THE SPIRITIST REVIEW - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1858

Allan Kardec

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Acknowledgement of the Existence and Manifestation of the Spirits


Just as the initial manifestations made numerous followers, they also found significant disbelief from aggressive critics and, many times, even people interested in their discredit. Today the facts have spoken so astonishingly that it is now inevitable to acknowledge the evidence. If, however, there is still systematic, incredulous disbelief, we can assure them that in a few years the same thing that happended to all discoveres will happen to the spirits manifestations, namely that good judgment should have made them less skeptical to all things related to progress.

Among those who did not want to investigate these strange phenomena any further we can already see many agreeing that our century is so rooted in extraordinary things and that nature has so many unknown reserves that it would be more than levity to deny things that we cannot understand. Those give proof of wisdom.

Here is an authority against which we could not raise any suspicion of accepting a mystification: it is one of the main ecclesiastic’s journals of Rome, the Civiltà Cattolica. We reprint below an article published by this journal last March, where one can see that it would be difficult to demonstrate the existence and manifestation of spirits by more trustworthy arguments. It is true that we diverge with respect to the nature of the spirits as the article only recognizes the manifestation of the bad ones, whereas we admit those of good and evil.

This is a point that we shall analyze later with all the necessary developments. The acknowledgement of the spiritist manifestations by such a respectable and grave authority is of capital importance. What remains, therefore, is the need for assessment. This is what we will do in the next issue. Reproducing the article “L’Universe” which is preceded by the following judicious reflections:

“With the publication of an article, in Ferrara, about the practice of animal magnetism, we referred our readers to the shrewd publications available in the Civiltà Cattolica, in Rome, about the modern necromancy, keeping us from providing broader explanations. We give today the last of these articles that contains, in a few pages, the conclusions of the Roman Review. Besides the interest, naturally associated to the subject, and the trust inspired by a piece of work found in the Civiltà, the special opportunity of the subject, at this point in time, spares us from calling the attention to an issue which many people, in theory, as well as in practice, have treated so lightheartedly, despite the vulgar rule of prudence which recommends that those facts be examined with more circumspection the more extraordinary they are.”

Here is the article:

“From all issued theories to naturally explain the multiple phenomena known as American Spiritualism, none reaches the objective and, even less, explains the reason of all those phenomena. If one or another of these hypotheses is enough to explain some, many will remain inexplicable. The deception, the lie, the excess, the hallucinations must, no doubt, have a great participation in those referred facts; but, given the discount, there is still such a quantity of events that in order to negate their reality it would be necessary to negate faith to the authority of the senses and to the human testimony.”

“Among these facts a certain number can be explained by the mechanical theory or mechanic- physiologic; one part remains, however – and much more considerable – which could never be explained by those theories. To this order of facts one associates all those in which, they say, the resulting effect evidently surpasses the intensity of the generating force, which should produce them. These are:

  1. The movements, the violent displacements of heavy and well balanced loads, to the simple pressure or superimposition of hands;

  2. The effects and displacements produced without any contact, consequently without any mediated or immediate mechanical impulse;

  3. Other manifesting intelligent effects, whose intelligence and will are distinct from the experimenters and from those who produce them.”

“In order to make sense of these three orders of multiple facts, we still have the theory of magnetism. But, however extensive the concessions we are prepared to make, and even blindfolded admitting all free hypotheses on which they are based; all errors and absurdities which they contain, as well as the miraculous faculties attributed by them to the human will, to the nervous fluid or any other magnetic agents, this theory will never, with the support of its principles, explain how can a table, magnetized by a medium, manifest by its own movements intelligence and willpower, which are distinct from the medium and, sometimes, contrary and superior to the medium’s intelligence and will.”

“How can one determine the reason for the occurrence of those phenomena? We want also to look for some unknown occult causes; to some still unknown forces of nature; to the new explanations of certain faculties, to certain laws, up until now, maintained in a state of inertia, latent in the heart of Creation. This would be equivalent to openly confess our ignorance and increase the number of mysteries that the poor human spirit cannot decipher today or ever. By the way, we do not hesitate to confess our ignorance regarding many of those phenomena whose nature is so obscure that the most appropriate attitude, as it seems to us, is not to try to explain them. As compensation, there are others that we do not find so difficult to uncover the explanations, as we can find them in natural causes. Why then would we resort to causes belonging to the supernatural order? We would be, perhaps, deviated by the objections counter offered by the skeptical and by those who, negating this supernatural order, tell us that it is impossible to define the limits of the natural order so as to indicate with precision where one ends and where the other begins.”

“The answer to such an objection seems easy to us: admitting that one cannot precisely determine the dividing point of these two opposing orders, the natural and the supernatural, it does not follow that one cannot define, with certainty, if a given effect belongs to this or to that other.

Who can distinguish in the rainbow the exact point where one color ends and the other starts? Who can precisely determine the exact moment when the day ends and the night begins? Nevertheless, nobody is naive enough not to know if the color of a given region of the rainbow is yellow or red, or if at a given time it is day or night. Who does not perceive that in order to know the nature of a fact, by no means it is necessary to determine the delimiting regions of the category to which it belongs, and that it is enough to certify that the effect has the peculiar characters of that category?”

