1. AIM OF INCARNATION - 2. THE SOUL - 3. MATERIALISM
Aim of Incarnation
132. What is the aim of the incarnation of spirits?
"It is a necessity imposed on them by God, as the means of attaining perfection. For some of them it is an expiation; for others, a mission. In order to attain perfection, it is necessary for them to undergo all the vicissitudes of corporeal existence. It is the experience acquired by expiation that constitutes its usefulness. Incarnation has also another aim, namely, that of fitting the spirit to perform his share in the work of creation; for which purpose he is made to assume a corporeal apparatus in harmony with the material state of each world into which he is sent, and by means of which he is enabled to accomplish the special work, in connection with that world which has been appointed to him by the divine ordering. He is thus made to contribute his quota towards the general weal, while achieving his own advancement."
The action of corporeal beings is necessary to the carrying on of the work of the universe; but God in His wisdom has willed that this action should furnish them with the means of progress and of advancement towards Himself. And thus, through an admirable law of His providence, all things are linked together, and solidarity is established between all the realms of nature.
133. Is incarnation necessary for the spirits who, from the beginning, have followed the right road?
"All are created simple and ignorant; they gain instruction in the struggles and tribulations of corporeal life. God, being just, could not make some of them happy, without trouble and without exertion, and consequently without merit."
-- But it so, what do spirits gain by having followed the right road, since they are not thereby exempted from the pains of corporeal life?
"They arrive more quickly at the goal. And besides, the sufferings of life are often a consequence of the imperfection of the spirit; therefore, the fewer his imperfections, the less will be his sufferings. He who is neither envious, jealous, avaricious, nor ambitious, will not have to undergo the torments which are a consequence of those defects."
134. What is the soul?
"An incarnate spirit."
-- What was the soul before its union with a body?
-- Souls and spirits are, then, the very same thing?
"Yes; souls are only spirits. Before uniting itself with a body, the soul is one of the intelligent beings who people the invisible world, and who temporarily assume a fleshly body in order to effect their purification and enlightenment."
135. Is there in man anything else than a soul and a body?
"There is the link which unites the soul and the body."
-- What is the nature of that link?
"It is semi-material, that is to say, of a nature intermediate between soul and body, as it must necessarily be, in order that they may be enabled to communicate with each other. It is by means of this link that the spirit acts upon matter, and that matter acts reciprocally upon the spirit."
Man is thus formed of three essential elements or parts:- 1st. The body, or material being, analogous to the animals, and animated by the same vital principle; 2nd. The soul, or incarnated spirit, of which the body is the habitation; 3rd. The intermediary principle, or perispirit; a semi-material substance, which constitutes the innermost envelope of the spirit, and unites the soul with the body. This triplicity is analogous to that of the fruit, which consists of the germ, the perisperm, and the rind or shell.
136. Is the soul independent of the vital principle?
"The body is only the envelope of the soul, as we have repeatedly told you."
-- Can a body exist without a soul?
"Yes; but it is only when the body ceases to live that the soul quits it, previous to birth, the union between the soul and the body is not complete; but, when this union is definitively established, it is only the death of the body that can sever the bonds that unite it to the soul, and thus allow the soul to withdraw from it. Organic life may vitalize a body without a soul, but the soul cannot inhabit a body deprived of organic life."
-- What would our body be if it had no soul?
"A mass of flesh without intelligence; anything you choose to call it, excepting a man."
137. Can the same spirit incarnate itself in two different bodies at the same time?
"No; the spirit is indivisible, and cannot simultaneously animate two different beings." (See, in The Medium's Book, the chapter on Bi-corporeality and Transfiguration.)
138. What is to be thought of the opinion of those who regard the soul as being the principle of material life?
"That is a question of definition; we attach but slight importance to mere words. You should begin by agreeing among yourselves as to the exact meaning of the expressions you employ."
