THE SPIRITIST REVIEW - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1858

Allan Kardec

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Spiritism among the Druids


Under the title “Le vieux neuf” Mr. Edouard Fournier published in the Le Siècle, a series of articles ten years ago, as much outstanding as interesting, from the erudition point of view, with respect to history. When commenting all modern inventions and discoveries the author proves that if this century has the merit of application and development, it does not have – at least in its majority – that one of precedence. Over the time that Mr. Fournier wrote this magnificent series, there was no understanding of spirits, not noticing that the events that take place today are a mere repetition of what was equally or better known by our ancestors. This is unfortunate, as his profound investigations would have allowed him to expose the old mystic just as he has exposed the ancient industry. We wish one day his extensive research may be directed to that spiritual side as well.

As for us, the personal observations do not leave any doubt relative to the ancient times and to the universality of the Doctrine taught by the spirits. The coincidence between what they tell us today and the beliefs of the remotest eras is a very important fact. We shall note, however, that if we find traces of the Spiritist Doctrine everywhere, we don’t see it completed anywhere else. It seems that the task of coordinating these sparse fragments among all peoples has been reserved for our times, so that we can arrive at the unity of principles, through a more thorough, and above all, more general set of manifestations which, as it seems, give reason to the author mentioned in the preceding article, about the psychological period in which humanity gradually enters.

Ignorance and prejudice have disfigured this doctrine almost everywhere as these fundamental principles blend with the superstitious practices of all times, exploited with the objective of subduing reason. Nevertheless, under this stack of absurdities the most sublime ideas have germinated like precious seeds hidden under the burning bushes, waiting for the vivifying sunlight to develop. Our generation, more universally informed, brushes aside the burning bushes. Such a cleansing, however, cannot be accomplished without transition. Let us then allow the necessary time for the good seeds to develop and the weeds to be eliminated.

The Druidic Doctrine offers a curious example of what we have just said. This doctrine, which we only know the exterior practices, rises to the most sublime truths on certain aspects. But these truths were only known to the initiated ones: frightened by the human sacrifices, the public harvested the sacred agarics of the oat with a sanctified respect and only saw the phantasmagoria. We will be able to assess it by the following text, extracted from a document as much precious as unknown, which sheds a completely new light onto the truthful theology of our ancestors.

We offer a Celtic text to the reflection of our readers, published not long ago, whose appearance has caused certain commotion in the educated world. It is impossible to be certain about its authorship as well as to which century it belongs. It is, however, incontestable that it belongs to the tradition of the Bardic Welsh and that its origin is sufficient to award it the highest value.

It is known, indeed, that Wales was, and still is in our days, the most faithful asylum to the Gallic nationality which has suffered, among us, profound modifications. It has been just touched by the weak and short roman domination; preserved from the barbaric invasions by the strength of its inhabitants and by the natural difficulties of its territory; submitted later to the Normand Dynasty which felt impelled to allow it a certain level of independence, retaining the name Wales as an always distinctive mark connecting it to ancient times.

The Welsh (Cymraeg or Gymraeg) language, once spoken all over the northern part of the Gaul, has never ceased to be used as many customs are equally still Gallic.

From all foreign influences, Christianism was the only one completely successful. But that was not achieved without difficulties, relatively to the supremacy of the Roman Church whose reform in the XVI century did not do more than determining its fall, articulated long before in those regions full of an indefectible independence.

One can even say that on converting to Christianism the Druids were not extinct in the Gaul, as they were in our Brittany and in other regions of Gallic blood. They had, as an immediate consequence, a very solidly constituted society, mainly dedicated, apparently, to the cult of national poetry but which, under the poetic blanket, preserved a notable fidelity to the intellectual heritage of the old Gaul: the Bardic society of Wales, after been kept as a secret society during the whole Middle Ages, by oral transmission of its literary monuments and doctrine, similarly to what the Druids used to do, then decided around the XVI and XVII centuries to confide the most essential parts of their inheritance to the writings.

