What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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Visitor — You speak of good or evil, serious or frivolous spirits; I must admit that I do not understand this difference. It seems to me that, upon leaving their corporeal envelope, they must shed the imperfections inherent to matter; that light must shine for them regarding all the truths that are hidden from them, and that they surely must be free of earthly prejudices.

A.K. - Of course they are free of physical imperfections, that is, bodily illnesses and infirmities; however, moral imperfections have to do with the spirit and not the body. Among their numbers are those who are intellectually and morally advanced to varying degrees. It would be a mistake to believe that after having left their material bodies, spirits are suddenly struck with the light of truth. Do you believe, for example, that when you die, there will be no difference between your own spirit and that of a primitive or an evildoer? If that were so, what good would it have done to have worked on your education and improvement since a villain would be just like you after death? Spirits progress only gradually and sometimes very slowly. Some of them - and this depends on their purification - see things from a more correct point of view than during their physical life; on the other hand, others still have the same passions, the same prejudices and the same misapprehensions until time and new trials enable them to enlighten themselves. Be well aware that this is the result of experience because this is the way they present themselves to us in their communications. Hence, it is an elementary principle of Spiritism that there are spirits of all levels of intelligence and morality.

Visitor - But then, why aren't all spirits perfect? What you have said would seem to imply that God has created all sorts of categories.

A.K. - That would be like asking why all the students at a college are not philosophy majors. All spirits have the same origin and the same destiny. The differences among them do not constitute different kinds, but different degrees of advancement.

Spirits are not perfect, because they are the souls of human beings, and humans are not perfect; likewise, humans are not perfect, because they are the incarnation of spirits that are of varying degrees of advancement. The corporeal world and the spirit world are constantly intermingling; through the death of the body, the corporeal world supplies its contingent to the spirit world; through birth, the spirit world supplies humankind. With each new existence, the spirit accomplishes much or little progress, and when it has acquired on earth the full knowledge and moral elevation possible for our globe, it leaves it and goes to a more highly evolved world, where it learns new things.

The spirits who form earth's invisible population are in a way the reflection of the corporeal world; one finds there the same vices and the same virtues. Among them there are the learned, the ignorant, the pseudo-learned, the wise and the foolish, the philosophers, the thinkers, the theorizers. And since they haven't rid themselves of their prejudices, all political and religious factions have their representatives there. They speak according to their own ideas, and what they say is often nothing more than their personal opinion. That is why we must not blindly believe everything spirits say.

Visitor — If that is so, I can see a big problem. In this conflict of diverse opinions, how does one distinguish error from truth? I can't see what good spirits are to us or what we have to gain from communicating with them.

A.K. - If spirits served only to teach us that there are, in fact, spirits and that these spirits are the souls of humans, wouldn't that be of great importance to all those who doubt that they even have a soul, and who do not know what will become of them after death?

As with all philosophical sciences, this one demands lengthy study and meticulous observation in order for us to learn to distinguish the truth from falsehood and to keep deceitful spirits away. Above the throngs of low order spirits, there are high order ones, who have only the good in mind and whose mission is to lead people to the right path. It is up to us to know how to recognize and understand them. They teach us great things, but we mustn't think that studying the others is useless; in order to get to know the inhabitants of a place, we must observe them in all their aspects.

You yourself have proof of this; you thought that it was enough for spirits to leave their corporeal envelope to rid themselves of their imperfections. However, communications with them have taught us just the opposite, and have made us aware of the true state of the spirit world, something which is of a high degree of interest to all of us since we all have to go there. As for the errors that can arise from spirits' differences of opinion, these vanish by themselves once we learn to distinguish between the good and the evil, the learned and the ignorant, the sincere and the hypocritical, exactly as we do amongst ourselves; common sense exposes false doctrines.

Visitor — My observation arises from the point of view of scientific questions and others that we can put to the spirits. The differences in their opinions regarding the theories that divide scholars leave us in doubt. I can understand that since not all of them are knowledgeable to the same degree, they cannot all know everything. But then of what use could the opinions of those who do know be for us if we cannot tell who is right or wrong? It wouldn't matter if we addressed either humans or spirits.

A.K. - That thought is another result of not knowing Spiritism's true character. Those who think they can use it as an easy way to know everything, to discover everything, are greatly mistaken. Spirits are not responsible for bringing us ready-made knowledge. In fact, it would be too convenient if all we had to do was ask in order to be helped, thus sparing us the trouble of doing the research. God wants us to work, to exercise our thought, and we cannot acquire knowledge except at such price. Spirits do not come to exempt us from this necessity; they are what they are, and the object ofSpiritism is to study them in order to learn by analogy what we will become one day, and not to enable us to know what must remain hidden from us, or to reveal things before the proper time.

Furthermore, spirits can no longer be taken for fortune- tellers, and those who pride themselves on getting certain secrets from thetn should be prepared for strange deceptions on the part of mocking spirits. In other words, Spiritism is a science of observation and not a science of divination or speculation. We study it in order to understand the state of the individual inhabitants of the invisible world, the relationships between them and us, and their concealed actions on the visible world, and not for the material usefulness we can get from it. From this point of view, no ,study of any spirit is useless; we can learn something from all of them: their imperfections, flaws, inadequacies and even their ignorance are subjects of observation that initiate us into the study of the inner nature of that world. And when it is not they who educate us through their teachings, it is we who educate ourselves by studying them, just as we do when we study the customs of a people unknown to us.

As for enlightened spirits, they can teach us a great deal, but within the limits of what is possible, and we must not ask them what they cannot or must not reveal to us. We must be content with what they tell us; to want to go any further is to expose ourselves to the hoaxes of frivolous spirits, who are always ready to respond to anything. Experience teaches us how to discern the degree of trust we can put in them.

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