitting his way through an essay? You see enough of it, I would think.
An enclosed space has an "indisputable moral power"? Give me a break.
To put this in perspective, if it's not immediately obvious to you, imagine running this quote by Martin Luther King. His response would probably be, "To use the word 'moral' like this, he must not have had much respect for it."
The Herculaneum was excavated in the 18th century. Mathew wrote a long, gorgeous, somber poem about what I take to be a mythical representation of such a ruin, called "Iorno," which is in his native style, i.e., in a style similar to "The Raven." Do you want to see a couple of selections from it? This was published in the May 15, 1852 edition of the Portland "Transcript," under a pseudonym I have definitely identified as his own. Thus, it appears roughly half a year before "The Vulture," Mathew's parody of "The Raven," is published anonymously in the "Carpet-Bag."
Slowly mouldering stood Iorno in its stern and gloomy pride,
With a barren waste and trackless, and the sea on either side;
And its strong-hold, hoary warrior, frowned above it lone and high,
With its grey, embrazured turrets piled against the mellow sky;
And the ramparts round the city, whence the shaft had winged its way,
Swords had flashed, and glancing helmets, all the long and sunny day.
At whose feet the tide of battle oft in laboring waves had broke,
On whose side the engine vainly oft had plied its shivering stroke,
Fallen, strewed the ground, or slowly, sadly bended to their fall,
Wreathing roots and towering branches filled the breaches of the wall;
Need was none of tower or rampart, no invader came that way,
And the lawless son of rapine stood, and gazed, and turned away;
And the curious intruder, with a vague, uncertain dread,
And a stealthy, restless footstep trod the city of the dead.
Evening came upon Iorno, on its grey and mouldering towers,
And the stealthy-footed shadows stole from out their woodland bowers,
And the birds of day returning, circled through the shadowy dome,
And the bat, with noiseless flittings, left its narrow, dusky home;
And the night wind, pensive mourner, sweetly sang through court and hall.
O'er the tall grass in the market, and the ivy on the wall
Sitting on the crumbling windows, or upon the shivered frieze,
Now and then a lonesome night-bird answered to the plaintive breeze,
Now and then a fitful rustling stirred the rand and tangled copse,
Now and then in husky echoes came the barking of the fox.
Long ago the sun had settled down behind the western sands,
Spotted o'er with shining islets, crossed with red and yellow bands,
Stealing upward to the zenith, richly spreading left and right,
On the western slope of heaven lay the Eden's peaceful light.
I won't show Abby's portrait next to the Herculaneum bust of Pallas, because I really hesitate to display her in front of every skeptical gawker. But it's fairly close, which is precisely what he seems to have implied. He also became quite fond of using variations on the word "palladium" in his "Ethan Spike" sketches, as for example when he (i.e., Mathew) is presumably freelancing as a reporter in Washington during the 1856 election:
Editors of Transcript and Eel-lectrick:--I'm here in the great mecropolis of the suvrin states--or to use a poetick figger in the very Erie or neast of the Americun Eagle! Perlaydiums, connstitootions, magny chatters and sich like is all araound me.--The atmosfear I breath is thick with E plurebuses! I feel that I'm on hallered graound, an seem to hear harps of a thaousand strings a bein played on by sperits of just men made perfeck. When I see the stars an' stripes a floatin' over the caounsells of this tremenjous nation, it rises great feelins in my bussum, a latent chord of poetry wibrates thare an' I exclaim, Flag of my country! but somehaow I can't get any furder.
Note Mathew's deliberate Malapropisms, "mecropolis" and "atmosfear." Mathew, raised Quaker, is aligned with William Lloyd Garrison, whose motto is "No Union with Slaveholders." He believes in following a higher authority than the State. Ethan Spike, meanwhile, is a backwoods Yankee conservative. Perhaps when unofficial Whittier biographer William Sloane Kennedy says that these pieces are not worth the trouble of looking up, it's because they offended him. Other people said "Spike" was a genius. Garrison, himself, published at least four "Ethan Spike" letters in his paper, the "Liberator" (including one unrelated to slavery, which was also reproduced by psychic Andrew Jackson Davis, in his book "Events in the Life of a Seer"). But Mathew's authorship of "Ethan Spike" is not in dispute, so I will continue.
The Palladium was the statue of Pallas, or Athena, which stood guard over ancient Troy. This must have been a subject which came up in Abby's tutoring curriculum, as she taught him about the ancient Greeks, and he must have commented on the similarity in appearance when he saw etchings of this statue. Presumably Abby demurred and acted embarrassed, but was secretly pleased, so that this became a cherished memory. Mathew kept Abby's memory alive, especially in his literary works, in a hundred different, subtle ways. These are very, very personal references, which only he would understand. I start to remember them, one association after another, one "string" after another, because of the powerful emotion associated with them. It only takes a clue here, and a clue there, to trigger the rest, so that I can fill in the gaps.
Years later, having been sent a copy of the "Ultima Thule" portrait of Poe by the daguerreotypist (when Mathew was admiring it in the shop**), he referred to Poe, in his travelogue, as "this greatest of American poets," apparently (as I have earlier discussed) with his tongue firmly in his cheek. You can get a sense of his use of irony, from the "Ethan Spike" quote, above. Soon afterwards, he demonstrated, anonymously, that he could parody "The Raven" better than anybody else.
So if nobody would have taken Mathew seriously in his own lifetime, how would I get anyone to take me seriously, today?
