What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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A Priest — Would you kindly permit me to ask you a few questions on my part?

Allan Kardec. — Gladly. But before answering you, I think I should let you know how I intend to discuss matters with you.

First, I must say that I have no intention whatsoever of converting you to our ideas. If you want to know about them in detail, you will find them in the books where they have already been explained. You can study them at your leisure and feel free to accept or reject them.

The goal of Spiritism is to combat disbelief and its disastrous consequences while providing obvious proofs for the existence of the soul and future life. It thus speaks to those who believe in nothing at all or those who doubt; and their numbers are large, as you know. Those who have religious faith, and for whom such faith is sufficient, do not need Spiritism. To those who say, "I believe in the authority of the Church and I shall hold to what it teaches, without looking further," Spiritism replies that it does not impose itself on anyone and has not come to force any conviction.

Freedom of conscience is one consequence of freedom of thought, which is one of the attributes of human beings; Spiritism would be in conflict with its own principles of charity and tolerance if it did not respect this freedom. For Spiritism, every belief, if it is sincere and does not lead people to do wrong to their neighbor, is respectable, even if erroneous. For example, if people were to find their consciences telling them to believe that it is the sun that orbits around the earth, we would say to them: Believe it if you like, because it will not keep the earth from orbiting the sun. Just as we do not try to violate your conscience, do not try to violate other people's consciences. If you make an innocuous belief into an instrument of persecution, it becomes harmful and should be opposed.

That, Reverend, is the line of conduct I have followed with the clergy of several denominations who have addressed me. When they question me about certain points of the Doctrine, I provide them with the explanations they need, but I avoid arguing about certain dogmas that Spiritism is not concerned with; thus, they are all free to make their own evaluations. However, I have never sought them out with the desire to undermine their faith through any kind of pressure. Those who come to us as brothers, we

welcome as brothers; those who reject us, we leave in peace. This is the advice I always give to Spiritists because I have never approved of those who believe it their mission to convert the clergy. I always tell them: Sow in the field of the disbelievers because there is an ample harvest to gather.

Spiritism does not impose itself because, as I have said, it respects freedom of conscience. Moreover, it understands that any imposed belief is superficial and gives only the appearances of faith, but it is not real faith. It lays out its principles in front of everyone so that all may form an opinion with full knowledge of the facts. Those who accept its principles, whether they are clergy or laity, do so freely because they find them to be rational. But we in no way trouble ourselves with those who are not of our opinion. If there is a struggle between the Church, and Spiritism nowadays, we know that we are not the ones who caused it.

Priest — If the Church sees the rise of a new doctrine and believes its principles condemnable according to the Church's conscience, do you question its right to discuss them and fight them, and to caution the faithful against what it regards as error?

A.K. - In no way do we question a right that we ourselves claim. If the Church would confine itself to the limits of the discussion, there would be nothing to be concerned about. But read most of the writings issued by its members or published in the name of religion, in addition to the sermons that have been preached, and you will see offense and slander bursting forth far and wide, and the principles of the Doctrine undeservedly and maliciously misrepresented. Haven't we heard from atop the pulpit that its adherents are enemies of society and the public order? That those whom it has brought back to the faith are to be anathematized and rejected, by the Church because it is better to be a disbeliever than to believe in God and the soul through Spiritism? Hasn't it been lamented that there are no Inquisition-type burnings-at-the- stake for Spiritists? In certain locations, haven't they singled them out for the reprehension of their fellow citizens, even urging them to pursue and insult them in the streets? Haven't they enjoined all the faithful to flee from them like the plague, dissuading domestic servants from going to work for them? Haven't women been urged to leave their husbands, and husbands to leave their wives because of Spiritism? Haven't they caused employees to lose their jobs, depriving workers of their wages and the unfortunate of the bread of charity because they are Spiritists? Haven't they even sent the blind away from certain almshouses because they wouldn't renounce their beliefs? Tell me, Reverend, is that fair treatment? Have Spiritists answered insult with insult, wrong with wrong? No. They have applied calm and moderation. Public awareness has already absolved them of being the aggressors.

Priest - Any sane person would deplore such excesses, but the Church shouldn't be held responsible for the abuses committed by some of its less informed members.

A. K. - I agree, but aren't these less informed members the leaders of the Church? Look at the pastoral letter of the Bishop of Algiers and a few others. Wasn't it a bishop who ordered the book-burning in Barcelona? Don't the higher level ecclesiastical authorities have all the power over their subordinates? If the Church thus tolerates sermons unworthy of the evangelical pulpit, if it favors the publication of offensive and defamatory writings against a class of citizens, and if it does not oppose persecutions practiced in the name of religion, it is because it approves of them.

In sum, by systematically turning away Spiritists who return to it, the Church has forced them to withdraw unto themselves. By the nature and violence of its attacks, it has widened the discussion and taken it to new ground. Spiritism, is merely a philosophical doctrine; it is the Church itself that has caused it to grow by presenting it as a dreaded enemy. Lastly, it is the Church itself that has proclaimed it a new religion. That was a blunder, but passion does not reason.

