Allan Kardec

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Filial devotion. - Who is my mother and who are my brothers? - Corporeal relationship and spiritual relationship. INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE SPIRITS: Children's ingratitude and family ties.

1. He said unto Him, Which commandments? Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt commit no adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew, 19: 18 & 19. Mark, 10:19 & Luke 18: 20).

2. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee (Decalogue, Exodus, 20:12).


3. The commandment: 'Honour your father and your mother 'is an inference from the general laws of charity and love towards one's fellow beings ,seeing that those who do not love their mother and father cannot then love their fellow creatures. But with regard to parents ,here the word honour contains an extra obligation, which is filial devotion. God wishes to show us that respect, esteem, obedience, caring, submission and deference should be joined to love. All these put together involve an obligation for each person to carry out what is demanded by charity with regard to one's neighbour, and which implies an even more rigorous duty towards parents. This duty naturally extends itself to those who take the place of a mother or father, and whose merit is much greater because their devotion has nothing of obligation. God will rigorously punish all violations of this commandment.

To honour your mother and father consists in not only showing respect, but also helping them in their needs, offering them rest in their old age and surrounding them with care; just as they themselves did for us during our infancy. Above all, it is necessary to demonstrate true filial devotion to destitute parents. Do you think this commandment is being kept by those who, believing they are doing a great deal of good, offer only the strictest necessities to their parents, so as to avoid them dying from hunger, while they deprive themselves of nothing? Or when, so as not to leave them unsheltered, they relegate them to the worst rooms in the house, while reserving the best and most comfortable for themselves? The parents are even fortunate when this is not done with ill-will, or when they are obliged to pay heavily for the rest of their lives by being forced to run the home! Is it then that old and feeble parents must serve their children who are younger and stronger? Did their mother make them pay for the milk they suckled? Did she count the sleepless nights when they were ill? Or the steps she took in order to guarantee they lacked nothing? No, children do not owe their parents only the strictest necessities; they also owe them, according to their possibilities, all those little extras like thoughtfulness and loving care which are nothing more than interest on what they themselves received, the payment of a sacred debt. This then is the only filial devotion which pleases God.

Alas for those who forget what they owe to those who sustained them in their hour of weakness, who, with the giving of a physical life, also gave them moral life, and many times imposed upon themselves great privations in order to guarantee the well-being of their children! Woe unto all those who are ungrateful, for they shall be punished with ingratitude and abandonment; they will be hurt in their dearest affections, sometimes even in the present life, but certainly in a future one, wherein they will suffer themselves what they have made others suffer!

It is true that some parents neglect their duty and are not all they should be to their children. However, it is only God who has the competence to judge, and not the children. These are not competent to be able to judge because they have perhaps deserved their parent's behaviour. If the law of charity demands that evil be paid with goodness, that we be indulgent with the imperfections of others, that we should not speak against our neighbour, that we forget and forgive all grievances, that we love even our enemies, how much greater must be our obligations when related to our parents! Therefore children, in matters relating to their parents, should take as a rule of conduct all those principles of Jesus concerning our fellow beings. They must be aware that all reprehensible behaviour towards strangers is even more reprehensible when related to parents. Also, what might be only a small offence in the first case, may be considered as a serious crime in the second, because here the offence of lack of charity is joined to that of ingratitude.

4. God said: 'Honour your father and your mother so that you may live a long time in the land that the Lord your God shall give you.' Why did He promise earthly life as a recompense and not heavenly life? The explanation lies in the words: 'that God shall give you', which having been omitted in the modern formula of the Decalogues, has altered the meaning. But first, in order to be able to understand clearly, we must go back to the situation and the ideas existing amongst the Hebrews at that time. They still knew nothing of a future life as they were unable to see anything beyond the physical. They had then to be impressed more by what they saw than by what they could not see. So God spoke to them in a language well within their reach of understanding, and as one would expect to do with a child, put them into a perspective which could satisfy them. At that time they were still in the desert; the land to be given by God was the Promised Land, the object of their aspirations. They wished for nothing more, and God said that they would live there for a long time. That is to say, they would possess the land for a long time if they kept His commandments.

