Flammarion, Camille (1842–1925)
Famous French astronomer who also became a notable psychical
researcher. Flammarion was born February 26, 1842. He
was a student astronomer from 1858 to 1862 and from 1876 to
1882 he was an astronomer at the Paris Observatory. In 1882
he founded Juvisy Observatory, which he directed for the rest
of his life. That same year he also founded the French Astronomical
Society. As a scientist he made balloon ascents to study
the upper atmosphere and was celebrated for his research on
double and multiple stars and the topography of Mars. He was
named a commander of the Legion of Honor, one of France’s
highest nonmilitary honors.
His first contact with psychical phenomena was during November
1861. When writing his first book, The Plurality of Inhabited
Worlds, he came across Spiritualist Allan Kardec’s Le Livre
des Esprits, paid him a visit, and joined the Society for Psychologic
Studies, of which Kardec was president. The weekly séances
of the society were devoted to inspirational writing. Flammarion
himself tried to practice it and succeeded, after several
attempts, in obtaining words and phrases.
The scripts were mostly on astronomical subjects and were
signed by Galileo. Flammarion, however, believed them to be
wholly the product of his own intellect and had no doubt that
the illustrious Florentine astronomer had nothing to do with
them. These communications remained in the possession of
the society and were published in 1867 in Kardec’s Genesis
under the head of ‘‘General Uranography.’’
Flammarion soon obtained entrance to the chief Parisian
spiritistic circles and even acted as honorary secretary to one
of them for several years. Nevertheless, he did not become a
Spiritist. After two years of experience in automatic writing, in
the use of the planchette, and in rapping communications, he
came to the conclusion that the method practiced by Kardec’s
society permitted a margin for doubt and that the automatic
scripts did not prove the intervention of another mind from the
spirit world at all.
In 1865, under the title Des Forces naturelles inconnues (Unknown
Natural Forces), he published his first book on the subject
of psychical research, a monograph of 150 pages that was
meant as a critical study ‘‘apropos of the phenomena produced
by the Davenport brothers and mediums in general.’’ It was
not so much about the Davenport brothers that he wrote, but
about psychic (he used this word in his early writings) matters,
stating that, ‘‘these forces are as real as the attraction of gravitation
and as invisible as that.’’ His book Les Forces Naturelles Inconnues,
published in 1906 (translated as Mysterious Psychic
Forces, 1907), is in a sense an enlarged edition of this early
Allan Kardec died March 30, 1869, and Flammarion was
asked to deliver the funeral oration. In the eulogy he impressed
upon all students of the mysterious phenomena that ‘‘spiritualism
is not a religion but a science, of which we as yet scarcely
know the a.b.c.’’
In 1899, through the Annales Politiques et Litteraires, the Petit
Marseilles, and the Revue des Revues, Flammarion started to
make his own census of hallucinations. Of 4,280 people questioned
1,824 answered that they had had phantasmal visions.
Of these, 786 cases were selected as having evidential value.
They were dealt with in the Annales Politiques et Litteraires, for
which Flammarion was writing articles on psychic subjects. Revised
and amplified, these articles formed the substance of
L’Inconnu, published in 1900 in an attempt to prove the reality
of telepathy, apparitions of the dying, premonitory dreams,
and clairvoyance. Flammarion concludes that the soul exists as
a real entity independent of the body; it is endowed with faculties
still unknown to science; and it is able to act at a distance
without the intervention of the senses.
He reaffirmed his belief in the reality of psychical phenomena
in Mysterious Psychic Forces on the basis of very wide experience.
‘‘During a period of more than forty years,’’ he writes ‘‘I
believe that I have received at my home nearly all of them [mediums],
men and women of divers nationalities and from every
quarter of the globe.’’ He met Italian medium Eusapia Palladino
for the first time on July 27, 1897, at Montfort l’Amaury.
The report of the séances conducted there form the subject of
Guillaume de Fontenay’s Apropos d’Eusapia Palladino (1898).