A Free Thinker — You have proclaimed freedom of thought and conscience and have declared that every sincere belief is respectable. Materialism is a belief like any other; why shouldn't it enjoy the freedom, you grant to all the others?

A.K. — Everyone is certainly free to believe as they please or to believe in nothing at all, and we would no more excuse persecution against those who believe in nothingness after death than against a schismatic from any religion. In combating materialism, we attack not individuals, but a doctrine, which, if harmless to society when confined to the conscience of educated people, turns into a social calamity if it becomes widespread.

The belief that everything ends for human beings at death, that all solidarity ceases when physical life ceases, leads us to regard sacrificing our present welfare on behalf of someone else as pure nonsense; hence the maxim: "Every man for himself because there is nothing after this life." In other words, charity, fraternity and morality have no basis, no reason for being. Why inconvenience, restrain and deprive ourselves today, when tomorrow, perhaps, we will be no more? The denial of the future and the mere doubt about the future life are the greatest stimulants of selfishness, the source of most of humankind's ills. A great deal of virtue is needed to keep us from falling into vice and crime, with no restraint other than our will-power. Human respect might restrain men and women of the world, but not those for whom the fear of public opinion is nil.

Belief in the future life, demonstrating the continuation of relationships between individuals, establishes a solidarity that does not stop at the grave; thus, it changes the course of ideas. If this belief were nothing but a "man of straw," it would be temporary; but since its reality is a fact derived from experience, then, in the interest of the social order, it is an obligation to spread it and strive against the opposite belief. This is what Spiritism does, and it does so with success because it provides proof, and because people would surely prefer the certainty of the continuation of life and of being able to live happily on a better world as compensation for the miseries of this one, as opposed to believing in being dead forever. The thought of being erased from existence forever, of believing that their children and those dear to them are lost with no possibility of coming back, puts a smile on a very small number of faces, believe me. That is why attacks against Spiritism in the name of disbelief have had such, little success and have not weakened it for an instant.

Priest — Religion teaches all of that, and until now it has been sufficient. Why is there a need for anew doctrine?

A.K. - If religion is sufficient, why are there so many disbelievers, religiously speaking? It is true that religion teaches us and" tells us to believe, but there are so many people who do not believe in words alone! Spiritism proves and enables us to see what religion teaches through theory. Moreover, where do these proofs come from? From spirit manifestations. Well now, it is likely that spirits manifest only with God's permission; thus, if God, out of divine mercy, sends this aid to people to draw them out of disbelief, it would, be impious to reject it.

Priest — But you cannot deny the fact that Spiritism is not in agreement with religion on all points.

A.K - Goodness, Reverend! All religions say the same thing: Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, as well as Catholicism.

If Spiritism denied the existence of God, the soul, the soul's individuality and immortality, future rewards and punishments, and free will; if it taught that we are on this world only for ourselves and that we should think only of ourselves, it would not be only contrary to Catholicism, but all the religions of the world; it would be the negation of all moral laws, the foundations of human society. Far from it. The Spirits proclaim a sole God who is supremely just and good. They say that human beings are free and are responsible for their actions, and that they are rewarded and punished according to the good or evil they have done. They place above all other virtues evangelical charity and this sublime rule taught by Christ: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Aren't these the foundations of every religion? And the Spirits have done even more: they have initiated us into the mysteries of the future life, which for us is no longer an abstraction but a reality. Those whom we ourselves once knew have come back to describe their situations to us and to tell us how and why they suffer or are happy. What is anti-religious about that? This certainty of the future, of meeting our loved ones once again — is that not comforting? Isn't the magnificence of the spirit life - which is our essence — compared with the paltry anxieties of earthly life enough to make us lift up our souls and to encourage us toward the good?

Priest — Regarding general matters, I agree that Spiritism is consistent with the great truths of Christianity; but does the same apply from the dogma point of view? Doesn't it contradict certain principles that the Church teaches us?

A.K. - Spiritism is, above all, a science and does not concern itself with dogmatic issues at all. This science has moral consequences as do all philosophical sciences. Are these consequences good or bad? We can judge them by the general principles I just mentioned. A lot of people are mistaken about the true character of Spiritism. The matter is serious enough to merit some further discussion.

First, let us cite a comparison: electricity, present in nature, has existed throughout time, and throughout time it has produced the effects that we are familiar with and many that we are not yet familiar with. Ignorant of the true cause, people used to explain these effects in a more or less bizarre way. The discovery of electricity and its properties has undermined a host of absurd theories, while shedding light on more than one of nature's mysteries. What electricity and the physical sciences in general have done for certain phenomena, Spiritism has done for phenomena of a different order.

