THE SPIRITS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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CHAPTER II
I. LAW OF WORSHIP
Purpose of Worship - External Worship - Life of Contemplation - Prayer - Polytheism - Sacrifices

Purpose of Worship

649. What is worship?
“The elevation of thought towards the Creator. The soul gets closer to God through worship.”

650. Is worship the consequence of an intrinsic feeling, or the product of education?
“An intrinsic sense, like the belief in God. Being aware of their weaknesses leads humankind to humbly bow before the Supreme Being who can protect them.”

651. Are there nations or groups of people entirely devoid of any sense of worship?
“No, because there never was a country or ethnic group solely comprised of atheists. Everyone feels that there is a Supreme Intelligence above them.”

652. Can we regard worship as being rooted in natural law?
“It is included in natural law, since it is the result of an intrinsic sense in human beings. This is why it is found across all nations and ethnic groups in different forms.”

External Worship

653. Are external displays necessary for worship?
“True worship exists in the heart. Remember that God’s eyes are always watching you.”

a) Are external displays of worship beneficial or constructive?
Yes, if they are not merely done for show. Setting a good example is always important. People who perform acts of worship merely for the sake of appearances and whose behavior contradicts their superficial piety, set a bad example and do more harm than they know or imagine.”

654. Does God prefer any specific type of worship?
“God prefers people who sincerely worship from the heart by doing good and avoiding wrongdoing, over those who follow elaborate rituals or ceremonies but are not truly better than their neighbors.”
“All human beings are brothers and sisters, and also God’s children. God calls out to everyone who follows Divine or natural laws, no matter how they show their deference and respect.”
“People who are only superficially pious are hypocrites. When their worship is only a sham and contradicts their behavior, they set a bad example.”
“Those who claim to worship Christ yet are proud, spiteful, jealous, cruel and unforgiving of others, ambitious for material goods, I declare to you that they have religion for outward appearances only and not in their hearts, God who sees everything will say: ‘Those who know the truth and do not follow it is a hundredfold more guilty in the evil they do than the ignorant savage, and will be treated accordingly on judgment day.’ You can excuse a blind man if he runs into you as he passes by. If the same thing is done by a man who can see you, you complain and with good reason.”
“Do not ask if any specific form of worship is more acceptable than another because that is akin to asking if God prefers to be worshiped in one language over another. Remember that the hymns addressed to God can only reach their target through the heart.”

655. Is it wrong to participate in ceremonies and practice the sacraments of a religion in which we do not sincerely believe, when done out of respect for our loved ones and acquaintances and in order not to offend those who think differently?
“As in so many other things, the intention determines the worth of the act. When a person is simply showing respect for the beliefs of others, it is not wrong. This is better than the person who ridicules them because that would show a lack of charity. However, those who carry out such practices simply for selfish motives or ambition are despicable in the eyes of God and humanity. God gets no gratification or joy out of seeing those who pretend to humble themselves solely for the approval of their fellow human beings.”

656. Is group worship preferable to individual worship?
“When individuals have similar thoughts and feelings and are assembled together, they have more power to attract good spirits. The same applies when they are gathered to worship God. However, this does not mean that private worship is less acceptable as people can worship God in their own thoughts.”

Life of Contemplation

657. Do those who have devoted themselves to a life of contemplation, doing no evil, and thinking only of God get any special merit?
“No, because if they do no wrongdoing, then they do not do good either. Moreover, not doing good, in itself, is wrong. God wants us to think of Him, but God does not want us to think only of Himself, since God has given the human being duties to fulfill on earth. Those who spend their entire lives in meditation and contemplation do nothing praiseworthy in God’s eyes because such a life is completely private and useless to humankind. God will ask them to account for the good they have failed to do.” (See no. 640)

Prayer

658. Is prayer pleasing to God?
“Prayer is always pleasing to God when it comes from the heart. Intention is everything in God’s eyes and a prayer from the heart is preferable to one read from a book, no matter how beautiful it may be, if you read more with the lips than with the thought. Prayer is pleasing to God when it is offered with faith, passion and sincerity. God will ignore the prayer of a vain, proud or selfish person, unless it is offered as an act of sincere repentance and humility.”