“Let us apply such a simple observation to the following assertion: we cannot say where the limits of the natural forces are; nonetheless, given a fact, many times we can, pending on its characters, tell with certainty that it belongs to a supernatural class. And in order not to run away from our problem, among the phenomena of the talking tables there exist those that, in our opinion, most evidently manifest these characters; such are those in which the agent who move the table acts as a free and intelligent cause, at the same time showing its own will and intelligence, that is superior or contrary to the intelligence and will of the mediums, experimenters, of the assistants; in one word, distinct from those, whatever the means of indicating those distinctions. In such cases, however, we are forced to recognize that the agent is a spirit and it is not a human spirit; and thus it is outside of the causes that we typically call natural, those that we say go beyond men’s forces.”

“These are precisely the phenomena that, as said before, resisted to any theory based on purely natural principles, while in our theory the explanation is easier and clearer, as everyone knows that the power of the spirit over matter goes much beyond men’s forces and that there aren’t marvelous effects, among those cited by modern necromancy, which cannot be attributed to its action.”
“We know very well that some readers, on noticing that we brought the spirits to the explanation, will smile with disbelief? Not to mention those that, as good materialists, do not believe in the existence of the spirits and consider fake all that is not tangible matter, as well as those who admitting the spirits deny any influence or intervention with respect to our world.”

“There are, these days, many creatures who, conceding to the spirits what no catholic could refuse, that is the existence and the ability to interfere with the facts of human life, in an occult or patent way, ordinary or extraordinary, they seem, in practice, to negate their faith, on considering as shameful, as excess of credulity, as superstitions of old women, the recognition of such actions of spirits, in certain special cases, being satisfied by not denying them, in thesis.”

“In actual fact, one century ago, the simplicity of the middle ages was object of mockery when witches and evil spirits were observed all over the place, and it was such the upheaval around the subject that it is not surprising that so many weak minds, wishing to show otherwise, have since then a sort of disgust and shame for believing in the spirits’ intervention. However, this excess of incredulity is not less astonishing than the contrary attitude of other times; and if the excess of credulity drags people towards vain superstitions, on another hand the refusal to admit anything directly leads to the impiety of naturalism. The man of wisdom, the prudent Christian must thus avoid both extremes, steadily staying on the median, since that is where virtue and truth reside. Now, regarding the talking tables, where would a prudent faith incline us to?”

“The first and wisest rule from those imposed by such prudence tells us that, in order to explain the phenomena which show a character of extraordinary nature, we should not resort to supernatural causes, unless those of natural order are not sufficient to explain them. On the other hand, and as a consequence, there is the obligation of admitting the former when the latter are not sufficient. This is exactly our case. With effect, among the phenomena we discuss, there are some for which no theory, no purely natural cause would be sufficient to fully explain them. Thus, it is not only prudent but necessary to look for the explanation in the supernatural order or, put differently, attribute them to pure spirits, considering that outside and above nature there is no other possible cause.”

“Here is a second rule, an infallible criterion to tell, regarding a given fact, if it belongs to the natural or supernatural order: this is to examine well its characters and, according to them, determine its causes. Well, the most marvelous facts of such nature, which nothing else can explain, offer characters that not only demonstrate a free and intelligent cause but also show a will and intelligence that can be nothing but human. In this case, such a cause cannot be anything else other than a pure spirit.”

Therefore we can arrive to the same conclusion via an indirect and negative path, by exclusion, and another direct and positive, based on the very nature of the facts. That is, among the phenomena of modern necromancy there is at least one category of facts that, without any doubt, are produced by the spirits. We are led to that conclusion by such a simple and natural reasoning that, on accepting it, away from the fear of giving in to an imprudent credulity, we would judge, on the contrary, refusing to admit it, to be giving proofs of an unjustifiable incoherence and weakness. There are no missing arguments to confirm our statement; what is missing, however, is space and time to develop them. What we have said so far is enough and can be summarized in the following four propositions:
  1. Among the discussed phenomena, letting aside those that can be reasonably explained by hallucinations, exaggerations and imposture, there are others, in large number, impossible to shed any doubt about their existence, without violating the laws of healthy criticism.

  2. All natural theories discussed and exposed above are insufficient to satisfactorily explain all these phenomena. If they explain some, leave the largest number – and those are the most difficult ones - absolutely unexplained and inexplicable.

  3. Implying the action of an intelligent cause, the phenomena of this last order can only be explained by the intervention of the spirits, whatever the character of these spirits may be, a subject to be handled below.

  4. All these facts can be divided in four categories: several must be rejected for being false or fraudulent. As to the others, the easier and simpler to understand, such as the turning tables, on certain occasions these admit a purely natural explanation, for example, such as in the mechanical impulse. A third class form those phenomena of more extraordinary and mysterious appearance whose nature is doubtful since they seem to go beyond natural forces, although do not present characters which evidently require supernatural causes to explain. Finally, we group in the fourth category the facts that evidently offer those characters, which must be attributed to pure spirits.”

    “But how are these spirits? Good or evil? Angels or demons? The answer to this question cannot offer doubts, although insufficiently considered, the nature of the spirits, on the one side, and the character of their manifestations, on the other. This is what remains to be shown.”

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