I just finished creating the following diagram for this entry:
I've explained this in words, but I'm not sure people (including my ostensible colleagues) really take the time to understand it properly. One fellow who headed up an online group on reincarnation, wanted to cite my book (presumably, without reading it) as an example of someone who used psychics to investigate reincarnation. I tried to explain that was only a small part of what I was doing, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears, as that was all he wanted to know about it. So for any readers here, and for posterity, I want to have an entry on record where I have explained it fully.
These are the things which impinge upon my study of the historical record. Although I haven't represented it here, the historical record itself is comprised of two parts: the readily-available historical record, and what one might call the "deep historical record." This is significant, because of the ever-present danger of "cryptomnesia," or, false memories. They would be "false," in this case, because I could have run across them by normal means, and forgotten them, such that when they surface in the course of the investigation, I mistakenly interpret them as past-life memories.
This does happen, but it is not the catch-all explanation-for-everything that the skeptics think it is. You just have to watch out for it. One can't always know which came first, and so a rigorous researcher (such as I try to be) must simply admit the possibility, and make a note of it.
For example, under hypnosis, I remembered that one of Mathew Franklin Whittier's editors came from a line of sea captains. This would be highly evidential if it turned out to be correct, and it was correct. However, the information appears in the text of a biographical speech which I had started to read for another purpose. I didn't consciously remember having gotten down that far, and having read this particular information. But I may have done so, and thus I have to admit, in the book, that I had seen this article prior to the hypnotic regression session.
You do know, I presume, that skeptics have the impossible task set before them, of debunking every single paranormal event that has ever occurred in the history of mankind. If they admit that even one of them was real, their entire world view comes crumbling down. They are unable to accomplish this Herculean task in real life; therefore, they have to go into denial--every last one of them. That means you can count on the fact that every skeptic of the paranormal you ever encounter, is in psychological denial, and hence is being either irrational, or dishonest, or both.
Now, the immediately accessible historical record is often false; not only through sincere errors, but through a great deal of lying. In particular, I found that Mathew's legacy was severely marginalized for two reasons: 1) he hid himself, and 2) envious people stole and claimed his work. In addition, much of the readily-available historical record on Mathew comes from his famous brother's official biographer--and they were enemies. So most of what you can quickly find on Mathew was written, primarily as an aside, by his enemy while writing on poet John Greenleaf Whitier.
This was perfect for my purposes, because what I was remembering and feeling about Mathew largely contradicted the readily-available historical record. That meant that if I turned out to be right, my proof was going to be that much stronger.
But what I have represented in the center of my diagram is the deep historical record, and it is this we will turn to for the rest of this explanation. I'm putting the diagram on my screen, here, and you might want to open a separate window to do the same.
Starting at the top-left, once I had stumbled upon my past-life self as Mathew Franklin Whittier, through the help of a friend, and I began acquainting myself with the readily-available historical record, past-life memories did start to emerge. Mostly, they were feelings; only in a few instances, usually where strong emotions were involved, did I get snippets of full cognitive memory. For example, the first historical source I accessed was "The Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier," by his official biographer (and Mathew's son-in-law), Samuel Pickard. The biographical sketch it starts with contains a brief description of the two oxen on the farm where the boys grew up, which were like pets to them. Immediately, I had the strong feeling, "These oxen were sold to someone who butchered them, or they were sold to someone who might have them butchered, and I resented it deeply."
Believe it or not, circumstantial evidence supporting this feeling arose during the course of my subsequent eight years of research. I found that Mathew was very tender-hearted where animal suffering was concerned, though it was considered unmanly in his day. I also discovered that he believed that animals had souls. Then I discovered, in a period newspaper, that some months after Mathew's father had died, while he was working in New York, the family held an auction, which included the two oxen. Auctions, of course, sell to the highest bidder. So there are three triangulating clues, making this memory quite strongly plausible: 1) Mathew would have felt precisely as I remembered; 2) an auction was held, and 3) he wasn't present at the time.
This isn't 100% proof; it's consistent, or what I have termed, in my summary evaluation, "plausible." But plausibility exists on a continuum, and this one is highly plausible.
I won't give examples of each of these categories, or we would be here all day. But the next paranormal source-category for past-life memories is hypnotic regression. I had two of these, plus another, later on, as a research tool to answer specific questions. At least one of the memories I gained via this method was strongly confirmed in the deep historical record, i.e., it was shown to be extremely plausible, and very specific. And unlike the memory of the editor coming from a line of sea captains, in this instance there was no possibility that I had ever seen the evidence, before.
