Do the spirits suffer? Which sensations do they experience? Such questions are naturally addressed
to us and we try to answer them. Initially we must say that we do not limit ourselves to the answers
of the spirits. We had somehow to consider the sensation as a fact, through observations.
In one of our sessions, soon after having received a beautiful essay from St. Louis regarding greed,
published last February, one of our associates described the following fact with respect to that
“We were evoking spirits in a small group of friends when suddenly and without been called, a
spirit that we had known very well presented himself; he could have served as a model to the
picture of the greedy one, painted by St. Louis: one of those men that live miserably surrounded by
their fortunes; deprived of everything not to the benefit of others but just to accumulate more,
uselessly. It was winter and we were by the fireplace. Then that spirit brought his name back to us,
name that was far from our thoughts, requesting our permission to come to warm up by our
fireplace, for three days, saying that he felt a horrible cold that he voluntarily endured during his
life, and that he forced others to withstand, out of greed. This would be a relief, he added, if you
allow me to.”
That spirit was experiencing a painful sensation of cold. But how could that he? That was the
difficulty. We then directed the following questions to St. Louis:
1. Could you kindly tell us how the spirit of that greedy man, who no longer had a material
body, felt cold and asked for help to warm him up?
- You can imagine the sufferings of the spirits by their moral sufferings.
2. We understand the moral sufferings like sorrow, remorse, shame, but heat, cold and the
physical pain, these are not moral effects. Do the spirits experience that kind of sensation?
- Does your soul feel cold? No, but it is aware of the sensation that it causes in the body.
3. As a consequence it seems that the spirit of the greedy did not feel real cold but he had the
memory of the sensation caused by the cold he had endured and the memory that for him
was like a reality, was a torture.
- It is more or less that. Let it be very clear that there is a distinction between the moral
and physical pain. One should not confuse the effect with the cause.
4. If we got it right one could explain things like this: The body is the instrument of pain. If it
is not the first cause it is at least the immediate cause. The soul has the perception of that
pain. That perception is the effect. The memory retained by the soul can be as painful as
reality but it cannot have a physical action. Neither intense heat nor cold can disorganize its
constitution. The soul cannot feel cold or heat. Don’t we daily see the memory or
apprehension of a physical illness producing the actual effect of reality? Even causing
death? Everybody knows that amputees feel pain in the non-existent limb. That limb is
certainly not the center or even the origin of the pain. The brain has kept the impression and
that is all. One can thus believe that there is something analogous with the suffering of the
spirits after death. Are such considerations correct?
- Yes. Later you will understand even better. Wait for other facts that will provide you
with new points of observation. You will then be able to arrive at comprehensive
This was happening in the beginning of 1858. As a matter of fact, since then a more in depth study
of the perispirit that represents a more important role in all spiritist manifestations, and that was still
unnoticed, has taken place: the vaporous or tangible apparitions; the state of the spirit at the time of
death; the so frequent idea in the spirits that they are still alive; the impressive portrait of the
suicidal, of the executed, of those embedded in the material pleasures and so many other facts that
brought light onto this question and that paved the way for explanations that we summarize below:
The perispirit is the link that unites the spirit to the material body; it is taken from the environment,
from the universal fluid; it simultaneously has something of electricity, of the magnetic fluid and, up
to a certain extent, of the inert matter. One could say that it is the quintessence of matter: it is the
principle of the organic life, but not of the intellectual life. The intellectual life resides in the spirit.
Besides, the perispirit is the agent to the exterior sensations. In the body those sensations are
localized in the organs that operate as channels. Once the body is destroyed, the sensations become
generic. That is why the spirits do not say that they have more pain in their head than on their feet.
Furthermore it is necessary not to confuse the sensations of the perispirit, which became
independent, with those of the body. The last ones have to be taken only comparatively and not as
an analogy. Any excess of heat or cold may disorganize the very fabric of the body; however it
cannot reach the perispirit. Once detached from the body the spirit can suffer but such a suffering is
not that of the body. Nevertheless, it is not an exclusively moral suffering, like remorse, since the
spirit complains about heat or cold; the spirit does not suffer more in the winter than in the summer;
we have seen them going through the flames without any suffering. Thus, temperature cannot exert
any impression on them. As a consequence, the pain they feel is not properly physical. It is a vague
intimate feeling that the spirit himself is not always precisely aware of, since the pain is not
localized and is not produced by any external agent. It is more of a memory than a reality, although
it can be a really painful memory. There is, however, something else besides the memory, as we will
Experience teaches us that at the time of death the perispirit detaches more or less slowly. At first
the spirit is not aware of the situation; does not consider him dead; feels alive, sees the body by the
side; acknowledges his own body but does not understand how it can be separated. Such a state lasts
for as long as there is a bond between the body and the spirit.
