THE SPIRITS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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CHAPTER II
INCARNATION OF SPIRITS
Purpose of Incarnation - The Soul - Materialism

Purpose of Incarnation

132. What is the purpose of spirit incarnation?
“God imposes incarnation as a tool to reach perfection. For some it is a means of making amends, while for others it is a mission. Every spirit must experience the diffculties of physical existence to reach perfection, therein lies their atonement. Incarnation also requires a spirit to contribute to the work of creation. To fulfll this purpose, spirits assume physical bodies in harmony with the material state of each world to accomplish the missions that have been appointed to them by God. Through these missions they contribute to the general good while also achieving their own advancement.”
The action of physical beings is necessary to the operation of the universe, but God has wisely designed this action to serve as a means of climbing closer to God. Thus, through the law of providence, all things are connected and everything in nature is united.

133. Is incarnation necessary for spirits who have followed the right path from the outset?
“All spirits are created simple and unaware, and learn through the trials and tribulations of corporeal life. God is just. Our Creator could not create some spirits happy, without their having experienced pain or without their having made an effort, in other words without any merit.”

a) So what do spirits gain by following the right path, since they are not exempt from the suffering of corporeal life?
“They reach their goals more quickly. Pain and suffering in the physical life is often a consequence of the spirit’s imperfection. The fewer the imperfections, the less it suffers. If a spirit is neither envious, jealous, greedy, nor ambitious, it is not forced to experience the torture that is a consequence of those faws.”

The Soul

134. What is the soul?
“An incarnated spirit.”

a) What was the soul before being united with a body?
“A spirit.”

b) Are souls and spirits one and the same thing?
“Yes, souls are spirits. Before joining a body, the soul is one of the intelligent beings living in the invisible world. It assumes a physical body temporarily to complete its purifcation and enlightenment.”

135. Is a person made up of anything other than a soul and a body?
“The link that unites the soul and the body.”

a) What is the nature of this link?
“It is semi-material, it is the intermediary between the soul and the body. This is required for communication between the soul and the body. The spirit can act upon matter and vice versa through this link.”
Therefore, human beings are made up of three essential elements:
1) The body, or material being, similar to animals, and given life by the same vital principle;
2) The soul, or incarnated spirit, which is housed in the body;
3) The intermediary principle, or perispirit, which is a semi-material substance. It is the innermost envelope of the spirit and unites the soul with the body. This three-part nature is equivalent to that of a fruit, which includes the seed, the perisperm, and the rind or shell.

136. Is the soul independent of the vital principle?
“The body is merely the envelope, as we have repeated multiple times.”

a) Can a body exist without a soul?
“Yes, however, when the body dies that the soul leaves it. The union between the soul and the body is not complete before birth, but once this union is established, only physical death can break the bond uniting the body to the soul. Organic life may exist in a body without a soul, but the soul cannot live in a body deprived of organic life.”

b) What would our body be if it had no soul?
“A mass of fesh without intelligence, anything you would like to call it, except a human being.”

137. Can the same spirit incarnate two different bodies at the same time?
“No, the spirit cannot be divided and cannot live in two different bodies at the same time.” (See The Mediums’ Book, chapter on Bi-corporeality and Transfguration.)

138. What should we think about some people’s opinion that the soul is the principle of material life?
“This is a matter of words, to which we impart very little importance. Before anything else, you should come to an agreement among yourselves.”

139. Some spirits, and some philosophers before them, have defned the soul as “an animated spark emanating from the Great Whole.” What is the cause of this contradiction?
“There is no contradiction. It depends on the meaning you attribute to certain words. Why does your language not have a word for each thing?”

The word soul is often used to express very different things. Sometimes it is used to refer to the principle of life and in this sense it is correct to fguratively state that the soul is an animated spark emanating from the Great Whole. These words describe the universal source of the vital principle, of which each being absorbs a portion, and that returns to the general mass after death. This idea does not in any way exclude that of a separate moral being, independent of matter, maintaining its own individuality. This being is also called the soul, and it is in this sense that we speak of the soul as an incarnate spirit. In having different defnitions for the word soul, spirits each use their own version according to their personal perspectives and the earthly ideas that they still support. This is just one example of the inadequacy of the human language, which does not have a unique word for each idea, a shortcoming that causes a vast number of misunderstandings and disputes. It is for this reason that the higher spirits tell us to frst come to a mutual understanding in terms of our definitions. (1)


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(1) Refer to the explanation regarding the word soul in the introduction, Section II. A.K.

