Heywood, Rosalind - The Infinite Hive - The Hum
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Rosalind Heywood – The Infinite Hive
The Singing seems to tell me something about my environment. It is best described as a kind of continuous vibrant inner quasi-sound, to which the nearest outer analogy is the noise induced by pressing a seashell against the ear, or perhaps the hum of a distant dynamo.
This sounds like tinnitus to anyone else, but to the experient it does not appear to be heard by the ear or to be exactly located. Rather, like light, it pervades the whole atmosphere, though it is most clearly perceptible in a wide arc above and behind the head. And - I cannot explain what I mean by this - it does not appear to ring through outer space, yet neither is it far 'in'. The right word again may be borderline, if, as I most imprudently venture to suspect, there is no sharp barrier between sensory and extra-sensory phenomena.
To hear the Singing in normal circumstances needs a deliberate switch of attention, for it is very delicate. By listening carefully I can just do so, sometimes, through normal conversation, and now I can hear it with an effort through the tapping of my typewriter. But I cannot pay attention to it through, say, the hubbub of a cocktail party or the blast of a road drill. On the other hand, there are places where it will force itself on one's attention. It makes the silence live. Indeed, at times I think of it as the hum of life, for it is always louder when life of any kind feels more intense.
The only time I have failed to hear it, though I listened intently was while waiting for a train late at night in Hampstead Tube Station. I was alone on the platform. The silence was dead.
It is far more evident in some places than in others; particularly so in a quiet wood, for instance, or on a moor or a mountain - clean wild places unspoilt by man. It is also clear in, say, a church or a college library, places where thought or devotion have been intense for years; and it can ring out in an ordinary room where concentrated thought has just been going on. I test this sometimes in a mild way by saying casually –not, of course, giving the reason why - 'Hullo, have you just been thinking extra hard?' The answer is always, Yes.
Although the Singing seems to differ according to its apparent origin I cannot formulate in what this difference lies.
I can only say that mountain Singing conveys a different 'atmosphere' from church Singing, as an oboe conveys a different 'atmosphere' from a trumpet; but I cannot say that the quasi-sound is on a higher or lower note in the scale. And of course, I know that I am on a mountain or in a church, so sometimes, at least, the difference may be imaginary.
Until recently I never had the courage to mention the Singing to anyone but my husband and to Theodora Bosanquet when she spoke of an equivalent experience, about which she too had always kept very quiet. But with age one gets less thin skinned, and the other day, on impulse, and partly I must admit to watch his shocked reaction, I described it to a clever young engineer.
This time the biter was bit.
He replied placidly, ‘Oh yes, I hear that, too, in places where there have just been strong emotions.
I went .. to see an intelligent and sensitive woman, the daughter of a famous lawyer and with much of his power of analysis. I had not got far with a tentative attempt to describe the experience when her face lit up. 'I know exactly what you mean,' she said, 'I hear it too, in quiet places at night - especially on a mountain. I call it the Singing.'
Then she went on to say that once, when on a mountain with her sister, the Singing had been so loud that she had summoned up courage to speak of it.
'Oh, I always hear that,' said the sister.
Yet neither of them had ever mentioned it to the other.
This made my own silence seem yet more absurd. Perhaps a lot of people could hear the Singing if they only learnt to listen.
I tried one or two, but they had not. Then I tried an adventurous-minded scientist who also had a medical degree, and to my great delight he understood what I meant. 'I have heard it myself,' he said, 'but only once.'
I have since tried one or two more, with no success. It does not seem to be a widely observed experience.