Hugh Miller and the cataract
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Soul of things – Professor William Denton
Hugh Miller when young attended theatre in Edinburgh. The scenery, he said, made no favourable impression on me, but fourteen years after, when the whole thing seemed to have passed out of memory, he recounts the following
‘I was ill of smallpox, which though a good deal modified, apparently, by the vaccination of a long anterior period, was accompanied by such a degree of fever that for two days together one delirious image continued to succeed another in the troubled sensorium, as scene succeeds scene in the box of an itinerant showman.
As is not uncommon, however, in such cases, though ill enough to be haunted by the images, I was yet well enough to know that they were idle unrealities, the mere effect of indisposition, and even sufficiently collected to take an interest in watching them as they arose, and in striving to determine whether they were linked together by the ordinary associative ties.
I found, however, that they were wholly independent of each other. Curious to know whether the will exerted any power over them, I set myself to try whether I could conjure up a death’s head as one of the series; but what rose instead was a cheerful parlour fire, bearing atop a kettle; and as the picture faded and then vanished, it was succeeded by a gorgeous cataract, in which the white foam at first strongly relieved against the dark rock over which it fell, soon exhibited a deep tinge of sulphurous blue and then came dashing down in a frightful sheet of blood. The great singularity of the vision served to freshen recollection and I detected in the strange cataract every line and tint of the waterfall in the incantation scene in ‘Der Freischutz’ which I had witnessed in the Theatre Royal Edinburgh, with certainly no very particular interest so long before’