What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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The Plurality of Worlds

105. Are the many worlds traveling through space peopled with inhabitants as is the earth?

All the Spirits have affirmed it and reason states that it must be so. Since the earth occupies no special class in the universe, either because of its position or size, there is nothing that would justify believing that it alone is privileged enough to be inhabited. Moreover, God could not have created those billions of globes simply for the pleasure of our own eyes, especially since the vast majority is beyond our sight.

106. If other worlds are inhabited, are all their inhabitants similar to those of the earth? In other words, could these inhabitants live amongst us and us amongst them?

Their overall form might be more or less the same, but their composition must be adapted to the environment in which they live, just as fish are made to live in the water and birds in the air. If the environment is different - as everything would lead us to believe, and just as astronomical observations seem to show - their physical composition must be different also; hence, in their normal state they probably could not live amongst one another with the same bodies. All the Spirits have confirmed this to be a fact.

107. Assuming that these worlds are inhabited, are they in the samepositionastheearthfrom themoralandintellectualpoint ofview?

According to what the Spirits have taught, the various worlds are at very different degrees of evolution; some are in the same condition as die earth; others are even less evolved: the human beings on them are even more brutish, more physical and more inclined toward evil. On the other hand, there are worlds on which human beings are morally, intellectually and physically more-evolved, where moral evil is unknown, where the arts and sciences have attained a degree of perfection incomprehensible to us, and where the inhabitants' less physical composition is subject neither to suffering, disease, nor infirmity. People live in peace without trying to harm one another, and they do not experience the vexations, troubles, afiflictions or needs that assail earth's people. Moreover, there are worlds that are more

evolved still, where the nearly fluidic corporeal envelope approaches more and more the nature of the angels. In the progressive series of the worlds, the earth is neither in the first nor the last category, but it is one of the most material and least evolved.

The Soul

108. Whereistheseatofthesoul?
The soul is not, as is generally believed, located in any one part of the body. Along with the perispirit, it forms a fluidic, penetrable whole assimilating the entire body, with which it comprises a complex being and from which death is no more than a sort of split. One may visualize two like bodies interpenetrating each other, joined during life and separated after death. In death, one is destroyed while the other remains.

During life, the soul acts more specially upon the organs of thought and sentiment. It is simultaneously internal and external; that is, it radiates outward. It can even leave the body, travel far and manifest its presence somewhere else, as observation and somnambulistic phenomena have shown.

109. Is the soul created at the same time as the body or before? Apart from the existence of the soul, this question is one of the most crucial, because its solution leads to the most important consequences. It is the only key to a multitude of problems unsolvable until now for lack of being considered.

There are two possibilities: either the soul exists or does not exist before the body's formation — there can be no middle ground. With the preexistence of the soul, everything is explained logically and naturally; without it, it is even impossible to justify certain dogmas of the Church. It is this very impossibility of justification that has led so many thinking people to disbelief.

The Spirits have resolved the question in the affirmative, and neither the phenomena nor logic can leave any doubt about it. However, once we accept the soul's preexistence as a simple hypothesis at least, we will see that most difficulties disappear.

110. If the soul exists prior to the body, then before its union with the body did it possess its individuality and self-awareness?

Without individuality and self-awareness, the results would be the same, as if it had not existed in the first place.

111. Prior to its union with the body, had the soul achieved any progress or had it been stationary?

The fact of the soul's prior progress is both the consequence of observation of the phenomena and the Spirits' teachings.

112. Did God create all souls morally and intellectually equal or did God create some more perfect and intelligent than others?

If God had created some souls more perfect than others, such favoritism would not be compatible with God's justice. Since all are God's creatures, why would God exempt some from labor while imposing it on others in order to achieve eternal happiness? The inequality of souls at their origin would be a negation of God's justice.

113. If all souls are created equal, how can the diversity of aptitudes and natural predisposition amongst earths humankind be explained?