Take the evocation of the person who committed suicide in the Samaritan baths described in our
June issue. As everyone else, he said: “No, I am not dead.” But added: “However, I feel the worms
devouring me.” Well, the worms cannot absolutely devour the perispirit, let alone the spirit. They
only destroy the body. As the separation between the body and the perispirit was not complete, the
result was a kind of moral repercussion that gave him the sensation of what was happening to the
body. Repercussion might not be the correct word since it could lead to the supposition of a very
material effect. It was, on the contrary, the vision of what was happening to his body, to which his
perispirit was attached, that produced the illusion taken by reality. Thus, it was not a memory as he
was not devoured by the worms while alive. It was an actual feeling.
From that we see the deductions that can be taken from the facts, when observed with attention.
During life, the body receives exterior impressions transmitted to the spirit, through the perispirit
that probably constitutes what is called nervous fluid. Once dead, the body no longer feels, as there
is neither spirit nor perispirit. Once detached from the body the perispirit experiments the sensation.
However, as that sensation does not arrive through a specific channel, it is then generic. Now, as in
reality, there is only one transmitting agent, since it is the spirit that has consciousness, it results that
if there could be a perispirit without spirit, it would not feel more than the dead body. In the same
way, if the spirit had no perispirit it would be inaccessible to any painful sensation. That is what
happens to the spirits who are completely depurated. We know that the more they depurate the more
ethereal the essence of the perispirit becomes, from what follows that the influence of matter
diminishes with the progress of the spirit, that is, as the perispirit becomes less materialized.
One would say, however, that the pleasant sensations are transmitted to the spirit through the
perispirit, as well as the unpleasant ones. Thus, if the pure spirit is inaccessible to some, he must be
equally to the others as well. Yes, no doubt, to those that uniquely come from the influence of the
matter that we know. The sound of our instruments, the perfume of our flowers causes no
impression on them. However, there are intimate sensations, of an indefinable enchantment, that we
cannot have any idea about as, for that matter, we are like born blinds with respect to light. We
know that it exists but through which media? Our knowledge stops here. We know that there is
perception, sensation, hearing and vision; that such faculties are attributes of the whole being and
not like with man, of a given part of the body. However, and once more, through which channel?
That is what we ignore. The spirits themselves cannot enlighten us with that respect because our
language is not capable of expressing ideas that we do not have, as a blind people would not have
words to describe the effects of light, or the language of the savage would not have means of
describing our arts, sciences and our philosophical doctrines.
When we say that the spirits are inaccessible to the impressions of our matter we refer to the very
elevated spirits, whose ethereal covering has no analogy here on Earth. The same does not apply to
those whose perispirit is denser. Those perceive our sounds, odors, but not through a limited part of
their beings, as with when alive. One could say that the molecular vibrations are felt in their whole self, reaching the sensorium commune, which is the spirit itself, since by a different mode and even
maybe with a different impression, that produces a modification in the perception. They hear the
sounds of our voices but they understand us without the support of the word, through the simple
transmission of our thoughts, supporting what we have said that the more dematerialized the spirit
the easier that perception.
As for the vision, it is independent of light. Sight is an essential attribute of the soul. There is no
darkness to the soul. Nevertheless, it is more extensive and penetrating in those that are more
depurated. Thus, the soul, or spirit, has the faculty of all perceptions in itself. In the corporeal life
they are obliterated by the grossness of our organs. In the extracorporeal life they are less and less
obliterated, as the semi-material covering depurates.
Taken from the environment, that covering varies according to the nature of the globes. Moving
from one world to the next the spirits change coverings as we change clothes from winter to
summer and from the pole to the equator. When the more elevated spirits come to visit us they take
by covering their terrestrial perispirit and since then their perceptions are similar to ours, common
spirits. But all of them, the inferior as the superior ones, do not feel nor hear all but what they want
to feel or hear. Without sensitive organs they can activate or void their perceptions at will. There is
only one thing that they are obliged to hear: the advice of the good spirits.
Their vision is always active but they may become mutually invisible to one another. According to
their position they can hide from those who are their inferiors but not from those who are their
Just after death their vision is always confused and perturbed. It becomes clearer as the spirit
detaches and can achieve the same clearness as during life, irrespective of its penetration through
the bodies that are opaque to us. As for its extension through the infinite space, towards the past as
the future, it depends on the degree of purity and elevation of the spirit.
Some will say that such a theory is not very reassuring. We thought that once detached from the
gross covering, instrument of our pains, we would no longer suffer. Here you are telling us that we
will still suffer. Either way there will not be less suffering. Pity on us!