Spiritism is founded on the existence of an invisible world made up of incorporeal beings who populate space, and who are none other than the souls of those who used to live on the earth or on other spheres, where they left their material envelopes behind. We call these beings spirits. They surround us continuously exerting a great influence on people without them even being aware of it; they play a very active role in the mental world, and up to a point in the physical world. Spiritism is therefore contained in nature, and we may say that, for a certain order of ideas, it is a power, just as electricity is a power from another point of view, and gravity from yet another. The phenomena, whose source is the invisible world, have in fact been produced throughout time; that is why the history of every culture mentions them. As with electricity, only in their ignorance did people attribute these phenomena to more or less-rational causes and give free reign to their imaginations regarding them.

Spiritism has been studied more thoroughly since its popularization and has shed light on a multitude of questions formerly insolvable or misunderstood. Its true character is therefore that of a science and not of a religion, and the proof is that it counts among its adherents people of all faiths who have not had to renounce their convictions because of it: devout Catholics who do not in any way neglect all the duties of their creed - as long as they are not rebuffed by their Church; Protestants of all denominations, Jews, Muslims, even Buddhists and Brahmans.

Therefore, Spiritism rests on principles independent of any dogmatic nature. Its moral consequences are those found in Christianity because Christianity is the clearest and purest of all doctrines. Furthermore, it is for this reason that, of all the religious sects in the world, Christians are the most capable of understanding Spiritism in its true essence. Can we blame it because of this? Of course, everyone can make a religion of their opinions and interpret known religions as they please, but from there to establishing a new church there is a great distance.

Priest - But don't you perform evocations according to some religious formula?

A.K. - Of course, we bring a religious sentiment to the evocations and to our meetings, but there is no sacramental formula; for spirits, thought is everything and form is nothing. We call them in God's name because we believe in God and we know that nothing is done in this world without his permission, and that if God does not allow them to come, they will not come. We proceed with our work calmly and thoughtfully, first because it is a necessary condition for observations, and second because we know the respect we owe to those who no longer live on earth, whatever their circumstances may be, happy or unhappy, in the spirit world. We evoke good spirits because, knowing there are good ones and evil ones, we do not want the latter to come and interfere deceitfully in the communications we receive. What does all this prove? That we are not atheists, but it does not at all imply that we are religionists.

Priest - Well then! What do the high order spirits say about religion? The good ones ought to advise and guide us. Suppose I have no religion and I want to choose one. What would they say if I were to ask them: Would you advise me to become a Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Quaker, Jew, Muslim or Mormon?

A.K. - There are two points to consider regarding religions: the general principles common to all of them, and the principles peculiar to each one. The former are those we have been speaking of thus far; those that all spirits proclaim, regardless of their order. As for the latter, average spirits, although not evil, may have preferences and opinions; they may advocate this or that form. Thus, they may encourage certain practices either from personal conviction, whether from ideas retained from earthly life, or whether out of prudence so as not to frighten timid consciences. Do you believe, for example, that an enlightened spirit - maybe Fenelon himself- in addressing Muslims would tell them inappropriately that Mohammed was an impostor, and that they will be damned if they do not become Christians? He would refrain from doing so, because he would be rejected.

In general, when not asked to address a matter specifically, high order spirits do not concern themselves with particulars. They limit themselves to saying: "God is good and just; God wants only the good." The best of all religions, therefore, is that which teaches only what conforms to God's goodness and justice; which entails the broadest, most sublime idea about God and does not lessen him by attributing human narrow-mindedness and passions to him; which renders people good and virtuous and teaches them all to love each other as brothers and sisters; which condemns every wrong done to one's neighbor; which does not authorize injustice under any form or pretext; which does not prescribe anything contrary to the immutable laws of nature, for God cannot contradict himself; whose clergy embody the best

example of goodness, charity, and morality; the one that best pursues the struggle against selfishness and least flatters people's pride and vanity; and lastly, in whose name the least amount of evil is committed, for a good religion cannot be the pretext for any evil whatsoever — it must not leave any door open to it, either directly or by interpretation. Observe, j udge and choose.

Priest — I suppose that certain points of the Catholic doctrine are contested by spirits you regard, as being of a high order. I suppose that these points may actually be erroneous; according to these same spirits, for those for whom they are articles of faith - whether right or wrong - and who practice them accordingly, can such a belief be harmful to their salvation?

A.K. — Certainly not, if such belief does not deter them from doing good, and if, on the contrary, it prompts them to do so. On the other hand, the best-founded belief will obviously barm their faith if it gives them occasion to do evil, to be lacking in charity toward their neighbor, and if it makes them hard and selfish, because then they are not acting according to the law of God, and God considers thoughts before acts. Who would dare think otherwise?

For example, regarding those who might believe wholeheartedly in God, but in God's name commit acts that are inhumane or contrary to charity, do you think that their faith will do them any good? Aren't they all the more blameworthy because their means of being enlightened are all the greater?

Priest - So devoted Catholics who scrupulously fulfill the duties of their creed are not condemned by the Spirits?

A.K. - No, if it is a matter of conscience for them, and if they do so with sincerity. But yes - a thousand times yes — if it is out of hypocrisy, and if it displays only the appearance of piety.

