Allan Kardec

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222. Some people object that the dogma of reincarnation is not new, and merely a revival of Pythagoras’ theory. We have never claimed that Spiritism was a modern invention. On the contrary, it is a result of natural law. Therefore, it must have existed since the beginning of time, and we have always striven to prove that traces of it are found in the earliest chronicles of antiquity. Pythagoras was not the author of metempsychosis, but borrowed it from Indian and Egyptian philosophers, who had already maintained this theory for ages. The idea of soul transmigration was a widespread belief, admitted by the most eminent thinkers of that time.

Where did this idea come from? Through revelation or intuition? We do not know, but it may be safely assumed that no concept could have survived ages and commanded the respect of the most esteemed members of the human race if it had not been based on some solid ground of truth and reason. The ancient roots of this doctrine should therefore be considered an argument in its favor, rather than an objection. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that there is a fundamental difference between the antique doctrine of metempsychosis and the modern doctrine of reincarnation, namely, that the spirits who teach the latter categorically reject the idea that the human soul can be embodied by an animal, and vice versa.

The spirits who now teach the dogma of multiple corporeal lives reaffrm a theory that was born in the earliest ages of history, and that has maintained a position of importance up to the present day for a vast majority of people. However, they present this dogma in a manner that is more rational, more compliant with the natural law of progress, and more in harmony with the wisdom of the Creator by stripping away the embellishments and exaggerations added by superstition. A circumstance worthy of note is the fact that it is not in this book alone that the doctrine in question has been instructed in recent years. Even before its release, numerous publications of a similar nature had already been circulated in various countries, and their number has greatly increased since. Here we may ask why it is that the statements of all spirits are not in agreement. We will revisit this matter later.

For now we will review this topic from a perspective that is entirely irrespective of any assumed declarations of the spirits. Let us suppose that they made no statement whatsoever in regard to it, and even that the very existence of spirits had not been surmised. Placing ourselves on neutral ground for a moment and admitting the possibility of the hypotheses pertaining to the variety and unity of corporeal lives, let us see which of these is most in line with reason and our own interests.

There are people who reject the idea of reincarnation simply because they do not like it, declaring that their present life has been quite enough for them, and that they have no desire to restart a similar one. We would like to ask these people whether they think that God has asked them their wishes and opinions in regulating the universe. Either the law of reincarnation exists, or it does not. If it exists, no matter how displeasing it may be to them, they are compelled to submit to it because God does not ask their permission to enforce it. It is as if a sick person were to say, “I have suffered enough today, I do not chose to suffer tomorrow.” Regardless of his or her opposition, that person must continue suffering, not only tomorrow, but day after day, until cured completely. Likewise, if it is their destiny to live again physically, they will reincarnate and live again. Will it serve them to rebel against necessity in vain, like a child refusing to go to school, or a condemned criminal refusing to go to prison? They must submit to their fate, no matter how unwilling they may be to do so. Such objections are too foolish to merit more serious examination. However, in order to reassure them, we will say that the Spiritist doctrine of reincarnation is by no means as terrible as they imagine it to be, and that if they studied it in depth, they would realize that they have nothing to fear. They would understand that each new life depend solely on their own behavior, that they will be happy or unhappy depending on their actions in this present life, and that they may even raise themselves above the danger of falling into the quicksand again due to their actions in this life.

We are assuming that those whom we are addressing believe in some sort of afterlife and that they do not anticipate annihilation or losing their soul to a universal whole, like so many drops of rain in the ocean. If you believe in a future life, you probably do not think that it will be the same for all because, in that case, what would be the point of doing good? Why would human beings exercise any form of self-control? Why should they not satisfy all their passions and desires, even at the expense of the rest of the world, if the result is the same no matter what? If, on the other hand, you believe that the future will be happier or less happy according to what one does in life, wouldn’t you want to be as happy as possible in the future, since it will be for eternity?

