General description of the state of the guilty on their return to the spirit-world dictated at
a meeting of the Spiritist Society of Paris, October 1860.
“Wicked, selfish, obstinate spirits are given over immediately after death to harrowing doubts in
regard to their present and future destiny. They look around them, and as they do not at once perceive
any object on which to wreak their evil tendencies, they are seized with despair, for isolation and
inaction are intolerable to evil spirits, they do not elevate their sight to the areas inhabited by the pure
spirits. They next begin to examine more carefully the surroundings amidst which they find
themselves; they soon perceive the prostration of the weaker spirits who are undergoing punishment,
and they attach themselves to these as to a prey, arming themselves against them with the memory of
their past misdeeds, of which they remind them incessantly by mocking gestures. This derisory
pantomime not sufficing for their malice, they swoop down upon the Earth like famished vultures.
They seek out, among mankind, the souls they think most likely to offer an easy road to their
temptations, they take possession of such, stimulating their cupidity, striving to extinguish their faith
in God, until, having obtained the mastery of their conscience, they draw them into every sort of evil.
The backward spirit who is thus able to exercise his malice is almost happy; he only suffers
when he is unable to act, or when his efforts are frustrated by the action of superior spirits.
Meantime, centuries succeed centuries; the evil spirit, at length, finds himself suddenly invaded
by darkness. His circle of action closes around him like a prison; his conscience, hitherto passive,
pierces him with its torturing stings. Inactive, and carried away by the whirlwind of regrets and
apprehensions, he wanders aimlessly, with hair bristling from fright, as per the scriptures. Presently, a
sense of emptiness penetrates his being; a frightful void seems to yawn around him; the moment for
commencing his expiation has come. Reincarnation stares him in the face, with all its horrors; he
beholds, as in a mirage, the terrible trials to which he is about to be subjected; he would fain shrink
back, but he is drawn onwards by a force superior to his own. Hurled down into the yawning abyss of
fleshly life, he sinks through the horror of emptiness until the vale of oblivion envelopes him like a
Born again on Earth, he lives, he acts, he is again guilty of evil deeds; he is tormented by vague
reminiscences that he cannot account for, by fitful presentiments that make him tremble, but that do
not yet suffice to induce him to quit the path of evil. Extended on a prison couch, or on a luxurious bed
(what does it matter?), the dying reprobate becomes aware, under his seeming unconsciousness, of a
whole world of forgotten thoughts and sensations that are coming to life and moving within him.
Under his closed eyelids, he sees a light that is not of earth; he hears strange sounds; his soul, about to
quit his body, is uneasy and agitated, his stiffened hands clutch vainly at the coverings under which he
is lying. He tries to speak; he would fain shriek, to those about him, “Hold me back! I see
chastisement!” But the power of speech no longer exists for him; death settles on his pale lips; and
those about him whisper “He is at rest! Georges”
A truer, more eloquent, more terrible picture of the fate of the evildoer was never drawn. Is
there any need of adding, to the horrible sufferings thus portrayed, the phantasmagoria of material
flames and physical tortures?
(The spirit is addressing the medium who knew him during his earthly life)
“I am going to tell you what I went through with in dying. My spirit, held to my body by the
bonds of materiality, had great difficulty in getting free; this was a first and very severe distress. The
physical life, which I had quitted at the age of twenty-four, was still so strong in me that I had no idea
I had been withdrawn from it. I searched about for my body, and was both astonished and alarmed at
finding myself lost in the midst of a crowd of shadows. At length, I was suddenly struck with the
consciousness of my state and remembrance of the misdeeds done by me in all my incarnations; a
pitiless light illuminated the most secret recesses of my soul, which, feeling itself naked, was seized
with overwhelming shame. I sought to escape from this misery by directing my attention to the objects
– new and yet known to me – with which I was surrounded. Radiant spirits, floating through the ether,
showed me happiness to which I could not aspire; dark and frightful forms – some of them plunged in
gloomy despair, others mocking or furious – were gliding about me, and upon the Earth to which I
remained attached. I saw the movements of the people in the world, and I envied their ignorance of the
other life with which they are in unconscious relationship; a whole order of sensations, unknown, or
rather, recovered, suddenly invaded my being. Involved by an irresistible force, trying to flee from the
tortures that beset me, I rushed madly forward, regardless of the elements, regardless of the physical
obstacles; and neither the beauties of nature nor the splendors of the celestial regions could calm, for a
single instant, the torments of my conscience and the terror caused me by the revelation of eternity. A
mortal may form some idea of physical tortures from the shuddering of the flesh; but your fragile
sorrows – softened by hope, tempered by the incidents of your earthly life, put an end to by
forgetfulness – cannot give you the faintest notion of the anguish of a soul that suffers without
cessation, without hope, without repentance! I remained, for a length of time that I am unable to
measure, envying the happy spirits of whose splendors I sometimes obtained glimpses, detesting the
evil spirits who pursued me with their mocking, despising the human beings whose turpitudes I
witnessed, passing from the deepest prostration to insensate revolt.
At last, you called me; and, for the first time, a feeling of gentleness and tenderness appeased
my suffering. I listened to the teachings given you by your guides; my eyes were opened to the truth; I
prayed, and God heard me! He has now revealed Himself to me by His mercy, as He had previously
revealed Himself to me by His justice.
(Le Havre, March 1863)
He was young, wealthy, dissipated, and absorbed in sensual pleasures. Although intelligent, he
was utterly careless of serious things. Kindhearted, rather good than bad, he was a favorite with the
companions of his pleasures and much sought after, in fashionable circles, for his gentle manners and
agreeable talents; but, though he committed no crimes, he did no good. He died from the effects of an
accident, being thrown from a carriage when taking a drive. Evoked a few days after his death by a
medium that knew of him through other parties, he gave, successively, the following messages: –
March 8th, 1863. – I am scarcely disengaged from my body; it is therefore difficult for me to
speak to you. The terrible fall, that killed my body, has thrown my spirit into great confusion. I am
anxious as to what is going to become of me; my uncertainty in regard to this point is most painful.
The frightful suffering experienced by my body is nothing in comparison with the dreadful state of
confusion in which I now am. Pray for me, that God may forgive me! Oh, what misery! O God, have
pity on me! What misery! Farewell!
