Camille Flammarion.

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Proofs of the Existence of the Soul








Copyright, 1921, by
The Century Co.

Copyright, 1920, by
Ernest Flammarion




I The Greatest of Problems — Can It Actually Be

Solved? 3

II Materialism — an Erroneous, Incomplete, and Insuf-
ficient Doctrine 28

III What Is Man f Does the Soul Exist? 47

IV Supra-normal Faculties of the Soul, unknown or

Little Understood 63

V The Will, Acting without the Spoken Word, with-
out A Sign, and at a Distance - . 99

VI Telepathy and Psychic Transmissions at a Distance 128

VII Vision without Eyes — the Spirit^s Vision, Exclusive

OF Telepathic Transmissions 164

VIII The Sight of Future Events; The Present Future;

The Already Seen 221

IX Knowledge of the Future 243





To be or not to be.


ALTHOUGH I am not yet entirely satisfied with it,
I have decided to offer to-day, to the attention of
thinking men, a work begun more than half a cen-
tury ago. The method of scientific experiment, which is
the only method of value in the search for truth, lays re-
quirements upon us which we cannot and ought not to avoid.
The grave problem considered in this treatise is the most
complex of all problems and concerns the general construc-
tion of the universe as well as of the human being — that
microcosm of the great whole. ^ In the days of our youth
we begin these endless researches because we are full of con-
fidence and see a long life stretching out before us. But
the longest life passes, with its lights and shadows, like a^
dream. (If we may form one wish in the course of this exist- ^'
ence, it is to have been in some way of service to the slow
but none the less real progress of humanity, that fantastic
race, credulous and skeptical, virtuous and criminal, indif-
ferent and curious, good and wicked, as well as incoherent
and ignorant as a whole — ^barely out of the chrysalis wrap- »
pings of its animal state.
When the first editions of my book *'La Pluralite des



Mondes habites*' were published (1862-64), a certain number
of readers seemed to expect the natural sequel : * ' La Pluralite
des existences de I'ame." If the first problem has been con-
sidered solved by my succeeding books (''Astronomic popu-
laire," ''La Planete Mars/' "Uranie,'' "Stella," "Reves
etoiles,'' etc.), the second has remained an open question,^
and the survival of the soul, either in space or on other
/\ worlds or through earthly reincarnations, still confronts us
as the most formidable of problems.

A thinking atom, borne on a material atom across the
boundless space of the Milky Way, man may well ask himself
if he is as insignificant in soul as he is in body, if the law
of progress can raise him in an indefinite ascent, and if there
is a system of order in the moral world that is harmoniously
associated with the order of the physical world.

Is not spirit superior to matter ? What is our true nature ?
What is our future destiny? Are we merely ephemeral
flames shining an instant to be forever extinguished? Shall
we never see again those whom we have loved and who have
gone before us into the Great Beyond? Are such separa-
tions eternal? Does everything in us die? If something re-
\ mains, what becomes of this imponderable element — invisible,
H^i'^Hntangible, but conscious — which must constitute our lasting
* personality? Will it endure for long? Will it endure for-

Vfo he or not to he? Such is the great, the eternal question

/asked by all the philosophers, the thinkers, the seekers of all

t/ times and all creeds. Is death an end or a transformation?

-^k Do there exist proois^evidences of the survival of the human

being after the destruction of the living organism? Until

to-day the subject has remained outside the field of scientific

observation. Is it possible to approach it by the principles

1 Although a distinguished writer, the philosopher Andr6 Pezzani, who
calls himself my disciple, pulilished in 1865 La Pluralite des existences
de Vame, conforme a la doctrine de la Pluralit6 des mondes.


of experimentation to which humanity owes all the progress
that has been realized by science? Is the attempt logical?
Are we not face to face with the mysteries of an invisible
world which is different from that which lies before our
senses and which cannot be penetrated by our methods of
positive investigation ? May we not essay, seek to find whether
or not certain facts, if carefully and correctly observed, are
susceptible of being scientifically analyzed and accepted as
real by the severest criticism ? We want no more fine words,
no more metaphysics. Facts! Facts!

