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Observations placeholder

Pelley, William Dudley - Seven Minutes in Eternity With Their Aftermath 01



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

“Seven Minutes in Eternity ” With Their Aftermath By William Dudley Pelley

The Unabridged Version of the Author’s Notable Experience in Altadena, California, in May, 1928, together with an Afterword of Comment on the Publication of the Narrative in “The American Magazine” in March, 1929, and Its Reaction Throughout America and England.

In the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains near Pasadena, California, I formerly owned a bungalow. When I wanted seclusion in order to complete a knotty job of writing, I laid in a stock of provisions, bade adieu to acquaintances, motored up to this hideaway and worked there undisturbed. My only companion was Laska, a huge tawny police dog.

In the early part of May, 1928, I was living in this bungalow while writing a novel. The work had gone well and was nearing completion. I was mentally untroubled, feeling physically fit, writing six to eight hours a day, with plenty of outdoor recreation.

One night I retired around ten o’clock and lay in bed reading till I dozed. The book had nothing to do with what subsequently happened, nor had any occurrence of that day or week or month any special significance in what that memorable night brought forth. I emphasize this fact in order to refute the claims of the skeptical that what I underwent was some form of neurotic psychosis. The book was a notable volume on Ethnology, something of a hobby with me and on which I hoped in the near future to write a book from a somewhat bizarre premise.

I felt drowsy around midnight, laid the volume aside, pulled off my glasses and extinguished the bedlamp. I had gone through a similar routine on a hundred other evenings; the day had been no different than a hundred other writing days spent in the bungalow.

My sleeping chamber was located at the back of the house and was perfectly ventilated, with two casement windows opening toward the mountains.

Laska curled on the floor at the foot of my bed — her accustomed sleeping place — and that she did not externally motivate the phenomena in any way, I am positive. When it ended and I was back in my body, I stumbled from the bed and the action awoke her, bringing her over beside me where she thumped her tail on the rug and sought to lick my wrist.

I do not recall having any specific dreams the first half of the night, no physical distress, certainly no insomnia. Ordinarily I do not use liquor and had none on the premises or in my system on this night in question. For twenty years I had been an average smoker and puffed my pipe constantly over the typewriter. But I had never observed any derogatory effects from such indulgence and was no more distressed than usual from this particular day’s consumption of tobacco.

But between three and four in the morning — the time later verified — a ghastly inner shriek seemed to tear through somnolent consciousness. In despairing horror I wailed to myself:

“I’m dying! I’m dying!”

What told me, I don’t know. Some uncanny instinct had been unleashed in slumber to awaken and warn me. Certainly something was happening to me — something that had never happened in all my life — a physical sensation which I can best describe as a combination of heart attack and apoplexy.

Mind you, I say physical sensation. This was not a dream. I was fully awake and yet I was not.

I knew that something had happened to either my heart or head — or both — in sleep and that my conscious identity was at the play of forces over which it had no control. I was awake, mind you, and whereas I had been on a bed in the dark of a California bungalow when the phenomena started, the next I was plunging down a mystic depth of cool blue space not unlike the bottomless sinking sensation that attends the taking of ether for anesthetic. Queer noises were singing in my ears.

Over and over in a curiously tumbled brain, the thought was preeminent:

“So this is death?”

I aver that in the interval between my seizure and the end of my plunge, I was sufficiently possessed of my physical senses to think: “My dead body may lie in this lonely house for days before anyone discovers it — unless Laska breaks out and brings aid.”

Why I should think that, I also don’t know — or what difference it would have made to me, being the lifeless “remains” — but I remember thinking the thought as distinctly as any thought I ever originated consciously and put on paper in the practice of my vocation.

Next I was whirling madly. Once in 1920 over San Francisco an airplane in which I was passenger went into a tail-spin and we almost fell in the Golden Gate. That feeling! Someone reached out, caught me, stopped me. A calm, clear, friendly voice said close to my ear:

 “Take it easy, old man. Don’t be alarmed. You’re all right. We’re here to help you.”

Someone had hold of me, I said — two persons in fact — one with a hand under the back of my neck, supporting my weight, the other with an arm run under my knees. I was physically flaccid from my “tumble” and unable to open my eyes as yet because of the sting of queer opal light that diffused the place into which I had come.

When I finally managed it, I became conscious that I had been borne to a beautiful marble-slab pallet and laid nude upon it by two strong-bodied, kindly-faced young men in white duck uniforms not unlike those worn by internes in hospitals, who were secretly amused at my confusion and chagrin.

“Feeling better?” the taller of the two asked considerately as physical strength to sit up unaided came to me and I took note of my surroundings.

“Yes,” I stammered. “Where am I?”

They exchanged good-humored glances. “Don’t try to see everything in the first seven minutes,” was all the answer they made me then.

The source of the experience

Pelley, William Dudley

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