THE SPIRITS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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CHAPTER VI
V. LAW OF DESTRUCTION
Necessary versus Abusive Destruction - Destructive Scourges - War - Murder - Cruelty - Dueling - Capital Punishment

Necessary versus Abusive Destruction


728. Is destruction a law of nature?
“Everything must be destroyed so that it may be renewed. What you call destruction is only a transformation to renew and improve living beings.”

a) So the instinct of destruction was given to living beings for providential purposes?
“God’s creatures are instruments used to accomplish Divine plans. Living beings destroy each other for food and this maintains a natural balance of reproduction, which could otherwise become excessive, also it utilizes the materials of their external envelopes. However, only this envelope is destroyed, which is only an accessory and not the essential part of a thinking being. The essential part is the intelligent principle, which is indestructible and developed over the course of many metamorphoses.”

729. If destruction is necessary for the regeneration of beings, why does nature surround them with the means of self-preservation and conservation?
“So that their destruction only happens at the right time. Premature destruction delays the development of the intelligent principle. This is why God has given each being the desire to live and reproduce.”

730. Since death leads to a better life, delivers us from the difficulties and suffering of our present existence, and we should anticipate it rather than fear it, why do human beings have an instinctive fear of death?
“We have said that humans should try to prolong their lives to accomplish their tasks. This is why God has given them the instinct of self-preservation. This instinct sustains them through all their trials, without which they would often succumb to discouragement. The inner voice telling them to prevent death also tells them that they may still do more for their advancement. Every danger that threatens them is a warning to profit from the relief God grants them. As humans are ingrates, they are more likely to thank their stars than their Creator.”

731. Why has nature provided agents of destruction alongside the means of self-preservation? “The disease and the remedy go hand in hand. As we have already told you, this is done to maintain equilibrium and serve as a counterbalance.”

732. Is destruction necessary in all worlds?
“It is proportionate to the material state of each world. In worlds of higher physical and moral purity it is no longer needed. In worlds more advanced than yours, the conditions of existence are completely different.”

733. Will destruction always be necessary for human beings on Earth?
“The need for destruction decreases in humans as their spirits obtain control over matter. This is why intellectual and moral development is always accompanied by an aversion to destruction.”

734. Do humans currently have an unlimited right to destroy animals?
“This right is limited to providing for their food and safety. No form of abuse can be considered a right.”

735. What should we think of destruction that goes beyond the limits of needs and safety, such as hunting, when its sole purpose is to kill merely for sport?
“It is a predominance of brutality over the spiritual nature. Any destruction that goes beyond the limits of your needs is a violation of God’s law. Animals only kill based on necessity, but human beings destroy without cause despite having free will. They must account for abusing the freedom granted to them when they yield to inferior instincts from which they should be free.”

736. Do people who are excessively conscientious in regard to killing animals earn some sort of special merit?
“While the sentiment in itself is praiseworthy, it turns into an abuse when excessive. Furthermore, other types of abuses offset its merit. They feel a superstitious fear rather than true gentleness.”


Destructive Scourges


737. What is God’s purpose in inflicting destructive scourges upon humankind?
“To make human beings advance more quickly. As we have already stated, destruction is necessary for the moral regeneration of spirits, who move one step closer to perfection in each new existence. To appreciate the results, we must consider the purpose or the end. If you only judge them from your personal point of view, they appear to be plagues because of the harm they cause you. Such events are often needed to spur faster development and achieve in only a few years what would otherwise have taken centuries to accomplish.” (See no. 744)

738. Could God improve humankind by using methods other than destructive scourges?
“Yes, and God uses them every day. The Creator has given each of you the means of progressing through the knowledge of good and iniquity. Because humans profit so little by those other means, it is necessary to wound their pride and to make them feel their weaknesses.”

a) Good people fall victim to these scourges just as much as bad people do. Is it fair?
“On Earth, human beings measure everything against their physical lives. After death, they see things differently and feel that the physical life is nothing. A century in your world is but a flash in eternity; therefore, the suffering of days, months, or even years on Earth are of no significance, and are only a lesson that will serve you in the future. Spirits are the real world, preexistent to and surviving everything else (See no. 85). They are God’s children and the focus of all Divine concern. Bodies are only the outer shells under which they appear in the physical world. When great scourges decimate the human race, the victims are like an army whose clothing is torn, worn out or lost in battle. A general cares more about his soldiers than their coats.”

b) But the victims of these calamities are victims nonetheless.
“If you viewed life on Earth for what it truly is, and as being so small in comparison to infinity, you would attach much less importance to it. These victims will find significant compensation for their pain in another existence, if they bear their suffering with resignation.”

Whether death is the result of a public disaster or results from an ordinary cause, we are forced to go when the hour of our departure has come. The only difference is that more such departures occur at the same time in the event of a public disaster. If we could elevate ourselves to contemplate the human race as a whole, the calamities that seem so terrible now would be reduced to passing storms in the destiny of the world.

