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A New ‘Number One’ Book on the Afterlife.

Posted on 11 September 2017, 8:52

In my blog post of December 5, 2016, I listed my “Top 30” old books – those published before 1950.  At the time, I thought that I’d read every significant book before 1950.  However, I missed one, The Survival of the Soul and Its Evolution After Death, authored by Pierre-Emile Cornillier and first published in 1921.  That book is now number one on my list.  It seems to have impressed publisher Jon Beecher, as well, as his White Crow Books has just recently republished it.   

It wasn’t until a few months ago when, while searching in one of Dr. Robert Crookall’s books for some information on a particular subject matter, that I became aware of the book.  I noted that Crookall, a botanist and geologist who authored 14 books on psychical matters during the 1950s and ‘60s, named it as his favorite.  I found a rare copy and plunged into it. 

Books by William Stainton Moses and Allan Kardec offer much as to how the spirit world works, but I think Cornillier has outdone even them with this book. Why it has not survived as a classic in the field, as their books have, is a mystery to me.  My attempts to find anything to discredit Cornillier have turned up nothing.

Cornillier (1862 – 1942?) was a French artist who had an interest in psychical research when, in 1912, he realized that Reine, an 18-year-old model (below) he had been employing for several months, had psychic abilities of some kind.  He soon began some experiments with her and when she was in a “hypnotic sleep” she was able to go out of body and report on things and happenings in other places.  Cornillier, who clearly had a very discerning mind, was able to confirm many of Reine’s out-of-body observations.  Further experimentation involved communication with some apparently low-level spirits, but a “high spirit” named Vettellini emerged in the ninth séance and continued on as Reine’s primary guide through 107 séances documented by Cornillier.


The 107th séance was on March 11, 1914, but the publication of the book was delayed by the Great War, which began several months later, an event that Vettellini continually warned Cornillier about.  “Neither the war, nor the interior trouble can be averted,” Vettellini communicated on June 2, 1913, more than a year before the outbreak of WWI.  “The Spirits are doing all in their power to mitigate this most appalling catastrophe, but the storm is there; it is almost upon us; it is bound to burst.  It will be delayed; but it is inevitable. 1913 was the date…By dint of infinite precautions and compromises, time will be gained.  But to what avail? A simple gesture and the evil will be let loose.”

Cornillier put numerous questions to Vettellini, (below) including the nature of the spirit body, how spirits awaken on the other side, what they look like, their faculties, grades of consciousness among spirits, activities in the spirit world, spirit influence on humans, God, reincarnation, astral travel, difficulties in communication by high spirits, deception by inferior spirits, premonitions, dreams, time, space, animal spirits, materializations, apparitions, cremation, and other concerns that he had about how things work in the spirit world.


“Death is predetermined,” Vettellini communicated in one sitting.  “Sickness and accident are means used by the Spirit-directors for the accomplishment of destiny.  Life sometimes defends itself vigorously against Death, particularly in the case of inferior beings who intuitively dread the mystery. But Spirit-messengers are there, awaiting the release of the soul, and when the hour comes, aid and, if need be, force the escape. The soul is then conducted before an assembly of high Spirits – the white ones – who recognize the degree of evolution.  If this evolution is slight, the soul will wander about in our atmosphere for a longer or shorter period, reviewing his earthly life, taking cognizance of his responsibilities and learning to develop his own conscience by observing, from the other side, the struggle of living beings.  In all this he will at first be guided by the higher Spirits; then alone, or surrounded by those of his own evolution, he will wander through space – indifferently, lamentably or joyfully, as his level determines – until the moment, more or less remote, when the Spirit-directors will send him back to Earth again for a new incarnation, for another beneficent experience. If the disincarnate soul has already attained a superior evolution, he may become a Spirit-director himself, or he may voluntarily accept another reincarnation for a definite purpose – a sacrifice that will carry him on still higher in the scale of evolution.”

Vettellini often responded to Cornillier by telling him that the various modes of life in the spirit world are beyond human comprehension as their concepts do not exist on our plane.  Reine told Cornillier that she understood everything that Vettellini said while she was in the trance state, but, even though she recalled some of them upon returning to her body, she had no words to explain them.

