Prisoner in San Quentin
Type of Spiritual Experience
The Star Rover is a novel by American writer Jack London published in 1915. It is fiction but based on a series of interviews that Jack London had with a prisoner in San Quentin – so fact.
The story is told in the first person by Darrell Standing, a university professor serving life imprisonment in San Quentin State Prison for murder. Prison officials try to break his spirit by means of a torture device called "the jacket," a canvas jacket which can be tightly laced so as to compress the whole body. Standing is sensorily deprived as well as befuddled by the pain he experiences and as a result of the torture experiences an out of body state, in which he walks among the stars and experiences portions of past lives.
Each chapter describes a different experience and although the book is supposedly fiction, the wording and power of the language make one feel that behind the fiction is quite a substantial quantity of fact – as was common with London’s writing.
The jacket itself was actually used at San Quentin at the time and Jack London's descriptions of it were based on interviews with a former convict named Ed Morrell. Innocent Ed Morrel spent five years in solitary. Thanks to Jack London, Morrel's case got re-opened and he was subsequently released.
A description of the experience
I trod interstellar space, exalted by the knowledge that I was bound on vast adventure, where, at the end, I would find all the cosmic formulae and have made clear to me the ultimate secret of the universe. In my hand I carried a long glass wand. It was borne in upon me that with the tip of this wand I must touch each star in passing. And I knew, in all absoluteness, that did I but miss one star I should be precipitated into some unplummeted abyss of unthinkable and eternal punishment and guilt.
The source of the experienceOrdinary person
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
Fury, overwhelming rage and anger
Loneliness and isolation