THE SPIRITS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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CHAPTER I
DIVINE OR NATURAL LAW
Characteristics of Natural Law - Knowledge of Natural Law - Good and Evil - Division of Natural Law

Characteristics of Natural Law

614. What is natural law?
“Natural law is God’s law. It alone ensures the happiness of human beings. It shows them what they should or should not do, and that they only suffer when they deviate from it.”

615. Is God’s law eternal?
“Like God, it is eternal and unalterable.”
616. Can God recommend or preach something at one time and prohibit in another?
“God does not make mistakes. People must reform their laws because they are imperfect, but God’s laws are perfect. The harmony that regulates both the material and moral universe is founded on laws God established for eternity.”

617. What do the Divine laws encompass? Do they have any reference to anything outside our moral conduct?
“All the laws of nature are Divine laws, since God is the creator of all things. Scientists study the laws of nature in the realm of matter, while good people study those of the soul and practice them.”

a) Are human beings able to fathom both these divisions of natural law?
“Yes, but a single life is not long enough to accomplish this.”

What are a few years for obtaining all that is necessary to make a perfect being, if we only take into consideration the distance that separates the civilized human being from a savage? The longest human life is insufficient for such a task, and even more so when it is cut short, as is the case with such a large proportion of the human race.

Some divine laws govern the movements and relations of raw matter. These laws are called physical laws, and their study is the domain of science. Others concern human beings, themselves, their relations with God and their fellow human beings. The moral laws encompass the rules of the life of the body and those of the soul.

618. Are divine laws the same for all worlds?
“Reason dictates that they must be adapted to the special nature of each world, and proportionate to the degree of advancement of the beings that inhabit them.”

Knowledge of Natural Law

619. Has God given all human being the means of knowing God’s laws?
“While all may know it, they do not all understand it. Those who understand it best are righteous individuals and those who want to examine it. Everyone will understand them one day, as progress must be fulfilled.”

The justice of the multiple human incarnations is a consequence of this principle, since with each new existence, one’s intelligence is more developed and the individual understands more clearly what is good and what is bad. If everything had to be fulfilled by each person in a single existence, what would be the fate of the millions of human beings who die every day in the atrocities of savagery, or in the shadow of ignorance, without having had the opportunity of obtaining enlightenment? (See nos. 177, 222)

620. Before its union with the body, does a spirit understand God’s law more clearly than after incarnation?
“The spirit comprehends it according to the degree of its purification, and recalls the intuitive memory of it after being united with a body. However, human being’s bad instincts often cause the spirit to forget it.”

621. Where is God’s law written?
“In the conscience.”

a) Since we carry God’s law in our consciences, why does it need to be revealed to us?
“You have forgotten and misinterpreted it. God wants it to be recalled to your memories.”

622. Has God entrusted the mission of revealing Divine or natural laws to some individuals?
“Of course. Throughout the course of time, there have been those who have received this mission in every age. They are higher spirits, who have been incarnated for the purpose of advancing human progress.”

623. Have those who allegedly educated humankind sometimes made mistakes, and lead them astray by false logic?
“Those who are not inspired by God and misappropriate a mission not intended for them may lead others astray. Despite this, as they are geniuses, great truths are often found, even among the errors they teach.”

624. What are the characteristics of true prophets?
“True prophets are moral men and women inspired by God. We recognize them by both their words and their deeds alike. God would never rely on the mouth of a liar to preach the truth.”

625. What is the most perfect type that God has offered to human beings as their guide and model?
“Look at Jesus.”

Jesus is the realization of the highest moral perfection that human beings may attain to on Earth. God offers Jesus as our most perfect model and the doctrine taught by him is the purest expression of Divine law, because he was animated by the Divine Spirit and was the purest being that has ever walked the face of Earth.

If a few of those who have claimed to educate us with respect to God’s law have sometimes led us astray by error, it is because they have been swayed by sentiments that are too material in nature. It is also because they have mistaken the laws that regulate the life of the soul with those that regulate that of the body. Many of them presented as divine laws what were really only human ones, created to serve their own passions and to dominate others.

626. Was Jesus the only one who revealed Divine or natural laws to us? Did human beings have no other knowledge than that provided by intuition before Jesus’ time?
“Did we not tell you that those laws are written everywhere? All the men and women who have meditated about wisdom have been able to understand and teach these laws since the dawn of time. By their teachings, despite being incomplete, they have done the legwork and prepared the ground for the sowing of the seed. It has always been possible for humankind to know the Divine laws by simply searching for them since they are written in the book of nature.
Based on this reasoning, honest and respectable men and women throughout time have proclaimed the moral principles of Divine law. For this same reason, the elements of moral law are found in every nation or ethnic group that has progressed above the level of barbarians, although these elements may be incomplete or corrupted by ignorance and superstition.”

