Allan Kardec

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Chapter VII



The Chastisement of Light

At a séance of the Paris Society, after a discussion on the confusion that generally follows death, a spirit to whom no allusion had been made and whom no one had thought evoking, manifested himself spontaneously by the following communication; though the latter was not signed, it was easily recognized as being made by a great criminal, who had just been executed.

“Why do you talk about confusion? Why these empty words? You are dreamers and visionaries. You are utterly ignorant of the things with which you pretend to busy yourselves. No, sirs! The confusion you speak of has no existence, excepting, perhaps, in your own brains. I am as really dead as possible, and I see with perfect clearness in myself, around me, everywhere! ...Life is a lugubrious comedy! Clumsy bunglers are they who get themselves driven from the stage, before the fall of the curtain! Death is a terror, a chastisement, and a desire, according to the weakness or the strength of those who fear, brave, or implore it. For all, it is a bitter mockery! Light dazzles and pierces, like sharp arrows, the innermost recesses of my being...They punished me with the darkness of the prison; and they thought to punish me with the darkness of the grave, or what is dreamed of as such by Catholic superstitions. But it is you, sirs, who are in darkness; and I, the socially degraded, I tower above you, and I mean to continue to do so! ...Strong in my self-possession, I disdain the pretended warning that resound about me...I see clearly...Crime? A mere word! Crime exists everywhere. When it is committed by masses of men, it is glorified; in private, it is scouted. Absurdity!

“I reject your pity...I ask for nothing...I suffice to myself; and I shall be able to resist this odious light.”

He who was yesterday a man

The very cynicism of this unhappy spirit is highly instructive, as is also the spectacle of his situation in the other life, which shows us a new phase of the punishment that awaits the guilty. While some of the latter are plunged in darkness or in solitude, continue to endure, for many years, the anguish of their last hour, or believe themselves to be still in this world, the light shines for this one; he has the full use of his faculties, he knows that he is dead; he makes no complaint, asks for no help, and braves the divine law, in the other world, as he braved human law down here. But does he therefore escape punishment? No; but the Divine justice takes effect in many ways, and what makes the joy of one spirit may make the torment of another. Light, of which the privation is the punishment of some, is the chastisement of this spirit; he stiffens himself against it, but, despite his pride, he avows the torment it causes him when he exclaims, “I suffice to myself; and I shall be able to resist this odious light”; and in this other phrase. The light obfuscates and penetrates me, as a sharp arrow, in my innermost being. These words, “the subtlety of my innermost being” reveals that the physical body is fluidic and penetrable to the Light that it cannot escape, and that the Light goes through him as a sharp arrow.

We have here classed this spirit among the obdurate because he remained a long time without showing any repentance; thus proving, once more, that moral progress does not always keep pace with intellectual progress. Gradually, however, he began to improve; and, at a later period, he made many wise and good communications. His place is now among the repentant and progressing spirits.

Our spirit-guides, requested to give us their opinions upon this subject, dictated the three following communications, which are well deserving of careful attention.


Spirits in erraticity are evidently, in regard to the succession of existences, inactive, and in a state of waiting; but they may, nevertheless, expiate in that state, provided that their pride, the strong and restive tenacity of their errors, do not keep them back at the moment when they ought to be preparing to take a step in advance. You have a terrible example of this danger in the communication of the obdurate criminal who struggles against the grip of the Divine justice as he did against the justice of men. In such cases, their expiation, or, rather, the inevitable suffering that oppresses them, instead of benefiting them by making them understand the true meaning of their penalty, excites them to revolt, and to what the Bible, in its poetic eloquence, calls the grinding of teeth; a most expressive allegory, image of the suffering of those who, feeling themselves vanquished, refuse to submit! Who are overwhelmed with anguish, yet in whom the spirit of revolt refuses to recognize the fact of reward and punishment!

Great errors often persist for a considerable time in the spirit world; as well as the personal characteristics of the criminals. Their determination to be themselves in spite of everything, to parade their fancied independence in the presence of the Infinite, greatly resembles much of the blindness in men, who contemplates the stars, taking them as arabesques of the ceiling, as did the Gaelic of the time of Alexander the Great.

