A Visitor - I must tell you, sir, that my reason refuses to accept the reality of the strange phenomena attributed to spirits, which I am convinced exist only in the imagination. However, one would have to bow down before the evidence and that is what I will do if presented with uncontestable proof. Hence, not wanting to impose, I have come to ask for your kind permission to watch just one or two experiments in order to be convinced if possible. The Skeptic
Allan Kardec - Well, if your reason refuses to accept what we consider to be established facts, it is because you believe it to be superior to the reason of all other persons who do not share your opinion. I have no doubts about your worthiness, nor would I claim that my own intelligence is greater than yours. So, let's accept the fact that I am in the wrong - since your reason says that I am — and therefore there is nothing more to be said on the matter.
Visitor —Nevertheless, I am widely recognized as an opponent of your ideas, and if you were to convince me, it would be a miracle eminently favorable to your cause.
A.K. - I'm sorry, sir, but I don't have the gift of performing miracles. Do you really think that one or two sessions would be enough to convince you? That indeed would be a tour de force. It took more than a year of study for me to become convinced, which goes to show that if I now am, it was not done thoughtlessly. Besides, I don't offer public sessions and it seems that you may be mistaken about the purpose of our meetings, since we do not perform experiments in order to satisfy people's curiosity.
Visitor - So you do not try to win converts?
A.K. - Why would I want to win you over as convert if you do not want to become one? I can't make anyone believe. When I meet individuals who sincerely desire to learn, and who give me the honor of asking for explanations, it is my pleasure and duty to respond to them within the limits of my knowledge. However, as for opponents who, like yourself, are set in their ways, I do not make any effort to dissuade them because I can find plenty of persons who are willing to be convinced. I don't have to waste my time on those who are not. Conviction will inevitably come sooner or later, and the most disbelieving will be swept along by the current. For now, a few more or a few less adherents will not tip the scales. That is why you will never see me worrying about attracting to our ideas those who, like yourself, have such good reasons to keep their distance from them.
Visitor - Nevertheless, there could be more interest in convincing me than you might think. Would you allow me to explain myself honestly and promise me that you won't be offended? These are my thoughts on the matter itself and not the person I'm addressing. I can respect the person without having to share his opinion.
A.K. - Spiritism has taught me to place little value on the petty susceptibilities of self-esteem, and not to feel offended by mere words. If your statements overstep the limits of civility and propriety, I will conclude that you are an impolite person, that's all. As for myself, I prefer to leave others in their errors instead of sharing in them. So, from that alone you can see that Spiritism is good for something.
As I have already stated, I have no intention of making you share my opinion. I respect yours if it is sincere, just as I want you to respect mine. Because you treat Spiritism as a hollow dream, you must have said to yourself on your way here: "I'm going to see a lunatic." Admit it frankly, I won't be upset. That all Spiritists are crazy is an established thing. Fine, then! Since you regard this as a mental illness, I would feel guilty in transmitting it to you, and I'm surprised that with such a thought in mind you would seek to acquire a conviction that would place you amongst lunatics. If you were persuaded beforehand that you cannot be convinced, your effort is futile since its only objective is curiosity. So I ask of you, let's be brief, because I don't have time to waste on pointless conversations.
Visitor - But a person can be mistaken and deluded without being crazy because of it.
A.K. - To put it plainly, you are saying, like so many others, that Spiritism is a fad whose time will pass. But you must agree that a fad, which has taken only a few years to win millions of adherents in every country, which includes learned individuals of every order amongst its followers, and which is spreading especially amongst the educated classes, is a peculiar mania that is worthy of a little examination.
Visitor - True, I do have my own ideas on the matter; however, they are not so unyielding that I wouldn't be willing to sacrifice them to the evidence. That is why I said that you might have a certain interest in convincing me. I must confess that I plan to publish a book, in which I propose to demonstrate ex professo what I regard as an error. The book would have a far-reaching impact and deal a blow to the Spirits, but if I were to be convinced otherwise, I won't publish it.
A.K. - I would feel awful if I were to deprive you of the profits from a book that must be so far-reaching. Besides, I have no interest in keeping you from publishing it; on the contrary, I hope it will be well-received, because it will serve to publicize and advertise us. When something is attacked, attention is drawn to it; there are a lot of people who like to see its pros and cons, and criticism makes it known to those who hadn't even thought about it. That is why often, and without meaning to, publicity ends up benefiting those it was meant to harm. Moreover, the issue of spirits is so interesting and arouses so much curiosity that it is enough to merely draw attention to it and people will want to examine it more profoundly.
Visitor - So, in your opinion, criticism is useless and public opinion doesn't count for anything?
A.K. - I don't regard criticism as an expression of public opinion, but as a personal opinion that may be mistaken. Look at history and you will see how many masterpieces were criticized when they first appeared; but that did not keep them from being masterpieces. When something is bad, all the praise in the world will not make it good. If Spiritism is an error, it willfall by itself; if it is a truth, all the diatribes in the world will not render it a lie. Your book will be a personal appraisal from your own point of view - true public opinion will decide whether or not you are right. Thus, people will want to examine the matter for themselves, and if they realize that you were wrong, your book will be ridiculed like the one published not too long ago against the theories on the circulation of the blood, on vaccine, etc.
But I have forgotten that you are going to treat the issue ex professo, which means that you have studied it from every angle; that you have seen all there is to see and have read everything that has been written on the matter; that you have analyzed and compared all the different opinions; that you were in the best position to observe for yourself; that you have dedicated your waking hours to the subject for years; in other words, that you have neglected nothing to arrive at the truth. I must believe that you have done so if you are a trustworthy person, because only one who has done all those things has the right to say that he speaks with full knowledge of the facts.
What would you think of someone who claimed to be a critic of a literary work but who had no knowledge of literature, or of a painting but who had never studied art? It's only logical that critics must understand, not superficially but in depth, what they are discussing; otherwise, their opinion is worthless. To disprove a calculation, one must oppose it with another calculation, but in order to do so one must know how to calculate. Critics must not limit themselves to saying that a certain thing is good or bad. They must justify their opinion with a clear and categorical demonstration based on the very principles of art or science. How can they do so if they do not know what such principles are? Could you evaluate the qualities or defects of a machine if you didn't know anything about mechanics? No, you couldn't. Well then! Since you know nothing about Spiritism, your opinion would be no more valuable than your opinion about that machine. At each step you would, be caught in your ignorance, because those who have studied Spiritism would see right away that you are not knowledgeable on the matter, which would lead them to conclude either that you are not serious or that you are acting in bad faith. In either case, you would be exposing yourself to being disavowed, which would hardly be flattering to your self-esteem.
Visitor — It is precisely to avoid such a pitfall that I have come to ask you to allow me to watch a few experiments.
A.K. - And. you. think that that would be enough for you to be able to speak exprofessoabout Spiritism? How could you comprehend such experiments - let alone judge them - if you haven't studied the principles upon which they are based? How could you rightly or wrongly evaluate the result of metallurgical experiments, for instance, ifyou don't even know the fundamentals of metallurgy? Allow me to say that your plan is exactly the same as if, in spite of knowing neither mathematics nor astronomy, you were to say to one of the members of the Observatory: "Sir, I would like to write a book on astronomy, and what is more, I would like to prove that your theory is wrong. But since I don't know the first thing about the science, I need you to let me look through your telescope once or twice. That should be enough for me to know as much about it as you do."
It is only by extension that the verb to critique becomes synonymous with the verb to censure. In its proper meaning and according to its etymology, the term to critique means to judge, to appraise; hence, a critique may be approving or disapproving. To critique a book is not necessarily to condemn it. Those who undertake the job should do so without any preconceived ideas. But if they have already condemned the book in their minds before having even opened it, their appraisal cannot be impartial.
Such is the case with the majority of those who have spoken about Spiritism. They formed an opinion based solely on the name, and they proceeded like a judge who has passed sentence without having taken the time to study the documentary evidence. The result was that their judgment was incorrect, and instead of being persuasive, they aroused scorn. As for those who seriously studied the subject, most changed their mind, and a good number of adversaries became adherents once they realized it was something different from what they had thought.
Visitor - You speak of the appraisal of books in general. Do you really think it is materially possible for journalists to read and study everything that passes through their hands, especially if it deals with new theories that require their in-depth verification? That would be like requiring printers to read all the books that leave their presses.
A.K. - In light of such judicious reasoning I have nothing to answer, except that, if one does not have the time to do something conscientiously, one should not get involved with it, and that it is better to do only one thing well than ten things badly.
Visitor - Please don't think that I arrived at my opinion lightly. I have seen tables turn and produce raps; I have seen persons who were supposedly writing under the influence of spirits. Nevertheless, I'm convinced that charlatanism, was involved.
A.K. - And how much did you pay?
Visitor - Why, nothing, of course.
A.K. -Well, they must have been an odd breed of charlatans and they will give a new meaning to the word. Until now, no one has ever seen a charlatan who wasn't in it for the money. If some mischievous hoaxer happened to want to entertain himself once, would it follow that other persons were in association with him? Moreover, what would they hope to gain by being accomplices to a hoax? To amuse people, you. will say. I will admit that someone might pull a hoax once, but if a hoax goes on for months and even years, I would say that it is the hoaxer who is being duped. Would someone sit tediously at a table for hours on end for the sheer pleasure of making others believe in something he or she knows to be false? The pleasure would not be worth the effort.
Before concluding that something is a fraud, we must first ask ourselves what might be gained from such deceit. You will agree that there are situations that exclude all suspicion of fraud and that there are individuals whose character alone is a guarantee of honesty.
It would be a different matter if it involved speculation, because the attraction of profit is a bad advisor. However, even if we were to accept the fact that in such a case a fraudulent operation might be entirely possible, it would prove nothing against the reality of the principle, because anything can be misused. Just because there are persons who sell adulterated wines, that doesn't mean that there is no such thing as pure wine. Spiritism is no more responsible for those who misuse its name and exploit it than medical science is responsible for the charlatans who sell their snake oils or religion for the clergy who abuse their ministry.
Due to its newness and its very nature, Spiritism may lend itself to abuses. However, it has provided the means of recognizing them by clearly defining its true character and by refusing to have anything to do with those who exploit it or divert it from its exclusively moral objective in order to make it a trade, an instrument of divination or pointless experimentation.
Since Spiritism sets its owns boundaries, determines what it says and what it doesn't say, what it can and what it cannot do, what attributes it does or doesn't entail, and what it accepts and what it rejects, the error lies with those who, not having put forth the effort to study it, judge it by appearances, and because they have met entertainers employing the name Spiritist in order to attract passers-by, they gravely state, "This is what Spiritism is." In the end, upon whom does ridicule fall? Not upon the entertainers, who are only performing their act, nor upon Spiritism, whose written doctrine belies such assertions. It falls upon convinced critics, who either talk about what they do not know, or who consciously twist the truth. Those who attribute to Spiritism what is contrary to its very essence do so either out of ignorance or deliberately. As for the former, it is thoughtlessness; as for the latter, it is bad faith. In the latter case, they resemble certain historians, who, in the interest of a party or an opinion, twist the historical facts. A party always discredits itself by employing such means, and will fail to reach its objective.
Please take note of the fact that I don't mean that critics must necessarily approve of our ideas, even after having studied them. We in no way reproach those who do not think as we do. What is obvious to us might not be to everybody else. People judge matters from their own point of view, and not all draw the same conclusions from the most obvious facts. For example, if a painter puts a white horse in his painting, someone might very well say that the horse produces a bad effect, that a black one would have been more suitable. It would be an error, however, to state that the horse is white when it is black - which is exactly what most of our adversaries do.
To sum it all up, people are perfectly free to approve of or criticize the principles of Spiritism, to deduce the good or bad consequences from them as they please; however, conscience imposes a duty on every trustworthy critic not to state the opposite of what Spiritism is. Thus, the first requirement of being a critic is not to talk about things one knows nothing about.
Visitor - Could we go back to the moving and talking tables? Mightn't they have been rigged beforehand?
A.K. - It's the same question of good faith, and I have already answered it. The second that fraud is demonstrated, I will be the first to admit it to you. If you can point out confirmed incidents of fraud, charlatanism, exploitation or abuse of trust, I will deliver them to your whip, and I'll tell you right now that I'll not take up their defense, since real Spiritism is the first to repudiate them. Pointing out such abuses helps to prevent them and renders a service to Spiritism. But to generalize such accusations, to cast over a large number of respectable individuals the reproof that only a few isolated individuals deserve is an abuse of a different sort - it is slander.
Even if we were to suppose that the tables had been rigged, there would have to be a sufficiently ingenious mechanism to make them produce such varied movements and noises. But why hasn't anyone found out who the skillful manufacturer is that builds them? He should be enjoying great fame by now since his devices are scattered all over the five continents. We also must agree that his technique is highly ingenious since it can be successfully adapted to the first table at hand without any exterior traces. Why is it that from Tertullian ' - who spoke of turning and talking tables - down to the present, no one has ever seen or described such a mechanism? Visitor - You are mistaken. A well-known surgeon has discovered that when certain individuals contract a tendon in their leg, they can produce a noise similar to what you attribute to the tables, from which he concluded that your mediums entertain themselves at the expense of others' gullibility.
A.K. - Well, if it's the tendon that crackles, then it's not the table that has been rigged. Since everyone explains this so-called fraud in their own way, that in itself is the most obvious proof that neither they nor anyone else knows the true cause.
I respect the erudition of this learned surgeon; however there are a number of problems with applying his theory to the talking tables. First, until now, this ability has been regarded as exceptional and has been seen as pathological, and it's remarkable that it has suddenly become so common. Second, one would have to have a profound desire to deceive to warrant crackling one's tendon for two or three hours straight because it produces nothing but pain and fatigue. Third, I can't see how the tendon makes contact with the doors and walls in which raps have been heard. Fourth and finally, the crackling tendon would have to be endowed with the marvelous ability of moving a heavy table, lifting it and keeping it suspended in the air without any point of support, and then finally smashing it back onto the floor. Certainly, no one could have dreamed that this tendon had so many abilities!
Did the celebrated surgeon of whom you are speaking study the phenomenon of typtology in those who produce it? No. He observed an abnormal physiological condition in a few individuals who had never even concerned themselves with rapping tables. After having drawn a certain analogy between this condition and the effect produced by the tables, he didn't bother with a more in- depth examination, and using all the authority of his knowledge, he concluded that all who cause tables to talk must possess the ability to crack the short peroneal tendon, and that they are nothing more than tricksters, whether they are princes or artisans, and whether they receive payment or not. Did he at least study the phenomenon of typtology in all its expressions? Did he check to see if every one of the typtological effects could be produced by means of this crackling tendon? If he had, he would have been convinced of the insufficiency of his approach. But that didn't keep him from proclaiming his discovery to the Institute. For a scholar, he really expounded quite a serious conclusion! And what has become of him? I must confess that if I had to have surgery, I would be very hesitant to entrust myself to this practitioner because I would be afraid that he hadn't diagnosed my problem with any more precision than he did in this case.
Since his opinion is one of the authorities upon which you want to support your attack against Spiritism, it gives me a good idea of the strength of your other arguments, if they have not been drawn from a more reliable source.
Visitor - Nonetheless, you can see that the turning table fad has passed; it was all the rage for a while, but nowadays no one cares about it anymore. Why not, if it has to do with such a serious matter?
A.K. - Because the turning tables led to something even more serious; they led to an entire science, an entire philosophical doctrine, which is of much greater interest for thinking individuals. When they no longer had any more to learn by watching tables turn, they were no longer concerned about them. For frivolous persons, who do not delve more deeply into anything, they were a pastime, a game that they put aside once they had had enough. Such individuals are not taken into account by science. The time of curiosity had its day; the time of observation followed. Spiritism has thus entered the realm of serious individuals, who do not entertain themselves with it but seek enlightenment. Moreover, persons who regard it as a serious matter do not lend themselves to any experiment out of mere curiosity, and even less to persons who would approach it with hostile thoughts. Since they do not amuse themselves, they do not try to amuse others; I count myself among them.
Visitor - Even so, nothing is as convincing as experimentation, even if at first its purpose is mere curiosity. If you operate solely in the presence of persons who are already convinced, allow me to say that you are preaching to the converted.
A.K. - It is one thing to be convinced and another to be willing to be convinced. I address the latter, and not those who think they are humiliating their reason by coming to hear about what they call reveries; I concern myself very little with these. As for those who say they have a sincere desire to be enlightened, the best way they can prove it is by demonstrating perseverance. They can be recognized by other signs besides the desire to watch one or two experimental sessions: they are willing to work seriously.
Conviction is acquired only over time, through continual observation and special attention. Spirit phenomena differ essentially from those displayed in the exact sciences: they cannot be produced at will; we must seize them when they occur. Only by observing them a great deal and for a long time can we discover a drove of proofs that are not apparent at first glance, especially if we are not familiar with the conditions in which they might occur, and even more so when we come with a biased attitude. For diligent and thoughtful observers, the proofs abound: for them, a word, an apparently insignificant incident, may be a ray of light, a confirmation. For superficial and one-tirne observers, for the simply curious, such incidents are nothing. That is why I do not lend myself to experiments without plausible results.