739. Are destructive plagues physically useful, despite the evils prompted by them?
“Yes, they sometimes change the state of a region, but the good that results from them is often enjoyed by future generations.”

740. Could such calamities also be a moral trial for human beings, forcing them to suffer the hardest struggles?
“They are trials that provide them with the opportunity to exercise their intelligence, showing their patience and submission to God’s will, and displaying their self-sacrifice, disinterestedness, and love for their neighbor, if they are not dominated by selfishness.”

741. Do human beings have the power to avert the terrors that now afflict them?
“Some of them, but not as is commonly believed. Many of those plagues are the consequence of their lack of foresight; therefore, as they acquire knowledge and experience, they are able to avert them. They can prevent their occurrence when they have determined their cause. Consequently, among the misfortunes that plague humanity, there are some of a general nature that are imposed by God’s plans, and the effect of which is felt more or less by each individual. Human beings can do nothing but accept God’s will, yet they often aggravate their own pain and suffering due to their negligence.”

Destructive calamities with natural causes, which are independent of human actions, include epidemics, famines, foods and weather events that destroy the fruits of the Earth. Human beings have used science to discover methods for achieving agricultural improvements, through crop rotation, irrigation, the study of hygienic conditions, and the means of offsetting or at least mitigating many of these disasters. Are many countries today not protected from terrible calamities that once devastated them? Imagine what people could accomplish for their physical well-being when they learn to leverage all the resources of their intelligence, and when they add a true sense of charity for the whole human race to their concern for their own self-preservation. (See no. 707)

War

742. What drives human beings to war?
“The overpowering of the animal nature over the spiritual nature, and the fulfillment of their passions. In the barbaric state, humans only recognize the rights of the strongest. This makes war their normal condition. As men and women develop, war becomes less frequent because they avoid the causes that lead to it, and when it is inevitable, they wage it in a more humane manner.”

743. Will wars ever end on Earth?
“Yes, when human beings understand justice, and practice God’s law. Only then will all men and women be brothers and sisters.”

744. What is God’s purpose in making war necessary?
“Freedom and progress.”

a) If war brings us freedom, why does it often entail the slavery or oppression of the people attacked?
“This oppression is short-lived and serves to make the people grow tired of their enslavement, pushing them to advance more rapidly.”

745. What should we think of those who instigate war for their own profit?
“Such individuals are severely guilty, and suffer many physical lives to atone for all the deaths they caused. They will have to answer for every human being who has been killed to satisfy their ambition.”

Murder

746. Is murder a crime in God’s eyes?
“Yes and a serious one. When individuals take the life of their fellow human beings, they cut short an atonement or a mission that the victim was going through in their present incarnation and that is an atrocious act.”

747. Are all murders equally evil?
“God is fair. God judges the intention rather than just the deed.”

748. Does God excuse murder in legitimate cases of self-defense?
“Only absolute necessity can excuse it. If you can only save your own life by taking that of your attacker, you should do it.”

749. Are people accountable for the murders they commit during times of war?
“Not when they are forced to fight, but they are still accountable for the cruelties they commit, and will be rewarded for their mercy.”

750. Which is worse in God’s eyes: parricide or infanticide?
“They are equally horrific, because any crime is a crime.”

751. How can infanticide exist in intellectually advanced nations, and even be allowed by their laws?
“Intellectual development is not always accompanied by moral integrity. A superior spirit may advance in intelligence, and remain wicked. This is what happens when a spirit lives for a long time without improving.”


Cruelty

752. Is cruelty linked to the instinct of destruction?
“It is the instinct of destruction in its worst form, because while destruction is sometimes necessary, cruelty never is. It is always the result of a wicked nature.”

753. Why is cruelty the dominant characteristic of primitive humans?
“Among primitive peoples, as you call them, matter overpowers the spirit. They surrender to their animal instincts, and as they only care about their physical lives, they think only of self- preservation. This normally makes them cruel. In addition, people whose development is still imperfect are under the influence of imperfect spirits, with whom they attune, until more advanced people arrive and destroy or weaken that influence.”

754. Does cruelty indicate the absence of a moral sense?
“You can say that a moral sense may not be developed, but do not say that it is absent. Its principle exists in every human being, and over the course of time it makes beings kind and humane. It exists in the savage, just like a bud contains its scent before it blooms into a flower.”

Human beings contain within themselves every faculty or ability in a rudimentary or latent state. These faculties develop according to the circumstances in which humans find themselves. The excessive development of some halts or offsets that of others. The overstimulation of the material instincts extinguishes the moral sense, as the development of the moral sense gradually weakens animal faculties.

