THE SPIRITS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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CHAPTER VII
RETURN TO PHYSICAL LIFE
Before the Return - Union of Body and Soul – Abortion - Moral and Intellectual Faculties - Influence of the Body - Mental Impairment and Insanity - Infancy - Earthly Sympathies and Antipathies - Forgetfulness of the Past

Before the Return

330. Do spirits know when they are supposed to reincarnate?
“They have a sense of that return, as a blind person feels the heat of a fre he is approaching. They know that they reincarnate, as you know that you will die, but they do not know when the change will occur.” (See no. 166)

a) Is reincarnation therefore a necessity of spirit life, as death is a necessity of corporeal life?
“Surely, it is so.”

331. Do all spirits worry about their reincarnation?
“This depends on their degree of advancement. Some never give it a thought and know nothing about it. In some cases, the uncertainty of the future is an atonement in itself.”

332. Can a spirit hasten or delay its reincarnation?
“It may hasten it by a strong, faithful desire. As there are spineless and indifferent spirits, just like regular people. It may delay it if it shies away from the trial assigned to it, but it cannot do so freely. It suffers for this hesitation, just as a sick people suffer when they fail to use the remedy that can cure them.”

333. If a spirit is happy enough as an average, among errant spirits, could it stay in that state indefnitely?
“No, not indefnitely. Eventually the spirit feels the need to advance. All spirits have to evolve because it is their destiny.”

334. Is the union of a soul with a given body predestined, or is the choice of a body made at the last moment?
“The spirit is always assigned beforehand. Spirits choose the trials they will endure and request to reincarnate. God who sees and knows all things has foreseen that this soul would be united to that particular body.”

335. Can the spirit choose its body, or does it only choose the kind of life it is to bear for its trial?
“A spirit may also choose a body because the imperfections of this body are trials that will further its advancement, if it succeeds in overcoming the obstacles placed in its path. This choice is not always the spirit’s to make, but it can ask.”

a) Can a spirit refuse to enter a body chosen for it at the last moment before reincarnation?
“If it refuses, it suffers much more than one who does not attempt to go through a trial.”

336. Can a body about to be born not fnd a spirit willing to incarnate in it? “God can provide for any possibility. Every child who is to be born alive is always predestined to have a soul. Nothing is created without a design.”

337. Does God ever enforce the union of a soul with a given body?
“Sometimes it is imposed, in support of the different trials to be suffered by a spirit, especially when the latter is still too inferior to be able to make the choice for itself. As a form of atonement, a spirit may be forced to enter the body of a child that, due to its birth and the circumstances it will encounter in the world, it will serve for the spirit as a way of atonement.”

338. If several spirits ask to be incarnated in a body that is about to be born, how is the decision made?
“In such a case, God judges which spirit is best ft to fulfll the destiny appointed for the child. However, as I have already told you, the spirit is chosen before the moment in which it is to join the body.”

339. Is incarnation marked by confusion similar to what follows a spirit’s separation from the body?
“Much greater and longer. At death, the spirit is released from slavery. At birth, the spirit re-enters it.”

340. Is a spirit’s reincarnation a solemn moment? Does it accomplish this act as something serious and important for it?
“The spirit is like a traveler embarking on a dangerous journey, not knowing if it will drown in the waves beneath its vessel.”

Travelers know what dangers they are risking, but they do not know if they will die or not. The same applies to a spirit. It knows the kind of trials to which it will be submitted, but does not know if it will succumb. As the death of the body is a rebirth for the spirit, reincarnation is like death, or perhaps more accurately like exile and confnement. Spirits leave the spirit world for the physical world just as human beings leave the physical world for the spiritual world. A spirit knows that it is going to reincarnate, just as a human being knows that it will die, but they only become aware of this change at the moment it occurs. It is at this time, that the confusion produced by the change takes hold and lasts until the new existence is fully established. The start of reincarnation is agony for a spirit.

341. Does a spirit feel anxious regarding the probability of succeeding in the trials it is to go through in its new life before its incarnation?
“Yes, the spirit feels a great deal of anxiety since those trials will directly delay or hasten its advancement, depending on whether it fails or not.”

