MR. SANSON, one of the earliest members of the Spiritist Society of Paris, died April 21st, 1862, after a year of intense suffering. Foreseeing his end, he had addressed, to the President of the Society, a letter containing the following passage:
“In view of the possibility of a sudden separation of my soul and body, I repeat the request that I made to you a year ago; viz., that you will evoke my spirit as quickly as you possibly can after my decease, and as often as you may think fit to do so, in order that I, who have been but a somewhat useless member of our Society during my sojourn upon the Earth, may be of some use to it on the other side of the grave, by enabling it to study, phase by phase, through evocation, the various incidents that follow what is commonly called death, but which, for us Spiritists, is only transformation, according to the impenetrable designs of God, and is always useful for carrying out those designs.
Besides this authorization and request that you will do me the honor to perform upon me this sort of spiritual autopsy which my slight advancement will perhaps render sterile, in which case your own good sense will decide you to cut short the experiment, I venture to beg of you personally, and also of all my colleagues, to pray the Almighty to permit the good spirits, and especially our Spiritual- President, Saint Louis, to assist me with their kindly counsels, and to guide me in deciding on the choice and the epoch of my next incarnation; for I am already much exercised in mind about this matter. I tremble lest, overrating my own spiritual powers, I should ask of God, too soon and too presumptuously, a corporeal trial above my strength, which, instead of aiding my advancement, would prolong my stay upon this Earth, or in some other one.”
In order to conform to our friend’s desire to be evoked as quickly as possible after his decease, we went to his house, with a few members of the Society, and there, in the presence of the corpse, held the following conversation with his spirit, an hour before the appointed time for the funeral. In so doing, we had a double end in view; first, to gratify the wish of the deceased and next, to observe, once more, the situation of the soul at a period so near to death; an observation especially interesting in the case of one so eminently intelligent and enlightened, and so deeply imbued by spiritist truths. We desired to ascertain the influence of his belief on the state of his spirit, and to seize his first impressions of the other life. We were not disappointed. Mr. Sanson was able to describe the moment of transition with perfect clarity; he had watched himself die and he had watched his coming to life again in the spirit-world; a circumstance of rare occurrence, due to the elevation already attained by his spirit.
In the death-chamber, April 23rd, 1862.
After having evoked the spirit in the usual terms, the following conversation took place:
1. Evocation. – I respond to your call in order to fulfill my promise.
2. Dear Mr. Sanson, it is for us both a duty and a pleasure to evoke you at once after your death, as you wished us to do.
A. I thank God for permitting my spirit to hold communication with you, and I thank you for your kindness. But I feel weak, and I tremble.
3. You suffered so much before your departure that I think we may fairly ask how you are. Do you still feel the pains that racked you so terribly? How does your present state compare with the state in which you were two days ago?
A. My state is a very happy one, for I no longer feel anything of my former pains; I am regenerated, made quite new, so to say. The transition from the terrestrial life to the spirit-life was, at first, something that I could not understand, and everything seemed incomprehensible to me; for we sometimes remain for several days without recovering our clarity of thought; but, before I died, I prayed that God would give me the power of speaking to those I love, and my prayer was granted.
4. How long was it before you regained clarity of thought?
A. About eight hours. I cannot be sufficiently grateful to the Almighty for granting my prayer.
5. Are you quite sure that you are no longer in our world? And, if so, how do you know
A. Oh, most certainly, I am no longer in your world! But I shall always be near you, to protect
and sustain you in inculcating the charity and abnegation that were the rule of my life; and I shall help to spread the true faith, the faith of Spiritism, which is destined to rekindle the belief in truth and goodness. I am well and strong; I am, in short, completely transformed. You could not recognize me as the infirm old man whose memory was leaving him, after he had left far behind him all the pleasure and joy of life! I am a denizen of the spirit-world, freed from the bondage of flesh; my country is the illimitable space, and my future is God, whose power and glory radiate through immensity! I wish I could speak with my children that I might urge upon them what they have always been unwilling to believe!
6. What effect does the sight of your body, lying here beside us, produce on your mind?
A. My body, poor, paltry relic, will return to dust; but I shall continue to cherish the welcome remembrance of all those to whose esteem you served as my passport! Poor, decaying form, dwelling- place of my spirit, instrument of my trial through so many weary years of pain, I look upon you, and I thank you, my poor body! for you have purified my spirit, and the suffering, ten times blessed! which you caused me to endure, has aided me to win the place I now occupy, and to earn the privilege of speaking with these friends, without delay!
7. Did you retain your consciousness to the last?
A. Yes, my spirit retained the use of all its faculties. I no longer saw, but I foresaw. The whole of my earthly life, too, passed before my mind; and my last thought, my last prayer, was that I might be enabled to speak with you as I am now doing, and I asked God that help might be given to you also in this matter, so that the desire of my life might be fulfilled.
