LUMEN: Whilst not very long ago (but I can no longer express that time by earthly measurements), in a melancholy region of Capella, I was contemplating the starry heavens at the beginning of a clear night, occupied in noting the star which is your earthly Sun, and near it the little azure planet, your Earth, I observed one of the scenes of my childhood--my young mother seated in the midst of a garden, holding an infant in her arms (my brother), having at her side a little girl of two summers (my sister), and a boy two years older (myself). I saw myself at that age when man is not yet conscious of his intellectual existence, though he bears even then upon his brow the germ of future promise. Whilst dreaming of this singular spectacle, which showed me myself at the entrance of my earthly career, I felt my attention drawn from your planet by a superior power, and directed towards another point in the heavens, which, even at that moment, seemed to be linked with the Earth and my career there, by some mysterious tie. I could not turn my gaze from this new point in the heavens, my eyes being, as it were, chained to the spot by some magnetic power I was unable to resist. Several times I endeavoured to withdraw my eyes, and to fix them on the Earth I love so well; but in vain, for I was ever re-attracted to the same unknown star.
This star, upon which my eyes sought instinctively to divine something, belongs to the constellation of Virgo, whose form varies slightly as seen from Capella. It is a double star, that is to say, an association of two suns, one of a silvery whiteness, the other of a bright golden yellow, which revolve round one another once in 175 years.
This star can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye, and its sign is the letter γ (Gamma), in the constellation of Virgo. Around each of the suns which form it there is a planetary system. My sight was fixed upon one of the planets belonging to the golden sun. On that planet there are animals and vegetables as upon the Earth; their forms bear a similarity to earthly ones, although there is an essential difference in their organisms.
The star Gamma in Virgo.
Their animal kingdom is analogous to yours; they have fishes in the seas, quadrupeds in the air, in which men can fly without wings, by reason of the extreme density of the atmosphere. The men of this planet possess almost the same form as those on the Earth, but no hair grows upon their heads, and they have three large thin thumbs instead of five fingers on their hands, and three great toes at the heel in place of soles to their feet, the extremities of their arms and legs being supple as india-rubber. They have, nevertheless, two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, which give them their resemblance to earthly beings. They have not two ears, one on each side of the head, but one only, in the shape of a cone, which is placed on the upper part of the skull like a little hat.
Life on the planet of Virgo.
They live in societies and wear clothing. Thus, you see, in their exterior they differ little from the inhabitants of the Earth.
QUÆRENS: Are there, then, in other worlds beings entirely distinct from us, but who, notwithstanding their dissimilarities, can be compared with us?
LUMEN: A distinction profound and unimaginable by you separates in general the animal life of the different worlds. These forms are the result of elements special to each globe, and of the forces which regulate them: matter, density, weight, heat, light, electricity, atmosphere, &c., differ essentially on each globe. Even in the same system these forms differ.
Thus the men of Uranus and Mercury do not in any way resemble the men of the Earth; those who see them for the first time cannot perceive that they possess either head, members, or senses. On the contrary, the forms of those in the planetary system of Virgo, towards which my attention was being persistently drawn, are nearly similar to those of the inhabitants of the Earth, whom they also resemble morally and intellectually. Slightly inferior to ourselves, they belong to that scale in the order of souls which immediately precedes that of terrestrial humanity as a whole.
The system of Gamma in Virgo.
QUÆRENS: Yet there is a wide divergence between human beings themselves in all that pertains both to intellect and morals. We in Europe differ greatly from the tribes of Abyssinia and from the savages of the Oceanic Isles. What people do you take as a type of the highest degree of intelligence on the Earth?
LUMEN: The Arabs. They are capable of producing their Keplers, their Newtons, their Galileos, their Archimedes, their Euclids, their D'Alemberts. Besides, they sprang from those primitive hordes whose roots reach down to the bed rock of humanity. But it is not necessary to choose a people for a type. It is better to consider modern civilisation as a whole. Nor is there so marked a distance as you appear to suppose, between the brain capacity of a negro and that of the Latin race.
The Arabs and their intelligence.
However, if you insist upon a comparison, I can assure you that the men of the planet of Virgo are almost on a par intellectually with the Scandinavians.