342. When a spirit is about to reincarnate, is it accompanied by spirit friends who come to send it off from the spirit world, in the same way that they welcome it when it returns?
“That depends on the world that the spirit inhabits. If it belongs to a world where affection reigns, spirits who love that spirit will be with it up to the last moment, encouraging it and often even following the spirit into its new life.”

343. When we see fgures in our dreams showing affection for us and we do not recognize them, are these our spirit friends who follow us into our physical life?
“Yes, in many cases they come to visit you, just as you may visit a prisoner in his or her cell.”

Union of Body and Soul – Abortion

344. When does the soul unite with the body?
“This union begins at conception but it is only completed at birth. From the moment of conception, the spirit assigned to inhabit a specifc body joins that body by a fuid link, which will increasingly tighten up to the moment of birth. The cry produced by the infant announces that it has entered the number of the living and the servants of God.”

345. Is the union between the spirit and the body conclusive from the moment of conception? Could the spirit, during the initial period of that union, abandon the body that has been assigned to it?
“The union is conclusive in the sense that no other spirit could replace the one to whom the body has been assigned. But, as the link that binds the body and soul is very weak at frst, it can be easily broken and severed by a spirit who abandons the trial it had chosen. When this happens, the child does not live.”

346. What happens to a spirit if the body it has chosen dies before birth?
“It chooses another.”

a) What is the purpose of premature deaths?
“Such deaths are most frequently caused by the imperfections of matter.”

347. Can a spirit derive any beneft from incarnating a body that dies a few days after birth?
“The new being’s cognizance of its life is so barely developed that its death is of little importance. As we have told you, such deaths are often intended as a trial for the parents.”

348. Does a spirit know beforehand that the body it chose has no chance of living?
“Sometimes, but if it chooses it on this account, it is because of fear of the trial it foresees.”

349. When a spirit has failed to enter a planned incarnation, is another existence available for it immediately?
“Not always immediately. The spirit needs time to make new choices, unless an instant reincarnation had been previously decided.”

350. Does a spirit ever regret its choice when it is being connected to the infant body and it is too late to back out?
“If you are asking whether it complains of the life it has to suffer, and whether it wishes it were otherwise like the way many human beings do, then yes. If you ask whether it regrets its choice, then no. Remember that the spirit does not recall the choice it made. Once incarnated, a spirit cannot regret a choice that it is not conscious of having made. It may fnd the burden it assumed too heavy and turn to suicide if it is too much for it to bear.”

351. In the period between conception and birth, does a spirit enjoy full use of its faculties?
“Yes, depending on the time because it is only attached to its body and not yet incarnated. From the moment of conception, confusion begins to set in as the spirit is made aware that time has come for it to enter a new existence. This confusion increases until the time of birth. Between these two periods, the spirit’s state of mind is like an incarnated spirit during slumber. As birth approaches, its ideas and memory of the past fade away and it no longer recalls them once it enters the physical body. This memory is gradually restored when it returns to the spiritual world.”

352. Does the spirit recover all of its faculties at birth?
“No, they are gradually developed with the growth of its organs. This physical life is a new existence and it must learn how to use its body and senses. The spirit gradually recovers its own ideas, like a person who wakes up only to fnd him or herself in a different situation than before falling asleep.”

353. Does a fetus have a soul, considering that the union of the spirit and the body is not fully consummated until birth?
“The spirit who is to animate it exists somehow outside the fetus. Strictly speaking, it has no soul since the incarnation process is in effect, but the soul is linked to the body that it is about to have.”

354. What is intra-uterine life?
“It is the life of a plant that vegetates. A child lives an animal life. Human beings possesses in them both animal and vegetable life, which is completed at birth by the spiritual life.”

355. Is there such a thing as an unviable child, as indicated by science? If so, for what purpose does this take place?
“This happens often. God allows these births as a trial, either for the parents or for the spirit intended to animate it.”

