Canon Gamier relives a dream three years later
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Flammarion, C., Carroll, L, - Death and its mystery: before death
224 DEATH AND ITS MYSTERY
Here is an honest and irrefutable account. Canon Gamier, a worthy priest of the diocese of Langres, and former professor at the little seminary.
It was in 1846, during the second year of my work in the upper seminary. One night I travelled in spirit during my sleep. The road which I followed-white, smooth, and sparsely bordered with trees -seemed to descend the side of a mountain, by a gentle slope, and reach a plain that stretched away out of sight. The sun was sinking toward the horizon, as it was between four and five in the afternoon, and shed its peaceful light over the country-side, with delicate shadings of colour and shadow that are easier to imagine than to describe.
I found that I had suddenly stopped short, without knowing how or why, at a spot where another road cut at right angles that which I was following; for all that, there was nothing unusual about it that could have caught the eye of the traveller, nor even attracted his attention. Nevertheless, I still see myself standing there, straight as a statue, contemplating with especial satisfaction nothing much-one of those country scenes which we see every day.
To the left, I noticed, the road crossed mine and passed around the mountain, where, consequently there had been built a little wall about a meter high which ran along the road, to sustain the earth.
Along this wall were planted three large trees which threw a dense shade.
About thirty feet from the spot where I was standing, opposite me, in a well-leveled court, there rose, close to the road, a charming little house, white as chalk and bathed in sunshine. The only window, which faced the road, was open: behind the window sat a woman well but simply dressed. Red predominated among the bright colours of her clothes. On her head was a white cap of some very light material with openwork embroidery, of a form that was unknown to me. This woman seemed about thirty years old.
Standing before her was a young girl of ten or twelve years, whom I took to be her own. She was attentively watching her mother, who was knitting and showing her how it was done: she was barefoot, her hair down her back, and was dressed somewhat like the mother. By the side of the young girl were three children rolling on the ground: a small boy who might have been four or five years old was on his knees, showing something to his two little brothers, smaller than he, to amuse them; these were flat on their backs before the eldest, and all three were absorbed in their admiration.
The two women had given me a rapid glance when they saw me standing there and looking at them, but they had not stirred. Evidently they often saw travellers passing.
A large dog stretched his length beside them and scratched himself from time to time, to put the fleas to rout.
Through the wide-open door I saw three men seated on benches about a table, two on one side and one on the other, at the very back of the room, playing and drinking. They looked like workmen employed in the neighbourhood. They wore the linen apron and the pointed hat of the Abruzzi. On the other side, at the right, three sheep were browsing on the unappetising grass, occasionally they butted one another in a friendly way. To the side two horses, one bay and the other white, were fastened to the wall. A pretty little colt wandered here and there to amuse himself, and went toward the table of the players, without doubt to take a lesson and to brush their hair with his nose.
The young innocent received a good cuff as his reward. I also noticed four or five hens and a fine cock with a magnificent tail, the sort of cock whose green-and-black plumes decorate the caps of the Italian mountaineers. These poor fowls were seeking their pittance in the court, where the grass, dried by the sun, hardly covered the white dust.
Such was the simple country scene which I was watching, in complete content, for the space of ten minutes perhaps, and which disappeared suddenly as it had come. Before, I had seen nothing; afterward I saw nothing, and I believed it drowned in the flood of forgetfulness for all eternity.
This is how it came once more to life, and was stamped for ever on my memory and imagination. I still see this little corner of the earth, as I see the clock-tower of my village.
In 1849 I, with two friends, took a trip into Italy.
Arrival at Marseilles, a step to Genoa, a brief call at Leghorn, Siena, Florence, then a quick advance upon Rome. We pass through a hamlet in the Apennines. A good coach receives our august persons. Four or five horses draw the coach, and set off like lightning, with a great ringing of their thousand little bells; the postilion, wearing an African helmet, or rather harlequin hat, cracks the whip eternally as though he would throw his arm out of joint !-brings all the curious into the street, and exhibits his prowess to the eyes of the multitude. There is not time enough to admire our Lordships; our carriage does not run, it flies.
But after leaving the city all ardour disappears, we reach the crest of the mountain. There is a halt of five minutes; four proud coursers replace our Rosinantes -our carriage flies along with the dust to descend like a storm, recommending our souls to God. (There was good reason, for I am yet unable to imagine how we ever managed to find ourselves still whole and with all our limbs after so mad a ride.)
Finally the carriage slows down to a reasonable speed and arrives at a relay station without mishap.
During this stop, I look out of the carriage door and sweat comes out on me; my heart beats like a tambourine, and I mechanically put my hand to my face, as if to remove a veil which troubles me and prevents me from seeing: I rub my nose and eyes, like a sleeper who awakens suddenly after a dream. I really think I am dreaming, and yet my eyes are wide open ; I assure myself that I am not mad nor yet the victim of a most singular illusion. Before my eyes is the little country scene which I saw long ago in my dream. Nothing has changed !
The first thought that comes to me after I get back my wits, is this: I have already seen this. I do not know where, but I am quite sure of it,-that is certain. For all that, I have never been here, as this is the first time I have been in Italy. How does it happen ?
Sure enough, there are the two roads that cross, the little wall which holds the earth up at the side of the court, the trees, the white house, the open window; the mother knitting and her daughter watching her, the three little fellows amusing themselves with the dog, the three workmen, drinking and playing, the colt who goes to take a lesson and receives a cuff, the two horses, the sheep.
Nothing is changed : the people are exactly those I saw, as I saw them, doing the same things in the same attitudes, with the same gestures, etc. How is that possible? But the fact is certain, and for fifty years I have wondered. Mystery ! First I saw it in a dream; secondly, I saw it in actual reality, three years after.
(Letter g01. ) ' Abbe Gaarnier Canon'