HEAVEN AND HELL OR THE DIVINE JUSTICE ACCORDING TO SPIRITISM

Allan Kardec

Back to the menu

Chapter VI
REPENTANT CRIMINALS

VERGER
THE ASSASSIN OF THE ARCHBISHOP OF PARIS

The 3rd of January, 1857, Msgr. Sibour, Archbishop of Paris, on coming out of the church of St. Stephen-of-the-Mount, in Paris, was stabbed by a young priest named Verger, who was sentenced to death, and executed, on January 30th. Up to the moment of his death, Verger showed neither regret nor repentance for his crime.

Evoked on the day of his execution, he gave the following replies:

1. (Evocation) – A. I am still retained in my body.

2. Is not your soul entirely free from your body?

A. No…I am afraid…I don’t know…Wait until I can see myself…I am not dead, am I?

3. Do you repent of what you have done?

A. I did wrong to kill; but I was driven to it by my temper, which cannot put up with humiliations…you will evoke me another time.

4. Why do you want to go away?

A. I should be too much frightened if I saw him; I should fear he would do as much to me!

5. But you have nothing to fear, since your soul is separated from your body; banish all uneasiness; it is unreasonable.

A. One can’t help one’s impressions! I don’t know where I am…I am mad.

6. Try to be more self-possessed.

A. I cannot be so, since I am mad…Wait…I will try to recall my lucidity.

7. If you prayed, it would help you to recover your self-command.

A. I am afraid…I dare not to pray.

8. Pray! The mercy of God is great. We will pray with you.

A. Yes, the mercy of God is infinite; I always believed it to be so.

9. Now, do you understand your position more clearly?

A. It is so extraordinary! I cannot yet make it out.

10. Do you see your victim?

A. I seem to hear a voice, like his, that says, “I am not angry with you”…but that is a an effect of my imagination! …I tell you, I am mad; for I see my own body on one side and my head on the other; and yet I seem to be alive, but in space, between the Earth and what you call the sky. I feel the chill of the knife falling on my neck, but that is the fear I have of dying. It seems to me that I see a number of spirits about me, looking at me with compassion; they talk to me; but I don’t understand them.

11. Is there, among those spirits, one whose presence humiliates you on account of your crime?

A. There is only one of them whom I am afraid of, it is he whom I struck.

12. Do you remember your past lives?

A. No, I am in a state of vagueness; I seem to be dreaming…another time…I must recover myself.

13. (Three days later) – Do you understand your position more clearly?

A. I know that I no longer belong to your world, and I am not sorry for it. I am sorry for what I did; but my spirit is now freer; I see more clearly that there is a succession of existences which give us the knowledge we need in order to become, at length, as perfect as the nature of created beings permits.

14. Are you being punished for your crime?

A. Yes, I regret what I did, and I suffer for it.

15. In what way are you punished?

A. I am punished by perceiving the true nature of my act, for which I beg of God to grant me forgiveness; I am punished by the consciousness of my lack of faith in God, and because I now know that we ought not to cut short the life of our brethren; I am punished by remorse for having delayed my advancement through taking the wrong road and through not having hearkened to the voice of my conscience, which told me that it was not by killing that I should attain my end; but I allowed myself to be mastered by envy and jealousy; I made a mistake, and I am sorry for it; for a man should always do his utmost to master his bad passions, and I did not do so.

16. What do you feel when we evoke you?

A. Pleasure and fear, for I am not malicious.

17. In what do this pleasure and fear consist?

A. The pleasure is to talk with men, and to partly atone for my fault by confessing it. The fear is something I cannot define...a sort of shame at having been a murderer.

18. Would you like to be reincarnated upon the Earth?

A. Yes, I beg to be allowed to do so; and I desire to be always exposed to the danger of being killed and to be afraid of it.

Archbishop Sibour, having been evoked, assured us that he forgave his murderer and prayed for his return to rectitude. He added that, although he had been present, he had abstained from showing himself to Verger, in order not to add to his suffering; and that his fear of seeing him, which was a sign of remorse, was, in itself, a chastisement.

Q. Does the man who will commit murder know, on choosing his existence, that he will become an assassin?

A. No, he knows that, by choosing a life of struggle, he incurs the chance of killing a fellow- creature; but he does not know whether he will do so or not, for there is almost always hesitation in the murderer’s mind before committing the crime.

The situation of Verger, immediately after his execution, is that of almost all of those who die a violent death. The separation of body and soul being a process that cannot be accomplished suddenly, they are stunned, so to say, and do not know whether they are dead or alive. Verger was spared the sight of the Archbishop, because it was not needed to excite his remorse; in contrary cases, murderers are incessantly haunted by the sight of their victims.

To the enormity of his crime, Verger had added the absence of repentance up to his last moment; he was consequently in the best possible state for incurring, according to the Church, the penalty of eternal damnation. And yet, hardly had he quitted the Earth, than repentance awakens in his soul; he repudiated his past and sincerely demands to be allowed to make reparation for his offence. He is not driven to repentance by the force of suffering, for he has not, as of yet, had time to suffer; the change is due, solely, to the voice of his conscience, which he failed to heed during his life, but which he heeds now. Why should no account be taken of his change of feeling? Why should this change, which the Church says would have saved him from hell a few days previously, be unable to save him now? Why should God, who would have taken pity on his repentance before death, be without pity for the same repentance a few hours afterwards?

Surprise may be felt at the rapidity with which this change sometimes occurs in the mind of a criminal who has remained hardened up to his last moment, and for whom the mere passage into the other life suffices to show him the iniquity of his course. But this sudden enlightenment is far from being general; if it were, there would be no bad spirits. Repentance is usually slow; and it is for this reason that punishment is usually long.

Obstinacy in evil, during life, is often caused by pride, which refuses to yield and to avow mistake; moreover, man is under the influences of matter, which throws a veil over his spiritual perceptions and fascinates him with false seemings. When this veil drops away from him, his mind is suddenly flooded with light, and he is sobered from the intoxication of sense. A prompt return to better sentiments is always evidence of a certain amount of moral progress previously made by the spirit and awaiting only favorable conditions for asserting itself; as, on the other hand, a spirit’s persistence in evil, after death, is always a sign of backwardness on his part and shows that, in him, the material instincts are still stifling the germ of goodness, and that he will have to undergo new trials that will force him, at length, into the path of amendment.


