A Super Natural ExperienceNovember 8, 2009
I feel compelled to say at the outset that I am not a believer in paranormal phenomena. Sure, strange things happen – but in most cases there are perfectly rational explanations for these without invoking the supernatural. So naturally it came as a surprise to me to experience at first hand an event that still has me wondering.
It was the first day of Galungan, a deeply significant event in Balinese culture. In fact, it wasn’t even the first full day – it was 2 am on the morning of the first day. I had been asleep for over two hours when I was woken by a change in the quality of the light in my bedroom. The first thing I noticed was that there were multiple shadows flitting across my window. My curtains, normally backlit by a street light, were a mass of dark, angular shapes, reminiscent of large bats, which milled restlessly, constantly changing their shapes.
Aha! I thought – a lucid dream – but no, the quality of this experience was very different to any of my prior lucid dream experiences. And no, before you ask – I hadn’t been drinking. Even while checking my surroundings – the bedside clock, the things in the room, my own sense of self (yes, I even pinched myself!) to confirm that I was really awake, the shadow play in the window continued. OK, I thought – so it’s real. Time to analyse, to look for rational explanations, understand the science behind the phenomenon. I was intrigued and curious. Then I noticed that the dancing shapes were not confined to the window. The entire ceiling was covered with a dense, three-dimensional mass of shapes as well.
By this time, I was fully alert, still half-expecting to see the amazing display disappear and be replaced by the familiar banality of my bedroom. But it didn’t. It became even more surreal, because the shapes that I originally thought were bat-like were actually something different. But try as I might, I could not relate them to anything in my experience, or begin to describe them. It was as if what was visible to me was a projection from another world, one that contained many more dimensions than ours. There were hints of coalescing shapes, colours that did not exist in this world, movements that defied physics. If you asked me to draw, paint or sculpt what I saw, I could not do it, simply because there are only three dimensions available to me, and I would need a lot more.
Not just the shapes, but the surface textures were unfamiliar, bearing no resemblance to anything I had ever seen before. Think of the retinal after-images you get when you close your eyes and apply pressure. Think of the coruscating light produced at the target of a laser – but invert it so that the patterns you see are those of light being absorbed instead of reflected. Think of looking into the depths of the ocean from a boat. What I saw was like all of these, but much more. Without any doubt, I knew my imperfect senses were observing entities – from another place – swirling in the room.
I guess the human mind is hard-wired to look for explanations, and one was readily forthcoming. A thought surfaced that this was Galungan, a time when, according to Balinese lore, the spirits of the departed return to Earth for a few days. I felt no fear; instead, I was fascinated, knowing that I was experiencing something special. As I lay back on the bed, looking up at the roiling, shifting mass of dark shapes completely covering the ceiling, I smiled and thought the words: “Welcome … enjoy your stay!”
And then the most amazing thing of all happened. A long thin, angular shape reached down to my face and touched my right cheek. I expected to hear it rustle, because it gave the impression of being leathery, but it was completely silent. I expected its touch to be cold, and sharp, and somewhat alien, like its appearance. It wasn’t. It was unmistakeably the touch of human fingers, light, warm and caring. I fell asleep with the room still full of ‘presences’ – and had the best night’s sleep in months. In the morning, the memory of that night was sharp and clear.
Do I have an explanation for what happened that night? No. Do I now believe in the supernatural? Another no. But, despite retaining my innate skepticism, I have broadened the scope of what I define as natural. Bali can do that to a person.