What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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Visitor - Before they delve into a prolonged course of study, some people would like to be certain that they will not be wasting their time, and certain that they will be provided with a conclusive fact, even if they have to pay for it.

A.K. - People who don't want to go to the trouble of studying display more curiosity than an actual desire to learn. Well, spirits don't like the curious any more than I do. Moreover, cupidity is especially disagreeable to them, and they don't lend themselves to anything that may satisfy it. One would have to have a very wrong idea of them to believe that highly evolved spirits such as Fenelon, Bossuet, Pascal or St. Augustine would submit to the orders of the first person who showed up and paid a certain amount per hour. No, sir; communications from beyond the grave are too serious and require too much respect to serve as exhibitions.

Moreover, we know that spirit phenomena do not function like the gears of some mechanism, because they depend on the will of the spirits. Even if a person does have a mediumistic faculty, he or she cannot claim to be able to obtain spirit phenomena at any given moment. If disbelievers are inclined to suspect the good faith of mediums in general, it would be much worse if mediums harbored a desire of profit. They would have good reason to suspect that paid mediums would simulate the phenomena when spirits were not actually present because their main concern would be getting paid. Not only is absolute disinterest the best guarantee of authenticity, it would be repugnant to our reason to ask the spirits of our loved ones to come for a price - even supposing they would consent to it, which is more than doubtful. In any case, it would involve only low order spirits who were unscrupulous as to the means and undeserving of any trust. Furthermore, such spirits often take malicious pleasure in foiling the schemes and calculations of those who try to control thern at will.


The nature of the mediumistic faculty is thus opposed to its becoming a profession, since the faculty depends on a will foreign to the medium; and it can fail to manifest at the moment the medium needs It most, unless he or she can supply it with skilful dexterity. But even admitting complete good faith, since phenomena cannot be obtained at will, it would be by sheer chance if during a paid session a phenomenon were produced because of a desire to be convinced. We could give a hundred thousand francs to a medium and we wouldn't enable him or her to get the spirits to do what they didn't want to do. This enticement not only distorts the intention and transforms it into an intense desire for profit, but quite to the contrary, it is a reason for the medium not to be successful. If we are well imbued with this truth, that is, that affection and affinity are the most powerful incentives for attracting spirits, we will understand that they cannot be solicited with the thought of being used to make money.

Therefore, those who need phenomena to be convinced should prove their goodwill to the spirits by means of serious and patient observation if they want to be assisted by them. But if it is true that faith cannot be imposed, it is no less true that it cannot be bought.

Visitor - I can understand this line of reasoning from a moral point of view; however, isn't it fair for those who give their time to the interest of their cause to be compensated for it if it keeps them from working for a living?

A. K. - In the first place, are they really doing it in the interest of their cause, or are they doing it for their own gain? If they did leave their job, it was because they were not satisfied with it, and because they hope to earn more or work less at their new one. There is no self-sacrifice in giving one's time when it can lead to making a profit from it. That would be like saying that the baker makes bread in the interest of humankind. Mediumship isn't the only resource open to them; without it, they would have to earn their living some other way. When they do not have independent means, truly serious and devoted mediums look for ways to earn a living with regular work, and they do not give up their jobs. They devote only as much time as they can to their mediumship without jeopardizing themselves, and if they do so voluntarily in their leisure time or rest, it is simply devotion on their part; they are thus valued and respected all the more for it.

Furthermore, the large number of family mediums makes professional mediums unnecessary, even supposing that they offer all the desirable guarantees, a fact that is extremely rare. Without the discredit that is attributed to this kind of exploitation - a discredit I am happy to have contributed to extensively - we would have seen mediums for hire multiply and newspapers covered with their advertisements. For each honest medium, there would have been a hundred charlatans who, by exploiting an authentic or simulated faculty, would have done great harm to Spiritism. It is therefore a given that all those who see in Spiritism something beyond an exhibition of curious phenomena, and who understand and value the dignity, consideration and genuine interests of the doctrine, condemn every type of speculation in whatever form or disguise it presents itself. Serious and sincere mediums - and I give this name to those who understand the sanctity of the mandate that God

has entrusted to them - avoid even the appearance of what might suggest the slightest hint of cupidity casting its shadow over them. The accusation of making any profit with their faculty would be regarded by them as an insult.

