What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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Visitor - Certain people regard Spiritist ideas as likely to disturb the mental faculties, and for that reason they think it prudent to stop its expansion.

A.K. - You know the proverb: When you want to kill a dog, you say it is rabid. So it isn't surprising that the enemies of Spiritism try to lean on any pretext they can. Such a ploy to arouse fear and susceptibilities seemed right to them, and so they eagerly seized upon it; however, their argument collapses under the slightest scrutiny. Consequently, one should look at this "insanity" as the reasoning of the insane.

All great preoccupations of the mind can produce insanity; the sciences, the arts - even religion itself— have provided their fair share. The source of insanity lies in a pathological condition of the brain, the instrument of thought: when the instrument is damaged, thought is impaired. Thus, insanity is a consequential effect, whose primary cause is an organic predisposition that makes the brain susceptible in varying degrees to certain impressions. This is so true that there are people who think a great deal, yet do not go mad, and others that go mad under the influence of the slightest over- excitement. Whenever there is a predisposition toward insanity, it will take on the character of its main concern, which then becomes an idee fixe. This idee fixe can involve spirits in someone who is preoccupied with spirits, just as it can involve God, angels, the Devil, fortune, power, an art, a science, motherhood, a political or social theory. It is probable that the religious insane would become insane Spiritists ifSpiritism happened to be their dominant fixation. Its' true that a newspaper stated that in only one place in America _ I cannot recall the name — there were four thousand cases of Spiritist insanity; however, we know that amongst our adversaries it is an idee fixe that they consider themselves to be the only ones gifted with reason, and that is a mania like any other. In their eyes, we all deserve to be in an insane asylum, and consequently, those four thousand Spiritists must be crazy as well. If that is the case, the United States has hundreds of thousands of them, and all the other countries in the world an even greater number. This bad tale started to make its rounds after it was noticed that this so-called insanity had reached the highest levels of society. A lot of noise was made about the well-known example ofVictor Hennequin, but we shouldn't forget that, before concerning himself with Spiritism, he had already demonstrated an unmistakable eccentricity of ideas. If table turning had not happened, which, according to our adversaries' very witty play on words made his head turn, his insanity would have taken another course.

So I will say that Spiritism is in no way privileged in this regard; but I will go even further: I will say that, when well understood, it is actually a protection against insanity and suicide.

Among the most frequent causes of brain over-excitation we must include disappointment, misfortune and thwarted affections, which are also the most frequent causes of suicide. True Spiritists, however, see the things of this world from such a comprehensive point of view that for them troubles are nothing more than the disagreeable incidents of a journey. That which might cause a violent emotion in others barely affects Spiritists at all. They know, moreover, that life's sufferings are trials that aid their advancement if they bear them without complaining because they will be rewarded according to the courage with which they have endured them. Their convictions thus endow them with a resignation that saves them from despair, and consequently, from an ongoing cause of insanity and suicide. Also, because of what they have seen through communications with spirits, they also know of the deplorable fate of those who intentionally shorten their days, and this picture serves well to make them reflect; hence, the number of those who have opted against choosing that disastrous slope is considerable. This is just one of the results of Spiritism.

To the number of the causes of insanity we must also add fear, and fear of the Devil has deranged more than one mind. Do we perchance know the number of victims created by frightening feeble imaginations with this depiction, made even more frightful with hideous details? The Devil, they say, not only scares children but is also a restraint for them to be good; yes, exactly like the bogey-man and the werewolf, and once they are no longer afraid of them, they become even more ill-behaved than before. And for such a fine result, no one has counted the number of fits caused by the shock to a delicate mind.

We mustn't confuse pathological insanity with obsession. The latter doesn't originate from any sort of brain injury, but from the control that malevolent spirits exert over certain individuals, and which sometimes has the appearance of insanity per se. This malady, which has nothing to do with any belief in Spiritism, is very common and has always existed. Ordinary medication is powerless and even harmful in such a case. Spiritism has made this new cause of the disorder known while at the same time offering the only way t0 overcome it by acting not on the patient, but on the obsessor spirit. It is the remedy for, and not the cause of the ailment.

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