THE FLESH IS WEAK
THE SPIRITIST VIEW OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT
The flesh is weak – Sources of the spiritist doctrine of future punishment – Penal code of
the life to come
Among the vicious tendencies of humankind, there are some that are evidently inherent in the
soul, because they originate from the moral, rather than from the physical nature; others – such as the
predisposition to anger, laziness, sensuality, etc. – appear, rather, to be results of the human
organization, and, for this reason, human beings are apt to regard them as something for which they
are less responsible.
It is fully admitted, at the present day, by the philosophers of the spiritualist school, that the
cerebral organs, which correspond to the various mental aptitudes, owe their development to the
activity of the soul, and that, consequently, this development is an effect and not a cause. For instance,
a man is not a musician because he has the “bump” of music, but he has the “bump” of music simply
because his spirit is already a musician. And this is the reality behind all the other “bumps” and
If the activity of the human spirit reacts upon the brain with which an individual is associated
during earthly life, it must also react upon all the other parts of that individual’s organism. The spirit is
thus the artisan of its physical body, which it fashions, so to say, for itself, in order to fit it to its
needs and to the manifestation of its tendencies. This fact being admitted, we see that the improved
bodies of the more advanced races are not the product of distinct creations, but are a result of the more
enlightened action of the spirits incarnated in them, who improve their tools and their methods of
working in proportion as they develop their moral and intellectual faculties.
As a natural consequence of the principle alluded to, the moral qualities of each incarnated spirit
must modify the qualities of its blood and of all its other secretions, causing them to be produced in
more or less abundance, giving them more or less activity, etc. It is thus, for instance, that the sight of
a tempting dish brings a flow of saliva to the mouth of the lover of good cheer. In this case, it is not
the food that excites the organ of taste, for there is no contact between the food and the palate; the
flow of saliva is therefore caused by the direct action of the spirit whose sensuality is thus roused, and
who, by its thought, influences its palate, whereas the sight of the very same dainty produces, on some
other organism, no effect whatever. It is for the same reason that a person of a sensitive nature is quick
to shed tears; it is not the abundance of lachrymal fluid that renders a person sensitive, but the
sensitivity of its spirit that causes the abundant secretion of tears. Under the action of sensibility, the
organism, in the latter case, has molded itself upon the normal characteristic of the spirit, just as, in the
former case, it has molded itself on the spirit’s love of eating.
By following this train of thought, we understand how it is that an irascible spirit naturally
produces for itself a bilious temperament of body; whence it follows that human beings are not
passionate because they are bilious, but that they are bilious because they are passionate. It is the same
with all the other instinctive tendencies; weak and indolent spirits will leave their organism in a state
of weakness corresponding to their character, while energetic and active spirits will give to their
blood, their nerves, etc., qualities in harmony with the energy and activity of their nature. The action
of the spirit upon its physical envelope is so evident as to be incontestable, for we often see the most
serious organic disorders produced as the effect of some violent moral turmoil. The common remark,
“The shock turned his blood,” is by no means so void of truth, as is sometimes supposed; but what, in
such a case, has “turned” the man’s blood, if not the moral state of his spirit?
We must therefore admit that the temperament of each individual is determined, at least in part,
by the nature of his or her spirit, which is thus seen to be a cause and not an effect. We say, in part,
because there are cases in which the physical nature evidently exercises an influence on the moral
being; as, for instance, when a morbid or abnormal state of the latter is determined by some external or
accidental cause, independent of the spirit’s will, such as the temperature of the air, climate, inherited
tendencies to certain diseases, temporary illness, etc. In such cases, the moral state of a spirit may be
affected by the pathologic conditions of its body, without its intrinsic nature being in any degree
To excuse ourselves by throwing the blame of our wrongdoing on the weakness of the flesh is,
therefore, only an evasive attempt to escape the responsibility of our own misdeeds. The flesh is only
weak because the spirit is weak, a proposition that places the question on its true ground, and leaves
the spirit responsible for all its deeds during its earthly lifetime. The flesh, which has neither thought
nor will, has no mastery over the spirit, which is the being that thinks and wills; it is the spirit that
gives to the flesh the various qualities corresponding to its own instinctive tendencies, as the artist
stamps the imprint of her genius on her work. The spirit, who has freed itself from the instincts of
bestiality, fashions for itself a human body which opposes no tyrannous obstacles to the aspirations of
its spiritual nature; a human being thus incarnated, for instance, will eat to live, but will certainly not
live to eat.
