Church, Richard Thomas - Over the Bridge - Levitates
Type of Spiritual Experience
Richard had been sent to a convalescent home in order to be helped with an illness that was not named in his book. It was marked by considerable bouts of pain, which were always accompanied by vomiting. The bouts were exacerbated by stress of which he suffered a great deal when he was a boy, being in a school which caned its pupils mercilessly for not succeeding at their lessons. At the time Richard had undiagnosed myopia and was unable to see the blackboard or even the books properly and thus appeared a dunce. He was sensitive and frail, and the caning traumatised him. The attacks caused him to experience a very swollen stomach and may have been in part a ‘twisted gut’.
He was devoted to his mother, idolised her and the need for treatment had meant he was separated from her, so he was in some senses suffering from grief, of a kind. By the time the following was written he had also lost a lot of weight.
A description of the experience
Over the Bridge
The sun had brightened to a liquid fire that dazzled my sight, reducing the woodman and his brief moment of revelation to a penumbral figure under the shadow of the bushes in the dead grey frost.
I stared at the light, and the stuff of life within my body began to increase its speed of flow. I sensed, with a benignancy deeper and more assured than reason, that my limbs and trunk were lighter than they seemed, and that I had only to reduce them by an act of will, perhaps by a mere change of physical mechanics, to command them off the ground, out of the tyranny of gravitation.
I exerted that will, visualising my hands and feet pressing downwards upon the centre of the earth. It was no surprise to me that I left the ground, and glided about the room (which was empty) some twelve or eighteen inches above the parquet floor.
At first I was afraid of collapsing. Of tumbling and hurting myself. But I had only to draw in a deep breath, and to command the air through the heavy portions of my anatomy, watching it flow and dilute the solid bone and flesh through the helpful chemistry of the blood, this new, released and knowledgeable blood, and I soared higher, half-way to the ceiling.
This thoroughly frightened me, and I allowed myself to subside, coming to ground with a gentleness that was itself a sensuous delight.
I could not leave the matter there. I must put my discovery to the test again, and accordingly I drew in a deep breath and was just about to visualise that downward pressure of will upon body, when the door opened, and a nurse came in.
'Why, little boy?' she said. 'Haven't you heard the break-fast bell ?'
Then she took a second glance at me, stooped and peered into my face. 'ls anything wrong? Are you feeling poorly this morning?'
I was almost indignant, and disclaimed the suggestion that I might have a temperature, for that would mean going to bed in the large ward where a pail stood conspicuously in the middle, on a sheet of mackintosh; an improvisation which disgusted me.
I hurried away without replying, leaving the nurse looking after me with some inquiry in her manner. The corridor and staircase were empty, for everybody was at breakfast in the vast dining-room below. Here was another opportunity! I drew my breath again, I scorned the liars of time and space, I took the presence of Christ into my hollow, featherweight bones, and I floated down the staircase without touching either tread or baluster. Alighting outside the dining-room door, I entered and took my seat, content now to live incognito amongst these wingless mortals.
Again and again, during moments of isolation, when thought or some imaginative fervour so elevated my spirits that I had to express my worship and devotion to Jesus, my Companion, in some instant deed, I practised the now habitual contraction of muscles, the dilution of my blood with a slow in draught of air, and experienced the divine sensation of rising from the ground to command a new dimension.
I did not question this faculty, for it was never called upon except in solitude, and thus there was nobody to question it, or accuse me of suffering from hallucination.
Suffering! That is hardly a word to use in connection with an adjunct that, whether real or not, was to give me comfort and confidence for many years through the remainder of childhood, through the dangers and misgivings of adolescence, through the losses and agonies of early love, and over the dead levels of mid-life, with its longueurs, its humiliations, and hopes deferred.