Letter to Sura
(Book VII – Letter 27)
“Our break allows you to teach, while I learn. I wish I knew if the
ghosts do have something of real; if they have a real expression;
if they are genies or no more than vain images created by imaginations
disturbed by fear. What leads me to believe that there really are true shad-
ows is what I was told that happened to Curtius Rufus. When he did not
have a name or fortune yet he followed the governor to Africa. One eve-
ning Rufus was strolling under a porch when a lady of impressive beauty
and elegance presented herself to him and said: “I am Africa. I come to
predict what is going to happen to you. You will go to Rome; you will
be in charge of the highest positions; then you will return to govern this
province, where you will die.”
“It all happened as she had predicted. Some even say that the same figure
showed up to him when he left the ship upon arrival at the port of Cartago.”
“The truth is that he was taken ill and by judging the future from the
good things of the past, and by the misfortune that threatened the good
luck he had enjoyed, he soon lost any hope of cure, despite the opinion of
his closest ones.”
“Here you have another story, not less remarkable and much more
terrible. I will tell you the way I heard it.”
“There was a very large and comfortable house in Athens which was
condemned and deserted. In the deepest quietness of the night, noises of
chains and shackles were heard - in the beginning it seemed to have come
from far away but the noises got gradually closer. Soon the shadow of a
somewhat very skinny old man showed up, pale, bearing a long beard, di-
sheveled hair, chains in his feet and wrists, which he would violently shake.
All that explained the horrible and sleepless nights of the people who lived
in the house. The prolonged insomnia brought the disease, and the disease,
multiplying the horror, was followed by death; during the day, although the
shadow would not appear, the impression it had left would always revive in
people’s minds, and the fear it had caused generated new fear.”
“The house was finally abandoned, left to the ghost. It was an-
nounced on the market for sale or rent, in the hopes that someone not
well informed about the terrible nuisance could be deceived.”
“Athenodorus, the philosopher, came to Athens. He reads the ad for
the house and wishes to know the price. The low numbers make him
suspicious. He searches for clues. He learned about the story and, far from
breaking the deal, he rushed to cut it. He then moves in; comes the af-
ternoon and he asks to have his bed moved to the front bedroom; he also
wishes to have planchettes, pen and light brought in, and that the remain-
ing persons be dislodged to the back of the house.”
“Fearing that his imagination could be taken over by a cold horror, to
the point of imagining ghosts, he delivers his mind, his eyes and hands to
writing. In the beginning, as evening breaks, a profound quietness falls
around the house. All is then broken by the noise of chains and shackles.
He does not raise his eyes nor stop writing; he calms down and tries to
listen. The noise increases, comes closer and gives the impression that it
is at the door. He then looks and sees the shadow, as it was described to
him. The ghost was standing, calling him with his finger. He then wastes
no time, stands up, takes the lamp and follows the ghost that walks with
difficulty, as if pressed by the weight of the chains. Arriving at the internal
courtyard, the ghost suddenly disappears, leaving behind our philosopher
who then picks leafs and herbs, using them to identify the place where the ghost disappeared. On the very next day he sought the courts, requesting
authorization to excavate the place. Once it was done they found bones
still attached to chains. Time had eaten the flesh. All remains were care-
fully gathered, and a proper public burial carried out; since the last eulo-
gies and tributes were duly paid to the deceased, he never showed up again
or perturbed the peace of the house.”
“What I have just told you I did so by repeating the word passed on
to me by someone else. Here, however, is what I can attest to others from
my own faith:”
“I have a freed slave by the name of Marcus, who is not an ignorant
man. He was lying in bed with his younger brother when he thought to
have seen someone else sitting on his bed, and who had swung a pair of
scissors by his head, to the point of cutting his hair over his forehead. In
the morning he noticed that he had his hair cut at the top of his head and
the hair was spread on the floor around him. Soon after, a similar thing
happened to one of my relatives who gave me no doubts about the previ-
ous event. One of my young slaves was asleep with his mates, in the rooms
that were destined to them. According to their story, two men dressed in
white came to the room through the window, cut his hair thin on top,
while asleep, and left the same way they had entered. He was found bald
head the day after, like the other one, and his hair spread on the floor.”
“Such adventures had no consequences other than having me accused
before Domitian, in whose Empire these things took place. Had he out-
lived me and I would not have escaped since there was a complaint against
me that was found in his briefcase, filed by Carus. From this, one may
conjecture that since the habit of the accused was to allow their hair to
grow freely out of negligence, those who had cut the hair of my people
assured that I was in no danger. I beg you to give all the attention to this
subject. It deserves profound meditation and perhaps I am not unworthy
of sharing your clarifications. If, as it is in your traditions, you balance
the two contrary opinions, make the scale swing in one direction so that
I can be spared from such a discomfort. I consult with you about nothing
else but this – Farewell.”
