Mystical Experience of Romain Rolland

Romain Rolland (January 29, 1866 – December 30, 1944) was a French writer, art historian, and mystic who was deeply involved with the search for world peace.  Rolland was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915 “as a tribute to the lofty idealism of his literary production and to the sympathy and love of truth with which he has described different types of human beings.”

Romain Rolland describes his mystical experiences as follows:

“I had, between the ages of 15 and 20…several brief and staggering contacts with the Unity.  These obscure illuminations were the key to the spiritual world in which I lived for the next 40 years.  I passionately explored this world among the trials and torments of my life of flesh and blood, here and there visited by new revelations…”

In Rolland’s autobiography, Journey Within, he explains that his first mystical experience occurred during the summer of 1882 at Ferney, which had been home to the philosopher Voltaire for many years.  Upon exiting Voltaire’s home, Rolland looked at the landscape before him and “the thunder roared”:

“I see! At last I see! What did I see?…it was like the rending of a veil.  [My] spirit, a desecrated virgin unfolding under the embrace, felt stirring within it the virile ecstasy of nature….suddenly everything took on meaning;  everything was explained.  And in that moment, when I beheld Nature in all her nakedness, and went in to her, I loved her…”

While reading the philosopher Spinoza during the winter of 1885-1886 – in preparation for his entrance exams to the Ecole Normale Superieure, which he later attended – Rolland found that “one page was enough” to cause “sparks of fire.”  He realized that God and nature are one and that “Everything that is, exists in God….And I too am in God!…I can fall only in him.  I am at peace; all is peace…At bottom, each mind and what is convenient to call nature share the same reality, have the same origin, are the issue of the same cosmic energy.”

Quoted by William B. Parsons in The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling:  Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism.

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