THE SPIRITS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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CHAPTER II
FUTURE JOYS AND SORROWS
Nothingness – Future Life - Intuition of Future Joys and Sorrows - Intervention of God in Rewards and Atonements - Nature of Future Joys and Sorrows - Temporary Atonements ` Atonement and Repentance - Duration of Future Atonements - Resurrection of the Body - Heaven, Hell and Purgatory



Nothingness – Future Life


958. Why do human beings have an instinctive horror of nothingness?
“Because there is no such thing as nothingness.”

959. From where do we derive the instinctive sense of a future life?
“We already told you, the spirit knows everything before reincarnation and the soul retains a vague memory of what it knew in its spirit state.” (See no. 393)

Human beings have always been preoccupied with the question of a life after death and this is completely natural. Whatever importance they may attach to this life, they cannot help but wonder about the future, since this life is brief and may be cut short at any moment. What becomes of them after death? The question is a serious one, because it refers to eternity and not just a few years. The person who is about to spend many years in a foreign country tries to determine what his or her position will be there beforehand. In that vein, how could we not wonder what our state will be when we leave our present life, since it will be forever?

The idea of reduction to nothingness is averse to reasoning. The most negligent person, about to leave this life, wonders what is going to become of him or her and involuntarily hopes for something more. To believe in God without believing in a future life is illogical. The intuition of a better life lies in every human being’s inner consciousness. God cannot have placed it there without a reason.

The concept of a spiritual life implies the preservation of our individuality after death. What is the point of surviving the body, if our moral essence is lost in the ocean of infinity? Such a result is the same as reduction to nothingness.

Intuition of Future Joys and Sorrows

960. From where does the belief in future pains and rewards originate?
“It is an intuition of the reality imparted to each person by the spirit incarnated in them. Know this well, it is not in vain that this inner voice speaks to you and you are wrong in ignoring it. If you thought of this, enough and more often you would be better off.”

961. What is the predominant feeling when one is dying? Is it doubt, fear or hope?
“Doubt for the skeptical, fear for the guilty and hope for the virtuous.”

962. How can skeptics exist, considering that the soul imparts the sense of spirituality to all?
“There are fewer skeptics than you think. Many of those who feign skepticism during life out of pride are much less skeptical when they die.”

The quality of our future life depends on our actions. Reason, supported by a sense of justice, tells us that the good and the bad are not mistaken in our ultimate sharing of happiness. God would not allow some people to obtain joy effortlessly, while others obtain it only through much exertion.

Our faith in God’s justice and goodness, as evidenced by the wisdom of God’s laws, forbids us to believe that the good and the bad hold the same place in God’s eyes. Conversely, there is no doubt that, eventually, the good are rewarded and the bad atones, for the good and bad they have done. From an innate sense of justice, we derive our instinct of future rewards and atonements.

Intervention of God in Rewards and Atonements

963. Is God personally concerned with each person? Is God not too great, and are we not too small for each individual to be of any importance to the Creator?
“God is concerned with all of creation, no matter how small they may be. Nothing is too small or insignificant for God’s goodness.”

964. Is God concerned with each of our actions to reward or punish us? Aren’t most of such actions insignificant to God?
“God’s laws apply to all your actions, and if you violate them it is your fault. When a person violates one of those laws, God does not say, ‘You have been gluttonous, I will punish you for it.’ However, God has set a limit: diseases, and even death, are the consequences of overstepping that limit. Any time you are disciplined, it is a result of violating a law. Everything happens that way.”

All our actions are subject to God’s laws. Any wrongdoing on our part, no matter how inconsequential it may seem to us, is a violation of those laws. When we experience the consequences of such violations, we can only blame ourselves, as we are the sole architects of our happiness or misery, as is shown in the following narrative.

“A father has educated and instructed his child on how to guide himself in life. He hands over a piece of land to him to farm, and says, ‘I have given you the practical directions and all the necessary tools for making this land productive and earning a living. I have given you all the instruction needed for understanding those directions. If you follow them, your land will yield abundant harvests and you will be able to rest in your old age. If you do not, it will bear nothing, and you will die of hunger.’ Having said this, he leaves him to his own devices.”

Is it not true that the land yields crops corresponding to the skill and care invested in its cultivation and that any mistake or negligence on the part of the son has a harmful effect on the harvest? Therefore, the son will be comfortable or poor in his old age, depending on whether he has followed or neglected his father’s directions.

God is even more farsighted, we are told at every moment whether we are doing right or wrong through the spirits that are sent to guide us, although we do not always listen to them. There is also the difference that, if the son wasted his time, he has no opportunity to repair his lapses while God would always give him the means of correcting his mistakes through new lives.

Nature of Future Joys and Sorrows

965. Do the joys and sorrows of the soul after death have any material aspect?
“Common sense tells you that they cannot be of a material nature, because the soul is not matter. There is nothing carnal in those joys and sorrows, yet they are a thousand times more vivid than those you experience on Earth because the spirit, when freed from matter, is more sensitive. Matter stifles feelings and sensations.” (See nos. 237-257)

966. Why do people often form unrefined and absurd ideas of the joys and sorrows of the future life?
“Because their intelligence is still imperfectly developed. Does a child understand things to the same capacity as an adult? Besides, their idea of a future life is often a result of the education to which they have been subjected – an education that urgently needs to be reformed.” “Your language is too incomplete to express what transcends your present existence, so we have to communicate with you using comparisons borrowed from that existence. As a result, you have mistaken images and figures for reality. As humanity becomes enlightened its thought understands much that its language is unable to express.”

