THE magnetic séance at Nancy had left a vivid impression on my mind. I often thought of my departed friend, of his researches into the unexplored domains of nature and life, and of his earnest and original investigations regarding the mysterious problem of immortality. But I could now no longer think of him without associating with him the idea of a possible reincarnation in the planet Mars.
This idea appeared to me bold, rash, chimerical, if you will, but not absurd. The distance from our earth to Mars is as nothing where the transmission of the force of attraction is concerned; it is almost insignificant in the case of light, since a few minutes suffice for a wave of light to traverse those millions of leagues. I thought of the telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, the will power of the magnetiser exercised over his subject miles away, and at times I asked myself if it might not one day be possible, through some gigantic stride in scientific discovery, to throw a celestial bridge from our world to its sister spheres in space.
During my observation of Mars through the telescope, on the succeeding night, I was distracted by a thousand strange ideas. The planet was, however, as interesting, from a scientific point of view, as it had been during the entire spring and summer of 1888. Vast inundations had taken place on one of its continents, the Libye — as had happened once before, in 1882, according to the observations made by astronomers, under different circumstances. It was ascertained that its meteorology and its climatolgy are not the same as ours, and that the waters that cover about one-half the surface of the planet undergo singular displacements and periodical changes, of which terrestrial geography can give no idea. The snows of the north pole had greatly diminished, a fact which proved the summer on that hemisphere to have been warm, although less so than the summer on the southern hemisphere. For the rest, there have been very few clouds over Mars during the whole series of our observations. But strange as it may seem, it was not these scientific facts, important as they were, and the basis of all our conjectures, which most occupied my thoughts, it was what the sensitive had told me concerning George and Iclea. The fantastic ideas which passed through my brain, prevented me from making any observation of scientific value. I continually asked myself if communication could not exist between two beings remote from each other, or even between the living and the dead, and each time I answered myself that such a question was in itself anti-scientific and unworthy of a practical mind.
Yet, after all, what is it we call “science”?
What is there that is not “scientific” in nature? Where are the limits of abstract science? Is the body of a bird really of more scientific significance than his brilliant plumage, or his song with its varied cadences? Is the skeleton of a pretty woman less worthy of attention than her structure of flesh and her living form? Is not the analysis of the emotions of the soul scientific? Is it not scientific to seek to know if the soul can really see from afar, and how? And then what is this strange vanity, this naïve presumption of ours to imagine that science has said its last word; that we know all that there is to know; that our five senses are sufficient to comprehend the nature of the universe? To say that we can recognize, amongst the forces which act around us, attraction, light, electricity, is this to say that there are no other forces which escape our knowledge because we have not the faculty to perceive them? It is not this hypothesis which is absurd, it is the naïveté of the pedagogues and academicians. We smile at the ideas of the astronomers, the philosophers, the physicians, the theologians of three centuries ago. In three centuries more, will not our successors in the sciences smile in their turn at the assertions of those who pretend in our day to know everything?
The physicians to whom I communicated, fifteen years ago, the magnetic phenomena observed by me in certain experiments, one and all, denied absolutely the reality of the facts observed. I met one of them recently at the Institute: “Oh!” said he, not without shrewdness, ”then it was magnetism, now it is hypnotism, and it is we who study it. That is a very different thing."’
Moral: Let us deny nothing positively. Let us study, let us examine; the explanation will come later. I was in this frame of mind, when, pacing up and down my library, my eyes fell on an elegant edition of Cicero, which I had not looked at for some time. I took one of the volumes, opened it at random, and read as follows:
“Two friends arrived at Megara and put up at separate lodgings. One of them had hardly fallen asleep when he saw his traveling companion before him, who said to him with a tragic air, that his host had formed a plan to assassinate him, begging him at the same time to go as quickly as possible to his assistance. The other awoke, but convinced that he had been deceived by a dream, he soon fell asleep again. His friend appeared to him anew and entreated him to hasten, as the murderers had just entered his room. Much troubled, he could not help feeling surprised at the persistence of the dream, and was inclined to go to the help of his friend, but reason and fatigue finally prevailed, and he lay down again. Then his friend appeared to him a third time, pale, bleeding, disfigured. “Unhappy man,” he said to him, “you would not come to me when I implored you. It is too late to help me now: all that remains is to avenge me! Go at sunrise to the gate of the city. You will meet there a cart laden with manure; stop it, and order it to be unloaded; you will find my body concealed in it. Render me the honor of burial; seek out my murderers and punish them.” Persistence so determined, details so minute, allowed of no more hesitation. The friend arose, hastened to the gate indicated, and overtook and stopped the driver, who, surprised, made no attempt at resistance, and the body of the murdered man was at once discovered, concealed in the cart.”
