THE MEDIUMS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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268. Questions on the Nature and Identity of Spirits.

1. "By what signs can we discern the superiority or inferiority of spirits ?"
" By their language, as you distinguish a trifler from a man of sense. We have already said, the superior spirits never contradict themselves, and say only good things ; they will nothing but good: it is their whole thought
" The inferior spirits are still under the dominion of material ideas ; their discourses show their ignorance and imperfection. It is given only to the superior spirits to know all things, and to judge without passion."

2. " Is scientific knowledge always a certain sign of a spirit's elevation ?"
" No, for if he is still under the influence of matter, he may have your vices and your prejudices. There are persons who, in this world, are excessively jealous and vain: do you believe that as soon as they leave here they lose these defects ? There remains, after the departure from here, especially to those who have had very decided passions, a kind of atmosphere that envelops them, and leaves them all these bad things.
" These semi-imperfect spirits are more to be dreaded than bad spirits, because most of them combine astuteness and pride with intelligence. By their pretended knowledge they impose on simple people and on the ignorant, who accept without criticism their absurd and lying theories ; though these theories cannot prevail against the truth, they none the less do temporary harm, for they hinder the progress of Spiritism, and mediums are willingly blind to the merit of what is communicated to them. This is what demands great study on the part of enlightened spiritists and mediums ; all their attention should be given to distinguish the true from the false."
3. " Many spirit protectors designate themselves by the names of saints or well-known personages ; what should we believe on this subject ?"


" All the names of saints and of well-known personages would not suffice to furnish a protector to each man; among the spirits are few who have a name known on the earth ; this is why very often they give none ; but almost always you want a name; then, to satisfy you, they take that of a man you know and respect."

4. " May not this borrowed name be considered a fraud?"
" It would be a fraud on the part of a bad spirit who might want to deceive; but when it is for good, God permits it to be so among spirits of the same order, because there is among them a solidarity and similarity of thought."

5. " So, when a spirit protector calls himself St. Paul, for instance, it is not certain to be the spirit or soul of that apostle ?"
" Not at all, for you find thousands of persons to whom it has been said that their guardian angel is St. Paul, or some other ; but what matters it, if the spirit who protects you is as elevated as St. Paul ? I have said, you want a name; they take one to be called, and recognized by, as you take a baptismal name to distinguish you from the other members of your family. They can just as well take those of the archangel Raphael, St. Michael, &c, and it would be a matter of no consequence.
" Besides, the more elevated the spirit, the more multiple his radiation; believe that a spirit protector of a superior order may have under his tutelage hundreds of incarnated beings. With you, on the earth, you have notaries who have charge of the affairs of one or two hundred families: why should you suppose that we, spiritually speaking, would be less capable of directing men morally than those of directing their material interests ?"

6. " Why do the spirits who communicate so often take the names of saints ?"
"They identify themselves with the habits of those to whom they speak, and take the names calculated to make the strongest impression on the man by reason of his belief."

7. " Do superior spirits, when invoked, always come in person ? or, as some think, do they come only by mandataries charged to transmit their thought?"
" Why should they not come in person, if they can ? but if the spirit cannot come, it will surely be a mandatary."

8. " Is the mandatary always sufficiently enlightened to answer as the spirit would who sends him ?"
" The superior spirits know to whom they confide the care of replacing them. Besides, the more elevated the spirits, the more they are commingled in one common thought, in such manner that they are indifferent to personality; and it ought to be the same for you. Do you think that, in the world of superior spirits, there are only those you have known on the earth capable of instructing you ? You are so prone to consider yourselves types of the universe, that you always believe out of your world there is nothing. Truly you are like those savages, who, never having left their own island, fancy the world does not go beyond it."
9. " We comprehend that this may be the case when it is a question of serious teaching; but how is it that the superior spirits permit spirits of a low class to avail themselves of respectable names to lead into error by perverse maxims ?"


" It is not with their permission ; does it not happen the same among you ? Those who thus deceive will be punished, believe me, and their punishment will be in proportion to the gravity of the imposture. Besides, if you were not imperfect, you would have around you only good spirits, and if you are deceived, you should blame no one but yourselves. God permits it to be so to make trial of your perseverance and your judgment, and to teach you to distinguish truth from error; if you do not, it is that you are not sufficiently elevated, and still need the lessons of experience."

10. " Are not spirits, slightly advanced but animated by good intentions and a desire to progress, sometimes delegated to replace a superior spirit, in order that they may exercise themselves in teaching ? "
" Never in great circles ; I mean serious circles for general instruction; those who present themselves there do it from their own desire, and, as you say, to exercise themselves ; this is the reason their communications, though good, always bear traces of their inferiority. Where they are delegated, it is for communications of little importance, and those that may be called personal."

11. " Ridiculous spirit communications are sometimes intermingled with very good maxims: how reconcile this anomaly, which would seem to indicate the simultaneous presence of good and bad spirits ?"
" Bad or frivolous spirits mingle thus to make sentences, without much concern as to their bearing or signification. Are all those among you superior men ? No ; the good and bad spirits do not mingle ; it is the constant uniformity of good communications by which you may recognize the presence of good spirits."

12. "Do the spirits that lead persons into error always do it purposely ?"
" No ; there are spirits, good, but ignorant, who might deceive in all sincerity; when they are conscious of their insufficiency, they say so, and tell only what they know."

13. "When a spirit makes a false communication, does he always do so with a malicious intention ?"
" No ; if it is a trifling spirit, he amuses himself by mystifying, and has no other motive."-

14. "As certain spirits can deceive by their language, can they also, to the eyes of a seeing medium, take a false appearance ?"
" That may be done, but with great difficulty. In all cases it never takes place, unless with an aim that the bad spirits themselves do not know. They serve as instruments to give a lesson. The seeing medium can see frivolous and lying spirits, as others hear them, or write under their influence. Frivolous spirits may profit by this disposition in order to abuse him by deceitful appearances; that depends on the qualities of his own spirit."