8. Were you conscious of the moment when your body drew its last breath? What took place, in your being, at that moment? What sensation did you experience?
A. At the moment of separation, life seems to break down, and the sight of the spirit is extinguished. We seem to be in a great void, in the unknown; and then, carried away, as though by a wonderful current of surprise, we find ourselves in a world where all is joy and grandeur. I had no longer any feeling, all sense of suffering was lost; I no longer understood anything that was going on in me or about me; and yet, at the same time, I was filled with ineffable joy.
9. Do you know... (what I am intending to read at your grave?)
The first words of this question had hardly been uttered, when the spirit replied to it, without leaving me the time to finish it, replying, also, and without the subject having been mentioned, to a discussion that had taken place between the friends who were present, as to the propriety of reading what I had written at the grave, where there would probably be persons who might share or not our opinions.
A. Oh yes, my friend, I know all about it, for I saw you yesterday, and I see you again today, to my great satisfaction! Thank you! Thank you! Speak, that those who are about my grave may understand my views, and that you may arrest their attention. Have no hesitation on that score; the presence of the dead imposes respect. Speak, that the skeptical may be led to believe. Good-bye; speak; courage, confidence, and may my children convert to our revered belief!
During the ceremony at the grave, he dictated these words:
“Let death have no terrors for you, my friends; it marks the accomplishment of a stage of our journey, and if we have lived right, labored worthily and borne our trials patiently it is an immense happiness. Again I say to you, courage and good-will! Attach only slight value to the things of the Earth; your abnegation will meet its reward. Remember that you cannot enjoy too many earthly blessings without appropriating to yourselves a portion of the well-being of others, and thus inflicting on yourselves immense moral injury.
“May the Earth be light above me!”
(Spiritist Society of Paris, April 25th, 1862; after evoking the spirit of Mr. Sanson in the usual manner)
1. Friends, I am here.
2. We are much pleased with the conversation we had with you on the day of your funeral; and as you permit us to talk with you, we shall be very glad to continue our conversation, that we may obtain all the information you are able to give us.
A. I am quite ready to converse with you and I am happy to see that you think of me.
3. Whatever can help to enlighten us in regard to the nature of the invisible world is of the utmost importance, both to us, and to all; for it is the false idea which men form to themselves of the other life that usually leads them to skepticism. Therefore you must not be astonished at the numerous questions that we shall have to ask you.
A. I shall not be astonished; and I am waiting to know what you wish to ask me.
4. You have described with luminous clarity, the passage from life to death; you have told us that, at the moment when the body breathes its last, life breaks down, and the sight of the spirit is extinguished. Is this moment a painful one? Is it attended with any suffering?
A. Undoubtedly it is, for life is a succession of sufferings, and death is the complement of them all. For that reason we feel a violent wrench, as though the spirit had to make a superhuman effort to free itself from its fleshly envelope; it is this effort that absorbs our whole being and makes us lose the consciousness of what we are becoming.
This is not the case in general. Experience shows us that many spirits lose consciousness before death occurs; and that, with those who have reached a certain degree of dematerialization, the separation takes place without any effort.
5. Do you know whether the moment of death is more painful for some spirits than for others? Is it more painful, for instance, in the case of the materialist, who believes that everything will be ended with the death of the body?
A. Certainly. The spirit who is prepared for death has already forgotten its suffering, or, rather, it is accustomed to it; and the mental quietness with which it sees the approach of death prevents it from suffering doubly, as the spirit would otherwise do, because it knows what is awaiting it. Moral suffering is the most painful of all; and its absence, at the moment of death, diminishes immensely the pain of the separation. Those who do not believe in a future life are like prisoners under sentence of death, whose thoughts behold both the gibbet and the unknown. There is a similitude between this death and that of the atheist.
6. Are there materialists so rooted in their denial of immortality as really to believe, in this solemn moment, that they are about to be plunged into annihilation?
A. There are, undoubtedly, some who believe in annihilation up to their last hour; but, at the moment of separation, an entire change comes over the spirit’s mind. It is tortured by doubt, and anxiously asks itself what is going to become of it; The spirit seeks for something to cling to, and finds nothing. The separation, in such a case, cannot take place without causing this impression.
A spirit gave us, on another occasion, the following description of the end of the unbeliever:
“The spirit of a confirmed unbeliever experiences, in its last moments, all the anguish of the horrible nightmare in which the sleeper seems to be at the edge of a precipice, on the point of falling into the abyss beneath it. Such a one makes the most agonizing effort to fly from the danger, and is unable to move; it seeks in vain for something to stay it, some fixed point by which to keep itself out of the terrible void into which the spirit feels itself to be slipping; it tries to call for help and is unable to make any sound. It is under the pressure of this frightful agony that the dying are seen to writhe in convulsion of the death-throes, wringing their hands, and gasping out stifled and inarticulate cries, all of which are the certain indications of the nightmare from which they are suffering. In an ordinary nightmare, your wakening relieves you of the despair that was oppressing you, and you rejoice to perceive that you have only been dreaming; but the nightmare of death often lasts for a very long time, even for many years, after the separation has taken place; and the suffering thus caused to the spirit is sometimes rendered still more severe by the thick darkness in which that spirit finds itself.”
