THE SPIRITIST REVIEW - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1858

Allan Kardec

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Propagation of Spiritism

A worth mentioning phenomenon is taking place with respect to the propagation of Spiritism. Just resurrected a few years ago from the old beliefs, it appeared among us not as before, under the shadow of mystery, but in the open light for everyone to see.

It was an object of brief curiosity to some, an enjoyment put aside like a toy. From many people it was received by nothing but indifference; from the largest number, incredulity, despite the opinion of the philosophers whose names are frequently invoked as authorities. That is not a surprise: Has Jesus himself convinced the Jewish people about his miracles? Have the benevolence and sublimity of his doctrine conquered him any mercy before his judges? Wasn’t he treated as an imposter? And, if they did not call him charlatan wasn’t that because such a word of our modern civilization was unknown by then? However, serious men have seen something beyond frivolity in the phenomena that take place in our days. They studied them, investigated them, with the eyes of a conscious observer and discovered the key to a number of mysteries hitherto incomprehensible. This became a stream of light to them and behold, a Doctrine was born from those facts, a philosophy and, we can even say, a science, initially divergent according to the point of view or personal opinion of the investigator but with a gradual trend towards a unity of principles. Despite the self-serving opposition of some and systematic rejection of others who think that the light can only come from their brains, this doctrine finds many adepts as it enlightens us with respect to the present and future true interests of humanity. It corresponds to their aspiration for a future which becomes somehow tangible; finally because it simultaneously satisfies their reason and hopes and dissipates the doubts that used to degenerate into absolute incredulity.

Well, with Spiritism all materialist and pantheist philosophies fall by themselves; doubts with respect to Divinity, existence of the soul, its individuality and immortality are no longer possible; the future is presented to us like daylight and we learn that such a future, that always leaves an open door to hope, depends on our will and our efforts through the good actions.

While they could not see in Spiritism more than the material phenomena, the only interest was the spectacle that impressed the eyes. However, once it has been elevated to the category of a moral science, it has been taken seriously as it has spoken to the heart and intelligence. In addition, everybody has found in Spiritism the solution to what they were vaguely trying to find in themselves; confidence based on evidence replaces a pungent uncertainty; from such an elevated point of view where it positions us, things of this inferior world seem so small and petty that the vicissitudes of this planet are nothing more than transient incidents that we withstand with patience and resignation; the corporeal life is nothing more than a brief station in the soul’s life. Using the expression of our wise and witty comrade Mr. Jobard, it is not more than an ordinary lodging-house where it is not worth to unpack. In the Spiritist Doctrine everything is defined, everything is clear, everything speaks to reason; in one word, everything is explained and those who deeply study it in its essence find such an intimate satisfaction to which they no longer renounce. That is why it has conquered so much sympathy in such a short time, sympathy not recruited in the narrow circle of a given place but around the whole world. Had the facts not been there to demonstrate, we could judge by our Review, which is only a few months old, but whose subscribers, although not counting the thousands yet, are spread all over the world. Besides those of Paris and provinces we have those in England, Scotland, Netherlands, Belgium, Prussia, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Naples, Florence, Milan, Genoa, Turin, Geneve, Madrid, Shanghai, Batavia, Caen, Mexico, Canada, USA, etc.

We don’t say this to boast but to mention a characteristic fact. In order that a recently founded and so much specialized journal be sought in so diverse and separated regions it is necessary that its major subject finds followers or they would not subscribe to it, thousands of leagues away, even if done by the best writer. It is then by its subject that it draws interest and not by its obscure editor. Its objective is therefore serious, to the eyes of the reader. Hence it is evidenced that Spiritism has roots all over the world and that, under such a point of view, twenty subscribers in twenty different countries prove more than one hundred, concentrated in one place only, hence one could not suppose this to be the works of a fraternity.

The mode by which Spiritism has propagated so far does not deserve a less accurate attention. If the press had made use of its voice in its favor by preaching it; if, in one word, the whole world had paid attention to that, one could say that it had propagated like everything else that takes place thanks to a factitious reputation and that one wishes to experiment with, even if just out of curiosity. But none of that has happened. Generally, the press had not given Spiritism any voluntary support. Press neglected it or if on rare occasions spoke about it was to ridicule it and to send its adepts to the asylums, a not very attractive thing to those who had the mere inclination of getting initiated.