In cooperation with the editor of the Annales Politiques et Litteraires,
Flammarion extended an invitation to Palladino to
come to Paris. She accepted and gave eight séances in Flammarion’s
home during November 1898. Many scientists were present
and surprising manifestations were witnessed. Additional
opportunities for observation with the same medium were afforded
by a later series of séances in 1905, and especially in
1906 under Flammarion’s own conditions in his home, often in
the full light of a gas chandelier. He felt no hesitation in declaring
that ‘‘mediumistic phenomena have for me the stamp of absolute
certainty and incontestability, and amply suffice to prove
that unknown physical forces exist outside the ordinary and established
domain of natural philosophy.’’
Nevertheless, he was not yet convinced of survival, and in
Mysterious Psychic Forces he makes the following conclusions
‘‘The universe is a dynamism. . . . Matter is only a mode of motion.
Life itself . . . is a special kind of movement, a movement
determined and organized by a directing force. . . . The vital
force of the medium might externalize itself and produce in a
point of space a vibratory system which should be the counterpart
of itself in a more or less advanced degree of visibility and
solidity. . . .
‘‘It is not the body which produces life; it is rather life which
organizes the body. . . .
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Flammarion, Camille
‘‘As to beings different from ourselves—what may their nature
be Of this we cannot form any idea. Souls of the dead
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, about 36 millions a year, 3 billions 620 millions
in a century, 36 billions 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.’’
As the years passed Flammarion was forced to surrender his
old stand. His trilogy La Mort et son mystère (Death and Its Mystery),
its three volumes subtitled Before Death, At the Moment of
Death, and After Death (1921–23), aims mainly at demonstrating
the continuity of existence. His Les maisons hantées (Haunted
Houses) (1924) discusses the activities of the dead under exceptional
circumstances. In his presidential address before the Society
for Psychical Research in October 1923, he summed up
his conclusions after 60 years of psychical research ‘‘There are
unknown faculties in man belonging to the spirit, there is such
a thing as the double, thought can leave an image behind, psychical
currents traverse the atmosphere, we live in the midst of
an invisible world, the faculties of the soul survive the disaggregation
of the corporeal organism, there are haunted houses,
exceptionally and rarely the dead do manifest, there can be no
doubt that such manifestations occur, telepathy exists just as
much between the dead and the living as between the living.’’
Flammarion died at Juvisy Observatory, Paris, on June 3,
1925. His return was soon claimed by Spiritualists, the most notable
account being published in Egoland (1932), by Emily
Loweman, through the mediumship of her father, A. H. Loweman,
a shopkeeper and the postmaster of Little Glemham.
‘‘Egoland’’ was Flammarion’s name for the spirit world.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
De Fontenay, Guillaume. Apropos d’Eusapia Palladino. Paris,
Flammarion, Camille. Death and Its Mystery After Death. New
York Century, 1923.
———. Death and Its Mystery At the Moment of Death. New
York Century, 1922.
———. Death and Its Mystery Before Death. New York Century,
———. Haunted Houses. Detroit Tower Books, 1971.
———. ‘‘The Unknown of Yesterday and the Truth of Tomorrow.’’
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 29
Loweman, Emily. Egoland. London, 1932.
Flat Earth Research Society International
Organization founded in 1800. Members were individuals
whose outlook was zetetic, or characterized by a seeking for truth
and the denial of ‘‘imaginary’’ theories. They relied only on
provable knowledge and consequently believed that the ‘‘spinning
ball’’ theory regarding Earth was absurd and that, in reality,
the Earth was flat and infinite in size. Members maintained
that Australia was not under the world; Australians did not
hang by their feet, nor did ships sail over the edge of the world
to get there. They also asserted that continental drift was really
the result of the earth and water being ‘‘shaken asunder by
The society gathered information, disseminated the results
of its findings, and sought to ‘‘push forth the frontiers of knowledge
in geophysical matters.’’
The society conducted research programs, confered a Seeker
for Truth Award, and published the Flat Earth News. Last
known address Box 2533, Lancaster, CA 93539.
Larsen, David. ‘‘Society Flatly Denies Global Theory.’’ Los
Angeles Times, May 15, 1978.