Past Life Memories (Stephen Sakellarios)
I believe I was Matthew Franklin Whittier in the 1800’s;
and I want to set his record straight.
—from the book
Mischievous Peeps are pleased to publish our first “controversy,” chapter 1 of Steve Sakellarios’s forthcoming book, Matthew Franklin Whittier in his own words, recounting his research into what he believes was his past incarnation as the brother of the poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Steve describes the title of the book as a play on words “given that I was he and he finally has a chance to speak for himself, as myself.”
Steve considers his book to be “Baba-work” in the sense that he is trying to pierce through the prejudice about reincarnation in the Western world, preparatory to the introduction of Baba’s “Divine Theme.” He writes: “People simply cannot grasp Baba’s deeper teachings while this block is in the way, so I felt that it would serve Baba to remove the block — much as someone might rush ahead of Baba to remove a branch or rock for Him. I do not consider it ‘spiritual’ in and of itself (except as every study can be informed by spiritual understanding); I do consider it ‘spiritual’ inasmuch as it may help pave the way for greater spiritual understanding in the future.”
Steve’s first major “labor of love” in educating the public about reincarnation was his documentary film In Another Life — see the biographical note.
Perhaps not everyone agrees with Steve’s views on reincarnation, hence the “controversy.” Although I personally find nothing objectionable about his book — on the contrary, I think his personal account will be of considerable interest — he says he has encountered opposition to his work on both the film and the book.
One thing that has puzzled me regarding reincarnation: In the Discourses (1967), Meher Baba states:
The number of persons who can remember their past lives is very small compared with the vast majority, who are so completely bound to the gross sphere of existence that they do not even suspect supersensible realities. The release of such memories is severely conditioned by the limitations of the brain, as long as consciousness is entangled with the physical body and its brain processes. When consciousness is emancipated from the limitations imposed by the brain, it can recover and re-establish the memories of past lives which are all stored in the mental body. This involves a degree of detachment and understanding which only the spiritually advanced persons can have. The memory of past lives can come with full clarity and certainty, even to those who are still crossing the inner planes but have not yet become spiritually perfect.
The memory of past lives does not come back to a person, except in abnormal and rare cases, unless he is sufficiently advanced from the spiritual point of view. …
(“Reincarnation and Karma, part 3,” vol. 3, pp. 68-69)
Despite this assertion by Baba, it seems that quite a few people, including ordinary Baba-lovers, have had memories of past lives, or claim to have them. I myself have had them, but I’m certainly not “sufficiently advanced” to merit such a glimpse. What is the meaning, then, of the flurry of past-life experiences if they are so “abnormal and rare”?
Steve’s answer is that “Baba defines past-life memory as clear and steady, as clear as our present-life memories. Very, very few people have this kind of past-life memory. Most people get glimpses, dreams, and 99 percent of the time, emotions. Technically, I think these are experiences stimulated by past-life impressions (sanskaras). Still, even these can be a two-edged sword, and Baba’s warnings on the subject are quite appropriate. I think it’s much the same as when Baba says that drug experiences can sometimes give one the experience of shadows of the subtle world. I think most people, myself included, are experiencing shadows of the real past-life memories. I experience the emotions fully, but the actual memories only in a vague way.”
He continues: “As the subject of reincarnation is taken seriously, and as therapists begin incorporating the idea into their work, there will be ‘dabbling’ by the general public and bad therapy, and there will be casualties. It is hard to warn people during the mad rush towards a new discovery. In between the hard-line prohibition and the unquestioning embracing of the thing lies the sane middle path — and few will take it.”
Steve has another prediction: In the future (say, fifty years hence), “At cocktail parties, instead of people asking your sign, they will ask your verified past life.” He adds, “What I’m doing is only remarkable because we, as a society, have sunk so far into materialism. Like most pioneering efforts, it will be seen as quite basic someday.”
Controversial? You decide.
For more of Steve’s thought, see his article “A Tapestry of Meher Baba’s Connections with the West.”
Stephen Sakellarios: Biographical Note
The following biographical note is slightly edited/condensed from Stephen’s own writing.
Stephen Sakellarios is a video/audio archivist, producer and editor living in Myrtle Beach, SC. He began a serious interest in fine-art photography in 1986, and moved into video production in 1990 as an extension of his photography. He started a video production company, Gold Thread Video, in 1997, and shortly thereafter he began work on a documentary, In Another Life: Reincarnation in America, as a personal project. He put the project together primarily by networking over the internet, with practically no resources except those available through his small video business, trade-outs, occasional small financial donations and donations of services, such as illustration.
Stephen has studied reincarnation since 1973. However, he had primarily studied Eastern teachings on the subject, his strongest influences being the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and Meher Baba, whom he began following in 1974. When Stephen began working on In Another Life in 1997, he started educating himself on Western research and studies, identifying the main people in the field and successfully contacting a number of them for interviews.
In 2005, Stephen became aware of a possible past life of his own in the 1800’s, that of Matthew Franklin Whittier, younger brother of Romantic poet John Greenleaf Whittier. In 2009, he met a person online who coincidentally lived in the area where Matthew grew up, and research into the history began in earnest. Working as a volunteer, the researcher would send historical information and Stephen would, by dated e-mails, respond with his emotional reactions and intuitions about it. When these reactions were subsequently proved either plausible or implausible, that date was likewise recorded. These reactions, plus two hypnotic past-life regressions and two psychic readings, created a dated track record of paranormal perceptions vs. historical validations, by which the case could be proved.
Stephen says, “Most of the evidence thus consists of emotional reactions and memories which turned out to be plausible. Pretty much all of my initial emotional reactions were plausible, and I only diverged from the history on a few occasions when I began speculating. On a few occasions my emotional reactions were correct, while the history I was initially presented with was later shown to be incorrect. There were also a few instances of proof that went beyond mere plausibility.”
Stephen began writing up the case under the title “Matthew Franklin Whittier in his own words” in mid-2011, and finished the first draft in a little over a month. The manuscript, as planned, will contain a record of the research, plus examples of Matthew Franklin Whittier’s own writing. A few samples of Stephen’s own writing will also be included for comparison, demonstrating the similarities in talent and style. The intent is to show that no one could have the depth of insight into this obscure and misrepresented historical person, as well as having his talents, without being that person’s reincarnation.
Steve’s two books — Matthew Franklin Whittier and Loving Abby in Truth and Spirit — are now available online.