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The Past Lives of Camilo Castelo Branco
The fact that we reincarnate means that all of us has had past lives. Therefore, to understand the reasons we reincarnate in different situations, it is beneficial to analyze the past lives of others, so we may determine why some people have the arc of lifes that were given to them. One such fascinating subject is Camilo Branco, who was a famous Portuguese author who lived in Portugal in the 19th century. He committed suicide in 1890. Communicating with the medium Yvonne Pereira, Camilo told his story. Part of his narrative is the history of his past lives. Camilo was one of the hecklers as Jesus struggled by, carrying the cross, on the way to be crucified.
Camilo Castelo Branco wasn’t just an ordinary suicide. He was a commanding figure in Portugal’s literary scene in the late 1800’s. He was known as the Portuguese Balzac and was awarded the title of Viscount of Correia Botelho. In despair over his son’s insanity and his own ailments that would certainly lead to blindness, he ended his life in 1890.[i]
According to his Wikipedia page, “Camilo produced over 260 works, ranging from essays, plays, romantic fiction to non-fiction. His writing is considered original in that it combines the dramatic and sentimental spirit of Romanticism with a highly personal combination of sarcasm, bitterness and dark humor. He is also celebrated for his peculiar wit and anecdotal character, as well as for his turbulent (and ultimately tragic) life.”[ii]
Ordinarily, this is where his story would end. Camilo would live in our memories only for as long as his books didn’t naturally deteriorate, or if the internet failed to archive his life but in some remote corner, where only the most dedicated researcher would discover any mention of him.
However, Camilo inspired the medium Yvonne A. Pereira to write about his life after physical death, his after-life biography. In the book, Memoirs of a Suicide, we are taken from the moment Camilo kills himself to years later to when he is preparing to re-enter our physical world to subject himself to the required trials to pay for his wrongs and to learn the lessons so he may improve his immortal spirit.
The first paragraph of the book takes you to the place reserved for suicides:
“It was the month of January, 1891, when I found myself being held in an area of the Invisible World. Its desolate landscape was comprised of deep valleys that were continuously enveloped in shadowy darkness. Within its winding gorges and sinister caves, spirits that used to be men and women on the earth howled like hordes of infuriated demons, demented by the absolutely unconceivable intensity and strangeness of the sufferings that tormented them.”[iii]
Only when his natural years of living ended is Camilo taken out of that horrid landscape and up to the “Mary of Nazareth” Hospital. The latter is a spirit colony reserved for suicides, men and women, to recuperate after their ordeal and to learn about their obligations to their sacred mission to fully live out the life they had chosen beforehand. Running in cowardice from one’s assigned tribulations in the physical life results in severe penalties. As part of his rehabilitation, Camilo must learn what brought him to his decision to escape his ailments and why he was given the sufferings that he should have endured with dignity.
Past Life – 33 A.D.
For Camilo to understand why he was destined to be blind in old age, he needed to have his past wrongs exposed. As there is a reason for everything that happens to us, our lives are finely orchestrated to test and uplift us, as well as hammer out, with our head upon an anvil, the bad habits and intentions that we have carried for too long.
As part of his preparation for a fruitful return to a physical body, he was taken to a classroom amphitheater where he is strapped into a device that would take him back to his past. This is not merely witnessing a picture on a screen, but a complete four dimensional experience, where he and his fellow classmates were inside his preceding lives. He was nervous, for all of the previous students had revealed crimes and failures to be ashamed of for several lifetimes. The narrative begins:
“I went back to the year 33 A.D! However, I was not only remembering it: I was actually living in that time period, exactly as before!
The old holy city of the Jews – Jerusalem – was experiencing feverish events on that hot, sunny morning. I felt possessed by a diabolical happiness as I walked through the streets packed with foreigners, inciting riots, encouraging fights, spreading disquieting gossip, promoting disorder. It was the feast day of Calvary, and it was known that a certain revolutionary named Jesus of Nazareth had been condemned by the authorities of Rome to die on the cross, along with two other criminals.”[iv]
Camilo knew he was “a wretched person, poor and evil.”[v] He lived off of the discarded clothes and food of others. His greatest pleasure was to witness misfortune, of any kind, drunks, fights and torture. He found himself following Jesus, so he can witness pain and suffering:
“Fierce in my obstinacy, I follow him on his dolorous climb, yelling offenses and vile scorn; and I must confess that the only reason I do not strike him with stones with the violence of my murderous arm is because he is so closely guarded by the Roman soldiers. The truth is that I have always felt myself to be inferior and belittled everywhere I go. I feel envy and hatred towards everything that actually is, or that I believe to be, superior to me! Ugly, disheveled, ignoble, deformed – I had only one arm – degraded, ambitious, the stuff of pure evil dripped from my heart.”[vi]
Wait, it gets worse. He noticed Mary, the mother of Jesus, and yelled out insults and sarcastic remarks to her. Anything to hurt everyone around him. A man with one arm, for what offense he lost an arm, we will never know, but he was on a mission to equally harm the world. A man who was rescued from the valley of the suicides by the very woman he abused more than 1800 years earlier.