15. "Is it sufficient that we are actuated by good intentions, not to be deceived ; and are perfectly serious men, who mingle no sentiment of vain curiosity with their studies, as liable to be deceived ?"
" Less than others, evidently ; but man has always some hobby which attracts mocking spirits ; he thinks himself strong, and often is not; he should beware of the weakness born of pride and prejudices. These two causes, by which spirits profit, are not sufficiently taken into consideration; by flattering whims they are sure to succeed."
16. " Why does. God permit bad spirits to communicate and say evil things ? "


" Even in what is worst there is instruction ; it is for you to know how to extract it. There must be communications of all kinds, for you to learn to distinguish good spirits from bad, and to serve as mirrors to yourselves."

17. " Can spirits, by means of written communications, inspire unjust suspicions against certain persons, and embroil friends ?"
" Perverse and jealous spirits can do in evil all that men can do ; it is, therefore, necessary to beware of them. The superior spirits are always prudent and reserved when they are obliged to blame; they never speak evil; they warn with caution. • If they desire, for the interest of two persons, that they should never see each other, they will bring about incidents that shall separate them in a perfectly natural manner. Language calculated to sow trouble and discord is always from a bad spirit, whatever may be the name he assumes. Therefore receive with the greatest circumspection the evil that a spirit may say of one of you, especially when a good spirit has said good to you of the same; and also mistrust yourselves and your own prejudices. In communications from spirits, take only what is good, great, rational, and what your conscience approves."

18. " By the facility with which bad spirits mingle in communications, it appears that one is never sure of the truth ?"
" Yes, if you have judgment to appraise them. In reading a letter, you know how to judge if it is a hod man or a refined person, a fool or a savant, who has written to you: why can you not do the same when spirits write to you? If you receive a letter from a far-off friend, what proves to you it is really from him ? His writing, you will say: but are there not forgers who imitate all writing, rascals who might know your affairs ? Yet there are signs in which you cannot be mistaken. It is the same with spirits. Imagine, then, that it is a friend writing to you, or that you are reading a literary work, and judge by the same means."

19. " Could superior spirits prevent bad spirits from taking false names ?"
" Certainly they could do so; but the worse the spirits, the more headstrong they are, and they often resist injunctions. You must also know that there are persons in whom the superior spirits are more interested than they are in others ; and when they deem it necessary, they know how to preserve them from the injury of the lie : against these persons the deceiving spirits are powerless."

20. " What is the motive of this partiality ?"
" It is not partiality ; it is justice : the good spirits are interested in those who profit by their advice, and labor seriously in their own improvement: these are their preferred ones, and they help them; but they trouble themselves little about those with whom they lose their time in vain words."

21. "Why does God permit spirits to commit sacrilege, by falsely taking venerated names ?"
" You should also ask why God permits men to lie and blaspheme. Spirits, as well as men, have their free will, in good as in bad; but to neither will the justice of God be wanting."

22. " Is there any formula that will drive away deceiving spirits ?"
" Formula is matter ; good thought toward God is of more value."

23. "Some spirits have said they have inimitable graphic signs, a kind of emblems, by which they may be recognized and their identity established. Is that true?"
" The superior spirits have no other signs, by which they may be recognized, than the superiority of their ideas and of their language. Any spirit can imitate a material sign. As to the inferior spirits, they betray themselves in so many ways, that one must be blind to be deceived."

24. "Cannot deceiving spirits counterfeit thought, also ?"
" They counterfeit thought,, as theatrical decorators counterfeit nature."

25. " It appears, then, that it is always easy to detect fraud by an attentive study."
" Never doubt it; spirits deceive only those who allow themselves to be deceived. But it is necessary to have the eyes of diamond merchants to distinguish the true stone from the false ; he who knows not how to distinguish one from the other goes to the lapidary."

26. " There are persons who allow themselves to be seduced by emphatic language, who think more of words than of ideas, who take false and common ideas for sublime: how can these persons, who are not even capable of judging the works of men, judge those of spirits ?"
" When these persons have sufficient modesty to know their own inefficiency, they will not trust to themselves ; when, through pride, they think themselves capable, when they are not, they must bear the penalty of their silly vanity. The deceiving spirits know whom they address : there are simple, uninstructed persons more difficult to deceive than others who have wit and learning. By flattering his passions they make a man do as they please."

27. " In writing, do not bad spirits often betray themselves by involuntary material signs ?"
" The skillful do not; maladroits go astray. Any useless or puerile sign is a certain indication of inferiority ; elevated spirits do no useless thing."

28. " Many mediums recognize good and bad spirits by the agreeable or painful impression they experience at their approach. We ask if any disagreeable impression, convulsive agitation, any uneasiness, in short, are always indications of the evil nature of the spirits who manifest themselves ?"


" The medium experiences the sensations of the state in which the spirit is who comes to him. When the spirit is happy, he is tranquil, easy, sedate; when he is unhappy, he is agitated, feverish, and this agitation naturally passes into the nervous system of the medium. It is the same with men on the earth; he who is good is calm and tranquil, he who is wicked is constantly agitated."
Remark. There are mediums of greater or less nervous impressibility, so that the agitation cannot be regarded as a general rule; as in all other things, we must, in this, take into account the circumstances. The painful and disagreeable character of the impression is an effect of contrast; for if the spirit of the medium sympathizes with the bad spirit who manifests himself, he will be little or not at all affected by it. The rapidity of the writing, which pertains to the extreme flexibility of some mediums, must not be confounded with the convulsive agitation that the slowest mediums may experience from contact with imperfect spirits.

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