March 18th – I came to you the other day, but I could only speak with difficulty. Even now, I
find it hard work to do so. You are the only medium whom I can ask to pray for me, that God’s mercy
may deliver me from the confusion in which I find myself. Why do I still suffer, when my body
suffers no longer? Why does this horrible pain, this terrible anguish, still beset me? Pray, oh; pray for
me, that God may grant me rest! Oh, what a frightful uncertainty! I am still attached to my body. I
cannot make out where I am! My body is there; why am I there still? Come and pray over it, that I
may be released from its cruel grip. Surely, God will grant me forgiveness! I see spirits who are near
you; it is with their help that I am able to speak to you. Pray for me!
April 6th – It is I, who come again to entreat you to pray for me! You should have come to the
place where my body is lying, to beseech the Almighty to calm my sufferings! How I suffer! Oh, how I
suffer! Go to my grave; you must go and pray to God, there, to grant me forgiveness. If you do this, I
shall be quieter; for I am constantly drawn back to the spot where what was I has been laid.
The medium, not understanding the spirit’s desire to get him to go and pray at his grave, had
neglected to do so. He afterwards went, and received, there, the following communication:
May 11th – I was waiting for you. I have been longing for the moment when you should come to
the place where my spirit seems to be riveted to its envelope, to implore of the God of mercy to calm
my sufferings. You can do me good by your prayers; do not, I beseech you, relax your prayers on my
behalf! I see how opposite was my life to what it ought to have been. I see the faults I committed. I
was of no use while I was in the world; I turned my faculties to no account; my fortune only served to
satisfy my passions, my taste for luxury, and my vanity. I thought only of sensual enjoyments, and not
of my soul. Will the pity of God ever descend upon me, an unhappy spirit still suffering for the faults
of his earthly life? Pray that He may forgive me, and that I may be delivered from the pains I am still
feeling. Thank you for coming here to pray over me!
June 8th – I am able to speak to you, and I thank God for permitting me to do so. I see my
faults; and I hope that God will forgive me. Follow, all your life, the belief with which you are
animated; for you will thus win a rest that I have not yet obtained! Thanks for your prayers. I shall
come to you again.”
The persistence of this spirit, in insisting upon being prayed for at the grave of his body, is a
noteworthy peculiarity of his case, and one which is explained by the tenacity of the links that kept
him attached to his body, and by the consequent slowness and difficulty of his separation from the
latter, owing to his indulgence in the pleasures of sense. It is quite possible that, when offered up close
beside the body, prayer may have a more powerful magnetic action, and this aid the spirit more
effectually in effecting his disengagement. May not the general habit of praying beside the body of
those who have passed away be due to an unreasoning intuition of this fact? The efficacy of prayer, in such a
case, would be at once moral and physical.
REGRETS OF ONE WHO HAD INDULGED IN HIGH LIVING
(Bordeaux, April 19th, 1862)
July 30th – I am now less unhappy, for I no longer feel the chain that held me to my body. I am
free, at last; but I have not completed my expiation; I must make up for lost time, if I would not
prolong my sufferings. I trust that God will see the sincerity of my repentance and grant me His
forgiveness. Pray for me still, I beg of you.
Men, my brothers! I lived only for myself; now I am expiating this wickedness, and I suffer!
May God give you the grace to avoid the thorns by which I am torn! Walk in the broad road of
holiness and pray for me; for I made a bad use of the possessions that God lends to His creatures!
He who sacrifices his intelligence and his higher sentiments to his animal instincts assimilates
himself to the animals. Man should use with sobriety the property of which he is only the depository;
he should accustom himself to live exclusively for the eternity that is awaiting him, and he should
consequently detach himself from material enjoyments. His food should have no other aim than that of
sustaining his vitality; his luxury should be strictly subordinated to the necessities of his position; his
tastes, and even his natural tendencies, should be regulated by his reason; for, without this mastery of
his animal nature, he debases instead of purifying himself. Human passions are a narrow bond that
cuts into the flesh; be careful, therefore, not to tighten it. Live, but be not high livers. You know not
what such abuses cost when we return to the native land of the soul! Terrestrial passions strip us of
everything before they leave us, and we arrive in the presence of God naked, entirely naked. Rid
yourselves, therefore, of those passions, and clothe yourselves with good deeds; they will aid you to
cross the space that separates you from eternity. They will hide your human weaknesses with a shining
mantle. Clothe yourselves with charity and love, divine garments of which nothing can deprive you!”
COMMENTARY BY THE MEDIUM’S GUIDE
This spirit is on the right road, since, to his repentance, he adds the giving of good advice in
regard to the dangers of the evil road he formerly followed. To acknowledge one’s faults is, in itself,
meritorious, and is a first step on the road to reformation; and for this reason, his situation, though not
one of happiness, is no longer that of a “suffering spirit.” He repents; and he is therefore becoming
fitted to make the reparation that he will accomplish in another life of trial. Would you know what,
before reaching that point, is the situation of the spirits of those whose earthly life, altogether sensual,
has failed to excite their spirit to any other activity than that of incessantly inventing new pleasures of
the sensual order? The influence of matter follows them beyond the grave; their appetites are left intact
by death, but, their range of vision being as narrow as upon the Earth, they seek in vain for the means
of satisfying them. Never having cultivated mental and moral pleasures, their soul wanders through
space – which is a void for them – without aim, without hope, a prey to the anxiety of one who sees
before him no other perspective than that of an illimitable desert. The nullity of their intellectual
occupations during the life of the body has its natural result in the nullity of the working of their spirit
after death. Unable any longer to satisfy their body, they are incapable of procuring any satisfaction
for their soul; hence arises, for them, a crushing weariness of which they cannot foresee any
termination, and to escape from which they would gladly accept annihilation. But there is no
annihilation; they have been able to kill their body, but they cannot kill their soul: they are therefore
obliged to live on, undergoing all this mental torture, until, vanquished by lassitude, they at length
determine to turn towards God.
(Bordeaux, February 13th, 1862)
A suffering spirit who came to the medium spontaneously, under the name of Lisbeth.
1. Will you tell us something about your position and the cause of your suffering?
A. Be humble-minded, resigned to the will of God, patient under trial, charitable to the poor,
encouraging for the weak, warm-hearted for all who suffer, and you will not have to undergo the
tortures I am enduring!
