HEAVEN AND HELL OR THE DIVINE JUSTICE ACCORDING TO SPIRITISM

Allan Kardec

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Chapter VIII

TERRESTRIAL EXPIATIONS



MARCEL


“N° 4”

In a provincial asylum, there was, a few years ago, a child about eight years of age, who was known only by the designation of “N° 4.” His state was one that can hardly be described. Such was his deformity – whether resulting from malformation or from disease – that his misshapen legs touched his neck; he was so emaciated that his bones protruded, literally, through his skin; his whole body was one continuous sore, and his sufferings were atrocious. He was of a poor Jewish family, and he remained in this sad state for four years. He was remarkably intelligent for his age; his gentleness, patience, and resignation excited the admiration of all about him. The physician, in whose ward he was, touched with compassion for the neglected little creature whose relatives came but seldom to see him, took much interest in him, often talked with him, and was so much charmed with the precocious intelligence of the poor little sufferer, that, when he could find a moment of leisure, he used to read to him, and was constantly surprised by the clearness of his comprehensions and the correctness of his judgment in regard to subjects apparently beyond his years.

One day, the little fellow said to him, “Doctor, please give me some more pills, like those you last ordered for me.” – “And why so, my child?” replied the physician; “those you have already taken were enough. I should be afraid of doing you harm if I gave you any more of them.” – “I wanted them,” returned the boy, “because I suffer so dreadfully that it is in vain I hold my breath not to groan, that I beg of God to give me strength to avoid disturbing the other patients who are near me; it is often impossible for me to help doing so. Those pills make me sleep, and while I sleep I disturb no one.”

That request suffices to show the elevation of the soul enclosed in that deformed body. Whence had the child derived such sentiments? It could not have been from the surroundings amidst which he had been brought up, and, besides, at the age at which he fell ill, he was still too young to understand any teaching on the subject, even had such been attempted; they must, therefore, have been innate in him. But, in that case, why, if he were born with such noble instincts, did God condemn him to a life so painful and so miserable? Why, if He created his soul at the same time as his body, did He create for him a body that could only be the instrument of such terrible suffering? We must either deny the goodness of God, or we must attribute this anomaly to some cause anterior to the formation of so miserable a body; that is to say, the preexistence of the soul and the plurality of our lives. The child in question died, and his last thoughts were of God and of the charitable physician who had taken pity on him:

Some time afterwards, having been evoked by the Paris Society, he gave the following communication (1863).

“You have called me; I have come, that my voice, passing beyond these walls, may strike other hearts, and may say, to those who hear me, that the sorrows of Earth are a preparation for the joys of heaven; – that suffering is only the bitter rind of a delectable fruit, when borne with courage and resignation; – that, on the hard and narrow bed of pain and poverty, are often to be found the envoys of the Most High, whose mission is to teach men that there is no suffering which they cannot bear with the help of God and of their good-spirits; and that the groan wrung from them by pain, but mingled with the accents of prayer and of hope, offer a harmony of very different augury from that of the rebellious complaints that are mixed with the utterances of rage and blasphemy!

“One of your Guardian-spirits, a great apostle of Spiritism, * has kindly given me his place, this evening, in order that I may say a few words respecting the progress of your doctrine, which is destined to aid all those who are incarnated among you in accomplishment of their mission, by teaching them how to suffer. Spiritism will be the guide-post that will show them their way; it will teach them, both by reasoning and by example; and the sighs of those who have accepted a mission of suffering will thenceforth be changed into songs of gladness.

Q. It would appear, from what you have just said, that your sufferings were not an expiation of the faults of a former existence?

A. They were not a direct expiation, but be very sure that there is a just cause for every sorrow. He, whom you have known so deformed and so miserable, was a formerly handsome, great, rich, the object of general adulation; I had my flatterers and my courtiers; I was vain and haughty. I was very guilty, for I forgot God and wronged my fellow men. But I had expiated that life by terrible sufferings, first in the spirit-world, and then upon the Earth. What I endured, in my past life, during a few years only, I had already endured in a previous life, from infancy to extreme old age. Through repentance, I was at length restored to the favor of the Lord, who deigned to confide to me various missions, the last of which is known to you. I had solicited it, in order to finish the work of my purification.

Farewell, my Friends; I shall return sometimes among you. My mission is not to instruct but to console; there are so many who suffer in your world, and who will be very glad of my visits. MARCEL


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*St. Augustine, through the medium by whom he habitually communicates with the Society.



COMMENTARY OF THE MEDIUM’S GUIDE

Poor little sufferer, puny, ulcerated, and deformed! How sad was his situation in that refuge of wretchedness and tears! And yet, despite his youth, how resigned he was, how well he understood the true aim of suffering. He felt, intuitively, that a reward was awaiting him, beyond the grave, for so many complaints repressed! And how fervently did he pray for those who had not, like him, the courage to bear their sufferings, for those, especially, who hurled blasphemies against Heaven, instead of praying!

Though the agony of this sufferer was prolonged, his departure was easy. Those who stood round him beheld a little deformed body struggling convulsively against death, in obedience to the instinct of the flesh that clings to life up to the very last moment; but an angel hovered above the couch of the dying child, breathing words of encouragement and hope, and, when all was over, he bore away, in his loving arms, the purified soul that had quitted the wretched body, whispering, “Glory to God!” with its latest sigh. And this soul, ascending towards the Almighty, radiant and happy, cried joyously, “Behold me, O Sovereign Ruler! Thou gavest me the mission of showing how men should suffer! Have I fulfilled that mission worthily?”

And now, the spirit of the suffering child has regained its true proportions; he speeds through space, with the power and the brightness of the sunbeam, visiting the weak and the humble, and saying, to their hearts, “Hope and Courage!” Freed from the materiality and purified from the soil of the past, he is near you, addressing you, no longer with the painful and plaintive voice of his last incarnation, but in clear and resonant accents; and he says to you, “Those who saw me upon the Earth beheld a child who bore his load of suffering without a murmur; from his patience they learned to bear their own sorrows with resignation, and their hearts were filled with confidence in God. Such was the aim of my short sojourn upon the Earth.” SAINT AUGUSTINE.


SZYMEL SLIZGOL

He was a poor Jew of Vilna, who died in May 1865. For thirty years he begged in the streets, a little wooden bowl in his hand. Everybody in the town was familiar with his cry: “Remember the poor, the widows, and the orphans!” During that time, Slizgol collected 90,000 rubles; but he never kept a single kopek for himself. He took care of the sick, whom he tended with his own hands; he paid for the schooling for destitute children; he divided the food given him among the needy. His nights were spent in making snuff, which he sold for his own living; and whatever remained from this modest source of gain, after providing for his wants, he gave to the poor. He was alone in the world; but, on the day of his funeral, all the shops were shut, and the greater part of the population of the town followed his bier.

(Spiritist Society of Paris, June 15th, 1865)

(Evocation) – A. Very happy, and having reached, at length, through long effort, the height of my ambition, I have been in your midst, since the beginning of the meeting. I thank you for thinking of the poor beggar who will do his best to reply to your questions.

Q. A letter from Vilna has informed us of the leading peculiarities of your life. The sympathy that these have excited in our minds has prompted the desire to converse with you. We thank you for coming at our call, and we shall be interested in learning your position in the spirit-world and the motives that decided the character of your last existence.

A. Let me, first of all, say a word in reference to the surprise that has been expressed – not here, nor by Spiritists, but elsewhere – at the imposing proportions of the manifestation of respect and sympathy that accompanied, to their last resting-place, the mortal remains of the poor beggar whose charity had won for him an appreciation, so unusual, on the part of his fellow-townsmen. I am not saying this for your sake, dear teacher,
nor for you, esteemed medium, nor for you, true and sincere spiritists, but rather, I am speaking to all those who are indifferent to the teaching. There is really nothing in such a fact that should create astonishment. The practice of kindness makes, even on the minds of the most materialistic, and impression that never fails to manifest itself by marks of respect; even those who do wrong in their own persons pay homage to goodness in the person of another.

Let us now direct our response to your questions, since coming from you, do not arise out of curiosity, but rather, are formulated solely for the purpose of general instruction. I now haste to reply, as briefly as may be, to your question concerning the causes that decided the choice of my last existence.

Several centuries ago, I lived on this Earth with the title of King, or, at least, of a Sovereign Prince. Within the limits of my power – narrow in comparison with the States of the present day – I was the absolute master of the lives and fortunes of my subjects. I was their tyrant, or, to speak more correctly, their torturer and their executioner. I was imperious, violent, grasping, and sensual; you may imagine what was the fate of the unhappy people subjected to my sway. I employed my power to oppress the weak, and I imposed taxes on every sort of industry and of labor, on all passions, and on all sorrows, for the pampering of my vices. I carried my greed to the extent of establishing a tax on begging; no starving wretch could hold out his cap to the passers, but I took from him the greater part of the alms that had been thrown to his misery. I did even worse; in order not to lessen the number of beggars among my subjects, I forbade the wretched recipients of charity to give, to their friends or relations, any part of the pittance left to them by my exactions. In a word, I was utterly pitiless for suffering and misery.

I lost, at length, what you call “life,” in horrible torments; my death was a subject of terror for all those who, on a smaller scale, imitated the atrocities of my rule. I remained a wanderer, in the spirit-state, for three centuries and a half; and when, after this lapse of time, I had come to understand that the aim of incarnation is something very different from that which my gross and obtuse senses had caused me to pursue, I obtained – by dint of prayers, resignation, and regrets – the permission to undertake the task of enduring, in a new earthly life, the sufferings I had inflicted on others. I obtained, also, the permission to add, of my own accord, to the moral and physical tortures of the life I had chosen. Thanks to the higher spirits who gave me their help, I persisted in my resolve to suffer with patience and to devote myself to doing good.


