THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SPIRITISM

Allan Kardec

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CHAPTER 11

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF

The greatest commandment. Do unto others as we would have them do unto us. The parable
of the creditors and the debtors. - Give unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. -INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE SPIRITS: The law of love. -Selfishness. - Faith and charity. - Charity towards criminals. - Should we risk our life for a criminal?


THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT


1. But when the Pharisees had heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love thy God with all thy heart; and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself On these two commandments hang all the Law the prophets (Matthew, 22: 34-40).

2. Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and the prophets (Matthew, 7: 12).

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise (Luke, 6: 31).

3. Therefore is the Kingdom of Heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But foreasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt; But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat; saying, Pay me that thou owest And his fellow servant fell down at his feet; and besought him saying, Have patience with me and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt; because thou desserts me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant; even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth and delivered him to the tormenters, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my Heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses (Matthew, 18: 23-35).

4. 'To love your neighbour as yourself: to do unto others as you would have them do unto you," expresses the most complete form of charity because it summarizes all of man's obligations towards his fellow men. We can find no guide to take as an example that is more guaranteed in this respect than that we should do to others what we would have them do to us. What right have we to demand that they behave in any better manner, that they be more benevolent or more devoted to us than we are to them? The practice of these maxims leads to the destruction of selfishness. When they have been adopted as a rule of conduct and as the base of all institutions, then Man will understand true fraternity, and so make it possible for peace and justice to reign on this planet. There will be no more hate nor dissensions, but only union, concordance and mutual benevolence.


GIVE UNTO CAESAR THAT WHICH BELONGS TO CAESAR


5. Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, what thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a penny And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they say unto Him, Caesar's. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. When they heard these words, they marvelled, and left Him, and went their way (Matthew, 22:15-22; Mark, 12:13-17).

6. The question that was asked of Jesus was motivated by the fact that the Jews, who abominated the tribute imposed on them by the Romans, had made the payment of this tribute a religious question. Numerous parties had been set up against this tax. So this payment constituted a point of irritation amongst them at that time. If this had not been the case there would have been no point in the question which was asked of Jesus: "Is it licit for us to pay or not to pay this tribute to Caesar?" There had been a trap set by this question because those who had put it expected the reply to go against either the Roman authority or the dissident Jews. But Jesus, 'who understood their malice,' got round this difficulty and gave them a lesson in justice by saying that to each one should be given what was due to them. (see INTRODUCTION, under the sub-title: THE PUBLICANS.)

7. However, we should not understand the words: "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar," in a restrictive or absolute manner. As in everything that Jesus taught, this is a general principle which has been summarized into a practical and more customary form, taken from a certain circumstance. This principle is the consequence of the other one in which we should do to others as we would have them do to us. It condemns every kind of moral or material damage which might be caused to another, as well as all disregard of their interests. It prescribes respect for the rights of each person, as each one desires that they be respected. It extends as well to the fulfilment of our obligations towards our family, society and authority, just as much as for individuals in general.


INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE SPIRITS. THE LAW OF LOVE


8. Through spiritual progress instincts become sentiments which are more or less elevated. Love, being the finest sentiment that exists, summarizes the complete doctrine of Jesus. At the starting point Man only had instincts; after some advancement and the onset of corruption, he has sensations; but when he becomes instructed and more purified he has sentiments. The most delicate apex of sentiment is love, not the vulgar sense of the word, but that inner sun which condenses and reconciles all aspirations and superhuman revelations at its ardent focal point. The law of love substitutes the selfishness of man with the harmonizing of all beings in brotherly love, thereby extinguishing social miseries. Blessed is the one who, having surpassed the state of being human, loves with an ample love all suffering fellow beings. Blessed are those who love because they know not the miseries of either body or soul. Their step is light and they live as if transported outside of themselves. When Jesus pronounced that divine word: 'love', it made the people tremble and the martyrs, inebriated with hope, descended into the amphitheatres.

In its turn, Spiritism has come to pronounce the second word in the divine alphabet. Pay attention, because this word 'reincarnation', lifts up the tombstones from the empty graves, and triumphant over death, reveals to astonished people its intellectual patrimony. But it is not to this that Man is conducted, but rather to the conquest of his own being, already elevated and transfigured. Blood has redeemed the Spirit and today the Spirit has to liberate the Man from matter.

I have already said that in mankind's beginning he had nothing but instincts. Therefore those in whom instincts predominate are still nearer the starting point than their goal. In order to advance towards this goal, each one must conquer their instincts to the benefit of their sentiments; that is to say, these can be perfected by suffocating all material tendencies. Instincts are the germination and the embryos of sentiments; they bring progress with them, just as the acorn contains within itself the oak tree; the less advanced creatures are those who, after emerging little by little from their chrysalises, continue to maintain themselves slaves to their instincts. The Spirit needs to be cultivated as you would a pasture. All the riches of the future depend on the present labour employed, which will earn much more than earthly goods, for it will offer glorious elevation. So, having understood the law of love which joins all creatures, you will seek to find within it the most sweet delights of the soul which are the preludes to celestial happiness. - LAZARUS (Paris, 1862).

