A bank clerk in Canada, committed suicide on February 28th, 1865
One of our correspondents, a physician (who was also an apothecary) in the same town, gave us the following information concerning him:
“I knew Bell for over twenty years. He was a man of blameless life, and the father of a numerous family. Some time back, he took it into his head that he had bought poison in my shop and had killed someone with it. He repeatedly entreated me to tell him the date of this imaginary purchase, and, never failed, on these occasions, to go off into a terrible fit of excitement. He lost his sleep, accused himself of murder, and gave himself up to despair. His family was in a continual state of anxiety from 4 p.m. when he returned home, to 9 a.m. when he went back to the Bank, where he kept his books with perfect correctness, never making the slightest error in his accounts. He frequently said that a being that he felt inside him made him keep his books with order and regularity. My assurances that he had never bought any poison in my shop would stagger him for a moment; but, when he seemed to be convinced of his error, he was sure to cry, again, ‘No, no! You want to deceive me...but I remember...and what I say is true!’”
He was evoked, in Paris, on April 17th, 1865, at the request of his friend.
1. Evocation – A. What do you want with me? To cross-question me? It is unnecessary; I am ready to confess everything.
2. We have no wish to trouble you with indiscreet questions. We only wish to know what your position in the spirit-world is, and whether we can be of use to you.
A. Ah! If you could, how thankful I should be! I have my crime in horror, and I am dreadfully unhappy!
3. Our prayers, I trust, will soften your suffering. You appear to us to be on the right road, for you repent; and repentance is the beginning of rehabilitation. God, whose mercy is infinite, always takes pity on the wrongdoer who repents. Pray with us. (Here, we say the prayer for those who have committed suicide, in “The Gospel According to Spiritism.”) Will you, now, tell us what the crime you alluded to is? That avowal, made with humility, will be counted in your favor.
A. Let me thank you, first of all, for the hope you have given me! Long ago, alas! I lived in a town whose walls are washed by the Mediterranean. I loved a beautiful girl who responded to my affection; but I was poor, and her family rejected my suit. She announced to me her approaching marriage with the son of a merchant whose trade exceeded beyond the two seas, and I was dismissed. Maddened with grief, I determined to kill myself after having glutted my vengeance by assassinating my abhorred rival. Violence, however, was repugnant to me; I shuddered at the thought of my intended crime, but my jealousy carried the day. On the evening before the marriage that was to give him my beloved, he died of poison administered by me, as an easier vengeance. Thus are explained the reminiscences that haunted me on my last life. Yes, I had lived already, and I must live again...O my God! take pity on my weakness and my tears!
4. We deplore the mistake that has delayed your advancement, and we heartily pity you; but you may be sure that, since you repent, God will have mercy on you. Please, tell us, did you carry out your intended suicide?
A. No, I confess, to my shame, hope awoke in my heart. I wished to enjoy the fruit of my crime, but my remorse betrayed me. I expiated a moment of bewilderment by the most terrible punishment, for I was hung.
5. Had you any consciousness of that wicked deed in your last existence?
A. In the last years of that life, only, as I will explain. I was well-intentioned by nature; and, after having been subjected, in the spirit-world, like all homicides, to the torture of the incessant sight of my victim, which pursued me like an embodied remorse, I was delivered from it, after many long years, by my prayers and repentance. I then began a new earthly life (my last one), and lived it peacefully and timidly. I had a vague intuition of my native weakness and of my former fault, of which I had retained a latent remembrance. But an obsessing and vindictive spirit, the father of my victim, had little difficulty in getting me under his control, and in reviving in my mind, as in a magic mirror, the remembrance of the past. Influenced, alternately, by him and by the guide who watched over me, I was now the poisoner or the father of a family earning by his labor his children’s bread. The occult action of this obsessing demon pushed me on to suicide. My guilt is great; but less than it would have been had I acted entirely of my own will. Self-killers of my class, who are too weak to resist obsessing spirits, are less guilty and less punished than those who take their own life from the sole prompting of their own will. Pray with me for the spirit who has influenced me so disastrously, that he may renounce his thirst of vengeance; and pray also for me, that I may acquire the strength and energy which will enable me to vanquish the temptation to voluntary suicide to which, I am told, I shall be subjected in my next incarnation.
6. (To the Medium’s Guide) Can an obsessing spirit really drives a man to suicide?
A. Assuredly he can; for obsession, which is, itself, a mode of trial, may assume all forms; but this is no excuse for the deed. Man has always his free-will, and he is consequently free to yield to, or to resist, the suggestions to which he is exposed; when he succumbs, he does so of his own will. The spirit, however, is right in saying that he who does wrong at the instigation of another is less reprehensible and less punished than he who does wrong of his own movement; but he is not therefore acquitted of all blame, because, if he can be turned aside from the right road, it shows that he is not yet thoroughly grounded in rectitude.
7. How is it that, notwithstanding the prayers and repentance that had delivered this spirit from the torturing sight of his victim, he was subsequently pursued by the vengeance of the obsessing spirit in his last incarnation?
A. Repentance, as you know, is only the indisputable preliminary to rehabilitation; it does not suffice to deliver the guilty from the punishment of his wrongdoing. Providence does not content itself with promises; he who repents must prove, by his acts, the thoroughness of his return to goodness; it is for this reason that the spirit is subjected to new earthly trials that fortify its good resolutions while increasing his merits if he comes out of them victorious. He is exposed to the attacks of evil spirits until the latter feel that he is strong enough to resist them; when this is the case, they let him alone, because they know that their attempts would be useless.
The two last examples show us the renewing of the same trial, in successive incarnations, so long as the spirit fails to bear up against a given temptation. Anthony Bell shows us, moreover, a fact not less instructive, viz. that of a man pursued by the remembrance of a crime committed in a former existence, as remorse and a warning. We thus see that our successive lives are part and parcel of each other; the justice and goodness of God are visibly manifested in the possibility of gradual amendment accorded to the wrongdoer, against whom the door of self-redemption is never shut. The guilty one is punished by his fault itself; and his punishment, so far from being a vengeance on the part of the Almighty, is the means employed for ensuring his progress.