LEMAIRE

A wholesale murderer executed on December 31th, 1857; evoked on January 29 th,1858.

(Evocation) – A. I am here.
What is your feeling on seeing us?
A. Shame.

3. Did you retain your self-possession up to the last moment?

A. Yes.

4. Did you become conscious of your new existence immediately after your execution?

A. I was thrown into a state of confusion, from which I have not yet entirely emerged. I felt an immense pain; and it seemed to be my heart that felt it. I saw something – I knew not what – roll to the foot of the scaffold; I saw blood flowing; and my pain became all the more acute.

Q. Was the pain merely physical, similar to what would be caused by a severe wound, by the amputation of a limb, for instance?

A. No, it was a sense of remorse, a great moral pain.

Q. When did you begin to feel that pain?
A. As soon as I was free of my body.

5. Was it your spirit, or your body, that felt the physical pain of the execution?

A. The moral pain was in my spirit; the physical pain was felt by the body, but my spirit felt it also, although separated from the body.

6. Did you see your mutilated body?

A. I saw a shapeless mass that I seemed not to have quitted, and yet I felt myself to be entire: I was still myself.

Q. What impression did this sight make on you?

A. I felt my pain too strongly to heed it; I was lost in suffering.

7. Is it true that the body continues to live for some moments after being decapitated, and that the patient preserves his mental consciousness?

A. The spirit retires gradually from his body; the more tightly he is held in the meshes of matter, the less rapid is the separation.

8. Some observers have thought they saw an expression of anger, and movements indicating a desire to speak, in the faces of heads that had been separated from their bodies; were those appearances caused by contractions of the nerves or by an act of the will?

A. By the will, for the spirit, in such cases, has not yet quitted the body.

9. What was your first feeling on entering upon your new state of existence?
A. An intolerable suffering; a sort of poignant remorse of which I could not make out the cause.

10. Did you find yourself among your accomplices who were executed along with you?

A. For our great misery! Our sight of one another is a perpetual torture; each of us reproaches the others as the cause of his crimes.

11. Do you meet your victims?

A. I see them; they are happy; their glance follows me; I feel it pierce to the bottom of my soul; it is in vain that I try to escape from them.

Q. What do you feel on seeing them?

A. Shame and remorse. I have built them up with my own hands, and I hate them still.

Q. What do they feel on seeing you?

A. Pity.

12. Do they feel hatred and the desire for vengeance?

A. They pray that I may expiate my crimes. You cannot imagine what a horrible torture it is to owe everything to those we hate.

13. Do you regret your terrestrial life?
A. I regret nothing but my crimes. If I had my life still in my hands, I would not give way to temptation.

14. Was the tendency to evil in your nature, or were you drawn into evil by the surroundings amidst which you lived?

A. The tendency to crime was in my nature, for I was but a low spirit. I wished to raise myself quickly; but what I asked for was above my strength. I overestimated my strength; I chose a terrible trial; and I yielded to the temptations of evil.

15. If the good principles had been instilled into your mind by education, would you have been turned away from wickedness?

A. Yes, but I chose the position into which I was born.

Q. Would it have been possible for you to be a good man?

A. I might have been a weak man, neither good nor bad; I might have corrected the evil tendency of my nature during my last existence; but I could not have raised myself to goodness.

16. During your last life, did you believe in God?

A. No.

Q. It is said, however, that you repented at the moment of death. Is it true?

A. I believed in a God of vengeance, and I dreaded His justice.

Q. Is your repentance more sincere at present?

A. Alas! I see what I have done.

Q. What do you now think of God?

A. I feel Him, but I do not understand Him.

17. Do you regard, as just, the punishment that was inflicted on you upon the earth?

A. Yes.

18. Do you hope to obtain the forgiveness of your crimes?

A. I don’t know.

Q. How do you hope to redeem them?

A. By undergoing new trials, but it seems to me there is an eternity between them and me.


19. Where are you now?

A. I am in misery.

Q. We ask you in what place you are?

A. Close to the medium.

20. If we could see you, under what form would you appear to us?

A. Under the form I had in your world, with my head severed from my body.

Q. Could you make yourself visible to us?

A. No, leave me to myself!

21. Will you tell us how you managed to escape from the Montdidier prison?

A. I don’t remember anything about it; my suffering is so dreadful, that I remember nothing but my crimes. Leave me to myself!

22. Can we do anything to lessen your suffering?

A. Pray that my expiation may soon begin!


BENOIST
(Bordeaux, March, 1862)

A spirit who presented himself to the medium, spontaneously, under this name, stating that he died in 1704, and that he was enduring horrible sufferings.

1. What were you in your lifetime?
A. A monk without belief.

2. Was your want of belief your only fault?
A. It sufficed to lead me into all other faults.

3. Can you give us any details concerning your life? A sincere avowal will do you good.

A. Being without fortune and lazy, I went into orders, not from vocation, but to give me position. Being intelligent, I made a place for myself; influential, I misused power; vicious, I drew into a disorderly life those whom I ought to have led to virtue; hard-hearted, I persecuted those who ventured to blame my excesses; the dungeons of my monastery were filled with those whom I left to die in them of starvation. If hunger made them groan too loudly, I had them silenced by a violent death. Since then, I have been expiating my crimes, and I suffer all the torments of hell; my victims stir up the fire that devours without consuming me. I am constantly pursued by unsatisfied lust and hunger; my burning lips are tortured by thirst that is never relieved by any cooling drop; all the elements are let loose upon me. Pray for me!

4. Have you not your share of relief from the prayers that are offered up for all the dead?

A. Do you fancy they have much power? They have, on me, exactly the power of those that I formerly seemed to offer up for others. I failed to accomplish my task; pay is therefore refused to me.

5. Have you ever repented?

A. Oh, long ago; but only after I had suffered long and horribly. I was deaf to the cries of my innocent victims; now, the Master is deaf to my cries. Justice!

6. You admit that God is just, put your trust in His goodness and call on Him for help.

A. The howling of the demons is louder that my voice; my cries are stifled in my throat, for they fill my mouth with boiling pitch. I did it, great… (The spirit is unable to write the word God.)

7. Are you not yet sufficiently separated from terrestrial ideas to understand that the tortures you are enduring are altogether moral?

A. I endure them, I feel them, I see my executioners; all their faces are but too well known to me; every one of them has a name that thunders in my brain.

