64. The disappearance of the body of Jesus after his death has been the subject of many controversies. It has been attested by the four evangelists, upon the evidence of the women who presented themselves at the sepulcher the third day, and did not find him there. Some have seen in this disappearance a miraculous occurrence; while others have supposed a clandestine removal to have taken place.
According to another opinion, Jesus could not ever have been invested with a common carnal body, but only with a fluidic one; that he could have been during his whole life only partly tangible, — in a word, a sort of agénère. His birth, judged from his stand-point, his death, and all the acts of his life must have been only appearances. Thus they say his body returned to the fluidic state, and was able to disappear from the sepulcher; and with this same body he appeared to friends after death.
Without doubt, a similar fact is not radically impossible, after that which one knows today of the properties of fluids; but it would be at least entirely exceptional, and in formidable opposition to the usual character of the agénères (chap. XIV, n° 36). The question then is, if such a hypothesis is admissible, if it is confirmed or contradicted by facts.
65. There are two periods in the sojourn of Jesus upon the Earth, — that which preceded, and that which followed his death. In the first, from the moment of conception until birth, all things occur, with respect to his mother, as in ordinary conditions of life.* From his birth until death, in all his acts, languages, and the diverse circumstances of his life, there are presented unmistakable evidences of corporeity. The phenomena of the psychic order which were produced through him were only occasional, and were not anomalous, since they are explained by the properties of the perispirit, and are developed in different degrees of power in other individuals. After his death, to the contrary, he is revealed to us as a fluidic being. The difference between the two states is so distinctly defined, that it is not possible to assimilate them.
Properly speaking, the carnal body has the inherent properties of matter, which differ essentially from those of the ethereal fluids. Disintegration is brought about by rupture of molecular cohesion. A sharp instrument by cutting into the material body divides its tissues. If the essential organs of life are attacked, the exercise of the functions is arrested, and death ensues; that is to say, the death of the body. This cohesion, existing not in the fluidic body, life reposes not on the play of special organs, and cannot be affected by analogous disorders. A sharp instrument, or any other, penetrates it, as it would vapor, without occasioning any harm. This is the reason why this kind of body can never die, and why fluidic beings, designated by the name of agénères, can never be killed.
After the crucifixion of Jesus, his body remained inert and without life. It was buried like an ordinary corpse; and all could see him and touch him. After his resurrection, when he desires to quit the Earth, he does not die. He is raised, he vanished, disappeared, without leaving any trace behind, — an evident proof that this body was of another nature than that which perished upon the cross; whence it is necessary to conclude, that, if Jesus died, he had a carnal body.
In consequence of its material properties, the carnal body is the seat of the sensations and physical pains which are echoed in the sensitive center, or spirit. It is not the body which suffers: it is the spirit which receives the rebound of the injury or wounds to the organic tissues. A body deprived of spirit sensation feels absolutely no sensation; while the spirit, which has no material body, cannot experience sufferings which are the result of injury to matter; whence it is necessary to conclude, that if Jesus suffered materially, as one cannot doubt, it was because he had a material body in nature similar to our own.
* We do not speak here of the mystery of the incarnation, which will subsequently be examined.
66. To the material facts many powerful moral considerations must be added.
If Jesus had been, during his life, in the condition of fluidic being, he would have experienced neither pain nor any of the necessities of the material body. To suppose him to have been thus is to take away from him all the merit of a life of suffering and privation, which he chose as an example of resignation. If all this in him was only appearance, all the acts of his life — the reiterated announcement of his death, the sad scene in the garden of Gethsemane, his prayer to God to let, if possible, the cup pass from his lips, his passion, his agony, all, even to his last sigh at the moment of rendering up the spirit — would only be a vain show, a mockery of nature, making an illusory sacrifice of his life appear real. Such would be a comedy unworthy of a simple, honest man, and one much more unworthy of so superior a being; in short, it would have been the abuse of the good faith of his contemporaries and of posterity. Such are the logical sequences of this system of belief, sequences which are not admissible; for it lowers it morally instead of elevating it.
Jesus must then have had, like everybody else, a carnal and a spiritual body, which the material and physic phenomena of his life attest.
67. This idea upon the nature of the body of Jesus is not new. In the fourth century Apollinarius of Laodicea, chief of the sect of the Apollinarists, assumed that Jesus had not taken a body like ours, but one incapable of harm or pain, which had descended from heaven on the breast of the Virgin Saint, and was not born of her, that thus Jesus had been born, had suffered, and was dead only in appearance. The Apollinarists were anathematized at the Council of Alexandria in 360, in that of Rome in 374, and in that of Constantinople in 381.
The Docetists, (from the Greek dokein, to appear), a numerous sect among the Gnostics, had the same belief; this cult subsisted during the first three centuries A.D.