THE THREE KINGDOMS
Minerals and Plants - Animals and Humans - Metempsychosis
Minerals and Plants
585. What do you think of the splitting of the natural world into three kingdoms,
or even two classes of inorganic and organic beings? Some add the
human species as a fourth class. Which of these divisions is preferable?
“They are all sound, depending upon your point of view. From a
material perspective, they are only inorganic and organic beings, while
from the moral perspective, there are four levels.”
Clear features distinguish these four levels, although their extremes
seem to blend into each other:
Inert matter, makes up the mineral kingdom possesses mechanical
Plant made up of inert matter, are endowed with life;
Animals made up of inert matter as well are endowed with life,
and have a limited instinctive intelligence that gives them the
consciousness of their existence and individuality;
Lastly, human beings, possessing all that is found in plants and
animals, are above all the other classes due to unlimited superior
intelligence that makes them aware of their future, the
perception of things that are beyond the physical realm, and
the knowledge of God.
586. Are plants conscious of their existence?
“No, they do not think. They only possess organic life.”
587. Do plants feel anything? Do they feel pain when they are damaged or
“Plants receive the physical impressions that act upon matter, but
they have no perceptions. Without perceptions, they do not feel pain.”
588. Is the force that attracts plants to each other independent of their will?
“Yes, because they do not think. It is a mechanical force of matter
acting on matter, which they cannot resist it.”
589. Some plants, such as the touch-me-not and the Venus fytrap, have
movements that demonstrate great sensitivity and even a sort of will, particularly
in the case of the latter whose leaves capture the fy that lands on
it and even seem to set a trap to kill it. Are these plants endowed with the
faculty of thought? Do they have a will and do they form an intermediate
class between the vegetable and animal kingdoms? Are they transition
points from the one to the other?
“Everything in nature is in transition, due to the very fact that everything
is different and connected. Plants do not think, and therefore
have no will. From the oyster that opens its shell to all the zoophytes,
they only have a blind natural instinct and do not think.”
The human body provides us with examples of similar movements
that take place without any participation of the will, such
as the digestive and circulatory systems. The pylorus closes upon
contact with certain substances, as if denying them entry. This
is the same action as that of the touch-me-not, the movements
of which do not necessarily imply perception, much less will.
590. Do plants have an instinct of self-preservation that leads them to seek
out what may be useful and avoid what would cause them harm?
“You may call it a sort of instinct, but that depends on your defnition
of the word. It is purely mechanical. When you see two bodies
unite in chemical operations, it is because there is an affnity between
them, but you do not call that instinct.”
591. In higher worlds, are the plants of a more perfect nature like all
“Everything in those worlds is more perfect, but plants are always
plants, animals are always animals, and human beings are always human
Animals and Humans
592. If we compare human beings with animals in terms of intelligence, it
seems diffcult to draw a line between them. Some animals are notoriously
superior to some humans. Is it possible to establish such a line precisely?
“Your philosophers are far from reaching a consensus with regard
to this point. Some say that humans are animals, while others are similarly
positive that the animal is a human. They are all wrong. Humans
are distinct beings, who sometimes drop very low, or who may raise
themselves up very high. With regard to their physical nature, humans
are like animals. However, they are more poorly equipped than many
of them because humans must create inventions using their intelligence
for their needs and survival. Their bodies are subject to destruction,
like that of animals, but their spirits have a destiny that they alone
can understand because they alone are completely free. Poor human
beings who degrade themselves below beasts! Do you not know how
to distinguish yourselves from them? Recognize the superiority of humans
by their knowledge of the existence of God.”
593. Can animals be said to act only from instinct?
“That is merely a theory. It is true that instinct predominates in
most animals, but do you not see some of them act with a resolute will?
This is intelligence, despite being of a narrow range.”
It is impossible to deny that some animals show signs of possessing
the power of performing complex acts that demonstrate
the will to act in a specifc direction, and according to circumstances.
Consequently, they possess a sort of intelligence, but
the exercise of this intelligence is mainly concentrated on satisfying
their physical needs and providing for their own survival.
Among them there is no creation, no improvement.
Whatever may be the skill that we admire in their labors, that
which they did previously is the same that they do today, neither
better nor worse, according to constant and unvarying
forms and propositions. The young bird isolated from the rest
of its species builds its nest on the same model, without having
been taught. While some animals are capable of learning to a
certain degree, their intellectual development, though narrow,
is due to the action of humans on an adaptable nature, for they
themselves have no power to progress. That artifcial development
is passing and purely individual because when left to its
own devices the animal quickly reverts to the limits traced out
for it by nature.
