Out Of The Body Experiences
( Originally Published 1918 )
IN some of the foregoing cases spirits are perceived, so to speak, from this side. We cannot experience "that side" permanently until we are dead. But some people have crossed temporarily and have returned to the body to tell the tale. We seem to be spirits in prison, either for former sins or for our discipline and instruction, or as a necessary part of our growth. "The shell is needed till the bird is hatched," as the Russian proverb says, and perhaps our cabined condition here is the equivalent of that early embryonic stage. But we seem to be less hermetically sealed off, for some few of us, even while "alive," can get out of our shell and temporarily live in a wider world, with immense increase of freedom and sense of well-being. This sometimes hap-pens to specially-constituted people in illness, when the patient nearly dies. The most elaborate case of this kind on record is that of Dr. Wiltse, quoted in Myers's "Human Personality," 1 but I have received several confirmatory ones of the same general character, some of which I now quote.
"Some years ago I became acquainted with a stalwart ex-soldier of our Civil War. He was an artilleryman, and was sitting on the ammunition chest of his gun when it was hit by a shell from the enemy's guns and exploded. The man was thrown into the air and his body fell to the ground. He said that he was up in the air, looking down at his own body which lay upon the ground at some distance from him. He seemed to be yet connected with the body by a slender cord of a clear silvery appearance, and, while he looked on, two surgeons came by, and after looking at the body re-marked that he was dead. One of the medicos took hold of an arm and turned the body on its side, and remarked that he was dead; and they both passed on and left him. Soon after the stretcher-bearers came along and found there was life in the corpse, and carried him to the rear.
"After the turning of the body, he said, I came down that silver cord and returned to the old body and reanimated it, although my body was blind as a bat and my right arm was torn from my shoulder'; and he showed me on his face and chest forty-eight scars caused by the bursting shell. This man was living at St. Petersburg, Flo., and I think is yet living."
G. B. CRABBE.
This is at second hand, but the next comes to me from the experient.
"I want also to tell you of my one and only psychical experience. Years ago, when only seventeen, I was, in Calcutta, put under chloroform to have a number of teeth out. I presently felt I, myself, was in space above my body, round which were the doctors, dentists, and my mother, and I remember wondering why I was not being judged, since I was obviously dead. I had been brought up as a strict Roman Catholic and taught that individual judgment followed death. I had never read any psychical books or experiences. I was afterwards told that my condition caused alarm, as I would not come back to consciousness. I've never forgotten that dream (?) and, when put under chloroform in September for my very serious operation, was anxious to see if anything of the same sort happened again. But it did not. I had no dream, and this time took the chloroform well. So it does look as if the soul had lifted from the body that long-ago time. I have no personal particular wish to survive after death. One gets so tired in this life! But whether one does or does not is the matter of greatest interest, especially so when those one loves have crossed over."
(MISS) BERYL HINTON.
"I shall be pleased for you to use my queer out-of-the-body experience in your collection, and am glad I mentioned it, since it has proved of interest. I do feel it to be remarkable, be-cause I was a young girl with thoughts more on this world than the next. I knew nothing of psychical matters, and, having been brought up in the Catholic Faith, one would imagine, had it been a dream, it would have been coloured by the accepted orthodox idea of what the after-death condition would be. But nothing of the sort. There was I, above my body, around which were gathered the people present. I could not talk to them, and I remember so distinctly wondering, `If I am dead, how is it I am not being judged?' That I was out of the body I do not doubt. I am told they had some difficulty in restoring me to consciousness. In the long years that have passed since that experience, when doubts as to the future have assailed me, it has gone farther in my own mind to prove survival than all the books on faith I had read. It has remained a vivid memory, and when, after an interval of thirty years, I was again to be given chloroform last September, I was tremendously interested to see if this `dream' or `experience' would repeat itself ; but this time the anesthetic was very carefully given, and no sort of experience did I have."
The remoteness in time is the weakest point in the foregoing case; people ought to write down accounts of such experiences at once. The next case is much better in this respect, being recent. It is also fuller in detail, and it was not abnormal in the sense of being caused by shock or illness or anesthetics.
"About five years ago I woke from sleep to find `myself' clean out of the body, as the kernel of a nut comes out of its shell. I was conscious in two places—in a feeble degree, in the body which was lying in bed on its left side; and to a far greater degree, away from the body '(far away, it seemed), surrounded by white opaque light, and in a state of absolute happiness and security (a curious expression, but one which best conveys the feeling).
"The whole of my personality lay `out there,' even to the replica of the body—which, like the body, lay also on its left side. I was not conscious of leaving the body, but woke up out of it. It was not a dream, for the consciousness was an enhanced one, as superior to the ordinary waking state as that is to the dream state. Indeed, I thought to myself, `This cannot be a dream,' so I willed `out there' (there was no volition in the body), and as my spirit self moved so the body moved in bed.
