My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessed and could bless.
William Butler Yeats, Vacillation, IV
It is not surprising that people have spiritual or “extraordinary experiences.” What is surprising is that they hesitate to speak of them. Poets, mystics, and saints give voice to their otherworldly experiences as William Butler Yeats does above in a section of his poem Vacillation, IV. And that is acceptable because after all he and others like him are gifted people: poets, mystics etc. Are the rest of us incapable of such experience? I maintain that we all have them especially when we are quiet, alert, aware, or open as in sleep. Dreams, especially, can be a vehicle of such experiences because our natural logical powers are at rest transporting us to another dimension, allowing us to receive a higher knowledge and awareness without resistance. Such dreams can change our lives.
In a casual conversation with a neighbor whom I shall name Miriam, I learned how a powerful dream impacted Miriam and her family. She had received devastating news that her brother to whom she was emotionally attached had been diagnosed with malignant stomach cancer. Unable to share that news with her friends or even with family members, she stoically went about her work. She said though that having been raised with a firm faith in her Divine, she took it upon herself to exhaust herself each evening for the next successive five or twenty firmly and strongly almost demanding the Divine to heal her brother. She reminded her God over and over again of his promises: “Ask and you shall receive, knock and it shall be opened to you.”
Each evening, she spent at least a half hour pounding the hardwood floors of her house from one end to the other reminding her Divine of those promises. She said that with each successive evening, her prayerful demand, plea, cajoling became stronger and stronger. As a result, her trust deepened and her determination to secure healing for her brother grew. She was prepared to continue her prayer for as long as it took.
On the 6th night after she fell asleep, Miriam had a powerful dream. Her Divine appeared before her holding her brother in His arms in the way a mother would hold her child. Her brother looked healthy and her Divine turned toward her and drowned her with an utterly consuming and blissful smile. When she awoke, the power of the dream filled her with a “deep knowing” that he was healed or in the process of healing. That knowledge enabled her to speak freely to family and friends and to her brother about his situation. It freed her to help in every way possible with his recovery without getting emotionally overwhelmed.
Her siblings and friends were sure that he would pass. She was sure he would not.
He did recover much to the surprise of his surgeon and doctors. Seventeen years later, she says, he is still alive, the cancer has not returned. He was healed. For her part, she was healed too of doubt and of a deep-seated grief that had taken root in her childhood and was such a painful part of her growing up. Her faith has deepened and so has her gratitude. Her life has a glow about it. Miriam says she does not freely relate her experience to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. Skepticism and accusations of self-delusion abound. She is content to treasure it in her heart and share it only with like-minded folk.
I am revealing her story here trusting that the many others who have had extraordinary spiritual experiences will find a way to attest to them, thus ushering in the day when everyone can speak/write unabashedly of what is surely common to so many of us: to admit and profess with W.B. Yeats that “we are blessed and can bless.”