967. What does the happiness of good spirits consist of?
“In knowing all things, feeling neither hatred, jealousy, envy, ambition, nor any of the passions that make human beings miserable. Their mutual love is a source of supreme happiness. They have none of the wants or anxieties of material life and are happy in the good they do, because the happiness of spirits is always proportionate to their degree of elevation. Only perfectly pure spirits enjoy the highest happiness. However, others are happy on different levels. Between bad and perfect spirits, there is an infinite range of elevation and happiness, as the joy of each spirit is always proportionate to its moral state. Those who have already achieved a certain degree of advancement have a perception of the happiness of those who are further along. They seek higher happiness, but as an object of emulation rather than jealousy. They know that it is solely up to them to reach it, and they work to that end with the tranquility of a good conscience. They are happy in not having to suffer what inferior spirits endure.”

968. You stated that the absence of material wants is one of the conditions of happiness for spirits. Is it not the satisfaction of these wants a source of joy for people? “Yes, it is an animal pleasure. When people cannot satisfy those wants they are tortured by them.”

969. What does it mean when people say that pure spirits are united in God’s heart in active devotion?
“This statement is an allegorical representation of the knowledge they possess with regard to God’s perfections. They see and understand God. However, you must not interpret this metaphor any more literally than other statements of a similar nature. Everything in nature, from the grain of sand up ‘is devoted,’ meaning proclaims God’s power, wisdom and goodness. You must not assume that high spirits are absorbed in eternal contemplation, which would be an unwise and monotonous happiness, and furthermore, a selfish one, because their existences would be of perpetual uselessness. They no longer undergo the tribulations of corporeal life, an exemption that is a joy in itself. As we said, they know everything. They make use of the intelligence they have acquired in helping the progress of other spirits. They find great joy in this occupation.”

970. What does the suffering of inferior spirits consist of?
“Their suffering is as varied as the causes by which they are produced, and correspond to the inferiority of each spirit, as the joys of higher spirits are proportionate to their superiority. Their suffering may be summed up as follows: envying the superiority that makes other spirits happy and their inability to obtain it; feeling regret, jealousy, rage and despair in regard to what prevents them from being happy; and being tormented by remorse and indescribable moral anguish. They long for all sorts of joys and are tortured by their inability to satisfy their cravings.”

971. Is the influence exercised by spirits over one another always good?
“It is always good on the part of good spirits, but perverse spirits try to lead astray those whom they believe to be susceptible to being misled from the path of repentance and amendment, and whom they have often led into wrongdoing during earthly life.”

a) So, does death not deliver us from temptation?
“No, but the action of malevolent spirits is much less powerful over other spirits than over incarnates, because they no longer feel material passions.” (See no. 996)

972. How do malevolent spirits tempt other spirits, since they do not have passions?
“Passions no longer exist materially, however, they still exist in thought for lower spirits, and the wicked ones keep impure thoughts in their victims by taking them to places where they witness the exercise of those passions, and whatever else can excite them.”

a) But what is the purpose of these passions, since they no longer have any real object?
“That is precisely what tortures them. Misers see gold that they cannot possess; depraved individuals see orgies in which they cannot partake; arrogant people see honors that they envy, but cannot share.”

973. What are the greatest sufferings that a bad spirits can endure?
“It is impossible to describe the mental tortures that serve as atonement for some crimes, as even those who experienced them would find it difficult to give you an idea. However, the most frightful of them all is the belief that the atonement lasts for all eternity.”

People form a more or less elevated idea about the joys and sorrows of the soul after death, depending on an individual’s intelligence. The greater the development of individuals, the more refined will be their idea of them, and the more rational their views of the subject, the less literally will they interpret figurative language. Enlightened reasoning teaches us that the soul is an entirely spiritual being. It teaches us that a spirit is not affected by impressions that act only upon matter and yet, it does not imply that it is exempt from suffering, or that it does not experience discipline as a consequence of its wrongdoing. (See no. 237)

Spirit communications show us the future state of the soul no longer as a mere theory, but as a reality. They thrust before us all the incidents of life beyond the grave. However, they also show us that they are the natural consequences of terrestrial life. They show us that although they are free from the fanciful accessories created by human imagination, they are painful for those who have made bad use of their abilities during this life. The diversity of the consequences is infinite but we can say, in summary, that each spirit atones for its wrongdoings; each one is punished where one has sinned. Some are punished by the incessant sight of the evil they have done; others, by regret, fear, shame, doubt, isolation, darkness, separation from their loved ones, and so on.

974. From where does the theory of eternal fire originate?
“An image that has been taken literally, like so many others.”

a) Nonetheless, can this fear lead to a useful result?
“Look around you and see whether there are many who are restrained by it, even among those by whom it is preached. If you teach what contradicts reason, the impressions you make are neither long-lasting nor advantageous.”

Human language is unable to express the nature of this suffering. Therefore human beings have been unable to devise a comparison for it, one that is more appropriate than that of fire, because fire is both the most excruciating torture and the symbol of the most energetic action. This is why the belief in eternal fire has existed since the dawn of reason and has passed down by successive generations to the present day. Likewise, this is why all nations speak of “fiery passions,” “burning love,” “burning with jealousy,” and so on.

975. Do inferior spirits understand the happiness of the virtuous?
“Yes and that happiness is a source of torment for them. They understand that their own deeds deprive them of it. It also leads them to seek a new physical existence to shorten the duration of that torment when death frees them from matter, if good use is made of this existence. It is on this basis that they choose the appropriate trials to atone for their faults. It must be remembered that spirits suffer for all the wrongdoing they have done or which they have been the voluntary cause, all the good that they might have done and did not do, and all the evil that has resulted from failing to do the good they might have done.”

“When errant, it is as though a spirit emerges from a fog and sees the obstacles that stand between it and ultimate happiness. Therefore, it suffers more because it understands the full extent of its culpability. There are no more illusions for it. It sees things as they really are.”