594. Do animals have a language?
“If you mean a language made up of words and syllables, no. If
you mean a method of communicating with one another, yes. They
say much more than you think, but their language is limited to their
physical wants, just like their ideas.”
a) There are animals that have no voice. Does this mean they have
“They understand one another by other means. Do human beings
communicate exclusively via verbal speech? And mutes, what about
them? Animals, gifted with a social life, have means of communicating
information and expressing their feelings. Do you think that fsh
have no way of communicating with each other? Human beings do not have an exclusive privilege to the use of language. Language in
animals is instinctive and limited to their wants and ideas, while that
of humans lends itself to all the notions of their intelligence and can
Fish, traveling in masses, are like swallows that follow their leader
and must be able to communicate, reach a common understanding,
and make plans. They may be gifted with a sense of
vision that is acute enough to distinguish the signs made to one
another, or the water may serve as a vehicle for the transmission
of vibrations. It is clear that they must have some means of
understanding one another, whatever these may be, just like all
other animals that have no voice and perform a group action.
In light of this, is it strange that spirits are able to communicate
without speech? (See no. 282)
595. Do animals have free will with respect to their actions?
“They are not machines, but their freedom of action is limited to
their needs and cannot be compared to that of humans. They do not
have the same duties as those of humans because they are extremely
inferior to them. The freedom of action of animals is restricted to the
actions of their material life only.”
596. How do some animals have the ability to imitate human speech, and
why is this ability found in birds rather than apes, whose physical makeup
more closely resembles that of human beings?
“That ability results from a particular development of the vocal
organs, further supported by the instinct of imitation. Apes imitate the
gestures of human beings, while some birds imitate their voices.”
597. Since animals possess intelligence that gives them a certain degree of freedom
of action, is there a principle independent of matter in them?
“Yes, and it survives their body.”
a) Is it a soul, like that of humans?
“It is a soul, depending on how you defne this word, but it is inferior
to that of human beings. There is a great difference between the soul
of animals and that of human beings, as between the soul of human
beings and God.”
598. Does the soul of an animal maintain its individuality and self-awareness
“It maintains its individuality, but not its self-awareness. The intelligent
life remains dormant.”
599. Do the souls of animals have the choice to incarnate in one kind of
animal over another?
“No, they do not have free will.”
600. Since an animal’s soul survives its body after death, is it errant like that
of a human?
“It remains in a type of errant state, because it is not tied to a body,
but it is not exactly an errant spirit. Errant spirits think and act of their
own free will, while the souls of animals do not have the same ability.
Self-awareness is the main attribute of the spirit. An animal’s soul is
classifed after death by the spirits responsible for that task, and it is
almost immediately utilized. It does not have the freedom to connect
with other creatures.”
601. Do animals obey a law of progress like humans?
“Yes, and it is for this reason that animals are more advanced in the
higher worlds where humans are more advanced. They possess more
developed means of communication. However, they are always inferior
to humans, and act as their intelligent servants.”
There is nothing irrational in this statement. Imagine that our
most intelligent animals, the dog, elephant and horse, had a
body structure ft for manual labor, what could they not accomplish
under the leadership of humans?
602. Do animals progress, like human beings, through the action of their will,
or by circumstances?
“By circumstances and that is the reason there is no atonement
603. Do animals have knowledge of God in higher worlds?
“No, human beings are gods to them, as spirits were once gods to
604. As the advanced animals from higher worlds are inferior to humans,
it would seem as though God created intellectual beings destined for eternal
inferiority. Such an arrangement does not appear to comply with the unity of
design and progress evident in all God’s creation.
“Everything in nature is connected by a link that your intellect cannot
yet grasp, and the most apparently incongruent things have points
of contact that humans will never understand in their current state.
They may catch a brief glimpse of them by exercising their intelligence,
however it is only when that intelligence has reached its full development
and frees itself from the prejudices of pride and ignorance
that human beings will be able to clearly understand God’s work. Until then, their narrow scope of thought causes them to look at everything
from an inconsequential point of view. God cannot be self-contradictory,
and everything in nature obeys the harmony of general laws that
never deviate from the transcendent wisdom of our Creator.”
a) So, is intelligence a common property and a point of contact between
the souls of animals and humans?
“Yes, but animals only have the intelligence of material life. In human
beings, intelligence yields moral life.”