Now by the time of the advent of Jesus, they had more advanced ideas. The time had come for them to receive less material nourishment and Jesus Himself began to teach about spiritual life by saying: "My kingdom is not of this world; it is there and not here that you will receive recompense for all the good works you have practised." With these words the Promised Land ceases to be material and transforms itself into a spiritual Homeland. This is why, when we are called upon to keep the commandments: 'Honour your father and your mother,' it is not this world that is promised, but Heaven. (See chapters 2 & 3.)


5. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, He is beside Himself There came then His brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about Him, and they said unto Him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And He answered them, saying, who is my mother, or my brethren? And He looked round about on them which sat about Him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and my sister and mother (Mark, 3: 20-21 & 31-35; Matthew, 12: 46-50).

6. Some of the words used by Jesus appear to be quite extraordinary when compared with His goodness, kindness and unalterable benevolence. Those who are incredulous never cease to find an argument in this fact, alleging that He contradicted Himself. However, it is undeniable that His doctrine has as its basic principle, its very foundation stone, the laws of charity and love. Well then, is it possible that He would destroy on the one side what He had built on the other? Therefore we arrive at the following precise conclusion: that if certain propositions made by Jesus are in contradiction to this basic principle, then these words attributed to Him have either been wrongly reproduced, wrongly understood, or they were never pronounced by Him at all.

7. Understandably it causes great amazement that in this passage Jesus showed so much indifference towards His relatives, and in a way repudiated even His mother.

With regard to His brothers, we know they did not greatly esteem Him. Being spirits of little evolution, they did not understand His mission; they thought Him to be eccentric in His ways and His teaching did not even touch them, to the extent that not one of them became His disciple. It was said that they shared, at least up to a point, the same preconceptions as His enemies. In short, it is a known fact that whenever He appeared in the family He was received more as a stranger than as a brother. John tells us quite clearly that they did not believe in Him. (See John 7: 5.)

Concerning His mother, no one dare deny the tenderness and affection He devoted to her. However, it is equally our obligation to agree that she did not fully understand her Son 5 mission, since it was noticed that she never followed His teachings, nor did she testify for Him as did John the Baptist. Her predominating feature was maternal solicitude. Nevertheless, to suppose that He denied His mother is not to know His character. Such an idea could not have found refuge in someone who said: Honour thy father and thy mother. Then it is necessary to find another meaning to His words, which were almost always enveloped in a mist of allegoric form.

Never losing an opportunity to teach, He therefore takes advantage of the moment and the arrival of His family in order clearly to show the difference which exists between bodily and spiritual kinship.


8. Blood ties do not necessarily create bonds between Spirits. The body comes from the body. But the Spirit does not proceed from the Spirit, since the Spirit already existed before the formation of the body. The parents do not create the Spirit of the child; they do nothing more than supply the material wrapping, although it is their duty to help the intellectual and moral development of their child, in order to further its progress.

Those incarnated in the same family, especially as close relations, are as often as not congenial Spirits linked by past relationships, which express themselves during their earthly lives by their reciprocated affections. But it can also happen that these people are complete strangers to each other, or they may be distant from each other due to past aversions which while on Earth are translated into mutual antagonisms which serve as probations. The real family ties are not those of blood then, but those of mutual sympathy and the communion of ideas which hold spirits together, before, during and after their incarnations. From this it follows that two people born of different parents may be more like brothers or sisters than if they were of the same blood. They can attract each other, search for each other and so feel happy together; whereas two blood brothers may be repelled by each other, as is frequently seen. This moral problem is one that only Spiritism can resolve through the explanation of the plurality of existences. (See chapter 4, item 13.)

So, there are two kinds of families: Families through spiritual ties and families through bodily ties. In the first case these ties are durable and strengthen with purification, perpetuating in the spiritual worlds by means of the various migrations of the soul. In the second case, the ties are as fragile as the physical body itself, extinguishing with them and in many instances dissolving morally even in the actual existence. This was what Jesus was trying to make comprehensible when He said to His disciples: "Here is my mother and my brothers by spiritual ties, because all those who do the bidding of My Father, who is in Heaven, are my brothers, my sisters and my mother."

The hostility felt by His blood brothers is clearly expressed in this narrative from Saint Mark, when it says that they had intentions of laying their hands on Jesus, under the pretext that He had lost His Spirit, or gone out of His mind. On being informed of their arrival and knowing full well the sentiments they harboured against Him it was only natural for Jesus, speaking in spiritual terms, to refer to His disciples as His brothers and sisters. Although His mother was accompanying His brothers, Jesus generalised the teachings which in no way implies He intended to declare that His mother, according to the physical body, was nothing to Him in spirit nor that she deserved only indifference, as He proved on many occasions.