When errant, a spirit sees all its past lives at a glance and foresees the future promised to it. It understands what it still needs to do to reach that future. It is like a traveler who having reached the top of a hill sees both the road it traveled, and what it still has to travel to reach the end of the journey.

976. Is seeing suffering spirits a cause of distress for the good ones? If so, what becomes of the happiness of the latter, as that happiness has been impaired?
“Good spirits are not distressed by the suffering of those who are at a lower point than themselves because they know that it will one day end. They lend a helping hand to assist those who suffer to become better. This is their occupation and a joy for them when they succeed.”

a) This is understandable for spirits who are strangers, and who take no special interest in them. However, does observing their pain and suffering disturb the happiness of spirits who have loved them on Earth?
“If spirits do not see your suffering, it is because they separated from you after death, while religion preaches that the souls of the departed continue to see you, but they see you from another point of view. They know that this suffering helps you advance if you bear it with resignation, and they are more pained by the lack of resilience that holds you back than by what they know is temporary suffering.”

977. If spirits are unable to hide their thoughts or all the acts of their lives from each other, does it mean that those who have wronged others are always in the presence of their victims?
“Common sense tells you that it cannot be otherwise.”

a) Is the disclosure of all our reprehensible acts and the perpetual presence of those who have been our victims an atonement for the guilty?
“Yes, and it is more substantial than you think. It only lasts until they make amends for wrongdoing, either as a spirit or as a person in new physical lives.”

When we are in the spirit world, our entire past is revealed and the good or bad that we did is known. Those who have done evil who try to avoid their victims do so in vain. They cannot escape their presence, and it is an atonement and a source of remorse until they atone for the wrongs they have done. Conversely, kindness and goodwill surrounds the spirit of an upright person.

Even on Earth, there is no greater torment for a bad person than the presence of his or her victims, whom they try to avoid at all costs. What happens when the illusions of passions dissipate and they understand the wrongs they have done? When they see their secret actions brought to light and their hypocrisy unmasked? When they realize that they cannot hide from those they have wronged? While the soul of the wicked is prey to shame, regret and remorse, the soul of the virtuous enjoys perfect peace.

978. Does the memory of the faults the soul committed when imperfect disturb its happiness even after it reaches purity?
“No, because it has redeemed its faults and successfully passed through the trials it had endured for that purpose.”

979. Do the trials a soul must experience in the future to complete its purification cause a painful apprehension that hampers its current happiness?
“Yes, for a soul that is still tainted by imperfection. It can only enjoy perfect happiness when it has become quite pure. For souls that have reached a certain degree of progress, the thought of the trials they still have to experience causes no pain whatsoever.”

When the soul arrives at a certain degree of purification, it obtains a taste of happiness. A feeling of sweet satisfaction overwhelms it and is happy in all that it sees and all that surrounds it. As the veil shrouding the mysteries of creation is partially raised, the soul begins to perceive Divine perfection in its entire splendor.

980. Is the sympathetic link that unites spirits of the same order a source of happiness for them?
“The union of spirits who sympathize with the love of goodness is one of their greatest joys, because they have no fear of seeing that union disturbed by selfishness. In the spiritual world, they form families inspired by the same sentiment, as they group into categories and experience joy in being together. This union constitutes the happiness of those worlds. The pure and sincere affection that elevated spirits feel, and of which they are the object, is a source of happiness because there are neither false friends nor hypocrites among them.”

People enjoy the first taste of happiness on Earth when they meet others with whom they can enter into a pure and virtuous union. In purer existences, this happiness becomes indescribable and limitless, because they only meet sympathetic souls who are not saddened by selfishness. All is love in nature; selfishness kills.

981. Is there any difference in future conditions between souls who were afraid of death during life and souls who were indifferent to it or even looked forward to it with relief?
“There may be a very considerable difference between them, though this is often eliminated by the causes which gave rise to that fear or desire. Different feelings move people who dread death and those who look forward to it. These feelings determine the state of the spirit. For instance, when individuals desire death because it means the end of tribulations, the desire is an act of defiance against God and the trials they must undergo.”

982. Is it necessary to acknowledge Spiritism and believe in spirit manifestations to ensure our happiness in the next life?
“If that were true, those who do not believe in them or who have not had the opportunity to learn anything about them would be deprived, which would be absurd. Doing right is what ensures future happiness and doing right is always doing right, regardless of the path that leads to it.” (See nos. 165-799)
Belief in Spiritism helps our self-improvement by clearing up our ideas about our future. It hastens the progress and advancement of individuals and the masses because it enables people to ascertain what the future will be, and is both a beacon and source of support. Spiritism teaches us to bear our trials with patience and resignation, turns us away from actions that could delay our future happiness, and contributes to our reaching that happiness. However, it does not imply that we may not reach that same happiness without it.

Temporary Atonements

983. When atoning for faults in a new existence, does a spirit experience material suffering? If so, is it correct to say that the soul only experiences moral suffering after death?
“It is very true that when the soul is reincarnated, it is forced to suffer the trials of physical life. However, only the body experiences material suffering.”
“You often say that when someone dies that they no longer suffer, but this is not always true. A spirit no longer experiences physical pain, but depending on their imperfections, they may have to bear more severe moral suffering, and may be even unhappier in a new life. Those who are greedy beg for bread and are prey to all the miseries of poverty. The proud experience all types of humiliation and those who have abused their authority and treated subordinates poorly must obey an even crueler master. All the tribulations of life are atonements for the faults committed in a previous life, unless they are the consequence of faults committed in the present life. When you leave your present life, you will understand this.” (See nos. 273, 393, 399)
“People who consider themselves happy on Earth because they are able to satisfy their passions make little effort to improve themselves. Such ephemeral happiness is often atoned in the present life, but certainly it can be atoned in another life that is equally material.”