Since then, I have been enabled to accomplish another existence, which, through its abnegation and charity, has redeemed the cruelty and injustice of my past. I was born in poverty; left an orphan very early, I learned to shift for myself at an age at which a child is usually supposed to be incapable of acting with discernment. I passed my life alone, without love, without affections; and I had to bear, in my childhood, the brutalities I formerly wreaked upon others. You have been told that I devoted the whole of the money I collected by begging to the relief of my fellow-creatures; such was the case; and I may add, without vanity, that I often imposed on myself very severe privations, in order to increase the amount of good which the charity of the public enabled me to do.

My death was peaceful; for I knew that I should obtain the recompense of my abnegation, and I am rewarded, in truth, beyond my most sanguine aspirations. I am very happy to be able to assure you, from my own experience, that, while it is true that “he who exalts himself shall be abased,” it is equally true that “he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”

Q. We beg you to tell us the nature of your expiation in the spirit-world, the length of time that elapsed between your death and the period when your fate was modified by the effect of your repentance and of the good resolutions that you had formed, and the cause of the change that took place in your ideas in the spirit-state?

A. You recall to my mind very painful images! How horribly I suffered! But I do not complain; I only remember! You wish to know in what my expiation consisted; listen to the recital of it, in all its horror!

Having been, as I told you, the torturer and the executioner of all around me, I remained for a long, long time attached by my perispirit to my decaying body; and I felt, until its putrefaction was complete, the gnawing of the worms that were devouring it! When, at last, I was delivered from the bonds that had attached me to the instrument of my punishment, I was subjected to another, even more terrible. After the physical suffering I endured, the moral suffering overcame me. This was lengthier than the first. I was brought into the presence of all the victims on whom I had wreaked my cruelty. Periodically, and under the action of a force greater than my own, I found myself face to face with all my evil deeds. I saw, physically and morally, all the sorrows and sufferings that I had caused to be endured. Oh! Friends, how terrible is the constant sight of those whom we have wronged! You have a slight example of this, among yourselves, in the confrontation of the assassin with his victim.

Such is, in short, what I suffered for two centuries and a half; until God, taking pity on my grief and my repentance, and solicited to that end by the guides who assisted me, permitted me to undertake the life of expiation of which I have told you.

Q. Had you any special reason for choosing to be born as a Jew in your last incarnation?

A. I was advised to do so by my guides. The quality of a Jew added another humiliation to my life of expiation, for Jews are generally despised, and, especially, Jewish beggars.

Q. In your last existence, how old were you when you began to put in practice the resolutions you had taken in the spirit-world? How did the thought of doing so arise in your mind? While you were practicing charity in that way, and with so much abnegation, had you any intuition of the cause that had led you to adopt such a life?

A. My parents were intelligent, but very poor and avaricious. While still very young, I was deprived of the affection and caresses of my mother. My grief for her death was all the deeper because I was entirely neglected by my father, who was absorbed in his desire of gain. My brothers and sisters, all older than myself, seemed to be quite unaware of my sufferings. Another Jew, moved rather by selfishness than by charity, took me onto his house and taught me his trade. He recouped himself, largely, from the proceeds of my labor (which often exceeded my strength), for that I cost him. After a time, I threw off this yoke, and worked on my account. But whether I was working or resting, the remembrance of my mother’s caresses followed me everywhere; and the older I grew, the more deeply that remembrance became engraved in my memory, and the more sadly did I miss her care and affection.

Soon, I remained the only one of my name; death carried away every member of my family in the course of a few months. It was then that the way in which I was to pass the rest of my existence began to be revealed to me. Two of my brothers had left orphans. Moved by the remembrance of what I had suffered, I wished to preserve the poor little creatures from a childhood such as mine had been; and, as my labor was not sufficient to keep us all, I began to beg, not for myself, but for them. But I was not to be allowed the consolation of succeeding in my efforts; the poor little things left me forever. I saw clearly what they had lacked; it was their mother. I therefore determined to implore the charity of the public for the unfortunate widows who, unable to maintain themselves and their children, impose upon themselves privations that send them to their grave, leaving poor little orphans who remain abandoned to the same torments that I myself had endured.

I was thirty years of age when, in the prime of strength and health, I began to beg for the widow and the orphan. The beginning of this work was very painful to me, and I had to bear many a humiliating taunt. But when it came to be seen that I really divided among my poor pensioners all that I collected in their name, when it was known that I added to this the surplus of my labor, I acquired a sort of consideration that was not without its charms.

I lived for over sixty years, and never did I fail in the task I had taken upon myself. Nor did any inner consciousness ever led me to suppose that a motive, anterior to the life I was then living, was the mainspring of my action. One day, however, before I began to beg, I heard these words, “Do not, unto others, what you would not that others should do unto you.” I was much struck with the wide moral reach of these words; and I often found myself supplementing them, thus, in my own mind: – “But do unto others, on the contrary, whatever you would that they should do unto you.” Sustained by the remembrance of my mother and of my lonely and neglected childhood, I continued to walk in the path that my conscience told me was the one for me to follow.

I bring this long communication to an end by repeating “Thank you!” I am not yet perfect; but, knowing that evil leads only to evil, I shall again devote myself to doing good, as I have done already, knowing that I shall thus prepare for myself a harvest of happiness. SZYMEL SLIZGOL


JULIENNE-MARIE
Nicknamed the Beggar-woman

In the Commune of La Villate, near Nozai (Loire-Inferieure), there was a poor woman named Julienne-Marie, old, infirm, who lived by begging. One day, she fell into a pond, from which she was rescued by a physician of the place, who was in the habit of giving her alms. Carried home, she died from the effects of the accident. It was generally supposed that she had tried to drown herself. On the very day of her death, the physician who had rescued her from the water, and who is a spiritist and a medium, felt a sensation, which he could not account for, over his whole person, as though some one had rubbed against him in passing; when he learned the death of “The Beggar-woman,” it occurred to him that her spirit probably came to him at the time.

At the suggestion of one of his friends, who was a member of the Spiritist Society of Paris, and to whom he had spoken of the sensation he had felt – he evoked the woman, with a view to being useful to her; but, before doing so, he asked the advice of his guides, who gave him the following reply: –

“You may evoke her, and your doing so will give her pleasure, but she has no need of the help you are wishing to give her; she is happy, and devotedly grateful to all who formerly took pity on her. You are one of those whom she loves the most; she scarcely leaves you, and she often talks to you without your knowing it. Sooner or later, every service is rewarded, either by the spirit to whom it has been done, or by those who are interested on his behalf; while a spirit is still in the state of confusion, other spirits who are in sympathy with him, testify their gratitude in his name. This explains what you felt on the day of her death. She, herself, now helps you in all the good you do to others. Remember Christ’s words: ‘He who humbles himself shall be exalted;’ and you may infer the greatness of the services she is now able to render you, provided you only ask her help in being useful to those about you.”

Q. Good Julienne-Marie, I rejoice to know that you are happy; it was all that I wished to know; but I shall often think of you, and I shall never forget you in my prayers.

A. Put your trust in God, inspire your patients with the same trust, and your treatment will almost always be successful. Do not trouble yourself about the recompense you will receive; it will be more than you ever hoped for. God always knows how to compensate where it is justified, whoever dedicates himself to alleviate the pain of his fellow man, and does so, without any ulterior motive. Otherwise it would be no more than an illusion. But, prior to anything, it is necessary to have faith, as without it nothing can be achieved. Remember this maxim and you will be surprised by the results you will obtain. Proof of this is in the two patients that you cured. Under these circumstances, solely with the medication, you would have failed.

When you ask God to permit the good spirits to radiate His beneficial energy over you, if this petition does not produce an involuntary trembling, it is because your prayer has not been sufficiently fervent to be heard. They will only be effective under the conditions that I’m going to recommend. These are the prayers that have produced the sensations that you have experienced, by saying from the bottom of your heart: “All Powerful God, Merciful God, God of Infinite Kindness, please hear my prayer and permit the Good Spirits to assist me in the cure of ...; Take pity on him, Dear God, and provide him health. Without You I am helpless. Let your will be done.”

You have done well not to neglect the humble; the voice of him who has suffered with resignation in your world is always listened to in this one; and, as you see, by the help I am permitted to promise you, no service ever goes unrewarded. I now add a word about myself, which will confirm all that I have just stated.

Spiritism explains to you the language I address to you as a spirit; it is useless to enlarge on that point, or to inform you of the existences I had undergone before the one in which you knew me. That last one should suffice to convince you that those previous ones had not been always irreproachable. Through the whole of my last life, doomed to poverty, infirm, and unable to work, I subsisted by begging. I put nothing by; in my old age, all my savings amounted to only a hundred francs, which I had scraped together for the time when I should no longer be able to crawl after alms. When my trial and my expiation were considered sufficient by God, I was mercifully recalled from the miseries of the earthly life; for I did not commit suicide, as has been thought. I died suddenly, on the edge of the pond, just when I had been praying to God; the presence of my body in the water was due, simply, to the slope of the ground where I fell.

I did not suffer in dying; and I rejoice to have fulfilled my mission without revolt and with resignation. I was useful, to those around me, in the measure of my strength and of my means; and I wronged no one. I am now rewarded for my fidelity: and I thank God, our Divine Master, who softens the bitterness of our trials by causing us, during life, to forget our former existences, and by placing, upon our road, charitable souls who aid us to bear the load of our past wrongdoing.

Do you, also, persevere; and like me, you will be rewarded. I thank you for the service you rendered me; I shall never forget it. We shall meet again; and many things will then be explained to you; at present, such an explanation would be superfluous. Know, only, that I am entirely devoted to you; and that I shall always be near you when you need my aid in assisting those who suffer.