Do you consider yourself to be one of the most excellent beings who has ever walked the Earth, and that you are thereby are entitled to supreme happiness? No. You admit, then, that there are some who are better than you, and who consequently are entitled to a higher standing, although you do not deserve to be counted among sinners. Place yourself, then, for a moment, in this situation and imagine that someone comes to you and says, “You are suffering; you are not as happy as you could be and you are seeing others enjoying pure happiness. Would you like to exchange your position for theirs?” “Of course,” you reply, “how do I do that?” “Very simple, all you need to do is redo what you have done badly, and try to do it better.” Would you hesitate to accept the offer, even at the cost of several lifetimes of trials? Let us look at an even more straightforward example. Imagine that someone approaches a person who, although not completely destitute, is forced to suffer a life of poverty due to a small income, and says to him or her, “Here is an immense fortune that can be yours, on the condition that you work hard for one minute.” The laziest person would say, without hesitation, “I am ready to work for one minute, two minutes, an hour, a whole day if necessary! What is a day’s labor in comparison to the certainty of wealth and comfort for the rest of my life?” What is the duration of a corporeal life in comparison to eternity? Less than a minute, less than a second.

We sometimes hear people say, “God, who is supremely good, cannot force a human being to restart a series of trials flled with anguish and tribulations.” Is there more kindness in sentencing people to eternal suffering for a few moments of error than in giving them the means to make amends for their faults?

“Two manufacturers each had a worker who hoped to one day become their employers’ partners. However, both workers wasted their day and deserved to be fred. One of the manufacturers dismissed the bad worker, despite heartfelt pleas. This working person was unable to obtain any other employment and died of poverty. The other manufacturer said to the worker ‘You have wasted a day. You owe me compensation for the loss you have caused me. You have done your work poorly and you owe me for it. Start over again. If you do a good job I will not fre you, and you may still seek the higher position that I had promised you.” Do we really need to ask which manufacturer has proven to be the most humane? Would God, the paradigm of mercy itself, be more infexible than a just and compassionate person? The idea that our actions for a few years decide our fate for eternity, in spite of the fact that we could not reach perfection, while we were on Earth flls the mind with anguish. Meanwhile, the opposite idea is incredibly consoling as it gives us hope. Without choosing a side for or against multiple lives, and without admitting that either hypothesis is preferable, we contend that no one would prefer, if the matter were left to his or her own choice, to sustain a sentence against which there is no appeal. A philosopher once said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent one. ”That is what one could say about the concept of multiple lives. As we have already stated, God does not ask our permission when creating Divine plans, nor does God consult our preferences; things either are, or they are not. We will now investigate the probability and consider this topic from a different perspective, the philosophical point of view. We will not include any teachings imparted by the spirits.

If reincarnation does not exist, it means we have only one corporeal life. If the present corporeal life is the only one we are going to have then each person’s soul is created at the same time as his or her bodies. However, if we assume the preexistence of the soul we need to determine the state of the soul before it is united with the body. If the soul existed before the body, we must establish whether this state of being constitutes an existence. There is no middle ground. Either the soul existed before its union with the body, or it did not. If it existed, what was its condition? Did it possess self-awareness? If not, it must have been nearly comparable to non-existence. If it possessed individuality, it must have been either progressive or stationary. In either case, what was its degree of advancement upon uniting with the body? If, on the contrary, we assume that the soul is born into existence at the same time as the body, or that, prior to the birth of the body, it possesses only negative faculties, we have to ask the following questions:
1. Why do souls have such a diversity of aptitudes, independent of the ideas acquired by education?
2. From where does the special aptitude for certain arts and sciences exhibited by many children at a very young age originate, while others remain inferior or mediocre for their entire lives?
3. From where do some individuals derive the innate or intuitive ideas that others lack?
4. From where do some children derive an instinctual gravitation towards vice or virtue, or innate senses of dignity or wrongdoing, which often contrasts with the circumstances into which they were born?
5. Why is it that some people, independent of education, are more advanced than others?
6. Why is it that some human beings are savages and others civilized? If you took a Khoikhoi baby from its mother’s breast, and raised it in our most renowned schools, could you successfully make this baby a Laplace or Newton?

