THE MEDIUMS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

Back to the menu
CHAPTER III
PLAN OF PROCEEDING


18. A very natural and praiseworthy desire of all spiritists, a desire which cannot be too much encouraged, is to make proselytes. It is with a view to facilitate their task, that we propose here to suggest to them the surest method, in our opinion, of attaining this end, and of sparing themselves the labour of making efforts that may prove of no avail.

We have already said that spiritism is a new science, a new philosophy; he who wishes to understand it should therefore, as the first condition of doing so, lay himself out for serious work, with the full persuasion that this science, like every other, is not to be attained by making a play of it. Spiritism, as we have said, touches on every question that interests humanity; its field is immense, and it is especially in the vastness and importance of its consequences that the experimenter will find this to be true. A belief in spirits is undoubtedly its basis; but this belief no more suffices to make an enlightened spiritist, than the belief in God suffices to make a theologian. Let us, then, consider the mode of proceeding which is best fitted to enable propagandists to attain the end they have in view.

19. It is generally supposed that, in order to convince, it is sufficient to demonstrate facts. Such would indeed appear to be the most logical method; nevertheless, experience shows us that it is not always the best, for one often meets with persons whom facts the most irrefragable do not convince in the slightest degree. The reason of this failure we shall now try to make apparent.

In spiritism, the question of spirit-communications is secondary and consequential; it is not the starting-point. Spirits being nothing else than the souls of men, the proper ground for argument is the existence of the soul. But how can we get the materialist to admit that beings exist outside the material world, when he believes that he himself is nothing but matter? How can he believe in spirits outside himself, when he does not believe that he has a spirit within himself? In vain will you urge the most conclusive arguments on such a one ; he will contest them all, because he does not admit the principle which is their basis. All methodical teaching should proceed from the known to the unknown; what the materialist knows about, is matter; take your stand, then, on matter, and endeavour, above all things, while bringing his mind on to your standpoint, to convince him that there is in himself something beyond the laws of matter; in a word, before trying to make him a spiritist try to make him a spiritualist; * but, for that purpose, you must appeal to quite a different order of facts, and adduce arguments of a very different character. To talk to a man of spirits, before he is con- vinced that he has a soul, is to begin where you should end ; for he cannot admit the consequence, if he do not admit the premiss. You should, before undertaking to convince the incredulous, even by facts, make sure of their Opinion respecting the soul, that is to say, ascertain whether they believe in its existence, in its survival of the body, in its individuality after death; if their answer be negative, to speak of spirits would be trouble thrown away. This is the rule; we do not say there are no exceptions to it, but, in the exceptional cases, there is probably some other cause which renders your interlocutor less recalcitrant.

____________________________
* See Vocabulary for this distinction.


20. We must especially distinguish two classes among the materialists. In the first class we may place thosewho are so theoretically. With these, it is not doubt, but negation, absolute, and rational from their point of view; in their eyes, man is only a machine, which goes as long as it is wound up, but of which the spring wears out; a being of which, after death, nothing remains but the carcase. The number of such thinkers being happily very limited, it seems hardly necessary to insist upon the deplorable effects which the generalisation of such a doctrine would exert on social order; we have been sufficiently explicit in regard to this point in The Spirits' Book (147 and Conclusion, III.)

In saying that the incredulous cease to doubt when met by a rational explanation, we must except those ultramaterialists who deny all power and intelligence outside of matter; pride renders the majority of these obstinate, and they persist in their denials from personal vanity; they resist all proofs, because they do not wish to have to change an Opinion expressed by them. With such persons you can do nothing, not even when they feign sincerity, and say: "Let me see, and I will believe." Others, more frank, say plainly: "If I saw, I should not believe."

21. The second class of materialists, and by far the most numerous (for materialism is a sentiment contrary to nature), comprehends those who are such through indifference, and, so to say, for want of something better; they are not materialists from conviction, and they would rejoice to be able to believe, for their state of uncertainty is a torment to them. In such men, there is a vague aspiration after the future, but this future has been represented to them under aspects that their reason could not accept; hence their doubt1 and, as the consequence of their doubt, their unbelief. With such

persons, incredulity is not theoretic; present to them a theory which is rational, and they will accept it gladly; such men can understand us, for they are nearer to us than they think. With the first class, speak not of revelation, of angels, or of "paradise," for they would not understand you, but, placing yourself on their own ground, prove to them, first of all, that the laws of physics are not able to explain everything; the rest will come in due time. It is altogether different with the incredulity which is not a foregone conclusion; in such cases, belief is not absolutely null, there is a latent germ, stifled by creeds, but which a ray of light may vivify; such doubters are like a blind man whose eyes you may open, and who will rejoice to behold the day, or like a ship wrecked mariner, who will seize the plank of safety you hold out to him.