High order spirits, those whose mission is the progress of humankind, rise up against every abuse that might hinder such progress, regardless of the nature of the abuse and regardless of which individuals or social classes may profit from it. Now you cannot deny the fact that religion has not always been exempt from this. Even if among its clergy there are those who fulfill their mission with true Christian devotion, who render their mission, grand, beautiful and respectable, you will have to agree that not all have always hufilled the sanctity of their ministry. The Spirits are opposed to evil wherever it may be found. Is pointing out the abuses of religion the same as attacking it? Religion has no greater enemies than those who defend such abuses, for they are what give rise to the thought that something better can replace it. If religion is in danger, we have to lay the blame on those who offer a false idea of it, transforming it into a battleground of human passions, and who exploit it to further their ambitions.

Priest — You say that Spiritism does not argue over dogma, and yet it accepts certain points contested by the Church, such as reincarnation and the presence of humans on the earth before Adam. It also denies eternal punishment, the existence of demons, purgatory, and the fires of hell.

A.K. - These points have been argued over for a long time, and it is not only Spiritism that has questioned them; they are merely opinions, some of which are considered controversial even by theology and which only the future will settle. One great principle governs them all: the practice of the good, which is the higher law, the essential sine qua non condition for our future, as proved by the condition of the spirits who communicate with us. While waiting for light to be shed on these questions, believe, if you wish, in flames and material tortures if doing so keeps you from doing evil. But that will not render them more real if they do not actually exist. Believe that we have only one corporeal existence if it pleases you: that will not prevent you from being born again here or elsewhere if that is really the way it is, and despite what you might think. Believe that the world was fully created in six twenty-four hour days if that is your opinion: that

will not keep the earth from bearing proof to the contrary in its geological layers. Believe, if you wish, that Joshua stopped the sun: that will not stop the earth in its orbit. Believe that humankind has been on the earth for only 6,000 years: that will not keep the facts from showing that that is impossible. And what would you say if one fine day this inexorable geology produces obvious evidence that demonstrates the anteriority of humankind, just as it has demonstrated, so many other things? So believe in anything

you like, even in the Devil, if such belief enables you to be good, humane and charitable toward your fellow beings. As a moral doctrine, Spiritism imposes only one thing: the necessity of doing good and not doing evil. It is a science of observation, which, I repeat, has moral consequences, and these consequences are the confirmation and proof of the great principles of religion. As for the secondary questions, it leaves those to each one's conscience.

Be mindful of the fact, sir, that Spiritism does not dispute in principle some of the different points of which you just spoke. If you had read everything that I have written on the subject, you would have seen that it is limited to giving such points a more logical and rational explanation than the one commonly given. This is why it does not deny purgatory, for example; on the contrary, it demonstrates its necessity and justice. But it does even more - it defines what purgatory is. Hell has been described as an immense furnace, but is that really how scholarly theology understands it? Obviously not; it says quite clearly that it is merely a symbol and that the fire in which one burns is a mental fire, a symbol of the greatest sorrows.

As for eternal punishment, if it were possible to survey the personal opinion of all individuals in a position to reason or understand - even among the most devout - we would see on what side the majority is because the idea of eternal torment is a denial of God's infinite mercy.

Moreover, let's see what the Spiritist doctrine says on the subject:

The length of the punishment depends on the improvement of the guilty spirit. No condemnation for a set time is pronounced against it. What God requires of it to bring its suffering to an end is repentance, expiation, and reparation; in other words, a serious, effective improvement and a sincere return to the good. The spirit is thus the arbiter of its own fate; it can prolong its suffering by its obstinacy in evil, or it can mitigate or shorten it through its efforts to do good.

Since the length of the punishment depends on repentance, it follows that the guilty spirit who did not repent and never improved itself would continue to suffer, and that for it, the punishment would be eternal. Eternal punishment should thus be understood in the relative and not the absolute sense.

A condition inherent to low order spirits is that they cannot see the end of their situation and so they think that they will have to suffer forever; for them it is a punishment. But as soon as their soul opens up to repentance, God enables them to glimpse a ray of hope.

This doctrine obviously conforms more to God's justice which punishes as long as we persist in evil and pardons when we enter the path of the good. Who devised this doctrine? Was it us? No. It was the Spirits, who teach and demonstrate it by the examples they set before us each and every day.

Therefore, spirits do not deny future punishment - they have described their own sufferings; and this description has more impact on us than that of never-ending fire, because everything about it is perfectly logical. We understand that it is possible, that it must be so, and that such a situation is a completely natural consequence of things; it can be accepted by the philosophical thinker because there is nothing about it that clashes with reason. That is why Spiritist beliefs have brought a multitude of people back to the good - even materialists, whom the fear of hell, as it has been depicted, had not been able to restrain.

Priest — Even if I were to accept your reasoning, don't you think ordinary people need images that are more frightening than a philosophy they can't understand?

