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).