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.
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.
— 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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.