The most vital difference which exists between their world and the Earth, is the absence of sex. Neither plants, animals, nor human beings have sex. Generation is effected spontaneously, as the natural result of the union of certain physiological conditions in some of the fertile isles of this planet, man not being formed in the womb of his mother as upon earth. It would be useless to explain the process, to one whose earthly faculties prevent him comprehending the facts of a world distinctly different from his own. It results from this organic arrangement, that marriage in any form does not exist in this world, and that the friendships between human beings are never mixed with the carnal desires, which are inevitably manifested on the Earth between people of different sexes, even when the attraction is most pure. Probably you will remember that during the protozoic period, the inhabitants of the Earth were all deaf, dumb, and sexless. The division into sexes took place much later in the history of Nature both among animals and plants.
Vital difference between Virgo and the Earth.
Being attracted towards this far-off planet I attentively examined its surface with my spiritual sight, and I was specially drawn, without knowing the cause, to a white city, resembling from afar a region covered with snow; but it is improbable that it was snow, as it is unlikely that water can exist on that globe in the same physical and chemical conditions as upon the Earth. Upon the borders of this city an avenue led to a neighbouring wood of yellow trees. I soon remarked three persons who seemed to be slowly sauntering towards this wood. This little group was formed of two friends, who were in close conversation, and of a third, who differed from both by his red garment and the burden he bore, and who was probably their servant, their slave, or some domestic animal. Whilst intently regarding the two principal personages, I observed the one to the right raise his face to the sky, as if some one had called him from a balloon, and turn his gaze towards Capella, a star which, doubtless, he did not see, because for him it was then daylight. Oh, my old friend, I shall never forget the sudden surprise this sight gave me! I can still scarcely believe that I was not dreaming . . .
This person on the planet of Virgo, who was looking towards me without knowing it, was . . . Can I tell you? Well, it was myself!
QUÆRENS: How yourself?
LUMEN: Yes, my very self. I recognised myself instantly, and you can judge of my surprise!
QUÆRENS: Certainly I can. I cannot comprehend it at all.
LUMEN: The fact is, the situation was so entirely novel that it demands explanation. It was in truth myself, and I was not long in finding out, not only that it was my former face and figure, but also that the person walking by my side was my dear Kathleen, an intimate friend, and the companion of my studies upon that planet. My gaze followed them as far as the Yellow Wood, across picturesque valleys, beneath golden cupolas, under trees covered with large orange-tinted branches, and through hedges of elms with amber-coloured leaves. A purling brook babbled on the fine sand, and we seated ourselves on its banks.
I recall sweet hours we have passed together, the happy years which have glided away in this far-off country, the fraternal confidences, and the impressions we shared, in the midst of woodland scenes, of silent plains, of mist-covered hills, and of little lakes which smilingly reflected the heavens. With aspirations raised towards all that was grand and sacred in nature, we adored God in His works. With what joy I saw again this phase of my previous existence, and riveted anew the golden chain, whose links life on Earth had broken!
In truth, dear Quærens, it was my very self who then was living on that planet of Virgo. I really saw myself, and I could follow in sequence the events of my life and the happiest moments of that existence, now so far remote.
Besides, if I had had any doubt of my identity, the uncertainty would have ceased during my observation, for whilst pondering upon the matter, I saw Berthor--my brother during that existence--come out of the wood, approach us, and join in our conversation by the side of the murmuring brook.
QUÆRENS: Master, I fail still to comprehend how you could really see yourself on that planet of Virgo. Were you then gifted with ubiquity?
Could you, like Francis of Assisi or Apollonius of Tyana, be in two places at the same time?
LUMEN: Certainly not. But in examining the astronomical co-ordinates of the Sun Gamma in Virgo, and knowing its parallax as seen from Capella, I came to the conclusion that the light from this Sun could not employ less than 172 years in traversing the distance which separates it from Capella.
Scientific explanation of anterior life on Virgo.