This diversity is the consequence of the progress the soul accomplished before its union with the body. Souls more advanced in intelligence and morality are those who lived longer and progressed more prior to their incarnation.

114. What is the state of the soul at its origin?
Souls are created simple and ignorant, that is, without knowledge or an understanding of good and evil, but with an equal aptitude for all things. At their beginning, they are in a sort of infancy with neither their own will nor perfect awareness of their existence. Little by little, their free will develops along with their ideas.

115. Did the soul accomplish its previous progress in the soul state per se, or in a previous corporeal existence?

Besides the Spirits' teachings regarding this point, the study of the differing degrees of humans' advancement on the earth demonstrates that the soul's previous progress must have been accomplished over a series of corporeal existences that varied in number according to the degree they have reached. Such deduction is the result of having observed the phenomena occurring before our eyes every day.

Human Beings during their Life on Earth

116. At what moment does the union between the soul and body occur?

At conception, the spirit, although still in the errant state, becomes connected by a fluidic tie to the body with which it is to unite. This tie tightens as the body develops. From then on, the spirit is overcome by a sort of confusion that continues to increase. At the time of birth, this confusion is complete and the spirit loses its self- awareness; it regains its ideas gradually, starting at the moment of the child's first breath. At this point, the union is complete and definitive.

117. What is the intellectual state of the child's soul at the moment of its birth?

The soul's intellectual and moral state is the same as before its union with the body; that is, the soul possesses all the ideas it had acquired previously, but due to the confusion that accompanies its change, its ideas are momentarily in a latent state. They gradually awaken, but manifest only in proportion to the development of the child's organs.

118. What is the origin of innate ideas, precocious dispositions, and instinctive aptitudes for an art or science without having undergone anyformal instruction?

Innate ideas can have only two possible sources: the creation of some souls more perfect than others, in which case they would have been created at the same time as the body, or the previous progress accomplished prior to the union between the soul and the body. Since the former is incompatible with God's justice, that leaves only the latter. Innate ideas are the result of knowledge acquired during previous existences, and which remain in a state of intuition to serve as the basis for acquiring new ideas.

119. How can geniuses appear in social classes deprived of any intellectual education?

This fact shows that innate ideas are independent of the environment in which people are educated. Both environment and education develop innate ideas, but they do not provide them. Persons of genius are incarnations of already-advanced spirits, who have already progressed significantly. Thus, education may provide the instruction they still lack, but it cannot provide genius where there Is none.

120. Why are there children who are instinctively good in a wicked environment and in spite of bad examples, whereas others are instinctively evil in a good environment and in spite ofgood counsels?

It is the result of already-accomplished moral progress, just as innate ideas are the result of intellectual progress.

121. Of two children of the same parents and educated under the same conditions, why may one be intelligent and the other slow, one good and the other evil? Why is it that the child of aperson of genius is sometimes a dullardand thechildofa dullardaperson ofgenius?

This fact finds its support in the origin of innate ideas. Moreover, it shows that the soul of such a child in no way proceeds from the parents; otherwise, in virtue of the saying that the part is of the same nature as the whole, the parents would transmit their qualities and defects to their children, just as they transmit the principle of their corporeal qualities. In procreation, only the body proceeds from the body, whereas the souls are independent of one another.

122. If souls are independent of one another, where does the mutual love of parentsfor their children comefrom?

Spirits are brought together out of affinity, and birth into this or that family does not happen by chance. Most often it depends on the choice of the spirit who rejoins those whom it used to love in the spirit world or during previous lifetimes. Furthermore, parents have the mission to aid the progress of the spirits who incarnate in their children; and to encourage them, God inspires them to mutual affection; however, they often fail at their mission and are punished as a result.

123. Why are there badparents and bad children?
They are spirits who are brought together as a family not out of affinity, but as a trial, and often as a punishment for what they were in a previous existence. One parent is given a bad child because he himself or she herself was perhaps a bad child; in order to undergo the punishment of talion, the child is given a bad parent because he or she was a bad parent.