356. Are some still-born children never intended for the incarnation of a spirit?
“Yes, some never had a spirit assigned to them, nothing would have been accomplished in them. In such a case, the child’s arrival is simply a trial for the parents.”

a) Can a being of this nature come to term?
“Sometimes, but it does not survive.”

b) Does that mean that the child who survives birth has a spirit incarnated in it?
“What would it be if this were not the case? It would not be a human being.”

357. What are the consequences of abortion for a spirit?
“It is a void existence, and must be restarted.”

358. Is voluntary abortion a crime, regardless of the length of the pregnancy?
“Any transgression of God’s laws is a crime. Taking the life of an unborn child is a crime, whether committed by the mother or someone else, because the soul is prevented from experiencing the trials intended for the body that was destroyed.”

359. When the life of the mother is at risk by the birth of a child, is it a crime to sacrifce the child to save the mother?
“It is better to sacrifce a being that does not yet fully exist than a living being.”

360. Is it rational to treat a fetus with the same respect as the body of a child that has lived?
“You should acknowledge God’s will and work; do not treat lightly things that you must respect. Why should you not respect creations that are sometimes incomplete by the Creator’s will? They are part of God’s designs and no one may judge it.”

Moral and Intellectual Faculties


361. From where do moral qualities, both good and bad, originate?
“They belong to the incarnated spirit. The purer that spirit, the better the person.”

a) So a good person is the incarnation of a good spirit, and a vicious one is the incarnation of a bad spirit?
“Yes, but you should call them ‘imperfect spirits,’ otherwise one might assume that there are spirits who will always be bad, what you call demons.”


362. What is the character of individuals incarnating lighthearted spirits?
“They are wild, impish, and sometimes extremely mischievous.”


363. Do spirits have any passions that do not belong to humanity?
“No, they would communicate them to you if they did.”


364. Does the same spirit give a person his or her moral and intellectual qualities?
“Surely it is the same, and such qualities will depend on the degree of the spirit’s evolution. People do not have two spirits in them.”


365. Why are some very intelligent people, whose intelligence is proof of the presence of an advanced spirit, also extremely vicious?
“Because the spirit incarnated in these individuals are inadequately purifed, and may yield to the sway of spirits who are even more inferior. A spirit advances slowly, but this progress does not take place in all directions simultaneously. It may advance intellectually at one point, and morally at another.”

366. What about the theory that persons of various intellectual and moral faculties are the product of multiple spirits each possessing a special aptitude incarnated within him or her?
“A moment’s refection will show the absurdity of this theory. Each spirit is destined to possess all possible aptitudes, but it must have one individual will to progress. If a human being was a combination of different spirits, this single will would not exist and this person would possess no individuality. Upon this person’s death, all the spirits would fy off in separate directions like birds escaping from a cage. Human beings often complain that they do not understand certain concepts, yet they are experts at unnecessarily complicating them, even when they have the most simple and natural explanation close at hand. This is yet another instance of how humans often mistake the effect for the cause. This theory is quite similar to what the pagans believed of God, except in this case it applies to humanity. They believed in the existence of a god for every phenomenon in the universe, but more rational among them see these phenomena as a variety of effects with one God as their cause.”

The physical and moral worlds offer us numerous points of comparison in this matter. While humankind remained focused on the appearance of natural phenomena, they believed in the existence of many different kinds of matter. Today, all these phenomena are seen as being modifcations of a single elementary substance. The various faculties are manifestations of the same, unique cause, which is the soul or incarnate spirit, and not multiple souls, just as the different sounds of an organ are the product of the same air and not different types of air for each sound.

According to this theory, when an individual gains or loses abilities or preferences, these changes are the result of a corresponding number of spirits who enter or vacate his or her body. This would transform human beings into compound beings without any individuality, and, consequently, without any accountability. This theory is disproved by the many spirit manifestations that conclusively demonstrate their personality and identity.

Infuence of the Body

367. Does a spirit identify with matter upon uniting with a body?
“Matter is merely the envelope of the spirit, like clothing on the body. When uniting with a body, a spirit retains the attributes of its spiritual nature.”

