THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SPIRITISM

Allan Kardec

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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.

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