140. What should we think of the theory that the soul is subdivided into as many parts as there are muscles in the body, each ruling over a bodily function?
“It still depends on the meaning attributed to the word soul. If you equate the soul with the vital fuid, that theory is correct. If the word is used to express an incarnate spirit, it is wrong. We said that a spirit cannot be divided. Therefore, movement is transmitted to the organs through the intermediary fluid, without ever dividing itself up.”

a) All the same, there are spirits who have given this definition. “Ignorant spirits often mistake the effect for the cause.”

The soul acts through organs, and those organs are given life by the vital fuid distributed among them, and more abundantly in those that constitute the centers or foci of movement for each organism. This explanation is no longer acceptable when the term soul is used to signify a spirit that inhabits the body during life and vacates it at death.

141. Is there any truth to the belief that the soul is outside the body and surrounds it?
“The soul is not locked inside the body like a bird in a cage. It radiates in all directions, and manifests itself outside the body as light radiates from a glass globe, or as sound emanates from a loudspeaker. In this sense, the soul can be understood as being outside the body, but it does not envelop the body. The soul has two envelopes: the perispirit, which is its frst, innermost envelope, being light and subtle in nature. The other is the body, which is crude, material, and heavy. The soul is the center of both these envelopes, like a nut in its shell, as we have already explained.”

142. What should we think of the theory that the soul of a child is completed during each period of human life?
“There is only one spirit and it is whole in both children and adults. The bodily organs, which serve as the instruments for manifestations of the soul, are gradually developed and completed. Again, you mistake the effect for the cause.”

143. Why do spirits have different defnitions for the term soul?
“All spirits are not equally enlightened in regard to these matters. Some spirits are not so advanced intellectually; they are incapable of digesting abstract concepts. They are like children in your world. Other spirits are false scholars, and ineffectively use words to impose their authority upon others. They also resemble many individuals in your world. Even spirits who are truly enlightened may express themselves in terms that on the surface appear to be different, but, at heart, they actually mean the same thing. This is especially true in regard to matters that your language fails to accurately express, and that can only be conveyed through fgures and comparisons that you in turn misinterpret as reality.”

144. What should we understand of the concept called the ‘soul of the world’?
“It is the universal principle of life and intelligence from which individual spirits are born. People often use these terms without truly knowing what they mean. The word soul is so variable that everyone interprets it according to their own perceptions or ideas. Sometimes a soul is attributed to the Earth, which must be understood as indicating the collection of devoted spirits who give you proper guidance when you listen to them, and who are God’s deputies in your world.”

145. How have so many philosophers, from both ancient and modern times, discussed psychological questions for so long without arriving at the truth?
“Those persons were the predecessors of Spiritism. They have paved the way for others. They were subject to errors and often mistook their own ideas for true light because they were human beings, but these same errors have served truth by showcasing the pros and cons of the argument. Additionally, there are many truths among these errors that a comparative study would reveal to you.”

146. Does the soul have a fxed center in the body?
“No, but it is said to reside in the head among people of great intellect and prolifc thinkers, while it is said to reside in the heart of people who are sentimental and possessive of a more humanitarian nature.”

a) What should we think of the opinion that the soul in some vital center?
“That is to say that the spirit may reside in this spot in your body because it is where all sensations meet. However, those who place it in what they consider the center of vitality mistake it for the vital fuid or principle. In any case, the soul has a stronger presence in organs that are moral and intellectual indicators.”

Materialism

147. Why do anatomists, physiologists, and those who study natural sciences generally accept materialism? “Physiologists relate everything to their senses. Human pride fancies knowing everything, and refuses to admit that there are things that transcend human intelligence. Science itself even spawns arrogance, since scientists think that nature can hide nothing from them.”

