Russell, George William - Candle of Vision
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
THE MEMORY OF THE SPIRIT
Yet at times men do not remember, in dream and in the deeps of sleep, they still wear sceptre and diadem and partake of the banquet of the gods. The gods are still living. They are our brothers. They await us. They beckon us to come up to them and sit upon equal thrones. To those who cry out against romance I would say, You yourself are romance. You are the lost prince herding obscurely among the swine. The romance of your spirit is the most marvellous of stories. Your wanderings have been greater than those of Ulysses. You have been Bird of Paradise and free of immensity, and you have been outcast and wingless, huddled under the rocks and despairing of the Heavens. If you will but awaken the inner sight, …, all the lands of Immortal Youth will build themselves up anew for you no longer as fantasy but in vivid actuality. Earth will become magical and sweet as ever. You will be drunken with beauty. You may see the fiery eyes of the Cyclops wandering over the mountains and hear the Bell Branch shaken, the sound that summons the spirit home.
From long pondering I have come to believe in the eternity of the spirit and that it is an inhabitant of many spheres, for I know not how otherwise I can interpret to myself the myriad images that as memories or imaginations cling to it, following it into the body as birds follow the leader in the migratory flock. Looking back on that other life which began to dominate this there are a thousand things I cannot understand except I believe that for myself and for all of us there has been an eternity of being and that many spheres are open to us. If these images are not earth-born, from what land, Elfland, Heaven-world or God-world, do they come? I have chosen but a few images out of many to explain why I think our dreams and visions come often in all completeness into our sphere out of other spheres of being and are not built up from memories of earth. Looking back upon that other life through the vistas of memory I see breaking in upon the images of this world forms of I know not what antiquity. I walk out of strange cities steeped in the jewel glow and gloom of evening, or sail in galleys over the silvery waves of the antique ocean. I reside in tents, or in palace chambers, go abroad in chariots, meditate in cyclopean buildings, am worshipper of the Earth gods upon the mountains, lie tranced in Egyptian crypts, or brush with naked body through the long sunlit grasses of the prairies. Endlessly the procession of varying forms goes back into remote yesterdays of the world. How do these self-conceptions spring up? How are they clothed with the state of ancient civilisations? If when I perceived them they were the newest things in the world, and the images were minted that instant by the imagination, out of what treasury of design came the fitting scenery, the always varied buildings, garments and setting of wood, plain or mountain? Are they not rather, I ask myself, memories of the spirit incarnated many times? And if so, again I ask myself is it only on earth there has been this long ancestry of self?
For there is another self in me which seemed to know not the world but revealed itself to the listening bodily life in cosmic myths, in remote legends of the Children of Darkness and the Children of Light, and of the revolt against heaven. And another self seemed to bring with it vision or memory of elemental beings, the shining creatures of water and wood, or who break out in opalescent colour from the rocks or hold their court beneath the ponderous hills. And there was another self which was akin to the gloomy world of the shades, but recoiled shuddering from them. And there was yet another self which sought out after wisdom, and all these other selves and their wisdom and memories were but tributary to it. The gates of sleep too were often thronged with fleeting presences as I sank into unconsciousness, or was outcast from that innermost being when waking, and I saw but for an instant back into the profundity, and at times it appeared to the imagination as the gate of Eden:
Out of what sphere came that being taller and mightier than human, whose body seemed wrought out of flame and whose eyes had the stillness of an immortal, and who seemed to gaze at me out of eternity as I waked in the night. It was so lofty and above humanity that I seemed to myself to be less than an insect, though something in me cried out to it in brotherhood, and I knew not whether I had fallen from its height, or was a lost comrade lagging far behind in time who should have been equal and companion but was too feeble to rise to such majesty. I know that I have not been alone.