9. In all cases of natural death, that is to say, of death resulting from the extinction of the vital forces by age or disease, the separation is effected gradually; in the case of those whose soul is dematerialized and whose thoughts are detached from earthly things, the disengagement of the spirit is almost complete before death takes place; the body is still vitalized by the organic life, when the soul has already entered upon the life of the spirit-world, and is only held to the body by a link so slight that it breaks of itself and without effort with the last beat of the heart. A spirit in this situation may have already recovered its mental lucidity, and may therefore be the conscious witness of the extinction of the life of the body from which it rejoices to be freed; for such a one, confusion scarcely exists; death, for this spirit, is only a moment of peaceful sleep, from which it emerges with an indescribable impression of happiness and hope.
In the case of the worldly-minded and the sensual, of those who have lived with the life of the body rather than with that of the spirit, and for whom the spiritual life is nothing – not even a reality in their minds – everything in their earthly life has helped to tighten the links that bind them to matter; nothing, through all their earthly career, has tended to relax, beforehand, the links which have to be severed abruptly when the hour of their departure has come. As death approaches, the soul, in these cases also, effects its disengagement by degrees, but through a series of continuous and painful efforts. The convulsions of the process of dying, under the conditions we are now considering, are the index of the conflict undergone by the spirit, who, at one moment, tries to break the bonds that resist its efforts to get itself free, and, at another moment, clutches at the body of which it would fain regain possession, but from which it is violently torn away, bit by bit, by an irresistible force.