THE MEDIUMS’ BOOK

Allan Kardec

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CHAPTER IV
THEORIES.


36. When the strange phenomena of spiritism were first produced, or, to speak more correctly, when they began to be renewed in these latter days, the first sentiment they excited was doubt in regard to their reality, and, still more so, in regard to their cause. Since their reality has been proved by unexceptionable testimony and by experiments that any One may try for himself; each observer interprets them in his own way, in accordance with his own ideas, beliefs, or prejudices ; hence have arisen various theories, which a comparative observation will enable us to estimate at their true value.

The adversaries of spiritism have imagined that, in this divergence of Opinion, they find an argument against it. They say : "The spiritists themselves are at variance !" This is but a poor argument, for every new science is necessarily uncertain, until the facts which will settle a question have been brought together and arranged in their proper order. It is only in proportion as accumulated facts explain one another, that premature conclusions are got rid of and unity is established, at least in regard to fundamental points, if not in every detail. Spiritism could not escape the common law, and, from its very nature, was especially liable to give rise to a diversity of interpretations. But even in this respect, we can confidently assert that it has proceeded faster than any of the other sciences, its elders, in all of which we find that opposite opinions are held by minds of the highest order.
37. In enumerating the theories hostile to spiritism, we will begin with those that may be called theories of negation; but, as we have discussed these theories in the Introduction to The Spirits' Book and in the Conclusion of that work, as also in our short summary entitled What is Spiritism? we shall, in this place, merely recapitulate, in a few words, the most important of them.

Spirit-phenomena are of two sorts, viz.: the physical, and the intelligent. Those who do not admit the existence of spirits, because they admit of nothing outside of matter, naturally deny the indications of intelligence in the phenomena referred to. As regards the physical effects, they comment upon these from their own stand-point; and their arguments may be summed up under the four following heads: -

38. Theory of charlatanism. Many of our antagonists attribute these effects to fraud because, they say, many of them can be imitated. This supposition would transform all spiritists into dupes, and all mediums into deceivers, without regard to their position, character, intellectual acquirements, or honourable antecedents; if it merited a reply, we should say that certain phenomena in physics are imitated by conjurors, and that this proves nothing against physical science. It is quite untenable when all suspicion of fraud is rendered impossible by the character of the parties through whose agency, and in whose presence, the phenomena are manifested. We do not say that no Spirit manifestations have ever been imitated by charlatans, for abuses exist everywhere; but the abuse of a thing is no argument against the thing itself.

39. Theory of weak-mindedness. Some of our opponents put aside all suspicion of trickery, but assert that those who are not deceivers are themselves deceived; which is only a more civil way of Saying that we are simpletons. When unbelievers are less choice in their forms of expression, they say plainly that those who believe in spiritism are mad thus assuming to themselves the exclusive possession of mental soundness. This charge of insanity is the grand argument of those who can find no good reason for their opposition. But the frequency of this charge has made it so ridiculous that we need not waste our time in refuting it. Spiritists, moreover, care but little for the attacks of their adversaries. They take their lot bravely, consoling themselves with the knowledge that plenty of people, of incon- testable merit, are their companions in misfortune. It must really be admitted that their madness, if such it be, is a madness of a very singular character, for it lays hold, most often, of the enlightened classes, among which spiritism counts, at the present period, the immense majority of its adherents. If among the number, a few eccentric ones are to be found, such exceptions prove no more against spiritism than religious madness proves against religion, than music-madness proves against music, or than the fact that men have lost their wits in the study of mathematics proves against the truth of that great science. All ideas have had their fanatics; and that judgement must be obtuse indeed which confounds the exaggeration of a thing with the thing itself. For a more ample treatment of this subject, we refer the reader to our pamphlet What is Spiritism? and to The Spirits' Book (Introduction § XV.).

40. Theory of hallucination. Another opinion, less offensive, inasmuch as it bears on its surface a colour of scientific discrimination, attributes these phenomena to illusion of the senses. Those who hold it say: "The observer may be a very respectable person; but he thinks he sees what he does not see. When he sees a table rise up and remain in the air, without anything to rest upon, the table does not really move at all; he sees it in the air by a sort of mirage, or by some effect of refraction, like that by which we see a star, or an object in the water, Out of its true position." Such an illusion would be possible in point of fact, but witnesses of these phenomena are able to prove their objective nature, by passing under the suspended table, which would be difficult, if it had not quitted the floor. On the other hand, it often happens that the table is broken in its fall to the floor; can such a breakage be the effect of an optical illusion? A well-known physiological cause may undoubtedly make us believe that we see a thing turn which does not move; or a man attacked with vertigo may fancy himself to turn when he is stationary; but when several persons are witnesses to the same fact, can it be alleged that all such persons are the victims of illusion ?