984. Are all major adversities in our current earthly lives always an atonement for current faults committed by us?
“No, we have already told you that they are trials imposed by God, or chosen by you in the spirit state before your reincarnation to atone for the faults committed by you in a previous life. No violation of God’s laws, especially of the law of justice, ever remains unpunished and a corrective measure will sooner or later always take place. If you do not correct it in the same life, you will certainly have to correct it in another. This is why individuals whom you view as fair-minded are often tormented by the faults of their past.” (See no. 393)

985. When a spirit reincarnates in a more advanced world, is this a reward?
“It is a consequence of its purification. As spirits become purified, they reincarnate in progressively higher worlds, until having rid themselves of all materiality, wash away all impurities, and entering the eternal happiness of fully purified spirits in God’s heart.”

In worlds where the conditions of existence are less material than ours, the wants of their inhabitants are less crude and their physical suffering is less acute. The people from those worlds no longer possess the vile passions that make them each other’s enemies in lower worlds. Having no motives for hatred or jealousy, they live in peace because they practice the law of justice, love and charity and experience none of the worries and anxieties incited by envy, pride and selfishness that torment us on Earth. (See nos. 172, 182)

986. Can spirits who have progressed in their terrestrial life reincarnate in the same world?
“Yes, and if they have not been able to accomplish their mission, they may ask to complete it in a new life. In that case, it is no longer an atonement for them.” (See no.173)

987. What becomes of the person who, without doing wrong, does nothing to be free from the influence of matter?
“Since such individuals have made no progress towards perfection, they have to begin a new life of the same nature as the one they have left. They remain stationary and prolong the suffering of atonement.”

988. There are individuals whose lives are perfectly calm, who have nothing to do for themselves and are exempt from all worries. Is their good fortune proof that they have nothing to repent from any former existence?
“Do you know many such people? If you think you do, you are mistaken. Such lives are often only calm on the surface. A spirit may have chosen such a life, but after leaving it, it realizes that it has not helped it move forward, and it regrets the time it has wasted in idleness.”
“Bear in mind that a spirit can only acquire knowledge and elevation through activity, so if it sleeps without a care in the world, it does not advance. It is as though it (according to your world) needs to work, but goes off for a stroll or goes to bed with the intention of doing nothing. Bear in mind that each of you must answer for voluntary uselessness, and that such uselessness is always lethal to your future happiness. The sum of that happiness is exactly proportionate to the sum of the good that you have done, while the sum of your unhappiness is always proportionate to the sum of the wrongs you have done, and how many you have made unhappy.”

989. There are individuals who although are not bad, make everyone around them unhappy due to their character. What consequences shall they suffer?
“Such individuals are definitely not good, and they will atone for this wrong by being in contact with people whom they have made unhappy. This is a constant atonement for them. In another life, they will endure all that they have caused others to endure.”

Atonement and Repentance

990. Does repentance take place in the physical or spiritual state?
“In the spiritual state, nevertheless it may also take place in the physical state when you clearly understand the difference between good and bad.”

991. What is the consequence of repentance in the spiritual state?
“The desire for a new incarnation in order to become purified. The spirit perceives the imperfections that deprive it of happiness, and seeks a new existence to be able to make amends for its faults.” (See nos. 332, 975)

992. What is the consequence of repentance in the corporeal state?
“The spirit advances in its present life, if there is time to repair its faults. Whenever your conscience bothers you or shows you an imperfection, you can always improve.”

993. Are there not people who only have the instinct of iniquity and are unable to repent?
“I have told you that progress must be unceasing. People who have only the instinct of iniquity in their present life will have the instinct of goodness in another, and to reach this end they are re-born many times. Everyone must advance and reach the goal; however, some do it more quickly or slowly, corresponding to the strength of their desire. People who have only the instinct of good are already purified, because they may have had the instinct of wickedness in a prior life.” (See no. 804)

994. Do perverted individuals who have not recognized their faults during their life recognize them after death?
“Yes, always and they then suffer even more because they feel all the wrong they have done, or which they have voluntarily caused. Nevertheless, repentance is not always immediate. There are spirits who stubbornly persist in doing wrong, despite their suffering. Eventually however, they see that they have taken the wrong path and repentance ensues. The efforts of higher spirits are directed to enlightenment, and you may usefully direct your own efforts toward the same goal.”

995. Are there spirits who, without being bad, are indifferent with respect to their own fate?
“There are spirits who are not concerned with anything useful, but still have expectations. In such cases they suffer in proportion to their inactivity, because all states and conditions must be conducive to progress, and this progress is carried out by the suffering they experience.”

a) Do they not have the desire to shorten their sorrow?
“Of course, they have that desire, but they do not have enough energy to do what would give them relief. Are there not many among you who would rather starve than work?”

996. Spirits see the harm that their imperfections bring about. How is it that any of them continue to aggravate their situation and prolong their state of inferiority by committing bad deeds and leading people astray from the right path?
“It is those whose repentance is delayed that act in this manner. A spirit who repents may afterwards be drawn back down the wrong road by other spirits who are even more backward than they are.” (See no. 971)

997. Sometimes, we find spirits notoriously imperfect who are very open to the good sentiments and the prayers said on their behalf. How is it that others, whom we believe to be more knowledgeable, demonstrate a severity and pessimism that no prayers can overcome?
“Prayer is only effective for spirits who repent. Prayers do not help people motivated by pride that compels them to rebel against God and persists in wrongdoing, perhaps going even further astray. Such individuals can only derive any sort of benefit from prayers when a glimmering of repentance appears in them.” (See no. 664)

We must not lose sight of the fact that a soul does not change suddenly after the death of the body. If its life has been disgraceful, it is because it is imperfect. Nevertheless, death does not make it perfect right away. It may continue its wrongdoing, holding false ideas and preconceived notions until it has become enlightened through study, refection and pain.