A.K. — That is an error that has created more than one materialist, or at the very least, has turned more than one person away from religion. There conies a time when such images are no longer frightening, and then people who do not bother to delve into the matter more deeply after rejecting one aspect end up rejecting the whole and say to themselves: If they have taught me a false principle as an indisputable truth, if they have given me an image, a symbol as being the reality, who says the rest is any more truthful? On the contrary, if reason, as it increases, does not reject anything, faith is strengthened thereby. Religion will always gain by following the progress of ideas. If someday it runs into peril, it will be because humans have advanced while it has remained behind. It is a mistake in this day and age to believe that people can be led by means of fear of the Devil and eternal tortures.

Priest - The Church indeed recognizes nowadays that physical hell is just a symbol, but that does not rule out the existence of demons; without them, how can one explain the influence of evil, which cannot come from God?

A.K. - Spiritism does not believe in demons in the popular sense of the word, but it does believe in evil spirits who are no better and who do as much harm by arousing evil thoughts. Spiritism only states that these are not separate beings, created for evil and perpetually devoted to it as some kind of outcasts of creation and tormentors of humankind. They are less-evolved, still-imperfect beings, but for whom God reserves a future. That is in agreement with the Orthodox Church, which believes in the conversion of Satan, an allusion to the improvement of evil spirits. Note further that the word demon does not imply the idea of evil spirits except through the modern meaning that has been given to it, because the Greek word daimon means genius, intelligence. Now, to admit communications from evil spirits is to recognize in principle the reality of spirit manifestations. Next, we must find out if only evil spirits communicate, which the Church uses as its reason to prohibit communicating with spirits. Here we call upon both reasoning and the facts. If spirits, whatever they may be, communicate, it is only with God's permission: are we to understand that God allows only the evil ones to communicate? How could that be? If he gives them full liberty to come and deceive humans, would he prohibit the good ones from coming as a counterweight to neutralize their pernicious teachings? Wouldn't believing such a thing call into question God's power and goodness and make Satan a rival to the Divinity? The Bible, the Gospel and die Church Fathers fully recognize the possibility of communicating with the invisible world, and that good spirits are not excluded from that world; so why would they be excluded nowadays? Moreover, by accepting the authenticity of certain apparitions and communications from the saints, the Church is thus rejecting the idea that we can communicate only with evil spirits. "When communications contain only good things; when they preach the purest and most sublime evangelical morals, selflessness, disinterest and love toward our neighbor; when they fight evil, no matter in what shade it presents itself, is it really rational to believe that malicious spirits have thereby come to perform their work?

Priest - The New Testament teaches us that the angel of darkness, or Satan, can transform himself into an angel of light to seduce people.

A.K. -According to Spiritism, and the opinion ofmany Christian philosophers, Satan is not a real being; he is the personification ofevil, just as Saturn used to be the personification of time. The Church takes this allegoricalfigureliterally; it is a matter of opinion that I will not discuss. Let us say, for a moment, that Satan is a real being; by exaggerating his power in order to frighten people, the Church achieves a completely different result, i.e. one of die destruction not only of all fear, but also of all belief in his person, according to the proverb: "Those who wish to prove too much prove nothing at all." The Church represents Satan as eminently clever, skilful, and cunning; however, when it comes to Spiritism, the Church makes him play die role of an inept and a fool.

Since Satan's goal is to feed hell with his victims and to steal souls from God, we can see why he busies himself with those who are on the path of the good to lead them into evil. And to do so, according to a beautiful allegory, he transforms himself into an angel of light; that is, he hypocritically feigns virtue; what is incomprehensible, however, is why he would let those he already has in his clutches escape. Those who believe in neither God nor the soul, who scorn prayer and are immersed in vice, already belong to Satan as much as is possible. He has nothing further to do to sink them deeper in the mire; thus, to encourage them to return to God, to pray to him, to submit to his will, and to encourage them to renounce evil while showing them the happiness of the elect and the sad fate that awaits the wicked would be the act of a fool, which would be more stupid than if we were to give freedom to caged birds with the thought of catching them again afterward. Therefore, in the doctrine of exclusive communication with demons, there is a contradiction that strikes all sensible people. That is why no one could ever be persuaded that spirits who lead back to God those who used to deny him and used to do evil; that spirits •who console the afflicted, give strength and courage to the weak, and who, by the sublimity of their teachings, raise the soul above material life, are Satan's accomplices, and that on such grounds we ought to interdict all relations with the invisible world.

Priest - If the Church forbids communications with the spirits of the dead, it is because they are against religion, since they are formally condemned by the Gospels and by Moses. The latter, declaring the death penalty against such practices, proves how reprehensible they are in God's eyes.

A.K. — I beg your pardon, but this prohibition is not found anywhere in the Gospels; it is found only in the Mosaic Law. It is thus a matter of knowing if the Church puts the Mosaic Law above the law of the Gospels; or to put it another way, if the Church is more Jewish than Christian. It is also worth noting that of all religions, the one that opposes Spiritism the least is Judaism, and that it has not resorted to the Mosaic Law, upon which Christian denominations rest their opinion, to prohibit evocations. If biblical instructions are the code of the Christian faith, why prohibit the reading of the Bible? What would be said of forbidding a citizen from studying the law code of his or her own country?