We would ask what philosophy or theosophy can resolve these problems? Either the souls of human beings are equal at birth or not, that we cannot doubt. If they are equal, why are there so many different aptitudes? Do they depend on the physical attributes of each child? This would be the most unfair and immoral hypotheses because in that case it makes a person a mere machine. People would not be responsible for their actions, but would have the right to place all the blame for their wrongdoings on the imperfections of their physical structure. If, on the other hand, souls are created unequal, God must have created them this way. In that case, why is this inherent superiority granted to some and denied to others? Would such partiality be consistent with God’s justice and the equal love God gives to all creatures?

On the contrary, if we admit the existence of multiple lives everything is easily explained. At birth, human beings possess the level of insight that they acquired previously. They are more or less advanced, depending on the number of lives they have previously had and how close or far they are from the common starting point. This is similar to how in a company made up of individuals of all different ages, each person has a degree of development and experience proportionate to the number of years lived. The succession of years for the life of the body is equivalent to what the succession of lives is for the life of the soul.

Imagine that one thousand people of every age, from an infant to an eighty-year-old, were brought together in one place at the same time. Suppose that their past is hidden from you, and you, in your ignorance, imagine them all to have been born on the same day. You would naturally wonder how some are big and some are small, some are old while others are young, some are educated and others ignorant. But if their past was revealed and you discovered that some had lived longer than others, all these differences would be explained. God, out of divine justice, could not create souls either more or less perfect. Given our multiple corporeal lives, the differences in qualities that we see around us is still consistent with strict equality because everything has roots, not in the present, but in the past. Is this reasoning based on any preconceived system or hypothesis? No. Instead it is founded upon the clear and undeniable fact that natural aptitudes, in addition to intellectual and moral development, are all different. This cannot be explained by any current theory, while the explanation is simple, natural and rational by using a new theory. Does it make sense to prefer a theory that does not explain this fact over one that does?

In regard to the sixth question, one will quickly dismiss the Khoikhoi as an inferior race. To this we simply ask whether a Khoikhoi is or is not a human being. If it is a human being, why has God denied it the privileges granted to the Caucasian race? If it is not a human being, why try to make it Christian? Spiritist philosophy is much more wide-ranging than all of that, because it acknowledges that there are not several species of human beings but only humans as a whole, and only recognizes human beings whose spirituality is more or less backward, but who are all capable of the same progress. This view of the human race is more in line with the concept of God’s justice, is it not?

We have considered the soul in regard to its past and its present. If we now consider it in terms of the future, we encounter further diffculties that modern theories still cannot explain.
1. If our future destiny is to be decided solely by our present life, what will be the respective positions of the savage and the civilized person in the future? Will they be on the same level, or will there be a difference in their level of eternal happiness?
2. Will the individuals who have tirelessly worked their entire life to achieve moral and intellectual improvement be placed at the same rank as others who have remained at a lower point of moral and intellectual improvement, not through their own fault but because they had neither the time nor the opportunity to advance?
3. Can the individuals who have done wrong because the path to enlightenment has been closed off to them be fairly punished for their wrongdoing, even though this is not the result of a voluntary choice?
4. We strive to enlighten, moralize, and civilize all humans, but for each individual that we are able to successfully educate, there are millions who die every year without ever seeing the light. What is their fate? Should they be treated as sinners? If not, how have they deserved the same treatment as the others?
5. What is the fate of children who die before they have been able to do either good or bad? If they are welcomed among the purest spirits, why have they been given this standing without having done anything to deserve it? Why are they exempted from suffering the tribulations of the physical life?

What current doctrine can solve these problems? If we acknowledge our consecutive lives, all these problems are solved in compliance with Divine justice. What we are unable to complete or do in one life, we accomplish in another. Thus, no one escapes the law of progress. Everyone is rewarded according to his or her own merit, and no one is excluded from the ultimate attainment of supreme happiness, regardless of the obstacles they must overcome on the journey to get there.