Visitor - But everything must start somewhere, after all. As for beginners, who are blank, slates, who have not seen anything but who want to be enlightened, what can they do if you do not provide the means?
A.K. - I make a big distinction between the disbeliever out of ignorance and the systematic disbeliever. Whenever I see individuals with a favorable disposition, it takes me very little to enlighten them. However, there are individuals whose desire to learn is only a pretense. They are a waste of time because if they do not immediately find what they seem to be looking for and what would perhaps displease them if they did find it, the little they do see isn't enough to erase their prejudices. It's a futile endeavor because they draw the wrong conclusions and make it an object of ridicule.
I will say to someone who truly wants to learn: "One cannot take a course in experimental Spiritism as if it were a course in physics and chemistry, because spirit phenomena cannot be produced at will, and the intelligences that are their agents often thwart all our expectations. What you might see by chance without presenting continuity or any necessary connection will be of little understanding to you. So learn the theory first; read and ponder the literature that deals with this science. That is where you can learn the principles; you'll find a description of all the phenomena and you'll understand their plausibility by the explanation that is provided and by the accounts of a large number of spontaneous phenomena, which you yourself might have witnessed without knowing it, and which will come back to your memory. You will brace yourself against all the problems that might surface, and you will thus form a preliminary moral conviction. Then, when the circumstances arise to observe or act by yourself, you'll understand them unhampered by the order in which the phenomena occur because nothing will be strange to you,"
That, sir, is what I advise all who say they want to learn, and by their response it is easy to tell if they are motivated by something other than mere curiosity.
Visitor - Sir, I can understand the usefulness of the preparatory study of which you have just spoken. As for my own personal predisposition, I am neither for nor against Spiritism, but the subject per se has awakened a great deal of interest in me. Within the circle of my acquaintances, there are adherents but there are adversaries too. In this regard, I have heard the most contradicting arguments. I would like to submit to you some of the objections made in my presence, and which seem to have some value to them, at least for me, because I must confess my own ignorance on the matter. The Priest
Allan Karclec - It will be a pleasure, sir, to answer your questions if they are sincere and hide no ulterior motives, although I wouldn't flatter myself by thinking I'm capable of answering all of them. Spiritism is a newborn science, about which there is still much to learn. So, it would be quite presumptuous on my part to presume that I could solve every problem: I can tell you only what I know.
Spiritism touches on all branches of philosophy, metaphysics, psychology and morality. It is an immense field that cannot be traversed in a few hours. Thus, you will understand, sir, that it would be materially impossible for me to repeat orally and to each person individually everything I have written for public use on the matter. Moreover, upon a serious preliminary reading of the literature, you will find an answer to most of the questions that may naturally come to mind. Such a reading would have the two-fold advantage of avoiding needless repetitions and of demonstrating a sincere desire to learn. Afterward, if there are still any questions or obscure points, explaining them would be much easier because then we would have a point of reference and would not waste our time going over the most elementary principles again. So if you would allow it, we will limit ourselves to a few general questions for now.
Visitor — Agreed, but I would ask you to call me back to the subject if I happen to wander off it.
Spiritism and Spiritualism
Visitor - To start with, why was it necessary to create the new terms Spiritist and Spiritism to replace spiritualist and spiritualism, which are part ofeveryday speech and well understood by everybody? I understand that some view these new terms as barbarisms.
A.K. - The word spiritualist has had a well-defined acceptation for a long time. The Academy defines it in this way: a SPIRITUALIST is someone whose doctrine is contrary to materialism. All religions are necessarily based on spiritualism. Whoever believes that there is something within us besides matter is a spiritualist; however, that does not imply a belief in spirits or their manifestations. How would you distinguish such a person from one who does believe? You would have to say something like: A spiritualist is someone who might or might not believe in spirits. For new things, new terms are needed if one wants to avoid misunderstandings. If I had classified my REVUE as being spiritualist, I would not have been clear about its purpose, since I could very well have not said one word about spirits without contradicting the title; in fact, I could have been against them altogether. Some time ago I read in a periodical an article of philosophical content stating that the author had written it from a spiritualist point of view. However, those who believe in spirits would have been particularly disappointed, if, in trusting that description, they had looked for the slightest confirmation of their own ideas. Therefore, if I adopted the terms Spiritist and Spiritism, it was because they unequivocally express ideas related to spirits. Every Spiritist is necessarily a spiritualist, but not all spiritualists are Spiritists. Even if spirits were a mere fancy, it would still be useful to have special terms for matters related to them since terminology is needed as much for erroneous ideas as for correct ones.
Furthermore, these terms are no more barbaric than those that the arts, sciences and industry create each day. They are surely no more improper than those Gall coined for this nomenclature of the faculties, such as: secretiviness, amativeness, combativeness, alimentiveness, adhesiveness, etc. There are persons who, due to their argumentative nature, criticize anything that they, themselves, have not come up with and thus want to put on airs of opposition to it. Those who insist on such petty squabbles prove only one thing: the shallowness of their ideas. Attacking with such trifles merely shows that they are short on good arguments.
Spiritualism and spiritualist are English words used in the United States ever since spirit manifestations first appeared; at first, and. for some time thereafter, they were also used in France. However, as soon as the terms Spiritist and Spiritism appeared, their usefulness was understood and they were immediately accepted by the public. Nowadays, their use is so established that even those who at first opposed them and proclaimed them to be barbarisms do not use any others. The sermons and pastoral letters that lash out against Spiritism and Spiritists would not have been able to cast their anathemas against spiritualism and spiritualists without bringing confusion to the issue.
Barbarisms or not, the terms Spiritism and Spiritist have entered everyday usage and all the languages of Europe. They are the only ones used in all publications — pro or con - in every country. They are the backbone of the new sciences nomenclature. In order to express the special phenomena of this science, special terms were needed. Spiritism now has its own nomenclature, just as chemistry has its own.
Visitor -.This diversity of belief in what you call a science seems to me to be its undoing. If this science were actually based on provable facts, wouldn't it be identical in both America and Europe?
A.K. - I will first respond that such divergence exists more in form than in essence. In reality, it exists only in the way certain points of the Doctrine are considered, but it does not constitute any radical antagonism concerning the principles, as our adversaries love to say without even having studied the issue.
But tell me: what science is there that, at its start, did not give rise to dissenting opinions until its principles became clearly established? Isn't this dissent still present today in the sciences that have been around much longer? Are all scholars in agreement about the same principle? Don't they all have their particular theories? Do sessions at the Institute always display the picture of perfect and cordial understanding? In medicine, aren't there the Paris School and the Montpellier School? Isn't each discovery in anv science cause for schisms between those who want to progress and those who want to remain behind?
Concerning Spiritism, then, wouldn't it be natural that, at the appearance of the first phenomena, when the laws governing them were unknown, everyone would have their own theory and would consider them in a certain way? But what has become of those early isolated theories? They have fallen before a more complete observation of the facts. A few years were enough to establish the magnificent unity that prevails today in the Doctrine, and which brings the great majority of its adherents together, except for a few individuals, who, in this as in all things, cling to primitive ideas and die with them. What science, what philosophical or religious doctrine can offer a similar example? Has Spiritism ever displayed even a hundredth of the schisms that have afflicted the Church over so many centuries, and which still divide it today?
It is truly curious to see the puerilities that Spiritism's adversaries hold on to; doesn't that indicate a lack of good arguments? If they had them, they wouldn't hesitate to use them. So, what do they use to oppose it? Ridicule, denial and slander; but peremptory arguments — none whatsoever. And the proof that they still haven't found a vulnerable angle is that nothing has hindered Spiritism's forward progress, and that after just ten years, it includes more adherents than any sect has ever had after a century in existence. This is a fact taken from experience and recognized even by its adversaries. In order to destroy it, it is not enough to say "this cannot be; this is absurd." It is necessary to prove categorically that the phenomena do not and cannot exist.
That is precisely what no one has done.
Simulated Spirit Phenomena
Visitor - Hasn't it been proven that the same phenomena can be produced outside of Spiritism? One may conclude, therefore, that they don't have the origin that Spiritists attribute to them.
A.K. — Simply because something can be imitated, does that mean that it doesn't exist? What would you say about the logic of someone who claimed that, because wine from Champagne is made with seltzer water, all wine from Champagne is nothing but seltzer water? Such is the particular character of all things that can be counterfeited. Illusionists have believed that, due to its popularity and the controversies surrounding it, the name Spiritism might be worth exploiting, and in order to attract a crowd, they have more or less crudely simulated a few mediumist'ic phenomena, just as they used to simulate somnambulistic clairvoyance. And all the scoffers applauded, exclaiming, "Look at what Spiritism is!" When the ingenious production of specters appeared on the scene, didn't they proclaim far and wide that Spiritism had received its mortal blow? Before passing such an assured judgment, they should remember that the assertions of a magician are not the Gospel truth, and they should check to see if there is a true identity between the imitation and the thing imitated. No one buys a diamond before first making sure it's not a rhinestone. A study of the matter, even if not very thorough, would have convinced these scoffers that spirit phenomena occur under completely different conditions, and furthermore, they would have known that Spiritists concern themselves neither with making specters appear nor with fortune-telling.
Only malevolence and remarkable ill will would compare Spiritism to magic and sorcery, since Spiritism repudiates their purpose, practices, formulas and mystical words. There are even those who haven't been afraid to compare Spiritist meetings with Sabbat gatherings where people wait for the ominous hour of midnight to make ghosts appear.
One of my Spiritist friends was watching a presentation of Macbeth one day seated next to a journalist he did not know. When it was time for the scene with the witches, he overheard the journalist say to his neighbor, "Oh, look! We're going to watch a session of Spiritism. This is exactly what I need for my next article. Now I'm going to see what goes on in them. If there were one of those crazies here, I'd ask him if he recognized himself in this scene." "Well, I'm one of those crazies," said my Spiritist friend, "and I can assure you that I don't see myself in this scene at all because, although I have taken part in hundreds of Spiritist meetings, I haven't found anything like this at any of them. If you have come here to gather material for your article, it will not shine with the truth."
Many critics do not have a more serious basis. On whom does the ridicule fall if not on those who proceed so carelessly? Far from being bruised, Spiritism's credibility has grown because of the publicity that all these ruses have provided by arousing the interest of a crowd of individuals who had never heard of Spiritism. These ploys have prompted the study of it and have increased the number of its adherents because they saw that, instead of a mere game, it was something to be taken quite seriously.
The Powerlessness of Detractors
Visitor - I agree that, among Spiritism's detractors, there are many thoughtless individuals, such as the one you have just mentioned. But alongside them, aren't there some truly worthy persons whose opinions carry a certain weight?
A.K. - I wouldn't deny that at all, but I'll respond by saying that the ranks of Spiritism also contain a good number of individuals who are no less worthy. I'll say further: the overwhelming majority of Spiritists is composed of intelligent and studious persons. Only bad faith would lead anyone to say that they have been recruited from among naive women and the uneducated masses.
Besides, one decisive fact answers this objection: despite their knowledge and official positions, none have managed to hinder Spiritism's progress. Hence, there is no one - even the most obscure pamphlet writer - who has not flattered him or herself for having dealt it a deathblow. Instead, all of them, without exception, have unwittingly helped to popularize it. But doesn't the fact than an idea has resisted such efforts and has advanced undaunted through the hail of blows dealt to it prove its power and the depth of its roots? Doesn't such a phenomenon deserve the attention of serious thinkers? More than a few diese days have declared that there must be something to it; that maybe it is one of those great, irresistible movements that shake up societies from time to time in order to transform them.
That is the way it has always been with all the new ideas called upon to revolutionize the world. They run up against obstacles because they have to fight against the very self-interests, prejudices and abuses they have come to overthrow. However, since they are part of God's designs for fulfilling the law of progress for humankind, nothing can stop them when their time comes. It is the proof that they are the expression of truth.
Moreover, as I have already stated, this powerlessness of Spiritism's detractors shows,firstofall, an absence ofgood arguments, since the ones used against it are not convincing. Such powerlessness, however, has to do with another cause that has frustrated all their schemes. They are alarmed by Spiritism's progress, in spite of all they have done to stop it; they have been unable to discover the reason for such progress because they have been looking in all the wrong places. Some have seen it in the great power of the Devil, who would thus show himself stronger than they are, and even stronger than God. Others have regarded it as an increase in human madness. The mistake of all of them is in believing that Spiritism has only one source, and that it rests on the opinion of only one man; thus, they think that if they can ruin this one man, they can ruin Spiritism. They are searching for this source on the earth, whereas it is to be found in the spirit world. It is not in one place; it is everywhere because spirits manifest everywhere, in every country, in the palace as well as the hovel. Hence, the true cause lies in the very nature of Spiritism, which does not receive its impulse from one person only; instead, it allows anyone to receive communications directly from spirits, and thus to be reassured of the reality of the phenomena. How can millions of persons be persuaded that all this is nothing more than conjuration, charlatanism, trickery or a feat of skill, when they themselves can get results without anyone's help? Could they be made to believe that they are their own accomplices and produce deceit and trickery only for their own sake?
The universality of spirit manifestations, which have appeared at all points of the globe to disavow the detractors of Spiritism and to confirm the principles of the Doctrine, is a power that cannot be comprehended by those who know nothing about the invisible world, just as the speed of sending a telegraph message would be incomprehensible to those who know nothing about the law of electricity. It is against this power that all denials have been shattered, because it is like telling persons who receive the rays of the sun that the sun does not exist.
The qualities of the Doctrine notwithstanding - qualities that are more pleasing than the qualities that oppose it - the manifestations are behind the cause of the setbacks of those who have been trying to stop its progress. In order to succeed, they would have to find the means to keep spirits from manifesting. This is why Spiritists are so unconcerned about their maneuvers: they have the experience and authority of the phenomena on their side.
The Extraordinary and the Supernatural
Visitor - Spiritism obviously tends to revive beliefs founded on the extraordinary and supernatural. However, in our positivistic century, this seems to me to be a problem because it acknowledges popular superstitions and errors that reason has condemned.
A.K. — An idea is superstitious only because it is erroneous; it ceases to be superstitious the moment it is a recognized truth. The issue, therefore, is to know whether there are spirit manifestations or not. Now, you cannot brand something as superstitious until it can be
proven that it does not, in fact, exist. You will say: my reason refuses to accept such manifestations. Nevertheless, those who do believe in them — and who can hardly be regarded as fools - also call upon their reason in addition to the phenomena; so, which side should you take? The great judge in the matter is the future, just as it has been with all scientific and industrial subjects that were at first branded as absurd and impossible. You judge a priori according to your own opinion; we judge only after having taken a long time to watch and observe. We would add that, as enlightened as it is today, Spiritism, on the contrary, tends to destroy superstitious ideas because it shows what is true or erroneous in popular beliefs; everything that is absurd about it has been added out of ignorance and bias.
I would go even further and say that the positivism of our century is precisely what led us to accept Spiritism, and that it partly owes its rapid spread to positivism, and not, as some claim, to a return to the love for the extraordinary and supernatural. The supernatural disappears when exposed to the light of science, philosophy and reason, just as the gods of paganism vanished before the light of Christianity.
The supernatural lies outside the scope of the laws of nature; positivism, on the other hand, accepts nothing outside such laws. But does it know all of them? Throughout time, phenomena whose causes were unknown have been regarded as supernatural; each new law discovered by science, however, has diminished the borders of the supernatural. Well then! Spiritism has come to reveal a new law according to which conversing with the spirit of a deceased person rests upon a law that is as natural as the one that enabled electricity to establish contact between two individuals hundreds of miles apart. The same applies to all the other Spiritist phenomena. As far as Spiritism is concerned, it repudiates every extraordinary effect, i.e., those outside the laws of nature. It performs neither miracles nor prodigies; rather, by virtue of a law, it explains certain effects that have until now been reputed as miracles and prodigies, and as such demonstrates their possibility. Thus, it has broadened the realm of science, and in doing so, it has become a science itself. However, because the discovery of this new law has entailed moral consequences, the codification of such consequences makes it, at the same time, a philosophical doctrine.
From the philosophical point of view, Spiritism responds to people's aspirations concerning the future because it is positive and rational, and that is why it is suitable for the positivist character of the century. You'll understand all this once you put forth the effort to study it.
The Opposition of Science
Visitor - You say you are supported by facts, but you are opposed by the opinion of learned individuals who either contest them or who explain them differently than you. Why didn't they focus on the turning tables phenomenon? If they had seen anything serious about it, it seems to me that they would not have neglected such extraordinary occurrences, nor would they have rejected them with disdain; however, they are all against you. Aren't learned individuals the guiding light of the nations, and isn't it their duty to spread the light? Why do you suppose they have stifled it when given such a fine opportunity to present to the world the existence of a new force?
A.K. — You have just described the duty of learned individuals quite admirably, and it's unfortunate that they have neglected it on more than one occasion. But before responding to your judicious observation, I must inform you that you are gravely mistaken by saying that all learned individuals are against us.
As I stated just a while ago, it is precisely among the enlightened classes in all the countries of the world that Spiritism has won the most converts. Among them there are a large number of physicians from every nation, and as we know, physicians are men and women of science; the judges, professors, artists, writers, officials, high-ranking public servants, major dignitaries, ecclesiastics, etc. who have gathered under its banner are all persons whom we would not deny as possessing a certain dose of enlightenment. Learned persons are not only to be found within official science and within established organizations.
