Frederic William Henry Myers.

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boundary of the ultimate tissues, so to speak, of the soul. I realised my con-
dition and reasoned calmly thus. I have died, as men term death, and yet I
am as much a man as ever. I am about to get out of the body. I watched
the interesting process of the separation of soul and body. By some power,
apparently not my own, the Ego was rocked to and fro, laterally, as a cradle is
rocked, by which process its connection with the tissues of the body was broken
up. After a little time the lateral motion ceased, and along the soles of the
feet beginning at the toes, passing rapidly to the heels, I felt and heard, as it
seemed, the snapping of innumerable small cords. When this was accom-
plished I began slowly to retreat from the feet, toward the head, as a rubber
cord shortens. I remember reaching the hips and saying to myself, " Now,
there is no life below the hips." I can recall no memory of passing through
the abdomen and chest, but recollect distinctly when my whole self was col-
lected into the head, when I reflected thus : I am all in the head now, and I
shall soon be free. I passed around the brain as if I were hollow, compressing
it and its membranes, slightly, on all sides, toward the centre and peeped out
between the sutures of the skull, emerging like the flattened edges of a bag of
membranes. I recollect distinctly how I appeared to myself something like a
jelly-fish as regards colour and form. As I emerged, I saw two ladies sitting
at my head. I measured the distances between the head of my cot and the
knees of the lady opposite the head and concluded there was room for me to
stand, but felt considerable embarrassment as I reflected that I was about to
emerge naked before her, but comforted myself with the thought that in all
probability she could not see me with her bodily eyes, as I was a spirit. As I
emerged from the head I floated up and down and laterally like a soap-bubble
attached to the bowl of a pipe until I at last broke loose from the body and fell
lightly to the floor, where I slowly rose and expanded into the full stature of a
man. I seemed to be translucent, of a bluish cast and perfectly naked. With
a painful sense of embarrassment I fled toward the partially opened door to
escape the eyes of the two ladies whom I was facing as well as others who I
knew were about me, but upon reaching the door I found myself clothed, and
satisfied upon that point I turned and faced the company. As I turned, my
left elbow came in contact with the arm of one of two gentlemen, who were


standing in the door. To my surprise, his arm passed through mine without
apparent resistance, the severed parts closing again without pain, as air re-
unites. I looked quickly up at his face to see if he had noticed the contact,
but he gave me no sign, only stood and gazed toward the couch I had just left.
I directed my gaze in the direction of his, and saw my own dead body. It
was lying just as I had taken so much pains to place it, partially upon the
right side, the feet close together and the hands clasped across the breast. I
was surprised at the paleness of the face. I had not looked in a glass for some
days and had imagined that I was not as pale as most very sick people are. I
congratulated myself upon the decency with which I had composed the body
and thought my friends would have little trouble on that score.

I saw a number of persons sitting and standing about the body, and parti-
cularly noticed two women apparently kneeling by my left side, and I knew
that they were weeping. I have since learned that they were my wife and my
sister, but I had no conception of individuality. Wife, sister or friend were as
one to me. I did not remember any conditions of relationship; at least I did
not think of any. I could distinguish sex, but nothing further.

I now attempted to gain the attention of the people with the object of
comforting them as well as assuring them of their own immortality. I bowed
to them playfully and saluted with my right hand. I passed about among
them also, but found that they gave me no heed. Then the situation struck
me as humorous and I laughed outright.

They certainly must have heard that, I thought, but it seemed otherwise,
for not one lifted their eyes from my body. It did not once occur to me to
speak and I concluded the matter by saying to myself: "They see only with
the eyes of the body. They cannot see spirits. They are watching what they
think is I, but they are mistaken. That is not I. This is I and I am as much
alive as ever."

I turned and passed out at the open door, inclining my head and watching
where I set my feet as I stepped down on to the porch.