41. Theory of the cracking-muscle. If the theory of illusion is inapplicable in regard to the evidence of sight, when several persons see the same thing, it is equally inapplicable in regard to that of hearing, when the same sounds are heard by a whole assembly; for, under such circumstances, it is evidently impossible to attribute them to a deception of the senses. All idea of illusion must therefore be regarded as exploded ; while, on the other hand, observation has proved that these. occurrences are not due to any fortuitous or physical cause.

It is true that a learned surgeon * has declared that the "spirit-rap" is produced by voluntary or involuntary contractions of the short tendon of the muscle of the instep. He enters into elaborate anatomical details, to show the way in which the mechanism of this tendon is made to produce those raps, to imitate the beating of a drum, and even to reproduce the rhythm of well-known tunes; from all of which he deduces the conclusion that people who believe they hear raps in a table are dupes, either of a mystification or of a delusion. Unfortunately for the author of this pretended discovery, his theory is far from being able to explain all the facts of the case. It is to be remarked, in the first place, that the persons who rejoice in the singular faculty of cracking at pleasure the short muscle of their instep, or any other muscle, and of playing tunes by this means, are exceedingly rare; while the faculty of obtaining raps in a table is a very common one, and those who possess it do not usually possess the muscular gift in question. In the second place, the learned surgeon has forgotten to explain how this muscle can be made to crack by a person who does not move. and how muscle-cracking, by one who is isolated from the table, can produce in it vibrations that are as sensible to the touch as to the ear; how the sounds thus produced can be repeated at the will of the company, on different parts of the table, on the other furniture, against the walls, the ceiling, etc. ; how, in fine, the action of that muscle can be extended to a table that is not touched, and make it move. But this pretended explanation, even if it explained the phenomena of the rappings, could not explain any of the other modes of communication. We therefore conclude that the learned gentleman has proclaimed a verdict without having examined the matter in dispute, and must be allowed to regret that scientific men should be in a hurry to give, in regard to what they do not understand, explanations disproved by the facts of the Case; whereas they, of all men, should be the most circumspect in laying down the law in regard to new subjects, because their knowledge has pushed back, for them, the barriers which separate the known and the unknown.

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* M. Jobert (de Lamballe). In strict justice it should be said that this discovery is due to M. Schiff; but to the great surgeon belongs the honour of bringing it, with its consequences, before the Academy of Medicine, for the purpose of felling all "spirit-rappers" with this terrible cudgel. Vide, for details of the onslaught alluded to, the Revue Spirite, for June 1859.


42. Theory of physical causes. We now emerge from the sphere of absolute negation. The reality of the phenomena being admitted, the first thought which naturally suggested itself, to those who recognised them as real, was to attribute them to magnetism, to electricity, or to some sort of fluidic action; in a word, to some purely physical cause. In this there was nothing irrational; and that explanation would have been generally adopted, if the phenomena had been limited to purely mechanical effects. A circumstance which even seemed to corroborate this view was the fact, that, in certain cases, the power increased in proportion to the number of the sitters ; each person might thus be considered as constituting one of the elements of a human electric battery. As previously remarked, the characteristic of a true theory is its capability of accounting for all the facts to which it refers ; if contradicted by a single fact, the theory is seen to be erroneous or incomplete and this is just the case with the theory now cited. The phenomena observed were found to give signs of intelligence, by conforming to the will of the sitters and responding to their thought; thus proving that they proceeded from the action of an intelligent cause. This point ascertained, the phe- nomena could no longer be regarded as merely physical, or as being due to the action of a purely physical cause. The theory of the exclusive action of a physical agent as their source was thenceforth necessarily abandoned, and is no longer upheld except by people who argue à priori, and without having investigated. The chief point, therefore, is to obtain proof of intelligence in the phenomena we are about to consider; and this proof will certainly be obtained by all who take the pains to investigate for themselves.