124. Why do we find certainpersons born into a lowly condition possessed of instincts of dignity and greatness, while others, born into the upper classes, display instincts of a lower nature?

This is an example of an intuitive memory of their character and the social position they occupied in a previous existence.

125.What is the cause of the sympathies and antipathies between persons who meetfor the first time?

They are most often persons who once knew and perhaps loved each other in a previous existence, and who, upon meeting once again, are attracted to each other.

Instinctive antipathies also result from previous relationships.

These two sentiments may have a different cause, however. The perispirit radiates around the body a type of atmosphere imbued with the good or bad qualities of the incarnate spirit. By means of the contact of their spiritual fluids, two persons who meet experience the resultant feeling, which may be either pleasant or unpleasant. Their spiritual fluids tend either to intermingle or to repel each other according to their similar or dissimilar nature.

This is how the phenomenon of thought transmission may be explained. Through the contact of their spiritual fluids, two souls understand each other somehow. They are in tune with each other and comprehend each other without even speaking.

126. Why don'tpeople remember theirprevious lives? Wouldn't such remembrance be necessaryfor theirfutureprogress?

(See "Forgetfulness of the Past" - Dialogue with Visitor, above) 127. What is the origin of the sentiment called the conscience? It is the intuitive remembrance of the progress accomplished

in previous lives and of resolutions made by the spirit before incarnation - resolutions it does not always have the strength to keep once incarnated.

128. Do human beings have fee will or are they subject tofatalism? If their conduct were subject to fatalism, they would have no responsibility for the evil or merit for the good they do; hence, any punishment would be unjust and any recompense senseless. Humans' free will is a consequence of God's justice, the attribute that gives them their dignity and lifts them above all other creatures. This is so very true that the esteem, they have for one another is due to their free will. Those who lose it accidentally because of sickness, insanity, chemical dependency or mental impairment are pitied or treated with contempt.

Materialism, which makes all the moral and intellectual faculties depend on the physical body, reduces humans to the status of being machines without free will, and consequently, with no responsibility for the evil or merit for the good they do.

129. Did God create evil?

God did not create evil but established laws, and these laws are always good because God is supremely good. Those who obeyed them faithfully would be perfectly happy. But since spirits have free will, they do not always obey them; evil is the result of their breaking these laws.

130. Are humans born good or evil?

One must distinguish between the soul and the person. The soul is created simple and ignorant, meaning neither good nor evil, but because of its free will it is susceptible to taking either the good path or the evil one; in other words, to obeying or breaking God's laws. The person is born either good or evil according to whether he or she is the incarnation of an evolved or unevolved spirit.

131. What is the origin ofgood and evil on the earth, and why is there more evil than good?

The origin of evil on the earth is the result of the imperfection of the spirits incarnated on it. Because the earth is a less evolved world, the predominance of evil derives from the fact that most of the spirits that inhabit it are themselves less evolved or have progressed little. On more highly evolved worlds, where only purified spirits are allowed to incarnate, evil is either nearly or completely unknown.

132. What is the cause of the ills that afflict humankind? The earth may be considered as both a world of instruction for little-evolved spirits and one of expiation for guilty spirits. Humankind's ills are the consequence of the moral imperfection of incarnate spirits. Through the contact of their vices, they make themselves mutually unhappy and punish one another.

133. Why do bad individuals frequently prosper while good ones are the target of all sorts ofafflictions?

For those who see nothing but the present life and who believe it is the only one, this fact must seem a supreme injustice. This is not the case, however, when one considers the plurality of existences and the brevity of each when compared to eternity. The study of Spiritism shows that the prosperity of bad people has awful consequences for them in subsequent existences; that the afflictions of individuals of the good are, on the contrary, followed by a great and lasting happiness if they have borne their afflictions with resignation; for them, it is like one unfortunate day in a lifetime of prosperity.

