THE SPIRITS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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258. When they are in an errant state and before they assume a new physical existence do spirits see what will happen in that new existence?
“They choose the type of trials that they will experience, and free will exists in this freedom of choice.”


a) So does God not infict trials and tribulations as punishment?
“Nothing happens without God’s permission, because God has established all the laws that govern the universe. You would have to ask why God has made a specifc law, instead of another. In giving a spirit the freedom of choice, God bestows upon the spirit full responsibility for their actions and their consequences. Nothing blocks their future; both the right and wrong roads are open to them. If they fail, it is consoling to know that it is not all over, and that God allows them to redo the task that they have performed poorly. You must always distinguish between the work of God’s will and that of humans. If you are threatened by danger, it is God who has created it, not you. However, you have voluntarily chosen to expose yourself to this danger because you see a means of advancement through such behavior, and God has permitted you to do so.”


259. If the spirit can choose the kind of trials that it will experience, does this imply that we have anticipated and chosen our trials and tribulations on Earth?
“Not all of them, because you have not chosen and foreseen everything that will happen to you in this life and its details. You have chosen the type of trial that you will endure. The details of this trial are a consequence of the general situation that you chose, and are often the result of your own actions. For example, if a spirit chose to be born among criminals, it knew what kind of temptations it was going to have to face, but not each individual action. Those actions are the effect of its volition or free will.
A spirit knows that, in choosing such a road, it will experience a specifc struggle. It knows the nature of the problems that it will encounter, but does not know how they will present themselves. The details of events are the product of circumstances and the force of things; the spirit anticipates only the leading events of a new life and the determining effects on its destiny. If you turn down a road or path full of potholes, you know that you must proceed very carefully because you run a risk of falling. You do not know exactly where you may fall, and if you are prudent, you might not fall at all. If a tile falls on your head while you are walking down the street, you should not think that ‘it was meant to be,’ as is commonly said.”


260. Why would a spirit choose to be born among individuals who are leading a bad life?
“The spirit must be sent into the conditions appropriate to the trial it has requested. There must be a correspondence between the imperfection the spirit needs to shed, and the social context of where it is born. If the spirit has to struggle against theft, for example, it must live among thieves.”


a) If there were no bad people on Earth, could spirits not fnd the conditions they need for certain kinds of trials?
“If that were the case, would it be a bad thing? This idea concerns higher worlds that are only inhabited by good spirits, in which case iniquity does not exist, and that are only inhabited by good spirits. Try to make this the case as soon as possible on your Earth.”


261. In the course of the trials to which it must be subjected to reach perfection, does a spirit have to experience every sort of temptation? Must it go through all the circumstances that may stimulate pride, jealousy, greed, sensuality, and other similar sentiments?
“Of course not, because there are many spirits who from the outset follow a road that spares them the necessity of undergoing many of those trials. However, when they travel down the wrong road they expose themselves to all the dangers of that road. A spirit, for instance, may ask for wealth and the request may be granted. In that case, it may become greedy or wasteful, selfsh or generous, make a noble use of its wealth, or waste it on meaningless sensual pursuits depending on its character. But this does not imply that it is compelled to experience all those tendencies.”


262. As a spirit is simple, unaware, and has no experience at birth, how can it intelligently choose an existence, and how can it be responsible for such a choice?
“God supplies what the spirit lacks due to inexperience by tracing out the road that it must follow, as you do for an infant in its cradle. God allows it to become the master of its choice little by little as its free will develops, and it is then that it often loses its way and takes the wrong road if it ignores the guidance of the good spirits, who try their best to guide it. This is what is called the downfall of humanity.”


a) When a spirit has free will, does the choice of its corporeal existence always depend solely on its own volition? Does God sometimes force this existence as atonement?
“God is patient, God never rushes atonement. Nevertheless, God can impose an existence upon a spirit sometimes when due to its ignorance or stubbornness the spirit is incapable of distinguishing what would be most useful, and when God sees that such existence may help advance its purifcation, and serve as atonement.”


263. Do spirits immediately make their choices after death?
“No, many think that their destiny is to suffer forever. You have already been told that this is an atonement.”


