THE SPIRITIST REVIEW - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1858

Allan Kardec

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Introduction

The speed of propagation of the strange spiritist manifestations, all over the world, is a demonstration of the interest they attract. Starting as a simple object of curiosity they soon drew the attention of serious investigators who, since the beginning, perceived the inevitable influence they would have on the moral condition of society. The new ideas which stem from them become more popular daily and nothing can stop their progress as everybody, or almost everybody can reach out for these phenomena, and no human power will impede their manifestation. If muffled in one point, they appear in one hundred others. Those, therefore, who would find any given inconvenient in such manifestations, would be embarrassed to suffer their consequences by the force of the facts, as the same happens to new technologies which may hurt particular interests in the beginning but gets naturally accommodated with time.

What was not said and perpetrated against magnetism! However, every blow against it, every weapon which hurt it, including ridicule, collided with reality and only served to give magnetism more evidence. Magnetism is a natural force and facing natural forces man is like a pygmy, like these little dogs barking against everything that scares them away.

What happens to somnambulism also happens to the spiritist manifestations: if they do not take place in daylight and publicly, nobody will preclude them from happening in the intimacy, as each family may find a medium in the household, from the children to the elderly, as they can also find a somnambulist. Thus, what if the first to be found is a medium and a somnambulist? Who can preclude that? There is no doubt that the skeptics did not think about it. We insist that when a force is part of Nature, it can only be temporarily stopped but never eliminated! Its course, however, may be only deviated. Well, the force revealed in the phenomena of manifestations, whatever its cause may be, is part of Nature, and, like magnetism and its accompanying electric force, will also not be destroyed. It is therefore necessary that those manifestations be observed and studied in all their phases in order to realize their governing laws. If it is an error and an illusion, time will tell; if it is the truth, like compressed steam, will expand the more it is compressed. Is it a surprising fact that, in the Americas, only in the USA, there are seventeen journals dedicated to the subject, not counting a large number of non-periodical publications whereas in France, the European country where the ideas mostly found support, do not have one?1 It would be unnecessary to dispute the utility of a special organization to make the public aware of this new science and prevent it against the excesses of credulity, as well as skepticism. This is the blank which we propose to fill out with the publication of this Review, aiming at providing a communication media to those interested in these questions and to connect, through a common bond, those who understand the Spiritist Doctrine, from its true moral point of view: practice of good and evangelical charity towards everyone.
If it were only a simple collection of data the task would be easy. These multiply everywhere with such a speed that it would yield endless subject matter but the facts, on their own, would become tedious by repetition and specially by similarity. What is necessary to the thoughtful person is something that resonates to their intelligence. It was only a few years ago that the first phenomena manifested themselves and already we are far away from the “turning and speaking” tables which represented their infancy. Today it is a Science which uncovers a whole world and exposes the eternal truths that were already sensed within our own spirit. It is a sublime doctrine that shows the path of duty to mankind and uncovers the widest field never presented to the observation of the philosopher. Had we stayed inside the narrow limits of an anecdotal Review our work would be incomplete and sterile, as the interest would have soon passed.

It is possible that the denomination of Science which we gave to Spiritism will be contested. That Science would not have, without a doubt and in any case, the characteristics of an exact Science and it is precisely in this aspect that those who intend to judge and experiment are in error, as if they were dealing with a chemical analysis or a mathematical problem; The fact that it is a philosophical Science is already enough. Every Science must be based on facts but those, by themselves, do not constitute the Science which is born from the coordination and logic inference of the facts: it is the set of laws which govern those facts. Has Spiritism arrived at the state of Science? If that means a completed Science, no doubt it is premature to positively answer that question but the observations are already in large numbers today to allow, at least, the deduction of the general principles and where the Science begins.

The thoughtful examination of the facts and its resulting consequences is, thus, a complement, without which our publication would be of mediocre use and only offer a secondary interest to the thoughtful person and those who want to understand what they see. Nevertheless, as our aim is to get to the truth, we will welcome all observations directed to us and, as much as allowed by the acquired knowledge, we will try to resolve the doubts and clarify the still obscure points. Our Review will thus be a tribune where the discussion will never distance itself from the standards of the strictest conveniences. In one word, we will discuss but will not dispute. Language inconveniences have never being good arguments to the eyes of wise people: it is the weapon of those who do not have something better to offer and which turn against those who use it.

Although the phenomena with which we occupy ourselves have been more recently produced in a broader way, everything demonstrates that they have been occurring since the remotest ages. Natural phenomena do not follow the same path as the inventions which follow the progress of the human spirit, while those are in the order of all things, their cause is as old as the world and their effects must have been produced at all times. Therefore, what we witness today is not a modern discovery. It is the awakening of the ancient times; ancient times cleared from the mystic enclosure that generated superstition; ancient times enlightened by civilization and progress in the field of positive things.

The capital consequence arising from these phenomena is the communication that men can establish with the beings of the incorporeal world and, within certain limits, the knowledge which can be acquired regarding their future state. The communication with the invisible world is a fact, unequivocally found in the biblical books. The Bible, however, on one hand, is not sufficiently authoritative to some skeptics; on another hand, to the believers, these are supernatural facts, given by a special favor of Divinity. Had we not found those manifestations in a thousand of other diverse sources, they would not then represent a proof of generality to everyone. The existence of the spirits and their intervention in the corporeal world is attested and demonstrated, not as an exceptional fact but as a general principle, in St Augustine, St Jerome, St Chrysostome, St Gregory of Nazianzus, and in many other Fathers of the Church. That belief forms, moreover, the basis of all religious systems. The wisest philosophers of the ancient times admitted them: Plato, Zoroaster, Confucius, Apuleius, Pythagoras, Apollonius of Tyana, and many others. We find them in the mysteries and oracles, among Greeks, Egyptians, Hindus, Chaldeans, Romans, Persians, and the Chinese. We see them surviving all vicissitudes of the peoples, to all persecutions, challenging all physical and moral revolutions of humanity.

