THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SPIRITISM

Allan Kardec

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CHAPTER 5

BLESSED ARE THE AFFLICTED

The justice of afflictions. - Causes of present-day afflictions. - Past causes of afflictions. - Forgetfulness of the past. - Motives for resignation. - Suicide and madness. - INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE SPIRITS: To suffer well or badly. - Evil and its remedy. - Happiness is not of this world. - Losing loved ones. Premature deaths. - If he had been a good man he would have died. - Voluntary torments. True misfortune. - Melancholy. - Voluntary trials. The true hair shirt. - Should we end our neighbour's probation? -Would it be licit to hasten the death of someone incurably sick who is suffering? - Sacrificing one's own life. - Making one's own suffering useful to others.


1. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the Earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew, 5: 5, 6 & 10).

2. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh (Luke, 6: 20 & 21).

But woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! For ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh! For ye shall mourn and weep (Luke, 6: 24 & 25).


THE JUSTICE OF AFFLICTIONS


3. The compensation promised by Jesus to the afflicted of this Earth can only be effected in a future life. Without the certainty of this future these maxims would be a contradiction; still more, they would be a decoy. Even with this certainty it is difficult to understand the convenience of suffering in order to be happy. It is said that it is to acquire greater merit. But then we ask: Why do some suffer more than others? Why are some born in misery and others in opulence without having done anything to justify this situation? Why is it that some never manage to achieve anything, while for others everything seems to smile? Yet what is even less understandable is why benefits and misfortunes are divided so unequally between vice and virtue. Why do we find virtuous people suffering side by side with the wicked who prosper? Faith in the future can console and instil patience, but it does not explain these irregularities which appear to contradict God's justice. However, once God's existence has been admitted one cannot conceive Him as being less than infinitely perfect. He is naturally all powerful, all just and all kindness, without which He would not be God. If He is supremely good and just then He cannot act capriciously, nor yet with partiality. The vicissitudes of life derive from a cause, and as God is just so then that cause must also be just. This is what each one of us must convince ourselves of. Through the teachings of Jesus, God started Man on the path to find that cause, and now that Man is sufficiently mature as to be able to understand, He has revealed the cause by means of Spiritism. That is to say, through the words of the Spirits.


CAUSES OF PRESENT-DAY AFFLICTIONS


4. The vicissitudes of life are of two kinds, or if you prefer, stem from two different sources which are important to distinguish. Some have their cause in present-day life, while others arise outside this present life.

On going back to the origins of earthly misfortunes it must be recognised that many are natural consequences of character and the behaviour of those who suffer them.

How many fail through their own fault? How many are the victims of their own thoughtlessness, pride or ambition?

How many destroy themselves through lack of discipline, misconduct or from not knowing how to limit their desires!

How many disastrous marriages are due to the fact that they were built on calculated interest or vanity, in which the heart took no part!

How many disagreements and fatal disputes could have been avoided with the aid of a little moderation and less susceptibility!

How many illnesses and diseases stem from intemperance and excesses of all kinds?

How many parents are unhappy with their children because they did not combat their bad instincts from an early age! Either from weakness or indifference, they allowed the germ of pride, selfishness and stupid vanity to grow in them, so causing their hearts to dry and shrivel. Later on, when reaping what they have sown, they are surprised and afflicted by the lack of gratitude and the indifference with which they are treated.

We ask each one whose heart has been hurt by vicissitudes or deceptions, to study their own conscience closely; to go back, step by step, to the origins of each misfortune which is torturing them. Like as not they will be able to say: if I had done, or not done, such and such a thing, I would not be where I am now.

Who then is responsible for Man's afflictions if not Man himself? So then in a great number of cases he is the cause of his own misfortunes. But instead of recognising this fact he finds it easier and less humiliating to his vanity to accuse his bad luck, providence or even his unlucky star, when in actual fact his unlucky star is his own carelessness.

When reckoning with the misfortunes of life, suffering of this nature undoubtedly forms the greatest part of all vicissitudes. Only when Man works at bettering himself, both morally and intellectually, will he be able to avoid this category of suffering.

5. Human laws cover various faults and prescribe punishment. In these cases it is possible for the condemned man to recognise that he is suffering the consequences of the wrong committed. But the law does not or cannot, reach every wrong; it falls principally upon those who cause damage to society and not upon those who only cause damage to themselves. God, however, does not allow any detour from the straight and narrow path to go unpunished. There is no wrong or infraction of His Law, however small, which does not carry with it the inevitable consequence, which may be more or less deplorable. From this it follows that in small things, as in great matters, Man is always punished according to the manner in which he has sinned. The suffering which follows is always a warning that wrong has been done. This offers him experience and makes him feel the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, so that in the future these sources of bitterness may be avoided, but without which there would be no motive for betterment. If Man were to be confident of immunity he would only delay his own progress and therefore his future happiness.

Nevertheless, sometimes experience arrives rather late, when life has already been wasted and become disordered, when strength is already spent and the person is no longer able to remedy the wrongdoing. Then man will frequently say: If I had known then what I know now how many false steps would have been avoided! If I had to begin again I would act differently, but now there is no more time! Like the lazy workman who says, 'I have wasted my day', he also says, ' I have wasted my life!' As the sun rising on a new day allows the worker the possibility of repaying any lost time, so it is with Man that after a period of time in the tomb a new life shines forth which will enable advantage to be taken of past experience, and good resolutions for the future to be put into practice.


PAST CAUSES OF AFFLICTIONS


6. Although there are misfortunes in this life caused by Man himself, there are also others which seem to be completely strange to him and which touch him like fate. For example: the loss of a loved one or the bread winner of a family; accidents which no amount of foresight could have prevented; reverses in fortune which precautions and judicial counselling could not avoid; natural disasters; infirmities from birth, specially those which make work or the earning of a livelihood impossible, such as deformities, insanity, idiocy, etc.