9. Ingratitude is one of the most direct results of selfishness and always causes revolt in honest hearts. But the ingratitude of children towards their parents shows an even more hateful trait of character. It is specially this point of view we are going to consider, so we may analyse the causes and effects of this attitude. In this case, as in all others, Spiritism offers enlightenment on one of the greatest problems of the human heart.

When a Spirit leaves the earth plane it takes with it all the passions and all the virtues inherent in its nature, going on to improve itself in the spirit world or to remain stationary until it desires to receive enlightenment. Accordingly many Spirits return to the spiritual world full of hate and violence, as well as full of insatiable desires for vengeance. Nevertheless, there are always some amongst them who are more advanced and so able to perceive a faint glimmer of truth enabling them to appreciate the disastrous consequences of these passions, which in turn induces them to make good resolutions for the future. These Spirits understand that in order to reach God there is only one password: Charity But there can be no charity without being able to forget affronts and insults. Neither can there be any charity if there is no forgiveness or if the heart is filled with hate.

Then by unprecedented efforts, these Spirits manage to observe those they hated while upon Earth. However, on seeing them again animosity is once more aroused in their hearts, causing revolt at the idea of forgiving them and even more at the thought of personal renouncement. But above all they are revolted at the thought of loving those who had destroyed their worldly goods, their honour or perhaps even their family. Meanwhile, the hearts of these unhappy Spirits continue to be disturbed and upset. They hesitate and waver, agitated by contrasting sentiments. If their good resolutions predominate, then they pray to God and implore the good Spirits to give them strength at this the most decisive moment of their ordeal.

Finally, after years of meditation and prayer, the Spirit takes the opportunity of a physical body that is, as yet, in project in the family of the one who is detested, and then asks the Spirits designated to transmit orders, for permission to fulfill here on Earth the destiny of that body which is about to be formed. What then will be this Spirit's behaviour within the chosen family? That will depend on the greater or lesser degree of persistence in the good resolutions made by that Spirit. The incessant contact with those it hates constitutes a terrible test, under which it not infrequently succumbs if its desire to win through is not sufficiently strong. In this manner, and according to whether or not the good resolutions predominate, the Spirit will be either a friend or enemy to those it was called to live amongst. This is the explanation for the hates and instinctive repulsions often noted between certain children, and which appear to be inexplicable. In actual fact there is nothing in the present life which could have caused such antipathy; in order to find the cause it would be necessary to look back into the past.

Oh! Spiritists! You must understand the great part that humanity has to play! You must understand that when a body is produced the soul which incarnates in it has come from space in order to progress. So acquaint yourselves with your duty and then put all your love into bringing this soul nearer to God. This is the mission with which you have been entrusted and for which you will receive just recompense if you fulfill your trust faithfully. The care and education given by you to this child will help in its improvement and future well-being. Remember that God will ask every mother and father: "What have you done with the child which was entrusted to you?" If through any fault of yours it has remained backward, then as punishment you will have to watch it amongst the suffering Spirits, when it depended upon you to help it towards happiness. Thus you yourselves, assailed by remorse, will ask that it be permitted for you to remedy your errors. You will request for yourself and your child another incarnation in which you will surround that Spirit with better care, and in which, being full of gratitude, the Spirit will then reciprocate by loving you.

So then, do not reject the child who repels its parents, nor the one who is ungrateful, for it is not mere chance which has made it like that and then given it to you. An imperfect intuition of the past is revealed by these attitudes, and from this we can deduce that one or the other harbours great hate or has been mortally offended; that one or the other has come to pardon or to atone. Mothers, embrace the child which causes vexation and say to yourself: One of us is guilty! Make yourselves worthy of the Divine enjoyment which God has conjugated into maternity by teaching your children that they are on Earth in order to perfect themselves, to love and to bless others. Oh, but there are many mothers amongst you having children who have innate bad principles acquired in past lives, and instead of eliminating these traits, actually maintain and develop them due to blameworthy weaknesses or through carelessness! Later on, with hearts that are lacerated by the ingratitude of your children, you will begin your atonement, even in this life.