2. If you were carried away by the vices that are the opposites of the virtues you point
out, you appear, at least, to regret your wrongdoing. Surely, your repentance must have brought
A. No, repentance is sterile when it is a consequence of suffering. Productive repentance is that
which springs from regret for having offended God and from an ardent desire to make reparation for
that offence. Unhappily for me, I have not yet reached that standpoint. Speak for me to those who
consecrate themselves to the help of the suffering; I am in sad need of their prayers.
This is a great truth. Suffering sometimes drags from the sufferer a cry of repentance which is
not the expression of a sincere regret for having done wrong, for, if he no longer suffered, he would be
ready to repeat his wrongdoing. Mere repentance, therefore, does not always procure the sufferer’s
deliverance; it prepares the way for deliverance, but that is all. Before the wrongdoer can be delivered
from the results of his wrongdoing, he must prove the sincerity and the thoroughness of his good
resolutions by undergoing new trials that will give him the means of making reparation for the evil he
has done. If the reader carefully ponders over the various examples we have brought forth in the
present material, he will find useful instruction in the statements of even the most backward spirits
because they illuminate us in the most intimate details of the spiritual life. While the superficial reader
sees, in these examples, only histories more or less picturesque, reflective minds will find in them an
abundant stock of subjects for serious study.
3. I will do what you ask. Will you give me some details concerning your last existence?
Such details may be instructive for us; and you will thus render your repentance productive.
(The spirit manifested a good deal of hesitation in replying to this question, and also to several
of the subsequent ones.)
A. I was born in a high position. I had everything that men regard as conducive to happiness.
Rich, I was selfish; handsome, I was coquettish; cold-hearted, and deceitful; of noble rank, I was
ambitious. With my power, I crushed those who did not prostrate themselves sufficiently low before
me; I crushed even those who threw themselves under my feet, without reflecting that the Lord also
crushes, sooner or later, the haughtiest brows.
4. At what period did you live?
5. Have you, in that time, made no progress as a spirit?
A. No, the influence of matter has kept me in a state of constant revolt. You cannot
comprehend the influence exerted by matter upon the spirit, notwithstanding the separation of the
latter from the body. Pride winds around the soul its chains of brass, whose links grow tighter and
tighter about the wretch who has abandoned his heart to its action. Pride! The hydra whose hundred
heads – perpetually renewed – have the art of modulating their poisoned hisses so cunningly that its
victims mistake them for celestial music! Pride! The Protean demon who lends himself in the deepest
recesses of your heart, who penetrates into your veins, envelops your being, absorbs you, and draws
you after him into the darkness of the eternal Gehenna!...Yes, eternal!
The spirit denies having made any progress; doubtless, because still in a painful situation; but
the description given of pride and the horror expressed of the consequences of that vice, are
incontestable proofs of progress; for, during life, she would certainly not have reasoned thus. The
understanding of evil is the first step towards amendment; the will and the power to avoid evil comes
6. God is too good to condemn His creatures to eternal punishment; you should hope in
A. There may be an end to suffering; it is said that there is, but when? Where? I have sought it
long; but I see only suffering, everywhere and forever! Forever! Forever!
7. What brought you here today?
Q. Since when have you seen that spirit?
Q. And since when have you begun to repent of your faults?
8. Do you not understand the connection that exists between your repentance and the
visible aid given you by your spirit-guardian? You should see, as the origin of this aid, the love of
God, and, as its aim, the forgiveness that His infinite mercy is waiting to accord you.
Q. I think I can promise you this forgiveness in the sacred name of Him who is never deaf
to the cry of His children in distress. Call to Him from the depths of your repentance; He will
9. Let us pray together; He shall certainly hear us. (After the prayer) Are you still here?
A. Yes; thanks; do not forget me!
10. Come to me, and write your name, everyday.
The Medium’s Guide. – Never forget the teachings you derive from the sufferings of those
whom you assist, especially as regards the causes of those sufferings; let them serve to preserve you
from the same dangers and the same chastisements. Purify your hearts, be humble, love one another,
be helpful and may your grateful heart never forget the fountain of all grace, an inexhaustible fountain
where each one of you can drink abundantly; a living fountain which satisfies thirst and nurtures at
the same time. A fountain of life and of eternal pleasures. Go to it, my beloved, and drink from it with
faith. Throw your nets into it and from its waves will come a great quantity of blessings. Advise your
brothers to imitate you and remind them of the dangers they can meet. Spread the blessings of the
Father, as they are incessantly reborn; the more that you spread them around you, the more they will
multiply. Point out to your brothers the dangers of the way; show them, by your example, how to avoid
them; and the blessing of the Highest will be with you, and with those who listen to you.
A suffering spirit who announces himself, spontaneously, as “Ouran, formerly a Russian
Q. Will you give us some details of your situation?
A. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven!
Pray for me. Happy are they who, in humility of heart, choose, for the undergoing of their trials,
a modest position! You know not, you who are devoured with envy, to what a state those are reduced
whom you regard as the favorites of Fortune! You see not the coals of fire they heap upon their own
heads; you know not what sacrifices riches impose upon those who would make them profitable to
their advancement in the spirit-world! May the Lord permit me, the proud despot, to come back and to
expiate, among those whom I crushed by my tyranny, the crimes which pride caused me to commit! Pride! Repeat that
word incessantly, and never forget that pride is the source of all our sufferings! Yes, I misused the power and favor I
enjoyed; I was harsh and cruel to my inferiors, whom I forced to yield to all my caprices, to satisfy all my depravities. I had
elected to possess rank, honors, fortune; and I succumbed under the weight of a trial beyond my strength.
Spirits who have succumbed under a trial are very apt to say that it was beyond their strength;
but this is a way of excusing their failure and is generally prompted by pride, which makes them
unwilling to confess that they failed through their own fault. The Divine Providence imposes on no
one more than he can bear; but spirits have their free will; and, if they bring their will to the task, there
is no evil tendency that they cannot vanquish. Unfortunately, it too often happens that, the more
strongly a spirit is naturally drawn to any given vice, the less does he, when incarnated as a man,
exert himself to combat that tendency; consequently, if he fails to surmount it, he has only his own
want of will to thank for his failure.
Q. You are conscious of your faults; this is a first step towards amendment.
A. This consciousness is an additional suffering. For many spirits, suffering is almost physical,
because, being still influenced by the materiality of their last existence, they have no perception of
moral sensations. My spirit is now quite free from the influence of matter; but my moral perception
has acquired all the honor of the sensations that are supposed to be physical.