Those who are born with restricting conditions like those mentioned, have done nothing in their present life to deserve such a sad fate, which they could not avoid and are totally impotent to change, which leaves them at the mercy of public commiseration. Why then are there these unhappy beings, when beside them, under the same roof, in the same family, are others who have been blessed in every way? In short, what can be said of children who die at a tender age and who, during their short life, knew only suffering? These are problems which as yet no philosophy has been able to find a solution for, anomalies which no religion has been able to justify and which appear to be a contradiction of goodness, justice and God's Divine Providence. If the hypothesis of the soul being created at the same time as the body and that of destiny being irrevocably determined after but a few instants upon Earth were to be verified, this would indeed be the case. If these creatures had just left the hands of the Creator, what had caused them to come into the world to face such misery? How could they have received any recompense or punishment seeing that they had been unable to practice either good or bad?

Nevertheless, by virtue of the axiom according to which every effect has a cause, these miseries are effects which have to have a cause, and if we admit that God is just, then that cause must also be just. Therefore as an effect is always preceeded by a cause, and if that cause is not to be found in the present life, then it follows it must come from before this life, that is to say from a preceding life. On the other hand, God, being unable to punish goodness that has been done or badness that has not been done, it follows that if we are being punished then wrong must have been committed. If that wrong is not of the present life then it must come from a past existence. This is an alternative that no one can avoid and where logic determines on which side God's justice lies.

Man is not always punished or completely punished in the present life, but he cannot escape the consequences of his faults indefinitely. The prospering of badness or evil is but temporary, for if he does not atone today then he will atone tomorrow. Likewise, he who suffers is atoning for his past. Misfortunes which appear at first sight to be undeserved have their reason to be. Those who find themselves in a state of suffering may always say: "Lord forgive me, for I have sinned."

7. Sufferings due to causes prior to the present existence, as well as those which originate from present causes, are frequently the consequences of errors which have been committed. That is to say through the action of a rigorously distributive justice, we come to suffer what we have made others suffer. If we have been hard and inhumane we may be treated with harshness and inhumanity; if we were too full of pride we may be born in humble circumstances; if we have been miserly, selfish or made bad use of our riches we may find ourselves deprived of the necessary means of survival; if we have been a bad son or daughter we may suffer from the behaviour of our children.

It is only through the plurality of existences and the destiny of the planet as a world of atonement, which it now is, that we can explain the abnormalities in the distribution of happiness or unhappiness amongst good and bad alike. Nevertheless, these abnormalities exist only in appearance, due to the fact that they are considered solely from the point of view of the present. If we elevate ourselves, by means of thought, in such a way as to see a succession of existences, we will perceive that to each one is given what is deserved, after taking into consideration that which was gained in the spiritual world. Only then does it become apparent that God's justice is uninterrupted.

Man must never forget that he finds himself in an inferior world to which he is confined, due exclusively to his imperfections. Each time he suffers a vicissitude he must remember that if he belonged to a more advanced world these things would not happen, and that it depends on himself alone to see that he never returns to this world, by working harder to improve himself.

8. Tribulations may be imposed on Spirits who are ignorant or who have become hardened, in order to induce them to make a choice with knowledge of what they are doing. Repentant Spirits who wish to repay the evil they have committed and who desire to behave better, are free to make their own choice. Such was the understanding of one Spirit who, after having failed to complete a task, asked to be allowed to repeat it so as not to lose the benefit of his work. Therefore tribulations are at the same time atonements for the past, for which we receive the deserved retribution, and also tests relating to the future, which we are preparing. We offer thanks to God who, in His goodness, helps Man to repay his debts and does not irrevocably condemn the first fault.

9. It is not to be thought, however, that all suffering in this world denotes the existence of a determined shortcoming. Many times it is simply an ordeal requested by the Spirit, which will help it towards purification and active progress. So atonement is always a test, but a test is not always an atonement. Tests and atonements though, are always signs of a relative inferiority, as that which is perfect needs no testing. Nevertheless, it is possible that a Spirit, having reached a certain degree of elevation and being desirous of further progress, may request a mission or task to perform by means of which he or she will be more or less compensated, depending on whether or not they are victorious, and according to the difficulty of the requested test. These then are those people who have naturally good instincts, whose souls are elevated and who possess inborn sentiments. They apparently bring nothing from their past existences and who despite great torments, suffer with true Christian resignation, asking only that God help them to support their trials without complaining. On the other hand, we may consider as atonements those afflictions which provoke complaint and which cause revolt against God.

Beyond doubt the suffering which does not provoke complaint can also be considered as atonement. But this indicates it was voluntarily sought rather than imposed. This constitutes a test of our strength of resolution, which in itself is a sign of progress.

10. Spirits cannot aspire to complete happiness till they have become pure. Any kind of stain prohibits entrance into the blissful worlds. It is like the passengers on a plagued ship who find themselves prohibited from entering port until they have undergone a cleansing. The imperfections of Spirits are slowly overcome by means of various corporeal lives. The tribulations of life, when well supported, help them towards progress. They erase faults and find purification by means of atonement, which is the remedy which cleanses the sores and heals the sick. The more grave the illness, the more energetic must be the remedy. Therefore, those who suffer greatly must realise that they have most to atone for, and should rejoice in the proximity of the cure. It will depend on each one to take every advantage from suffering, by being resigned and not spoiling things with impatience, seeing that, if that be the case, they will then have to begin all over again.


FORGETFULNESS OF THE PAST


11. It is useless to object that forgetfulness constitutes a barrier against the utilization of experience acquired in past lives. If God considered it convenient that a veil be cast over the past it is because it is to our advantage that this be so. In fact, remembrance would be a very great inconvenience. It could in certain cases, cause a person great humility or perhaps make them prideful, which would interfere with their free will. In any case it would certainly cause inevitable perturbation in social relationships.

