Allan Kardec

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31. To proceed in the study of spiritism as is done in the other sciences, it would be necessary to pass experimentally through the whole series of spirit-phenomena, beginning with the simplest, to arrive in succession at the more complicated ; but this cannot be done, because it would be impossible to go through a regular course of experimentation, in spiritism, as we do in physics or chemistry. In the natural sciences, we operate on brute matter, manipulating it at will, and with almost a certainty of producing a given effect; in spiritism, on the contrary, we have to deal with intelligences who have their liberty, and who constantly prove to us that they are not subject to our commands. It is consequently necessary to await the occurrence of the phenomena, holding ourselves in readiness to observe them as they occur; and we therefore assert that whoever should dare to assert that he can obtain any given phenomena at his pleasure can be only an ignoramus or an impostor: for these phenomena, being independent of our will, may fail to be manifested when they are wanted, or may present themselves under quite a different aspect from that which we may desire. Let us add, that, in order to obtain them, we must have the co-operation of persons endowed with special faculties, and that these faculties are infinitely varied, according to the aptitude of each individual; and, as the same medium rarely possesses all these faculties, a new difficulty is thus created, since, in order to go through such a course of experimental spiritism, we should require to have always at hand a complete assortment of mediums, which is evidently impossible.

The way to obviate this inconvenience is very simple, viz., to commence with the theory. In this way, all the phenomena are passed in review and explained, the inquirer gets at the gist of the matter, and understands the possibilities of the case and the conditions under which the phenomena may occur, as well as the obstacles that may be met with. Thus, whatever may occur will find him prepared, and nothing can take him by surprise. This plan offers yet another advantage, inasmuch as it spares the practical investigator a vast number of disappointments because, being forewarned of difficulties, he is able to keep on his guard, and to avoid having to gain experience at his own expense.

It would be difficult for us to compute the number of those who have come to us since we have been occupied with spiritism ; and how many of these have we seen, who have remained indifferent or incredulous in presence of the most evident facts, and who have only been convinced by rational explanation ; how many others who had been predisposed to conviction by reasoning; how many, in fine, who were already persuaded of the truth of spiritism, though they had seen nothing, because they had read and had understood the rationale of the matter! We therefore say, from our own experience, that the best method of acquiring a knowledge of spiritism is to bring reasoning to bear on the subject, first of all and afterwards to confirm reasoning by experiment.

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