Allan Kardec

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Chapter IV



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 shroud.

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.


(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!”


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 you relief?

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?
A. Onehundredandfiftyyearsago,inPrussia.

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 afterwards.

6. God is too good to condemn His creatures to eternal punishment; you should hope in His mercy.

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?
A. Aspirit,whooftenfollowsme,broughtmehere.
Q. Since when have you seen that spirit?
A. Notverylong.
Q. And since when have you begun to repent of your faults?
A. (Afterreflectingsomeminutes)Yes;youareright;itwasthenthatIbegantoseehim.

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.

A. Oh,howmuchIwishitmightbeso!

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 hear you.

A. Icannot!Iamafraid.

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.
A. Yes,yes;Iwillcomeeveryday.

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.


(Bordeaux, 1862)

A suffering spirit who announces himself, spontaneously, as “Ouran, formerly a Russian Prince.”

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?

A. Istilldonotknow.
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 mountain.


(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 message.)

“...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?
A. Nearhere.
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 this medium.

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!


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 between them:

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.


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 conventional forms!

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.” GEORGES


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 sensations.

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.


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

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