This incident seemed to come expressly in support of my opinions regarding these unsounded problems. Doubtless there will not be wanting theories in explanation of the occurrence. It may be said that the story did not happen just as Cicero relates it, that it has been amplified or exaggerated; that two friends arriving at a strange city, might well fear some misfortune, that, fearing for the life of his friend, and fatigued by the journey, it might easily happen that one of them should dream of his friend being the victim of an assassination. As to the episode of the cart, the travelers might have seen one in the inn-yard, and the principle of the association of ideas accounts for its connection with the dream. Yes, one may make all these explanatory hypotheses, but they are only hypotheses. To admit that there was really communication between the dead and the the living is a hypothesis also.
Are facts of this kind rare? I do not think so. I remember, among others, one incident in particular, which was related to me by Jean Best, an old friend of mine, who, in company with the distinguished Edward Charton, another friend, founded, in 1883, the Magazin Pittoresque, and who died some years ago. He was a grave, cold, methodical man, a skillful engraver, a conscientious manager, every one who knew him knows how unexcitable his temperament was, and how little imaginative. The.following occurrence took place when he was a child about five or six years old.
It was at Toul, his native place. One beautiful evening he was lying on his little bed, awake, when he saw his mother enter his room, walk across the floor, and go into the next room, of which the door was open, where his father was playing cards with a friend. At the time his mother was at Pau very ill. He arose immediately from his bed and ran after the apparition into the room, where he looked for her in vain. His father, with some impatience, scolded him, and, telling him that he had been dreaming, sent him back to his bed. The child, convinced at first that it was so, went back to bed and tried to go to sleep. But some moments later, his eyes being wide open, he distinctly saw his mother a second time pass quite near to him, and this time he sprang toward her to embrace her. But she vanished on the instant. He did not wish to go back to bed, but remained in the room with his father, who went on playing cards. On that very day, and at that very hour, his mother had expired at Pau.
I had this recital from Mr. Best himself, who retained an ineffaceable recollection of it. How is this occurrence to be explained. It might be said that the child, knowing his mother to be ill, thought of her with frequency, and that he experienced an hallucination which coincided, by chance, with the death of his mother. It may be so. But it is also possible that there was a sympathetic bond between the mother and the child, and that at that solemn moment, the soul of the mother had actually held communciation with that of her child. How? it may be asked. We do not know. But what we do not know compared with what we do know, is as the ocean compared to a drop of water.
Hallucinations! This is easily said. Medical works without end have been written on the subject. Every one is acquainted with thc work of Brierre de Boismont. Amongst the many observations which it contains, apropos of this subject, we will cite the two following:
“Obs. 84. — At the time of the plague in London, King James, being just arrived in England, and staying with Lord Camden at the country house of Sir Robert Cotton, his eldest son, still a child, and living at the time in London, appeared to him in a dream, with a bleeding cut in his forehead, as though he had been wounded by a sword. Terrified by this apparition, the King began to pray, and in the morning he repaired to the room of Lord Camden, to whom he related the occurrence of the night. The latter tried to reassure the monarch, telling him that he had been the sport of a dream, and that there was no need to torment himself about the matter. On the same day the King received a letter from his wife, informing him of the loss of his son, who had died of the plague. When the child had appeared to his father, he had the figure and the proportions of a grown man.
“Obs. 87. — Mdlle. R., a lady endowed with excellent judgment, religious without bigotry, lived, before her marriage, in the house of her uncle, Dr. D., a celebrated physician, and a member of the Institute. She was separated from her mother, who was seriously ill in the country.
“One night this young girl dreamed that she saw her mother near her, pale, ill, dying, and showing great distress at not being surrounded by her children, of whom one, the Curé of a parish in Paris, had emigrated to Spain, the other being in Paris. Shortly afterward she heard her mother call her several times by her name; and saw, in her dreams, the persons surrounding her mother, supposing that she asked for her little grand-daughter, of the same name, go into the next room for her; a sign from the sick woman made known to them that it was not her grand-child, but her daughter, then in Paris, that she desired to see. Her face expressed the grief which she felt at her daughter’s absence; suddenly her countenance changed, a mortal pallor overspread it, and falling back in the bed she expired.
“On the following day Mdlle. R., appearing very sad, her uncle Dr. D., begged her to let him know the cause of her sorrow; she related to him, in all its details, the dream which had so greatly distressed her. Dr. D., finding her in this condition of mind, threw his arms around her, confessing that the dream was only too true, and that her mother had just died; he did not enter into any further details. Some months afterwards, availing herself of the absence of her uncle to arrange his papers, which, like many other literary men, he disliked to have touched, Mdlle. R. found among them a letter relating the circumstances of her mother’s death. What was her surprise on reading in it the most minute details of her dream!”
