Consumed by the Light
Around 15 November 1953. 7 min read.
Somewhere after the tonsillectomy and before 1957, I have no way of documenting when, I faced the most traumatic night of my life. No one I tried to tell about it would even listen to the story.
An Early Childhood Scare
I’m asleep, alone, in my room, head toward the west, a north window alongside my bed, and the dim yellow glow of the neon night-light flickering from above the head of the bed. The house itself is totally silent, no fans, no humming appliances, the refrigerator isolated on a separate back porch area. To the east there are probably coyotes howling. To the north are the plaintive cries of steam whistles on the locomotives of three different railroads, miles distant. I’m probably even farther away, engrossed in the astral adventures that were so much richer than waking life.
I don’t remember any transition to wakefulness, just that I became transfixed by a ball of powerful yellow light near my feet. Thinking about it now, it was probably a winter full moon, rising to the north of due east so that its beam pierced my window and merged with the neon glow around my head. But at the time, despite being “into astronomy” via reading books about it, I had no direct concept of the visible movements of the heavens. “North” and “east” were words, linked by thoughts to mental pictures of the view out certain windows. Any direction more than about 25 degrees above the horizon was just “up”, and there was no directly known pattern to the appearances of the moon any lower in the sky.
By now the ball of yellow light was closer, brighter, becoming huge, beginning to envelop and swallow up my feet. As it crept ever so slowly up around my body I found I was unable to move. It reached my chest and I was unable to breathe. Just before the light swallowed my head, I attained logical consciousness of the consequences of not breathing. But I was totally unable to move any part of my body. In parallel with the classic inventory of my life flashing before me, I frantically (if one can be frantic and paralyzed simultaneously) explored for some bit of my existence I could still control.
I managed to find something, deep in my back behind my right lung. I couldn’t directly move it, but I could create large arcs of tension that focused there, and that eventually succeeded in ripping open a new dimension of freedom that allowed breath and consciousness to slowly return. After what seemed like hours of completely un-emotional struggle to preserve myself and push the light away, I collapsed into childhood fear and crept off to cry at the door of my parents’ room.
Being caught “out of my body” and unable to get back in immediately was not unusual. Probably ten percent of my days began with the recurring dream of being out on the front porch alone and unable to move or scream as “the witch” approached up “North Hill” from the north-west. I always woke up just before my dreadful fate was revealed, but never managed to remember that grace when out of my body.
Being consumed by the light was the most unique and frightening experience of my life, but despite my distraught state my parents lumped it with all my other night frights, and insisted nothing had happened and that I should go back to bed. I took the hint and didn’t bother trying to tell any other adults about it. I dismissed it so thoroughly that I have no idea when it took place. I can’t relate it to any of the other formative events in my life.
Science Fiction Rings True
Probably twenty years later I happened to pick up a library book that seemed inspired by the same kind of experience. It was science fiction, about an extraterrestrial race that had come to need humans as part of their life-cycle. They cycled among three forms, one called “spindle”, and the other names I’ve forgotten along with the title and author. To accomplish one of the transitions, the being would have to find a sleeping human that it would envelop from the feet upward until both bodies were fully merged. Some kind of copy operation took place, and the human woke up remembering only an encounter with a consuming light.
The book would have to be from earlier than 1974, possibly much earlier. I haven’t been able to find any note I may have made about it at the time, nor to identify it via internet searching. If any reader recognizes it, I’d appreciate an eMail from you! My address: loren (symbol) pacific (punctuation) net
Finally, My Mother Remembers...
In a letter from my mother in 1974, by way of explaining why she wouldn’t want to try psychoactive drugs, she writes:
Enough funny things happen without any help of any kind. Would you like to know one of the weirdest? It happened when I was 17 years old. It was a very bright moonlit night. I have never needed too much sleep, so at the time I was laying awake, sort of propped up on a pillow and thinking of horses. I thought of my father’s beautiful horse “Ben”. I wondered how he would look if he were pure black and I brushed him and made him shine.
At that very thought I heard a terrible wind outside in those big cottonwoods if you remember. I turned to look out the window (no blinds) and a big part of the wall, ceiling, roof, etc. was gone. Only the frame of that part of the house was left; also that brick chimney was left. Outside I saw among the trees, around and even over the house, a sort of a white cloud. Now from all this goings-on outside, a sort of a little funnel, something like they picture tornados, seemed to form. This thing came down the chimney. It roared!
When it got down to about a foot above the level of my head, it came out of the solid chimney and over to the top of my head. Rather slowly, maybe about 5 or 6 seconds, it went through clear to my feet. Then the walls closed up. When this hit me it was like a very tight cap being pulled down over my head and on down. It was so tight I could not move. I remember I could not take a breath. I thought, “Boy! Something better happen pretty quick or I will die.”
About then the thing started to leave. Not out my feet as you would suspect, or like lifting up an end of a 2X4, but as if someone were sitting up in bed and going to stand. Now the thing was in the exact form of me, and I saw myself go up through the solid ceiling, and seemed to know that I was becoming a part of all that was outside. Soon all was quiet and for the first time I became almost terrified. I decided not to scream or call my folks downstairs. They just would not believe.
She goes on to say that she did begin to tell her sister, but an “overwhelming feeling of joy, peace, and love” stopped her, and she never mentioned the event again until volunteering it to my sister shortly before writing it to me.
She says, “You will say that I read the bible too much and was imagining Pentecost (Acts 2:1). Really at the time I did not even know there was such a thing as Pentecost, and in no way connected [my experience] with religion. It’s true that I had got my first bible that summer and had met some very different kids in Chicago. They claimed to have something wonderful that I did not have, and for a couple months I had been trying to pray off and on that I wanted the same thing whatever it was that they called Christ. I asked and prayed and begged and nothing happened. If the experience in bed was religious, I still don't know.” “It has definitely affected my whole life. This fantastic feeling of joy, peace, and love has come over me many, many times, and at the oddest times.”
The obvious similarities are the feeling of constriction and inability to breathe, and the delayed terror. I noticed no sound, no whirlwind, only light, and the constriction came up from my feet and was pushed away by the same route. The image of a duplicate self sitting up and rising out of one’s body parallels the science fiction story. Perhaps if I had not succeeded in willing the force away, I would have had a similar experience?
I've been to Pentecostal meetings and felt what they identify as the Holy Spirit, and I believe I have been “filled with the Spirit” on several occasions. My experience of being consumed by the light seems to me to have nothing to do with the Spirit. My feeling is that it was a crisis of space perception, and that “ripping open a new dimension of freedom” was the action by which I disconnected the internal map I now call the psychoros from its default correspondence with ordinary space perception.
This photo is me in that bed under the neon night light, possibly around the time of the Light episode. My dad tried to handhold a very long exposure (on ASA25 Kodachrome), and obviously moved the camera drastically between opening and closing the shutter. The neon light had a gap between two vertical edges, and the bright spot alternated between the edges as the direction of the AC voltage alternated. So as the camera moved, it recorded pairs of bright lines as the apparent bright spot moved side-to-side. An eerie place to sleep...
The carotid sinus has real-time control of blood pressure, along with sensors in the kidneys. Imagining nerve pathways linking my right carotid sinus, my right kidney, my right spinal accessory nerve, and the lower fibers of my right trapezius, resonates with my memory of "something deep in my back" like nothing else ever has!