All human beings are thus seen to be fully responsible for all the actions of their life; but reason
tells us that the consequences of this responsibility must necessarily be proportioned to the intellectual
development of the spirit of each individual. The more enlightened is the spirit, the less excusable will
it be if it goes amiss, because, with the development of the intellect and of the moral sense, the ideas
of good and evil, as well as of right and wrong, also become developed in the mind of a human being.
The action of the incarnated spirit upon its fleshly envelope explains the powerlessness of
medicine in certain maladies. The physical temperament being an effect and not a cause, it is evident
that, in many cases, the efforts made to modify it will be paralyzed by the moral state of the patient,
which interposes an unsuspected obstacle to medical treatment and paralyzes the action of the
remedies employed. It is, therefore, on the primary cause of a morbid physical state that we should act.
For example; if we could give courage to a coward, we should witness the immediate disappearance of
the physiological effects of fear; a consideration which shows us how necessary it is that those who
devote themselves to the healing art should take account of the action of the spiritual element on the
SOURCES OF THE SPIRITIST DOCTRINE OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT
The Spiritist Doctrine, in regard to the future punishment of wrongdoing, is no more founded on
a pre-conceived theory than are the other elements of that doctrine. Spiritism in all its proportions is
based on observation, and it is this fact which constitutes its certainty and its irrefragability. No one
had assumed, a priori, that the souls of men, after death, found themselves in such and such a situation;
it is those souls themselves, who, having quitted the earthly life, are now entering into communication
with us, in order to initiate us into the mysteries of the life beyond the grave, to describe to us the
happiness or unhappiness of their present state of existence, their impressions, and the transformation
undergone by them at the death of their body; in short, to complete, in regard to this matter, the
teachings of Christ.
The information thus arrived at has not been derived from the statements of a single spirit,
who might have observed the things of the other life solely from its own point of view under one and
the same aspect, or who might still have been under the sway of its earthly prejudices and
prepossessions; neither is it derived from a revelation made to a single individual, who might have
been deceived by appearances, nor from the visions of an ecstatic which are always more or less
illusory, and are often only the mirage of an excited imagination: * It is derived from the observation,
and statements, of innumerable spirits, of every category, from the highest to the lowest,32 with the aid
of innumerable intermediaries scattered over the entire globe. The new revelation, therefore, is not
being made exclusively through any one channel; all inquirers may see, and observe, for themselves;
and no one is obliged to base his or her belief on the statements of others.
* Vide chap. VI, No. 7, “The Spirits’ Book,” Nos. 443, 444
PENAL CODE OF LIFE TO COME
The spiritist doctrine, in regard to the consequences that await those who violate the divine
laws, in the life to come, is therefore no arbitrary or fanciful theory, but is a logical deduction from the
observation of facts made known to us by the statements of innumerable spirits; its principle points
may be summed up as follows:
1. Each discarnate spirit undergoes, in the spirit world, the consequences of the various
imperfections of which it has failed to cure itself during its earthly life. Its state in that world, whether
happy or unhappy, is the direct consequence of, and inherent in, the degree of its advancement or of its
2. Perfect happiness belongs, exclusively, to the state of perfection, that is to say, of the spirit’s
complete purification. Every imperfection is at once a source of suffering and the privation of an
enjoyment; and every acquisition of knowledge or of goodness brings with it an increase of enjoyment
and diminishes the sources of suffering.