659. What is the general nature of prayer?
“Prayer is an act of worship. Praying to God is a mean to think, get closer and communicate with God. A person who prays may do three things: praise, ask and offer thanks.”

660. Does prayer make humankind better?
“Yes. Those who enthusiastically and confidently pray have more strength to withstand the temptations of evil, and to get help from the good spirits sent by God to assist them in so doing. Such help is never refused when honestly asked for.”

a) How is it that some individuals who pray for long periods of time are sometimes repulsive, jealous, envious and harsh, lacking in compassion and mercy, and even extremely cruel?
“What matters is how you pray, and not how much you pray. These individuals presume that all the virtue of prayer lies in its length and duration, and turn a blind eye to their own flaws. For them, prayer is an occupation, a means of passing their time, but not a true study of themselves. In these instances, it is not the remedy that is ineffective, but the manner in which it is employed.”

661. Is there any use in asking God to forgive us for our faults?
“God sees good and bad, and prayer does not hide any flaws. Those who ask God to forgive their faults only obtain that forgiveness if they change their behavior. Good actions are the best prayers, because actions are worth more than words.”

662. Can we pray effectively for others?
“People who pray exercise an influence through their desire to do good. By prayer, they attract good spirits who take part in the good they desire to do.”

Through our thought and will, we possess a power of action that extends far beyond the limits of our physical world. To pray for others is an act of volition. If our will is passionate and sincere, it calls good spirits to the aid of the party prayed for, and helps that person by suggesting good thoughts and providing the strength of body and soul that he or she needs. Once again, a prayer from the heart is everything, while that of just the lips is worthless.


663. Can we avoid our trials or change their nature by praying for ourselves?
“Your trials are in God’s hands, and there are some through which you must persevere right to the very end. God always takes into account the submission with which they are endured. Prayer calls good spirits to your side who give you strength to bear these trials with courage, so that they seem less severe. Prayer is never useless when it is sincere, because it gives you strength, which is important. After all, ‘Heaven helps those who help themselves.’ God could not change the natural circumstances to suit the various opposing demands that are made, because what appears to be a great misfortune to you, from your narrow perspective, and in relation to your temporary life on Earth, is often a great blessing for the general order of the universe. Anyway, how many troubles in life do humans create for themselves through their own short-sightedness or wrongdoing! One is punished where one has sinned. However, reasonable requests are granted more often than you believe. You think your prayer has not been answered because God has not produced a miracle for you, while in fact God has actually assisted you in such a natural manner that it seems to have been the effect of chance or the ordinary course of events. God even suggests the thought of what you must do to help yourselves when in trouble or when experiencing any kind of difficulty.”

664. Is there any point in praying for the dead or suffering spirits? If so, in what way can our prayers alleviate or shorten their suffering? Do they have the power to escape God’s justice?
“Prayer has no effect on God’s designs, but the spirits for whom you pray are consoled by your prayers because you are showing them proof of your interest. They are comforted by the kindness of those who are compassionate towards their pain. Your prayers may also motive them to repent and to do everything within their power to become happy. This is how you may shorten the term of their suffering, provided that they support your action by that of their own wills. This desire for betterment, motivated by your prayers, attracts higher spirits who come to enlighten them, console them and give them hope. Jesus prayed for the sheep that went astray, and in so doing showed that you, in order to have a clear conscience, must do the same for those who desperately need your prayers.”

