Professor Pirro Bessi sees a scene in a mirror
Type of spiritual experience
A description of the experience
Death and its Mystery, At the Moment of Death; Manifestations and Apparitions of the Dying – Camille Flammarion
Communication from Professor Pirro Bessi, Cefalu, Palermo, Sicily December 1899
One evening I was alone, writing. Fatigued with work, I halted, lit a cigarette and stretched myself out in an arm chair. Before me, in an old mirror, were reflected the bluish coils of smoke. I was amusing myself by sending it into space.
The cigarette was half consumed when I perceived that the flame of my lamp was sinking. I wished to snuff it, but the wick went out suddenly.
I was greatly astonished to see that despite this the room was still irradiated by a faint greyish light.
Glancing, by chance, toward the mirror, I saw that it reflected a light more vivid than a moment before; in it could be seen a room rather brightly illuminated, with furniture that was different from mine.
One would have said that, instead of the mirror, there was an opening through which another room of the house could be perceived. I thought I must be dreaming; nevertheless I remained motionless, astonished by this scene.
I then saw an old lady come forward; I recognised her as my father-in-law’s aunt, the mother of the cousin who had come to our house during that memorable evening when the sinister report of a gun had been heard.
The old lady sat down at a table, took some sheets of paper from a drawer and began to write slowly, with an air of great absorption, but with great care, without once lifting her head. She then enclosed the written sheet in an envelope, which she put into the drawer. Then she leaned her head against the back of the arm chair and seemed to fall asleep.
I gazed without even moving a muscle of my face, but a cold sweat made me shiver. However, I could not take my eyes from the mirror.
But the light that was mysteriously reflected in it grew fainter gradually, as though the invisible lamp which illuminated the room in which the old lady was sleeping were going out; and it was not long before the darkness grew as intense in the mirror as in my study.
This left me, for a long time, the prey of a veritable terror. I wished to rise, to shake off this painful state of mind; but I neither could nor dared.
I cannot say how long I remained thus in darkness. The dawn would probably have surprised me in the armchair, if my wife, seeing that I delayed so long in going to bed, had not come to look for me.
You will say that we are here concerned with a simple phenomenon of hallucination. Well I thought this when the next day I awoke from a short troubled sleep.
But some moments afterwards I was told that the old lady whom I had seen in the mirror had been found dead, in the course of that very night, in the arm chair in which it had seemed to me that she had gone to sleep, and that her will, written wholly by herself, had been found in the drawer of the table.
The source of the experience
Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image
Observation contributed by: John Bryant