Allan Kardec

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Apparitions of the spirit of persons in the flesh - Doubles - Saint Alfonso of Liguori and Saint Antony of Padua - Vespasian - Transfiguration - Invisibility.

Apparitions of the spirit of persons in the flesh
114. Bi-corporeity and transfiguration are Varieties of the order of visual manifestations; and, strange as they may at first appear, it will be easily seen, from the explanation we are enabled to give of them, that they are not outside the order of natural phenomena. Both are consequences of the principle that what is true of the properties of the perispirit after death is true of the perispirit of people in the flesh. We have seen that, during sleep, the spirit recovers a portion of its normal freedom, because it partially isolates itself from the body; a state in which we have often had the opportunity of observing it. The spirit, whether a man be alive or dead, possesses at all times its semi-material envelope, which, through the action of the same causes that we have already set forth, may temporarily acquire both visibility and tangibility. Unquestionable facts have removed all doubt on this point. We will only adduce here a few cases for which we can vouch, from our own personal knowledge; but many of our readers will probably be able to recall analogous facts, by consulting their memory.

115. The wife of a friend of ours frequently saw entering her chamber, during the night, whether she had a light or not, a woman who sold fruit in her neighbourhood, whom she knew by sight, but to whom she had never spoken. This apparition terrified her all the more, because at that time she knew nothing of spiritism, and because the vision frequently recurred. The fruitseller was not only in the flesh when these apparitions took place, but was probably in bed and asleep at the moment of their occurrence. While her material body was at home. her spirit and her fluidic body were in this lady's room; moved by what motive we cannot say. In such a case a spiritist, acquainted with the subject of apparitions, would have asked her visitant what she wanted ; but, as the lady in question knew nothing of such things, the idea of doing so never entered her mind. Each time the apparition occurred, it vanished without her knowing how; and, after each disappearance, she assured herself that all the doors were perfectly closed, and that no one could have entered the room: a precaution which proved to her that she had been really awake, and was not under the influence of a dream. At other times, this lady saw, in the same way, a man whom she did not know; but, one day she saw her brother, who was then in California. He had so exactly the appearance of a real person, that, at first, she thought he must have returned, and was about to speak to him; but he disappeared before she had time to do so. A letter afterwards received showed that he was not dead. This lady was what may be called a natural seeing medium ; but, at this time, as we said before, she had never heard that mediums existed.

116. Another lady, who lives in a country town, being seriously ill, saw, one night about ten o'clock, in her bedroom, an old gentleman, an inhabitant of the same town, whom she sometimes met in society, but with whom she was but very slightly acquainted. This gentleman was sitting in an armchair, at the foot of her bed ; he took, from time to time, a pinch of snuff, and looked as though he were watching her. Surprised at such a visit, at such an hour, she was about to ask him the motive of his coming, but he made a sign to her not to speak, and to go to sleep; several times she was about to speak to him, but, each time, he renewed the signal, and, at last, she fell asleep. Some days afterwards, having recovered from her illness, she received a visit from the same gentleman, but at a more suitable hour, and, this time, it was really he; he wore the same clothes, carried the same snuff-box, and his manner was just as before. Persuaded that he had visited her during her illness, she thanked him for his kindness in coming to her; but the gentleman, much surprised, told her that he had not had the pleasure of seeing her for a long time. The lady, who was cognisant of spirit-phenomena, saw at once what had occurred; but, not caring to enter into explanation of the matter, contented herself with saying that she had probably been dreaming.

"As was no doubt the case!" the incredulous will say; but it is certain that this lady was not asleep, any more than the one first mentioned. If she had been dreaming, she must therefore have been dreaming when wide awake; in other words, she must have been labouring under an hallucination. What a glorious word that is! What a comprehensive explanation of everything that we do not comprehend ! As we have already sufficiently refuted this objection, we will continue to address ourselves to those who are able to understand us.

117. Here is a fact still more characteristic; and one which we should be curious to see explained by the theory of an excited imagination.