665. What should we think of the opinion that rejects the idea of praying for the dead because it is not noted in the Gospel?
“Christ preached to all humanity to ‘Love one another.’ This implies the duty of using every possible means of showing affection for each other, without going into any details in terms of reaching that end. If it is true that nothing can stop the Creator from applying absolute justice, then your prayer, on behalf of suffering spirits, is accepted as proof of honor and acknowledgment, which never fails to bring relief to the subjects. As soon as those for whom you pray show the slightest sign of repentance, and only then, help is sent to them. They are always informed that a sympathetic heart has thought of them, and they are always left with the consoling impression that this friendly intervention has been of use to them. Therefore, your prayer induces gratitude and affection for the friend who has given them this proof of kindness and pity. The mutual love that Christ shines upon all humankind either develops further or awakens between you and them. Both you and those for whom you pray will have obeyed the law of love and union imposed on all the beings of the universe, a Divine law that will introduce the reign of unity and harmony, the ultimate goal of all spirits.” (1)


_______________________________
(1) Response given by the spirit of Mr. Monod, Protestant priest from Paris, died in April 1856. The previous response, no. 664, is that of the spirit of Saint Louis. A.K


666. Can we pray to spirits?
“You can pray to good spirits since they are God’s messengers and they execute God’s will. Their power is always proportionate to their superiority, and depends entirely on the Master of all things, without whose permission nothing takes place. For this reason, prayers addressed to them are only effective if accepted by God.”

Polytheism

667. Why is polytheism one of the oldest and most widespread of human beliefs, despite being false?
“The concept of a single God could only have resulted from the evolutionary development of human thought. Incapable of conceiving an immaterial being with the power to act on matter, humankind naturally attributed physical features to God, basically a form and a face. From that point forward, everything that appeared to transcend ordinary human intelligence was regarded as Divine. Whatever humans could not understand was regarded as being the work of a supernatural power, and led to the belief in the existence of as many separate powers as the numerous effects that were witnessed but for which they could not account. However, there have been enlightened human beings in every era who have understood that it would be impossible for the world to be governed by this array of powers without a supreme ruler, and who were led to formulate the concept of the one and only God.”

668. As spirit phenomena have occurred around the world since the dawn of time, could these phenomena have helped prompt a belief in multiple gods? “Of course, because human beings applied the term god to whatever transcended humanity. Spirits were many gods for them. Whenever individual humans set themselves apart from others by their actions, their genius, or a mysterious power beyond the understanding of their fellow humans, they were made into gods and were worshiped as such after their deaths.” (See no. 603)

In ancient times, the word god had a variety of meanings. It did not represent the Master of Nature as it does today, but was a generic term applied to all beings that appeared to transcend ordinary human beings. As spirit manifestations revealed the existence of intangible beings acting as one of the elementary powers of nature, they called them gods, just as we call them spirits. This is merely a question of words, with the difference being that they built temples and altars out of ignorance, and gave offerings that became highly lucrative for those whose interests were served. For us, spirits are more or less advanced creatures that have shed their human envelope. If we carefully study the different features of pagan divinities, we can easily recognize those of the spirits today at every level of the spirit hierarchy, their physical state in superior worlds, the role assumed by them in human life, and the various properties of the perispirit.

In shining its divine light on our world, Christianity has taught us to only adore the sole object for which this esteem is due. It could not destroy an element of nature and the belief in the existence of spiritual beings around us that has been preserved under different names. Their manifestations have never stopped, but they have been interpreted diversely and often exploited under the shroud of mystery hiding their true nature. While religion has regarded these spirit communications as miraculous, skeptics have labeled them as fraudulent. Spiritism is free from the superstition that has distorted the perception of these phenomena for ages therefore through scientific investigation and serious study it can now reveal one of the most sublime and important principles of nature.

