Seabrook, William Buehler - A storm and a short handed yacht
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
William Seabrook - Witchcraft
We were blown well out to sea; and stayed out there three days and nights. Nobody worried. There was nothing to worry about - except provisions. We had been going to buy them later when the party was complete, and the only reserve we had aboard was some old cans of corned beef. The goddamned stuff must have been aboard for a couple of years. But we weren't very hungry. We were both walleyed from loss of sleep, for close to ninety hours.
The boat couldn't take care of herself in that weather even running before the wind. One of us had to be continually at the wheel, with the other continually on call. Most of the time we were both on deck. Then, when it had quieted a little, we took alternating four-hour shifts, one of us at the wheel, while the other tried to snatch four hours sleep below. What with the excitement, our liking each other, our talk of Moby Dick, our struggles to heat the goddamned corned-beef hash and keep the coffee pot from turning over, I don’t think either of us ever thought about being physically tired: and I don't recall that we were ever tired, in a body-muscle sense at all.
But we were walleyed dopey, and at the same time keyed to a sort of super sensitivity, from prolonged loss of sleep. We felt, thought, and saw things with a sort of acute super lucidity, which made it seem as if a veil or fog had been lifted from our minds and from the normal outline of the masts against the thick sky.
We talked about it. Anybody who has, in the war or elsewhere, gone for an abnormally long time without sleep under exciting circumstances which make sleep still impossible, will know what I am talking about. It gives the same sort of seemingly mystical clarity of inner vision that dentist’s gas or anaesthetics sometimes do, in the transitional moments, going in and coming out…….
And now I lay sleepless, keyed nervously to abnormal tension, with my mind racing back to those experiences. The wind and waves pounded the Cossack, held on her course by Hal up there on deck at the wheel; I looked at the luminous dial of my watch to see when I'd be going to relieve him. It lacked only ten minutes to midnight when it would be my shift up there. I was about to go in the galley and make some coffee first, when I thought, or rather felt, with a sudden quick flash, Well, if I could do one of the things the Melewi taught me, perhaps I could now do another.
Suppose I can. Suppose it's true. Suppose I try.
Suppose I do it !
I lay back in the bunk, and closed my eyes, and began forming words. l can send my body up there to the wheel, a body with its eyes to watch the compass, a body with its hands to steer. I will send it. But I am not that body. I will remain here, to sleep. I will repose here, lying in the Melewi astral body, to sleep.
It was bright cold daylight, with the sun glaring through the morning haze. The wind was still high, but the storm was abating. I was there at the wheel, and the boat was steady on her course. Hal, I learned later, had been shouting at me, then pounding me on the back, then trying to pull my hands away from the wheel. They were cold and blue like the hands of a dead man.
I said, 'Good morning.'
Hal said, 'Good morning hell, Willie, what on earth happened to you? I thought you had passed out. Your eyes were wide open, and the boat was steady on her course . . . the wind hasn't changed . . . and she's been on it all night. But when I came on deck, I thought you had passed out. I should have come up at four, you know" but I went sound asleep, and you didn't call me. I guess you must have passed out with your eyes wide open, just before I came on deck.'
I said, 'What time is it?'
He said, 'It's long past six.'
We looked at our watches. It was nearly seven o'clock.
He said, 'Are you sure you're all right now? Can you get below all right?'
'Yes,' I said, 'I'm fine. By the way, did I come up last night, or did you come down and get me?'
He said, 'What do you mean, Willie? It was just midnight, and I was just going to yell down when you came up. Don’t you remember?'
I said, 'Did I say anything to you?'
'Did I do anything strange?'
'Not unless your not saying anything was strange. I asked you if you wanted some coffee, and sort of wondered why you didn't answer.'
So that was that. Whatever I'd done, I had done it. I had no recollection of anything that had occurred in the seven hour interval since I'd repeated the word 'sleep’. One part of me, with feet, eyes, muscles, hands, functioning like a robot's, had gone up on deck and been there at the wheel doing its physical-mechanical job. Another part of me had been in deep and dreamless slumber - somewhere. I'm not insisting where, because I don't know where' The Melewi teach that it had been asleep in an 'astral body' which was left lying below in the bunk, while the soulless, three-dimensional body of flesh and blood climbed up on deck.
They teach that the astral body would have been invisible and intangible to the normal eye and touch, but that an adept could have literally seen its shadowy outlines. They teach that Hal - that is, any person with senses and perceptions solely normal---could have sat, or slept, in the same bunk, completely unconscious of any other presence.
But that a cat or dog would have known.
I'm not sure I believe any of that part of the Melewi teaching. I am inclined, on the contrary, to doubt it. I know simply that a part of me had slept soundly through the night, while another part of me, steering by wheel, wind, and compass had held the Cossack steady - and had kept her on her course.