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


XXI

The feeling of fear that I experienced took hold of me so completely that I was not even conscious of whether we had been continuing our flight during this terrible meeting or whether it stopped us for awhile. I realized that we were moving, that we were continuing to move upward only when the infinite expanse of space again spread itself before me.

Having passed through some of its distance, I saw a bright light above me, it resembled, as it seemed to me, our sunlight, but was much more intense. There, evidently, is some kind of kingdom of light.

"Yes, namely a kingdom, full of the power of light," guessing by means of a special kind of feeling yet not understood by me, I thought. Because there was no shade with this light. "But how can there be light without shade?" Immediately my perplexed conceptions made their appearance.

And suddenly we were quickly carried into the field of this light, and it literally blinded me. I shut my eyes, brought the hands up to my face, but this did not help since my hands did not give shade. And what did the like protection mean here anyway?

"My God, what is this, what kind of light is this? Why for me it is like regular darkness! I cannot look, and as in darkness, can see nothing," I implored, comparing my earthly vision to that of my present state, and forgetting, or perhaps even not realizing that now such a comparison was of no use here, that now I could see even in the dark.

This incapacity to see, to look, increased in me the fear before the unknown, natural in this state of being found in a world unknown to me, and with alarm I thought: "What will come next? Shall we soon pass this sphere of light, and is there a limit to it, an end?"

But some thing different happened. Majestically, without wrath, but authoritatively and firmly, the words resounded from above: "Not ready!"

And after that thereafter an immediate stop came to our rapid flight upward — we quickly began to descend.

But before we left this realm, I was endowed with the capacity to learn of one most wonderful phenomenon.

Hardly had the said words resounded from above when everything in that world it seems, each particle of dust, each slightest atom, responded to these words with their accord, as though a multimillion echo repeated them in a tongue unable to be perceived by hearing, but perceived and understood by the heart and mind, expressing its unison with the decision so decreed. And in this unity of will there was such wonderful harmony, and in this harmony so much inexpressible, exalted happiness, before which all our earthly charms and raptures appeared like a gloomy day without sunlight. This multimillion echo resounded in the form of an inimitable musical chord, and one's whole soul extended out towards it, wholly responding to it in a state devoid, of any cares and in an ardent transport of zeal to be at one with this omnipresent, most wonderful harmony.


XXII

I did not understand the real sense of the words that were directed to me, that is to say, I did not understand that I had to return to earth and again live just as previously. I thought that I was being carried to some other different parts, and a feeling of timid protest stirred within when before me. At first as hazily as in a morning mist, the outlines of a city were denoted before me, and following this, streets well known to me also became clearly visible.

Here I saw the building of the hospital which was known to me. Exactly in the same manner as before, through the walls of the building and closed doors, I was carried into a room completely unknown to me. In this room there stood a row of tables which were coated with dark paint; and on one of them, covered over with something white, I saw myself lying, or more correctly, my dead, stiff body.

Not far from my table some gray haired small old man in a brown jacket, moving a bent wax candle along the lines of large type, read the Psalter, and on the other side, on a black bench that stood against the wall, sat my sister who evidently had been notified of my death and already had arrived, and beside her, bent over and quietly saying something — her husband.

"Have you heard the decision of God?" leading me up to table, my Guardian Angel, who hitherto had not spoken, addressed me. And after that pointing with his hand to my dead body, said: "Enter and prepare yourself."

And following this, both Angels became invisible.

XXIII

I recall with complete clarity how and what happened to me after these words.

At first I felt as though something pressed close about me; after this followed the sensation of unpleasant cold, and the return of this capacity (which was absent in me just before this) of feeling such things, vividly brought back to life the conception of my previous life. A feeling of deep mourning came over me, as though I had lost something (I shall further note here, that this feeling has always remained with me after the above described occurrence).

The desire to return to my previous form of life, although up until now there was nothing especially sorrowful in it, did not once stir in me; in no way was I drawn to it, nothing in it attracted me.

Reader, have you ever had the occasion to see a photograph that had been lying for a considerable amount of time in a damp place? The image on it was preserved but faded from dampness, moldy, and in place of a definite beautiful image, one has a kind of continuous light gray murkiness. In like manner life here has become faded for me, appears like a kind of monotonous and watery picture, and appears so to my eyes even up to the present time.