Hallucination! Fortuitous coincidence! Is this a satisfactory explanation? In every case it is an explanation which explains nothing. A great number of ignorant and unthinking people of all ages, and of every position in life; people who live on their rents, merchants or deputies, sceptical by temperament or for fashion’s sake, simply declare that they do not believe those stories, and that there is no truth in them. This also is a solution of the problem unworthy of serious attention. Minds accustomed to study cannot be content with a bare and unsupported denial of facts.
A fact is a fact, and as such it must be accepted, even though, in the present state of our knowledge, it is impossible to explain it.
It is true that medical annals bear witness that there are really hallucinations of more than one sort, and that certain nervous organizations are the victims of them. But this is no reason for the conclusion that all unexplained psycho-biological phenomena are hallucinations.
The scientific spirit of our age seeks, with reason, to clear all these facts from the delusive mists of supernaturalism, considering that there is really nothing supernatural, and that nature, whose domain is infinite, embraces everything. Some years ago a scientific society, particularly worthy of note, was organized in England for the special purpose of studying those phenomena. It is named the “Society for Psychical Research; “ [*] it has at its head some of the illustrious savants on the other side of the English Channel; and it has already made important publications. These phenomena of vision à distance are classed under the general title of Telepathy. (τη’λε, far, πα’θος, sensation, feeling.)
Rigorous investigations are made in examining the evidence, of which there is a considerable variety. Let us for an instant look over this collection, and select from it some documents duly and scientifically proved.
In the following case, observed recently, the witness was as wide awake as you or I are at this moment. The person in question is a certain Mr. Robert Bee, living at Wigall, England. Here is this curious revelation, written by the observer himself.
“On the 18th of December, 1873, I went with my wife to visit her family at Southport, leaving both my parents, to all appearance, in perfect health. On the following day, in the afternoon, taking a walk by the sea-shore, I was seized with so profound a melancholy that it became impossible for me to interest myself in anything, so that we made no delay in returning to the house.
“Suddenly my wife, showing some uneasiness, said that she would go to her mother’s room for a few minutes. A moment after, I myself arose from the sofa and went to the parlor.
“The lady, dressed as if she were going out, approached me, coming from the neighboring bedroom. I did not remark her features, as her face was not turned toward me. I immediately addressed her, but I do not remember what I said.
“At the same instant, and while she was in front of me, my wife returned from her mother’s room, and passed just by the place where the lady stood, without appearing to observe her. I exclaimed, in surprise: ‘Who is that lady, whom you passed by just now without noticing her?’
“ ‘I have passed nobody by,’ replied my wife, still more astonished than I was. — ‘What?’ returned I, ‘you did not see a lady just now, who stood a moment since exactly where you are standing? She came out of your mother’s room, and must now be in the vestibule.’
“ ‘It is impossible,’ answered she,’ there is absolutely no one in the house but my mother and ourselves.’
“In fact, no stranger had been there, and the search, which we at once made, showed no other result.
“It was then three minutes to eight o’clock in the morning. The next morning, a telegram announced to us the sudden death of my mother from heart-disease, precisely at the same hour. She was in the street at the time, dressed exactly like the stranger who passed before me.”
Such is the recital of an eye-witness. Investigations, made by the Society for Psychical Research, have demonstrated conclusively the authenticity and concurrence of the testimony. It is as truly a fact, as any meteorological, astronomical, physical or chemical observation. How is it to be explained? “A coincidence,” you will say.
Can an exact scientific critic be satisfied with this word? Still another case:
“Mr. Frederick Wingfield, living at Belle-Isle en Terre (Côtes-du-Nord), wrote that on the 25th of March, 1880, having gone to bed late, after having spent a part of the evening reading, he dreamed that his brother, living in the county of Essex, England, was sitting beside him, but that, instead of answering a question which he addressed him, he shook his head, arose from his chair, and went away. The impression had been so vivid that the narrator sprang, half asleep, from his bed, and called to his brother.
“Three days afterwards he received the news that his brother had been killed by a fall from his horse on the same day, the 25th of March, at half-past eight in the evening, a few hours before the dream occurred which has been just related.
“An investigation proved that the date of this death was as given, and that the author of this recital had written down his dream in a memorandum book, when it occurred, and not afterwards.”
“Mr. S. and M. L., both employed in a government office, had been intimate friends for about eight years. On Monday, the19th of March, 1833, L., on leaving his office, had an attack of indigestion; he went into an apothecarie’s shop, where they gave him some medicine. The following Thursday he felt worse; the Saturday of the same week he was still absent from the office.
“On the evening of Saturday, the 24th of March, S. remained at home, having a headache; he told his wife that he felt too warm, a thing that had not happened to him for two months, and after making this remark he went to bed, and a minute afterward he saw his friend L. standing before him, in the same clothes that he usually wore. S. noticed particularly in his dream that he had crape on his hat, that his overcoat was unbuttoned, and that. he had a cane in his hand. L. looked at S. steadily and passed him by. S. then recalled the verse in the Book of Job: ‘Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up.’ At this moment he felt a shiver creep over his body, and his hair stood on end. Then he said to his wife, ‘What o’clock is it?’ She answered, ‘Twelve minutes to nine.’ He said to her, ‘If I ask you the hour it is because L. is dead; I have just seen him.’ She tried to persuade him that it was an illusion, but he assured her in the most earnest manner that nothing could make him change his opinion.”
