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"My Personal Journey" by Stephen Sakellarios

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

I had known of, and accepted, reincarnation as part of my study of Eastern mysticism not long after high school, when I read of it in the Bhagavad Gita. I learned of the research being done on this topic—to both a scientific and a “legal” standard—when I began researching my independent documentary, “In Another Life: Reincarnation in America,” in 1997. But my journey became personal when, having studied the strongest cases and the best methods of researching them, I stumbled upon a possible past life of my own, in mid-2005.

I had been told many years earlier, in a psychic reading, that I was a female writer on the West Cost of the United States, who had had some success publishing serials. It sounded like the early 20th century. Occasionally, I would search online for the names of women writers, to see if any sounded familiar. One day the name “Sarah Orne Jewett” caught my eye. I cannot say for certain, but having attended high school and college in Florida, I don’t think I had ever studied her in English classes. However, even though she was not in the right century or on the right coast, she seemed very familiar. After a month or so, I e-mailed my friend Jeff Keene, who had been featured in my documentary, knowing he was psychic in the sense of generating synchronicities. Half an hour later he replied, saying he had visited the website and felt drawn to a page concerning Mathew Franklin Whittier, younger brother of poet John Greenleaf Whittier. The only information given was an engraving, that he was the brother of John Greenleaf Whittier, his birth and death dates, and that he had been an author.

He actually looked very similar to myself—but the only thing I remember focusing on were his eyes. I felt that I was looking at myself.

Soon I obtained the only full-length biography of Mathew, published as a student thesis in 1941, and a book entitled “Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier,” the introduction of which describes his and Mathew’s boyhood. But I did not begin rigorously researching the proposed match until 2005. Obviously, any facts contained in those two historical sources were off the table as evidence. But the beauty of this case is that very little had been recorded about Mathew—and what was recorded, was far off the mark. Therefore, this readily-available information was not only sparse, but actually misleading.

Intuitively and emotionally, I rebelled against this official characterization of Mathew—and it turned out I was right.

In 2009, a skeptical online friend began assisting me in the research. She would ferret out information about Mathew from the deep historical record—things I could not possibly have seen—and I would react to them. I recorded both emotional and cognitive memories, with the understanding that even emotional reactions are grist for the mill, in research. For example, if I saw a picture of a man, not being told by my assistant what his relationship was with Mathew, and I reacted positively—but he was actually an adversary—then that would be a contraindication. On the other hand, if I reported an emotional dislike for that face, and he was, indeed, an adversary, then that would constitute a “hit.” All these communications were, of course, digitally dated, so I can prove that I documented the memory-reaction before I had the facts.

I also employed past-life regression on two occasions, and two different psychic mediums. Both methods yielded historically verifiable results. For example, my therapist asked me what the building where I used to work looked like. Before I had ever seen a photograph of it, I laughed and said it was long, two stories, ugly, and plain. The Boston Custom House, when Mathew worked there, was a long, two-story building. By Mathew’s standards—which can be gleaned from some of his architectural reviews—it would have been ugly. It certainly doesn’t look “plain” from a distance, but close-up, to me, it looks like any other government building, with artificial half-columns pasted onto the sides. So from his accustomed vantage point, my response was correct on all four points. This is not, by far, the strongest piece of evidence. It simply provides an example of the process.

That researcher continued with me for a year, and then erased all her e-mails without asking me! Fortunately, I had most of our correspondence embedded in the e-mails I had retained. Later on, I acquired the help of another researcher who was less skeptical. I also began doing much of the research, myself. The problem was, it had to proceed on two different fronts. I still had to prove the case, by documenting memory impressions of facts I could not possibly have known beforehand, and then researching them. But at the same time, I had to dispute a number of false claims by 19th-century plagiarists, plus several erroneous attributions by later scholars. This problem arose because Mathew published over 2,500 pieces over a 50-year literary career, beginning as a boy of 12 in 1825, but almost all of were signed with pseudonyms. Two of these pseudonyms can be immediately proved as his: “Ethan Spike,” and “Poins.” The rest had to be laboriously established by detective work. It took me 12 years of rigorous scholarship.

Some of these works were famous. Mathew was the real co-author (with his wife Abby, also a child prodigy) of “A Christmas Carol”; he was the real author of “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”; the real author of five poems plagiarized by Elizabeth Barrett Browning; and the real author of the “F.”-signed work in “The Dial,” and the “star”-signed work in the 1844-46 New York “Tribune,” credited to Margaret Fuller.

Once all of this material had been researched, written up, digitized and preserved—in addition to acquiring a significant physical library of antiquarian volumes—the journey now became one of presenting my findings to other people.

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