Dostoyevsky - I felt the heaven was going down upon the earth and that it had engulfed me
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
From Oliver Sacks – Hallucinations quoting Dostoevsky
Dostoevsky was talking with two friends about religion when a bell started to toll midnight. Suddenly he exclaimed, “God exists, He exists!" He later went into detail about the experience:
The air was filled with a big noise and I tried to move. I felt the heaven was going down upon the earth and that it had engulfed me. I have really touched God. He came into me myself, yes God exists, I cried, and I don't remember anything else. You all, healthy people, he said, can't imagine the happiness which we epileptics feel during the second or so before our fit….. I don't know if this felicity lasts for seconds, hours or months, but believe me, for all the joys that life may bring, I would not exchange this one.
He gave similar descriptions on a number of other occasions, and endowed several of the characters in his novels with seizures akin to, and sometimes identical with, his own. One such involves Prince Myshkin in The ldiot:
During these moments as rapid as lightning, the impression of the life and the consciousness were in himself ten times more intense. His spirit and his heart were illuminated by an Immense sense of light; all his emotions, all his doubts, all his anxiety calmed together to be changed into a sovereign serenity made up of lighted joy, harmony and hope; then, his reason was raised up to the understanding of the final cause
There are also descriptions of ecstatic seizures in The Devils, The Brothers Karamazov, and The Insulted and the Injured, while in The Double there are descriptions of "forced thinking" and "dreamy states" almost identical with what Hughlings Jackson was describing at much the same time in his great neurological articles.
Over and above his ecstatic auras - which always seemed to Dostoevsky revelations of ultimate truth, direct and valid knowledge of God - there were remarkable and progressive changes in his personality throughout the later parts of his life, his time of greatest creativity.
Theophile Alajouanine, a French neurologist, observed that these changes were clear when one compared Dostoevsky's early, realistic works with the great, mystical novels he wrote in later life.
Alajouanine suggested that "epilepsy had created in the person of Dostoevsky a 'double man' . . . a rationalist and a mystic; each having the better of the other according to the moment. . . [and] more and more the mystical one seems to have prevailed.