Unbelievable for Many, but a True Occurrence (Part II)


XI

"Agony," I heard this word pronounced over me by the doctor.

Since I did not speak, being completely concentrated within myself, and my glance expressed a complete absence of affect in relation to the surrounding world, the doctors evidently decided that I was in an unconscious state and spoke about me audibly without restraint. But meanwhile, I not only excellently understood all, but it was impossible for me not to think and observe to a certain degree.

"Agony, death!" I thought, having heard the words of the doctor. "Am I really dying?" Turning to myself, I spoke out loud; but how? Why? I cannot explain this.

I suddenly remembered a learned discourse dealing with the question of whether or not death is painful, which I once read long ago, and, having closed my eyes, I examined myself with regard to what was taking place in me at the time.

No, I felt no physical pain whatsoever, but undoubtedly I was suffering. I felt heavy within and weary. What was this from? I knew of what sickness I was dying; what was the case here, was the edema choking me, or was it depressing the activity of the heart and this was making me weary? I do not know. Perhaps such was the explanation of my oncoming death according to the ideas of those people, of the world, which now was so alien and remote from me. I, however, only felt an insurmountable striving towards somewhere, an attraction towards something concerning which I already have spoken.

And I felt that this attraction increased with each moment, that I already had just, just about come very close, almost in contact with that magnet which was attracting me, which if I should touch, would cause me with my whole body to become fused with it, to grow into one with it in such a manner that no force would then be capable of separating me from it, and the more strongly I felt the proximity of this moment, the more fearful and depressed I became, and this was so because I simultaneously felt a resistance to this with increasing clarity, I felt more clearly that I as a whole could not unite, that something had to separate within me, and that this something was striving away from the unknown object of attraction with the same intensity that the something else in me was striving towards it. It was this struggle that caused me weariness, suffering.

XII

The meaning of the word "agony," which I heard, was entirely understood by me, but now everything in me somehow turned away from my relationships, feelings and extended to my conceptions inclusively.

Without doubt, if I had heard this word even at the time when the three doctors were examining me, I would have been frightened to an alarming degree. Likewise, if such a strange turn had not taken place in my sickness, if I remained in the ordinary state of a sick man, even at the present moment, knowing that death is approaching, I would have understood and explained all that had taken place with me differently; but in the present state the words of the doctor only surprised me, not having aroused that feeling of fear which is characteristic of people who are thinking about death, and I gave an entirely unexpected, in comparison with my previous conceptions, interpretation to that state which I was experiencing

"Well now, so that's what it is! It is the earth that is drawing me so," suddenly it dawned on me. "That is to say, not me, but that which belongs to her, that which she let me have for a period of time. And is the earth drawing it, or is matter itself trying to return to her?"

And that which previously seemed so natural and true, and namely, that after death I should turn completely to dust, now appeared unnatural and impossible.

"No, I as a whole shall not disappear, I cannot," I almost screamed out loud, and made an attempt to free myself, to tear myself from that force which was attracting me, and suddenly I felt a calm within myself.

I opened my eyes, and everything that I saw in the course of that minute, down to the slightest details, registered in my memory with complete clarity.

I saw that I was standing alone within a room; to the right of me, standing about something in a semi-circle, the whole medical staff was crowded together: having put his hands behind himself and gazing intently at something which I was unable to see due to their figures, stood the head physician; behind him, slightly bent forward — the younger physician; the old assistant doctor, holding a bag of oxygen in his hands, with indecision shifted from one leg to the other, evidently not knowing what to do with his apparatus, either to bear it away, or not to do so, since it could still be of use; and the young doctor, having bent down, was supporting something, but due to his shoulder, only the pillows were able to be seen by me.

This group struck me with surprise: at the place where they were standing there was a bed. What was it that drew the attention of these people, what were they looking at, when I already was not there, when I was standing in the midst of the room?

I moved forward and looked where they all were looking:

There on the bed I was lying.


XIII

I do not have any recollection of experiencing anything like fear when seeing my double; I only was perplexed: how can this be? I feel myself here, and at the same time I am there also.

I looked at myself standing in the midst of the room. Why this without doubt was me, exactly the same as I always knew myself to be.