I was then actually receiving the luminous ray which left that world 172 years before. And it so happens that at that epoch I was absolutely living upon the planet of which we speak, and that I was then in my twentieth year. In verifying these periods, and in comparing the different planetary styles, I found, in fact, that I was born on the world of Virgo in the year 45904 (which corresponds to the year 1677 of the Christian era on Earth), and that I died--through an accident--in the year 45913, which corresponds to the year 1767. Each year of this planet equals ten of yours. When I saw myself, as I have just told you, I appeared to be about twenty years of age according to earthly reckoning, but following the way of reckoning on that planet, I was only two years old. There the age of fifteen years is often reached, which is considered the limit of life on that globe, and is equivalent to 150 years on the Earth.
The luminous ray, or, to speak more accurately, the aspect or photograph of the world of Virgo, takes 172 earthly years to traverse the immense space which separates it from Capella; consequently, upon finding myself upon this last star I was receiving at that very moment the image which left the constellation of Virgo 172 years previously. And although things have changed greatly, though generations have followed generations, though I died there myself, and have had time to be born again and live seventy-two years on the Earth, nevertheless light had taken all this time to cross the space which separates Virgo from Capella, and was bringing afresh to me impressions of events long passed away.
Light takes 172 years to travel from Virgo to Capella.
QUÆRENS: This duration of the passage of light being proved, I have not any objection to urge on this point, but I frankly own that to credit an experience of such amazing singularity, taxes my imagination beyond its just limits.
LUMEN: This is not any imagination, my old friend. It is a reality, eternal and sacred, holding its fixed place in the universal plan of creation. The light of every star, direct or reflected--say otherwise, the aspect of each Sun, and of each planet--is diffused in space, according to a rate of rapidity already known to you, and the luminous ray contains in itself all that is visible. As nothing can be lost, the history of each world is contained in the light which incessantly emanates from it in successive waves, eternally travelling into infinite space without any possibility of its being annihilated. True, the terrestrial eye cannot read it; but there are eyes immeasurably superior to your earthly ones.
The history of each world is contained in the rays of light.
I make use of the terms sight and light, in these conversations, in order that you may comprehend them; but, as I told you in a previous communication, speaking absolutely, there is not such a thing as light, only vibrations of ether; neither is there any sight, only perceptions of the mind. Moreover, even upon the Earth, when you examine the nature of a star with a telescope, or better still with a spectroscope, you well know it is not its actual state you have before your eyes, but its past state, transmitted to you by a ray of light which left it, perhaps, ten thousand years ago. You know, besides, that a contain number of stars, of which your astronomers on the Earth are seeking to determine the physical and numerical properties, and which shine brilliantly over your heads, have long ago ceased even to exist--may indeed have ceased to exist since the beginning of your world.
Light is vibrations of ether; Sight, perceptions of thought.
QUÆRENS: We know this is so. Thus you have seen, unrolled before your eyes, your existence previous to the last one, 172 years after it had flown by.
LUMEN: Say rather one phase of this existence; but I could have been able, and could now indeed review my entire life by going closer to that planet, as I have already done for my terrestrial existence.
QUÆRENS: So, through the medium of light, you have really seen again your last two incarnations?
LUMEN: Precisely; and what is more, I have seen them, and continue to see them, simultaneously, side by side as it were of one another.
QUÆRENS: You see them again both at the same time?
LUMEN: This fact is easily explained. The light from the Earth takes seventy-two years to reach Capella. The light from the planet of Virgo, being once and a half farther off than Capella, takes once and a half longer time to travel, which would make it about 172 years. As I lived seventy-two years upon the Earth, and one hundred years before that upon the other planet, these two periods reach me at precisely the same time upon Capella. Thus by simply looking at these two worlds, I have before me my last two existences, which unroll themselves as if I were not here to see them, and without my being able to change any of the acts that I see myself upon the point of accomplishing, either upon the one or the other, since those acts, although present and future to my actual observation, are in reality past.
QUÆRENS: This is indeed a strange experience!
LUMEN: But what struck me most in this unexpected observation of two of my previous existences in two different worlds, thus unrolled before me, was the odd resemblance between these two lives. I found that I had almost the same tastes in the one as in the other, the same passions, the same errors. Nothing criminal, nothing saintly in either.