We find them later among the soothsayers and witches of the Middle Ages; in the Willis and Valquirias of the Scandinavians, the Elves of the Teutonic, the Leschios and Domeschnios Doughi of the Slavs, the Ourisks and Brownies of the Scottish, the Poulpicans and Tersarpoulicts of the Bretons, the Cemis of the Caribbean; in one word: the whole phalanx of nymphs, good and evil geniuses, gnomes, fairies and elves with which all nations have filled the space.

We find the practice of evocation in the peoples of Siberia, Kamchatka, Iceland, among the native Indians of North America and aborigines of Mexico and Peru, Polynesia and even among the primitive savages of New Holland.2

The ignorance of a common principle, more or less modified, cannot be due to some absurdities which surrounded or enclosed that belief during various times and places. In truth, a doctrine does not turn universal, survive thousands of generations, implant from one corner of the planet to the next, among widely diverse peoples, from all degrees of the social scale, if it is not based on something positive. What should that be? This is what the recent manifestations show us. Searching for the possible relationships between those manifestations and all those beliefs is to search for the truth.

The history of the Spiritist Doctrine is, somehow, the history of the human spirit. We will have to study it from all angles, providing an inexhaustible source of observations, as much instructive as interesting, about facts that are generally not well known. This will give us the opportunity to explain a number of popular legends and beliefs, which have their part of truth, allegory and superstition.

Concerning the current manifestations, we will report all pertinent phenomena that we witness or those that come to our knowledge, whenever we recognize they deserve the attention of our readers. We will do the same in response to the spontaneous effects, sometimes produced among people ignorant of the spiritist practices from those who may reveal an occult power or the independence of the soul, such are the visions, apparitions, clairvoyance, premonition, intimate warnings, secret voices, etc.

To the reported facts we shall add the explanations, as highlighted from the set of principles. With that respect we shall reinforce the fact that these principles are derived from the teachings of the spirits, always making abstraction of our own ideas. They do not come, therefore, from a personal theory but from what was communicated to us and of which we are simple interpreters.
Large space will also be reserved to the written or oral communications of the spirits, as long as they have a useful purpose, as with the evocations of past or current personalities, well known or unknown, without neglecting the intimate evocations which, many times, are not as instructive. In a word: we will encompass all phases of the material and intelligent manifestations of the incorporeal world. The Spiritist Doctrine finally offers us the possible and rational solution to a number of moral and anthropological phenomena that we witness daily, whose explanation we would uselessly search for in all other known doctrines. In that category we place, for example, the simultaneity of thoughts, the anomaly of certain characters, sympathies and antipathies, the intuitive knowledge, the aptitudes, the tendencies, the destinies which look like hallmarks of fatality and, in a broader picture, the distinctive character of the peoples, their progress or their degeneration, etc.

To the citation of the facts we will add the research on the possible causes which could have produced them. From the appreciation of the actions, useful teachings will naturally sprout regarding the line of conduct mostly in agreement with sound moral. In their instructions the superior spirits always have the objective of awakening in men the love for the good, for the practice of the evangelical precepts; hence they shall guide our thoughts that will preside over the writings of this collection.

Thus, the scope of our work comprehends everything related to the knowledge of the metaphysical side of man. We will study them in their present as well as future states, considering that studying the nature of the spirit is to study man, as man will one day participate of the world of the spirits. That is the reason why we will add to the main title the subtitle “journal of psychological studies”, allowing for the understanding of its comprehensive scope.

NOTE: Despite the abundance of our personal observations and the sources from where we collect the facts, we do not underestimate our difficulties for the task or our insufficiency. In order to supplement them we count on the benevolent support of all of those interested in such problems. We shall thus be thankful for the communications transmitted to us about the several subjects of our studies. With that respect we draw attention to the following ten points about which documents can be provided:

    • 1) Material or intelligent manifestations obtained in meetings where the person was present;
  • 2) Facts about lucid somnambulism or ecstasies;
  • 3) Facts of clairvoyance, predictions, premonitions;
  • 4) Facts relatively to the occult power attributed, with or without reason, to certain persons;
  • 5) Legend and popular beliefs;
  • 6) Facts of visions and apparitions;
  • 7) Particular psychological phenomena that sometimes occur at the moment of death;
  • 8) Moral and psychological problems to be solved;
  • 9) Moral facts, notable acts of devotion and abnegation whose propagation may serve as useful example;
  • 10) Indications of past or modern publications, French or foreign, in which one can find facts relative to the manifestations of occult intelligences, with the designation and, if possible, citation of texts. The same regarding the issued opinions about the existence of the spirits and their relationships with men, from former or contemporary authors, whose names and wisdom give them authority.

1 Up until now there is only one journal in Europe dedicated to the Spiritist Doctrine – the Journal de l’âme – published in Geneve by Dr. Boessinger. In the USA the only journal in French is the Spiritualiste de la Nouvelle Orléans, published by Mr. Barthès.

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