43. Theory of reflexion. Proofs of intelligence being recognised in the phenomena, there remained the necessity of ascertaining the source of this intelligence. Some thought it might be that of the medium, or of those present, reflecting itself, like the light, or like sonorous vibrations. The suggestion was plausible; experience alone could decide its value. And here let us remark that this theory is anti-materialistic; for if the intelligence of those present could thus reproduce itself, it must be admitted that there is in man a principle distinct from his organism.

If the thought expressed in the communications thus made had been always that of the persons present, the theory of reflexion would have been confirmed; but, even in that case, would riot such phenomena have been of the deepest interest? Would not thought, exerting a reflex action on an inert body, and translating itself into sounds and movements, be something Very remarkable? something worthy to excite the curiosity of scientific men? Why has such a subject been disdained by those who wear themselves out in searching after the properties of a nervous fibre?

Experience alone could show whether the theory of reflexion was right or wrong; and experience has shown it to be wrong, for experience proves, by the most positive facts, that the thought expressed may be not only alien to that of the persons present but in opposition to it, contradicting their preconceived ideas, and disappointing their expectation. When he who thinks white gets black for an answer, it is difficult for him to believe that the answer comes from himself. A great point is often made, by opponents, of the similarity sometimes observable between the thought expressed and that of the persons in the circle; but what does this prove, if not that those present may think like the intelligence which communicates with them? It was never asserted that they are always of an opposite opinion. When, in conversation, your interlocutor expresses a thought analogous to your own, do you say that the thought comes from you? How, again, can reflexion of thought explain the production of writing by persons who do not know how to write? replies of the widest philosophical scope obtained through illiterate persons? answers given to questions propounded mentally, or spoken in a language unknown to the medium? and a thousand other facts, leaving no doubt as to the independence of the intelligence which manifests itself? The theory of reflexion can only be held by those whose observation is of the most superficial and limited character.

If the presence of an outside intelligence is morally proved by the nature of the answers given, it is physically proved by the fact of direct writing ; that is to Say, writing produced spontaneously, without pen or pencil, without contact, and in spite of all the precautions taken to render trickery impossible. The intelligent character of such a phenomenon being undeniable, that phenomenon must be due to something else than fluidic action; and the spontaneousness of the thought expressed, often disappointing our expectation and wandering away from the questions presented, renders it impossible for us to attribute its manifestation to any reflex action on the part of the persons present.

The theory of reflexion is particularly impolite in certain cases; as when, at a party of honourably-minded persons, communications are unexpectedly produced of a coarse, frivolous, or otherwise objectionable character. It would be paying a very poor compliment to such persons, to assert that such communications come from them; and it is probable that, in such a case, each of them would promptly repudiate the implication. (See The Spirits' Book, Introduction § XVI.)

44. Theory of the collective soul. This explanation is a Variety of the preceding one. According to this theory, the soul of the medium alone manifests itself, but it identifies itself with that of several other living persons, present or absent, and this union of souls forms a collective whole, combining the aptitudes, knowledge, and intelligence of each. Like many other theories, it is the expression of an individual Opinion, and has made but few proselytes.*


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* This theory, since known as that of "unconscious cerebration", was first broached in a pamphlet entitled, Communion. Light of the Spirits. By EMA TIRPSE,1 a collective soul writing through the medium of a planchette. Devroye. Brussels. 1858.



45. Theory of somnambulism. This theory has had many partisans, and even now has a few. Like the preceding one, it lays down, as a rule, that all intelligent communications have their source in the soul or Spirit of the medium but, in order to explain his power to treat on subjects beyond his knowledge, instead of the supposition of a multiple soul in the medium, it attributes this power to a momentary superexcitement of his mental faculties, a sort of somnambulic or ecstatic state, which exalts and develops his intelligence. It is impossible to deny that this super excitement really occurs in some cases ; but it would only be necessary to see the majority of mediums at work, to be convinced that this theory cannot explain all the phenomena, and that such a state is the exception, and not the rule. Mediums are far from having at all times an inspired or ecstatic air, which, by the way, they could easily assume, if playing a part ; and how could we believe in this sort of inspiration, when we see a medium writing like a machine, without having the least consciousness of what he is writing, showing no emotion, paying no attention to what he is doing, often laughing and talking on all manner of subjects, and looking carelessly about him? We can understand a man's being in a state of trance, but we cannot comprehend how trance should make a man write who does not know how to write, or give communications through the tilting an(l rapping of tables, or the writing of planchettes and pencils. We shall refer, in a later part of this work, to the influence of the medium's ideas on the communications which he receives; but the proofs of the action of an intelligence independent of the medium are so incontestable that they leave us in no doubt in regard to it. The defect of the greater number of the theories broached by spiritists is the drawing of general conclusions from isolated cases.