Q. Do you foresee the end of your sufferings?
A. I know that they will not be eternal; but I do not yet foresee their end; for that, I must
undergo a new trial.
Q. Are you expecting to start, once again, soon?
Q. Do you remember anything of your preceding existences? I ask you this for the
purpose of instruction.
A. Yes. Your guides are here and they know what is best for you. I have lived at the time of
Marcus Aurelius; in that life, also, I was in possession of power; and I succumbed to pride, the cause
of all our failures. After having wandered for many centuries, I determined to try a life of obscurity.
As a poor student, I begged my bread; but my innate pride was still with me; my spirit gained in
knowledge, but not in virtue. Learned and ambitious, I sold myself to those who bid highest for my
services, ministering to every hatred, to every revenge. I felt my wickedness; but the thirst of honors
and of riches rendered me deaf to the voice of my conscience. The expiation of that life was long and
terrible. At length I determined to undergo, anew, in my last incarnation, the temptations of luxury and
power. Thinking myself strong enough to overcome the dangers of such a life, I refused to listen to the
counsels of those who sought to dissuade me from the attempt. Pride led me once more to trust my
own judgment, instead of following the advice of the protecting friends who never cease to watch over
us. You know the result of that last attempt.
I have at last come to my sense of my weakness and folly, and I place my hope in the help of the
Almighty. I have laid down at His feet my miserable pride, and have besought Him to place on my
shoulders the heaviest load of humility; with His help, that load will seem to me light. Pray with me
and for me; pray also for yourselves that the demon of pride may never gain power over your minds.
Brothers in suffering! Let my example enlighten you. Forget not that pride is the enemy of happiness;
for it is pride that causes all the ills that assail the human race and pursue it even in the spirit-world!”
The Medium’s Guide. – You have felt some doubt as to the sincerity of this spirit, because his
language did not seem to you in harmony with the backwardness implied in his state of suffering. Be
at ease on that score; what he has stated is true. However great his suffering, he is sufficiently
advanced in intelligence to speak as he has done. All he has lacked has been the humility without
which no spirit can ascend towards God. He has now achieved that humility; and we hope that,
through perseverance in his new resolutions, he will leave triumphant, from his next trial.
Our Heavenly Father is all justice and wisdom. He takes into account every effort achieved by
man to overcome his evil instincts. Every victory gained over ourselves takes us up another step of the
ladder, on which one end is on Earth and the other end is before the feet of the Supreme Judge. Climb
that ladder bravely; its steps are of easy access to he whose will is in the work: Always look toward
the heights for encouragement, as unfortunate shall be he who delays and turns his head. In this case,
the emptiness that surrounds him will be bewildering. He will find himself powerless and say: “What
is the use of advancing further. I have profited so little.” No, my dear friends, don’t turn your head
away. Pride is deep in the human heart; make this sentiment serve to give you strength and courage for
your ascension! Employ your time overcoming your weaknesses and climb the summit of the eternal
(Le Havre, August 9th, 1863)
The spirit addressed himself spontaneously to the medium, who knew nothing whatever about
him, and had never even heard his name.
“I believe in the goodness of God, and hope that He will take pity on my poor spirit. I have
suffered dreadfully; my body perished at sea. My spirit remained fastened to my body; for a long time,
it floated about upon the waves. God...”
(Here the communication suddenly broke off. On the following day the spirit resumed his
“...has kindly permitted me to be taken out of the state of confusion and perplexity in which my
spirit was plunged, by the prayers of those I had left behind me on the Earth. They waited for me a
long time; at last, they found my body. It is now at rest; and my spirit, which had so much trouble in
getting loose from it, sees the faults he has committed. When the trial is ended, God judges justly, and
His goodness is extended to those who repent.
“If my spirit was tossed about so long with my body, it was because I had to expiate. Follow the
straight road, if you would wish your spirit to get quickly free from your body of flesh. Live in the
love of God; pray, and death, so horrible for some, will be softened for you, because you will know
the life which awaits you. I died at sea; they waited for me a long time. Not to be able to get free from
my body was a terrible trial for me; this is the reason that I need your prayers, as your belief is the one
who can give the salvation. You can pray to God in my behalf in the correct manner. I repent; I hope
God will forgive me! It was on August 6 that my body was found. I was a poor seafaring man, and I
perished a long time ago. Pray for me!” PASCAL LAVIC
Q. Where was your body found?
The Journal du Havre of August 11th, 1863, contained the following paragraph, of which the
medium could know nothing: –
“We have announced that there was found, on the 6th of this month, a portion of a human body,
which had been washed ashore between Bleville and Le Havre. The head, arms, and bust, were
missing; nevertheless, the identity of the corpse has been ascertained from the boots that were still
attached to the feet. It has since been proved that the body was a fisherman, named Lavic, who
perished on December 11th, being washed overboard from the fishing-smack, L’Alerte, in a storm, off
Trouville. Lavic, born at Calais, was forty-nine years old. His identity was proved by his widow.”
On August 12th, as this incident was being discussed among the members of the circle in which
the spirit had previously manifested himself, he made, spontaneously, the following communication: –
“I am really Pascal Lavic; and I need your prayers. You can do me good; for the trial I have
been through was very terrible. The separation of my spirit from my body only took place when I had
remembered my faults; and even then I was not separated entirely from my body, but followed it for a
long time, as it was washed about by the waves. Beg God to forgive me! Beg Him to give me rest!
Pray for me, I entreat of you! Let this terrible end of an unhappy existence be a great lesson for you
all! You should think of the life to come and not fail to ask God to take pity on you. Pray for me; pray
that God may take pity on me!” PASCAL LAVIC
A medium, which lived at Le Havre, having evoked the spirit of a person whom he had known,
the latter replied:
“I should like to communicate with you; but I cannot vanquish the obstacle between us; I am
obliged to let these unhappy and suffering spirits come to you.”