A Spirit is frequently reborn into the same ambient where it has previously lived, establishing once again the same relationships, in order to repay the evil done. Recognition of these same persons, who perhaps had been hated, would only serve to rekindle that emotion. In any case, humiliation would be felt on confronting those who had been offended. So in order that we may improve ourselves God has bestowed upon us precisely what we need, that which is sufficient and nothing more, this being none other than the voice of conscience and our instinctive tendencies. He has only deprived us of what would be prejudicial.

On being reborn, Man brings with him what he has acquired. He is born exactly the way he has made himself. In each life he begins from a new starting point. It matters little to him to know what he was before. If he finds himself being punished it is because he did wrong. His actual tendencies indicate what is still to be corrected, and it is upon this he should concentrate all his attention, seeing that no trace is left of what has been rectified. The good resolutions he feels bound to make are the voice of conscience, calling attention to what is right and what is wrong, so giving strength to resist temptation.

Moreover, this forgetfulness only occurs during bodily existence. On returning to the spiritual world the remembrance of the past is regained. So it is only temporary, a slight interruption similar to that which occurs during sleep, but which does not prevent the remembrance on the subsequent day of what was done on the previous one.

But it is not only after so-called death that the Spirit may recover remembrance of the past It can be said that it is never lost, even whilst incarnate, as experience demonstrates that during sleep, being a period when a certain amount of liberty is enjoyed, the Spirit is conscious of its past acts. It knows why it is suffering and that it suffers justly. Memory is only extinguished during the course of exterior existence, in the life of relationships. But during these partial remembrances, which if they were otherwise might cause added suffering and harm social relations, the Spirit absorbs new strength in these moments of emancipation of the soul, if it knows how to take advantage of them.


MOTIVES FOR RESIGNATION


12. With the words: Blessed are the afflicted for they shall be consoled, Jesus indicates the compensation which awaits those who suffer and the resignation which leads Man to bless suffering as a prelude to the cure.

These words can also be understood in this manner: that one should be content to suffer, seeing that the pain of this world is the payment for past debts which have been incurred. Patiently supported here on Earth, these pains will save centuries of future suffering. One should be happy that God is reducing the debt by permitting payment now, thereby guaranteeing a tranquil future.

Suffering Man is like a debtor who owes a large sum and to whom the creditor says: "If you pay me even a hundredth part of your debt today, I will exonerate you and you will be free; but if you do not, then I shall torment you till you pay the very last instalment." Would not the debtor feel happy in supporting all kinds of hardships in order to liberate himself, so paying only a hundredth part of what he owed? Instead of complaining to the creditor, would he not be grateful?

This is the meaning of the words, 'Blessed are the afflicted for they shall be consoled'. They are happy because they are paying their debts and also because after payment they will be free. However, if on acquitting himself on the one side, Man becomes indebted on the other, he will never find liberation. Therefore, each new fault only increases the debt, there being not one, whatsoever, which does not entail a compelling and inevitable punishment. If not today, then tomorrow; if not in this life, then in another. Amongst the list of failings, it behoves Man to put the lack of submission to God's Will in first place. So if we complain about our afflictions, if we do not accept them with resignation, or if we accuse God of being unjust, we contract new debts which in turn make us lose the fruits which should have been gathered from these sufferings. This is why we must begin again from the start, exactly as if after paying part of a debt to a creditor who has been tormenting us, we then took out another loan.

On entering into the spiritual world, Man is like the labourer who arrives on the day of payment. To some God will say: "Here is your recompense for the days you have worked", while to others, the so-called lucky ones on Earth who have lived in idleness, or those who have built their happiness on the satisfaction of their own self-esteem, and on wordly pleasures, He will say: 'There is nothing more to come: you have already received your salary on Earth. Go and begin your tasks again.”

13. Man can soften or increase the bitterness of his trials according to the manner in which he regards earthly life. His suffering will be all the more depending on how long he imagines it to be. But those who can see life through a spiritual prism understand bodily existence at a glance. They see that life is but a point in eternity, comprehend the shortness of its duration, and recognise that this painful moment will soon pass. The certainty of a happier future sustains and animates them and far from complaining, they offer thanks to God for the pain which will permit them to advance. On the other hand, for all those who see only bodily life before them, the duration seems interminable and the pain oppresses with all its weight.

The result of looking at life in a spiritual way is a diminishing in importance of all worldly things, and Man feels himself compelled to moderate his desires, to content himself with his position without envying others. This in turn enables him to receive weakened impressions of reverses and deceptions that may be experienced. From these attitudes comes calmness and resignation, so useful to bodily health as well as to the soul; whereas from jealousy, envy, and ambition Man voluntarily condemns himself to tortures and increases the misery and anguish during his short existence.


SUICIDE AND MADNESS


14. The calm and resignation which can be absorbed according to the manner in which terrestrial life is viewed, together with confidence in the future, give the Spirit a serenity which is the best preventive measure against madness and suicide. To be sure, it is certain that the vast majority of cases of madness are due to the commotion produced by vicissitudes which Man has not had the strength to face. But if the things of this world are looked at from the point of view with which Spiritism regards them, all the reverses and deceptions which in other circumstances would cause Man to become desperate, can be received with indifference, even with happiness. It is evident then, that this inner strength puts him above these happenings, so protecting him from shocks to the mind which, if it were not for this, would cause serious disturbances.
15. The same applies to suicide. Leaving aside those which occur due to drunkenness or madness, which can be classified as unconscious, it is incontestable that in every case the cause is discontentment, whatever the private motives may be. But for those who are sure they will only be unhappy for a day, and that the days to come will be much better, it is easy to be patient. Man only becomes desperate when he can see no end to his sufferings. What is a lifetime compared to eternity? Is it not less than a day? But for those who do not believe in eternity, or who judge that everything ends with life, for the unfortunate and the afflicted who become dejected, grief-stricken or heartbroken, death appears to be the only solution for so much sorrow. Expecting to receive nothing, it seems natur~ and even logical to them to shorten their miseries by means of suicide.

