(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
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 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.
(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.