The Beggar-woman, JULIENNE-MARIE

The spirit of Julienne-Marie, having been evoked by the Paris Society, in June 1864, dictated the following communication: –

“Thanks, dear Friends, for admitting me into your midst! You have perceived that my social position, in my former existences, was higher than my last. It was through my vain pride, which led me to repel the poor and the miserable, that I incurred the necessity of coming back to the Earth to undergo the law of retaliation, as the most miserable beggar in all the countryside! Yet, even in this depth of wretchedness, as though to prove to me the goodness of God, I was not rejected by all, as I feared to be; and the kindness of the few enabled me to bear my lot without murmuring, sustained by a latent hope of a happier life, from which I should not again have to return to this Earth of exile and calamity.

“What happiness, when our soul, ever young, returns into the spirit-world and rejoins those it loves! This joy is mine; for I have loved, and I am delighted to have met again with those who had preceded me into the spirit-world. My thanks to Dr. A——, whose mediumship has opened to me the door of gratitude; for, without it, I could not have expressed my thankfulness nor have shown him that I do not forget the consoling influence of his excellent heart. Let him be diligent in propagating his divine belief; he is appointed to bring many a wanderer back to the right road. Let him count on my help; I will return to him a hundred times all his kindness to me, by aiding him to advance on the path he has chosen. Be thankful to the Divine ordering that permits the denizens of the spirit-world to come to you, to encourage the poor in bearing his troubles and to arrest the rich in his pride. Try to comprehend the baseness of repelling the unfortunate; let my example be a warning to you, that you may not have, like me, to come back to the Earth and to expiate your wrongdoing by occupying the painful social positions that bring you down so low, and that place you amidst the refuse of society.” JULIENNE-MARIE

This communication having been transmitted to Dr. A_, he obtained from her, in response to his evocation, the following, which confirms it:

Q. My kind Julienne-Marie, you have the desire to assist me with your good advice, in order to aid my progress on the path of our Divine Doctrine. Would you please communicate with me; I will do my best to take advantage of your teachings.

A. “Remember my counsels, and follow them steadily. Be always charitable to the utmost extent of your means; I need not enlarge on this duty, for you already understand how charity should be practiced in all the relations of human life. There is no need for me to come to give you a teaching on this subject. You, alone, will be the best judge, following always the voice of your conscience, which will never fool you when you listen with sincerity.

Don’t be misguided with the mission that you feel that you must fulfill. Small or large, each one has his own mission. Mine was hard to bear, but I deserved such punishment due to my prior existences. As I confess to the president of the main Society of Paris, which all shall join someday. That day is not as distant as believed, because Spiritism proceeds with giant steps, in spite of all the hindrances that are placed in its path. Go forth, therefore, without fear, fervent followers of the doctrine and your efforts will be crowned by success. What do you care what is said about you? Place yourselves above the insolent criticism, which will fall, finally, over the same adversaries of Spiritism. “Proud ones,” they think that they are strong and that they can beat you easily. And you my good friends remain at ease, and don’t fear an encounter with them, as they are easier to beat than you think. Many are fearful that the truth will overpower them. Be patient, as they will return, in time, to collaborate in the crowning ceremony of the building.” JULIENNE-MARIE

These three communications are exceedingly instructive, for they inculcate and confirm all the great principles of the spiritist doctrine. In the very first of these utterances, the spirit of her who was a mendicant upon the Earth shows her real superiority by the elevation of her language; like a beneficent fairy, the poor beggar-woman, resplendent and metamorphosed, extends her protection over him who had been charitable to her when her true personality was hidden under the rags of her earthly expiation. It is a practical exemplification of the assurance of the Gospel, “For whosoever exalts himself shall be debased, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. Blessed are the humble; blessed are the afflicted for they will receive consolation,” and shows us that we should despise no one, but should remember that he, who seems to be one of the least in the earthly life, may be great and noble in the spirit-world.


COUNT MAX
THE BEGGAR

In a village in Bavaria there died, about 1850, an old man, nearly a hundred years old. No one knew anything certain about his origin, for he had no family. During more than half a century, broken down with infirmities that rendered it impossible for him to earn a livelihood by any kind of labor, he had no other resource than the charity of the public, to which he appealed by creeping about among the manor-houses and farms of the neighborhood, offering almanacs, matches, and other small objects, for sale. The whole countryside had given him the nickname of “Count Max;” the children never addressed him in other way. Why did people call him by this title? Nobody knew; but it had become a habit with everybody. Possibly, it might have suggested, in the beginning, by the refinement of his countenance and manners, which offered a marked contrast with the squalor of his rags. Several years after his death, he appeared, in a dream, to the daughter of the owner of one of the castles in which, whenever he called with his wares, the servants used to give him a good supper and a night’s lodging upon clean straw in the stables, for he had no abode of his own. Addressing the lady, he said to her: – Thanks for having remembered poor Max in your prayers, they have been heard by the Lord. You wish to know whom I am, O charitable soul, who took pity on the wretched merchant! I come to gratify your wish; my history will be an instructive lesson for all who learn it.”

Continuing to address the lady, he continued his recital as follows: –

“A century and a half ago, I was the rich and powerful lord of this region; I was vain, haughty, and infatuated on the score of my nobility. My enormous wealth was employed only on my pleasures, for which, large as it was, it hardly sufficed; for I was a gambler and a rake, and I spent my time in a succession of orgies. My vassals, whom I regarded as having been created for my use, like so many beasts of burden, were crushed and ground into the dust to pay for my prodigality. I remained deaf to their complaints as to those of all who were poor and friendless, considering that they ought to esteem themselves greatly honored by serving my caprices. I died young, exhausted by every kind of excess, but without having experienced any great misfortunes. On the contrary, everything had seemed to go well with me, so that I was looked upon as one of Fortune’s favorites. On account of my rank, my funeral was very splendid; the high-livers whom I admitted to my intimacy regretted me as a lavishly- hospitable and magnificent host; but not a tear was shed over my tomb, not a prayer was sent up for my soul, and my memory was cursed by all those whose misery had been intensified by my exactions and my crimes. Ah! How terrible is the malediction of those whom we have rendered wretched! Their reproaches and their curses sounded perpetually in my ears during long years that seemed to me an eternity! And at the death of each of my victims, a new face, threatening or ironical, rose before me and pursued me incessantly, and I was not able to find a corner in which to hide myself from his view! Not a single kindly glance did I ever meet with; my former companions in debauch, as miserable as I, fled from me and seemed to say, contemptuously, “You have no longer wherewith to pay for our pleasures!” What would I not have given for a moment’s repose, for some obscure hiding place in which to take refuge from the shame and the regrets that were devouring me! But I had no longer anything to give; all the gold that I had scattered by handfuls upon the Earth had failed to produce a single benediction!

“At length, weary, worn out, exhausted, like the wanderer, who, harassed and foot-sore, sees no end to the road before him, I cried aloud, “My God, take pity on me! When will this horrible situation come to an end!” Then a friendly voice, the first I had heard since I quitted the Earth, replied, “When you will it.” – “What must I do, great God?” I cried again, “tell me! I am ready to submit to everything!” – “You must repent,” again replied the voice; “you must humble yourself before those whom you have humbled; you must beg them to interceded for you; for the prayer of the injured who forgives is always favorably listened to by the Supreme Judge.” I humbled myself; I sought the forgiveness of my vassals, of my servants, of all my victims, whose faces, gradually losing their expression of anger and becoming more and more benevolent, at length disappeared altogether. No words could express the joy of that moment! I seemed to have begun a new life; hope took the place of despair; and I thank God for that deliverance with all the energy of my soul. The voice afterwards called to me: “Prince!” and I replied, “There is no other Prince here than the Almighty, who abases the proud. Forgive me, O God! for I have sinned; make me the servant of my servants, if such be Thy will!”

“Some years afterwards, I was born again upon the Earth; but, this time, in a family of poor villagers. My parents died while I was still a child, and I was left helpless and alone. I got my living as I could, sometimes as a workman, sometimes as a farm-servant, but always honestly, for, this time, I believed in God. At the age of forty, an attack of disease deprived me of the use of my limbs; and I was obliged to beg, for fifty years, on the soil of which I had formerly been the absolute master; receiving with thankfulness a morsel of bread at the door of the farms which formerly belonged to me, and where, by the bitter mockery, they had nicknamed me “The Count,” and only too glad to find shelter, from time to time, in the stables of the castle that had formerly been my abode. In my sleep, I took pleasure in wandering over the stately abode of which I was formerly the haughty master! How many a time, in my dreams, did I see myself once more surrounded by my former splendor! These visions left with me, on waking, an indefinable feeling of bitterness and regret; but no complaint ever escaped my lips, and, when it pleased God to call me back into the spirit-world, I blessed Him for having given me the strength to submit, without murmuring, to the long and painful trial of which I am now receiving the reward. “To you, noble Lady, I thank you for having prayed for me!

We commend this history to those who imagine that there would be nothing to restrain men from crime, if they no longer had before their eyes the bugbear of eternal punishment; and we ask them whether the prospect of such a chastisement as that of “Count Max, the Beggar,” is less likely to arrest them on the road of evil than the threat of endless physical tortures in which so many have ceased to believe?


HISTORY OF A FOOTMAN

In a family of high rank, there was a young footman, whose refined and intelligent countenance and distinguished air attracted our attention. Nothing, in his appearance or manners, indicated the inferiority of his condition; even the zeal with which he fulfilled the duties of his position was something quite different from the obsequiousness habitual among those of his calling. The following year, being again on a visit to the same family, we missed the young footman; and, having inquired after him, we were informed by our host that he had left them, for a few days, to go home to his family, had fallen ill there, and had died, almost immediately. “We greatly regret his loss,” added Mr. de G——, “for he was an excellent fellow, and animated by sentiments altogether above his position. He was extremely attached to us, and had given us proofs of the utmost devotedness.”