998. Does atonement happen in the physical state or in the spirit state?
“Atonement happens during the physical state through the trials to which the spirit is subjected. In the spirit state, it is accomplished through moral suffering corresponding to the spirit’s inferiority.”

999. Does sincere repentance during life erase the faults of that life and bring the offender back in God’s favor?
“Repentance helps advance the betterment of the spirit, however wrongdoing must be atoned.”

a) If a criminal says, “Since I must atone my past, I have no need to repent,” what effect does this have on him or her?
“If such person is hardened by thoughts of wickedness their atonement is longer and more strenuous.”

1000. Can we redeem our faults in our present life? “Yes, by making amends for them. However, do not assume that you can redeem them by making a few trivial sacrifices, or by giving away what you no longer need after your death. God does not value a fruitless repentance that is easily completed and costs no more than a mere smiting of the chest. The loss of a small finger while doing good for others erases more wrongdoing than any amount of self-inflicted torture undergone solely for one’s self-interest.” (See no. 726)
“Wrongdoing can only be atoned by doing good, and attempts at making amends are worthless if they affect neither one’s pride nor one’s material interests.”
“How can a person be rehabilitated by the restitution of tainted wealth after death, when it has become useless to them and they have already profited by it?”
“What benefit can people derive from the deprivation of a few futile pleasures and indulgences, if the wrongs they have done to others are not undone?” “What, in truth, is the point of humbling themselves before God, if they keep their pride before other human beings?” (See nos. 720, 721)

1001. Is there no merit in ensuring the worthwhile use, after we die, of the property we once possessed?
“Merit is not the word. Although it is better than doing nothing, people who give only after they die are often motivated by selfishness rather than by generosity. They want the honor of doing good without any cost to them. People who impose deprivation upon themselves during their life, reap a double reward, the merit of their sacrifice and the pleasure of witnessing the happiness they have caused. Selfishness is likely to taunt, ‘Whatever you give away will lessen the enjoyment of what you keep for yourself.’ The voice of selfishness is louder than that of charity, and too often it leads a person to keep what they have under the pretext of necessity. You should pity a person who does not know the joy of giving because they deprive themselves of one of the purest and sweetest pleasures in life. In subjecting a person to the trial of wealth, which can be very dangerous for their future, God places the happiness that generosity may secure for them within their reach, even in the present life.” (See no. 814)

1002. What happens when individuals acknowledge their faults on their deathbed, however, they do not have time to make amends? Is repentance alone enough in such a case?
“Repentance accelerates rehabilitation, but it does not absolve it. Don’t they have the whole future ahead, and new opportunities to make amends will always be open to them?”

Duration of Future Atonements

1003. Is the duration of time that the guilty must suffer in a future life governed by any law?
“God never acts on a whim. Everything in the universe is ruled by laws that reveal the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.”

1004. What determines how long a guilty person must atone?
“The length of time required for their betterment. A spirit’s happiness or unhappiness corresponds to their degree of purification. The duration and nature of this suffering depends on the time it takes them to improve. As spirits progress, they refine their views, their torment diminishes and this changes their nature.” Saint Louis

1005. For a suffering spirit, does time appear longer or shorter than when it was on Earth?
“It appears longer as there is no such thing as sleep for it. When spirits attain a certain level of purification time fades away, so to speak, before infinity.” (See no. 240)

1006. Can the duration of a spirit’s suffering be eternal?
“Of course, if it were eternally wicked, meaning, if it were to never repent or atone, it would suffer forever. Nonetheless, God has not created human beings to let them to be victims of immorality forever.

God created them simple and ignorant, and all of them must progress, in due course, according to their will. The determination to advance may arise at any time, as a child’s development may be more or less precocious. However, an irresistible desire to escape a state of inferiority and to be happy stimulates a spirit to do better. The law that regulates the duration of a spirit’s misery is incredibly wise and compassionate, that duration depends on its own efforts. It is never deprived of its free will; however, if it uses it improperly, it must bear the consequences of its errors.” Saint Louis

1007. Are there spirits who never repent?
“There are some whose repentance is delayed for a very long time. Yet, to assume that they will never evolve is contradicting the law of progress, and asserting that a child will never become an adult.” Saint Louis

1008. Does the duration of a spirit’s atonement always depend on its will? Is it ever inflicted on it for a given time period?
“Yes, atonement may be imposed for a fixed time. Still, God wants nothing but the best for creation. God always welcomes repentance and the desire to make amends never remains fruitless.” Saint Louis

1009. It follows then, that the atonements imposed on spirits are never eternal?
“Ask your common sense, your reason, whether perpetual condemnation for a few moments of error would not be a negation of God’s goodness. Indeed, what is the duration of a human life, even if it lasts one hundred years, in relation to eternity? Eternity! Do you understand this word? Never-ending torture, suffering and hopelessness for a few mistakes! Does such an idea not repulse you? Our ancestors viewed God as a terrifying, jealous and vindictive being. This is understandable because in their ignorance they attributed the passions of human beings to God.”

“This is not the God of Christians, who places love, charity, mercy and forgiveness in the ranks of the most important virtues. How can God lack the qualities that creatures are required to have? Is it not an incongruity to attribute both infinite love and infinite vengeance to God? You say that God’s justice is infinite, transcending humanity’s limited ability to understand, however justice does not exclude kindness.

Is it not unkind to subject people to horrible, everlasting punishment? How can God give an obligation to be just without the means to understand it? Sublime justice combined with kindness, makes the duration of atonement contingent on the efforts of the guilty person to improve. There is truth to the well-known verse, ‘To each, according to his or her deeds.’” Saint Augustine

“Combat and eradicate, by every means in your power, the notion of eternal punishment. It is blasphemy against God’s justice and goodness. Additionally, it is the main source of skepticism, materialism and indifference that has pervaded the masses from the time their intelligence began to develop.”