Such is the story told by Mr. S. He did not hear of the death of his friend L. until the following Sunday, at three o’clock in the afternoon. L. had, in fact, died on Saturday evening at about ten minutes to nine.
We may compare this account with the historical event narrated by Agrippa d’Aubigne at the time of the death of the Cardinal of Lorraine:
The King being at Avignon, on the 23rd of December, 1574, Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine, died there. The Queen, Catherine de Medicis, retired to rest earlier than usual, having at her couchée, among other distinguished persons, the King of Navarre, the Archbishop of Lyons, Madame de Ritz, Madame de Lignerolles and Madame de Sannes. Two of these ladies have vouched for the truth of this account. As the Queen was bidding them good-night, she threw herself back on her pillow with a shudder, covered her face with her hands, and with a violent cry called those present to her assistance, at the same time pointing out to them the Cardinal, who stood at the foot of the bed, holding out his hand. She cried out several times: “My lord Cardinal, I have nothing to do with you!” The King of Navarre immediately sent a gentlemen of his suite to the lodgings of the Cardinal, who brought back word that the Cardinal had at that moment expired.
In his book on “Posthumous Humanity,” published in 1882, Adolphe d’Assier vouches for the authenticity of the following fact, which has been reported by a native of St. Gaudens as having happened to herself:
“I was at the time a young girl,” she says, “and I used to sleep with my sister, who was older than I. One night we had just gone to bed, and blown out the candle. The fire in the grate was not quite extinguished, and still threw a feeble light over the room. Turning my eyes toward the fire-place, I perceived, to my great surprise, a priest, sitting there warming himself by the fire. He had the features and the figure of an uncle of ours who was a clergyman, and lived in the neighborhood. I called my sister’s attention to this apparition; she looked toward the fire-place, and saw it also. She, as well as I, recognized our uncle, the arch-priest. Then, seized by an undefinable terror, we cried out, ‘Help! help!’ with all our might. My father, who slept in an adjoining room, awakened by our screams, arose in great haste, and came to us at once, with a candle in his hand. The phantom had disappeared; we no longer saw any one in the room. The next day we received a letter telling us that our uncle had died that evening.”
Still another fact, reported by a disciple of Auguste Comte, and by him recorded during his sojourn at Rio Janeiro.
It was in 1858. In the French Colony of that capital they still talked about a singular apparition which had been seen a few years before. An Alsatian family, consisting of the husband, wife, and a little daughter, set sail for Rio Janeiro, whither they were going to rejoin some compatriots, who had settled in that city. The voyage was long, the wife became ill, and no doubt for want of care and suitable aliment, died before the vessel arrived. On the day of her death, she fell into a swoon; she remained in that state for a long time, and when she recovered consciousness, she said to her husband, who was watching beside her: “I die content, for now I am reassured concerning the fate of our child. I have just come from Rio Janeiro. I have found the street and the house of our friend Fritz, the carpenter. He was standing at his door, I presented our little one to him. I am sure that on your arrival he will meet her and take care of her.” The husband was surprised at these words, without, however, attaching any importance to them. The very same day, and precisely at the same hour, Fritz, the carpenter, of whom I have just spoken, was standing at the door of the house where he lived, in Rio Janeiro, when he thought he saw a fellow country woman of his, cross the street, holding a little child in her arms. She looked at him with a supplicating air, and appeared to present to him the child which she held in her arms. Her face, which looked very thin, recalled to him, nevertheless, the features of Lotta, the wife of his friend and compatriot Schmidt. The expression of her countenance, the peculiarity of her gait, which he seemed to see more in a vision than in reality, all impressed Fritz vividly.
Wishing to assure himself that he was not the victim of an illusion, he called one of his men, who was working in the shop, and who was also an Alsatian, and from the same locality.
“Look,” said he to him, “do you not see a woman in the street holding a child in her arms? Would you not say it was Lotta, the wife of our countryman Schmidt.”
“I cannot tell you; I do not distinguish her very plainly,” answered the workman.
Fritz said no more; but all the circumstances of this appearance, real or imaginary, and especially the day and the hour, were engraved deeply on his mind. A short time after this he said he saw his compatriot Schmidt arrive with a little child in his arms. The visit of Lotta then recurred to his mind, and before Schmidt had opened his mouth, he said to him:
“My poor friend, I know all; your wife died on the passage out; and before dying she brought me her little child, that I might take care of it. See, here are the day and the hour.”
