Camille Flammarion was born in Montigny-le-Roi, Haute-Marne, France. The « Flammarion engraving » first appeared in Flammarion’s 1888 edition of L’Atmosphère. In 1907, he wrote that he believed that dwellers on Mars had tried to communicate with the Earth in the past. As a young man, Flammarion was exposed to two significant social movements in the astronomie, Volume 17 PDF world: the thoughts and ideas of Darwin and Lamarck, and the rising popularity of spiritism with spiritualist churches and organizations appearing all over Europe.
He was convinced that souls after the physical death pass from planet to planet, progressively improving at each new incarnation. His psychical studies also influenced some of his science fiction, where he would write about his beliefs in a cosmic version of metempsychosis. In Lumen, a human character meets the soul of an alien, able to cross the universe faster than light, that has been reincarnated on many different worlds, each with their own gallery of organisms and their evolutionary history. Flammarion’s influence was great, not just on the popular thought of his day, but also on later writers with similar interests and convictions.
Camille was a brother of Ernest Flammarion and Berthe Martin-Flammarion, and uncle of a woman named Zelinda. Beginning with Giovanni Schiaparelli’s 1877 observations, 19th century astronomers observing Mars believed they saw a network of lines on its surface, which were named « canals » by Schiaparelli. These turned out to be an optical illusion due to the limited observing instruments of the time, as revealed by better telescopes in the 1920s. Flammarion approached spiritism, psychical research and reincarnation from the viewpoint of the 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.
Flammarion had studied mediumship and wrote, « It is infinitely to be regretted that we cannot trust the loyalty of mediums. However, Flammarion, a believer in psychic phenomena, attended séances with Eusapia Palladino and claimed that some of her phenomena were genuine. 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. After two years investigation into automatic writing he wrote 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. 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.