Once a mind has received enlightenment, no matter how minor that enlightenment may be, the appalling injustice of such an idea becomes immediately obvious. Reason rejects it, but unfortunately and mistakenly it also includes in this rejection God to whom they attribute the creation of punishment. This explains the countless worries and problems that appear among you, and for which we provide a remedy. The task that we are pointing out to you will be all the easier because the supporters of this belief avoid backing it with a positive opinion. Neither the Ecumenical Councils nor the Fathers of the Church have definitively answered these serious issues. While Christ, according to the Evangelists and the literal interpretation of his words, threatens the guilty with eternal fire, there is absolutely nothing in his words indicating that they are condemned to remain in that fire for eternity.”

“Poor stray sheep! Behold, the Good Shepherd coming to you, who, instead of driving you away from his presence for eternity, seeks you to lead you back to the flock! Prodigal children! Abandon your voluntary exile and return to the Father’s home! Your Father, with arms wide open to receive you, is ready to celebrate your return home!” Lamennais

“Wars of words! Wars of words! Have you not shed enough blood over words? Should we rekindle the fires that burnt so many at the stakes? Human beings dispute ‘eternal punishments’ and ‘everlasting damnation,’ but do you not realize that what you call eternity, in past eras was not defined in the same manner as it is understood today?

Let theologians consult their sources, and like the rest of you, they will see that in Hebrew texts what Greek, Latin and modern linguists have translated as endless and unpardonable suffering do not have the same meaning. Eternity of anguish corresponds to the eternity of evil. Yes, as long as inequity continues to exist among human beings suffering will continue to exist. It is in this relative context that you should interpret the sacred texts.

An eternity of sorrow, therefore, is not absolute it is relative. When human beings repent and don the robe of innocence, on that day, there will be no more weeping or gnashing of teeth. True, your human reasoning is narrow, but it still is a gift from God. In this context, no one can understand an eternity of sorrow to mean anything else. Eternity of sorrow! How could that be? If we accept the idea of an eternity of penance, then we must also accept an eternity of wickedness. However, only God is eternal and could not have created eternal iniquity without renouncing one of the most magnificent attributes of Divinity, which is God’s sovereign power. A being that creates an element that can destroy its own work is not supremely powerful. Humanity! Humanity! Stop digging to the ends of the Earth in search of punishment and sorrow! Weep, but hope; atone, but take comfort in the thought of a loving God who is absolutely powerful and essentially just.” Plato

“Gravitating towards Divine union is the goal of humanity. Three things are necessary to reach this goal: knowledge, love and justice. Three things conflict with this goal: ignorance, hatred and injustice. You are untrue to these fundamental principles when you compromise the idea of God by exaggerating God’s severity, thereby suggesting that the human being, God’s creation, has more clemency, compassion, love and true justice than you attribute to the Creator. You even destroy the very idea of hell and purgatory by making it as ridiculous and inadmissible, according to your beliefs, as is, by your hearts, the disgusting spectacles of the Middle Ages with its torturers, executioners and burnings at the stake. Do you hope to maintain it as an ideal model when you have eliminated the principle of blind retaliation forever from society’s legislation? Brothers and sisters in God and Jesus Christ, believe me, you must either resign to letting all your doctrines perish at your own hands or modify them. You must revitalize them by opening them to the compassionate action that the good spirits are now providing. The idea of hell full of glowing furnaces and boiling cauldrons might have been admissible during an iron century. In the nineteenth century, however, it is nothing more than empty images. They can scare young children, but these children are no longer frightened when they grow up. By persisting in upholding this terrifying illusion, you generate skepticism, which is the root of every sort of social disorder. I shudder at witnessing the foundations of social order shaken and crumbling into dust, due to the lack of an effective penal sanction. Let all who are driven by a vibrant and passionate faith, the advanced men and women of human enlightenment, join in their efforts to erase antiquated fables and resuscitate the idea of true penal sanctions, in harmony with the values, traditions and insights of your time.”

“Who, in fact, is the guilty? It is the one who, by the soul’s deviation from the right path, has veered from the true goal of creation, which consists of a harmonious worship of the beautiful and good, idealized by the human archetype, the Man-God, through Jesus Christ.”

“What is punishment? The natural consequence of that deviation; the amount of pain necessary to disgust the offender, and which caused his departure from what is right by experiencing the suffering caused by that deviation. Punishment is the stimulus that drives the soul through its affliction to turn towards itself, and to return to the right path. The sole purpose of atonement is rehabilitation and emancipation, and to assume that it lasts forever would be to deny the reason for existing.”

“Honestly, stop trying to establish a parallel of duration between good, the essence of the Creator, and malevolence, the essence of the creature. This establishes a groundless standard of retribution. On the contrary, confirm the gradual decrease of imperfections and atonements through successive lives, and you will reach divine union by reconciling reason with compassion.” Paul, the Apostle

People are inspired to do good and avoid vices if they feel that this course of action will be a rewarding one and keep them from being punished. However, if the threatened punishment appears under conditions that are contrary to reason, not only does it fail its goal but it also leads people to reject everything: both the form and the basis. When the notion of a future is introduced in a rational way, people do not reject it. Spiritism provides this reasonable explanation.

The principle of eternal punishment makes the Supreme Being a merciless and cruel God. Is it rational to say that a ruler is very kind, compassionate and tolerant, and wants nothing but happiness for everyone when, this ruler is jealous, vindictive, relentlessly severe, and punishes three-quarters of the subjects with the most horrific torture for any offense or violation of the laws, even when the violations are the result of simple ignorance of the laws they violate? Is this not a blatant contradiction? Could God be less moral or virtuous than human beings? This doctrine has another contradiction. Since God knows all things, God must have known in creating a spirit that it would disobey Divine laws. Therefore, spirits must have been destined to eternal unhappiness and agony. Is this rational?

