A nun belonging to the Order of Dames de la Sainte-Union hallucinates and obtains marks on her arm via auto-suggestion
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Death and its Mystery – After Death – Camille Flammarian
I received a long time ago, before my investigation began in 1899, the following odd communication. It was sent me by a learned member of the Institute, Charles Naudin the botanist, head of the Laboratory of Higher Education in Antibes, Villa Thuret. It concerned the apparition of someone dead, an apparition the authenticity of which it is difficult to doubt. Moreover, my duty as a scientist is to seek to explain it. I had had occasion, during my stay at the Observatory in Nice, some years before, to spend a day at Antibes, with the head of this observatory, my friend Perrotin, and with Victorien Sardou, my colleague in a psychic investigation many years before (1858-64), who had wished to go with us. We had talked of these problems and the questions connected with them. Here is Monsieur Naudin's letter:
Antibes, December 26, 1896.
My DEAR COLLEAGUE:
Since the kind visit you made us some years ago, such painful things have happened at the Villa Thuret that I have not the courage to dwell upon them. I wish to tell you of a strange occurrence that cannot fail to interest you.
It concerns a subject with which you have long busied yourself and in which I am as interested as you.
It was on the twenty-sixth of last June that the occurrence took place, in Denain (Nord). A nun belonging to the Order of Dames de la Sainte-Union (the seat of the mother superior is in Douai, and there is a branch in Denain) had been sent to the main convent to help the sister in charge of the kitchen, who was then swamped with work. Before she left, the mother superior, who was very ill of cancer of the stomach and felt her end approaching, had asked the nun in question to promise to pray for her, and the nun had made the promise.
The sick woman died sometime during the first days in May.
Five or six weeks afterward-that is to say on the twenty-sixth of the following June-this same nun, who was assisting in the washing of clothes, and who had her sleeves rolled up to the elbow, was sent down to the cellar to draw some beer. There, without her having become aware of the presence through any other sense, she saw another nun beside her, and recognized in her the mother superior who had died some weeks before. The apparition gave her bare arm a hard pinch, causing her intense pain, and said to her, "Pray, for I'm suffering."
All this had taken place in less time than it takes to tell it.
The poor sister, terrified, climbed the cellar stairs precipitately and dropped down on a near-by bench more dead than alive.
Those who were washing, finding that she did not return with the beer, went to see what had become of her. They found her on the bench, so agitated that she could barely tell them that she had been cruelly pinched. She showed them her arm, on which, to the stupefaction of those present, there were discovered five red marks, such as burns make. There were four on one side, and a fifth, on the other side of her arm, which was broader and deeper. This was the place where the dead woman's thumb had pressed.
It was as if an iron hand, heated in the fire until it was red, had seized the sister's arm. It was not long before blisters appeared on the parts affected.
They summoned Dr. Toison, the physician of the order, to take care of the wounded woman. After having taken a photograph of the burns, he gave directions as to what must be done to effect a cure.
The places healed, leaving, however, five scars which bear witness to the reality of the accident. Dr. Toison, a distinguished practising physician, is a professor of the faculty of the Lille Charity Clinic. He is also the physician of the order in Denain. The veracity of the persons who witnessed the occurrence cannot be doubted. Was the sister's vision subjective?
But the burn was only too objective.
I submit all this to your judgment. Please allow me, dear colleague, to express my esteem, together with my best wishes for the new year.
CHARLES NAUDIN, Member of the Institute.
The learned botanist went on to request me to ask readers of the “Petit Marseillais," to which I was sending articles on popular science from time to time, if there were those among them who had observed phenomena of the same sort which proved indubitably that a dead person may manifest himself in some way. "This," he added, ''is a problem which has been asked for thousands of years, and it is truly regrettable that, in spite of so many authentic stories, there is no answer to it."
I published his letter in the "Petit Marseillais,'' but not until May 25,1899, since I was swamped by too much work, and I added the following comments:
This occurrence, however strange it be, and granting that the account is absolutely true, does not lead to any certainty.
1. The apparition of the dead sister may have been an hallucination. Delusive images, optical illusions occur in certain cases; it would be superfluous to give any of them here'
2. The case of the stigmata of the five fingers on the nun's bare arm is a rarer phenomenon. But autosuggestion gives rise, at times, to results of this sort, and by a recent experiment a blister was produced on a certain person's arm simply through suggestion.
This story, therefore, does not prove the reality of the mother superior's apparition. We do not say that the apparition did not manifest itself ; we know nothing about this. There are but two possible hypotheses; the reality of the apparition on the one hand, and on the other, hallucination and autosuggestion. As between the two hypotheses, we choose the second through preference, because it is more “scientific" and seems more natural to us.