Answers given by Pliny to questions addressed to him at the Society, on
January 28th, 1859
- Speak that I will respond.
2. Although you have been dead for about 1743 years, do you still
keep memories of your life in Rome during Trajan’s time?
- Why then we, the spirits, would not remember? You have memories of several years of your infancy. What is a previous existence
to the spirit other than the infancy of existences, which we have
to go through before reaching the end of the trials? Every worldly
existence or existence wrapped by the material veil, is a step to-
wards the ether, and at the same time a material and spiritual
infancy: spiritual because the spirit is still in the beginning of the
trials; material because the spirit has just got to the more dense
phases, through which they must learn and depurate.
3. Could you tell us what you have been doing since that time?
- It would take long to tell you what I have done. I tried to
be good. No doubt you wouldn’t like to spend hours and
hours until I told you everything. Then be satisfied with
an answer. I repeat: I tried to do the good deeds, learn
and lead the Earthly beings to approach the Creator of all
things, the One who gives us the spiritual as well as the
4. In which world do you live now?
- Never mind. I spend some time everywhere. Space is my do-
main and of many others too. These are questions that a wise
spirit, enlightened by the saint and Divine ray, should not
respond, unless on very rare occasions.
5. In a letter that you wrote to Sura you reported three cases of ap-
paritions. Do you remember them?
- I confirm them because they were true. You daily have similar facts to which you don’t pay attention. Those are very
simple, but at that time, they were considered remarkable.
This should not surprise you. Leave these things behind since
you have others much more extraordinary.
6. However, we would like to ask you a few questions with regard
- I will give you generic answers and that will be enough for
you. Nonetheless, ask if you will. I will give you terse answers.
7. In the first case a lady appears to Curtius Rufus, and tells him
that she is Africa. But who was that lady?
- A great figure. It seems to me that she is too simple to the
enlightened people of the XIX century.
8. What was the reason behind the appearance of Athenodorus’
spirit, and why those shackles’ noises?
- Symbol of slavery; manifestation; means of convincing people
and to draw their attention, making them talk about it and
demonstrate the existence of the spiritual world.
9. You defended the cause of the persecuted Christians before Trajan.
Were you driven by a simple duty of humanity or by conviction,
regarding the truthfulness of that Doctrine?
- Both but humanity came second.
10.. What do you think about your panegyric of Trajan?
- It should be redone.
11. You wrote about the history of your time, writings which have
been lost. Could you repair that loss by dictating it to us?
- The spiritual world does not manifest for these things in
particular. You have these forms of manifestations but they
have their objectives. There are multiple guidelines, laid
down on the left and on the right hand side of the great
path of truth. But leave it behind; do not dedicate your time
or studies to that. It is up to us to see and judge what is
important to you to learn. There is a time for everything.
Thus, do not move away from the guidelines that we have
delineated to you.
12. We are pleased to be worthy of your elevation and above all, your
altruism. They say that you charged nothing to the clients who
were defended by you. Was such altruism as rare in Rome as it is
- Don’t praise my past qualities. I give no importance to them.
The altruism is almost non-existent in your century. In every
two hundred people you will find only one or two true al-
truist. You know very well that this is the century of money
and selfishness. Presently, people are made of mud, coated
by metal. Formerly, there was feeling, the stuff of antiquity;
today, there is only the social position.
13. Although not defending our century, it does seem that it is more
valuable than yours, when corruption was in its apex and accusa-
tions had no sacred grounds.
- I give you an accurate depiction. I know that there wasn’t
much altruism over that time; however there was something
that you don’t have or have in small dose – the love of beauty,
of noble, of greatness. I speak about everybody. Today’s in-
dividual, particularly those of the west, and even more par-
ticularly the French, have their hearts ready to achieve great
things but that is only a transient spark. Soon there comes
reflection and reflection leads to second thoughts, saying: the
positive, the positive before anything else. Then selfishness
and money take the lead again. We manifest ourselves exactly
because you have moved away from the principles given by
Jesus. So long. You will not understand.
OBSERVATION: We understand very well that our cen-
tury falls short of what is expected. Its ulcer is selfishness
and selfishness engenders greed and the mindless search for
opulence. From that point of view we are far from the altru-
ism that the Roman people gave us so many sublime examples, during a certain period, but which was not that of Pliny.
However, it would be unfair not to recognize its superiority
in more than one point, even over the most beautiful times
of Rome that also had its time of barbarism. Then, there was
ferocity even in greatness and altruism, while our century
is going to be marked by the soothing of the traditions and
by the feelings of justice and humanity, which presides over
all institutions since birth and even over the disputes among