Furthermore (extraordinary coincidence), I have witnessed scenes in the first analogous to those I have seen upon the Earth. This explains the innate tastes I brought into the terrestrial world, for the poetry of the North, the poems of Ossian, the dreamy landscape of Ireland, for its mountains and its Aurora Borealis. For Scotland, Scandinavia, Sweden, Norway with its fiords, Spitzbergen with its solitudes--all alike attracted me. Old towers in ruins, rocks and wild ravines, sombre pines soughing with the northern winds--all these appealed to me on the Earth, and seemed to have some mysterious link with my deepest thoughts. When I saw Ireland for the first time, I felt as if I had lived there before. When for the first time I ascended the Rigi and the Finsteraarhorn, and saw the superb sunrise over the snowy summits of the Alps, it seemed as if I had previously seen all this. The spectre of the Brocken was not new, the reason being that I had in a former life inhabited similar regions on the planet of Virgo. The same life, the same actions, the same circumstances, the same conditions--analogies, analogies! Almost all that I have seen, done, thought on the Earth, I had already seen, done, thought a hundred years before upon that anterior world. I had always suspected it! Taking it altogether, however, my terrestrial life as a whole was superior to the one preceding it. Each child in coming into the world brings with him different faculties, special predispositions, innate dissimilarities, which no one denies, and can only be explained to the philosophical mind, --or in view of eternal Justice,--by the supposition of works previously accomplished by free souls.
Explanation of inherent tastes.
But though my terrestrial life was superior to its anterior one, evincing, as it did, a more accurate and profound knowledge of the system of the World, it yet lacked, I am bound to state, the possession of certain moral and physical qualities which belonged to me in my former existence.
On the other hand, I had faculties on that World which I had not had upon the Earth. I may cite one specially, that of flying.
I see that on the planet of Virgo I could fly, just as easily as walk, and this without either aeronautic apparatus or wings, by simply stretching my arms and legs as if I were swimming in the water. On closely examining the mode of locomotion in use on that planet, I see clearly that I have (or rather had) neither wings, balloon, nor any kind of mechanical appliance. At a given moment I spring from the ground by a vigorous leap, and, spreading out my arms, sail in the air without fatigue. At other times, descending a steep mountain on foot, I spring out into space, with feet pressed together, and float at will, with a slow and oblique motion, to any point I wish, standing upright as soon as my feet touch the ground.
Flying without wings.
Then again, when I wish to do so, I fly slowly in the manner of a dove which describes a curve in returning to its dovecot. All this I distinctly see myself doing in this world. Not once, but a hundred, a thousand times have I thus felt myself transported in my dreams on Earth softly, naturally, and without apparatus. How can such impossibilities so often present themselves to us in our dreams? Nothing can explain them, for nothing analogous exists upon this earthly globe. Obeying instinctively this innate tendency, I have frequently soared into the atmosphere suspended from the car of a balloon, but the sensation is not the same; one does not feel one's self flying; on the contrary, one has the feeling of being stationary.
Dreams bring reminiscences of a former existence.
I now have the key to my dreams. During the slumber of my terrestrial senses my soul had reminiscences of its anterior existence.
QUÆRENS: But I also often feel, and see myself flying in dreams in precisely the way you describe, without wings or machinery, and simply by an effort of will. Is this, then, a proof that I also have lived upon the planet of Virgo?
LUMEN: I do not know. If you had abnormal sight, or instruments, or eyes sufficiently piercing, you could see this planet from your globe, examine its surface, and if, perchance, you had existed there when it parted with the luminous rays which have actually reached the Earth, you might perhaps find yourself again there. But your eyes are too feeble to make a like research. Besides, it does not follow that because you have been able to fly, that therefore you have lived in that world. There are a considerable number of worlds where flying is the normal condition, and where all the human race possess this faculty. In reality, there are but few planets where the living creatures crawl as upon the Earth.
QUÆRENS: The conclusion resulting then from your experience is, that you have had a life anterior to that upon the Earth. Do you, then, believe in a plurality of existences for the soul?
Plurality of existences.
LUMEN: You forget that you speak to a disembodied spirit. I ought to be well fitted to give such evidence, having before me both my earthly life and my anterior life upon the planet of Virgo. Besides, I can recall many other existences.
QUÆRENS: Ah! that is precisely what I lack in order to possess a similar conviction. I can recall absolutely nothing that preceded my birth into this world.