I wanted to touch myself, to take the left hand by the right: my hand went right through; I tried to grasp myself at the waist — my hand again went through my body as through empty space.

Struck by such a strange phenomenon, I wanted that some one nearby should help me understand what I at was happening and, having made several steps, I extended my hand, desiring to touch the shoulder of the doctor; but I felt that I was walking strangely, not feeling contact with the floor; and my hand, no matter how I tried, could not reach the figure of the doctor. Only perhaps a few inches of space remained, but I was not able to touch him.

I made an effort to stand firmly on the floor, but, although my body obeyed my attempts and lowered itself, yet it could not reach the floor just as the figure of the doctor was not able to be reached before. Here also an insignificant amount of space remained, but I could in no way overcome it.

And I vividly remembered how several days ago the nurse of our ward, desiring to guard my medicine from becoming spoiled, lowered a vial containing it into a pitcher of cold water. However, there was much water in the jug and immediately the light vial was buoyed up; but the old nurse, not understanding what had taken place, persistently tried one, two, and three times to lower it down to the bottom of the pitcher and even held it down with her finger in the hope that it eventually would remain there. But hardly had she removed her finger, than it again would be carried upwards to the surface.

Evidently in a similar manner, the surrounding air must have become too dense for me, for present me.

XIV

What happened to me?

I called the doctor, but the atmosphere in which I was found turned out to be entirely unfit for me; it did not receive and transmit the sounds of my voice, and I understood myself to be in a state of utter dissociation from all that was about me. I understood my strange state of solitude, and a feeling of panic came over me. There really was something inexpressibly horrible in this extraordinary solitude. If a person becomes lost in a forest, is drowning in the depths of the sea, caught in a fire, sitting in solitary confinement — he never loses hope that he will be heard. He knows that he will be understood if his call for help is carried to somebody's hearing; he understands that another living being sees him, that the guard will walk into his casemate, and he will be able to start speaking with him, express what he desires and the other will understand him.

But to see people about oneself, to hear and understand their conversation, and at the same time know that no matter what happens to you, you have no opportunity whatsoever of informing them of your presence and of expecting help if in need — from such a state of solitude my hairs stood on end, the mind became torpid. It was worse than being on an uninhabited island, because there at least nature would have manifested positive signs of receptivity of one's individuality; but here, in this one deprivation of the capacity to associate with the surrounding world, as an unnatural experience for a human being, in it there was so much deathly fear, such a horrible acknowledgment of helplessness, which one is neither able to experience in any other situation nor convey in words.

I, of course, did not give in at once; I attempted in all possible ways and tried to make my presence known, but these attempts only brought me complete despair. Is it really possible that they don't see me? — I thought with despair and repeatedly approached the group of people standing over my bed, but none of them turned around or paid attention to me, and now I looked at myself with perplexity, not understanding how it was possible for them not to see me, when I was the same as I had always been. I made an attempt to touch myself, and my hand again only passed through air.

"But I am not a ghost. I feel and am conscious of myself, and my body is a real body, and not some kind of delusive ‘mirage,’" I thought, and again looked at myself intently and became convinced that my body really was a body, because I could observe it and see its minutest details, even a dot, with complete clarity. Its external appearance remained the same as it had been previously, but evidently its qualities changed. It became inaccessible to touch, and the surrounding air became too dense for it so that complete contact with objects was not possible.

"An astral body. It seems that is what it is called?" the thought flashed through my mind. "But why, what has happened to me?" I asked myself, trying to remember if I ever had heard descriptions of such states, of strange transfigurations in sickness.


XV

"No, you cannot do anything here! Everything is finished," the young doctor said, waving his hand in a hopeless manner, and went away from the bed on which was lying the other me.

I felt inexpressibly vexed, that they continue to reason and fuss over that me which I completely did not feel, which did not exist for me, and were leaving without attention the other real me, which is conscious of everything and being tormented by the fear of obscurity, seeks, demands their help.

"Is it possible that they will not find out. Is it possible that they do not understand that I am not there?" With disappointment I thought and, walking up to the bed, I looked at that me, which at the expense of my real me, attracted the attention of the people in the ward.

I glanced, and here only for the first time the thought emerged: is it possible that that which has happened to me, in our language, in the language of living people, is defined by the word "death"?

This occurred to me because the body lying on the bed had all the appearances of a corpse: without any movement, not breathing, the face covered with a kind of pallor, with firmly compressed, slightly cyanotic lips, it vividly reminded me of all the deceased that I had ever seen. It may seem strange at first, that only in seeing my lifeless body I comprehended what really had happened to me, but if one carefully considers and thoroughly perceives that which I felt and experienced, such a strange, on first sight, perplexity on my part becomes understandable. With our understanding of the word "death" there is inextricably bound the idea of some kind of destruction, a cessation of life, how could I think that I died when I did not lose self-consciousness for one moment, when I felt myself just as alive, hearing all, seeing all, conscious of all, capable of movement, thought, speech? Of what deterioration could there be any consideration here, when I splendidly saw myself, and at the same time even acknowledged the strangeness of my state? Even the words of the doctor, that "all is over" did not draw my attention and did not call forth a guess concerning that which had taken place — to such a great extent did that which took place with me differ from our conceptions of death!

The dissociation from everything about me, the split in my personality more than anything could have made me understand that which had taken place, if I should have believed in the existence of a soul, if I were religious; but this was not the case and I was guided solely by that which I felt, and the sensation of life was so clear, that I only was perplexed with the strange phenomenon, being completely unable to link my feelings with the traditional conception of death, that is to say, while sensing and being conscious of myself, to think that I do not exist.

Subsequently I often had the opportunity of hearing from religious people, that is to say, those not negating the existence a soul and after-life, the following opinion or supposition: that as soon as the soul of man has shuffled off its corruptible flesh, it immediately becomes a kind of an all-knowing essence, that for it there is nothing unknown, and it is astonishing how in the new realm of reality, in the new form of existence, that it not only immediately enters into the field of new laws which are revealed to it by the new world and its own changed state of being, but that all this is so akin to it, that this transition is like a return to a real homeland, a return to its natural state. Such a supposition is founded mainly on the idea that the soul is a spirit, and those limitations do not present themselves for the spirit that exist for the physical part of man.

XVI

Such a hypothesis, of course, is entirely untrue.

From what has been described above, the reader sees that I arrived in this new world essentially the same as I had left it, that is to say, with practically the very same capacities, conceptions and knowledge which I had while living on earth.

For example, when I wanted somehow to make my presence known, I had recourse to those means which are commonly used in these cases by all live people; that is to say, I called, approached, tried to touch or push someone; having noticed a new quality of my body I felt it to be strange: consequently, my previous conceptions remained in me; otherwise it would not have seemed strange to me, — and desiring to become convinced in the existence of my body, I again had recourse to the usual method that I had been accustomed to in these cases as an earthly human.

Even after having understood that I had died, I did not grasp by means of some kind of new means the change which had taken place within me, and, being perplexed, I either called my body "astral," or before my attention there emerged the following idea, was not the first man ever to be created given such a body. And later, with the fall of his leathern sacerdotal vestment, which is mentioned in the Bible, is this not that corruptible body, which is now lying in bed and would in a short time change to dust? In short, desiring to understand what had taken place with me, I proposed such explanations which were known and accessible to me according to my mundane conceptions.

And this was to be expected. The soul of course is spirit, but spirit is created for life with the body; therefore in what way can the body be anything like a prison for it, some kind of bonds that chain it to some supposedly unrelated form of existence?

No, the body is a lawful dwelling place that has been, as it were, placed at the disposal of the spirit, and therefore it will appear in the other world at that level of its development and perfection, which it had attained during its joint existence with the body, in the lawfully established form of its existence. Of course, if during life a person was spiritually developed, spiritually disposed, then his soul will feel more related and things will therefore appear more understandable in this new world than that of the soul of the person who lived never thinking of the other world, and while the first will be in a position, so to say, of reading these, even though not rapidly and not without mistakes, the second, similar to my case, has to begin from the rudiments. Time is needed in order to understand both that fact which it never had thought about, and that actual realm in which it now finds itself and where it never drifted mentally during earthly existence.

Afterwards in recalling and thinking over my state of being at the time, I noticed only that my mental capacities functioned with such striking energy and swiftness, that it seemed not the slightest trace of time remained after I had made the exertion to comprehend, compare or remember something. Hardly had something appeared before me when my memory, immediately penetrating into the past, would dig up all the slightest bits of knowledge concerning a given subject which were carelessly lying about and forgotten; and that which at another time would doubtlessly have aroused a feeling of perplexity, now appeared as if it were quite apparent. At times, by virtue of some infusion of power, I even guessed beforehand that which was unknown to me; but this nevertheless not before it actually appeared before my eyes. And it was only this latter condition that turned out to be the outstanding quality of my capacities, besides those other, as it were, expected changes which resulted from my altered state of being.

XVII

I am now proceeding with the narration of the further circumstances in my unbelievable occurrence.

Unbelievable! But if up until now it has seemed unbelievable, then these further circumstances will appear as such "naive" stories before the eyes of my learned readers, that it would not be worth relating them; but perhaps for those who should want to view my narration differently, the naiveté itself and scantiness of the material presented will serve as proof of its veracity; because if I were making up this narration — imagining it — then such a wide field opens up for one's fantasia here that, of course, I could have thought up something more subtle and effective.

Now then, what further took place with me? The doctors, walked out of the ward, both assistant doctors were standing about and trying to explain the stages of my illness and death, and the old nurse turned to the ikon, crossed herself and audibly expressed the accepted wish in such cases:

"May he inherit the kingdom of heaven, eternal peace to him."

And hardly had she uttered these words, than two Angels appeared at my side; for some reason in one of them I recognized my Guardian Angel, but the other was unknown to me.**

Having taken me by the arms, the Angels carried me right through the wall of the ward into the street.

b

It already had grown dark. Snow was silently falling in large flakes. I saw this, but the cold and in general the difference in temperature between the room and outside I did not feel. Evidently these like phenomena lost their significance for my changed body. We began to quickly ascend. And the degree to which we had ascended, the increasingly greater became the expanse of space that was revealed before our eyes. And finally it took on such terrifyingly vast proportions that I was seized with a fear from the realization of my insignificance in comparison to this desert of infinity. Here also certain peculiarities of my vision became apparent to me. Firstly, it was dark and I saw everything clearly in the dark; consequently my vision received the capacity of seeing in the dark; secondly, I was able to include in the field of my vision such a vast expanse of space, which undoubtedly I would not have been able to do with my ordinary vision. And at the time I was not conscious of these peculiarities, but, that I did not see everything, that no matter how broad the field of my vision was. Nevertheless a limit existed for it. This I understood very clearly and was terrified by it. Yes, to what a great extent is it characteristic for man to give a permanent kind of value to his individuality: I recognized myself to be so very unimportant, a meaningless atom, the appearance and disappearance of which would of course remain unnoticed in this limitless space, but instead of finding some kind of consolation in this, a kind of security became frightened ... that I could get lost, that this unbounded vastness would swallow me up like a sorry particle of dust. A most wonderful rebuttal by an insignificant particle of the common (as some think) law of destruction, and an outstanding manifestation of man's acknowledgment of his immortality, of the eternal state of being of his individuality!

XIX

The conception of time was absent in my mental state at this time, and I do not know how long we were moving upwards, when suddenly there was heard at first an indistinct noise. And following this, having emerged from somewhere, with shrieks and rowdy laughter, a throng of some hideous beings began rapidly to approach us.