Because Spiritism doesn't yet have the right to citizenship in official science, is that a reason to condemn it? If science had never been mistaken, its opinion would carry weight in this case; unfortunately, experience has shown otherwise. Hasn't science rejected as pipe dreams a multitude of discoveries that later glorified the memories of their authors? Isn't it due to a report by our elite corps of scholars that France was deprived of the steam power enterprise? When Fulton came to the field at Bologna to present his theory to Napoleon I, who then recommended its immediate examination to the Institute, didn't the Institute conclude that such a theory was an impractical dream and that it didn't have the time to bother with it? From this should we conclude that the members of the Institute are unlearned? Does it justify the coarse and tasteless epithets that certain persons enjoy heaping on them? Of course not. There isn't one sensible person who doesn't praise their eminent knowledge, while realizing that they are not infallible and that their judgment is not final, especially when it comes to new ideas.
Visitor - I will be the first to admit that they are not infallible; but it is no less true that, in virtue of their knowledge, their opinion is worth something, and that if you had them on your side, it would give a lot of weight to your theory.
A.K. - But you must also admit that you are only a good judge within your area of competence. If you wanted to build a house, would you employ a musician? If you were ill, would you let yourself be treated by an architect? And ifyou wanted to file a lawsuit, would you consult a dancer? Lastly, ifyou had a theological question, would you go to a chemist or an astronomer for an answer? No. To each their own specialty. The regular sciences rest upon the properties of matter, which can be manipulated at will; the phenomena that it produces have material forces as their agents. The phenomena of Spiritism have as their agents intelligent beings, endowed with independence and free will and not subject to our whims; they are not bound by our laboratory procedures or calculations, and are not, therefore, within the scope of science per se.
Science was thus mistaken when it wanted to experiment with spirits the same way it did with a voltaic battery. It failed - as it well should have - because it proceeded, based on an analogy that doesn't exist. And then, without going any further, its conclusions were negative. It was a rash judgment, which time has been rectifying day by day, just as it has done with many others. Those who judged it hastily will be ashamed at having so thoughtlessly set themselves against the infinite power of the Creator.
The scientific community cannot, and never will be able to make a statement on this issue; it is as much outside of their area, of competence as it is for them to say whether or not God exists; thus, it is an error to accept their judgment. Spiritism is a matter of personal belief that cannot depend on the vote of an assembly, because such a vote, even if favorable, cannot force conviction. Once public opinion is formed on the matter, scholars will accept it as individuals and submit to the force of things. Let this generation pass, and with it the prejudices of its obstinate self- centeredness and you will see that what happens with Spiritism will be no different from what has happened to so many other contested truths that one would be foolish to question nowadays. Today, believers are the ones who are being called mad; tomorrow, it will be the turn of those who do not believe, just as those who believed the earth spun on its axis used to be called crazy.
Not all learned individuals have judged Spiritism in the same way, however, and by learned individuals I mean individuals of study and knowledge, with or without an official degree. Many have made the following argument:
"There is no effect without a cause, and the most ordinary effects may lead the way to the most difficult problems. If Newton had disregarded the fall of an apple, if Galvani had dismissed his servant as a lunatic and dreamer when he told him about the frogs that danced on the plate, perhaps we still would not have discovered the wonderful law of universal gravity and the numerous properties of the electric battery. The phenomenon sarcastically labeled as the "dance of the tables" is no more ridiculous than the "dance of the frogs", and it too perhaps contains one of those secrets of nature that will revolutionize humankind once it possesses the key.
These learned individuals have stated further: "Since so many people are occupied with spirit phenomena, and since trustworthy individuals have studied them, then there must be something to rJiem after all. An illusion - if you will - cannot have this character of generality; it might bewitch a certain circle or faction, but not the whole world. So let's guard against denying the possibility of what we do not understand, dreading to be proven wrong sooner or later, which would not be very flattering to our judiciousness."
Visitor - Very well, we are talking about a learned individual who reasons with wisdom and prudence; and although I'm not a learned individual myself, I agree with him. Notice, however, that he affirms nothing: he doubts. Thus, on what, exactly, are we to base the belief in the existence of spirits, and especially, the possibility of communicating with them?
A.K. - This belief is based on both reasoning and the facts.
I myself did not adopt it until after careful examination. My study of the exact sciences gave me the habit of positivist thinking, which requires thought and analysis, and I probed and scrutinized this new science in its innermost details. I wanted to account for everything because I do not accept an idea before I know the whys and hows. Here is the reasoning I got from an erudite physician who used to be a disbeliever but who is now a fervent adherent:
"It is said that invisible beings communicate; and why not? Before the invention of the microscope, did we suspect the existence of the billions of microscopic organisms that cause such harm to the body? Why is it materially impossible for there to be beings in space that escape our senses? Would we perchance harbor the foolish pretense of knowing everything and tell God that he has nothing more to teach us? If these invisible beings surrounding us are intelligent, why couldn't they communicate with us? If they are in any way related to human beings, they must perform a role in destiny and life's events. Who knows? Maybe it is one of the forces of nature, one of those hidden forces that we never even suspected. What a new horizon this would open up to our thought! What a vast held of observation! The discovery of the world of invisible beings would be much different than the world of the inhnitely small; it would be more than a discovery - it would be a revolution in our way of thinking. How much light could be shed! How many mysteries explained! Those who believe in it are ridiculed, but what does that prove? Hasn't it been the same with all great discoveries? Wasn't Christopher Columbus rebuffed, met with disgust and treated as insane? These ideas, it is said, are so strange that no one can believe in them. But anyone who would have said only a half century ago that we would be able to correspond from one part of the world to another in only a few minutes; that we could cross France in just a few hours; that with the steam produced by a little boiling water a ship could go forward against the wind; that we could derive from water the means of providing ourselves with light and warmth; that it would be possible to illuminate all of Paris in an instant with only a reservoir of an invisible substance - surely such a person would have been laughed at. Well then, would it be so utterly exceptional for space to be populated by thinking beings, who, after having lived on the earth, left their material envelopes behind? Don't we find in this fact the explanation of a multitude of beliefs that may be traced back to remotest antiquity? Such matters are well worth delving into."
Such are the thoughts of a learned individual, but an unpretentious one. They are also the thoughts of a huge number of enlightened persons who have understood, not superficially and narrowly, but who, after having examined the matter seriously and without any preconceptions, have had the modesty not to say: I do not understand it; therefore, it does not exist. Their convictions were formed by observation and reasoning. If these ideas were a passing fancy, do you think that such an intellectual elite would have adopted them? That they could have been victims of an illusion for so long?
Hence, it is not materially impossible for there to be beings invisible to us populating space, and this consideration alone should lead to more circumspection. A short time ago, who would have thought that a drop of clear water could contain thousands of beings so small that it would boggle our minds? I would say that it was much harder for our minds to conceive of such subtle beings, having all our organs and functioning like us, than to believe in the beings that we call spirits.
Visitor — Of course, but just because something might be possible doesn't mean that it actually exists.
A.K. — I agree, but you must concur that, the moment it ceases to be impossible, that is an important start because it is no longer repugnant to reason. All that remains is to verify it by observing the facts. This is nothing new: sacred and secular history have both demonstrated the ancientness and universality of this belief, which has continued through all the unexpected changes in the world, and which can be found among the most primitive peoples in the form of innate and intuitive ideas engraved on their minds like the belief in the Supreme Being and the future existence. Spiritism, therefore, is not a modern creation — far from it; everything proves that the ancients knew about it as well as we do and perhaps even better, except that it was taught only with mysterious precautions that rendered it inaccessible to the common folk, who were intentionally left in the quagmire of superstition.
As for the phenomena, they are of two natures: some are spontaneous and some are induced. Among the spontaneous phenomena, we list the highly common visions and apparitions, in addition to noises, raps or movements of objects without apparent physical cause. Also listed are a large number of unusual effects that used to be regarded as supernatural, but which nowadays seem so common to us that we find nothing supernatural about them since they all belong to the realm of the immutable laws of nature. As for induced phenomena, they are the ones that are obtained through mediums.
Erroneous Explanations of the Phenomena
Hallucination. - Magnedc fluid. - Thought reflection. - Overexcitement of the brain. - T h e somnambulistic state of mediums.
Visitor - Criticism has been mostly aimed at the induced phenomena. Let's put aside any supposition of charlatanism and base it on good faith; mightn't we think that mediums are pawns of a hallucination?
A.K. — I don't know if the mechanism of hallucination has yet been explained clearly. As it is understood, it is a most singular effect and well worth studying. So why is it that those who try to explain spirit phenomena based on this premise cannot explain their own explanation? Furthermore, there are phenomena that rule out this hypothesis: when a table or other object moves, rises or raps; when it moves at will around a room without coming in contact with anyone; when it rises up from the floor and remains suspended in the air without any point of support; and lastly, when it collapses and crashes to the floor - this is certainly not a hallucination. Supposing that, through an effect of their imagination, mediums believe they are seeing something that does not actually exist, is it possible that an entire community could be caught up in the same figment of the imagination? That it would be repeated far and wide, in every land? The hallucination in that case would be more prodigious than the phenomenon itself.
Visitor - If we were to accept the reality of the turning and rapping table phenomenon, wouldn't it be more rational to attribute it to the action of some fluid — the magnetic fluid, for example?
A.K. - That was actually my first thought, and that of many others. If the effects had been limited to material effects, there is no doubt that we could have explained them in that way. However, when the movements and raps gave proof of intelligence and when it was realized that they responded to thought with complete freedom, we had to draw the following conclusion: If every effect has a cause, then every intelligent effect has an intelligent cause. If it were the effect of a fluid, wouldn't we have to say that the fluid was intelligent? When we see the arm of a telegraph make the signals that transmit thought, we know very well that it is not the wooden or iron arm that is intelligent, but we say that an intelligence is making them move. The same happens with the table. Are there or aren't there intelligent effects? That is the question. Those who contest it are persons who didn't see the whole picture and rushed to draw conclusions according to their own ideas and a superficial observation.
Visitor - I would respond to that by saying that if there is an intelligent effect, it comes from nothing more than intelligence itself, whether of the medium, the questioner or one of the participants, because it is said that the response is always within someone's thought.
A.K. - That is yet another error following a faulty observation. If those who think that way had put forth the effort to study the phenomenon in all its aspects, they would have recognized at each step the complete independence of the manifesting intelligences. How can this theory be reconciled with responses that are outside the intellectual capacity and education of the mediums, that are contrary to their own ideas, desires and opinions, or that completely baffle the expectations of the onlookers? What about mediums writing in a language unknown to them or in their own language when they don't even know how to read or write? I will admit that at first sight this theory has nothing irrational about it, but it is contradicted by facts so numerous and so conclusive that doubt is no longer possible.
Furthermore, even if we were to accept this theory, the phenomenon, far from being simplified, would then, in fact, be quite extraordinary. Imagine! Could thought actually be reflected on surfaces like light, sound or heat? That would truly be something that would stoke science's interest. Also, what would make it even more extraordinary is the fact that, out of twenty participants, it would be the thought of this or that particular individual that is reflected rather than the thought of one of the others. Such a theory is unsustainable. It is truly interesting to see opponents do their utmost to find causes a hundred times more extraordinary and difficult to understand than the ones that are offered to them.
Visitor - According to the opinion of some, couldn't we say that mediums in such cases are in an altered state and are enjoying a lucidity that gives them a somnambulistic perception, a sort of second sight? That would explain the momentary broadening of their intellectual faculties, since it is said that the communications obtained by mediums do not exceed the scope of those obtained by somnambulists.
A.K. - That is yet another theory that doesn't hold up under serious examination. These mediums are not in an altered state, nor are they asleep; they are wide awake, acting and thinking like everyone else, displaying nothing out of the ordinary. Certain particular effects might have given rise to this mistake. However, those who do not limit their judgment to only one angle would easily realize that mediums are endowed with, a unique faculty that does not allow confusing them with somnambulists, and that the complete independence of their thought is proven by facts of indisputable evidence. Written communications aside, what somnambulist has ever made an inert body produce a thought? Or produced visible and even tangible apparitions? Or kept a heavy object suspended in the air with no point of support? Was it by some somnambulistic effect that a medium once drew for me, in the presence of twenty witnesses, the portrait of a young woman v/ho had died eighteen months earlier, and whom he had never known, but whose father at the session recognized her? Is it due to a somnambulistic effect that a table accurately answers questions put to it - even those posed only mentally? Even if we were to actually believe the medium is in a magnetic state, it would still seem hard to believe that the table is somnambulistic.
It is also said that mediums speak intelligibly only about things that are known. Then how can the following occurrence and a hundred others like it be explained? One of my friends, a very good writing medium, asked a spirit if a person he had not seen for fifteen years was still in this world. "Yes, she is still alive," it answered; "she lives in Paris, on such and such a street, at such and such a number." He went and found the person at the address indicated. Is that an illusion? His thought could hardly have suggested the response, since considering the persons age, there was every possibility that she was no longer even alive. If in certain cases answers have actually matched thoughts, is it rational to conclude that it is a general law? In this, as in all matters, hasty judgments are always dangerous because they can be invalidated by facts that have not been looked at.
Disbelievers Cannot See in order to be Convinced
Visitor - It is actual phenomena that disbelievers would like to see, that they ask for, and. that most of the time they cannot be furnished with. If people could witness these occurrences, there would be no more room for doubt. How is it, then, that so many people haven't been allowed to see anything in spite of their willingness? One might argue that it is due to their lack of faith, but to that they correctly reply that they cannot have faith in advance, and that if belief is desired of them, they must be given the means to believe.
A.K. - The reason is quite simple. They want the phenomena to happen at their command, but spirits do not obey commands; one must wait for their good will. Hence, it isn't enough to say: Show me this or that phenomenon and I will believe; one must have the willingness to persevere, to let the phenomena occur spontaneously, without trying to force or direct them. The ones that are hoped for will perhaps be exactly the ones that are not received. But others will appear, and the one hoped for will come at a time when it is least expected. To the eyes of the attentive and diligent observer, they will appear collectively, corroborating each other. However, those who think that it is enough to turn a crank to start the machine are badly mistaken. What do naturalists do when they want to study the habits of animals? Do they command them, to do such and such a thing so they may have the leisure to observe them as they please? No, because they know very well that the subject will not obey them; they watch for spontaneous expressions of their instinct; they wait and learn about them as they occur. Plain common sense shows that it is even more reasonable that the same would apply to spirits, who are intelligences much more independent than animals.
It is wrong to believe that faith is necessary, but good faith - that is something different. There are skeptics who deny the evidence, and not even miracles could convince them. How many are there who, having seen the phenomena, nonetheless insist on explaining them in their own way, saying that it doesn't prove anything! Such people serve only to disrupt meetings without any benefit to themselves. That is why we should avoid them and not want to waste any time on them. There are those who would become downright angry at being forced to believe, because their pride would suffer at having to admit that they were wrong. What can we say to people who see nothing but illusion and charlatanism everywhere? Nothing; we must leave them alone and say, as is their desire, that they did, in fact, see nothing, and even say that no one was able or willing to enable them to see.
Alongside these hardened skeptics there are those who want to see things their own way; who, having formed an opinion, want everything to relate to it. They do not understand that the phenomena will not obey their will; they do not know how to — or do not want to - situate themselves in the necessary conditions. Those who want to observe in good faith should not believe without question, but rid themselves of all preconceived ideas and not want to compare incompatible things. They should wait, follow and observe with tireless patience. The same applies to adherents, since it shows that they haven't arrived at their convictions lightly. Do you have such patience? No, you will say; I don't have the time. Then don't concern yourself with it; but don't talk about it either - no one is making you.
Spirits' Good or Ill Will to Convince
Visitor - All that being said, it seems that spirits ought to be interested in making converts. Why don't they lend themselves more than they do to ways that would convince certain individuals whose opinion would have a great influence?
A.K. - Because apparently, for now, they aren't interested in convincing certain individuals whose importance they do not consider to be as great as such individuals think it is. I will admit that this is not very flattering, but we cannot control their opinions; spirits have a way of judging things that is not always like our own. They see, think and act according to other perspectives; whereas our sight is circumscribed by matter, limited by the narrow circle in which we find ourselves, spirits embrace the whole. Time, which seems so long to us, is only an instant for them; distance is only a step; certain details that may seem extremely important to us are childish to them; on the other hand, they deem as important certain things whose significance we do not grasp. In order to understand them, we must raise ourselves in thought above our material and mental horizon and see things from their perspective. It isn't for them to come down to us, but for us to go up to them, and that is done through study and observation.
Spirits appreciate diligent and conscientious observers, and they multiply the sources of enlightenment for them. What keeps them away is not doubt born ofignorance, but the self-complacency of supposed observers who observe nothing, who intend only to put them in the spotlight and manipulate them like puppets while harboring a sentiment of hostility and disparagement whether in thoughts or in words. Spirits do nothing for these and are very little concerned about what they might say or think, because their time will come. That is why I have said that it is not faith per se that is necessary, but good faith.
