Born in France in 1924 Jacques loses his sight at age 8 in an accident, but discovers another way of seeing, he describes it as seeing with an inner light. Blessed with loving and courageous parents who were students of Rudolf Steiner’s teachings, Jacques is able to develop this ability with such skill that he eventually becomes a WWII hero and survives torture and incarceration at Buchenwald.
Because his parents were students of Rudolf Steiner, young Jacques learns German. Because he is blind he must exercise his memory to accomplish his schoolwork. Both of these skills will be essential when the Nazis invade France in 1939. At 17, Jacques takes it upon himself to organize the other schoolboys into a resistance group. Because the press is controlled by the Germans, Jacques decides to print his own paper, collecting news from reliable sources and distributing it through a network of young boys.
After losing his sight at age 8, Jacques makes two important discoveries: the first is that he can still see light and colors so he understands that the source of light is not the outer world, the second discovery is that the amount of light he perceives changes with his emotions, whenever he feels sadness or fear or impatience the light goes out and he is blind, but when he feels joy and love he sees with much greater precision and clarity. So what he discovers at an early age is that he has the power to turn on the light by calling forth the feeling of love within himself, and this he does under the most dire circumstances.
These discoveries would lead to others. He talks about the power of attention, the power of being completely in the present and that without this ability of focused attention in the present we will never be able to perfect ourselves.
This attention or wakefulness as he sometimes calls it leads him to another discovery, the perception of subtle pressure emanating from every object and living thing, regardless of distance.
Without the distractions of superficiality, Jacques is able to observe the workings of the spirit or metaphysical realm. For example he discovers the observer. “I recognized that there was indeed someone watching. Someone watching deep within. But this spectator himself did not have a history. And for him, linear space had no meaning whatsoever.” This leads him to look beyond the screen of images in his head, “in some way into pure light.” And when he puts himself in touch with that pure light all that remains is intense joy.
One of his most important essays is The Pollution of the I.So what is this pollution of the I? And what is this I? Jacques was writing in the late 1960s. Rivers and lakes were catching fire from the chemicals dumped into them. With his wealth of inner experience, Jacques is able to make the connections of outer pollution which captures the headlines and an inner pollution of the soul, the I, which goes unnoticed by the ‘seeing’ because we are so easily distracted by the ego and our senses.
I highly recommend both his autobiography And There Was Light as well as the collection of essays The Pollution of the I.