46. Pessimist theory. Here we enter upon a new order of ideas. The intervention of an extraneous intelligence having been proved, the easiest method for learning the nature of this intelligence would undoubtedly have been to ask it what it was.* But some persons, not considering such a method of proceeding as offering a sufficient guarantee of the truthfulness of the reply, preferred to set the whole down to the devil; only the devil, or demons, according to their ideas, having the power of communicating with mankind. Although this theory has but few partisans now-a-days, it did, nevertheless, for a short time, obtain a certain amount of credit, from the character of those who advocated it. It must, however, be borne in mind that the partisans of the demoniac theory ought not to be ranged among the adversaries of Spiritism, but quite the contrary. Whether the beings who make themselves known to us are demons or angels, they are extra-human beings; therefore, the admission of the possibility of demoniacal manifestations is a virtual admission of the possibility of communicating with the invisible world, or, at least, with a part of that world.

The theory of the exclusive communication of demons, however irrational, was evidently not incredible so long as spirits were looked upon as created beings, beyond the pale of humanity; but since it has been known that spirits are neither more nor less than the souls of deceased men and women, that theory has lost credit. The result of such an explanation came to this, viz., that all souls are demons, though they should be those of a father, a son, or a friend, and that we, too, on dying, shall also become demons, which is neither flattering nor consoling; nor would it be easy to persuade a mother that the cherished child whom she has lost, and who comes after death to proffer tokens of its identity and affection, is a tool of Satan. It is true that, among spirits, there are some who are no better than what are called demons, but the reason of this is very simple, viz., that there are in this world some very bad men, and that death does not change these into good spirits all at once. The gist of the question under con- sideration is this -Are bad spirits the only ones able to communicate with us? To those who would answer this query in the affirmative, we beg to address the following questions : -

1st. Are there good and evil Spirits?

2d. Is God more powerful than bad spirits, or than "demons," if this be your mode of expression?

3d. If we affirm that the bad spirits alone communicate, we say, in other words, that good spirits cannot do so; if this be so, it must be so by the will of God, or contrary to that will. If it be contrary to God's will, it proves that bad spirits are more powerful than God; if it be by God's will, why, in His goodness, does He not permit good spirits to counterbalance the influence of the others?

4th. What proof have you of the impotence of good spirits in this respect?

5th. When reference is made to the wisdom of some of the communications, you reply that the devil assumes all sorts of masks, in order to deceive. We know by experience that there are hypocritical spirits, whose language wears a false varnish of excellence; but do you admit that ignorance can counterfeit knowledge, or an evil nature counterfeit virtue, without letting out something that betrays the fraud?

6th. If the devil alone has the power of communicating, he being the enemy of God and men, how is it that he advises us to pray to God, to submit ourselves to His will, to bear without murmuring the tribulations of life, to desire neither honours nor riches, to practise charity and all the maxims of Christ; in a word, to do all we possibly can to destroy the devil's empire? If it be the devil who gives such counsels, it must be admitted, that, far from being so cunning as he is represented to be, he must be particularly short-sighted, thus to furnish arms against himself. *

7th. If spirits communicate with us, it must be by the permission of God; and when we find that there are both bad and good communications, is it not more reasonable to suppose that God permits the one in order to try us, and the other, in order to counsel us for our good?

8th. What would you think of a father who should leave his child at the mercy of pernicious examples and evil counsels, and who should prevent him from holding inter- course with persons who might turn him from evil? Can you believe that God would do what no good father, what no good man, would do?

9th. All religions recognise, as authentic, certain manifestations of saints, angels, etc., by apparitions, visions, and oral communications. Is not this recognition contradictory to the doctrine of the exclusive communication of demons?

We believe that some persons have held this theory in all honesty; but we also think that others have upheld it in order to dissuade people from the study of spiritism, because of the evil communications to which we are exposed. By saying that the devil alone manifests, they hope to frighten people, much as they would say to a child " Don't touch that; it bums I" The intention may be praiseworthy, but the means employed are a failure; for the prohibition itself excites curiosity, and few are deterred by fear of the devil people want to see him, if only to find out what he is like, and are quite astonished to find him not so black as he had been painted.

