Allan Kardec

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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 force only;
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 dismembered?
“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 other beings?
“Everything in those worlds is more perfect, but plants are always plants, animals are always animals, and human beings are always human beings.”

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 no language?
“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 be perfected.”

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 after death?
“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 for them.”

603. Do animals have knowledge of God in higher worlds?
“No, human beings are gods to them, as spirits were once gods to human beings.”

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 two souls.
“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 destination.

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 principle?
“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 call humanity.”

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 general rule.”

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 physical reproduction.

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.

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