A Prison, a Paradise: Suicide

“Is life worth living?”  French atheist Albert Camus and the American philosopher William James had little in common, but they agreed that this was the fundamental question. 

Loren Hurnscot was the pseudonym of a woman named Gay Taylor.  She published her memoir, A Prison, A Paradise  in 1959, focusing on the history of a destructive love triangle that entangled her life for many years.  Its aftermath was suicidal despair and a desperate search for peace of mind and truth.  In this passage she is about to commit suicide by drugs and drowning in a river; mystical experiences followed, as we see here and in the next installments.  

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Just at dusk, I was there on the rock by the river.  I had to wait in the woods for people to go.  There was silence at last.  I burned a card–the nine of diamonds–that I had seen in a street in Bloomsbury and picked up, out of some queer whim, wondering why it was not the nine of spades. The subcurrents of lunacy had been swaying through me for a long time. 

The sheer evil of the place was growing.  The water was still and oily below the spume.  “If a man fell in there by sheer accident, he’d be damned for a thousand years,” I thought.  I felt the presence of past suicides, evil and despairing, all round me.  “Is that the company I’m going to keep?”

jack-b-465257-unsplashThe last light died out on the grey-green woods.  I sat on, on the rocks.  It was time.  Was it time?  And suddenly I knew that if I did this thing, I should be making an unbreakable link between myself and all the evil in the world.  It came over me, blindingly, for the first time in my life, that suicide was a wrong act, was indeed “mortal sin.”  In that moment, God stopped me.  I did not want my life, but I knew I was suddenly forbidden by something outside myself to let it go. 

I cried hopelessly for a long while.  I looked again at the water, and thought of the Dial in my bag, that I’d meant to swallow to deaden consciousness.  A tremendous “NO” rose—within me?—outside me?  I don’t know.  “I can’t do it—I’m held back—I know beyond all doubt that it is absolutely wrong.”

Some blind instinct made me pull off my “disguise.”  It began to rain.  There were seven shillings in my bag, dark was falling, and I was two hundred miles from home.  I walked back to the village in the darkness, sobbing and talking to God.  There was no earthly help for me any where, but I knew I was no longer alone; that God was there.  It had always been pride that had held me off from Him.  Now it was broken the obstacle was gone.  One is never simple enough, while things go well. 

“I’m in your hands,” I kept whispering.  “You stopped me. You must show me what to do….” 

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