It is from that collection, whose authenticity is attested by an uninterrupted chain of traditions, that the text we mentioned proceeds and its value, given those circumstances and as mentioned before, does not depend on the hand which had the merit of writing it, neither on the period when the writing was given a definite format. It is the spirit of the medieval Bards that transpire from it, Bards who were in turn the last disciples of a wise and religious corporation which, under the name of Druids, dominated the Gaul during the first period of its history; more or less like the Latin clergy did during the Middle Ages.

Even if we were removed from all clues regarding the origin of the analyzed text, we would surely be on the right path, given its agreement with the Greek and Latin authors who left us their teachings about the Druids’ religious doctrine. That agreement is reached out of indubitable points of solidarity as they are supported by the reasoning extracted from the very substance of those texts. Thus the demonstrated solidarity regarding the fundamental articles – the only ones we heard about from our ancestors – naturally extends to the secondary developments. Indeed, these developments, imbued with the same spirit, necessarily derive from the same source; they are part of the whole and cannot be explained by anything else but that way. At the same time that they refer to the primitive archives of the Druidic religion, by such a logic deduction, it is impossible to assign any other starting point to them. This is because, other than the Druidic influence, the region from where they originate has not suffered any other influence but the Christian that was totally strange to those doctrines.

The themes developed in the triads are so strange to Christianism that the rare Christian influences found here and there in the body of the text, at first sight, already distinguish them from the primitive structure. That influence, naively originated from the conscience of the Bardic Christians, could hardly interleave with the interstices of the Druidic tradition, if one can say so, incapable of blending with all that. Thus, the analysis of the text is as simple as rigorous, hence it can be simplified by leaving aside everything that contains the seal of Christianism and, once filtered, by considering as of Druidic origin all the rest, visibly characterized by a religion which is different from that of the Gospel or from the Catholic Councils.
Thus, in order to mention only what is essential, let us begin by the well-known principle that the dogma of charity to God and man is so peculiar to Christianism as the migration of the souls is to Druidism; a certain number of triads in which a spirit of love breathes, immediately revealing as indicators of a comparatively modern character, never known to the primitive Gaul, whereas the other triads, animated by a completely different breath, reveal even more markedly the distinguished character of the antiquity. Finally, one does not need to observe much to understand that the form of the teachings contained in the triads is of Druidic origin. It is a well-known fact that the Druids had a particular preference for the number three and used it in their lessons. This is additionally demonstrated through the Gallic monuments that contain the number three.

Diogenes Laertius has preserved one of those triads which succinctly summarize the duties of man to the Divinity, to their neighbors and to himself. “Honor the superior beings, do not commit injustice and do cultivate ones virile virtue.” The bard’s literature propagated aphorisms of the same kind, relatively to all fields of human knowledge: Science, History, Moral, Law, Poetry. One cannot find a more interesting or adequate work to inspire great thoughts than that of the text published below, according to the French version by Mr. Adolphe Pictet.

From that series of triads the first eleven ones are dedicated to the exposition of the characteristic attributes of the Divinity. It is this segment that had the greatest Christian influence, as it was easy to predict. If one cannot deny that the Druidism incorporated the principle of God’s unity, they had also conceived, in a confusing way, perhaps due to their disposition for the number three, something like the Divine Trinity. It is, nevertheless, incontestable that what complements such a high theological conception – that is, a distinction of the persons and particularly the third one – became completely strange to this old religion. All that contributes to prove that its former adepts were much more concerned with the establishment of man’s freedom than with charity. It was precisely a consequence of this false starting point that made it perish. It seems also reasonable to associate the whole prologue to a more or less determined Christian influence, particularly from the fifth triad.

Following the general principles, relatively to the nature of God, the text continues to expose the constitution of the Universe. The body of this constitution is authoritatively formulated in three triads which, showing the particular beings in an order absolutely different from that of God, complete the idea that has to be made of a unique and immutable Being. Under more explicit formulas, the triads just reproduce what was already known, by the witnesses of the ancient times, about the circulation of the souls, alternatively passing from life to death and from death to life. We can consider them like in a famous Farsalia verse, in which the poet exclaims, upon addressing the priests of Gaul, that if what they teach is certain, then death is nothing more than the median of a long life: “Longae vitae mors media est.”

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