ACTION OF SPIRITS ON MATTER.
52. Materialistic opinions being put aside, as condemned at once by reason and
by facts, we have now to inquire whether the soul, after death, can manifest itself to the
Let us begin by considering whether there can be any reason why intelligent
beings, living, as it were, in our midst, although, from their nature, we are unable to see
them, should not be able to manifest themselves in some way or other. Common sense
tells us that there can be no á priori impossibility of their being able to do this; and it is
something that the supposition is seen to be not intrinsicaly unreasonable. On the other
hand, the belief that they can thus manifest themselves is indigenous among all nations,
and has existed everywhere, and at all epochs ; and it is evident that no intuition could
be so general, or manifest such vitality, in all ages, without having some foundation.
Moreover, this belief is sanctioned by the testimony of Holy Writ and by the Fathers of
the Church; and only the materialistic scepticism of our age could have relegated it into
the category of superstitions.
But these are only moral considerations. One cause has Contributed beyond all
others to develop scepticism in a positive age like ours; an age in which a reason must
be given for every statement, and in which people must know the "why" and the "how"
of everything. That cause is the general ignorance of mankind in regard to the nature of
spirits and of the means by which they are able to manifest themselves. Let the world
acquire this knowledge, and the fact of spirit-manifestation will be seen to have nothing
surprising in it, and will take its place with all other natural facts.
53. The very idea that people usually form respecting spirits renders the
question of their manifestation incomprehensible; for these manifestations can only
occur through the action of spirits on matter, and as it is generally supposed that spirits
are divested of all matter, it is asked, with some show of reason, "How can a spirit act
on material things?" Here is the general error, for a spirit is not an abstraction, but is a
definite being, limited, and Circumscribed. The spirit incarnated in the human body
constitutes the man's soul; when the spirit quits that body at death, he does not emerge
from it stripped of all covering. All spirits assure us that they preserve their human
form and, in fact, when they appear to us, they do so in the form by which we knew
them during their human life.
If we observe people attentively at the moment of their death, we find that their
soul is in a state of confusion ; their perceptions are muddled; they see their bodies,
whole, or mutilated, according to the manner of their decease; and, at the same time,
these souls see themselves, and feel that they are still living. Something tells them that
the body lying there is their body, and they feel a difficulty in comprehending how it
can be that they are separated from it. They Continue to see themselves under their
previous form, and this sight produces in some of them, for a certain period, a singular
illusion, viz., that of believing themselves to be still in the flesh. They have to gain
experience of their new state, before they can become convinced of its reality.
When they have got over this first moment of perplexity, they learn to look upon their
corpse as an old garment which they have slipped off; and are not sorry to be quit of
They feel themselves to be lighter, and to have dropped a burden; they no longer suffer
from physical pains, and are delighted with their power of rising into the atmosphere
and gliding through space, just as, when in the body, they have often done in their
Meanwhile, notwithstanding that they have lost their body, the souls retain their
personality; they retain their human form, but a form which neither troubles nor embar-
rasses them; and they also retain the consciousness of their self, and of their
individuality. What must we conclude from this? Why, that the soul does not leave its
all in the coffin, but that it carries something away with it.
* If the reader will look again at what we have said, in The Spirits’ Book, about
dreams and the state of the spirit during slumber (400, 418), he will see that those
dreams which almost every one has experienced, in which we find ourselves moving as
though we were flying, are nothing but a vague remembrance of the sensation
experienced by the spirit, when, during slumber, it has momentarily quitted its body of
gross matter, taking with it only its fluidic body; the same fluidic body which it will
preserve after death. Those dreams may therefore give us at idea of the state of the
spirit, when freed from the fetters which bind it to the earth.
54. Numerous observations, and unanswerable facts, of which we shall speak further on, have led us to this conclusion, viz., that there exist in man three things 1st, the soul or spirit, the intelligent principle in which resides the moral sense; 2nd, the body, a gross material envelope, with which the soul is temporarily clothed, for the accomplishment of certain Providential ends; 3rd, the perispirit, a fluidic envelope, which is semi-material, and constitutes the link between the soul and the body.
Death is the destruction, or rather the disaggregation, of the grosser envelope, from which the soul withdraws itself; the other envelope disengages itself from the grosser one, and accompanies the soul; so that the soul always possesses an envelope. This latter, fluidic, ethereal, vaporous, and invisible to us in its normal
state, is none the less matter, although, up to the present time, we have not been able to
seize it, so as to submit it to analysis.
This inner envelope of the soul, or perispirit, exists, then. during our corporeal
life; it is the go-between or intermediary for all the sensations experienced by the spirit,
the means by which the spirit acts upon its fleshly organs and transmits its will to all
that is exterior to itself. To employ a comparison borrowed from matter, it is the
electric conducting-wire which serves for the transmission of thought it is, in short, that
mysterious, inexplicable agent which we call the nervous fluid, and which plays so
part in the human economy, but of which we take too little account in our discussion of
physiological and pathological questions. Medical students, confining their researches
to the material and ponderable elements, leave out of their calculations an incessant
cause of vital action, the recognition of which would throw a flood of light on the facts
with which they deal. But this is not the place to enter upon this highly important
subject ; we would merely point out, in passing, that a knowledge of the perispirit is the
key to a host of physiological and physical problems, until now unexplained.