22. Besides the materialists, properly so called, there is a third class of the incredulous, who, though spiritualists, at least in name, are none the less troublesome to deal with on that account; they are the incredulous through ill-will. They find it unpleasant to believe, because it would trouble their enjoyment of material pleasures; they fear to see in spiritism the doom of their ambition, of their selfishness, of the human vanities which are their delight; they shut their eyes, that they may not see, and stop their ears, that they may not hear. We can only pity them.

23. A fourth category may be called the incredulous through interest or dishonesty. They know well what spiritism really is, but they outwardly condemn it from motives of personal interest. Of these, there is nothing to be said, as, with them, there is nothing to be done. If the thorough materialist deceives himself, he has at any rate the excuse of sincerity, and may be brought round by showing him his error; with the others, it is a resolution against which all argument fails. Time will open their eyes and show them, perhaps to their cost, where their interest really lay ; for, as they cannot hinder the current of truth, they will, at length, be swept away by the torrent, together with the artificial interests which they desired to secure.

24. Besides these different categories of opponents, there is an infinity of shades, among which we may enumerate those who are incredulous from cowardice, and to whom courage will come when they see that others do not injure themselves by avowing their belief; the incredulous from religious scruples, who will learn, through enlightened study, that spiritism rests upon the fundamental bases of religion, that it respects all beliefs, and that one of its effects is to produce religious sentiments where they did not formerly exist and to fortify them where they were formerly wavering; the incredulous from pride, from a spirit of contradiction, from carelessness, from levity, etc., etc.

25. We cannot omit one other class which we will call the incredulous from disappointment. This class comprehends those who have passed from an exaggerated confidence to incredulity, because their expectations have been deceived; discouraged in consequence, they have abandoned the whole thing, and cast it altogether aside. They are like people who deny that probity exists, because they have been taken in. This, also, is the result of an imperfect knowledge of spiritism. When a person is hoaxed by spirits, it is generally because he has asked them something they could not, or might not, tell; or because he was not sufficiently enlightened on the subject to discern truth from imposture. Many people, it is to be remarked, see in spiritism only a new mode of divination; they fancy that spirits may be made to tell their fortunes, and, accordingly, flippant and mocking spirits amuse themselves at their expense, preparing for them mystifications and disappointments to which serious and prudent persons would not have laid themselves open.

26. A very numerous class, perhaps the most numerous of all, is one which we cannot place under the head of opponents, viz., those who are undecided. These are generally spiritualists, in principle; with the greater number of them there is a vague intuition of spiritist ideas, and an aspiration after something which they cannot define. Such persons only require methodical instruction spiritism is, for these, like a sunrise; it is the brightness of day which dissipates the mists of night; they hail it with eagerness, because it delivers them from the agony of uncertainty.

27. If from these, we turn to consider the different categories of believers, we remark those who are spiritists without being aware of it; they are, properly speaking, a variety of the preceding class. Without ever having heard of the spiritist theory, they have an innate sentiment of the grand principles which it embraces; and this sentiment is found reflected, in certain passages of their writings or their words, so clearly that they might almost be supposed to be completely initiated. We find numerous examples of this class among writers, both sacred and profane; among poets, orators, moralists, and philosophers, both ancient and modern.

28. Among those whom direct study has convinced, we may distinguish: -

1st. Those who believe purely and simply in the manifestations. For these, spiritism is a simple science of observation, a series of facts more or less curious; they may be called experimental Spiritists.

2nd. Those who see in spiritism something more than its peculiar phenomena, and perceive its philosophical bearing; they admire its morality, but do not practise it, and its influence on their character is slight or null; they change none of their habits, and do not deprive themselves of a single enjoyment; the covetous man remains sordid, the proud man remains full of himself, the envious and the jealous remain the same. For them, Christian charity is only a beautiful ideal; they are inconsistent spiritists.

3rd. Those who are not content with admiring the morality of spiritist doctrine, but who accept it practically, with all its consequences. Convinced that terrestrial life is only a brief trial, they strive to profit by its passing moments, and to advance, on the road of progress by which alone they can reach a higher degree in the hierarchy of the world of spirits, through activity in doing good, and in repressing their evil tendencies. Intercourse with such is always safe, for their convictions preserve them from all thought of evil, and charity is in all things their rule of conduct. They may be classed as true spiritists, or better yet, as Christian spiritists.