I crossed the porch, descended the steps, walked down the path and into
the street. There I stopped and looked about me. I never saw that street
more distinctly than I saw it then. I took note of the redness of the soil and
of the washes the rain had made. I took a rather pathetic look about me,
like one who is about to leave his home for a long time. Then I discovered
that I had become larger than I was in earth life and congratulated myself
thereupon. I was somewhat smaller in the body than I just liked to be, but in
the next life, I thought, I am to be as I desired.

My clothes, I noticed, had accommodated themselves to my increased
stature, and I fell to wondering where they came from and how they got on to
me so quickly and without my knowledge. I examined the fabric and judged
it to be of some kind of Scotch material, a good suit, I thought, but not hand-
some ; still, neat and good enough. The coat fits loosely too, and that is
well for summer. " How well I feel," I thought. " Only a few minutes ago I
was horribly sick and distressed. Then came that change, called death, which
I have so much dreaded. It is past now, and here am I still a man, alive and
thinking, yes, thinking as clearly as ever, and how well I feel ; I shall never be
sick again. I have no more to die." And in sheer exuberance of spirits I
danced a figure, and fell again to looking at my form and clothes.

Suddenly I discovered that I was looking at the straight seam down the


back of my coat. How is this, I thought, how do I see ray back ? and I looked
again, to reassure myself, down the back of the coat, or down the back of my
legs to the very heels. I put my hand to my face and felt for my eyes. They
are where they should be, I thought. Am I like an owl that I can turn my
head half-way round ? I tried the experiment and failed.

No ! Then it must be that having been out of the body, but a few moments,
I have yet the power to use the eyes of my body, and I turned about and looked
back in at the open door, where I could see the head of my body in a line with
me. I discovered then a small cord, like a spider's web, running from my
shoulders back to my body and attaching to it at the base of the neck in

I was satisfied with the conclusion that by means of that cord I was using
the eyes of my body, and turning, walked down the street.

I had walked but a few steps when I again lost my consciousness, and when
I again awoke found myself in the air, where I was upheld by a pair of hands,
which I could feel pressing lightly against my sides. The owner of the hands,
if they had one, was behind me, and was shoving me through the air at a swift
but a pleasant rate of speed. By the time I fairly realised the situation I was
pitched away and floated easily down a few feet, alighting gently upon the
beginning of a narrow, but well-built roadway, inclined upward at an angle of
something less than 45 degrees.

I looked up and could see sky and clouds above me at the usual height. I
looked down and saw the tops of green trees and thought : It is as far down to
the tree tops as it is high to the clouds.

As I walked up the road, I seemed to face nearly north. I looked over the
right side of the road and under it could see the forest, but discovered naught
to support the roadway, yet I felt no fear of its falling. I examined the material
of which it was built. It was built of milky quartz and fine sand. I picked up
one of the gravels and looked at it particularly. I distinctly remember that it
had a dark speck in the centre. I brought it close to the eye and so discovered
that it was a small hole apparently caused by chemical action of some metal.
There had been a recent rain, and the coolness was refreshing to me. I
noticed that, although the grade was steep, I felt no fatigue in walking, but my
feet seemed light, and my step buoyant as the step of childhood, and as I
walked I again reverted to my late condition of illness and rejoiced in my
perfect health and strength. Then a sense of great loneliness came over me
and I greatly desired company, so I reasoned thus : Some one dies every
minute. If I wait twenty minutes the chances are great that some one in the
mountains will die, and thus I shall have company. I waited, and while so
doing surveyed the scenery about me. To the east was a long line of moun-
tains, and the forest underneath me extended to the mountains, up their sides
and out on to the mountain top. Underneath me lay a forest-clad valley, through
which ran a beautiful river full of shoals, which caused the water to ripple in
white sprays. I thought the river looked much like the Emerald River, and
the mountains, I thought, as strongly resembled Waldron's Ridge. On the left
of the road was a high bluff of black stone, and it reminded me of Lookout
Mountain, where the railroad passes between it and the Tennessee River.
Thus memory, judgment, and imagination, the three great faculties of the mind,
were intact and active.

