965. Do the joys and sorrows of the soul after death have any material aspect?
“Common sense tells you that they cannot be of a material nature, because the soul is not matter. There is nothing carnal in those joys and sorrows, yet they are a thousand times more vivid than those you experience on Earth because the spirit, when freed from matter, is more sensitive. Matter stifles feelings and sensations.” (See nos. 237-257)
966. Why do people often form unrefined and absurd ideas of the joys and sorrows of the future life?
“Because their intelligence is still imperfectly developed. Does a child understand things to the same capacity as an adult? Besides, their idea of a future life is often a result of the education to which they have been subjected – an education that urgently needs to be reformed.” “Your language is too incomplete to express what transcends your present existence, so we have to communicate with you using comparisons borrowed from that existence. As a result, you have mistaken images and figures for reality. As humanity becomes enlightened its thought understands much that its language is unable to express.”
967. What does the happiness of good spirits consist of?
“In knowing all things, feeling neither hatred, jealousy, envy, ambition, nor any of the passions that make human beings miserable. Their mutual love is a source of supreme happiness. They have none of the wants or anxieties of material life and are happy in the good they do, because the happiness of spirits is always proportionate to their degree of elevation. Only perfectly pure spirits enjoy the highest happiness. However, others are happy on different levels. Between bad and perfect spirits, there is an infinite range of elevation and happiness, as the joy of each spirit is always proportionate to its moral state. Those who have already achieved a certain degree of advancement have a perception of the happiness of those who are further along. They seek higher happiness, but as an object of emulation rather than jealousy. They know that it is solely up to them to reach it, and they work to that end with the tranquility of a good conscience. They are happy in not having to suffer what inferior spirits endure.”
968. You stated that the absence of material wants is one of the conditions of happiness for spirits. Is it not the satisfaction of these wants a source of joy for people? “Yes, it is an animal pleasure. When people cannot satisfy those wants they are tortured by them.”
969. What does it mean when people say that pure spirits are united in God’s heart in active devotion?
“This statement is an allegorical representation of the knowledge they possess with regard to God’s perfections. They see and understand God. However, you must not interpret this metaphor any more literally than other statements of a similar nature. Everything in nature, from the grain of sand up ‘is devoted,’ meaning proclaims God’s power, wisdom and goodness. You must not assume that high spirits are absorbed in eternal contemplation, which would be an unwise and monotonous happiness, and furthermore, a selfish one, because their existences would be of perpetual uselessness. They no longer undergo the tribulations of corporeal life, an exemption that is a joy in itself. As we said, they know everything. They make use of the intelligence they have acquired in helping the progress of other spirits. They find great joy in this occupation.”
970. What does the suffering of inferior spirits consist of?
“Their suffering is as varied as the causes by which they are produced, and correspond to the inferiority of each spirit, as the joys of higher spirits are proportionate to their superiority. Their suffering may be summed up as follows: envying the superiority that makes other spirits happy and their inability to obtain it; feeling regret, jealousy, rage and despair in regard to what prevents them from being happy; and being tormented by remorse and indescribable moral anguish. They long for all sorts of joys and are tortured by their inability to satisfy their cravings.”
971. Is the influence exercised by spirits over one another always good?
“It is always good on the part of good spirits, but perverse spirits try to lead astray those whom they believe to be susceptible to being misled from the path of repentance and amendment, and whom they have often led into wrongdoing during earthly life.”
a) So, does death not deliver us from temptation?
“No, but the action of malevolent spirits is much less powerful over other spirits than over incarnates, because they no longer feel material passions.” (See no. 996)
972. How do malevolent spirits tempt other spirits, since they do not have passions?
“Passions no longer exist materially, however, they still exist in thought for lower spirits, and the wicked ones keep impure thoughts in their victims by taking them to places where they witness the exercise of those passions, and whatever else can excite them.”
a) But what is the purpose of these passions, since they no longer have any real object?