Only Mr. Home deserved the honor of some more or less serious references, while the most vulgar events are conversely widely covered. As a matter of fact it is easy to see that, by their languages, the adversaries speak about Spiritism like the blind would speak about the colors: without real knowledge of the facts; without a serious and profound examination and only through a first impression, hence their arguments are limited to a pure and simple denial, thus we cannot elevate their facetious expressions to the category of arguments. However witty those jokes may be they do not represent reason.

However, not everybody from the press should be accused of ill faith. Spiritism counts individually on serious experts and we know several among the most prominent men from the media.

Why then do they keep silence? The reason is the fact that, besides the problem of belief, there is that of personality that is very powerful in our days. Their belief is concealed rather than expansive, as with many others. Besides, they are forced to respond for their newspapers. As such, the journalist is afraid of losing subscribers by openly raising a flag whose color could displease some of them.

Will that situation last? No. Spiritism will soon be like magnetism that was once discussed through whispers and that now nobody is afraid of confessing.

No new idea, however right and nice it may be, implants instantaneously in the spirits of the masses, and the one that did not find opposition would be a remarkable phenomenon. Why would Spiritism be an exception to the general rule? Time is needed to mature the ideas, as with the fruits, but human levity leads us to judge them before their maturation or without the effort to analyze their intimate qualities.

This brings to mind the witty fable “The baby monkey, the adult monkey and a nut”. As well known, the baby monkey picks a green nut still in the shell; bites it, making faces, amazed that others may like such a bitter thing. The adult monkey, less superficial and with a profound knowledge of its species, picks the nut, breaks it, cleans it, eats the nut and finds it delicious. A great moral teaching results from that, addressed to those who judge new things just from the outside.

Spiritism had thus to march without any strange support and behold in five or six years it spread out with an almost prodigious speed. Where has it acquired such strength if not on itself? Hence there must necessarily be something very powerful in its principle to be propagated like that, without the super exciting means of publicity. The fact is, as we mentioned above, that whoever takes the time to study it finds what was looking for, what reason would have allowed to foresee: a consoling truth and, after all, hope and true satisfaction.

Thus, the acquired convictions are serious and durable and not frivolous opinions, just born out of a breath and destroyed by another one.

Someone recently said: “I find in Spiritism such a kind hope; it gives me such a sweet and great consolation that every contrary thought would make me unhappy and I feel as if my best friend would become hateful had he tried to subtract that belief from me.” When an idea has no roots it may briefly shine, like those flowers that we force to blossom; soon, however, for a lack of support, die and remains forgotten. Nevertheless, those who have a sound foundation grow and persist and become so much identified with the habits that we amaze ourselves for having gone without it for so long.

If Spiritism was not supported by the European press the same did not happen in America. This is correct up to a point. There is in America, as everywhere else for that matter, a general and a special press. The former gave Spiritism much more coverage than in our case, although less than we suppose. In fact there are some hostile institutions among them. The special press accounts for eighteen Spiritist Newspapers only in the USA, from which ten are weekly and several of large format. From that one can see that we are very late with that respect. But there, as around here, the specialized newspapers address a specific public. It is evident that a medical gazette will not have the preference of the architects or the men of law; thus, a spiritist journal, with rare exceptions, will only be read by those with knowledge of Spiritism. The large number of American newspapers that cover this subject prove one thing: they have enough readers to sustain them. No doubt that they have accomplished a lot but their influence is, generally speaking, purely local. The vast majority is unknown to the European public and our newspapers only very occasionally provide some transcriptions of their matters.

By saying that Spiritism has propagated without the support of the press, we referred to the general press, the one that addresses everybody, the one whose voice is daily heard by millions; the one that penetrates the most obscure corners; that informs the anchorite in the depth of the desert as it does with the inhabitants of the city; finally, the one that plentifully spreads ideas. Which spiritist newspaper can pride itself of echoing the claims of the world? It speaks to the persons of conviction but does not attract the attention of the indifferent.

