Madame d’Esperance - Shadow Land - 26 Going out of body towards the Light
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
SHADOW LAND OR LIGHT FROM THE OTHER SIDE by Elisabeth d’Esperance(1897)
It was a Sunday morning, a bright summer day. I had thrown myself on my sofa with a book, but my mind was occupied with projects as to the practical carrying out of tests, so that I did not pay much attention to its pages. I felt a curiously faint sinking sensation, and the printed pages I had been trying to study became strangely indistinct. Was I going to faint? Everything became dark and I felt sure I was going to be ill again. I would call someone, but I remembered there was no one on that side of the house.
The faintness passed away almost immediately, and I was glad I had not disturbed anyone. I glanced at my book; strange, how far away and dim it seemed. I had moved away from the sofa but somebody else was there and held the book! Who could it be? How wonderfully light and strong I felt. The faintness had gone and in its place had come a marvellous sense of health strength, and power which I had never before known.
Life was waking up within me, springing, bubbling, coursing through my veins like electric streams. Every part of my body was glowing with new vigor, and a sense of absolute untrammeled freedom. For the first time I knew what it was to live.
How strange! The room looked so small, so cramped, so dark and that dim figure on the sofa? Who was she? I seemed to recognise something in the quiet form, some faint recollection of having known her, but this irresistible sense of freedom must be indulged; I could not stay in this place, but where should I go? I moved towards the window. Strange how curiously dim my surroundings seemed. The walls appeared to approach me, to disappear; but whither I could not tell.
This phenomenon did not greatly surprise me, though I wondered somewhat, for there away a little distance off, I saw a friend whom I recognised, not as one usually recognises friends through familiarity with face or figure. Even at this moment I could not explain, nor say if he had a single familiar feature. All I knew was, he was my friend and had been my friend through ages-a friend, better, wiser, stronger than myself. I needed a friend and the friend had come. He spoke, or perhaps he did not use language though I understood better than any tongue could explain.
"Did I see where I was?"
Yes, I could see, though curiously enough the sunshine had faded and we were in a narrow road, not a pleasant one either, and as I looked around me I held my friend by the hand and felt assured of safety. It was a strange place, yet there was a curious familiarity about it. Dark gloomy overhanging rocks were on each side, obstructed here and there by projections which seemed to block up the passage. The ground was strewn with rough stones and tangled brushwood, with here and there deep holes into which unwary travellers must stumble. My eyes searched as it were gropingly along the road, inch by inch, foot by foot, an apparently insurmountable obstacle was reached, and, as I came near it I was conscious of a feeling of exultation for the difficulties shrank as I stepped forward and passed them with ease.
A pitfall yawned open-mouthed, in my pathway, and dismayed, I saw no hope of avoiding a disastrous fall into the miry depths, I looked boldy forward and as I advanced a narrow track was visible. If I did not turn dizzy, and could step firmly and carefully the gulf might be safely passed.
It was a long weary way and though I was with a friend now it was only for a short time, but I was not afraid, for though it was dark and cheerless, surrounded by cold mist that chilled the blood, and damped the courage, yet here and there gleamed out a warm clear light which filled the heart with joy and thankfulness.
Looking backwards along the road, I felt a curious sense of proprietorship. The light which had come in transient gleams seemed to have diffused itself over the whole, and I could see my footprints over its length where I had diverged from the road, wherever I had endeavoured to go around obstacles, and where I had been driven back and compelled to surmount them.
I saw the pitfalls into which I had fallen and from which I had had to drag myself painfully out again, only to find that I might have avoided the dangers had I seen the light which now lay over it all.
Looking eagerly forward again I saw the light gleaming out in the distance, while the shadows lay at our feet, and I felt a burning desire to press forward towards it, even as I felt this, a beam of light crept towards me and guided my steps.
"Can you travel the road alone?" asked my friend. "Is your courage equal to the task?"
"Yes I can if it be necessary. It is not as difficult as it looks. But I must have light, without it I should not be safe. But why should I? Are there no better roads?"
I looked farther, and, as my eyes searched, the darkness lifted itself little by Iittle, and at the end of the road afar off a brilliant gleam of light burst out, flooding the road with glory inconceivable. I could not bear it. I was ashamed and hid my face for the light penetrated me through and through and I saw myself as I really was and not as I had in my arrogance thought myself.
Could it be that others could see me as I now saw myself I clung to my friend and asked, "What is it? Tell me what it means."
"It is truth. It is what you have resolved to find."
'And this road, must I travel it to reach it?"
"It is the road you have made; you have no other."
"Then if I travel it, I shall find the truth. I cannot fail. I feel I cannot fail."
"You have found it already. You have only to grasp it and hold it close."
"Help me, let me see more, teach me to understand. How shall I reach it, how hold it fast."
"You have reached it; you have seen it before, but you did not recognise it. It has lighted your pathway but you would not acknowledge it."
"It has been so faint, so dim, I did not know," I said humbly.
"You have felt it, but you put it aside, and raised barriers between it and you, and hid it from your sight."
"I did not know; I did not know."
"You closed your eyes and walked blindly into snares and pitfaIls; you preferred to trust to your fancied wisdom rather than to the light; you turned aside for new paths which led away from it.”
"I did not know, I did not know."
"You had the light within your grasp. You saw it gleaming, but it offended you because it discovered things which were offensive to you. You preferred to let darkness cover them out of sight and tried to believe they did not exist. You cast the light behind you and walked on into darkness and despair."
"I did not know, I did not know."
"You thought in your heart:' I am sufficient unto myself. I will do this thing, I will do that thing, 'and so you stumbled, fell into the mire, and when you were baffled at every turn, you turned back, thwarted in your plans, deceived by your own desire; then and only then you asked for truth."
"I did not know; help me to understand truth, to hold fast to it. Help me to approach this wonderful light; let me understand the meaning of life. I will not let you go. Oh help me, help me!"
I clung to my friend. We turned aside from the contemplation of the road. A sense of motion, bewilderment, increasing light, intense living radiance, and then-Who can describe the indescribable? Time had disappeared, space was no longer existing. I was overpowered by my own insignificance. How mean, how small an atom I was of this unutterable greatness; yet one with it, born of it, belonging to it. I realised this, even with my sense of smallness, and knew that, mean and poor as I was, I was yet a part of this undying, infinite, indestructible whole; that without me it would not be complete.
The light of this great life penetrated me, and I understood,- understood that thoughts were the only real tangible substances, and why, between my friend and me, utterance was not needed. The secrets of life and death were unveiled and the meaning became plain. The reason of sin and suffering, the everlasting struggle towards perfection were evident; how each atom of life had its appointed place into which it fitted as no other atom could; how each change and evolution brought it nearer to its goal. As desire arose within me I found the means of grasping it. Knowledge was mine. I had only to desire and it was in my grasp.
And I had dared to doubt, dared to question the power of God,-nay, his very existence! I had presumed to question the fact of spiritual life. I had blindly called the dark shadowy confines of earthly existence the real life.