The Origin of Modern Spiritist Ideas
Visitor - One thing I would like to know, sir, is the origin of modern Spiritist ideas. Are they really a spontaneous revelation by the spirits or are they the result of a prior belief in their existence? You can understand the importance of my question because in the latter case, one could believe that imagination might have played a role.
A.K. - A s you have put it, this question is important for such a point of view, although it is difficult to believe - assuming that Spiritist ideas were born ofa prior belief- that the imagination could have produced all the material results that have been observed. In fact, if Spiritism had been founded on the preconceived thought of the existence of spirits, one could, with some semblance of reason, doubt their reality, for if a cause is merely a pipe dream, the consequences themselves must be imaginary; however, things do not happen like that.
Note first that this line of reasoning is completely illogical. Spirits are a cause and not an effect; when we see an effect, we can look for the cause, but it is not natural to imagine a cause before having seen the effects. Thus, we couldn't conceive the idea of spirits unless there were effects that might be explained by the existence of invisible beings. Well, that is not the way the idea appeared; that is, it was not a hypothesis imagined in order to explain certain phenomena; the first supposition made about them was one of an entirely material cause. Thus, rather than spirits having been a preconceived idea, we started from a materialistic point of view.
And since this point of view was unable to explain everything, observation alone led to the spirit-related cause. I speak of modern Spiritist ideas since we know that the belief in spirits is as old as the world itself. This is how the matter progressed:
Spontaneous phenomena, such as strange noises, raps, movements of objects, etc., were produced without an ostensible cause and under the influence of certain persons. Up to this point, nothing had warranted looking for a cause other than the action of a magnetic or other fluid whose properties were still unknown. But it didn't take long to recognize an intentional and intelligent character in these noises and movements, from which it was deduced, as I have already stated, that if every effect has a cause, every intelligent effect must have an intelligent cause. This intelligence could not have resided in the object itself, because matter is not intelligent. Was it the reflection of the intelligence of the person or persons present? That is what was initially thought, as I have also stated. Experience alone could pronounce itself on the matter, and on many occasions, experience demonstrated, through irrefutable proofs, the complete independence of this intelligence. Thus, it had to be outside the object and outside the person. But what was it? The intelligence itself answered this question, stating that it belonged to the order of incorporeal beings called spirits. So, the idea of spirits was not a priori, nor was it even a posteriori; in other words, it did not come from the mind but was given by the spirits themselves, and everything we have learned about them ever since has been taught to us by the spirits themselves.
Once the existence of spirits was revealed and the means of communicating with them established, we were able to have continual conversations with them and to obtain information about their nature, the conditions of their existence and their role in the visible world. If we could interrogate the beings from the world of the infinitesimal in the same way, how many interesting things we could learn about them!
If we were to suppose that, before the discovery of America, there had been an electric wire stretched across the Atlantic, and that signs of intelligence were received at its European end, we would have concluded that there were Intelligent beings at the other end wanting to communicate; they could have been questioned and they would have answered. Thus, we would have acquired certainty of their existence, knowledge of their customs, their habits and way of living without having ever seen them. It was the same with the relations with the invisible world: the physical manifestations were like signals, a means of awareness that put us on the path to more regular and continuous communications. And remarkably, as easier means of communication became available, the spirits abandoned the primitive, insufficient and cumbersome nieans, just as the speech-impaired would give up sign language if they recovered their ability to speak.
Who were the inhabitants of this world? Were they separate beings outside of humanity? Were they good or evil? Once again, experimentation was entrusted with resolving these questions. But until numerous observations had thrown light on the subject, the field of conjectures and theories was wide open, and God knows how many appeared! Some believed spirits were superior in every way, whereas others saw them only as demons. It was by their own words and actions, however, that we were able to tell what they were. Let's suppose that, regarding the unknown transatlantic inhabitants we have just mentioned, some said good things, whereas others were noticed for the cynicism of their speech. This would lead us to conclude that there were good and bad ones. The same happened in the case of spirits: it was through a similar process that we discerned every degree of goodness and wickedness, ignorance and knowledge among them. Once enlightened about their faults and qualities, it fell to our own judiciousness to distinguish the good from the evil, the true from the false in their relations with us - exactly as we do with regards to humans.
Observation enlightened us not only about the moral qualities of spirits but also their nature and what we might call their physiological state. We learned from the spirits themselves that some are very happy and others very unhappy; that they are not separate beings of an exceptional nature, but the souls of those who used to live on the earth, where they had left their corporeal envelope behind; that they inhabit space, surround us aruT' continually rub elbows with us; that, through indisputable signs, anyone could recognize among them their relatives, friends and those whom they knew here on earth; that they could be followed in all the phases of their existence beyond the grave from the moment they left their bodies, and their situation could be observed according to their kind of death and the manner in which they had lived on the earth. Lastly, it was realized that they are not abstract, incorporeal beings, in the absolute sense of the word. They have an envelope, to which we gave the name perispirit, a sort of fluidic, vaporous, diaphanous body that is invisible in the normal state, but which, in certain cases and by a kind of condensation or molecular arrangement, can become momentarily visible and even tangible; hence, the phenomena of apparitions and the ability to touch them were explained. This envelope exists throughout the life of the body; it is the link between the spirit and matter. When the body dies, the soul, or spirit - which is the same thing — casts off only the coarse envelope and keeps the second one, much like when we remove an outer garment and keep only the one beneath, or when the seed of a fruit casts off the cortical envelope and keeps only the perisperm. It is this semi-material envelope of the spirit that is the agent of the different phenomena through which it manifests its presence.
Such is the story of Spiritism in a few words; once you have studied it in-depth, you will see and realize even better that everything concerning it is the result of observation and not a preconceived theory.
Means of Communication
Visitor — You mentioned the means of communication; could you give me an idea about them since it is hard to understand how these invisible beings can converse with us?
A.K. - Gladly; I will do so only briefly, however, because it would demand long drawn-out explanations that you can find particularly in The Mediums' Book. But the little I will tell you will suffice to set you on the path of the mechanism, and will help you, above all, to better understand some of the sessions you might attend while awaiting your full initiation.
The existence of the semi-material envelope, or perispirit, is a key that explains many things and demonstrates the possibility of certain, phenomena. As for the means per se, they are quite varied and depend either on the degree of purity of the spirits themselves or on the particular dispositions of the persons who serve as their intermediaries. The most common one — the one we might call universal - consists of intuition, that is, of the ideas and thoughts they suggest to us; but this method is little considered in most cases. There are others that are more dependable.
Certain spirits communicate by raps, answering either yes or no, or designating individual letters to form, words. These raps may be obtained by spirits tilting an object - a table, for example, that strikes one of its legs on the floor; but quite often, they make themselves heard within the actual material of the object, without the object making any movement at all. This primitive approach is slow and doesn't easily lend itself to communicating lengthier ideas. Writing has replaced it and is obtained in different ways. At first, we used a movable object such as a small planchette, a basket or a box, to which we attached a pencil whose point rested on the paper. We still use this method at times. The nature and substance of the object doesn't matter. The medium places his or her hands on the object, transmitting to it the influence he or she receives from the spirit, and the pencil writes the letters. But properly speaking, this object is nothing more than an extension of the hand, a sort of pencil holder. We have since recognized that it is pointless to use this intermediary object because it merely complicates the process. Its sole merit was that it physically established the mediurns' independence, but they can write just as well by holding the pencil themselves.
Spirits can also express themselves by transmitting their thoughts through articulated sounds that either resound in the air or in the ears, as well as through the mediums voice, through sight, drawings, music, and other means that a thorough study would reveal. For these different means, mediums have special aptitudes connected with their physical and mental make-up. Thus we have physical effects mediums, that is, those who are able to produce physical phenomena such as raps, the movement of objects, etc. There are also hearing, speaking, seeing, drawing, musical and writing mediums. This last faculty is the most common, the most easily developed through practice; it is also the most valuable because it allows for the most regular and the quickest communications.
There are several kinds of writing mediums, two of which are very distinct. In order to understand them, we must understand how the phenomenon occurs. The spirit sometimes acts directly on the mediums hand, to which it gives an impulse that is completely independent of the medium's will. The medium has no awareness of what is being written: this is the mechanical medium. In other cases, the spirit acts on the brain; its thought passes through that of the medium. Although the medium writes involuntarily, he or she is more or less clearly aware of what is being received: this is the intuitive medium. The medium's role is exactly like that of interpreters who transmit a thought that is not their own, although they do understand it. Although in this case the spirit's thought and that of the medium sometimes intermingle, experience has taught us how to easily distinguish them. Equally good communications may be obtained through both these types of mediums; the advantage of the mechanical type is that it is particularly effective on people who are not yet convinced. Besides, the essential qualities of mediums are to be found much more in the nature of the spirits who assist them and in the communications they receive than in the means by which the communications are received.
Visitor - The procedure seems simple enough. Would it be possible for me to try it out myself?
A.K. - Certainly; I would even say that if you have been endowed with this mediumistic faculty, it would be the best way to convince you because you couldn't doubt your own good faith. But I would strongly urge you not to try it out before having studied it carefully. Communications from beyond the grave are fraught with more difficulties than one might think; they are not exempt from pitfalls or even dangers for those who lack the necessary experience. It is like someone who would like to experiment with chemicals without knowing chemistry: the person could run the risk of burning his or her fingers.
Visitor - Is there any sign by which one can recognize this aptitude?
A.K. - So far, we don't know of any diagnoses for mediumsfiip; those we thought we had identified turned out to be worthless. Experimentation is the only way to know if one is endowed with the faculty. Moreover, mediums are very numerous, and if we ourselves are not mediums, it is extremely rare for us not to find one amongst our family members or the persons with whom we associate. Sex, age and temperament don't matter; men and women, children and the elderly, as well as individuals who are well and those who are sick may be mediums.
If mediumship were conveyed by some outward sign, this would imply that the faculty is permanent, whereas it is essentially changeable and temporary. Its physical cause lies in how easily the perispiritual fluids of the incarnate and discarnate spirit are assimilated. Its moral cause lies in the will of the spirit, who communicates when it wants to, and not in our own will. From this we may conclude that, first, not all spirits can communicate indiscriminately through all mediums, and that, second, all mediums are capable of losing or having their faculty suspended when they least expect it. This brief summary should be enough to show you that there is a great deal of study to be done in order to recognize the variations that this phenomenon presents.
Thus, it would be a mistake to think that any spirit whatsoever can come when called and communicate through the first medium at hand. For a spirit to communicate, first, it must agree to do so; secpnd, its position or activities must allow it to; and third, it must find the medium to be a suitable instrument, adequate to its nature.
In principle, one may communicate with spirits of all orders, with relatives and friends, with the most highly evolved spirits as well as with the commonest; apart from possible individual situations, however, they come more willingly or less so according to the circumstances, and especially according to their affinity for the persons who call them, and not because of the request of the first person who, on a whim, evokes them out of curiosity. In such a case they would not have bothered with it when alive, much less after death.
Serious spirits come only to serious meetings, where they are called in an atmosphere of respect and for serious reasons; they pay no heed to any questions of curiosity or proof, useless purpose or experimentation.
Frivolous spirits go everywhere, but at serious meetings they remain quiet and stand aside to listen, like students at a gathering of scholars. They have fun at frivolous meetings, however, where they are amused by everything, frequently mock those in attendance, and answer everything with no concern for the truth.
Spirits known as rapping spirits, and in general, all those who produce physical manifestations, are of a lower order, although they are not necessarily evil because of it; they simply have a somewhat special aptitude for physical effects. High order spirits do not concern themselves with such things any more than scholars concern themselves with feats of strength; if high order spirits need to communicate through physical means, they use these spirits, just as we use laborers for heavier work.
Mediums for Hire
Visitor - Before they delve into a prolonged course of study, some people would like to be certain that they will not be wasting their time, and certain that they will be provided with a conclusive fact, even if they have to pay for it.
A.K. - People who don't want to go to the trouble of studying display more curiosity than an actual desire to learn. Well, spirits don't like the curious any more than I do. Moreover, cupidity is especially disagreeable to them, and they don't lend themselves to anything that may satisfy it. One would have to have a very wrong idea of them to believe that highly evolved spirits such as Fenelon, Bossuet, Pascal or St. Augustine would submit to the orders of the first person who showed up and paid a certain amount per hour. No, sir; communications from beyond the grave are too serious and require too much respect to serve as exhibitions.
Moreover, we know that spirit phenomena do not function like the gears of some mechanism, because they depend on the will of the spirits. Even if a person does have a mediumistic faculty, he or she cannot claim to be able to obtain spirit phenomena at any given moment. If disbelievers are inclined to suspect the good faith of mediums in general, it would be much worse if mediums harbored a desire of profit. They would have good reason to suspect that paid mediums would simulate the phenomena when spirits were not actually present because their main concern would be getting paid. Not only is absolute disinterest the best guarantee of authenticity, it would be repugnant to our reason to ask the spirits of our loved ones to come for a price - even supposing they would consent to it, which is more than doubtful. In any case, it would involve only low order spirits who were unscrupulous as to the means and undeserving of any trust. Furthermore, such spirits often take malicious pleasure in foiling the schemes and calculations of those who try to control thern at will.
The nature of the mediumistic faculty is thus opposed to its becoming a profession, since the faculty depends on a will foreign to the medium; and it can fail to manifest at the moment the medium needs It most, unless he or she can supply it with skilful dexterity. But even admitting complete good faith, since phenomena cannot be obtained at will, it would be by sheer chance if during a paid session a phenomenon were produced because of a desire to be convinced. We could give a hundred thousand francs to a medium and we wouldn't enable him or her to get the spirits to do what they didn't want to do. This enticement not only distorts the intention and transforms it into an intense desire for profit, but quite to the contrary, it is a reason for the medium not to be successful. If we are well imbued with this truth, that is, that affection and affinity are the most powerful incentives for attracting spirits, we will understand that they cannot be solicited with the thought of being used to make money.
Therefore, those who need phenomena to be convinced should prove their goodwill to the spirits by means of serious and patient observation if they want to be assisted by them. But if it is true that faith cannot be imposed, it is no less true that it cannot be bought.
Visitor - I can understand this line of reasoning from a moral point of view; however, isn't it fair for those who give their time to the interest of their cause to be compensated for it if it keeps them from working for a living?
A. K. - In the first place, are they really doing it in the interest of their cause, or are they doing it for their own gain? If they did leave their job, it was because they were not satisfied with it, and because they hope to earn more or work less at their new one. There is no self-sacrifice in giving one's time when it can lead to making a profit from it. That would be like saying that the baker makes bread in the interest of humankind. Mediumship isn't the only resource open to them; without it, they would have to earn their living some other way. When they do not have independent means, truly serious and devoted mediums look for ways to earn a living with regular work, and they do not give up their jobs. They devote only as much time as they can to their mediumship without jeopardizing themselves, and if they do so voluntarily in their leisure time or rest, it is simply devotion on their part; they are thus valued and respected all the more for it.
Furthermore, the large number of family mediums makes professional mediums unnecessary, even supposing that they offer all the desirable guarantees, a fact that is extremely rare. Without the discredit that is attributed to this kind of exploitation - a discredit I am happy to have contributed to extensively - we would have seen mediums for hire multiply and newspapers covered with their advertisements. For each honest medium, there would have been a hundred charlatans who, by exploiting an authentic or simulated faculty, would have done great harm to Spiritism. It is therefore a given that all those who see in Spiritism something beyond an exhibition of curious phenomena, and who understand and value the dignity, consideration and genuine interests of the doctrine, condemn every type of speculation in whatever form or disguise it presents itself. Serious and sincere mediums - and I give this name to those who understand the sanctity of the mandate that God
has entrusted to them - avoid even the appearance of what might suggest the slightest hint of cupidity casting its shadow over them. The accusation of making any profit with their faculty would be regarded by them as an insult.
Complete disbeliever that you are, you must admit, sir, that mediums with such conduct would make an entirely different impression on you than if you had paid for your seat to see them operate, or, in the event you had been given free admission, if you knew that behind it the purpose was money. You must admit that if you saw mediums animated by a true religious sentiment, stimulated only by faith and not by the desire for profit, they would unwittingly command your respect, even if they were from the humblest working class. They would inspire you with more trust because you would have no reason to doubt their honesty. Well, sir, you can find thousands of them, and it is one of the causes that have contributed powerfully to the credit and spread of the doctrine, whereas if it had had only interpreters interested in making a profit, it would not have a quarter of the adherents it has today.
It is well-known that professional mediums are extremely rare, at least in France; that they are unknown in most of the Spiritist centers in the country, where a reputation as mediums for hire would be enough for them to be excluded from any serious group. Furthermore, the job would not be very profitable for them due to the discredit they would cause and the competition of disinterested mediums, who may be found everywhere. To make up for it, whether it is the mediumistic faculty they lack or a shortage of clientele, there are the so-called mediums who use card games, egg whites, coffee grounds, etc., to satisfy every taste, hoping in this way and in the absence of spirits, to attract those who still believe in such foolishness. If they harmed only themselves, the evil would be minor; but there are individuals who, without going any farther, mistake the abuse for the reality, and then the ill-intentioned take advantage of it by saying that that is what Spiritism is all about. So you can see that when the exploitation of mediumship leads to abuses that jeopardize the doctrine, serious Spiritism is right in condemning it and repudiating it as an aid.
