THE SPIRITS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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CHAPTER III
RETURN TO THE SPIRIT WORLD FROM THE PHYSICAL LIFE
The Soul after Death – Individuality and Eternal Life - Separation of the Soul and Body - Spirit Confusion


The Soul after Death

149. What happens to the soul at the time of death?
“It becomes a spirit again, meaning it returns to the spirit world that it had briefy left.”

150. Does the soul maintain its individuality after death?
“Yes, it never loses it. What would it be if it did not preserve it?”

a) How does the soul retain this consciousness, since it no longer has its material body?
“It still has a unique fuid, which it draws from the atmosphere of its planet and represents the outer shell of its last incarnation – its perispirit.”

b) Does the soul take anything of this life away with it?
“Only the memory of it and the desire to move on to a better world. This memory may be sweet or bitter, depending on the course of the life it has left. The more advanced its purifcation, the more clearly it recognizes the futility of what it has left behind on Earth.”

151. What should we think of the opinion that the soul returns to the universal whole after death?
“Do all the spirits not constitute a whole? Is this whole not a world? When you are part of a group you form an integral part thereof, yet your individuality is still preserved.”

152. What proof do we have of the individuality of the soul after death?
“Has spirit communication not provided the necessary proof? If you are not blind, you will see; if you are not deaf you will hear. A voice often speaks to you revealing the existence of a being outside yourself.”

People who think that the soul returns to the universal whole after death are wrong if they think that, it loses its individuality like a drop of water in the ocean. They are right if by universal whole they are referring to all incorporeal beings, of which each soul or spirit is a component.

If souls were mixed together into one large mass, they would only possess qualities common to the entire mass, and they would have no special intellectual or moral qualities of their own that would distinguish them from the others. In the communications that we have obtained, the spirits clearly demonstrate the possession of self-awareness, in addition to a distinct personal will. Their infnite diversity of characteristics is the result of and testament to their personal individuality. If there were nothing but the “Great Whole” swallowing all individualities after death, this whole would be uniform and all the communications received from the invisible world would be identical. The proofs of distinct personalities lie in the fact that we meet spirits who are good, bad, educated, ignorant, happy, melancholy, lighthearted and serious, and so on. This individuality is further substantiated when they are able to undeniably prove their identity by providing personal details relating to their human life, which may be verifed. When they reveal themselves in the form of apparitions, their identity obviously cannot be questioned. We learned about the individuality of the soul in theory as an article of faith. Spiritism simply makes it a material fact.

153. How should we interpret eternal life?
“The life of the spirit is eternal, while that of the body is ephemeral. When the body dies, the soul re-enters eternal life.” a) Would it be more accurate to use the term eternal life for that of purifed spirits, as they have reached relative perfection and no longer endure any trials and tribulations? “That would be eternal happiness, but this is a question of words. You may call things whatever you want, provided you reach a collective agreement among yourselves regarding the meaning.”


Separation of the Soul and Body


154. Is the separation of the soul from the body painful?
“No, the body often suffers more during life than at death because the soul is usually unaware of what is occurring to the body at death.

At the time of death, the spirit often enjoys what it is feeling, because it recognizes that it is at the end of its exile.” In natural death, which is the aftereffect of exhaustion of the body due to age, human beings depart this life without even realizing that they are doing so. Like the fame of a lamp that dwindles and eventually goes out when it lacks a source of power.

155. How does the separation of the soul from the body take place?
“As the bonds restraining the soul are broken, it separates from the body.”

a) Is this separation sudden? Is there a distinct line between life and death?
“No, it is not like a bird whose cage is suddenly opened allowing it to escape at once. The soul gradually separates from the body. The two states are blurred together and the spirit extracts itself little by little from its bonds, which are loosened but not broken.”

During life, a spirit is connected to the body by its semi-material envelope, or perispirit. Death is the destruction of the body, but not of this envelope, which separates from the body when organic life ends. Observation has shown us that the separation of the perispirit from the body at death is gradual, rather than abrupt, and this speed may vary depending on different individuals. In some cases, it is so quick that the perispirit completely separates from the body within a few hours after passing, while in others, particularly for those whose life has been exceedingly material and sensual, this release is much slower, and can take days, weeks, and even months. This does not imply the persistence of vitality in the body or any possibility of restoring life, but is simply the result of a hold between the body and the spirit proportionate to how consumed the spirit was with materiality during its human life. It is only rational to assume that if a spirit has closely identifed with matter, it will be more diffcult for it to separate from its material body. In contrast, intellectual and moral elevation of thought initiates this division even during the life of the body.

Consequently, when death ultimately arrives, the separation is almost immediate. Studies of individuals after their death have shown that sometimes, the connection that remains between the soul and the body is extremely painful, as the spirit is fully cognizant of all the horrors of decomposition. This is an exceptional case, and unique to certain kinds of life and certain kinds of death. It can happen in the event of suicide.


156. Can the defnitive separation of the soul and body take place before the complete termination of organic life?
“When experiencing extreme agony, the soul sometimes leaves the body so that all that remains is purely organic life. The person is no longer conscious of him or herself, despite the faint ficker of vitality remaining. The body is a machine that is regulated by the heart. As long as the heart pumps blood through its veins it continues to live. A soul is not needed for this.”