There is the infinity of the moral world; and miserable indeed must be the pettiness of the spirit who, continuing the abject struggles and boastings of Earth, sees no farther in the other world than he did in this one! The portion of such a spirit in blindness, contempt, mean and egotistic self-absorption, and the stoppage of every kind of progress. Oh man! It is a great truth that which states that between the immortality of a very pure name left on Earth and the immortality that spirits truly conserve through their successive trials, a secret concordance exists. LAMENNAIS


If a man is plunged into darkness or into floods of dazzling light, is not the result the same? In either case, he sees nothing of what is around him; but his eyes will accustom themselves sooner to the darkness than to the excessive brilliance of the electric luminosity. The spirit in question has well depicted the suffering to which he is subjected by exclaiming: “Oh! I shall be able to deliver myself from this odious light!” In truth, this light is all the more terrible, all the more overwhelming, that it pierces him through and through, rendering his most secret thoughts visible to all. And this is one of the most torturing peculiarities of his spirit-punishment. He finds himself enclosed, so to say, in the glass-house demanded by Socrates, and the misery thus caused him is in itself instructive; for what would have been the joy and consolation of the sage becomes the ignominious and incessant punishment of the wicked, the criminal, the parricide, horrified at this manifestation of his own evil personality.

You can easily understand the distress and terror that must weigh upon him who, throughout his sinister existence, has taken pleasure in contriving and combining the most abominable atrocities in the depths of his mind, into which he retired as a wild beast to his den, and who now finds himself driven out from this secret hiding-place, in which he formerly shut himself up from the sight and investigations of his contemporaries. His mask of impassibility is now torn away, and every thought of his heart is reflected openly upon his brow!

Henceforward, there is no repose, no refuge, for this horrible criminal. His evil thoughts (and God knows how many are constantly being formed in his mind!) are visibly manifested in him and upon him, as though brought out by an electric shock. He tries to hide himself from the crowd about him, and the “odious light” renders him transparent to the sight of all! He tries to flee; he rushes, breathless and despairing, the incommensurable space; and still the light keeps pace with him! The eyes of those about him penetrate the innermost fibers of his being! He hastens forward incessantly in pursuit of shade, in search of night; but shade and night no longer exist for him. He calls death to his aid; but death is a mere word, devoid of meaning. The unhappy wretch flees forward incessantly! He is on the road to spirit-madness, a terrific chastisement, a fearful misery, in which he will struggle with himself to get rid of himself! For such is the supreme law of the realm beyond the earth, viz., that the guilty spirit becomes his own inexorable chastisement.

How long will this chastisement continue? Until his will, vanquished at last, shall bend under the pressure of remorse, and his haughty brow shall humble itself before his appeased victims and before the Spirits justice. Observe, finally, the supreme logic of the immutable laws; with it fulfilling what had been written in that proud communication, so clear, so lucid, and sadly, peaceful, by the Spirit who divulged it last Friday, freeing himself by an act of his own violation. ERASTUS


Human law takes no account of the individual peculiarities of those it chastises; making the crime itself the standard of criminality, it strikes indiscriminately all those who have committed any given offence, and punishes them all alike, without making any allowance for circumstances and for differences of education. The Divine Justice proceeds otherwise, and its punishments correspond to the degree of advancement of those on whom they are inflicted; for identity of crime does not necessarily imply equality of guilt in those by whom it has been committed, and the guilt of two men, who have done the same misdeed, may be differenced by the distance between the mental opacity of one at a lower degree of development, and the mental lucidity of the higher degree already attained by the other. In the latter case, the guilty spirit is punished, not by darkness, but by the intensity of spirit- light, which transpierces the soul that is defiled with terrestrial impurities and causes it to undergo torture analogous to that which is occasioned, in your world, by the probing of a wound.

The discarnate beings who are pursued by the visible and tangible representation of their crime are subjected to the shock of physical electricity, and may be said to suffer through the senses: those who are dematerialized by their intellectual advancement feel a species of pain that is far more intense, and that drowns their remembrance of facts in its floods of bitterness, leaving them only the knowledge of their causes to which the facts of the wrongdoing were due.