134. Why are some born into destitution and others into opulence? Why are there persons horn blind, hearing and speech-impaired or afflicted with incurable diseases, whereas others have every physical advantage imaginable? Is this an effect of chance or ofProvidence?

If it is an effect of chance, it cannot be one of Providence; if it is the effect of Providence, people might ask: where is God's goodness and justice? Clearly, it is because they do not understand the cause behind such ills that many are led to blame God. It is understandable that those who become poverty-ridden or infirm due to their imprudence or their excesses should be punished wherein they have sinned; however, if the soul is created at the same time as the body, what has it done to deserve such afflictions from birth or to be exempt from them? If we acknowledge the justice of God, we must acknowledge that these effects have a cause; if this cause does not lie in this life, it must lie in a previous one because in all things the cause must precede the effect. Hence, the soul must have lived before and it must have deserved the expiation. Spiritist studies have, in fact, shown us that more than one person born into poverty was once rich and. respected in a previous existence, but made bad use of the wealth that God enabled him or her to administer; that more than one person born into abjectness was once proud and powerful; that quite often those who commanded with harshness are submitted to the mistreatment and humiliation that they forced others to bear.

A life of pain is not always one of expiation; it is quite often a trial chosen by the spirit itself, who sees it as a way to evolve more rapidly if it bears it with courage. Wealth is also a trial more perilous than poverty due to the temptations and abuses it arouses. The examples of those who have lived also show that it is a trial from which few manage to emerge victorious.

Differences in social positions would be all the more unjust - when they do not result from our conduct in the present life - if they didn't have a means of compensation. It is the conviction of that truth, acquired through Spiritism, which gives us the strength to endure life's vicissitudes and to accept our lot without envying the lot of others.

135. Why are there severely mentally impairedpersons?
Their situation would hardly be at all reconcilable with God's justice if the theory of a single existence were true. No matter how miserable the situations individuals are born into may be, they can rise above them by means of intelligence and labor; mentally impaired persons, however, are destined from birth to death to suffer brutality and contempt.There is no possible compensation for them. So, why would their soul have been created that way?

Spiritist studies of the mentally impaired have shown that their soul is as intelligent as the souls of the unimpaired; that such infirmity is an expiation inflicted on spirits for having abused their intelligence in a previous life, and that they suffer cruelly by feeling imprisoned by bonds they cannot break and by the contempt to which they are subjected, when they may have been lauded for their intelligence in a previous existence.

136. What state is the soul in during sleep?

During sleep, only the body rests; the spirit does not sleep. Experiments have shown that during this time the spirit enjoys its complete freedom and the full use of its faculties. It takes advantage of the body's rest and the times in which its presence is not needed in order to act freely and go wherever it wishes. During its lifetime, no matter how far it may travel from the body, the spirit remains connected to it by a fluidic tie that serves to call it back whenever its presence in the body is needed. This tie is broken only by death.

137'. What causes dreams?
Dreams result from the spirit's freedom during sleep and are sometimes the remembrance of places and persons the spirit has seen or visited while in that state.

138. Where do presentiments come from?
They are the spirit's vague and intuitive memories of what it learned during times of freedom; sometimes, they are secret warnings given by benevolent spirits.

139. Why are there both primitive and civilizedpeople?
Apart from the preexistence of the soul, this question would be insolvable, unless we were to believe that God created primitive and civilized souls, which would be a denial of his justice. Furthermore, reason refuses to believe that, after death, the soul of the primitive either remains forever in its little- evolved state or that it is in the same position as the soul of the enlightened individual.
If one accepts the idea that there is one starting point for all souls — the only doctrine compatible with God's justice - the simultaneous presence of primitivism and civilization is a material fact that demonstrates the progress that some have achieved and that others are capable of achieving. The primitive's soul thus will attain the level of the civilized soul with time. However, since primitives die every day, their souls cannot attain such a level except through subsequent incarnations more and more perfected and suitable for their advancement, and after going through all the intermediary levels between the two extremes.

