INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE SPIRITS
9. The only true property that Man can own is that which may be taken with him on leaving this world. What is found on arrival on Earth and that which is left behind on parting, is enjoyed only while living here. Therefore, as humanity is forced to abandon all worldly possessions, it can be inferred that it has no real ownership of riches, only their temporary usage. What then constitutes true property? Nothing which is for the use of the body, but everything which is for the use of the soul, such as intelligence, knowledge and moral qualities. This is what man brings and takes with him, which no one can take away and which will be far more use in the next world than in the present one. It is up to him to be richer on departure than he was on arrival in this world, seeing that his future position will depend solely on what qualities have been gained in the present life. When someone travels to a distant country they take as part of their luggage only those things which will be useful to them in that place; they do not worry about those things which will be of no use. Proceed in a like manner in relation to your future life and provide yourselves with all that can be of use to you there.
The traveller who arrives at a hostel is only given a good room if he is able to pay for it. Those who have sparse resources are forced to make do with something less agreeable. When they have nothing which belongs to them, they must sleep on a pallet bed. The same applies to Man on his arrival in the world of the spirits, for it will depend entirely on what he owns as to where he will go. Nor will payment be made in terms of gold. No one will be asked what it was they had had on Earth, or what position they had occupied, nor even if they were a pauper or a prince. Instead, they will be asked what they have brought with them. Neither worldly goods nor titles will be valuated, only the total sum of virtues acquired. Well now, looked at from this aspect, it is possible that the simple worker be far richer than the prince. In vain may the latter allege that before leaving the Earth his entrance into the next world was paid for in gold. The only reply he would receive is that no one may buy a place here; it must be conquered by each person by means of doing good to others. Earthly money may buy land, houses or palaces, but in our world everything is paid for by means of the qualities of the soul. Are you rich in these qualities? Then you are welcome and may go to one of the high places where all kinds of happinesses await you. But if you are poor in these qualities then you must go to the low places, where you will be treated according to that which you possess. - PASCAL (Geneva, 1860).
10. Earthly goods belong to God, Who distributes them in accordance with His wishes. Man is nothing more than the usufructuary, a relatively honest and intelligent administrator of these goods or properties. They belong so little to him that frequently God annuls all such provisions and these riches escape from even those who considered themselves to hold the best entitlement.
You would say perhaps that this is understandable when related to inherited property, but not to that acquired by work. Undoubtedly if there were such a thing as legitimate riches, then it would apply to the latter, when honestly gained. However, a property is only legitimately acquired when during its acquisition there has been no harm done to anyone. An account will have to be given of all ill-gotten gains, that is to say gains which may have injured someone. But from the fact that a person may owe the acquiring of riches to themself, does it follow that, upon dying, any advantage may be gained from this circumstance? Are not precautions that may have been taken to transfer these riches to descendants frequently inutile? This is correct, for if God does not desire them to receive certain riches, then nothing can prevail against His wishes. Can someone use and abuse what he owns during his lifetime without needing to give an account of these acts? No, because in permitting the acquisition of this property it is to be supposed that God had in mind to recompense the person, during the actual existence for their effort, courage and perseverance. If however, the property be used exclusively for the satisfaction of pride and the senses, or if they become the cause of failure, then it would have been better not to have received them seeing that what is gained on the one hand is lost on the other, so annulling all merit for the work. In this case, upon leaving the Earth, God will say that the recompense has already been received. - M. a Protecting Spirit (Brussels, 1861).
THE APPLICATION OF RICHES
11. It is not possible to serve both God and Mammon. Those of you who are dominated by the love of gold, who would sell your very souls in order to possess treasure, do not forget this reminder, because these things permit you to elevate yourselves above other men and women, so allowing you to enjoy passions which make you their slaves. No, it is not possible to serve both God and Mammon! So then, if you feel your soul to be dominated by the lust of the flesh, make haste to rid yourself of this yoke that tyrannizes you, in as much as God, who is just and strict, will say unto you: 'What did you do with the property I entrusted to you, unfaithful steward? This powerful motive for good works has been used exclusively for your own personal satisfaction!'
What then is the best way to employ riches? If you look for the answer in the words 'love one another' you will find the solution, for here lies the secret of the best way of employing riches.
