Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
Although there are many reports of out-of-body experiences published during the nineteenth-century, few are as detailed and unique as that reported by famous medium Daniel Dunglas Home, who lived between 1833 and 1886.
The account presented here is taken from Home’s autobiography Incidents in my Life (2nd ed., London: F. Pitman 1864). The experience took place in 1854 in a period during which the medium lived in Newburgh, NY, on the Hudson River. He wrote:
“One evening I had been pondering deeply on that change which the world calls death, and on the eternity that lies beyond, until wearied I found relief in prayer, and then in sleep. My last waking consciousness had been that of perfect trust in God, and a sense of gratitude to Him for the enjoyment I received from contemplating the beauties of the material creation . . . . It appeared to me that, as I closed my eyes to earthly things, an inner perception was quickened within me, till at last reason was as active as when I was awake. I, with vivid distinctness, remember asking myself the question, whether I was asleep or no? when, to my amazement, I heard a voice which seemed so natural, that my heart bounded with joy as I recognised it as the voice of one, who while on earth was far too pure for such a world as ours, and who, in passing to that brighter home had promised to watch over and protect me . . . . She said, ‘Fear not, Daniel, I am near you; the vision you are about to have is that of death, yet you will not die. Your spirit must again return to the body in a few hours. Trust in God and his good angels: all will be well.’ Here the voice became lost [p. 43] . . . away . . . . This was but momentary, for almost instantaneously came rushing with a fearful rapidity memories of the past; my thoughts bore the semblance of realities, and every action appeared as an eternity of existence. During the whole time I was aware of a benumbing and chilling sensation which stole over my body, but the more inactive my nervous system became, the more active was my mind, till at length I felt as if I had fallen from the brink of some fearful precipice, and as I fell, all became obscure, and my whole body became one dizzy mass, only kept alive by a feeling of terror, until sensation and thought simultaneously ceased, and I knew no more. How long I had lain thus I know not, but soon I felt that I was about to awaken in a most dense obscurity; terror had now given place to a pleasurable feeling, accompanied by a certitude of some one dearly loved being near me, yet invisible . . . instinctively I realized that beyond the surrounding obscurity lay an ocean of silver-toned light. I was at this instant brought to a consciousness of light, by seeing the whole of my nervous system, as it were, composed of thousands of electrical scintillations, which here and there, as in the created nerve, took the form of currents, darting their rayons over the whole body in a manner most marvellous; still this was but a cold electrical light and besides, it was external. Gradually, however, I saw that the extremities were less luminous, and the finer membranes surrounding the brain became as it were glowing, and I felt that thought and action were no longer connected with the earthly tenement, but that they were in a spirit-body in every respect similar to the body which I knew to have been mine, and which I now saw lying motionless before me on the bed. The only link which held the two forms together [p. 44] seemed to be a silvery-like light, which proceeded from the brain; and, as if it were a response to my earlier waking thoughts, the same voice, only that it was now more musical than before, said, ‘Death is but a second birth, corresponding in every respect to the natural birth, and should the uniting link now be severed, you could never again enter the body. As I told you, however, this will not be . . . .’ ”
“It now appeared to me that I was waking from a dream of darkness to a sense of light; but such a glorious light. Never did earthly sun shed such rays, strong in beauty, soft in love, warm in life-giving glow, and as my last idea of earthly light had been the reflex of my own body, so now this heavenly light came from those I saw standing about me. Yet the light was not of their creating, but was shed on them from a higher and purer source . . . and now I was bathed in light, and about me were those for whom I had sorrowed . . . One that I had never known on earth then drew near and said, ‘You will come with me, Daniel.’ I could only reply, that it was impossible to move, inasmuch as I could not feel that my nature had a power over my new spirit-body. To this he replied, ‘Desire and you will accomplish your desires which are not sinful, desires being as prayers to the Divinity, and He answereth the every prayer of His children.’ ” [p. 45]
“For the first time I now looked to see what sustained my body, and I found that it was but a purple tinted cloud, and that as I desired to go onward with my guide, the cloud appeared as if disturbed by a gentle breeze, and in its movements I found I was wafted upward until I saw the earth, as a vision, far, far below us. Soon, I found that we had drawn nearer, and were just hovering over a cottage that I had never seen; and I also saw the inmates, but had never met them in life. The walls of the cottage were not the least obstruction to my sight, they were only as if constructed of a dense body of air, yet perfectly transparent, and the same might be said of every article of furniture. I perceived that the inmates were asleep, and I saw the various spirits who were watching over the sleepers . . . .”
“I was most deeply interested in all this, when my guide said, ‘We must now return.’ When I found myself near my body, I turned to the one who had remained near my bed, and said, ‘Why must I return so soon, for it can be but a few moments I have been with you, and I would fain see more, and remain near you longer?’ She replied, ‘It is now many hours since you came to us; but here we take no cognizance of time, and as you are here in spirit, you too have lost this knowledge; we would have you with us, but this must not be at present. Return to earth, love your fellow-creatures, love truth, and in so doing, you will serve the God of infinite love, who careth for and loveth all. May the Father of mercies bless you, Daniel!’ ”
“I heard no more, but seemed to sink as in a swoon, [p. 46] until consciousness was merged into a feeling that earth with its trials lay before me . . . . And when I opened my eyes to material things, I found that the little star had given way to the sun, which had been above the horizon about four hours; making in all about eleven hours that this vision had lasted. My limbs were so dead, that at least half an hour elapsed before I could reach the bell rope, to bring any one to my assistance, and it was only by continued friction that, at the end of an hour, I had sufficient force to enable me to stand upright” [p. 47].
I assume the parts in which the medium wrote about what the voices said were reconstructed from memory. Nonetheless, I found interesting Home’s statement about the “link which held the two forms together,” described as a “silvery-like light,” a possible reference to the “silver cord.”