Allan Kardec

Back to the menu


Resurrection and reincarnation. - Reincarnation strengthens family ties, whereas a single life would destroy them. -INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE SPIRITS: Limits of incarnations. - The need for incarnation.

1. When Jesus came into the coasts of Ceasaria Philippi, He asked His disciples saying whom do men say that the Son of man am? And they said, some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias: and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, but whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for the flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven (Matthew, 16: 13-17; Mark, 8: 27-30).

2. Now Herod the Tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; and some, that Elias had appeared; and others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. And Herod said, John have I beheaded; but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see Him (Luke, 9: 7-9; Mark, 6: 14-15).

3. (After the transfiguration) And His disciples asked Him, saying, why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist (Matthew, 17: 10-13; Mark, 9: 11-13).


4. Reincarnation was part of the Jewish dogmas, being taught under the name of resurrection. Only the Sadducees, who believed that everything ended with death, did not accept the idea of reincarnation. Jewish ideas on this point, as on many others, were not clearly defined because they had only vague and incomplete notions with regard to the soul and its connection with the body.

They believed that man could live again without knowing exactly the manner by which this could happen. They used the name resurrection for what Spiritism more correctly calls reincarnation, Resurrection presupposes a return to the same physical body, whereas science demonstrates that this is materially impossible, especially when that same body has decomposed and long since been dispersed and reabsorbed. Reincarnation is the return of a soul, or Spirit, to physical life in another body which has been newly formed for it, and which has nothing to do with the previous one. The word 'resurrection' can be applied to Lazarus but not to Elias, nor to the other prophets. If, according to their belief, John the Baptist was Elias, then the body of John could not have been the body of Elias because John was seen as a child and his parents were known. John then could be Elias reincarnated but not resurrected.

5. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God.' for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof but canst not tell whence it cometh, and wither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto you, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.' and ye receive not our witness. If I have to Id you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (John, 3:1-12).

6. The idea that John had been Elias and that the prophets could relive again on Earth is to be found in many passages of the New Testament, but is most notedly quoted in the above extract. (See verses 1, 2, & 3.) If this was an erroneous belief, Jesus would have combated it as He did many others. But from this He gave it complete sanction and authority by making it a basic principle and necessary condition by saying: 'No one may reach the Kingdom of God if he is not born again,' and further insisted when He added: 'Do not be surprised when I say it is necessary to be born again.'

7. The words: If man is not born again of water and of Spirit, have been interpreted in the sense of regeneration by means of the water of Baptism. But in the original text it was said simply: not born of water and of Spirit, whereas in some translations the words of spirit have been substituted by Holy Spirit, which does not correspond to the original meaning. This capital point stands out from the first comments which the Gospels raised and will one day be confirmed beyond all possible doubt. *

* The translation by Osterwald is according to the original text. It says: NOT BORN OF THE WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT. That of Sacy says: OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, that of Lamennais: OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

8. To enable the real meaning of these words to be reached it is also necessary to pay attention to the significance of the word water which is not used here in its usual sense.

The knowledge of physics was very imperfect in ancient times when it was believed that the Earth had risen out of the water. Therefore water was considered to be the exclusive primitive generating substance. This is why we read in the book of Genesis: '...the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; it floated above the waters; .. . Let there be firmament in the midst of the waters; ... Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear; ... Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the Earth in the open firmament of heaven.'

According then to this belief, water represented the nature of matter, just as the Spirit represented the nature of intelligence. The words: 'If man is not reborn of the waters and of the Spirit, or in water and in Spirit', thus signify -'if man is not born with his body and his soul'. This is the manner in which these words were originally understood.

This interpretation is wholly justified by these other words: What is born of the flesh is flesh and what is born of Spirit is Spirit. Here Jesus established a clear distinction between body and Spirit. What is born of the flesh clearly indicates that only the body generates from the body and that the Spirit is independent.

9. The words: 'The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound but know' not from whence it comes nor whence it goes' are referring to the Spirit of God, who gives life to whom He wishes, or rather to the soul of man. The words you know not where it comes from nor where it goes', signifies that we do not know who the Spirit had been previously or who it will be in the future. If the Spirit or soul was created at the same time as the body we would know where it came from because we would know its beginning. Whichever way you look at this passage, it confirms the principle of the pre-existence of the soul and subsequently the plurality of existences.

10. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew, 11: 12-15).