16. Total incredulity, simply doubting as to the future or having materialistic ideas, are in fact the greatest of all incitements towards suicide because they cause moral cowardice. When scientists, upheld by the authority of their knowledge, do their best to prove to those who will listen or read what they write, that we have nothing to expect after death, are they not in fact leading us to deduce that if we are wretched then the best thing to do is to kill ourselves? What can they offer as a reason to turn away from this consequence? What compensation do they have to offer? What hope can they give? None at all, except nothingness! From this we should conclude that if nothingness is the only heroic remedy, the only prospective, then it would be better to seek it immediately and not later on, so as to suffer less.

So then, the dissemination of materialistic doctrine is the poison which inoculates the idea of suicide into the majority of those who actually come to commit this act, and those who become disciples of such doctrines assume tremendous responsibilities. With Spiritism, however, this doubt is impossible and the aspect of life changes completely. For the believer, existence prolongs itself after the so-called death, although in many varied conditions. From this belief stems patience and resignation which naturally leads all thought away from the idea of suicide. This then is the process which enables us to acquire moral courage.

17. In the same aspect, Spiritism produces yet another equally positive result, one which is perhaps even more decisive. It presents to us these actual suicides, who inform us of the unhappy situation in which they find themselves, so proving that no one violates God's laws with impunity. God prohibits Man to cut short his own life. Amongst these suicides there are those whose suffering, although temporary and not eternal, is none the less terrible and of such a nature as to make those who might be considering this act reflect, before leaving this world sooner than God ordained. The Spiritist however, has various reasons against the idea of suicide: the certainty of a future life in which he knows that his happiness will be in proportion to his misfortunes and the degree of resignation shown while on Earth; the certainty that if he abbreviates his life he will in fact reap the exact opposite of the desired result.

By liberating himself from a trial in this manner, he will consequently encounter another and far worse one in its place, longer and more terrible. The Spiritist knows that he is mistaken in imagining that by killing himself he will reach Heaven more quickly; he knows that suicide is an obstacle which will prevent him joining those he loves and hopes to meet on the other side. From whence the consequences of suicide, which only bring deceptions, are against his own interests. For these reasons alone the number of people already saved from suicide is quite considerable. From this we may conclude that when all men and women are Spiritists, conscious suicide will cease to exist.

When comparing the results of materialist doctrines with those of the Spiritist Doctrine, on this one point alone we are forced to recognise that whereas the logic of the first leads towards suicide, the second prevents suicide, which is a fact proven on many occasions.


INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE SPIRITS. TO SUFFER WELL OR BADLY


18. When Christ said: 'Blessed be the afflicted, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them", He did not refer to all those who suffer, seeing that everyone on Earth suffers, whether they be seated upon thrones or lie upon straw. But alas! So few suffer well! A mere handful understand that only trials which have been well supported can lead to the Kingdom of God. Despondency is a fault and God will refuse consolation to those who lack courage. Prayer supports the soul; however, alone it is not enough. It is also necessary to have a firm belief in the kindness of God as the basis for deep faith. You have heard it said many times that He does not put a heavy burden on weak shoulders. The burden is always in proportion to the strength, just as the recompense depends on the degree of resignation and courage. The more painful the affliction the greater the recompense. It behoves then to make ourselves worthy and it is for this purpose that life presents itself so full of tribulations.

The soldier who is not sent to the front is discontent because by resting in camp he will never receive promotion. So then, be like soldiers and do not desire repose which will only allow the body to debilitate, and benumb the soul! Be content when God sends you into battle because this is not a battle of the fireing-line, but of the bitterness of life, where frequently the one who stands firm before an enemy weakens when confronted with the tenacity of moral suffering. Although there is no reward for this kind of courage on Earth, God will reserve the laurels of victory and a place of glory for those who withstand. When facing sufferings or obstacles, if you are able to place yourself above the situation, by managing to dominate the impulses of impatience, anger and despair, then you may say to yourself with just satisfaction, 'I was the stronger'.

So then, blessed are the afflicted may be translated in the following manner: blessed are those who have occasion to prove their faith, firmness, perseverance, and submission to the Will of God, because they will have multiplied a hundred times the happiness they lacked on Earth, for after labour comes repose. LACORDIARE (Havre. 1863).


EVIL AND ITS REMEDY


19. Is the Earth a place of enjoyment and a paradise of delights? Does the voice of the prophet no longer reecho in your ears? Did He not proclaim there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth for those who were born into this valley of pain? So then, all who live here must expect bitter tears and suffering, and no matter how acute or how deep the pain, lift up your eyes to Heaven and offer thanks to the Lord for wishing to test you! ... Oh mankind! Can you not recognise the power of our Lord except when He cures the sores of your bodies, and crowns your days with beauty and fortune? Can you not recognise His love except He adorns you with all the glories, and restores the brilliance and whiteness? You should imitate the one who was given as the example. Having reached the final degree of abjection and misery, while laying upon a dung heap, he said to God, "Lord, I have known all the delights of opulence and You have reduced me to the most absolute misery; thank you, thank you, my Lord, for wishing to test your servant!" How long will your eyes remain fixed upon the horizon limited by death? When will your soul finally decide to launch itself beyond the limits of the tomb? But even if you suffer and cry the whole of this life, what is that compared to the eternal glory reserved for those who suffer their trials with faith, love, and resignation? Seek consolation for your ills in the future which God will prepare for you, and search for the causes in the past. And you, who have suffered the most, consider yourselves the blessed of this Earth.

