THE SPIRITIST REVIEW - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1858

Allan Kardec

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Theory of the physical manifestations- first article


It is easy to conceive the moral influence of the spirits and the relationship they may have with our soul or with the incarnate spirit. It is understandable that two beings of the same nature may communicate with each other through thought which is one of their attributes, without the support of the organs responsible for the oral communication. It is, however, more difficult to figure out the material effect that they produce, such as the raps, the motion of the solid bodies, the apparitions and, above all, the tangible apparitions.

Let us try to provide the explanation, according to the spirits themselves and according to the observation of the facts.

The idea that we have about the very nature of the spirits makes these phenomena, at first sight, incomprehensible. It is believed that the spirit is the complete absence of matter and as such it cannot act materially. This is, however, wrong.

When questioned about the fact of being immaterial, here is how the spirits responded: “Immaterial is not exactly the term as the spirit is something; otherwise it would be nothing. It is material, if you like, but of such an ethereal matter that it is as if it did not exist to you.” Thus, the spirit is not an abstraction as thought by some; it is a being whose intimate nature escapes our gross senses.

The spirit constitutes the soul that is incarnated in the body. When it leaves the body, with death, it is not deprived from the whole covering. They all tell us that they preserve the shape they used to have when alive; in fact, when they show up to us it is in the form we knew them.

Let us closely observe them at the very moment they depart from life: they are in a state of perturbation, everything is confusing around them; they see their own body, whole or mutilated, depending on the type of death. On another hand, they see themselves and feel alive; something tells them that what they see is their body but they cannot understand how come they are now separated. Thus, the tie that connected them is not completely broken.

Once this first moment of perturbation dissipates, the body becomes an old shell to them from which they were stripped without notice, but are still capable of seeing themselves in their primitive form. Well, this is not a system: it is the result of observations carried out with several mediums.

We can now report what we were told about certain manifestations produced by Mr. Home and by other mediums of the same kind: apparitions of hands, which have all properties of live hands, that we touch, grab and that suddenly disappears.

What can we conclude about this? That the soul does not leave everything in the coffin: it takes something. Therefore, there should be two types of matter in us: a dense matter which forms the external covering and another faint and indestructible matter. Death is the destruction, or even better, the dissolution of the first one, which is left by the soul; the other one detaches and follows the soul, which then always continues to have an covering. That covering is what we call “perispirit”. This subtle matter, so to speak, which was connected to all parts of the body during life, preserves its shape and form. That is how all spirits are seen and why they appear to us, bearing the same appearance as they were in life.
But such a faint matter does not have the tenacity neither the rigidity of the compact matter of the body: it is, if we can say so, flexible and expansive. This is why the assumed shape is not absolute, although based on the appearance of the body: it shapes up according to the spirit’s will who gives it, as he wishes, this or that appearance, whereas the solid covering offers an impenetrable resistance. Disengaging from these compressing obstacles, the perispirit extends or contracts; it transforms and, in one word, allows all changes to take place, in accordance with the will of the spirit who acts upon it.

Observation proves – and we insist about the word observation, as our whole theory is a consequence of the studied facts – that subtle matter, which constitutes the second body of the spirit, only step by step disconnects from the body, rather than instantly. Thus, the ties which connect the soul to the body do not suddenly break with death. Well, the state of perturbation that we observe lasts the whole time in which the rupture of the ties takes place. It is only when that rupture is complete that the spirit recovers the entire freedom of his faculties and the clear consciousness of himself.

Experience still proves that the duration of that detachment varies according to the individuals. With some it takes three or four days, whereas with others it does not complete in less than several months. Therefore, the destruction of the body, and its putrid decomposition, is not sufficient to produce the separation. That is the reason why some spirits tell us: I feel the worms corroding me.

With some people the separation starts before death: these are the ones who in life elevated themselves by their thoughts and purity of feelings, above the material things. In those, death only finds weak links between the body and the soul that break almost instantly. The more materialized a man’s life has been and the more absorbed in the pleasures and concerns of personality, the stronger those links. It seems that the faint matter identifies itself with the dense matter and that a molecular cohesion is established between them. That is why they only separate slowly and with difficulty.