The following communication was then spontaneously dictated:—
“I am in a horrible abyss! Help me!...O my God! who will take me out of this whirlpool? Who
will lend a helping hand to the miserable wretch who is being sucked in by the sea?...The night is so
dark that I am full of terror...Everywhere, the roaring of the waves, and no friendly world to console
me and to aid me in this fearful hour; for this dark night is death, death in all its horror, and I will not
die!...O God! it is not coming death; it is death that is past!...I am separated forever from those I
love...I see my body; and what I felt a moment ago, was only the remembrance of the frightful
anguish of the separation...Have pity on me, you who know of my sufferings; pray for me, for I would
not feel again, as I have been doing ever since that fatal night, the struggles of the death-agony!...But
that is my punishment; I know it beforehand...Pray for me, I conjure you!...Oh, the sea...the cold...I
am being swallowed up!...Help! help!...Ah, take pity on me; do not repel me!...There is room for two
of us on this spar!...Oh! I am choking!...The waves are covering me, and those who belong to me will
not even have the melancholy consolation of finding my corpse!...But no, I see that my body is no
longer tossed about by the waves... My mother’s prayers have been heard...My poor mother! If she
could but see how miserable is her son, she would pray all the harder; but she thinks that the cause of
my death has sanctified the past! She weeps for me as a martyr, instead of the wretched and chastised
criminal that I am! Oh, you who know of my misery, will you remain without pity? No, no; you will
pray for me!” FERDINAND BERTIN
As this name was entirely unknown to the medium, he supposed the message just given to be
from the spirit of some hapless victim of shipwreck who had spontaneously come to him, as had
already happened to him on several occasions. He subsequently learned that it was that of one of the
victims of a terrible disaster that had occurred off the coast of that region, December 2nd, 1863. The
communication was given on the 8th of the same month, six days after the occurrence of the
catastrophe. The individual had perished in making superhuman efforts to save the crew of the lost
vessel, and at the moment when his own safety seemed to be secured.
The individual in question was not connected with the medium by any tie of relationship, or
even of acquaintanceship; why, then, it may be asked, should he has manifested himself to him rather
than to some one of his own family? It must be remembered that spirits do not find, in everyone, the
fluidic conditions necessary for their manifestation; moreover, in the state of confusion in which this
spirit then was, he could have little freedom of choice. He was instinctively attracted towards this
particular medium, who was gifted, apparently, with a special aptitude for receiving spontaneous
communications of this kind; and he no doubt had a presentiment of the special sympathy he would
meet with from him, as had been the case with many others in similar circumstances. His family,
knowing nothing of Spiritism, possibly opposed to it, would not have received his revelation, as did
Although his death had taken place several days before, the spirit was still undergoing all its
anguish. It is evident that he did not understand his own situation. He believed himself to be still alive
and struggling with the waves, and, at the same time, he speaks of his body as though he were
separated from it; he shouts for help, and, a moment afterwards, he speaks of the cause of his death,
which he recognizes as having been a punishment: all this denotes the confusion of ideas which
usually follows violent death.
Two months afterwards, February 2nd, 1864, he again communicated, spontaneously, through
the same medium, and dictated the following message: –
“The pity you showed for my horrible sufferings has given me relief. I begin to hope; I look
forward to forgiveness, but after the punishment of my crime. I still suffer; and if I am permitted, for a
few moments, to foresee the end of my affliction, it is only to the prayers of charitable hearts, who feel
for my misery, that I owe this consolation. O Hope, heavenly ray, how do I bless thee when thou
shiniest into my soul!... But, alas! the abyss yawns again around me; terror and agony extinguish this
gleam of pity...Night; always night!...the water, the waves that have swallowed up my body, are but a
feeble image of the horror that surrounds my unhappy spirit...I am calmer when I am near you; for, as
a terrible secret, when confided to a friendly breast, is lightened of half its weight, so your pity for my
misery calms my pain and gives me rest. Your prayers do me good; do not refuse them to me! I do not
want to fall back into the hideous dream that becomes a reality when I see it.... Hold the pencil more
often; it does me so much good to communicate through you!”
A few days afterwards, the same spirit having been evoked on Paris, the following questions
were addressed to him, and he replied to them in a single communication, through another medium.
Q. What led you to manifest yourself spontaneously to the first medium through whom
you communicated? How long had you been dead when you thus manifested?
At that time, you seemed uncertain as to whether you were dead or alive, and you were
feeling all the anguish of a terrible death; do you now understand your situation more clearly?
You have stated that your death was an expiation; tell us what was its cause; it will be
instructive for us, and a relief to you. By a sincere avowal, you will attract the Divine mercy that
we solicit for you in our prayers.
A. It seems impossible, at first sight that any creature can suffer so horribly! How dreadful, to
see yourself constantly in the midst of furious waves, to feel incessantly this bitterness, this icy cold
that creeps up over you and seems to crush your stomach as in a vice! But what is the use of showing
you always the same horrid spectacle? Ought I not rather to begin by thanking you for the interest you
so kindly take in my torments? You ask me how long I had been dead when I first communicated. It is
difficult for me to answer this question. Remember, in what a horrible condition I was and still am!
But I think I must have been led to the medium by a will superior to my own; and – a thing I find it
impossible to understand – I used his arms as easily as I am now using yours, persuaded that it is my
own! At this moment, I feel great joy, a wonderful lightening of my trouble; but this, alas! will soon
cease. I know that I ought to make a confession; shall I have the strength to make it?
After much encouragement, the spirit added:
I have been very guilty! What distresses me most is that people should regard me as a martyr;
for I am nothing of the kind...In a preceding existence, I caused several victims to be sewed up in a
sack and thrown into the sea...Pray for me!
COMMENT OF SAINT LOUIS ON THE FOREGOING: –
This confession will be a great relief to the spirit. Yes, he has been very guilty! But the
existence he has just quitted was an honorable one. He was liked and esteemed by his employers, an
amendment which was the fruit of his repentance and of the good resolutions formed by him before
returning to the Earth, where he had determined to be as humane as he had formerly been cruel. The
devotion that cost him his life was a reparation, but it was necessary for him to redeem his past
misdeeds by a final expiation; that of the terrible death he has just endured. He had asked to be
allowed to purify himself by undergoing the same tortures that he had caused to be undergone by
others; and as you perceive, what he regrets the most is to see that people mistake him for a martyr.
You may rely upon it that he will be rewarded for this humility. He will now quit the path of expiation
and will enter upon that of rehabilitation; by your prayers, you may sustain him on that path and aid
him to pursue his way with a stronger and surer step.