The perispirit is not one of those mere hypotheses to which science sometimes
finds it necessary to have recourse, in order to explain a fact; its existence has not only
been revealed by spirits, but is proved by observation, as we shall show further on. For
the present, and not to anticipate facts which will be brought forward in due time, we
confine ourselves to saying that, whether during its union with its fleshly body, or after
its disjunction therefrom, the soul is never separated from its perispirit.
55. It has been said that the spirit is a flame, a spark this should be understood
of the soul, properly so called, the intellectual and moral principle, to which we cannot
attribute any determinate form ; but, whatever its degree of advancement, the soul is
always clothed with an envelope, or perispirit, the nature of which becomes more and more etherealised, in proportion as
the soul itself becomes purer and raises itself higher and higher in the hierarchy of
spirits. This conjunction of the soul and perispirit is as absolute as that of the idea of
spirit with the idea of form , so that we cannot conceive of the one without the other.
The perispirit is therefore an integral part of the spirit, as the body is an integral part of
the man; but the perispirit, alone, is no more the spirit, than the body, alone, is the man
For the perispirit does not think ; it is, to the soul, what the body is to the man; it is the
agent, the instrument, of the soul's action.
56. The form of the perispirit is the human form ; and, as previously stated,
when it appears to us, it generally resembles the form by which we knew the spirit,
when in the flesh. It might thence be supposed that the perispirit, being disengaged
from every particle of flesh, must have moulded itself in some way upon the body, and
thus have preserved its impress; but this does not appear to be the case. The human
form, though differenced in some details, and with certain organic modifications
necessitated by the nature of the sphere in which the soul is called to exist, appears to
be common to the inhabitants of all the globes of the universe ; this, at least, is what
spirits tell us ; an this form appears to be equally that of all spirits when not incarnated,
and possessing only their perispirit. It is also the form under which, through all tune,
angels, or pure spirits, have been represented ; from all of which we may conclude that
the human form is the type of every human being, to whatever degree he may have
attained. But the subtle matter of the perispirit has neither the tenacity nor the rigidity
of compact bodily matter ; it is, if we may so express ourselves, flexible and expansive
; and therefore, the form assumed by the perispirit, although similar to that of the body,
is not absolutely the same. It yields to the will of the spirit, who can give it any
similitude he pleases whereas the resistance of the solid envelope of flesh renders such
changes of similitude impossible. Freed from the
"vile body" which once compressed it, the perispirit spreads, contracts, or otherwise
transforms itself; accomplishing every metamorphosis determined at the moment by the
spirit's will. It is through this property of his fluidic envelope that the spirit who desires
to make himself known can, when necessary, assume the exact appearance he had when
living, and can even show the bodily defects, or other peculiarities, that may serve to
Spirits, as we have seen, are beings like ourselves, and constitute a population
environing us on every side, though invisible to us in our normal state; we say, our
normal state, because, as we shall see, this invisibility is not absolute.
57. Let us return to our consideration of the nature of the perispirit, essential to
the explanation we are about to give. We have said that, although fluidic, it is none the
less a species of matter, as is proved by the fact of tangible apparitions, to which we
have now to recur. Through the influence of certain mediums, we have seen hands
appear, with all the properties of living hands; hands that were warm, that we could
touch, that offered the resistance of a solid body, that could grasp ours, and then
suddenly vanish, like a shadow. The intelligent action of these hands, which, evidently,
by their execution of Certain movements, obey a will, playing airs on an instrument,
etc.-proves that they are visible portions of an invisible, intelligent being. Their
tangibleness, their temperature, in a word, the impression they make on our senses (for
we have seen them leave marks on the skin, deal painful blows, or give the gentlest.
caresses), all prove that they consist of some sort of matter. Their instantaneous
disappearance proves, still further, that this matter is eminently subtle, and that it has
the property (like that of certain substances already known to us) of passing alternately
from a solid to a fluidic state, and vice- versa.
58. The peculiar nature of the soul, properly so called, that is to say, of the
thinking being, is entirely unknown to us : it only reveals itself by its acts, and these
strike our material senses, unless through a material intermediary. The spirit, then, has
need of matter, in order to act upon matter He has, as his direct instrument, his
perispirit, just as a man has his body ; and this perispirit is matter, as we are about to
show. He has, as his intermediary agent, the universal fluid ; a sort of vehicle on which
he acts, as we act upon the air, in order to produce certain effects, by the aid of
expansion, compression, propulsion, or vibration.
The action of a spirit on matter is easily understood when thus explained; and
we see that all the effects produced by that action belong to the order of natural pheno-
mena, and have nothing of the miraculous about them. They have only appeared to be
supernatural, because people were ignorant of their cause ; their cause known, they no
longer appear to be prodigies, and that cause is found in the semimaterial properties of
the perispirit. All this is only a new order of facts, explained by a new law, and about
which, ere long, people will feel no more wonder than they now feel at correspondence
by the electric telegraph.
59. It may perhaps be asked, how it is that a spirit, by the aid of matter so subtle,
can act upon bodies which are both heavy and compact, raise tables, etc. But no
scientific man could make such an objection; for, without reference to any special
properties which this novel agent may possess and of which we are ignorant, have we
not, before our eyes, analogous examples? Is it not in the most rarefied gases, and in
imponderable fluids, that industry finds its most powerful motors? When we see the air
overthrowing edifices, vapour dragging enormous masses, powder, transformed into
gas, blowing up rocks, electricity splitting trees and piercing walls, why should it be
thought strange that a spirit, with the aid of his perispirit, should raise a table, especially
when we know that this very perispirit may also become visible and tangible, and
behave like a solid body?