Allan Kardec

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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.”

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