140. Would it be possible, according to some people's way of thinking, that the soul incarnates only once but then goes on to accomplish further progress in the spirit state or in other realms?

This proposition would be acceptable if on the earth there were only people of the same moral and intellectual level, in which case we could say that the earth is meant for only one specific level; the exact opposite seems obvious, however. In fact, it would be incomprehensible that primitives could not become civilized on earth, since there are many advanced souls incarnated, on the same globe. From this we must conclude that the possibility for the plurality of earthly existences results from the very examples we have right before our eyes. If it were otherwise, we would have to explain: First, why would only earth have the monopoly on incarnation? Second, if such a monopoly were a fact, then why are there souls incarnated at every level of advancement?

141. /w the midst ofcivilized societies, why are there individuals of a level of ferociousness similar to the most barbaric primitives?

They are little-evolved spirits who have left their former barbaric cultures to reincarnate in an environment unfamiliar to them, and in which they feel out of place, just as a boor would feel if suddenly brought into the environment of high society.

Comment: It would be hard to believe, without denying God's justice and goodness, that the soul of a hardened criminal could have the same point of departure in this life as an individual full of every virtue. If the soul were not previous to the body, the soul of the criminal would be as new as the soul of the moral individual; why then would one be good and the other evil?

142. Where do the distinctive characteristics of the various cultures comefrom?

From spirits who share more or less the same tastes and inclinations and who incarnate in a sympathetic environment - and often in the same environment - where they can satisfy such inclinations.

143. How do cultures progress and decay?
If the soul were created at the same time as the body, the humans of today would be as new and as primitive as the humans of the Middle Ages. But why, then, are their habits more benign and their minds more developed? If in the death of the body the soul leaves the earth for good, we must ask further: What would be the result of the work done to improve a culture if it had to be recommenced with the new souls arriving each and every day?

Spirits incarnate into a sympathetic environment and according to the level oftheir advancement. For example, a person in one culture, who has progressed sufficiently but who did not find in that culture an environment corresponding to the level he or she has reached, will incarnate in a more advanced culture. As a generation moves a step forward, through syrnpatihy it attracts new arrivals of more advanced spirits who perhaps might have previously lived in that same country and progressed. It is thus that, step by step, a nation advances. If the majority of the new arrivals were of a less evolved nature, and if the former inhabitants departing every day did not then return to a worse environment, the culture would decay and end up dying out.

Comment: Such questions give rise to others which find their solution in the same principle; for example, where does the diversity of cultures on earth come from? Are there cultures that rebel against progress? Is the black race capable of attaining the level of the European? Is slavery useful to the progress of less evolved cultures? How can the transformation of humankind, take place?

Human Beings after Death

144. How does the soul's separationfromthe body occur? Does it occur suddenly or gradually? The souls liberation occurs gradually and at varying degrees of slowness according to individuals and the circumstances of their deaths. The bonds that used to unite the soul to the body are broken only litde by litde; the separation occurs less quickly if the person's life was more materialistic and sensually inclined.

145. What is the soul's situation immediately after the death of the body? Is it instantly aware of itself? In other words, what does it see? What does itfeel?

At the moment of death, at first everything is confused. The soul needs some time to get a hold of itself. It is dazed and in the state of someone awakening from a deep sleep, trying to understand his or her situation. As the influence of the matter from which it has just freed itself wears off, and the sort of fog that obscures its thoughts dissipates, the lucidity of ideas and the memory of its past return.

The duration of this state of confusion varies greatly; it may last only a few hours or several days, months or even years. It is shorter for those who during life identified with their future state because they immediately understand their situation; it is longer for those who lived more materialistically.