Some time afterwards, it occurred to us to evoke this young man; here is what he told us: –

“In my last incarnation before the one in which you knew me, I belonged, as you say upon the Earth, to a very good family; but, ruined by my father’s extravagance, I was left an orphan, at an early age, utterly destitute. A friend of my father’s took me into his house, brought me up as his son, and gave me an excellent education, of which I was somewhat too vain. This friend is now reincarnated as Mr. de G——, in whose service you saw me. I had determined to expiate my former pride by being born, in my new existence, in a servile position, a determination that afforded me the opportunity of proving my gratitude to him who had been my benefactor in my previous incarnation. I even had the happiness of saving his life. This humble existence has been very useful to me. I possessed sufficient strength of character to avoid being corrupted by the contact of surroundings that are almost always vicious; and I thank God that I thus earned the happiness I now enjoy.”

Q. In what way did you save Mr. de G—’s life?

A. He was out riding, one day, alone; I followed him, riding a little in his rear, when I saw that a large tree was on the point of falling, close beside him, without his being aware of it. I shouted to him with all my might; he turned his horse quickly towards me, and as he did so, the tree fell across the road, on the very place where he would have been had my cry not called him back. But for the backward movement I had thus caused him to make, the tree would have crushed him.

Mr. de G——, to whom this statement was reported, perfectly remembered the incident.

Q. Why did you die so young?
A. My trial had reached its appointed term.

Q. What profit could you derive from that trial, since you had no remembrance of the motive that led you to undertake it?
A. Notwithstanding my humble position, I was conscious of a feeling of pride that I was happily able to master, so that the trial was really beneficial to me; otherwise, I should have to begin it over again. My spirit remembered the past in its moments of liberty,86 and there remained with me, on waking, an instinctive desire to resist a feeling that I saw to be wrong. This struggle with an evil tendency was more effectual than it would have been if I had preserved a clear recollection of my past. The remembrance of my former existence would have kept up my pride, and would have interfered with the discharge of my new duties; instead of which, I had only to resist the evil tendencies inherent in my new position.

Q. You had received a brilliant education; of what use was it to you, in your last life, since you had no remembrance if the knowledge you had formerly acquired?

A. Inmynewposition,thatknowledgewouldhavebeennotonlyuseless,butinmyway,andit was therefore allowed to remain latent, for the time being; but I have now regained the memory of all that I formerly acquired. Yet, though latent, that knowledge was still useful to me, for it developed my intelligence and gave me a taste for elevated things, which inspired me with repugnance for the ignoble examples that I had under my eyes. But for that anterior education, I should have been a mere lackey.

Q. Servants sometimes manifest, for their masters, a devotion that rises even to abnegation; is such devotion always a result of relations established between the parties in anterior lives?

A. In almost all cases. Such servants have sometimes been members of the same family as their employers, or, like me, have a debt of gratitude to pay; and, in all cases, their devotion helps their own advancement. How little you suspect the intimate connection that so often exists between the sympathies and antipathies of your present life and the relationships of your anterior existences! No, death does not break off those relationships, for they are often carried on from century to century.

Q. Why is it that such instances of devotion on the part of servants are so rare at the present day?

A. Because the spirit of the age, in your world, is one of selfishness and pride, developed by unbelief and materialistic ideas. The faith in goodness is driven away by the greed of gain, and, with it, the capacity of devotedness. Spiritism, by bringing men back to a true belief, will rekindle the virtues that are now dying out.

No better example could be given of the benefits resulting from the forgetfulness of our anterior lives. If Mr. de G—— had remembered who his young servant had been, he would have found it very awkward, and would certainly not have allowed him to remain in that situation; he would thus have prevented him from undergoing a trial that was useful to both of them.


ANTONIO B ––
BURIED ALIVE – THE LAW OF RETALIATION

Mr. Antonio B——, a talented writer, highly esteemed by his fellow-townsmen, and who had occupied, with success and integrity, an official positioning in Lombardy, fell, about 1850, after an attack of apoplexy, into a state of apparent death that was unfortunately mistaken, as sometimes happens, for real death; a mistake all the more natural, in his case, because the body exhibited signs of decomposition. Fifteen days after this gentleman’s burial, a fortuitous circumstance led his family to require the exhumation, in order to recover a locket that had been accidentally enclosed in the coffin; when, to the stupefaction of all who assisted at the operation, it was found that the position of the body had changed, that it had turned around, and, horrible to relate! That the defunct had partly eaten one of his hands. It was therefore evident that the unhappy man had been buried alive, and that he had succumbed to the double torture of suffocation and hunger.

Mr. Antonio B—— evoked by the Paris Society in August, 1861, at the request of one of his relatives, replied as follows: —

1. (Evocation) – A. What do you want with me?
2. One of your relatives has asked us to evoke you; we have done so with pleasure, and shall be pleased if you kindly reply to our questions.

A. I shall reply very willingly.

3. Do you remember the circumstances of your death?

A. Ah! Most certainly I remember them! Why awaken the memory of that chastisement?

4. Is it true that you were buried alive by mistake?

A. The mistake was a very natural one, for my apparent death presented all the appearances of real death; I was almost bloodless. No one was to blame for an event that had been decided on before I was born.

5. If our questions are of a nature to cause you pain, shall we cease our inquiry?

A. No, go on.

6. We should be glad to know that you are happy; for you had the reputation of having been a good man.

A. Thank you, I know that you will pray for me. I will try to answer you; if I fail, one of your guides will reply for me.

7. Can you describe your sensations at the terrible moment?

A. Oh! What an agonizing trial! To feel yourself shut in between four planks, so that you can neither turn nor move! To be unable to call, the voice producing no sounds where there is no air. What a frightful torture is that of the wretch who seeks in vain to draw a breath in an atmosphere insufficient in quantity and deprived of its breathable elements! Alas! I seemed to be in an oven, only without the warmth. Oh! I could not wish such tortures on anyone; no, I wish nobody an end like mine! What a cruel punishment of a cruel and ferocious existence! Do not ask me what I thought about; I looked back into my past, and I had a vague glimmering of the future.

8. You say “a cruel punishment of a cruel and ferocious existence;” but your excellent reputation seems opposed to such a supposition. Can you explain to us what you refer to?

A. What is a single life in our eternal career? Certainly I tried to act aright in my last incarnation; but this death had been accepted by me before I came back into a human body. Why question me concerning that painful past, which is known only to myself and to the spirits who are the ministers of the Almighty? Know, if I must tell you, that in an anterior existence I had walled up a woman – my wife – alive, in a cellar! It is the action of the law of retaliation that I had brought upon myself; “A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye.”

9. We thank you for having had the kindness to reply to our questions, and we pray God to forgive you the past for the sake of your last incarnation.


A. I will come to you at some future time; for the present, the spirit of Erastus will kindly complete my statements.


COMMENTARY OF THE MEDIUM’S GUIDE

You learn from this confession that all your lives are connected, and that no one of them is independent of the others; the cares, troubles, and anxieties, just as much as the great sorrows, of human life, are the consequences of anterior existences that have been criminal or ill employed. Nevertheless, I may say that deaths such as that of Antonio B—— are rare; and if this man, whose last existence was blameless, came to his end in such a way, it was because he himself had demanded to undergo that death, in order to shorten his period of erraticity and to rise more rapidly towards the higher spheres. After passing through a time of trouble and of moral suffering, for the further expiation of his terrible crime, he will be forgiven and will be able to enter a higher world, in which he will meet his former victim, who is awaiting him there, and who has, long ago, forgiven him. Let this fearful example teach you, dear spiritist friend, to bear patiently the sufferings, both physical and moral, and all the petty tribulations, of your lives.

Q. Of what use to mankind are such terrible punishments?

A. Providential punishments are not intended to develop the human race, but to chastise the individual wrongdoer. Every punishment if exactly adapted to the special wrongdoing of which it is the result. Why are there madmen? Why are there idiots? Why are there paralytics? Why do some perish by fire? Why do others linger for years in the tortures of a living death, unable either to live or to die? Respect the Sovereign Will, in all cases, knowing that there is a reason for all its providential decrees, and that God is just and beneficent in all that He does. ERASTUS

Is there not a great and solemn teaching in the fact of such a punishment of such a crime? Does it not show that the justice of God always overtakes the guilty, and that, although sometimes slow, it nonetheless follows its course? What could lend a weightier practical sanction to the moral law than the knowledge that, although great criminals sometimes end their life peacefully and even in the enjoyment of abundant earthly blessings, the hour of expiation will come, for them, as for all others? Punishments of this nature are comprehensible, not only because we see them, in some sort, under our eyes, but also because they are logical; they are believed, because they are admissible by our reason.

We see, moreover, that the honorability of a life does not exempt it from trials, because the latter have been chosen, accepted, or submitted to, by each human being, as a complement of expiation; every trial is an installment of a debt that has to be repaid in full before we can receive the reward of the progress we have achieved.

When we consider how frequent, in the past, even among the highest and most enlightened classes, were actions of a barbarity that appears to us so revolting at the present day – how many murders were committed in the times when men sported with the lives of their fellows, and when the strong crushed the weak without scruple – it is easy to see how many there must be, among the people of our day, who have to wash themselves clean of an evil past; and we cease to wonder at the number of victims of isolated casualties or great catastrophes. The despotism, fanaticism, ignorance, and prejudices of the Middle Ages, and those that succeed them, have bequeathed, to subsequent generations, an immense debt that is not yet paid off. Many a misfortune appears to us to be undeserved, simply because we see only the present, without seeing the close connection of the present with the past.


