POST-MORTEM JOURNAL(Communication from T. E. Lawrence , 1888 – 1935, through automatic writing)JANE SHERWOOD
An End and a BeginningA shattering blow, darkness rent with interludes of throbbing agony and finally merciful cessation of pain; nothingness. Outof the void came first a mere point of self-awareness, lost and found again and spreading gradually into an indefiniteimpression of being; a sensation of neither darkness nor light, an uneasy greyness filled with growing apprehension. Soon Ishould need to drag myself out of this numbing stupor, to find out where I was and what was happening in this waste of greyness. But having flickered, consciousness went out again and I slept.There came a time when I could no longer drowse my fears away. The sense of identity grew stronger and with it came atumult of emotions and hurried, anxious thoughts. Unwillingly I had to awake to a formless world of which I seemed theonly inhabitant
Yet I thought I heard voices but could distinguish no words; I felt the shadows palpitate with movementsand could see no one. I was aware , too, of waves of sorrow washing up around me and trying to drown my feebleconsciousness. Becoming aware of my body I found myself on my feet, surprised to find movement so light and easy, but Iwas afraid to venture far in any direction because of the shadowy obstacles I sensed around. I fumbled in the dimness,seeking a way out of the grief that enveloped me. Where was I? Even if I had become blind and deaf surely there must besomeone around to help me? I tried calling, but there was no response. What had happened?At fist my mind was entirely occupied with my predicament and the past did not concern me, but as I wandered now one,now another vision flashed across my mental retina. A ribbon of road, boys on bicycles, my cottage, and soon these discretememories began to coalesce into a continuous series of past experiences. Before long I was racing back along the yearsfaster and faster, helpless to stay the record and obliged to feel as well as to remember as my past unrolled back to theearliest childhood memories. I had come to a stand while this disquieting survey held me and as it checked at theunconsciousness of the infant my own consciousness flickered out. At the very moment of oblivion I gasped with relief and just had time to think : this is really the end.Iit was not. After a long or short interval – how should I know? – I came to myself again, mildly surprised because I hadnot expected existence to continue and certainly had as yet no reason to welcome it. The dimness had lifted a little and aworld of vague outlines was developing out of the mist; meadows, I thought, hedges and trees. Perhaps the blurred outlinesin the distance were houses? A town perhaps, people. I did not want to meet people. For the first time I realised that I wasnaked but apart from this embarrassment I shrank from my kind and even preferred the empty solitude. But in thinking of the town and what I might hold I found myself drifting towards it and thus got my first indication of the way movement hereis affected by thought. I obstinately resisted this drift towards the town and turned away to explore the open country.All this while the light had been strengthening and the greyness lifting. Soon the dreary place could be distinguished as agloomy November dusk and I could move freely without the fear of stumbling into shadows and finding they weresubstance. I came upon a convenient bank and rested. I was not conscious of cold and forgot my nakedness. As I sat thereit became possible to think more clearly and to take stock of my position. All my know n and familiar world was gone andif this was a nightmare I still had to abide the awakening. The startling impression that this was death became insistent, butif I had to accept that idea what became of my conviction that death ended it all? For I was certainly alive, if you could callit living, and it even appeared that my surrounding were taking on more substance and I myself more vitality. So anyexpectation that this was jus a particularly persistent nightmare became unlikely. I felt my body; firm flesh. How odd! Itried to speak but only a throttled ghost of a sound came forth. I arose and walked and realised afresh how light andresilient my limbs felt. So ba ck to my bank to think afresh.Suppose for the sake of argument that this was death; what kind of world was this? I thought with a pang of 'Sheoul', placeof the Shade. It was that, all right. Had Charon already rowed me over the dark river and was this the accursed Hades? If so, the Greeks had been right after all, as they nearly always were. My thought seemed as bound by shadows as mysurroundings. All life and living was reduced to a monochrome. No sound, no movement, no light, no joy : only a drearyacquiescence in this half-light, half-living. A grievous lassitude invaded me. Existence, endurance; endurance, existence.How much better to have flickered out for good!