From time to time, it has occurred to me that no matter how much evidence I can bring to bear (on my reincarnation case, and also on the issue of Mathew Franklin Whittier's literary work), people must be viewing it the way they would a magic trick. They know there must be a normal explanation somewhere--they just haven't figured it out yet. This creates a sort of tension, and people in this modern age don't like tension. Anything--any explanation, no matter how weak--which relieves that mental and emotional tension, is good enough. Let's face it--all you want to do is to enjoy that dinner out, or that game on TV. You don't want any pesky indigestion from not knowing how this guy did that trick. Am I right?
Same with the mediums you can find on TV and YouTube. Even though the "cold reading" technique is hardly an adequate explanation for the evidence they are producing, still, if it makes you feel better, you can say "They're just using the cold-reading technique," and you can move on with your day.
I do understand this. Last night, I got caught up in watching the prize-winning acts of "Sacred Riana" (the word "sacred" is used here very loosely--sort of like Poe talking about the "indisputable moral power" of an enclosed space). She pretends to use the dark power of some familiar spirit or spirits, and to be rather under their spell, herself. Her show is both creepy, and impressive. So naturally I wanted to know how she was doing it. In one act, she picks members of the audience, plus one of the judges, to sit around a seance table with a Ouiji board in the middle. The table begins to rise, and then to move about the room, with the volunteers' hands still placed face-down upon it. Meanwhile she has asked the participating judge to think of his "greatest fear." When the table stops moving, she asks him to reveal that fear, which he gives as the lame word, "Unhappiness." Turning over the Ouiji board, that very word, "Unhappiness," is written in scary, dribbly lettering on the bottom.
I watched a video of a magician who was himself watching and commenting on this scene, and he said he had no idea how that was done. I think I know. I think all of those people she "randomly" picked from the audience had to be confederates, including the judge. There would have to be some way for their hands to stick or hold to the table--at that point, if it was light, (say, made of styrofoam, or balsa wood), it would be an easy matter for them to all pick it up, together. And as for the word written on the bottom of the Ouiji board, obviously, he had told her ahead of time.
So the trick was simply in convincing the audience that these people were picked randomly. But what's interesting about this, is that it mimics things that have occurred in genuine seances, without trickery. (Apparently, nothing is sacred to "Sacred Riana.")
While looking up info on the floating table trick, I ran across another magician who, over the course of 20 years, has developed a little floating table. Not only that, there's a video of him making it disappear under the cloth, while standing out in the middle of the desert! Very convincing. But the internet is a terrifying tool for deceivers. So first of all, I examined that video, and other videos, of him doing this trick, frame-by-frame. I noticed that he seems to always have his right hand on one corner of the cloth. I had earlier seen that there was a method of "floating" a table with a wire attached. I just didn't know if that's what he was doing. Next, I found that he sells the table to magicians for $700. On Google Images, there are photographs of the kit, with the pieces taken apart in a carrying case. In one of those pictures of that kit, one can see the wire, with a handle on one end, wrapped around the side.
But how does he make it disappear? Watching this part of the trick frame-by-frame, one can see the top of the table turn sideways, then turn into a kind of amorphous ball, and slide downwards, after which he throws the cloth aside and there is no table to be seen. But (again, frame-by-frame), as he strides out of the picture toward the camera in the desert scene, in one frame you can see a small rectangular projection of some kind under his pants. And he is walking rather stiffly, I would say. He has on a very wide belt, a jacket, and so-on. Going back to the photographs of the kit, one of them shows a small rectangular projection sticking up, of the same size and shape as what I saw bulging out of his pants. It seems that somehow, he must collapse this table in such a way that he literally slides the components into his pants, behind the cloth, all in one smooth movement.
He says it took him 20 years to develop the table. I suspect it took him 10 years to develop the table, and 10 years to learn how to slide it into his pants. I'll bet there were some memorable failures.
Now. I invite you to take the trouble to analyze my own presentation, and try to debunk it honestly. You won't be able to do it, because what I'm presenting is not slight-of-hand. It's real. If you are just trying to improve your digestion, or to have a free-and-easy mind when you enjoy the next game on TV, that doesn't count. You could drink three beers, and achieve the same effect, temporarily. I do not consider my work honestly or fairly debunked by either method. That is strictly a matter between you, and your own conscience.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*Dickens also cooked his own goose, as a hypocrite, with a document which survives him, dubbed by scholars the "Violated Letter."
**Mathew would often stop at daguerreotype studios to admire the various portraits on display. He must have been ambivalently studying this one, which interest Samuel Masury took as unmixed admiration, so that he offered to make Mathew a copy. If he really didn't want the thing around, that might be how his friend at the time, Ossian Dodge, got hold of it. This, despite his glowing praise in the travelogue: "This being the only daguerreotype ever taken of him [sic], and the one sent to us the only copy of the original, we attach a value to this present that none but the lovers of eccentric genius can comprehend." This is confusing, to me--but slowly, sheepishly, I begin to get the impression that Mathew, not being able to tell the truth in this situation, had decided to pull out all the stops and gush with sarcasm. This is how he can suddenly drop the facade when commenting, "...until we had seen this picture, we were always under the impression that Poe either must have been drunk or crazy, when he wrote that flesh-crawling magnetism story, but a sigh at the shape of his head sets us all right; the organs of ideality are as prominent as two large robin's eggs would be, placed one on each side of an ordinary head." If Mathew is not being purely sarcastic, then he is expressing profound ambivalence; so that he is alternatingly sarcastic, and serious. Note the impression he had "always" been under until he saw this portrait. It is also true that Mathew seems to have collected biographies and anecdotes about eccentric, remarkable characters, some of whom stood out because of being disreputable--so his enthusiasm about having this portrait did not necessarily mean he admired Poe's character. It could, in fact, mean just the opposite.
Music opening this page: "The Great Beyond," by REM
from the film, "Man on the Moon"