With the principle of relative punishment, on the contrary, everything is justified. When God created a given spirit, undoubtedly it was known that it would do wrong. However, it was in God’s design to provide the means for the spirit to become enlightened. The spirit must atone for its sins and make amends for its wrongdoings, so that it may be more firmly set in goodness. Therefore, the door to hope is never closed, and the moment when a spirit is delivered from suffering depends on the effort it channels into achieving this goal. This is something that all can understand and the most meticulous logic can accept. If the concept of future punishment were presented in this manner, there would be a far fewer skeptics.

We often use the word eternal figuratively to designate a long period with no fixed end even though we know that the end, of course, comes at some point in time. For instance, there are “the eternal snows” of mountain peaks and polar ice caps, although, we know that our planet will end one day, and the features of those regions may change due to the natural displacement of the Earth’s axis or by some natural disaster. In this specific case, eternal does not signify that which is infinitely everlasting. When we are sick or suffer from a long-term illness, we say that our suffering is eternal. Is it strange then, that for spirits who have suffered for years, centuries or millenniums to express themselves in the same manner? We must not forget that their inferiority prevents them from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and they consequently think that they are destined to suffer forever. This belief is a part of their atonement. We borrowed our belief in fire, burning ovens and torture from the pagan Tartarus. This belief has been completely abandoned by many of the most eminent theologians today. Only in certain schools are such fear-mongering allegories still presented as literal truths by some individuals who are more over-zealous than enlightened. This is all very wrong, because young imaginations, once past the terror, will most likely become skeptics. Currently, theology admits that the word fire is used figuratively in the Bible, and is to be understood as meaning moral fire (see no. 974). People, who have observed life and suffering beyond the grave, as communicating spirits explain it, understand how this suffering can be excruciating although it is not of a physical nature. As for the duration of this suffering, many theologians are starting to acknowledge the restriction indicated above, and think that the word eternal may refer to the principle of sorrow itself as the consequence of an absolute law, and not its application to each individual. The day religion accepts this interpretation and other concepts as products of enlightenment, the vast numbers of people who have been led astray will have their faith in God restored.”

Resurrection of the Body

1010. Does the resurrection of the body signify reincarnation, as now taught by spirits?
“How could it be anything else? This expression and many others only appear to be irrational when people take them literally, which leads to skepticism. When they are explained rationally, free thinkers accept them easily because they are used to refection. Free thinkers, perhaps even more so than others, thirst for a future. They want nothing more than to believe, but they cannot acknowledge what science disproves. The doctrine of multiple lives is consistent with God’s justice, and it alone explains what is otherwise inexplicable. How can you then doubt that its principle is found in all religions?”

1010a (1011). Does the Church actually teach reincarnation with the dogma of the resurrection of the body?
“This is obvious. This doctrine is the answer to many things that were once obscure. Soon, everyone will recognize that this doctrine is implied in every part of the sacred Scriptures. Spirits do not communicate with intentions to discredit religion as is sometimes claimed. On the contrary, they confirm and endorse it by providing irrefutable proofs. It is time to reject the use of figurative language. The spirits do not use allegory and every statement has a clear and precise meaning without any danger of misinterpretation. Consequently, there will soon be a greater number of individuals who are sincerely religious and true believers than today.” Saint Louis

Science has determined that resurrection, in the way it is commonly believed to occur, is impossible. If, upon breaking down, it could be shown that the fragments of the human body remain the same, even when scattered and reduced to powder, we might conceivably entertain the possibility that the essential elements can come together again, but this is not the case. The body is made of various elements, including oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon. They are dispersed and form new bodies, so that the same molecule of carbon, for example, can be used in the composition of thousands of different bodies (we are speaking only of human bodies, not animals). An individual’s body may have molecules that were once in the bodies of our prehistoric ancestors. The very same organic molecules that you have consumed from your food today may have come from the body of someone whom you have known, and so on.

Matter exists in a finite quantity. However, its transformations are unlimited in number. How is it possible that the countless bodies formed out of it are rebuilt with the same elements? Such a reconstruction is physically impossible. The resurrection of the body is possible, rationally, as a figure of speech or a symbol for reincarnation. If interpreted in this manner, it contradicts neither reason nor science. According to dogma, resurrection takes place at the end of time.

According to Spiritism, it takes place every day. The image of the Last Judgment hides a beautiful face under the veil of the allegory of an immutable truth. However, when we learn about its real significance the belief in resurrection, as the only judgment day, goes away. When we carefully study the Spiritist teachings regarding the destiny of souls and their fate after the various trials they must undergo, it is clear that, the assessment or judgment that condemns or absolves is not a fabrication, as skeptics suggest. We should note instead that today this is a natural and accepted consequence of reincarnation and the plurality of worlds, whereas according to the doctrine of the Last Judgment, the Earth is the only inhabited world.

Heaven, Hell and Purgatory

1012. Are there any specific places in the universe set apart for the joys and sorrows of spirits, according to their merit?
“We have already answered this question. The joys and sorrows of spirits are inherent to their degree of perfection. Each spirit finds the principle of its happiness or unhappiness in itself. As spirits are everywhere, there is no enclosed or confined place set apart for either one or the other. As for incarnated souls, they are more or less happy depending on how advanced their world is.”

a) Does this mean that heaven and hell, as people have imagined them, do not exist?
“They are only symbols. There are happy and unhappy spirits everywhere, but as we have also told you, spirits of the same order are together by sympathy. When they are perfect, they can meet wherever they like.”

A fixed place for rewards and punishments exists only in the imagination of human beings. It stems from a tendency to materialize and define things of which one cannot grasp the infinite essence.