We tell the truth by proclaiming that Spiritism has been left to its own powers and, if it has walked in such long strides by itself, how is it going to be when supported by the powerful lever of the broad publicity? While waiting for such a moment, it moves continuously, setting its landmarks; its branches will find stanchions everywhere; it will find voices whose authority will impose silence to the detractors everywhere.

The quality of the adepts of Spiritism deserves special attention. Are they recruited among the illiterate, in the inferior layers of society? No. Those are little or almost not at all concerned with Spiritism: they may have hardly heard about it. The turning tables may have found some practitioners among them. Up until now its proselytes come from the first layers of society: among the enlightened persons, among men of thought and wisdom. Furthermore, and this is a remarkable fact, the doctors who for a long time struggled against magnetism, easily adhere to this Doctrine. We count them in large numbers, both in France and abroad, which also have a large quantity of superior men, in all aspects: scientific and literary celebrities, high dignitaries, public servants, general officers, business men, ecclesiastics, magistrates, etc... all extremely serious to subscribe to a paper like ours as a pastime, considering that we do not pretend to be funny and that we are even less willing to find only fantasies in our publications.

The Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies is not any less evident proof of that truth, by the choice of persons gathered around it. Its sessions are followed with great interest, with a religious attention and, we can even say, with avidity. However, it only handles grave and serious studies, sometimes very abstract, not experiences aiming at the excitement of curiosity. We speak about what happens before our eyes; however the same can be said about other centers that occupy with Spiritism, having the same principles, hence more or less everywhere – as announced by the spirits – the period of curiosity declines.

Those phenomena allow us to penetrate in such an elevated order of things, so sublime that compared to these grave questions, a piece of furniture that moves or that raps is like a kid’s toy: it is Science 101.

As a matter of fact, we now know what to give attention to with respect to the rapping spirits and, generally, to those who produce material effects. They have been called, and with justice, the jugglers of the spiritual world. That is why we associate less with them than with those that can enlighten us.

We can identify four phases or distinct periods in the propagation of Spiritism:

1° - Period of curiosity in which the rapping spirits play the main role, calling attention and preparing the way.

2° - Period of observation in which we are entering and that can also be called philosophical. Spiritism is studied in depth and depurates; tends towards a unity of Doctrine and constitute a Science.

These periods will follow:

3° - Period of admission in which Spiritism will occupy an official place among universally accepted beliefs;

4° - Period of influence over the social order. Humanity, then under the influence of these ideas, will conquer a new moral profile. That influence is, since now, individual. Later it will act upon the masses to the happiness of everyone.

Thus, on one side, we see a belief that spreads all over the world on its own, gradually and without the usual resources of the forced propaganda, and on another hand that very belief that sows roots, not in the lower layers of Society but in its more enlightened part. Shouldn’t this double aspect be something very characteristic and give food for thought to those who consider Spiritism an empty dream? As opposed to many other ideas that come from below, shapeless and misleading, and that only slowly penetrate the higher echelons, where they then depurate, Spiritism starts from the top and will only reach the masses when disentangled from the false ideas, inseparable from new things.

We have to understand, however, that among many experts there exists only a latent belief. With some there is the dread of ridicule, with others the fear of personal harm by the conflict with certain susceptibilities that impede them to proclaim their opinions, out and loud. This is puerile, no doubt, and we understand that well. One cannot ask certain people something that nature has not given them: the courage to face the “what will they say about it?” but when Spiritism is present in every mouth – and that time is not far off – such courage will reach the shyest.

A remarkable change, since some time now, is already noticeable with that respect. People talk more openly; they take the risk, and this helps to open the eyes of the adversaries themselves, that inquiry if it is prudent, from the interest of their own reputation, to attack a belief that, willing or not, infiltrates everywhere and finds support on the higher social ranks.

Thus, the epithet of “mad”, so much inflicted onto the adepts, starts to become ridicule. It is a common place that becomes trivial, as the mad ones will soon be in larger number than the sensible ones and more than one critic has already changed sides.

As a matter of fact, this is the fulfillment of what was announced by the spirits when they said: “The greatest adversaries of Spiritism will become its most ardent followers and promoters.”

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