Visitor — All that is very logical, I must agree, but non-paid mediums are not at just anybody's disposal; furthermore, it would not be right to bother them, whereas there would be no problem with going to someone who gets paid because it wouldn't make them waste their time. If there were public mediums, it would make it easier for people who wanted to be convinced.
A.K. - But if public mediums — as you call them — could not offer any guarantees, of what use could they be for convincing anyone? The drawback you have indicated, doesn't cancel out the other, more serious ones that I have mentioned. People would go to public mediums more for the sheer amusement of it or to have their fortunes told than to get enlightenment. Those who seriously wish to be convinced will find the means sooner or later
if they have perseverance and goodwill; however, they won't be convinced by attending a session if they haven't been prepared for it. If they take an unfavorable impression with them, they will leave even less convinced than before, and will perhaps put off the idea of pursuing the study of something in which they saw nothing serious; experience has proven this.
But aside from the moral considerations, the progress of today's Spiritist science has shown us a material difficulty that we did not suspect in the beginning, but which has made us more aware of the conditions in which manifestations are produced. This problem has to do with the fluidic affinities that must exist between the evoked spirit and the medium.
I put aside any thought of fraud and deception, and I presume complete honesty. In order for professional mediums to elicit full trust from the people who consult them, they would have to possess a permanent and universal faculty; that is, they would have to be able to communicate easily with any spirit and at any given moment; like doctors, they would have to be constantly at the publics disposal, and they would have to satisfy any evocation that might be asked of them. However, paid or not, mediums cannot offer such guarantees due to causes independent of the spirit's will, which I will not describe in-depth, because I am not giving you a course in Spiritism. I will limit myself to saying that fluidic affinities, which are the very basis for the mediumistic faculties, are individual and not general, and that the medium might have them regarding one particular spirit but not another; that without these affinities, whose nuances are very numerous, communications are incomplete, erroneous or impossible; that most frequently, the fluidic assimilation between the,spirit and the medium is established only over time, and only in one case out often is it established the very first time. So, as you can see, sir, mediumship is subject to laws that are in some way organic, and to which every medium is subject. Thus, you cannot deny that this would be an obstacle to professional mediumship, since the potential for precise communications is linked to causes independent of both the medium and the spirit. (See below, chap. II, sect. Concerning Mediums).
Therefore, if we reject the exploitation of mediumship, it is not because of caprice or principle, but because the very tenets that govern communications with the invisible world are opposed to the regularity and precision that would be required for those who would place themselves at the public's disposal, and because the desire to satisfy a paying clientele would lead to abuse. I would not conclude from all this that all mediums for hire are charlatans, but I would say that the interest in making a profit encourages charlatanism and at least warrants suspicion of fraud if it does not justify it outright. Those who wish to be convinced should, more than anything else, look for the elements of authenticity.
Mediums and Sorcerers
Visitor - Since mediumship consists in communicating with unseen powers, it seems to me that mediums and sorcerers are almost the same thing.
A.K. — In every age there have been natural, unconscious mediums who, just because they produced unusual and misunderstood phenomena, were labeled as sorcerers and were accused ofmaking a pact with the Devil. It was the same with most of the learned individuals who possessed knowledge beyond the ordinary. Ignorance increased their power, and they themselves often abused public credulity by exploiting it; hence their justified, condemnation. V/e only need compare the power attributed to sorcerers with the faculty of genuine mediums to see the difference, but most critics do not go to the trouble. Far from reviving sorcery, Spiritism has destroyed it forever by stripping it of its supposed supernatural power, formulas, conjuring books, amulets and talismans, and by reducing the feasible phenomena to their rightful worth, without departing from natural laws.
The similarity that certain people claim exists comes from their error in thinking that spirits are under mediums' orders; it is repugnant to their reason to believe that the first medium to come along could make the spirit of this or that relatively illustrious character respond to the medium's beck and call at just that given moment. They are absolutely right in this, and if they had taken the trouble to familiarize themselves with Spiritism before casting stones at it, they would know it states very clearly that spirits are not at the command of anyone's whim, and no one can make them come at will and against their wishes; from which it follows that mediums are not sorcerers.
Visitor - Based on this, wouldn't all the effects that certain accredited mediums obtain at will and in. public be, according to you, nothing more than trickery?
A. K. - I wouldn't say so categorically. Such phenomena are not impossible, because there are low order spirits who may willingly participate and have fun with these sorts of things, having perhaps been in the sleight-of-hand trade themselves when alive. Moreover, there are mediums especially suited to these kinds of manifestations; nonetheless, the most average common sense rejects the idea that even little-evolved spirits would turn up to put on a show and perform clever feats simply to amuse the curious.
Obtaining these phenomena at will - and especially in public — is always suspect; in this case, mediumship and sleight- of-hand are so similar that it is often very hard to distinguish one from the other. Before seeing the action of spirits in such a situation, meticulous observation is required, either taking into account the medium's character and antecedents or a multitude of circumstances that only a thorough study of the theory of spirit phenomena can enable us to evaluate. It is worth noting that this type of mediumship - when mediumship is actually involved - is limited to producing the same phenomenon over and over with a few variants, which is not likely to clear up any doubts about it. An absolute disinterestedness is the best guarantee of authenticity.
Whatever the reality of these phenomena may be, as mediumistic effects, they have a good result in that they lend impact to the Spiritist idea. The controversy surrounding this subject stimulates many to study the subject more deeply. Of course, it is not there that Spiritism's true teachings or its philosophy should be sought, but it is a way to grab the attention of the indifferent and to force the most recalcitrant to talk about them.
Diversity among Spirits
Visitor — You speak of good or evil, serious or frivolous spirits; I must admit that I do not understand this difference. It seems to me that, upon leaving their corporeal envelope, they must shed the imperfections inherent to matter; that light must shine for them regarding all the truths that are hidden from them, and that they surely must be free of earthly prejudices.
A.K. - Of course they are free of physical imperfections, that is, bodily illnesses and infirmities; however, moral imperfections have to do with the spirit and not the body. Among their numbers are those who are intellectually and morally advanced to varying degrees. It would be a mistake to believe that after having left their material bodies, spirits are suddenly struck with the light of truth. Do you believe, for example, that when you die, there will be no difference between your own spirit and that of a primitive or an evildoer? If that were so, what good would it have done to have worked on your education and improvement since a villain would be just like you after death? Spirits progress only gradually and sometimes very slowly. Some of them - and this depends on their purification - see things from a more correct point of view than during their physical life; on the other hand, others still have the same passions, the same prejudices and the same misapprehensions until time and new trials enable them to enlighten themselves. Be well aware that this is the result of experience because this is the way they present themselves to us in their communications. Hence, it is an elementary principle of Spiritism that there are spirits of all levels of intelligence and morality.
Visitor - But then, why aren't all spirits perfect? What you have said would seem to imply that God has created all sorts of categories.
A.K. - That would be like asking why all the students at a college are not philosophy majors. All spirits have the same origin and the same destiny. The differences among them do not constitute different kinds, but different degrees of advancement.
Spirits are not perfect, because they are the souls of human beings, and humans are not perfect; likewise, humans are not perfect, because they are the incarnation of spirits that are of varying degrees of advancement. The corporeal world and the spirit world are constantly intermingling; through the death of the body, the corporeal world supplies its contingent to the spirit world; through birth, the spirit world supplies humankind. With each new existence, the spirit accomplishes much or little progress, and when it has acquired on earth the full knowledge and moral elevation possible for our globe, it leaves it and goes to a more highly evolved world, where it learns new things.
The spirits who form earth's invisible population are in a way the reflection of the corporeal world; one finds there the same vices and the same virtues. Among them there are the learned, the ignorant, the pseudo-learned, the wise and the foolish, the philosophers, the thinkers, the theorizers. And since they haven't rid themselves of their prejudices, all political and religious factions have their representatives there. They speak according to their own ideas, and what they say is often nothing more than their personal opinion. That is why we must not blindly believe everything spirits say.
Visitor — If that is so, I can see a big problem. In this conflict of diverse opinions, how does one distinguish error from truth? I can't see what good spirits are to us or what we have to gain from communicating with them.
A.K. - If spirits served only to teach us that there are, in fact, spirits and that these spirits are the souls of humans, wouldn't that be of great importance to all those who doubt that they even have a soul, and who do not know what will become of them after death?
As with all philosophical sciences, this one demands lengthy study and meticulous observation in order for us to learn to distinguish the truth from falsehood and to keep deceitful spirits away. Above the throngs of low order spirits, there are high order ones, who have only the good in mind and whose mission is to lead people to the right path. It is up to us to know how to recognize and understand them. They teach us great things, but we mustn't think that studying the others is useless; in order to get to know the inhabitants of a place, we must observe them in all their aspects.
You yourself have proof of this; you thought that it was enough for spirits to leave their corporeal envelope to rid themselves of their imperfections. However, communications with them have taught us just the opposite, and have made us aware of the true state of the spirit world, something which is of a high degree of interest to all of us since we all have to go there. As for the errors that can arise from spirits' differences of opinion, these vanish by themselves once we learn to distinguish between the good and the evil, the learned and the ignorant, the sincere and the hypocritical, exactly as we do amongst ourselves; common sense exposes false doctrines.
Visitor — My observation arises from the point of view of scientific questions and others that we can put to the spirits. The differences in their opinions regarding the theories that divide scholars leave us in doubt. I can understand that since not all of them are knowledgeable to the same degree, they cannot all know everything. But then of what use could the opinions of those who do know be for us if we cannot tell who is right or wrong? It wouldn't matter if we addressed either humans or spirits.
A.K. - That thought is another result of not knowing Spiritism's true character. Those who think they can use it as an easy way to know everything, to discover everything, are greatly mistaken. Spirits are not responsible for bringing us ready-made knowledge. In fact, it would be too convenient if all we had to do was ask in order to be helped, thus sparing us the trouble of doing the research. God wants us to work, to exercise our thought, and we cannot acquire knowledge except at such price. Spirits do not come to exempt us from this necessity; they are what they are, and the object ofSpiritism is to study them in order to learn by analogy what we will become one day, and not to enable us to know what must remain hidden from us, or to reveal things before the proper time.
Furthermore, spirits can no longer be taken for fortune- tellers, and those who pride themselves on getting certain secrets from thetn should be prepared for strange deceptions on the part of mocking spirits. In other words, Spiritism is a science of observation and not a science of divination or speculation. We study it in order to understand the state of the individual inhabitants of the invisible world, the relationships between them and us, and their concealed actions on the visible world, and not for the material usefulness we can get from it. From this point of view, no ,study of any spirit is useless; we can learn something from all of them: their imperfections, flaws, inadequacies and even their ignorance are subjects of observation that initiate us into the study of the inner nature of that world. And when it is not they who educate us through their teachings, it is we who educate ourselves by studying them, just as we do when we study the customs of a people unknown to us.
As for enlightened spirits, they can teach us a great deal, but within the limits of what is possible, and we must not ask them what they cannot or must not reveal to us. We must be content with what they tell us; to want to go any further is to expose ourselves to the hoaxes of frivolous spirits, who are always ready to respond to anything. Experience teaches us how to discern the degree of trust we can put in them.
The Practical Usefulness of Manifestations
Visitor — Supposing that the matter is verified and Spiritism is recognized as a reality, what would its practical usefulness be? If we have done without it until now, it seems to me that we could continue to do without it and still live quite serenely.
A.K. - One could say the same about railroads and steam, without which we used to live very well.
If we understand "practical usefulness" to mean living well, making fortunes, knowing the future, discovering coal mines or hidden treasures, receiving inheritances or saving ourselves from the efforts of doing research, Spiritism serves no one; it can neither raise nor lower the stock market, be transformed into shares, or produce finished inventions ready to be utilized. But how many of our sciences would be useless from that point of view! How many there are with no advantages, commercially speaking! Humans got along perfectly well long before the discovery of all the new planets, before they knew that it is the earth that orbits and not the sun, before eclipses could be calculated, before they knew about the microscopic world, and a hundred other things. In order to live and grow their wheat, peasants don't have to know what a comet is. So why do scholars devote themselves to such research, and who would dare say they are just wasting their time?
Everything that serves to lift a corner of the veil aids the development of our intelligence and enlarges our range of ideas by enabling us to penetrate the laws of nature more deeply. Since the spirit world exists by virtue of one of such laws of nature, Spiritism enables us to know about it. It teaches us the influence that the invisible world exerts on the visible world and the connections between the two in the same way that astronomy teaches us the connections between the stars and the earth. It shows us that invisible world is one of the forces that govern the universe and contributes to maintaining overall harmony. But let's suppose that its usefulness ends there; apart from any moral doctrine, wouldn't the revelation of such a power still be very useful? So, is it really nothing that a whole new world is revealed to us, especially if knowledge about the spirit world puts us on the track of a multitude of up-to-now unsolvable problems? Is it nothing at all that it initiates us into the mysteries beyond the grave, which ought to hold some interest to us because each and everyone must take that fateful step sooner or later? Spiritism has another, more positive usefulness, however: the moral influence it exerts by necessity. Spiritism is the obvious proof of the soul's existence, of its individuality after death, its immortality, and its future destiny; thus, it is the destruction of materialism, not by means of reasoning, but by the facts.
We shouldn't ask Spiritism what it can give, nor look for something in it that is beyond its beneficial purpose. Before the serious progress made in astronomy, people believed in astrology. Would it be reasonable to claim that astronomy is useless behause we can no longer find the prediction of our future in the influence of the heavenly bodies? In the same way that astronomy has dethroned the astrologers, Spiritism has dethroned the soothsayers, sorcerers and fortune-tellers. Spiritism is to magic what astronomy is to astrology, and chemistry is to alchemy.
Insanity, Suicide, Obsession
Visitor - Certain people regard Spiritist ideas as likely to disturb the mental faculties, and for that reason they think it prudent to stop its expansion.
A.K. - You know the proverb: When you want to kill a dog, you say it is rabid. So it isn't surprising that the enemies of Spiritism try to lean on any pretext they can. Such a ploy to arouse fear and susceptibilities seemed right to them, and so they eagerly seized upon it; however, their argument collapses under the slightest scrutiny. Consequently, one should look at this "insanity" as the reasoning of the insane.
All great preoccupations of the mind can produce insanity; the sciences, the arts - even religion itself— have provided their fair share. The source of insanity lies in a pathological condition of the brain, the instrument of thought: when the instrument is damaged, thought is impaired. Thus, insanity is a consequential effect, whose primary cause is an organic predisposition that makes the brain susceptible in varying degrees to certain impressions. This is so true that there are people who think a great deal, yet do not go mad, and others that go mad under the influence of the slightest over- excitement. Whenever there is a predisposition toward insanity, it will take on the character of its main concern, which then becomes an idee fixe. This idee fixe can involve spirits in someone who is preoccupied with spirits, just as it can involve God, angels, the Devil, fortune, power, an art, a science, motherhood, a political or social theory. It is probable that the religious insane would become insane Spiritists ifSpiritism happened to be their dominant fixation. Its' true that a newspaper stated that in only one place in America _ I cannot recall the name — there were four thousand cases of Spiritist insanity; however, we know that amongst our adversaries it is an idee fixe that they consider themselves to be the only ones gifted with reason, and that is a mania like any other. In their eyes, we all deserve to be in an insane asylum, and consequently, those four thousand Spiritists must be crazy as well. If that is the case, the United States has hundreds of thousands of them, and all the other countries in the world an even greater number. This bad tale started to make its rounds after it was noticed that this so-called insanity had reached the highest levels of society. A lot of noise was made about the well-known example ofVictor Hennequin, but we shouldn't forget that, before concerning himself with Spiritism, he had already demonstrated an unmistakable eccentricity of ideas. If table turning had not happened, which, according to our adversaries' very witty play on words made his head turn, his insanity would have taken another course.
So I will say that Spiritism is in no way privileged in this regard; but I will go even further: I will say that, when well understood, it is actually a protection against insanity and suicide.
Among the most frequent causes of brain over-excitation we must include disappointment, misfortune and thwarted affections, which are also the most frequent causes of suicide. True Spiritists, however, see the things of this world from such a comprehensive point of view that for them troubles are nothing more than the disagreeable incidents of a journey. That which might cause a violent emotion in others barely affects Spiritists at all. They know, moreover, that life's sufferings are trials that aid their advancement if they bear them without complaining because they will be rewarded according to the courage with which they have endured them. Their convictions thus endow them with a resignation that saves them from despair, and consequently, from an ongoing cause of insanity and suicide. Also, because of what they have seen through communications with spirits, they also know of the deplorable fate of those who intentionally shorten their days, and this picture serves well to make them reflect; hence, the number of those who have opted against choosing that disastrous slope is considerable. This is just one of the results of Spiritism.
To the number of the causes of insanity we must also add fear, and fear of the Devil has deranged more than one mind. Do we perchance know the number of victims created by frightening feeble imaginations with this depiction, made even more frightful with hideous details? The Devil, they say, not only scares children but is also a restraint for them to be good; yes, exactly like the bogey-man and the werewolf, and once they are no longer afraid of them, they become even more ill-behaved than before. And for such a fine result, no one has counted the number of fits caused by the shock to a delicate mind.
