What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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100. In light of the uncertainty concerning revelations made by spirits, one might ask: So what good is the study of Spiritism, after all?

It is useful to materially prove the existence of the spirit world.

Since the spirit world is composed of the souls of those who used to live on the earth, it proves the soul's existence and its survival of the body.

The souls who manifest reveal their joys and their sufferings according to the way their earthly life was lived, which thus proves the notion of future rewards and punishments.

As souls or spirits describe their state and their situation, they correct erroneous ideas made regarding the future life, and especially the nature and duration of punishments.

Consequently, the future life goes from being a vague and uncertain theory to being a consummate and positive fact, which results in the need to labor as much as possible during our short, present life on behalf of our everlasting future life.


Let us imagine that a 20-year-old man is certain that he will die at 25. What will he do during those five years? Will he labor for the future? Surely not. He will make every effort to enjoy himself to the utmost and would think it wrong to impose meaningless fatigue and privation on himself. However, if he is certain that he is going to live to be 80, he will act otherwise because he will understand the need to sacrifice a few moments of repose in the present to ensure repose in the future for several years. The same would be the case for anyone for whom the future life is an uncertainty.

Doubt about the future life naturally leads people to yield completely to the pleasures of the present; hence the excessive importance given to material wealth.

The importance given to material wealth arouses covetousness, envy and jealousy in those who have little vis-a-vis those who have much. From covetousness to the desire to obtain at any cost what their neighbor possesses, there is only one small step; hence the hatred, disputes, lawsuits, wars and all the ills engendered by selfishness.

With doubt about the future, people who are oppressed during this life by sadness and misfortune see death as the only end to their suffering. Hoping for nothing more, they think it is rational to shorten it through suicide.

Without hope in the future, it is quite natural for people to be affected and become desperate from the disappointments they experience. The violent jolts they feel as a result resonate in their minds, the cause of most cases of insanity.

Without the future life, the present one is ofcrucial importance to people, the sole object of their concerns, and they relate everything to it. That is why they want at any price to enjoy not only material wealth but honors; they aspire to stand out, to rise above others and to eclipse their neighbor by means of ostentation and status; hence the unbridled ambition and importance they give to titles and all the futilities of self-centeredness, for which they would sacrifice even their honor because they see nothing else beyond it.

Certainty about the future life and its consequences completely changes the order of people's ideas and enables them to see matters from a different perspective; the veil is lifted and they discover an immense and splendid horizon. In light of the infinite and the grandeur of the life beyond the grave, the present life vanishes like a second before the centuries, like a grain of sand before the mountain. Thus, everything else becomes small and petty, and they marvel at the importance once given to matters so ephemeral and childish; hence, in the events of life, a calm tranquility appears, which is already happiness in comparison to the worries and torments people impose on themselves when trying to rise above others; the same applies for vicissitudes and disappointments, to which they become indifferent. By removing any hint of despair, it prevents numerous cases of insanity and diverts the thought from suicide. With certainty about the future, individuals can hope and resign themselves; with doubt about it, they lose patience because they expect nothing beyond the present.

From the examples of those who used to live, people are shown that the sum of future happiness is the result of the moral progress achieved and the good that has been done while on earth; that the sum of future unhappiness is the result of the sum of the vices and bad deeds; consequently, in all those who are well convinced of this truth, there is a wholly natural inclination to do good and avoid evil.

When the majority of people are imbued with this idea, when they profess these principles and practice the good, the result will be that the good will win out over evil in this world; that people will no longer seek to harm one another; that they will govern their social institutions for the good of all and not for the privilege of the few; in other words, they will understand that the law of charity taught by Christ is the fount of happiness even while in this world, and they will base their civil laws on the law of charity.

The awareness of the spirit world that surrounds us and its action'upon the corporeal world reveals one of the powers of nature, and consequently the key to a multitude of incomprehensible phenomena both in the physical and mental realms.

Once science recognizes this new power, unknown to it even today, it will correct a multitude of errors that have arisen from attributing everything to one sole cause: matter. The acknowledgement of this new cause in nature's phenomena will be a lever for progress and will produce the effect of discovering an entirely new agent. With the help of Spiritist law, science's horizon will broaden, just as it broadened with the help of the law of gravity.

Once scholars from atop their cathedras start proclaiming the existence of the spirit world and its actions on life's phenomena, they will instill in our youth the counterweight to materialist ideas, instead of predisposing them to denying the future.

In their lessons on classical philosophy, professors teach the existence of the sou! and its attributes according to the various schools of thought, but without any material proof. Isn't it strange that now that such proofs have appeared, they are rejected and regarded as superstitious by these same professors? Aren't they telling their students: We teach you the existence of the soul, but there is nothing that proves it? When a scholar transmits a tlieory on a scientific matter, he or she zealously seeks and happily gathers all the data that may prove the theory true. So, how could a professor of philosophy, whose duty it is to prove to his or her students that they have a soul, regard with disdain the means of providing them with a patent demonstration?

101. Let us say that spirits are incapable of teaching us anything that we don't already know or that we cannot find out about by ourselves; even then, the mere proof of the spirit world's existence should be enough to bring about a revolution in thought. Now, a revolution in thought necessarily leads to a revolution in the order of things, and it is this revolution that Spiritism is preparing.

102. But spirits have done more than this. If their revelations are surrounded by certain problems and demand detailed precautions for them to be verified precisely, it is no less true that enlightened spirits — when we know how to question them and when they are permitted — can reveal unknown facts to us, provide us with explanations of incomprehensible things and place us on a more rapid path of progress. It is in this, especially, that the complete and careful study of the Spiritist science is indispensable in order not to ask of it what it cannot give; overstepping its bounds is what exposes us to being deceived.

103. The smallest causes can produce the largest effects; thus it is that, from a small seed arises a huge tree; that the fall of an apple leads to the discovery of the law that governs worlds; that frogs twitching on a plate revealed the galvanic force; it was also thus that, from the ordinary phenomenon of the turning tables arose proof of the invisible world, and from such proof a doctrine that in just a few years has crossed the world and can regenerate it simply by providing evidence for the reality of the future life.

104. In conformance with the axiom that there is nothing new under the sun, Spiritism teaches little in way of absolutely new truths. There are no absolute truths except those that are eternal; since they are founded upon the laws of nature, such truths, taught by Spiritism, have therefore existed throughout all ages. There, we can find the seeds that a more complete study and more careful observation have developed further. The truths taught by Spiritism are thus consequences rather than discoveries.

Spiritism has neither discovered nor invented spirits, nor has it discovered the spirit world, which has been believed in throughout all ages; it has only demonstrated it by means of physical phenomena and has shown it in its true light, thereby freeing it from the prejudices and superstitious ideas that have engendered doubt and disbelief.

Comment: Although incomplete, these explanations are enough to show the basis upon which Spiritism rests, the character of the manifestations, and the degree of trust that they may inspire according to the circumstances.

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