As discarnates, when floating in space, you chose your own trials, judging yourselves sufficiently strong to support them. Why then do you complain now? You asked for riches and glory because you wished to hold fight with temptation and overcome it. You asked to fight with body and soul against both moral and physical evil, knowing that the harder the trial the greater and more glorious the victory; that as long as you have triumphed, despite the fact of your body ending up on a dung heap at death, it will release a soul of radiant whiteness purified by the baptism of atonement and suffering.

What remedy can be prescribed for those attacked by cruel obsessions and mortifying evils? There is but one infallible way: through faith, which is the appeal to Heaven. If at the moment of highest poignancy in your suffering you intone hymns to the Lord, then the angel at your bedside will show you the sign of salvation and the place which you will one day occupy... Faith is the only sure remedy for suffering. It will always show the infinite horizon before which the few cloudy days of the present will vanish. Therefore, do not ask what is the remedy for ulcer or sore, temptation or trial. Remind yourselves that those who believe are strengthened through the remedy of faith, and those who doubt of its efficiency, be it even for an instant, will be immediately punished because they will quickly feel the pungent anguishes of affliction.

The Lord has put His seal upon all those who believe in Him. Christ told you that it was possible to move mountains by faith alone, and I tell you that he who suffers, yet has faith to uphold him, will remain under the protection of the Lord and will suffer no more. The moments of greatest pain will become the first happy notes of eternity. The soul will detach itself from the body in such a manner that, while the latter is still writhing in convulsions, it will be gliding into the celestial regions, singing hymns of gratitude and glory to the Lord together with the angels. Fortunate are those who suffer and weep! Happy be their souls because God will heap them with blessings. - SAINT AUGUSTIN (Paris, 1863).


HAPPINESS IS NOT OF THIS WORLD


20. Mankind in general, from all walks of society, is constantly complaining either that he is not happy, or that happiness was not made for him. This, dear brothers and sisters, proves better than any possible form of reasoning the truth of the maxim from the book of Ecclesiastics: 'Happiness is not of this world.' Indeed, not riches, power or even the blossom of youth are essential conditions for happiness. Furthermore, not even by uniting these three elements, so desired by many, can happiness be assured because we are constantly hearing of people of all ages, even those from the most privileged classes, bitterly complaining of the situation in which they find themselves.

Before this fact it is inconceivable that the militant and working classes envy, with great anxiety, the positions of those who are apparently favoured by fortune. In this world, despite what anyone can do, each must face his own part of work and misery, his quota of suffering and deceptions, from which it is easy to reach the conclusion that the Earth is a planet of trials and atonement.

So then, those who preach that the Earth is Man's only home, and that it is here during only one existence he must reach the highest level of happiness possible to his nature, are merely deluding themselves and those who listen to them, seeing that it has been demonstrated through multi-secular experiences that only in exceptional cases can this globe offer the necessary conditions for complete happiness for any one individual. In general terms, it is possible to affirm that happiness is a Utopia, whose conquest has been striven after by successive generations without their ever having been able to reach their objective. If the sensible man or woman is a rarity in the world, then the absolutely happy person has never been found.

Happiness on Earth consists of something so fleeting for those who are not guided by wisdom, that but for a year, a month or a week of complete satisfaction the rest of their existence is a series of bitter deceptions. And note, dear children, that I refer to those who are considered the lucky ones of the Earth, those who are the envy of the masses.

Consequently, if the earthly dwelling-place is specifically for trials and atonement, then we are forced to admit that somewhere there are more favourable dwelling places where the Spirit, although still a prisoner in a material body, may possess the delights of human life in all its fullness. This is the reason why God has planted those beautiful superior planets in your vortex, towards which your efforts and tendencies will one day cause you to gravitate, when you have become sufficiently purified and perfected.

However, do not deduce from my words that the Earth is perpetually destined to remain a penitentiary. No, certainly not! From the progress that has already been achieved we may readily infer further progression, and from the various social betterments obtained, new and more fertile improvements. This is the immense task allotted to this new doctrine which the Spirits have revealed.

So then, dear children, may you be animated by a saintly emulation so that you may energetically change your ways. Everyone should dedicate themselves to the propagation of Spiritism, which has already begun your own regeneration. It is your duty to help your brothers and sisters to participate in the rays of this sacred light. Accordingly set to work, dear children! Let us hope that within this solemn reunion all hearts may aspire to this great objective, which is to prepare a world for future generations where the word happiness is no longer meaningless. - FRANÇOIS-NICOLAS-MADELEINE, Cardinal MORLOT (Paris, 1863).


LOSING LOVED ONES. PREMATURE DEATHS


21. When death cuts down someone in your family, carrying off the youngest before the oldest without discrimination, you are accustomed to say that God is not just: because He sacrifices he who is strong and has all his future before him, leaving those who have lived many years and are full of deceptions: because He takes those who are useful and leaves behind those who are no longer able to work: because He breaks the heart of a mother by depriving her of the innocent creature who was her only joy.

Humans, it is on this point that you must lift yourselves above commonplace thoughts about life in order to be able to understand that goodness is frequently where you judge there to be evil, and the wisdom of providence where you think you perceive the blind fatality of destiny. Why do you evaluate divine justice by you own ideas? Do you suppose that the Lord of the Worlds applies justice through mere caprice, in order to inflict cruel punishment? Nothing happens that has not an intelligent meaning and no matter what happens there is always a reason for it. If you scrutinize better all the pain that redounds to you then you would surely find divine reason, regenerating reason, wherein you would see the worthlessness of your interests which, as a consequence, would become so secondary as to be cast into last place.

Believe me, in the case of an incarnation of twenty years, death is preferable to any of the shameful dissipations which bring untold distress to respectable families, break the hearts of mothers and cause parents' hair to whiten before their time. Premature death is frequently a great blessing which God concedes to those who depart, so preserving them from the miseries of life or the seductions which possibly occasioned the loss of life. The person who dies in the flower of youth is not a victim of fate. God judges that it is not suitable for that person to remain longer on Earth.