8. What made you commit such atrocities?

A. The vices with which I was imbued; the brutality of my passions.

9. Have you never implored the assistance of good spirits to help you out of your misery?

A. I see only the demons of hell.

10. Were you afraid of them during your life?

A. No, I feared nothing. Annihilation was my creed; pleasure, at any cost, was my worship. Divinities of hell…they have not forsaken me! I consecrated my life to them; they will never give me up!

11. Do you foresee no end to your suffering?

A. There is no end to the infinite.

12. God’s goodness is infinite; there is nothing that cannot come to an end, if He so wills it!

A. If He could but will it!

13. Why did you come to inscribe yourself here?

A. I don’t know how it was; but I wanted to speak, just as I should want to cry out as a relief to my suffering.

14. Do not your demons try to prevent you from writing?

A. No, but they are beside me, they hear me; that is why I don’t care to stop writing.

15. Is it the first time you have written thus?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you know that spirits could thus enter into communication with men?

A. No.

Q. Then how did you find it out?

A. I don’t know.

16. What sensation have you felt on coming to me?

A. A calming of my terrors.

17. How did you perceive that you were here?

A. It was as though I had wakened out of sleep.

18. What did you do, in order to put yourself in communication with me?

A. I don’t understand it; didn’t you feel how it was?

19. I don’t ask you about my feeling, but about yours. Try to see what you are doing at this moment, while I am writing for you.

A. You are my thought; that’s all I see of the matter.

20. You thus did not have the will to make me write?

A. No, it is I who am writing; I think through you.

21. Try to see more clearly what you are doing. The good spirits around you will help you to understand it.

A. No, good angels do not come into Hell.

Q. You are not alone. Look around you; try to see.

A. I feel that I am helped to think through you; your hand obeys me; I do not touch you, and yet I hold you; I don’t understand it.

22. Ask for the help of your protectors; we will pray together.

A. You are going to leave me! Stay with me; they will seize me again! I beseech you stay! Stay!

23. I cannot stay any longer. Come back every day. We will pray together; and good spirits will help you.

A. Yes, I would beg for pardon. Ask for me; I cannot ask. The Medium’s Guide – Courage, what you ask for this spirit will be granted, but his expiation is far from being ended. The atrocities committed by him are unnamable and innumerable; and his guilt is all the greater because he possessed intelligence, education, and knowledge. He sinned with the full knowledge of the evil of his course, and his sufferings are consequently terrible; but, with the help and example of prayer, they will be mitigated, because he will know that they may have an end, and he will thus be sustained by hope. God sees that he is on the road to repentance, and he has therefore been allowed and enabled to communicate with you, in order that he may be encouraged and sustained. Think of him often; we leave him in your care, that you may strengthen him, in the good resolutions that he will form, with the aid of your counsels. His repentance will be followed by the desire to make atonement for his crimes; he will then demand a new earthly existence, to practice goodness in place of the evil he has done; and, when the Lord is satisfied with his state and sees him to be sufficiently resolute in his good intentions, he will be aided to see the Divine light that will guide him to the haven, and he will be received into favor, as a returning prodigal. Be confident of success; we will give you our help in the accomplishment of your task. PAULIN

We have placed this spirit among the repentant criminals, although he did not fall under the ban of human justice; because criminality consists in evil deeds, and not in the chastisement inflicted by men. It is the same with the spirits whose case is brought forward in the following recital.


THE SPIRIT OF CASTELNAUDARY


A small house, near Castelnaudary, was the scene of strange noises and various manifestations that caused it to be regarded as being haunted by some evil genius. On this account, it was exorcised, in 1848, but without effect. The owner, Mr. D—— having determined to occupy it, died suddenly, after some years of occupation; his son, who next occupied it, on entering one of the rooms, received a vigorous slap from an unseen hand; as he was alone at the time, he could not doubt that the slap had been given by some occult being, and he at once quitted the house, in which, according to local tradition, a great crime was formerly committed.

The spirit who gave the slap, having been evoked by the Paris Society, in 1859, manifested its presence by various acts of violence; all the efforts made to calm him were thrown away. Saint Louis was questioned on the subject, and replied: “It is a spirit of the worst kind, a veritable monster. We have made him come, but we have not been able to make him write, notwithstanding all that had been said to him. The unhappy wretch has his free-will, and a sad use he makes of it.”

To our question whether he was susceptible of improvement, Saint Louis replied, “Why should he not be? Are not all spirits improvable, this one, like all others? You must expect, however, to find the task a difficult one; but, however great his perversity, the rendering of good for evil will influence him in time. Begin by praying for him; and, a month after, evoke him again. You can then judge of the change that will have taken place in him.”

The same spirit when evoked again, showed himself much more tractable, then, by degrees, submissive and repentant. From the information given about him, partly by himself, partly by other spirits, we ascertained that, in 1608, he lived in the house alluded to, and that he there assassinated his brother whom he suspected of rivalry in regard to the lady he wished to marry, by stabbing him in the throat when asleep; that, a few years afterwards, he assassinated, in the same way, the lady herself, whom he had married shortly after the murder of his brother; that he died, at the age of eighty, without having been called to account for these crimes, to which, in that age of confusion and violence, but little attention was paid; and that, since his death, he had constantly tried to do harm, and had caused several accidents that had happened in the house. A seeing medium, who was present at his first evocation, saw him at the moment when those about him were trying to get him to write; – he was shaking the medium’s arm with great violence, his aspect was alarming he had on a shirt stained with blood, and was holding a dagger.

1. (To Saint Louis) – Q. Be so good as to describe to us the sort of torture undergone by this spirit.

A. It is atrociously painful for him; he has been sentenced to remain in the house in which the crimes were committed, without ever being able to direct his thought to anything else than those crimes, which are incessantly present before him; and he believes himself to be condemned to this torture for all eternity. He sees himself constantly at the moment when he committed those murders; every other remembrance is taken from him, all communication with any other spirits is forbidden to him; upon the Earth, he can only be in that house, and, if he goes into space, he is in darkness and solitude.

2. Is there any way of dislodging him from the house in question, and, if so, how could it be done?

A. It is always easy to get rid of such spirits by praying for them; but that is just what people usually neglect to do, preferring to try the plan of frightening them away with exorcisms, which divert instead of terrifying them.

3. By inducing the persons interested in the matter to pray for him, and by praying for him ourselves, could we dislodge him?