A man, notwithstanding the criminality of his acts, may be advanced intellectually; and, while led by his passions to act like a brute, he may be raised, by the sharpening of his mental faculties, above the thick atmosphere of the lower strata. The inequality of a spirit’s progress in intellect and in morality produces frequent anomalies of this kind, especially during periods of materialism and transition.

The light that tortures the guilty soul is a spiritual ray that lets a flood of brightness into the most secret recesses of his pride, and shows him how small a thing is his personal individuality. The torments thus caused to him are the precursory symptoms of the approaching separation of the opposing elements of intellectuality and materiality that compose the primitive human duality and give rise to the warfare between its fleshly and its spiritual elements; a warfare that will cease with the duality which is its source, and which is destined to be succeeded by the glorious unity of the completed being. JEAN REYNAUD

These three communications, obtained simultaneously at the same séance of the Paris Society, complete each other and present the subject of future punishment under an aspect that is, at once, novel, rational, and philosophical. It is probable that our Spirit-Guides, wishing to treat of this subject on the basis of a practical example, purposely induced the making of the unsought communication of the spirit to whom they refer.

Let the reader compare, with the picture of real life in the spirit-world just placed before him,

the following description of “hell,” by the preacher of the Lenten Sermons, at Montreuil-sur-Mer, in 1864:

“The fire of Hell is millions of times more intense than that of Earth; and if any one of the bodies that are burning therein without being consumed should be thrown out upon our planet, it would infect the globe from one end to the other! Hell is a vast and gloomy cavern, stuck all over with pointed nails, with keen, steely, sword-blades, with well-sharpened razors, into which are hurled the souls of the damned.”


(Bordeaux, 1862)

A spirit who presented herself spontaneously to the medium

1. Do you repent of your faults?
A. No.

Q. Then why do you come to me?
A. Totrytodoso.

Q. Are you not happy?
A. No.

Q. Are you suffering? A. No.

Q. What is that you lack?

A. Peace.

Certain Spirits solely consider suffering as that which causes them to recall physical pain, but accepting at the same time that their moral state is intolerable.

2. How can you fail to have peace in the spirit-life?

A. Regret for the past.

Q. Regret for the past is remorse; then, you do repent?
A. No, but I dread the future.

Q. What are you afraid of?

A. The unknown.

3. Will you tell me what you did in your last existence? To do so will, perhaps, help me to enlighten you.

A. Nothing.

4. What was your social position?

A. Middling.

Q. Were you married?

A. Y es, and I had children.

Q. Did you fulfill your duties as a wife and a mother?

A. No, my husband wearied me, my children, also

5. How did you employ your time?

A. In amusing myself, when I was a girl; in being tired of everything, when I grew up.

Q. What occupations had you?

A. None.

Q. Who, then, looked after your housekeeping?

A. Theservant.

6. Is not uselessness the source of your present regrets and apprehension?

A. Perhaps so.

Q. It is not enough to make that admission. Will you, to atone for the uselessness of your life, help the guilty and suffering spirits around you?

A. In what way?

Q. By aiding them to grow better, with the help of your counsels and your prayers.

A. I don’t know how to pray.

Q. We will pray together; that will show you how. Will you try?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Fatigue.


It is for the general instruction that we bring under your eyes the various degrees of suffering and of position of the spirits who are condemned to expiation, as the consequence of their faults.

Angele was one of those creatures devoid of initiative, whose life is as useless to others as to themselves. Caring only for pleasure, incapable of finding, in the accomplishment of her duties to her family and to society, the affectionate satisfactions that alone can impart a charm to life, because they belong to all ages, she could only employ her youth in frivolous amusements; afterwards, when the time for serious duties had come,she found emptiness around her, because there was only emptiness in her own heart. Without any serious faults, but also without good qualities, she made her husband miserable, destroyed her children’s comfort, and ruined their prospects, through her carelessness and negligence. She perverted their feelings and their judgment, both by her own bad example and by leaving them to the care of the servants whom she did not even take the trouble to choose with care. Her life was fruitless of good and therefore guilty, for evil comes from the absence of good. Study the Master’s Commandments, meditate and understand that if you place a barrier that detains the evil path to the side, it will impulse you to retreat and to take the opposite path, conducive to righteousness. Evil is opposed to goodness; therefore, whoever desires to avoid it should follow the contrary path, without which, your life will be null and void, and your achievements shall be obscured. God, our Father, is not the God of the dead, but rather, God of the living.