What a terrible tragedy, you say, to see the thread of life that was so full of hope, cut! To what hope are you referring? That of the Earth? Where he who had gone could have perhaps shone or made his way and become rich? Always there is this restricted vision which prevents one from rising above that which is material. Who can tell what might have been the actual fate of that life which you thought so full of hope? How do you know that it would not have been saturated with bitterness? Do you then disdain the hopes offered by the future life, to the point of preferring this fleeting existence here on Earth? Do you suppose that a high position amongst men is worth more than an elevated place amongst the blessed Spirits?

Instead of complaining, rejoice when it pleases God to withdraw one of your children from this vale of miseries. Would it not be selfish to wish that they continue suffering at your side? Ah! This is the pain conceived by those lacking in faith, who see death as an eternal separation! But those of you who are Spiritists know that the soul lives better when it is separated from its material form. Mothers, know that your beloved children are near you, yes, very near. Their fluidic bodies embrace you, their thoughts protect you and the remembrances that you keep delight them with happiness; but your unreasonable pain afflicts them, because it reveals a lack of faith, so constituting a revolt against the Will of God.

Those of you who understand the meaning of spiritual life, listen to the beatings of your heart when calling to these loved ones. If you ask God to bless them, you will feel great consolation, the kind which will dry your tears; you will feel magnificent aspirations which will show you the future which our Supreme Lord has promised. - SAMSON, ex-member of the Spiritist Society of Paris, (1863).


IF HE HAD BEEN A GOOD MAN HE WOULD HAVE DIED


22. When speaking of a bad person who has escaped some danger, it is customary to say that if he had been a good man he would have died. Well then, in saying this you are speaking the truth, because it frequently comes to pass that God bestows a longer trial on a Spirit who is only commencing his path to progress than He would give a good Spirit who, by merit of his worthiness, receives the blessing of the shortest possible period of atonement. Consequently, whenever you use that aphorism you unsuspectingly commit a blasphemy.

If a good man dies, having a neighbour who is considered to be bad, it is soon remarked that it would have been better if the neighbour had died instead. By saying this you are expressing something quite atrocious, because the one who departed had completed his or her tasks and the other, who is left, has perhaps not even begun. Why should you wish the bad person to be denied the necessary time to complete their tasks, while condemning the good person to remain an unnecessary prisoner? What would you say if, after having served a prison sentence, the convict were to be kept in prison, when another person, who had no right, was set at liberty? It must be understood that true liberty for a Spirit is the breaking of the ties which keep it captive within a physical body, and that while upon Earth it is really a prisoner.

Accustom yourselves then not to censure the things you do not understand, and more especially to believe that God is just in all things, and that on many occasions what appears to be an evil is really a blessing. Due to the fact that your faculties are so limited, it is not possible to have a clear vision of the whole, nor can it be felt by your obtuse senses. However, if you strive to reach beyond your limited sphere by means of thought, you will find the importance of all material things diminishes, according to the manner in which you are able to lift up your thoughts. In this way life presents itself as a mere incident in the infinite course of spiritual existence, which is the only true life. - FÉNELON (Sens, 1861).


VOLUNTARY TORMENTS


23. Man is incessantly searching for happiness which always escapes him, because pure happiness does not exist here on Earth. However, despite the vicissitudes which form an inevitable procession throughout earthly life, he may at least enjoy relative happiness, if he does not search for it within perishable things subject to the same vicissitudes, that is to say within material enjoyments, instead of seeking it within the delights of the soul. The only real happiness of this world is to be found in heartfelt peace. But Man shows himself avid for all things which agitate and perturb. It is really quite strange! It seems that, while it is possible to avoid problems, Man purposely creates torments for himself.

Are there any worse torments than those created by envy and jealousy? For those who are envious or jealous there is no rest; they suffer a state of perpetual fever. The possessions of others cause sleepless nights; the success of rivals provoke giddiness; emulation, in their eyes, is epitomized in eclipsing those around them; all their happiness consists in provoking a rage of jealousy in those as imprudent as themselves. Poor foolish beings they are indeed! Never imagining that tomorrow they will perhaps have to leave behind all these trifles, the covetousness of which has poisoned their lives. The words: 'Blessed are the afflicted for they shall be consoled' certainly do not apply to these, seeing that their preoccupations are not those which receive deserving recompense in Heaven.

On the other hand, many torments will be avoided by those who are content with what they have, who can see things they do not possess without envy, and who do not try to appear better than they are. These will be constantly rich since, by looking below oneself, it is always possible to see others with less than ourselves. These kind of people are calm because they do not create imaginary necessities for themselves. Is calmness then not a happiness in the midst of the turmoil of life? - FÉNELON (Leon, 1860).


TRUE MISFORTUNE


24. Everyone talks about misfortune; everyone has experienced it and therefore judges they understand its multiple character. I have come to tell you that almost everyone is deluded, as real misfortune is absolutely not what Man, that is to say those who are unfortunate, believe it to be. They see as misfortune the unheated stove, the threatening creditor, the empty cradle, tears, the funeral procession and those following with broken hearts, the anguish of betrayal and the stripping of pride from those who would wish to be dressed in the purple, but who can barely hide their nudity beneath the ragged tatters of their vanity. To all this, and much more, Man gives the name of misfortune. Yes, it is misfortune for those who only see the present. But real misfortunes are rather in the consequences of these facts than in the facts themselves. Tell me then, is a happening which at the time was considered to be a happy event, but which later caused disastrous consequences, not really more calamitous than another, which initially caused contrariety, but finally produced benefits? Tell me also, is a storm which uproots trees but purifies the air and dissipates unhealthy miasmas, which can cause death, not more of a blessing than an unhappiness?