148. It is unfortunate that materialism is a consequence of scientifc studies that should, quite the contrary show people the superiority of the Divine Intelligence that governs the world. Should we conclude that those who embrace those studies are dangerous?
“Materialism, rather than being a consequence of those studies, is a false result arrived at by individuals who have drawn incorrect conclusions. These conclusions cause errors in perception and distort practically everything, including the best things. The idea of nothingness perplexes them more than they let on, and those who proclaim their materialistic convictions the loudest are more often than not, brash rather than brave. Most materialists only cling to this belief because they have nothing with which to fll the void. Throw a frm line to those who only see a gaping void before them, and they will grasp it eagerly.”

It is an aberration of the intelligence that leads some to see nothing in organic beings but the action of matter, and attribute all the phenomena of existence to this action. They see the human body as the action of an electrical machine. They have studied the mechanism of life only in terms of the functioning of the bodily organs. When they see this life terminated by the splitting of a single thread, they see nothing but this thread. They have looked to see whether anything remained, and never having witnessed the soul departing from the body, conclude that everything can be reduced to matter simply because this machine has become nothing more to them than an inert mass of fesh. To them, death is the extinction of all thought. This is a very dreary perception, because then good and evil would have no purpose, and every person would be vindicated in thinking only of oneself. All thoughts and actions would fall to the wayside in favor of material satisfaction, all social ties would be broken, and the purest feelings would be destroyed forever. Fortunately these ideas are only kept by the few rather than the general population. Their extent may even be limited to individual opinions, because they have not been offcially established in any doctrine. A society founded on such a basis would contain the poison for its own downfall, and its members would tear each other apart like vicious beasts.

Human beings instinctively believe that things do not end with this life. They are petrifed of oblivion. Regardless of how strongly they attack the idea of a future life, very few do not refect on what lies in store for them upon death. The thought of permanently departing from life is horrifying. Who could honestly view with complete apathy the prospect of being separated from loved ones forever? Who could confdently stare down the immense void of nothingness before them that will swallow up all their faculties and hopes and calmly say to themselves, “There is nothing after death and it will all be over. In a few days no memory of me will remain in the minds of those who survive me, and the Earth will bear no trace of my existence. All the good that I have done will be forgotten by the ingrates whom I have helped. There is nothing to reward me for this, no other prospect than my body being devoured by worms!” Isn’t there something frightening and chilling in this picture? Religion teaches us that our destiny could not be this bleak, and reason confrms it. But this vague and indefnite future does not satisfy our natural desire for proof. It is this lack of proof that generates doubt.

We have a soul, but what is it? Does it have a form, an appearance of any kind? Is it limited or undefned? Some say that it is a breath of God, others, that it is a spark or even part of the Great Whole, the principle of life and intelligence. What does this teach us? What is the point of having a soul, if it just disappears like a drop of water in the ocean? Isn’t this loss of individuality equivalent to extinction for us? The soul is said to be immaterial, but we perceive that which is immaterial as having no defned proportions and therefore no reality. Religion teaches that our happiness is contingent upon the good or bad we have done. What is the nature of the happiness promised to us in the bosom of God? Is it supreme happiness, eternal contemplation, with no other purpose than singing the praises of the Creator? Are the fames of Hell real or merely a fgure of speech? The Church itself assumes the latter, but what is this suffering? Where does it take place? In short, what will we do and see in this other world that is awaiting us all?

It is maintained that no one has ever come back to give us an account of that world. This simply is not true and the mission of Spiritism is to enlighten us regarding this future, and enable us, up to a certain point, to touch it and see it, not just through reasoning, but via the substantiation of facts. Spirit communication has eliminated the need for mere presumption or probability that poets embellish with fictitious and allegorical images, serving only to deceive us. It is a reality thrust before us, and the beings that live in the spirit world to come and describe their situations to us. They tell us what they are doing, recount the details of their new life, and show us the inevitable fate awaiting each of us according to our merits or wrongdoings. Is this anti-religious? No, it is quite the opposite, since it provides skeptics with faith, and inspires halfhearted believers with renewed passions. Spiritism is a most powerful support of religion and we should acknowledged it, God willing, for the purpose of revitalizing our wavering beliefs and principles, plus allowing it to lead us back onto the path of righteousness for the sake of our future happiness.

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