368. Does a spirit fully exercise its faculties after its union with a body?
“This depends on the organs that serve as their instruments. Their exercise is weakened by the rudimentary nature of matter.”

a) Is the material envelope an obstacle to the free exercise of a spirit’s faculties, as an opaque glass is an obstacle to the free emission of light?
“Yes, it is a particularly opaque obstacle.”

We can also compare the action exercised upon a spirit by the rudimentary matter of its body to muddy water hampering the motion of objects swimming in it.

369. Is the free exercise of a spirit’s faculties secondary to the development of its physical organs during incarnation?
“Those organs serve as the soul’s channels for manifesting its faculties. By default, this manifestation is secondary to the degree of development and perfection of those organs, as the perfection of manual work depends on the quality of the tool used.”

370. Can we draw a correlation between the development of the cerebral organs and the moral and intellectual faculties from the infuence of the physical organs?
“Do not mistake cause and effect. A spirit always possesses faculties that belong to it, but the organs do not provide the faculties. The faculties spur the development of the organs.”

a) According to this view, the diversity of each person’s abilities depends solely on the state of the spirit. Is this correct? “Solely is not accurate. The qualities of an incarnated spirit determine those abilities. However, an allowance must be made for the infuence of matter, which to some degree hampers everyone when they exercise their intrinsic, spiritual faculties.”

When it incarnates, a spirit already has certain characteristic predispositions. If we contend the existence of a special organ in the brain for each of these, the development of the cerebral organs is an effect, and not a cause. If each of these faculties were a result of physical organs, humans would be mere machines, with no free will and no responsibility for their actions. If such were the case, we would be forced to admit that the greatest geniuses, thinkers, poets and artists were merely lucky to be given these certain special organs. Had it not been for chance, they would not have been geniuses, and the most ignorant individuals might have been a Newton, Virgil, or Raphael, as long as they had received certain organs. This theory is even more absurd if we apply it to the explanation of moral qualities.

According to this system, if Saint Vincent de Paul had been gifted by nature with a different specifc organ, he could have been a crook, and the greatest crook would only lack a certain brain structure in order to be someone like Saint Vincent de Paul. On the other hand, when we accept that our special organs, assuming their existence, are an effect developed by the exercise of the corresponding faculties rather than a cause, as in the development of muscles by movement, we can formulate a more rationally sound theory. Let us make a trivial comparison, albeit a truthful one. When we say that a person is addicted to alcohol based on facial signs, do the signs make them an alcoholic, or does drunkenness created the signs? We can assert that our organs receive the impression of our faculties.


Mental Impairment and Insanity

371. Are there any grounds to the commonly held belief that individuals with developmental impairments have inferior souls?
“No, they have a human soul that is often more intelligent than you think. This soul suffers from the defciency of its means to communicate, as a mute person suffers from his inability to speak.”

372. What is God’s purpose in creating developmentally impaired beings?
“These individuals are the incarnations of spirits who are undergoing atonement. They suffer from their limitations and inability to express themselves through undeveloped or incapacitated organs.”

a) Would it be incorrect to say that the organs have no infuence on the faculties?
“We never said that the organs have no infuence. They have a very great infuence on the manifestation of the faculties, but they are not their source. There is a huge difference. A skilled musician will not make good music with a bad instrument, but this will not stop the individual from being a good musician.”

One must distinguish between the normal and pathological states. In the normal state, morality trumps material obstacles, but there are cases where matter presents such a strong resistance that it hampers or impairs the manifestations, as in developmental impairments and insanity. These are pathological cases and as the soul does not enjoy full freedom, laws originating from human societies exempt such individuals from the accountability for their actions.

373. What is the point in the existence of developmentally impaired individuals who can do neither good nor bad, and cannot progress? “Such an existence is imposed as atonement for the misuse of certain faculties. It is a time of confnement.”

a) This implies that the body of a mentally disabled person could contain a spirit that once embodied a genius?
“Yes, genius can become a curse when it is abused.”

