Allan Kardec

Back to the menu


1. The Church does not deny the facts of spirit- manifestation; on the contrary, it admits their reality, as is shown by the quotations examined in the preceding chapter, but it attributes them entirely to the influence of demons. It has been said that the Gospel forbids our entering into communication with the spirits of the departed, but this is a mistake, for the Gospel says nothing upon the subject. The main argument against it, purported to be taken from the Bible, is derived from the laws of Moses. We will continue to quote, for the examination of this branch of our subject, the statements of the same Pastoral in regard to this prohibition:

“It is not allowable to enter into relations with them (the spirits), either directly, or through the intermediary of those who invoke and interrogate them. The Mosaic Law punished with death these detestable practices, in use among the Gentiles. ‘Go not to seek the Magicians,’ it is said in the Book of Leviticus, ‘and ask no question of the diviners, lest you should incur uncleanness by addressing yourselves to them.’ (Chap. XIX, 31) – ‘If a man or a woman has a spirit of Python or of divination, let them be punished with death; they shall be stoned, and their blood shall fall on their own heads’ (Chap. XX, 27). And in “Deuteronomy” it is written: “Let there be no one among you who consults diviners, or observes dreams and auguries, or makes use of witchcraft, sorceries, or enchantments, or consults those that have the spirit of Python, or practice divination, or interrogate the dead to learn truth; for the Lord has all these things in abomination, and He will destroy, at your coming, the nations which commit those crimes.” (Chap. XVIII, 10, 11, 12)

2. It is needful, in order to ascertain the real meaning of these words of Moses, to recall the full texts of the passages from which they are taken, abridged on the foregoing quotations.

“Turn yourselves not away from your God, and go not to seek after magicians, lest you should incur uncleanness by addressing yourselves to them. I am the Lord your God.” (“Leviticus,” chap. XIX, 31)

“If a man or a woman has a spirit of Python, or a spirit of divination, let them be punished with death; they shall be stoned, and their blood shall fall on their own heads’ (Idem, chap. XX, 27)

“When you shall have entered into the land which the Lord your God will give you, take good care not to wish to imitate the abominations of those peoples; and let no one among you pretend to purify his son or his daughter by making them pass through fire, or consult diviners, or observe dreams and auguries, or make use of witchcraft, sorceries, or enchantments, or consult those that have the spirit of Python, or busy themselves with divination, or interrogate the dead to learn the truth; for the Lord has all these things in abomination, and He will destroy, at your coming, the nations who commit those crimes.” (“Deuteronomy,” chap. XVIII, 9, 10, 11, 12)

3. To those who bring forward these articles of that Mosaic law as obligatory, we reply in the first place, that, if this law is to be rigorously observed in regard to this particular point, it must be held to be equally binding in regard to all other points; for why should its provisions be regarded as good in what concerns evocations and bad in what concerns other matters? We must be consistent; and, if the common sense of Christendom has decided that the legislation of Moses, in many of its provisions, is no longer in harmony with the ideas and the habits of humankind, there is no reason for not admitting that it may be the same in regard to the prohibition we are now considering.

We have in the next place to remark that in regard to the prohibition in question, we must take into account the motives that prompted it, motives which had their weight in the days of Moses, but which, assuredly, are without importance at the present day. The Hebrew legislator wished to make his people break with all the customs acquired by them in Egypt, where the habit of evoking was carried to excess, as is shown by these words of Isaiah: – “The spirit of Egypt shall be annihilated in her, and I will overthrow her prudence; they shall consult their idols, their diviners, their pythons, and their magicians.” (Chap. XIX, 3)

Moreover, the Israelites were not to contract any alliance with the nations around them; and therefore, as they would have found these customs among the nations on whose territories they were about to enter and with whom they were about to fight, Moses found it necessary, for the carrying out of his plans, to instill into the minds of his people a profound aversion for all the customs which, if adopted by them, would have constituted so many points of contact between them and their neighbors. In order to furnish a plausible basis for this aversion, it was necessary to represent those customs as being condemned by God; hence the assertion, “The Lord has all these things in abomination, and He will destroy, at your coming, the nations which commit those crimes.”

