On the 7th April, 1858, about seven o’clock in the evening, a man of some fifty years of age, respectably dressed, entered the great bathing establishment of the Samaritaine, in Paris, and ordered a bath. The waiter on duty, after an interval of a couple of hours, finding that the individual in question did not ring for him, determined to enter his bathroom, to see if he were ill. On doing this, he beheld a hideous spectacle; the unhappy stranger had cut his throat with a razor, and his blood had mingled with the water of his bath. The identity of the stranger not having been established, the corpse was conveyed to the Morgue.
The spirit of this man, evoked six days afterwards at a meeting of the Paris Society, replied as follows: –
1. Evocation – (The Medium’s Guide) Wait a moment; he is here.
2. Where are you now?
A. I don’t know. Tell me where I am.
3. You are in an assembly of persons who take part in investigations about spirits, and who feel kindly towards you.
A. Tell me if I am alive…I am stifled in this coffin!
His soul, though separated from the body, is still entirely plunged in what may be termed the vortex of corporeal matter; his terrestrial ideas are still strong; he does not suppose himself to be dead.
4. Who advised you to come to us?
A. I felt that I should be relieved by coming.
5. What motive led you to commit suicide?
A. Am I dead?…Not at all!…I inhabit my body…You cannot imagine how much I suffer!…I am stifling…Oh, that some compassionate hand would finish killing me!
6. Why did you not leave some indication to show whom you were?
A. I was abandon by everybody; I fled from suffering to find torture!
7. Have you still the same motives for remaining unknown?
A. Yes, do not force the red-hot iron into a bleeding wound!
8. Will you tell us your name, your age, your profession, your residence?
A. No, nothing.
9. Had you a family, a wife, children?
A. I was abandon by all; no one loved me.
10. What had you done, that no one loved you?
A. How many are like me! A man may be abandoned in the midst of his family, if no one cares for him.
11. At the moment when you committed suicide, did you feel no hesitation?
A. I thirsted for death…I expected to find myself at rest.
12. How could the thought of the future have failed to turn you from your project?
A. I had ceased to believe in a future; I was without hope. Belief in a future means hope!
13. What reflections passed through your mind at the moment when you found your life becoming extinct?
A. I did not reflect; I only felt…But my life is not extinct…My soul is linked to my body…I feel the worms that are devouring me.
14. What feeling did you experience at the moment when your death had taken place?
A. Has it done so?
15. Did you suffer pain at the moment when your life became extinct?
A. Less than I suffered afterwards. It was the body only that suffered at that moment.
16. (To the spirit of Saint Louis.) What does he mean by saying that the moment of his death was less painful than afterwards?
A. The spirit was throwing off a load of which he was weary; the pain he suffered in doing so was therefore a source of satisfaction to him.
17. Does suicide always lead to such a state as that in which he is?
A. Yes, he who commits suicide is linked to his body to the end of the period appointed for his earthly life. Natural death is the freeing of the soul from the bonds of the earthly life; suicide leaves the links between the soul and body intact.
18. Is this state the same in cases of accidental death, from causes independent of the will that shorten the natural duration of a life?
A. No. Such deaths are very different from suicide. The spirit is only responsible for his
This doubt concerning the fact of their death is very common among those whose decease is recent, especially if, during life, they have not raised their affections above material things. This phenomenon appears strange at first sight, but is easily explained. When a subject is thrown, for the first time, into the somnambulistic state, he almost always, on being asked whether he is asleep, reply “No,” and his reply is perfectly natural; the seeming error is with the questioner, who has employed a wrong term in putting his question. The term sleep, in ordinary parlance, implies the suspension of all the sensitive faculties; consequently, the somnambulist, who thinks, sees, feels, and has the consciousness of his moral freedom, does not suppose himself to be asleep, and, in fact, he is not asleep in the usual acceptation of that term. He therefore replies by a negative until he has become familiarized with the special use of the term in question. It is the same with one who has recently died. For him, death means the annihilation of his being; but, like the somnambulist, he sees, feels, speaks; to himself, therefore, he does not seem to be dead, and he denies being dead, until he has acquired the comprehension of his new state of being. This state of illusion is always more or less painful, because it is not a true, complete state of existence, but a hybrid one, causing the spirit to feel more or less uncertainty and anxiety about himself and his position. In the example just cited, it is a terrible torture, through the spirit’s sensation of the worms that are devouring his body, and through its persistence, which will continue until the end of the time to which the man would have lived if he had not cut short the normal union of his soul and body. This state is frequent among those who have committed suicide, but it does not present the same conditions in all cases; it varies in duration and in intensity according to the circumstances that aggravate or attenuate the crime. The sensation of worms and of bodily decomposition, moreover, is not confined exclusively to those who have committed suicide; it is frequent among those who have lived with the bodily life rather than with the life of the soul. It may be laid down, as a principle, that no fault goes unpunished; but there is no uniform and absolute rule in the methods of providential punishment.