What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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70. One of the greatest dangers regarding mediumship is obsession,i.e. the control that certain spirits may have over mediums by imposing themselves on them with apocryphal names and by keeping them from communicating with other spirits. This is also a danger to the new and inexperienced observer, who, not being familiar with the characteristics of the phenomenon, may be fooled by appearances, like those who, not knowing medicine, may be mistaken about the cause and nature of a sickness. If prior study in this case is useful for observers, it is indispensable for mediums because it furnishes them the means of preventing a problem that could have regrettable consequences. That is why we feel that it is never too much to recommend studying before delving into the practiced


71. Obsession presents three main, well-characterized degrees: simple obsession, fascination and subjugation. In the first, mediums are perfectly aware that they are not receiving anything good and they are not mistaken about the nature of the spirits who insist on manifesting through them, and from whom they would love to disentangle themselves. This sort of case is not all that serious: it is only a mere inconvenience and the medium can get rid of it by not writing for a while. When the spirit tires of not being listened to, it leaves.

Obsessive fascination is much more serious in that the mediums are completely deluded. Spirits who control them gain their trust to the point of paralyzing their judgment in analyzing their communications and making them believe that the most absurd things are truly sublime.

The distinctive characteristics of this type of obsession is that of causing mediums to be excessively susceptible; to believe that only what they themselves write is good, just and true, rejecting and even regarding as evil all critical advice and every critical observation; to break off relations with their friends rather than admit that they have been deceived; to envy other mediums whose communications are deemed better than theirs; to want to control Spiritist meetings, which they leave if they cannot prevail. They end up suffering such overwhelming domination that the spirit can compel them to assume the most foolish and compromising attitudes.

72. One of the distinctive characteristics of evil spirits is that they impose themselves; they give orders and expect to be obeyed. Good spirits never impose themselves; they provide counsel and if they are not heeded, they withdraw. As a result, evil spirits leave a feeling that is grueling and tiring and which produces a sort of uneasiness; it frequently causes a feverish agitation, and brusque, irregular movements. Good spirits, on the other hand, leave a calming and gentle feeling that instills a sense of true well-being.

73- Obsessive subjugation, which used to be called possession, is a physical coercion exerted by spirits of the worst kind and it can even neutralize the obsessee's free will. It is often limited to simple disagreeable feelings, but sometimes it causes disorderly movements, foolish actions, screams or incoherent or offensive words. The mediums subject to it are at times aware of their ridiculous behavior but they can do nothing about it. This state differs essentially from pathological insanity, with which it is wrongly confused, because in obsessive subjugation there is no organic lesion; since the cause is different, the curative measures must also be different. Applying the standard procedures of douches and physical treatments to obsessive subjugation may often induce true insanity where there was nothing but a strictly moral cause to begin with.


74. In insanity per se, the cause of the problem is internal and it is necessary to try to reestablish the organism to its normal state. In subjugation, the cause is external and it is necessary to rid the patient of an invisible enemy by opposing it not with medications but with a moralpower superior to its own. Experience has shown that, in such a case, exorcisms have never produced a satisfactory result; they aggravate rather than improve the situation. By pointing out the true cause of the problem, only Spiritism can provide the means of combating it. The obsessor spirit must be educated morally, somehow; by means of wisely directed counsel, one can render it better morally and make it willingly renounce its torment of the patient, who is then liberated.


75. As a rule, obsessive subjugation is individual; however, when a phalanx of evil spirits invades a population, subjugations can take on an epidemic scale. One such phenomenon occurred at the time of Christ; only a powerful moral superiority could have dominated those malevolent beings called demons and reinstate their victims' peace of mind.


76. An important fact to consider is that obsession, whatever its nature, is independent of mediumship and may be found in every degree — especially the third kind - in a large number of individuals who have never even heard of Spiritism. In fact, since spirits have existed in every age, they must have exerted the same influence in every age. Mediumship is not a cause but only a means of manifesting such influence; hence, one can state with certainty that every obsessed medium must be enduring, in some way and frequently in the commonest acts of life, the effects of this influence, and that apart from mediumship it would express itself through other effects often, attributed to those mysterious illnesses that escape every investigation by medicine. By means of mediumship, the malfeasant being betrays its presence; without mediumship, it is a hidden enemy no one suspects.

77. Persons who cannot believe in anydung apart from matter cannot believe in a hidden cause, but when science finally emerges from its materialistic impasse, it will recognize, in the action of the invisible world that surrounds us and in the midst of which we live, a force that acts upon physical things as well as mental things. This will be the opening of a new road to progress and will provide the key to a multitude of wrongly understood phenomena.

78. Since obsession can never be caused by a good spirit, one essential point is that of knowing how to recognize the nature of the spirits who manifest. Unenlightened mediums can be deceived by appearances, whereas those who are prudent look out for the smallest signs of suspicion, and the spirit ends up withdrawing upon realizing there is nothing it can do. Prior understanding of the means of distinguishing between good and evil spirits is thus indispensable to mediums who do not want to expose themselves to being caught in a trap. It is no less indispensable to mere observers, who can thereby evaluate the worth of what they see and hear.

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