The sensations that the soul feels at this time also vary greatly. The confusion following death is not at all painful for morally upright persons; it is calm and in every way resembles the sensation that accompanies a peaceful awakening. For those whose conscience is not clean and who are more bound to the corporeal than the spiritual life, it is full of anxiety and distress, which increase as they regain their self-awareness. They are overcome with fear and a sort of dread at what they see, and especially of what they foresee.

The sensation that may be termed physical is one of great relief and immense well-being; the spirit feels relieved of a burden and very happy at no longer feeling the corporeal pain experienced a few moments before; at feeling free, liberated, detached and alert, as if it had been freed from heavy chains.

In its new situation, the soul sees and hears what it saw and heard before death, but it also sees and hears other things that are beyond the coarse bodily organs. It experiences sensations and perceptions unknown to us.

Comment: These responses, as well as all those having to do with the soul's situation after death or during life, are not the result of a theory or system but of direct studies of thousands of individuals observed in every phase and period of their spirit existence, from the lowest to the highest degree of the hierarchy, and according to their habits during their earthly life, the kind of death, etc. When speaking of the spirit life, it is often stated that no one knows what happens there because no one has ever returned from it. That is a mistake because it is precisely those who are there who have come to instruct us, and God is allowing it more nowadays than ever before as a final warning to disbelief and materialism.

146. After the soul has left the body, does it see God?
The soul's perceptive faculties are proportional to its purification; only highly purified souls may enjoy God's presence.

147. If God is everywhere, why can't all spirits see him?
God is everywhere because God radiates everywhere, and one could say that the universe is immersed in divinity, just as we ourselves are immersed in the sun's light. But less evolved spirits are surrounded by a sort of fog that hides it from their eyes, and which dissipates only as they purify and dematerialize themselves. From the visual point of view, low order spirits are, in relation to God, like incarnates in relation to spirits: truly blind.

148. After death, is the soul aware of its individuality? What evidence is there and how can we prove it?

If souls did not retain their individuality after death, it would be both for them and for us as if they did not exist at all, and the moral consequences would be exactly the same. They would have no distinctive characteristics and criminals would be on the same level as morally upright individuals, which would mean that no one would have any interest in doing good.

In mediumistic manifestations, the soul's individuality is disclosed in a material manner, so to speak, by the language and qualities characteristic to each soul. Since they all think and act differently, some are good and others evil, some learned and others ignorant, some want what others do not; this is obvious proof that they are not merged into a homogenous whole. This goes without mentioning the obvious proofs they have provided us of having animated this or that particular individual while on earth. Thanks to experimental Spiritism, proof of the soul's individuality is no longer a vague concept but a result of observation.

The soul itself proves its individuality because its own thoughts and will are distinct from those of others. It also proves it by means of its fluidic envelope or perispirit, a sort of limited body that makes it a separate being.

Comment: Some people think they can escape the criticism of materialism by believing in a universal intelligent principle, a portion of which we absorb at birth and which comprises the soul, and which we give back after death to the common mass, into which our souls blend like drops ofwater in the ocean. This theory - a sort of transition - does not deserve the name spiritualism, because it is as hopeless as materialism. The common reservoir of the Universal Whole would be the same as nothingness since there would be no more individualities there.

149. Does the kind of death influence the state of the soul?
The state of the soul varies considerably according to the kind of death, but especially according to the nature of its habits during its earthly life. In natural death, the disengagement occurs gradually and without shock, and frequently begins even before the body's life is extinguished. In violent death through suicide, capital punishment or accident, the ties are broken all of a sudden; surprised by this occurrence, it becomes greatly confused by the change that has taken place in itself and cannot comprehend its situation. One fairly constant phenomenon in such cases is that the spirit is not convinced that death has occurred, and this delusion can last several months or years. While in this state, it comes and goes, looking after its affairs as if it were still in this world, but it is very perplexed when no one responds when it speaks. This delusion does not apply exclusively to violent deaths, however; it may be found in many individuals whose life was absorbed by materialistic pleasures and interests.58

150. Where does the spirit go after having left the body?
It does not become lost in the immensity of the infinite as is generally believed. It is in the errant59 state in the spirit world, and most frequently it finds itself amongst those it used to know, and especially amongst those it used to love, as it is able to travel instantly over great distances.