139. Certain spirits, and certain philosophers before them, have defined the soul as "An animated spark that has emanated from the Great Whole"; why this contradiction?
"There is nothing contradictory in such a definition. Everything depends on the meaning you attribute to the words you use. Why have you not a word for each thing?"
The word soul is employed to express very different things. Sometimes it is used to designate the principle of life and in this sense it is correct to say, figuratively, that the soul is an animated spark that has emanated from the Great Whole. These latter words designate the universal source of the vital principle, of which each being absorbs a portion, that returns to the general mass after its death. This idea does not exclude that of a moral being, a distinct personality, independent of matter, and preserving its own individuality. It is this being which, at other times, is called the soul, and it is in this sense that we speak of the soul as an incarnate spirit. In giving different definitions of soul, the spirits who have given them have spoken according to their various ways of applying that word, and also according to the terrestrial ideas with which they are more or less imbued. This apparent confusion results from the insufficiency of human language, which does not possess a specific word for each idea an insufficiency that gives rise to a vast number of misapprehensions and discussions. It is for this reason that the higher spirits tell us to begin by distinctly defining the meaning of the words we employ.
140. What is to be thought of the theory according to which the soul is subdivided into as many parts as there are muscles in the body, and thus presides over each of the bodily functions?
"That, again, depends on the meaning attached to the word soul. If by soul is meant the vital fluid, that theory is right; if the word is used to express an incarnate spirit, it is wrong. We have already told you that a spirit is indivisible; it transmits movement to the bodily organs through the intermediary fluids, but it undergoes no division."
-- Nevertheless, there are spirits who have given this definition.
"Spirits who are ignorant may mistake the effect for the cause."
The soul acts through the intermediary of the bodily organs, and those organs are animated by the vital fluid which is distributed among them, and more abundantly in those which constitute the centers or foci of movement for each organism. But this explanation becomes inadmissible when the term soul is employed to designate the spirit which inhabits the body during life and quits it at death.
141. Is there any truth in the opinion of those who suppose that the soul is exterior to the body and environs it?
"The soul is not shut up in the body like a bird in a cage. It radiates in all directions, and manifests itself outside the body as a light radiates from a glass globe, or as a sound is propagated from a sonorous center. In this sense the soul may be said to be exterior to the body, but it is not therefore to be considered as enveloping the body. The soul has two envelopes; the first, or innermost, of these, of a light and subtle nature, is what you call the perispirit the other, gross, material, heavy, is the body. The soul is the center of both these envelopes, like the germ in the stone of the fruit, as we have already said."
142. What is to be thought of that other theory according to which the formation of the soul of the child is carried on to completion during the successive periods of the human lifetime?
"The spirit is a unit and is as entire in the child as in the adult. It is only the bodily organs, or instruments of the manifestations of the soul, that are gradually developed and completed in the course of a lifetime. Here, again, you mistake the effect for the cause."
143. Why do not all spirits define the soul in the same way?
"All spirits are not equally enlightened in regard to these matters. Some spirits are still so little advanced intellectually as to be incapable of understanding abstract ideas; they are like children in your world. Other spirits are full of false learning, and make a vain parade of words in order to impose their authority upon those who listen to them. They, also, resemble too many in your world. And besides, even spirits who are really enlightened may express themselves in terms which appear to be different, but which, at bottom, mean the same thing, especially in regard to matters which your language is incapable of expressing dearly, and which can only be spoken of to you by means of figures and comparisons that you mistake for literal statements of fact."
144. What is to be understood by the soul of the world?
"The universal principle of life and intelligence from which individualities are produced. But, very often, they who make use of these terms do not know what they mean by them. The word soul is so elastic that every one interprets it according to his own imaginings. Certain persons have also attributed a soul to the earth, which must he understood as indicating the assemblage of devoted spirits who direct your actions in the right direction when you listen to them, and who are, as it were, the lieutenants of God in the administration of your globe."
145. How is it that so many philosophers both ancient and modern have so long been discussing psychological questions without having arrived at the truth?