It is a question of our fate, our destiny, our personal future,
our very existence.

It is not cold reason alone that demands an answer; it is
not only the mind ; it is our longings, our heart also.

It is childish and may appear conceited to bring one's own
self upon the scene, but it is sometimes difficult to refrain
from doing so; and as I have undertaken these laborious re-
searches primarily in order to answer the questions of sor-
rowing hearts it seems to me that the most logical preface
to this book will be furnished by some of those innumerable
confidential communications which have reached me during
more than half a century, begging with anguish for the solu-
tion of the mystery.

Those who have never lost by death some one deeply loved
have never sounded the depths of despair, have never bruised
themselves against the closed door of the tomb. We seek, and
an impenetrable wall rises inexorably before the terror that
confronts us. I have received hundreds of earnest appeals
which I should have liked to answer. Should I make these
confidences known ? I have hesitated a long time. But there
are so many of them, they reflect so faithfully the intense
desire that exists to reach a solution, that it has now become a
matter of general interest and my duty is clear. These ex-
pressions of feeling are the natural introduction to this work,
for it is they that have decided me to write it. Nevertheless,


I must apologize for reproducing these pages without altera-
tion ; for if they reveal the very souls of their sensitive authors,
they also express themselves about me in terms of praise which
it might well seem immodest on my part to publish. But this
is only a personal detail, and consequently insignificant, espe-
cially as an astronomer, who realizes that he is an atom be-
fore the infinite and eternal universe, is inaccessible to and
hermetically sealed against feelings of worldly vanity. Those
who know me have considered me so for many long years.
My absolute indifference to all honors has abundantly proved
this true. Whether I am considered great or insignificant,
whether I am praised or criticized, I remain the distant

The following letter was written me by a distracted mother
and has been reproduc'&d literally. It shows how well worth
while it would be at least to attempt to relieve suffering
humanity. It is more than the science of doctoring the body,
it is the science of healing the soul that must be created.

To Our Great Flammarion

Reinosa, Spain, March 30, 1907.
Monsieur :

I wish I might cling to your knees and kiss your feet while I
beseech you to hear me and not to reject my prayer. I cannot, I
know not how to express myself. I wish I might arouse your pity,
might interest you in my grief, but I should have to see you, to tell
you myself of my unhappiness, to paint the horror of what is pass-
ing in my soul, and then you could not deny me an immense com-
passion. What I have had to suffer before I could bring myself to
commit this act of daring and indiscretion that resembles mad-
ness! Whence came the idea of addressing myself to our illus-
trious Flammarion, of asking him to console an unknown person
who has no other claim upon his kindness than that of a fellow-
countrywoman? It is because I am suffering! I have just lost
a son, an only son. I am a widow and my only happiness consisted


in this son and one daughter. Monsieur Flammarion, you would
have had to know the beloved child I have just lost, to understand.
I should have to tell you the story of the thirty-three years of his
existence: then you would understand.

When at five years of age he was given up by all the celebrated
physicians of Paris and Madrid, because of hip trouble, my poor
husband and I sacrificed a brilliant position at Madrid and buried
ourselves in a lonely country district in Spain in order to save this
little boy who was the object of our devotion. For eight years he
was ill and he was left lame! What he cost me in anxiety, care,
sorrow, sleepless nights, anguish, and sacrifices it would be impossible
to explain. But how dear and lovable he was! Brought up in a
little carriage, petted and caressed, he was the most adorable child
one could imagine. Oh, that childhood! how I wish I could get it
back! At twelve years of age he no longer suffered from his leg,
but he could not walk without crutches. What a grief this was to
me, who had brought him into the worM strong and well made!
Later, at seventeen, he walked with only one crutch and a cane. At
twenty, he was as handsome a lad as could be seen anywhere. If
I dared, I would send you his photograph, so that you might see
that my mother's love exaggerates nothing. Every one felt his
charm; he had that gift of pleasing which can be neither defined
nor explained. Men, women, children, old and young were charmed
by I know not what that radiated from his person. Wherever I
went with him, I was congratulated on the beauty and goodness of
my son. People envied me him. Ah! that was because he was as
beautiful as he was good! His soul was all nobility, grandeur,
generosity. Intelligent and spiritual, even-tempered and sweet in
his disposition as he was, life with him was a heavenly dream, a con-
tinual enchantment. You will realize what this meant. Monsieur,
when I tell you that at twenty he developed cystitis, which was
certainly a return of that first trouble in his leg, and that this cy-
stitis was the beginning of a whole chain of suffering of which only
hell could give you any idea. I cannot understand how God, our
Creator, can permit the human body to be so martyrized. Above
all, when this martyrdom is inflicted on a good and innocent being
like my son. All the great specialists were consulted again, but
alas! none of them was able to cure him. He spent thirteen years


