Nicolas Camille Flammarion – 1842- 1925

by | 13 Jul, 2017 | Blog

[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column bg_color=”hsl(0, 14%, 87%)” fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”2/3″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Nicolas Camille Flammarion – 1842- 1925

Known popularly as Camille, Flammarion was one of the most distinguished Astronomers of his time, as well as a prolific author and Psychic leading light. In 1922, he was made a Commander of the Legion of Honour by the French Government for his Astronomical life-work, and has had craters on Mars and the Moon named after him.

Flammarion was also a member of the seminal Theosophical Society as championed by Helen Blavatsky.

Academically gifted as a child, he was educated in a seminary and by Jesuits in Paris.

A student of English and the Classics, he entered the Paris Observatory as a pupil Astronomer aged sixteen, quickly writing two critically acclaimed books, the first “The Cosmology of the Universe” on Astronomy, the second “The Plurality of Inhabited Worlds” on Spiritualism.

His scientific background gave him credibility and respect. He approached Spiritualism and reincarnation from the viewpoint of scientific method, writing, “It is by the scientific method alone that we may make progress in the search for truth.

Religious belief must not take the place of impartial analysis. We must be constantly on our guard against illusions.” He spoke at the funeral of Allan Kardec, codifier of Spiritualism, on 2 April 1869, when he declared that “Spiritualism is not a religion but a science”.
His Spiritualism impacted his science fiction.

In his book “Lumen”, a human character meets the soul of an alien which had been reincarnated in many different worlds, able to cross the universe faster than light.

Flammarion was drawn to two significant social movements in the western world: the thoughts and ideas of Darwin and Lamarck, and the rising popularity of Spiritualism with Spiritualist churches and organizations appearing all over Europe.

He has been described as an “astronomer, mystic and storyteller” who was “obsessed by life after death, and on other worlds, who seemed to see no distinction between the two.”

Jean Reynaud (1806–1863) and his book “Terre et Ciel” (1854) particularly influenced him.

It described a religious system based on the transmigration of souls believed to be reconcilable with both Christianity and pluralism.

He was convinced that souls after the physical death pass from planet to planet, progressively improving at each new incarnation.

Flammarion’s belief in life on other worlds was also influenced, and inspired by, authors such as Fontanelle, Cyrano de Bergerac, Huygens, Lalande, PP Gener’s “ Death and the Devil”, and Brewster. He, and another French writer, J. H. Rosny, were the first to popularize the notion of beings that were genuinely alien and not merely minor variants on humans and other terrestrial forms.

However, he drew a distinction between the likes of Fontanelle, whom he believed merely to be a novelist, and his own work which he maintained was a scientific study.

As such, he was marginalised by the religious mainstream and Catholic Church into which he had been born.

He declared that:” Man was a citizen of the sky, and other worlds, studios of human work -schools where the expanding soul progressively learns and develops, assimilating gradually the knowledge to which its aspirations tend, approaching thus evermore the end of its destiny.” Flammarion’s best-selling work, his epic Astronomie Populaire (1880), translated as Popular Astronomy (1894), is filled with speculation about extra-terrestrial life.

He argues the case for lunar life, and describes Mars : “an earth almost similar to ours”.

When interviewed by R.H.Sherard for McClures Magazine in 1894, Flammarion said: “I have always been intensely interested in the occult sciences and studied them for over twenty five years including Kardec, Rochas and Papus.

My conclusion is that there exist certain occult forces of which humanity is ignorant. Papus, the occultist, is a frequent visitor to my house and has given numerous seances here.”
Flammarion was a critical observer of mediumship: “It is infinitely to be regretted that we cannot trust the loyalty of mediums. They almost always cheat”.

However, Flammarion, a believer in psychic phenomena, attended séances with Eusapia Palladino and claimed that some of her phenomena were genuine.

He produced in his book alleged levitation photographs of a table and an impression of a face in putty. Spiritualist sceptic Joseph McCabe did not find the evidence convincing.

Flammarion’s book “The Unknown” (1900) also received a negative review from the psychologist Joseph Jastrow who wrote “the work’s fundamental faults are a lack of critical judgment in the estimation of evidence, and of an appreciation of the nature of the logical conditions which the study of these problems presents.”
Flammarion researched automatic writing for two years and surmised that the subconscious mind is the explanation, and there is no evidence for the spirit hypothesis.

Flammarion believed in the survival of the soul after death but wrote that mediumship had not been scientifically proven.

Even though Flammarion believed in the survival of the soul after death he did not believe in the spirit hypothesis of Spiritualism, instead he believed that Spiritualist activities such as ectoplasm and levitations of objects could be explained by an unknown “psychic force” from the medium and that telepathy could explain some paranormal phenomena.

In his book “Mysterious Psychic Forces” (1909) he wrote: “This is very far from being demonstrated. The innumerable observations which I have collected during more than forty years all prove to me the contrary. No satisfactory identification has been made.

The communications obtained have always seemed to proceed from the mentality of the group, or when they are heterogeneous, from spirits of an incomprehensible nature.

The being evoked soon vanishes when one insists on pushing him to the wall and having the heart out of his mystery. That souls survive the destruction of the body I have not the shadow of a doubt. But that they manifest themselves by the processes employed in séances the experimental method has not yet given us absolute proof.

I add that this hypothesis is not at all likely. If the souls of the dead are about us, upon our planet, the invisible population would increase at the rate of 100,000 a day, 36 billion in ten centuries, etc.—unless we admit re-incarnations upon the earth itself.

How many times do apparitions or manifestations occur? When illusions, auto-suggestions, hallucinations are eliminated what remains? Scarcely anything. Such an exceptional rarity as this pleads against the reality of apparitions.”

In the 1920s Flammarion changed some of his beliefs on apparitions and hauntings but still claimed there was no evidence for the spirit hypothesis of mediumship in Spiritualism. In his 1924 book “Les Maisons Hantées” (Haunted Houses) he concluded that in some rare cases, hauntings are caused by departed souls whilst others are caused by the “remote action of the psychic force of a living person”.

Spiritualist fellow traveller, but sceptic, magician Harry Houdini, was not impressed. He wrote it “fails to supply adequate proof of the veracity of the conglomeration of hearsay it contains; it must, therefore, be a collection of myths”, Flammarion was undaunted.

In a presidential address to the Society for Psychical Research in October 1923 Flammarion summarized his views after 60 years into investigating paranormal phenomena.

He wrote that he believed in telepathy, etheric doubles, the stone tape theory and “exceptionally and rarely the dead do manifest” in hauntings.

He died aged 83, offering a legacy which uniquely combined science, science fiction and Spiritualism, Edgar Burroughs directly namechecked him, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle borrowed his science.

Names worth investigating further:
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Harry Houdini
Edgar Burroughs
Joseph Jastrow
Joseph McCabe
Allan Kardec,
Cyrano de Bergerac,
PP Gener
J. H. Rosny,
Jean Reynaud
Eusapia Palladino
Helen Blavatsky
Theosophical Society
Society for Psychical Research
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