With ordinary consciousness you can’t even begin to know what’s happening.
– Saul Bellow
The Dean’s December
It is one of the commonest of mistakes
to consider that the limits of our power of perception
is also the limit of all there is to perceive.
– C. W. Leadbeater
I wish to relay to you what I regard as a fine example of “a shift of consciousness – allowing an ‘abnormal’ experience to occur”.
The account below is from “A Book of Angels” by Sophy Burnham (pp. 23-26) –
“It was not Christmas, it was not even wintertime, when the event occurred that for me threw sudden new light on the ancient angel tale. It was a glorious spring morning and we were walking, my wife and I, through the newly budded birches and maples near Ballardvale, Massachusetts.
Now I realize that this, like any account of personal experience, is only as valid as the good sense and honesty of the person relating it. What can I say about myself?
That I am a scholar who shuns guesswork and admires scientific investigation? That I have an A.B. from Harvard, an M.A. from Columbia, a Ph.D. from Hartford Theological Seminary? That I have never been subject to hallucinations? That attorneys have solicited my testimony, and I have testified in the courts, regarded by judge and jury as a faithful, reliable witness?
All this is true and yet I doubt that any amount of such credentials can influence the belief or disbelief of another.
In the long run, each of us must sift what comes to us from others through his own life experience, his view of the universe, his understanding. And so I will simply tell my story.
The little path on which Marion and I walked that morning was spongy to our steps and we held hands with the sheer delight of life as we strolled near a lovely brook.
It was May, and because it was the examination reading period for students at Smith College where I was a professor, we were able to get away for a few days to visit Marion’s parents.
We frequently took walks in the country, and we especially loved the spring after a hard New England winter, for it is then that the fields and the woods are radiant and calm yet show new life bursting from the earth.
This day we were especially happy and peaceful; we chatted sporadically, with great gaps of satisfying silence between our sentences.
Then from behind us we heard the murmur of muted voices in the distance, and I said to Marion, “We have company in the woods this morning.”
Marion nodded and turned to look. We saw nothing, but the voices were coming nearer—at a faster pace than we were walking—and we knew that the strangers would soon overtake us. Then we perceived that the sounds were not only behind us but above us, and we looked up.
How can I describe what we felt? Is it possible to tell of the surge of exaltation that ran through us? Is it possible to record this phenomenon in objective accuracy and yet be credible?
For about 10 feet above us, and slightly to our left, was a floating group of glorious, beautiful creatures that glowed with spiritual beauty. We stopped and stared as they passed above us.
There were six of them, young beautiful women dressed in flowing white garments and engaged in earnest conversation If they were aware of our existence they gave no indication of it. Their faces were perfectly clear to us, and one woman, slightly older than the rest, was especially beautiful.
Her dark hair was pulled back in what today we would call a ponytail, and although cannot say it was bound at the back of her head, it appeared to be. She was talking intently to a younger spirit whose back was toward us and who looked up into the face of the woman who was talking.
Neither Marion nor I could understand their words although their voices were clearly heard. The sound was somewhat like hearing but being unable to understand a group of people talking outside a house with all the windows and doors shut.
They seemed to float past us, and their graceful motion seemed natural—as gentle and peaceful as the morning itself. As they passed, their conversation grew fainter and fainter until it faded out entirely, and we stood transfixed on the spot, still holding hands and still with the vision before our eyes.
It would be an understatement to say that we were astounded. Then we looked at each other, each wondering if the other also had seen.
There was a fallen birch tree just there beside the path. We sat down on it and I said, “Marion, what did you see? Tell me exactly, in precise detail. And tell me what you heard.”
She knew my intent—to test my own eyes and ears to see if I had been the victim of hallucination or imagination. And her reply was identical in every respect to what my own senses had reported to me.
I have related this story with the same faithfulness and respect for truth and accuracy as I would tell it on the witness stand. But even as I record it I know how incredible it sounds.
Perhaps I can claim no more for it than that it has had a deep effect on our own lives. For this experience of almost 30 years ago greatly altered our thinking.”
– S. Ralph Harlow
I happen to know someone (a long-time meditator) who is able to see angels and fairies routinely. His life, by the way (because most people think he’s weird) is not an easy one.
I suspect that the Harlows were able to have this experience because several factors conspired to upshift their consciousness. And besides that – their consciousness was probably a bit higher than “average”, even on an ordinary day.
We should (certainly) resist the temptation to believe that our society’s generally accepted notion of Reality is ‘the way it is’ … or to believe that our own sense of reality is equivalent to ‘the way it is’.