Q. May I inquire what was the existence of Angele previous to her last one? For the last must have been the consequence of the preceding one.

A. She had lived in the stupid laziness and uselessness of a convent. Idle and selfish, she wished, in her last existence, to try family-life; but her spirit made very little progress. She constantly repelled the inner voice that warned her to her danger; the slope was easy, and she preferred to let herself slip into the gulf rather than make the effort to arrest her fall in time. Although she now sees the danger of this passivity, she has not yet acquired sufficient strength of purpose to make an earnest attempt to emerge from her slothful indifference. Pray for her; rouse her; force her to open her eyes to the light; it is a duty to do this; neglect nothing that can help to bring her into the right road.

Man was created to be active; the activity of the spirit is the essence, and the activity of the body is a necessity. Therefore, fulfill the conditions of that existence, as a spirit destined to eternal peace and as a body created for the service of the Spirit, a role in which the body is nothing but a machine subordinated to its intelligence. Work and cultivate your intelligence in order to effect a healthy stimulus to the instrument which it should help in the fulfillment of its task. Do not permit rest nor truce, and remember that the peace which is aspired shall only be conceded through work. Therefore, the greater the time that has been wasted in their task, the longer the duration of the anxiety for hope.

Work, therefore, incessantly; fulfill all your duties with zeal and perseverance, and let your faith sustain you in everything that you have to do. He who conscientiously accomplishes the most modest task, even though it be classed as the lowest and meanest according to your social fictions, is a hundredfold nobler, in the sight of the Almighty, than he who leaves to others the work which is incumbent upon himself. Duties are the rungs of the ladder by which we ascend to the supreme degree. Be careful to miss none of them; and remember that you are always surrounded by friends who hold out a helping hand to those who put their trust in the Almighty. MONOD


(Bordeaux, 1862)

A spirit who announced himself spontaneously to the medium and asked to be prayed for

1. What has induced you to ask for prayers?

A. I am weary of wandering without an aim.

Q. Have you been long in this situation?

A. About one hundred and eighty years.

Q. What did you do upon the earth?

A. Nothing good.

2. What is your position among spirits?

A. I am among those who are the victims of boredom.

Q. But that does not constitute a category?

A. Everything, among us, constitutes a category. Every sensation meets with its similar, and this sympathy brings us together.

3. Why have you remained so long without advancing, if you were not condemned to your present state as a punishment?

A. I was condemned to suffer boredom; it is a mode of suffering for us; whatever is not an enjoyment is, for us, a suffering.

Q. Have you, then, been obliged to remain errant against your will?

A. This question could only be answered by a reference to causes too subtle for your flesh- bound intelligence.

Q. Try to make me understand them; the effort will be a useful beginning for you.

A. I could not do so, having no terms of comparison. An earthly life leaves, to the spirit who has made no good use of it, what fire leaves of the paper it has consumed; — sparks, reminding the still-untied but ashy tissue of what it was and of the cause of their own production, or, if you will, of the destruction of the paper. These sparks are the remembrance of terrestrial ties that run through the spirit until he has dispersed the ashes of his body. It is only then that he recovers possession of himself, as an ethereal essence, and desires to go forward.

4. What could have caused you the boredom of which you complain?

A. The consequences of an anterior existence. Boredom is the child of idleness. I knew not how to employ the long succession of years I had formerly passed upon the Earth; and the consequences of my inactivity still follow me in the spirit-world.

5. Cannot the spirits who, like you, are wandering a prey to boredom, put an end to that state when they will?

A. Not always, because their will is paralyzed by their state of boredom. They undergo the consequences of their previous existence; they have been useless, devoid of initiative, and they find no help from one another. They are abandoned to themselves until the weariness of this neutral state suggests to them the desire to change it. As soon as this desire begins to awaken in them, they find help and wise counsels that assist them to persevere in their effort to change their position.

