Samuel Philippe was an upright man, in the fullest acceptation of the term. He was never known to do a wicked thing or to have willingly injured any human being. His devotion to his friends was unbounded; whoever needed his aid was sure to obtain it, even though at a loss to himself. Trouble, fatigue, sacrifices of all kinds, he willingly underwent for the sake of being useful to others; and he did this naturally, without ostentation, and was astonished that anyone should give him credit for so doing. So far from showing resentment against those who wronged him, he was just as ready to oblige them as though they had only done him good. When people repaid his kindness with ingratitude, he would say, “It is not I who am to be pitied, but they.” Though extremely intelligent and gifted with much natural talent, his life was laborious and full of heavy trials. His was one of those rare natures that flower in the shade, of whom the world takes no note, and the splendor of whose goodness is not recognized by human eyes. He had derived, from his knowledge of Spiritism, an ardent faith in the future life and great resignation in hearing the ills of the present one. He died in December 1862, at the age of fifty, after a long and painful illness, sincerely regretted by his family and friends. Evoked several months after his death, he responded to our call in the following conversation:
Q. Have you a clear remembrance of your last instants upon the Earth?
A. Perfectly so, this remembrance came back to me little by little, for, at the moment of my departure, my ideas were confused.
Q. Will you kindly tell us, both for our instruction and for the interest we feel in your exemplary life, how the passage from the earthly life to the spirit-life happened in your case, and the situation in which you now find yourself?
A. Willingly; this narrative will be useful, not to you only, but also to me. By turning my thoughts back to the Earth, the comparison will cause me to appreciate more correctly the goodness of the Creator.
You know how full of sorrows was my life; – thank God my courage never failed me under adversity, and now I rejoice to have borne my troubles courageously. How much I should have missed had I yielded to discouragement! I shudder to think that, through giving way to weakness, I might have lost the benefit of all that I had endured, and have had to begin the lesson over again. Oh Friends! May you be thoroughly persuaded of this truth; upon it depends your future happiness. No, it is not too much to pay for this happiness with a few years of sufferings. If you could but feel how small a matter are a few short years in comparison with eternity!
If the last of my existences appears to you to have been in some degree meritorious, you would not have said as much of those that preceded it. It is only through continuous struggles with my evil tendencies that I have made myself what I now am. To efface the last traces of my former faults, it was necessary for me to undergo these last trials, which I had voluntarily accepted. The firmness of my resolution gave me the strength to bear them without murmuring. I now bless those trials; through them I have broken with the past, which is now, for me, only a remembrance; and I can contemplate, with legitimate satisfaction, the headway I have already made.
Oh! You who made me suffer when I was upon the Earth, who were harsh and unkind to me, who humiliated me and filled my cup with bitterness, whose treachery often reduced me to the hardest privations, I not only forgive you, I thank you, for all you did! You little thought that, intending to do me harm, you were really doing me so much good! It is to you that I owe, in great measure, the happiness I enjoy; for you gave me the opportunity of forgiving and of returning good for evil. The Divine Providence placed you upon my road in order to try my patience and to exercise me in the practice of the most difficult branch of charity – the love of our enemies.
Do not be impatient at this digression; I now come to the questions you have addressed to me.
Although I had suffered horribly during my last illness, I underwent no death-struggle; death came upon me like a sleep, without effort, without any shock. Having no fear of the future, I did not seek to retain my hold upon life, and I had, consequently, no need to struggle against the action of desegregation. The separation took place without effort, without pain, and even without my knowledge.
I am not aware how long this sort of sleep lasted, but it was only for a short time. My waking was a calm that offered a delightful contrast to my previous state; I had no longer felt any pain, and I rejoiced in this deliverance; I wished to get up, and to walk about; but a torpor, that was not at all disagreeable – that was, on the contrary, rather pleasant – held me motionless, and I gave myself up to it with a sort of enjoyment, without trying to understand my situation, however, without doubting that I had left the Earth; everything about me seemed to me like a dream. I saw my wife and several friends on their knees in the room, and weeping; and I said to myself that they, no doubt, thought I was dead. I wished to tell them they were mistaken, but I could not articulate a single word, from which I concluded that I really must have been dreaming. And I was still further confirmed in this idea because I saw myself surrounded by various persons whom I loved, but who had long been dead, and also by others whom I did not recognize at first, and who seemed to be watching over me, and awaiting my awakening.