MR. LETIL

Mr. Letil, a manufacturer in the neighborhood of Paris, died in April 1864, under exceptionally horrible circumstances. A great cauldron of boiling varnish took fire and upset, the whole of its contents falling upon him, so that he was covered, instantaneously, with the burning matter and felt that his doom was sealed. There was no one with him in the workshop, at the time of the accident, but a young apprentice; yet he had the courage to return to his dwelling, distant some two hundred yards. When he reached the house, his flesh, completely roasted, fell from him in strips; the bones of his face and of part of his body were entirely denuded. He lingered for some twelve hours in the most horrible agony, retaining, nevertheless, the full possession of his faculties up to the last moment, and setting his affairs in order with perfect clearness of mind. Throughout this frightful suffering, he uttered no complaint, no murmur, and he died with a prayer on his lips. He was a man of most honorable character; gentle, benevolent, he was loved and esteemed by all who knew him. He had embraced the spiritist philosophy with enthusiasm, but without sufficient reflection; and consequently, being something of a medium, he was frequently the dupe of mocking spirits; which fact, however, by no means weakened his belief in the reality of spirit-manifestation, his confidence in the statements made to him by the invisibles being sometimes carried to the verge of credulity.

Evoked by the Paris Society, a few days after his death, and while still under the impression of the terrible accident of which he had been the victim, he made the following communication:

“A load of sadness still weighs upon me! Still overwhelmed with the horror of my tragic death, I seem to myself to be under the axe of the executioner. Oh, what suffering! What horrible suffering. I shudder at the thought of it. I seem still to be sickened with the fetid smell of my burning flesh. Death- agony of twelve dreadful hours – what a trial for the guilty spirit! But he suffered without complaining, and he is therefore about to receive his pardon.

“My beloved wife! Weep not for me; my pain will soon be over. I no longer suffer any real pain; but the remembrance of what I have gone through is as painful as the reality. My knowledge of Spiritism has been a great help to me; I now see that, had it not been for this consoling belief, I should have remained in the delirium into which I was thrown by my fearful death.

“But I have a comforter who has not quitted me since I drew my last breath; even before I had finished speaking, I saw him standing beside me. I fancied, at first, that my sufferings were rendering me delirious and showing me phantoms; but no, it was my Guardian Angel who, silent and motionless, consoled me with his unspoken sympathy. No sooner had I bid farewell to the Earth than he whispered: – ‘Come with me, my son, and open your eyes to the light!’ I breathed more freely; I seemed to be awakening from a hideous dream; I spoke of my beloved wife, of the courageous boy who had risked his own life helping me. ‘They are all upon the Earth,’ he replied, ‘you, my son! are now in the spirit-world!’ I looked about for my house; my Guardian Angel allowed me to go back into it, going in with me. I saw everyone in tears; all was sadness and mourning in the dwelling formerly so peaceful. I could not bear the painful sight; overcome by the sorrows of those I love, I said to my Guide, ‘O my good Angel! Let us go away!’ – ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘let us go hence and seek rest!’

“Since then, I suffer less; if I did not see my wife inconsolable, my friends so sad, I should almost be happy.

“My kind, good Guardian Angel had given me permission to tell you the cause of my having to undergo so painful a death; for your instruction, my friends, I make the avowal of the horrible crime which I have thus expiated.

“Two hundred years ago, I caused a young maiden, innocent as is a child of her age (for she was only about twelve years old), to be burned at the stake. Of what was she accused? Alas! of having taken part in a conspiracy against the power of the priesthood. I was an Italian, a Judge of the Inquisition; the executioners dared not touch the youthful victim; I, myself, was both her Judge and her executioner. O Justice of God; how perfect art Thou! I have submitted to Thy sentence; I had resolved so firmly not to waver in the day of my trial that I was able to keep my promise; I did not murmur, and Thou, O my God! hast forgiven me! But when will the remembrance of my poor, innocent victim be effaced from my memory? It is that which makes me suffer! I must have her forgiveness also.

“Children of the new doctrine! You sometimes say: – ‘We do not remember what we did in our former lives, and we are therefore unable to avoid the evils to which we are exposed by our forgetfulness of the past.’ O my brothers! Bless God for this forgetfulness! If He had left you the memory of your past, you would have no respite upon the Earth. Incessantly pursued by remorse and shame, could you have a moment’s peace in all your life?”

“The forgetfulness of the past is a blessing; here, we remember, and this remembrance is torture. In a little while, and as a reward for the patience with which I bore my expiation, God will grant me the forgetfulness of my crime. This has just been promised me by my Guardian Angel.”

Mr. Letil’s character, in his last existence, shows how much his spirit had improved. His excellent conduct was the result of his repentance and of the good resolutions he had formed in erraticity; but it did not suffice to wipe out his past. For that, it was necessary to seal his good resolutions by a great trial, by enduring, as a man, what he had made other men endure; to be resigned, under such terrible circumstances, was the most arduous task that could be imposed upon a human being; but, happily for him, he did not fail under the trial. His knowledge of Spiritism did much to sustain his courage, through the assured belief in the future which he owed to it; he knew that the sorrows of life are trials and expiations, and he therefore submitted to his fate without a murmur, saying to himself: “God is just; therefore I must have deserved this suffering!”


AN AMBITIOUS SAVANT

Madame B——, a lady of Bordeaux, in easy circumstances, was a martyr, from one end of her life to the other, to the physical sufferings resulting from a constant succession of serious illnesses by which she was attacked, from the age of five months, through a period of seventy years, and which kept her always on the verge of the grave. Three times was she poisoned by the experiments tried upon her by medical science, still so uncertain; and her constitution, ruined by drugs as much as by disease, left her, at length, a prey to intolerable sufferings that nothing could alleviate. Her daughter, a spiritist and a medium, besought of God, in her prayers, to lessen her mother’s distressing trials; but her spirit- guide, having advised her to pray only that she might be strengthened to bear them with patience and resignation, dictated the following explanation of the state to which she was reduced:

“In every human existence is an effect; there is no suffering in your present life that is not the echo of sufferings which you have caused to others in the past; every privation you endure is the counterpoise of an excess of which you have been guilty in a former life; every tear you shed is needed to wash away some fault or some crime. Each must therefore bear, with patience and resignation, his sufferings of body or of mind, however severe they may seem to him; remembering the husbandman, who continues his labors, notwithstanding fatigue, sustained by the thought of the ripened grain that will be the reward of his perseverance. Let it be thus with all who suffer in your Earth, and the aspiration after the happiness which is the harvest of patience will give them strength to bear the passing sorrows of human life.

“It is thus with your mother; every pain accepted by her as an expiation effaces a blemish in her past; and the sooner those blemishes are effaced, the sooner will she be happy. The lack of resignation renders suffering sterile, because, in such a case, your trials have to be undergone anew. What she most needs, therefore, is resolution and submission; and what you should ask for her is, that God and her spirit friends may aid her to be brave and patient.

“Your mother was formerly a distinguished physician, who had a large practice among the class which spares no outlay for its comfort or convenience, and he was laden with wealth and honors. Ambitious of renown and of riches, bent on acquiring all that was known to science of his day – not from a desire to alleviate the sufferings of his brethren, for he was no philanthropist, but as a means of increasing his reputation and, consequently, his practice, – he stuck at nothing that could advance his knowledge of disease. The mother was martyred on her couch of suffering, that he might study the convulsions he determined; the infant was subjected to experiments intended to furnish him with the key to certain phenomena; the death of the aged was pitilessly hastened; the strong man was sacrificed that he might ascertain the action of some given drug; and all these experiments were tried on unfortunate patients who submitted to his treatment confiding in his skill. The gratification of greed and pride, the thirst of gold and of fame, such were the mainsprings of his action. It has taken a succession of ages and of terrible trials to conquer this proud and ambitious spirit; but, at last, repentance has begun to exercise its curative influence, and the work of reparation is making progress, for the trials of his present life are nothing in comparison with those he had previously endured. Take comfort, therefore, in the thought that, although the punishment of the spirit, now incarnated as your mother, has been long and severe, the reward of her present patience, resignation, and humility will be great.

“Take courage, all you who suffer! Think how short is the duration of even the longest human life; think of the eternity of happiness to which the brief sorrows of time are leading you; call to your aid Hope, that devoted friend of suffering hearts, and Faith, her sister, who points to the Heavens to which Hope introduces you beforehand! Call also to your aid the noble spirit-helpers given to you by Providence, who are always around you, who love you, who sustain you, and whose constant solicitude is directed to the task of bringing you back to Him from whom you have estranged yourselves by transgressing His laws.”

After her death, Mme. B—— gave, through her daughter, and through other mediums, various communications reflecting high excellence of mind and heart, and fully confirming all that had been stated to her daughter respecting her previous existences.


CHARLES DE SAINT-G——MENTALLY IMPAIRED

(Spiritist Society of Paris, 1860)

Charles de Saint-G—— was a mentally disabled thirteen year old child. His intellectual nullity was such that he did not even know his parents and could hardly take his food. In his case, the development of the bodily organism seemed to have been entirely arrested.

1. (To Saint Louis.) – Q. Will you have the kindness to tell us whether we can evoke the spirit of the idiot-boy of whom we are thinking?

A. You can evoke him as though you were evoking the spirit of one deceased.

2. Your answer would lead us to suppose that we could evoke him at any moment?

A. Yes; his soul is held to his body by physical links, but not by spiritual links; it can therefore disengage itself from the body at any time.

3. (Evocation of Charles de Saint-G——.)
– A. I am an unhappy spirit bound to the Earth, like a bird tied by the leg.


4. In your present place, are you, as a spirit, conscious of your nullity as a human being?

A. Certainly, I clearly feel my captivity.

5. While your body is asleep and your spirit is disengaged from it, are your thoughts as lucid as though you were in a normal state?