4. Moses was all the more justified in inscribing this prohibition among his laws, because the evocations which he forbade were neither prompted by respect or affection for the souls of the departed, nor inspired by any sentiment of piety; they were resorted to simply as a means of divination, and placed on the same footing as the auguries and portents habitually traded in by charlatanism and superstition: an assertion that is justified by the fact that, despite all his efforts, he was unable to root out a habit which had become a matter of traffic, as is shown by the following quotations from the same prophet: –

“And when they say to you, ‘Consult the magicians and the diviners who pronounce their enchantment in whispers,’ reply to them: – ‘Does not each people consult its own God? And do people speak with the dead concerning the affairs of the living?” (Isaiah,” chap. VIII, 19)

“It is I who make manifest the falseness of the prodigies of magic; who sent madness upon those who take upon themselves to divine; who overthrow the minds of the sages and convict of foolishness their useless science.” (Idem, Chap. XLIV, 25)

“Let them come, the augurs who study the sky, who contemplate the stars, and who calculate the months to draw from them the predictions which they profess to give you concerning the future; let them come now, and let them save you. They have become like straw, the fire has devoured them; they will not be able to deliver their souls from the consuming flames; there will not even remain, from their burning, coals at which one can warm oneself, nor a fire by which one can sit. See what will become of all those things about which you have busied yourselves with so much labor! These merchants who have traded with you from your youth up will all flee away from you, some on the one hand, some on the other, without one of them being left to take you out of your troubles.” (Idem, Chap. XLVII, 13, 14, 15)

In this chapter, Isaiah addresses the Babylonians, under the allegorical figure of “the virgin daughter of Babylon, daughter of the Chaldeans.” (v. 1.) He tells them that the enchanters will not prevent the ruin of their monarchy. In the following chapter, he addresses himself directly to the Israelites.

“Come hither, ye children of a sorceress, race born of an adulterer and a prostitute! Whom have you made a mock of? Against whom have you opened your mouths and lashed out with your sharp tongues? Are you not perfidious children and bastard shoots, you who seek your consolation in your gods under every thick tree, who sacrifice your young children in the torrents under the jutting rocks? You have put your confidence in the stones of the torrents; you have poured out drink-offerings in their honor; you have offered sacrifices to them. After this, shall not my indignation be kindled against you?” (Idem, Chap LVII, 3, 4, 5, 6)

These words are clear and explicit; they prove that at the time when they were written evocations were made for purposes of divination, and as a matter of traffic; they were associated with magic and sorcery, and were even accompanied by human sacrifices. Moses was therefore right in forbidding usages of such a character, and in saying that God had them in abomination. Those superstitious practices were perpetuated until the Middle Ages; but, at the present day, human reason has condemned them, and Spiritism has come to show us that the aim of the relations of humankind with the world beyond the grave is exclusively moral, consolatory, and religious. As spiritists neither sacrifice young children nor pour out drink-offerings in honor of heathen gods; as they neither interrogate the stars, nor the dead, nor augurs, to learn the things of the future which God, in God’s wisdom has hidden from humanity; as they repudiate all trafficking in the faculty possessed by some of them of communicating with spirits; as they are prompted neither by curiosity, nor by cupidity, but by a sentiment of piety and by the desire to obtain instruction for themselves and to moralize and relieve the souls who are suffering in the other life, the Mosaic prohibition does not in any way apply to them: a fact which would have been apparent to those who invoke this prohibition against them, if they had acquainted themselves more correctly with the views and the actions of spiritists, on the one hand, and had given a more careful study to the Mosaic prohibition, on the other. They would have seen that there is no analogy between what took place among the ancient Jews and the principles and practice of Spiritism. Furthermore, they would have seen that Spiritism condemns precisely the very things that prompted the Mosaic prohibition; but, blinded by the desire to find an argument against the new ideas, they not have seen how completely their argument misses the mark.

The civil laws of the present day punish all the abuses that Moses aimed at repressing. If Moses pronounced the penalty of death upon the delinquents of his time, it was because rigorous measures were needed for governing the undisciplined people with whom he had to deal, and, consequently, that penalty was lavishly introduced into his code. It should also be remembered that he had no great choice in the means of repression to be employed by him, for in the midst of the desert he had neither prisons nor reformatories, and besides, his people were not of a character that would have been amenable to the threat of merely disciplinary punishment: consequently, it was impossible for him to graduate his punishments as is done at the present day. It is, therefore, a great mistake to insist upon the severity of the chastisement as proving the degree of guilt attributed by the Hebrew lawgiver to the evocation of the dead. Would those who invoke the Mosaic prohibition as condemnatory of spiritist evocation maintain, out of respect for Moses, the application of the penalty of death in all the other cases in which Moses applied it? Why, for instance, do those who manifest so strong a desire to revive this particular provision of the laws of Moses pass over in silence the beginning of the chapter, which forbids priests to possess property and to take any share of any inheritance, “because the Lord Himself is their inheritance?” (“Deuteronomy,” Chap. XXVIII, 1, 2)