I know that there is a prejudice against using hypnosis for past-life research, held by those who follow Dr. Ian Stevenson's method. Stevenson himself was not against using hypnosis for this purpose. I have a letter from him in which he mentions it. But he withdrew from it, publicly, under skeptical fire; and now, his followers have taken a harder line. However, I can point to several hypnosis-based studies--including the work of Australian psychologist Peter Ramster--which tell us that, properly utilized, it can yield good results. Knowing this, I decided to use it. Unfortunately, I found that while I could, indeed, be hypnotized, I was not what they call a "good subject," meaning, at least with the hypnotist I used, I was unable to get into a deep trance. In the light trance I achieved, however, memories would suddenly pop into my mind just as they might in everyday life; and some of these were proven to have been factual.
Then, I utilized two psychic mediums, early in the study, one in March of 2010, and one in December of that same year. Because I had only been seriously researching the case for about a year, I didn't realize just how accurate both of these readings were. Now, I can go back and analyze each statement, and point to dozens of corraborating facts in the deep historical record. I was very careful--most of these statements contained information that the psychics had no normal way of knowing (unless the second one cheated by going on the internet on his laptop, in the airport hotel, during the reading); and most of them contained information that I, myself had no possible way of knowing. I'll give an example, here.
The second psychic gave four names during the course of the hour-long reading. His instruction was to contact my past-life wife in the spirit-realm, and he knew the century, but that's all. He got the name "John," which was the name of Abby's brother, saying "John around her." John was two years younger, but took the officious position of man of the house (and hence, protector of his sisters) when his father was away, as I gather. John later became the successful businessman of the family. The psychic also got the name "Henry," which was the name of one of Mathew's cousin's young children, whom Mathew and Abby may have taken under their wing as a then-childless couple. (Again, I don't know that these names match with these historical people, I am simply pointing out plausibility.) He also got a name starting with an "R," which he wasn't sure was a first name or a last name, "Randall." That name doesn't appear anywhere in the study, but Abby adopted the middle name "Rochemont" as of her marriage, when her given middle name was "Weld." Then, toward the very end of the reading (from my notes):
"M". Keeping getting "M". Matthew, Massuen.
This was astounding, but keeping my composure, I asked him to repeat what he had just said. I hadn't been able to hear the second name clearly, because his voice trailed off when he said it--but when he repeated it, he said it exactly the same way. So I made my best guess in my notes and moved on. Here, in my notes, I am spelling Mathew's name with two "t's" because that was my understanding, from the historical record, at the time.
Now, although this psychic was reading from a hotel at the Boston airport, his home base was a church in Swampscott, Mass.--55 miles south of Mathew and Abby's hometown of Haverhill. He had no idea that the person he was instructed to contact, had lived so near him, and neither did I when I had hired him. I hired him off the list of certified psychics on the Lily Dale community website. In the text somewhere on that page, is a mention of Swampscott, but I don't remember having seen it. Meanwhile, approximately nine miles west of Haverhill lies a town with a unique name, Methuen (the only town of that name in the world). I realized, after the reading, that he must have been saying "Mathew, Methuen." Since he was hearing this, presumably, directly from Abby in the spirit world, she was giving me a piece of evidence which (had he said it clearly) would have stood as 100% proof. Because I had no idea that Mathew and Abby had ever lived in Methuen. Presumably, his voice trailed off because he began to doubt himself, not believing he could be getting the name of a town less than 30 miles from his church! All this assumes the psychic wasn't cheating, and I checked into that, too. It's extremely unlikely, for several reasons. That's as regards getting the name, "Mathew." That they had ever lived in Methuen, was neither on my website, nor in my mind, at the time.
By the way, one should always be suspicious of coincidences, when one sees them in the course of research. In this case, Mathew and Abby probably had some contact with this psychic, in his past life, so that there was a karmic connection. I don't know what it might have been, but I have persistently gotten the impression of a Native American. I have no indication, however, in the historical record, of either Mathew or Abby having any Native American friends.
Now we come to the scary-looking middle category on the bottom, "Spirit-Driven Synchronicities." This means, magic done for an altruistic cause by a person in the astral world. It appears to operate on roughly the same principle as the "signs" that people report from their loved ones--finding dimes over and over, for example, or numbers that correspond to a significant date, or songs appearing on the radio, or the appearance of animals like birds or butterflies, which stay close much longer than they normally would. Except that Abby is using it--presumably, with permission from her higher-ups--to bring evidence into my orbit here on earth. It's a hard thing to prove, and my purpose is not to do so, here, but it was proven 100% in at least one instance (perhaps, so I could trust it). I won't go into that, now.