They were, in fact, the day and the moment recorded by Schmidt, on board the ship.
In his work on the “Phenomena of Magic,” published in 1864, Gougenot Mousseaux relates the following fact, which he certifices to be authentic.
Sir Robert Bruce, of the illustrious Scotch family of that name, was second officer on board a vessel. One day, while nearing Newfoundland, as he was making his calculations, he fancied he saw the captain seated at his desk, but on looking with attention, he found that it was a stranger, whose gaze, fixed coldly on him, astonished him greatly. The captain, whom he met when he returned to the deck, noticed his look of astonishment, and asked him what it meant:
“But, who then is at your desk?” said Bruce to him.
“Yes, there is some one there: is he a stranger? — and how did he come there?”
“You are dreaming — or you jest?”
“Not at all; will you come down and see?”
They went down to the cabin, but no one was sitting at the desk. They made search throughout the vessel; but no stranger was to be found.
“The man I saw, however, was writing on your slate; his writing might be there still,” said Bruce.
They looked at the slate; these words were written on it, “Steer to the northwest.”
“But this is written by you or by some one on board, is it not?”
Each one was in turn requested to write the same sentence; but no one’s handwriting resembled that on the slate.
“Well, let us follow the advice given by these woods, steer the ship to the northwest; the wind is good, and will permit us to try the experiment.”
Three hours later the man on the lookout signalled an iceberg, and they saw close to it a vessel disabled and crowded with people, bound for Liverpool from Quebec. The passengers were taken on board Bruce’s vessel by the life-boats. At the moment when one of the men was going on board the vessel which had rescued them, Bruce started back, greatly agitated. He had recognized the stranger whom he had seen writing the words on the slate. He told the captain this new incident.
“Will you oblige me by writing ‘Steer to the northwest,’ on this slate,” said the captain to the new-comer, presenting to him the side that had no writing on it.
The stranger wrote the words as he was requested.
“Well, do you acknowledge that to be written by you?” said the captain, struck with the identity of the writing.
“Why, you have seen me write it! How could it be possible for you to have any doubt about it?”
For sole response, the captain turned the other side of the slate up, and the stranger stood confounded at seeing his own handwriting in both sides of it.
“Had you dreamed that you wrote on this slate?” said the captain of the wrecked vessel, to the man who had just written on the slate.
“Not at all; I have no recollection of it.”
“What was this passenger doing at mid-day?” said the captain to the captain of the disabled vessel, whom he had rescued.
“As he was very tired, he was sleeping soundly. As nearly as I can recollect, it was shortly before midday. An hour afterward, at the most, he awoke, and said to me, “Captain, we shall be saved this very day!” adding: “I dreamed that I was on board a ship that had come to our rescue.” He described the vessel and its rigging; and it was with great surprise that we recognized your vessel as you came towards us, from the exactness of the description. Finally, the passenger said in his turn,” What seems strange to me is that everything here appears familiar to me, and yet I was never here before.”
Baron Dupolet, in his course of lectures on Animal Magnetism, mentions the following fact, published in 1814, by the celebrated Iung Stilling, who heard it from an eye-witness, the Baron de Sulza, chamberlain of the King of Sweden.
One summer night he was returning to his house, near midnight, an hour at which, in Sweden, there is still light enough to read the finest print. “As I arrived at my demesne,” he relates, “my father met me at the entrance to the park; he was dressed as usual, and he held in his hand a cane which my brother had carved. I saluted him, and we talked together for some time as we walked toward the house, until we reached his bed-room door. On entering it, I saw my father there undressed and asleep; at that instant the apparition beside me vanished. Shortly afterwards my father awoke and looked at me inquiringly: “My dear Edward,” said he to me, “God be praised that I see you safe and well, for I have been greatly distressed about you, in a dream. It appeared to me that you had fallen into the water and that you were in danger of drowning.”
“Now, that day,” adds the Baron, “I had gone crabbing with a friend of mine, and I came near being carried away by the current. I told my father that I had seen his apparition at the entrance to the demesne, and that we had held a long conversation together. He responded that he had often had similar experiences.”
One may perceive in these different accounts of apparitions that some are spontaneous, and others provoked, so to speak, by the desire, or by the will. Can mental suggestion, then, go so far? The authors of the work entitled “Phantoms of the Living,” of which we have already made mention, answer affirmatively, by seven well-attested examples, from amongst which I shall take one, to which I shall call the attention of my readers. It is this:
“The Rev. C. Godfrey, living at Eastbourne, in the County of Sussex, having read the account of an apparition, produced by the power of the will, was so struck by it, that he determined to make the experiment himself. On the 15th of November, about eleven o’clock at night, he directed all the power of imagination and all the strength of will of which he was capable, to the idea of appearing to a friend of his, (a lady,) standing at the foot of her bed.