157. At the moment of death, does the soul sometimes experience a kind of bliss that gives it a glimpse of the world to which it is about to return to?
“The soul often feels the slackening of the restraints holding it to the body, and struggles to fully break them. Partially freed from matter, it views the future laid out before it, and enjoys the anticipation of the spirit state.”

158. A caterpillar begins its existence by crawling on the ground, and then spins itself into a cocoon into an apparent death, only to be reborn as a brilliant butterfy. Can we correlate our human life, death, and life after death to this transformation?
“Yes, on a very small scale. The image may be good, but it should not be accepted literally, which human beings are prone to do.”

159. How does the soul feel when it realizes that it is in the spirit world?
“That depends. People who have done wrong for the sake of doing wrong feel overwhelmed by shame for their behavior. The soul of a righteous individual is at ease, as if a heavy weight has been lifted and does not dread even the most penetrating evaluation.”

160. Are spirits immediately surrounded by people who they knew on Earth and died before them?
“Yes, according to the degree of affection they had for them and vice versa. They often come to them upon their return to the spirit world and help them shed material ties. Others whom they formerly knew, but may have lost contact with on Earth, come to meet them as well. They see all who are wandering, and visit those who are still incarnated.”

161. In the event of violent or accidental death, when the organs have not been deteriorated by age or disease, does the separation of the soul and the end of organic life occur at the same time? “Usually and, at any rate, the interval between them in such cases is very brief.”

162. After decapitation, does a person retain any form of consciousness?
“They frequently do for a few minutes, until the organic life of the body is completely dead. The fear of death often causes people to lose consciousness before their demise.”

This question simply refers to the awareness that victims may have of themselves as a person, and not as a spirit. If they have not lost this awareness before death, they may retain it for a few moments afterwards, but only for a very short period of time, which must cease with the end of the brain’s organic life. The termination of human consciousness by no means implies the clean separation of the perispirit from the body. On the contrary, when death has resulted from violence and not the gradual extinction of life, the bonds tying the body to the perispirit are tighter, and the release is completed more slowly.

Spirit Confusion

163. Does the soul immediately regain self-consciousness upon leaving the body?
“Not immediately. It is in a state of confusion.”

164. Do all spirits experience the confusion that follows the separation of the soul from the body to the same degree and for the same span of time?
“No, this depends on their elevation. The person who is already purifed recovers consciousness almost immediately, because they have already freed themselves from the shackles of materiality during physical life. However, a more materialistic person, whose conscience is not clear, remains branded with the impression of matter for a longer period of time.”

165. Does the knowledge of Spiritism have any infuence on the duration of this state of confusion?
“It has a substantial infuence on its duration, because the spirit acquired a prior understanding about its new situation. However, the practice of righteousness and a clear conscience have the most infuence.”

When death arrives, everything is chaotic at frst. The soul is stunned, similar to when a person wakes from a deep sleep, and needs time to establish its bearings and fully comprehend the situation. It gradually regains clarity and the memory of the past as the infuence of the material envelope that it has recently shed weakens, and the fog that obscured its consciousness clears.

The duration of confusion following death varies greatly. It may be a few hours, several months, or even years. Those who, during their human lives, have closely identifed themselves with their future state do not remain confused for long, because they are able to gain quicker understanding of their situation.

This confusion is completely dependent on specifc features, and the type of death. In cases of violent death, suicide, torture, accident, stroke, injuries, and so on, the spirit is shocked and does not believe that it is dead. It stubbornly maintains the contrary and views the body that it has left as something separate from itself. It recognizes its body and cannot understand how it could be separated from it. It remains among those it has loved, speaks to them, and does not understand why they do not hear it. This illusion lasts until the perispirit has fully separated from the physical body. It is only when this is accomplished that the spirit begins to understand that it no longer is part of the physical world.

This phenomenon is easy to explain. With death occurring unexpectedly, the spirit is stunned by the sudden change that has taken place. Death is still equivalent to destruction for the spirit and it thinks that it cannot possibly be dead. This illusion is still further reinforced by seeing itself with a body similar to the one it has left, because it does not immediately perceive its ethereal nature and believes that it is solid, just as it was in the corporeal world. When its attention is called to this point, it is shocked to discover that it is not tangible. This phenomenon is similar to what happens in cases of somnambulists, or hypnotized people, who cannot believe that they are asleep. For them, sleep is synonymous with a suspension of their faculties and since they can see clearly and think freely, they feel awake. Some spirits experience this feeling, even in cases where death was expected. It is much more common in those who, despite being ill, did not expect to die. Sometimes a spirit may even attend its own funeral as though it were that of someone else, speaking as if it were someone else, until it fnally sees the truth.

The confusion that follows death is in no way painful for people who have lived an honest life. They are calm and feel as if they are peacefully waking out of slumber. However, people whose conscience is not clear are brimming with anxiety and anguish and this only heightens as they gain full cognizance.

In cases of a collective death, in which many individuals have died together in the same catastrophe, they do not always see one another immediately afterwards. Each spirit goes its own way in the confusion following death, or only worries about those in whom it takes an interest.

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