Allan Kardec

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851. Does fatalism control the events of life in the sense commonly attached to this word? Is every event in our lives predestined, and, if so, what becomes of free will?
“Fatalism only exists based on the choice each spirit makes to undergo a trial. By choosing that trial, you create a sort of destiny for yourself. It is the natural consequence of the situation in which you have chosen to place yourself. This is only with respect to physical trials, because in moral trials and temptations, a spirit always maintains a freedom of choice between good and iniquity and is always able to yield or resist. Good spirits may come to your aid when they see you falter, but cannot influence you to the extent of controlling your will. On the other hand, bad or inferior spirits may trouble or alarm you by exaggerating your physical danger. However, the will of your incarnate spirit maintains its full freedom of choice.”

852. Some individuals seem to be pursued by a fatalism that is completely independent of their actions. Is it their destiny to be unfortunate?
“There may be trials that those individuals are forced to endure because they have chosen them, but you often attribute to destiny what is more often than not the consequence of your own faults. In the midst of the adversities that afflict you try to keep a pure and clear conscience, and you will be given solace for your suffering.”

The true or false ideas that we adopt of the things around us cause us to succeed or fail in our undertakings depending on our character and social standing. It seems easier and less humiliating to our self-esteem to attribute our failures to fate or destiny than to our own mistakes. While spirits may sometimes influence our success, we can always free ourselves from this influence by resisting the ideas they suggest if they are misleading or bad.

853. Some people escape one danger only to fall prey to another, as if it were impossible for them to escape death. Is this not fatalism?
“Nothing is predestined, in the truest sense of the word, except the time of death. When that time has come, whether in one form or another, you cannot escape it.”

a) Then, regardless of whatever danger threatens us, we will not die if our time has not come?
“No, you will not die. There are thousands of examples of this, but when your hour has come, nothing can save you. God knows how you will leave your present life, and this is often also known by your spirit because it is revealed when you choose an existence.”

854. Given the inevitability of our time of death, are the precautions we take to avoid it useless?
“No, because those precautions are suggested to avoid any danger that threatens you. They are one of the means used to prevent death.”

855. Why does Providence make us encounter dangers that have no result?
“When your life is in peril, it is a warning to turn you away from wickedness and leave you better off. When you escape this danger, and while still feeling the emotion stimulated by the danger you encountered, you think according to the degree in which you are influenced by good spirits to mend your ways. If a bad spirit dominates (In using the word bad I am referring to the evil that is still within that spirit), you think that you will escape other dangers in the same manner, and once again you give free rein to your passions. Through the dangers that you encounter, God reminds you of your weakness and the fragility of your existence. If you examine the cause and nature of the peril you have escaped, you will see that in many cases its consequences would have been the atonement of some fault you have committed, or some duty you have neglected. God warns you to reflect upon and correct your faults.” (See nos. 526-532)

856. Do spirits know how they will die beforehand?
“Based on the life they have chosen, they know that they have exposed themselves to die in some particular manner rather than in another, but they also see the effort they will have to put forward in order to avoid it. They know that, God willing, they will escape it.”

857. There are those who brave the perils of war fully convinced that their time has not come. Are there any grounds for this confidence?
“Individuals often have a premonition of their end. On the other hand, such individuals may also have a sense that their time of death has not yet come. This intuition is due to the action of their protective spirits, who warn them to be ready to go or boost their courage when they particularly need it. It may also come to them from the intuition they have of the life they have chosen, or of the mission they have accepted that they know they must fulfill.” (See nos. 411-522)

858. How is it that those who have a premonition of their death generally dread it less than others do?
“It is the human being and not the spirit who fears death. Individuals who have a premonition of their death view it as a spirit rather than as human beings. They understand that it will be a release to freedom and await it.”

859. If death is inevitable at its appointed time, does this also apply to all the accidents that may happen to us over the course of our lives?
“They are often small enough that we can warn you against them, and sometimes help you avoid them by directing your thoughts because we do not like physical suffering. All this is of little importance to the life you have chosen. Fatalism, truly, is the hour at which you are born into and exit the physical life.”

a) Are there incidents that must occur in a life and that spirits cannot help you avert?
“Yes, but you saw those incidents when you chose your life as a spirit. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume that everything that happens to you was ‘written in the stars’ as people say. An event is often the consequence of something you have done by an act of your own volition. Had you not done that thing, the event would not have taken place. If you burn your finger, it is a trivial inconvenience resulting from your own carelessness and a consequence of matter, not destiny. Only great sorrows, serious events that are capable of influencing your moral state, are predestined by God because they will be useful to your purification and education.”