“The effort lasted about eight minutes; at the end of this time Mr. Godfrey, feeling fatigued, fell asleep. The next day, the lady who had been the subject of the experiment, came of her own accord to relate to Mr. Godfrey what she had seen.
“Being requested to record it in writing, she did so in the following terms:
“ ‘Last night, I started out of my sleep with the impression that some one had entered my room. At the same time I heard a noise, but I suppose that it was made by the birds in the ivy outside my window. This was followed by a sense of uneasiness and a vague desire to leave my room, and go down to the ground floor. This feeling became so strong that I finally arose; I lit a candle, and went downstairs with the intention of taking something to quiet my nerves. On my way back to my room I saw Mr. Godfrey, standing by the large window which lights the stairs. He was dressed as usual, and had an expression which I have sometimes remarked on his face, when he was looking attentively at anything. He stood motionless, while I, holding the light up high, looked at him in extreme surprise. This lasted three or four seconds, after which, as I was going up the stairs, he disappeared. I was not frightened, but greatly agitated, and I could not go to sleep again.’
“Mr. Godfrey considered, very properly, that the experiment would have much more importance if it should be repeated. A second attempt failed, but a third succeeded.
“It is understood of course that the lady on whom he experimented was no more apprized of his intention than she had been on the first occasion.
“ ‘Last night,’ she writes, ‘On Tuesday, the 7th of December, at half-past ten o’clock, I went up stairs to bed. I soon fell asleep. Suddenly I heard a voice saying, ‘wake up!’ and I felt a hand laid on the left side of my head. (The intention of Mr. Godfrey this time, had been to make his presence felt by his voice and touch.) I was at once fully awake. There was a curious sound, like that of a jews-harp, in the room. I felt at the same time a cold breath, as it were, envelope me; my heart began to beat violently, and I distinctly saw a figure leaning over me.
“ ‘The only light in the room came from a lamp outside, which threw a long luminous ray on the wall above the dressing table; this ray was peculiarly darkened by the figure. I turned round quickly, and the hand seemed to fall from my head to the pillow. The figure was bent over me and I felt it lean against the side of the bed. I could perceive the outlines of the face, but as though obscured by a mist. It must have been about half-past twelve o’clock. The figure had slightly moved the curtain aside, but in the morning it was hanging down as usual. There is no doubt that the figure was that of Mr. Godfrey. I recognized him by the turn of his shoulders and the shape of his face. During all the time that he remained, there was a current of cold air in the room, as if both windows had been open.’ ”
These are facts!
In the present state of our knowledge, it would be rash to seek an explanation of those things. Our psychology is not far enough advanced. There are many things which we are forced to admit without in any way being able to explain them. To deny what we cannot explain would be sheer insanity. Could the system of the universe have been explained a thousand years ago? Even in our day can attraction be explained? But science advances, and its progress will be without end. Do we know the full capacity of the human faculties? That there may be in nature forces still unknown to us, as electricity was less than a century ago; that there may be in the universe other beings, endowed with other faculties, the thinker can not for an instant doubt. But is even the terrestrial completely known? It does not appear so.
There are facts, the reality of which we are forced to admit without being able in any way to explain them.
The life of Swedenborg presents three facts of this class. Setting aside for the present his visions of the stars and planets, which appear more subjective than objective, and merely remarking, en passant, that Swedenborg was a savant of the first order, in geology, in mineralogy, in crystallography, a member of the academies of science of Upsal, Stockholm, and St. Petersburg, let it suffice to call to mind the three following facts:
On the 19th of July, I759, returning from England, this savant landed at Gottenberg, and went to dine at the house of a certain William Costel, where many guests were assembled. At six o’clock in the evening Swedenborg, who had gone out, returned to the drawing-room, pale and in great consternation, telling them that a fire had just broken out at Stockholm in the Südermolm, in the street in which he lived, and that the flames were spreading rapidly toward his house. He went out again and returned, lamenting that the house of one of his friends had been burnt to ashes, and that his own house was in the greatest danger. At eight o’clock, after having gone out a third time, he exclaimed joyfully: “Thank God; the fire has been extinguished at the third house from mine.”
The news spread quickly through the city, in which it caused all the more excitement, as the governor himself was greatly concerned about it, and many persons were uneasy who had property or friends in Stockholm. Two days later, the royal courier brought the news of the conflagration from that city; there was no discrepancy between his account and that which had been given by Swedenborg; the fire had been extinguished at eight o’clock.
This account is written by the illustrious Kant, who desired to investigate the fact, and who adds: “What is there that can be alleged against the authenticity of this event?”
Now, Gottenberg is one hundred and twenty-five miles from Stockholm.
Swedenborg was at that time in his seventy-second year.