"Those men were precursors of the eternal truths of the true spiritist doctrine, for which they have prepared the way. They were men, and therefore subject to error, because they often mistook their own ideas for the true light; but their very errors have served the cause of truth by bringing into relief both sides of the argument. Moreover, among those errors are to be found many great truths which a comparative study of the various theories thus put forth would enable you to discover."
146. Has the soul a circumscribed and determinate seat in the body?
"No; but it may be said to reside more especially in the head, in the case of men of great genius and of all who think much, and in the heart, in the case of those who feel much, and whose actions have always a humanitarian aim."
-- What is to be thought of the opinion of those who place the soul in a center of organic life?
"The spirit may be said to inhabit more especially such a part of your organism, because it is to such a part that all the sensations converge; but those who place it in what they consider to be the center of vitality confound it with the vital fluid or principle. Nevertheless, it may be said that the soul is more especially present in the organs which serve for the manifestation of the intellectual and moral qualities."
147. Why is it that anatomists physiologists, and in general those who apply themselves to the pursuit of the natural sciences, are so apt to fall into materialism?
"The physiologist refers everything to the standard of his senses. Human pride imagines that it knows everything, and refuses to admit that there can be anything which transcends the human understanding. Science itself inspires some minds with presumption; they think that nature can have nothing hidden from them."
148. Is it not regrettable that materialism should be a consequence of studies which ought, on the contrary, to show men the superiority of the intelligence that governs the world?
"It is not true that materialism is a consequence of those studies; it is a result of the imperfection which leads men to draw a false conclusion from their studies, for men may make a bad use of the very best things. The idea of annihilation, moreover, troubles those who profess to hold it more than they will allow to be seen; and those who are the loudest in proclaiming their materialistic convictions are often more boastful than brave. The greater number of the so-called materialists are only such because they have no rational ground of belief in a future life. Show a firm anchor of rational belief in a future state to those who see only a yawning void before them, and they will grasp it with the eagerness of drowning men."
There are those who, through an aberration of the intellect, can see nothing in organized beings but the action of matter, and attribute to this action all the phenomena of existence. They have seen, in the human body, only the action of an electrical machine they have studied the mechanism of life only in the play of the bodily organs, they have often seen life extinguished by the rupture of a filament, and they have seen nothing but this filament. They have looked to see whether anything still remained, and as they have found nothing but matter that has become inert, as they have neither seen the soul escape from the body nor been able to take hold of it, they have concluded that everything is reducible to the properties of matter, and that death is consequently the annihilation of all thought. A melancholy conclusion, if such were really the case for, were it so, good and evil would be alike devoid of aim every man would be justified in thinking only of himself, and in subordinating every other consideration to the satisfaction of his material instincts. Thus all social ties would be broken, and the holiest affections would be destroyed forever. Happily for mankind, these ideas are far from being general. Their area may even be said to be a narrow one, limited to the scope of invidious opinions; for nowhere have they been erected into a system of doctrine. A state of society founded on such a basis would contain within itself the seeds of its own dissolution; and its members would tear each other to pieces like so many ferocious beasts of prey.
Man has an intuitive belief that, for him, everything does not end with the life of his body; he has a horror of annihilation. No matter how obstinately men may have set themselves against the idea of a future life, there are very few who, on the approach of death, do not anxiously ask themselves what is going to become of them for the thought of bidding an eternal adieu to life is appalling to the stoutest heart. Who, indeed could look with indifference on the prospect of an absolute and eternal separation from all that he has loved? Who, without terror, could behold, yawning beneath him, the bottomless abyss of nothingness in which all his faculties and aspirations are to be swallowed up forever? Who could calmly say to himself, "After my death there will be nothing for me but the void of annihilation; all will be ended. A few days hence, all memory of me will have been blotted out from the remembrance of those who survive me, and the earth itself will retain no trace of my passage. Even the good that I have done will be forgotten by the ungrateful mortals whom I have benefited. And there is nothing to compensate me for all this loss, no other prospect, beyond this ruin, than that of my body devoured by worms!"
