Allan Kardec

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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 faculties.

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 modified thereby.

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 physical organization.

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