How and why I suddenly felt this I do not know; but one thing is certain: it in no way had any attraction for me. The horror that I experienced earlier concerning my separation from the surrounding world, now, due to some reason, lost its strange significance for me. For example, I saw my sister and understood that I could not associate with her, but this in no way disturbed me. I was content with seeing her and knowing all about her. Unlike previously, I even did not have the desire to somehow announce my presence.

And besides, this was not my main concern. The feeling of being compressed from all sides caused me ever-increasing suffering. It seemed to me that I was being squeezed between pliers, and this sensation increased with time. On my part, I did not remain passive. Whether I did something, whether I struggled trying to free myself of it, or whether I made no exertion to free myself, to cope with and overcome it — I am not able to ascertain. I only remember that I felt a sensation of ever-increasing tightness about me, and, finally, I lost consciousness.


XXIV

When I recovered consciousness, I already found myself lying on a bed in a hospital ward.

Opening my eyes, I saw myself surrounded by almost a whole crowd of inquisitive people, or otherwise speaking: faces that were observing me with strained attention.

At my bedside the head physician sat on a tabouret which had been moved over towards my bed, trying to preserve his usual air of grandeur. His posture and manner seemed to say that all this was only a common occurrence, and that there was nothing astonishing about it; but at the same time, tense attention and confusion could be seen in his eyes which were fixed upon me.

The younger doctor — he, of course, without any reserve whatsoever literally fastened himself on to me with his eyes, as though trying to penetrate right through me.

At the foot of my bed, dressed in mourning habit and with a pale, excited countenance, stood my sister, and next to her, my brother-in-law; from behind my sister the comparatively calmer face of the hospital sick-nurse; and still further behind her, the completely frightened physiognomy of our young assistant surgeon was visible.

Recovering myself completely I first of all greeted my sister. She quickly came over, embraced me and started to cry.

"Well, dear fellow, you certainly gave us a scare!" the younger doctor spoke with that impatience to share as soon as possible the extraordinary impressions and observations which is characteristic of youthfulness. "If you only knew what took place with you!"

"Why, I recall all that took place with me," I said.

"How is that? Is it possible that you did not lose consciousness?"

"Apparently not!"

"This is very, even extremely strange," he said, glancing at the head physician. "It is strange because you were lying like a real lifeless stalk, without the slightest signs of life, nowhere even a slight hint of life, not the slightest hint of it. How is it possible to preserve consciousness in such a state?"

"Evidently though, it is possible, since I both saw and was conscious of everything."

"As far as seeing is concerned, you could see nothing, but to hear and feel. And did you really hear and understand everything? You heard how they washed and dressed you . . . ?"

"No, I did not feel anything like that. In general, I was, completely insensitive to my body."

"How can this be? You say you remember everything that took place with respect to yourself, but that you did not feel anything?"

"I say, that I did not feel only that which was done with my body, being under the strong influence of that which was being experienced at the time," I said, thinking that such a kind of explanation was entirely sufficient for understanding that which was said by me.

"Well?" ... said the doctor, seeing that I stopped here.

Here I faltered for a moment, not knowing what else was required of me. It seemed that everything was so clear, and I again only repeated:

"I told you that I only did not feel my body, and therefore everything in relation to it. Now then, my body — it is not my whole self, is it? Why it was not my whole self that was lying there like a stalk. The rest of me lived and continued to function within me," I said further. I thought that that division or, more truly, divisibility in my individuality which now was more apparent to me than a day of God, was just as apparent to those people to whom I addressed my words.

Evidently I still had not entirely returned to my former life, did not carry myself over to their point of view, and in speaking of that which I now knew and felt, I did not understand that my words would almost seem like a delirium of an insane man to those who themselves had not experienced the like and who discarded it as being untrue.


XXV

The younger doctor still wanted to reply or ask me something, but the head physician made a sign for or him to leave me alone. I do not really know why, whether this quietude was actually necessary for me, or because from my words he concluded that my mind was still not in order, and therefore there was no purpose to reason with me.

Having become convinced that the organic mechanism of my body had come into more or less proper condition, they listened to me through the stethoscope. There was no edema in the lungs. After this, having given me, as I recall, a cup of bouillon to drink, everybody withdrew from the ward except for my sister, who was allowed to remain with me for still a longer period of time.

