Nastatia Filipovna and the crystal ball
Type of Spiritual Experience
It is not clear from the observation which type of experience it is
A description of the experience
William Seabrook - Witchcraft
I had known Nastatia Filipovna in the days just after the World War. She was a Russian refugee who had dropped her title, had come to New York, had gone through the usual vicissitudes, then married a Cleveland manufacturer and dropped out of sight. I’d heard nothing from her for a number of years when there came one morning in my local mail, scrawled in an imperious yet childish hand, a note from the St. Regis that said, ‘Take me to eat lobsters. And bring me that Bannister of yours if you can find him.'
I phoned Bannister, and we took her to luncheon. ….
At luncheon, she told us of some experiences she’d been having. That was why she wanted to see Bannister. She'd known Rasputin, had dabbled in occultism, and had found a Russian fortune-teller in Cleveland who had initiated her into crystal gazing. She had begun to be able to go into self-induced trances, but hated everything that happened to her in the trances.
To begin with, she didn’t like Cleveland, she didn't like her husband, she didn't like America. Trance stuff and the occult are escape mechanisms, just as drugs and liquor are. She didn't like reality. But she didn't like what she encountered in the crystal-ball illusion world of unreality either!
She kept 'sliding across, she said, into a camp of Mongols, where she herself, with some other women, was engaged in cutting up the carcass of a bear with a stone knife.
In these trance experiences she suffered cold, discomfort, brutal treatment. She hated the hard work, the dirty skins she wore, the smells, the burned food. And the worst of it was that now, every time she sent herself across, she kept 'sliding back' to that brutal life. She talked in common-place, petulant terms, as if complaining about having to live in one sort of house when she wanted to live in another.
“I don't want to live in Cleveland, but I don't want to sleep in caves either, and be clubbed about by cave men!” she protested, as if we were to blame for it.
'It's jolly well good for you, you know,' said Bannister. 'Clubbing is what you need, and I hope every time you go back there they beat you black and blue. But speaking seriously, my dear, I'd give my eye teeth for a real throw-back of that sort, if it's real. They are extremely rare. I don't suppose you've thought to make notes or check your experiences against what is actually known of cave life? You don't know what this stuff of yours may tap ! '