A. When my wretched body is asleep, I am somewhat freer to raise my thought towards the Heaven to which I aspire.

6. Does your physical state cause you, as a spirit, any painful feeling?
A. Y es, for it is a punishment.

7. Do you remember your preceding existence?

A. Oh yes, it is the cause of my present exile.

8. What were you in that existence?

A. A young libertine, in the reign of Henri III.

9. You say that your present condition is a punishment; it was then, chosen by you?

A. No.

10. How can your present existence be useful to your advancement in the state of nullity in which you are?

A. My state is not a nullity in the sight of God who imposed it upon me.

11. Do you foresee the end of your present life?

A. No; I only know that sooner or later, I shall return to my native country.

12. What were you doing as a spirit, between your previous incarnation and your present life?

A. It was on account of my frivolity, as a spirit, that I was sentenced by God to my present imprisonment.

13. In your daily life, are you aware of what goes on around you, notwithstanding the imperfection of your organs?

A. I see, I hear; but my body neither understands nor sees anything.

14. Can we do anything that would be of use to you?

A. Nothing.

(To Saint Louis) – Q. Are prayers of the same use to a reincarnated spirit as to a discarnate one?
A. Prayers are always agreeable to God; they could not be of any immediate use to this unhappy spirit in his present state; but they will be taken note of and will be useful to him by and by.

This evocation confirms the statements so often made by our spirit-friends about mentally disabled people. Their mental nullity does not result from any nullity of their spirit, who, apart from his bodily organs, is in possession of all his faculties. A defective organization is only an obstacle to the free manifestation of those faculties; it does not annihilate them. A mentally disabled person is like a strong man bound.


DISSERTATION ON MENTALLY DISABLED PEOPLE DICTATED BY A SPIRIT, AT A MEETING OF THE PARIS SOCIETY

Mentally disabled people are spirits, who are being punished, upon the Earth, for their misuse of splendid faculties, by the imprisonment of their soul in a body whose organs are unable to express their thoughts. This mental and physical dumbness is one of the severest of terrestrial chastisements; nevertheless, it is often chosen by repentant spirits who desire to pay, quickly, the debt of their past. This trial is not useless to the spirit thus incarnated, for he does not remain stationary in his fleshly prison; the vacant eyes see, the depressed brain conceives, although the mentally disabled is unable to express himself either by word or by look. Except that he has the faculty of motion, he is in the state of the cataleptic that sees and hears what is taking place around him, without being able to express himself in regard to it.

When, in nightmare, you try to flee from danger and to cry out for help, while your tongue cleaves to your palate and your feet are riveted to the ground, you feel, for a moment, what the mentally disabled feels always; a paralysis of the body weighing upon the life of the soul.

All infirmities are consequences of moral delinquencies; nothing occurs without a cause; and what you call “the injustice of fate” is the application of the highest justice. Madness, also, is a punishment of the abuse of eminent faculties in a prior life. The madman has two personalities; one that commits all manners of extravagances, and another that is conscious of his action but without the power to direct it. As for the mentally disabled, the isolated and contemplative existence of their soul, though severed from the interests of ordinary life, may be as agitated as the existences that are most fertile in external events; some of them rebel against the torture they have chosen, regret having chosen it, and feel a furious desire to return to another life; a desire which causes them to forget both the resignation with which they should bear their present trial and the remorse they should feel for their past, of which they are conscious; for the mentally disabled know more than you do, and possess, hidden under their physical incapacity, a mental power of which you have no idea. The acts of fury or imbecility to which they are impelled by their body are condemned by their inner being, which is pained and mortified by them. Consequently, to mock at them, to insult them, to maltreat them, as is so often done, increases their suffering, for it makes them feel more bitterly their weakness and abjectness; and, if they could, they would hurl the charge of cowardice against those who only treat them thus because they know them to be unable to defend themselves.

Mental disability is not one of the laws of God, and science will succeed in getting rid of them; for they are the result of ignorance, poverty, and dirt. The progress and generalization of physiological science and the improvement of hygienic conditions will gradually extirpate them. Progress being the inevitable destiny of mankind, the trials imposed on the human race will be modified and will follow the ascensional movement of coming ages, becoming, in time, altogether mental and moral; and, when your Earth – still in its early youth – shall have accomplished the initial phases of its career, it will cease to be a place of expiation, and will become a sojourn of felicity, like the planets that have reached a more advanced stage of development. PIERRE J—— (The Medium’ s Father)

There was a time when men doubted whether the mentally disabled had a soul and whether they belonged to the human race. Is not the spiritist explanation of their state at once eminently moral and instructive? Is there not matter for serious reflection in the thought that these degraded bodies contain souls which have formerly played a brilliant part in the world, which are as lucid and as active as our own, beneath the thick envelope that stifles the manifestation of their faculties, and that the same doom may overtake ourselves, if we make an evil use of the faculties we now possess?

How, on any other hypothesis than that of the plurality of existences, can mental disability be reconciled with the justice and goodness of God? If the soul has not already lived, it must have been created at the same time as the body; but how, in that case, can we justify the creation of souls so cruelly frustrated of their birthright, as are those of the mentally disabled, by a just and benevolent God? For we are not now discussing the results of accident or of illness, such as attacks of insanity, that may be prevented or cured; the beings we are considering are born, and die, in the same state. If they are what they appear to be, having no notion of good or evil, what will be their fate throughout eternity? If they are to be as happy as men of intelligence and who have been laborious and useful, why should they be thus favored with the gift of happiness that they have done nothing to deserve? If they are to be in what theologians call “Limbo” – a mixed state that is neither happiness nor misery – why are they condemned to that eternal inferiority? Is it their fault if God has created them mentally disabled? We defy those who reject the doctrine of reincarnation to escape from this dilemma. With the admission of reincarnation, on the contrary, what seemed to be an injustice is seen to be admirably just, what is otherwise inexplicable is explained in the most simple and rational manner.

But we have never known the opponents of this doctrine to bring against it any other argument than their personal reluctance to come back to the Earth; to which objection we reply that God no more asks our permission for the execution of His laws, than an earthly judge consults the good pleasure of the criminal whom he sends to prison. Each of us would prefer, no doubt, to enter at once into a higher sphere, on quitting this life; but, as nothing evil is admitted into those happier spheres, it is evident that we must have completely cured ourselves of our defects before we can enter them.

It is to be remarked that, in some countries, the mentally disabled, far from being objects of contempt, are treated with the utmost kindness. Is this kindness due to an intuitive sense of the true state of these hapless creatures, as being all the more worthy of pity because their spirit, understanding his position, necessarily suffers excruciatingly at seeing himself regarded as the off scouring of the human race?

However this may be, there are regions in which people consider as a favor, as a benediction from above, the presence of a mentally disabled person in the family. Is this a result of superstition? It may be so, because, among the ignorant, there is often an unconscious mixture of superstition with their best and healthiest ideas. At all events, the presence of a mentally disabled child is always an occasion for the exercise of a charity that is all the more meritorious, because mental disability occurs mostly among the poor, and such a child is a charge for which they have no compensation. There is evidently more generosity in bestowing care and affection on an ill-favored, helpless, and useless child, than on one whose beauty, liveliness, and good qualities repay the care of its parents; and generosity, being one of the virtues most pleasing in the sight of God, necessarily attracts His blessing on those who practice it. The innate sentiment of those who thus cherish a mentally disabled child is the unconscious application of this though: – “We thank Thee, O God! for having given us, as a test of our charity, a helpless and afflicted creature to sustain and to console!”


ADELAIDE-MARGARET GOSSE

She was a poor servant-girl, of very humble birth, in Normandy, near Harfleur. At the age of eleven, she entered the service of a wealthy grazier of her village. A few years afterwards, an inundation of the Seine carried off, and drowned, all her master’s cattle; other misfortunes supervened, and the family were completely ruined. Margaret linked her fate to theirs; and, listening only to the dictates of her generous heart, she insisted on their accepting the whole of her little savings ($ 30), continued to serve them without wages, and, at their death, attached herself in the same way to their daughter, a widow, infirm, and entirely without means. She worked in the fields and brought home her gains to the widow. She married, and, her husband’s wages being added to her own, she still supported and served the unfortunate lady, whom she always called “her mistress.” She kept up this sublime sacrifice for nearly half a century.

The “Emulation Society” of Rouen, desirous of testifying its respect and admiration for this excellent woman, voted her a Medal of Honor and a gift in money; the Masonic Lodge of Havre took part in this testimony of esteem and also offered her a small sum; and, lastly, the local authorities of her village, wishing to spare her the necessity of earning her own bread in her old age, made, with kindness and delicacy, a provision for her simple wants.

A brain stroke carried off, instantaneously and painlessly, this woman, whose whole life had been passed in doing good. The cost of her funeral, simple, but decent, was defrayed by her village, the local official taking the lead in the procession.

Evoked by the Paris Society, on December 27th, 1861, she replied as follows:

A. I am happy to be allowed to come to you.

Q. We have wished to testify to you our admiration of the devotedness of your terrestrial existence, and we hope that your generous abnegation has had its reward.

A. Yes, God has rewarded His servant far beyond her merits. What I did, and that you think praiseworthy, was very natural.

Q. Can you tell us why you were placed in so humble a sphere upon the Earth?

A. I had occupied, in two successive existences, a high position, in which it was easy for me to do good; I gave, without self-sacrifice, because I was rich; but I found that, under these circumstances, I was advancing too slowly. I therefore demanded to come back in a humbler position, in which I should have to struggle, in my own person, with want and privation; and I prepared myself carefully, and through long effort, to bear this new trial. Through the spirit-help vouchsafed to me from God, I was enabled to attain the end I had in view.

Q. Have you met again with your old master and his family? And if so, please tell us what is your position in regard to them, and whether you still consider yourself as being their inferior?

A. I have met them again; they were awaiting me, on my arrival in the spirit-world. I must add, in all humility, that they consider me as being very far above them.

Q. Had you any special motive for attaching yourself to them, rather than to any others?

A. I was under no obligation to do so, for I could have attained my aim as well with any others; but I chose them, in order to pay off a debt of gratitude. They had been kind to me, and had done me a service, in a former life.