1013. What should we understand as purgatory?
“It is a state of physical and moral suffering, marked by a period of atonement. It is usually upon the Earth that God affords you the opportunity to experience your purgatory and atone for your mistakes.”

Purgatory is a figure of speech that signifies the state of imperfection of spirits who need to atone for their faults until they attain happiness by achieving complete purification. It is not a specific place. Purification happens through several reincarnations. Consequently, purgatory consists of the trials of physical life.

1014. Why do spirits whose speech reveals them to be superior answer questions from serious individuals about hell and purgatory, according to common beliefs?
“They speak in a language that is understandable to the people who pose the questions understand. When these individuals are deeply immersed in preconceived ideas, the spirits avoid interfering with their convictions. If a spirit were to tell a Muslim, without the proper precautions, that Mohammed was not a true prophet, it would be poorly received.”

a) That is understandable for spirits who want to educate us. How is it that others, when questioned about their situation, reply that they are suffering the tortures of hell or purgatory?
“When they are inferior, and not completely dematerialized, they retain some of their earthly ideas, and describe their impressions using terms that are familiar to them. Their state allows them to obtain only a very flawed view of the future. This is why errant spirits, or those recently freed from their physical bodies, often speak in the same manner as they did during physical life. Hell means a life of extremely difficult trials, characterized by uncertainty with regards to improvement, while purgatory is a life of trials embarked upon with the certainty of a happier future. When you experience intense pain, do you not say that you are suffering as a cursed soul? The expression is only a figure of speech.”

1015. What should we understand as “a tormented spirit”?
“An errant and suffering spirit, uncertain of the future, and to whom you may provide assistance that it often requests by contacting you in its attempt to obtain relief.” (See no. 664)

1016. How should we understand the concept of heaven?
“Do you think that it is a place like the Elysium of Greek mythology, where all good spirits are crowded together haphazardly, with no other care than that of enjoying passive happiness for eternity? No, it is universal space. It is the planets, the stars and all the higher worlds where spirits enjoy all their faculties fully, without having to experience the ills or misfortunes of material life, or the suffering that is characteristic of inferiority.”

1017. Spirits have said that they inhabit the fourth and fifth heaven, and so on. What did they mean by this?
“You ask them which heaven they live in because you have the idea that there are different levels of heavens, like stories of a home, so they answer you according to your personal beliefs. For them, references to a fourth or fifth heaven mean different degrees of purification and happiness. The same applies when you ask a spirit whether it is in hell. If it is unhappy, it says yes because hell is synonymous with suffering. However, it knows perfectly well that it is not a furnace. A Pagan would have replied that it was in Tartarus.”

The same may be said of other similar expressions, such as “the city of flowers,” “the city of the elect,” “the first, second, or third sphere,” and so on, which are only allegories used by some spirits figuratively, whether out of ignorance about the nature of reality, or simply because they lack any knowledge of even the most elementary principles of science.

According to the restricted idea of specific locations for rewards and punishments, and the common belief that Earth was the center of the universe, that the sky formed a vault, and that there was a region of stars, people placed heaven up above and hell down below. This resulted in expressions such as to “ascend to heaven,” to be in “the highest heaven,” to be “cast down into hell,” and so on. Astronomy has mapped out Earth’s history and described its formation. Today science has demonstrated that the Earth is one of the smallest worlds in space and has no special significance, that space is infinite, and that there is neither up nor down in the universe. As a result, it has become necessary to stop placing heaven above the clouds and hell in the depths of the Earth. There was never a specific space assigned to purgatory. Spiritism provides the most rational, impressive and consoling explanation about all these three subjects to human beings. It shows us that heaven and hell exist in ourselves. In a similar vein, we find purgatory in the state of incarnation in our successive corporeal or physical lives.

1018. How should we interpret Christ’s words, “My kingdom is not of this world?”
“When he replied in such a manner, Christ was speaking figuratively. He meant to say that he only reigned over pure and unselfish hearts. He is wherever the love of goodness reigns, but those who are greedy for or attached to the things of this world are not with him.”

1019. Will goodness ever reign on Earth?
“Goodness will reign on Earth when among the spirits who come to live here the good outnumber the bad ones. They will usher in a reign of love and justice, which is the source of goodness and happiness. Through moral progress and adhering to God’s laws, humanity will attract good spirits to Earth and will keep the bad ones away. However, the latter will not definitively leave Earth until its people are completely free of pride and selfishness.”

“The transformation of humanity was predicted, and you are now approaching the time when it is destined to take place. Progress will happen when higher spirits incarnate and create a new generation on Earth. The wicked spirits who die each day and all who try to halt advancement are excluded and forced to incarnate somewhere other than Earth. They would be out of place among the honorable members of the human race, whose happiness is impaired by their presence. They will go to new, less advanced worlds, where they will carry out difficult missions. These missions will provide them with the means of advancing, while contributing to the advancement of their younger, less evolved brothers and sisters. In this exclusion, do you not see the true significance of the transcendent image of the Paradise lost? Do you not also see in the appearance of human beings on Earth under similar conditions and carrying the seeds of passions, as well as proof of their primitive inferiority within themselves, the real meaning of original sin? Considered from this perspective, original sin consists of the imperfection of human nature. Therefore, each member of the human race is only responsible for their own imperfection and wrongdoing, and not for that of their ancestors.”

“All of you, people of faith and goodwill must enthusiastically and courageously devote yourselves to the noble work of regeneration. You will in turn reap a hundredfold for every seed you sow. Woe to those who close their eyes against the light, because they will sentence themselves to centuries of darkness and sorrow! Woe to those who focus their happiness on the things of this world, because they will suffer hardships that far exceeds their present joys! And above all, woe to the selfish, because they will find no one to help them bear the burden of their misery.” Saint Louis

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