The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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Pliny, The Young Man

Letter to Sura (Book VII – Letter 27)

“Our break allows you to teach, while I learn. I wish I knew if the ghosts do have something of real; if they have a real expression; if they are genies or no more than vain images created by imaginations disturbed by fear. What leads me to believe that there really are true shad- ows is what I was told that happened to Curtius Rufus. When he did not have a name or fortune yet he followed the governor to Africa. One eve- ning Rufus was strolling under a porch when a lady of impressive beauty and elegance presented herself to him and said: “I am Africa. I come to predict what is going to happen to you. You will go to Rome; you will be in charge of the highest positions; then you will return to govern this province, where you will die.”

“It all happened as she had predicted. Some even say that the same figure showed up to him when he left the ship upon arrival at the port of Cartago.” “The truth is that he was taken ill and by judging the future from the good things of the past, and by the misfortune that threatened the good luck he had enjoyed, he soon lost any hope of cure, despite the opinion of his closest ones.”

“Here you have another story, not less remarkable and much more terrible. I will tell you the way I heard it.”

“There was a very large and comfortable house in Athens which was condemned and deserted. In the deepest quietness of the night, noises of chains and shackles were heard - in the beginning it seemed to have come from far away but the noises got gradually closer. Soon the shadow of a somewhat very skinny old man showed up, pale, bearing a long beard, di- sheveled hair, chains in his feet and wrists, which he would violently shake. All that explained the horrible and sleepless nights of the people who lived in the house. The prolonged insomnia brought the disease, and the disease, multiplying the horror, was followed by death; during the day, although the shadow would not appear, the impression it had left would always revive in people’s minds, and the fear it had caused generated new fear.”

“The house was finally abandoned, left to the ghost. It was an- nounced on the market for sale or rent, in the hopes that someone not well informed about the terrible nuisance could be deceived.”

“Athenodorus, the philosopher, came to Athens. He reads the ad for the house and wishes to know the price. The low numbers make him suspicious. He searches for clues. He learned about the story and, far from breaking the deal, he rushed to cut it. He then moves in; comes the af- ternoon and he asks to have his bed moved to the front bedroom; he also wishes to have planchettes, pen and light brought in, and that the remain- ing persons be dislodged to the back of the house.”

“Fearing that his imagination could be taken over by a cold horror, to the point of imagining ghosts, he delivers his mind, his eyes and hands to writing. In the beginning, as evening breaks, a profound quietness falls around the house. All is then broken by the noise of chains and shackles. He does not raise his eyes nor stop writing; he calms down and tries to listen. The noise increases, comes closer and gives the impression that it is at the door. He then looks and sees the shadow, as it was described to him. The ghost was standing, calling him with his finger. He then wastes no time, stands up, takes the lamp and follows the ghost that walks with difficulty, as if pressed by the weight of the chains. Arriving at the internal courtyard, the ghost suddenly disappears, leaving behind our philosopher who then picks leafs and herbs, using them to identify the place where the ghost disappeared. On the very next day he sought the courts, requesting authorization to excavate the place. Once it was done they found bones still attached to chains. Time had eaten the flesh. All remains were care- fully gathered, and a proper public burial carried out; since the last eulo- gies and tributes were duly paid to the deceased, he never showed up again or perturbed the peace of the house.”

“What I have just told you I did so by repeating the word passed on to me by someone else. Here, however, is what I can attest to others from my own faith:”

“I have a freed slave by the name of Marcus, who is not an ignorant man. He was lying in bed with his younger brother when he thought to have seen someone else sitting on his bed, and who had swung a pair of scissors by his head, to the point of cutting his hair over his forehead. In the morning he noticed that he had his hair cut at the top of his head and the hair was spread on the floor around him. Soon after, a similar thing happened to one of my relatives who gave me no doubts about the previ- ous event. One of my young slaves was asleep with his mates, in the rooms that were destined to them. According to their story, two men dressed in white came to the room through the window, cut his hair thin on top, while asleep, and left the same way they had entered. He was found bald head the day after, like the other one, and his hair spread on the floor.”

“Such adventures had no consequences other than having me accused before Domitian, in whose Empire these things took place. Had he out- lived me and I would not have escaped since there was a complaint against me that was found in his briefcase, filed by Carus. From this, one may conjecture that since the habit of the accused was to allow their hair to grow freely out of negligence, those who had cut the hair of my people assured that I was in no danger. I beg you to give all the attention to this subject. It deserves profound meditation and perhaps I am not unworthy of sharing your clarifications. If, as it is in your traditions, you balance the two contrary opinions, make the scale swing in one direction so that I can be spared from such a discomfort. I consult with you about nothing else but this – Farewell.”