Q. What do you foresee in regard to your future?

A. I hope to be reincarnated in a world in which sorrow is unknown. Perhaps you may think this presumptuous on my part; but I leave the matter entirely to the Divine decision.

Q. We thank you for coming at our call, and we have no doubt that God will shower blessings upon you.

A. Thanks. May God’s blessing be with you, also; and may it be given to you all to share, on returning to the spirit-world, the unmixed felicity that I am now enjoying!

CLARA RIVIER

Clara Rivier was a young girl who died at the age of ten. She belonged to a family of day laborers, in a village in the south of France; from the time she was four years old she had been entirely deprived of the use of her limbs. Throughout her life, she never uttered a complaint, never showed the least impatience; although totally uneducated, she consoled her sorrowing family by talking to them of the future life and of the happiness she would enjoy in it. She died in September 1862, after four years of tortures and convulsions, during which she prayed incessantly. “I am not afraid to die,” she frequently repeated, “because a life of happiness is awaiting me afterwards.” To her father, who was weeping, she said: “Be comforted; I shall come to visit you; my hour is near, I feel it; but, when it comes, I shall know it and will warn you of it, beforehand.” Just before she died, she called all her family to her bedside, saying: “I have but five minutes to live; give me your hands.” They did so; and she died at the moment she had indicated.

After her death, a rapping spirit frequently disturbed her parents’ house, upsetting everything, striking heavy blows on the tables, shaking curtains and clothes, displacing cups and platters. The spirit of Clara herself appeared to her younger sister (five years old), who asserted that she frequently came and talked with her, and who often exclaimed, joyfully, “Oh, look at Clara! How pretty she is!”

1. (Evocation of Clara Rivier.) – A. I am beside you, ready to reply to your questions.

2. Whence did you derive, young and uneducated, as you were, the elevated ideas you expressed, in regard to the future life, before your death?

A. From the shortness of the time I had to pass on your globe, and from my preceding incarnation. I had been a medium during that previous life; and I was a medium when I came back among you. My last life was the result of predestination; I felt and I saw all that I stated.

3. How could a child of your age refrain from uttering a single complaint through four years of constant pain?

A. My physical suffering was controlled by a still greater power – that of my Guardian Angel, whom I beheld constantly beside me; he reduced the pains I felt, and he rendered my will superior to my suffering.

4. How did you foresee the moment of your death?

A. My Guardian Angel had told me when it would take place; he was never mistaken.


5. You said to your father: “Be comforted; I shall come to visit you.” Why, having felt so affectionately towards your parents, do you now torment them, by making such a racket in their house?

A. They have to undergo this trial, which it is my mission to direct. Do you suppose there is no end to be gained by these disturbances? The noises, movements, and confusion determined by my presence, are a warning to the entire neighborhood. I am assisted in this work by spirits whose turbulence is employed in view of an aim to be attained, as I also have an aim in appearing to my sister. Thanks to these visitations, many will be convinced of the reality of another life. My parents had to undergo a trial; it will soon be ended, but only after having brought conviction to many minds.

6. It is not you, then, in your own person, who produce these manifestations?

A. I am seconded by other spirits, who serve as the agents of the trial appointed to my dear parents.

7. How could your sister have seen you, if it is not you who produce these manifestations?
A. My sister saw only me. It is not the last time I shall come to console and encourage her.
8. Why were you, being so young, afflicted with so many infirmities?
A. I had to expiate the faults of a former life; I had misused health and a brilliant position in my preceding incarnation. God, therefore, said to me: “You have enjoyed immensely, without stint or measure; you shall suffer on the same scale. You have been proud, you shall be humble; you have been vain of your beauty, you shall be as a broken reed; instead of seeking your own selfish satisfaction, you shall seek to acquire charity and kindness.” I did what was appointed me by the Divine will; and my Guardian Angel aided me.

9. Would you like to say anything to your parents?

A. By the advice of a medium, my parents have done many charitable acts; this is well, for men must pray, not with the lips only, but also with the heart and the hand. To give to those who suffer is the true prayer for Spiritists.

God has given to every soul freewill, that is to say, the faculty of progressing; to all, He has given the same aspiration, for which reason the humble garment of serge is nearer to the robe of cloth- of-gold than is generally supposed. Apply yourselves, then, to drawing your social classes nearer to each other by the exercise of charity; bring the poor to your houses, encourage them, raise them, do not humiliate them. If this great law of Conscience were practiced by the people of your Earth, you would not have to undergo, from time to time, the great cataclysms that are a disgrace to nations calling themselves “civilized,” and that are sent by God to punish them for their blindness and to make them open their eyes.

My dear Parents! Pray, love, practice the love of Christ. Do, to others, only what you would have them do to you; when God sends you a trial, implore His aid in bearing it, as being imposed by His high and holy will. Arm yourselves, as a preparation for the future, with courage and perseverance, for you have still to suffer; and remember that you must earn admission to a happier world before you can enter it. I shall always be with you dear parents. Good bye, or better yet, until later. Cultivate resignation, charity, the love of the neighbor, and you will thus arrive at the abode of felicity. CLARA

“The humble garment of serge is nearer to the robe of cloth-of-gold than is generally supposed” is a charming metaphor referring to the fact that spirits pass, in their successive existences, from a brilliant position to one that is obscure and poverty-stricken, or vice versa, according as they have misused the one, or made, through patience and resignation, a good use of the other. The justice of this providential arrangement is too obvious to call for comment.

Another thought, equally profound, expressed in the foregoing communication, is that which attributes the calamities of nations to their infractions of the law of God, for God punishes nations as He punishes individuals. It is certain that, if nations practiced the law of charity, there would be neither wars nor any other great troubles. The aim of Spiritism is to lead men to the practice of this law; is that the reason why it encounters such violent opposition? Are the words, addressed by the spirit of this young girl to her parents, those of a demon?”


FRANÇOISE VERNHES

She was a daughter of a farmer in the neighborhood of Toulouse, blind from her birth, she died in 1855, at the age of forty-five. Her great pleasure was to teach the Catechism. When the Catechism was modified, she had no problem to teach the new one, as she knew both by heart. One dark winter’s night, when she was returning from a peregrination of several leagues in company with her aunt – the two women having to pass through a forest by paths that were in a frightful state, full of mud, and cut up with dangerous holes and ditches, demanding great precaution to avoid falling in – her aunt wished to lead her by the hand, but she refused, saying: “Do not be uneasy about me; I am in no danger of falling, for I see, just before me, a light that shows me the way. Follow me; it is I who will lead you.” They reached home, thus, without accident, the blind woman leading the one who had her eyesight. She was evoked, in Paris, in 1865.

Q. Will you kindly tell us what was the light that guided you on that dark night, and that was only visible for you?

A. Is it possible that persons, who, like yourselves, are in constant communication with spirits, can need an explication of such a fact? It was my Guardian Angel who guided me.

Q. We suppose that such was the case, but we wished to have your confirmation of our supposition. Were you conscious, at the time that it was your Guardian Angel who was acting as your guide?

A. No, and yet I believed it was a celestial protection. I had so often prayed God to take pity on me! It is so dreadful to be blind! Yes, it is very dreadful; but I admit that it is perfectly just. Those who sin with the eyes must be punished through the eyes; and so with all the faculties of which men make a bad use. Do not imagine that there is any other cause, for the numerous ills that afflict the human race, than the true one, viz., expiation; expiation which is of no avail unless submitted to with resignation, but which may be rendered less painful, if, by prayer, you attract the spiritual influences that protect the inmates of the human penitentiary, and pour hope and consolation into the hearts of the afflicted.

Q. You had devoted yourself to teaching the Catechism to the children of the poor; had you any trouble in acquiring the necessary knowledge for the teaching of the Catechism, which you knew by heart, in spite of your poor sight and the modification it had received?

A. The other senses of the blind are, in general, doubly acute. The observation is not about the least important faculty of their nature. Their memory is like a file cabinet in which are deposited, in an orderly manner and forever, the teaching according to the tendencies and inclinations. Since nothing from the outside has the possibility of perturbing that faculty, results therefore, in its being able to develop in a notable fashion through education.

But such was not my case, for I was totally uneducated. I had learned the Catechism by heart, and I understood it sufficiently to be able to fulfill the mission of devotedness to children which I had accepted, and thus to make reparation for the bad example I had set them in my former existence. Everything may furnish serious study for Spiritists; for this, they have only to look around them, seeking an explanation of the facts of life in their luminous doctrine, which will be much more useful to them than troubling themselves with the pretended philosophies of certain spirits who amuse themselves at the expense of their mediums, putting forth a mass of pompous absurdities that only flatter their vanity, and that explain none of the problems of human life.

Q. We infer, from your language, that you are as advanced, intellectually, as your conduct on Earth showed you to be morally.

A. I have still much to acquire; but there are many, upon the Earth, which pass for being ignorant, because their intelligence is veiled by the atonement; at death, that veil falls away, and those who passed for ignorant are then seen to be farther advanced in knowledge than those who despised them. Believe-me, pride is the touchstone that decides the quality of men. Those whose heart is accessible to flatteries, which are too confident of their own knowledge, are on the wrong road; they are not sincerely devoted to the search after truth. (Remember the words of Christ: “He that humbles himself shall be exalted.”) Be humble like the Christ, and like Him, carry your cross with love in order to gain access to the Kingdom of Heaven FRANÇOISE VERNHES


ANNA BITTER

To lose a beloved child is always a keen and grievous sorrow; but to see an only child – gifted with the finest and most promising qualities and the sole object of one’s affection – pining away, without pain, from no ascertainable cause; to have exhausted all the resources of the medical art, only to acquire the certainty that the strange wasting away of this idolized child must necessarily have a fatal issue; and to endure this anguish every day for many years, without the possibility of hope, - it is a terrible torture, and one that must necessarily be rendered all the more painful by the possession of wealth, from which the object of an idolizing, but torturing, affection can derive neither profit nor pleasure.