627. Since Jesus has taught God’s true laws, what is the point of the teachings imparted by spirits? Do they have anything more to teach us?
“Jesus’ teachings were often allegoric and delivered in the form of parables because he spoke according to his time and where he lived. The time has now come for the truth to be made clear to all. The Divine laws must be explained because few of you understand them, and even fewer practice them. Our mission is to reach the eyes and ears of all, stun pride and expose the hypocrisy of those who disguise their transgressions under the mask of virtue and religion. The teaching of the Spirits must be clear and without error so that no one can feign ignorance and so that all may judge it and evaluate it with their own reason. We must prepare for the reign of good announced by Jesus and provide the explanations to stop humankind from continuing to interpret God’s law according to their passions and distort the meaning of a law that is entirely love and charity.”

628. Why has the truth not been accessible to all in the past?
“Each thing must come in its own time. Truth is like light, you must adjust to it gradually otherwise it dazzles us.” “To date, God has never allowed such comprehensive communications to be transmitted to the human race. Of course in ancient times there were individuals who were in possession of knowledge that they considered sacred and kept as a mystery from those whom they considered as profane. You must understand that, from what you know of the laws that govern these phenomena, only a few fragmentary truths were received, mixed together with generally illustrative and often vague lessons. Regardless, humankind should study every old philosophy, tradition or religion because they all contain the seeds of great truths. Although they may seem to contradict each other as they are misrepresented by worthless embellishments, today they are much easier to comprehend, thanks to the key that Spiritism has provided. Spiritism gives you a host of facts that up until now seemed to conflict with reason, but of which the reality is now unquestionably confirmed. You should continue to study every system because they bring a wealth of lessons and knowledge that may greatly contribute to your education.”

Good and Evil

629. How should moral law be defined?
“Moral law is the rule for acting rightly, which may be understood as practically distinguishing between good and evil. It is founded on the adherence to God’s law. Humankind act fairly and properly when good is the ultimate goal and rule of action, which is acting in compliance with God’s law.”

630. How can we distinguish between good and evil?
“Good complies with God’s law, and wickedness diverges from it. Therefore, to do right is to comply with God’s law, and to do wrong is to violate that law.”

631. Do humans have the means to distinguish good from evil?
“Yes, when they believe in God and truly wish to do what is right. God has given human beings intelligence to distinguish between them.”

632. As humans are subject to error, can they make mistakes in their judgments of good and evil? Can they believe to be doing right when, in reality, they are doing wrong?
“Jesus said, ‘Do to others whatever you would have them do to you, that sums up everything. You will never go wrong.”

633. We cannot apply the rule of good and evil, what we might call reciprocity and solidarity, to the personal conduct of human beings in relation to themselves. Can we find the rule of conduct in natural law along with a safe guide?
“When you eat too much, it harms you. Well then, that is God letting you know what is necessary for you and when exceed that measure, you are punished. It is the same with everything else. Natural law establishes the limit of each person’s needs, and when the limit is exceeded the resulting suffering serves as atonement for the infraction. If humankind listened to the voice that says ‘enough!’ they would avoid most of the troubles and misfortunes that they blame on nature.”

634. Why does evil exist in the nature of things? I am speaking of moral evil. Couldn’t God have created the human race under more favorable conditions?
“We have already told you that when spirits are created they are simple and ignorant (see no. 115). God leaves all human beings free to choose their own path; too bad for them if they choose the wrong one, their journey will be longer. If there were no mountains, humans could not grasp the concept of climbing uphill and descending. If there were no rocks, they could not understand the concept that hard bodies exist. Spirits must acquire experience, and to do this properly they must know both good and bad. This is why there is an union of spirit and body.” (See no. 119)

635. Different social standings create new wants that are not the same for all human beings. Is natural law not a constant rule?
“Those different standings are found in nature and follow the law of progress. They do not undermine the unity of natural law, which applies to everything.”

The conditions of the lives of human beings vary greatly depending on the time and place of existence, therefore different wants and social standings arise corresponding to those wants. Since this diversity depends on the circumstances, it must be consistent with God’s law. This law is singular in principle. Reason must distinguish between true wants and fabricated wants.