11. Even if the doctrine of reincarnation as expressed re John might be interpreted in principle in a purely mystic sense, the same could not happen with this passage from Matthew, which does not permit any ambiguity: He is Elias, who was to come. Here there is nothing figurative, nothing allegorical, only a complete affirmation. 'Since the time of John the Baptist till today the Kingdom of Heaven is seized by violence.' What do these words mean when John the Baptist was still alive at that moment? Jesus explains them to us when He says: 'If you wish to understand what I am saying, this is Elias who was to come. Therefore, if John was Elias, Jesus alluded to the time when John was living under the name of Elias. 'Till the present time the kingdom is seized by violence,' is another allusion to the violence of the Mosaic laws, which ordered the extermination of infidels so that the rest might attain the Promised Land, the Paradise of the Hebrews, whereas according to the new law Heaven was to be won by charity and mildness.

Jesus then added: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. These words are frequently uttered by Him, telling us that not everyone was in a condition to understand certain truths.

12. Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah, 26:19).

13. This passage from Isaiah is also explicit: 'Thy dead men shall live again.' If the prophet had wished to speak of a spiritual life, if he had intended to say that those who had been executed were not dead spiritually speaking, he would have said: 'They are still alive,' and not 'They will live again.’ In the spiritual sense these words would be a contradiction, because they imply an interruption in the life of the soul. In the sense of moral regeneration they would be a denial of eternal suffering because they establish in principle that all those who are dead will one day come back to life.

14. But when a man hath died once, when his body, separated from his spirit, has been consumed, what happens to him? Having died once can a man live again? In the war in which l find myself each day of my life, l await my mutation. (Job, 14: 10 & 14. Translation taken from Le Maistre de Sacy).

When a man dies, he loses all his strength, expires, afterwards, where is he? If a man dies, will he live again? Will I wait all the days of my combat, until there comes some mutation? (Taken from the Protestant translation of Osterwald.)

When a man is dead, he lives forever: when my days of existence on Earth have finished, I will wait, seeing that I shall return again. (Taken from the Greek translation.)

15. In these three translations the principle of the plurality of existences is clearly expressed. Nobody can imagine that Job was referring to regeneration from baptismal water, which for sure he had never heard of. 'Man having died once, can he live again? The idea of dying once and reliving implies dying and living many times. The Greek version is even more explicit, if that is possible. 'When my days of existence on Earth are finished, I will wait, for I will return again' or return again to Earth. This is so clear, as if someone were saying: I leave my house, but I will return.

'In the war in which I find myself each day of my life, I await my mutation.' Here Job evidently was referring to his struggles against the miseries of life, 'I await my mutation' meaning he was resigned. In the Greek version, I will wait, seems to apply more preferably to a new existence: 'When my existence has ended, I will wait, seeing that I shall return again.' It is as if Job, after death, places himself in the interval which separates one life from another and says that it is there he will await till the moment of return.

16. So there is no doubt that under the name of resurrection, the principle of reincarnation was a fundamental belief of the Jews. A point which Jesus and the prophets in general confirm, and from which it follows that to deny reincarnation is also to deny the words of Christ One day, however, when they have been well meditated upon, without preconceived ideas, His words will be recognised as an authority on this point, as well as on many others.

17. From the religious point of view we add to this authority the philosophical view point of the proofs resulting from the observance of the facts. When we try to discover from the effects what the causes might be, reincarnation becomes an absolute necessity, an inherent part of humanity, in a word: a Law of Nature, By its very results it becomes evident in a material manner, so to speak, in the same way that a hidden motor reveals itself by its movement, It is the only way Man can find out where he came from, where he is going and why he is here on Earth and still be able to justify the many abnormalities and all the apparent injustices which present themselves during life. *

* See THE SPIRITS' BOOK, chapters 4 & 5; WHAT IS SPIRITISM, chapter 2, by Allan Kardec and also LA PLURALITÉ DES EXISTENCES by Pezzani, for further information on reincarnation.

Without the principle of the pre-existence of the soul and the plurality of existences, the maxims of the Gospel in the most part become unintelligible, which is the reason why they have given rise to so many contradictory interpretations, This is the only principle which will restore them to their true and original meaning.


18. Family ties are not destroyed through reincarnation as some would believe. On the contrary, they become stronger and closer. The opposite principle would, on the other hand, certainly destroy them.