Questions related to this subject may be infnitely multiplied, because the psychological and moral problems that can only be solved by the theory of multiple lives are innumerable. In this work, we have restricted our examination to the most general issues. Some detractors may maintain that whatever the arguments in its favor, reincarnation is not acknowledged by the Church and its acceptance would therefore, not only confict religious doctrine but utterly decimate it as well. Our objective is not to discuss the implications of this subject, but rather to highlight the exceedingly moral and rational character of the theory. On the contrary, we may confdently contend that a moral and rational doctrine cannot possibly be antagonistic to a religion that proclaims the Divine Being to be the paradigm of goodness and reason. What would have happened to the Church if, in opposition to scientifc research and the discoveries of humanity, it had continued to resolutely reject overwhelming evidence, thus, ostracizing anyone who did not believe in the movement of the sun around the Earth or the six days of creation? How would “enlightened nations” have retained any shred of credibility if they continued to champion a religious system that taught such obvious errors as steadfast beliefs? Whenever any evidence has been established conclusively, the Church has sensibly supported this evidence. If the facts of human life are proven to be irreconcilable without reincarnation, if certain points of Church dogma can only be explained by such means, the Church will be forced to acknowledge its truth. It will have to confess that the apparent antagonism between these two arguments is superfcial. Religion has no more to fear from the acceptance of this doctrine than from the discovery of Earth’s movement and geologic time periods, which outwardly appear to contradict the sacred texts. In reality, reincarnation is implied in many passages of the Scriptures, and is explicitly noted in the Gospels:

“As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’ Then, his disciples asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come frst?’ He said in reply, ‘Elijah will indeed come and restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and, they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.” (Matthew, 17: 9-13)

Since John the Baptist was Elijah, this implies that Elijah’s spirit or soul must have reincarnated in the body of John the Baptist.

Whatever our opinion about reincarnation is, regardless of whether we accept it or reject it, we will, if it exists, have no choice but to experience it. The crucial point here is that the spirits’ teachings are predominantly Christian. They are founded on the concepts of the immortality of the soul, future rewards and atonements, God’s justice, free will, and Christ’s moral code. For that reason, it cannot be considered anti-religious.

We have discussed this subject without referring to any of the spirits’ statements because they do not constitute an offcial authority for many people. If we, and so many others, have adopted the belief in multiple lives, it is not simply because the spirits have preached it. The reason is that it is rational and resolves inconsistencies that would otherwise be impossible to explain. If a person suggested it to us, we would adopt it assuredly and quickly. We would renounce our preconceived notions because when there is proof that an opinion is fawed even self-love has more to lose than to gain if it clings to it stubbornly. Likewise, we would reject the theory of reincarnation if it appeared to confict with reason, even if preached by the spirits, just as we have rejected many other ideas they suggested. We have learned by experience that we cannot blindly accept ideas suggested by spirits or people alike. The biggest advantage in support of reincarnation is that it is incredibly rational. It also has the confrmation of facts – both positive and material – that are clear to all who study the subject patiently and purposefully. This eradicates any possibility of doubt as to the reality of reincarnation. When this affrmation become widespread those who currently oppose it will be forced to relinquish their opposition. This is precisely what happened with ideas concerning the formation and rotation of the Earth.

In summary, the theory of multiple lives is the only one that explains what is otherwise inexplicable. It is comforting and it complies with the concept of fair justice perfectly. It is the life preserver that God throws to humanity.

The words of Jesus leave no doubt regarding this last statement. As we read in the 3rd chapter of the Gospel according to John:

Verse 3. Jesus’ reply to Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again,”

Verse 4. Nicodemus said to him, “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Verse 5. Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to fesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, You must be born again.” (John 3:3-7) (See the article Resurrection of the Body, no. 1010, hereinafter)

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