In order to be able to judge, we must first consider the consequences. Thus in order to more fully appreciate what is really fortunate or unfortunate for Man, we must transport ourselves beyond the vision of this life, for it is only there that the consequences can begin to be felt. So everything called unhappiness, according to the short-sightedness of human beings, ends with the body and receives its compensation in the future life.

I will reveal unhappiness to you in yet another light, in the form of beauty and colour, which is accepted and even earnestly desired by your poor deluded souls. Pleasure, commotion, unnecessary agitation and the satisfaction of stupid vanities are the true misfortunes, causing Man to ignore his conscience, prevent his thought process and leave him in a dazed state with regard to his future. These true unhappinesses, so ardently sought after, are nothing more than the opium of forgetfulness. Have hope all who cry! Tremble all who laugh because their body is satiated! It is not possible to deceive God nor to escape one's destiny. Afflictions, those creditors more pitiless than the wolf pack, unloosed by your miseries, are constantly lurking behind the illusion of repose only to suddenly emerge in the form of agony, of real unhappiness, for all who have allowed their souls to become flabby through indifference and selfishness.


Therefore, let Spiritism offer enlightenment and establish truth and error in their real formats which, till now, have been so singularly deformed by your blindness! Act like brave soldiers who, far from running away from peril, prefer the dangerous fight rather than peace, which will bring them neither glory nor promotion! What does it matter to the soldier if he loses weapons, baggage and uniform if he comes out of battle the winner, covered with glory? What does it matter to those who have faith in the future if they leave riches and their physical bodies on the battlefield of life, provided the soul enters into the celestial Kingdom full of glory? - DELPHINE DE GIRARDIN (Paris, 1861).


MELANCHOLY


25. Do you know why sometimes a vague sadness fills your heart, leading you to consider that life is bitter? This is because your Spirit, aspiring to happiness and liberty, on finding itself tied to the physical body which acts like a prison, becomes exhausted through vain efforts to seek release. On recognising that these attempts are useless, the soul becomes discouraged, and as the body suffers the influence of the Spirit, it feels itself weary, apathetic, full of despondency and it is then that you judge yourself to be unhappy.

Believe me when I tell you to resist these tendencies with all your strength, as they only weaken your will-power. Aspirations for a better life are inborn in all mankind, but do not seek them in this world. Now that God is sending His Spirits to instruct you on happiness, which He has reserved for you, await with patience for the time when the liberating angel will come to help you break away from the ties which hold your Spirit captive. Remember, during your exile here on Earth, you have a mission to fulfill that you do not even suspect; be it dedicating yourself to your family or fulfilling the various obligations bestowed upon you by God. If within the course of this exiled probation, while seeking exoneration, you feel about to collapse through anxiety, uneasiness, or tribulations, be strong and courageous enough to support these pressures. Stand up to them with resolution for they will soon pass. These are the only means by which you may reach those for whom you pine and who, jubilant at seeing you once again amongst them, will hold out their hands towards you so as to guide you to regions inaccessible to earthly afflictions. - FRANÇOIS DE GENEVE (Bordeaux).


VOLUNTARY TRIALS. THE TRUE HAIR SHIRT


26. You ask me if it is licit for a man to lessen his own probation? This is equal to other questions such as: is it licit for a drowning man to save himself? Should he take a thorn from his hand? Should he call a doctor when he is ill? The reason behind our trials is to help us to use our intelligence, patience and resignation. It may happen that a man is born into a difficult and painful situation precisely to make him look for the means of alleviating these problems. The merit is in suffering the consequences that cannot be avoided without complaining, in persevering with the fight and in not allowing oneself to become desperate when one is not successful. It is never to be found in negligence, which is more laziness than virtue.

This quite naturally leads to another question: if Jesus said 'Blessed are the afflicted,' can merit be gained by seeking afflictions which could aggravate our trials by means of voluntary suffering? To this we can reply very decidedly: yes, there is great merit in this, provided the suffering and privation are of benefit to others; this is charity through suffering. But not when the suffering and privations are of benefit to the inflictor; this would only be fanatical selfishness.

It is necessary to make a clear distinction in this matter. Regarding yourself personally, be content with the trials and problems which God sends. Do not seek to increase this volume, as it alone may at times be extremely heavy to bear. Accept it without murmuring but with faith; that is all that God asks. Do not weaken your body with useless privations and mortifications that have no objective, because you will need all your strength if you are to fulfill your work here on Earth. To torture and martyr the body voluntarily is to go against God's Law. He has given Man the means to sustain life, so to weaken the body needlessly is true suicide. Use it, but do not abuse it; that is the law. The abuse of the best thing God has given you will bring inevitable consequences as a punishment.

But quite the contrary occurs when Man imposes suffering upon himself in order to alleviate that of others. If you support cold and hunger with the object of offering heat and sustenance to another, thereby causing your body to be affected, you are making a sacrifice which God will bless. When you leave your perfumed homes to go to an infected hovel so as to console, or dirty your hands to treat wounds, or lose sleep so as to hold vigil at the bedside of the sick, who after all are your brothers and sisters in God, or put your health in jeopardy for the purpose of practising good, then it is here that you find your hair shirt, the true and blessed hair shirt. You have not allowed the delights of this world to shrivel your heart, nor have you slept upon the voluptuous breast of riches. Rather you have become a consoling angel to the sadly deserted.

Therefore, what utility is served by those who retire from the world so as to avoid its seductions and live in isolation? Where is the courage to face their problems? They have merely run away from the fight and deserted the combat. If you wish to make a sacrifice, then apply it to your soul and not to your body. Mortify your Spirit and not your flesh; whip your pride, receive humiliations without murmur, scourge yourself of self-love, harden yourself against the pain of insult and slander which is more pungent than physical pain. It is in these things that you find your true hair shirt, whose wounds will be taken into account because they will testify to your courage and submission to God's Will. - A GUARDIAN ANGEL (Paris, 1863).