3. Every imperfection of the soul produces its own inevitable share of suffering; and every good
quality produces, in virtue of the same law, its own natural, certain, share of happiness. The amount
of a spirit’s suffering is thus exactly proportioned to the degree of its imperfection; and the amount of
a spirit’s happiness is exactly proportioned to the degree of its intellectual and moral advancement.
A spirit who has still, say, ten imperfections to get rid of, suffers proportionately more than one
who has only three or four; when it has succeeded in ridding itself of a quarter, or half, of those
imperfections, it suffers proportionately less, and, when it has rid itself of the whole of them, the spirit
has got rid of every source of suffering, and is perfectly happy. It is just as it is upon the Earth with our
bodily ailments and imperfections; a person who has a complication of diseases suffers more than
another person who has but one disease; and if a person were perfectly healthy, it is evident that such
an individual would suffer no physical pain whatever. In the same way, the spirit who has acquired ten
good qualities has a proportionally greater amount of happiness than one who possesses fewer good
4. In virtue of the law of progress – each spirit having the power to acquire the good qualities
which it lacks and to rid itself of its bad ones, according to the spirit’s force of will and the amount of
effort it makes for that purpose – the gate of hope and happiness is open to every creature. God
repudiates none of God’s children; God receives them all into favor as they attain to the perfection of
their being, thus leaving to all of them the merit of their deeds.
5. Suffering being indissolubly connected with imperfection, and enjoyment with excellence,
the soul finds its own chastisement in itself, wherever it may be, and needs no circumscribed place as
the scene of its suffering. “Hell” is, consequently, wherever there are souls that suffer, as “Heaven” is,
wherever there are souls that are happy.
6. The good, or the evil, that we do is the result of the good or evil qualities possessed by our
spirit. Not to do all the good which we have the power to do is evidently the result of imperfection on
our part; and, consequently, as every imperfection is a source of suffering, a spirit suffers, not only for
all the evil it has done, but also for the good which it might have done, but did not do, during its
7. A spirit suffers through the evil that it has done, in order that, its attention being concentrated
on the consequences of that evil, the spirit may better understand its disastrous nature, and be led to
8. The justice of God being infinite, an exact account is kept, for each soul, of the good and the
evil done by it in the course of its earthly life. No evil deed, no evil thought, however slight, fails to
produce its own appropriate correction; but also, no good deed, however minute, no right feeling,
however fugitive, no virtuous aspiration, however faint, is ever overlooked, or ever remains sterile,
even in the case of the most depraved spirits; for they are the foundation of its reformation and
9. Every fault committed, every evil deed accomplished, is a debt that must be paid; if it be not
paid in the present earthly life it will be paid in the next one or in subsequent ones, because all the
lives of a spirit form a consecutive series, a whole, all the phases of which are a part and parcel of each
other. A spirit who pays its debt in the present life will not have to pay it in any future one.
10. A spirit undergoes the penalty of its defects both in the spirit world and in the life of the
flesh. All the tribulations, all the miseries, which we suffer in the earthly life are at once the
consequences of our own defects and expiations of faults that have been committed by us, either in our
present life or in some of our former existences.
By the nature of the sufferings and vicissitudes that we have to undergo in our present life, we
can judge of the nature of the faults committed by us in a preceding life, and of the imperfections to
which those faults were due.
11. The expiation of wrongdoing varies according to the nature and the gravity of the offences
committed; consequently, the same offence may entail different kinds and degrees of expiation in
different cases, according as it may have been attenuated, or aggravated, by the circumstances under
which it was committed.
12. In regard to the nature and duration of future correction, there is no absolute and uniform
rule; the only general law is this, viz., that every misdeed shall receive its just and appropriate
correction, and that every good deed shall receive its just and appropriate reward, exactly proportioned
to the action of which it is the consequence.