Is there not something horrible in such a picture, something that sends an icy chill through the heart? Religion teaches us that such cannot be our destiny; and reason confirms the teachings of religion. But the vague, indefinite assurance of a future existence, which is all that is given us either by religion or by reason, cannot satisfy our natural desire for some positive proof in a matter of such paramount importance for us; and it is just the lack of such proof, in regard to a future life, that, in so many cases, engenders doubt as to its reality.
"Admitting that we have a soul," many very naturally ask, "what is our soul? Has it a form, an appearance of any kind? is it a limited being, or is it something undefined and impersonal? Some say that it is 'a breath of God:' Others, that it is a 'spark' others, again, declare it to be 'part of the Great Whole, the principle of life and of Intelligence.' But what do we learn from these statements? What is the good of our possessing a soul, if our soul is to be merged in immensity like a drop of water in the ocean? Is not the loss of our individuality equivalent, so far as we are concerned, to annihilation? The soul is said to be immaterial; but that which is immaterial can have no defined proportions, and therefore can have no reality for us. Religion also teaches that we shall be happy, or unhappy, according to the good or the evil we have done; but of what nature are the happiness or unhappiness thus promised us in another life? Is that happiness a state of beatitude in the bosom of God, an external contemplation, with no other employment than that of singing the praises of the Creator? And the flames of hell, are they a reality or a figure of speech? The Church itself attributes to them a figurative meaning; but of what nature are the sufferings thus figuratively shadowed forth? And where is the scene of those sufferings? In short, what shall we be, what shall we do, what shall we see, in that other world which is said to await us all?"
No one, it is averred, has ever come back to give us an account of that world. But this statement is erroneous: and the mission of Spiritism is precisely to enlighten us in regard to the future which awaits us to enable us, within certain limits, to see and to touch it, not merely as a deduction of our reason, but through the evidence of facts. Thanks to the communications made to us by the people of that other world, the latter is no longer a mere presumption, a probability, which each one pictures to himself according to his own fancy, which poets embellish with fictitious and allegorical images that serve only to deceive us it is that other world itself, in its reality, which is now brought before us, for it is the beings of the life beyond the grave who come to us, who describe to us the situations in which they find themselves, who tell us what they are doing, who allow us to become, so to say, the spectators of the details of their new order of life, and who thus show us the inevitable fate which is reserved for each of us according to our merits or our misdeeds.
Is there anything anti-religious in such a demonstration? Assuredly not since it furnishes unbelievers with a ground of belief, and inspires lukewarm believers with renewed fervor and confidence.
Spiritism is thus seen to be the most powerful auxiliary of religion. And, if it be such, it must be acknowledged to exist by the permission of God, for the purpose of giving new strength to our wavering convictions, and thus of leading us back into the right road by the prospect of our future happiness.
1. THE SOUL AFTER DEATH; ITS INDIVIDUALITY;
ETERNAL LIFE - 2. SEPARATION OF SOUL AND BODY
- 3. TEMPORARILY CONFUSED STATE OF THE SOUL AFTER DEATH
The Soul After Death
149. What becomes of the soul at the moment of death?
"It becomes again a spirit, that is to say, it returns into the world of spirits, which it had quitted for a short time."
150. Does the soul, after death, preserve its individuality?
"Yes, it never loses its individuality. What would the soul be if it did not preserve it?"
-- How does the soul preserve the consciousness of its individuality, since it no longer has its material body?
"It still has a fluid peculiar to itself, which it draws from the atmosphere of its planet, and which represents the appearance of its last incarnation-its perispirit."
-- Does the soul take nothing of this life away with it?
"Nothing but the remembrance of that life and the desire to go to a better world. This remembrance is full of sweetness or of bitterness according to the use it has made of the earthly life it has quitted. The more advanced is the degree of its purification, the more clearly does it perceive the futility of all that it has left behind it upon the earth."
151. What is to be thought of the opinion that the soul after death returns to the universal whole?
"Does not the mass of spirits, considered in its totality, constitute a whole? Does it not constitute a world? When you are in an assembly you form an integral part of that assembly, and yet you still retain your individuality."
152. What proof can we have of the individuality of the soul after death?
"Is not this proof furnished by the communications which you obtain? If you were not blind, you would see; if you were not deal you would hear; for you are often spoken to by a voice which reveals to you the existence of a being exterior to yourself."
Those who think that the soul returns after death into the universal whole are in error if they imagine that it loses its individuality, like a drop of water that falls into the ocean; they are right if they mean by the universal whole the totality of incorporeal beings, of which each soul or spirit is an element.
If souls were blended together into a mass, they would possess only the qualities common to the totality of the mass there would be nothing to distinguish them from one another, and they would have no special, intellectual, or moral qualities of their own. But the communications we obtain from spirits give abundant evidence of the possession by each spirit of the consciousness of the me, and of a distinct will, personal to itself; the infinite diversity of characteristics of all kinds presented by them is at once the consequence and the evidence of their distinctive personal individuality. If, after death, there were nothing but what is called the "Great Whole," absorbing all individualities, this whole would be uniform in its characteristics and, in that case, all the communications received from the invisible world would be identical. But as among the denizens of that other world we meet with some who are good and some who are bad, some who are learned and some who are ignorant, some who are happy and some who are unhappy, and as they present us with every shade of character, some being frivolous and other, serious, etc., it is evident that they are different individualities, perfectly distinct from one another. This individuality becomes still more evident when they are able to prove their identity by unmistakable tokens, by personal details relating to their terrestrial life, and susceptible of being verified; and it cannot be a matter of doubt when they manifest themselves to our sight under the form of apparitions. The individuality of the soul has been taught theoretically as an article of faith; Spiritism renders it patent, as an evident, and, so to say, a material fact.
153. In what sense should we understand eternal life?
"It is the life of the spirit that is eternal; that of the body is transitory and fleeting. When the body dies, the soul re-enters the eternal life."
-- Would it not be more correct to apply the term eternal life to the life of the purified spirits; of those who, having attained to the degree of relative perfection, have no longer to undergo the discipline of suffering?
"The life of that degree might rather be termed eternal happiness; but this is a question of words. You may call things as you please, provided you are agreed among yourselves as to your meaning."
154. Is the separation of the soul from the body a painful process?
"No; the body often suffers more during life than at the moment of death, when the soul is usually unconscious of what is occurring to the body. The sensations experienced at the moment of death are often a source of enjoyment for the spirit, who recognizes them as putting an end to the term of his exile."
In cases of natural death, where dissolution occurs as a consequence of the exhaustion of the bodily organs through age, man passes out of life without perceiving that he is doing so. It is like the flame of a lamp that goes out for want of aliment.
155. How is the separation of soul and body effected?
"The bonds which retained the soul being broken, it disengages itself from the body."
-- Is this separation effected instantaneously, and by means of an abrupt transition? Is there any distinctly marked line of demarcation between life and death?
"No; the soul disengages itself gradually. It does not escape at once from the body, like a bird whose cage is suddenly opened. The two states touch and run into each other; and the spirit extricates himself, little by little, from his fleshly bonds, which are loosed, but not broken."
During life, a spirit is held to the body by his semi-material envelope, or perispirit. Death is the destruction of the body only, but not of this second envelope, which separates itself from the body when the play of organic life ceases in the latter. Observation shows us that the separation of the perispirit from the body is not suddenly completed at the moment of death, but is only effected gradually, and more or less slowly in different individuals. In some cases it is effected so quickly that the perispirit is entirely separated from the body within a few hours of the death of the latter; but, in other cases, and especially in the case of those whose life has been grossly material and sensual, this deliverance is much less rapid, and sometimes takes days, weeks, and even months, for its accomplishment. This delay does not imply the slightest persistence of vitality in the body, nor any possibility of its return to life, but is simply the result of a certain affinity between the body and the spirit which affinity is always more or less tenacious in proportion to the preponderance of materiality in the affections of the spirit during his earthly life. It is, in fact, only rational to suppose that the more closely a spirit has identified himself with matter, the greater will be his difficulty in separating himself from his material body; while, on the contrary, intellectual and moral activity, and habitual elevation of thought, effect a commencement of this separation even during the life of the body, and therefore, when death occurs, the separation is almost instantaneous. The study of a great number of individuals after their death has shown that affinity which, in some cases, continues to exist between the soul and the body is sometimes extremely painful for it causes the spirit to perceive all the horror of the decomposition of the latter. This experience is exceptional, and peculiar to certain kinds of life and to certain kinds of death. It sometimes occurs in the case of those who have committed suicide.
156. Can the definitive separation of the soul and body take place before the complete cessation of organic life?
"It sometimes happens that the soul has quitted the body before the last agony comes on, so that the latter is only the closing act of merely organic life. The dying man has no longer any consciousness of himself, and nevertheless there still remains in him a faint breathing of vitality. The body is a machine that is kept in movement by the heart. It continues to live as long as the heart causes the blood to circulate in the veins, and has no need of the soul to do that."
157. Does the soul sometimes at the moment of death, experience an aspiration or an ecstasy that gives it a foreglimpse of the world into which it is about to return?
"The soul often feels the loosening of the bonds that attach it to the body, and does its utmost to hasten and complete the work of separation. Already partially freed from matter, it beholds the future unrolled before it, and enjoys, in anticipation, the spirit-state upon which it is about to re-enter."
158. Do the transformations of the caterpillar-which, first of all, crawls upon the ground, and then shuts itself up in its chrysalis in seeming death, to be reborn therefrom into a new and brilliant existence-give us anything like a true idea of the relation between our terrestrial life, the tomb, and our new existence beyond the latter?
"An idea on a very small scale. The image is good; but, nevertheless, it would not do to accept it literally, as you so often do in regard to such images."
159. What sensation is experienced by the soul at the moment when it recovers its' consciousness in the world of spirits?
"That depends on circumstances. He who has done evil from the love of evil is overwhelmed with shame for his wrong-doing. With the righteous it is very different. His soul seems to be eased of a heavy load, for it does not dread the most searching glance."
160. Does the spirit find himself at once in company with those whom he knew upon the earth, and who died before him?
"Yes; and more or less promptly according to the degree of his affection for them and of theirs for him. They often come to meet him on his return to the spirit-world, and help to free him from the bonds of matter. Others whom he formerly knew, but whom he had lost sight of during his sojourn on the earth, also come to meet him. He sees those who are in erraticity, and he goes to visit those who are still incarnated."
161. In cases of violent or accidental death, when the organs have not been weakened by age or by sickness, does the separation of the soul take place simultaneously with the cessation of organic life?
"It does so usually; and, at any rate, the interval between them, in all such cases, is very brief."
162. After decapitation, for instance, does a man retain consciousness for a longer or shorter time?
"He frequently does so for a few minutes, until the organic life of the body is completely extinct; but, on the other hand, the fear of death often causes a man to lose consciousness before the moment of execution."
The question here proposed refers simply to the consciousness which the victim may have of himself as a man, through the intermediary of his bodily organs, and not as a spirit. If he has not lost this consciousness before execution, he may retain it for a few moments afterwards, but this persistence of consciousness can only be of very short duration, and must necessarily cease with the cessation of the organic life of the brain. The cessation of the human consciousness, however, by no means implies the complete separation of the perispirit from the body. On the contrary, in all cases in which death has resulted from violence, and not from a gradual extinction of the vital forces, the bonds which unite the body to the perispirit are more tenacious, and the separation is effected more slowly.