A. Yes, but only by praying with sincerity and fervor.

4. He has been in this state for over two hundred years; does he perceive the lapse of time as he did when alive? That is to say, does time seem to him longer, or shorter, than when he was alive?

A. It seems to him longer; sleep has no existence for him.

5. We have been told that, for spirits, time no longer exists, and that, for them, a century is but a point in eternity; the perception of time is not, then, the same with all spirits?

A. Certainly not; the lapse of time is nothing in the case of spirits who have reached an elevated degree of advancement; but, to spirits of low degree, time often seems very long, especially to those who suffer.

6. From where did this spirit come before his last incarnation?

A. He had had an existence among the most ferocious savages of your globe, and, before that, he was incarnated in a planet inferior to Earth.

7. This spirit is punished very severely for the crimes committed by him; if he previously lived among barbarians, he must have been guilty of deeds no less atrocious that those of his last life; was he punished as severely for them?

A. He was punished less severely, because, being then more ignorant, he was less aware of the evil of what he did.

8. Is the state of this spirit that of the beings who are commonly called “the damned”?

A. Absolutely so, and there are states even more frightful. The suffering of spirits is far from being the same for all, even among those who have committed the same crimes; they vary according as the guilty party is more or less accessible to repentance. For this one, the house in which he committed his crimes is his “hell;” others carry their “hell” on themselves, in the passions by which they are tormented, and which they cannot satisfy.

9. This spirit, despite his inferiority, feels the good effects of prayer; we have witnessed the same susceptibility in other spirits, equally perverse, and equally brutal; how is it, then, that spirits who are more enlightened, whose intelligence is more developed, often show themselves to be completely void of good feeling, that they laugh at everything that is most sacred, that nothing touches them, and that there is not truce to their cynicism?

A. Prayer has no favorable effect except in the case of spirits who have begun to repent. He who, impelled by pride, revolts against God, persists in his mistaken course and goes from bad to worse, as is the case with some unhappy spirits, derives no benefit from the prayers offered for him, and can derive none, until the day when a gleam of repentance shall have entered his soul. The powerlessness of prayer is a chastisement for spirits who remain obdurate; prayer brings relief to those, only, who are not entirely hardened.

10. When we see a spirit inaccessible to the influence of prayer, should we abstain from praying for him?

A. Certainly not, for, sooner or later, your action may triumph over his hardness and may awaken in him the germ of salutary thoughts.

It is with such spirits as with certain sick people on whom medicines only act slowly and after a long course of treatment; while, upon others, they act quickly. When once we have got it into our minds that all spirits are perfectible and that no spirit is eternally and fatally doomed to evil, we can understand that, sooner or later, prayer will take effect upon them; even that which, at first, seems inefficacious, nonetheless depositing in their minds the salutary germs which predispose them to goodness, even though it may seem, at first, to have failed to touch them. We should therefore be wrong in relaxing our efforts, simply because they have not succeeded at the outset.

11. If this spirit were reincarnated, to what class of human beings would he belong?

A. That would depend on himself and on the degree of his repentance.
Several conversations with the spirit in question effected a marked change in his moral state.

Here are some extracts from these conversations.

12. To the spirit.

Q. Why could you not write the first time we evoked you?

A. I did not choose to do so.

Q. Why did you not choose to do so?

A. From ignorance and brutishness.

13. You are now able to quit, when you will, the house at Castelnaudary?

A. I am permitted to do so, because I profit by your good advice.

Q. Do you feel some relief to your sufferings?

A. I begin to hope.

14. If we could see you now, under what appearance would you appear to us?

A. You would see me in my shirt, without the dagger.

Q. How is it that you have no longer the dagger?

A. I curse it; God spares me from the sight of it.

15. If Mr. D—— (the son, who received the slap,) returned to the house, would you do him any harm?

A. No, for I am repentant.
Q. And if he again dared you to hurt him?

A. Oh! Don’t ask me that! I should not be able to restrain myself; it would be beyond my power, for I am still only a villain.

16. Do you begin to foresee the end of your sufferings?

A. Oh! Not yet, it is much more that I deserve that I am permitted, through your intercession, to know that they will not last forever.

17. Be kind enough to describe to us the situation in which you were, before we called you for the first time. You may be sure that we ask this only as a means of being useful to you, and not from any motive of curiosity.

A. I have told you, already, that I had no consciousness of anything in the world but my crimes, and that I could only quit the house in which I had committed them to go up into space, where there was nothing around me but solitude and darkness; I cannot give you any idea of what it was like, for I never could understand it; the moment I rose up into the air, it was all blackness and emptiness, I cannot tell what it was. At present, I feel much more remorse, and yet I am no longer compelled to remain in that fatal house; I am allowed to wander about upon the Earth and to gain light from what I observe; but, in doing so, I comprehend still more clearly the enormity of my wickedness; so that, if I suffer less in one way, I suffer more in another because of my repentance; but, at least, I have hope.

18. If you had to undergo a new corporeal existence, what sort of a one would you choose?
A. I have not yet seen and reflected enough to know.

19. During your long isolation – we might say, your captivity – did you feel any remorse?
A. Not the least; and that is why I suffered so long; it was only when I began to feel remorse that the circumstances were combined, unknown to me, which led to the evocation that began the work of my deliverance. Thanks be to you all, who took pity on me, and who have enlightened me!

We have seen misers suffering from the sight of gold that they could not touch and which had become for them a veritable chimera; the haughty, tormented by jealousy of honors which they saw paid to others, and which were refused to them; those who had commanded upon the Earth, humiliated by the invisible power which constrained them to obey, and by the sight of their former subordinates, who no longer bowed down before them; atheists, subjected to the torments of uncertainty, and finding themselves in utter isolation in the midst of immensity, without meeting any creatures who could enlighten them as to their position. In the spirit-world, if there are joys for every virtue, there are also punishments for every fault; and the law of God inevitably reaches the misdeeds that are not reached by human law.

It is also to be remarked that the same faults, even though committed under the same conditions, are punished by very different chastisements, according to the degree of mental enlightenment of the spirits by whom they are committed. On spirits who are extremely backward and uncultured, like the one we have been considering, the punishments inflicted are, so to say, more material than moral, while the contrary is the case in regard to spirits whose intelligence and sensibility are more developed. The first require punishment appropriate to the roughness and toughness of their nature, in order to make them comprehend the disadvantages of their position and to inspire them with the desire to escape from it; while mere shame, for instance, which would make little or no impression on them, would be intolerable for others.