264. What determines a spirit’s choice of the trials that it wants to endure?
“It chooses those which may help amend its faults, and at the same time help the spirit advance more quickly. With these goals in mind, some may impose a life of poverty and deprivation upon themselves to learn to bear them with courage. Others may wish to test their power to resist the temptations of fortune and power, which are much more dangerous because of the abuse they may entail, and the vile passions that they may develop. Others may want to strengthen their good resolutions by struggling against the infuence of vices.”


265. While some spirits choose to expose themselves to vice to test their virtue, could others make a similar choice simply because they want to live immersed in their immoral tastes, completely free to yield to their sensual tendencies?
“Of course this occurs, but only among people whose moral sense is imperfectly developed. In such cases, the required trial occurs spontaneously and they are subjected to it for a longer period of time. Sooner or later, they understand that indulging in animal instincts leads to disastrous consequences, which they undergo during a period so long that it seems to be eternal. God sometimes leaves them in this state until they have fully grasped the gravity of their faws and ask to be allowed to repair it by undergoing benefcial trials.”


266. Is it not natural to choose the least painful trials?
“From your point of view it would seem so, but not from that of the spirit. When it is free from the bonds of material existence, its illusions come to an end and it thinks differently.”


While living on Earth and subject to the infuence of physical ideas, human beings only see the painful aspect of the trials they must suffer. It therefore appears natural to them to choose the trials that are associated with material pleasure. When it returns to the spiritual life, it compares the unrefned and feeting joy with the permanent happiness it occasionally catches a glimpse of, and then, of what importance to the spirit are a few temporary hardships?. A spirit may therefore choose the hardest trial and the most painful existence in hopes of reaching a happier state quicker, just as a sick person often chooses the most unpleasant medicine or course of treatment in hopes of obtaining a rapid cure. A person who seeks to leave behind an eternal legacy by discovering an unknown country does not pursue a smooth course. It takes the road that most likely will help it reach its goal, and dangers that may lie ahead do not deter it. Quite the contrary, it braves those dangers for the sake of the glory it will receive if it succeeds.


The fact that we are free to choose our successive lives and the trials that we have to undergo ceases to appear strange when we consider that spirits, being free from matter, judge things differently. They perceive the ends that these trials are intended to meet, which are far more important than the fleeting gratifications found on Earth. After each existence, they see the steps they have already accomplished and understand what they still need to do to reach the purity, and this clarity of vision helps them reach their goals. That is the reason why they willingly submit to the tribulations of physical life, requesting to be allowed to experience those that will aid them in advancing the farthest and the fastest. Considering all this, there is nothing surprising in a spirit choosing a hard or painful life. It knows that it cannot, enjoy the supreme happiness it craves in its present state of imperfection. It catches glimpses of that happiness, and it tries to earn its own improvement as the sole means of reaching that happiness.


Don’t we see examples of similar choices every day? Individuals working tirelessly to amass the wealth that will enable them to live in comfort. They are carrying out tasks that have been voluntarily assumed as the means of insuring a more prosperous future. The soldier who sacrifces for the accomplishment of a perilous mission, the traveler who braves serious danger in the interest of science or their own fortune; these are examples of voluntary hardships taken on for the sake of the honor or proft that will result from their successful resolution. What will people not do for glory? Is not every sort of competitive examination a trial to which people voluntarily submit in the hope of advancing in the career they have chosen? To reach a high position in science, art or industry, a person must pass through all the lower degrees that lead up to it, and these constitute many trials. Spirit life models physical life and it presents the same variations on a smaller scale. As in human life, we often choose the hardest conditions as a means of attaining the highest ends. Why would a discarnate spirit, who sees farther than it did when it was in a physical body, not choose a hard or painful existence, if it may lead to eternal happiness? Those who believe that spirits will request to be princes and millionaires because they have the power to choose their lives are like the shortsighted who only see what they touch, or like greedy children, who say that they would like to be pastry-chefs or candy makers.


A spirit, while incarnate, is like a traveler who sees neither the length nor the end of its road in the depths of a valley obscured by fog. When he has reached the top of the hill and the fog has cleared, his view comprises both the road he has traveled and that which still remains. He sees the point that he has to reach and the obstacles that he has to overcome in reaching it, and he is able to take measures for successfully accomplishing his journey. A spirit, while incarnated, is like the traveler at the foot of the hill when freed from his earthbound shackles. It is like the traveler who has reached the top of the hill. The aim of the traveler is to obtain rest after getting tired, while the aim of the spirit is to attain perfect happiness after experiencing trials and tribulations.


