LARGER THAN ONESELF by Robert Aickman
“‘He’s a Lewisite. He’s misplaced like me.’”
As with this story’s wide-eyed protagonist Mrs Iblis, who is almost a gatecrasher to its events, most of the things that happen or are spoken about in it seem to be above my head, beyond even the ‘subliminal self’ — a story that is larger than itself, larger than the subconscious whale mentioned in it. Larger than sin. Larger than the gin I need to drink after having read it!
A Forum of spiritual-meaning seekers assembles in this large house under the auspices of Mr Coner, eager to spend time together in locating the answer to life, the universe, everything. More than 42 people have assembled, though, and things get out of hand, with some of the women walking about in knickers and black brassieres, or having the vapours, or eating cakes or drinking cider as served by waiters in the billiard room, or watching young men follow shapely Sister Nuper into the night.
A darkness of night whereby the subsuming radiance of some ‘synthesis’ eventually sets its swelling searchlight upon our nudity as readers. The effulgent, spiritual vision at the end of this story is probably the nearest you will ever reach God while reading literature, at which time we as readers merge and are at one, having found something larger than ourselves — having become the essential gestalt… its vastness of source and original powers of darkness, notwithstanding. Not to speak of the “Avant Garde Synagogue” or even the Salvation Army.
“Reading alone will not avail. Words reach only the mind. It is the spirit, the Geist, we grope for, nicht wahr?”
My other reviews of Aickman: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/robert-aickman/