Answers given by Pliny to questions addressed to him at the Society, on January 28th, 1859

1. Evocation
- Speak that I will respond.

2. Although you have been dead for about 1743 years, do you still keep memories of your life in Rome during Trajan’s time?
- Why then we, the spirits, would not remember? You have memories of several years of your infancy. What is a previous existence to the spirit other than the infancy of existences, which we have to go through before reaching the end of the trials? Every worldly existence or existence wrapped by the material veil, is a step to- wards the ether, and at the same time a material and spiritual infancy: spiritual because the spirit is still in the beginning of the trials; material because the spirit has just got to the more dense phases, through which they must learn and depurate.

3. Could you tell us what you have been doing since that time?
- It would take long to tell you what I have done. I tried to be good. No doubt you wouldn’t like to spend hours and hours until I told you everything. Then be satisfied with an answer. I repeat: I tried to do the good deeds, learn and lead the Earthly beings to approach the Creator of all things, the One who gives us the spiritual as well as the material bread.

4. In which world do you live now?
- Never mind. I spend some time everywhere. Space is my do- main and of many others too. These are questions that a wise spirit, enlightened by the saint and Divine ray, should not respond, unless on very rare occasions.

5. In a letter that you wrote to Sura you reported three cases of ap- paritions. Do you remember them?
- I confirm them because they were true. You daily have similar facts to which you don’t pay attention. Those are very simple, but at that time, they were considered remarkable. This should not surprise you. Leave these things behind since you have others much more extraordinary.

6. However, we would like to ask you a few questions with regard to this.
- I will give you generic answers and that will be enough for you. Nonetheless, ask if you will. I will give you terse answers.

7. In the first case a lady appears to Curtius Rufus, and tells him that she is Africa. But who was that lady?
- A great figure. It seems to me that she is too simple to the enlightened people of the XIX century.

8. What was the reason behind the appearance of Athenodorus’ spirit, and why those shackles’ noises?
- Symbol of slavery; manifestation; means of convincing people and to draw their attention, making them talk about it and demonstrate the existence of the spiritual world.

9. You defended the cause of the persecuted Christians before Trajan. Were you driven by a simple duty of humanity or by conviction, regarding the truthfulness of that Doctrine?
- Both but humanity came second.

10.. What do you think about your panegyric of Trajan?
- It should be redone.

11. You wrote about the history of your time, writings which have been lost. Could you repair that loss by dictating it to us?
- The spiritual world does not manifest for these things in particular. You have these forms of manifestations but they have their objectives. There are multiple guidelines, laid down on the left and on the right hand side of the great path of truth. But leave it behind; do not dedicate your time or studies to that. It is up to us to see and judge what is important to you to learn. There is a time for everything. Thus, do not move away from the guidelines that we have delineated to you.

12. We are pleased to be worthy of your elevation and above all, your altruism. They say that you charged nothing to the clients who were defended by you. Was such altruism as rare in Rome as it is among us?

- Don’t praise my past qualities. I give no importance to them. The altruism is almost non-existent in your century. In every two hundred people you will find only one or two true al- truist. You know very well that this is the century of money and selfishness. Presently, people are made of mud, coated by metal. Formerly, there was feeling, the stuff of antiquity; today, there is only the social position.

13. Although not defending our century, it does seem that it is more valuable than yours, when corruption was in its apex and accusa- tions had no sacred grounds.
- I give you an accurate depiction. I know that there wasn’t much altruism over that time; however there was something that you don’t have or have in small dose – the love of beauty, of noble, of greatness. I speak about everybody. Today’s in- dividual, particularly those of the west, and even more par- ticularly the French, have their hearts ready to achieve great things but that is only a transient spark. Soon there comes reflection and reflection leads to second thoughts, saying: the positive, the positive before anything else. Then selfishness and money take the lead again. We manifest ourselves exactly because you have moved away from the principles given by Jesus. So long. You will not understand.

OBSERVATION: We understand very well that our cen- tury falls short of what is expected. Its ulcer is selfishness and selfishness engenders greed and the mindless search for opulence. From that point of view we are far from the altru- ism that the Roman people gave us so many sublime examples, during a certain period, but which was not that of Pliny. However, it would be unfair not to recognize its superiority in more than one point, even over the most beautiful times of Rome that also had its time of barbarism. Then, there was ferocity even in greatness and altruism, while our century is going to be marked by the soothing of the traditions and by the feelings of justice and humanity, which presides over all institutions since birth and even over the disputes among nations.


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