"Evil Spirits!" — I suddenly comprehended and appraised with unusual rapidity that resulted from the horror I experienced at that time, a horror of a special kind and until then never before experienced by me. Evil spirits! O, how much irony, how much of the most sincere kind of laughter this would have aroused in me but a few days ago. Even a few hours ago somebody's report, not only that he saw evil spirits with his own eyes, but only that he believed in their existence as in something fundamentally real, would have aroused a similar reaction! As was proper for an "educated" man at the close of the nineteenth century, I understood this to mean foolish inclinations, passions in a human being and that is why the very word itself had for me not the significance of a name, but a term which defined a certain abstracted conception. And suddenly this "certain abstracted conception" appeared before me as a living personification. Even up to the present time I am not able to say how and why at that time, without the slightest trace of doubt, I recognized evil spirits to be present in that ugly sight. Undoubtedly only because such a designation of it was completely outside of the normal order of things and logic, for if a similar hideous sight appeared before me at another time, undoubtedly I would have said that it was some kind of fiction personified, an abnormal caprice of one's imagination. In short, everything else but in no way, of course, would I have called it a name by which I would have meant something which cannot be seen. But at the time, this designation of its nature took place with such rapidity, that seemingly there was no need to think about it, as if I had seen that which already was well known to me long ago; and since, as I already have explained, at that time my mental capacities functioned with such incomprehensible intensity, I therefore comprehended just as rapidly that the ugly outward appearance of these beings was not their real exterior; that this was some kind of an abominable show which was probably conceived with the purpose of frightening me to a greater degree; and for a moment something similar to pride stirred within me. I then felt ashamed of myself, for man in general, because in order to arouse fear in man, a being who thinks so much of himself, other forms of being have recourse to such methods which we ourselves use with respect to small children.

Having surrounded us on all sides, with shrieks and rowdy sounds the evil spirits demanded that I be given over to them, they tried somehow to seize and tear me away from the Angels, but evidently did not dare to do this. In the midst of their rowdy howling, unimaginable and just as repugnant to one's hearing as their sight was for my eyes, I sometimes caught up words and whole phrases.

"He is ours: he has renounced God," they suddenly cried out almost in unison. And here they lunged at us with such boldness that for a moment fear froze the flow of all thought in my mind.

"That is a lie! That is untrue!" Coming to myself I wanted to shout, but an obliging memory bound my tongue. In some way unknown to me, I suddenly recalled such a slight, insignificant occurrence, which in addition was related to so remote a period of my youth that, it seems, I in no way could have been able to recall it to mind.

XX

I recalled how during my years of study, once having gathered at my friend's, after having spoken about school studies, we passed over to discussing various abstract and elevated topics — conversations which often were carried on by us.

"Generally speaking, I don't like abstractions," says one of my comrades, "but here you already have absolute impossibility. I am able to believe in some kind of power of nature which, let us say, has not been investigated. That is to say, I can allow for its existence, even when not seeing its clear cut, definite manifestations, because it may be very insignificant or combined in its effects with other powers, and for this reason difficult to grasp; but to believe in God, as a Being, individual and omnipotent, to believe — when I do not anywhere see clear manifestations of this Individuality — this already becomes absurd. I am told: believe. But why must I believe, when I am equally able to believe that there is no God. Why, is it not true? Is it also not possible that He does not exist?" Now my comrade turned to me for support.

"Maybe not," I let escape from my lips.

This phrase was in the full sense of the word an "idle statement": the unreasonable talk of my friend could not have aroused within me a doubt in the existence of God. I did not particularly listen to his talking; and now it turned out that this idle statement of mine did not disappear without leaving a trace in the air, I had to justify myself, to defend myself from the accusation that was directed against me, and in such a manner the New Testament statement was verified in practice: We really shall have to give an account for all our idle words, if not by the Will of God, Who sees the secrets of man's heart, then by the anger of the enemy of salvation.

This accusation evidently was the strongest argument that the evil spirits had for my perdition. They seemed to derive new strength in this for the daring of their attacks on me, and now with furious bellowing they spun about us, preventing us from going any further.

I recalled a prayer and began praying, appealing for help to those Holy Ones whose names I knew and whose names came to mind. But this did not frighten my enemies. A sad ignorant Christian only in name, I now, it seems, almost for the first time in my life remembered Her, Who is called the Intercessor for Christians.


And evidently my appeal to Her was intense. Evidently my soul was filled with terror, that hardly had I remembered and pronounced Her name, when about us there suddenly appeared a kind of white mist which soon began to enfold within itself the ugly throng of evil spirits. It concealed them from my eyes before they could withdraw from us. Their bellowing and cackling was still heard for a long while, but according to how it gradually weakened in intensity and became more dull, I was able to judge that the terrible pursuit was gradually being left behind.

Source: https://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/unbelievable_but_true.htm



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