Errant spirits say that they seek, study, and observe to choose wisely. We see similar examples in corporeal life. We often spend years deciding which career to choose, a decision that we freely make, because we consider it to be the one in which we are most likely to succeed. If we ultimately fail in the one we have chosen, we seek out another and each career constitutes a phase or period of our lives. Is it not each day used by us to decide what we will do tomorrow? What do different physical lives mean for a spirit if not simply transitional phases, periods and days, in comparison to its spirit life, which is its normal life? The corporeal life is nothing more than transitory and temporary.


267. Can a spirit make its choice while in the physical state?
“Its desire may have a certain amount of infuence, depending on its intention, but it often views things very differently when it returns to the spiritual life. It is only as a spirit that it chooses. However, some decisions may be made during the material life, because a spirit, even while incarnated, has occasional moments in which it is independent of the matter that it inhabits.”


a) Are there many cases where people desire greatness and wealth on Earth, but not as atonement or a trial?
“Absolutely, in such cases it is their material instinct that desires to enjoy material greatness. The spirit could only want it to understand its fuctuations.”


268. Until a spirit has reached the state of perfect purity, must it constantly undergo trials?
“Yes, but not as you understand it. By trials, you only mean material misfortunes. When a spirit has reached a certain degree of purifcation, it has no more hardships of that kind to undergo although it is not perfect yet. Nevertheless, it must perform certain duties to continue to improve. There is nothing painful in these duties, for example, the duty of helping others improve themselves.”


269. Is it possible for a spirit to make a mistake with respect to the value of the trial it chooses?
“It may choose one that exceeds its strength, and, in that case, it fails. Alternatively, it may choose one from which it will reap no proft at all; for instance, if it seeks to lead an idle and useless life. But, in such cases, when it returns to the spiritual world it realizes that it has gained nothing, and asks to make up for lost time.”


270. Why do some people have vocations and a spontaneous desire to follow one career over another?
“It seems to me that you could answer this question yourself. Is not that the existence of such vocations a consequence of what we have told you concerning the choice of trials, and the progress accomplished in a prior existence?”


271. An errant spirit studies the various conditions of a physical life that will lead it to progress. However, how can it think that it will make progress by being born, for example, among cannibals?
“Those who are born among cannibals are not advanced spirits. They are spirits who are still at the cannibal level, or possibly even lower.”


We know that cannibals are not at the bottom of the scale and that there are worlds in which degrees of cruelty are found that have no equivalent on Earth. The spirits of those worlds are, therefore, lower than the lowest of our world, and being a savage is a step up for them. It would be the same situation if our cannibals had to carry out some profession obliging them to shed blood in a civilized community. If they have no higher goal, it is because their moral inferiority does not allow them to grasp any higher degree of progress. A spirit can only advance gradually; it cannot clear the distance that separates barbarism from civilization in a single bound. Because of this inability, we see one of the reasons why reincarnation is necessary. Reincarnation is a product of God’s justice because otherwise what would become of the millions of human beings who die every day in the lowest depths of squalor if they had no means of arriving at higher states? Why would God deny them the favors granted to other human beings?


272. Can spirits be born among civilized people if they came from a world that is lower than Earth, or even if they were among the lowest members of the human race, such as cannibals?
“Yes, such spirits sometimes come into your world by trying to reach a degree that is too far above them. However, they are out of place among you because they have instincts and habits that clash with yours.”


These beings introduce cruelty and barbarism into civilization. For them, returning among cannibals is not a step down, but only resuming their proper place and they may even gain by doing so.


273. Can a civilized person reincarnate, as a form of atonement, as a savage?
“Yes, but that would depend on the kind of atonement that is due. Slave owners who had been cruel to their slaves might in turn become slaves and suffer the torment they once inficted on others. People who held positions of authority at one time may in a new life, be forced to obey those who formerly were their subordinates. Such an existence may be inficted on them as atonement if they had abused their power. A good spirit may also choose an infuential existence among the people of a lower race to hasten their advancement. In that case, such a reincarnation is a mission.”

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