6. Can you tell me anything of your earthly life?

A. Alas! There is little to tell of it, as you may easily understand. Boredom, inutility, idleness, come of laziness; laziness is the mother if ignorance.

7. Have you made no progress in your former lives?

A. I advanced a little in all of them, but very little; for all our lives are reflexes of one another. A spirit always makes some progress in an existence; but it is sometimes so slight as to be inappreciable by us.

8. While you are waiting to begin a new existence, would you like to come to me occasionally?

A. Call me, to compel me to come; you would be doing me a service.

9. Can you tell me why it is that your handwriting changes so often?

A. Because you ask me so many questions. It tires me and obliges me to get help.

The Medium’s Guide – It is the exercise of his thought that tires him and obliges us to give him our help, that he may be enabled to reply to your questions. He is one of the lazybones of the spirit- world, as he was of the world of men. We have brought him to you, that you may try to draw him out of the apathy that is really a state of suffering, and one that is often still more painful than a sharper pain, for it may be prolonged indefinitely. Can you imagine a worse torture than the prospect of lassitude prolonged forever? The spirits who seek a terrestrial existence only as an amusement and to break the wearisome monotony of their spirit-life are, for the most part, of this category; they go back into the earthly life without any fixed determination to cultivate goodness, and they have therefore to begin that life over and over again, until, at length, they feel a sincere desire to advance.


(Died in France, in 1858)

What have you felt since you left the terrestrial world?

Still confused, it’ s impossible to explain.

Are you happy?

I miss life ... I don’t know... I feel a sharp pain. I think that physical life would have liberated me from it. I wish my body could rise from the grave.

2 – Do you feel bad for having been buried among the Christians and not in your own country?

A – Yes. The Hindu soil would be less heavy over my body.

Q – What do you think of the funeral honors that were bestowed on your remains?

A – They weren’t such a big event. I was a Queen and not everyone bowed before me. Leave me alone... do not force me to talk. I don’t want you to know what I am now... Be assured you that I was a queen.

3 – We respect your hierarchy; we insist only because we’re looking to be educated. Do you believe that your son will recover the land and the heritage that his parents left him?

A – My blood will reign for sure; he is entitled to it.

Q – Is your opinion of your son’s integration into society, the same that you had when you were alive?

A – My blood could not be mixed with the blood of the multitude.

4 – Your birthplace was not part of your death certificate; can you give us that information now?

A – I come from one of the noblest bloods of India. I think I was born in Delhi.

5 – You, who lived in the splendor of luxury, surrounded by honors, what do you think of all of this today?

A – That I have the right.

Q – Did your terrestrial hierarchy contributed to a more elevated rank where you are? A – I continue being a Queen ... Let them send slaves to serve me! But I don’t know ... it seems like they are not concerned with me here... and yet ... I am the same person.

6 – Are you a Muslim or a Hindu?

A – Muslim, however, I was too powerful to be concerned with God.

Q – Considering human happiness, what is the difference between your religion and Christianity?

A – Christianity is absurd; it teaches that we are all brothers and sisters.

Q – What is your opinion of Mohamed?

A – He was not the son of a king.

Q – Do you believe that he had a Divine mission?

A – Of what importance is that?

Q – What is your opinion of Christ?

A – The son of a carpenter is not worthy of occupying my thoughts.

7 – What do you think of this Muslim custom that women must hide their faces from masculine eyes?

A – I think that women were born to dominate: I was a woman.

Q – Were you envious of the freedom that European women enjoy?

A – No. Why should I care about their freedom? Don’t they serve on their knees?

9 – Do you have any recollection of past lives, before the last one you just left?

A – I must have always been a queen.

Q – Why did you answer our call so promptly?

A – I didn’t want to do it. I was forced. Do you by any chance, think that I would consider you worthy of my response? Who are you in comparison to me?

Q – Who forced you to come?

A – I don’t know ... considering that there should not be anyone here more powerful than I. 10 – Under what circumstances did you come here?

A – Always as a queen, do you think that I could have stopped being one? You lack the proper respect. I inform you that this is not the way to talk to a queen.

11 – If it were possible for us to see you. Would we see you with the appropriate jewels and ornaments?

A – Certainly.

Q – And how do you explain that having lost everything, you were able to keep these jewels and ornaments?