The reason for Moses' prohibition was that the Hebrew lawmaker wanted his people to break with all the customs they had acquired while among the Egyptians, and the one we are discussing here was a subject of abuse. The dead were not evoked out of respect and affection for them, or out of a sentiment of piety, but as a means of fortunetelling, the object of shameful dealings exploited by charlatanism and superstition. Moses was therefore right to prohibit it. If he pronounced a severe punishment against this abuse, it was because he needed harsh means to govern his unruly people; also, the death penalty was widely used in his lawmaking. One wrongly leans on. the severity of the punishment in order to prove the degree of culpability in evoking the dead.

If the argument against evoking the dead comes from God himself- as the Church claims - it must have been God who decreed the penalty of death against offenders. The death penalty therefore has an origin as sacred as the prohibition. So why hasn't it been preserved? Moses promulgated all his laws in the name of God and under God's orders. If we believe that God is their author, why are they no longer observed? If Moses' law is for the Church an article of faith at one point, why isn't it an article of faith at every point? Why resort to it for what we need, but then reject it when it is unsuitable?

Why not follow all its regulations; for instance, circumcision, to which Jesus himself submitted and did not abolish?

There were two parts to the Mosaic Law: first, the law of God, summarized in the Sinai tablets, which has remained because it is divine, and which Christ only developed further; second, the civil or criminal law, appropriate for the customs of the time, and which Christ abolished.

Today, circumstances are no longer the same, and Moses' prohibition has no reason to be. Moreover, if the Church forbids evoking spirits, can it prevent them from, coming without being called? Every day, don't we see people who have never been involved in Spiritism, and who knew nothing about it before it was divulged, experiencing manifestations of all kinds?

Another contradiction: if Moses prohibited, evoking the spirits of the dead, it was because such spirits could, in fact, come; otherwise, his prohibition would have been needless. If they were able to come in his time, they still can today. And if they are spirits of the dead, then they are not demons exclusively. We must be logical above all.

Priest - The Church does not deny that good spirits can communicate, since it acknowledges that saints have manifested. But it cannot consider as good those who come in order to contradict its immutable principles. The Spirits teach of future punishment and reward, but they do not teach as the Church does; the Church alone can judge the spirits' teachings and distinguish the good from the evil.

A.K. - That is the big question. Galileo was accused of heresy and of being inspired by the Devil because he revealed a law of nature that proved the error of a belief regarded as unassailable; he was condemned and excommunicated. If the Spirits had concurred with the Church's exclusive point of view, and if they had not proclaimed freedom of conscience and condemned certain abuses, they would have been welcomed by the Church and would not have been regarded as demons.

This is also the reason why all religions — Islam as well as Catholicism - believe themselves to be in the exclusive possession of the absolute truth, and why they regard any doctrine that is not completely orthodox from their point of view as the work of the Devil. Now, the Spirits have not come to overthrow religion, but like Galileo, to reveal new laws of nature. If some points of faith are disputed because of this, it is because they are in conflict with these laws, as in the case of belief in the sun's movement. The issue is in knowing if an article of faith can annul a law of nature, which is the work of God. And if this law is acknowledged, wouldn't it be wiser to interpret dogma in light of it instead of attributing it to the Devil?

Priest - Let's leave the issue of demons; I know that it has been diversely interpreted by the theologians. The theory of reincarnation, on the other hand, seems more difficult to reconcile with dogma because it is nothing more than metempsychosis taken afresh from Pythagoras.

A.K. - Now is not the time to discuss an issue that would require a long explanation. You can find it discussed in The Spirits Book and in The Gospel according to Spiritism. 1 will say only a few words about it.

The metempsychosis of the ancients consisted in the transmigration of humans' souls into animals, which would imply degradation. Besides, this doctrine was not what is commonly believed. Transmigration into animals was not considered a condition inherent to the nature of the human soul, but as a temporary punishment; thus, the souls of murderers would pass into the bodies of savage beasts to receive their punishment therein; those of the unchaste, into swine and wild boar; those of the inconstant and inconsistent, into birds; those of the lazy and ignorant, into aquatic animals. After a few thousand of years,

more or less, according to the culpability of this kind of prison, the soul would re-enter humanity. Animal reincarnation was therefore not an absolute condition, and we can see that it was allied with human reincarnation. The proof of it is that the punishment of timid men would consist in passing into the bodies of women to be exposed to scorn and insults. It was a kind of bogeyman for the simple-minded, much more than an article of faith among philosophers. Just as one says to children: "If you are naughty, the wolf will eat you," the ancients said to criminals: "You will turn into wolves." Today they say: "The Devil will get you and carry you off to hell."

The plurality of existences, according to Spiritism, differs essentially from, metempsychosis in that it does not accept the incarnation of souls into animals, even as a punishment. The Spirits teach that the soul does not regress, but that it progresses continuously. Its different corporeal lives take place in humanity; each existence is a step forward on its path of intellectual and moral progress - which is quite different from metempsychosis. Not being able to acquire full development in one sole existence, frequently shortened by accidental causes, God allows it to use a new incarnation either to finish the task it was unable to finish or to start over what it had done badly. Expiation in the corporeal body consists of the tribulations one endures while in it.