9. Love is of a divine essence, and everyone, from the most humble to the most elevated, has a spark of this sacred fire in the bottom of their hearts. It is a many times proven fact that both men and women, however vile, base or criminal, are known to devote ardent affection to living creatures or objects. This sentiment is resistant to all attempts to diminish it and has frequently even been known to reach sublime proportions. I have purposely said that affection is given to living creatures and some objects, because amongst you are individuals whose hearts are overflowing with love, but who nevertheless expend a wealth of this sentiment upon animals, plants and even material things. These are a kind of misanthropist who, while complaining to themselves about humanity in general and resisting the natural inclinations of their souls, which is to seek sympathy and affection around themselves, they reduce the law of love to the condition of instinct. But no matter what is done, they will not succeed in suffocating the living seed which God deposits within every heart at the moment of creation. This seed will develop and grow, together with morality and intelligence, and although frequently repressed by selfishness, it will become the origin of saintly virtues which produce sincere and lasting affections, which in turn will help in crossing the rugged and arid pathways of human existence.

There are those who repudiate reincarnation, believing that others will participate in the affections and sympathies of which they are jealous. My poor brothers and sisters! Your affections have made you selfish; your love has become restricted to the intimate circle of your friends and relatives, so that you are indifferent to all others. Well then, so that you may practise the law of love as God intended, it is necessary that you learn step-by-step to love all your fellow beings without distinction. The task will be long and difficult, but it will be fulfilled because God so desires. The law of love is the first and most important precept of the new doctrine, because one day it will destroy all selfishness under whatever form it may present itself, given that apart from personal selfishness there is also that of the family, the clan and nationality.


Jesus said: "Love thy neighbour as thy self." Well, what is the limit with regard to your neighbour? Is it the family, the sect, or the nation? No, it is nothing less than the whole of humanity. In the superior spheres and planets, reciprocated love harmonizes and directs the advanced Spirits which inhabit them. Your planet, which is shortly destined to make appreciable progress, will see its inhabitants practising this sublime law, which is a reflection of Divinity, in virtue of the social transformation through which it will soon pass.

Moral betterment of the human race and happiness during terrestrial life are the results which the law of love will bring. The most rebellious and corrupt will reform themselves when they see the resulting benefits stemming from the practise of the precept: "Do not unto others that which you would not wish done unto you. On the contrary, do unto others all the good that it is within your power to do."

Do not believe then in the sterility and hardening of the human heart, for even against its own will, it must give way to true love which is like a magnet that is impossible to resist. Contact with true love revives and fertilizes the seeds latent in every heart The Earth, being a globe of probation and exile, will then be purified by this sacred fire. Then you will see practised upon its surface the acts of charity, humility, patience, devotion, abnegation, resignation and sacrifice, all of these being the offspring of true love. So do not tire of listening to the words of John the Evangelist. As perhaps you know, when sickness and old age forced him to stop teaching, he limited himself to simply repeating these gentle words: "My children, you must love one another."

Beloved brethren, make good use of these lessons because although it is difficult to put them into practise, the soul will reap great benefit from them. Believe me when I tell you to love one another and make the sublime effort that I ask of you, then you will soon see the Earth transformed into a Paradise, where the souls of the just may come for repose. - FÉNELON (Bordeaux, 1861).

10. Esteemed fellow students, the Spirits who are here present say to you through my intermediary: "Love with all your hearts so that in turn you too may be loved." This thought is so completely just that we find within it everything which can console and alleviate the trials of each day, or better still, by putting this wisdom into practise you will so elevate yourselves above all that is material, that you will become spiritualised even before you leave this earthly body. As the study of spiritual matters has developed your understanding of the future, of one thing you can be sure, you are progressing in the direction of God and will see fulfilled all the promises which correspond to the aspirations of your soul. This is why it is necessary to elevate oneself, so we may be able to judge ourselves without the constraint of matter, and why we must never condemn our neighbour without first directing our thoughts to God.


To love, in the true sense of the word, is to be loyal, honest and conscientious; to do to others what we would have them do to us. It is to look around oneself and seach for the inner meaning behind all the pain afflicting your fellow creatures, so as to be better able to offer some relief. It is to consider the great human family as your own, because this family will, at some future date, re-encounter itself in the other more advanced worlds together with other Spirits who, like you, are also God's children destined to infinite elevation. Thus you cannot deny to your fellow men and women what God has liberally granted to you, seeing that, on your side, you should be happy that they give you what you need. Therefore always have a word of comfort and hope for all who suffer so that you may be wholly just and loving.

