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.