“That is precisely what tortures them. Misers see gold that they cannot possess; depraved individuals see orgies in which they cannot partake; arrogant people see honors that they envy, but cannot share.”
973. What are the greatest sufferings that a bad spirits can endure?
“It is impossible to describe the mental tortures that serve as atonement for some crimes, as even those who experienced them would find it difficult to give you an idea. However, the most frightful of them all is the belief that the atonement lasts for all eternity.”
People form a more or less elevated idea about the joys and sorrows of the soul after death, depending on an individual’s intelligence. The greater the development of individuals, the more refined will be their idea of them, and the more rational their views of the subject, the less literally will they interpret figurative language. Enlightened reasoning teaches us that the soul is an entirely spiritual being. It teaches us that a spirit is not affected by impressions that act only upon matter and yet, it does not imply that it is exempt from suffering, or that it does not experience discipline as a consequence of its wrongdoing. (See no. 237)
Spirit communications show us the future state of the soul no longer as a mere theory, but as a reality. They thrust before us all the incidents of life beyond the grave. However, they also show us that they are the natural consequences of terrestrial life. They show us that although they are free from the fanciful accessories created by human imagination, they are painful for those who have made bad use of their abilities during this life. The diversity of the consequences is infinite but we can say, in summary, that each spirit atones for its wrongdoings; each one is punished where one has sinned. Some are punished by the incessant sight of the evil they have done; others, by regret, fear, shame, doubt, isolation, darkness, separation from their loved ones, and so on.
974. From where does the theory of eternal fire originate?
“An image that has been taken literally, like so many others.”
a) Nonetheless, can this fear lead to a useful result?
“Look around you and see whether there are many who are restrained by it, even among those by whom it is preached. If you teach what contradicts reason, the impressions you make are neither long-lasting nor advantageous.”
Human language is unable to express the nature of this suffering. Therefore human beings have been unable to devise a comparison for it, one that is more appropriate than that of fire, because fire is both the most excruciating torture and the symbol of the most energetic action. This is why the belief in eternal fire has existed since the dawn of reason and has passed down by successive generations to the present day. Likewise, this is why all nations speak of “fiery passions,” “burning love,” “burning with jealousy,” and so on.
975. Do inferior spirits understand the happiness of the virtuous?
“Yes and that happiness is a source of torment for them. They understand that their own deeds deprive them of it. It also leads them to seek a new physical existence to shorten the duration of that torment when death frees them from matter, if good use is made of this existence. It is on this basis that they choose the appropriate trials to atone for their faults. It must be remembered that spirits suffer for all the wrongdoing they have done or which they have been the voluntary cause, all the good that they might have done and did not do, and all the evil that has resulted from failing to do the good they might have done.”
“When errant, it is as though a spirit emerges from a fog and sees the obstacles that stand between it and ultimate happiness. Therefore, it suffers more because it understands the full extent of its culpability. There are no more illusions for it. It sees things as they really are.”
When errant, a spirit sees all its past lives at a glance and foresees the future promised to it. It understands what it still needs to do to reach that future. It is like a traveler who having reached the top of a hill sees both the road it traveled, and what it still has to travel to reach the end of the journey.
976. Is seeing suffering spirits a cause of distress for the good ones? If so, what becomes of the happiness of the latter, as that happiness has been impaired?
“Good spirits are not distressed by the suffering of those who are at a lower point than themselves because they know that it will one day end. They lend a helping hand to assist those who suffer to become better. This is their occupation and a joy for them when they succeed.”
a) This is understandable for spirits who are strangers, and who take no special interest in them. However, does observing their pain and suffering disturb the happiness of spirits who have loved them on Earth?
“If spirits do not see your suffering, it is because they separated from you after death, while religion preaches that the souls of the departed continue to see you, but they see you from another point of view. They know that this suffering helps you advance if you bear it with resignation, and they are more pained by the lack of resilience that holds you back than by what they know is temporary suffering.”
