The Spirits' Book
Book Two - The Spirit World
Chapter III - Return to the Spirit World
165. Does the knowledge of Spiritism have any influence on the duration of this state of confusion?
“It has a substantial influence on its duration, because the spirit acquired a prior understanding about its new situation. However, the practice of righteousness and a clear conscience have the most influence”.
When death arrives, everything is chaotic at first. The soul is stunned, similar to when a person wakes from a deep sleep, and needs time to establish its bearings and fully comprehend the situation. It gradually regains clarity and the memory of the past as the influence of the material envelope that it has recently shed weakens, and the fog that obscured its consciousness clears.
The duration of confusion following death varies greatly. It may be a few hours, several months, or even years. Those who, during their human lives, have closely identified themselves with their future state do not remain confused for long, because they are able to gain quicker understanding of their situation.
This confusion is completely dependent on specific features, and the type of death. In cases of violent death, suicide, torture, accident, stroke, injuries, and so on, the spirit is shocked and does not believe that it is dead. It stubbornly maintains the contrary and views the body that it has left as something separate from itself. It recognizes its body and cannot understand how it could be separated from it. It remains among those it has loved, speaks to them, and does not understand why they do not hear it. This illusion lasts until the perispirit has fully separated from the physical body. It is only when this is accomplished that the spirit begins to understand that it no longer is part of the physical world.
This phenomenon is easy to explain. With death occurring unexpectedly, the spirit is stunned by the sudden change that has taken place. Death is still equivalent to destruction for the spirit and it thinks that it cannot possibly be dead. This illusion is still further reinforced by seeing itself with a body similar to the one it has left, because it does not immediately perceive its ethereal nature and believes that it is solid, just as it was in the corporeal world. When its attention is called to this point, it is shocked to discover that it is not tangible. This phenomenon is similar to what happens in cases of somnambulists, or hypnotized people, who cannot believe that they are asleep. For them, sleep is synonymous with a suspension of their faculties and since they can see clearly and think freely, they feel awake. Some spirits experience this feeling, even in cases where death was expected. It is much more common in those who, despite being ill, did not expect to die. Sometimes a spirit may even attend its own funeral as though it were that of someone else, speaking as if it were someone else, until it finally sees the truth.
The confusion that follows death is in no way painful for people who have lived an honest life. They are calm and feel as if they are peacefully waking out of slumber. However, people whose conscience is not clear are brimming with anxiety and anguish and this only heightens as they gain full cognizance.
In cases of a collective death, in which many individuals have died together in the same catastrophe, they do not always see one another immediately afterwards. Each spirit goes its own way in the confusion following death, or only worries about those in whom it takes an interest.