We, as souls, do not forget our immediate past life identities when we transition our physical bodies at death to life in the Spirit world.
Subject: The Spirits Book Teaching that souls always remain individuals
RETURN FROM THE CORPOREAL TO THE SPIRIT LIFECHAPTER III
1. THE SOUL AFTER DEATH; ITS INDIVIDUALITY; ETERNAL LIFE - 2. SEPARATION OF SOUL AND BODY - 3. TEMPORARILY CONFUSED STATE OF THE SOUL
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 theme, 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."
Separation of Soul and Body
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 occurringto the body. The sensations experienced at the moment of death are often a source of enjoyment for the spirit, who recognises 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, orperispirit. 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 theperispirit 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 theperispirit 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 cons- sciousness 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 tile 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; hut, 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 have 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.
Temporarily - Confused State of the Soul After Death
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 pew 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 punisment, 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 otherand 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 as leep. 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.
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