4th. Lastly, there are the excited spiritists. The human race would be perfect, if it took tip only the right side of a thing. Exaggeration is always hurtful; in Spiritism, it engenders a too blind confidence in everything that proceeds from the invisible world ; a confidence which sometimes becomes puerile, causing people to accept, too easily, and unreasoningly, what reflection and examination would have shown them to be absurd or impossible. Unfortunately, enthusiasm finds it hard to reflect, and is apt to get dazed. Such adherents are more hurtful than useful to the cause of spiritism ; they are unfit to convince, because their judgement is distrusted ; they become the easy dupes, either of spirits who hoax them, or of men who practise on their credulity. If they alone had to suffer the consequences of their blindness, the latter would be less regrettable ; but, unhappily, such persons unintentionally put arms into the hands of the incredulous, more desirous of opportunities for railing than of conviction, and prompt to impute, to all, the absurdities of the few.

29. The methods for convincing vary according to the individuals to be acted on; for what persuades one does not touch another. One man is convinced by physical manifestations, another by intelligent communications, but the greater number, by reasoning. It may even be said that, for most of those who are not previously prepared by reasoning, physical phenomena have but little weight. The more extraordinary these phenomena are, and the more they diverge from ordinary experience, the more opposition do they encounter; and this, for the very simple reason, that we are naturally prone to doubt whatever has not a rational sanction; each man regarding such a matter from his Own point of view, and interpreting it in his own way. Thus the materialist attributes such phenomena to some purely physical action, or to trickery; the ignorant and superstitious attribute them to some diabolical or supernatural agency; while a preliminary explanation has the effect of disarming prejudice, and of showing, if not their reality, at least, their possibility. Those, who begin by seeking for explanation, comprehend before they have seen ; for them, when they have acquired the certainty that the phenomena are possible, the conviction of their reality is easily arrived at.

30. Is there any use in trying to convince an obstinate unbeliever? We have said that this depends upon the cause and the nature of his incredulity ; it often happens that the persistence with which persons attempt to convert an unbeliever only serves to puff him up with an exaggerated sense of his importance, and thus renders him all the more obstinate. If a man cannot be convinced either by reasoning or by facts, it is evident that he has still to undergo the affliction of incredulity; we must leave to Providence the care of bringing him into more favourable circumstances. There are too many people ready for the light, for us to lose time Over those who only desire to shut it out. Make your advances, then, rather to those who are favourably inclined, of whom the number is greater than is generally supposed. Address yourselves to these; for their example will accomplish more than words. The true spiritist will never fail to be doing good ; his delight is to give consolation, to calm despair, and to forward the work of moral re- formation. Therein lies his mission ; therein will he find his true joy. Spiritism is in the air ; it scatters benefits by its very nature, because it renders happy those who profess it. When its obstinate adversaries feel its influence around them in the homes of their friends, they will comprehend their own isolation, and will be forced into silence or acceptance.

31. To proceed in the study of spiritism as is done in the other sciences, it would be necessary to pass experimentally through the whole series of spirit-phenomena, beginning with the simplest, to arrive in succession at the more complicated ; but this cannot be done, because it would be impossible to go through a regular course of experimentation, in spiritism, as we do in physics or chemistry. In the natural sciences, we operate on brute matter, manipulating it at will, and with almost a certainty of producing a given effect; in spiritism, on the contrary, we have to deal with intelligences who have their liberty, and who constantly prove to us that they are not subject to our commands. It is consequently necessary to await the occurrence of the phenomena, holding ourselves in readiness to observe them as they occur; and we therefore assert that whoever should dare to assert that he can obtain any given phenomena at his pleasure can be only an ignoramus or an impostor: for these phenomena, being independent of our will, may fail to be manifested when they are wanted, or may present themselves under quite a different aspect from that which we may desire. Let us add, that, in order to obtain them, we must have the co-operation of persons endowed with special faculties, and that these faculties are infinitely varied, according to the aptitude of each individual; and, as the same medium rarely possesses all these faculties, a new difficulty is thus created, since, in order to go through such a course of experimental spiritism, we should require to have always at hand a complete assortment of mediums, which is evidently impossible.