We mustn't confuse pathological insanity with obsession. The latter doesn't originate from any sort of brain injury, but from the control that malevolent spirits exert over certain individuals, and which sometimes has the appearance of insanity per se. This malady, which has nothing to do with any belief in Spiritism, is very common and has always existed. Ordinary medication is powerless and even harmful in such a case. Spiritism has made this new cause of the disorder known while at the same time offering the only way t0 overcome it by acting not on the patient, but on the obsessor spirit. It is the remedy for, and not the cause of the ailment.
Forgetfiilness of the Past
Visitor — I don't understand how people can benefit from the experience acquired in their past lives if they cannot remember them. Each new existence is as if it were the very first, and therefore they are always having to start all over again. Let's suppose that every day when we wake up we forget what we did the day before; we would have made no more progress by the time we reach seventy years of age than we did at ten. But since we do remember our wrongs, our imperfections and the punishments we have incurred, we make sure that we do not have to start all over again. To use your comparison of equating a person on earth with a high school student, I cannot understand what this student could gain from his fourth grade studies, for example, if he can't remember what he learned in third grade. These breaks in the continuity of the spirit's life interrupt all its relationships, and in a matter of speaking, make it a new being. What we may conclude is that our memories die with each existence; hence, we are born without any awareness of what we have been. It is a kind of nothingness.
A.K. - From question to question, you are leading me to give you a complete course on Spiritism since all the objections you have raised are natural for someone who knows nothing about it. An earnest study of Spiritism, however, could provide a much fuller view than I can in a brief explanation, which, in and of itself, will raise even more issues. Everything is connected in Spiritism, and when we follow the whole, we see that the principles follow one from the other, and mutually support one another. Then, what appears to be an anomaly that is contrary to God's justice and wisdom seems completely natural and confirms such justice and wisdom.
Such is the problem of the forgetfulness of the past, which is connected to other questions of equal importance, and that is why I will touch on it only briefly here.
If with every existence a veil is thrown over the past, the spirit loses nothing of what it acquired in that past: it forgets only the way in which it acquired it. To use the comparison of the student, I would say that it makes little difference to him to know where, how, and under what teacher he completed the third grade if upon reaching the fourth he knows what he learned in the third. Why should it matter to him to know if he had been punished for his laziness and disobedience if such punishments made him hard- working and well-behaved? Thus it is that upon reincarnating, persons bring through intuition and innate ideas what they have acquired in knowledge and morality. I say "in morality" because if they improved themselves during a lifetime and if they benefited from the lessons of experience, then upon returning, they will be instinctively better; matured in the school of suffering, and through work, their spirits will be stronger. Rather than having to start everything all over again, they will possess an increasingly richer basis upon which to rely in order to acquire even more.
The second part of your objection - the wiping out of memories - is no better founded, because this forgetfulness takes place only during corporeal life. Upon leaving it, the spirit recovers the memory of its past and can then judge the path it has taken and what still remains for it to do; hence, there is no breach of continuity in the spirit life, which is the normal life of the spirit.
Temporary forgetfulness is a gift from Providence. Experience is often acquired through harsh trials and terrible expiations, and remembering them would be very painful and would add to the troubles of our present life. If the sufferings of life seem long, what would it be like if their duration were increased with the memory of sufferings from past lives? For example, today you are an honest man, but perhaps you owe it to the harsh punishments you experienced for a wrong you committed in the past that would be repugnant to your conscience now. Would it be pleasant for you to remember having been hanged for it? Wouldn't shame haunt you, thinking that everyone knows about the wrong you committed? What does it matter to you what you were capable of doing and what you may have endured in expiation if you are now a person worthy of esteem? In the eyes of the world, you are a new person, and in the eyes of God, a rehabilitated spirit. Free from the memory of a troublesome past, you act with more freedom; it is a new beginning for you; your old debts are paid and it is up to you not to incur new ones.
During their present lives, how many persons would love to be able to throw a veil over their early years! How many have said at the end of their lives, "If I had it to do all over again, I certainly wouldn't do what I did!" Well then! What they cannot redo in this lifetime, they will redo in another; in a new existence, their spirit will bring with it through intuition the good decisions they made in the past. This is how human progress is gradually accomplished.
Let us suppose further - and this is very common - that in your relationships, maybe in your own family, there is someone you had much to complain about in a past life; someone who perhaps ruined or dishonored you, and now, as a repentant spirit, has come to incarnate in your midst, to unite with you through family ties to make amends by way of his or her current devotion and affection for the evil done to you in the past. Wouldn't it be very awkward for both of you if you both remembered your enmity? Instead of being abated, the hatred would be perpetuated.
We may conclude from this that the remembrance of the past would greatly upset social relations and would be an obstacle to progress. Do you want actual proof? A man condemned to prison makes a firm resolution to become honest; what will become of him once released? He will be rejected by society, and this rejection will plunge him again into vice. Suppose, on the other hand, that no one is aware of his past; he will be well-received. If he himself is able to forget his past, he will be no less honest and will be able to walk with his head held high instead of bent under the shame of his memories.
This agrees perfectly with the Spirits' doctrine about worlds that are more highly evolved than ours. On such worlds, where only the good reigns, remembrance of the past is not at all painful; that is why spirits on them can remember their previous lives as easily as we remember what we did yesterday. As for the sojourns they may have made on lower worlds, they are nothing more than a bad dream.
Elements of Conviction
Visitor - I would agree, sir, that from a philosophical point of view, the Spiritist doctrine is perfectly rational. But there is still the matter of the manifestations, which cannot be resolved except by the phenomena themselves; it is precisely the reality of these phenomena that many people dispute and you should not find it surprising that they would like to witness them.
A.K. - I do think that is quite natural; however, since I want to make the most of this opportunity, I will explain what conditions are best for observing the phenomena, and especially for understanding them. Those who do not want to observe them under such conditions do not have a true desire to learn, so it would be useless to waste our time on them.
You will also agree, sir, that it would be strange indeed if a rational philosophy had emerged, from illusory and fabricated occurrences. In good logic, the reality of the effect implies the reality of the cause; if one is true, the other cannot be false, because where there is no tree, no fruit can be gathered.
It is true that not everyone has been able to confirm the phenomena because not everyone has met the conditions needed to observe them or has had the necessary patience and perseverance. The same applies here as in all the sciences: what some do not do, others will. Every day, we accept astronomical calculations without having made them ourselves. Be that as it may, if you find a particular philosophy to be good, you will accept it as you would any other, but you will reserve your opinion about the ways and means that have led to it, or at least accept it as a hypothesis until fully verified.
The elements of conviction are not the same for everyone; what convinces some makes no impression on others - and that is why we must have a little of everything. But it is wrong to believe that physical experiences are the only means of convincing someone. I have seen persons unmoved by the most remarkable phenomena but convinced by a simple written response. When we see a phenomenon that we do not understand, the more extraordinary it is the more suspicious it seems, and our minds always look for an ordinary cause behind it. If we do understand it, however, we accept it more easily because it has a reason for being and the extraordinary and supernatural vanish. Indeed, the explanations I have just given you in this interview are far from being complete; but as abridged as they may be, I am persuaded that they will give you something to think about; and if circumstances enable you to witness any incidents of manifestation, you will see them with a less biased eye because you will have a basis for your reasoning.
There are two aspects to Spiritism: the experimental part, involving the manifestations, and the philosophical doctrine. I am. visited by people every day who have not seen anything but who believe as firmly as I do simply because of the study they have made of the philosophical part; for them, the phenomena involving the manifestations is secondary. The foundation is the doctrine, the science. They see it as so great, so rational, that they find in it everything conducive to satisfying their inner yearnings, apart from the manifestations. They have concluded that even if there were no manifestations at all the Spiritist Doctrine would nonetheless be the one that best resolves a multitude of problems thought unsolvable. How many have stated that similar ideas had been brewing in their minds but had remained unclear. Spiritism stated such ideas precisely and gave them a form, and it was like a flash of light. This explains the number of adherents won over by a single reading of The Spirits Book. Do you think that would have been the case if Spiritism hadn't gone beyond the turning and talking tables?
Visitor - You were right in saying that the turning tables gave rise to a philosophical doctrine, and I am far from suspecting the consequences that could arise from something regarded as a simple object of curiosity. I can now see how vast the field opened up by your system is.
A.K. - I would stop you there, sir; you accord me way too much honor by attributing this system to me, because it is not mine. It has been deduced in full from the Spirits' teachings. I only saw, observed and coordinated, and I am now trying to help others understand what I myself do; that is the full lot that has fallen to me. There is this crucial difference between Spiritism and other philosophical systems: the latter are the work of persons who were enlightened to varying degrees, whereas personally, I haven't been worthy of inventing one single principle regarding what you attribute to me. They say: the philosophy of Plato, Descartes and Leibnitz; they will not say: the doctrine of Allan Kardec. That is fortunate because what importance could a name have in such a serious matter? Spiritism has vastly superior auxiliaries, next to whom we are but atoms.
Society for the Continuation of the Spiritist Works of Allan Kardec, 7 de Lille Street
Visitor - You have a society that concerns itself with these studies; would it be possible for me to be a member?
A.K. - Certainly not, at least for the time being. Even though applicants don't have to have a doctorate in Spiritism in order to be accepted, their ideas must at least be more settled on the subject than yours are. Since the Society doesn't want to be disturbed during its study times, it cannot admit those who would come to waste its time on elementary questions, nor those who, unsympathetic toward its principles and beliefs, would incite disorder through untimely arguments or a spirit of conflict. Like so many others, it is a scientific society that concerns itself with delving into the different points of the Spiritist science, and which seeks to become enlightened. It is the center where information is received from all over the world, and where topics related to the progress of the science are delineated and coordinated. But it is not a school, nor is it a course of elementary instruction. Later, when your convictions have been formed by study, we will see if there is room to admit you. Nevertheless, while waiting, you will be able to attend once or twice at the most as a visitor, on the condition that you harbor no thought that could offend anyone; otherwise, because I was the one who will have introduced you, I would incur the reproach of my colleagues and the door would be forever closed to you. You will find it to be a gathering of serious and distinguished men and women, most of whom, have been recommended due to the superiority of their knowledge and their social stance, and who would not allow those admitted to deviate from propriety in the least. You mustn't think that the public is invited and that just anyone will be permitted to attend the sessions. Since the Society doesn't put on demonstrations with the idea of satisfying people's curiosity, it is careful to turn away the curious. So, those who think they might find a diversion or some kind of spectacle would be disappointed and would do better not to come at all. That is why the Society refuses to admit, even as simple observers, those it does not know or whose hostile dispositions are well-known.
The Prohibition against Spiritism
Visitor - One last question, if you please. Spiritism has powerful enemies; couldn't they prohibit its practice and its societies, and thereby stop its spread?
A.K. - They would only defeat themselves a little faster because the use of force is the argument of those who have nothing good to say. If Spiritism is a passing fancy, it will fall by itself without anyone having to go to so much trouble; if they persecute it, it is because they fear it, and they fear only what is authentic. If it is a reality, it is, as I have already said, a part of nature itself, and a law of nature cannot be revoked with the stroke of a pen.
If Spirit manifestations were the privilege of one individual, there's no doubt that if that individual were gotten out of the way, it would put an end to the manifestations. Unfortunately for its opponents, such manifestations are not a mystery to anyone; there is nothing secret or occult; everything happens in the full light of day; they are at everyone's disposal, from the palace to the hovel. One might prohibit obtaining them in public, but we know for certain that it is not in public that they are best produced, but in private. Therefore, since anyone may be a medium, who could prevent a family in their home, an individual in the silence of his or her own study, or the prisoner who is locked away, from communicating with spirits without the henchmen's knowledge and right under their noses? Even if a government were strong enough to put a stop to them, would it be able to stop its neighbors and the entire world since there is not a single country in the two hemispheres where there are no mediums?
Furthermore, Spiritism's source is not to be found among humans; it is the work of the Spirits, who can neither be burned nor put in prison. It rests on individual belief and not on societies, which are not necessary. If they succeeded in destroying all the Spiritist books, the Spirits would dictate them all over again.
To sum up, Spiritism today is an assured fact; it has won its place in the public eye and among philosophical doctrines. Therefore, those who do not appreciate it must be prepared to see it all around them, even though they are perfectly free not to accept it.
A Priest — Would you kindly permit me to ask you a few questions on my part?
Allan Kardec. — Gladly. But before answering you, I think I should let you know how I intend to discuss matters with you.
First, I must say that I have no intention whatsoever of converting you to our ideas. If you want to know about them in detail, you will find them in the books where they have already been explained. You can study them at your leisure and feel free to accept or reject them.
The goal of Spiritism is to combat disbelief and its disastrous consequences while providing obvious proofs for the existence of the soul and future life. It thus speaks to those who believe in nothing at all or those who doubt; and their numbers are large, as you know. Those who have religious faith, and for whom such faith is sufficient, do not need Spiritism. To those who say, "I believe in the authority of the Church and I shall hold to what it teaches, without looking further," Spiritism replies that it does not impose itself on anyone and has not come to force any conviction.
Freedom of conscience is one consequence of freedom of thought, which is one of the attributes of human beings; Spiritism would be in conflict with its own principles of charity and tolerance if it did not respect this freedom. For Spiritism, every belief, if it is sincere and does not lead people to do wrong to their neighbor, is respectable, even if erroneous. For example, if people were to find their consciences telling them to believe that it is the sun that orbits around the earth, we would say to them: Believe it if you like, because it will not keep the earth from orbiting the sun. Just as we do not try to violate your conscience, do not try to violate other people's consciences. If you make an innocuous belief into an instrument of persecution, it becomes harmful and should be opposed.
That, Reverend, is the line of conduct I have followed with the clergy of several denominations who have addressed me. When they question me about certain points of the Doctrine, I provide them with the explanations they need, but I avoid arguing about certain dogmas that Spiritism is not concerned with; thus, they are all free to make their own evaluations. However, I have never sought them out with the desire to undermine their faith through any kind of pressure. Those who come to us as brothers, we
welcome as brothers; those who reject us, we leave in peace. This is the advice I always give to Spiritists because I have never approved of those who believe it their mission to convert the clergy. I always tell them: Sow in the field of the disbelievers because there is an ample harvest to gather.
Spiritism does not impose itself because, as I have said, it respects freedom of conscience. Moreover, it understands that any imposed belief is superficial and gives only the appearances of faith, but it is not real faith. It lays out its principles in front of everyone so that all may form an opinion with full knowledge of the facts. Those who accept its principles, whether they are clergy or laity, do so freely because they find them to be rational. But we in no way trouble ourselves with those who are not of our opinion. If there is a struggle between the Church, and Spiritism nowadays, we know that we are not the ones who caused it.
Priest — If the Church sees the rise of a new doctrine and believes its principles condemnable according to the Church's conscience, do you question its right to discuss them and fight them, and to caution the faithful against what it regards as error?
A.K. - In no way do we question a right that we ourselves claim. If the Church would confine itself to the limits of the discussion, there would be nothing to be concerned about. But read most of the writings issued by its members or published in the name of religion, in addition to the sermons that have been preached, and you will see offense and slander bursting forth far and wide, and the principles of the Doctrine undeservedly and maliciously misrepresented. Haven't we heard from atop the pulpit that its adherents are enemies of society and the public order? That those whom it has brought back to the faith are to be anathematized and rejected, by the Church because it is better to be a disbeliever than to believe in God and the soul through Spiritism? Hasn't it been lamented that there are no Inquisition-type burnings-at-the- stake for Spiritists? In certain locations, haven't they singled them out for the reprehension of their fellow citizens, even urging them to pursue and insult them in the streets? Haven't they enjoined all the faithful to flee from them like the plague, dissuading domestic servants from going to work for them? Haven't women been urged to leave their husbands, and husbands to leave their wives because of Spiritism? Haven't they caused employees to lose their jobs, depriving workers of their wages and the unfortunate of the bread of charity because they are Spiritists? Haven't they even sent the blind away from certain almshouses because they wouldn't renounce their beliefs? Tell me, Reverend, is that fair treatment? Have Spiritists answered insult with insult, wrong with wrong? No. They have applied calm and moderation. Public awareness has already absolved them of being the aggressors.
Priest - Any sane person would deplore such excesses, but the Church shouldn't be held responsible for the abuses committed by some of its less informed members.
A. K. - I agree, but aren't these less informed members the leaders of the Church? Look at the pastoral letter of the Bishop of Algiers and a few others. Wasn't it a bishop who ordered the book-burning in Barcelona? Don't the higher level ecclesiastical authorities have all the power over their subordinates? If the Church thus tolerates sermons unworthy of the evangelical pulpit, if it favors the publication of offensive and defamatory writings against a class of citizens, and if it does not oppose persecutions practiced in the name of religion, it is because it approves of them.