In the first instants following death, when there is still a union between the body and the perispirit, this better preserves the impression of the corporeal form from which, so as to say, reflects all nuances and even all alterations. That is why an executed person would tell us a few days after his execution: If you could see me you would see me with my head separated from the body. A man who was murdered told us: See the injury that was inflicted into my heart. He thought we could see him.

Those considerations would conduct us to the examination of the interesting question regarding the sensation and sufferings of the spirits. We shall do that in another article so that here we can restrain ourselves to the discussion of the physical manifestations.

Let us thus imagine the spirit dressed by its semi-material covering (wrapping), or perispirit, having the same form or appearance which he had when alive. Some even use that expression to describe themselves; they say: my appearance is in a given place. Evidently these are the gods of the ancients. The matter of that covering is sufficiently faint to escape our sight in its natural state, but it is not completely invisible. To begin with we see it through the eyes of the soul, in the visions produced during the dreams. But this is not what we want to discuss. In this ethereal matter there can be a modification; the spirit himself can make it pass through a kind of condensation which makes it visible to the bodily eyes. This is what happens in the airy apparitions. The subtleness of that matter allows it to pass through solid bodies, which explains why those apparitions do not encounter obstacles and why so many times they disappear through the walls.

The condensation can reach the point of producing resistance and tangibility. It is the case of hands that we can see and touch. But that condensation – and this is the only word we can use to give an idea, although imperfect, of our thought – or even, that solidification of the ethereal matter is only temporary or accidental, since it is not its natural state. This is why, in a given moment, the tangible apparitions escape us like a shadow. Therefore, by the same mode that a body can present itself in the solid, liquid or gaseous state, according to its degree of condensation, also the ethereal matter of the perispirit may appear in the solid, airy visible or airy invisible state. Next we shall see how that modification takes place.

The apparent, tangible hand, offers a resistance: it exerts pressure, leaves impressions, executes traction on objects that we hold. That hand then has a force. Well, these facts, which are not hypotheses, may take us to the explanation of the physical manifestations.

We must notice, before anything, that this hand obeys an intelligence, as it acts spontaneously; it gives unequivocal signs of a will and obedience to a thought; it thus belongs to a whole being who only shows us that part of himself; the proof is the fact that it produces impressions with the invisible parts; the teeth leave marks on the skin and produce pain.

Among the multiple manifestations, one of the most interesting is, no doubt, the spontaneous playing of musical instruments. The pianos and accordions are, apparently, the favorite instruments. This phenomenon is naturally explained by the above. The hand that is capable of holding an object can also exert pressure on the keyboard and produce the sound. In fact, many times we saw the fingers in action and, when the hand is not seen, the movement of the keys is seen as the bellows of the accordion extend and contract. The keys can only be pressed by invisible hands which show intelligence, playing perfectly rhythmical arias rather than incoherent sounds.

Since that hand can stick its nails in our flesh, pinch us, take whatever we hold in our hands; since we see it grabbing and moving an object, by the same way we would do it, they can also hit us, lift or knock a table down, ring the bell, draw a curtain, and even invisibly slap us in the face.

Some will raise the question of how that hand, in the airy invisible state, can have the same strength as in the visible tangible state. Why not? Don’t we see the air knocking buildings down, gas thrusting projectiles, electricity transmitting signals, the magnetic fluid lifting masses? Why should the ethereal matter of the perispirit be less powerful?

But we should not want to submit it to our laboratory experiences and to our algebraic equations. Particularly because we have taken the gases by term of comparison, let us not attribute identical properties nor compute its strength by the same way we do with the steam. So far it escapes all of our instruments. It is a new order of ideas, outside the competence of the exact Sciences. That is why those Sciences do not offer us with the necessary special aptitude to appreciate those ideas.

We provide this theory about the motion of the solid bodies under the influence of the spirits just to show the problem on all its aspects and to demonstrate that, without distancing too much from the ideas we received, it is possible to figure out the action of the spirits over the inert matter. There is, however, another one of the highest philosophical reach, given by the spirits themselves, which sheds an entirely new light onto this problem. It will be better understood once it has been read. In fact, it is useful to get to know all systems so that they can be compared.

The explanation about the changes in the ethereal substance of the perispirit still remains to be given; by which process the spirit operates and, as a consequence, the role of the mediums of physical influence in those phenomena; what happens to them under those circumstances; the cause and the nature of their faculties, etc.

This is what we shall discuss in the next article.

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