Allan Kardec

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50. Theory of the material soul. This theory consists solely in a special opinion, with regard to the nature of the soul, according to which, the soul and the perispirit are not two distinct things; or, to speak more strictly, the perispirit is nothing more than the soul itself, purifying itself gradually by successive transmigrations, as alcohol becomes purified by repeated distillations; while the spiritist doctrine regards the perispirit as being only a fluidic envelope of the soul or spirit. The perispirit being matter, although of very etherealised nature, the soul would be, according to this view, of a physical nature, more or less material according to the degree of its purification.

This view of the nature of the soul and the perispirit does not invalidate any of the fundamental principles of spiritist doctrine, for it makes no change in the soul's destiny nor in the conditions of its future happiness, the soul and the perispirit forming a whole, under the name of spirit, as the germ and the surrounding matter form one, under the name of fruit; the difference consisting in the consideration of the whole being as homogeneous, instead of being formed of two distinct parts.

This question, as we see, is of little consequence ; and we should not have touched upon it, had we not met with persons inclined to regard, as the beginning of a new school, what is really nothing more than a mere interpretation of words. The opinion now referred to is held by very few; but were it even more general, it would not make any separation among spiritists, any more than do, among natural philosophers, the two theories of the emission and undulation of light. Those who endeavour to sow dissension, by attributing an undue importance to details, prove that they attach more value to accessories than to the thing itself, and that they are urged to discussion by imperfect spirits, for elevated spirits never breathe acrimony and discord. For this reason, we would urge all true spiritists to be on their guard against suggestions tending to disunion among them. Let us attach no more importance to details than they deserve, and let us think more of essentials, on which we are agreed, than of minor points, in regard to which any differences of opinion are comparatively unimportant. This view of the matter having been thus clearly set forth, we nevertheless consider it to be our duty to state, in a few words, our reason for regarding the soul and the perispirit as being two distinct entities. The fact of this distinction is asserted by the enlightened spirits whose instructions have directed us in our labours, and who have never varied in this respect (we say "enlightened spirits," because there are among spirits many who know no more, or know even less, than men know) ; while the contrary theory has its rise in a merely human conception. We have neither invented nor imagined the perispirit; its existence was revealed to us by spirits, and observation has confirmed the statements thus made to us (The Spirits' Book, 93). Its existence is shown moreover, by the sensations of the spirits themselves (The Spirits' Book, 257) and above all by the phenomena of tangible apparitions, which would imply, according to the other opinion, the aggregation and subsequent disintegration of the constituents of the soul itself. It would imply, still further, that matter, palpable to the senses, is itself the intelligent principle ; a supposition no more rational than that which should confound the body with the soul, or our coat with our body. As to the particular nature of the soul, that is unknown to us. When it is stated to be immaterial the statement must be taken in a relative sense, and not absolutely, for absolute immateriality would be nothingness, whereas the soul, or spirit, is something. But we must necessarily admit that its essence is of so subtle a nature as to have no analogy with what we call matter; and that, from this point of view, we may call it immaterial (The Spirits' Book, 23, 82).

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