As Cornillier came to understand, the more evolved spirits were at too high a vibration to effectively communicate with humans and therefore usually relayed their messages through less evolved spirits, whose vibration was closer to the human vibration.  These lower spirits then relayed the messages through the medium. However, the messages were often misinterpreted by the lower spirits and/or by the medium, or they were colored by the medium’s subconscious based on her experience or ideas. “Reine – and this must not be forgotten – does not hear in words the substance of what she repeats,” Cornillier explained.  “She translates into words the vibrations that convey Vettellini’s thought, and as her education is extremely meager, and her vocabulary limited, her interpretations may occasionally be inexact.  Conscious of her difficulties, Vettellini, in certain cases, gives her the precise words, which she then repeats to me mechanically, without comprehending.  And this is another source of error.  The rectification is always made in a following séance, but sometimes long after; for, oftener than not, it is an unexpected question which reveals that the transmission has been imperfect.” 
Cornillier’s deceased father and grandfather communicated with him, and his wife received evidential communication through an old friend.  What was especially evidential to Cornillier, however, was that Reine was a “simple child” in her conscious state, with no prior knowledge of the things she related in some detail and without hesitation in the trance state. Of this as well as her sincerity and integrity he had absolutely no doubt.

In the 60th sitting, Cornillier asked if everyone has spirit guides.  “Yes, generally speaking, each person living has one or more Spirit-friends,” Vettellini replied. “But not everyone is able to keep his friends. Often they are rebuffed and discouraged by your incomprehension, or your bad instincts, which attract lower Spirits around you. Each one creates his own astral society; he has around him the friends whom he merits.  As a rule, if a Spirit is to remain the constant protector of an incarnated being, that being must be in the same current of evolution and not too inferior to his Guide; otherwise he could not fall under the influence of the latter nor comprehend his inspiration.”

In his 42nd sitting, Cornillier asked Vettellini whether the individual consciousness becomes absorbed in a universal consciousness as spirits evolve or whether they retain their individuality.  “Monsieur Corniller, Vettellini affirms that individual consciousness can but grow greater and greater as evolution progresses,” Reine relayed.  “All that is gained and conquered by a being, defines and strengthens his individuality.  It is his, – and for himself.  The blue spirits are more individual than the grey; the white spirits more individual than the blue; and above the white, the still higher Spirits are still more themselves.”  (Vettellini had previously explained that lower level spirits are seen as red in color, the more advanced as blue, and those above them as white.)

In a later sitting, Cornillier asked why men of great stature on earth do not manifest themselves after death to give decisive proof of their survival.  “Men of great value on earth – conscientious students, authorities in their specialties – are not necessarily Spirits of high evolution,” Vettellini responded, going on to explain that some of them have a difficult time coming to grips with their lack of importance in the spirit world. He further explained the people with fixed ideas – including religious fundamentalists and the so-called “intellectual elite” of the world who deny psychical phenomena – are generally not highly evolved beings.  When they transition after death to the astral world, they cling to their old ideas and since they are better able to influence those still in the earth realm than more evolved spirits, progress in evolution is obstructed. 

In his Conclusion, Cornillier recognizes that his book will not appeal to the “scoffers,” as his faith in Reine’s character was such that he “refrained from establishing a so-called scientific control over my medium.”  He points out that scientists of the highest reputations have taken every possible precaution, and yet their skeptical peers have questioned their methods and objectivity while heaping abuse upon them.

I recommend that the reader begin with the Conclusion of the book in order to get a feel for Cornillier’s intelligence, if not brilliance, and his scientific acumen.  Be prepared to be overwhelmed, and if you know someone approaching this life’s end, pass the book on to him or her.  It may very well give the dying person some hope while mitigating fears relative to death.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

The Survival of the Soul and Its Evolution After Death by Pierre-Emile Cornillier is available from Amazon

  Next blog post:  Sept. 25.



Thanks for the comment.  Yes, White Crow republished the book and you can find it the “books section.”  I hope you find it interesting.


Michael Tymn, Tue 5 Sep, 09:29

Once again I am late to the party; I just discovered this review. I found it while trying to track down information on Robert Crookall, which I do regularly. As I was reading the review I kept thinking, “I hope White Crow Books obtained the rights and has republished this book!” White Crow does a great service making these valuable older books available again.

Joe Stinson, Tue 5 Sep, 07:44

What a dork!  It’s not ‘conscientiousness’, it’s ‘consciousness’.  That’s what happens when one uses the spell checker and doesn’t pay attention, clicking on something that looks correct but really is a completely different word from the word one intended.  Focus, focus, focus; difficult for me to do sometimes. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 21 Sep, 15:59

Siren call of the hungry ghosts by Joe Fisher may make people reconsider reincarnation and it is a brilliant read as well.

Gavin Doyle, Thu 21 Sep, 15:40

I have sometimes wondered Michael, if the gender identity crisis that various cultures apparently are going through now have anything to do with reincarnation of a conscientiousness from one gender into another gender. Maybe we are getting better at remembering our past lives, if not consciously then perhaps subconsciously or maybe the spirit is getting better at influencing the development of a body.  Who knows?