In the penal code of the Divine Government, the wisdom, goodness, and forethought of God for His creatures are manifested in even the minutest details; everything is proportional; everything is combined with admirable solicitude to facilitate, for the guilty, the means of rehabilitating themselves; the slightest movement of their soul towards goodness is counted to them. According to the dogma of eternal punishment, on the contrary, those who have sinned much and those who have sinned but little, those who have failed once and those who have failed a hundred times, the hardened and the repentant, are all thrown into the same hell; everything is contrived to keep them all at the bottom of the abyss; no plank of safety is offered to them; a single fault may hurl them into the pit forever, without any account being taken of the good they may have done. On which side is true justice and true goodness?

The evocation of the spirit in question was not, then, a result of chance. As it was destined to be useful to him, the spirits who watched over him, seeing that he was beginning to comprehend the enormity of his crimes, had judged that the time had come for giving him efficacious help, and they accordingly brought about a concourse of circumstances that led up to that end. We have often seen this sort of management on the part of superior spirits.

It has been asked, in reference to this subject, what would have become of the spirit in question if he had not been evoked, and what becomes of the mass of suffering spirits who cannot be evoked or of whom no one thinks? To this query we reply that the ways of God for the salvation of His erring children are innumerable; evocation is a means of giving them help, but it is certainly not the only one, and God forgets none of the beings He has called into existence. All spirits have, doubtless, a share in the influence of the collective prayers that are offered for them by the benevolent.

But it is evident that God cannot have subordinated the fate of the spirits who are undergoing punishment to the knowledge or the goodwill of men. One of the earliest results of Spiritism was, as we know, to show to the latter the assistance they could give to their discarnate brother; and, while men thus learn the solidarity which exists between all the realms of being, the opening of this new field of charity is as useful to them as to those whom they assist, because it furnishes them with additional occasions for doing good. But we cannot suppose that the Divine Providence has ever failed to provide for the needs of its creatures, or that suffering spirits have ever lacked, at any epoch, the succor appropriate to their condition.


JACQUES LATOUR

A notorious assassin condemned by the Supreme Court of Foix and executed in September 1864.

At a private meeting of a few spiritists, at Brussels, Sept. 13th, 1864, at which we were present, a lady-medium was asked to write; no special evocation having been made, her hand wrote, with extraordinary agitation, in very large letters, and after having violently scratched the paper, the words:

“I repent! I repent! Latour.”

Surprised at this unexpected communication – for which nothing had prepared us, for no one was thinking of the unhappy criminal, whose fate was unknown to most of those who were present – a few words of commiseration and encouragement were addressed to the spirit, after which he was asked this question:

“What motive induced you to come here rather than to go elsewhere, since we did not call you?” The lady (who was also a speaking medium) replied, aloud:

“I saw that you were compassionate, and that you would take pity on me; whereas others have evoked me more from curiosity that from charity, or shrink from me in horror.”

Then began a scene, utterly indescribable, and that lasted for not less than half an hour. The medium’s words, gestures, and expression of face, all showed that the spirit had identified himself with her personality; at times, his accents of despair were so heartrending, he spoke of his anguish and his sufferings in tones so agonizing, his supplications were so vehement, that all present were deeply affected.

Some of the party was even alarmed at the excitement of the medium; but we considered that the communication of a spirit who repents and implores pity offered no danger. If he borrowed the medium’s organs, it was in order to better to depict his situation and to awaken a livelier interest in his fate, and not, as in the case of obsessing and possessing spirits, in order to obtain command of, and to dominate, the medium. We could not doubt that this temporary borrowing of the medium’s organism had been permitted both for his own good and for the enlightenment of the persons present. Borrowing the medium’s voice, he exclaimed:

“Oh! Yes, pity! You know not how much I need it, for you know not how much I suffer!... no, you know not, you could not understand it! It is horrible...the guillotine! What is it in comparison with what I have now to endure? It is nothing; it was but a moment. But the fire that now devours me is far worse; it is a continual death; it is a suffering that gives neither truce nor rest...that has no end!

“And my victims who are there, all around me, who show me their wounds, who pursue me with their eyes! They are there, before me; I see them all; yes, all, I see them all! And I cannot avoid them! And this pool of blood! And this gold covered with blood! All is there, always before me! Do you smell the stench of blood? Blood, everywhere blood!

They are there, my poor victims! They implore me to take pity on them! And I, unpitying, I strike, and strike, and strike again! The sight of their blood intoxicates me!

“I thought that, after death, all would be ended; that’s why I braved death! I braved God; I denied that there was a God! And now, when I believed that everything would be over, I have a terrible awaking! Ah, yes, terrible, indeed! I am surrounded with corpses; with threatening faces; I wade through blood! I thought I should be dead, and I am alive!... it is hideous! it is horrible! More horrible than all the tortures of the Earth!

“Oh! If men could know what there is beyond the life of the Earth! If they knew what it costs to have done evil, there would be no more assassins, no more criminals, and no more malefactors! Would that all murderers could see what I see and what I have to endure...No, no, there would be no more of them...it is too dreadful to suffer as I suffer!

“I know that I have deserved it, O my God! for I had no pity for my victims, I pushed away their supplicating hands when they besought me to spare them. Yes, I was cruel; I killed them, in my dastardly wickedness, to get their gold! I have sinned impiously; I denied Thee! I blasphemed Thy holy name! I wanted to drown all thought; and therefore I tried to persuade myself that Thou didst not exist!...O my God! I am a horrible criminal! I understand it now. But wilt thou not take pity on me? Thou art God, that is to say, goodness, mercy! Thou art all-powerful!


Pity, Lord! Oh! Pity! Pity! I pray Thee, be not inflexible; deliver me from this odious spectacle, from these horrible images...from this blood...from my victims whose glances stab me to the heart, like so many daggers!

“You are here, who hear me, you are kind and charitable; yes, I see, you will take pity on me, you will pray for me! Oh, I entreat you to do so; do not repel me. You will beg of God to take away this horrible spectacle from before my eyes; He will hear you, because you are good. I beseech you, do not repel me as I repelled others...Pray for me.”