636. Are good and evil absolute for all of humanity?
“God’s law is the same for everyone, but evil resides in the people’s desire for it to happen. Good is always good, and evil is always evil regardless of what a person’s position may be. The difference is in the degree of accountability.”

637. When savages give in to their instinctive desire to eat human flesh, are they guilty?
“The essence of evil lies in the will, therefore humans are more or less guilty according to the awareness of their own actions.”

Circumstances give good and evil a relative seriousness. Humans often commit faults that are reprehensible as a consequence of the social positions in which they are placed. Their accountability is proportionate to the means they possess of distinguishing between right and wrong. Therefore, enlightened individuals who commit minor injustices are more culpable in God’s eyes than ignorant savages who surrender to their instincts.

638. Evil sometimes seems to be a consequence of circumstances. For instance, in some cases, even the killing of a fellow creature is necessary. In such cases, is God’s law violated? “Evil is still evil, despite being necessary. This necessity fades as the soul becomes purified by passing from one life to another, and human beings are all the more guilty when they do wrong, because they more clearly understand the character of their actions.”

639. The wrong we do is often the result of our position that has been determined by others. In such a case, who should be held mostly accountable?
“Those who are the cause of the wrongdoing. Therefore, persons who are led to commit wicked acts due to being in a position that others have made for them are less guilty than those who have actually caused them to go astray. All individuals have to suffer the consequences for both the wrongs they have done, and that which they have caused others to do.”

640. If we profit by another person’s wrongdoing, even though we took no direct role in it, are we as guilty as if we had participated?
“Yes, despite not participating in it, it is equivalent to committing the act. Perhaps they would have retreated before the action itself but once it was done and they then took advantage of it, it proves that they would have done it themselves if they could, or if they dared.”

641. Is it as reprehensible to want to do an evil deed as it would be to actually commit it?
“This depends on the case. Voluntarily resisting engaging in the wrong that we want to do is a sign of virtue, especially when the possibility of fulfilling that desire exists. However, if individuals who have not committed the wrong action simply because the opportunity did not arise, are as guilty as if they had actually done it.”

642. Is it enough to simply not do what is evil in order to please God and to ensure our future happiness?
“No, we must do good to the best of our abilities. Each of you will have to answer for all the evil that has resulted from the good that you have failed to do.”

643. Are there individuals who are incapable of doing good?
“There is no one who cannot do some good. Only the selfish find no opportunity of doing so. The mere fact of being in contact with other human beings provides the opportunity of doing good every day of your lives, for those who are not consumed by self-interest. Doing good is not restricted to giving to charity, but also includes being useful whenever your assistance may be needed, to the full extent of your power.”

644. Can the situations in life that human beings often find themselves in lead them into vice and crime? “Yes, but those very situations are a part of the trial that has been chosen by their spirits when free. They have chosen to expose themselves to those temptations to acquire the merit of resistance.”

645. When a person is surrounded by vice, doesn’t the impulse to commit vile acts become almost irresistible?
“The impulse is strong, but not irresistible because you can sometimes find great virtues within yourself despite being surrounded by vice. Spirits who remain virtuous in the midst of evil temptations have acquired enough strength to resist temptation, and fulfill the mission of exercising a beneficial influence on those around them.”

646. Is the merit of good measured by the conditions under which that action has been committed? In other words, are there different degrees of merit in doing right?
“The merit of good depends on the difficulty entailed. There would be no merit in doing right without self-discipline and effort. God takes more notice of poor individuals who share their only piece of bread than of the rich who give only what is superfluous to them. Jesus told you this in his parable of the widow’s mite.”

Division of Natural Law

647. Can God’s law be summed up in the rule taught by Jesus that exhorts us to love our neighbor?
“Surely this maxim contains all the duties that you hold with regard to one another, but its various applications must be shown or humankind will continue to neglect them, as they currently do. Also, natural law covers all the circumstances of life, and the rule you have cited is only one part of it. Humans need specific directions. General guidelines are too vague, and leave too many doors open to human interpretation.”

648. What do you think of the division of natural law into ten parts, the laws of adoration, labor, reproduction, preservation, destruction, society, progress, equality, liberty, and the law of justice, love, and charity?
“The division of God’s law into ten parts comes from Moses and covers all the circumstances of life, which is the essential point. You may adopt it, without it being unconditional, just like any of the other various classification systems which depend on the perspective or situation in question. The last law is the most important because it includes all the others. By observing this law, humankind can advance the most quickly in spiritual life.”

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