In space, Spirit entities form groups or families bound together by affection, sympathy towards each other, and by similar inclinations. Happy at being together, these Spirits seek each other. Incarnate life separates them only for a while, so on returning to the spiritual world they again reunite as friends who have just returned from a journey. Frequently they will even follow each other into the incarnate form, coming here to be united in the same family or the same circle of friends and acquaintances, in order to work together for their mutual progress. When some members of the same spiritual family become incarnate and others not, they then continue their contact by means of thought. Those who are free watch over those who are captive. Those who are more advanced do everything they can for the less advanced, so helping them to progress. After each physical existence all have made some advancement, even if it is only a step along the path to progress. As they become less bound by matter, their affections become more real and more spiritually refined, due to the fact that they are not perturbed by selfish or violent passions. This then allows them to live many lives in the flesh without suffering any loss of mutual esteem.

It is understood, of course, that we refer to real affection, soul to soul, being the only love which survives after the destruction of the body. So it follows that those of this world who join together because of physical attraction, will have no motive to look for each other in the spirit world. The only lasting relationships are those linked by spiritual affection, all carnal affections being extinguished together with the cause that brought them about, in other words, the physical body. Understand by this that the physical cause no longer exists in the world of Spirits, but the soul exists eternally.

With regard to those who join together exclusively out of interest, they clearly mean nothing to each other. Death separates them both on Earth and in Heaven.

19. The union and affection which can exist between relatives is an indication of former sympathies which have brought them together. This is why, when referring to someone whose character, tastes, and inclinations hold no similarity to other members of the same family, it is customary to say that they do not belong to that family. When saying this, the truth is expressed far more profoundly than suspected. God permits that in certain families these Spirits, who are uncongenial or strangers to each other, reincarnate with the dual purpose of serving as a test for some members of that family, and as a means of progress for others. In this manner, due to contact with good Spirits and the general care dispensed to them, the bad or wicked Spirits get better, little by little Their characters grow milder, their habits become more refined and their aversions dissipated. This is how the various fusions of different categories of Spirits are accomplished, as is done with different races and peoples on the planet.

20. The fear that some people may have with regard to the indefinite increase in relationships due to reincarnation is basically selfish; proving a lack of love sufficiently ample as to be able to embrace a large number of people. Does a father who has many children love them any less than he would if there was only one? The selfish people may be tranquil because there is no reason for such a fear. The fact that a person may have had ten incarnations does not mean that in the spirit world he will find ten fathers, ten mothers, ten wives and a prodigious number of children and relatives. There he will always encounter only those who had been the object of his affections, some of whom he would have been linked to here on Earth in various relationships, or perhaps even the same ones.

21. Let us now look at the consequences of an anti-reincarnationist doctrine, It by necessity annuls all previous existences of the soul, seeing that under these ideas the soul would be created together with the body, no previous links would exist and all would be complete strangers one to another, The father would be a stranger to his child. The relationships between families would then be reduced to mere physical relations without any spiritual links whatsoever, Therefore, there would be no motive at all for anyone to claim the honour of having had such-and-such a person for their ancestor. Whereas, with reincarnation ancestors and descendants may have known each other, lived together, loved one another and can reunite later on in order to further the links of sympathy even more.

22. All that refers to the past. So now let us look at the future, According to one of the fundamental dogmas that comes from the idea of non-reincarnation, the destiny of all souls is irrevocably determined after only one existence, This fixed and definite idea of fate implies the ending of all progress, because when there is still some form of progress, then there is no definite fate. Depending on whether we have lived a good or bad life, we should go immediately to either the home of the blessed or to eternal hell, We should then be immediately and forever separated, without hope of ever being united again. In this way fathers, mothers and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and even friends would never be sure of seeing each other again; this then means the absolute rupture of all family ties.

However, with the acceptance of reincarnation and consequential progress, all those who love one another will meet again on Earth and also in space, gravitating together in the direction of God. If some weaken along the path they will delay their progress and their happiness, but there will never be a total loss of hope. Helped, encouraged and sustained by those who love them, they will one day be able to extricate themselves from the quagmire into which they have allowed themselves to fall, With reincarnation there is perpetual solidarity between incarnates and discarnates constantly consolidating the links of affection.

23. In conclusion, four alternatives present themselves to Man for his future beyond the tomb. Firstly - nothingness, according to the materialist doctrine; secondly - absorption into the universe, according to the pantheistic idea; thirdly - individuality with a fixed and definite destiny, according to the Church; fourthly - individuality with constant progress according to the Spiritist doctrine.

