262. If the absolute identity of the spirits is, in many cases, a secondary question, one of little importance, it is not the same with the distinction of good and bad; their individuality may be indifferent to us, their quality never. In all instructive communications, it is on this point the whole attention should be concentrated, because it alone can give us the degree of confidence we may accord to the spirit, whatever may be the name under which he manifests himself. Is the spirit good, or bad ? To what degree of the spirit scale does he belong? That is the grand question. (See Spirit Scale in the Book on Spirits, No. ioo).
263. The spirits are judged, we have said, as men are judged, by their language. Suppose a man should receive twenty letters from as many unknown persons : from the style, from the thoughts, from many signs, he will decide who are educated or ignorant, polished or ill-bred, superficial, profound, frivolous, vain, serious, light, sentimental, &c. It is the same with spirits: they should be considered as unknown correspondents, and we should ask ourselves what we should think of the knowledge and character of a man who should write such things. It may be given as an invariable rule, and one without exception, that the language of the spirits is always in accordance with the degree of their elevation. Not only do the really superior spirits say only good things, but they say them in terms which exclude in the most absolute manner all triviality ; however good these things may be, if they are tarnished by a single expression that savors of lowness, it is an indubitable sign of inferiority; still more if the whole of the communication outrages propriety by its grossness. The language always betrays its origin, whether by the thought it renders, or by its form ; and if a spirit should desire to delude us as to his pretended superiority, a little conversation suffices for us to estimate him at his proper value.
264. Goodness and benevolence are the essential attributes of purified Spirits ; they have no hatred, neither for men nor for other spirits ; they pity weaknesses, they criticise errors, but always with moderation, without anger and without animosity. If it be admitted that truly good spirits can will only good, and say only good things, it must thence be concluded that anything which, in the language of the spirits, betrays a want of goodness and benevolence, cannot emanate from a good spirit.
265. Intelligence is far from being a certain' sign of superiority, for intelligence and morality do not always keep step. A spirit may be good and benevolent, and have very limited knowledge, while an intelligent and educated spirit may be very inferior in morality.
It is quite generally believed that in interrogating the spirit of a man who was learned in a speciality on the earth, the truth will be more certainly obtained: this is logical, yet not always true. Experience shows that savants, as well as other men, especially those who have but lately left the world, are still under the dominion of the prejudices of corporeal life; they do not immediately rid themselves of the spirit of system. It may, then, be that, under the influence of the ideas they have cherished during their lives, and which have made for them a glorious title, they see less clearly than we think. We do not give this principle as a rule; far from it; we say only that it shows for itself, and that, consequently, their human science is not always a proof of their infallibility as spirits.
266. By subjecting all communications to a scrupulous examination, by scrutinizing and analyzing the thought and the expressions, as we should do were we judging a literary work, by unhesitatingly rejecting everything that sins against logic and good sense, everything that contradicts the character of the spirit reputed to be manifested; the deceiving spirits are discouraged, and end by withdrawing, once thoroughly convinced that they cannot deceive us. We repeat it, this is the only means, but it is infallible, because no bad communication can resist a rigorous criticism.
The good spirits are never offended by it, for they themselves advise it, and because they have nothing to fear from the examination ;• the bad alone take offence, and try to dissuade from it: this of itself proves what they are.
We give the advice of St. Louis on this subject: —
" However great may be the confidence with which the spirits who preside over your labors inspire you, it is a recommendation we cannot too often repeat, and which you should always bear in mind when you give yourself to your studies — to weigh and mature, that is, submit to the censorship of the severest reason, all the communications you receive ; as long as one point appears suspicious, doubtful, or obscure to you. not to neglect to ask the explanations necessary to satisfy you."
267. The means of recognizing the quality of the spirits may be recapitulated in the following principles : —
1. Good sense is the sole criterion by which to discern the value of the spirits. Every formula given for this purpose by the spirits themselves is absurd, and cannot emanate from superior spirits.
2. The spirits are judged by their language and by their actions. The actions of spirits are the sentiments they inspire and the advice they give.
3. It being admitted that good spirits can say and do only good, nothing bad can come from a good spirit.
4. The superior spirits have a language always worthy, noble, elevated, with not the least tincture of triviality ; they say everything with simplicity and modesty, never boast, never make a parade of their knowledge or their position among others. That of the inferior or ordinary spirit has always some reflex of human passions; every expression that savors of vulgarity, self-sufficiency, arrogance, boasting, acrimony, is a characteristic indication of inferiority, or of treachery if the spirit presents himself under a respected and venerated name.
5. We must not judge spirits by the material form and the correctness of their style, but probe its inmost sense, scrutinize their words, weigh them coolly, deliberately, and without prejudice. Any digression from logic, reason, and wisdom leaves no doubt of their origin, whatever may be the name under which the spirit is disguised. (224.)
6. The language of elevated spirits is always identical, if not in form, at least in the inmost. The thoughts are the same, whatever be the time and place; they may be more or less developed, according to circumstances, to the needs and to the facilities of communicating, but they will not be contradictory. If two communications bearing the same name are in opposition, one of the two is, evidently, apocryphal, and the true one will be that where NOTHING contradicts the known character of the personage. For instance, between two communications signed by St. Vincent de Paul, of which one should preach union and charity, and the other should tend to sow discord, no sensible person could mistake.