I waited for company, what I judged to be twenty minutes ; but no one


came. Then I reasoned thus : It is probable that when a man dies he has his
individual road to travel and must travel it alone. As no two men are exactly
alike, so, most likely, no two travel the same road into the other world. I
reflected that as eternal existence was now assured, I had no need to hurry, and
so walked very leisurely along, now stopping and looking at the scenery, or
looking back over the road, if, perchance, some one might come along, and
occasionally turning and walking backward, and thus watching the road behind
me for company I so strongly desired. I thought certainly some one from the
other world would be out to meet me, though, strangely enough, I thought of no
person whom above others I desired to see. Angels or fiends, one, I said, will
come out to meet me I wonder which it will be ? I reflected that I had not
believed all the Church tenets, but had written and taught verbally a new and,
I believed, a better faith. But, I reasoned, I knew nothing, and where there is
room for doubt there is room for mistake. I may, therefore, be on my way to
a terrible doom. And here occurred a thing hard to describe. At different
points about me I was aware of the expressed thought, " Fear not, you are
safe ! " I heard no voice, I saw no person, yet I was perfectly aware that at
different points, at varying distances from me, some one was thinking that
thought for my benefit, but how I was made aware of it was so great a mystery
that it staggered my faith in its reality. A great fear and doubt came over me
and I was beginning to be very miserable, when a face so full of ineffable love
and tenderness appeared to me for an instant as set me to rights upon that score.

Suddenly I saw at some distance ahead of me three prodigious rocks block-
ing the road, at which sight I stopped, wondering why so fair a road should be
thus blockaded, and while I considered what I was to do, a great and dark
cloud, which I compared to a cubic acre in size, stood over my head. Quickly
it became filled with living, moving bolts of fire, which darted hither and thither
through the cloud. They were not extinguished by contact with the cloud, for
I could see them in the cloud as one sees fish in deep water.

The cloud became concave on the under surface like a great tent and began
slowly to revolve upon its perpendicular axis. When it had turned three times,
I was aware of a presence, which I could not see, but which I knew was enter-
ing into the cloud from the southern side. The presence did not seem, to my
mind, as a form, because it filled the cloud like some vast intelligence. He is
not as I, I reasoned : I fill a little space with my form, and when I move the
space is left void, but he may fill immensity at his will, even as he fills this
cloud. Then from the right side and from the left of the cloud a tongue of
black vapour shot forth and rested lightly upon either side of my head, and as
they touched me thoughts not my own entered into my brain.

These, I said, are his thoughts and not mine ; they might be in Greek or
Hebrew for all power I have over them. But how kindly am I addressed in my
mother tongue that so I may understand all his will.

Yet, although the language was English, it was so eminently above my
power to reproduce that my rendition of it is as far short of the original as any
translation of a dead language is weaker than the original ; for instance, the
expression, " This is the road to the eternal world," did not contain over four
words, neither did any sentence in the whole harangue, and every sentence,
had it been written, must have closed with a period, so complete was the sense.
The following is as near as I can render it :

" This is the road to the eternal world. Yonder rocks are the boundary


between the two worlds and the two lives. Once you pass them, you can no
more return into the body. If your work was to write the things that have
been taught you, waiting for mere chance to publish them, if your work was
to talk to private individuals in the privacy of friendship if this was all, it is
done, and you may pass beyond the rocks. If, however, upon consideration
you conclude that it shall be to publish as well as to write what you are taught,
if it shall be to call together the multitudes and teach them, it is not done and
you can return into the body."

The thoughts ceased and the cloud passed away, moving slowly toward the
mountain in the east. I turned and watched it for some time, when suddenly,
and without having felt myself moved, I stood close to and in front of the three
rocks. I was seized with a strong curiosity then to look into the next world.

There were four entrances, one very dark, at the left between the wall of
black rock and the left hand one of the three rocks, a low archway between
the left hand and the middle rock, and a similar one between that and the
right hand rock, and a very narrow pathway running around the right hand
rock at the edge of the roadway.

