The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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Under this title, Mr. H. Lugner published in the feuilleton of the Jornal th des Débats, on November 26 , 1858 a witty and fantastic story, of Hoffmann’s style, that at first glance seems to have some analogy with our agénères and the phenomena of tangibility, which we have just discussed. The length of the story does not allow us to reproduce it completely. We will limit ourselves to its analysis, pointing out the fact that the author reported it as a fact, that he had witnessed and attached to the hero of the adventure by what is perceive to be bonds of friendship.

That hero, named Hermann, used to live in a small town in Germany. “He was”, says the narrator, a handsome 25 years old man, of strong build, full of nobility in all his movements, gracious and witty in his language. He was very educated, not pedantic; very fine and without malice; very conscious of his dignity and without the least arrogance. Hence he was perfect in everything and even more perfect still in three things: his love for philosophy; his particular inclination for waltz and his kindness of character. That kindness was neither a weakness nor a fear of others, or an exaggerated mistrust of oneself. It was a natural inclination, a super abundance of that essence of human kindness that we generally find only in the poet’s fiction. Hermann was endowed with a singular dose.

He contained and, at the same time, animated his adversaries with such goodness of heart that it raised itself to the omnipotent and above the offences. One could harm but not enrage him. One day his barber was trimming his hair when he snipped off the tip of his ear. Hermann was quick to excuse him, taking the blame, assuring him that he had moved awkwardly. That actually was not the case since I was present and clearly noticed that the incident was, in fact, the barber’ error. He gave many other proofs of the unperturbed goodness of his soul. He listened to the reading of bad poems bearing an angelical air and responded to the silliest epigrams with nice praises, when the worst spirits had used their malevo- lence against him. Such a singular kindness turned him into a celebrity. There was no woman who would not give her life to watch Hermann’s character, uninterrupted, trying to make him lose his patience, at least once in his life.”

“Add to all that capability the advantage of a complete financial inde- pendence sufficient to place him among the richest men in town. It would be difficult for you to imagine that Hermann would miss anything in his life that would leave him without complete happiness.”

“Unfortunately, however, he was not happy and constantly looked sad and depressed... This was due to a singular illness that afflicted him all his life and since long ago was provoking the curiosity of the whole little town.”

“Hermann could not stay awake for a moment after sunset. When the day neared its end, he was taken by an invincible languidness, slowly falling onto a uncontrollable lethargy that nobody could rescue him. He would go to bed with the sun and wake up at dawn. His early bird habits would have turned him into an excellent hunter if he were able to over- come his horror for blood and withstand the idea of inflicting a cruel death to innocent creatures.”

“Here are the terms with which he describes his situation, over a mo- ment of relief, with his friend of the Journal des Débats:”

“You know my dear friend the illness that I am subjected to and the invincible sleepiness that regularly oppresses me, from sunset to dawn. You know what everyone knows about it and as everybody else you heard that such a sleep is almost confused with death. Nothing closer to the truth and with such a prodigy I would not bother, I swear, if nature would be content by taking my body by an object of its fantasies. But my soul is also one of its toys. I cannot tell you without horror the bizarre and cruel fate inflicted on my soul. Each one of those nights is fulfilled by a dream and that dream is connected with the most fatal clarity to the dream of the previous night. Those dreams, God wished they were dreams, follow up and interconnect like the events of a common existence that develops under sunlight and in the company of other men. Hence, I live twice and lead two different existences. One happens here, with you and our friends; the other, far away from here, with men that I know so well as I know you, with whom I speak as I speak with you, and who call me crazy, as you do, when I refer to another existence, beyond the one I live with them.”

“However, am I not here, living and talking, sitting by your side and well awake, as it seems to me, and whoever would pretend that we are dreaming, or that we are shadows, wouldn’t in all fairness go by a senseless person? Then! My dear friend, each of those moments, each action that fulfills the hours of my inevitable sleep is not less real. When I find myself entirely in that other existence it is this one here that I would be tempted to consider a dream.”

“Nevertheless, I don’t dream more here than I live there. I live al- ternatively on both sides and I could not doubt it, although my reason becomes strangely shocked for my soul successively animates two bodies thus living two lives. Ah! My dear friend, I wish God had allowed me the same instincts and the same behavior in both lives and that I was the same man that you know and appreciate here. But it is not like that and people would not dare to dispute the influence of the physical over the moral if my story were known. I don’t wish to brag about it; as a matter of fact, pride that might inspire one of my existences is strongly abated by the inseparable shame of the other. However, I can say without any vanity that I am fairly loved and respected by everyone here; people praise my manners and condition; they say that I have a noble, liberal and distinct looks. As you know, I love literature, philosophy, arts, free- dom, everything that gives life its enchantment and dignity. I help the unfortunate ones and envy nobody. You know that my kindness became proverbial as my spirit of justice and my insuperable horror of violence. All these qualities that elevate and embellish me here I expiate there by the opposite vices.”