Apparently they thought that my being reminded of that which had taken place could only have arouse anxiety in me, causing all kinds of terrible conjectures and possibilities to arise in my mind, such as being buried alive and the like. All those who were about me avoided talking with me about this. Only the young doctor was an exception and did not conduct himself with this reserve.

Evidently he was extremely interested in that which had taken place with me; and several times in the course of the day he would run up to me, either simply to glance at me and see how things were, or to pose some question that would come to his mind. At times he would come alone, and sometimes he would even bring some friend, in most cases a student, in order to look at a man who had been in the morgue.

On the third or fourth day, apparently finding me sufficiently strong, or, perhaps, simply having simply lost patience to wait longer, he came into my ward in the evening and let himself into a more a prolonged conversation with me.

Having felt my pulse for a while, he said:

"Amazing. All these days your pulse has been completely even, without any irregularities or deviations, but if you only knew what took place with you! A miracle, that is only what it could have been!"

At this time I already had become accustomed to myself as an earthly being, entered the frame of my previous life, and came to understand the whole extraordinariness of that which had taken place with me. I also understood that only I knew about it, and that those miracles which the doctor spoke of were in their conception only a type of external manifestation of that which had actually taken place with me, from the medical standpoint some type of hitherto not understood pathological rarity, and I asked:

"When did these miracles take place with me? Before my coming back to life?"

"Yes, before you recovered. I do not speak only for myself. I have only little experience, and up until now have never even seen a case of lethargy; but no matter to which of the old physicians I tell this, all become astounded, and imagine, to that extent, that they refuse to believe my words.

"I think you know, and besides, it is not necessary to know. It is self-evident: that when a person goes through even a simple fainting spell, all organs at first function very weakly. It is hardly possible to perceive a pulse, breathing is completely imperceptible, one does not hear the heart beat. But with you something unimaginable took place: the lungs suddenly began puffing, like gigantic bellows, the heart began knocking like a hammer against an anvil. No, one just can not put this into words. One should have seen it. You see, there was in you a type of state resembling a volcano before its eruption. One feels chills pass over one's back, and it became frightening to those standing by. It seemed yet one more moment and there would not even be pieces of you left, because no organism can withstand such intense activity.

"Hmm . . . . it is no wonder then that I lost consciousness before recovering consciousness" — I thought.

And likewise, before the doctor's report, I continued to be in a state of perplexity and did not know how to explain that strange — as it then seemed to me — condition, that when I was dying, that is to say, when all was gradually leaving me, I did not for a moment lose consciousness, but when I had come back to life, I went into a fainting spell. Now this became clear to me: when dying, although I also had the sensation of being pressed in from all sides, at the moment of extreme agony, it resolved itself through my having cast away from myself that which was causing this; but apparently the soul alone is incapable of fainting. However, when it was necessary for me to again return to this life, I, on the contrary, had to take upon myself that which was subject to all physical suffering, including fainting.


XXVI

In the meantime, the doctor continued:

"And do not forget, this is not after some kind of fainting spell, but after a thirty-six hour lethargy! You can judge concerning the power of this process by the fact that at the time you were like a frozen stalk, and following 15-20 minutes your members already took on flexibility, and in an hour even your extremities were warm. Why, this is unbelievable, like out of a make-believe story. And, so when I relate it, they refuse to believe me."

"And do you know, doctor, why this happened so extraordinarily?" I said.

"Why?"

"Do you, according to your medical concepts, under the classification of lethargy, understand to mean something similar to a fainting fit?"

"Yes, but only to the most extreme degree . . ."

"Well, then it follows, that I was not in lethargy."

"What then?"

"It follows from this, that I actually died and returned back, to life. If here there was only a weakening of life function in the organism, then, of course, it would have been restored without the "upheaval" that took place; but since it was necessary for my body to prepare in an extraordinary manner to receive my soul, then all the members also had to work extraordinarily.

The doctor listened to me attentively at each second, but following this his face took on an expression of indifference.

"Why, you are joking; but for us medics, this is an extremely interesting case."

"Let me assure you, I have no intention of joking. I myself firmly believe that which I am saying, and I even would want that you too would believe it . . . well, at least for the purpose of seriously investigating such an exceptional phenomenon. You say that I was not able to see anything, but would you want me to describe to you the whole setting of the morgue, where I had never been in as a live person? Do you want me to tell you who of you were standing about and what you were doing at the moment of death and following this?"