5. The law of Moses consists of two distinct parts, viz., the Law of God, properly so called and applicable to all times and to all peoples; and the Civil or Disciplinary Law, adapted to the habits and character of the Hebrew people at the period of its promulgation. The first of these is universal and unchangeable; the other is susceptible of modification, according to the changes which take place in the views and habits of humankind, in the various phases of their development: and it could no more enter into the head of any one to suppose that men and women could be governed, at the present day, by the same regulations as the Hebrews in the desert, than to suppose that the Capitularies of Charlemagne could be put in practice in the France of the nineteenth century. Who would dream, for instance, of reviving at the present time this article of the Mosaic Law: – “If an ox strikes a man or a woman with its horn and they die of the blow, the ox shall be stoned, and no one shall eat of its flesh; but the master of the ox shall be held guiltless.” (“Exodus,” Chap. XXI, 28, 29) Yet this enactment, which seems absurd to us, was really well adapted to the circumstances of the case in the time of Moses; for its aim was not to punish the ox while acquitting its master, but to punish the owner by the confiscation of the animal that had caused the accident, and thereby to compel him to exercise more effectual oversight over his beasts in the future. The loss of the ox was the punishment of its master’s neglect, a punishment which, among a pastoral people, would be sufficiently severe to dispense with the need of supplementing it by the infliction of any additional penalty; but it was necessary that this punishment should not become a source of gain to anyone, and therefore it was forbidden to eat the flesh of the ox. Other articles of the law defined the cases in which the owner of an animal was responsible for injuries caused by it.

There was a reason for every provision of the civil law of Moses, even in its minutest details; but that law, in substance as well as in form, was only adapted to the special circumstances of the time and the people for which it was enacted. Assuredly, if Moses came back to the Earth at the present day and had to frame a code for one of the civilized nations in Europe, he would not give it the same laws that he gave to the Hebrews.

6. To this view of the matter there are persons who urge as an objection that all the laws of Moses were proclaimed in the name of God; those that refer to the common affairs of everyday life, as well as the law given on Mount Sinai. But, if all the enactments of Moses are believed to emanate from a divine source, why are “The Commandments” limited to the Decalogue? If all the laws of Moses are equally binding, why are they not all equally obeyed? Why, for instance, do not the sticklers for the laws of Moses practice circumcision, a rite to which Jesus was submitted and which he did not abolish? Our antagonists forget that all the ancient legislators, in order to render their laws more authoritative, asserted that they had received them from a divinity. More than any other ruler, Moses needed this sort of sanction for his code on account of the peculiarly obstinate character of the Jews; if, in spite of that sanction he found it so difficult to secure their obedience, he would have found it still more difficult, had he promulgated his laws in his own name.

Did not Jesus come to modify the Mosaic Law, and is it not his law that constitutes the code of the Christian? Did he not say, “You know that so and so was said by them of the old times, but I tell you otherwise?” But has he abrogated the law of Sinai? Not at all; on the contrary, he has given that law his sanction, and his own moral law is only the development of that earlier code. But he nowhere speaks of the prohibition to evoke the souls of the dead; yet it is a matter quite too serious to have been omitted in his instructions if he had intended to endorse it, for he has treated explicitly of points of much less importance.

7. To sum up: – the question is, whether the Church puts the Mosaic law above the Evangelical law, in other words, whether the Church is more Jewish than Christian? It is worthy of note that the Jewish religion is the one, of all others, that has made the least opposition to Spiritism, and that the Jews have not invoked, against the lawfulness of entering into communication with the dead, the enactment of Moses on which the Christian sects habitually base their opposition to evocation.

