What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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144. How does the soul's separationfromthe body occur? Does it occur suddenly or gradually? The souls liberation occurs gradually and at varying degrees of slowness according to individuals and the circumstances of their deaths. The bonds that used to unite the soul to the body are broken only litde by litde; the separation occurs less quickly if the person's life was more materialistic and sensually inclined.

145. What is the soul's situation immediately after the death of the body? Is it instantly aware of itself? In other words, what does it see? What does itfeel?

At the moment of death, at first everything is confused. The soul needs some time to get a hold of itself. It is dazed and in the state of someone awakening from a deep sleep, trying to understand his or her situation. As the influence of the matter from which it has just freed itself wears off, and the sort of fog that obscures its thoughts dissipates, the lucidity of ideas and the memory of its past return.

The duration of this state of confusion varies greatly; it may last only a few hours or several days, months or even years. It is shorter for those who during life identified with their future state because they immediately understand their situation; it is longer for those who lived more materialistically.

The sensations that the soul feels at this time also vary greatly. The confusion following death is not at all painful for morally upright persons; it is calm and in every way resembles the sensation that accompanies a peaceful awakening. For those whose conscience is not clean and who are more bound to the corporeal than the spiritual life, it is full of anxiety and distress, which increase as they regain their self-awareness. They are overcome with fear and a sort of dread at what they see, and especially of what they foresee.

The sensation that may be termed physical is one of great relief and immense well-being; the spirit feels relieved of a burden and very happy at no longer feeling the corporeal pain experienced a few moments before; at feeling free, liberated, detached and alert, as if it had been freed from heavy chains.

In its new situation, the soul sees and hears what it saw and heard before death, but it also sees and hears other things that are beyond the coarse bodily organs. It experiences sensations and perceptions unknown to us.

Comment: These responses, as well as all those having to do with the soul's situation after death or during life, are not the result of a theory or system but of direct studies of thousands of individuals observed in every phase and period of their spirit existence, from the lowest to the highest degree of the hierarchy, and according to their habits during their earthly life, the kind of death, etc. When speaking of the spirit life, it is often stated that no one knows what happens there because no one has ever returned from it. That is a mistake because it is precisely those who are there who have come to instruct us, and God is allowing it more nowadays than ever before as a final warning to disbelief and materialism.

146. After the soul has left the body, does it see God?
The soul's perceptive faculties are proportional to its purification; only highly purified souls may enjoy God's presence.

147. If God is everywhere, why can't all spirits see him?
God is everywhere because God radiates everywhere, and one could say that the universe is immersed in divinity, just as we ourselves are immersed in the sun's light. But less evolved spirits are surrounded by a sort of fog that hides it from their eyes, and which dissipates only as they purify and dematerialize themselves. From the visual point of view, low order spirits are, in relation to God, like incarnates in relation to spirits: truly blind.

148. After death, is the soul aware of its individuality? What evidence is there and how can we prove it?

If souls did not retain their individuality after death, it would be both for them and for us as if they did not exist at all, and the moral consequences would be exactly the same. They would have no distinctive characteristics and criminals would be on the same level as morally upright individuals, which would mean that no one would have any interest in doing good.

In mediumistic manifestations, the soul's individuality is disclosed in a material manner, so to speak, by the language and qualities characteristic to each soul. Since they all think and act differently, some are good and others evil, some learned and others ignorant, some want what others do not; this is obvious proof that they are not merged into a homogenous whole. This goes without mentioning the obvious proofs they have provided us of having animated this or that particular individual while on earth. Thanks to experimental Spiritism, proof of the soul's individuality is no longer a vague concept but a result of observation.

The soul itself proves its individuality because its own thoughts and will are distinct from those of others. It also proves it by means of its fluidic envelope or perispirit, a sort of limited body that makes it a separate being.

Comment: Some people think they can escape the criticism of materialism by believing in a universal intelligent principle, a portion of which we absorb at birth and which comprises the soul, and which we give back after death to the common mass, into which our souls blend like drops ofwater in the ocean. This theory - a sort of transition - does not deserve the name spiritualism, because it is as hopeless as materialism. The common reservoir of the Universal Whole would be the same as nothingness since there would be no more individualities there.