As for the issue of knowing if the plurality of existences is or is not contrary to certain dogmas of the Church, I will limit myself to saying that one of two things is true: either reincarnation exists or it does not; if it does, it is within the laws of nature. In order to prove that it does not exist, we would have to prove that it is contrary not to dogma but to such laws, and that we can find another law that would explain more clearly and logically the questions that only reincarnation can solve.

Moreover, it is easy to demonstrate that certain dogmas find a rational endorsement in reincarnation that renders them acceptable to those who used to reject them because they did not understand them. So it's not a matter of destroying, but of interpreting. This will occur later by necessity. Those who will not accept the interpretation will be perfectly free, as they are today, to believe that it is the sun that revolves around the earth. The idea of the plurality of existences is becoming popularized with astonishing speed because of its sound logic and its conformity with God's justice. Once it is acknowledged as a natural truth and accepted by everyone, what will the Church do?

In sum, reincarnation is not a doctrine invented for the needs of a cause, nor is it a personal opinion. It either is or isn't a fact. If it is demonstrated that there are certain things that are materially impossible without reincarnation, we must accept thefact that they are the result of reincarnation, because if it is part of nature, it cannot be annulled by an opposing opinion.

Priest — According to spirits, are those who do not believe in them or their manifestations less fortunate in the next life?

A.K. - If this belief were indispensable for people's salvation, what would become of those who, since the world began, have not held it, and those who, for a long time to come, will die without holding it? Could God close the door of the future to them? No, the Spirits who teach us are more logical than that; they tell us: God is supremely just and good and does not make people's future destinies depend on conditions outside their will; they do not say: Without Spiritism there is no salvation, but like Christ: Without charity there is no salvation.

Priest — Then allow me to tell you that, since the Spirits teach only the principles of the morals we find In the Gospel, I do not see of what use Spiritism can be since we used to be able to be saved before it and we still can be without it. That would not be the case if the Spirits had come to teach, some great new truths, some principles that would change the face of the world as Christ did. At least Christ did it by himself alone and his doctrine was unique, whereas there are spirits by the thousands who contradict each other; some say white; others, black. From this it follows that, from the beginning, their adherents have formed many sects. Wouldn't it be better to leave spirits alone and hold on to what we already have?

A.K. - You are mistaken, sir, not to abandon your point of view of taking the Church as the sole criterion of human knowledge. If Christ spoke the truth, Spiritism could not do otherwise; and instead of throwing stones at it, it should be welcomed as a powerful auxiliary that has come to confirm, through all the voices beyond the grave, the fundamental truths of religion that have been refuted by disbelief. For materialism to £ght against Spiritism is understandable, but for the Church to unite with materialism against it is inconceivable. What is just as inconsistent is that the Church labels as demonic a teaching that is based on the same authority and proclaims the divine mission of the founder of Christianity.

But did Christ say all there was to say? Could he reveal everything? No, because he himself said: "I still have many things to tell you, but you would not understand them, which is why I speak to you in parables." Spiritism has come at this time - now that people are mature enough to understand it - to complete and explain what Christ touched upon only lightly, or spoke about only in allegorical form. Of course, you will say that the responsibility for this belongs to the Church. But to which one? To the Roman, Orthodox or Protestant Church? Since they are not in agreement, each one has given its own explanation and claimed this privilege. Which one has managed to unify all the dissident denominations? God is wise, and foreseeing that humans would get their passions and prejudices involved, he did not want to entrust them with the care of this new revelation. He entrusted it to spirits, his messengers, who have proclaimed it to every corner of the globe and apart from any particular denomination so that it could apply to all of them, and so that no one could turn it to his or her own advantage.

Ontheotherhand,haven'tthemanyChristian denominations turned, away from the path traced out by Christ? Are his moral precepts scrupulously observed? Haven't his words been twisted to make them an argument for ambition and human passions when, in fact, they are a condemnation of them? Spiritism, on the other hand, through the voice of the Spirits sent by God, has come to call for the strict observation of his precepts by those who have turned away from them. Mightn't this last motive in particular be the one that qualifies it as the work of Satan?!

You are wrongly giving the name sect to a few differences of opinions related to spirit phenomena. For many, at the beginning of any science, when the observations are still incomplete, it isn't at all surprising that contradictory theories would arise; but such theories rest on details and not on the fundamental principle. Schools can thus explain certain facts in their own way, but these are no''more sects than the different systems that divide our scholars regarding the exact sciences, such as in medicine, physics, etc. So delete the word sect because it is entirely inaccurate for the case in question. Moreover, hasn't Christianity given birth to a multitude of sects since its inception? Why hasn't the word of Christ been powerful enough to impose silence on every controversy? Why is it susceptible to interpretations that still divide Christians today

into different churches, each claiming to be the sole keeper of the truth necessary for salvation, cordially detesting each other and denouncing each other in the name of their Divine Master, who preached only love and charity? Human weakness, will you say? So be it; how can you expect Spiritism to triumph suddenly over this weakness and transform humanity as though by magic?