977. If spirits are unable to hide their thoughts or all the acts of their lives from each other, does it mean that those who have wronged others are always in the presence of their victims?
“Common sense tells you that it cannot be otherwise.”
a) Is the disclosure of all our reprehensible acts and the perpetual presence of those who have been our victims an atonement for the guilty?
“Yes, and it is more substantial than you think. It only lasts until they make amends for wrongdoing, either as a spirit or as a person in new physical lives.”
When we are in the spirit world, our entire past is revealed and the good or bad that we did is known. Those who have done evil who try to avoid their victims do so in vain. They cannot escape their presence, and it is an atonement and a source of remorse until they atone for the wrongs they have done. Conversely, kindness and goodwill surrounds the spirit of an upright person.
Even on Earth, there is no greater torment for a bad person than the presence of his or her victims, whom they try to avoid at all costs. What happens when the illusions of passions dissipate and they understand the wrongs they have done? When they see their secret actions brought to light and their hypocrisy unmasked? When they realize that they cannot hide from those they have wronged? While the soul of the wicked is prey to shame, regret and remorse, the soul of the virtuous enjoys perfect peace.
978. Does the memory of the faults the soul committed when imperfect disturb its happiness even after it reaches purity?
“No, because it has redeemed its faults and successfully passed through the trials it had endured for that purpose.”
979. Do the trials a soul must experience in the future to complete its purification cause a painful apprehension that hampers its current happiness?
“Yes, for a soul that is still tainted by imperfection. It can only enjoy perfect happiness when it has become quite pure. For souls that have reached a certain degree of progress, the thought of the trials they still have to experience causes no pain whatsoever.”
When the soul arrives at a certain degree of purification, it obtains a taste of happiness. A feeling of sweet satisfaction overwhelms it and is happy in all that it sees and all that surrounds it. As the veil shrouding the mysteries of creation is partially raised, the soul begins to perceive Divine perfection in its entire splendor.
980. Is the sympathetic link that unites spirits of the same order a source of happiness for them?
“The union of spirits who sympathize with the love of goodness is one of their greatest joys, because they have no fear of seeing that union disturbed by selfishness. In the spiritual world, they form families inspired by the same sentiment, as they group into categories and experience joy in being together. This union constitutes the happiness of those worlds. The pure and sincere affection that elevated spirits feel, and of which they are the object, is a source of happiness because there are neither false friends nor hypocrites among them.”
People enjoy the first taste of happiness on Earth when they meet others with whom they can enter into a pure and virtuous union. In purer existences, this happiness becomes indescribable and limitless, because they only meet sympathetic souls who are not saddened by selfishness. All is love in nature; selfishness kills.
981. Is there any difference in future conditions between souls who were afraid of death during life and souls who were indifferent to it or even looked forward to it with relief?
“There may be a very considerable difference between them, though this is often eliminated by the causes which gave rise to that fear or desire. Different feelings move people who dread death and those who look forward to it. These feelings determine the state of the spirit. For instance, when individuals desire death because it means the end of tribulations, the desire is an act of defiance against God and the trials they must undergo.”
982. Is it necessary to acknowledge Spiritism and believe in spirit manifestations to ensure our happiness in the next life?
“If that were true, those who do not believe in them or who have not had the opportunity to learn anything about them would be deprived, which would be absurd. Doing right is what ensures future happiness and doing right is always doing right, regardless of the path that leads to it.” (See nos. 165-799)
Belief in Spiritism helps our self-improvement by clearing up our ideas about our future. It hastens the progress and advancement of individuals and the masses because it enables people to ascertain what the future will be, and is both a beacon and source of support. Spiritism teaches us to bear our trials with patience and resignation, turns us away from actions that could delay our future happiness, and contributes to our reaching that happiness. However, it does not imply that we may not reach that same happiness without it.