All those who were present, touched by his regrets, addressed to him words of encouragement and consolation. “God,” we told him, “is not inflexible; what He demands of the guilty is sincere repentance, and the desire to make reparation for the evil he has done. Since your heart is no longer hardened, and since you beg Him to forgive your crimes, He will extend His mercy to you, if you persevere in your good resolutions to redeem the evil of your past. You cannot give back to your victims the life you took from them; but, if you ask it with fervor, God will grant you to find yourself thrown among them again in a new existence, in which you will be able to show them as much devotedness as you have shown them cruelty; and, when He judges your expiation to be sufficient, He will take you again into favor. The duration of your chastisement rests with yourself; it depends on you to shorten it; we promise to help you with our prayers and to demand for you the help of good spirits. We will now recite for you the prayer, contained in “The Gospel According to Spiritism,” for the suffering and repentant. We shall not employ the prayer for evil spirits, because, as you repent, as you implore God’s forgiveness and renounce your former evil, you are regarded by us as a spirit who is unhappy, only, but not as an evil one.”

The prayer having been recited, the spirit, after a few moments of calm, resumed his discourse, by exclaiming:

“Thanks, my God!...Oh! thanks! Thou hast had pity on me; those horrible images are going away...Do not forsake me...Send me Thy good spirits to sustain me! Thanks!

After this scene, the medium remained, for some little time, exhausted and overcome; she was so tired out that she could not move hand or foot; she remembered, but, at first, only confusedly, what had taken place; presently, she was able to recall something of what had been spoken by her, involuntarily, and with a vague consciousness that it was not she who was speaking.

The next day, in another gathering of spiritist friends, the same spirit again manifested himself, recommencing, though only for a few minutes, the scene of the preceding evening, with the same impressive pantomime, but less violent; after which he wrote, through the same medium, with feverish agitation, the following words: –

“Thanks for your prayers; I am already better for them. I have prayed to God with such fervor that He has granted me a lightening of my sufferings, but only for a moment; for I shall see them again, my victims...there they are! There they are!...Do you see this blood?

(The prayer of the preceding evening was repeated. The spirit then resumed, addressing himself to the medium.)

“Forgive me for thus taking possession of you. Thanks for the relief you bring to my suffering. Forgive me, all of you, the trouble I have caused you; but I so much need to manifest myself; you alone can...

“Thanks! Thanks! I am somewhat relieved; but I am not at the end of my trials. My victims will soon come back; that is my punishment; I have deserved it, O my God, but have pity on me!

“All of you pray for me! Pity me!” LATOUR

A member of the Spiritist Society of Paris, who had prayed for this unhappy spirit and evoked him, obtained from him, at different times, the following communications:


I

“I was evoked almost immediately after my death, but I could not communicate at once, and a good many frivolous spirits took my name and place. I availed myself of the presence, at Brussels, of the President of the Paris Society; and, with the permission of the higher spirits, I was able to make a communication.

“I will come and communicate with the Society, and will begin the reparation of my faults by making some revelations that may serve as a warning to all criminals who shall read the recital of my sufferings.

“Sermons about hell-fire have little effect on the minds of great criminals, who are still less afraid of devils than of policemen. There is no priest who can say to them, ‘I have seen all that I tell you with my own eyes, I have witnessed the tortures of the damned!” But, when I say, ‘This is what happened to me after the death of my body; this is what I underwent, when, to my horror, I found that I was not dead, as I had expected to be, and what I had mistaken for the end of my troubles was the beginning of tortures impossible to describe!’ Oh, then, more than one will draw back from the brink of the abyss into which he was about to fall; and every unhappy wretch whom I shall thus have stopped on the road of crime will be an atonement for an evil deed of my past! It is thus that good is brought out of evil, and that the goodness of God is manifested in all things, upon the Earth and in space.

“I am spared the sight of my victims, who have become my executioners, while I communicate with you; but, on leaving you, I shall see them again, and the mere thought of doing so causes me more misery than I can express! I rejoice to be evoked, because I then quit my hell for a few moments. Pray for me; pray to God that I may be delivered from the sight of my victims.

“Yes, let us pray together; prayer does so much good!...I feel less oppressed; my burden seems lighter. I see a gleam of hope before my eyes, and fully repentant I say: Bless be the hand of God, ‘His will be done.”

II

The Medium – Instead of beseeching God to deliver you from the sight of your victims, I advise you to join me in praying for strength to bear this expiatory torture.

Latour – I should have preferred being spared the spectacle of my victims. If you knew the suffering it causes me! The hardest heart would be touched by seeing the tortures I have to undergo. But I will do as you advise me. I see that it will enable me to complete my expiation sooner. It is like a painful operation that brings back health more quickly.

Ah! If the malefactors on the earth could see me, they would be terrified at the consequences of their crimes, which, even when hidden from the eyes of men, are always seen by spirits! How fatal is this ignorance to many an unfortunate creature! And how heavy is the responsibility of those who refuse education to the poor! They believe that, with the police force, they can prevent crime; what a mistake!

III

The sufferings I am undergoing are horrible; but, since you have helped me with your prayers, I feel that I am assisted by good spirits, who bid me hope. I understand the efficiency of the heroic remedy you have advised me to adopt, and I pray for strength to bear this heavy expiation. It is the equivalent, I may truly say, of the evil I have done. I would not endeavor to excuse my atrocities; but, at least, after the few moments of terror that, in the case of my victims, preceded the instant of death, all suffering ceased, for them, when once the crime was committed; and those who had finished their earthly trials entered directly upon the enjoyment of the happiness that was awaiting them. But, since my return to the spirit-world, I have never ceased, excepting for the few moments when I am permitted to communicate, to suffer the torments of hell.

The priests, notwithstanding the frightful pictures they draw of the sufferings of the reprobate, have but a very faint idea of the horror of the punishments that the justice of God inflicts on those of His children who have violated His law of love and kindness. How can they expect to make any reasoning creature believe that a soul, that is to say, something not material, can be made to suffer from the action of material fire? It is absurd; and that is why so many criminals laugh at their fantastic pictures of hell. But it is very different in regard to the moral torture undergone by the criminal, after the death of his body. Pray for me, that despair may not again take hold of me!

IV

How grateful I am to you for enabling me to obtain some glimpses of the glorious goal at which I shall arrive when I have accomplished my purification! I still suffer dreadfully, but less than I did. I cannot believe that, in the spirit-world, we suffer less from becoming accustomed to our suffering. No, it is because your kindly prayers have increased my strength, so that, although my pains are still the same, yet, my strength being greater, my suffering seems to me to be less severe.

