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Observations placeholder

Balzac, Honoré de - Louis Lambert - The very first out of body experience and ecstasy



Type of Spiritual Experience


Not many clues are given in Louis Lambert about the nature of the experience that Balzac experienced, however, in the companion book Seraphina it becomes clear that Balzac went out of body and met his Higher spirit/Guardian angel.  Here we provide the extract from Louis Lambert, but the other observations for Seraphina describe the OBE itself in much more detail but disguised as a fiction story.

G. F. Parsons - Introduction to "Louis Lambert"

…. the condition [of chronic ecstasy], in which the patient—i.e., Louis Lambert—really Balzac himself—seems withdrawn, may be the consequence of an illumination so much higher than that vouchsafed mankind at large as to transcend expression—to separate the recipient from intellectual contact with his fellows by revealing to his inner sense untranslatable things


Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, [1901] - CHAPTER 12.  Honoré de Balzac.

In his further fragmentary, veiled and mystic narration of the actual oncoming of the Cosmic Sense, it is important, for the present argument, to notice that:

(a) He had no idea what had happened to him.

(b) He was seized with terror

(c) He debated seriously with himself whether he was not insane.

(d) He considers (or reconsiders) the question of marriage—doubts that it will be "an obstacle to the perfectability of his interior senses and to his flight through the spiritual worlds" and seems to decide against it.

There were two major things going on in his life at the time – one was a very illicit love affair and the other was overwork of a major order fuelled largely by coffee!

Love affair

In 1833, as he revealed in a letter to his sister, Balzac entered into an illicit affair with fellow writer Maria Du Fresnay, who was then aged 24. Her marriage to a considerably older man (Charles du Fresnay, Mayor of Sartrouville) had been a failure from the outset. In this letter, Balzac also reveals that the young woman had just come to tell him she was pregnant with his child. In 1834, 8 months after the event, Maria Du Fresnay's daughter by Balzac, Marie-Caroline Du Fresnay, was born. This revelation from French journalist Roger Pierrot in 1955 confirmed what was already suspected by several historians: the dedicatee of the novel Eugénie Grandet, a certain "Maria", turns out to be Maria Du Fresnay herself.


Balzac's work habits are legendary. He wrote from 1 am to 8 am every night and sometimes even longer. Balzac could write very rapidly; some of his novels, written with a quill, were composed at a pace equal to thirty words per minute on a modern typewriter. His preferred method was to eat a light meal at five or six in the afternoon, then sleep until midnight. He then rose and wrote for many hours, fueled by innumerable cups of black coffee. He often worked for fifteen hours or more at a stretch; he claimed to have once worked for 48 hours with only three hours of rest in the middle.


A description of the experience

LOUIS LAMBERT By Honore De Balzac  Translated by Clara Bell and James Waring

…………..when Monsieur Lefebvre spoke to me of Louis' first attack, I suddenly remembered a conversation we had had on the subject after reading a medical book.

"Deep meditation and rapt ecstasy are perhaps the undeveloped germs of catalepsy," he said in conclusion.

On the occasion when he so concisely formulated this idea, he had been trying to link mental phenomena together by a series of results, following the processes of the intellect step by step, from their beginnings as those simple, purely animal impulses of instinct, which are all-sufficient to many human beings, particularly to those men whose energies are wholly spent in mere mechanical labor; then, going on to the aggregation of ideas and rising to comparison, reflection, meditation, and finally ecstasy and catalepsy. Lambert, of course, in the artlessness of youth, imagined that he had laid down the lines of a great work when he thus built up a scale of the various degrees of man's mental powers.

I remember that, by one of those chances which seems like predestination, we got hold of a great Martyrology, in which the most curious narratives are given of the total abeyance of physical life which a man can attain to under the paroxysms of the inner life. By reflecting on the effects of fanaticism, Lambert was led to believe that the collected ideas to which we give the name of feelings may very possibly be the material outcome of some fluid which is generated in all men, more or less abundantly, according to the way in which their organs absorb, from the medium in which they live, the elementary atoms that produce it. We went crazy over catalepsy; and with the eagerness that boys throw into every pursuit, we endeavored to endure pain by thinking of something else. We exhausted ourselves by making experiments not unlike those of the epileptic fanatics of the last century, a religious mania which will some day be of service to the science of humanity. I would stand on Lambert's chest, remaining there for several minutes without giving him the slightest pain; but notwithstanding these crazy attempts, we did not achieve an attack of catalepsy.

This digression seemed necessary to account for my first doubts, which were, however, completely dispelled by Monsieur Lefebvre.

"When this attack had passed off," said he, "my nephew sank into a state of extreme terror, a dejection that nothing could overcome. He thought himself unfit for marriage. I watched him with the care of a mother for her child, and found him preparing to perform on himself the operation to which Origen believed he owed his talents. I at once carried him off to Paris, and placed him under the care of Monsieur Esquirol. All through our journey Louis sat sunk in almost unbroken torpor, and did not recognize me. The Paris physicians pronounced him incurable, and unanimously advised his being left in perfect solitude, with nothing to break the silence that was needful for his very improbable recovery, and that he should live always in a cool room with a subdued light.—Mademoiselle de Villenoix, whom I had been careful not to apprise of Louis' state," he went on, blinking his eyes, "but who was supposed to have broken off the match, went to Paris and heard what the doctors had pronounced. She immediately begged to see my nephew, who hardly recognized her; then, like the noble soul she is, she insisted on devoting herself to giving him such care as might tend to his recovery. She would have been obliged to do so if he had been her husband, she said, and could she do less for him as her lover?

"She removed Louis to Villenoix, where they have been living for two years."

So, instead of continuing my journey, I stopped at Blois to go to see Louis. Good Monsieur Lefebvre would not hear of my lodging anywhere but at his house, where he showed me his nephew's room with the books and all else that had belonged to him. At every turn the old man could not suppress some mournful exclamation, showing what hopes Louis' precocious genius had raised, and the terrible grief into which this irreparable ruin had plunged him.

"That young fellow knew everything, my dear sir!" said he, laying on the table a volume containing Spinoza's works. "How could so well organized a brain go astray?"

"Indeed, monsieur," said I, "was it not perhaps the result of its being so highly organized? If he really is a victim to the malady as yet unstudied in all its aspects, which is known simply as madness, I am inclined to attribute it to his passion. His studies and his mode of life had strung his powers and faculties to a degree of energy beyond which the least further strain was too much for nature; Love was enough to crack them, or to raise them to a new form of expression which we are maligning perhaps, by ticketing it without due knowledge. In fact, he may perhaps have regarded the joys of marriage as an obstacle to the perfection of his inner man and his flight towards spiritual spheres."

"My dear sir," said the old man, after listening to me with attention, "your reasoning is, no doubt, very sound; but even if I could follow it, would this melancholy logic comfort me for the loss of my nephew?"

Lambert's uncle was one of those men who live only by their affections.




The source of the experience

Balzac, Honoré de

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