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Balzac, Honoré de - Seraphita - 02 His body seemed to fall away from him into nothingness



Type of Spiritual Experience


see 01 for background to experiences

A description of the experience

SERAPHITA  By Honore De Balzac  Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley

If some strong thought bears upward on phantasmal wing a man of learning or a poet, isolates him from the external circumstances which environ him here below, and leads him forward through illimitable regions where vast arrays of facts become abstractions, where the greatest works of Nature are but images, then woe betide him if a sudden noise strikes sharply on his senses and calls his errant soul back to its prison-house of flesh and bones. The shock of the reunion of these two powers, body and mind,—one of which partakes of the unseen qualities of a thunderbolt, while the other shares with sentient nature that soft resistant force which deifies destruction,—this shock, this struggle, or, rather let us say, this painful meeting and co-mingling, gives rise to frightful sufferings. The body receives back the flame that consumes it; the flame has once more grasped its prey. This fusion, however, does not take place without convulsions, explosions, tortures; analogous and visible signs of which may be seen in chemistry, when two antagonistic substances which science has united separate.

For the last few days whenever Wilfrid entered Seraphita’s presence his body seemed to fall away from him into nothingness. With a single glance this strange being led him in spirit through the spheres where meditation leads the learned man, prayer the pious heart, where vision transports the artist, and sleep the souls of men,—each and all have their own path to the Height, their own guide to reach it, their own individual sufferings in the dire return. In that sphere alone all veils are rent away, and the revelation, the awful flaming certainty of an unknown world, of which the soul brings back mere fragments to this lower sphere, stands revealed. To Wilfrid one hour passed with Seraphita was like the sought-for dreams of Theriakis, in which each knot of nerves becomes the centre of a radiating delight. But he left her bruised and wearied as some young girl endeavoring to keep step with a giant.

The source of the experience

Balzac, Honoré de

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Sleep deprivation, insomnia and mental exhaustion