Complete disbeliever that you are, you must admit, sir, that mediums with such conduct would make an entirely different impression on you than if you had paid for your seat to see them operate, or, in the event you had been given free admission, if you knew that behind it the purpose was money. You must admit that if you saw mediums animated by a true religious sentiment, stimulated only by faith and not by the desire for profit, they would unwittingly command your respect, even if they were from the humblest working class. They would inspire you with more trust because you would have no reason to doubt their honesty. Well, sir, you can find thousands of them, and it is one of the causes that have contributed powerfully to the credit and spread of the doctrine, whereas if it had had only interpreters interested in making a profit, it would not have a quarter of the adherents it has today.

It is well-known that professional mediums are extremely rare, at least in France; that they are unknown in most of the Spiritist centers in the country, where a reputation as mediums for hire would be enough for them to be excluded from any serious group. Furthermore, the job would not be very profitable for them due to the discredit they would cause and the competition of disinterested mediums, who may be found everywhere. To make up for it, whether it is the mediumistic faculty they lack or a shortage of clientele, there are the so-called mediums who use card games, egg whites, coffee grounds, etc., to satisfy every taste, hoping in this way and in the absence of spirits, to attract those who still believe in such foolishness. If they harmed only themselves, the evil would be minor; but there are individuals who, without going any farther, mistake the abuse for the reality, and then the ill-intentioned take advantage of it by saying that that is what Spiritism is all about. So you can see that when the exploitation of mediumship leads to abuses that jeopardize the doctrine, serious Spiritism is right in condemning it and repudiating it as an aid.

Visitor — All that is very logical, I must agree, but non-paid mediums are not at just anybody's disposal; furthermore, it would not be right to bother them, whereas there would be no problem with going to someone who gets paid because it wouldn't make them waste their time. If there were public mediums, it would make it easier for people who wanted to be convinced.

A.K. - But if public mediums — as you call them — could not offer any guarantees, of what use could they be for convincing anyone? The drawback you have indicated, doesn't cancel out the other, more serious ones that I have mentioned. People would go to public mediums more for the sheer amusement of it or to have their fortunes told than to get enlightenment. Those who seriously wish to be convinced will find the means sooner or later
if they have perseverance and goodwill; however, they won't be convinced by attending a session if they haven't been prepared for it. If they take an unfavorable impression with them, they will leave even less convinced than before, and will perhaps put off the idea of pursuing the study of something in which they saw nothing serious; experience has proven this.

But aside from the moral considerations, the progress of today's Spiritist science has shown us a material difficulty that we did not suspect in the beginning, but which has made us more aware of the conditions in which manifestations are produced. This problem has to do with the fluidic affinities that must exist between the evoked spirit and the medium.

I put aside any thought of fraud and deception, and I presume complete honesty. In order for professional mediums to elicit full trust from the people who consult them, they would have to possess a permanent and universal faculty; that is, they would have to be able to communicate easily with any spirit and at any given moment; like doctors, they would have to be constantly at the publics disposal, and they would have to satisfy any evocation that might be asked of them. However, paid or not, mediums cannot offer such guarantees due to causes independent of the spirit's will, which I will not describe in-depth, because I am not giving you a course in Spiritism. I will limit myself to saying that fluidic affinities, which are the very basis for the mediumistic faculties, are individual and not general, and that the medium might have them regarding one particular spirit but not another; that without these affinities, whose nuances are very numerous, communications are incomplete, erroneous or impossible; that most frequently, the fluidic assimilation between the,spirit and the medium is established only over time, and only in one case out often is it established the very first time. So, as you can see, sir, mediumship is subject to laws that are in some way organic, and to which every medium is subject. Thus, you cannot deny that this would be an obstacle to professional mediumship, since the potential for precise communications is linked to causes independent of both the medium and the spirit. (See below, chap. II, sect. Concerning Mediums).

Therefore, if we reject the exploitation of mediumship, it is not because of caprice or principle, but because the very tenets that govern communications with the invisible world are opposed to the regularity and precision that would be required for those who would place themselves at the public's disposal, and because the desire to satisfy a paying clientele would lead to abuse. I would not conclude from all this that all mediums for hire are charlatans, but I would say that the interest in making a profit encourages charlatanism and at least warrants suspicion of fraud if it does not justify it outright. Those who wish to be convinced should, more than anything else, look for the elements of authenticity.

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