7. Good spirits tell only what they know ; they are either silent or confess their ignorance of what they do not know. The bad speak of everything with boldness, without caring for the truth. Any notorious scientific heresy, any principle that shocks good sense, shows fraud, if the spirit pretends to be an enlightened spirit.
8. Again, we recognize trifling spirits by the facility with which they predict the future and material facts not given us to know. The good spirits may presage future things when, that knowledge is useful for us to know, but they never fix dates ; any announcement of an event at a fixed date is indicatory of mystification.
9. The superior spirits express themselves simply, without prolixity ; their style is concise, without excluding the poetry of ideas and expressions, clear, intelligible to all, and requires no effort for its comprehension ; they have the art of saying much in a few words, because each word has its signification. The inferior spirits, or false savants, hide under inflated language and emphasis the emptiness of their thoughts. Their language is often pretentious, ridiculous, or obscure, by way of wishing to seem profound.
10. Good spirits never command ; they do not force themselves on any one ; they advise, and if they are not listened to, they withdraw. The bad are imperious; they give orders, wish to be obeyed, and remain, whether or no. Every spirit who forces himself on any one betrays his origin. They are exclusive and absolute in • their opinions, and pretend that they alone have the privilege of truth. They exact a blind belief, and make no appeal to reason, because they know that reason will unmask them.
11. Good spirits do not flatter; they approve when we do well, but always with reserve; the bad give exaggerated eulogiums, stimulate pride and vanity,' while preaching humility, and seek to exalt the personal importance of those with whom they would curry favor.
12. The superior spirits are above the puerilities of form in everything. Only ordinary spirits attach importance to petty details, incompatible with truly ele vated ideas. Any overparticular prescription is a certain sign of inferiority and treachery on the part of a spirit who takes an imposing name.
13. The odd and ridiculous names some spirits take, who wish to impose on credulity, should be distrusted ; it would be exceedingly absurd to take these names seriously.
14. It is also necessary to distrust those who present themselves easily under extremely venerated names, and to accept their words with the utmost reserve ; in this case a severe censorship is indispensable, for it, is often but a mask they assume to gain credit for their pretended intimate relations with spirits beyond them. -By this means they flatter the vanity of the medium, and make use of it often to draw him into doing ridiculous things, or things to be regretted.
15. The good spirits are very careful as to the steps they advise; they never have any but a serious and eminently useful aim. We should, then, regard with suspicion alL motives that are not of this character, or that would be condemned by reason, and should deliberate seriously before undertaking them, for we might be exposed to disagreeable mystifications.
16. We recognize good spirits by their prudent reserve on all subjects that might prove compromising; they dislike to unvail evil; light or malevolent spirits are pleased with displaying it. While the good seek to smooth over injuries and preach indulgence, the bad exaggerate them, and stir up discord by perfidious insinuations.
17. Good spirits advise only good. Any maxim, any advice, which is not strictly conformable to pure evangelical charity, cannot be the work of a good spirit.
18. Good spirits advise only perfectly rational things.
Any recommendation which departs from the right line of good sense, or from the immutable laws of nature, shows a narrow spirit, and is, consequently, little worthy of confidence. ,
19. Again, bad or simply imperfect spirits betray themselves by material signs which cannot be mistaken. Their action on the medium is sometimes violent, and provocative of sudden and jerking movements, a feverish and convulsive agitation, totally opposed to the calm and gentleness of the good spirits.
20. Imperfect spirits often use the means of communication opened to them to give perfidious advice; they excite distrust and animosity against those who are antipathetic to them; those who could unmask their imposture are especially the objects of their animadversion. Weak men are their best game; to induce them to evil. Employing by turns sophisms, sarcasms, insults, even material signs of their occult power the better to convince them, they strive to turn them from the path of truth.
21. The spirits of men who have had, in the world, a special preoccupation, whether material or moral, if they are not disengaged from the influence of matter, are still under the dominion of terrestrial ideas, and retain a part of their prejudices, of their predilections, and even of the fancies they had here below. This is easily discerned in their language.
22. The learning that some spirits display, often with a kind of ostentation, is not a sign of their superiority. Unalterable purity of moral sentiment is the true touchstone.
23. The simple interrogation of a spirit is not sufficient to know the truth. We should, before all things know whom we address ; for the inferior spirits, themselve ignorant, treat with frivolity the most serious questions. Neither does it suffice that a spirit should have been a great man on the earth to have supreme science in. the spirit world. Virtue alone, in purifying him, can bring him nearer to God and extend his knowledge.
24. On the part of superior spirits pleasantry is often fine and piquant, but never trivial. Among the joking spirits who are not gross, biting satire is often full of meaning.
25. In carefully studying the character of the spirits who present themselves, especially from a moral point of view, their nature and the degree of confidence to be accorded them is easily ascertained. Good sense cannot be deceived.
26. In order to judge spirits, as in order to judge men, one should know how to judge one's self. There are, unhappily, many men who take their personal opinion as exclusive'measure for good and bad, for true and false ; all that contradicts their mode of seeing, their ideas, the system they have conceived or adopted, is bad in their eyes. Such persons evidently lack the first requisite for a healthy appreciation — rectitude of judgment; but they do not suspect it; in the very defect is their greatest delusion.
All these instructions flow from experience and the teachings of the spirits ; we complete them by answers given by them on the most important points.