Here is the second fact:
In 1761, Madame de Marteville, widow of the Dutch ambassador at the court of Stockholm, was called on by one of her husband’s creditors to pay a sum of twenty-five thousand Dutch florins (about ten thousand dollars) which she knew had been already paid by her husband, and a second payment of which would place her in the greatest embarrassment — would, indeed, almost ruin her. It was impossible for her to find the receipt.
She paid a visit to Swedenborg, and eight days afterwards she saw in a dream her husband, who pointed out to her a piece of furniture where he told her she would find the lost receipt, together with a hair-pin, studded with twenty diamonds, which she had thought to be lost also. This was at two o’clock in the morning. Overjoyed, she arose and found the receipt in the place indicated. She went back to bed and slept until nine o’clock in the morning. At about eleven o’clock Swedenborg was announced. Before having heard anything that had happened, he told her that the previous night he had seen the spirit of her husband, M. Marteville, who had declared to him that he was going to visit his widow.
Here is the third fact:
In the month of February, 1772, Swedenborg, being at the time in London, sent a note to John Wesley, the founder of the sect of Wesleyan Methodists, saying that he would be delighted to make his acquaintance. The zealous preacher received this note at the moment when he was about to set out on a mission, and answered that he would profit by this courteous invitation to pay the savant a visit on his return, which would be in about six weeks. Swedenborg replied that in that case they would not see each other in this world, as the 29th of next March would be the day of his death.
Swedenborg in fact died on the date indicated by him more than a month beforehand.
These are three facts whose authenticity it is impossible to deny, but which in the actual state of our knowledge no one assuredly would undertake to explain.
We might multiply indefinitely these authentic accounts. Facts analogous to those related above, whether occurring at the moment of death or in the normal condition of life, without being of frequent occurrence are yet not so rare but that every one of our readers may have heard related, or even perhaps himself been witness to one or more of them. In addition to this, experiments made in the domain of magnetism, equally prove that in certain determined psychological cases, a mesmerist can act on his subject at a distance, not only of several yards, but of several miles, or even hundreds of miles, according to the sensitiveness and the lucidity of the subject, and no doubt also according to the will of the magnetiser. Besides, space is not what we believe it to be. The distance from Paris to London is great for a pedestrian; it would even have been impossible to make the journey before the invention of boats; it is nothing for electricity. The distance from the earth to the moon is great for our actual modes of locomotion; it is nothing for electricity. In fact from the point of view of the absolute, the space which separates us from Sirius is no greater a part of the infinite than the distance from Paris to Versailles, or from your right eye to your left.
Still more; the separation which seems to exist between the Earth and the Moon, or between the Earth and Mars, or even between the Earth and Sirius, is only an illusion due to the insufficiency of our perceptions. The Moon acts constantly upon the Earth and disturbs it perpetually. The attraction of Mars is also felt on our planet, and in our turn we disturb Mars in his course while we ourselves feel the influence of the Moon. Our globe even acts upon the Sun itself, causing it to move as much as if it touched it. In virtue of attraction the Moon causes the Earth to revolve every month around their common center of gravity, a point 1700 kilometres from the surface of the globe; the Earth causes the Sun to revolve annually around their common center of gravity, situated 456 kilometres from the solar center; all the worlds act perpetually on each other, so that there is no isolation, no real separation amongst them. Now, if attraction thus establishes a communication, real, constant, active and indisputable, proved mathematically, between the Earth and her sisters in space, we cannot see by what right pretended positivists declare that no communication can be possible between two beings, more or less removed from each other, whether on the Earth, or on two different worlds.
May not two brains, which vibrate in unison several miles apart, be moved by one and the same psychical force? May not the emotional force of the brain travel through the ether in the same manner as attraction, and strike the brain, which vibrates at any distance whatever, just as a sound through a room makes the chords of a piano or violin vibrate? Let us not forget that our brains are composed of molecules which do not touch each other and which are in perpetual vibration.
But why speak of the brain? Thought, with psychic force, or whatever else it may be called, can it not act from a distance on another will through the sympathetic and indissoluble bonds of intellectual kinship? Are not the palpitations of the heart transmitted suddenly to the heart which beats in unison with ours?
Are we to suppose, in the case of the apparitions above mentioned, that the spirits of the dead have really taken a corporeal form beside the observer? In the greater number of cases this hypothesis does not seem necessary. In our dreams we believe that we see persons who are by no means before our eyes, which, besides, are closed. We see them plainly, as well as in the daylight; we speak to them, we hear them, we hold long conversations with them. Assuredly it is neither our retina nor our optic nerve which sees them, any more than it is our ear which hears them. Our cerebral cells alone are in play.
Certain apparitions may be objective, exterior, substantial; others may be subjective; in the latter case the person who manifests himself would act at a distance on the person who sees him, and this influence upon his brain would determine the interior vision which seems to be exterior, as in dreams, but which may be purely subjective and interior.