Nevertheless, your task is not as difficult as it may seem. It does not require the wisdom of the world. Either an ignorant or wise person may discharge this duty, and Spiritism will help you to do just that by giving you the possibility of knowing the causes of the imperfections in the human soul.

Having been brought from past existences, these good or evil instincts will manifest themselves from early childhood. It is necessary that parents study these instincts; all badness originates from selfishness and pride. So be on the lookout for the least sign which will reveal the existence of such vices, and then take care to combat them without waiting for them to take deep root. Do as the good gardener does: cut off all defective shoots as soon as they appear on the tree. If you allow selfishness and pride to develop, do not be surprised if later on you are paid back by ingratitude. When parents have done everything possible for the moral advancement of their children, even if they have not been successful, then they have nothing with which to reproach themselves and their consciences may remain tranquil. For the natural anguish resulting from the unproductiveness of their efforts, God reserves a great, an immense, consolation in the certainty that it is only a brief delay, that it will be given to them to conclude in another existence the work that has already begun, and one day their ungrateful child will recompense them with love. (See chapter 13, item 19.)

God never gives anyone a trial superior to the strength of the person who has asked for it. He only permits those tests which can be fulfilled. Therefore if this does not happen, it is not for lack of possibilities, but for lack of willpower. In effect, how many there are who instead of resisting their bad tendencies, actually revel in them. Alas, these revellers will find that only tears and cries of anguish have been reserved for them in their future existences. Nevertheless, we should wonder at God's unbounding goodness because He never shuts the door to repentance. The day will come when the culprit, tired of suffering and with his or her pride finally humbled, will perceive that God is holding out His Hands to receive the prodigal child who throws himself at His feet. Now listen well to what I am about to tell you - the harshest trials are almost always the indication of the end to suffering and to a certain perfecting of the Spirit, as long as they are accepted with all thought focussed on God. These are in fact supreme moments in which, above all else, it behoves the Spirit not to cause failure due to constant complaining or the fruits of the trial will be lost, so making it necessary to begin again from the beginning. Instead of complaining, thank God for the opportunity to triumph which He has given you, that He may bestow the prize of victory upon you. Then when you leave the vortex of this earthly world, to enter into the world of spirit, you will be acclaimed as a soldier returning triumphant from the fray.

Of all the trials that exist, the hardest to bear are those which affect the heart. A person who is able to support misery and material privation with courage frequently succumbs under the weight of domestic bitterness, goaded on by the ingratitude of members of the family. Oh, what a terribly pungent anguish this is! But in these circumstances what can more effectively renew moral courage than the knowledge of the causes of the evil? Even if there are protracted lacerations, it is certain that there are no eternal despairs, because it is not possible for God to wish that any one of His creatures suffer indefinitely. What can be more comforting and more animating than the idea that the abbreviation of suffering depends on each effort made to destroy the evil within oneself, which is the cause of all misery? But in order to be able to do this, it is necessary that mankind does not confine its vision exclusively to this planet nor to only a single existence. Humanity must lift itself up so that it becomes possible to see the infinity of both the past and the future. When this happens, then God's everlasting justice becomes apparent and so you will be able to wait patiently, because all that had previously appeared to be absolute monstrosity on this Earth will have become explainable. The various wounds which you have received will appear as mere scratches. In this rapid glance cast over the whole scene, all family ties will present themselves in their true light. You will no longer see only the fragile material ties which join various members of a family together, but also the lasting ties of the Spirit which penetrate and consolidate with the process of purification, instead of being broken by the effect of reincarnation.

Families are formed by groupings of Spirits who are induced to gather together because of their affinities of tastes, moral progress and affections. During their terrestrial migrations, these same Spirits seek each other out in order to group themselves as they do in space, so giving origin to united and homogeneous families. If during their peregrinations it so happens they are temporarily separated, then they will meet again later on, happy for the new progress which has been accomplished. But as they are not allowed to work exclusively for their own benefit, God permits that less advanced Spirits incarnate amongst them in order that these may receive good advice and examples which will help them. Sometimes these Spirits cause perturbation in the midst of the others, which constitutes a trial and a task to be fulfilled. Therefore, receive these perturbed Spirits as your brothers and sisters; help them, and afterwards, when once again they are in the spiritual world, the family will be able to congratulate itself for having saved an outcast, who in their turn may save others. - SAINT AUGUSTIN (Paris, 1862).

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