“Nature that has blessed me so much here curses me there. It has not only outcast me into an inferior condition, in which I am obliged to remain, illiterate and without culture, but also gave to that other body of mine such rough or perverse organs; such strong or blind feelings; certain inclinations and needs obeyed by my soul rather than commanded by it, thus allowing me to be dragged by that despotic body, under the most vile orders. I am tough and coward there; while I persecute the weak I am ser- vile to the powerful; unmerciful and envious; naturally unfair and violent to the point of rage. Nonetheless, it is me and however much I hate and despise myself, I cannot help it but to recognize me.”

“Hermann stopped for a moment. His voice was trembled and his eyes wet. I smiled gently and told him: “I want to mitigate your madness, so that you can be cured. Tell me everything. For starters, where does that other existence take place, and what is your name there?”

“My name is William Parker, he said. I am a citizen of Melbourne, Australia. There is where my soul flies to, in the antipodes, after leav- ing you here. At sunset here my soul leaves the unanimated Hermann behind, then giving life to Parker on the other side, at dawn. It is when my miserable life of vagabond, of fraud, of quarrels and begging begins. I belong to a bad society in which I count among the scum. I am constantly fighting my companions and frequently hold a knife in my hand. I am always at war with the police and at times I am forced to hide. However, everything comes to an end in this world and this suffering is about to finish. I have fortunately committed a crime. I have cowardly murdered a poor creature that was associated with me. Thus, I led public opinion to indignation, already excited by my perverse attitudes. The grand jury has condemned me to the death penalty thus I wait for my execution. Some merciful and religious persons have intervened with the Governor, in my name, in order to obtain the grace or a conditional, which would give me time to convert; however, my intractable and gross nature is well known.

The request was denied and tomorrow, or better still, tonight, I will be infallibly led to the gallows.”

“Well then, I said smiling. It is so much the better for you and us. The death of that rascal is a good way out. Once Parker is thrown away into eternity Hermann will live in peace; he will be able to wake, as everybody else, and stay with us day and night. That death will cure you my dear friend, and I am thankful to the Governor of Melbourne for having re- fused to grant a pardon to that scoundrel.”

“You are mistaken, said Hermann, with a graveness of voice that made me feel sorry for him: we will die together, the two of us, because we are not but one. Despite our diversity and antipathy we have only one soul that will be wounded by the same blow; in all things we respond for each other. Do you believe that Parker would still be alive if Hermann had not felt that both are inseparable, in life and death? Would I have hesitated for a moment had I been able to cast that other existence into the fire, like the damned eye that the Scriptures talk about? I was so happy to live here that I could not decide to die there; and my indecision lasted until fate decided such a terrible question. Now, everything is over. Believe me that this is a farewell.”

“On the very next day Hermann was found dead in his bed. A few months later the newspapers in Australia brought the news of the execution of William Parker, with all the circumstances described by his double.”

This entire story is told with an unperturbed cold blood and in a seri- ous tone. There is nothing missing in the details that were omitted to give it a character of truth. In the presence of the strange phenomena that we have witnessed, a fact of such a nature could seem real, at least possible and, up to a certain degree, connected to those that we have mentioned. Wouldn’t it be perhaps analogous to the youngster who was asleep in Boulogne while, at the same time, was talking to his friends in London? And to the case of Saint Anthony of Padua, praying in Spain on the same day that he showed up in Padua to save his father, then accused of murder?

At first sight one can say that these latest facts are exact. It is not im- possible either that this Hermann would live in Australia while sleeping in Germany, and vice versa. Although our opinion is perfectly established with that respect, it is our duty to report it to our instructors from beyond the grave, in one of the sessions of the Society.

To the question: “Is it true the fact that was reported by the Jornal des Débats?

They answered: “No; it is a story specially written to entertain the readers”.

Then they were asked: If it is not true, is it possible?
They answered: “No. one soul cannot animate two bodies.”
In fact, in the story of Boulogne, although the young man was seen

simultaneously in two places, there was one body only of flesh and blood, which was in Boulogne. In London there was only the appearance or the perispirit, tangible is true, but not the actual body, the mortal body. He could not die in London and in Boulogne. According to the story, on the contrary, Hermann would in reality have two bodies, since one would have been hanged in Melbourne and the other buried in Germany. The same soul would have then simultaneously animated two existences that according to the spirits, is not possible.

The kind of phenomena of Boulogne and Saint Anthony of Padua, although very frequent, are as a matter of fact very serendipitous and acci- dental in one individual and it never has the characteristic of permanence, whereas the supposed Mr. Hermann was like that since his infancy. But the most serious reason is the difference of characters. If those individuals had one and the same soul, which could not certainly be alternatively that of a righteous man and a scoundrel. It is certain that the author founds his story on the influence of the organisms. We regret the fact that it is his philosophy, and even more so that he tries to endorse it, since that would be the same as denying one’s responsibilities for one’s actions. Similar doc- trine would be the denial of the whole moral, since it would reduce the human being to the condition of a machine.

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