But the question was, did Mathew and Abby ever live in Methuen? Suddenly, a newspaper which the historians briefly mention Mathew wrote for, appeared on Ebay.com. Two editions, in very poor condition. I bought them, but upon looking them over, I initially found nothing by or relating to Mathew Franklin Whittier. Disappointed, I decided to resell them, and for that purpose, I began taking photographs of some of the pages. Then, on the back page of one of the editions, I noticed a humorous story that looked familiar. It was written in a style I had come to associate with Mathew's work, but it was signed, "Quails." To cut to the chase, this was indeed Mathew's work. But it was a story which almost certainly hearkened back to a time when he and Abby had briefly lived in Methuen with a Whittier relative, there. Ironically, they were in what is now the historical society building of that town.*
It took me a long, long time to prove that Mathew had written "Quails" (which pseudonym was primarily used for a travelogue, and which was claimed for someone else). I found a second clue making this determination more plausible (a letter written from another nearby town, during this same period when I believed Mathew and Abby were drifting around from one relative to another). So it was startling enough that the psychic got the name "Mathew" out of four names; but that he paired it with a town that neither he nor I knew Mathew and Abby had ever lived in, was extremely strong.
Keep in mind that genuine mediums get evidence of this calibre all the time. A couple of days ago I re-watched an audience reading by John Edward, in which he got both a mother's name (Ann) and her daughter's name (Stephanie), when they were standing side-by-side being read by him. The only unusual thing about my reading is that it proves reincarnation.
In addition to bringing evidence to my attention, and giving past-life information to me through mediums, Abby also conveyed thoughts to me about our past lives, directly. For example, as we attempted to communicate, I got the thought from her that when she was a teenager, she was dissatisfied with her name, and tried to privately adopt other names she liked better, as she experimented with her identity. Gradually, as I found dozens of Mathew's romance parodies, which contained hidden references to their relationship, I saw that he frequently used variations of at least two names for the character that represented Abby: Adeline, and Juliana (he would give his female character, in these romances, long multiple names for comic effect, but these two names would often be among them). This, along with other clues, convinced me that this communication from Abby was probably historically correct. I had this much historical information before I got this impression from Abby--as said, I knew that her middle name in their marriage announcement was given as "Rochemont," whereas her middle name at birth was "Weld."
The other categories in my diagram are self-explanatory. I sometimes paid researchers who I found through advertising on Craigslist; but I was fortunate enough, during two different phases of the research, to find people who were willing to either volunteer, or work for a modest honorarium. I was able to find a great deal of material--chiefly, but not exclusively, volumes of period newspapers--through various libraries in Massachusetts, Maine and New York. Of course, I also utilized the internet to the fullest extent possible. Some of these volumes are online, and Ebay was my friend on many occasions.
Once I had these bits of new information, I had to fit them in with the picture of Mathew's life I already had. Sometimes, they disrupted that picture, and it had to be reconfigured. I tried to honestly leave a trace of those changes in the text of my book. For example, Mathew's sole biography (aside from another biographical sketch in a book about obscure 19th century American humorists), gave the time for the dissolution of his second marriage as 1857/58. I assumed this as fact for all of my interpretations for several years, fitting all the information around it, until I discovered, through multiple clues in Mathew's published works, that he had actually separated from this second wife in 1849. He was charged, by this biographer, with having "abandoned his family"; I knew, in my gut, that this was false. Turns out it was an ill-advised arranged marriage, and after having three children, he split with her but continued to support them. They may or may not have attempted one or more reconciliations for the sake of the children, in the succeeding years, but much of the time she took the children to her hometown, St. John, Canada, while Mathew traveled for his work. It was in 1857, when he was "outed" as the author of a controversial series, that he was, apparently, blacklisted. At this time, he lost his trading business, and was unable to support the family, which had to be dispersed. This was what unfairly came down to us, in the superficial historical record, as Mathew "abandoning his family."
A similar dilemma arose regarding Mathew's marriage to his first wife and soul-mate, Abby. The readily-available historical record indicates they married on August 4, 1836. The deep historical record, however, shows something far more interesting. It appears that they jointly wrote a scathing speech for the Abolition of slavery--at a time when expressing this opinion pubicly was extremely dangerous, even in Massachusetts. They then induced the Congregationalist pastor from nearby Dover, New Hampshire to read it there in Haverhill, on Aug. 2nd, whereupon they immediately eloped to Dover, being married on the sly by their local Congregationalist minister.