163. Does the soul, on quitting the body, find itself at once in possession of its self-consciousness?
"Not at once. It is for a time in a state of confusion which obscures all its perceptions."
164. Do all spirits experience, in the same degree and for the same length of time, the confusion which follows the separation of the soul from the body?
"No; this depends entirely on their degree of elevation. He who has already accomplished a certain amount of purification recovers his consciousness almost immediately, because he had already freed himself from the thraldom of materiality during his bodily life; whereas the carnally minded man, he whose conscience is not clear, retains the impression of matter for a much longer time."
165. Does a knowledge of Spiritism exercise any influence on the duration of this state of confusion?
"It exercises a very considerable influence on that duration, because it enables the spirit to understand beforehand the new situation in which it is about to find itself; but the practice of rectitude during the earthly life, and a clear conscience, are the conditions which conduce most powerfully to shorten it."
At the moment of death, everything appears confused. The soul takes some time to recover its self-consciousness, for it is as though stunned, and in a state similar to that of a man waking out of a deep sleep, and trying to understand his own situation. It gradually regains clearness of thought and the memory of the past in proportion to the weakening of the influence of the material envelope from which it has just freed itself, and the clearing away of the sort of fog that obscured its consciousness.
The duration of the state of confusion that follows death varies greatly in different cases. It may be only of a few hours, and it may be of several months, or even years. Those with whom it lasts the least are they who, during the earthly life, have identified themselves most closely with their future state, because they are soonest able to understand their new situation.
This state of confusion assumes special aspects according to characterial peculiarities, and also according to different modes of death. In all cases of violent or sudden death, by suicide, by capital punishment, accident, apoplexy, etc., the spirit is surprised, astounded, and does not believe himself to be dead. He obstinately persists in asserting the contrary; and, nevertheless, he sees the body he has quitted as something apart from himself he knows that body to be his own, and he cannot make out how it should be separated from him. He goes about among the persons with whom he is united by the ties of affection, speaks to them, and cannot conceive why they do not hear him. This sort of illusion lasts until the entire separation of the perispirit from the earthly body, for it is only when this is accomplished that the spirit begins to understand his situation, and becomes aware that he no longer forms part of the world of human beings. Death having come upon him by surprise, the spirit is stunned by the suddenness of the change that has taken place in him. For him, death is still synonymous with destruction, annihilation and and he thinks, sees, hears, it seems to him that he cannot be dead. And this illusion is still further strengthened by his seeing himself with a body similar in form to the one he has quitted for he does not at first perceive its ethereal nature, but supposes it to be solid and compact like the other, and when his attention has been called to this point, he is astonished at finding that it is not palpable. This phenomenon is analogous to that which occurs in the case of somnambulists, who, when thrown for the first time into the magnetic sleep, cannot believe that they are not awake. Sleep, according to their idea of it, is synonymous with suspension of the perceptive faculties; and as they think freely, and see, they appear to themselves not to be asleep. Some spirits present this peculiarity, even in cases where death has not supervened unexpectedly; but it more frequently occurs in the case of those who, although they may have been ill, had no expectation of death. The curious spectacle is then presented of a spirit attending his own funeral as though it were that of someone else, and speaking of it as of something which in no way concerns him, until the moment when at length he comprehends the true state of the case.
In the mental confusion which follows death, there is nothing painful for him who has lived an upright life. He is calm, and his perceptions are those of a peaceful awaking out of sleep. But for him whose conscience is not clean, it is full of anxiety and anguish that become more and more poignant in proportion as he recovers consciousness.
In cases of collective death, in which many persons have perished together in the same catastrophe, it has been observed that they do not always see one another immediately afterwards. In the state of confusion which follows death, each spirit goes his own way, or concerns himself only with those in whom he takes an interest.