8. Another contradiction has to be pointed out. If Moses forbade the evocation of the spirits of the dead, those spirits must be able to come to us when we evoke them, as otherwise his prohibition would have been superfluous. If they could respond to the call of the living in the time of Moses, they can do so at the present time; and, if those who respond to our evocation are the souls of the dead, it is evident that this response does not emanate exclusively from demons. Besides, Moses makes no mention whatever of the latter.

It is clear, therefore, that the opponents of evocation cannot logically base their opposition on the Law of Moses, and this for two reasons, viz., 1. Because the Mosaic Law is not the law of Christianity, 2. Because it is not adapted to the usages of our epoch. But, even if the Law of Moses were as binding on Christendom as some persons seem to imagine it to be, that law would still be inapplicable to Spiritism.

Moses, it is true, includes the interrogation of the dead in his prohibition; but only as secondary to and as an accessory of, the practice of sorcery. The very expression “to interrogate,” coupled with “diviners” and “augurs,” proves that, among the Hebrews evocations were employed as a means of divination; but spiritists evoke the dead not to obtain from them unlawful revelations, but to receive from them wise counsels and to assist those among them who suffer to obtain relief. Assuredly, if the Hebrews had only employed the power of communicating with spirits for such purposes, Moses, so far from forbidding evocations, would have encouraged them because they would have rendered his people more tractable.

9. If facetious or malevolent critics have thought proper to represent gatherings as assemblies of sorcerers and necromancers, and mediums as fortune-tellers, – if charlatans have sometimes mixed up the name of Spiritism with ridiculous practices which true Spiritism repudiates, – there are plenty of people who are too fully aware of the thoroughly serious and moral character of the latter, and its doctrine, propounded for the whole human race, which protests too strongly against abuses of every kind, for such a calumny not to fall eventually on the right shoulders.

10. “Evocation,” it is sometimes said, “is disrespectful towards the dead, whose ashes we ought not to disturb.” Who brings this objection forward? The adversaries who do so are of two opposing camps, united in their hatred of Spiritism: – the skeptics, who do not believe in the existence of spirits; and those who, though admitting that spirits exist, assert that they cannot come to us, and that the devil is the only agent in the production of the manifestations in question.

When evocation is conducted in a religious frame of mind and with seriousness of purpose, – when spirits are invited to hold communion with us, not for the gratification of curiosity, but from a sentiment of affection and sympathy and a sincere desire to learn, and to become better – it is difficult to see why it should be more disrespectful on our part, towards the spirits whom we thus evoke, to address ourselves to them after their death, than it would have been to address ourselves to them during their life. But there is yet another reply to this objection, – and one that is perfectly unanswerable – viz., that the spirits come to us freely and not from constraint, that, in innumerable cases they present themselves spontaneously, without being called; that they never fail to testify their satisfaction at being able to communicate with us, or to complain of having been forgotten by those whom they have left behind them upon the Earth, as the case may be. If their quiet were disturbed by our evocation, or if they were displeased by our calling them, they would tell us so, or they would not come at all. Being perfectly free to come or not to come, the fact that they respond to our evocation by coming proves that they come willingly.

11. Our adversaries bring forward yet another objection to the practice of evocation: – “The souls of the dead, they say, are in the realm of sojourn assigned to them by the justice of God,” that is to say, in Hell or in Paradise. According to this view of the matter, those who are in Hell cannot get out of their place of torment, although full liberty is granted to the demons in this respect; and those who are in Paradise – being entirely absorbed in their own beatitude, and being raised too high above mortals to take thought for them – are too happy to care to come back to this valley of tears for the sake of the relatives and friends they have left behind them! Are they like rich people who turn their eyes away from the sight of the poor, for fear lest the spectacle of their hungry fellow-mortals should spoil their digestion? But, if such were their sentiments, they would hardly be worthy of their happiness, which in such a case would be the reward of selfishness. As for the souls in Purgatory, they are supposed to be occupied with their own sufferings and to have enough to do to look after their own salvation. Therefore, since everyone is fully employed, it is only the devil who can answer the call of the evoker, and, as no one else is able to come, it is evident that we run no risk of disturbing the souls of the dead!

12. But we have here to point out another contradiction. If the souls who are in Paradise are unable to leave that fortunate abode to bring help to mortals, why do the rituals of the most considerable churches of Christendom invoke the assistance of the “Saints,” who must be in the enjoyment of a still greater degree of beatitude? Why do those churches prescribe to their members to invoke these “Saints,” in sickness and affliction, and to preserve them from misfortunes and from dangers? Why do those churches declare that the “Saints,” and the Virgin Mary herself, render themselves visible to human beings and work miracles in their favor? For, to do this, they must necessarily come out of “Heaven,” and come down to Earth. If those who are at the very summit of celestial glory can thus come down among men and women, why should not those who are less exalted be able to come also?

