Ogston, Sir Alexander KCVO - Out of body to the asphodel fields
Type of spiritual experience
A description of the experience
Sir Alexander Ogston KCVO – Reminiscences of three campaigns, Part II , South African War ch xvi pp 222-3
Sir Alexander Ogston had been admitted to Bloemfontein Hospital suffering from typhoid fever
In my delirium, night and day made little difference to me. In the four bedded ward where they first placed me, I lay, as it seemed, in a constant stupor which excluded the existence of any hopes or fears. Mind and body seemed to be dual and to some extent separate. I was conscious of the body as an inert, tumbled mass near the door; it belonged to me, but was not I. I was conscious that my mental self used regularly to leave the body, always carrying something soft and black, I did not know what, in my left hand – that was invariable – and wander away from it under grey, sunless, moonless, starless skies, ever onwards to a distant gleam on the horizon, solitary but not unhappy and seeing other dark shades gliding silently by until something produced a consciousness that the chilly mass, which I then recalled was my body, was being stirred as it lay by the door.
I was then drawn rapidly back to it, joined it with disgust, and it became I, and was fed, spoken to and cared for. When it was again left I seemed to wander off as before by the side of a dark slowly flowing, great flood through silent fields of asphodel, knowing neither light nor darkness, and though I knew that death was hovering about, having no thought of religion nor dread of the end, and roamed on beneath the murky skies apathetic and contented, until something again disturbed the body where it lay, when I was drawn back to it afresh and entered it with ever growing repulsion.
As the days went on, or rather, I should say, as time passed, all I knew of my sickness was that my wanderings through the dim asphodel fields became more continual and more distinct, until about the end of the term of high fever I was summoned back to the huddled mass with intense loathing, and as I drew near and heard someone say ‘He will live’ I remember finding the mass less cold and clammy, and ever after that the wanderings appeared to be fewer and shorter, the thing lying at the door and I grew more together and ceased to be separated into two entities.
In my wanderings there was a strange consciousness that I could see through the walls of the building, though I was aware that they were there and that everything was transparent to my senses. I saw plainly, for instance, a poor RAMC surgeon, of whose existence I had not known, and who was in quite another part of the hospital, grow very ill and scream and die; I saw them cover his corpse and carry him softly out on shoeless feet, quietly and surreptitiously, lest we should know that he had died and the next night I thought take him away to the cemetery. Afterwards when I told these happenings to the sisters, they informed me that all this had happened just as I had fancied.
Towards the middle of June, or possibly somewhat earlier, before I was well conscious, there was a consultation and one elderly doctor shook his head and said, so that I could hear it, ‘He is nearly sixty, he won’t recover’. Another said ‘He’ll get better’ and it confusedly amazed me, for I knew perfectly well that I should get well.