SHOULD WE END OUR NEIGHBOUR'S PROBATION


27. Should anyone put an end to another's probation when they can, or should God's purpose be respected, so leaving things to take their own course?

We have already said repeatedly that you are upon this planet of atonement for the purpose of concluding your trials, and everything that happens is a consequence of past lives. This is the interest on the debt you must pay. However, in some people this fact provokes reflections which should be combated, due to the disastrous effects that might be caused.

Some people think that by being on Earth for the purpose of atonement all probation must follow its course. Then there are others who will go to the point of believing that not only must nothing be done to alleviate the suffering, but that on the contrary, they should help others to benefit more by making these sufferings more active, more intense. This is a very big mistake. It is quite true that trials must take their course as marked by God, but, and this is the difference, how do we know what God has designed? Do we know to what extent they must reach? What if our merciful Father designated that this or another suffering should only reach a certain point? How do you know whether Divine Providence has placed you, not as an instrument of torture to aggravate the suffering of the culprit, but as the soothing balm of consolation to help heal the wounds? So therefore never say, It is God's justice and must follow its course.' Rather say, 'Let me see what means our merciful Father has put within my reach so that I may lessen the suffering of my brother or sister. Let me see if moral consolations, material help or advice can assist in overcoming these trials with greater energy, patience and resignation. Let me see if God has given me the means of putting an end to this suffering. Perhaps this possibility has been given to me as a test or even an atonement, so that I may allay these troubles and substitute them with peace.

Therefore, always help each other mutually in your respective probations and never consider yourself as an instrument of torture. Every person who has a heart should revolt against such an idea, especially all Spiritists because they, more than anyone else, should understand the infinite extension of God's goodness. All Spiritists should be convinced that their whole lives must be acts of love and devotion, that although they do what they may in trying to oppose God's wishes, these will always be fulfilled. Therefore they can apply maximum strength to attenuate the bitterness of atonement without fear of the consequences, being certain that only God has the right to shorten or prolong a trial, as He sees fit.

Is it not immense pride on the part of mankind to consider that it is right, in a manner of speaking, to turn the knife in the wound or to increase the dose of poison in the viscera of one who is suffering, under the pretext that it is part of the probation? Oh, always consider yourselves as instruments for the alleviation of pain! So to summarize: all are on Earth for atonement but all, without exception, must strive to lessen the atonement of one's fellow beings, which is in accordance with the law of love and charity. - BERNADIN, a Protecting Spirit (Bordeaux, 1863).

28. A man is agonizing under cruel suffering. His state is known to be desperate. Would it be licit to save him a few instants of anguish by hastening his end?

Who has given you the right to prejudge God's purpose? Can He not conduct a person to the very brink of the grave and then withdraw them, in order that they may awaken and recognise the need to change their ideas? Even when a dying person has reached the last extremes no one can be absolutely sure the final hour has arrived. Has science never been wrong in its predictions?

Of course there are cases which, with good reason, can be considered desperate. But even if there is no hope of a definite return to life and health, there always exists the possibility, testified on many occasions, of a sick person recovering their faculties at the last instant. Well then, this is the hour of grace conceded by God which may be of extreme importance. You do not understand the reflections which the Spirit may have during those last agonizing convulsions, nor how a lightning repentance may save them from many torments.

The materialist, who only sees the body and does not take into consideration the Spirit, is not apt to understand these things. But the Spiritist who knows what happens in the after life, comprehends the value of these last thoughts. So mitigate the last sufferings as much as you can, but guard yourself against abbreviating life, be it even for a minute, as this minute can be the means of avoiding many tears in the future. - SAINT LOUIS (Paris, 1860).

29. For he who finds himself tired of life, but who does not wish to extinguish it by his own hands, would he be wrong to seek death on a battlefield with the intention of making his death useful?

Whether a person kills themself or causes another to kill them, the intention is always to cut the thread of existence. Therefore there is intent to commit suicide even if there is no actual fact. The idea that this death would serve some purpose is mere illusion, just a pretext to cover up the act and for the person to excuse themself in their own eyes. If they seriously wished to serve their country, they would do their best to stay alive so they might be able to defend it, rather than seek death, because if they are dead they can no longer be of help. Real devotion consists in not being afraid of death when it is a matter of utility, of facing danger and, when necessary, in sacrificing one's life without thinking about it. But in seeking death with a premeditated intent by exposing oneself to risk, even if it be in service, annuls all merit for the action. - SAINT LOUIS (Paris, 1860).


30. If a person exposes themself to imminent danger in order to save the life of a fellow being, knowing that they will succumb, will this act be considered as suicide?

If there is no intention to seek death in this act, then there is no suicide, only devotion and abnegation, even though there is a certainty of death. But who can be sure? Who can say that Providence has not reserved an unexpected means of salvation at the last moment? Is it not possible even to save one who is before the cannon's mouth? On many occasions it happens that Providence wishes to take a trial of resignation to the extreme limits, in which case an unexpected circumstance will ward off the fatal blow. - SAINT LOUIS (Paris, 1860).

31. Do not those who accept suffering with resignation, because they are submissive to God's wishes and are mindful of their future happiness, work only for their own benefit? Is it not possible for them to make their suffering useful to others?

Materially and morally these sufferings may be useful to others; in a material sense, by the work, privations and sacrifices they impose upon themselves, which can contribute to the material well-being of their fellowmen; in the moral sense, by the example they offer of their submission to God's Will. By showing the strength of the Spiritist faith many unfortunate and wretched persons can be induced to resign themselves, so being saved from despair and its disastrous consequences in the future. - SAINT LOUIS (Paris, 1860).

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