Once I could see these pieces of the deep historical record fall into place, I had to adjust everything in the book to accommodate the new information. Again, I left a track-record of the previous mistaken assumptions, by saying something like "I had previously thought that...".
What is most difficult to convey, is how all of these sources worked together, over a period of eight years' research. It turned out that because Mathew was a very prolific writer, over a career that turned out to span some 45 years, the deep historical record was far vaster than I had initially suspected. This person whom hardly anyone has heard of, accomplished a great deal. I am convinced that he and Abby, collaborting together, wrote the original of "A Christmas Carol"; and that it was Mathew, not Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote "The Raven," signing it as "----- Quarles," after Abby died. He could not reveal himself as the author, because he had already entered into his family-arranged second marriage--but he remained in deep grief for many years, and so had to express himself anonymously.
Each of these claims--"Quails," the "Carol," "The Raven," and a number of others--have their own deep context. They make only superficial sense for the author who stole them; but they make deep sense for Mathew, in context. Mathew, for example, had lost Abby, who had taught him metaphysics from old texts. Starting as a skeptic, he was still unsure whether he believed these teachings or not. On the other hand, Poe had not lost his wife at the time "The Raven" was published, and thus was not, himself, grieving. Poe's explanation for how he came to write the poem is weak, at best--but the context for Mathew is rich and extensive. Mathew began writing at a high level of competence at age 17, in 1829; and he had written poems of a similar quality, and in a similar style, before "The Raven" was published. Poe's early works don't look anything like "The Raven" in style, to my eye. And motive was there for Poe, as well (if we are looking at it like a forensic detective)--he was desperate for cash at the time.
That's not all I have as evidence from the deep historical record, and there is much more regarding the "Carol," as well. But these are, again, just examples. Here's one more interesting tidbit, as regards Mathew's proposed authorship of "The Raven"--he published an extended excerpt of poetry by Francis Quarles in 1832, with commentary--taken, as he said, from an old book he had procured.
Intuition was a funny bird, in this research process. Sometimes, it seemed to fail me, at least initially. Then again, sometimes it pointed like an insistent compass needle. There is some as-yet unstudied dynamic of past-life recognition, such that certain things are immediately available to consciousness, while other things have to be awakened gradually. Very often, my past-life emotions would steal upon me hours after I had immersed myself in some of Mathew's personal history, or written works. I wouldn't understand, at first, where it was coming from. Why was I feeling depressed, or anxious, or so despairing as regards my career failures? Then I would tie it in with what I had recently been reading of Mathew's life. (There is precedent for emotional "past-life bleedthrough" in other studies, as for example the James Johnston "submarine man" case.)
Sometimes I flat denied that Mathew could have written something, out of prejudice, only to discover, later on, that he had written it. This occurred, most embarrassingly, with one of Mathew's gorgeous tribute poems to Abby, written after her death. Apparently, my conscious mind as Stephen Sakellarios simply overrode my subsconsious mind as Mathew Franklin Whittier, mostly due to a priori assumptions (in this case, the assumption that he hadn't used that particular pseudonym this early, which turned out to be mistaken). But then things would start to move into place on that subterranean level. I would be hard-pressed to explain it better.
Where speculation is concerned, I was often proven wrong. But where emotions are concerned, I was almost always right on the money. This is the kind of thing that reincarnation researchers should be interested in, if they had sufficient vision to get past their prejudices. Perhaps the researchers of the future will find it worthy of study.
A clever wrap-up usually presents itself to me, unbidden, in these essays, but today, one escapes me. Mostly, I want people to see the diagram--contemporary people, and posterity, if no-one understands it, today. Your own a priori assumptions may be blocking you from taking my study seriously. You have been handed the pre-digested assumption that I have picked some obscure figure in history and manufactured "memories" to prove that I was he, working it backwards to make it appear that I substantiated my memories of his life. It simply didn't happen that way. I did precisely--and honestly--what I've explained, here. If people today balk at it, then that, presumably, is as it must be. But I think that people of the future will be more open-minded.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*They also lived, for a few months before Abby's death, in a hotel which once stood where the Portland Public Library stands, today.
Music opening this page, "Children's Waltz,"
by The Free Design, from the album, "Sing for Very Important People"