He was rich, well educated, a poet of mark, good-tempered, obliging, courteous, and perfectly honorable. Ruined by unlucky speculations, at an age too advanced to allow of his repairing the loss of his fortune, he gave way to discouragement and committed suicide, in December 1864, by hanging himself in his bedroom. He was neither a materialist nor an atheist; but he lacked seriousness and thought little of a future life. Having known him intimately, we evoked him four months after his death, from personal sympathy.
Evocation – I regret the Earth; I had many disappointments there, but less than here. The world of spirits contains a very mixed company, and would need a good deal of sifting to render it bearable. I am in a constant state of amazement. What sketches of spirit-doings might be made here! Balzac ought to take the work in hand; it would be difficult, even for him. But I have not seen him. Where can they be, the clever minds that so strongly flagellate the vices of the human race? They ought to remain here as I am doing, before going higher. It is a curious pandemonium, which it amuses me to observe; and so I stay here.
Although the spirit confessed that he was in “a very mixed company,” consequently among inferior spirits, his language caused us some surprise, because he made no allusion to the nature of his death; and although it was a faithful reflex of his character, this omission caused us some doubt of his identity.
Q. Can you tell us what you died of?
A. What I died of? Of the kind of death I had chosen; I had meditated long enough as to the way I should take for getting rid of life. I confess I have not gained much by so doing. I have freed myself from the cares of Earth, but only to find myself tormented by others far more serious and painful in this life, and of which I cannot foresee the end.
Q. (To the Medium’s Guide) Is it really the spirit of Mr. Felicien who is replying? This careless way of talking seems very strange on the part of one who has committed suicide.
A. Yes, but from a feeling excusable in his position, he did not care to reveal the manner of his death to the medium. It was for this reason that he rattled on as he did. Pressed by your question, he ended by making the avowal; but he is much disturbed at having to do so. He suffers terribly for his regrettable folly; and he avoids, as much as he can, whatever would remind him of it.
Q. (To the spirit) We were all the more grieved by your death, because we foresaw the melancholic consequences to which it would lead, and because of our esteem and attachment for you. For myself, I have not forgotten how kind and obliging you always were to me; and I should be very glad if I could be of use to you in any way.
A. And yet I had no other way of escaping from the embarrassments of my pecuniary position! Now, I need your prayers. Pray, especially, that I may be delivered from the horrible companions who are around me, who persecute me with their laughter, their cries, and their infernal jeers. They call me a coward, and they are right; it is cowardice to quit the earthly life. This makes four times that I have succumbed to the same trial. And yet I had promised myself, so positively, that I would not succumb again...what a fatality...Ah! Pray for me, what tortures I am undergoing! How wretched I am! You will do more for me, by doing so, than I did for you when I was upon the Earth. But the trial that I have so often failed to bear rises before me as a necessity from which I cannot escape; after a certain time, I must undergo it again; shall I have the strength to bear it to the end? Ah! How sad to have to begin the earthly life so often! To struggle so long and yet to be drawn, by the course of events, into new failures, despite one’s resolutions to the contrary, it drives one to despair! It is for this that I need strength. They say that prayer gives strength; pray for me! I, too, will pray.
The case of suicide, though committed under the most common-place circumstances, presents to us, nevertheless, a special phase of that crime, for it shows us a spirit who has succumbed several times to the same temptation, which is renewed in each successive existence and will be renewed until he had acquired sufficient strength to resist it. This case is a conformation of the principle that, when we fail to accomplish the special amendment for which we were incarnated, we have suffered in vain, for we shall have to recommence the same trial until we come out victorious from the struggle.
To the spirit of Mr. Felicien – I beg of you to weigh well what I am about to say to you. What you call “fatality” is nothing else than your own weakness; there is no such thing as “fatality,” for, if there were, man would not be responsible for his actions. Man is always free, and this freedom is his noblest privilege; God has not made him a machine, acting and obeying, blindly, a foreign impulsion. This liberty, it is true, renders him fallible; but it also renders him perfectible, and it is only through the attainment of perfection that he arrives at the supreme happiness. It is his pride that leads him to attribute his earthly mishaps to destiny; for, in general, he has only his own carelessness to thank for them. You were, in your last existence, a striking proof of this fact. You then possessed everything that constitutes what the world calls good fortune; you had intelligence, talent, wealth, and general esteem; you had no ruinous vices, on the contrary, you possessed many excellent qualities; how was it, then, that your earthly position was so seriously compromised? Simply, through your want of foresight. If you had acted more prudently, if you had been content with the handsome share of worldly wealth in your possession, instead of trying to add to it unnecessarily, you would not have been ruined. There was, then, no “fatality” in your case, since you might have avoided the misfortunes that you drew upon yourself. Your trial consisted in a chain of circumstances that were intended to furnish you, not with the compulsion, but with the temptation, to suicide; unhappily for you, notwithstanding your intelligence and mental acquirements, you failed to rise superior to those circumstances, and you have now to pay the penalty of your weakness. This trial, as you foresee, correctly, will again be renewed; in your next existence, you will be exposed to the action of events that will again excite your mind the thought of suicide, and it will be thus with you until you have conquered the temptation. So far from accusing fate for what is of your own doing, you should admire the goodness of God, who, instead of condemning you eternally for a first failure, offers you, perpetually, the means of turning over a new leaf. You will continue to suffer, not eternally, but as long as you continue to yield to the temptation you have to vanquish. It rests entirely with yourself to cultivate, in the spirit-state, resolutions so energetic, repentance for past wrongdoing so sincere, and a desire for the help of higher spirits so intense, that you will return to the Earth fully armed against temptation. When once you have won the victory over your special weakness, you will advance towards happiness all the more rapidly because, in other respects, your advancement is already very considerable. It is, therefore, just a single step that you have to take; we will help you to take it with our prayers, but these will be powerless unless you second them by your own efforts.
A. Thanks, thanks for your wise exhortations! I need them greatly, for I am unhappier that I was willing to show. I promise you that I will profit by them; I will prepare myself so thoroughly for my next incarnation that I shall not fail again; for I long to escape from the base surrounding by which I am now tormented. FELICIEN