Intellectual superiority does not always accompany moral superiority, and the greatest geniuses may be burdened by many moral trespasses for which they must atone. They often have to endure an inferior existence which is a cause of suffering for them. The barriers impairing their faculties are like shackles that restrain the movements of a strong person. The developmentally disabled person may be said to be mentally handicapped, as cripples are handicapped by their legs and the blind by their eyes.

374. Is a spirit who is developmentally impaired conscious of his or her mental condition?
“Yes, very often. It understands that the restraints hampering its actions are a trial and an atonement.”

375. When a person is insane, what is the state of that individual’s spirit?
“When a spirit is free it receives impressions directly and directly exerts its action on matter as well. When a spirit incarnates, it is in an entirely different condition and is required to act only through the designated organs. If some or all of those organs are impaired, its actions or impressions concerning those organs are interrupted. Individuals beset by such impairments become blind if they lose their eyes, deaf if they lose their ears, and so on. Imagine now that the organ responsible for manifestations of intelligence and will is partially or entirely impaired, and you will easily understand that the use of such an incomplete or distorted organ will provoke a functional distress that the spirit is fully conscious of but unable to control.”

a) Then it is always the body, and not the spirit, that is dysfunctional?
“Yes, but remember that just as a spirit acts upon matter, matter in turn reacts upon the spirit, at least to a certain extent. Due to the altered state of its receptor organs, the spirit may temporarily receive various impressions. When the insanity continues for long periods of time, the repetition of the same acts may exercise a permanent infuence on a spirit. It only ends with its complete separation from all material impressions.”

376. Why does insanity sometimes lead to suicide?
“The spirit suffers from its restriction and inability to manifest itself freely. It seeks death as a means of breaking these chains.”

377. Is the imbalance that is the underlying cause of an insane person’s suffering carried over from the physical life to the spirit world?
“The spirit may continue to feel it after death until it is completely freed from matter. This is similar to how one feels drowsy when waking from a very deep sleep.”

378. How can the brain alteration act on the spirit after death?
“It is a memory that weighs heavily on a spirit. The spirit is not aware of all that took place due to the insanity, and needs a certain amount of time to recover. This is why its agitation after death is always proportionate to the length of time that it suffered in its physical life. When a spirit is free from the body, it still feels the impression of the bonds that tied it to its physical life for a period of time.”

Infancy

379. Is the spirit living in the body of a child as developed as that of an adult?
“Possibly even more so, if it had progressed farther before reincarnation. The imperfection of its organs is what prevents the spirit from manifesting itself. It acts according to the method available to express itself.”

380. During infancy, despite the imperfection of its organs hindering its full expression, does a spirit think as a child or an adult?
“While existing as a child, a spirit’s organs of intelligence do not give it the complete intuition of an adult as they are not yet fully developed. The individual’s intellect is narrow in scope, until age has matured his or her reason. The confusion that accompanies incarnation does not immediately end at birth; it gradually dissolves with the development of the bodily organs.

Childhood dreams do not have the same character as those of adults. Their object is almost always childish, an indication of the nature of a spirit’s thoughts. This is a perfect example that supports this answer.”

381. When a child dies, does its spirit immediately regain its former energy?
“It should, since it is free from its material envelope, but only when the separation is complete, meaning, when there is no longer any connection between the spirit and the body.”

382. During childhood, does an incarnated spirit suffer from the limitation imposed upon it by the imperfections of its organs?
“No, it is a required part of the natural order and imposed by Providence. It is a time of rest for the spirit.”

383. What is the point of a spirit experiencing childhood?
“The purpose of incarnation is the improvement of the spirit, and childhood makes a spirit more open to the impressions it receives. This may contribute to its advancement, toward which all those responsible for the child’s education and training must contribute.”

384. Why is crying the frst sound an infant makes?
“They cry in order to stimulate the interest of their mothers in them and ensure that they care for their needs. If children uttered only cries of joy before being able to speak, those around them would not be overly concerned with their needs. God’s wisdom should be admired in all designs.”