149. Does the kind of death influence the state of the soul?
The state of the soul varies considerably according to the kind of death, but especially according to the nature of its habits during its earthly life. In natural death, the disengagement occurs gradually and without shock, and frequently begins even before the body's life is extinguished. In violent death through suicide, capital punishment or accident, the ties are broken all of a sudden; surprised by this occurrence, it becomes greatly confused by the change that has taken place in itself and cannot comprehend its situation. One fairly constant phenomenon in such cases is that the spirit is not convinced that death has occurred, and this delusion can last several months or years. While in this state, it comes and goes, looking after its affairs as if it were still in this world, but it is very perplexed when no one responds when it speaks. This delusion does not apply exclusively to violent deaths, however; it may be found in many individuals whose life was absorbed by materialistic pleasures and interests.58

150. Where does the spirit go after having left the body?
It does not become lost in the immensity of the infinite as is generally believed. It is in the errant59 state in the spirit world, and most frequently it finds itself amongst those it used to know, and especially amongst those it used to love, as it is able to travel instantly over great distances.

151. Does the soul retain its affectionsfom earth?
It retains all of its moral affections; it forgets only the material affections that are no longer important to it. That is why it joyously comes to see its relatives and friends once again, and is happy that they have remembered it.

152. Does the soul retain any memory of what it did while on the earth? Is it still interested in the endeavors it left unfinished?

That depends on how evolved it is and the nature of its endeavors. Dematerialized spirits care little about material matters and are happy to be free of them. As for the endeavors they had begun, according to their importance and usefulness, they sometimes inspire others with the thought of finishing them.

153. In the spirit world, does the soul once again meet the relativesandfriends whoprecededit?

Not only does it meet them, but it also meets many others it used to know in its previous existences. Usually, those for whom it held the most affection come to welcome it on its return to the spirit world, and they help it free itself from its earthly bonds. However, being denied meeting their loved ones once again is sometimes a punishment for guilty spirits.

154. In the other life, what is the intellectual and moral state of children who died at a very young age? Are theirfaculties still as child- like as they were while incarnate? The incomplete development of the organs of such children did not enable their spirits to manifest completely; once freed from their envelope, their faculties are as they were prior to incarnating. Since their spirits spent only a few moments physically alive, their faculties could not have changed.

Comment: In spirit communications, the spirit of a child can therefore speak as that of an adult because it could be a highly advanced spirit. If it sometimes assumes child-like language, it does so in order not to deprive its mother of the enchantment of a fragile, delicate being adorned with all the grace of innocence.

The same question may be asked regarding the intellectual state of the souls of mentally impaired and insane persons after death; the answer lies in the aforementioned.

155. After death, what is the difference between the souls of learned individuals and unlearned ones, and between the souls of primitives and civilizedpersons?

Approximately the same difference as between them during life, for entering the spirit world does not endow the soul with all the knowledge it lacked while on the earth.

156. Do soulsprogress intellectually and morally after death? They progress more or less so, according to their will; some progress significantly, but they need to put into practice during the corporeal life what they have acquired in knowledge and morality. Souls who remain stationary return to an existence similar to the one they left, whereas those who have progressed merit an incarnation of a higher level.

Since progress is proportional to the spirit's will, there are spirits who for a long time retain the tastes and inclinations they had during life, and who pursue the same ideas.

157. Is apersonsfate in theftture life irrevocably sealed after death?
The irrevocable sealing of a person's fate after death would be a complete negation of God's goodness and justice because there are many who did not depend on their own efforts to educate themselves sufficiently - not to mention mentally impaired and primitive individuals, and the countless children who die before having experienced life. Even among educated persons there are many who might think they are sufficiently perfected to be exempt from doing anything more; but is this not manifest proof that God gives of his goodness, allowing a person to do the next day what he or she did not do the day before? If fate is irrevocably sealed, why do people die at such differing ages, and why does not God, out of divine justice, allow everyone time to do the best possible or to repair the evil they have done? How can one be sure that a blameworthy person who died at thirty years of age would not have repented and have become a moral person if he or she had lived to be sixty? Why would God deny him or her such an opportunity when God gives it to others? "By itself, the fact of the diversity of life's duration and the moral state of most people proves the impossibility — if one believes in God's justice — that the soul's fate is irrevocably sealed after death.

158. In thefuture life, what is thefate of children who died at a very young age?

This question is one of those that best demonstrates the justice and need of the plurality of existences. A soul who lived only a few moments and did neither good nor evil would merit neither reward nor punishment. According to Christ's maxim that all are rewarded or punished according to their deeds, it would be both illogical and contrary to God's justice to believe that, without having worked for it, such a soul would be called to enjoy the perfect bliss of the angels, or that it could be deprived of such; nevertheless, it must have some kind of fate. A combination of the two throughout eternity would also be an injustice. An existence interrupted at its beginning cannot thus have any consequences for the soul. Its current fate is the result of what it deserved from its previous existence; its future fate will be what it deserves in its later existences.

159. Do souls have occupations in the spirit life? Do they concern themselves with matters other than theirjoys or sufferings?

If souls were concerned only with themselves throughout eternity, that would be selfishness, and God, who condemns selfishness, would not approve in the spirit life what is punishable in the corporeal one. Souls or spirits have occupations in keeping with their degree of advancement while at the same time they seek to learn and improve themselves.

160. What do the sufferings of the soul consist of after death? Are guilty souls tortured in material flames?

The church nowadays realizes perfectly well that the fire of hell is mental and not physical; however, it does not define the nature of the sufferings. Spirit communications have brought them before our eyes. Through them, we can determine what these sufferings are, and we can be convinced that even though they are not the result of material fire - which in effect could not burn non-material souls - they are no less horrifying in certain cases. Such sufferings are not uniform and vary infinitely according to the nature and degree of the wrongs committed, and it is nearly always these very wrongs that serve as punishment. It is thus that certain murderers are forced to remain at the place of their crime and to see their victims continuously in front of them; that persons of sensualistic and materialistic tastes retain these same tastes, and the impossibility of physically satisfying them is true torture; that misers believe they are suffering from the cold and the privations they endured while alive because of their miserliness; that other misers remain close to the hoards they buried and experience unending anxiety out of the fear that they might get stolen; in other words, there is not one wrong, one moral imperfection, one evil act that does not have its counterpart and natural consequences in the world of spirits; hence, there is no need for a determined and circumscribed place: everywhere the wicked spirit goes, it carries its own hell with it.

Besides spiritual punishments, there are physical punishments and trials that the not-yet-purified spirit must endure in new incarnations, where it is placed in a position to bear what it made others bear: being humiliated if it had been proud, poverty stricken if it had misused its wealth, made unhappy by its child if it had been a bad child itself, etc. As we have stated, the earth is a place of exile and expiation - a purgatory — for spirits of that nature. It will depend on each one not to have to return, seeking to improve itself enough to deserve going to a better world.

161. Is prayer beneficial for suffering souls?
Prayer is recommended by all good spirits; moreover, it is asked for by imperfect spirits as a means of relieving their suffering. The soul who is prayed for experiences relief because it is a display of interest, and the unfortunate soul is always relieved when it encounters caring hearts that show compassion for its pain. Also, prayer stimulates repentance and the desire to do what it must to be happy; thus, prayer can shorten its punishment, if, on its part, the suffering soul seconds it through its own goodwill.

162. What do the pleasures of blissful souls entail? Do such spirits spend eternity in contemplation?

Justice demands that the reward be proportional to the merit, just as the punishment to the gravity of the wrong; hence, there are infinite degrees in the pleasures of the soul from the moment it enters the path of the good until it attains perfection.

The blissfulness of good spirits entails the knowledge of all things and not having any hatred, jealousy, envy, ambition or any of the other passions that make human beings unhappy. The love that unites them is for them the source of supreme bliss. They do not experience the needs, suffering or anxieties of physical life. A state of unending contemplation would be a senseless and monotonous happiness proper for a selfish spirit, since its existence would be one of unlimited uselessness. Spirit life, on the contrary, is one of ceaseless activity because of the missions that spirits receive from the Supreme Being as his agents in the governance of the universe; missions that are in keeping with their advancement and that they are happy to fulfill since they furnish them with opportunities to make themselves useful and to do the good.

Comment: We invite the adversaries of Spiritism and those who do t not accept reincarnation to provide a more logical solution to the problems discussed above by using a principle other than that of the plurality of existences.

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