Lusseyran, Jacques - And then there was Light
Type of Spiritual Experience
One of the best books from an author who was blinded at age eight and whose story is a riveting read is that of Jacques Lusseyran. I recommend that you read the entire book, because his is an incredible story, but here is a pertinent extract
A description of the experience
And there was light – Jacques Lusseyran
It was a great surprise to me to find myself blind, and being blind was not at all as I imagined it. Nor was it as the people around me seemed to think. They told me that to be blind meant not to see. Yet how was I to believe them when I saw? Not at once I admit. Not in the days immediately after the operation. For at that time I still wanted to use my eyes. I followed their usual path. I looked in the direction where I was in the habit of seeing before the accident, and there was anguish, a lack, something like a void which filled me with what grown ups call despair.
Finally, one day, and it was not long coming, I realised that I was looking in the wrong way. It was as simple as that. I was making something very like the mistake people make who change their glasses without adjusting themselves. I was looking too far off, and too much on the surface of things.
This was much more than a simple discovery, it was a revelation. I can still see myself in the Champ de Mars, where my father had taken me for a walk a few days after the accident. Of course I knew the garden well, its ponds, its railings, its iron chairs. I even knew some of the trees in person, and naturally I wanted to see them again. But I couldn’t. I threw myself forward into the substance which was space, but which I did not recognise because it no longer held anything familiar to me.
At this point some instinct – I was almost about to say a hand laid on me – made me change course. I began to look more closely, not at things but at a world closer to myself, looking from an inner place to one further within, instead of clinging to the movement of sight towards the world outside.
Immediately, the substance of the universe drew together, redefined and peopled itself anew. I was aware of a radiance emanating from a place I knew nothing about, a place which might as well have been outside me as within. But radiance was there, or, to put it more precisely, light. It was a fact, for light was there.
I felt indescribable relief, and happiness so great it almost made me laugh. Confidence and gratitude came as if a prayer had been answered. I found light and joy at the same moment and I can say without hesitation that from that time on light and joy have never been separated in my experience. I have had them or lost them together.
I saw light and went on seeing it though I was blind. I said so, but for many years I think I did not say it very loud. Until I was nearly fourteen I remember calling the experience, which kept on renewing itself inside me, ‘my secret’, and speaking of it only to my most intimate friends. I don’t know whether they believed me, but they listened to me for they were my friends. And what I told them had a greater value than being merely true, it had the value of being beautiful, a dream, an enchantment, almost like magic
The amazing thing was that this was not magic for me at all, but reality. I could no more have denied it than people with eyes can deny that they see. I was not light myself, I knew that, but I bathed in it as an element which blindness had suddenly brought much closer. I could feel light rising, spreading, resting on objects, giving them form, then leaving them.
Withdrawing or diminishing is what I mean, for the opposite of light was never present. Sighted people always talk about the night of blindness, and that seems to them quite natural. But there is no such night, for at every waking hour and even in my dreams I lived in a stream of light. Without my eyes light was much more stable than it had been with them. As I remember it, there were no longer the same differences between things lighted brightly, less brightly or not at all. I saw the whole world in light, existing through it and because of it.
Colours, all the colours of the rainbow, also survived. For me, the child who loved to draw and paint, colours made a celebration so unexpected that I spent hours playing with them and all the more easily now they were more docile than they used to be. Light threw its colour on things and on people. My father and mother, the people I met or ran into in the street, all had their characteristic colour which I had never seen before I went blind.
Yet now this special attribute impressed itself on me as part of them as definitely as any impression created by a face. Still, the colours were only a game, while light was my whole reason for living. I let it rise in me like water in a well, and I rejoiced.
I did not understand what was happening to me, for it was so completely contrary to what I heard people say. I didn’t understand it, but no matter, since I was living it. For many years I did not try to find out why these things were going on. I only tried to do so much later and this is not the time to describe it.
A light so continuous and so intense was so far beyond my comprehension that sometimes I doubted it. Suppose it was not real, that I had only imagined it. Perhaps it would be enough to imagine the opposite, or just something different, to make it go away. So I thought of testing it out or even of resisting it.
At night in bed, when I was all by myself, I shut my eyes. I lowered my eyelids as I might have done when they covered my physical eyes. I told myself that behind these curtains I would no longer see light. But light was still there, and more serene than ever, looking like a lake at evening when the wind has dropped. Then I gathered up all my energy and will power and tried to stop the flow of light, as I might have tried to stop breathing.
What happened was a disturbance, something like a whirlpool. But the whirlpool was still flooded with light. At all events I couldn’t keep this up for very long, perhaps only for two or three seconds. When this was going on I felt a sort of anguish, as though I were doing something forbidden, something against life. It was exactly as if I needed light to live – needed it as much as air. There was no way out of it. I was the prisoner of light. I was condemned to see.
………When I was playing with my small companions, if I suddenly grew anxious to win, to be first at all costs, then all at once I could see nothing. Literally, I went into a fog or smoke. I could no longer afford to be jealous or unfriendly, because, as soon as I was, a bandage came down over my eyes, and I was bound hand and foot and cast aside. All at once a black hole opened, and I was helpless inside it. But when I was happy and serene, approached people with confidence and thought well of them, I was rewarded with light. So is it surprising that I loved friendship and harmony when I was very young?
………………….. How should I explain the way objects approached me when I was the one walking in their direction? Was I breathing them in or hearing them? Possibly, though that was often hard to prove. Did I see them? It seemed not. And yet, as I came closer, their mass was modified, often to the point of defining real contours, assuming a real shape in space, acquiring distinctive colour, just as it happens where there is sight.
As I walked along a country road bordered by trees, I could point to each one of the trees by the road, even if they were not spaced at regular intervals. I knew whether the trees were straight and tall, carrying their branches as a body carries its head, or gathered into thickets and partly covering the ground around them.
This kind of exercise soon tired me out, I must admit, but it succeeded. And the fatigue did not come from the trees, from their number and shape, but from myself. To see them like this I had to hold myself in a state so far removed from old habits that I could not keep it up for very long. I had to let the trees come towards me, and not allow the slightest inclination to move towards them, the smallest wish to know them, to come between them and me. I could not afford to be curious or impatient or proud of my accomplishment
The source of the experienceLusseyran, Jacques
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsBeing a child
Blindness, macular degeneration and other sight impairment