In January of 2003, I had just released my independent documentary, "In Another Life: Reincarnation in America," a five-year, low-budget labor of love. A young woman named Sheri Divers asked to interview me, via e-mailed questions, for her website, "Spiritual Atlanta." In the course of that interview, she asked:
Sheri: Can you recall any of your past lives? If so, how have they been influential in your work?
Stephen: I do think that several of my past lives have been very influential in my work. I have, through intuition, glimpses, and educated guesswork, identified a few lives I feel pretty sure of, and a number of others I have hints of. I've been a writer, connected, I think, with the Romantic poets, for example. Not any of the famous ones as near as I can tell, but I think I knew some of them personally and ascribed to their overall philosophy (for better or worse). these lives has strong points and weaknesses.
The above article may be seen in its original form in Archive.org's "Wayback Machine" at this link:
Elsewhere, I made clear that by "Romantic poets" I meant what are sometimes called the "Fireside Poets" of the 19th century. So this was a very precise description of Mathew, before I had yet encountered him, based entirely on past-life memory intuition. Mathew, being the younger brother of one of these famous poets, remained within his social circle, but only bonded personally with a few of them, as for example Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wrote similar poetry and humor.
Next, in the April 8, 2005 edition of my personal journal, I wrote:
I was reading the life of John Greenleaf Whittier, in an extended eulogy written by Annie Adams Fields, friend or lover of Sarah Orne Jewett. I am not convinced I was any of these people, though I have entertaining the possibility of all three. But one of the pieces attributed to Jewett looks very much like something I would have written; Annie is attractive to me, as the name has always been; and John's character matches my own almost perfectly. And yet, I don't look anything like John did physically.
There is something very familiar about these people, the society they moved in. I am making a list of the names of all their associates, and I intend to search on the internet for each name. So far nothing has struck me as definitive. John was even a newspaper writer or editor before he began writing poetry, almost as a personal pasttime. I don't think he ever expected to be famous. He knew of Emerson and Thoreau--and criticized Thoreau's work in private correspondence for being pseudo-spiritual! It sounds so much like me. He was a small player who knew or knew of the more popular writers. And history has given him some share of fame.
It may be that I am similar to him in many ways, in my basic "vibration" and incarnational journey, than that I actually was him. Again, I don't feel any sense of recognition at all when looking at his photograph, and I don't think that was me. And yet...something about these people, and their world, is very, very familiar. (pause) I moved in this world, I'm almost sure of it.
One can see that I was dimly perceiving something, but felt confused as to the specifics. I knew I was close.
I Encounter Mathew
Then on the 26th, I write again:
Now, here's the really interesting news. I may have located a recent incarnation. I have known for many years that I had an inner kinship with the Romantic poets, and also with the coast of New England and the writers and poets there. Gradually I've narrowed it down, until I felt that I had some connection with Sara Orne Jewett. As I researched her, and her companion, Annie Adams Fields, I found that they had as their circle of friends a number of famous writers, including John Greenleaf Whittier. I also found that I felt a great sympatico, if not actual ownership, of one of Jewett's short stories. And yet I didn't feel I'd been her, despite the fact that a psychic told me I'd been a Western female writer who had achieved some fame writing "serials" (and so, I was looking for female writers initially). I've also felt I lived in Fredericksburg, VA, near Warm Springs and Millboro (the site of Marge Rieder's study), and that I was in writing, newspapers, publishing, editing, or printing. This makes no sense as regards New England. I also feel I owned, and was very attached to, a skiff and liked to be on the water. I think there was trouble in my romantic life--unrequited love, or something. I feel I was not famous, but knew the people who were famous. I was in the circle somewhere.
Now, I found a website which gave information on Sara Orne Jewett's circle of acquaintences and friends. Some of them seemed familiar, especially John Greenleaf Whittier, whose poetry I had long felt a kinship with. I sent the URL for the website to Jeff Keene, and in typical synchronistic fashion, he went straight to the page of portraits, went straight to the bottom of the list, and clicked on the link to the portrait for Matthew Franklin Whittier, younger brother of John Greenleaf Whittier. Then he sent it to me.
I think this was me. It may not have been my very most recent past life, actually--I think I might have been a child killed by the Nazi's in the most recent one, machine-gunned down after a seemingly innocent walk in the woods, by soldiers suddenly revealed in the back of a truck. But it would have been my next-to-most recent, and my most recent adult incarnation, if my hunch is right. I can't remember much if anything--no memories are getting triggered. But the facial architecture, the way the hair lies, and most especially the eyes, are mine. The nose is a little different. But you know what? I think I actually would feel more at home in that face than the one I currently have. I have never felt at home in my own face in this life. I think that one would seem more "me." The name seems right--I could "wear" the name "Matthew" very easily. He achieved some small degree of fame writing a satirical column under an assumed name. He was a clerk, always poor. He was married three times. The first wife he must have divorced, as she lived a long time. The second died a few days prior to his third marriage. This is very suspicious and confusing to the historians. I think I know exactly what it is. I think I left the second wife for a younger woman, a sociopath of some kind. The second wife killed herself days before the wedding in protest, I am guessing. Matthew's health deteriorated, and I am guessing that the third wife drove him psychologically into ill-health and eventually death.
