She was young, beautiful, and rich; of a birth such as the world calls illustrious; and, moreover, a shining example of the noblest qualities of heart and of mind. She died in 1851 at the age of thirty- six. She was one of those whose funeral oration is summed up in the words, in every one’s mouth, “Why are such people called away from the Earth?” Happy are they whose memory is thus framed in blessing! She was good, gentle, and indulgent toward everyone; always ready to excuse or to attenuate evil, instead of envenoming it; never did a slander pollute her lips. Without pride or haughtiness, she treated her inferiors with a kindness equally exempt from vulgar familiarity and humiliating condescension. Knowing that those who live by their labor, or by trade, need prompt payment of whatever is due to them, she kept no one waiting for wages or for pay. The thought that any such delay, on her part, had caused suffering or inconvenience to a fellow-creature, would have filled her with remorse. She was never one of those who always have plenty of money for the gratification of their caprices, but who never have money in hand for the payment of a bill; she could not have imagined that it was in good taste for one who is rich to be in debt; and she would have felt herself disgraced if it could have been said of her that her trades-people were obliged to give her credit. For that reason, her death provoked so much lamentation and pain, and no complains.
Her beneficence was inexhaustible, but it was not the beneficence that makes a parade of its exercise; her charities were prompted by kindness, not by ostentation. God only knows the tears she dried, the despairing hearts she calmed and strengthened; for her good deeds had no other witnesses than those who were the recipients of her goodness. She had the gift of finding out the cases of distress – the most poignant of all! – in which the sufferers strive to hide their misery from the world; and she assisted such sufferers with a delicacy that raised the self-respect of those she aided, instead of humiliating them.
Her rank, and the high official position occupied by her husband, obliged her to keep up the style of living obligatory under such circumstances; but while providing largely for the necessities of her social condition, she managed her household expenses with so much order and judgment, and so carefully avoided all waste and all unnecessary outlay, that she spent scarcely the half of what would have been spent, without making any better show, by most people in her position.
Through this judicious management of her fortune, she was able to devote a large portion of her means to the relief of the needy. She had begun her married life by setting apart a considerable portion of her capital, the interest of which was exclusively devoted by her to this purpose, sacred in her eyes; and she thenceforth regarded herself as having so much the less to spend on herself and her household. In this way, she succeeded in reconciling the duties she owed to her position and to society, with the unwearied activity in doing good, imposed on her equally by her heart and by her conscience. *
Evoked, twelve years after her death, by a relative of hers who had become a spiritist, she gave the following communication in answer to the various questions addressed to her. **
“You are right, my Friend, in supposing me to be happy; I am happy beyond the power of words to express, and yet I am still a long way from the top of the ladder! I am incomparably happier than I was upon the Earth, although I was one of the most fortunate of mortals, for I do not remember ever having felt, through all my life, a real sorrow. I had youth, health, fortune, the homage of all around me, everything that is considered by you as constituting felicity; but what are these in comparison with the happiness we enjoy here? What are your most splendid festivities, in which the guests display their richest attire, in comparison with the gatherings of spirits, clad in resplendent brightness of which your eyes could not bear the dazzling luster, but which is the natural endowment of purity? What are your palaces with their gilded drawing rooms, your loveliest gardens, in comparison with the aerial dwellings, the vast fields of space, variegated with colors that would make the rainbow seem pale and dim? What are your slow walks and journeying to our flights through immensity, more rapid than the lightning? What are your narrow and cloudy horizons to the grand spectacle of the infinity of worlds, moving through the boundless immensity of the universe, under the guiding hand of the Almighty? How harsh and meaningless are your most melodious concerts in comparison with the delightful harmony that sets in vibration all the fluids of the ether and all the fibers of the soul? How dull and insipid are your greatest joys, compared with the ineffable sense of happiness with which our whole being is constantly pervaded as with a beneficent effluvium, without the intermixture of the slightest uneasiness, the slightest apprehension, the slightest suffering? Here, everything breathes love, trust, and sincerity; everywhere we find loving hearts, everywhere we meet with friends, nowhere do we encounter anything like envy or jealousy. Such, my Friend, is the world in which I dwell, and which you will infallibly reach, if you follow the right road.
But happiness, however delightful, would soon become wearisome if it were monotonous. Do not imagine that ours is without change; it is neither a perpetual concert, nor an endless festival, nor a vapid state of eternal contemplation: no, it is filled with movement, life, and activity! Our occupations, though exempt from fatigue, impart an inexhaustible variety of aspects and of emotions to our existence, through the countless incidents to which they give rise. Each of us has a mission to fulfill, wards to assist, friends to visit upon the earth, some portion of the wheelwork of nature to direct, suffering spirits of lower degree to console; we come and go, not from one street to another, but from one world to another; we assemble, we separate, to come together again; we arrange to meet at some given point, we recount what we have done, and we congratulate one another on the success of our various efforts; we coordinate together, and we aid one another reciprocally, in cases of difficulty; no one, I assure you, has leisure to feel dull for a second!
At the present time, our great subject of interest is the Earth. What a movement is now going on among spirits, what numerous troops are hastening from every point, to take part in the work of its transformation! They are like an army of laborers, busy with the reclaiming of a forest, under the orders of experienced chiefs. Some are knocking down the old trees and grubbing up the deep roots; others are clearing the ground of stones and rubbish; others, again, are plowing, digging, sowing, and planting. Meanwhile, the chiefs hold council together, and send out messengers, who carry their orders in every direction. The Earth is to be regenerated by a certain fixed time; the designs of Providence must be accomplished; and everyone else is therefore hard at work. You must not suppose that I look on, as a mere spectator, while everyone is busy; on the contrary, an important post is confided to me, and I am doing my utmost to discharge its duties worthily.
I have not reached my present rank in the spirit-world without many struggles; believe me, my last earthly life, alone, whatever may have been its merits, would not have sufficed to give me this elevation. During many previous existences, I had passed through the trials of labor and of poverty that I had voluntarily chosen in order to strengthen and purify my soul. I experienced the happiness of emerging victorious from those trials; but I had still one more trial to undergo – the most perilous of all! – viz., that of earthly fortune and happiness, without any mixture of grief or disappointment. There was my danger! Before subjecting myself to this severest of all trials, I desired to be strong enough to avoid all danger of succumbing to its temptations. The Divine Master took account of my good intentions and granted me the needed help in carrying them out. A great many spirits, seduced by appearances, hasten to choose the dangerous test of earthly prosperity; too weak and inexperienced to withstand its dangers, they are vanquished by the temptations of the lot they have unwisely chosen.
Workers! I have lived in your ranks; I, the noble lady, have earned my bread, like you, with the sweat of my brow. I have borne all kinds of privation and suffered from all the inclemency of the weather; and it is those sufferings that developed the virile strength of my soul; without them, I should probably have failed under my last trial, and that failure would have thrown me back a long way.65 Like me, you will all, in your turn, have to undergo the trial of worldly prosperity, but do not be in haste to ask for it, lest you should attempt it too soon; and you who are rich, remember, at all times, that the true, imperishable fortune is not to be found upon the Earth, and understand in what way you can earn the blessing of the Most High.
PAULA, Upon the Earth, Countess of ____”
* It can be said that this lady was the living example of the charitable lady referred to in “The Gospel According to Spiritism.”
** We give, of this communication – written in German – only the portions of general interest, omitting those that referred to family matters.