605. If we consider all the points of contact that exist between humans and
animals. Does it not seem as though human beings have two souls, namely,
an animal soul and a spiritual soul, and that, if they did not have the
latter, they might still live as wild animals? In other words, animals are
similar to humans, minus the spiritual soul. Accordingly, the good and bad
instincts of human beings are results of the predominance of one of these
“No, human beings do not have two souls. Their bodies have instincts
resulting from the perception of their bodily organs and they have a
dual nature – the animal nature and the spiritual nature. Through their
bodies they participate in the animal nature and their instincts, while
through their souls they participate in the spiritual nature.”
a) So, besides their own faws that they must discard, do spirits also have
to struggle against the infuence of matter?
“Yes, the lower the spirit, the tighter the link between spirits and
matter. Do you not see? No, humans do not have two souls; there is
only one soul in a single being. The souls of animals and those of humans
are distinct from one another, so that the soul of the one cannot
animate the body created for the other. While human beings do not
have animal souls that place them on the same level as the animals,
they do have animal bodies, which often drag them down. Their bodies
are endowed with life and have instincts that are unintelligent and
limited to their survival.”
When they incarnate in human bodies, spirits contribute the
intellectual and moral principles that make them superior to
animals. The two natures in humans, intellect and morality,
constitute two distinct sources of passions, one springing from
the instincts of their animal nature and the other due to the impurities
of the spirit, which are in sympathy with the rudimentary
nature of animal desires. As spirits become purifed, they
gradually free themselves from the infuence of matter. While
under that infuence, they come close to the nature of animals. When delivered from that infuence, they raise to their true
606. From where do animals derive the intelligent principle that determines
the type of soul bestowed upon them?
“From the universal intelligent element.”
a) So, does the intelligence of humans and animals come from the same
“Of course, but in humans it has received an extension that raises
it above animals.”
607. You have stated that when the soul of a human being is born, it is in a
state equivalent to that of human infancy, that its intelligence is just beginning
to unfurl and that it is trying to live (See no. 190). Where does the soul
accomplish this initial phase?
“In a series of existences that come before the period that you
a) Therefore, it seems that the soul is the intelligent principle of inferior
beings of creation. Is it so?
“Have we not said that everything in nature is connected and
tends towards unity? As we have explained, it is in those beings, which
you are very far from knowing, that the intelligent principle is created,
gradually individualized, and tries to live. Through its subjection
to a preliminary process, like germination, the principle undergoes
a transformation and becomes a spirit. The human phase then begins
for each spirit with the consciousness of its future, the power of
distinguishing between good and evil, and accountability for its actions.
After infancy then comes childhood, youth, adolescence, and
fnally mature adulthood. Do the greatest geniuses feel embarrassed
because they were once formless fetuses in the wombs of their mothers?
If anything should humiliate them, it is their inferiority before
God and their inability to probe the depths of the Divine plans and
the wisdom of the laws that regulate harmony in the universe. Recognize
God’s greatness in this awe-inspiring harmony that establishes
a sense of solidarity between everything in nature. Even the thought
that God would have made anything without a purpose and created
intelligent beings without a future, is an insult to the Creator’s goodness,
which covers all creation.”
a) Does the period of humanity begin on Earth?
“The Earth is not the frst point of the earliest phase of human incarnation;
the human period generally starts in worlds that are even lower than yours. This rule is not unconditional and a spirit, upon
entering the human phase, may be ready to live on Earth. Such a
case, while possible, is uncommon and would be an exception to the
608. After death, are the spirits of humans aware of the lives that have preceded
their human period?
“No, because it is only with this period that their lives as spirits
began. Human beings can scarcely recall their earliest existences as
humans, just as human beings no longer remember the earliest days
of their childhood, much less the time they spent in the wombs of
their mothers. This is why spirits tell you that they do not know their
origins.” (See no. 78)
609. Once they have entered the human period, do spirits recall any traces of
what may be called the “prehuman” period?
“That depends on the distance between the two periods, and the
amount of progress accomplished. Over a few generations, there may
be a more or less clear-cut refection of the primitive state. Remember
that nothing in nature ever happens abruptly, and there are always links
uniting the ends of a sequence of beings or events. Those traces disappear
with the development of free will. The frst steps of progress are
slow, because they are not yet supported by the will. As spirits acquire a
more perfect consciousness of themselves, progress accelerates.”
610. There are spirits who have said that human beings are separate from the
rest of creation. Are they mistaken?
“No, but the question has not been fully developed. Similarly,
there are things that we can only know at a predetermined time.
Humans are distinct beings because they have abilities that separate
them from all others and they have another destiny. God chose
the human species for the incarnation of beings who are capable of
knowing their Creator.”