A – I haven’t lost them. I am as beautiful as before and I don’t understand your opinion of me. Truth is that you have never seen me.

12 – What do think of finding yourself in our midst?

A – If I could avoid it, I would. You treat me so disrespectfully.


Leave her alone, poor disturbed soul. Take pity on her blindness and let it serve as an example. You don’t know how much her pride harms her!

Considering the education given to women in that country, we did not expect wisdom when we evoked her. We expected to hear from this spirit, maybe not philosophy, but a more accurate view of reality. We thought we would hear maybe more common sense ideas than about vanity and terrestrial grandeur. Far from it, we saw a spirit who retained all the terrestrial prejudices as strong as ever. We noticed that her pride had not diminished with her passing. We noticed that she fought against her own weakness and that she was doomed to suffer a great deal for its impotence.


(Bordeaux, 1862)

A spirit who presented himself spontaneously, to the medium, accustomed to manifestations of this nature on the part of inferior spirits brought to him, by his Guide, for his own instruction and for their amendment.

Q. Who are you? Is this name that of a man or a woman?

A. Of a man, and one who is utterly miserable. I am undergoing all the torments of hell.
Q. Hell does not exist. How, then, can you be undergoing its torments?

A. A useless question.

Q. If I understand what you mean, an explanation of your words may be useful for others.
A. I don’t care for them.

Q. Is not selfishness among the causes of your suffering?

A. Perhapsso.

Q. If you wish to be relieved from your misery, you must begin by getting rid of your evil tendencies.

A. Don’t trouble yourself about them; they are no business of yours. Begin by praying for me, as you do for the others; we will see about the rest, by and by.

Q. If you do not help me by your repentance, prayer will avail you very little.

A. If you talk instead of praying, you will not do much towards helping me to advance.

Q. Do your really wish to advance?

A. Perhaps I do; I don’t know. Let me see whether prayer relieves suffering; that’s the essential thing.

Q. Well, then, join your mental action to mine, with the firm determination to obtain relief.

A. Goahead.
(After a prayer by the Medium.)
– Q. Are you satisfied?

A. Not as I wish to be.

Q. A remedy, when first employed, cannot cure a disease of long standing.

A. Maybe so.

Q. Would you like to come again?

A. Y es, if you call me.

The Medium’s Guide. – You will have a good deal of trouble with this hardened spirit; but there would not be much glory in saving those who are not lost. Courage! Persevere, and you will succeed. There are none so bad that they cannot be brought back into the right road by persuasion and example; for the most perverse must necessarily end by amending in course of time: if you do not succeed, at once, in bringing them back to better sentiments, which is often impossible, the labor you have bestowed on them is never lost. The ideas you have suggested to them stir their minds and make them reflect, in spite of themselves; they are seeds that will grow and fructify, sooner or later. A rock is not broken down by the first stroke of the pickaxe.

And what I have just said is equally true of spirits incarnate, and explains how it is that Spiritism, even among its firmest believers, does not always make people perfect all at once. Belief is the first step; the application of that belief comes next, and the transformation of character follows in its turn: but, in many cases, this transformation will only be accomplished, even by believers, after a new return into the spirit-world.

Among obdurate spirits, all are not entirely perverted and actively wicked. A great many of them, without trying to do much harm, lag behind through pride, indifference, or apathy. They are nonetheless unhappy, for they suffer all the more from their inertia because they have not the interests of the earthly life. The prospect of infinity renders their position intolerable, and yet they have neither the strength, nor the will, to change it. It is the spirits of this class who, when incarnated, lead idle and aimless lives, useless alike to themselves and to others, and who often end by committing suicide, without any serious motive, and simply from weariness and disgust of life.

Spirits of this character are usually more difficult to bring back to the path of progress than those who are decidedly and actively bad, because these latter, at least, possess energy, and, when once they have been made to see the truth, they are as ardent in the pursuit of goodness as they have been in the service of evil. Inactive spirits will doubtless need a good many existences before they can accomplish any marked amount of progress; but, little by little, vanquished by weariness, as others are vanquished by suffering, they will seek for sources of interest in active occupation which, in course of time, will become for them a necessity.

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