13. The duration of correction depends entirely on the more or less rapid self-amendment of the
spirit by whom it has been incurred. No spirit is ever condemned to any fixed term of correction. The
only conditions required by Providence, for the releasing of a guilty spirit from the sufferings of
expiation, are the spirit’s sincere return to a better mind, and its hearty determination to labor
steadfastly for the acquisition of wisdom and goodness.
Each spirit is thus, and always, the sole arbiter of its own condition; the spirit may prolong its
sufferings by hardening itself in evil, it may lessen them, or may put an end to them by its efforts to
advance in the path of rectitude.
The sentencing of spirits to any fixed term of correction would be open to the double objection
of prolonging, in some cases, the correction of a spirit after it has entered on a course of amendment,
and, in other cases, of relieving a spirit from punishment before it has entered on that course. God,
being just, corrects evil only so long as it continues to exist; God ceases to correct when the evil, that
had necessitated correction, has ceased to exist. * In other words, moral turpitude being, itself, the
cause of a spirit’s suffering, that suffering necessarily lasts as long as the moral turpitude, which is its
cause, continues to exist, but, as necessarily, diminishes its intensity as the spirit’s moral state
14. The duration of a spirit’s correction depending solely on its own delay in working out its
own inner reform, it follows that, if a spirit persisted forever in remaining wicked, it would remain
forever in a state of suffering, and that, consequently, in such a case, the spirit’s correction would be
15. One of the conditions inherent in a spirit’s moral inferiority is the inability to foresee the
end of its suffering, and this inability leads the spirit to believe that it will last forever. Accordingly,
guilty spirits are always found to be possessed with the idea that the chastisement they are undergoing
will be eternal. **
16. Repentance is the first step towards improvement; but repentance, alone, is not sufficient to
deliver the wrongdoer from the consequences of his or her wrongdoing; to effect this result, expiation
and reparation are also necessary.
Repentance, expiation, and reparation are the three conditions necessary for the effacing of a
fault and the suppression of its consequences.
Repentance mitigates the sufferings of expiation, because it opens the door to hope and paves
the way to rehabilitation; but it is only reparation that, by destroying the cause of our suffering, can
annul the suffering which is its effect; the granting of a free pardon to the wrong-doer would be
merely the granting of a favor and not an annulling of the cause and consequences of the person’s
17. Repentance may begin in the spirit-life or in the life of the flesh, and at any period; if a
spirit’s repentance is tardy, it suffers for a longer time.
Expiation consists in the sufferings, both physical and moral, that are the results of a spirit’s
wrong-doing – whether in the course of the same earthly life in which it has done wrong, or in the
phase of spirit-life succeeding it, or in a new earthly life – until all traces of the spirit’s wrong-doing
have been effaced.
Reparation consists in doing good to those whom we have wronged. Those who, through lack of
power or of will, do not make reparation, in a given life, for the wrongs they have done in that life,
will be brought again, in a new earthly life, into contact with the parties they have wronged in that
former life, and under conditions which they will themselves have chosen beforehand, and which will
have been contrived in such a way as to give them the opportunity of proving their devotion to them,
and of enabling them to do them as much good as they formerly did them harm.