In sum, by systematically turning away Spiritists who return to it, the Church has forced them to withdraw unto themselves. By the nature and violence of its attacks, it has widened the discussion and taken it to new ground. Spiritism, is merely a philosophical doctrine; it is the Church itself that has caused it to grow by presenting it as a dreaded enemy. Lastly, it is the Church itself that has proclaimed it a new religion. That was a blunder, but passion does not reason.
A Free Thinker — You have proclaimed freedom of thought and conscience and have declared that every sincere belief is respectable. Materialism is a belief like any other; why shouldn't it enjoy the freedom, you grant to all the others?
A.K. — Everyone is certainly free to believe as they please or to believe in nothing at all, and we would no more excuse persecution against those who believe in nothingness after death than against a schismatic from any religion. In combating materialism, we attack not individuals, but a doctrine, which, if harmless to society when confined to the conscience of educated people, turns into a social calamity if it becomes widespread.
The belief that everything ends for human beings at death, that all solidarity ceases when physical life ceases, leads us to regard sacrificing our present welfare on behalf of someone else as pure nonsense; hence the maxim: "Every man for himself because there is nothing after this life." In other words, charity, fraternity and morality have no basis, no reason for being. Why inconvenience, restrain and deprive ourselves today, when tomorrow, perhaps, we will be no more? The denial of the future and the mere doubt about the future life are the greatest stimulants of selfishness, the source of most of humankind's ills. A great deal of virtue is needed to keep us from falling into vice and crime, with no restraint other than our will-power. Human respect might restrain men and women of the world, but not those for whom the fear of public opinion is nil.
Belief in the future life, demonstrating the continuation of relationships between individuals, establishes a solidarity that does not stop at the grave; thus, it changes the course of ideas. If this belief were nothing but a "man of straw," it would be temporary; but since its reality is a fact derived from experience, then, in the interest of the social order, it is an obligation to spread it and strive against the opposite belief. This is what Spiritism does, and it does so with success because it provides proof, and because people would surely prefer the certainty of the continuation of life and of being able to live happily on a better world as compensation for the miseries of this one, as opposed to believing in being dead forever. The thought of being erased from existence forever, of believing that their children and those dear to them are lost with no possibility of coming back, puts a smile on a very small number of faces, believe me. That is why attacks against Spiritism in the name of disbelief have had such, little success and have not weakened it for an instant.
Priest — Religion teaches all of that, and until now it has been sufficient. Why is there a need for anew doctrine?
A.K. - If religion is sufficient, why are there so many disbelievers, religiously speaking? It is true that religion teaches us and" tells us to believe, but there are so many people who do not believe in words alone! Spiritism proves and enables us to see what religion teaches through theory. Moreover, where do these proofs come from? From spirit manifestations. Well now, it is likely that spirits manifest only with God's permission; thus, if God, out of divine mercy, sends this aid to people to draw them out of disbelief, it would, be impious to reject it.
Priest — But you cannot deny the fact that Spiritism is not in agreement with religion on all points.
A.K - Goodness, Reverend! All religions say the same thing: Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, as well as Catholicism.
If Spiritism denied the existence of God, the soul, the soul's individuality and immortality, future rewards and punishments, and free will; if it taught that we are on this world only for ourselves and that we should think only of ourselves, it would not be only contrary to Catholicism, but all the religions of the world; it would be the negation of all moral laws, the foundations of human society. Far from it. The Spirits proclaim a sole God who is supremely just and good. They say that human beings are free and are responsible for their actions, and that they are rewarded and punished according to the good or evil they have done. They place above all other virtues evangelical charity and this sublime rule taught by Christ: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Aren't these the foundations of every religion? And the Spirits have done even more: they have initiated us into the mysteries of the future life, which for us is no longer an abstraction but a reality. Those whom we ourselves once knew have come back to describe their situations to us and to tell us how and why they suffer or are happy. What is anti-religious about that? This certainty of the future, of meeting our loved ones once again — is that not comforting? Isn't the magnificence of the spirit life - which is our essence — compared with the paltry anxieties of earthly life enough to make us lift up our souls and to encourage us toward the good?
Priest — Regarding general matters, I agree that Spiritism is consistent with the great truths of Christianity; but does the same apply from the dogma point of view? Doesn't it contradict certain principles that the Church teaches us?
A.K. - Spiritism is, above all, a science and does not concern itself with dogmatic issues at all. This science has moral consequences as do all philosophical sciences. Are these consequences good or bad? We can judge them by the general principles I just mentioned. A lot of people are mistaken about the true character of Spiritism. The matter is serious enough to merit some further discussion.
First, let us cite a comparison: electricity, present in nature, has existed throughout time, and throughout time it has produced the effects that we are familiar with and many that we are not yet familiar with. Ignorant of the true cause, people used to explain these effects in a more or less bizarre way. The discovery of electricity and its properties has undermined a host of absurd theories, while shedding light on more than one of nature's mysteries. What electricity and the physical sciences in general have done for certain phenomena, Spiritism has done for phenomena of a different order.
Spiritism is founded on the existence of an invisible world made up of incorporeal beings who populate space, and who are none other than the souls of those who used to live on the earth or on other spheres, where they left their material envelopes behind. We call these beings spirits. They surround us continuously exerting a great influence on people without them even being aware of it; they play a very active role in the mental world, and up to a point in the physical world. Spiritism is therefore contained in nature, and we may say that, for a certain order of ideas, it is a power, just as electricity is a power from another point of view, and gravity from yet another. The phenomena, whose source is the invisible world, have in fact been produced throughout time; that is why the history of every culture mentions them. As with electricity, only in their ignorance did people attribute these phenomena to more or less-rational causes and give free reign to their imaginations regarding them.
Spiritism has been studied more thoroughly since its popularization and has shed light on a multitude of questions formerly insolvable or misunderstood. Its true character is therefore that of a science and not of a religion, and the proof is that it counts among its adherents people of all faiths who have not had to renounce their convictions because of it: devout Catholics who do not in any way neglect all the duties of their creed - as long as they are not rebuffed by their Church; Protestants of all denominations, Jews, Muslims, even Buddhists and Brahmans.
Therefore, Spiritism rests on principles independent of any dogmatic nature. Its moral consequences are those found in Christianity because Christianity is the clearest and purest of all doctrines. Furthermore, it is for this reason that, of all the religious sects in the world, Christians are the most capable of understanding Spiritism in its true essence. Can we blame it because of this? Of course, everyone can make a religion of their opinions and interpret known religions as they please, but from there to establishing a new church there is a great distance.
Priest - But don't you perform evocations according to some religious formula?
A.K. - Of course, we bring a religious sentiment to the evocations and to our meetings, but there is no sacramental formula; for spirits, thought is everything and form is nothing. We call them in God's name because we believe in God and we know that nothing is done in this world without his permission, and that if God does not allow them to come, they will not come. We proceed with our work calmly and thoughtfully, first because it is a necessary condition for observations, and second because we know the respect we owe to those who no longer live on earth, whatever their circumstances may be, happy or unhappy, in the spirit world. We evoke good spirits because, knowing there are good ones and evil ones, we do not want the latter to come and interfere deceitfully in the communications we receive. What does all this prove? That we are not atheists, but it does not at all imply that we are religionists.
Priest - Well then! What do the high order spirits say about religion? The good ones ought to advise and guide us. Suppose I have no religion and I want to choose one. What would they say if I were to ask them: Would you advise me to become a Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Quaker, Jew, Muslim or Mormon?
A.K. - There are two points to consider regarding religions: the general principles common to all of them, and the principles peculiar to each one. The former are those we have been speaking of thus far; those that all spirits proclaim, regardless of their order. As for the latter, average spirits, although not evil, may have preferences and opinions; they may advocate this or that form. Thus, they may encourage certain practices either from personal conviction, whether from ideas retained from earthly life, or whether out of prudence so as not to frighten timid consciences. Do you believe, for example, that an enlightened spirit - maybe Fenelon himself- in addressing Muslims would tell them inappropriately that Mohammed was an impostor, and that they will be damned if they do not become Christians? He would refrain from doing so, because he would be rejected.
In general, when not asked to address a matter specifically, high order spirits do not concern themselves with particulars. They limit themselves to saying: "God is good and just; God wants only the good." The best of all religions, therefore, is that which teaches only what conforms to God's goodness and justice; which entails the broadest, most sublime idea about God and does not lessen him by attributing human narrow-mindedness and passions to him; which renders people good and virtuous and teaches them all to love each other as brothers and sisters; which condemns every wrong done to one's neighbor; which does not authorize injustice under any form or pretext; which does not prescribe anything contrary to the immutable laws of nature, for God cannot contradict himself; whose clergy embody the best
example of goodness, charity, and morality; the one that best pursues the struggle against selfishness and least flatters people's pride and vanity; and lastly, in whose name the least amount of evil is committed, for a good religion cannot be the pretext for any evil whatsoever — it must not leave any door open to it, either directly or by interpretation. Observe, j udge and choose.
Priest — I suppose that certain points of the Catholic doctrine are contested by spirits you regard, as being of a high order. I suppose that these points may actually be erroneous; according to these same spirits, for those for whom they are articles of faith - whether right or wrong - and who practice them accordingly, can such a belief be harmful to their salvation?
A.K. — Certainly not, if such belief does not deter them from doing good, and if, on the contrary, it prompts them to do so. On the other hand, the best-founded belief will obviously barm their faith if it gives them occasion to do evil, to be lacking in charity toward their neighbor, and if it makes them hard and selfish, because then they are not acting according to the law of God, and God considers thoughts before acts. Who would dare think otherwise?
For example, regarding those who might believe wholeheartedly in God, but in God's name commit acts that are inhumane or contrary to charity, do you think that their faith will do them any good? Aren't they all the more blameworthy because their means of being enlightened are all the greater?
Priest - So devoted Catholics who scrupulously fulfill the duties of their creed are not condemned by the Spirits?
A.K. - No, if it is a matter of conscience for them, and if they do so with sincerity. But yes - a thousand times yes — if it is out of hypocrisy, and if it displays only the appearance of piety.
High order spirits, those whose mission is the progress of humankind, rise up against every abuse that might hinder such progress, regardless of the nature of the abuse and regardless of which individuals or social classes may profit from it. Now you cannot deny the fact that religion has not always been exempt from this. Even if among its clergy there are those who fulfill their mission with true Christian devotion, who render their mission, grand, beautiful and respectable, you will have to agree that not all have always hufilled the sanctity of their ministry. The Spirits are opposed to evil wherever it may be found. Is pointing out the abuses of religion the same as attacking it? Religion has no greater enemies than those who defend such abuses, for they are what give rise to the thought that something better can replace it. If religion is in danger, we have to lay the blame on those who offer a false idea of it, transforming it into a battleground of human passions, and who exploit it to further their ambitions.
Priest — You say that Spiritism does not argue over dogma, and yet it accepts certain points contested by the Church, such as reincarnation and the presence of humans on the earth before Adam. It also denies eternal punishment, the existence of demons, purgatory, and the fires of hell.
A.K. - These points have been argued over for a long time, and it is not only Spiritism that has questioned them; they are merely opinions, some of which are considered controversial even by theology and which only the future will settle. One great principle governs them all: the practice of the good, which is the higher law, the essential sine qua non condition for our future, as proved by the condition of the spirits who communicate with us. While waiting for light to be shed on these questions, believe, if you wish, in flames and material tortures if doing so keeps you from doing evil. But that will not render them more real if they do not actually exist. Believe that we have only one corporeal existence if it pleases you: that will not prevent you from being born again here or elsewhere if that is really the way it is, and despite what you might think. Believe that the world was fully created in six twenty-four hour days if that is your opinion: that
will not keep the earth from bearing proof to the contrary in its geological layers. Believe, if you wish, that Joshua stopped the sun: that will not stop the earth in its orbit. Believe that humankind has been on the earth for only 6,000 years: that will not keep the facts from showing that that is impossible. And what would you say if one fine day this inexorable geology produces obvious evidence that demonstrates the anteriority of humankind, just as it has demonstrated, so many other things? So believe in anything
you like, even in the Devil, if such belief enables you to be good, humane and charitable toward your fellow beings. As a moral doctrine, Spiritism imposes only one thing: the necessity of doing good and not doing evil. It is a science of observation, which, I repeat, has moral consequences, and these consequences are the confirmation and proof of the great principles of religion. As for the secondary questions, it leaves those to each one's conscience.
Be mindful of the fact, sir, that Spiritism does not dispute in principle some of the different points of which you just spoke. If you had read everything that I have written on the subject, you would have seen that it is limited to giving such points a more logical and rational explanation than the one commonly given. This is why it does not deny purgatory, for example; on the contrary, it demonstrates its necessity and justice. But it does even more - it defines what purgatory is. Hell has been described as an immense furnace, but is that really how scholarly theology understands it? Obviously not; it says quite clearly that it is merely a symbol and that the fire in which one burns is a mental fire, a symbol of the greatest sorrows.
As for eternal punishment, if it were possible to survey the personal opinion of all individuals in a position to reason or understand - even among the most devout - we would see on what side the majority is because the idea of eternal torment is a denial of God's infinite mercy.
Moreover, let's see what the Spiritist doctrine says on the subject:
The length of the punishment depends on the improvement of the guilty spirit. No condemnation for a set time is pronounced against it. What God requires of it to bring its suffering to an end is repentance, expiation, and reparation; in other words, a serious, effective improvement and a sincere return to the good. The spirit is thus the arbiter of its own fate; it can prolong its suffering by its obstinacy in evil, or it can mitigate or shorten it through its efforts to do good.
Since the length of the punishment depends on repentance, it follows that the guilty spirit who did not repent and never improved itself would continue to suffer, and that for it, the punishment would be eternal. Eternal punishment should thus be understood in the relative and not the absolute sense.
A condition inherent to low order spirits is that they cannot see the end of their situation and so they think that they will have to suffer forever; for them it is a punishment. But as soon as their soul opens up to repentance, God enables them to glimpse a ray of hope.
This doctrine obviously conforms more to God's justice which punishes as long as we persist in evil and pardons when we enter the path of the good. Who devised this doctrine? Was it us? No. It was the Spirits, who teach and demonstrate it by the examples they set before us each and every day.
Therefore, spirits do not deny future punishment - they have described their own sufferings; and this description has more impact on us than that of never-ending fire, because everything about it is perfectly logical. We understand that it is possible, that it must be so, and that such a situation is a completely natural consequence of things; it can be accepted by the philosophical thinker because there is nothing about it that clashes with reason. That is why Spiritist beliefs have brought a multitude of people back to the good - even materialists, whom the fear of hell, as it has been depicted, had not been able to restrain.
Priest — Even if I were to accept your reasoning, don't you think ordinary people need images that are more frightening than a philosophy they can't understand?
A.K. — That is an error that has created more than one materialist, or at the very least, has turned more than one person away from religion. There conies a time when such images are no longer frightening, and then people who do not bother to delve into the matter more deeply after rejecting one aspect end up rejecting the whole and say to themselves: If they have taught me a false principle as an indisputable truth, if they have given me an image, a symbol as being the reality, who says the rest is any more truthful? On the contrary, if reason, as it increases, does not reject anything, faith is strengthened thereby. Religion will always gain by following the progress of ideas. If someday it runs into peril, it will be because humans have advanced while it has remained behind. It is a mistake in this day and age to believe that people can be led by means of fear of the Devil and eternal tortures.
Priest - The Church indeed recognizes nowadays that physical hell is just a symbol, but that does not rule out the existence of demons; without them, how can one explain the influence of evil, which cannot come from God?
A.K. - Spiritism does not believe in demons in the popular sense of the word, but it does believe in evil spirits who are no better and who do as much harm by arousing evil thoughts. Spiritism only states that these are not separate beings, created for evil and perpetually devoted to it as some kind of outcasts of creation and tormentors of humankind. They are less-evolved, still-imperfect beings, but for whom God reserves a future. That is in agreement with the Orthodox Church, which believes in the conversion of Satan, an allusion to the improvement of evil spirits. Note further that the word demon does not imply the idea of evil spirits except through the modern meaning that has been given to it, because the Greek word daimon means genius, intelligence. Now, to admit communications from evil spirits is to recognize in principle the reality of spirit manifestations. Next, we must find out if only evil spirits communicate, which the Church uses as its reason to prohibit communicating with spirits. Here we call upon both reasoning and the facts. If spirits, whatever they may be, communicate, it is only with God's permission: are we to understand that God allows only the evil ones to communicate? How could that be? If he gives them full liberty to come and deceive humans, would he prohibit the good ones from coming as a counterweight to neutralize their pernicious teachings? Wouldn't believing such a thing call into question God's power and goodness and make Satan a rival to the Divinity? The Bible, the Gospel and die Church Fathers fully recognize the possibility of communicating with the invisible world, and that good spirits are not excluded from that world; so why would they be excluded nowadays? Moreover, by accepting the authenticity of certain apparitions and communications from the saints, the Church is thus rejecting the idea that we can communicate only with evil spirits. "When communications contain only good things; when they preach the purest and most sublime evangelical morals, selflessness, disinterest and love toward our neighbor; when they fight evil, no matter in what shade it presents itself, is it really rational to believe that malicious spirits have thereby come to perform their work?
Priest - The New Testament teaches us that the angel of darkness, or Satan, can transform himself into an angel of light to seduce people.