May not another reason for this exclusive attribution of the phenomena in question to the devil be found in the persuasion of certain persons that whoever differs with them in opinion must be in the wrong, and that, as the views expressed by some spirits are not in accordance with their own, those views can only be put forth by the devil?

If a Mussulman should hear a spirit speak against the Koran, he would assuredly think it was a bad spirit; it would be the same with the Jew, in regard to certain points of the law of Moses. As for the Catholics, we have heard one affirm that the spirit who communicated could only be the devil, because he differed with him in regard to the temporal power of the Pope, although the spirit had exhorted to charity, tolerance, love of the neighbour, and abnegation of the things of this world, all of which are in accordance with the teachings of Christ.

Spirits being nothing but the souls of men, and men being imperfect, it follows that there are spirits equally imperfect, and whose character is reflected in their words. That there are some who are evil, astute, and profoundly hypocritical, is an incontestable fact, and against these it is necessary to be on our guard; but, should we renounce society, because there are wicked men in the world? God has given us reason and judgement, in order that we may appreciate spirits as well as men. The best way to guard one’s self against the annoyances that may result from the practice of spiritism is not to interdict it, but to understand it. Imaginary danger does not frighten every one, and such fear is soon got rid of; but the clear setting forth of a reality is comprehensible by all.


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* Vide The Spirits' Book, 128, et seq.


47. Optimist theory. While some persons see in these phenomena only the action of demons, others only see that of good spirits; they suppose that souls, being disengaged from matter by death, see everything without a veil, and must therefore possess all science, and the highest wisdom. Their blind confidence in this supposed superiority of the beings of the invisible world has been a Source of deception to many persons, who have learned at length, and to their cost, to distrust certain spirits as well as certain men.

48. The unispiritist or monospiritist theory, a variety of the optimist theory, consisting in the belief that one single spirit communicates with men, and that this Spirit is Christ, the Protector of the Earth. But as some communications are very trivial, while others are coarse, malevolent, and wicked, it would be a profanation to suppose that they emanate from the Spirit of Goodness. If those who hold this belief had never received any but irreproachable communications, we could understand their illusion; but the majority of them acknowledge that they have received some very bad ones, which they explain by saying, that the Good Spirit has wished to test them by dictating absurdities. Thus, while some attribute all communications to the devil, who says good things to tempt us, others think that Jesus alone manifests Himself; and that He says evil things to test us. Between two opinions so opposed to each other, who, or what, shall decide? Evidently, common sense and experience. We say experience, because such exclusive ideas can only be held by those who have seen and observed very little.

When we bring forward, in opposition to these ideas, facts of identity, attesting the presence of relations, friends, or acquaintances, whether through written mani- festations, by vision, or otherwise, they reply that these are always produced by the same spirit, who is the devil according to some, Christ according to others, and who is thus seen to assume all forms; but they do not tell us why other spirits cannot communicate, nor why the Spirit of Truth should deceive us, by presenting Himself under false appearances; for instance, deceiving a poor mother, by making her believe, through a lie, that He is the child for whom she weeps. Reason refuses to admit that a holy and exalted spirit could stoop to play such a comedy. Besides, does not the denial of the possibility of all other communications rob spiritism of its most precious attribute, the consolation of the afflicted? But the theory alluded to is too irrational to bear serious examination.

49. The multispiritist or polyspiritist theory. All the explanations we have passed in review, not excepting those of the negative order, are grounded on the observation of certain facts; but of facts that have been seen isolatedly and interpreted wrongly. If a house is red on one side and white on the other, those who have only seen one side will affirm it to be red, or white, according to the side they have seen. Both will be right, and both wrong; but he who has seen the house on both sides will say that it is red and white, and he alone will be right. So it is with spiritism; what is said of it may be true in certain respects, and may yet be false if we generalise what is only partial, if we take for a rule what is only an exception, or regard as a whole what is only a part. It is for this reason we say that whoever would study spiritism seriously must see much of it, and for a long time together; time alone will give him opportunities for seizing upon details, for remarking delicate shadings, and for observing a multitude of characteristic facts which will be for him so many rays of light; but, if he stops at the surface, he exposes himself to the danger of forming an opinion that will be premature, and consequently erroneous. Let us now proceed to sum up the general principles that have been deduced from the widest observation and study of the phenomena we are considering, and that may be regarded as forming the general basis of spiritist belief; all other interpretations being merely the expression of individual opinions: -

1st. Spirit-phenomena are produced by extra-corporeal intelligences ; that is to say, by spirits.