Such was the situation of Anna Bitter’s father. A gloomy despair took possession of his mind, and his temper became everyday more irritable from the contemplation of the distressing spectacle which could only terminate fatally, though after a lapse of time it was impossible to calculate beforehand.

A friend of the family, a spiritist, questioned his spirit-guide on the subject of this affliction and received the following reply:

“I will gladly explain the strange phenomenon that you have before your eyes, as I know that your request is not prompted by an indiscreet curiosity, but rather due to your interest in this poor little girl, and because, in lieu of your belief in divine justice, it will be a valuable teaching for you. Those who are smitten by the Divine Hand should bow to the infliction instead of rebelling against it; for no one is ever smitten without cause. The poor child, the execution of whose death-warrant has been delayed a while by the Almighty, will soon return to us, which will be a great blessing for her; and her unhappy father will have to bear the punishment he had brought upon himself, being smitten in the sole affection of his life, for having trifled with the affection and confidence of those around him. His repentance has reached the Almighty, for a moment, and death has suspended the thrust of the sword over that dear head; however, he has returned to the revolt and we all know that the punishment always follows. Pray for this poor child, whose youth will render the operation of disengagement more difficult; There is such an abundance of the sap of youth in this poor soul, that in spite of the weakness, that she is feeling, her spirit will find it difficult to detach itself. Oh! pray for her, and she will aid and console you in return, for her spirit is more advanced than are those among whom she is incarnated. It is through a special permission that I am enabled to reply to your inquiry, in order that your prayers may assist her in freeing herself from her body.”

The father died after having undergone the pain of the emptiness and isolation caused by his daughter’s death. We subjoin the first communication received from them both.

Anna B. Thanks, my friend, for the interest you took in the poor child who was so soon to vanish from the Earth, and for your prayers, which enabled me to escape more rapidly form my earthly envelope. My father, alas! did not pray for me; he cursed the decree that called me away. I cannot be angry with him for this; it was the result of his intense affection for me. I pray to God to grant him enlightenment before he dies; I try to excite his hope; my mission is to soften the pain of his last moments upon the Earth. At times, a ray of divine light seems to enter his mind; but it is only a passing flash, and he falls speedily back into his rebellious gloom. There is in him, as yet, only a germ of faith; and this germ is stifled under worldly interests, which must be cleared away by yet more painful trials, before it can grow and fructify. As for me, I had only a small complement of expiation still to undergo; my short life was therefore neither very painful nor very hard to bear. My strange illness caused me no suffering; I was rather an instrument of suffering for my father, who suffered much more at seeing me in such a state than I did myself; besides, I was resigned, but he was not. I am rewarded for this resignation by the happiness I now enjoy in the midst of the wise and loving spirits among whom I am, and whose occupations I am rejoiced to share, for inactivity would be a torture for the denizens of the spirit-world.

(The father; a month after his death):

Q. Our objective in evoking you is due to our interest in your situation in the spiritual world, in order to be useful to you, if that is possible.

A. You ask me, “What is my position in the world of spirits?” The world of spirits! I see no spirits. I only see men whom I formerly knew, none of whom think of me or regret my absence; on the contrary, they seem glad to be rid of me.

Q. Are you aware of your situation?

A. Perfectly. For some time, I thought I was still in your world; but, now, I am quite aware that I have quitted it.

Q. How is it, then, that you do not see any spirits around you?

A. I don’t know; for it is quite light were I am.

Q. Have you seen your daughter?

A. No, she is dead; I seek her, I call her, but in vain. In what horrible void her death plunged me upon the Earth! In dying, I said to myself that I should, no doubt, find her again; but I see nothing of her. I am always in utter solitude; there is no one to speak to me a word of consolation or hope. Adieu. I am going to look for my child.

The Medium’s Guide. This man was neither an atheist nor a materialist; he was one of those who believe, vaguely, in God and in a future life, but without troubling themselves concerning either, being entirely absorbed by earthly things. Utterly selfish, though he would have sacrificed all he possessed for his child, he constantly sacrificed, without scruple, the interests of all around him to his own profit. With the exception of his daughter, there was no one for whom he had a particle of kindness. God has punished him for this selfishness, as you know; He took from him the object of his sole affection upon the Earth, and, as he has not repented of his selfishness, he is deprived of the sight of her in the spirit-world. He took no interest in any one else upon the Earth; here, no one takes any interest in him; he is alone, abandoned by all; such is his punishment. His daughter is near him, but he does not see her; if he did, he would not be punished. What does he do? Does he apply to God for help? Does he repent? No, he still murmurs and blasphemes; he does, in fact, just what he did upon the Earth. Aid him, by your prayers and your advice, to emerge from this blindness.


JOSEPH MAÎTRE

Joseph Maître possessed a small income that lifted him out of reach of want. His parents had given him a good education with a view to placing him in some manufacturing concern; but, in his twentieth year, he became blind. Twenty years afterwards, and ten years before his death – for he lived to the age of fifty – a second infirmity overtook him, for he became completely deaf, so that he could only communicate with the world around him through he sense of touch. No longer to see was, in itself, very painful; but no longer to be able to hear was, indeed, a terrible suffering for one who, having had the full use of his faculties, would naturally feel, all the more keenly, the pain of this double privation. How could he have incurred so sad a fate? Nothing in his last existence could have brought it upon him, for his conduct had always been exemplary; he was a good son, he was sweet- tempered and benevolent by nature, and when, after having been so long reduced to blindness, he found himself also deprived of hearing, he accepted that new trial with resignation, and was never heard to murmur or complain. His words always denoted perfect clearness of mind and a degree of intelligence above the average.

One who had known him, thinking that an explanation of his fate could hardly fail to convey a useful lesson, evoked him after his death, and received the following communication:

(Paris, 1863)

“I thank you, my Friends, for having remembered me; and I come to you with pleasure, happy to be able to increase your knowledge of the connection which exists between successive lives, and to add my example to the proofs of the justice of God, which have already been furnished by so many other spirits.

“You knew me blind and deaf; and you have wondered what I had done to deserve such a fate; I will tell you. You must know, to begin with, that it was the second time I had been deprived of sight. In my preceding existence, which took place at the beginning of the last century, I became blind in consequence of excesses of every kind that had ruined my health and weakened my organs. This was a commencement of punishment for having misused the gifts I had received from Providence, for I was richly endowed; but, instead of confessing that I had been the cause of my infirmity, I accused Providence of injustice, though I only half believed in its existence. I raved against God, I disowned Him, I accused Him, exclaiming that, if He really existed, He must be unjust and wicked, since He allowed His creatures to suffer. I ought rather to have been thankful that I was not obliged, like so many of the blind, to beg my bread! But, instead of that, I thought only of myself and of the pleasures of which I was thus deprived. Under the action of these ideas and with my lack of faith, I became harsh, irritable, exacting, and unbearable for all about me. Life had now no aim for me; I thought nothing of the future, which I looked upon as a chimera. Having exhausted all the resources of science, and finding that a cure was impossible, I determined to cut short my misery, and I killed myself.

“On awakening in the other life, I found myself plunged, alas! in the same darkness as upon the Earth. I was not long in learning that I had quitted the world of men, but, though in the spirit-life, I was still blind. The life beyond the grave was, then, a reality! In vain did I try to rid myself of it, and to take refuge in annihilation! I could find no means of self-destruction; all my efforts struck against vacancy. If this other life was to be eternal, as I had heard it said, I should have, then, to remain forever in this situation? The thought was frightful. I suffered no physical pain; but to tell you the torments and the anguish of my mind would be impossible! How long did this agony last? I know not; but how fearfully long it seemed to me!

“Exhausted, harassed, worn out, a change at length came over my mind. I felt that I was weighed upon by some power superior to my own; I said to myself that, since this power could hold me down, it could also raise me up, and I implore its pity. As I prayed, and as the fervor of my appeal increased, something seemed to tell me that my dreadful position would come to an end. Light was at length restored to me; and great, indeed, was my delight when I began to see the celestial splendors and to distinguish the spirits who surrounded me smiling kindly, and those who were floating, radiant, through space. I would have followed them, but I was held back by an invisible force. One of the spirits near me then addressed me, saying: “God, whom you had forgotten, has taken note of your return to Him and has permitted us to restore your sight; but you have yielded only to constraint and to lassitude. If you would share in the happiness which we here enjoy, you must prove the sincerity of you repentance and of your good feelings, by commencing again your earthly trial, under conditions which will expose you to the danger of again falling into the same faults; for this new trial will be still harder to bear than the last.” I accepted eagerly, fully determined not to fail again.

“I therefore came back to Earth, in the incarnation which you know of. It was not difficult for me to be good, for I was not naturally bad. I had rebelled against God, and God had punished me; but I had come back, this time, with an innate faith in Him; and I therefore did not again murmur against Him, but bore my double infirmity with resignation, as an expiation that must have had its source in the Sovereign Justice. The isolation in which I found myself during the last years of my life failed to throw me into despair, because I believed in the future and in the mercy of God; on the contrary, it was highly beneficial to me, for, during that long night of silence, my soul, freed from the preoccupations of Earth, sprang forth towards the Eternal and obtained a fore glimpse of infinity. When my exile came to an end, the spirit-world offered me only splendors unspeakable and ineffable joys.

“In comparison with my past, my present situation seems to me to be one of unmixed felicity; but, when I look ahead, I see how far I still am from perfect happiness. I have expiated; but I have still to make reparation. My last existence was only profitable to myself; I hope soon to begin a new one in which I shall be useful to others and thus make up for my former uselessness. Then, and only then, shall I advance on the road to the perfect blessedness that awaits each spirit as the reward of his own persistent effort.

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