385. Where does the change that occurs in its character at a certain age, particularly upon leaving adolescence, originate? Does the spirit become adapted?
“Upon regaining consciousness, the spirit appears as it was before incarnation. You do not know the secrets that are hidden beneath the apparent innocence of children. You do not know who they are, who they have been, or who they will be. You love and cherish them regardless, as though they were a part of you. This affection is so strong that the love of a mother for her children is believed to be the greatest love that one being can have for another. What is the source of this sweet affection and tenderness that even strangers feel for a child? Do you know its origin? That is precisely what I will now explain to you.”

“God sends children into new lives and gives them all the external appearances of innocence so that they may not accuse God of being unfairly harsh. Even children with a propensity to the worst wickedness are concealed by the unconsciousness of their own acts. This deceptive innocence does not make children superior to their prior lives. It is merely the image of what they should be. If they do not match this image, they alone are to blame for the ensuing atonement.”

“God has not made children this way solely for themselves. God has also done this because of the parents, whose love is so necessary for their survival. This essential love would be greatly reduced if a child’s true shameful nature were on full display. As parents believe that their children are inherently good and gentle, they shower them with affection and care. When children no longer need this assistance, which is given to them for ffteen or twenty years, they reveal their true characters. Those who are truly good at heart remain good, but even then their characters reveal many traits that were once hidden. God’s ways are always for the best, and for the pure in heart, the explanation is always easy.”

“A child born among you may have come from a world in which it has acquired habits that are drastically different from yours. How could this new being, possessing its own passions, inclinations and tastes, adapt to your world if it came in any other fashion than the flter of infancy intended by God? This process merges together all the thoughts, characteristics and types of beings produced by all worlds in which creatures grow. At death, you fnd yourselves in a type of infancy surrounded by a new family of brothers and sisters. You are unaware of the habits, manners and relations of a world that is new to you. You fnd it diffcult to express yourselves in a language that you are not accustomed to and that is more vibrant than your thoughts today.” (See no. 319)

“Childhood also has another purpose. Spirits use the physical life to improve themselves. The weakness of youth renders them more fexible and open to the advice of those whose experience should aid their progress. This is how bad predispositions are repressed, and fawed characters are gradually reformed. This repression and reformation is a God-given duty for parents, a sacred mission for which parents are fully accountable. Childhood is not only useful, but indispensable, just like all of God’s laws that govern the universe.”

Earthly Sympathies and Antipathies

386. Could two beings, who have already known and loved each other, meet in another corporeal existence and recognize each other?
“They may not recognize each another, but they might be attracted to each other. The attraction stemming from the ties of a former life is often the cause of the most intimate unions. In your world, two people are drawn together by circumstances that seem to be chance, but are really due to the attraction of two spirits who are instinctively looking for each other in the crowd.”

a) Would it not be better for them to recognize one another?
“Not always. The recollection of past lives would have more disadvantages than you think. After death they will recognize one another, and then reminisce over the time they spent together.” (See no. 392)

387. Is sympathy always the result of past intimacy?
“No, two harmonious spirits naturally seek one another, without having been acquainted as human beings.”

388. Could the meetings that sometimes take place between two people be the effect of a sympathetic relationship rather than chance?
“There are bonds between intelligent beings that are unfamiliar to you. Magnetism is the driving force of this science that you will understand more clearly in the future.”

389. What is behind the instinctive repulsion sometimes felt between individuals who are meeting for the frst time?
“They are antipathetic spirits who can sense each other’s nature, and recognize one another without ever exchanging words.”

390. Is instinctive antipathy always the sign of a wicked nature?
“Two spirits are not necessarily wicked because they are not sympathetic. This hostility may spring from a difference in their way of thinking. As we ascend, these differences are erased and their antipathy disappears.”

391. Out of the two individuals, who initiates the feeling of antipathy, the better or worse Spirit?
“It may begin in both, but its causes and effects are different. A bad spirit feels antipathy against whoever is able to see through it, thus discerning its imperfections. On seeing such an individual for the frst time, it knows that it will receive their disapproval. Its repulsion transforms into hatred or jealousy, and inspires the desire to do harm to the target of its feelings. A good spirit feels repulsion for a bad spirit because it knows that it will not be understood, and that they do not share the same thoughts and ideas. As such a spirit is strong, it feels neither hatred nor jealousy towards the bad spirit, and is happy to avoid and pity it.”