860. Can individuals, by their will and effort, prevent events from taking place, and vice versa?
“They can if this deviation is compatible with the life they have chosen. They may prevent wrongdoing to do good, which should be the sole purpose of life, especially if that wrong might contribute to an even greater evil.”

861. Did those individuals who commit a murder know, in choosing their life, that they would become murderers?
“No, they knew that they incurred the risk of killing one of their fellow creatures by choosing a life of struggle. However they did not know whether they would or would not because a murderer almost always deliberates before committing the crime, and if people can deliberate they are free to carry out the action or not. If spirits knew that they would commit a murder beforehand, it would imply that they were predestined to commit that crime. No one is ever predestined to commit a crime. Every crime, like every other action, is the result of choice and free will.”
“You are confusing two things that are quite distinct – the events of material life and those of moral life. If any sort of fatalism exists, it is only in the events of your material life of which the cause is beyond your control and independent of your will. As to the acts of the moral life, they always emanate from human beings themselves, who always have the freedom of choice. In those acts, there is never any destiny.”

862. There are individuals who never succeed and seem to be stalked by a bad spirit in all their endeavors. Is this not what we call fatalism?
“It is definitely fatalism, if you want to call it that, but it results from the type of life chosen by those individuals in the spirit state, because they wanted to exercise their patience and resignation through a life of disappointment. However, do not believe that destiny is absolute. It is often a consequence for individuals who choose the wrong path, one that does not correspond to their intelligence and abilities. If people try to cross a river without knowing how to swim, they stand a very good chance of drowning, and we can say the same about most events in your life. If people only attempted things that are in harmony with their abilities, they would usually succeed. The cause of their failure is their conceit and ambition, which veer them off their proper path, and make them mistake a desire to satisfy passions for vocation. They fail by their own fault, but instead of blaming themselves, they prefer to blame their ‘star’. For example, an individual who could have been a good craftsperson and honorably earn a living in that capacity prefers to write bad poetry, and ultimately dies of starvation. There would be a place for everyone, if everyone assumed their proper place.”

863. Do social customs often force people to follow one road rather than another, and is their choice of occupation often controlled by the opinion of those around them? Is the feeling that leads us to attach a certain amount of importance to the opinions of others an obstacle to exercising our free will?
“Social traditions and customs are established by human beings and not by God. If people submit to them it is because they want to and their submission is an act of their free will. If they wanted to free themselves from those customs, they could do so. Then why do they complain? They should blame their pride rather than social customs, because pride makes them prefer to starve rather than stray from what they consider to be their dignity. Nobody thanks them for this sacrifice, though God would take note of the sacrifice of their vanity. We are not saying that you should resist public opinion or customs, as in the case of some people who are more eccentric than philosophical. It is just as absurd to allow others to point or stare at you like a curious animal, as there is wisdom in voluntarily descending when you are unable to stay at the top of the ladder.”

864. While there are individuals to whom fate is unkind, there are others who seem to be favored because they succeed in everything they do. To what is this to be attributed?
“In many cases, they know how to best manage their lives and actions, but it may also be a type of trial. People are intoxicated by success. They put their trust in their destiny, and in the end they pay for these successes by severe setbacks, which greater forethought would have enabled them to avoid.”

865. How can we account for the luck that sometimes favors people under circumstances where neither will nor intelligence have a role, such as gambling, for example?
“Some spirits have chosen specific types of pleasure beforehand, and the luck that favors them is a temptation. Those who win as human beings lose as spirits, since such luck is a trial for their pride and greed.”

866. Is the fate that seems to shape our material destinies a result of our free will?
“You yourself have chosen your trial. The more severe it is and the better you bear it, the higher you are elevated. Those who spend their physical lives selfishly enjoying wealth and happiness are cowardly spirits who remain stationary. The number of those who are unfortunate is much greater in your world than those who are fortunate, because spirits generally choose the trial that will be most useful to them. They too clearly see the futility of your splendor and pleasures. Besides, the most fortunate life is always more or less troubled, if only by the absence of sorrow.” (See no. 525 et seq.)

867. Where does the expression “born under a lucky star” originate?
“From an old superstition that connected the stars with the destiny of each human being – a metaphor that some people are foolish enough to take literally.”

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