For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Rapturous Calm

In this final extract from The Reveries Of The Solitary Walker Rousseau has improbably been knocked to the ground by a Great Dane dog in his Second Walk, hitting his head forcibly against the pavement. He describes his semi-concussed state like this:

Night was coming on. I perceived the sky, some stars, and a little greenery. This first sensation was a delicious moment. I still had no feeling of myself except as being "over there". I was born into life at that instant, and it seemed to me that I filled all the objects I perceived with my frail existence. Entirely absorbed in the present moment, I remembered nothing; I had no distinct notion of my person nor the least idea of what had just happened to me; I knew neither who I was nor where I was; I felt neither injury, fear, nor worry. I watched my blood flow as I would have watched a brook flow, without even suspecting that this blood belonged to me in any way. I felt a rapturous calm in my whole being; and each time I remember it, I find nothing comparable to it in all the activity of known pleasures.

I find this reaction fascinating. It contains echoes of mystical writing and accounts of "out of body" and "near death" experiences. It brings to mind Colin Wilson's 1st book The Outsider (1956), and later books of his, in which he documents those peak, epiphanic moments we all experience from time to time in our lives. It recalls Aldous Huxley's experiments with mescaline in The Doors Of Perception (1954) and his exploration of the mystical writers in The Perennial Philosophy (1945).
I've written before about this sublime but usually tantalisingly-just-out-of-reach state in my posts Mad, Mystic Moments and Dharmakaya Light.

Illness and injury can definitely under certain circumstances bring about something akin to a state of ecstasy. I experienced this first hand a few years ago when recovering from a particularly virulent virus I caught on a plane flying back from Venice. There was a turning-point day when the virus receded - and I felt an overwhelming, cathartic feeling of immense calm and tranquillity.

4 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

A couple of days in bed with flu can work wonders for the creative spirit - is that what you are saying? Might try it. Send a flu bug to your creative friends.

The Solitary Walker said...

Illness is good for you!

Sounds like a private healthcare ad.

Anonymous said...

I've spent the last 2 days bashing my head on all manner of hard objects - still no visions, no ethereal other worldly experiences,no transcendance - it just hurts.
Fred

The Solitary Walker said...

Aha!

But the trying guarantees the failing, Fred!