For 40 years, since I was 13, I have haunted libraries, studying visions. Visions are an important topic for me, for more reasons than being Native American or a Roman Catholic religious professional preparing for ordination.
I suffer from a rare neurological condition caused by right-hemisphere brain damage that makes the simplest tasks -- dressing, tying shoes -- an ordeal. As a boy I struggled through school, taunted and rejected by other children and often shamed by teachers. One teacher even told me, "Eddie, you're no good at all" so often, I started telling it to myself. If I said worse things about myself than others said, their words wouldn't hurt so much.
It was then that I felt the healing power of visions. One afternoon after school, as I listened to Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, I repeated the mantra: "I'm no good at all," to quiet the pain. Slowly, quiet brilliance began to fill the room, and a soft, nurturing light came to me. The light was all warmth. And the warmth of the light spoke to me, but without words. It told me despite all my difficulties I would become a writer; I would have a life.
I asked the light, "Who are you?"
"I am the one who dries the tears of little boys. I am the one who helps boys dream and then fulfill their dreams.... I will come to you at different times, I will always be near you even when you cannot see or feel me." I sensed the light, through the seeing of the heart, as it gathered like a figure of Christ risen. The warmth radiated through my hands, my arms, my shoulders.
So much of what the light predicted became true. Against the odds, I graduated from college, earned a graduate degree and became an international retreat leader. I became a writer, placing my first book with a major publisher when I was still in my 20s. Other books followed, and with the guidance of my church and family, I developed a national ministry of leading retreats and parish missions.
Through all these years of researching visions, I've come to believe that my case is not as unusual as it seems. Though not all visions are as dramatic as the one I just described, all of us have visions. We all are capable of hearing what Elijah called "the still small voice."
What, then, are visions? A definite answer eludes us. If language about visions often seems vague and unsatisfying, it's because we are touching the great mystery of who we are. The first person who taught me how to talk about such experiences was my Native American grandfather, Pop.
In his later years, Pop would spend hours roaming the woods at the top of the bluff above the river near where he lived. He would slowly, carefully gaze at the landscape, the rocks, the plants. He soaked it all in. Once, I asked him what he saw when he looked. I still hear his answer, rhythmic with Cherokee and Appalachian intonations: "I see the dirt, the trees, the water, the skies."
"Why?" I asked him. "Why do you look so long?"
He paused, took his pipe out of his mouth, swallowed, then slowly said, "If you look a long time; it will all shimmer, and you will see the glory."
I have no doubt that Pop saw the glory. He was telling me what a vision is: It's when life shimmers and we see the glory. Visions are perceptions of God's splendor, the glory that knits and ties all things together as it mends and heals.
The sacred knocks on the doors of our lives, every moment of every day. I wrote my new book, Visions: The Soul's Path to the Sacred, to help people open to those gentle knocks and experience the transforming power of their own visions.
About Eddie EnsleySee more books from this Author
His study of visions in Christian history (e.g., the writings of saints such as Anselm and Thomas Aquinas, and church authorities' interviews with believers who have experienced visions and healings), his own people's traditions, and stories he has heard at retreats have led Ensley to believe tha...| Read Full Review of Visions: The Soul's Path to t...
Eddie Ensley, who has studied visions for more than forty years, provides stories of people that have changed their life’s direction in Visions: The Soul’s Path to the Sacred.Oct 16 2000 | Read Full Review of Visions: The Soul's Path to t...