François Riquier, a very commonplace person, an old miser and an old bachelor, died at C——
in 1857, leaving a considerable fortune to distant relations. He had formerly been the landlord of a
lady who had quite forgotten him, and who did not even know whether he was alive or dead. In 1862,
this lady’s daughter, who is subject to attacks of catalepsy followed by spontaneous magnetic sleep,
and who is besides a very good writing medium, saw, when in this sleep, Mr. Riquier, who wished,
she said, to say something to her mother. A few days afterwards, having been evoked for the purpose
of enabling him to satisfy this wish by speaking with the lady, the following conversation occurred
Q. What do you want of me?
A. My money, of which they have taken the whole, the wretches! Sharing it between them.
They have sold off my farms, my houses, and all my property, to divide it among themselves! They
have broken up my fortune, as though it did not belong to me. Make them give me my rights, for they
will not listen to me, and I will not put up with such an infamous robbery. They call me a usurer, and
they keep my money from me! Why do they not give it back to me, since they say it was ill gotten?
Q. But you are dead, my good man; you no longer need money! Ask of God to grant you a
new existence, a life of poverty, that so you may expiate the avarice of your last one.
A. No, I could not live if I were poor. I must have my money to be able to live. Besides, I don’t
need any other life, since I am living now.
Q. (The following question was put, in order to bring him to a sense of the reality of his
position.) Do you suffer?
A. Oh yes! I am suffering tortures that are worse than the most painful disease, for it is my soul
that endures them! I have constantly presented to my mind the thought of the iniquity of my life,
which was a subject of scandal to many. I know that I am a miserable wretch unworthy of pity; but I
suffer so much that you must help me to come out of this dreadful state.
Q. We will pray for you.
A. Thank you! Pray that I may forget my earthly riches, unless I do that, I shall never be able to repent. Farewell; thanks.
FRANÇOIS RIQUIER NO. 14 RUE DE LA CHARITÉ.
It is curious to see the spirit giving his address, as though he were still alive. The lady, who had
no idea where he had lived, went to the house indicated and found, to her surprise that it was really the
last one in which he had lived. Thus, five years after his death, he did not know that he was dead and
was still undergoing all the anxiety, terrible for a miser, of seeing his property divided among his
heirs. The evocation, suggested, no doubt, by some friendly spirit, had the effect of making him
understand his real position and of leading him to repentance.
(Paris Society, 1861)
The spirit who dictated the following communications is that of a woman who was known to the
medium when alive, and whose conduct fully accounted for the torments that she endured after death.
Her selfishness and personality are strongly reflected, in her third communication, in which she insists
that the medium should attend only to her. These communications were obtained at different periods;
the last three show an evident progress on the part of the spirit, thanks to the efforts of the medium
who had undertaken her moral education.
I. Here I am, I, unhappy Claire! What can I say to you? You speak of resignation and hope; but
they are mere words for one who knows that, innumerable as the pebbles on the shore, her sufferings
will last throughout the succession of interminable ages. I can lessen them, say you? What a senseless
assertion! Where am I to find the courage, the hope, for doing that? Try, with your narrow brain, to
imagine what must be a day that never comes to an end! It is a day, a year, a century? How do I know?
It is not divided by hours; it is not varied by seasons; eternal, slow, like the ceaseless dripping of water
from a rock, the day that I execrate, that I curse, weighs on me like a leaden pall! ... I suffer! ... I see
nothing around me but shadows, silent, and caring nothing.... I suffer!
I know, nevertheless, that God reigns above this misery; God, the Father, the Master; He
towards whom everything tends. I will think of Him; I will implore His pity....
I struggle.... I drag myself painfully along, like some lame creature crawling by the wayside. A
power –– I know not what –– draws me to you; perhaps you will help my deliverance? When I leave
you, I am a little calmer, a little warmer; as a shivering wretch that is comforted by a ray of sunshine,
so my frozen soul gains new life when it approaches you.
II. My misery deepens every day, in proportion as the knowledge of eternity is developed in my
mind. Oh, the wretched mistake of my past! How I curse you, guilty hours of selfishness and folly, in
which, forgetful of charity, of devotion, I thought only of my own enjoyment! I curse you, short-
sighted arrangements of human life! Idle anxieties about physical and worldly interests! I curse you,
for you blinded me and led me on to my ruin! I am gnawed by the ceaseless regret of my wasted time!
What can I say to you who are listening to me? Watch constantly over yourself; think more of others
than of yourself; linger not in the paths of sensual enjoyment; do not pamper your body at the expense
of your soul; “Watch!” as said the Savior to His disciples. Do not thank me for these counsels; my
intelligence appreciates them, but my heart has never listened to them. Like a whipped dog, fear
makes me crouch; but I have not yet attained to the freedom of the love of duty. The divine dawn has
not yet risen for me! Pray for my parched and miserable soul!
III. I have come to seek you, since you forget me. You believe, then, that a few prayers, now
and then, the pronouncing of my name, can suffice to relieve such suffering as mine? Undeceive
yourself. I roar with pain; I wander without rest, without refuge, without hope, feeling the dart of
chastisement piercing ever deeper and deeper into my rebellious soul! I laugh when I hear your
complaints, when I see you sad! What are your weak sorrows? What are your tears? What are the
torments of your life, on which sleep imposes a truce? Do I sleep? I demand –do you hear? –I demand
of you to put aside your philosophic dissertations, to attend to me, and to make others attend to me. I
have no words to express the anguish of this time that flows on and on, forever, with no succession of
hours to mark its periods. It is as much as I can do to detect a faint ray of hope; and this hope it is you
who have given it me: do not abandon me!
IV. (Remark of St. Louis) – This picture is but too true, for it is not at all overcharged. It may
be asked, “What has this woman done to be so miserable? Has she committed some horrible crime?
Has she robbed, or assassinated?” No, she has done nothing that falls under the stroke of human law.