A.K. -According to Spiritism, and the opinion ofmany Christian philosophers, Satan is not a real being; he is the personification ofevil, just as Saturn used to be the personification of time. The Church takes this allegoricalfigureliterally; it is a matter of opinion that I will not discuss. Let us say, for a moment, that Satan is a real being; by exaggerating his power in order to frighten people, the Church achieves a completely different result, i.e. one of die destruction not only of all fear, but also of all belief in his person, according to the proverb: "Those who wish to prove too much prove nothing at all." The Church represents Satan as eminently clever, skilful, and cunning; however, when it comes to Spiritism, the Church makes him play die role of an inept and a fool.
Since Satan's goal is to feed hell with his victims and to steal souls from God, we can see why he busies himself with those who are on the path of the good to lead them into evil. And to do so, according to a beautiful allegory, he transforms himself into an angel of light; that is, he hypocritically feigns virtue; what is incomprehensible, however, is why he would let those he already has in his clutches escape. Those who believe in neither God nor the soul, who scorn prayer and are immersed in vice, already belong to Satan as much as is possible. He has nothing further to do to sink them deeper in the mire; thus, to encourage them to return to God, to pray to him, to submit to his will, and to encourage them to renounce evil while showing them the happiness of the elect and the sad fate that awaits the wicked would be the act of a fool, which would be more stupid than if we were to give freedom to caged birds with the thought of catching them again afterward. Therefore, in the doctrine of exclusive communication with demons, there is a contradiction that strikes all sensible people. That is why no one could ever be persuaded that spirits who lead back to God those who used to deny him and used to do evil; that spirits •who console the afflicted, give strength and courage to the weak, and who, by the sublimity of their teachings, raise the soul above material life, are Satan's accomplices, and that on such grounds we ought to interdict all relations with the invisible world.
Priest - If the Church forbids communications with the spirits of the dead, it is because they are against religion, since they are formally condemned by the Gospels and by Moses. The latter, declaring the death penalty against such practices, proves how reprehensible they are in God's eyes.
A.K. — I beg your pardon, but this prohibition is not found anywhere in the Gospels; it is found only in the Mosaic Law. It is thus a matter of knowing if the Church puts the Mosaic Law above the law of the Gospels; or to put it another way, if the Church is more Jewish than Christian. It is also worth noting that of all religions, the one that opposes Spiritism the least is Judaism, and that it has not resorted to the Mosaic Law, upon which Christian denominations rest their opinion, to prohibit evocations. If biblical instructions are the code of the Christian faith, why prohibit the reading of the Bible? What would be said of forbidding a citizen from studying the law code of his or her own country?
The reason for Moses' prohibition was that the Hebrew lawmaker wanted his people to break with all the customs they had acquired while among the Egyptians, and the one we are discussing here was a subject of abuse. The dead were not evoked out of respect and affection for them, or out of a sentiment of piety, but as a means of fortunetelling, the object of shameful dealings exploited by charlatanism and superstition. Moses was therefore right to prohibit it. If he pronounced a severe punishment against this abuse, it was because he needed harsh means to govern his unruly people; also, the death penalty was widely used in his lawmaking. One wrongly leans on. the severity of the punishment in order to prove the degree of culpability in evoking the dead.
If the argument against evoking the dead comes from God himself- as the Church claims - it must have been God who decreed the penalty of death against offenders. The death penalty therefore has an origin as sacred as the prohibition. So why hasn't it been preserved? Moses promulgated all his laws in the name of God and under God's orders. If we believe that God is their author, why are they no longer observed? If Moses' law is for the Church an article of faith at one point, why isn't it an article of faith at every point? Why resort to it for what we need, but then reject it when it is unsuitable?
Why not follow all its regulations; for instance, circumcision, to which Jesus himself submitted and did not abolish?
There were two parts to the Mosaic Law: first, the law of God, summarized in the Sinai tablets, which has remained because it is divine, and which Christ only developed further; second, the civil or criminal law, appropriate for the customs of the time, and which Christ abolished.
Today, circumstances are no longer the same, and Moses' prohibition has no reason to be. Moreover, if the Church forbids evoking spirits, can it prevent them from, coming without being called? Every day, don't we see people who have never been involved in Spiritism, and who knew nothing about it before it was divulged, experiencing manifestations of all kinds?
Another contradiction: if Moses prohibited, evoking the spirits of the dead, it was because such spirits could, in fact, come; otherwise, his prohibition would have been needless. If they were able to come in his time, they still can today. And if they are spirits of the dead, then they are not demons exclusively. We must be logical above all.
Priest - The Church does not deny that good spirits can communicate, since it acknowledges that saints have manifested. But it cannot consider as good those who come in order to contradict its immutable principles. The Spirits teach of future punishment and reward, but they do not teach as the Church does; the Church alone can judge the spirits' teachings and distinguish the good from the evil.
A.K. - That is the big question. Galileo was accused of heresy and of being inspired by the Devil because he revealed a law of nature that proved the error of a belief regarded as unassailable; he was condemned and excommunicated. If the Spirits had concurred with the Church's exclusive point of view, and if they had not proclaimed freedom of conscience and condemned certain abuses, they would have been welcomed by the Church and would not have been regarded as demons.
This is also the reason why all religions — Islam as well as Catholicism - believe themselves to be in the exclusive possession of the absolute truth, and why they regard any doctrine that is not completely orthodox from their point of view as the work of the Devil. Now, the Spirits have not come to overthrow religion, but like Galileo, to reveal new laws of nature. If some points of faith are disputed because of this, it is because they are in conflict with these laws, as in the case of belief in the sun's movement. The issue is in knowing if an article of faith can annul a law of nature, which is the work of God. And if this law is acknowledged, wouldn't it be wiser to interpret dogma in light of it instead of attributing it to the Devil?
Priest - Let's leave the issue of demons; I know that it has been diversely interpreted by the theologians. The theory of reincarnation, on the other hand, seems more difficult to reconcile with dogma because it is nothing more than metempsychosis taken afresh from Pythagoras.
A.K. - Now is not the time to discuss an issue that would require a long explanation. You can find it discussed in The Spirits Book and in The Gospel according to Spiritism. 1 will say only a few words about it.
The metempsychosis of the ancients consisted in the transmigration of humans' souls into animals, which would imply degradation. Besides, this doctrine was not what is commonly believed. Transmigration into animals was not considered a condition inherent to the nature of the human soul, but as a temporary punishment; thus, the souls of murderers would pass into the bodies of savage beasts to receive their punishment therein; those of the unchaste, into swine and wild boar; those of the inconstant and inconsistent, into birds; those of the lazy and ignorant, into aquatic animals. After a few thousand of years,
more or less, according to the culpability of this kind of prison, the soul would re-enter humanity. Animal reincarnation was therefore not an absolute condition, and we can see that it was allied with human reincarnation. The proof of it is that the punishment of timid men would consist in passing into the bodies of women to be exposed to scorn and insults. It was a kind of bogeyman for the simple-minded, much more than an article of faith among philosophers. Just as one says to children: "If you are naughty, the wolf will eat you," the ancients said to criminals: "You will turn into wolves." Today they say: "The Devil will get you and carry you off to hell."
The plurality of existences, according to Spiritism, differs essentially from, metempsychosis in that it does not accept the incarnation of souls into animals, even as a punishment. The Spirits teach that the soul does not regress, but that it progresses continuously. Its different corporeal lives take place in humanity; each existence is a step forward on its path of intellectual and moral progress - which is quite different from metempsychosis. Not being able to acquire full development in one sole existence, frequently shortened by accidental causes, God allows it to use a new incarnation either to finish the task it was unable to finish or to start over what it had done badly. Expiation in the corporeal body consists of the tribulations one endures while in it.
As for the issue of knowing if the plurality of existences is or is not contrary to certain dogmas of the Church, I will limit myself to saying that one of two things is true: either reincarnation exists or it does not; if it does, it is within the laws of nature. In order to prove that it does not exist, we would have to prove that it is contrary not to dogma but to such laws, and that we can find another law that would explain more clearly and logically the questions that only reincarnation can solve.
Moreover, it is easy to demonstrate that certain dogmas find a rational endorsement in reincarnation that renders them acceptable to those who used to reject them because they did not understand them. So it's not a matter of destroying, but of interpreting. This will occur later by necessity. Those who will not accept the interpretation will be perfectly free, as they are today, to believe that it is the sun that revolves around the earth. The idea of the plurality of existences is becoming popularized with astonishing speed because of its sound logic and its conformity with God's justice. Once it is acknowledged as a natural truth and accepted by everyone, what will the Church do?
In sum, reincarnation is not a doctrine invented for the needs of a cause, nor is it a personal opinion. It either is or isn't a fact. If it is demonstrated that there are certain things that are materially impossible without reincarnation, we must accept thefact that they are the result of reincarnation, because if it is part of nature, it cannot be annulled by an opposing opinion.
Priest — According to spirits, are those who do not believe in them or their manifestations less fortunate in the next life?
A.K. - If this belief were indispensable for people's salvation, what would become of those who, since the world began, have not held it, and those who, for a long time to come, will die without holding it? Could God close the door of the future to them? No, the Spirits who teach us are more logical than that; they tell us: God is supremely just and good and does not make people's future destinies depend on conditions outside their will; they do not say: Without Spiritism there is no salvation, but like Christ: Without charity there is no salvation.
Priest — Then allow me to tell you that, since the Spirits teach only the principles of the morals we find In the Gospel, I do not see of what use Spiritism can be since we used to be able to be saved before it and we still can be without it. That would not be the case if the Spirits had come to teach, some great new truths, some principles that would change the face of the world as Christ did. At least Christ did it by himself alone and his doctrine was unique, whereas there are spirits by the thousands who contradict each other; some say white; others, black. From this it follows that, from the beginning, their adherents have formed many sects. Wouldn't it be better to leave spirits alone and hold on to what we already have?
A.K. - You are mistaken, sir, not to abandon your point of view of taking the Church as the sole criterion of human knowledge. If Christ spoke the truth, Spiritism could not do otherwise; and instead of throwing stones at it, it should be welcomed as a powerful auxiliary that has come to confirm, through all the voices beyond the grave, the fundamental truths of religion that have been refuted by disbelief. For materialism to £ght against Spiritism is understandable, but for the Church to unite with materialism against it is inconceivable. What is just as inconsistent is that the Church labels as demonic a teaching that is based on the same authority and proclaims the divine mission of the founder of Christianity.
But did Christ say all there was to say? Could he reveal everything? No, because he himself said: "I still have many things to tell you, but you would not understand them, which is why I speak to you in parables." Spiritism has come at this time - now that people are mature enough to understand it - to complete and explain what Christ touched upon only lightly, or spoke about only in allegorical form. Of course, you will say that the responsibility for this belongs to the Church. But to which one? To the Roman, Orthodox or Protestant Church? Since they are not in agreement, each one has given its own explanation and claimed this privilege. Which one has managed to unify all the dissident denominations? God is wise, and foreseeing that humans would get their passions and prejudices involved, he did not want to entrust them with the care of this new revelation. He entrusted it to spirits, his messengers, who have proclaimed it to every corner of the globe and apart from any particular denomination so that it could apply to all of them, and so that no one could turn it to his or her own advantage.
Ontheotherhand,haven'tthemanyChristian denominations turned, away from the path traced out by Christ? Are his moral precepts scrupulously observed? Haven't his words been twisted to make them an argument for ambition and human passions when, in fact, they are a condemnation of them? Spiritism, on the other hand, through the voice of the Spirits sent by God, has come to call for the strict observation of his precepts by those who have turned away from them. Mightn't this last motive in particular be the one that qualifies it as the work of Satan?!
You are wrongly giving the name sect to a few differences of opinions related to spirit phenomena. For many, at the beginning of any science, when the observations are still incomplete, it isn't at all surprising that contradictory theories would arise; but such theories rest on details and not on the fundamental principle. Schools can thus explain certain facts in their own way, but these are no''more sects than the different systems that divide our scholars regarding the exact sciences, such as in medicine, physics, etc. So delete the word sect because it is entirely inaccurate for the case in question. Moreover, hasn't Christianity given birth to a multitude of sects since its inception? Why hasn't the word of Christ been powerful enough to impose silence on every controversy? Why is it susceptible to interpretations that still divide Christians today
into different churches, each claiming to be the sole keeper of the truth necessary for salvation, cordially detesting each other and denouncing each other in the name of their Divine Master, who preached only love and charity? Human weakness, will you say? So be it; how can you expect Spiritism to triumph suddenly over this weakness and transform humanity as though by magic?
Now, I will address the question of usefulness. You stated that Spiritism teaches us nothing new; that is an error. It teaches a great deal to those who do not stop at the surface. Moreover, had it done nothing more than to put the maxim: Without charity there is no salvation, which unites people, in the place of Without the Church there is no salvation, which divides them, that alone would have marked a new era for humankind.
You also stated that we could do without Spiritism. Agreed, just like we could do without a multitude of scientific discoveries. People did just as well before the discovery of all the new planets; before eclipses were calculated; before the microscopic world was known about - and a hundred other things. In order to live and grow their wheat, peasants don't have to know what a comet is, and yet nobody denies that all these things have expanded the circle of ideas and have enabled us to penetrate deeper into the laws of nature. Well, the world of spirits is one such law, which Spiritism fias enabled us to know by teaching us the influence it has on the corporeal world. Supposing that its usefulness were limited to just that, wouldn't the revelation of such a power be great enough?
Now, let's take a look at its moral influence. Lets say that it teaches absolutely nothing new in this respect. What is religions greatest enemy? Materialism, because materialism believes in nothing; well, Spiritism is the negation of materialism, which has no more reason to exist. It is no longer by means of reasoning or blind faith that materialists are told that everything does not come to an end with their bodies, but by means of the phenomena, which are shown to them and which allow them to touch them with their fingers and see them with their eyes. Isn't that by itself lending a small service to humankind, to religion? But that isn't all: add the certainty of the future life, the living scenario of those who have gone before us, showing the need for the good and the inevitable consequences of evil. That is why, without being a religion per se, it essentially takes religious ideas and develops them in people who have none, and it strengthens them in those who are uncertain. Religion therefore finds a support in it, not for those persons with narrow minds, who see religion entirely in the doctrine of eternal fire and in form more than in essence, but for those who see it according to the grandeur and majesty of God.
In other words, Spiritism enlarges and elevates ideas, and it combats abuses produced by selfishness, cupidity and ambition. But who would dare defend them and declare themselves to be their champion? Although it is not indispensable to salvation, Spiritism facilitates it and sets us firmly on the path of the good. Moreover, what sensible person would dare assert that a lack of orthodoxy is more reprehensible in God's eyes than atheism and materialism? I pose the following questions outright to all those who fight Spiritism from the point of view of its religious consequences:
1. Who will be worse off in the future life: those who believe in nothing, or those who, believing in general truths, do not accept certain parts of Church dogma?
2. Will Protestants and schismatics be mixed in together in the same punishment as atheists and materialists?
3. Are those who are not orthodox in the strict sense of the word, but who do all the good they can, who are kind and indulgent toward their neighbors and honest in their social relationships, be less assured of their salvation than those who believe in everything, but who are hard, selfish, and uncharitable?
4. Which is worth more in Gods eyes: the practice of Christian virtues without the practice of the duties of orthodoxy, or the practice of the latter without the duties of morality?
So, Reverend, I have responded to the questions and objections that you have addressed to me; but as I told you at the beginning, without any preconceived intention of leading you to our way of thinking or of changing your convictions, I have restricted myself to enabling you to consider Spiritism from its true point of view. If you had not come to me, I would not have gone looking for you. That does not mean that we would scorn your adherence to our principles, if that had occurred - very far from it. On the contrary,
we are happy for all the adherents we can attract, and who are all the more valuable to us when they come freely and willingly. Not only do we not have the right to exert any constraint over anyone, but we would hesitate to trouble the conscience of those who, having beliefs with which they are satisfied, do not willingly come to us.
We said that the best way to become enlightened about Spiritism is to study the theory first; the phenomena will then come naturally and you will understand them, regardless of the order in which they are brought up by the circumstances. Our publications are created with the goal of facilitating this study; consequently, that is the route we recommend.
The first reading should be this summary, which presents a collection of the most salient points of the science. By reading it, one can get an idea about it and be convinced that, in essence, it contains something very serious. In this short exposition, we have adhered to indicating points that should especially rivet the attention of the observer. Ignorance of the fundamental principles is the cause of erroneous appraisals by the majority of those who judge what they do not understand, or do so according to their preconceived ideas.
If this first contact has created a desire to know more about Spiritism, people should read The Spirits' Book, where the principles of the doctrine are fully developed; next, The Mediums' Book for the experimental part, meant to serve as a guide for those who want to proceed by themselves, and for those who want to get a clear idea of the phenomena. Then come the assorted works in which the applications and consequences of the doctrine are developed such as The Gospel according to Spiritism, Heaven and Hell according to Spiritism, etc.
The Revue Spirite is a sort of applications course due to the numerous examples and developments it contains on the theoretical and the experimental aspects.
To serious individuals who have done a preliminary study, it would be a pleasure for us to verbally provide the necessary explanations on the points they might not have entirely understood.