There are faults of which individuals may be guilty, but which do not cause any direct and
personal injury to other people; in such cases, the reparation of a fault is accomplished in one or other
of the following ways: – by doing, in a subsequent incarnation, what they ought to have done, but did
not do, in a former one, whether by discharging duties which they neglected or did not see to be
incumbent on them, or by fulfilling missions which they failed to fulfill in that former life, or by
practicing the virtues which are the opposites of the vice in which they then indulged; that is to say, by
being humble if they have been haughty; gentle, if they have been harsh; kindly, if they have been
unkind; hardworking, if they have been idle; helpful, if they have been useless; temperate, if they have
been dissolute; setting a good example, if they have set a bad one; and so on. It is thus that a spirit
progresses by turning to profitable account the experiences and the lessons of his past existences ***
18. Spirits of slight advancement are excluded from the happier worlds whose harmony would
be impaired by their presence; they therefore remain in worlds of correspondingly low degree – where
they expiate their faults, and purify themselves from their imperfections – until they have acquired the
moral qualities which enable them to incarnate themselves in worlds of higher moral and physical
The conception of a circumscribed place of correction is admissible only as referring to the
worlds whose low degree of physical advancement places them, for the time being, in the category of
worlds of expiation, around which swarms of discarnate spirits of low degree are always found,
awaiting the new existences that will allow them to repair the evil they have done and will help them
19. A spirit always possesses his free-will, and its improvement is therefore sometimes slow and
its persistence in evil very tenacious. The spirit may, if it wills, persist in its wickedness for years or
for centuries; but a moment always comes when that spirit’s obstinacy in defying the Divine justice
breaks down under the continuance of suffering, and when, despite its foolhardiness, the spirit
confesses that the power which masters it is greater than its own. With the first glimmerings of its
repentance, a gleam of hope is sent, by the Divine pity, to console and encourage the returning
No spirit ever finds itself in the condition of being permanently incapable of improvement; were
it otherwise, some spirits would be fatally doomed to remain forever in a state of inferiority, and
would thus escape the action of the law of progress that regulates the destiny providentially imposed
on all the beings of Creation.
20. Whatever may be a spirit’s inferiority and perversity, God never abandons it. Every spirit
has its guardian angel who watches over it, takes note of every movement of its soul, and endeavors to
awaken in that spirit’s mind good thoughts and the desire to progress and to make reparation, in a new
existence, for the evil it has done. But this protecting guardian usually proceeds in its task occultly,
without bringing any pressure to bear on its ward. A spirit must work out its own betterment through
the action of its own will, and not as a consequence of any external constraint. The spirit does right, or
does wrong, of its free choice, and without its choice being decisively influenced either for good or for
evil. If the spirit takes the path of evil, it undergoes the consequences of its error as long as it continues
to follow the wrong road; as soon as that spirit takes a single step in the opposite direction, it begins, at
once, to experience the beneficial effect of its change of course.
Observation - It would be a mistake to imagine that the certainty of arriving, sooner or later, at
the state of perfection and happiness for which all spirits have been created, could encourage any spirit
to persevere in evil, with the idea of repenting at some future period, in the first place, because a spirit
of low degree is unable to foresee any termination of its present situation, and, in the second place,
because each spirit, being the artificer of its own unhappiness, always comes to perceive in the long
run, that it depends on itself to procure its cessation, that the longer it persists in evil the longer it will
remain unhappy, and that, consequently, its suffering will endure forever unless the spirit, itself, puts
an end to it. To go on sinning is, on the part of a spirit, to condemn itself, consciously and willfully, to
a continuance of suffering. But if, on the contrary, the gate of hope were irrevocably closed, according
to the doctrine of eternal punishment, against the suffering spirit, it would have no motive for
repenting and amending, which could be of no avail for it.
The law we are considering triumphantly refutes the objection that the Divine prescience, in
creating the souls that subsequently go wrong, cannot be allied to goodness. God, in creating a soul,
necessarily foresees whether, in virtue of its free will, it will take the right or the wrong road; God
knows that it will incur correction if it goes wrong; but God also knows that this temporary
chastisement is only a means for enabling it to understand its error, and for leading it into the right
road, by which, sooner or later, it will reach the goal. According to the doctrine of eternal punishment,
God, having known beforehand that such and such a soul would go wrong, created it with the
knowledge that, by calling it into being, God was condemning it, beforehand, to endless tortures.
21. Each spirit is responsible only for its own wrong-doing; no spirit is punished for the wrong-
doing of others, unless that spirit has been the cause of their doing wrong, either by leading them
astray, through its evil counsels or example, or by not helping them to do right when the spirit had the
opportunity of influencing them for their good.
