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Observations placeholder

Youmans, Dr Edward Livingstone - Hearing celestial music



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Light (1893, page 161).

The sensitive percipient is a prominent man in the field of American mechanical science, who enjoys national fame in the United States and who was the friend of the great philosopher Herbert Spencer. The fact is narrated by Mrs. Hester Poole in the following terms:

About six years ago, the gentleman in question, who authorized me to present his case in this review, began to perceive musical notes and chords of an absolutely exquisite melodic nature. He is passionate about the art of music, which is his main hobby, in the midst of the intense occupations that engulf him. He heard all the best singers and the best orchestras of the Old World. Despite this, the subjective harmonies he has perceived over the past six years surpass in beauty any earthly musical hearing he has ever attended or been able to conceive. They are preceded by long, soft chords that seem to be played by a cornet.

Then new instrument and then others gradually weave their harmonies into the concert, until the complex and marvellous volume of the musical flow creeps in and dominates the senses of the percipient to such an extent that it feels close to syncope.

He felt as if ecstatic, and intuitively understood that, if this state continued beyond a certain limit, the soul would exile itself forever from the body, removed on the enchanting stream of these harmonies of paradise. This music cannot even be compared to that of this world, although, as a whole, its tone is close to that of the cello and the organ. The melodies are always high, noble, majestic, beyond all that can be said and have some analogy with sacred music.

They are never cheerful, and even less vulgar; only, sometimes, by the richness and volume of the sounds, they recall a little certain scenes of the great opera. As soon as the transcendental orchestra has preluded with a series of chords, a chorus of wonderful voices, both male and female, comes into play. Sometimes solos are heard; other times they are duets, or choral lines, of male and female voices.

In some cases, it is a tenor's voice, very soft, that leads and moves. The percipient puts it this way: "I've never heard anything like this before. It's a voice I would recognize anywhere."

This music, although subjective, reached him in a sudden and unexpected way, as would happen with terrestrial music. It is usually of very short duration. Once it had lasted longer than usual, the percipient almost felt himself dying, because it generated a state of ecstasy unbearable for a mortal fibre. He got up, walked, climbed the stairs, left his house, trying in different ways to free himself from the ecstatic fascination; but the music followed him everywhere, from time to time, throughout the whole day. He expresses himself as follows: "The air seemed saturated with music, which overcame all the other noises; invading infinite space; it seemed incredible to me that the others did not perceive it".

When he sometimes perceives transcendental music, his face lights up and seems glorified; the world no longer exists for him. At that moment, he is nothing more than a bundle of sensory nerves, in which the harmonies are reflected that have sprung from the "Great Artist of the Universe", and which palpitate eternally in the interstellar spaces. Most of us, poor creatures dominated by the earthly senses, are only able to grasp the dissonances of the fragmentary chords that reach us, while he palpitates in unison with the rhythm of the Universe. At first my friend thought he was the victim of a kind of self-hypnosis phenomenon; but little by little and for different reasons, he convinced himself that on these occasions he was indeed entering into relation with the spiritual spheres from which all harmony comes.

During the evening preceding the one in which I wrote this story, I was talking with him, when I realized that he had momentarily lost all consciousness of himself: his eyes closed, his virile and severe features had taken an ecstatic expression. We all understood that he listened to those divine harmonies that very few mortals are capable of perceiving. I took his hand, seeing that a very sensitive tremor was shaking his whole body. We quickly helped him to come out of this kind of syncope; as soon as he woke up, he asked us, "Didn't you hear it? I thought you should have heard it this time. It seemed to have invaded the entire universe."

In recent times he has also become clairvoyant; matter fades and disappears on its own. Then his vision wanders freely in the universe and sees an infinite panorama, illuminated by a golden light, populated by angelic forms dressed with long floating peplums and having luminous faces. These are the celestial performers of transcendental music that he perceives...

A few months ago, he and two of his friends went to visit Mrs Hollis-Billing. This lady, whose salon is a meeting place for intellectual and refined people, possesses remarkable medium faculties. When the circumstances are favourable, she manages to obtain the phenomenon of the "direct voice". That evening, however, the psychic personality who controls Mrs. Hollis-Billing manifested itself by speaking with an "independent voice." Only one of those present knew the clairauditive faculties possessed by my friend. Despite this, "Ski" psychic personality immediately revealed the secret, addressing him with these words:

Do you know who is the one who sings to you with such a sweet tenor's voice?

My friend, surprised and astonished, replied:

- No; and can you tell me?

- Yes; he is an Italian musician called Porpora. He often tried to make the living perceive his song, but always in vain; you are the only one with whom he succeeded...

The next day, my friend consulted some biographical dictionaries of musicians and found that in the seventeenth century an eminent composer and tenor, called precisely Porpora, had lived. It seems that he is known even today by people who enjoy classical music...

Having reproduced this account, I note in passing that Mrs. Hollis-Billing is the same medium with which, twenty years earlier, Dr. Wolfe had obtained wonderful phenomena of materialization and "direct voice", which he recounted in his volume entitled Startling Facts in Modern Spiritualism.


The source of the experience

Youmans, Dr Edward Livingstone

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps