The Spiritist Review - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1861

Allan Kardec

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People who speak about themselves in the third person

The following fact was reported in the periodical Le Siécle, on July 4th, 1861 according to the Havre newspaper:

“A male victim of an incredible mental anomaly has just passed away at the hospice. He was a soldier by the name of Pierre Valin who was wounded in the head during the battle of Solferino. His injury was completely healed but since the event he considered himself dead. When asked about his health he used to say: ‘You want to know how Pierre Valin is doing? Poor man! He died from a bullet injury in the head in Solferino. What you see here is not Valin, it is a machine that resembles him but a not very good copy. You should ask to have it done again and better.’ Every time he spoke of himself he would say him instead of me. He frequently fell prostrated, completely motionless and insensitive and that could last days. He was then treated with mustard filled gauze and blistering agents that never had any painful reaction. He often had his arms and legs pinched but he never manifested any pain. To make sure that he was not pretending the doctor used to poke him on the back while talking to him; he felt nothing. On several occasions he refused to eat saying that it was unnecessary, that he had no bowels, etc.”

However this is not the only case of that kind. Another soldier that was also injured in the head spoke in the third person and using the feminine form. He used to say: ‘Ah! She suffers a lot! She is very thirsty! etc.’ In the beginning he was led to see the mistakes which he acknowledged with surprise but later he would go back and repeat it so much so that towards the end of his life he only spoke in that manner.”

“In the same way and after a head injury a Zouave that was perfectly cured lost his memory of nouns. A Drill sergeant who knew very well the names of the soldiers in his battalion but since the event he used to call them as: The large brown haired, the little carrot, etc. He began using periphrases to command the troops just to designate the musket, the sword, etc. They had to send him home.”

“The final years of the renowned doctor Baudelocque also offered an example of similar lesion but less characteristic, though. He remembered well what he had done during his healthy life. He recognized those who came to visit him by their voices since he had become blind, but he had no awareness of his current situation. For example, when asked: ‘How is your head?’ he would respond: ‘I have no head.’ If asked to extend his arm to have his pulse checked he would respond that he did not know where his arm was. One day he wanted to feel his pulse himself hence he was helped and his right hand was placed on his left wrist. He then asked if that was really him who was feeling the pulse. Yet, he counted the beats correctly.”

Physiology reports phenomena that seem abnormal and that science remains quiet about them in every step of the way. Why so? We have already said that and it is never too much to repeat: they try to attribute everything to the material element, with no account to the spiritual element. As long as it remains in that restrictive path, science will remain powerless to resolve thousands of issues that show up all the time under its scalpel, as if saying: “As you see there is something else beyond matter since one cannot explain everything with matter alone.”

And here we are not speaking of some bizarre phenomena only, that could find science unprepared, but we are speaking about the most common effects. For example, what about dreams? We don’t speak about the real dreams, those that are real perceptions of distant things, present or future, but simply about the fantastic dreams, or memories. Can that science explain how those clear and accurate images that we sometimes see are produced? What is that magic mirror that somehow keeps the image of things? In natural somnambulism that nobody denies, how does it explain the strange ability of seeing without the help of the eyes? And that is not vaguely, but with minor details, to the point of a somnambulist being able to carry out a task that would require sharp vision in the waking state.

Thus, there is something in us that sees without the eyes. The sensitive person not only sees but acts, thinks, calculates, organizes, foresees and carries out intellectual tasks that the same person is incapable of doing in the normal vigil state and from which they keep no memory. Hence, there must be something that thinks and that is independent of matter. What is that? Science stops here. Such facts are not rare, though.

A scholar, however, will go to the other side of the world to see and calculate an eclipse but he will not visit his neighbor’s house to observe a phenomenon of the soul. The spontaneous and natural facts that demonstrate the independent action of an intelligent principle occur in large numbers but such action is even more evident in the magnetic and spiritist phenomena in which the isolation of that principle is produced at will, so to speak.

Let us return to our subject. We registered a similar fact in the June 1861 issue of The Review, regarding the evocation of the Marquis de SaintPaul. Towards his final days he used to say: “He is thirsty. He needs water. He is cold. He needs to be warmed up. He has pain here or there, etc.” And then when he was told: “But Sir, it is you who is thirsty”, he responded: “No. It is him.”