In the first two of these alternatives, family ties are interrupted at the time of death, and no hope is left for these souls of ever meeting again in the future. With the third alternative, there is a possibility of meeting again, if each has gone to the same region, which might be either Heaven or Hell. But with the plurality of existences, which is inseparable from gradual progression, there is certainty of the continuity of relationships between those who love, and this is what constitutes the true family.


24. What are the limits of incarnation?

In actual fact, incarnation does not have clearly defined limits if we are thinking only of the envelope which constitutes the physical covering of the Spirit since the materiality of this covering diminishes in proportion as the Spirit purifies itself. In certain worlds more advanced than Earth, this covering is already less compact, less heavy, more refined and consequently less subject to vicissitudes. In worlds of still higher elevation it is translucent and almost fluidic. It dematerializes by degrees and finally becomes absorbed in the perispirit. According to the kind of world in which it lives, the Spirit reclothes itself with a covering appropriate to that world.

The perispirit itself undergoes successive transformations. It becomes more and more etheric, until it reaches complete depuration which is the state of all pure Spirits. If special worlds are destined for more highly advanced Spirits, they do not remain prisoners there as in the inferior worlds. The special state of detachment in which they find themselves allows them to travel to any part of the Universe to which they may be called on missions.

If we consider incarnation from the material view point, such as can be verified here on Earth, we can say that it is limited to inferior worlds. But it depends on each Spirit to liberate itself more or less quickly, by working towards purification. We should also consider that in the discarnate state, that is to say in the intervals between bodily existences, the situation of each Spirit depends on the nature of the world to which it is linked, by the degree of advancement it has acquired. Thus in the spiritual world we are more or less happy, free or enlightened, according to the degree of dematerialization achieved. - SAINT LOUIS (Paris, 1859).


25. Is incarnation a punishment and are guilty spirits bound to suffer them?

The passing of Spirits through corporeal life is necessary in order that they may fulfill by means of a material action the purpose to which God assigned them. This is necessary for their own good, as the activity which they are obliged to perform will help the development of their intelligence. Being just, God must distribute everything in equal parts to all His children; so it is established that everyone starts from the same point, with the same aptitudes, the same obligations to fulfill and having the same liberty to proceed. Any type of privilege would be an injustice. But for all Spirits incarnation is a transitory state. It is a task imposed by God at the beginning of life, as a primary experiment in the use of free-will. Those who discharge this task with zeal pass over the first steps of their initiation quickly, less painfully, and so are able to reap the fruits of their labour at an earlier date. Those who, on the contrary, make bad use of the liberty that God has granted them, delay their progress and according to the degree of obstinacy demonstrated, may prolong the need for reincarnating indefinitely, in which case it becomes a punishment. - SAINT LOUIS (Paris, 1859).

26. NOTE - A common comparison would make this difference more easily understandable. The scholar cannot reach superior studies in science if he has not passed through the series of classes which lead to that level. These classes, whatever may be the work demanded, are the means by which the student will reach his objective and are not a punishment inflicted upon him. If he is diligent he can shorten the path and consequently will encounter less thorns. However, this does not happen to the one who is negligent and lazy, which will oblige him to repeat certain lessons. It is not the work of the class which is the punishment, but the necessity to recommence the same work over again.

This is what happens to mankind on Earth. For the primitive Spirit, who is only at the beginning of his spiritual life, incarnation is the means by which he can develop his intelligence. Nevertheless, it is a punishment for an enlightened man, in whom a moral sense has been greatly developed, to be obliged to live over again the various phases of a corporeal life full of anguishes, when he could have arrived at the end of his need to stay in inferior and unhappy worlds. On the other hand, if he works actively towards his moral progress, he not only shortens the period of his material incarnations, but also may jump over the intermediate steps which separate him from the superior worlds.

Is it possible for Spirits to incarnate only Once in any one world and then fulfill their other existences in different worlds? This would only be possible if every person were at exactly the same point in both intellectual and moral development. The differences between them, from the savage to civilised man, show the many degrees which must be ascended. Besides, an incarnation must have a useful purpose. But what of the short-lived incarnations of children who die at a tender age? Have they suffered to no purpose, for themselves or for others? God, Whose laws are wise, does nothing that is useless. Through reincarnating on the same globe, and by being once again in contact with each other, He wishes these same Spirits to have the desire to repair reciprocated offences. With the help of their past relationships, He wishes to establish family ties on a spiritual basis, founded on the principles of the natural laws of solidarity, fraternity and equality.

Related articles

Show related items