For instance, those who commit suicide are always chastised for so doing; but those who, by
their unkindness, drive their fellow- creatures to despair and to self-destruction, incur chastisement
still more severe.
22. Although the chastisements of the spirit-world are infinitely various, there are some which
are inherent in the backwardness of the spirits, and which, being the consequences of that state of
inferiority, are, in the main, the same for all spirits of that degree.
The correction which is first experienced, especially among those who have attached themselves
too closely to the earthly life while neglecting the interests of their spiritual advancement, consists in
the slowness with which their soul effects its separation from the body, in the anguish which they feel
on dying and which accompanies their awakening in the other life, and in the prolongation of the
mental confusion so often attendant on dissolution, and which may continue for months and even for
years. In the case of those, on the contrary, whose conscience is clear, who, during their earthly life,
have identified themselves with the spiritual life and have detached their interests and affections from
the things of this world, the separation of the soul and the body is effected rapidly and without painful
shocks, the awakening into the other life is peaceful, and the mental confusion almost null.
23. Spirits of low moral advancement frequently fancy themselves to be still living the earthly
life; and this illusion may last for many years, during which they experience all the wants, all the
torments, and all the perplexities, incident to life in the flesh.
24. For criminals, the incessant sight of their victims, and of the places and circumstances of
their crimes, is the most harrowing of tortures.
25. Some spirits are plunged in utter darkness; others are in a state of complete isolation, alone
in the midst of immensity, tormented by the ignorance in which they find themselves with regard to
their whereabouts and the fate that may be awaiting them. Those who are the guiltiest are the prey of
torments that are all the more overwhelming from their being unable to foresee any termination of
their misery. Many are chastised by being deprived of the sight of those they love. All, as a general
rule, endure the sufferings they have caused others to endure, and with an intensity proportionate to
the intensity of the suffering they have caused; and they continue to endure this retributive suffering
until, through repentance and the desire to make reparation for the wrongs they have done, they obtain
the relief which comes of their growing perception of the possibility of putting an end, through their
own efforts, to the suffering they have brought upon themselves.
26. The torture of the proud is to see above them, surrounded and welcomed by the glorious
spirits of the higher spheres, those whose superiority they failed to see, and whose humbler position
they despised, when upon the Earth, while they find themselves relegated to the lowest rank; that of
hypocrites is to see themselves pierced through and through by the light which lays bare their most
secret thoughts, so that all may read them, without their having any means of hiding themselves, or
their real quality, from other eyes; that of sensualists is to experience all the temptations, all the
desires, without the possibility of satisfying them; that of misers is to see their hoards wasted and
scattered, and to be unable to do anything to retain their hold on them; that of the selfish is to be
neglected by all about them and to suffer all the hardships and mortifications they have caused to
others; they will be thirsty, and no one will give them to drink, they will be hungry, and no one will
give them food; no friendly hand will meet theirs, no compassionate voice will console them in their
loneliness: they thought only of themselves during their earthly life; no one will think of them, or
commiserate them, after their death.
27. The only way to avoid, or to lessen, the painful consequences that our defects may entail
upon us in our future life, is to free ourselves from those defects, as far as possible, in our present life;
and we must also make reparation now, if we would not have to make that reparation by and by, and in
some way that will be far harder to bear for having been delayed. The longer we put off the work of
getting rid of our defects and of making reparation for whatever wrongs we have done to others, the
more painful will be the consequences of the former, and the more severely shall we have to suffer in
accomplishing the latter.
