What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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1. It would be a mistake to think that witnessing a few extraordinary phenomena would be enough for certain disbelievers to be convinced. Those who cannot believe in a soul or spirit in the human being cannot believe in it outside the human being either. Consequently, by denying the cause, they deny the effect. Hence, they nearly always come with a preconceived idea and a negative stance that keeps them from making a serious and impartial observation. They ask questions and raise objections to which it is impossible to immediately respond completely, because it would be necessary to give a sort of course and to start from the beginning for each individual. The result of prior study is that it can respond beforehand to objections, the majority of which are founded on the ignorance of the cause behind the phenomena and the conditions in which they are produced.

2. Those who are unfamiliar with Spiritism believe that spirit phenomena can be produced in the same way that other phenomena can be produced in physics and chemistry experiments. Hence, their intention to subject them to their will and their refusal to place themselves in the conditions needed to observe them. Since in principle they do not believe in the existence and intervention of spirits - at least they do not understand their nature or their modes of action - they act as if they were dealing with raw matter and since they do not get what they were asking for, they conclude ' that there are no spirits after all.

If they would look at the issue from a different perspective, they would understand that spirits are human souls, that after death we ourselves will be spirits and that we too would be ill-disposed to serve as playthings to satisfy the fantasies of the curious.

3. Even though certain phenomena may be induced because they result from free intelligences, they are never at our complete disposal, no matter who we are, and whoever attempted to obtain them at will would be demonstrating either their ignorance or their bad faith. We must wait for the phenomena and understand them as they happen, and quite frequently it is at the moment when it is least expected that the most interesting and most conclusive incidents occur. Persons who seriously want to learn must therefore approach ! this subject - like all others - with patience and perseverance, and do everything that needs to be done; otherwise, they would be better off not to concern themselves with the matter.

4. Spiritist meetings meant for spirit manifestations do not always present the best conditions, whether for obtaining satisfactory results or for leading disbelievers to conviction; we must admit that there are meetings from which disbelievers leave less convinced than when they arrived, raising objections to those who talk to them about the serious nature of Spiritism by mentioning the often- ridiculous things they saw. They are no more logical than those who judge an art by the sketches of an apprentice, a person by his or her • caricature, or a Greek tragedy by a parody on it. Spiritism has its j students too, and persons who want to know more about it should ! not do so by drawing upon one sole source; only by examining and comparing can they arrive at a decision.

5. Frivolous meetings have grave consequences for beginners who attend them because they give them an erroneous idea of the character of Spiritism. Those who attend only meetings of this sort will never be able to take seriously something they see treated frivolously by the very persons who claim to be its adherents. Prior study will teach them to judge the importance of what they see and to separate the good from the bad.

6. The same line of reasoning applies to those who judge Spiritism by certain eccentric books that can give them only an incomplete and foolish idea of it. Authentic Spiritism is no more responsible for those who understand it badly or who practice it wrongly than poetry is responsible for those who write bad verse. It is deplorable that such works exist, they say, because they compromise the true science. Of course, it would be preferable for only good works to be available, but the greater error falls to those who do not go to the trouble to study the subject thoroughly. The same applies to all the arts and sciences. Even on the most serious subjects aren't there treatises that are absurd and packed full of errors? Why would Spiritism be any more privileged in this respect, especially at its beginning? If those who criticize it would stop judging it by its appearances, they would know what it accepts and what it rejects, and they would not accuse it of what it itself rejects in the name of reason and experience.

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