INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE SPIRITS
7. Duty is a moral obligation, firstly to ourselves and then to others. Duty is a law of life encountered in the smallest details as well as in the most elevated acts. Now I wish to speak only of moral duty and not of that duty which refers to the professions.
Within the order of sentiments, duty is a very difficult one to fulfill because it finds itself in antagonism with the seductions of interest and of the heart. Its victories have no witnesses and its failures suffer no repressions. Man's intimate duty is left to his free-will. The pressure of Man's conscience, this guardian of interior integrity, alerts and sustains him, but shows itself frequently impotent against the deceptions of passion. Duty of the heart, when faithfully observed, elevates Man, but how can we define it with exactitude? Where does duty begin? Where does it end? Duty begins exactly at the point where the happiness or tranquility of our neighbour is threatened, and therefore terminates at the limit we would not wish to be passed in relation to ourselves.
God has created all men equal in relation to pain; whether we be small or great, ignorant or educated, we all suffer for the same motives so that each one may judge in clear consciousness the evil that can be done. With reference to goodness, in its infinite variety of expressions, the criterion is not the same. Equality in the face of pain is God's sublime providence. He desires that all of His children, being instructed through their common experiences, should not practise evil with the excuse of not knowing its effects.
Duty is a practical summary of all moral speculation; it is the bravery of the soul which faces the anguishes of battle. It is both austere and mild, ready to adapt itself to the most diverse complications while maintaining inflexibility before temptations. The man who fulfils his duty loves God more than his fellow beings and loves his fellow beings more than himself It is at one and the same time judge and slave in its own cause.
Duty is the most beautiful laurel of reason, and is born of it as a child is born of its mother. Man should love duty, not because it protects him from the evils of life from which humanity cannot escape, but because it transmits vigour to the soul, which it needs so as to be able to develop.
Duty grows and irradiates under a constantly more elevated form in each of the superior stages of humanity. A person's moral obligations towards God never cease, They must reflect the eternal virtues, which do not accept imperfect outlines, because He wishes the grandeur of His work always to be resplendent before their eyes. - LAZARUS (Paris, 1863).
8. Virtue, at its highest level is a combination of all those essential qualities which constitute a goodly person, namely to be good, charitable, hard working, sober and modest. Unfortunately these virtues are almost always accompanied by slight moral failures which tarnish and weaken them, The person who calls attention to their virtues is not virtuous, because they lack the principle quality which is modesty; but they possess the vice in greatest opposition to modesty, which is pride. Virtue that is really deserving of this name, does not like to exhibit itself. We must pay attention in order to be aware of its presence; it hides itself in the shadows and runs away from public admiration. Saint Vincent de Paul was virtuous. The dignified curate of Ars was virtuous, as are a great many others who are little known in this world, but are known to God. All of these good people were ignorant of the fact that they were virtuous. They allowed themselves to be carried along by their saintly inspirations, practising good with absolute disinterestedness and complete forgetfulness of self.
It is to this virtue, well understood and practised, that I call you, my children. It is to this really Christian and truly spiritual virtue that I invite you to commit yourselves. But remove from your hearts the sentiments of pride, vanity and self-love which always tarnish the most beautiful of these qualities. Do not imitate those people who offer themselves as models, who blow their own trumpets about their own qualities for all who are tolerant enough to listen. This ostentatious virtue almost always hides a mass of little wickednesses and hateful weaknesses.
In principle, the man or woman who exalts themself, who erect statues to their own virtues, by this very fact annul all the merits they might effectively have had. Furthermore, what can be said of those whose only value is in appearing to be what they are not? You must clearly understand that whoever does good has a feeling of intimate satisfaction in the bottom of their heart. But from the moment that satisfaction is exteriorised for the purpose of provoking praise, it degenerates into self- love.
Oh, all of you whom the Spiritist faith has reanimated with its rays, who know just how far away from perfection Man finds himself, you will never deliver yourselves over to this failing! Virtue is a blessing which I desire for all sincere Spiritists, but with this warning: It is better to have fewer virtues and to be modest than to have many and be proud. It was because of pride that the various groupings of humanity through the ages have successively lost themselves. It will be through humility that they will one day redeem themselves. - FRANÇOIS-NICOLAS-MADELEINE (Paris, 1863).
THOSE WHO ARE SUPERIOR AND THOSE WHO ARE INFERIOR
9. Authority, just as much as fortune, is delegated; and those who have received it will be required to give an account of what they have done with it. Do not believe that it has been given for the futile pleasure of command, nor even less as a right or property, as is falsely thought by the majority of powerful people on Earth. Besides, God is constantly proving that it is neither the one nor the other, since He takes it away whenever it pleases Him. If it was a privilege inherent to the person who exercised it, it would be inalienable. However, no one can say that something belongs to them, when it may be taken away without their consent. God confers authority with the title of mission or test, as He sees fit, and takes it back in the same manner.
For the depository of authority, whatever its extent may be, from the master over his servants to a sovereign over his peoples, it must never be forgotten that such people have souls in their charge, and will have to answer for both the good and bad directives given to these subordinates. The misdemeanours these may commit, and the vices to which they may succumb in consequence of the directives received or the bad examples given, will all revert to those in command; just as in the same way the fruits of the solicitudes offered in conducting these subordinates towards goodness will also revert to those in authority. Every good person on Earth has either a small or a great mission, and whatever form it may take, it is always given for the purpose of goodness. Therefore to turn it away from its purpose is to fail in the execution of the task.
