280. The degree of superiority or inferiority of the spirits naturally indicates the tone it is proper to take with them. It is evident that the more elevated they are, the more right they have to our respect, to our regard, and to our submission. We should show them as much deference as we should have done during their lives, but from different motives; on the earth we should have considered their rank and their social position ; in the world of spirits our respect is addressed only to moral superiority. Their very elevation raises them above the puerilities of our adulatory forms. It is not by words that we can secure their kind feeling, but by the sincerity of our sentiments. It would be ridiculous, then, to give them the titles which our usages consecrate to the distinction of ranks, and which, during their lives, might have nattered their vanity; if they are really superior, not only will they not care for them, but to do so will displease them. A good thought is more agreeable to them than the most flattering epithets; if it were otherwise, they would not be above humanity. The spirit of a venerable ecclesiastic, who, in this world, was a prince of the church, a good man, practicing the law of Jesus, answered once to a person who invoked him under the title of "my Lord," " You should at least say, ex-my Lord, for here there is no other Lord but God ; know that I see who on earth knelt before me, and those before whom I myself bowed."
As to the inferior spirits, their character shows us the language proper to use with them. Among the number there are some who, though inoffensive, and even kind, are trifling, ignorant, stupid: to treat themthe same as serious spirits, as some persons do, is about the same as to bow before a schoiar or an ass muffled up in a professor's cap. A tone of familiarity would not be out of place with them, and they do not take offense at it; on the contrary, they willingly receive it.
Among the inferior spirits there are some who are unhappy. Whatever may be the faults they are expiating, their sufferings entitle them to our consideration, so much the more as no one can flatter himself that he does not deserve these words of the Christ: " Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone." The kindness we show them is a comfort to them : in default of sympathy, they should find the indulgence we should wish them to show to us.
The spirits who reveal their inferiority by the cynicism of their language, their lies, the baseness of their sentiments, the perfidy of their counsels, are assuredly less worthy of our interest than those whose words show their repentance; we owe them, at least, the pity we accord the greatest criminals, and the way to reduce them to silence is to show ourselves superior to them : they indulge in their perversity only among persons with whom they think there is nothing to fear ; for the perverse spirits feel their masters in good men as in superior spirits.
To recapitulate: as much as it would be irreverential to treat the superior spirits as equals, just so much would it be ridiculous to extend the same deference to all without exception. Have veneration for those who deserve it, gratitude for those who protect and assist us, for all the others that kindness we may some day need for ourselves. In penetrating into the incorporeal world we learn to know it, and this knowledge should regulate us in our relations with those who inhabit it. The ancients, in their ignorance, elevated altars to them ; for us, they are only creatures more or less perfect, and we raise our altars only to God.