151. Does the soul retain its affectionsfom earth?
It retains all of its moral affections; it forgets only the material affections that are no longer important to it. That is why it joyously comes to see its relatives and friends once again, and is happy that they have remembered it.

152. Does the soul retain any memory of what it did while on the earth? Is it still interested in the endeavors it left unfinished?

That depends on how evolved it is and the nature of its endeavors. Dematerialized spirits care little about material matters and are happy to be free of them. As for the endeavors they had begun, according to their importance and usefulness, they sometimes inspire others with the thought of finishing them.

153. In the spirit world, does the soul once again meet the relativesandfriends whoprecededit?

Not only does it meet them, but it also meets many others it used to know in its previous existences. Usually, those for whom it held the most affection come to welcome it on its return to the spirit world, and they help it free itself from its earthly bonds. However, being denied meeting their loved ones once again is sometimes a punishment for guilty spirits.

154. In the other life, what is the intellectual and moral state of children who died at a very young age? Are theirfaculties still as child- like as they were while incarnate? The incomplete development of the organs of such children did not enable their spirits to manifest completely; once freed from their envelope, their faculties are as they were prior to incarnating. Since their spirits spent only a few moments physically alive, their faculties could not have changed.

Comment: In spirit communications, the spirit of a child can therefore speak as that of an adult because it could be a highly advanced spirit. If it sometimes assumes child-like language, it does so in order not to deprive its mother of the enchantment of a fragile, delicate being adorned with all the grace of innocence.

The same question may be asked regarding the intellectual state of the souls of mentally impaired and insane persons after death; the answer lies in the aforementioned.

155. After death, what is the difference between the souls of learned individuals and unlearned ones, and between the souls of primitives and civilizedpersons?

Approximately the same difference as between them during life, for entering the spirit world does not endow the soul with all the knowledge it lacked while on the earth.

156. Do soulsprogress intellectually and morally after death? They progress more or less so, according to their will; some progress significantly, but they need to put into practice during the corporeal life what they have acquired in knowledge and morality. Souls who remain stationary return to an existence similar to the one they left, whereas those who have progressed merit an incarnation of a higher level.

Since progress is proportional to the spirit's will, there are spirits who for a long time retain the tastes and inclinations they had during life, and who pursue the same ideas.

157. Is apersonsfate in theftture life irrevocably sealed after death?
The irrevocable sealing of a person's fate after death would be a complete negation of God's goodness and justice because there are many who did not depend on their own efforts to educate themselves sufficiently - not to mention mentally impaired and primitive individuals, and the countless children who die before having experienced life. Even among educated persons there are many who might think they are sufficiently perfected to be exempt from doing anything more; but is this not manifest proof that God gives of his goodness, allowing a person to do the next day what he or she did not do the day before? If fate is irrevocably sealed, why do people die at such differing ages, and why does not God, out of divine justice, allow everyone time to do the best possible or to repair the evil they have done? How can one be sure that a blameworthy person who died at thirty years of age would not have repented and have become a moral person if he or she had lived to be sixty? Why would God deny him or her such an opportunity when God gives it to others? "By itself, the fact of the diversity of life's duration and the moral state of most people proves the impossibility — if one believes in God's justice — that the soul's fate is irrevocably sealed after death.