On the contrary, her life was filled with what, upon the Earth, you consider as happiness; she had
beauty, fortune, adulation; everything seemed to smile on her; nothing was lacking to her; and people
said, on seeing her, “What a happy woman!” And they envied her position. “What has she done?” She
was selfish; she had everything, excepting a kindly heart. Though she violated no human law, her life
was a continuous violation of the law of God; for she neglected charity, the first and greatest of human
virtues. She loved only herself; now, no one loves her. She gave nothing to others; no one now gives
to her. She is alone, neglected, abandoned, lost in space, where no one thinks of her or takes any notice
of her; and this isolation constitutes her torment. As she sought only worldly enjoyments, and as those
enjoyments no longer exist for her, she has an empty void all around her; she sees only nothingness;
and nothingness seems to her to be her eternal portion. She has no physical tortures to undergo; no
devils come to torment her; but she has no need of them, she is her own tormentor, and she suffers all
the more on the account, for devils would be creatures, and would be thinking of her. Selfishness was
her delight on Earth; now it pursues her; it is a worm that gnaws into her heart; it is her demon. SAINT LOUIS
V. I would speak to you of the important differences between the Divine morality and human
morality. The first has pity for the abandonment of the woman taken in adultery and says to the sinner,
“Repent! And the Kingdom of Heaven shall be opened to you.” The Divine morality accepts all
repentance and forgives all faults that are acknowledged; while human morality repels the latter and
smilingly pardons faults if they are only hidden. The one has the grace of forgiveness, the other,
hypocrisy. Choose, you who are eager for truth, choose between the opening of the heavens to
repentance, and the tolerance that winks at the wrongdoing which does not disturb its selfishness and
its deceitful arrangements, while repelling the passionate sobbing of the remorse that makes its
confession in the light of day! Repent, all you who have sinned; renounce your evil ways; but, above
all, renounce your hypocrisy which hides the ugliness of evil under the smiling and deceptive mask of
VI. I have become calm and resigned to the expiation of my faults. The evil from which I suffer
is in me, and not outside of me; therefore, it is I who must change, and not exterior things. We carry
within ourselves our heaven and our hell; our faults, graven on our conscience, are legible by all when
we enter the spirit-world, and we are thus our own judges, since it is the state of our soul that raises us
up or casts us down. Let me explain what I mean: – a spirit soiled and weighed by his faults can
neither desire nor imagine an elevation to which he is unequal. Be sure of this: – just as each of the
different species of beings lives in the sphere which is proper to it, so spirits, according to the degree
of their advancement, find themselves in the surroundings which are in harmony with their faculties;
and they can only conceive of anything beyond these when progress, the slow agent of the
transformation of souls, clears them of their base tendencies and strips them of the chrysalis of
sinfulness, that so they may be able to try their wings, before taking their flight, swift as the arrow,
towards the Divine Being, as their sole aim and desire. Alas! I still crawl on the ground; but I no
longer hate, and I begin to form to myself some faint conception of the ineffable happiness of loving
God. Therefore, continue to pray for me, who hope and wait.
In the next communication, Claire speaks of her husband, who gave her a good deal of trouble
during his life, and of his present position in the world of spirits. This picture, which she was unable to
finish, was completed by the medium’s spirit-guide.
VII. I come to you who have so long forgotten me; but I have become patient and am no longer
despairing. You wish to know what poor Felix’s situation is; he is wandering in darkness, a prey to
utter spiritual destitution. Of a superficial and frivolous nature, soiled by carnal passions, he has never
known either love or friendship; even passion failed to light up his futility with its somber gleams. His
present state is that of a child who, incapable of looking after the things of its physical life, is deprived
of the help of those about him. Felix wanders in terror through this world, so strange to him, in that
everything reflects the splendor of the God whose existence he denied....
VIII. (The Medium’s Guide) — Claire cannot continue the analysis of her husband’s sufferings
without feeling them in her own person; I will therefore speak for her.
Felix, who was as superficial in mind as in sentiment, violent because he was weak, debauched
because he was unloving, has returned into the world of spirits as naked, morally, as physically.
During his terrestrial life, he acquired nothing; and he has, consequently, to begin everything over
again. Like a man who wakens out of a long dream and perceives how useless has been the excitement
of his nerves, this pitiable being, on coming out of the confusion of the separation, will see that he has
been living with chimeras that have led him astray; he will curse the materialism that caused him to
embrace emptiness when he fancied he was grasping a reality; he will curse the positivism that led him
to regard the idea of a future life as an empty fantasy, to look upon aspiration as folly, and to condemn
belief in God as weakness. This unhappy spirit, on waking, will see that these words, scoffed at by
him, were formulas of truth, and that, reversing the fable, the pursuit of what he believed to be a
“reality” has been less profitable than would have been that of what he scorned as a “shadow.”
REMARKS ON CLAIRE’S COMMUNICATIONS
These communications are especially instructive because they show us one of the most common
aspects of life - selfishness. They do not startle us with the great crimes that fill even the wicked
themselves with horror; they paint the condition of a mass of people who live in society, honored and
sought after, because they possess the varnish of good-breeding, and because they do not bring
themselves under the ban of social law. Neither do they show us, in the spirit-world, any of the
exceptional punishments the picture of which makes us shudder; they show us a situation which is the
simple and natural consequence of the habits of life, and of the state of the soul, and in which
isolation, neglect, abandonment, are the punishment of him who has lived only for himself. Claire, as
we have seen, was intelligent but utterly selfish. When upon the Earth, her social position, her fortune,
her physical advantages, attracted to her the homage that flattered her vanity and satisfied her desires.
But, in the other life, she meets only with indifference, and an empty void surrounds her; a punishment
more poignant, for her, than actual pain, because it is mortifying; whereas pain inspires pity and
compassion, attracts attention, and causes others to take an interest in the sufferer.
The sixth communication contains an idea that is perfectly true, and that explains the persistence
of certain spirits in evil. We are often astonished at finding how indifferent some of them are to the
thought, and even to the sight, of the happiness enjoyed by those of the higher ranks. But they are
exactly in the position of degraded men who take pleasure in filth and in gross sensualities. Such
people feel themselves at home in evil surroundings, and have no idea of satisfactions of a more
refined character. They prefer their sordid rags to the cleanest and handsomest garments, because they
are more at their ease in them; and, for a similar reason, they prefer their low orgies to the pleasures of
refined society. They have identified themselves so thoroughly with their kind of life that it has
become for them a second nature; they seem to themselves to be incapable of rising above their
present sphere, and they accordingly remain in it until a transformation of their nature has opened their
intelligence and developed their moral sense, and had thus rendered them susceptible of more subtle
Such spirits, when disincarnated, cannot acquire delicacy of sentiment all at once; and, during a
longer or shorter period, they occupy the lower regions of the spirit-world; but, in the long run, with
the aid of the experience, tribulations, and miseries of successive incarnations, they begin to conceive
of the possibility of something better than their way of life; their aspirations point to a higher state;
they begin to understand what is wanting to them, and they then exert themselves to acquire and to go
up. When once they have entered on this path, they move on rapidly, because they have obtained
glimpses of satisfactions which appear to them to be greatly superior to those in which they formerly
wallowed, and which, being only gross sensations, finished by causing them repugnance and disgust.