The way to obviate this inconvenience is very simple, viz., to commence with the theory. In this way, all the phenomena are passed in review and explained, the inquirer gets at the gist of the matter, and understands the possibilities of the case and the conditions under which the phenomena may occur, as well as the obstacles that may be met with. Thus, whatever may occur will find him prepared, and nothing can take him by surprise. This plan offers yet another advantage, inasmuch as it spares the practical investigator a vast number of disappointments because, being forewarned of difficulties, he is able to keep on his guard, and to avoid having to gain experience at his own expense.

It would be difficult for us to compute the number of those who have come to us since we have been occupied with spiritism ; and how many of these have we seen, who have remained indifferent or incredulous in presence of the most evident facts, and who have only been convinced by rational explanation ; how many others who had been predisposed to conviction by reasoning; how many, in fine, who were already persuaded of the truth of spiritism, though they had seen nothing, because they had read and had understood the rationale of the matter! We therefore say, from our own experience, that the best method of acquiring a knowledge of spiritism is to bring reasoning to bear on the subject, first of all and afterwards to confirm reasoning by experiment.

32. A preliminary study of the theory of spiritism is also useful, by showing the grandeur of its scope and aim he who begins by seeing a table move, or hearing it rap, is the more inclined to raillery, because he cannot imagine that such manifestations lead up to a doctrine that is destined to regenerate humanity. We have always remarked that those who have believed before seeing, because they had read and comprehended, so far from being superficial, were, on the contrary, the most intelligent and thoughtful. Intent on the substance rather than the form, and the philosophical aspect of spiritism being the chief consideration with minds of this character, the phenomena are to them only accessories. They see that, even if the phenomena did not exist, the philosophy would still remain as the sole solution of problems insoluble up to the present time, the most rational theory yet propounded of the past and of the future. The manifestations are invaluable as corroboration and confirmation of this theory, but they are not its basis. And proof of this view of the subject is found in the fact that thousands, before they had ever heard of the manifestations, had an intuitive perception of the doctrine, which has only served to give form and coherence to ideas that had, previously, been vaguely held by them.

33. It would not, however, be strictly correct to assert that those who commence by the study of the spiritist theory are without the corroboration of facts. On the contrary, they have an abundance of facts confirmatory of this theory, in the numerous cases of Spontaneous manifestation, concerning which we shall speak in succeeding chapters; a class of facts of which there are few persons who have not had some cognisance in their own experience, although they may have paid but little attention to them. Facts of this kind have great weight when supported by unexceptionable testimony, because, in such cases, there can be no suspicion of preparation or collusion. Even if the spiritist phenomena did not exist, the spontaneous phenomena would none the less be facts; and if the only result of the spiritist theory were to explain as it does the spontaneous phenomena that have occurred in all ages, its value would evidently be very great.

34. The reader, however, would greatly mistake our views if he supposed that we would counsel him to neglect the modern manifestations, for it is through them that we have been led to the theory in question. It is true that we have had to devote ourselves assiduously, during several years, to collating the results of innumerable observations, in working out this theory to its completion; but, inasmuch as these manifestations have served us, and serve us daily, for the elucidation of the views we have arrived at, it would be impossible for us to underrate their importance, especially in writing a book with the object of making them known. What we would say is, that, unless we reason upon them, the phenomena themselves do not suffice to determine conviction; that a preliminary explanation, by disarming prejudices, and by showing that there is nothing in those phenomena contrary to reason, paves the way for the admission of their reality. This is so true, that, of ten persons new to the subject who may assist at an experimental "séance," however satisfactory it may be in the eyes of those who are convinced already, nine of them will leave the room without being convinced, and some of them even more incredulous than they were before, because the experiment has not come up to their expectations. Quite otherwise will it be with those who are able to estimate correctly what they see, thanks to a theoretic knowledge of the subject, previously obtained. For these, the "séance" is a means to an end, and nothing takes them by surprise, not even failure, because they know the conditions under which the phenomena occur, and that it is useless to ask for what cannot be had. Knowledge gained in advance of facts puts us in a position to estimate aright even the anomalies presented by them, and to seize a multitude of details and shades, often of the most delicate nature, which for us are so many sources of conviction, but which would not be appreciated, nor even noted, by the uninstructed observer. For these reasons we admit to our experimental "séances" only those who have sufficient preparatory knowledge to understand what may occur in them; so fully persuaded are we that any others would only lose their time, and make us lose ours.

35. Those who would acquire this preliminary knowledge should read, not only our own works, but, as far as possible, all the principal ones that have been written on the subject, both for and against it. They will thus be enabled to judge for themselves of the relative value of the views put forth in regard to it, and to meet all objections that may be brought forward against it.



Related articles

Show related items
Wait, loading...