The reason for that is the fact that the thinking ‘self ’ is in the spirit and not in the body. Since the spirit is already somewhat separated from the body, it then considers the body as a third party, as if it were not him. Thus, it was necessary to give water to that other being, to the body, and not to him, the spirit. That is why he gave the following answer to this question in his evocation: “Why did you always speak in the third person” to which he responded: “Because, as I said, I saw and felt very well the differences between the physical and the spiritual. Those differences that are intertwined by the fluid of life become very distinctive to the eyes of the agonizing clairvoyant.”

A similar cause must have produced the effect noted on the soldier mentioned above. They may perhaps say that the wound caused a kind of madness. The Marquis de Saint-Paul, however, had not been wounded. He was perfectly healthy and we are positive about this because his sister who is a member of the Society confirmed it to us. What was spontaneously produced in him could perfectly well have been produced in others by the effect of an incident. As a matter of fact, every magnetizer knows that it is very common to have the somnambulists speaking in the third person, thus creating a distinction between the personality of the soul, or spirit, and that of the body. In the normal state, both individualities get mixed up and their perfect assimilation is necessary to the harmony of life, but the intelligent principle is like those gases that are not easily contained and escape in the first opportunity. There is always the tendency of separating from its heavy corporeal burden as long as the equilibrium is no longer in place by the force that keeps the two together, by any given cause. Only the harmonic activity of the organs may keep the complete and subtle union between the soul and the body. However, at the minor suspension of that activity, the soul is airborne again. That is what happens during sleep, or when the senses are benumbed, in catalepsy, lethargy, in the natural or magnetized somnambulism, during ecstasy, during what is called daydreaming or second sight, during the inspirations of the genius, in every significant stress of the mind, that sometimes renders the body insensitive. That is how, finally, those things may happen as a consequence of certain pathological states. A large number of spiritual phenomena have no other cause but the emancipation of the soul. Medical science does acknowledge the influence of moral causes but does not admit the spiritual element as the active principle. That is why medicine confuses these phenomena with organic madness and also why a purely physical treatment is applied, treatment that frequently leads to real madness something that only had the appearance of madness.

Among the facts mentioned above there is one that seems really bizarre. It is the officer who spoke in the feminine third person. The primitive cause of the phenomenon, as we said, is the distinction between the two personalities as a consequence of the separation of the spirit. There is, however, another cause revealed by Spiritism and that must be taken into account, since it may give a special character to the thoughts: it is the vague memory of previous existences that in the state of emancipation of the soul may awake and allow a retrospective vision about some points of the past. In those cases the separation of the soul is never complete. The thoughts are affected by the failing organs and for that very reason they are not very lucid, as they are not at the first moments after death either.

Suppose the man that we spoke about had been a woman in his preceding existence. In that case he could confuse the memory that he might have preserved with his current condition.

Couldn’t we find a similar explanation to the obsessed idea of certain alienated persons who believe to be kings? If they were kings in preceding existences they may be affected by some memory of that. This is only a hypothesis but which does not lack credibility to the acquainted with Spiritism. If this cause is possible some will then say that it cannot be applied to the cases in which mad people believe to be wolves or pigs since everyone knows that man has never been an animal. That is correct but a man may have been in a condition that forced him to live among dirty animals and savage people. That could well be the source of such illusion that to some may have been imposed as punishing to this present life. When we are presented with facts of such a nature instead of referring them to the purely physical diseases, if we carefully followed all their phases with the support of the data provided by the spiritist observations, we would effortlessly detect the double causes that we identified and we would promptly understand that we cannot treat them with showers, bleedings and cauterizations.

Mr. Baudelocque’s case also finds its explanation in analogous causes. The article says that he had no awareness of his own existence. That is a mistake since he did not consider himself dead; he was just unaware of his corporeal life. He was in a more or less similar situation as the spirits, who at their initial moments just after their deaths don’t believe to be dead and take their bodies as someone else’s since they cannot understand the situation, given their disorientation. The same that takes place with certain disincarnate spirits may also happen to some incarnate. That is how Mr. Baudelocque could make an abstraction of his body and say that he had no head, once his spirit had no corporeal head. The spiritist observations provide numerous examples of this kind, thus shedding new light onto an immense variety of phenomena that up until now could not be explained and were simply inexplicable without its foundations. There is still the case of the Zouave that lost the memory of nouns to be examined.

But this case can only be explained by considerations of a different order, which fall into the field of organic physiology. The developments led by that event commit us to devote a special article about it, to be published soon.

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