Those who love their neighbour already have a line of action delineated for them in these words, because the application which most pleases God is charity. Not that cold and selfish charity which consists in distributing only that which is superfluous from their golden existence, but rather that charity full of love which seeks out misfortune, and helps raise it up without causing humiliation. You who are rich, give what you have in excess! But do even more, give something of what is necessary to you because what you consider to be necessary is, in reality, also superfluous, but give wisely. Do not reject those who weep because you may be afraid of being duped, but get to the bottom of the matter. In the first place seek to alleviate; secondly seek information and then see if the possibility of work, counselling, or even offering affection would not be more efficient than the mere giving of alms. Diffuse all around you with joy and in plenty, your love for God, for work and for your neighbour. Place your riches on a secure base which is that of good works, and you will be guaranteed great profit. The riches of intelligence should serve you just as do those of wealth; therefore disperse around you the benefits of education and scatter the treasure of your love over your brothers and sisters that they may bear fruits. - CHEVERUS (Bordeaux, 1861).
12. When I consider the brevity of life, I am painfully impressed by the incessant preoccupation placed on material well-being; whereas so little time or significance is given to moral improvement, though nevertheless, this is what is really important to eternity. From the amount of effort we put into our material welfare it would appear that we were dealing with a question of the utmost importance for humanity; when in reality it will be found that in the majority of cases, this same work is nothing other than an attempt to satisfy exaggerated needs and vanities, or is a surrender to excesses. What grief, sorrow and torments you cause yourselves! What sleepless nights, just to increase what is often a more than sufficient wealth! At the height of blindness, it is not infrequent to see those whose immoderate love of wealth and pleasures allows them to be subjected to arduous and tiring work, boasting of the life of sacrifice and merit they lead, as if they were working for others and not for themselves! What fools you are! Do you really believe that the care and effort expended will be taken into consideration when, on the one hand, you are motivated by selfishness, cupidity and pride, while on the other hand you neglect your future and the duties which fraternal solidarity imposes on all who reap the advantages which society has to offer? You have thought only of your physical bodies! Your own well-being and pleasures have been the exclusive object of your selfish solicitude. For the sake of the body that perishes you have despised the Spirit that will live forever. This is why that spoiled and flattered lord becomes your tyrant; it dominates your Spirit, thus making you its slave. Can this possibly be the objective for which God granted you life? - A Protecting Spirit (Krakow, 1861).
13. Seeing that Man is both administrator and trustee for the property which is placed in his hands by God, it will therefore be indispensable to render a strict account of the uses it has been put to by virtue of man's free-will. Bad usage consists of it being used exclusively for personal satisfaction; good usage, on the contrary, is whenever this results in benefit to others. Each person's merit is in the degree of sacrifice they impose upon themself. Beneficence is just one way of employing riches; it can be used to alleviate misery, appease hunger and offer shelter and warmth to those who have none. Nevertheless, an equally imperious obligation, which is also very noteworthy, is that of preventing misery. This, above all else, is the mission of the great fortunes, a mission to be fulfilled through the many kinds of work for which it can be used. Neither does the good resulting from these works cease to exist because those who work in this manner take legitimate benefit from it, seeing that it develops intelligence and ennobles the dignity of Man by allowing him the satisfaction of being able to say that he earns his means of sustenance; whereas the receiving of alms only humiliates and degrades. Riches which are concentrated in one hand should be like a spring of running water which spreads fertility and well-being wherever it goes. Oh wealthy men and women! Employ your riches according to the wishes of God, Who would be the first to quench your thirst at this blessed spring! Even in this present life you could reap unequalled happiness for the soul, instead of the material pleasures of selfishness, which only produce a sensation of emptiness in the heart. Your name would be blessed on Earth and when you leave it, the Lord our God would say unto you as was said in the parable of the talents: "Good and faithful servant, enter into the happiness of your God." In this parable the servant who buried the money that was entrusted to him, represents those who are miserly and in whose hands riches remain unproductive. Meanwhile, if Jesus spoke principally of alms it was because in those days, in the country in which He lived, the kinds of work in the arts and industry in which riches could be usefully employed were not yet known. So then, to all who are able to give, be it much or little, I would say this: give money only when it is necessary, and then as often as possible convert it into wages so that the person who receives it is not ashamed. - FENELON (Argel, 1860).