7. You have told us that, at the moment of death, you no longer saw, but that you foresaw. By this, we understand you to mean that you no longer saw with your bodily eyes, which is perfectly comprehensible; but we should like to know whether, before the life of your body was entirely extinct, you obtained a glimpse of the spirit-world?
A. That was what I meant to say. The instant of death restores to the spirit its normal clairvoyance; the bodily eyes no longer see, but the spirit, whose sight is far more penetrating, immediately discovers around itself an unknown world, and this reality, becoming suddenly visible to it, gives it – though only momentarily, it is true – a sense of intense delight, or of inexpressible distress, according to the state of the spirit’s conscience and the remembrance of its past existence.
The spirit here is alluding to the instant preceding the loss of consciousness, which explains its saying “though only momentarily,” for the same agreeable or disagreeable impressions are again perceived by the spirit upon awakening in the other life.
8. Be kind enough to tell us what you saw at the moment when your spirit-eyes were opened to the light of the other world. Describe to us, if possible, the aspect of the objects that then presented themselves to your sight.
A. When I came to myself and was able to look about me, I was dazzled, and could not understand what I saw, for the mind does not regain clarity instantaneously. But God, who gave me a profound proof of His goodness, allowed me to recover soon the use of my faculties. I perceived that I was surrounded by a numerous company of friends, among whom were all the spirit-protectors who are in the habit of coming to our séances; they were rejoicing in my arrival, and welcomed me with smiles. I felt myself to be fully immersed in the enjoyment of the plentitude of health and strength, and was able to accompany them, joyously and without effort, through the vast expanse of space around me. But what I saw, in my journey through immensity, cannot be described in human speech.
I shall come to you again, nevertheless, to speak with you more at length of my happiness, within the limits of what it is permissible by God for us to say. Be quite sure of one thing, viz., that what you understand to be happiness, in your world, is a fiction. Live wisely, innocently, in the spirit of charity and of loving-kindness; and you will have prepared for yourselves impressions that your greatest poets would be powerless to describe.
Fairy tales are, undoubtedly, full of absurdities; but isn’t it possible that they may be, in some of their details, an imperfect reflex of what goes on in the world of spirits? Does not Mr. Sanson’s recital of his experiences resemble the story of the beggar who, having gone to sleep in a poor and dingy hut, finds himself, upon awakening, in a splendid palace and surrounded by a brilliant court? (Suggestion - Put the last paragraph in italics, to differentiate from the response of the spirit.)
9. Under what aspect did the spirits appear to you? Was it in human form?
A. Yes, my dear friend, our spirit-friends have always told us, upon the Earth, that they retain in the spirit-world the transitory form that they wore in their last earthly life; and this is true. But what a difference between the clumsy human machines, that drag themselves along so heavily upon the Earth, with their load of sorrows and trials, and the wondrous fluidity of the spirit-bodies! There is no ugliness among them, for their features have lost the expression of harshness that is characteristic of the human race. God has blessed all those gracious bodies so that they comport themselves with perfect elegance. Their beauty may truly be termed beatific, and their movements are the perfection of elegance and grace. The language of the spirits has intonations unknown to human speech; and their glances have the depth and brilliance of a star. Try to imagine all the beauty that can be built up by the power of the Supreme Architect, and you will have formed to yourselves some faint idea of the appearance of spirits.
10. How do you appear to yourself? Do you seem to yourself to possess a form that is limited and circumscribed, although fluidic? Do you feel that you have a head, a trunk, arms, and legs?
A. Spirits, having preserved a form which resembles that of humans, but idealized, divinized, have undoubtedly, all the members of which you speak. I feel myself to be perfectly in possession of a fully realized human form, for we can by our will, render ourselves visible to you, or press your hands. I am close to you, and I have pressed the hand of each one of you, without your being aware of my doing so; our fluidity enables us to be everywhere without occupying any point of space, without causing you any sensation, if such be our desire. At this very moment, your hands are folded, and my hands are in yours. I say to you, “I love you!” yet my body takes up no place, the light passes through it; and what would seem to you to be a miracle, if you could see it, is, for spirits, the continuous action of every instant.