2nd. Spirits constitute the invisible world ; they are everywhere; the infinity of space is peopled by them; they are always around us, and we are always in intimate union with some of them.

3rd. Spirits act incessantly upon the physical world, and upon the moral world, and are one of the powers of nature.

4th. Spirits are not beings of a different order from ourselves ; they are the souls of those who have lived upon the earth or in other worlds, and who have thrown off their corporeal body : whence it follows that the souls of men are spirits in flesh, and that we, on dying, become spirits.

5th. Spirits are of every degree of goodness and of badness, of knowledge and of ignorance.

6th. Spirits are submitted to the law of progress, and all will arrive at perfection ; but, as they possess free-will, they arrive at perfection more or less rapidly, according to the amount of effort and determination put forth by them.

7th. Spirits are happy or Unhappy, in proportion to the good or the evil which they have done during their earthly life, and the amount of progress they have made. Perfect, unmixed felicity is the heritage of those spirits alone who have arrived at the supreme degree of perfection.

8th. All spirits, under certain conditions, can manifest themselves to men; the number of those able to communicate with us is unlimited.

9th. Spirits communicate through the agency of mediums, who serve them as instruments and interpreters.

10th. The superiority or inferiority of Spirits is shown by their language; the good give only good Counsels, and say only what is good: everything about them attests their elevation. Bad Spirits deceive, and their statements usually bear the stamp of ignorance and imperfection.

A knowledge of the different degrees passed through by spirits is indispensable to the comprehension of the nature of those who manifest themselves, with their good or evil qualities. *

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* Vide The Spirits' Book, 100; Spirit-Hierarchy.


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).

51. The following is the answer given by a spirit to a question on this subject: -

"What some call 'the perispirit' is the same as what others call the soul's 'fluidic envelope.' It is formed of the fluid which gives perfectibility to our senses, and extension to our view and our ideas. I speak of elevated spirits, for, as regards inferior spirits, the fluids inherent in them are altogether earthly, and therefore material, as you see; hence their sufferings of hunger, cold, etc., sufferings that the higher spirits cannot feel, because, with them, the terrestrial fluids are purified around the seat of their consciousness, that is to say, their soul. The soul, in order to progress, always requires an agent, for the soul without an agent is nothing, or rather, I should say, cannot be con- ceived of by you. The perispirit, for us, spirits in the state of erraticity, is the agent by which we communicate with you, whether indirectly, by means of your body, or, by means of your perispirit, directly with your soul; hence the infinite diversity of mediums and communications. As for the scientific explanation of the pen spirit, that is to say, the definition of its essence, that is quite another thing. Let the moral aspect of the question suffice to you for the present beyond that, any inquiry would involve disquisitions upon the nature of fluids, inexplicable for you at this time, because your physical sciences are not yet sufficiently advanced. But science will ascertain this point, in time, with the aid of light derived from spiritism. The perispirit can vary and change indefinitely; the soul is thought, and its nature does not change. Do not attempt to go any further in this direction ; for the nature of the soul is a point that cannot be explained. Do you suppose that we are not seeking, just as you are? You are searching after the perispirit; we, meanwhile, are searching after the soul. Therefore, wait.


LAMENNAIS."


If spirits who may be considered as advanced have not yet been able to fathom the essential nature of the soul, how, indeed, can we hope to do so? The endeavour to scrutinise the principle of things which, as is remarked in The Spirits' Book (17, 49), are beyond the scope of our present faculties, is but a loss of time. To attempt to pry into things which are nut yet within the reach of humanity, by the aid of spiritism, is to turn it from its true object ; it is to act like the child, who would fain know as much as the man. Let us use spiritism for our moral improvement; that is the essential point ; the rest is too often but sterile Curiosity, prompted by pride, the satisfaction of which would not advance us a single step; for the only true method of advancement is to become better. The spirits who have dictated the book which bears their name have proved their wisdom by restricting their teachings, as regards the principle of things, within limits that we are not yet able to overstep; leaving to presumptuous spirits, with their theorisings, the responsibility of premature and erroneous statements, specious, but hollow, which will one day disappear in the light of reason, as so many merely human lucubrations have already done. Spirits have only given us such information as is necessary to enable us to comprehend the future which awaits us, and thus to encourage us in well-doing.


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