My thoughts go back to my last existence, to the faults I should have avoided if I had known how to pray. I now comprehend the efficacy of prayer; I comprehend the strength of the simple and weak, as the world judges, who are so strong through their faith and piety; I understand this mystery, so little understood by those who are learned only in the science of earthly things. How these learned men laugh at the idea of prayer! Let them come back into the spirit-world; and, when the veil of flesh that shuts in their minds shall have been torn away from them, they, too, will prostrate themselves at the feet of the Eternal whom they had forgotten, and they will rejoice to abase themselves that they may be delivered from their errors and from the penalties of their misdeeds! They will then understand the virtue of prayer. To pray is to love; to love is to pray! They will then love the Master and will address to Him their prayers of love and gratitude; while undergoing the purification of suffering – for they will have to suffer – they will pray, like me, for strength to expiate and to bear their suffering; and, when they have ceased to suffer, they will pray out of thankfulness to Him for the pardon they will have won by their submission and resignation. Pray with me, my brother! That I may become still stronger!

V

Thanks to you, O my brother! For your charitable help! I am forgiven! The infinite mercy had delivered me from the sight of my victims. My God, eternity will be too short for me to express my gratitude for this favor that Thou hast granted me! I feel the enormity of my crimes, and I humble myself before Thy power! I love Thee, O my God! with all my heart, and I beg to be permitted, when Thy will shall send me back to the Earth to undergo a new trial, to go there as a missionary of peace and charity, to teach the children to pronounce Thy name with love and reverence, to teach them to love Thee, the Parent of all creatures! I am in the category of repentant spirits, and my repentance is sincere; for I love Thee as entirely as a heart so impure as mine is capable of feeling the sentiment that is the purest emanation of Thy divinity. Brother! Let us pray together, for my heart is overflowing with gratitude! I am free! I have broken my fetters! I am no longer reprobate! I am still a suffering spirit, but I am also a repentant one, and I would like that my example might arrest, on the eve of crime, the hands that I see ready to be raised for evil! Oh, stop, brothers, stop! For the tortures you are preparing for yourselves will be horrible! Do not fancy that you will all obtain your deliverance as quickly as I have done! Deliverance only comes, in most cases, after centuries of torture!

The Medium’s Guide – You say you do not understand the spirit’s last words. You must bear in mind the vividness of his emotion, the intensity of his gratitude to God, which he want to testify by arresting the hands of all the criminals, whom he can see, though you cannot. He want his voice to reach them all; and what he has not told you, because, as of yet, he does not know it himself, he will be allowed to undertake missions of reparation, and thus to commence the work of atonement for his former crimes. He will be sent among those who were his accomplices, and he will seek to inspire them with repentance and to rouse the germ of remorse in their hearts. If the veil that separates you from the other world could be drawn aside, you would often see a spirit, who has been the accomplice or the instigator of a crime, coming back among men, and trying, as will be done by Jacques Latour, to make reparation for his former misdeeds, by awaking remorse in the mind of malefactors in the flesh.

The medium in Brussels, who received the first communication from Latour, subsequently received from him the following, which we add to the foregoing, for its instructiveness, although its date was anterior to those marked IV and V:

“Be no longer afraid of me; I am calmer, though I still suffer very much. God, who saw my repentance, has taken pity on me; but I now suffer from this repentance that shows me the enormity of my crimes.

“If I had been guided aright in the earthly life, I should not have done all the evil that I did; but my bad tendencies were not repressed, and I obeyed them blindly, no rein having been opposed to them. If all men thought more of God, if only they all believed in His existence, such horrors would no longer be committed.

“But what men call justice is badly administered. For a fault that may have been slight, a man is shut up in a prison, which is always a place of perdition and corruption; and he generally comes out completely ruined by the evil counsels and bad examples to which he has been exposed. Even if his nature is good enough and strong enough to resist this evil teaching, he finds, on quitting the prison, that every door is closed against him, and that he is spurned and shunned by all honest people. What remains to him? Scorn and want. Hunger drives him again into crime. He begins, in his turn, to despise his fellow men and to hate them; he loses all sense of good and evil, because he finds himself repelled, notwithstanding his desire to return to an honest life. To procure the necessities of life, he steals; perhaps he kills; and then society puts him to death!

“My God! at this moment, I feel that my hallucinations are about to take hold of me; but I also feel that Thy hand is extending mercy to me, that Thy goodness is enveloping and protecting me! Thanks, O my God! In my next existence, I will employ my intelligence, all that I may possess, in aiding the unhappy culprits who have succumbed to a first temptation and in preserving them from falling again into crime.

“Thanks to you all, who do not feel reluctant to communicate with me! Fear nothing; you see that I am no longer wicked. When you give me a thought, do not think of me as resembling the portrait which was then drawn of me; but think of me as a poor sorrowing soul, who begins to hope, and who thanks you for your pitying kindness.


“Farewell: evoke me again, and pray for me.” LATOUR


Consideration suggested by the case of Jacques Latour


It is impossible not to recognize the profundity and importance of the statements contained in the foregoing communication, which also offers the interesting spectacle of a spirit who, while undergoing the terrible retribution of great crimes, acquires, nevertheless, the perception of the mercy of the Divine Government. The mythological allegory of the Eumenides is seen to be less devoid of verisimilitude than has been thought; and the idea of demons, with horns and pitchforks, by which they are replaced, in modern creeds, as the official tortures of the invisible world, is seen to be far less reasonable than that of the victims of a criminal becoming, themselves, his chastisers.

Admitting the identity of this spirit, surprise may be felt at the promptitude with which his moral state was improved in the spirit-world; but we have frequently had occasion to remark that there is a better ground of improvement in a spirit who is roughly and brutally bad, than in one who is actuated by pride or hides his viciousness under the mask of hypocrisy. This prompt return to better sentiments indicates a nature that is uncultured rather than depraved, and that only needed better training. On comparing the language of this spirit with that of another criminal, mentioned further on, under the heading of “The Chastisement of Light,” it is easy to see which of the two is most advanced in a moral sense, notwithstanding the difference of their education and social position; one of them obeying a sort of natural instinct of unreasoning ferocity, while the other brings, to the perpetration of his crimes, the calmness and coolness of a slow and persevering combination, and, after death, listening only to his pride, stiffens himself against punishment. He suffers but will not confess that he does so; the other is, so to say, brought to his senses at once. It is easy to foresee which of the two will suffer the longest.