In the same way as a thought, a memory, awakens in our mind an image which may seem very real, very vivid, so one mind acting on another, may evoke in it an image which for an instant may seem to be reality.
Those facts are now clearly demonstrated by experiments in hypnotism and suggestion, sciences which are still in their infancy, but which give results assuredly worthy of the most earnest attention, as well from a psychological as from a physiological point of view. It is not the retina which receives the impression of real objects, it is the optic thalami, which are excited by a psychical force. It is the mental being itself which receives the impression. In what way? We cannot tell.
Such appear to be the most rational conclusions to be drawn from the class of phenomena of which we have been treating; phenomena unexplained, although very ancient, for the history of all nations, from the most remote antiquity, has handed down to us examples which it would be difficult to deny or ignore.
“But,” you will exclaim, “can we, ought we, in our age of experimental philosophy and of positive science, to admit that not only a dying but even a dead person can hold communication with us?”
What is a dead person?
A human being dies every second upon the whole surface of the terrestrial globe — that is to say, about 86,400 persons die every day, thirty-one millions every year, or more than three thousand millions in a century. In ten centuries thirty thousand millions of corpses have been given to the earth and returned to atmospheric circulation in the form of water, gases, vapor, etc. If we take into account the diminution of the human population as we go back to remoter ages, we find that in ten thousand years two hundred thousand millions of human bodies, at the lowest calculation, have been formed by means of respiration and alimentation from the earth and the atmosphere, and have returned to them again. The molecules of oxygen, of hydrogen, of carbonic acid gas, of azote, which constituted those bodies, have enriched the earth and entered again into atmospheric circulation.
Yes, the earth which we inhabit, is today formed, in part, of the myriads of brains which have thought, of the myriads of organisms which have lived. We walk over our ancestors, as those who come after us will walk over us. The brows of the thinkers, the eyes which have looked, smiled, wept; the lips which have sung of love, the snowy bosoms, the womb of the mother, the arm of the worker, the muscles of the warrior, the blood of the vanquished, youth and age, the rich and the poor alike, all who have lived, all who have thought, lie in the same earth. It would be difficult at this day to take a single step upon the planet without walking over the remains of the dead; it would be difficult to eat or drink without reabsorbing what has been eaten and drunk thousands of times already; it would be difficult to breathe without incorporating the air already breathed by the dead.
Do you believe, then, that this is all there is of humanity? Do you think that it leaves nothing nobler, grander, more spiritual behind? Does each one of us, in yielding up his latest breath, give nothing to the universe but so many pounds of flesh and bone, which become disintegrated and are returned to the elements? Has not the soul that animates the body as good a right to exist as each one of its molecules of oxygen, azote or iron? And all the souls which have lived, do they not still exist?
We have no reason to affirm that man is formed solely of material elements, and that the faculty of thinking is only a property of his organization. We have, on the contrary, the strongest reasons for believing that the soul is an individual entity, and the force which governs the molecules in organizing the living form of the human body.
What becomes of the invisible and intangible molecules which constitutes our body during life? They become a part of new bodies. What becomes of the souls equally invisible and intangible? It is reasonable to suppose that they also become reincarnated in new organisms, each one following his nature, his faculties, and his destiny.
The soul belongs to the psychic world. Without doubt there are on the earth innumerable souls, dull, coarse, scarcely ever freed from matter, incapable of comprehending intellectual truths. But there are others who pass their lives in study, in contemplation, in the investigation of the psychical or spiritual world. Those cannot remain imprisoned on the earth, and their destiny is to live the Uranian life.
The Uranian soul lives, even during its terrestrial incarnations, in the world of the infinite and the divine. It knows that although inhabiting the earth, it dwells in reality in the heavens, and that our planet is a star in the heavens.
What is the inmost nature of the soul? What are its modes of manifestation? When does its memory become permanent? Does it preserve with certainty a consciousness of its own identity? Under what diversity of forms and of substances can it live? What extent of space can it traverse? What kind of intellectual relations exist between the different planets of the same system? What is the germinating principle in the worlds? When shall we be able to place ourselves in communication with the neighboring worlds? When shall we penetrate the profound secrets of destiny? All is mystery and ignorance today. But the unknown of yesterday is the truth of tomorrow.
It is an absolutely incontestible fact, demonstrated by history and science, that in all ages, among all peoples, and under religious forms the most diverse, the idea of immortality remains fixed imperishably in the depths of the human conscience. Education has given it a thousand different forms, but it has not invented it. This ineradicable idea is self-existent. Every human being on coming into the world, brings with him, under a form more or less vague, this inward sentiment, this desire, this hope.
* “Phantasms of the Living,” by E. Gurney and Fr. Myers, Professors of the University of Cambridge, and Frank Podmore, London, 1886. The “Society for Psychical Research” has for President, Professor Balfour Stewart, of the Royal Society of London.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54