LUMEN: You are yet in the flesh; you must wait for freedom from earthly fetters before you can recall your spiritual life. The soul has only full remembrance, full possession of itself in its normal, its celestial life; that is to say, between its incarnations. It then sees not only its life on the Earth, but all its anterior lives.
The soul's memory.
How could a soul, enveloped in the gross materialities of the flesh, and fixed there for a transitory work, recall its spiritual life? Would not such a remembrance even prove hurtful? What trammels would not be put upon the soul's liberty of action, could it see its life from beginning to the end?
Where would be the merit of striving if one's destiny could be foreseen?
Souls incarnated upon the Earth have not yet attained to a sufficiently elevated state of advancement, for the memory of their anterior life to be of use to them.
The permanence of the anterior impressions of the soul is not manifested in this world of passage. The caterpillar does not remember its rudimentary existence in the egg. The sleeping chrysalis cannot recall the days it spent in work when it crawled upon the herbage. The butterfly, which flits from flower to flower, has not any memory of the time when its cocoon dreamed, as it hung suspended from its web; nor of the twilight, when its larvæ trailed from plant to plant; nor of the night, when it was buried like a nut in its shell. This does not alter the fact that the egg, the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly, are one and the same being.
Man is oblivious of anterior impressions, as in the butterfly.
In certain cases, even of terrestrial life, you have remarkable examples of forgetfulness, such as that of somnambulism, either natural or artificial, and also in certain psychical conditions of which modern science makes a study. Hence it is not surprising that during one existence we should not remember our anterior ones. Uranic life and planetary life represent two states, free and distinct the one from the other.
QUÆRENS: Still, master, if we had already lived a life before this one, something of it would remain with us, otherwise these anterior existences might as well never have been.
LUMEN: Do you, then, call it nothing to be upon on the Earth with innate tendencies? Such a thing as intellectual heredity does not exist. Take two children of the same parentage, receiving identically the same education, surrounded by the same care, and having in every respect similar environments. Now examine each of them. Are they equal? Not in any way; equality of souls does not exist. The one is born with pacific instincts and great intelligence.
He will be good, learned, wise, illustrious perchance, amid the thinkers of his age. The other one brings with him a domineering, envious perhaps, or even a brutal instinct. His career defines and accentuates itself as each year passes, and will lead him eventually to high rank in military life, and will give him the honour (little to be coveted, though still admired upon the Earth) which is attached to the title of an official assassin.
Whether feebly or strongly pronounced, this dissimilarity of character, which depends neither upon family, nor upon race, nor upon education, nor upon material conditions, is manifest in every man. Reflect upon this at your leisure; you will arrive at the conviction that it is absolutely inexplicable, and can only be accounted for by belief in an anterior life of the soul.
QUÆRENS: Have not most philosophers and theologians taught that the soul and the body are created at one and the same time?
Creation of the soul.
LUMEN: And which, pray, is the precise moment of its creation? Is it at the moment of birth? Legislation, enlightened by anatomical physiology, knows that a child lives before being delivered from its uterine prison, therefore the destruction of an embryo of eight months is regarded as murder. At what period do you then suppose, that the soul appears in the fluid brain of the foetus or of the embryo?
QUÆRENS: It was thought in olden times that the real spiritual quickening of the human being took place during the sixth week of gestation, but the modern belief is that it occurs at the moment of conception.
LUMEN: Oh, bitter mockery! In accordance with this view you would have the eternal designs of the Creator dependent in their execution upon capricious desires, upon the intermittent flames of two amorous hearts! You would dare to admit that our immortal being is created by the physical contact of two human beings! You would be disposed to believe that the Divine Head which governs the worlds, is influenced by intrigue, by passion, even by crime! You would think that the number of souls depends upon the number of flowers impregnated by the touch of the sweet pollen dust borne to them on golden wings?
Is not such a doctrine, such a supposition, an outrage upon the Divine dignity and the spiritual grandeur of the soul itself? And would it not, besides, be the complete materialisation of our intellectual faculties?
QUÆRENS: And yet----
LUMEN: Yes; that seems so to you, because upon your planet no soul can incarnate itself otherwise than in a human embryo. It is a law of life on the Earth. But you must look through the veil. The soul is not an effect. The body serves it only as its garment.