I suffer,” says Jacques Latour, “from this repentance, which shows me the enormity of my crimes.” There is a profound truth in this remark. A spirit only arrives at the true comprehension of his misdeeds when he repents; repentance leads to regret, to remorse, to the painful feeling which is the transition from evil to good, from moral disease to moral health. It is to escape this painful feeling that perverse spirits stiffen themselves against the voice of their conscience, as a sick man sometimes rejects the remedy that would cure him; they try to keep up an illusion, to drown reflection by persisting in evil. Latour had reached the point at which obduracy finishes by yielding; remorse had entered his heart; repentance followed; he comprehended the extent of the evil he had done; he saw how abject he was, and he suffered in seeing it, which explains his saying “I suffer from this repentance.” In his preceding existence, he must have been still lower than in this one; for, if he had repented, then, as he has now done, his last life would have been a better one. The resolutions he has formed in the spirit-world will influence his next earthly life; the one he has quitted, criminal as it was, has therefore constituted for him a step in advance. It is probable that, before beginning his last life, he was, in erraticity, one of the rebellious spirits, obstinate in evil, of which we see so many.

Many persons have asked what good can be derived from our past existences, since; in general, we remember neither what we have been nor what we have done?

This question is fully answered by the fact that, if the evil we have done in the past is effaced, if no trace of it remains in our heart, the remembrance of it would be useless, since we have nothing more to do with it. As to any remains of past evil of which we have not entirely cured ourselves, we may always know them by studying our present tendencies; it is therefore upon these that we should concentrate our attention. It is sufficient to know what we are, without its being necessary to know what we were.

When we consider how difficult it is for one who has been guilty of any crime to obtain a complete rehabilitation in the course of a lifetime, when we think of the reprobation of which he continues to be the object, we may well bless the Providential ordering that throws a veil over the past. If Latour has been sentenced to any terminable punishment, or even if he had been acquitted, his antecedents would have shut him out from the society of honest people. Who would have been willing, notwithstanding his repentance, to admit him to intimacy? The sentiments that he now manifests, as a spirit, warrant the hope that, in his next earthly existence, he will then be an honest man, esteemed and respected; but suppose it should be known that he was formerly the assassin Latour, he would still be the object of horror and abhorrence. The veil that will be thrown over his past will open to him the door of rehabilitation; thanks to it, he will be able to take his place, without shame, among honest people. How many are there, among those now living around us, who would be thankful to efface, at any price, certain years of their present life from the memory of those who know them! Let anyone, who can, show us a doctrine more admirably in harmony with the justice and goodness of God than that of our successive existences! And this doctrine, it must be remembered, is not a theoretic hypothesis, but has been arrived at as a result of observation. The spiritists have not imagined it; they have seen and observed the different situations in which spirits present themselves; they have sought for the explanation of these, and, from that explanation, they have deduced this doctrine. If they have accepted it, they have done so because it follows inevitably from the facts observed by them, and because it appears to them more rational than all the other doctrines that have hitherto been broached in regard to the future destiny of the soul.

It cannot be denied that the foregoing communications convey a very high moral teaching. The spirit of Latour , indeed, must have been aided in the reflections put forth by him and especially in the choice of his language, by spirits of greater advancement; but, in such cases, the latter only assist in regard to the form of the communications and not to their substance, nor do they ever cause the inferior spirit to make statements in contradiction with his state. They have no doubt aided Latour to give a more refined form to his expressions of repentance, but they would not have led him to express his repentance against his will; nor, indeed, could they do so, for every spirit has his free-will. They would merely help him to express the better sentiments that they saw to be germinating in his mind; and, by doing this, they would both contribute to the development of those sentiments and also attract towards him the commiseration of those to whom they helped him to address himself.

Could anything be more striking, more touching, more calculated to cause a vivid impression, than the picture of this great criminal, repentant, breathing forth his despair and his remorse, and – in the midst of his tortures and haunted by the incessant sight of his victims – raising his thought toward God and imploring His mercy? Does not such a picture offer a salutary example to the guilty? The nature of his anguish is perfectly comprehensible; his sufferings are at once rational, and nonetheless terrible for being simple and devoid of phantasmagoric accessories.

Perhaps one could be astonished at a so great a change in a man like Latour; for why should he not repent? Why should the guilty be doomed to remain such forever? Why should there not be a moment when light makes its way into the darkened heart, and why should that moment not have come for him? It is precisely this change in his feelings that gives so great a moral significance to his communications; it is the understanding which he has obtained of his true position, it is his regrets, his projects for making reparation, that render them so eminently instructive. Would it have been thought extraordinary if he had repented before he died? If he had said, before his execution, what he says afterwards? Are there not plenty of examples of such repentance?

The statements of Latour are a revelation to the wicked of what is awaiting them beyond the grave. He is perfectly right in saying that his experience is more likely to influence them than the prospect of hellfire or even of the scaffold. Why, then, should it not be made known in our prisons? It would lead more than one evildoer to serious reflection, as, indeed, it has already done in a good many instances. But how shall those believe in words of a dead man who suppose that when a man is dead there is an end of him? A day will come, however, when the fact that the dead can come to instruct the living will be fully admitted.

Many other important truths are to be deduced from these communications. In the first place, the confirmation of this principle of eternal justice, viz., that repentance does not suffice to place the guilty in the ranks of the happy. Repentance is a first step towards rehabilitation and attracts the mercy of God towards the guilty; it is the prelude to forgiveness and to the shortening of suffering; but God does not forgive unconditionally; He requires expiation and the making of reparation; Latour has understood this, and we see him preparing to fulfill these conditions.

In the second place, if we compare this criminal with the one of Castelnaudary, we perceive a great difference in the chastisements inflicted upon them. In the case of the latter, his repentance had been slower in coming, and his punishment has consequently been longer. This punishment, moreover, is almost physical, while, in the case of Latour, it is principally moral, for the reason, as we remarked above, that the intelligence is much less developed in the one case than in the other. In the one case,
something was needed that could make an impression on a nature whose senses were obtuse; but moral sufferings are not less sharp for those who have reached the degree required for comprehending them, as is shown by the lamentations of Latour, the expression of a remorse that is speedily followed by repentance and by the desire to make reparation, in order to advance.


Related articles

Show related items
Wait, loading...