(QUESTION ADDRESSED TO SAINT LOUIS)
Q. What are we to understand by the “darkness” in which some of the suffering spirits say
they are plunged? Could this darkness be the same as the one referred to in the Scripture?
A. The darkness in question is precisely that which is alluded to by Jesus and the prophets, in
speaking of the punishment of the wicked. But this should not be understood except as a figure
destined to injure the material senses of his contemporaries, who would not have been able to
understand punishment in an elusive spiritual manner. Certain spirits are really plunged in a thick
darkness, an obscuration of the soul which constitutes for it a darkness like that of night, a mental
obscurity like that which darkens the intelligence of a mentally disabled. It is not spirit-madness; it is,
on the part of the spirit, an unconsciousness of himself and of all that is around him which subsists as
densely, in presence of light as in its absence. This darkness is especially the punishment of those who,
in the earthly life, have doubted the fact of a future existence. They have believed in nothingness, and
this semblance of nothingness becomes their torture, until their soul, making, at length, a resolute
effort, breaks through the network of moral enervation by that it has been seized; just as an instant
comes when one who has been attacked with nightmare struggles, with all his might, against the terror
and oppression by which he has been momentarily overcome. This temporary reducing of the soul to a
fictitious nothingness, while preserving the perception of its own existence, is a much more painful
form of suffering than might be supposed, because of the appearance of repose which it presents; it is
precisely this enforced repose, thus nullity of its being, this uncertainty, that constitutes its torture; it is
the utter weariness with which it is overwhelmed that constitutes its most terrible chastisement, for it
perceives nothing around it, neither things nor beings; it is, for the soul, a real and absolute darkness. SAINT LOUIS
(Claire) I am here. I, also, am able to reply to the question concerning the darkness of the spirit-
world, for I wandered and suffered for a long period in the vague limbo where all is weeping and
misery. Yes, the darkness visible of which the Scriptures speak does really exist; and the wretches
who, having terminated their earthly trial, quit the world of men in a state of ignorance or of guilt, are
plunged into that icy region, understanding nothing of themselves or of their destiny. They suppose
that their state will be forever the same; they still murmur the words which misled them during life;
they are amazed and terrified at their utter solitude; darkness, in truth, it is his region at once empty
and peopled, this space in which, carried forward by a power they do not understand, they wander,
pallid and groaning, without consolation, without affections, without help of any kind. To whom shall
they apply for aid? They feel the weight of eternity pressing heavily upon them; they tremble; they
regret the trumpery interests which, at least, marked the passage of the hours on Earth; they regret the
night which, following the day, often consoled them for the anxieties of the latter by a pleasant dream.
Spirit-darkness is ignorance, emptiness, and dread of the unknown... I cannot continue... CLAIRE
Another spirit gave the following explanation of the darkness in question:
“The perispirit possesses, in virtue of its nature, a luminous property which is developed by the
exercise of the purified activities of the soul. It may be said that the exercise of those activities acts,
upon the perispiritual fluid, as does friction upon phosphorus. The brightness of this luminosity is
proportioned to the purity of the spirit; the slightest moral imperfection dims and weakens it. The light
radiated by a spirit is so much the more brilliant as he is more advanced.77 Each spirit being, so to say,
his own light-bearer, he sees more or less distinctly according to the degree of intensity of the light he
produces; whence it follows that those who produce no light are in darkness.”78
This theory is perfectly correct as regards the radiation of the luminous fluid by spirits of high
degree, which is proved by observation; but this does not appear to be the true cause or, at least, the
only cause, of the phenomenon we are considering, because: 1. All the lower spirits are not in the
darkness, 2. Because the same spirit may be alternately in light and in darkness, 3. Because darkness is
a punishment for some of the imperfect spirits. If the darkness in which some spirits are plunged were
inherent in their person, it would be permanent and general for all bad spirits, which is not the case,
since spirits of the most utter depravity see perfectly, while others, who cannot justly be termed
depraved, are temporarily in profound darkness. Everything proves that, besides the light from an
external source, of which they are deprived under certain circumstances; from where it could be
concluded that this darkness depends on a cause, or a will, foreign to themselves and that it constitutes
a special punishment, appointed, in certain cases, by the Divine Justice.
Q. (To Saint Louis, at a meeting of the Paris Society)
How is it that the moral education of discarnate spirits is easier than that of incarnate ones?
The relations established by Spiritism between men and spirits have led us to observe that the
latter are moralized more quickly, by the influence of good advice, than those who are incarnate,
as is shown by the cure of obsessions.
A. The incarnate, by his very nature, is in a state of ceaseless fight through the opposing
elements of which his personality is composed, and which are intended to lead him onto his
providentially appointed aim by reacting upon one another. Matter is easily influenced by an external
fluid; if the soul do not react against such an influence with all the moral strength it can muster, it
allows itself to be dominated by the intermediary of its body, and follows the impulsion of the evil
influences by which it is surrounded; and it does this all the more readily because the invisible beings
who beset it, attacking it purposely on its weakest side, take advantage of its tendency towards some
dominant passion, which they make use of as a lever in acting upon it.
With the discarnate spirit the case is very different. He is still, it is true, under an influence that
is of a semi-material nature; but this state cannot be compared in any way to that of an incarnate.
Respect for the opinions of other people, so preponderant in the human mind, is null for him; and he is
therefore not tempted, by any false shame, to keep up a resistance to reasoning which his own interest
show him to be good. He may struggle against good influences, and, in fact, he usually does so, more
violently than the incarnate, because his liberty is greater; but no paltry motive of material interest or
of social position interferes to warp his judgment. He struggles from mere love of evil; but he soon
acquires the consciousness of his powerlessness against the moral superiority that dominates him. The
mirage of a happier future has more influence over him, because he is in the very world in which that
future is awaiting him, and because that perspective is not erased by the swirl of human pleasures; in a
word, his improvement is easier because he is no longer under the influence of the flesh, especially
when he has acquired a certain amount of development through the trials he has undergone. A
primitive spirit would be but slightly accessible to reasoning; but it is otherwise with one who has
already undergone the experience of life. Moreover, in the case of the incarnate as of the discarnate, it
is through the soul, through the sentiments, that he must be influenced. The action of physical causes
may momentarily suspend the sufferings of a vicious man, but it cannot destroy the morbid principle
that is in his soul; and no action can deliver the soul from suffering, unless it improves its moral state. SAINT LOUIS