Bouissou, Madame Michael - A shared hallucination of celestial choirs - 'How beautiful those voices were'
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Life of a Sensitive – Madame Michael Bouissou
It was in this calm and infinitely simple setting that one evening an unexplained phenomenon took place. My mother and I were in the drawing room; it had formerly been the Mother Superior's study but now it was a comfortable, pleasant room full of bookshelves, with a piano, and large armchairs which encouraged one to read. I was ensconced in one of these chairs. My mother was writing, and, except for the faint scratching of her pen, the noise of an occasional falling ember, nothing troubled the silence which at nightfall enveloped the whole countryside.
Suddenly a chorus of great beauty and purity rose in the night. The chant, unaccompanied by instruments, was quite perfect and the harmony of the various voices gave me such a sensation of superhuman joy, liberation and exaltation that the words "Celestial choir" immediately sprang to mind. My mother and I watched each other without daring to move, fearing that our slightest gesture might break this divine harmony. This wonderful singing certainly lasted several minutes in the still night, then grew more remote and finally ceased.
Coming out of our rapture (and this word is not too strong to depict the state of mind into which this choir had plunged us) we opened the single window of that room which looked out onto the deserted road. It, too, was sleeping peacefully, silent save for the light rustle of leaves in the autumn wind. There were no houses round the convent, which lay outside the village, and even had there been one, who could possibly have been singing with such perfection in this many-voiced choir?
I left the house and ran as fast as my fifteen-year-old legs would carry me along the road. So little time had elapsed that I should certainly have caught up with the mysterious singers; I ran a long way but there was nothing. . . . The flat road flanked by fields and a few trees offered no hiding place and the ditch was narrow and shallow. And then what cause had these magnificent choristers to hide themselves? When I returned to the house I found my mother sitting near the fire, thoughtfully poking the burning logs with the tongs. I told her I had seen nothing. In the meantime she had been upstairs to the children and had found them fast asleep. She had also discreetly peeped into the bedrooms of the two servants, who would certainly have been as incapable as would the children of singing so magnificently.
The garden wall would have been difficult to scale, and then, once more, why should our mysterious singers have hidden themselves? It seemed as though we were the only ones to have heard these voices which had nevertheless echoed so powerfully.
I sat down at the fire opposite my mother and I was struck by her sad and pensive look. She did not seem surprised, but after a few minutes' silence she looked at me and said, "Of course you heard them too ?". Then, without waiting for my reply, she went on, "Yes, obviously. I've often thought that a mysterious domain hidden from normal mortals has been opened to you too. I am sorry, for I'm sure you will get more sorrow than joy from it."
She stared once more into the fire and, without giving me time to reply, went on, "I hope that it is not a sorrow or a loss that these wonderful voices were announcing to us this evening. Perhaps they were singing the liberation, the joy of some of our unhappy soldiers dying in the front line without solace, without their mothers' last caress. Perhaps it was that, this time."
She seemed to have forgotten my presence and spoke softly, in a very calm voice. In this way I learned of the premonitory image, the "herald" who always announced to her the approaching death of a loved one: an elderly man with greying hair, dressed in a grey suit, who stood motionless, looking at her for a long time in silence, and then slowly vanished. "The last time he appeared was just before the death of my brother. I had seen him previously before the death of your grandmother. The spectre was there in my room and that day I was so afraid that I went to fetch your father. He put his arms round me and kissed me and in some way I felt protected."
At that moment she lifted her head and noticed me listening in silence. With a swift and graceful gesture she pushed back the curls on her forehead, got to her feet and picked up the lamp-there was no electric light in the convent: "Come, we must go to bed," she said. "It's getting late. How beautiful those voices were."