That would be an explanation for me but since we live in a non-spiritualist world for the most part, that idea would not be accepted by most people and certainly not by mainstream media which seems to luxuriate in the gender identity crisis.

Amos Oliver Doyle, Thu 21 Sep, 14:33


I agree.  To again call upon the discarnate Frederic Myers, as he communicated through Geraldine Cummins.  Myers said that the Buddhist’s idea of rebirth, of man’s continual return to earth, is but a half-truth.  “And often half a truth is more inaccurate than an entire misstatement. I shall not live again on earth, but a new soul, one who will join our group, will shortly enter into the pattern or karma I have woven for him on earth.”

Michael Tymn, Wed 20 Sep, 23:03

I don’t know if there is such a thing as reincarnation of consciousness into another life form or not. There seems to be some very evidential reports—-old and new—-from people, including little children who say that they remember being someone else, with other partners, parents relatives and friends living in other circumstances before they were born into their current life.  What to make of these many stories?

Personally I think they provide very good evidence of reincarnation of a spirit from one human form into another human form.  For me, I think that consciousness is prime and that it can exist in many life forms. The human form holds no special attraction for me as I feel that I could exist and experience a physical reality as any other living creature.  Not that I want to come back as a spider, mind you but I don’t devalue any life form as a vessel for consciousness.

Perhaps there is a progression from one life form to another as consciousness advances in experience. The mechanics of reincarnation doesn’t interest me.  I was born into this life seemingly without much effort on my part and I assume that being reincarnated would entail the same amount of effort, not mine but effort of two or more other people of course.  - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 19 Sep, 18:54

Michael D.,

The cremation discussion is in the archives for February 14, 2017.  I thought it was more recent, probably because I did a feature about this for the last issue of “Atlantis Rising” magazine.

Michael Tymn, Mon 18 Sep, 20:28

Michael D.,

Concerning the conflicts on reincarnation, see the archives and my blog of April 11, 2011. You have to scroll down on that page.  Personally, I am inclined to believe that reincarnation plays out in ways that are pretty much beyond our comprehension.  However, since it is beyond language, the communication about it are filtered through the medium’s brain and communicated in a way that fits the traditional way of understanding it.

As for cremation, see my comment to Jim below as well as my blog on the subject several posts back. I think something should be done to change the two-day law in your state.

.Michael Tymn, Mon 18 Sep, 20:22

I have been doing a lot of reading of medium-transmitted information (of which there is a huge amount, of wildly-varying quality) over the last few years, and there’s always a problem resolving different accounts.

Most of the sources I find credible say that there is no such thing as reincarnation *as we believe it*, to the point where I accept that now (and that’s a contradiction with your source here).

They also say that it can take three days or more to get a person fully loosened from their physical body, and that cremation of a body that’s still occupied is an unnecessary shock to the occupant. When my father died, I dealt with the undertaker on this, and he informed me that the state law required cremation within two days, but that he couldn’t do it until I signed the paperwork. It happened that the week he died was a very busy one for me. . . it took me five days to sign and fax the necessary forms.

MichaelD, Mon 18 Sep, 14:19


I had the very same concern about the cremation messages. It was the one “teaching” in the book that I could not reconcile with teachings coming through other mediums. All others I can recall recommend cremation over burial.

The subject comes up four or five places in the book and in the final one Vettellini says that Reine has probably been too absolute in her transmission on this subject.  This suggests to me that Reine didn’t like the idea of cremation and her subconscious mind was negatively coloring the messages from Vettellini.  It is one of the few subjects on which Reine likely would have had any preconceived ideas.

The primary objection seems to be that cremation cuts ties with the earth realm too quickly—at least too quickly for those not ready for it and makes it more difficult to communicate with those still in the earth realm. It is further stated that when one is cremated one is free—“free as a balloon without ballast.”  It seems to be recommended for advanced souls and questionable for those not so advanced.  How we are to know the degree of advancement we have achieved is the question.

I’m sticking with cremation and assuming that Reine’s subconscious did negatively color the messages toward her fears, as Vettellini states. Much discernment is required of all messages, but, as I stated, few of the other messages involved things on which Reine would likely have had any preconceived ideas.

Michael Tymn, Sun 17 Sep, 19:45

I’m enjoying the book.  In the 42d seance, the Guide strongly recommends against cremation, which I and all of my family have supported.  Could you address in your blog whether this is the consensus opinion, or whether other books you have read take a different view.?  For example, I have read Eastern texts which only say cremation should be delayed for a week. And of course the common practice in India is cremation, so it is hard to accept that cremation is negative as a spiritual matter.  You don’t need to post my comment.

Jim Hecker, Sun 17 Sep, 00:55

Just ordered it! Excellent review, Mike.

Michael Prescott, Sat 16 Sep, 06:52

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