A gentleman, living in the country, would never marry, notwithstanding the persuasions of his family. They were very anxious that he should form an alliance with a lady, living in a neighbouring town, whom he had never seen. one day, while in his bedroom, he was struck with astonishment at seeing before him a young girl, dressed in white, with a wreath of flowers on her head. She informed him that she was betrothed to him, and held out her hand, which he took in his, and on which he saw an engagement-ring. A few moments afterwards, she vanished. Taken aback by this strange occurrence, and having assured himself that he was quite awake, he asked the people of the house if any one had come in during the day; but they assured him that they had seen no one. A year afterwards, yielding to the renewed solicitations of his relations, he made up his mind to go and see the young lady who had been so strongly recommended to him. He arrived in the town where she lived on the day of the "Fête-Dieu;" all the townsfolk were returning from the procession, and one of the first persons he saw, on entering the dwelling of the young lady's family, was a young girl whom he instantly recognised as the person who had appeared to him a year before. She was dressed just as he had seen her, for the apparition, we should have stated, took place on the "Fête-Dieu" of the preceding year. He was struck dumb with amazement; the young lady, on catching sight of him, uttered a cry of surprise and fainted. On recovering consciousness, she declared that she had already seen the gentleman, on that very day, the year before. The acquaintance, so strangely begun, ended in a marriage. All this occurred about the year 1835, before spiritism had been heard of; and besides, both the gentleman and the lady were extremely prosaic, matter-of-fact people, with imaginations as little excitable as could well be conceived of.

It will perhaps be surmised that these persons may have had their minds filled with the idea of the proposed union between them, and that this pre-occupation produced an hallucination in both of them ; but we must not forget that, on the husband's side, indifference had been the predominant feeling, and that it was not until a year after the apparition had occurred, that he made up his mind to go and see the young lady in question.

Those who would explain the matter as being a case of hallucination are hound to explain the double apparition (for the young lady also saw the gentleman the year before), the coincidence of the festival-day and of the costume, and the mutual recognition of the parties; circumstances which could not be the product of the imagination.

118. Before going farther, we must reply to a question that will certainly be asked, viz., How Can the body live while the spirit is absent? We reply, that it is possible for the body to live with only the organic life, which is independent of the spirits presence. But we must add, that, during earth-life, the spirit is never completely detached from the body. Spirits, as well as certain seeing mediums, perceive that the spirit of one in the flesh, when away from the body, is united to it by a luminous trail, which reaches to the body a phenomenon which never occurs when the body is dead, for then the separation is complete. It is by this channel of communication that the spirit is instantaneously informed, however far away he may be, of the need which the body may have of his presence and he then returns to the body with the swiftness of lightning.* It follows, therefore, that the body can never die during the spirit's absence, and that the spirit, on his return, can never find the door of his fleshly habitation closed against him, as some romancers have pretended in their imaginary tales. (See Spirits’ Book, No. 400, et seq.)

Doubles - Saint Alfonso of Liguori and Saint Antony of Padua

119. But to return to our subject. The spirit of a person in the flesh, when partially disengaged from the body, can show himself just as well as that of one who has departed this life, and with all the appearance of reality ; and may even, through the means already described, acquire a momentary tangibility. This is the phenomenon designated as bi-corporeity, which has given rise to the stories of doubles, that is to say, of individuals who have been proved to have been simultaneously present in two different places. Here are two examples of this fact, taken, not from mere popular legends, but from ecclesiastical history.
Saint Alfonso of Liguori was canonised before the lapse of the usual period after his death, because he was seen simultaneously in two different places, which was accounted a miracle. When Saint Antony of Padua was in Spain, and while he was one day preaching, his father, who was at Padua, was being led to death, having bee accused of murder. At the moment when he was about to be executed, Saint Antony appeared, proved his father to be innocent, and pointed out the real criminal, who underwent the punishment of his crime. It was subsequently ascertained that, at this time, Saint Antony had not quitted Spain.

Saint Alfonso, having been evoked by us, for interrogation in regard to these occurrences, the following conversation took place between us: -

1. Can you give us an explanation of this phenomenon?

"Yes; a man who, as the result of his moral advancement, has attained to a certain degree of dematerialisation, can show himself in a place other than that in which his body is, and by the following means. Finding sleep to be stealing upon him, he asks of God that his spirit may be enabled to transport itself to a given place. If his request is granted, his spirit abandons his fleshly body, as soon as the latter falls asleep, and, accompanied by a part of his perispirit, leaves the gross material body in a state closely bordering on death. I say bordering on death, because there still remains in the body a link which cannot be defined, but which keeps up its union with the perispirit and the soul. The perispirit then appears in the place where the spirit desires to show himself."