I can’t imagine the nightmare of discovering his deeds. I can only contemplate in fear what horrible crimes I must have committed in some previous wretched life, for all of us are on the path to become better, which means that in the past we have made choice that we would scorn and disapprove of today.
After witnessing the death of Christ, Camilo went on to take part in the stoning of Stephen. He readily assisted the Sanhedrin to ferret out Christians. Then he discovered:
“In fact, I was not even a son of Israel! I had come from far away, an adventurer and disbeliever, from distant Gaul. I had fled my own tribe, where I had been condemned to death for the double crime of murder and treason to my homeland, having arrived in Judea by chance in the last months of the Lord’s ministry.”[vii]
His life during the time of Christ was one of constant strife, caused by his own defective character. He did not experience any redeeming act while reliving his nightmare of impiety.
Past Life – 17th Century - Spain
Camilo next experienced life after life, centuries of trials, always as a base person, without moral guidance. His only wish was to gain wealth and pleasure. Sometimes he would climb high on the social ladder, but the expected improvement in his spiritual state never materialized. Hence, whenever he climbed high, he fell further each time his wrongs were discovered. His lives were always located in the regions of France or Spain.
In between lives, he would learn about the spiritual principles that would be presented to the world in the form of the Doctrine of Spiritism in the 1850s. Camilo desired the progression of the state of his soul. He knew that he should learn how to be charitable, loving, unselfish and fraternal. But his motivations for adapting these attributes were in the expectation that he could use them to “appear” good, while accumulating more riches and other advantages all for his use.
Finally, in the early seventeenth century, he found himself in a confused state in a dark dungeon. Slowly the fog lifted and his life became apparent:
“I was born into an old family of bankrupt nobles, who, at the time, were besieged by insurmountable adversities, such as political and religious rivalries, as well as disagreements with the Crown.
In my early youth I was illiterate, fraught by hard toil in the fields. I tended sheep and tilled the soil like a wretched serf, dividing myself amongst multiple tasks under the severe eye of my father, a cruel, provincial nobleman, whose unrestrained religious pride, inspired by the ideas of the Reformation, has disgraced him before the king.”[viii]
Born in Toledo, Spain in adverse conditions, but still with prospects because of his noble birth, Camilo was once again provided a chance to rise above his past. Ambitious, even at his young age, Camilo was able to enlist the aid of the parish priest to educate him. As he grew older he became fixated on the idea of marriage and surveyed the women in his circle of acquaintances. He focused on his mother’s niece:
“Her name was Maria Magda. She was slender and beautiful, and had black, fragrant, waist-length, braided hair, along with languid and seductive eyes. Like me, she was the daughter of bankrupt nobles, but thanks to her parents’ thoughtfulness, she had the advantage of having acquired a good domestic and social education.”[ix]
When a more prosperous rival appeared, Camilo was left alone and bitter. As his past character would react, so would his present, in the deepest part of his mind, he thirsted for revenge. He showed no hint of understanding that Maria may have loved another or that the wishes of her parents influenced her decision; just a primitive urge to strike back at the cause of his pain. Hence, he swore eternal revenge against his love, Maria, and her new husband, Jacinto de Ornelas.
From then on, he eliminated the thought of marriage from his mind and concentrated his immense energy on the means to better his station. He thus pursued a social plateau where he could enjoy power over the objects of his scorn, supremacy enough to humiliate and destroy the unsuspecting couple.
The spirit world attempted to guide Camilo back onto the path of self-improvement:
“I dreamed night after night that my old father, as well as other deceased friends, had returned from the grave to advise me to give up on my plans for the future; instead, I should marry one of my childhood friends, a decision that would be the surest path to peace-of-mind and true happiness.”[x]
The spirit world does not want us to fail. We are watched with the loving kindness of a true mother and father. Their affection rains down upon us. This is why we have a conscience. Although we temporarily lose the conscious recollection of our memories from past lives when we are reborn, we retain two vital signal posts. The first is our conscience; our accumulated moral learning from all of our past lives serves to govern us in our daily decisions. When we reflect on an action, our conscience provides us feedback. We must listen to that advice and heed it for within us we have centuries of stored wisdom.
Our instincts are the second guiderail that has been betrothed to us in our current life. Multiple life experiences in countless sets of circumstances have toned our instincts, whereby we are given the gift to recognize the potentially adverse or positive significance of any situation.