The doctor became interested in what I had said, and when related and recalled to him all that had taken place, he, appearing like a man who had been thrown into unbalance, out of his usual state of equanimity into confusion, stammered:

"N..n . ., well, y..y yes, strange; some kind of clairvoyance ...."

"Well, doctor, there is something wrong in your thinking: a state of being similar to a frozen stalk — and clairvoyance!"

But my narration of that state in which I was found immediately after the separation of my soul and body called forth extreme surprise: how I saw everything, saw that they were stirring about my body, which, due to its insensibility, had for me the significance of discarded clothing; how I wanted to touch or push somebody in order to draw attention to myself; and how the air, which had at that time become too dense for me, did not allow me to came into contact with the objects about me.

All this he listened to with almost a gaping mouth and wide open eyes; and hardly had I finished than he hurried to bid me farewell and left, apparently hurrying to share with the others this extremely interesting narration of mine.


XXVII

Apparently he reported this to the head physician, because during visitation hours on the following day, the latter, after having examined me, lingered at my bedside and said:

"It seems you had hallucinations during lethargy. So take care and try to free yourself of this, otherwise ..."

"I can become insane?" I prompted.

"No, that is going too far, but it can pass over into a mania."

"Can there really be hallucinations during lethargy?"

"Why ask? You now know this better than I."

"A single case, even though concerning me, is not proof enough for me. I should like to know the general observations concerning this condition."

"And what are we to do with your case? Why it is a very fact?"

"Yes, but if all cases are brought under one heading, will not then the door be closed to investigation of diverse phenomena, diverse symptoms of sicknesses, and through similar attitudes an undesirable prejudice will take root in medical diagnoses?"

"Why here nothing of the sort is possible. That you were in lethargy — this is beyond all doubt. Consequently then, we must accept that which took place with you as possible in this state."

"And tell me doctor, is there any cause for the appearance of lethargy in such a sickness as pneumonia?"

"Medicine cannot indicate namely what basis is needed for it, because it occurs in all sicknesses; and there even were cases when a person lapsed into a lethargic sleep without the precurrence of any kind of sickness, being apparently completely healthy."

"And can an edema of the lungs pass by itself during lethargy, that is to say, at the time when the heart is inactive and, consequently, a progressive increase of edema does not meet any hindrance?"

"Since it happened with you, it follows that it is possible, although, believe me, your edema passed when you came to your senses."

"In the course of several minutes?"

"Well, then in several minutes . . . and even if it came to that. Such functioning of the heart and lungs which took place at the time of your waking could, it seems, even break the ice on the Volga, and not only to disperse any type of edema in a short period of time."

"And could compressed, edemic lungs function in such a manner as in my I case?"

"It follows that they could have."

"Therefore, there is nothing surprising or striking about that which took place with me?"

"No, why so? This, in any case, is a phenomenon that is rarely observed."

"Rarely, or under such conditions, under such circumstances — never?"

"Hmm. How never, when it occurred in your case?"

"Consequently an edema may pass by itself, even when all the organs in one are inactive; and a heart compressed with edema, and edemic lungs, may, if it occurs to them, function for the sake of glory. It would seem there is no reason to die from edemic lungs. But tell me, doctor, can one recover from a lethargy which came on during an edema of the lungs, that is to say, can he at one time slip out of two such unfavorable conditions?"

An ironical smile appeared on the face of the doctor.

"Now, you see: I warned you not in vain with regard to the appearance of a mania," he retorted. "You are continually trying to place that which occurred with you into another category, but not under lethargy, and you are posing questions with the purpose . . . "

"For the purpose of becoming convinced," I thought, "who of us is a maniac: I who desire through conclusions of science to test the basis of the classification which you have made with respect to my state, or you, who, contrary to all possibility, place everything under the one classification which you have in your science."

But I spoke out the following:

"I give questions with the purpose of showing you that not every man who sees snow flying about is able, contrary to all indications in the calendar and the blooming trees, to affirm in all cases that it is winter. For I myself recall how once snow fell when the calendar showed it to be the twelfth of May, and the trees in my father's orchard were in flower.


This answer of mine apparently convinced the doctor that he was late with his warning, that I already had fallen into a mania, and he did not oppose this with anything; and I ceased asking him further questions...

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


CONVERSATION

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