2. Your statement does not explain our question, as regards the visibility and the tangibility of the perispirit.

"The spirit, finding himself disengaged from the bonds of matter, according to his degree of elevation, can render himself tangible by a special action on matter."

3. Is the sleep of the body indispensable, in order that the spirit may appear in another place?

"The soul can divide itself when it feels itself attracted to a place, other than that in which its body is. It may happen that the body is not asleep when this takes place, though that is a very rare occurrence; but, on such occasions, the body is never in a perfectly normal state, it is always more or less entranced."

Remark. - The soul does not "divide itself" in the literal sense of those words ; it radiates in different directions, and can thus manifest itself on several points without being divided, just as a light can be simultaneously reflected in several mirrors.

4. How would it be if a man, whose spirit is appearing elsewhere "'bile his body is asleep, were suddenly awakened?

"That could not happen, because, if any one approached his body, with the intention of awaking it, the spirit would re-enter it, before the intention could be executed; for the
spirit would read the thoughts of the intending disturber."

The same explanation has repeatedly been given to us, by the spirits of persons deceased as well as living. Saint Alfonso explains the fact of the double presence; but he does not give us the theory of visibility and of tangibility.


120. Tacitus reports an analogous fact : -

"During the months passed by Vespasian in Alexandria, awaiting the periodical return of the summer winds and the season when the sea is smoothest, various prodigies took place, showing the favour of heaven, and the interest which the gods seemed to take in that prince.

"These prodigies increased Vespasian's desire to visit the sacred sojourn of the god, and to consult him concerning the empire. He gave orders that the temple should be kept closely shut, so that no one but himself might enter it, when, being entirely absorbed in anticipation of what the oracle was about to utter, he perceived behind him one of the principal Egyptians, named Basilides, whom he knew to be retained by illness at some distance from Alexandria. He questioned the priests, as to whether Basilides had been that day in the temple ; he inquired of the passers-by, whether they had seen him in the town ; at last he sent horsemen, and acquired through them the Certainty that, at the moment of the apparition, Basilides was eighty miles away. He then no longer doubted that the vision was supernatural; and the name of Basilides was accepted by him in lieu of the oracle." *

* Tacitus, Histories (Burnouf’s Translation), Book IV., Chaps. 81, 82.

121. The individual who appears simultaneously in two different places has, then, two bodies; but, of these, one alone is real, the other is only an appearance : we may say that the first lives with the organic life, and the second, with that of the soul ; on awaking, the two bodies re-unite, and the life of the soul re-enters the material body. We have no reason to suppose that, in this state of partial separation, the two bodies can possess active and intelligent vitality, simultaneously, and in the same degree. It follows, moreover, from what we have just said, that the real body could not die, and the apparent body still remain visible the approach of death always recalling the spirit to the body, if only for an instant. It also follows that the apparent body could not be killed, because it is not organic, and is not formed of flesh and bone; it would instantly disappear, if any one tried to kill it.*


* See the Revue Spirite, janvier, 1850; Le follet de Bayonne, 1859; Les Agénères; Mon ami Hermann; mai, 1859, Le Lien entre l’Esprit et le Corps; novembre 1859, l’Ame errante; janvier 1860, l’ Esprit d’un côte et le Corps de l’autre; mars 1860, Etudes sur l’esprit de personnes vivantes: Le docteur V. et mademoiselle I.; avril 1860, Le Fabricant de Saint-Petersbourg; Apparitions tangibles; novembre 1860, Histoire de Marie d’Agréda; juillet 1861, Une Apparition Providentielle.