Yes, we can continue to suffer, and a lot, and for a long time, but we can also stop the suffering,
even at the moment when we leave the corporeal life.
The Earthly sufferings are sometimes independent of us. Many, however, are consequence of our
free-will. Let us go back to the source and we will see that the majority of the sufferings result from
causes that we could have avoided. How many evils, how many illnesses does not man owe to his
own excesses, ambition, in one word, passions?
A man that had lived a sober life; that had not abused of anything; that had always been simple in
his tastes and modest in his desires, would spare himself of many tribulations.
The same applies to the spirit. The sufferings the spirit endures are always consequences of the way
they lived on Earth. They will certainly no longer suffer from gout or rheumatism but will endure
other sufferings which are not less painful. We saw that their sufferings are the result of the still
existing link between them and matter; that the more separated from the influence of matter or, on
another word, the more dematerialized, the less painful sensations they will have. Thus, it depends
on the spirit to liberate from such influence, already in this life. The spirit has the free will and
consequently the choice between doing or not doing something. Let the spirit dominate the animal passions; let there be no hatred, no envy, no jealousy or pride; let the spirit be free from selfishness;
let the spirit purify its soul through the good feelings; may the spirit practice the good deeds and
give to the things of this world the importance they deserve and then, even in the corporeal
covering, they will already be depurated and untied from matter. On leaving such a material
covering the spirit will no longer suffer its influence. The physical sufferings that he may have
experimented will not leave a painful memory. There will remain no unpleasant impression because
those would have affected the body, not the spirit; he will be happy for having freed himself and the
calmness of his conscience will spare him from any moral suffering.
We have interrogated thousands of spirits that belonged to all echelons of society and attained all
social positions; we studied them in all periods of their spiritual life, since the moment when they
left the body; we followed them, step-by-step in this life beyond the grave, so as to observe the
changes in their ideas and sensations. With that respect it was not the most vulgar creatures that
offered us less interesting material for study. We have always seen that the sufferings depend on the
conduct, whose consequences they suffer, and that this new existence is a source of ineffable
happiness to those who have followed the right path, and consequently those who suffer, suffer for
what they wanted and should not complain about anything but themselves, be it in this world or in
the other one.
Certain critics ridicule some of our evocations, as for example of the assassin Lemaire * , finding it
strange that we get involved with such insignificant creatures, when we have so many superior
spirits available to us. They forget that it is exactly because of those that we, somehow, scrutinize
the nature of the fact or, better said, in their ignorance of the Spiritist Science, they don’t see in such
dialogues anything beyond a more or less funny conversation, whose reach is beyond them. We read
somewhere that a philosopher has said, after talking to a peasant: “I learned more with this rustic
man than with all scientists.” It is that he could see beyond the surface. Nothing is lost to the good
observer. He finds useful teachings even in the spores that grow in the manure. Does the doctor
refuse to touch a horrific wound when looking for the cause of the illness?
Another word about this subject. The sufferings beyond the grave have a term. We know that the
most inferior spirits can elevate and purify themselves through new trials. This can take long, very
long, but it depends on the spirit to abbreviate such a painful time, because God always listen to
him, as long as he submits to His will. The more dematerialized the spirit is, the ampler and lucid
their perceptions; the more subjugated by the empire of matter, which entirely depends on his
Earthly life style, the more limited and obscure they will be. The more one's vision extends to
infinity, the more the others become restricted.
Hence the inferior spirits have only a vague, confusing, incomplete and sometimes null vision of the
future. They cannot see the end of their sufferings and thus think that they will suffer for eternity,
which is a penalty to them. If the position of some is afflictive, even terrible, it is not nonetheless,
desperate. The position of the others, however, is eminently comforting. The choice is up to us.
This is of the highest morality.
The skeptical have doubts about our fate after death. We show them exactly what happens by which
we consider to be doing them a service. We have thus seen more than one retreating from their
mistake or, at least, beginning to seriously consider what they only joked about before. There is
nothing better than when we realize that something is possible. Had it always been like that there would not be so many incredulous people. In addition, both religion and public moral would gain
insights from these facts. The religious doubt, for many people, comes from the difficulty in
understanding certain things. These are positive spirits, not predisposed to blind faith, that only
admit something that has a reason to them. Make these things accessible to their intelligence and
they will accept them, as in the end they do not require more than that to believe. This is because
skepticism to them is a more painful situation than we can imagine or they dare not confess.
There is no system or personal idea in everything that we have said. Also, it was not a group of
privileged spirits that dictated such a theory to us. It is the result of studies done on individuals,
corroborated and confirmed by spirits whose language would give us no doubt with respect to their
superiority. We judged them by their words and not by their names or the names they have
attributed to themselves.
* See the Spiritist Magazine, Volume 1.