The death of his father allowed Camilo to discover his road to revenge. He joined the Society of Jesus, where he received a sterling education. Ignoring the company of truly dedicated servants of Jesus within the ranks, he sought out those whose favor could raise him up in the organization. Meanwhile the Jesuits, representing the spearhead of the infamous Spanish Inquisition, welcomed young lieutenants who did not hesitate to arrest innocents, partake in slander and torture victims when ordered. He describes his fanaticism:
“I would have turned in my own father; such was the madness that took hold of me. I would have dragged him before the tribunal as an agent of the Reformation if he had not surrendered his soul to the Creator, thanks to the mercy of Heaven! However, I did not do all of that to give vent to my own evilness: my intent was only to serve my superiors, to exalt the Jesuit cause, to prove the unending dedication and unconditional gratitude my passionate soul could muster for all the support they had given me! I myself became a victim of that very institution, because in recognizing my submission for the favors I had received, my superiors took advantage of my sentiments and induced me to commit abominable crimes, certain as they were that I would be incapable of betrayal.”[xi]
Camilo worked his way up among the ranks of the Jesuits for fifteen years, until, one day, he discovered that the husband of his love, Maria had returned from duty in Holland. Jacinto had arrived back in Spain with great honors. Camilo sent his spies to watch every movement of the couple. Maria and Jacinto had a good marriage with children. They were very much in love and Maria was known for her impeccable virtues.
Trying to worm his way into a renewal of passion with Maria, he met her at the church she visited every week. Then he started to frequent her house. He praised, flattered and implored her for affection. She resisted at every turn. Even her husband noticed his intentions, but against a member of the dreaded Spanish Inquisition, he was powerless to stop Camilo’s advances. Besides, Jacinto knew his leanings toward the Reformation he witnessed in Holland could be a lever to destroy his life and forever affect the lives of his children.
Jacinto prepared to leave Madrid for safety, but Camilo found out and he turned Jacinto over to the authorities, on suspicion of being a Huguenot (a member of the French protestant reformed church). Camilo successfully fabricated evidence to convict Jacinto and requested that Jacinto be handed over to him. Jacinto’s tortures by Camilo are recorded thusly:
“I had his fingernails and teeth yanked out; his fingers and wrists disjointed; the soles of his feet slowly, patiently burned with red-hot blades. I had him flogged until his flesh shredded, and all of it under the pretext of saving him from hell, for having apostatized, forcing him to make confessions of supposed conspiracies against the Church, under whose name I took shelter for such vile acts.”[xii]
Knowing the cause of her husband’s incarceration, Maria went to plead with Camilo to release her husband. Camilo forced Maria to give in to all of his wishes. While Maria did all that Camilo demanded, he could see the disdain in her eyes. Therefore, tiring of his malicious game, he decided to return her husband to her. However, Camilo had one more horrible deed to accomplish:
“Maria had pleaded for the life and freedom of her husband and I had promised to concede them. But she had forgotten to ask me to return him intact, without mutilations! Therefore, I had his eyes gouged out with a red-hot iron, thus barbarically disfiguring him, forever plunging him into the darkness of indescribable torment. I never even dreamed that there was an Almighty God following from the height of his Justice my abominable act, which I archived in the folds of my conscience as if reflected in a mirror in order to accuse me and demand unappealable atonement throughout the centuries!”[xiii]
Two months after being released, Jacinto, using a knife he asked his five-year-old son to fetch him, committed suicide. Finally realizing the extent of his crimes, Camilo could not sleep. He suffered from incessant nightmares and could no longer carry out the orders of his superiors. Subsequently, falling out of favor, he was imprisoned for life by the same institution that he had been so dedicated in carrying out their diabolical commands. He died alone in his cell, full of regrets.
At this point in his spiritual interrogation, Camilo finally realized why he was destined for blindness in his last life. He knew that he was meant to face the same dread and hopelessness that his innocent victim felt three hundred years earlier. Even worse was that he didn’t have the courage to face it; instead he weakened and sought to immediately escape his intended misfortune.
Camilo now understood that it wasn’t divine providence that determined that he was to be blind in his old age, but himself. His actions had consequences, and between physical lives, he determined the trials and the lessons he should live through. He leaves us with this thought:
“The truth is that it was a situation of my own creation, caused by my own wrongs and defects down through the ages!”[xiv]
Past lives are important for us. Even though we may not recall, while incarnated, what they were, we can, by analyzing the trials, obstacles, and events of our present life, infer what we must repair and learn in this life. We must never be deterred in finishing our assigned task. The harsher our trials, the more we have to learn from them, and we should be grateful for the opportunity to recover our moral debts and resume stepping up the ladder of purification of our souls.
Learn about reincarnation, read The Case for Reincarnation - Your Path to Perfection.
[[i]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 9
[[ii]] Wikipedia, “Camilo Castelo Branco”, n.d., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camilo_Castelo_Branco, (accessed August 21, 2014)
[[iii]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 19
[[iv]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 528
[[v]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 528
[[vi]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 529
[[vii]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 530
[[viii]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 536
[[ix]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 540
[[x]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 542
[[xi]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 544
[[xii]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 548
[[xiii]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, pp. 550-551
[[xiv]] Pereira, Y. A., Memoirs of a Suicide, EDICEI, p. 554