122. Let us now consider the second phenomenon, that of transfiguration. This consists in the change of aspect of a living body. As an illustration of this phenomenon, we adduce a fact that occurred in the years 1858 and 1859, in the neighbourhood of St Etienne, and for the authenticity of which we can vouch. A young lady, about fifteen years of age, had the singular faculty of transforming herself; that is to say, she could assume, at times, the appearance of persons who were dead : the illusion was so complete that the person simulated appeared to be actually present, so exact was the resemblance of features, expression, voice, and even of peculiarities of speech. This phenomenon occurred hundreds of times, without the girl's will having anything to do with it. She often assumed the appearance of her brother, who had been dead many years, presenting the similitude not only of his face, but his height, and the size of his body. A physician of the place, who had several times witnessed these strange occurrences, made the following experiment, with a view to assuring himself that he was not under an illusion. We have the fact from his own lips, from the girl's father, and from several other ocular witnesses, of most honourable character, and unquestionable veracity. It occurred to the physician to weigh this young lady, first in her normal state, and then in her state of transfiguration, when she had assumed the appearance of her brother, who was more than twenty years of age when he died, and much larger and stronger than his sister. He did so, and found that, in her transfigured state, her weight was almost doubled. This experiment was conclusive, and rendered it impossible to attribute her appearance to an optical illusion. Let us try to explain this fact, which, at one time, would have been called a miracle, but which we may now simply speak of as "a phenomenon."

123. Transfiguration, in certain cases, may be caused simply by a muscular contraction which gives so new an expression to the face as to render the person no longer recognisable. W e have often observed this, in the case of certain somnambulists, but, in such cases, the transformation is not radical; a woman, for instance, may appear young or old, handsome or plain, but she will still appear as a woman, and she will not increase or diminish in weight. In the instance before us, it is quite evident that there was something more than this; something which only a know- ledge of the perispirit will enable us to explain.

We assume, as a fundamental principle, that the spirit has the power of giving to his perispirit every kind of appearance, and that, by modifications of its atomic conditions, he can give it temporary visibility, tangibility, and consequently opacity. We also lay it down as a rule that the perispirit of a person in the flesh, when partially separated from the body, can be made to undergo the same transformations, and that this change of state is effected by the combinations of fluids to which we have so often adverted.
Let us, then, imagine the perispirit of a person in the flesh, not as separated from the body, but as radiating around the body, so as to envelop it like a vapour. In this state, the perispirit can be made to undergo the same modifications as if it were entirely separated from it; by causing the perispirit to lose its transparency, the body may be made to disappear and become invisible, being veiled, so to say, by the perispirit, as though surrounded by a mist. It may even change its aspect, and become luminous, if such be the will, or in the power, of the spirit. A second spirit, combining his own fluid with that of the former one, may substitute his own appearance for that of the former spirit, and so completely that the real body may be made to disappear under an exterior fluidic envelope, the appearance of which may be changed indefinitely at the will of the spirit-operators. Such appears to be the true cause of the strange and very rare phenomenon in question. As to the difference of weight, that may be explained in the same way as the change of weight in inert bodies. The intrinsic weight of the young lady's body was not changed, because there was no change in the amount of matter it contained ; but her body was, for the time being, brought under the control of an exterior agent that was able to augment or to diminish its apparent weight, as we explained above (78 et seq.). It is therefore probable that, if the transfiguration had caused it to assume the aspect of a little child, the apparent weight of the body would have been proportionally diminished.


124. "We can understand," it may be objected, "that a body may be made to assume the appearance of another body of the same dimensions, or even of a larger one; but how could it assume that of a smaller one, that of a little child, as has just been suggested? In such a case, would not the real body exceed the limits of the apparent body?" We reply that, the portion of the real body which, in such a case, would be in excess of the apparent body, might easily be rendered invisible by spirit-action. But we do not assert that this phenomenon has actually been produced we only desire to show, theoretically, that both the size and the weight of the body might be made to undergo an apparent diminution. As to the phenomenon itself, we neither affirm nor deny its possibility; but, should it occur, * and, should no more satisfactory solution have been arrived at, our theory would show how it might have been produced. We must never forget that we are on the threshold of the subject, and that we have still as much to learn in regard to the laws of spirit-manifestation as of all others.

125. We might here touch on the singular phenomenon of the "agénères" or ungenerated, * which, however extraordinary it may appear, is no more supernatural than the other phenomena we have been considering. But having fully explained this subject in the Revue Spirite of February 1859, we think it unnecessary to reproduce that explanation here. We will merely add that it is a variety of the class of tangible apparitions ; a peculiar state of certain spirits, enabling them to clothe themselves, temporarily, with a form so exactly resembling a body of flesh as to appear to be such to those about them.

* From the Greek privative a, and geinomai to engender; that which has not been engendered.

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