QUÆRENS: I admit that it would indeed be singular that an event of such dire importance as the creation of an immortal soul should spring from a carnal cause, should be the result of casual unions, more or less legitimate. Also, I agree with you that organic causes do not explain the different degrees of capacity with which mankind is born into this world.
But I ask, of what use would be those various existences if, on beginning a new life, we retain no remembrance of those that precede it? Also, if it is really desirable to have in prospect a journey without end through endless worlds, and an eternal transmigration? For at last there must be an end to it all, and, after many æons of voyages, we must some day finish our existence and seek repose. Would it not be as well to do so after one existence only?
LUMEN: O men! You do not comprehend either time or space. Do you not know that outside the movement of the stars time no longer exists, and that eternity is no longer measured? Do you not know that in the infinite extent of the sidereal universe space is but a vain word, no longer measurable? You ignore all; principles, causes, all escape you: atoms upon a movable atom, you have not any exact appreciation of the universe; and yet, despite ignorance so dense, and comprehension so obscure, you would attempt to judge all, to envelop all, to seize all! But it would be easier to put the ocean into a nutshell than it would be to make you, with your terrestrial brain, understand the law of destiny.
Can you not, then, by making a legitimate use of the faculty of induction which has been given you, gather the direct consequences resulting from observation supported by reason? Observation, sustained by proof, shows conclusively that all are not equal on coming into this world; that the past is not unlike the future; and that the eternity which is before us is equally behind us;
that nothing is created in nature, and that nothing is annihilated; that nature includes all things existing, and that God, spirit, law, number, are no more outside nature than matter, weight, motion; that moral truth, justice, wisdom, virtue, exist in the progress of the world as surely as its physical reality; that justice decrees equity in the distribution of its destinies; that our destinies are not accomplished upon this earthly planet; that the empyrean heaven does not exist, and that the Earth is a star in the sky; that other inhabited planets soar with ours in the vast expanse; opening out to the wings of the soul an inexhaustible field of vision, and that the infinite in the universe corresponds, in the material creation, with the eternity of our intelligence in the spiritual creation.
Nothing created, nothing annihilated.
Are not certainties such as these, followed by the inductions with which they inspire us, sufficient to liberate your mind from ancient prejudices, and to open out, to an enlightened judgment, a panorama worthy of the vague yet profound desires of our souls? I could illustrate this general sketch by examples and details which would surprise you still more. Let it suffice for me to add that there are in nature other forces than those you know, which, both in essence and in mode of action, differ from electricity, attraction, light, &c.
Now, among these natural and unknown forces there is one in particular, the study of which will ultimately lead to singular discoveries in elucidating the problems of the soul and of life. This is the psychic force. This invisible fluidic force establishes a mysterious bond, unknown to themselves, between living beings, and already in many cases you have been able to recognise its existence. Take the case of two beings in love (as the saying is). It seems impossible for them to live apart.
Unknown forces in nature.
Should circumstances lead to their being separated, our two lovers become absent-minded, and their souls as it were leave their bodies, and span any distance which prevents them re-uniting with one another. The thoughts of the one are shared by the other, and they live together despite their separation.
Should any misfortune touch one, the other becomes immediately conscious of it; and such separations have been known to end in death. How many facts have been stated by trustworthy witnesses of the sudden apparition of a person to an intimate friend, of a wife to a husband, of a mother to a son, and vice versâ, just at the moment of death, even though many leagues might separate them! The most captious critic cannot in these days deny facts thus circumstantially proved. Twin children living ten leagues apart, and under very different conditions, are stricken at the same time with the same malady, or if one is excessively fatigued, the other feels the same without apparently any assignable cause. And so on. Those facts prove that ties of sympathy exist between souls and even between bodies, and give room for the repeated reflection, that we are far from knowing all the forces operating in nature.
If I communicate these views to you, my friend, it is chiefly to show that you can not only have a foretaste of truth before death, but also that earthly existence is not so entirely deprived of light, as to prevent one's reason recognising the chief characteristics of the moral world. Besides, all these truths will be emphasised by my further narration, when you learn that it is not only the previous existence before my last one that I have seen again, thanks to the slowness of light, but also my ante-penultimate planetary life, inclusive of more than ten existences preceding that one in which we came to know each other upon this Earth.