158. In thefuture life, what is thefate of children who died at a very young age?

This question is one of those that best demonstrates the justice and need of the plurality of existences. A soul who lived only a few moments and did neither good nor evil would merit neither reward nor punishment. According to Christ's maxim that all are rewarded or punished according to their deeds, it would be both illogical and contrary to God's justice to believe that, without having worked for it, such a soul would be called to enjoy the perfect bliss of the angels, or that it could be deprived of such; nevertheless, it must have some kind of fate. A combination of the two throughout eternity would also be an injustice. An existence interrupted at its beginning cannot thus have any consequences for the soul. Its current fate is the result of what it deserved from its previous existence; its future fate will be what it deserves in its later existences.

159. Do souls have occupations in the spirit life? Do they concern themselves with matters other than theirjoys or sufferings?

If souls were concerned only with themselves throughout eternity, that would be selfishness, and God, who condemns selfishness, would not approve in the spirit life what is punishable in the corporeal one. Souls or spirits have occupations in keeping with their degree of advancement while at the same time they seek to learn and improve themselves.

160. What do the sufferings of the soul consist of after death? Are guilty souls tortured in material flames?

The church nowadays realizes perfectly well that the fire of hell is mental and not physical; however, it does not define the nature of the sufferings. Spirit communications have brought them before our eyes. Through them, we can determine what these sufferings are, and we can be convinced that even though they are not the result of material fire - which in effect could not burn non-material souls - they are no less horrifying in certain cases. Such sufferings are not uniform and vary infinitely according to the nature and degree of the wrongs committed, and it is nearly always these very wrongs that serve as punishment. It is thus that certain murderers are forced to remain at the place of their crime and to see their victims continuously in front of them; that persons of sensualistic and materialistic tastes retain these same tastes, and the impossibility of physically satisfying them is true torture; that misers believe they are suffering from the cold and the privations they endured while alive because of their miserliness; that other misers remain close to the hoards they buried and experience unending anxiety out of the fear that they might get stolen; in other words, there is not one wrong, one moral imperfection, one evil act that does not have its counterpart and natural consequences in the world of spirits; hence, there is no need for a determined and circumscribed place: everywhere the wicked spirit goes, it carries its own hell with it.

Besides spiritual punishments, there are physical punishments and trials that the not-yet-purified spirit must endure in new incarnations, where it is placed in a position to bear what it made others bear: being humiliated if it had been proud, poverty stricken if it had misused its wealth, made unhappy by its child if it had been a bad child itself, etc. As we have stated, the earth is a place of exile and expiation - a purgatory — for spirits of that nature. It will depend on each one not to have to return, seeking to improve itself enough to deserve going to a better world.

161. Is prayer beneficial for suffering souls?
Prayer is recommended by all good spirits; moreover, it is asked for by imperfect spirits as a means of relieving their suffering. The soul who is prayed for experiences relief because it is a display of interest, and the unfortunate soul is always relieved when it encounters caring hearts that show compassion for its pain. Also, prayer stimulates repentance and the desire to do what it must to be happy; thus, prayer can shorten its punishment, if, on its part, the suffering soul seconds it through its own goodwill.

162. What do the pleasures of blissful souls entail? Do such spirits spend eternity in contemplation?

Justice demands that the reward be proportional to the merit, just as the punishment to the gravity of the wrong; hence, there are infinite degrees in the pleasures of the soul from the moment it enters the path of the good until it attains perfection.

The blissfulness of good spirits entails the knowledge of all things and not having any hatred, jealousy, envy, ambition or any of the other passions that make human beings unhappy. The love that unites them is for them the source of supreme bliss. They do not experience the needs, suffering or anxieties of physical life. A state of unending contemplation would be a senseless and monotonous happiness proper for a selfish spirit, since its existence would be one of unlimited uselessness. Spirit life, on the contrary, is one of ceaseless activity because of the missions that spirits receive from the Supreme Being as his agents in the governance of the universe; missions that are in keeping with their advancement and that they are happy to fulfill since they furnish them with opportunities to make themselves useful and to do the good.

Comment: We invite the adversaries of Spiritism and those who do t not accept reincarnation to provide a more logical solution to the problems discussed above by using a principle other than that of the plurality of existences.

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