Now, I will address the question of usefulness. You stated that Spiritism teaches us nothing new; that is an error. It teaches a great deal to those who do not stop at the surface. Moreover, had it done nothing more than to put the maxim: Without charity there is no salvation, which unites people, in the place of Without the Church there is no salvation, which divides them, that alone would have marked a new era for humankind.

You also stated that we could do without Spiritism. Agreed, just like we could do without a multitude of scientific discoveries. People did just as well before the discovery of all the new planets; before eclipses were calculated; before the microscopic world was known about - and a hundred other things. In order to live and grow their wheat, peasants don't have to know what a comet is, and yet nobody denies that all these things have expanded the circle of ideas and have enabled us to penetrate deeper into the laws of nature. Well, the world of spirits is one such law, which Spiritism fias enabled us to know by teaching us the influence it has on the corporeal world. Supposing that its usefulness were limited to just that, wouldn't the revelation of such a power be great enough?

Now, let's take a look at its moral influence. Lets say that it teaches absolutely nothing new in this respect. What is religions greatest enemy? Materialism, because materialism believes in nothing; well, Spiritism is the negation of materialism, which has no more reason to exist. It is no longer by means of reasoning or blind faith that materialists are told that everything does not come to an end with their bodies, but by means of the phenomena, which are shown to them and which allow them to touch them with their fingers and see them with their eyes. Isn't that by itself lending a small service to humankind, to religion? But that isn't all: add the certainty of the future life, the living scenario of those who have gone before us, showing the need for the good and the inevitable consequences of evil. That is why, without being a religion per se, it essentially takes religious ideas and develops them in people who have none, and it strengthens them in those who are uncertain. Religion therefore finds a support in it, not for those persons with narrow minds, who see religion entirely in the doctrine of eternal fire and in form more than in essence, but for those who see it according to the grandeur and majesty of God.

In other words, Spiritism enlarges and elevates ideas, and it combats abuses produced by selfishness, cupidity and ambition. But who would dare defend them and declare themselves to be their champion? Although it is not indispensable to salvation, Spiritism facilitates it and sets us firmly on the path of the good. Moreover, what sensible person would dare assert that a lack of orthodoxy is more reprehensible in God's eyes than atheism and materialism? I pose the following questions outright to all those who fight Spiritism from the point of view of its religious consequences:

1. Who will be worse off in the future life: those who believe in nothing, or those who, believing in general truths, do not accept certain parts of Church dogma?

2. Will Protestants and schismatics be mixed in together in the same punishment as atheists and materialists?

3. Are those who are not orthodox in the strict sense of the word, but who do all the good they can, who are kind and indulgent toward their neighbors and honest in their social relationships, be less assured of their salvation than those who believe in everything, but who are hard, selfish, and uncharitable?

4. Which is worth more in Gods eyes: the practice of Christian virtues without the practice of the duties of orthodoxy, or the practice of the latter without the duties of morality?

So, Reverend, I have responded to the questions and objections that you have addressed to me; but as I told you at the beginning, without any preconceived intention of leading you to our way of thinking or of changing your convictions, I have restricted myself to enabling you to consider Spiritism from its true point of view. If you had not come to me, I would not have gone looking for you. That does not mean that we would scorn your adherence to our principles, if that had occurred - very far from it. On the contrary,

we are happy for all the adherents we can attract, and who are all the more valuable to us when they come freely and willingly. Not only do we not have the right to exert any constraint over anyone, but we would hesitate to trouble the conscience of those who, having beliefs with which they are satisfied, do not willingly come to us.

We said that the best way to become enlightened about Spiritism is to study the theory first; the phenomena will then come naturally and you will understand them, regardless of the order in which they are brought up by the circumstances. Our publications are created with the goal of facilitating this study; consequently, that is the route we recommend.

The first reading should be this summary, which presents a collection of the most salient points of the science. By reading it, one can get an idea about it and be convinced that, in essence, it contains something very serious. In this short exposition, we have adhered to indicating points that should especially rivet the attention of the observer. Ignorance of the fundamental principles is the cause of erroneous appraisals by the majority of those who judge what they do not understand, or do so according to their preconceived ideas.

If this first contact has created a desire to know more about Spiritism, people should read The Spirits' Book, where the principles of the doctrine are fully developed; next, The Mediums' Book for the experimental part, meant to serve as a guide for those who want to proceed by themselves, and for those who want to get a clear idea of the phenomena. Then come the assorted works in which the applications and consequences of the doctrine are developed such as The Gospel according to Spiritism, Heaven and Hell according to Spiritism, etc.

The Revue Spirite is a sort of applications course due to the numerous examples and developments it contains on the theoretical and the experimental aspects.

To serious individuals who have done a preliminary study, it would be a pleasure for us to verbally provide the necessary explanations on the points they might not have entirely understood.

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