611. Is the common origin of the intelligent principle of living beings part of
the doctrine of metempsychosis?
“Two things can share the same origin and no longer resemble
one another at a later period in time. Who would recognize a tree,
with its leaves, fowers and fruit, in the shapeless germ contained in the
seed from which it has sprouted? When the intelligent principle reaches
the degree of development necessary to become a spirit and enters
the human phase it has no more relationship with its primitive state.
It is no longer the soul of a beast as the tree is no longer a seed. In
the human phase, there is the animal-like body and the passions that
result from the infuence of the body combined with the instincts of
self-preservation that are intrinsic to all matter. Therefore, one cannot
state that such and such a person is the incarnation of such and such
an animal. and this commonly understood version of the doctrine of
metempsychosis is inaccurate.”
612. Can a spirit that has animated a human body incarnate in an animal?
“No, because this would be a regression and a spirit never regresses.
A river does not fow back to its source.” (See no. 118)
613. However fawed the theory of metempsychosis may be, could this doctrine
be a result of an intuitive recollection of the different lives of human beings?
“We fnd the idea of an intuitive recollection in this theory and in
many others, but as in the case of most of their intuitive ideas, humans
have distorted it.”
Metempsychosis would be true if it were understood to be the
progression of the soul from a lower to a higher state, in which
it acquires the new development that transforms its nature.
However, when understood to mean that any animal can transmigrate
directly into a human, and a human into an animal,
which would imply regression or fusion, it is false. The fact that
fusion is not possible between different species is an indication
of their contrasting degrees, and that must also be the case with
the spirits that bring life to them. If the same spirit could animate
them interchangeably, it would imply the existence of
something that could manifest itself only by the possibility of
The spirits teach us that reincarnation is founded on nature’s
ascending movement and the development of humans within
their own species. This does not undermine the dignity of humans
in no way. What degrades human beings is the bad use
they make of the abilities that God has given them for their advancement.
Be what it may, the antiquity and universality of the
doctrine of metempsychosis, and the number of well-respected
individuals who support it proves that the root of reincarnation
is nature itself. Rather than diminishing the likelihood that it
is truth, this fact must be understood as a substantial argument
in its favor.
Questions about the origin of a spirit encompass the origin
of all things and God’s secret designs. Human beings are not
meant to fully understand them and can only form more or less
probable hypotheses and theories in this respect. The spirits
232 Allan Kardec - The Spirits’ Book
are far from knowing everything and may also have, in regard
to what they do not know, individual opinions that may or may
not be supported by fact.
This is why all spirits do not think alike with regard to the relations
that exist between humans and animals. According to
some, the spirit can only incarnate as a human after passing
through the different degrees of the lower beings of creation.
According to others, people have always belonged to the human
race, without passing through the various degrees of the animal
world. The former theory has the advantage of giving a purpose
to the future of animals, which form the earliest links in the
chain of thinking beings. The latter theory is more consistent
with the dignity of human beings, and it is summarized below.
The different species of animals do not intellectually proceed
from one another by progression. In other words, the spirit of
an oyster does not successively become that of a fsh, bird, quadruped,
and quadrumane. Each species is a physical and moral
absolute, and each individual draws the sum of the intelligent
principle that is necessary from the universal source depending
on the nature of its body and the work it has to accomplish in
nature. This intelligent principle is restored to the general mass
at its death. Beings from worlds more advanced than ours (see
no. 188) are also distinct races that correspond to the needs of
those worlds, and the degree of advancement of the individuals
who live there. However, they do not spiritually proceed from
the human beings on earth. It is not the same with humans.
From a physical perspective, humans form a link in the chain of
living beings, but morally speaking, there is a solution of continuity
between animals and humans. Humans alone possess the
soul, or spirit, the Divine spark that gives them the moral sense
and extended vision that animals sorely lack. This spark is the
principal being within them, preexistent to and surviving their
bodies, and preserving their individuality.
What is the origin of the spirit? What is its initial starting point?
Is it formed from the individualized intelligent principle? That
is a mystery that would pointless to try to penetrate, and regarding
which, as we have said, we can only build theories. What
can be confrmed by both reason and experience is the survival
of each spirit and the persistence of its individuality after
death, its ability to develop, with the happiness of its next life
depending on its advancement and all the moral consequences
that fow from this certainty. Like so many other things that are
currently of little signifcance to our advancement and useless
for us to dwell on, the mysterious relation that exists between
humans and animals, we repeat, is one of God’s secrets.