Believe that the wise saying: "Love greatly so as to be greatly loved," will open up the way. These words are revolutionary and follow a pathway that is sure and invariable. But those of you who listen to them have already made some progress; you are much better than you were a hundred years ago. You have changed so much for your own good that you can willingly accept a host of new ideas on liberty and fraternity which before you would have rejected. Moreover, without doubt in another hundred years or so, you will accept just as easily those ideas which now you are unable to get into your heads.

Today, when the Spiritist movement has taken such a big step forward, it is seen how quickly the ideas of justice and renovation, which are a constant in Spiritist teachings, are largely accepted by the intelligent world due to the fact that these ideas correspond to all that is divine within each one. This has come about because you were prepared by a rich and fertile sowing during the last century, when the seeds of great ideas regarding progress were implanted in the bosom of earthly society. As everything is linked together under the direction of God all lessons, when received and accepted, will be the means of bringing about the universal interchange of love for one's fellow beings. In this way all incarnate Spirits, being better able to appreciate and judge things, will join hands with those from every corner of this planet. One and all will come together to understand and love each other, to destroy all injustices and all causes of misunderstandings amongst peoples.

The great concept of renewal through Spiritism, so well presented in The Spirits’ Book, will produce the prodigious miracles of the forthcoming century, and lead to the harmonising of all the material and spiritual interests of mankind. This will be brought about through fuller understanding of the maxim: "Love greatly so as to be greatly loved." - SAMSON, an ex-member of the Spiritist Society of Paris (1863).


SELFISHNESS


11. Selfishness, the plague of all humanity, is hindering moral progress and must disappear from the Earth. It has been reserved for Spiritism to make this planet ascend in the hierarchy of the worlds. So selfishness is the target at which all believers should point their arms, towards which all strength and courage should be directed. I say 'courage' because this will be greatly needed by each individual if they are to triumph over themselves, rather than triumph over others. Therefore let each one use all their strength to combat their own selfishness, certain that this monstrous devourer of all intellects, this off-spring of pride, is the cause of all the miseries found in this world. It is a denial of charity and consequently the greatest obstacle to human happiness.

Jesus gave us an example of charity and Pontius Pilate an example of selfishness. While the first, the Just One, was about to traverse the holy stations of His martyrdom the second was washing his hands and saying: "What does it matter to me!" He even asked the Jews: "This is a just man, so why do you want to crucify Him?" Nevertheless, he allowed them to continue to conduct Jesus to His execution.

Due to the antagonism between charity and selfishness, that leprous invasion of the human heart, Christianity has still not completely discharged all of its mission. It is to you, who are the new apostles of the faith, that the superior Spirits are giving orientation; on whom rests the responsibility and the duty of eradicating this evil, so as to give Christianity its full force which will allow it to clear the way of all obstacles that impede its progress. Expel selfishness from the Earth so it may ascend the scale of the worlds, seeing that the time has arrived for humanity to vest its virile raiments; but for this to be able to happen, it is first necessary that selfishness be expelled from all hearts. - EMMANUEL (Paris, 1861).

12. If mankind loved one another mutually then charity would be better practised. However, for this to happen it is necessary to shed the armoured plate that covers your hearts, in order that they may become sensitive to the sufferings of others. Severity and rigidity kill all good sentiments. Christ never avoided anyone, nor did He repel those who came in search of Him, whoever they might be. He helped the adulterous woman and the criminal, never fearing that His reputation might suffer as a consequence. When will you take Him as your model for all your actions? If charity reigned on Earth then evil could not prevail; it would fade away in shame; it would hide itself seeing that wherever it went it would feel out of place. Then evil would simply disappear; be quite sure of this!

Begin by giving examples yourselves: be charitable to all, without distinction, and make an effort not to heed those who look on you with disdain. Leave the task of doing justice to God, to the One who every day in His kingdom separates the wheat from the chaff.

Selfishness is a total denial of charity. Moreover, without charity there would be no rest for human society. I go even further and say there would be no safety. With selfishness and pride, both of which go hand in hand, life would always be a race in which the most cunning would be the winners. It would be a fight of interests in which the most saintly affections would be trodden underfoot, and where not even sacred family ties would be deserving of respect. PASCAL (Sens, 1862).


FAITH AND CHARITY


13. My beloved children, but a short while ago I said to you that charity without faith is not enough to maintain social order amongst men and women and be capable of making them happy. I could have said that charity without faith is not possible. In fact, generous impulses can present themselves even amongst those of no religion at all. Nevertheless unadorned charity, which can only be practised with abnegation and the constant sacrifice of all selfish interests, can only be inspired by faith because nothing but faith can give humanity the courage and perseverance needed to carry the cross of terrestrial life.