I did not examine the opening at the left I know not why, unless it was
because it appeared dark, but I knelt at each of the low archways and looked
through. The atmosphere was green and everything seemed cool and quiet
and beautiful. Beyond the rocks, the roadway, the valley, and the mountain
range curved gently to the left, thus shutting off the view at a short distance.
If I were only around there, I thought, I should soon see angels or devils or
both, and as I thought this, I saw the forms of both as I had often pictured
them in my mind. I looked at them closely and discovered that they were
not realities, but the mere shadowy forms in my thoughts, and that any form
might be brought up in the same way. What a wonderful world, I exclaimed,
mentally, where thought is so intensified as to take visible form. How happy
shall I be in such a realm of thought as that.

I listened at the archways for any sound of voice or of music, but could
hear nothing. Solid substances, I thought, are better media of sound than
air, I will use the rocks as media, and I rose and placed my left ear to first
one rock and then the other throughout, but could hear nothing.

Then suddenly I was tempted to cross the boundary line. I hesitated
and reasoned thus : " I have died once and if I go back, soon or late, I must
die again. If I stay some one else will do my work, and so the end will be
as well and as surely accomplished, and shall I die again ? I will not, but now
that I am so near I will cross the line and stay." So determining I moved
cautiously along the rocks. There was danger of falling over the side of the
road, for the pathway around was but narrow. I thought not of the archways,
I placed my back against the rock and walked sideways.

I reached the exact centre of the rock, which I knew by a carved knob in
the rock marking the exact boundary. Here, like Caesar at the Rubicon, I
halted and parleyed with conscience. It seemed like taking a good deal of
responsibility, but I determined to do it, and advanced the left foot across the
line. As I did so, a small, densely black cloud appeared in front of me and
advanced toward my face. I knew that I was to be stopped. I felt the power
to move or to think leaving me. My hands fell powerless at my side, my
shoulders and head dropped forward, the cloud touched my face and I knew
no more.


Without previous thought and without apparent effort on my part, my
eyes opened. I looked at my hands and then at the little white cot upon
which I was lying, and realising that I was in the body, in astonishment and
disappointment, I exclaimed : " What in the world has happened to me ? Must
I die again ? "

I was extremely weak, but strong enough to relate the above experience
despite all injunctions to quiet. Soon afterward I was seized with vomiting,
severe and uncontrollable. About this time Dr. J. H. Sewel, of Rockwood,
Tenn., called upon a friendly visit, not knowing I was sick. I was hiccoughing
terribly, and in consultation he said, " Nothing short of a miracle, I fear, can
save him."

After many days, it seemed to me, the temperature began to creep up and
soon ran above normal, but only a little, wavered back and forth for a few
days, and settled at a half degree below, where it remained during the greater
part of convalescence, when it mounted to normal, the pulse mounted to above
fifty for keeps, as boys say at marbles, then went to seventy-six, and I made a
rapid and good recovery, for having travelled some hundreds of miles during
the interval, as I close this paper my pulse stands at eighty-four and is strong,
just eight weeks from " the day I died," as some of my neighbours speak of it.

There are plenty of witnesses to the truth of the above statements, in so
far as my physical condition was concerned. Also to the fact that just as I
d?scribed the conditions about my body and in the room, so they actually were.
I must, therefore, have seen these things by some means.

The following are questions addressed to Dr. Wiltse about his ex-
perience, and his answers :

1. Q. You perceived two gentlemen standing in the door. Were they
actually standing in the door? A. They were.

2. Q. Was your face as pale as you perceived it to be ? A. It was much
paler as compared with some days before, but one witness states that, as com-
pared with only a short time before becoming unconscious, the face appeared of
a dark purple hue.

3. Q. Did you not recognise any person at all among those whom you per-
ceived in the room ? A. I had no thought of names nor ideas of relationship.
I had a strong sense of good fellowship, if I may so term it, but my interest
in each seemed alike. I must have forgotten all personalities.

4. Q. Did the washes which you perceived the rain to have made actually
exist? A. They did to a marked degree, there having been heavy rains for
many days consecutively.

