Allan Kardec

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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.


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.

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