Yes, my children it is useless for a person who is always eager for pleasure to try to delude themselves as to their destiny on this planet, by pretending that they are justified in occupying themselves exclusively with their own pleasure. Beyond doubt, God created us to be happy in eternity; meanwhile earthly life must serve solely for moral improvement, which is more readily obtained with the help of physical organs and the material world. Without taking into account the ordinary vicissitudes of life, the diversities of tastes, the inclinations and the necessities, exercising yourselves in the acts of charity is also a means of improvement. In effect, only by dint of mutual concessions and sacrifices can harmony be preserved between so many different elements.

Nevertheless, you would be right to affirm that humanity was intended to be happy in this world, as long as this was sought not in material pleasures, but in goodness. The history of Christianity tells of martyrs going happily to their execution. Today in your society there is no longer a need for Christians to face the holocaust of martyrdom nor the sacrifice of lives, but only and exclusively the sacrifice of selfishness, pride and vanity. You will triumph only if you are inspired by charity and sustained by faith. - A Protecting Spirit (Cracow, 1861).


CHARITY TOWARDS CRIMINALS


14. True charity constitutes one of the sublime teachings which God has given the world. Complete fraternity should exist amongst all true followers of His doctrine. Those who are unfortunate and wretched, by this we mean criminals, should be loved as God's creatures which they are. Pardon and mercy will be given to them, just as much as to you, if they repent of all offences committed against His law. Consider yourselves to be more reprehensible, more guilty, than those to whom you deny pardon and commiseration because, as often as not, they do not know God as you do and consequently less will be asked of them than is asked of you.


Do not judge! Oh! Never make a complete judgement, my friends. In as much as the verdict you pronounce will be applied even more severely to yourself, so you will need indulgence for those sins you so unceasingly incur. Are you ignorant of the fact that there are many actions considered as crimes in the eyes of God, who symbolizes pureness, that the world does not deem as even small offences.

True charity does not consist of only giving alms, nor even in the consoling words you may add to your donation. No, this is not the only thing God demands of you. Sublime charity, as taught by Jesus, also consists in the constant use of benevolence in all things pertaining to your neighbour. This sublime virtue can also be used in your relationships with those to whom the giving of alms would have no utility, but to whom a few words of consolation, encouragement and love would raise them up to the Lord.

The time approaches, we repeat, when a great fraternity will reign on this planet; one in which all mankind will obey the laws of Christ. These laws will offer both restraints and hopes and will conduct all souls to the happy realms. Love one another then as sons and daughters of the same Father; never establish differences between those who are unhappy, nor despise any living creature, seeing that God desires everyone to be equal. God permits great criminals to be found amongst you so that they may serve as a lesson. In the near future, when mankind finds itself submitted to the true laws of God, there will no longer be any need for these lessons, because all impure and rebellious Spirits will have been relegated to the inferior worlds in accordance with their inclinations.

It is your duty to help those of whom I have spoken with your prayers; that is true charity. It is not your place to say to a criminal: "You are despicable and should be purged from the face of the Earth. The death penalty is much too good for the likes of you." No! This is not the way to talk! Take note of that model on whom we should base ourselves - Jesus. What would He have said if He found one of those unfortunates at His side? He would have wept over them and considered them to be sick and therefore deserving of pity and would then have extended a helping hand. In actual fact, you cannot as yet do the same thing, but at least you can pray for them and help their Spirits during the time they still have to pass on Earth. Perhaps they will be touched by repentance if you pray with all your faith. They are our neighbours just as much as the best of mankind. Their souls, having strayed and become rebellious, were created as was your own, to be perfected. Help them then, to get out of the quagmire and pray for them. - ELIZABETH OF FRANCE (Havre, 1862).

15. A man's life is in danger; in order to save him another person must put their life at risk. However, it is known that the person in danger is a malefactor and that, if they escape, they may commit other crimes. Despite these facts should the second person risk their own life in order to save that of the criminal?

This is a very grave question and can naturally present itself to a Spiritist. I will reply in accordance with my moral progress, since what we are dealing with is to know if we should expose our own life, even if it be for a criminal. Devotion is blind; just as enemy soldiers are rescued we should also rescue enemies of society, or in short, malefactors. Do you suppose that in such a case, it is only death hurrying to snatch away this unhappy person? Perhaps it is all their past life. Indeed, imagine that in those rapid instants, in which the last breath of life is being swept away, the lost person returns to their past or rather it looms before them. Perchance death comes too soon; the thought of reincarnation may seem terrible to them. So rush forward! Those of you who have been enlightened by the knowledge of Spiritism should be the first to offer aid, to snatch this person from their condemnation and who knows but that they, who would have died with blasphemy on their lips, may throw themselves into your arms. In any case, do not stop to ask if they would or not, just save them, since by this act you are obeying the voice in your heart which tells you: " You can save them, so save them then!" - LAMENNAIS (Paris, 1862).

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