5. Q. Did the fabric in which you seemed to be clothed resemble any which
you had ever worn? A. It did not, and I distinctly recollect thinking that I
had no such clothing in the house, although it did not then occur to me that I
had never possessed such a suit. I think, however, that my brother who was
visiting me had on something such a suit, but cannot be certain, as I cannot
learn that I made any reference to any suit in the room as being like it while
rehearsing my experience after awaking. If I could see a suit like it I should
recognise it at once.

6. Q. Were you previously familiar with the notion that a delicate thread, in
cases of trance, connects the ethereal organism with the ordinary body? A.
Yes, and this will seem to you a case of expectancy. I deem it fair to your

VOL. II. x


Society to state, however, that so far from believing the theory was I that in a
volume of fiction upon which I am engaged I had set down an entirely different
theory as emanating from one of the characters who is made to teach my own
private views strongly enough. When I discovered the thread my mind did
not go back to any previous recollections or ideas upon the subject, as I
should suppose would naturally be the case.

Dr. Wiltse's narrative is followed by corroborative statements from five
persons who were present in the sick-room, viz., his wife and sister, the
physician in attendance, and two friends. These statements are given in
full in the Proceedings, and show that the description of his experience
given by Dr. Wiltse immediately after recovering consciousness was in all
essential details the same as the account printed above. They also
confirm what he reports of the actual external facts of the case, the illness
and attendant circumstances.

Here, at any rate, whatever view we take as to the source or the
content of Dr. Wiltse's vision, the fact remains that the patient, while in a
comatose state, almost pulseless, and at a temperature much below the
normal, did, nevertheless, undergo a remarkably vivid series of mental
impressions. It is plain, therefore, that we may err in other cases by
assuming prematurely that all power of perception or inference has

Setting aside the manifestly dream-like or symbolical element of the
vision, we observe that Dr. Wiltse believes that his perception of the
people in the room, and of the rain-washed streets outside, was of a clair-
voyant type. But this cannot be proved ; for the picture of the streets
might be due to unconscious inference ; and some acuteness of perception,
like that of the lethargic hypnotised subject, might account for his know-
ledge of movements in the room made after his eyes were closed. How-
ever this may be, it is probable that if he had actually died, and if some
kind of message from him had been subsequently received, that message
might have included facts as to the scene of death which the survivors
would have believed to have been unknown to him while still living, but
which he did in fact acquire during his comatose condition.

I may add that since the first publication of Dr. Wiltse's narrative
both Dr. Hodgson and I have made his personal acquaintance, and have
further corresponded with him on psychical experiments, with the result
that the experience just cited, though it cannot, of course, be made
evidential, has risen in importance in our eyes. See also another ex-
perience of Dr. Wiltse's in 663 A.

A case similar in many respects to the one just quoted is that of the
Rev. L. J. Bertrand, given in Proceedings S.P.R., vol. viii. p. 194. During
a dangerous ascent of the Titlis, Mr. Bertrand separated from his com-
panions, sat down to rest, and became paralysed by the cold. His head,
however, remained clear, and he experienced the sensation described by
Dr. Wiltse of passing out of his body and remaining attached to it by " a


kind of elastic string." While in this condition, he had clairvoyant im-
pressions about his absent companions, and much astonished them on
their return by describing their doings to them. The case, which I have
not space here to quote, is very remote and therefore probably contains
errors of detail ; but it is most likely that some genuine clairvoyance was

714 A. From Proceedings S.P.R., vol. v. p. 450. The next case I
have given the percipients the name of Adie is a curiously complicated
one ; but its evidential value rests mainly on the similarity between a
recognised phantom seen by a mourner (and therefore not in itself
evidential) and an unrecognisable appearance observed at about the same
time by a near relation, also aware of the death.

This latter phenomenon a segment of illumination in a room other-
wise dark, and closed against light is undoubtedly rare. Retinal
hyperaesthesia will sometimes make a room look light for a moment or
two when the eyes are first opened, but the limitation of area seems to

Online LibraryFrederic William Henry MyersHuman personality : and its survival of bodily death (Volume 2) → online text (page 43 of 89)