755. Why do we sometimes find individuals as cruel as savages in the most advanced societies?
“Just as you may find rotten fruit on a tree that is flourishing with healthy fruit. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, wearing the cloak of civilization. Low spirits may incarnate among more advanced human beings in the hope of advancing themselves. However, if the trial is too difficult, their rudimentary nature prevails.”

756. Will a society of good people one day be purged of sinners and criminals?
“The human race is progressing. Those who are under the power of wrongdoing and who are out of place among good people will gradually disappear, just as defective grains are separated from the good when wheat is threshed. These spirits are reborn into another body and as they acquire more experience, they will arrive at a clearer understanding of good and evil. You have an example of this in the plants and animals that the human race has found a way to improve, and in which it develops new qualities. It is only after several generations that the improvement becomes complete. This is the perfect metaphor of the different lives of each human being.”


Dueling

757. Can dueling be classified as a legitimate self-defense? “No, it is murder and a ridiculous practice worthy of barbarians. When civilization is more advanced and more moral, people will see that dueling is as ridiculous as the fights that were once regarded as being God’s judgment.”

758. Can dueling be considered murder on the part of the individual who, knowing his own weakness, is realistically sure of being killed?
“That would be suicide.”

a) When the chances are equal, is it murder or suicide?
“It is both.”

In all cases, even when the chances are equal, duelists are guilty. In the first case, they are guilty because they make a levelheaded and deliberate attack on the life of a fellow human being. In the second, they risk their own lives for no reason and without serving any benefit to anyone.

759. What is the real nature of the point of honor in duels? “Pride and vanity, two plagues of humanity.”

a) Are there cases where a person’s honor is really at stake and a refusal to fight would be an act of cowardice?
“That depends on customs. Each country and every century has a different way of viewing such matters. When people are more morally advanced, they understand that the true point of honor transcends all human passions. Reparation for a wrong cannot be obtained by killing another or by getting yourself killed.”

There is true greatness and honor in confessing our wrongdoing when we are wrong, forgiving when we are right and, in all cases, ignoring insults that cannot touch those who are superior to them.

Capital Punishment

760. Will the death penalty ever disappear from human legal codes?
“The death penalty will disappear over the course of time, and when it does its eradication will mark progress of the human race. When people become more enlightened, the death penalty will be completely abolished across the globe, and humans will no longer need to be judged by humans. This time is still a long way off.”

The social progress already made leaves much to be desired, but it would be unfair for modern society not to recognize the progress that has been successively made. We should think in terms of restrictions on capital punishment and the crimes for which it is handed down in the most advanced nations. If we compare the measures with which the law handles the accused and the humanity with which they are treated, even when found guilty in these countries, with the methods of criminal procedure used in the recent past, the progress of the human race is obvious.

761. The law of self-preservation gives human beings the right to protect their own lives. Aren’t we simply exercising this right when we eliminate a dangerous member from society? “There are other means of protecting yourselves from dangerous individuals than killing them. You should open the door of repentance for criminals, rather than closing it to them.”

762. While the death penalty may one day be banished in civilized society, was it not necessary in more primitive times?
“Necessary is not the right word. Human beings always think that something is necessary when they cannot find anything better. As they become enlightened, they understand justice and injustice more clearly, and reject the abuses committed during ignorant times all in the name of justice.”

763. Is the restriction of the number of cases in which the death penalty is enforced an indication of progress in civilization?
“Is there any doubt? Are you not revolted when you read about the human massacres that were once carried out in the name of justice, and often in honor of God? What about the torture inflicted on the condemned, and even on the accused, to coerce a confession for crimes that they often had not committed? If you had lived during those times, you would have thought that this was all very natural, and if you had been a judge, you probably would have done the same. What seems right in one time is barbaric in another. Only God’s laws are eternal, while societal laws change as human beings progress. They will continue to change until they are in harmony with God’s laws.”

764. Jesus said, “Those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” Are these words the recognition of the law of retaliation? Is the death penalty, enforced on a murderer, an application of this law?
“Be careful! Like so many others, you have misinterpreted the meaning of these words. The only good retaliation is God’s justice, because God applies it. You are all enduring this retribution at all times because you are punished for your wrongdoings, in this life or in another. Those who have caused their fellow human beings to suffer will be placed in a situation where they will suffer what they caused others to endure. This is the true meaning of Jesus’ words. He has also said, ‘Forgive your enemies, and he taught you to pray that God may forgive your trespasses as you forgive those who have trespassed against you, meaning exactly proportionate to your forgiveness toward others. Try to absorb the full meaning of those words.”

765. What should we think of the enforcement of the death penalty in God’s name?
“This takes God’s place in the administration of justice. Those who do this show how far they are from understanding God, and how much they still have to atone. Capital punishment is a crime when applied in God’s name, and those who enforce it will answer for it just like any other murder.”

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