28. The situation in which a spirit finds itself on its entrance into spirit-life is exactly what it
has made for itself by its action in the earthly life it has quitted. After a time, another incarnation is
granted to it in order that it may expiate and make reparation for the past by undergoing again the
trials of the life in flesh; and that spirit will derive more or less profit from this new incarnation,
according to the use it makes in it of its free-will. If it fails to make a good use of its new existence, it
will have to begin the trial over again, under conditions more and more difficult and painful; so that
the spirit who suffers much in the present life may be very sure that it has much to expiate, and, on the
other hand, those who enjoy a seemingly prosperous life, notwithstanding their vices and their
uselessness, may be equally sure that they will have to pay dear for their defects and their wrong-doing
in a future existence. It was to the purifying and reparative effects of the earthly life that Jesus alluded
to when he said, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
29. The mercy of God is, undoubtedly, infinite; but it is not blind. The guilty ones whom God
forgives are not exonerated from the necessity of making reparation for their evil deeds; and, until they
have paid their debt to justice, they continue to undergo the consequences of those misdeeds. The
assertion that the mercy of God is infinite must be understood as meaning that the Divine justice is not
inexorable, and that it always leaves the door open to the prodigal who has returned into the homeward
30. The Providential corrections of wrong-doing being temporary and subordinated to the
repentance and reparation which depend on the free-will of the wrong-doer, those corrections are at
once the chastisement of wrong-doing and the medicines which will cure the moral malady to which
that wrong-doing is due. The spirits who, in the spirit-life or in their new subjection to the trials of the
life in flesh, are made to undergo those chastisements, are, therefore, not like galley-slaves,
condemned to a fixed term of punishment, but rather like patients in a hospital, who suffer both from
the malady they have contracted and also from the course of treatment required for their cure (and
which is often extremely painful), but who have the hope of being cured, and whose cure will be all
the more rapid in proportion to the fidelity with which they follow the prescriptions of the physician
who watches over them with enlightened solicitude. If, from negligence or obstinacy, they prolong
their malady, they will also prolong the period of their suffering; but, in that case, this prolongation is
not the fault of their physician but their own.
31. To the sufferings of the spirit-world, which wrong-doing brings upon spirits on their return
to that world, succeed the sufferings of the life in flesh; sufferings which are, at once, the consequence
of humankind’s imperfections, of their passions, of the bad use they make of their faculties, and the
expiations of the faults committed by them in their present life and in the past. It is always in the life
of flesh that a spirit repairs the evil it has done in its former corporeal existences, and that it puts in
practice the resolutions it has formed in the spirit-life; a fact which explains and justifies the sorrows
and troubles of human life which, at first sight, seem to be undeserved and uncalled for, but which are
seen to be just and necessary, when we have learned that they are both payments of debts contracted
by us in the past and the indispensable condition and means of our future advancement. ****
32. “But would not God,” it is sometimes asked, “have given proof of greater love for God’s
creatures, if God had created them perfect, and consequently exempted them from the sufferings
attendant on imperfection?”
To this query we reply that, in order to have exempted the beings of the universe from suffering,
God must have created them perfect to begin with, having nothing to acquire in knowledge or in
goodness. Undoubtedly, God could have done so; if God did not do so, it is because, in God’s wisdom,
God has willed that the law of progress should be the law of creation.
Human beings are imperfect and, as such, are subject to vicissitudes more or less painful; this is
a fact that we must accept, because it exists. But to infer from this that God is neither good nor just,
would be to rebel against God.
It would evidently have been unjust to create some beings more favored than others, endowed
with privileges denied to those others, and enjoying, without their having worked for it, and as a free
gift on God’s part, a degree of happiness that those other beings could only acquire through long and
painful effort, or, perhaps, could never acquire at all. But the justice of God is triumphantly vindicated
by the explanation of God’s Providential action, which shows us that all spirits are created on a
footing of entire and absolute equality; that they all have the same starting-point; that no spirit, at its
formation, is more favored than others; that the upward march, which has to be accomplished by all
spirits, is not rendered exceptionally easy for any of them; and that the spirits who have reached the
highest degree have passed upwards, as all the others are now passing, from the same point of initial
imperfection, by the same path of trial and effort.