DETACHMENT FROM EARTHLY POSSESSIONS
14. My brothers, sisters and friends, I am come to offer you my contribution with the object of helping you to advance fearlessly along the pathway to improvement into which you are entering. We are all indebted one to the other. Therefore it is only possible to achieve regeneration by means of a sincere and fraternal union between Spirits and incarnate beings.
Attachment to earthly possessions constitutes one of the strongest obstacles to both moral and spiritual advancement. Through this attachment all faculties for loving are destroyed as these are only devoted to material things. Let us be sincere with each other: do riches bring unmixed happiness? When your safes are full of money, do you still feel an emptiness in your hearts? At the bottom of this basket of flowers is there not a viper? I understand the satisfaction which is experienced, and quite justifiably so, when by means of honourable and assiduous work a fortune has been gained. But from this same satisfaction, which is very natural and has God's approval, to the attachment which absorbs all other sentiments and paralyzes the impulses felt by the heart, there is a large gap. As large as the distance which separates exaggerated extravagance from that of sordid covetousness, two vices between which God has placed charity, that saintly and cleansing virtue which teaches the rich man and woman to give without ostentation, so that the poor may receive without being debased.
Whether the fortune has come to you from your family, or whether you have earned it by working, there is something you should never forget, which is that everything proceeds from God and everything refers us to Him. Nothing belongs to you on this Earth, not even your own physical body: death strips you of it even as it does of all earthly possessions. You are merely trustees and not the owners, so do not delude yourselves. God has only lent these things to you and they must be returned. What is more, they have been lent to you under the condition that at least the surplus should go to those who lack what is necessary.
One of your friends lends you a certain sum of money. However lacking in honesty you may be, you make a point of scrupulously restituting what was lent and are grateful to that person. Well then, this is the exact position of the rich man or woman. God is the Celestial Friend who lends you riches, wishing nothing more for Himself than love and recognition for the loan. However, He does demand that in turn the rich man or woman give to the poor, who just as much as he or she, are sons and daughters of God.
Ardent and demented greed are aroused in your hearts by the possessions which God has entrusted to you. Have you ever stopped to think that when you allow yourselves to become immoderately attached to a valuable or perishable object, which is just as transitory as yourselves, that one day you will have to account to God for what has been done with that which came from Him? Have you forgotten that by means of riches, you assume a sacred mission of charity here on Earth, to be intelligent distributors? Hence, when what was entrusted to you is used only for your own benefit, does it not follow that you are unfaithful trustees? What will be the result of this voluntary forgetfulness of duty? Inflexible and inexhaustible death will tear away the veil under which you have been hiding, so forcing you to give an account to Him Who has been forgotten and Who, at that moment stands before you as Judge.
It is useless to try to delude yourselves while on Earth by covering up, under the name of virtue, what is usually nothing more than selfishness. It is useless to call that which is only greed and cupidity by the name of economy and foresight, or to call that which is only prodigality for your own advantage, by the name of generosity. For example, a father abstains from practising charity, economizes and accumulates wealth so that, as he puts it, he may leave his children the greatest possible amount of property in order to avoid their ever knowing misery. This is very just and fatherly, I agree, and no one can censure him for this. But is it always the only motive behind his action? Does he not frequently feel bound by his own conscience to justify this personal attachment for earthly possessions, both in his own eyes and those of the world? However, even if paternal love be the only motive, is that reason enough to forget his brothers and sisters before God? When he has a surplus, will he leave his children in misery if they have a little less? In this manner, is he not giving them a lesson in selfishness and hardening their hearts? Will it not cause their love for their neighbours to wither away? Mothers and fathers, you are labouring under a grave error if you believe this is the way to gain affection from your children. By teaching them to be selfish with others you are only teaching them to be selfish with you too.
The man who has worked very hard in his life and who by the sweat of his brow has accumulated possessions, is commonly heard to say that the value of money is better appreciated when it has been worked for. This is very true. Well then! This man who declares he knows the full value of money should practise charity; his merit will then be greater than the one who, being born to abundance, is ignorant of toil and work. But also, if this same man who remembers his own sufferings and endeavours, is selfish and unmerciful to the poor he will be more guilty than the other, since the more each one knows for themselves the hidden pains of misery, the greater tendency there should be to help others.