alternating between periods of better and worse, preserving, in the
midst of the most atrocious suffering, his sweetness, his goodness
and even his gaiety, so as not to sadden others. ^

For the past four years he has scarcely suffered at all, and last
year he was so much better that he believed he was cured. My
poor husband had died in 1902. From that time my son had been
the head of our little family: mother, sister, and himself. How
happy we were!

Although we were obliged to work to supply our needs, life ap-
peared very beautiful to us! My daughter had never wished to
marry, so that she might devote herself to her brother, whom she
adored. I was so happy in the love I saw that my children bore
each other that I no longer feared death for myself, as I knew I
should leave them together, not to be separated as long as they
lived, living each for the other. And how shall I describe to you
the tenderness of my son for his mother, of this mother for her
son? Seek in heaven among the angels; seek above, among those
worlds to which your gaze penetrates; seek among all the best and
sweetest things that love can produce, and you will have only a
feeble idea of the filial and the maternal love of these two. I dare
not think of it. I dare not remember his eyes, his voice, when he
looked at me and said, "Darling Mother!'^

Last August it was proposed to him that he should visit a mine (he
had acquired a taste for this kind of work and had been occupied
with it for some time). He wished to take me with him. When
we reached a certain spot we were told that we should have to go
on horseback to reach the mine. As I knew he had been forbidden
to ride horseback, because of his bladder, I refused; but my son
assured me he felt certain he could make this trip without danger.
We hesitated; we discussed it; I yielded.

Ah ! why can we never retrace our steps ! This excursion so tired
my son that he fell ill of gastric fever. He was in the hands of
stupid and ignorant physicians who knew nothing of his condition
and who let months slip by while they said that nothing was the
matter! A tumor attacked the bladder, the walls could not endure
the strain: the bladder burst!

The tortures of hell are nothing to the tortures suffered by my


unhappy son! A celebrated surgeon was called in. He did not
arrive until twenty-two hours after the accident. My child had
made all his preparations for leaving this world. They operated,
but all hope was gone. The poor boy survived the operation for
thirteen days; the surgeon had given him only twenty -four hours
more. But my son, who understood his mother's and sister's grief,
resisted, fighting bravely in spite of everything. What days, Mon-
sieur ! They gave us the measure of his greatness of soul.

Thinking only of us, of the consequences of his death to two
women who would remain alone and without support in a foreign
country, who would always mourn an adored son and brother, he
tried in all ways to soften the horror of this situation. What he
said to us in those supreme moments were the words not of a young
man of thirty-three but of a saint, an angel, a superhuman being!
Oh, that face tortured by suffering! Those eyes that seemed to see
something of another world! And his mouth, twisted by pain, still
trying to smile, his hand pressing mine as he said : "Good-by, darl-
ing Mother, good-by! I have loved you so dearly! Do not forget
me! Oh! Almighty God," he said, "you did not lay so much on
your son, on your own son, who was God, and I, who am only a
poor man, you give ten times more to bear. Oh! death! in pity,
death ! If you love me, ask God to send me death !"

For thirteen days and longer!