This view of creation once admitted, what could be more perfectly just than the freedom of
action that is accorded to each spirit? The road of happiness is equally open to all; the goals to be
reached, and the conditions for reaching it, are the same for all. God has ordained that happiness shall
be the result of effort, and not of favor, in order that each may obtain it as the result of his or her own
individual merits; each is free to labor diligently, or to do nothing, for his or her own advancement;
those who work hard and quickly gain their wage sooner; those who misemploy their energies, or lose
their time, are longer in gaining the promised reward, but have only themselves to thank for the delay.
The choice between good and evil is free to all; gifted with free will, human beings are not fatally
drawn to either.
33. Notwithstanding the diversity of the kinds and degrees of suffering which imperfect spirits
undergoes, the penal code of the future life may be summed up in the three following propositions:
1. Suffering is a condition of imperfection.
2. All our imperfections and all our misdeeds (which are the practical outcome of
those imperfections) find their appropriate and necessary adjustment in their own natural and
inevitable consequences – just as every excess is corrected by the malady which is caused by it, and as
idleness is corrected by the disgust of life to which it leads – without the need of any special sentence
being passed on each particular fault of each individual.
3. All human beings have the power of freeing themselves from their imperfections
through the exertion of their individual wills; all human beings, therefore, are able to avoid the
sufferings that are the consequence of those imperfections and to ensure their future happiness.
Such is the law of the Divine justice; “To each, according to the deeds done by his
body:” a sentence which receives its execution both in the spirit-world and upon the Earth.
* Vide chap. VI, No. 25, the quotation from Ezekiel on this point.
** The word eternal is synonymous with perpetual, and both words mean, not an endless duration, but merely a duration of which the
end is not foreseen. We say “the region of eternal (or perpetual) snows,” “the eternal (or perpetual) ice of the Poles;” we also say “The
Perpetual Secretary of the French Academy,” which does not mean that the scientist occupying that post will continue to occupy it forever,
but merely that he has been appointed to it for an unlimited period. The words eternal and perpetual are therefore employed to express the
idea of indefinite, undetermined. Thus explained, the future punishment of the wicked may be said to be “eternal” in as much as the
punishment has no fixed and defined duration, so that it appears to be “eternal” to the spirit who is undergoing it, and who does not foresee
any termination of his suffering. – Vide “The Spirits’ Book,” Nos. 973, 1009.
*** The requiring of the wrongdoer to make reparation for the evil it has done is so evidently just in principle that it may be safely
accepted as the true law of moral rehabilitation. Yet the necessity of this reparation has never been proclaimed, as a doctrine, by any of the
religions of the world.
The spiritist announcement of this necessity, as a providential law, has met with opposition on the part of persons who think it would be
more agreeable to do away with our misdeeds by the mere profession of repentance, at the cost only of a few words and with the aid of
certain formulae. Such persons are free to imagine themselves to be able to escape, thus cheaply, the consequences of wrong-doing; they will
see, by and by, whether the Divine Justice is satisfied by the mere admission, on the part of the wrong-doer, of having done wrong. Those
who reject the spiritist doctrine of expiation should ask themselves whether the principle of expiation is not admitted, and rightly so, by
human legislation, and whether the justice of God can be less than that of humankind? They should ask themselves whether they would be
satisfied with the person who, having ruined them by a betrayal of their confidence, should simply tell them that he or she is sorry to have
ruined them. Why should any one who has wronged another draw back from the obligation – fully accepted as a duty by all honest people –
of repairing the wrong that has been done, to the very utmost of his or her power?
When the certainty of having to make reparation for everything we have done amiss shall have become established in the minds of all
human beings, it will prove to be a rein far more effectual than the threat of hell-fire and of eternal punishment, both because the idea of
Providential retribution, when thus presented, is seen to be altogether just and rational, and also because it explains the painful circumstances
in which we find ourselves as being the result of our own wrong-doing, in our present life, or in a former existence.
, VI. Purgatory
, No. 3 and on
; and Chap
. XX. Instances of earthly expiation
: “The Gospel According to Spiritism
V, Blessed are they that mourn