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:
“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.