Unhappily, in men and women who possess riches there is always a sentiment as strong as their attachment for the riches themselves, and that is pride. Not infrequently the newly rich can be seen making someone who asked for assistance, dizzy with the tales of their successes and abilities instead of helping, and then end by saying: "Do as I did". According to their way of thinking God's goodness doesn't even enter into the matter of their having obtained these riches. The merit for having obtained them being their's alone. Their pride has blinded their eyes and deafened their ears. Despite their intelligence and aptitudes they still do not understand that with only one word God can cast them down upon the Earth.
The squandering of riches is not a demonstration of detachment from worldly goods, merely carelessness and indifference. Man, as the trustees of these goods, has no right to dissipate them, neither has he the right to confiscate them for his own benefit. Extravagance is not generosity; rather it is frequently a type of selfishness. Someone who spends money by the handful in order to satisfy a fantasy will perhaps not give even a penny to someone in need. Detachment from worldly goods consists in appreciating them according to their just value, in knowing how to make use of them for the benefit of others and not exclusively in self-benefit, in not sacrificing all interest in a future life for them, and in being able to lose them without a murmur, in case it pleases God to take them away. If due to unforeseeable circumstances, you become as Job, then say as he did: "Lord, You have given and You have taken away. Let Your Will be done." This is true detachment. Above all else be submissive and trust He Who, having given and taken away, may once again restitute what was taken. Resist disanimation and desperation with all your courage, as these paralyze your strength. When God causes you to suffer a blow, never ever forget that alongside the most painful trial He always places a consolation. Above all, ponder the point that there are possessions infinitely more precious than those to be found on Earth and this thought will help you towards detachment. The less attachment you have for something means the less sensitive you will be to its loss. The man or woman who holds on to earthly possessions is like a child, who sees only the moment, whereas the person who is able to detach themself is like an adult, who sees the more important things in life because they understand the prophetic words of the Saviour: "My kingdom is not of this world."
The Lord orders no one to dispose of what they possess, since this would condemn them to voluntary pauperism, seeing that those who did this would turn themselves into social encumberances. To proceed in this manner is to misunderstand the true meaning of detachment from worldly goods. In fact this is a selfishness of another kind, because it means that the individual exempts themself from the responsibility which riches have placed on all who possess them. God gives riches to those He considers apt to administer them for the benefit of others. The rich person is given a mission which can be beautified by him and be personally profitable. To reject riches when God has bestowed them, is to renounce the benefits of the goodness it can do, when administered with good judgement. By knowing how to do without them when you do not have them, knowing how to employ them usefully when you receive them, and by knowing how to sacrifice them when necessary, you are proceeding according to God's wishes. Well then, let those into whose hands has come what in the world is called goodly fortune, say: "My Lord, you have entrusted me with a new mission; give me the strength to fulfill it according to your wishes."
My friends, here you have what I wished to teach about detachment from worldly possessions. I would summarize what I have written by saying: Know how to be content with only a little. If you are poor, do not envy the rich, because riches are not necessarily happiness. If you are rich, then do not forget that these riches at your disposal are only entrusted to you, and that you will have to justify the use to which you put them, just as you would have to give an account of an investment for which you are responsible. Do not be an unfaithful trustee, utilizing it only for the satisfaction of your own pride and sensuality. Do not think you have the right to dispose of a loan as if it were a gift, exclusively for your own benefit. If you do not know how to make restitution then you do not have the right of request, and remember that the person who gives to the poor is settling a debt contracted with God. - LACORDAIRE (Constantina, 1863).
15. Does the principle, according to which Man is merely the trustee for the fortune which God has permitted him to enjoy during his life-time, take away the right to transmit it to his descendants?
Man has a perfect right to transmit after his death that which he enjoyed during his lifetime, because the effect of this right is always subordinate to the Will of God, Who can, when He deems fit, prevent those descendants from enjoying what was transferred to them. This is the reason why many apparently solid fortunes collapse. Man's will then, is impotent when he desires to maintain his fortune in the hands of his descendants. This, however, does not take away his right to transfer the loan received from God, seeing that God can take it away whenever He judges opportune. - SAINT LOUIS (Paris, 1860).