Sacrifices

669. The practice of offering human sacrifices dates back to antiquity. How could humankind ever think that God would appreciate this?
“First, they did not understand that God is the source of all goodness. Among primitive populations, matter outweighs the spirit. Due to the undeveloped state of their moral qualities, they surrendered to their animal instincts and that is why they were generally so cruel to their instincts of brutality. Second, the humans of prehistoric periods naturally considered a living creature to be much more valuable in God’s eyes than any material object. This led them to offer sacrifices to their gods, first animals and then humans, because they thought that the value of a sacrifice was proportionate to the significance of the victim. When purchasing a gift for someone, you choose something with a cost or worth that is proportionate to how much love, respect or thought you would like to convey to the recipient. It was only natural for primitive human beings who were unaware of the nature of the Supreme Being to do the same.”

a) Did the sacrificing of animals precede that of human beings?
“There is no doubt about it.”

b) According to this explanation, the practice of sacrificing human beings did not originate simply out of cruelty.
“No, it originated from a false idea as to what would be pleasing to God. For instance, look at the story of Abraham. In later times, humans have further corrupted this false idea by killing their enemies, the objects of their personal hostility. God has never carried out sacrifices of any kind, neither animals nor human beings. God would find no honor in the useless destruction of creation.”

670. Has God ever appreciated human sacrifices, when offered with a sincere, religious intention?
“Never, but God always considers the intention that motivates any act. As primitive peoples were ignorant, they may have believed that they were performing a praiseworthy deed in sacrificing their fellow beings. In such a case, God would accept their intention, but not their act. The human race, in working on its own betterment, naturally came to recognize its error and loathe the idea of sacrifices, which never should have entered ‘enlightened’ minds. I say ‘enlightened’ because, back then, spirits were enveloped by the veil of matter, and their free will was enough to give them a flickering glimpse of their origin and destiny. Many among them already understood the evil they were committing intuitively, but they did it anyway for the gratification of their passions.”

671. What should we think of “religious” wars? It seems that the sentiment that induces a nation of fanatics to exterminate the greatest possible number of people who do not share their beliefs, in order to please God, comes from the same source as that which formerly led them to massacre their fellow beings as sacrifices.
“These wars are encouraged by wicked spirits and the humans who wage them place themselves in direct opposition to God’s will, which is that all human beings should love their brothers and sisters as they love themselves. All religions, or rather all people, worship the same God, regardless of the name they use. Why then would one attempt to exterminate the other simply because they believe in different religions, or because one has not yet reached the same degree of enlightenment as that of the aggressor? People may be excused for not believing in the word of the one who was animated by the Spirit of God and sent by God, especially since they have not seen him and have not witnessed the divine acts. In any event, how can you honestly hope that they would heed his message of peace, when you try to force it upon them with violence? It is true that they need to be enlightened and it is your duty to try to teach them Christ’s doctrine. However, this must be done calmly and peacefully, not through violence. Consider that most of you do not believe in the communications we have with some humans. How could you then expect strangers to believe your claims in regard to this fact, if your acts contradict what you preach?”

672. Is offering the fruits of the Earth more acceptable in God’s eyes than sacrificing animals?
“I have already answered your question by saying that God judges the intention behind an action. Of course offering the fruits of the Earth is more acceptable than the blood of victims. As we have told you and always repeat a prayer from the heart is a hundredfold more pleasing to God than all the offerings you could possibly make. The intention is everything, while the fact is nothing.”

673. Could these offerings be made more pleasing to God by using them to assist those who are poor and lack the necessities of life? In that case, couldn’t the sacrificing of animals be considered commendable when accomplished for a useful purpose have been more meritorious than an abusive sacrifice that served no useful end, or benefited only those who lacked for nothing Is there not something truly virtuous in setting aside the fruits of all that God has given us for the poor?
“God always blesses those who do good. To help the poor and those who are suffering is the best way to honor God. I do not mean to say that God disapproves of the ceremonies you use when you pray. However, a good deal of the money spent on these events can be better spent. God loves simplicity in all things. A person who attaches more importance to external matters than to the heart is narrow-minded. How could God attach more importance to the form than to the sentiment motivating your actions?”

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