Oh, Flammarion ! have pity on me ! In the name of your mother,
be merciful! I am mad with grief. It is thirty-two days since he
died and I have not slept ten hours since. At night I sit up until
four in the morning, and when fatigue has conquered me I throw
myself, entirely clothed, on my bed and shut my eyes, but a iixed idea
continues during this painful sleep ; I do not lose my memories for a
single instant, and when I open my eyes I am obsessed by them all
day long; what I suffer is so frightful, so atrocious that I ask my-
self if hell is not preferable to what I endure. Is it possible that
it can be God who has created beings destined to experience such
horrors !

You, an astronomer and a thinker, who weigh the suns and the
worlds, you whose glance penetrates those mysterious regions among
which our spirit loses itself, tell me, I beg you on my knees, tell me


if our souls survive somewhere. If I can preserve the hope of see-
ing my son again, if he sees me. If there exists any way of com-
municating with him.

You who know so many things about the heavens, about spirits,
about the marvels of the universe, I ask you in pity to tell me some-
thing that can leave my wounded, tortured heart a ray of hope, how-
ever feeble ! You cannot understand the excess of my grief. I wish
that I might die of it. I hope to die, but — my daughter is here, who
beseeches me to live, not to leave her alone in the world; and then
I see myself forced to live and forced to suffer! What horror!
When I think that in an instant I could put an end to my misery!
If it were possible to weigh grief, to measure it as you measure the
worlds, the weight would be so heavy, the extent so great that you
would be frightened to think that one human soul could reach such
a degree of torture : there must be something infernal in my destiny !
Neither red-hot irons nor pincers could cause such suffering! My
son, my beloved child ! I want him, I wish to see him ! I desire no
heaven without him. Oh! my adored Emanuel! flesh of my flesh!
joy of my life! my happiness as a mother lost forever! Is there a
God? Is it he who permits these horrors on earth? Monsieur
Flammarion, in pity, in the name of those you love and who love
you, do not be insensible to the greatest human grief that has ever
torn a heart ! Say something to me, you who possess the secrets of
the heavens! you who know! We simple mortals can neither know
nor understand. Tell me if souls survive somewhere, if they remem-
ber, if they still love those who remain on earth ; if they see us, if we
can call them near us.

Ah ! if I could see you and fall at your knees ! Forgive this mad
act. I no longer know whether I dream or wake! I feel only one
thing, a grief so sharp that it seems like a red-hot iron, continually
plunged into a gaping wound.

Forgive me. Monsieur Flammarion! Your suns and stars, so
beautiful and so marvelous, do not feel or suffer. And I feel a grief
greater than all the worlds that move in space! So small, so un-
important a thing, and yet to feel so intolerable a grief! What can
it be? What is this mystery? A being so feeble and limited — and
to suffer so !


Forgive me once more, Master, in the name of your mother!
Forgive me and pity your unhappy countrywoman,


At Reinosa, Province of Santander, Spain.

So runs this letter, full of anguish, v^^hich I reproduce
literally, in order to show all the horror of such a situation.
I repeat that I must apologize for the dithyrambics that
concern me. Their only significance is in so clearly revealing
this immense grief joined to the ardent hope of seeing these
clouds dispersed.

One would have to possess a heart of stone to be un-
touched by these heartrending appeals of mother love, to
remain deaf to the an^ish of such despair, and not to feel
an ardent desire to consecrate one's life to bringing some

Priests receive appeals of this sort every day, because
they are considered ministers of God, endowed with the
power of penetrating the riddle of the supernatural and
solving it. They answer such grief with the consolations
of religion. The priest speaks in the name of Faith and
Revelation; but faith cannot be imposed, it is not even as
generally held as we imagine. I know priests, bishops, and
cardinals who are without it, even while they teach it as
a social necessity. There are a hundred different religions
on earth, all of them perhaps useful, but unacceptable from
the point of view of philosophy. Face to face with such
events as I have just related, are their ministers able to
convince us that a just and good God rules over humanity?
The man of science is seated neither on the bench of the
confessional nor in the bishop's chair, and he can tell only
what he knows. He is honest, frank, independent, rational
before everything. His duty is research and study. We are
still seeking and we do not pretend to have found the answer,
still less to have a revelation of the truth from heaven. That


was the only answer I was able to give the unknown woman,
even while I left her the hope of some day seeing her son
again and in the meantime of remaining in spiritual rela-
tionship with him. But I do not, like Auguste Comte, Saint-
Simon, or Enfantin, imagine myself the high priest of a new
religion. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the uni-
versal religion of the future will be founded upon science,
and especially upon astronomy, associated with the knowl-
edge of physics.

