THE SPIRITS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

Back to the menu
CHAPTER IV
VITAL PRINCIPLE
Organic and Inorganic Beings - Life and Death - Intelligence and Instinct

Organic and Inorganic

Beings Organic beings are those that have an intrinsic source that produces life. They are born, grow, reproduce, and die. Their organs are specifcally adapted to carrying out the different activities of life, in order to satisfy their needs and maintain their existence. Humans, animals, and plants are all organic beings. Inorganic beings possess neither vitality nor the power of spontaneous movement, and are merely the aggregation of matter, such as minerals, water, air, and so on.

60. Does the same force unite the elements of matter in organic and inorganic bodies?
“Yes, the same law of attraction exists for all.”

61. Is there any difference between the matter of organic and inorganic bodies?
“It is the same. The only difference is that in organic bodies it is animalized.”

62. What is the cause of the animalization of matter?
“The union of matter with the vital principle.”

63. Is the vital principle present in a specifc agent, or is it a property of organized matter? Simply put, is it an effect or a cause?
“It is both. Life is an effect produced by an agent acting on matter. Without matter, this agent is not life, just as matter cannot be alive without this agent. It gives life to every being that absorbs it.”

64. Spirit and matter are two essential elements of the universe. Is the vital principle a third?
“There is no question that it is necessary for the makeup of the universe, but its source is a special variation of universal matter. For you, it is an element like oxygen or hydrogen, which are not primordial elements because everything derives from the same foundation.”
a) This statement seems to imply that vitality does not lie in a distinct primordial agent, but is a special property of the universal matter resulting from certain variations.
“That is the correct conclusion of what we have stated.”

65. Does the vital principle reside in any bodies that we know?
“Its source is the universal fuid, which is what you call the magnetic or electric fuid, only animalized. It is an intermediary, the link between the spirit and matter.”

66. Is the vital principle the same for all organic beings?
“Yes, but adapted according to each species. This principle gives organic beings the power of initiating movement and activity. They are distinguished from inert matter by their ability to produce spontaneous movement. Inert matter can be moved, but it does not initiate movement.”

67. Is vitality a permanent attribute of the vital agent, or is it only developed by the functioning of the organs?
“It is only developed with a body. Have we not established that this agent does not constitute life without matter? The union of the two is necessary for life to exist.” a) Is it correct to say that vitality is dormant when the vital agent is not united with a body? “Yes, exactly.”

The organs of the body together form a mechanism that is impelled by their intrinsic action or vital principle residing within them. The vital principle is the driving force of organic bodies. While the vital principle compels the organs in which it resides, the functioning of those organs further develops and sustains the activity of the vital principle, in the same manner that friction develops heat.

Life and Death

68. What causes the death of organic beings?
“The exhaustion of their organs.”

a) Would it be correct to compare death to the end of movement in a broken machine?
“Yes, when a machine is out of order, it stops working. When the body becomes ill, life withdraws from it.”

69. Why is an injury to the heart more likely to cause death than an injury to any other organ?
“The heart is a vital organ that keeps your body running. An injury to the heart is not the only type of injury that can cause death. It is just one of the gears essential to the smooth operation of the machine.”

70. What happens to the matter and vital principle of organic beings after their death? “Inert matter decomposes and is used to form other bodies. The vital principle returns to the general mass.”

When the elements making up the organic being die they blend in such a manner to form new beings, which in turn draw the principle of life and activity from the universal source. They absorb it, and then restore it to that same source when they die. The organs, so to speak, are impregnated with the vital fuid, which enables all the body’s components to actively communicate with one another when certain injuries occur and to restore functions that have been temporarily suspended However, when the elements essential to the functioning of the body have been destroyed or too severely injured, the vital fuid is unable to restore movement that constitutes life, and the being dies. The organs react more or less powerfully upon one another and their mutual action results from their harmony. When this harmony is destroyed or disrupted in any manner, their functions cease just as a machine stops when its essential parts are out of order, or as a clock stops when its gears are worn out or accidentally broken, and in which there is no longer any motive force to keep it running.

We have a better example of life and death in an electric device. The device, like all natural bodies, contains electricity in a latent state, but the electrical mechanism is only manifested when the fuid is set in motion by a special cause. When this movement is induced, the device is said to become alive, but when the cause of the electrical activity ceases, the mechanism ceases to occur and the device is once again inert. Organic bodies are like an electric device in which the movement of the fuid produces the phenomena of life, and in which the culmination of that movement results in death.

The quantity of vital fuid present in all organic beings is not the same. It varies in the different species of living beings, and is not always the same in the same individual or individuals of the same species. Some may be saturated with it, while others have only very small quantities. Consequently, certain species have a more active and persistent life due to the abundance of vital fuid present in their bodies.

The vital fuid contained in a given organism may be exhausted, and become insuffcient to support life, unless it is renewed by the absorption of substances that contain it.

The vital fuid may be transferred from one individual to another. For those who possess copious amounts, it may be given to someone else who is defcient. In certain cases, this may rekindle the vital fame when on the verge of being snuffed out.

Intelligence and Instinct

71. Is intelligence an attribute of the vital principle?
“No, since plants live and do not think they only possess organic life. Intelligence and matter are independent of one another. A body may live without intelligence, but intelligence can only manifest itself through physical organs. Living matter can only be made intelligent when united with a spirit.”

Intelligence is a special faculty belonging only to certain classes of organic beings that gives these beings the power to think, the will to act, the consciousness of their existence and individuality, and the means of establishing relations with the external world and fulflling their unique needs.

We may therefore distinguish the following:
Inanimate beings, solely matter, without life or intelligence---the bodies of the mineral world;
Non-thinking living beings, made up of matter and endowed with vitality, but not intelligence;
Living and thinking beings, made up of matter, endowed with vitality, and possessing an intelligent principle that gives them the faculty of thought.

72. What is the source of intelligence?
“We have already told you: universal intelligence.”

a) Is it correct to say that every intelligent being draws intelligence from the universal source and absorbs it, as it draws and absorbs the principle of material life?
“This would be an inaccurate comparison. Intelligence is a faculty possessed by each distinct being, which constitutes its moral individuality.
In any case, we have told you that there are things that human beings are unable to fathom. For the time being, this is one of them.”

73. Is instinct independent of intelligence?
“No, not exactly because it is a type of intelligence. Instinct is unreasoned intelligence, by which all beings satisfy their wants.”

74. Can a line be drawn between instinct and intelligence precisely defning where one ends and the other begins?
“No, because they often blend together. However, the actions belonging to instinct and those belonging to intelligence are easily distinguished.”

75. Is it correct to say that the instinctive faculties taper as intellectual faculties develop?
“No, instinct always exists, but humans dismiss it. Instinct, like reason, may lead us in the right direction. It always guides us, and sometimes even more surely than reason. It never goes astray.”

a) Why is reason not always a foolproof guide?

“It would be, if it were not corrupted by poor education, pride, and selfshness. Instinct does not reason. Reason provides freedom of choice and gives individuals free will.” Instinct is a primary form of intelligence, differing from intelligence in that it is often spontaneous, while intelligence is the result of planning and deliberate action. Instinct can manifest itself very differently between species based on their needs. In beings that possess self-consciousness and the perception of things outside themselves, it is associated with intelligence, i.e., freedom of action and will.

Related articles

Show related items
Wait, loading...