This state was made up of alterations of lucidity and of somnolence, in which I alternately recovered, and lost, the consciousness of my individual self. Gradually, my ideas acquired more distinctness; the light that I had seemed to see, as it were, through a fog, became brighter; I began to recover my consciousness, and I presently comprehended that I no longer belonged to the terrestrial world. If I had not had knowledge of Spiritism, my illusion would, doubtless, have lasted much longer.
My mortal envelope was not yet buried; I looked upon it with a sort of pitying contempt, congratulating myself on being rid of it. I was so glad to be free! I breathed at ease, like one who has escaped from a foul and stinking atmosphere; an indescribable feeling of happiness pervaded my whole being; the presence of those I had formerly loved filled me with joy; I was not in the least surprised to see them, it appeared to me perfectly natural to do so, but I seemed to have found them again, after a long journey. One thing surprised me much, at first, viz., that we understood one another without pronouncing a word; our thoughts were transmitted in a single glance, and as though by a sort of fluidic interpenetration.
Nevertheless, I was not yet entirely disenfranchised from terrestrial ideas; the remembrance of all that I had suffered came back, from time to time, to my mind, as though to make me more fully appreciate the happiness of my new position. I had suffered much corporeally; but I had suffered still more morally: I had been the object of malevolence, a prey to the thousand perplexities that sometimes cause more annoyance than do more serious misfortunes, because they keep us in a constant state of anxiety. The impression left by those worries was so far from having entirely disappeared, that I sometimes asked myself if I were really freed from them; it seemed to me, at times, that I still heard certain disagreeable voices; I feared a return of the troubles by which I was formerly so often tormented, and, in spite of myself, I trembled: I touched myself, so to say, to make sure that I was not dreaming; and when, at length, I acquired the certainty that I was really delivered from the troubles of the earthly life, I seemed to have thrown off an enormous load. “It is, then, really true,” I exclaimed, “that I am at last delivered from the cares that are the torment of human life!” and I thanked God for this deliverance with the deepest gratitude. I felt like a poverty-stricken mortal who, having suddenly inherited an immense fortune, cannot, at first, realize the change in his position, and continues, for a while, to dread the torments of want. Ah! If human beings could but understand the nature of the future life, what strength, what courage they would derive in adversity, from their conviction of its reality! What would they not do, while they are upon Earth, to secure for themselves the happiness that God has prepared for those of God’s children who have been obedient to God’s laws! They would see how worthless are the earthly enjoyments by which they are tempted, in comparison with the enjoyments of the life to come, of which they think so little!
Q. Has the spirit-world, – which seems so new to you, and in comparison with which our world seems to you of so little importance – and the numerous friends you have found there, caused you to lose sight of the family and friends you have left behind you upon the Earth?
A. If I could forget them, I should be unworthy of the happiness I am enjoying. God does not reward selfishness, but punishes it. The world in which I now find myself may make me indifferent to the Earth, but not to the spirits who are incarnated upon it. It is only among humankind that the prosperous forget their companions in misfortune. I often come back to visit those with whom I was connected in my earthly life; I rejoice in their affectionate remembrance of me; their thinking of me attracts me to them; I join them when they confer together; I share their joys and am saddened by their sorrows, but my sympathy for them is not the anxious distress of human sadness, because I see that their troubles are only temporary and for their own good. I rejoice in the thought that they will all arrive, sooner or later, in this happy abode, in which suffering is unknown. I apply myself, especially, to aiding them to become worthy of this abode; I endeavor, by every means in my power, to suggest good thoughts to their minds, and, above all, to fortify them in their resignation to the Divine will. My greatest grief is to see them retarding their own happiness by their want of courage, by murmuring, by doubts concerning the future, or by any reprehensible action. I try to turn them aside from the evil road; if I succeed, it is a great pleasure to me and to all our friends here; if I fail, I say to myself with regret: – “This is a new delay for them!” but I console myself with remembering that it is not forever, and that they will all reach the goal in time.