Spirit-sight has no relation to human sight, just as the spirit-body has no real likeness to the human body, for it is, in general and in details, absolutely different from the latter. The perspicacity of a spirit may be called divine, in this sense, viz., that it extends to everything, even to the divining of your thoughts; and its form is so completely under its control that it can, when it chooses to do so, assume the appearance best calculated to recall it to your remembrance; but in point of fact, the advanced spirit, who has finished with the trials of an earthly life, has an affection for the form that can lead it closer to God.
11. Spirits are of no sex; but as, only a few days ago, you were a man, is there in your present state more of the masculine nature than of the feminine? And how is it, in this respect, with spirits who have been separated for a longer time from their earthly body?
A. For us, there is neither “masculine” nor “feminine;” there is no procreation among spirits. Spirits are created by God; since, for the carrying out of God’s marvelous designs, God has willed that they should reincarnate themselves upon the Earth, it was necessary to provide them with the means of effecting the reproduction of fleshly bodies through the agency of males and females. But you can understand, without it being necessary to enter into any explanation of the matter, that there can be no sex in spirits.
It has always been asserted by spirits that they are of no sex, because the sexes are only needed for the reproduction of bodies, and as spirits do not reproduce themselves, sex would be useless to them. Our question was intended, not to draw forth a fresh assertion of this fact, but to ascertain whether, after a death so recent as that of Mr. Sanson, the spirit retained, in this respect, any impression of its terrestrial state. Spirits who have reached a certain degree of purity are perfectly aware of their non-sexual nature; but, among those of lower degree, who are not yet dematerialized, there are many who believe themselves to be still what they were upon the Earth, that have preserved the same passions and the same desires, and imagine themselves to be still men or women; hence it is that some of them have declared that spirits are of one or other sex. The contradictions observable in the statement of spirits are due to the different degrees of advancement at which they have arrived; the error does not come from the Spirits, but from the want of careful examination, on the part of those who question them. (Suggestion -Put the last paragraph in italics, to differentiate from the response of the spirit.)
12. How does our present séance appear to you? Do we appear to your new perceptions the same as we did when you were among us? Can you see each of us as clearly, as distinctly, as formerly?
A. Much more clearly, for I can read the thoughts of each, and I am delighted with the excellent impression that has been given to me by the good intentions of all those who are here assembled. I wish that the same cordial understanding could be arrived at, not only in Paris, by the union of all the spiritist circles, but also throughout the whole of France, where too many of its spiritist societies are separated by jealousy, excited by the machinations of quarrelsome spirits who take pleasure in discord and disunion, whereas Spiritism should be synonymous with the complete and absolute forgetfulness of the focus upon the self. .
13. You say you read our thoughts; can you explain to us the way in which this perception of thought is effected?
A. It is not easy to do so; to explain to you the prodigious faculty of the spirit-sight, it would be necessary to begin by giving you the knowledge of a whole arsenal of agents unknown to you, and by rendering you as learned as we are, which could not be done, because your faculties are limited by your physical organism. Patience! Try to become good, and you will attain this knowledge. As of yet, you have only the amount of knowledge that corresponds to your degree of advancement; in course of time, you will be as we are. Try to die the death of the righteous, so that you may be able to learn much in the other life. Let curiosity – which is the stimulus of the reflective mind – lead you on gently to the passage that will procure for you the satisfaction of all your desires for knowledge, past, present, and future! Meanwhile, let me say by way of replying, as well as I can, to the question you have just addressed to me, that the air by which you are surrounded, impalpable as we are, takes the impress of your thought; every breath you exhale is, so to say, a page on which your thought is written; and all those pages are read, and commented upon, by the spirits who are incessantly about you, messengers of a divine telegraphy which nothing escapes.
THE DEATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS
After the first evocation of the spirit of Mr. Sanson, at a séance of the Spiritist Society of Paris, another spirit made, spontaneously, under the above heading, the following communication:
“The death of the worthy and intelligent man, with whose spirit you have been conversing, was ‘the death of the righteous;’ that is to say, accompanied with calmness and hope. As daylight follows the dawn, so the spirit-life in his case succeeded to the earthly life; and his last sigh was exhaled in a hymn of thankfulness and love. How few accomplish, in this fashion, the rough passage to the spirit- world! How few, after the intoxications and the despondencies of life, can thus perceive the harmonious rhythm of the higher spheres! As one who, having been mutilated by a shot, still suffers, after his cure, in the limb he has lost; so the soul of the man who dies without faith and without hope issues, torn and palpitating, from his body, and falls, unconscious, into the abyss of space.
Pray for these souls in trouble; pray for all who suffer. The action of charity is not restricted to those who are visible to the fleshly eye; it aids and consoles those, who also inhabit space. You had a touching proof of this truth in the sudden conversion of the spirit who was so deeply affected by the spiritist prayers offered up at the grave of this excellent man, whom you do well to question, and who desires to aid your advancement.” *
* Vide “The Spiritist Review,” May 1862, pp. 132 & 133.