Forgetfulness of the Past

392. Why does an incarnate spirit forget its past? “Human beings cannot and must not know everything. God, out of Divine wisdom, has willed this to be so. Without the veil that hides things from our view, we would be overwhelmed, like someone who suddenly goes from darkness to light. By forgetting our past, we are able to be ourselves more fully.”

393. How can human beings be held accountable for their actions and atone for their faults when they have absolutely no recollection of them? How can they proft from the experience acquired in lives that they have forgotten? The trials and tribulations of life could teach them some sort of lesson if they remembered the behavior that has brought them upon them. If they forget everything, each new existence is like the frst, and they must start from scratch. How can this be reconciled with the justice of God?
“With each new existence human beings become more intelligent, and better able to distinguish between good and bad. If they remembered their entire past, where would their merit be? When spirits reenter their original life, the spirit life, their entire past unfurls before them. They see the faults that they have committed, the cause of all their suffering, and they also see what would have prevented these faults. They understand the justice of their situation, and they seek a new existence to repair the mistakes of their most recent life. They ask for new trials equivalent to those in which they have failed, or that they feel will likely aid their advancement. They ask superior spirits to support them in the new task that they are about to undertake, because they know that their guides will strive to help them shed their faults by giving them a sort of intuition of those they have committed in the past. This intuition is the foul thought that often tempts you and that you instinctively resist.

While you attribute this resistance to the principles you have learned from your parents, it is actually due to your conscience. That voice is the recollection of your past, warning you not to be ensnared by the same traps into which you have already fallen. Those who undergo the trials of a new existence with strength and courage, and resist the temptation to do wrong, rise in the spirit hierarchy to a higher ranking, which they will assume upon their return.” While we do not precisely recall who we have been, and the good or bad that we have done in our past lives, we have the intuition of our past in the instinctive predispositions that our conscience warns us to resist. Our conscience is the desire we have conceived to avoid repeating our past faults in the future.

394. On worlds that are more advanced than ours, where beings are not subject to all our physical needs and infrmities do they understand that they are happier than we are? Happiness is usually relative and it is felt in comparison with a state that is less happy. As some of those worlds have not reached perfection, despite being better than ours, their inhabitants must have their own troubles. While wealthy people here might not endure the physical poverty that tortures the poor, they are still victims to other kinds of troubles that embitter their lives. Thence, I would ask if the inhabitants of those other worlds consider themselves to be just as unhappy, according to their standard of happiness, as we consider ourselves to be according to ours? Do they complain of their fate, since they do not recall their inferior lives to serve as a standard of comparison?
“There are two different answers to this question. In some worlds, the inhabitants have a very clear memory of their past lives, and therefore can and do appreciate the happiness that God permits them to enjoy. However, there are others where the inhabitants, despite living in better conditions than you, are still subject to great troubles and much unhappiness. They do not appreciate their lives because they have no recollection of a worse existence. Although they do not appreciate those conditions as men and women, they appreciate them as spirits.”

The unconsciousness of our past lives, especially when painful, is somewhat providential and reveals the divine wisdom. The recollection of our painful past lives is nothing more than the vague memory of a bad dream when they are fnally permitted to reenter our memory in superior worlds. The painfulness of present suffering, in lower worlds, would be greatly aggravated by the memory of all the misery we may have experienced in the past. This allows us to conclude that everything that God has made is well-made, and it is not up to us to fnd fault with God’s works, or decide how God should regulate the universe.

The memory of our past lives would present many serious disadvantages. In some cases, it would cause cruel humiliation, while in others it might prompt pride that would hamper our free will. God has given us just what is necessary and suffcient for us to improve ourselves: the voice of our conscience and our instinctive predispositions. God keeps anything that would be a source of injury away from us. Let us add that if we preserved the memory of our former personalities and actions, we would also remember those of other people. This knowledge would have a disastrous effect on our social relations. We do not always have a reason to be proud of our past, it is better that it is hidden. This concept is in perfect harmony with the statements of spirits about the worlds that are more evolved than ours. In those worlds, where moral excellence reigns, there is nothing painful in recalling the past, and the inhabitants of those happier worlds remember their past lives as we remember what we did yesterday. The visits that they may have made to lower worlds are nothing more than a vague nightmare.

