THE SPIRITS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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The opposition from the scholarly world, for many, constitutes proof, or at the very least a signifcantly strong argument, supporting the absurdity of Spiritism. We are not indifferent to the judgment of academics. On the contrary, we actually have great respect for them and would be honored to be counted among them. However, we cannot judge their opinions to be unquestionably conclusive under all circumstances.

When science goes beyond the tangible observation of facts and attempts to evaluate and explain those facts, the feld is opened up to conjecture. Each individual develops a system of his or her own and they must do their utmost to relentlessly defend it. Contradictory systems are suggested and rejected every day, one right after the other, disparaged as absurd errors, and then later proclaimed as incontestable truths. Facts are the sole criterion of our judgment, the sole argument for which there is no retort. In the absence of facts, those who are wise remain skeptical.

For subjects that have been fully explored and studied, the opinions of the educated are fairly authoritative, because their knowledge is more extensive and enlightened than that of an ordinary person. However, with respect to new facts or principles or even the unknown, their opinions should only be considered hypothetical, because they are no freer from prejudice than anyone else. One can even argue that scientists are more likely to be narrow-minded than someone else, because each of them is naturally prone to look at everything from their particular point of view. A mathematician accepts no other proof than that demonstrated by algebra, while a chemist refers everything to the action of the elements, and so on. When individuals select a specialization, they usually dedicate their entire mind and efforts to it. Beyond the scope of this feld, such an individual often makes false inferences because of an insistence on treating every subject in the same manner. This is the consequence of human weakness. Therefore, while we should confdently consult a chemist in matters pertaining to analysis, a physicist with regard to electricity, or a mechanical engineer about driving forces, we must grant no more authority to their unfavorable opinion of Spiritism than we should to the opinion of an architect on a matter pertaining to music. This we must do without detracting from the respect due to their special knowledge.

Physical sciences are based on the properties of matter, which may be experimented upon and manipulated as desired. In contrast, phenomena created by spirits are an effect of the action of intelligent beings who have wills of their own, and who continuously show us that they are not subjected to our whims. Therefore, observations cannot be carried out in the same manner because they require special conditions and a different point of departure. Insisting on submitting them to the same methods of investigation is to insist on assuming the existence of analogies that do not in fact exist. As a result, science is incapable of determining the truth of Spiritism. It has nothing to do with it and its conclusion, whether favorable or otherwise, is of no bearing whatsoever.

Spiritism is the result of a personal conviction that scholars may hold as individuals, and is completely independent of their scientifc notions. To submit the question to the decision of physical science would be the same as appointing a group of physicists and astronomers to settle the existence of the soul. Spiritism deals exclusively with the existence of the soul and its state after death. It is completely irrational to assume that someone must be a great psychologist simply because they may be a great mathematician or anatomist. When anatomists dissect a human body, they look for the soul, and, because they do not fnd it through the use of their scalpels, in the same way that they fnd a nerve, or do not see it evaporate like gas, they conclude that it does not exist. They reach this conclusion because their reasoning stems from an exclusively material point of view.

This by no means signifes that they are right and that the rest of the world is wrong. Following this line of reason, we conclude that the task of determining the truth or fallacy of Spiritism does not fall within the realm of science. When Spiritist beliefs have become widespread and accepted by the masses, which, if estimated by the speed at which they are currently being spread, is a time not very far off, the same will apply as with all new ideas that have encountered opposition. Scholars ultimately yield to the force of evidence. They will individually admit ideas that they now reject and, until that time, it would be premature to distract them from their special studies with something that is foreign to both their school of thought and feld of research.

Meanwhile, those who denounce Spiritism without having a thorough understanding of the subject, and expose to ridicule those who do not submit to their way of thinking, forget that such has been done in regard to nearly every great discovery unearthed by humankind. They run the risk of being grouped among the members of the academic assembly who, in 1752, laughed at Benjamin Franklin’s paper on lightning rods and branded it worthless rubbish; or among those who caused France to miss out on the opportunity of pioneering the use of steam in shipping by labeling Robert Fulton’s plans an impracticable dream. And yet, both of these concepts not only proved to be true, but also went on to make great contributions to humanity. If those two assemblies, which included the leading minds of the world among their members, had nothing but disdain and sarcasm for ideas that they did not understand, but which were destined to revolutionize science, industry, and daily life a few years later, how may we expect that another unfamiliar subject should be met with any greater degree of respect?

The errors of some, though unfortunate for the honor of their memory, do not invalidate our esteem in regard to other matters. Common sense is not dictated by an offcial diploma, and there are fools both inside and outside the walls of academic institutions. We ask our adversaries to simply glance over the supporters of Spiritism and determine whether they see only uneducated imbeciles, or whether, despite the immense number of respectable individuals who have accepted it, Spiritism can be regarded as an old wives’ tale. In fact, their character and scientifc knowledge should inspire people to think, “If these persons believe in this, there must be something to it.”

We repeat that if these facts had been limited to the mechanical movement of inert bodies, physical science would have been able to determine their cause. However, the manifestations in question are beyond the laws or forces known to humanity and therefore are beyond the scope of human science. When the facts to be observed are completely new and do not fall within the scope of any known science, scientists should temporarily set their scientifc notions aside to objectively evaluate them. They should remember that a new study cannot be correctly tested under the pressure of preconceived ideas.

People who believe they are capable of exercising foolproof reasoning are likely to come to wrong conclusions. Even those whose ideas are the furthest from the truth profess to base them on reason and it is in the name of reason that they reject whatever sounds impossible to them. Those who once rejected the highly regarded discoveries of humankind did so in the name of reason. What some call reason is often only pride in disguise, and whoever regards themselves as foolproof or perfect essentially claims to be equal to God. We are addressing ourselves to people who are wise enough to withhold their judgment in regard to what they have not yet seen, and who, judging the future based on the past, do not believe that the human race has reached its peak, or that nature has turned over the last page of its book.

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