46. Pessimist theory. Here we enter upon a new order of ideas. The
intervention of an extraneous intelligence having been proved, the easiest method for
learning the nature of this intelligence would undoubtedly have been to ask it what it
was.* But some persons, not considering such a method of proceeding as offering a
sufficient guarantee of the truthfulness of the reply, preferred to set the whole down to
the devil; only the devil, or demons, according to their ideas, having the power of
communicating with mankind. Although this theory has but few partisans now-a-days,
it did, nevertheless, for a short time, obtain a certain amount of credit, from the
character of those who advocated it. It must, however, be borne in mind that the
partisans of the demoniac theory ought not to be ranged among the adversaries of
Spiritism, but quite the contrary. Whether the beings who make themselves known to
us are demons or angels, they are extra-human beings;
therefore, the admission of the possibility of demoniacal manifestations is a virtual
admission of the possibility of communicating with the invisible world, or, at least,
with a part of that world.
The theory of the exclusive communication of demons, however irrational, was
evidently not incredible so long as spirits were looked upon as created beings, beyond
the pale of humanity; but since it has been known that spirits are neither more nor less
than the souls of deceased men and women, that theory has lost credit. The result of
such an explanation came to this, viz., that all souls are demons, though they should be
those of a father, a son, or a friend, and that we, too, on dying, shall also become
demons, which is neither flattering nor consoling; nor would it be easy to persuade a
mother that the cherished child whom she has lost, and who comes after death to
proffer tokens of its identity and affection, is a tool of Satan. It is true that, among
spirits, there are some who are no better than what are called demons, but the reason of
this is very simple, viz., that there are in this world some very bad men, and that death
does not change these into good spirits all at once. The gist of the question under con-
sideration is this -Are bad spirits the only ones able to communicate with us? To those
who would answer this query in the affirmative, we beg to address the following
questions : -
1st. Are there good and evil Spirits?
2d. Is God more powerful than bad spirits, or than "demons," if this be your
mode of expression?
3d. If we affirm that the bad spirits alone communicate, we say, in other words,
that good spirits cannot do so; if this be so, it must be so by the will of God, or contrary
to that will. If it be contrary to God's will, it proves that bad spirits are more powerful
than God; if it be by God's will, why, in His goodness, does He not permit good spirits
to counterbalance the influence of the others?
4th. What proof have you of the impotence of good spirits in this respect?
5th. When reference is made to the wisdom of some of the communications, you
reply that the devil assumes all sorts of masks, in order to deceive. We know by
experience that there are hypocritical spirits, whose language wears a false varnish of
excellence; but do you admit that ignorance can counterfeit knowledge, or an evil
nature counterfeit virtue, without letting out something that betrays the fraud?
6th. If the devil alone has the power of communicating, he being the enemy of
God and men, how is it that he advises us to pray to God, to submit ourselves to His
will, to bear without murmuring the tribulations of life, to desire neither honours nor
riches, to practise charity and all the maxims of Christ; in a word, to do all we possibly
can to destroy the devil's empire? If it be the devil who gives such counsels, it must be
admitted, that, far from being so cunning as he is represented to be, he must be
particularly short-sighted, thus to furnish arms against himself. *
7th. If spirits communicate with us, it must be by the permission of God; and
when we find that there are both bad and good communications, is it not more
reasonable to suppose that God permits the one in order to try us, and the other, in order
to counsel us for our good?
8th. What would you think of a father who should leave his child at the mercy of
pernicious examples and evil counsels, and who should prevent him from holding inter-
course with persons who might turn him from evil? Can you believe that God would
do what no good father, what no good man, would do?
9th. All religions recognise, as authentic, certain manifestations of saints,
angels, etc., by apparitions, visions, and oral communications. Is not this recognition
contradictory to the doctrine of the exclusive communication of demons?
We believe that some persons have held this theory in all honesty; but we also
think that others have upheld it in order to dissuade people from the study of spiritism,
because of the evil communications to which we are
exposed. By saying that the devil alone manifests, they hope to frighten people, much
as they would say to a child " Don't touch that; it bums I" The intention may be
praiseworthy, but the means employed are a failure; for the prohibition itself excites
curiosity, and few are deterred by fear of the devil people want to see him, if only to
find out what he is like, and are quite astonished to find him not so black as he had been
May not another reason for this exclusive attribution of the phenomena in
question to the devil be found in the persuasion of certain persons that whoever differs
with them in opinion must be in the wrong, and that, as the views expressed by some
spirits are not in accordance with their own, those views can only be put forth by the
If a Mussulman should hear a spirit speak against the Koran, he would assuredly
think it was a bad spirit; it would be the same with the Jew, in regard to certain points
of the law of Moses. As for the Catholics, we have heard one affirm that the spirit who
communicated could only be the devil, because he differed with him in regard to the
temporal power of the Pope, although the spirit had exhorted to charity, tolerance, love
of the neighbour, and abnegation of the things of this world, all of which are in
accordance with the teachings of Christ.
Spirits being nothing but the souls of men, and men being imperfect, it follows
that there are spirits equally imperfect, and whose character is reflected in their words.
That there are some who are evil, astute, and profoundly hypocritical, is an
incontestable fact, and against these it is necessary to be on our guard; but, should we
renounce society, because there are wicked men in the world? God has given us reason
and judgement, in order that we may appreciate spirits as well as men. The best way to
guard one’s self against the annoyances that may result from the practice of spiritism is
not to interdict it, but to understand it. Imaginary danger does not frighten every one,
and such fear is soon got rid of; but the clear setting forth of a reality is comprehensible
* Vide The Spirits' Book, 128, et seq.