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Observations placeholder

Usborne, Cecil Vivien – A communication from him after his death



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Rosalind Heywood – The Infinite Hive

The meeting was entirely unexpected, and the friend was Vivian Usborne, the naval inventor, who had been kind to me as a youthful VAD in Macedonia, and who was the first person to share my 'obstinate questionings of sense and outward things'.

Since my marriage our lives had scarcely overlapped until in the early 1950s, nearly thirty years later, we found ourselves living within a stone's throw of each other in London.

Then we picked up easily where we had left off; but it was not to be for long as Vivian was soon smitten by a lingering but incurable disease. By now he had come to feel, like me, that at death man snuffed out like a candle, and he lamented bitterly that all the many ideas still simmering in his head would never come to fruition.

I had in honesty to agree with him.

At his funeral I felt nothing but profound relief at his escape from frustration and suffering - and selfish relief, too, that I no longer had to witness it; I had no sense of his presence at all.

About ten days later I went early one morning to get a painting by him which had been given to me. It is perhaps relevant that I was hastening to another appointment in which I was emotionally involved and felt no nostalgic longing for Vivian.

As I hurried into his room to fetch the picture I was shocked by a sickening blast of what I have come to call the smell of death.  I am never quite sure whether this is physical or what a sensitive might call borderline - though he would be hard put to it to tell an investigator what he meant by that.

Then, in staggering contrast (at the time it seemed almost deliberate, but that idea should probably be written off as imagination), I ran slap into 'Vivian' himself, most joyfully and most vividly alive.

I pulled up sharply as one would on running into a friend in the street, and then came an experience which it is extremely hard to describe without sounding either flat and meaningless or over-dramatic.

I felt 'Vivian' communicate inside my mind, and I shut my eyes and stood very still to attend better.

He conveyed in some fashion so intimate that the best word seems to be communion, pretentious though that sounds, that he had been entirely mistaken in expecting extinction at death. On the contrary, he now had scope, freedom and opportunity beyond his wildest dreams. The emphasis was not merely on being alive but on this magnificent expansion of opportunity.

Then I, too, seemed to be caught up into the quality of his situation - but not into its form. I experienced no forms and no images.

For a few moments I stood very still, acutely aware of the striking contrast between the smell of death and Vivian’s intensity of life - it was as if they were in a different order of things - and then I remembered my duty and 'said' to him,

'This is wonderful, but you've given me no evidence. What can I say to the SPR?'

(I hope …. I will have made it clear that 'said' is far too remote a word to use for this intimate kind of united awareness. It feels, as Gilbert Murray said of his own telepathic experience, like a kind of co-sensitivity.)

'Vivian's’ response to my question was emphatic and immediate.

 'I cannot give you evidence. You have no concepts for these conditions. I can only give you poetic images.’

At that, far, far above me, I saw - with the inner eye – an immense pair of white wings flying in a limitless blue sky.

Though at first an image of such Victorian obviousness seems absurd, it was in fact an entirely apt expression of the scope, opportunity and freedom into which for a few moments I felt caught up. But it was only for a few moments. I quickly became aware that I could not hold the absorbed state which contact with 'Vivian' demanded and very soon had to say reluctantly, 'Goodbye, I must drop now.'

Then I dropped - down to the empty room and the smell of Death.

The source of the experience

Usborne, Cecil Vivian

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Science Items

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