395. Can we obtain any revelations regarding our past lives?
“Not always. Many persons know who they were and what they did. If they could speak freely, they would make curious revelations about the past.”

396. Some people believe that they have a vague memory of an unknown past, which presents itself as a feeting image from a dream that one tries to recall in vain. Is this belief only an illusion?
“Sometimes it is real, but it is often an illusion that is merely the effect of an overactive imagination.”

397. Is the recollection of past lives more exact when the physical life experience is of a more elevated nature than ours?
“Yes, the incarnate spirit remembers them more clearly because the body is less material. The remembrance of the past is always clearer in those who inhabit higher worlds.”

398. As our instinctive predispositions are refections of our past lives, can we determine the faults we have committed in the past by analyzing these predispositions?
“Of course, up to a certain point. We would also have to take into account the improvement that out spirit may have earned and the resolutions made while in an errant state in the spiritual realm. Our present life may be much better than our previous one.”

a) Could it be worse? Could some individuals commit faults in a subsequent existence that they did commit in the previous one?
“That depends on their advancement. If they were unable to resist temptation, they might commit new faults as consequences of the circumstances they chose. Such faults might indicate a stationary rather than a regressive state, because a spirit never regresses and can only advance or remain stationary.”

399. As the hardships of physical life are atonement for past faults and lessons for the future, can we infer the character of our prior existence from these variations? “This is done frequently, since the nature of the atonement incurred always corresponds to the fault committed. Nevertheless, this should not be considered an absolute rule. Instinctive predispositions provide a more certain indication, as the trials suffered by a spirit are as much for the future as for the past.”

When a spirit has reached the end of its errant life assigned by God, it chooses the trials that it will suffer to accelerate its progress, meaning the kind of existence that it believes will most likely yield the means of advancing. The trials of this new life always correspond to the faults for which it must make amends. If the spirit succeeds in this new struggle, it rises and if it fails, that spirit must try again.

Spirits always possess free will. This free will allows them to choose the trials they elect to endure in the physical life, and as incarnates, in a human body, it allows them to deliberate whether they will do something or not, ultimately choosing between good and bad. To deny humanity’s free will would be to reduce human beings to the status of mere machines.

Upon returning to the physical life, a spirit temporarily forgets its past existences, as though a veil hid them. Sometimes it manages to grasp a vague perception of them, and they may be revealed under certain circumstances, but this only occurs if decided by higher spirits. They spontaneously make this revelation for some useful end, and never solely for satisfying idle curiosity.

A spirit’s future lives can never be revealed during the physical life, because these future lives are dependent upon the manner in which the spirit lives its present existence and the choices it makes.

Temporary unawareness of the faults it has committed is no obstacle to a spirit’s improvement because the knowledge the spirit had of them when in the errant state and the desire it felt to repair them guide it intuitively, inspiring that spirit to resist evil temptations. This is the voice of its conscience and is supported by the spirits who assist it, if it follows their suggestions.

Although incarnates do not exactly know their former actions, they always know the kind of faults they have been guilty of committing and the dominant aspects of their characters. They only need to study themselves in order to know what they have been, not by what they are now, but by their predispositions.

The trials of physical life are both atonements for past faults and trials designed to make us better for the future. They purify and elevate, provided that we submit to them. The nature of the trials and tribulations that we have to endure may also enlighten us in regard to what we have been and what we have done, just as we deduce the crimes of a convict based on the penalty given to him by law. Thus, those who have sinned by pride are punished by the humiliation of an inferior standing, the self-indulgent and greedy by poverty, the hard-hearted by the cruelties they will suffer, tyrants by slavery, bad sons by the ingratitude of their own children, the idle by subjection to hard and relentless labor, and so on.

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