In the third paragraph, I made some "hits" and some "misses." Mathew was not always a clerk, and he was not always poor. In the early 1850's he had money from the successful sale of two novels, and then again, in 1857-58 he owned a trading company. But he certainly went through many years of struggling financially, and he was a clerk for the last 20 years of his life, in Boston. He was married three times--to his beloved soul-mate, Abby, from 1836 until her death in 1841; he then entered an unfortunate arranged marriage, at the urging of his mother, in 1842. Finding her impossible to live with, he supported that family from New York City from 1844 until 1849, at which time he separated from her (it was difficult to obtain an official divorce in that era). He may or may not have had a brief affair just before officially ending the second marriage. This second wife did indeed outlive Mathew by a number of years. Mathew married a third time in the fall of 1858, but didn't begin living with her until 1864, in Boston. The third wife does, in fact, seem to have had a sociopathic personality, or at least to have been coldly practical. None committed suicide due to infidelity, or any other reason. It does appear plausible that, at least in part, the third wife "drove him psychologically into ill-health and eventual death." In these expressed opinions, I was simply creating scenarios based on the sketchy and inaccurate information on Mathew that I had so-far encountered in the Whittier legacy, plus my own intuition. I was neither in a hypnotic state, nor was I experiencing spontaneous past-life flashbacks. I knew very little of the actual history at this point.
It's important to mention that when I encountered the name "Sarah Orne Jewett" online, I was not in the process of looking for a past life as a man in the 19th century. Nor was I consciously thinking about what I had written so recently on the 8th, concerning John Greenleaf Whittier; nor was I consciously aware, if I had ever read it, that JGW had been a personal mentor to Sarah Orne Jewett. Many years earlier I had been told, in a psychic reading, that I had been a woman writer in the early 20th century, on the West Coast of the United States, and that I had had some success with serials. So I was looking at lists of names of female writers in that context. Growing up in Miami, Florida, I may possibly have read of Sarah Orne Jewett in an English Literature class, but if so I don't remember it, and she was a minor literary figure not so well known outside of the New England states.
Jeff Keene's response to me, by e-mail, had been:
As if guided, I went right to "Main Contents" then to "Portraits" then to the very bottom name "Matthew Franklin Whittier" clicked on it and said BINGO! Looked at the picture and said to myself, "he looks a bit like Steve." Sent along a file. The paragraph below the picture was the only thing I could come up with in a Google search. When I read that I said, "sounds like Steve In Another Life." By the way, I checked all the other people listed in "Portraits" but saw no likeness of you in any of them. Sense of humor, writer and anti-slavery, yup, if you're in this group I would put my money on Matthew.
Note that the page Jeff had found did not have any information about Mathew other than his name, his birth and death dates, that he was an author (i.e., of some kind), and that he was the brother of John Greeleaf Whittier. Therefore, he had to have obtained the other attributes--"sense of humor" and "anti-slavery"--from his own internet research before writing back to me.
This is what he sent me a link to, on the Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project website:
The Public Announcement
In the June 6, 2005 entry for my blog, I made a public announcement of my discovery, in which I remarked:
This is not a perfect match for me physically, but it's quite close, and I feel the name is one I could strongly identify with. Immediately I noticed the eyes and expression, and it feels like me looking out of those eyes. The "facial architecture" (as Dr. Semkiw calls it) is similar, and, though you will have to take my word for it, his hair in the photograph is behaving just as mine used to before I shaved it short, including the annoying piece that flies out to the side. It's also right, I felt, that he would be wearing the great coat (that name seems right--is it historical?) over his regular jacket and clothing. When I say it's not a perfect match physically, I also have to say that, as this image has sunk into my mind over the past few weeks, I keep feeling as though this is more the way I should look than the way I look now. I have never felt entirely "at home" in my own face. I have no idea if anyone else feels this way because I've never heard anyone say it, and I don't generally share this feeling with people.
My June 6, 2005 "Update" (blog) can be seen on Archive.org's "Wayback Machine" at the following link:
Although I did subsequently access additional sources which were based on the official John Greenleaf Whittier legacy, I did not begin researching this case in depth until 2009. The sources I did access portrayed Mathew in a very unfavorable light (partly by way of contrast with JGW, the hero), and they were highly inaccurate--by acts of commission and omission--as well. Thus, certain facts I was exposed to during this three-year period are "off the table" for use as proof of past-life memory, because I could have known of them through normal means. However, where my memories were right, and the official Whittier legacy was wrong, my memories are doubly proven. "Doubly," because not only was I right, but I had to buck convention to assert them.
Given that the match was subsequently proved far beyond a reasonable doubt, these early intimations turn out to be strong evidence for the reality of past-life memory in general, and the authenticity of my own reincarnation case, in particular. Note that past-life recall is imperfect, and requires a nuanced interpretation. That I was mistaken on certain early scenarios for Mathew's personal history, does not negate the obvious validations. Try revisiting the town you lived in 30 years ago, on the map--you will not even be 100% correct about that. And yet, you know you definitely did live there. Past-life memory works on the same principle, except that you had a different brain and were raised as a different personality, and it has been even longer. So mistakes are to be expected; but reincarnation is real, nonetheless.