Let us make our search humbly and all together. I must
excuse myself again for having reproduced the expressions
of praise in this letter, but to suppress them would be to
suppress at the same time the expression of this distress,
this confidence and this hope.

The loss of a son inspired the preceding letter ; the loss of a
daughter inspired the following.

Theil-sur-Vanne, November, 1899.
Master :

I have the honor of knowing you through your works well enough
to be sure that you are kind and to hope that, although I am un-
known to you, you will be willing to read with indulgence what I
write and will pity my misfortune while according me your spiritual
help, of which I have such great need.

On the nineteenth of last September I had the unspeakable sor-
row of losing a charming child sixteen and a half years old, of great
intelligence and an exquisite delicacy of feeling, and oh! how beau-
tiful! She seemed an incorporeal being, so ideally lovely were her
chaste, graceful body and her angelic face. My sweet darling, w4th
her large, magnificent blue eyes full of expression, framed with
lashes as dark as her delicately arched eyebrows, her nose a little
long but fine and straight, her mouth somewhat large but expressing
so much goodness, her face a soft oval, the color of a lovely lily.
A dear little dimple in her chin gave beauty to her smile and lighted
up a face that was usually rather serious.

A splendid mass of liglit auburn hair, naturally curly, delicntely
waved, graced her virginal forehead like a golden foam; her ears


were dear little shells which you divined, hidden in the mass of
her fine hair, little nests for kisses, upon which I can no longer
place my lips, hungry with tenderness. My dearly loved daughter
is no more. My eyes can no longer rest in affection upon her charm-
ing, beloved face; I can only weep for her. So many moral and
physical perfections brutally, cruelly, stupidly, savagely blotted out!
Pitiless death has taken everything from me. My Renee, my be-
loved — I have her no longer, and I go on living. Life! — what a
prison !

And with her have vanished our good talks. They are ended now
— all our wonderful conversations on the most abtruse questions of
the life beyond, for although she was so young, my daughter was
a thoughtful girl, a precious friend, my confidante and dearly loved
companion. She was everything to me, this pure and lovely flower,
cut down before her full and perfect blooming. Why? What a
problem !

Since then, I have thought of suicide as a way of rejoining her,
but (did this intuition come from her approaching end?) the
evening before her death, while her arms were about me, she said
coaxingly, "Mamma must not commit suicide ; she must wait, must n't
*shef' I was completely taken aback and I did not understand until
the next day when, white as a lily, she gave me her last kiss and
closed her eyes forever. Ah ! that last kiss ! She put all that re-
mained of her life into it. What moments! What tortures! Su-
preme, never-to-be-forgotten hours! I still see her. I love my
suffering. I see my dear little dead girl who had felt, who had
guessed my despair: she wished me to remain to weep for her. My
grief is full of vain regrets, of the sense of bitter deception, of
revolt against everybody and everything; I find myself murmuring
against God Himself, who has taken from me what is a thousand
times dearer than my life. From this time on I can live only in
the memory of her — my daughter, my constant thought — she was
my religion, I adored her. If it is possible, I should like to find
some consolation in spiritualism, to take refuge in it with faith,
hope, and love.

But I know so little about these matters.

My husband and I have tried to experiment with a table, alas!
without results, although we did everything to insure success —


placing on the table the photograph of our dear child, one of her
curls, a page of her writing — and although we evoked her with all
the strength of our will. But our tears, our calls, our longings were

Online LibraryCamille FlammarionDeath and its mystery : before death, proofs of the existence of the soul → online text (page 1 of 27)