"I did not continue this movement. I was far too happy to risk shortening the experience. After lying in this healing and blessed light I became conscious of what, for want of a better term, I must call music; gentle and sweet it was as the tinkling of dropping water in a rocky pool, and it seemed to be all about me.
I saw no figure, nor wished to; the contentment was supreme. The effect of these sounds was unutterably sweet, and I said to myself, `This must be the Voice of God.' I could not endure the happiness, but lost consciousness there, and returned unconscious to the body, and woke next morning as though nothing had happened.
"I had been passing through a period of mental and spiritual stress at the time, but had not been indulging in psychism, had never attended a seance or similar phenomenon, had not, as I remember, been reading anything to act by way of suggestion. I am in no doubt whatever—so vivid was the happening—that had the feeble thread between soul and body been severed I' should have remained intact, the grosser body being sloughed off for a finer and one fitted for a lighter and hap-pier consciousness, for `life more abundant,' in fact.
"I am afraid my letter is a very long one, and perhaps the experience is not a very wonderful one after all. Doubtless you are acquainted with many similar and more remarkable.
"I feel, however, I would like to make it known in such times as these; and, apart from its scientific aspect, if it conveys any personal comfort the trouble is repaid indeed."
In reply to my request for permission to publish, Mr. Huntley wrote interestingly as below :
"DEAR SIR, Your letter of the 29th ult. to hand.
"I agree that such experiences are helpful and should be known—especially at such a time as this. I am quite willing for you to include my account in your collection if you think the account is suitable for publication; it was written in a somewhat casual style, and not with the idea of appearing in print. How-ever, I leave that to you.
"I procured your book, `Religion and Modern Psychology,' and find it interesting and informing. I think, though—I hope you won't mind my saying this—the distinction between the supernormal consciousness (including nature mysticism, various forms of `cosmic' consciousness and `enlargement' generally) and the pure flame of Mysticism proper, the relation between Soul and Source in its highest degree, might be more emphasized. I feel that supernormal happenings fall within these categories, and the second is vastly greater than the first group and distinct enough for the distinction to be made, since many (? all) experience the first under the influence of `love,' music, religious emotion, nature, and even wine and drugs. Sankaracharya, the Indian Monist Philosopher of the 8th century, speaks of the gross veil or impediment of the self (the body), and the psychic veil of the self (lifted in the first group of experience), and, beyond, the Spiritual Veil or impediment of the Self, beyond which is the Self in its state of ecstasy (lifted for or by all Mystics—I'm jealous of that word—the Mystics of all Religions).
"Plotinus says much the same in the 3rd century. From certain personal happenings (I'm sorry to sound the personal note) I incline to think this is the truth. Even the account I sent is withered before a downrush of the `Untreated Light'—an ecstasy beyond description, love in a white stream that went through and through the body, wave after wave, not in any spiritual state as in `The Vision,' but in the ordinary waking state, lying upon my bed, and repeated within a month. So overpowering was this, so unutterably `holy,' that I scarcely like to refer to it, it seems too sacred. This was assuredly the rending of the Spiritual Veil, the Vision of Paul, Plotinus, and others, and revealed as well to an (otherwise) quite ordinary, commonplace person.
"Thinking along these lines, I think the Dualist Philosophy is right, the worshipping of God external to the devotee, both in this life and the next—the Heaven, the Paradise of different Religions—so long as the Psychic Veil is undrawn, and he is a distinct personality. With the clue before us, we may say that the Monist is right when, in this or the next life (although not of necessity even in the next life), the ultimate Veil is withdrawn and Soul and God are mingled together in ecstasy beyond belief—consciousness remaining, however.
"I don't know if I have worried you with this long letter ; the subject has run away with me, and one seldom gets an opportunity to enter into these matters, of absorbing interest though they are. If I have, please excuse my selfish infliction.
"I may add that I am not a `Spiritualist,' or Theosophist, or Occultist forcer of these conditions, but a member of the Society of Friends, and one of liberal views in matters of Religious belief.
"I hope your health will soon be reestablished.—Yours sincerely,
"JOHN F. HUNTLEY."
I regard the foregoing as an extremely valuable and instructive letter, and I am free to confess that I have been gradually brought into line with its conclusions since the writing of the somewhat rationalistic book (published in 1911) to which Mr. Huntley refers. I now feel that, however it may be with this or that experience, the truest truth lies at least in the mystical direction ; and though there are many qualities and grades, and though there must be moderation in seeking them—for we are here to live the earth life and to learn its lessons—we are nevertheless right in facing that way rather than the other. We shall return to this question in connexion with another case later.