13. That the skeptic and the materialist should deny the possibility of spirit-manifestations is perfectly natural, for they disbelieve in the existence of the soul; but what is strange is to see those, whose belief is based on the existence and future destiny of the soul, setting themselves angrily against the very means of proving that it exists, and doing their utmost to demonstrate that such proof is impossible. It would seem only natural, on the contrary, that those who are most interested in its existence should joyfully welcome as a boon bestowed by Providence the means of confounding, by positive proof that admits of no gainsaying, the basis of this denial, especially as the denial of this principle implies the denial of the very foundations of all religion. They incessantly deplore the invasion of the unbelief that is decimating the flock of the faithful; and yet, when the most effectual means are presented of combating that unbelief they repel those means with more obstinacy than do the skeptics themselves! And when the proofs of spirit-action are multiplied, on every hand, so abundantly as to leave no doubt concerning its reality, they have recourse as an unanswerable argument against it, to the Mosaic prohibition of interchange with the dead, and, in order to justify this prohibition, they rake up a provision of the Hebrew legislator which everybody had forgotten, and in which they are determined, “by hook, or by crook,” to find an applicability which does not exist. Moreover, our adversaries are so delighted with this discovery that they fail to perceive the testimony it furnishes to the truth of the Spiritist Doctrine.

14. None of the arguments brought forward against communication with spirits can withstand examination; on the other hand, the angry persistence displayed by our adversaries is sufficient evidence of the importance of the subject, for, if only a handful of people were interested in Spiritism, our opponents would hardly give themselves so much trouble about it. To see the crusade undertaken by all the sects against the manifestations in question, one would think they were afraid of them, and that the real motive of their onslaught is fear lest spirits, with their clearer knowledge of the other world, should give men too much light in regard to points which the various churches prefer to leave in obscurity, and should inform them too exactly as to the nature of that other world and the conditions which ensure the happiness or the unhappiness of those by whom it is inhabited. Just as people say to a child, “Don’t go into such and such a place; the Bugaboo is there!” so the churches say to people, “Don’t evoke spirits; it is the devil who answers!” But all such efforts are doomed to fail of their object. Even if it were possible to prevent human beings from evoking spirits, it would be impossible to prevent spirits from presenting themselves spontaneously to them, and bringing the candle out from beneath the bushel under which human prejudice and short-sightedness are striving to hide it.

No true creed has anything to fear from the light; for light only brings out truth into clearer relief, and the superstitious dread of “the devil” will not prevail against truth and reality.

15. To repel communication with the world beyond the grave is to reject the admirable means of instruction that are furnished to each of us by this initiation into the future life and by the examples thus offered to our consideration. And, moreover, as experience has also shown us the good we may accomplish by turning imperfect spirits from the path of evil, and by aiding those who suffer to disengage themselves from the bonds of matter and to advance their self-improvement, to interdict those communications is to deprive the souls who are unhappy in the other life of the assistance which it is in our power to give them. The following extract, from a communication given by a spirit in reference to this point, sums up admirably the effect of evocation when practiced with a charitable aim: –

“Every suffering and sorrowful spirit who comes to you will recount to you the cause of its failure and the evil tendencies to which it succumbed; such a spirit will tell you of its hopes, its combats, its terrors; the spirit will confide to you its remorse, its sorrows, and its despair; it will show you God, justly irritated against the wrongdoer and chastising such a one with all the severity of God’s justice. As you listen to the spirit, you will be moved with compassion for it and with fear for yourselves. But as you follow the outpouring of its experiences, you will behold the God of justice keeping the spirit in view, awaiting the repentance of the sinner, offering help to the spirit as soon as it tries to advance towards God. You will witness the progress of the repentant soul, to which you will have had the happiness and glory of contributing; you will watch its advancement with the solicitude of the surgeon who has dressed, day by day, the wounds of a patient, and with the joy that surgeon feels while witnessing the completion of the cure.” (The Spiritist Society of Bordeaux, 1861)

Related articles

Show related items
Wait, loading...