If God asks the rich man: "What have you done with the fortune in your hands which should have been a source for spreading fruitfulness all around you?", He will also inquire of those who have some authority: "What have you done with your authority? What evils have you avoided? What progress have you made? If I gave you subordinates it was not so that you could turn them into slaves to your desires, or docile instruments for your whims or your greed. I made you strong and entrusted to you those who were weak, so that you could protect them and help them to climb up towards Me."
The acting superior who keeps Christ's words despises none of his subordinates, because he knows that social distinctions do not exist before God. Spiritism teaches him that if these people are obeying him today, perhaps they have already given him orders in the past, or may give them to him later on, and that then he will be treated in the same manner as when they were under him.
If the superior has duties to be fulfilled, the subaltern also has duties on his side which are no less sacred. If this person is also a Spiritist their conscience will tell them, in no uncertain terms, that they are not exempt from fulfilling these duties even when their superior does not fulfill his, because they know that you do not repay evil with evil and that the failings of some do not authorize others to fail likewise. If they suffer in their position, they will comment that without doubt they deserve it because they have perhaps abused the authority they had been given at some other time, and that now they are feeling the disadvantages that they had made others suffer. If they are obliged to support this situation for want of a better one, then Spiritism teaches them to be resigned as a test of their humility which is necessary for their advancement. Their belief guides them in their conduct; inducing them to proceed as they would wish subordinates to behave towards them, if they were the superior. For this reason they are more scrupulous in the fulfilment of their obligations, as they understand that all negligence in the work which has been confided to them would cause a loss to the one who pays them and to whom they owe their time and effort. In a word, this person is guided by their sense of duty, which their faith has instilled in them, and the certainty that all turning aside from the straight and narrow pathway will be a debt incurred that must be repaid sooner or later. - FRANÇOIS-NICOLAS- MADELEINE. Cardinal MORLOT (Paris, 1863).
THE WORLDLY PERSON
10. A sentiment of pity should always animate the hearts of those who gather together under the eye of the Lord, imploring the assistance of the Good Spirits. Therefore purify your hearts. Do not allow yourselves to be perturbed by futile and mundane thoughts. Lift up your Spirits towards those you are calling, so that they, having encountered favourable dispositions, may launch a profusion of seeds which should germinate in your hearts so as to produce the fruits of charity and justice.
Do not think, however, that in constantly urging you to pray and meditate we wish you to lead the life of a mystic, or that you should maintain yourselves outside the laws of the society in which you are condemned to reside. No. You must dwell with the people of your time in the manner in which they live. Sacrifice wants, even frivolities of the day, but sacrifice them with a pure sentiment which can sanctify them.
You are called upon to be in contact with Spirits of diverse natures and opposite characters. do not enter into conflict with anyone with whom you may find yourself. Always be happy and content, with the happiness which comes from a clear conscience and the contentment of one who will inherit Heaven and is counting the days till they receive their inheritance.
Virtue does not consist of having a severe and gloomy appearance, or in repelling the pleasures which the human condition permits. It is sufficient to refer all your acts to God, Who gave you your life. It is enough that at the commencement and at the end of each task you lift up your thoughts to the Creator, asking Him with a heartfelt impulse for His protection in order to execute the work, or His blessing on its termination. On doing anything at all, take your thoughts up to that Supreme Source. Do nothing without first thinking of God, so that this thought may come to purify and sanctify your acts.
Perfection, as Christ said, is only to be found in the practice of unlimited charity, since the duties of charity cover all social positions from the most lowly to the most elevated. The person who lives in isolation will have no means of exercising charity. It is only by being in contact with one's fellow creatures, in painful battle, that we are able to find occasion to practise it. The one who isolates himself therefore is entirely deprived of the most powerful means of perfection. In only having to think of oneself, life becomes that of a selfish person. (See chapter 5, item 26.)
Therefore do not imagine that in order to be in constant contact with us, to live under the watchful eye of God, you must wear a hair shirt and cover yourselves with ashes. No, no, and yet again no! Be happy within the picture of human needs, but in this happiness never allow a thought or an act which could offend God, or cause a shadow to fall upon the face of those who love you or direct you. God is love and He blesses all who sanctify their own love. - A Protecting Spirit (Bordeaux, 1863).
LOOK AFTER BOTH BODY AND SPIRIT
11. Does spiritual perfection depend on the mortification of the body? In order to resolve this question I will base myself on elementary principles and begin by demonstrating the need to take care of the body, which according to the alternatives of health and sickness, has a very important influence upon the soul, because we must consider it to be a prisoner of the flesh. So that this prisoner can live, move itself, and even have an illusion of liberty, the body must be sound, of good disposition, and be vigorous. Let us then make a comparison. Let us suppose that both are in perfect condition; what should be done to maintain the balance between their aptitudes and their necessities, which are so very different?
In this case two systems are confronting each other: that of the ascetics who wish to bring down the body, and that of the materialists who wish to diminish the soul. Two forms of violence, each one almost as foolish as the other. Alongside these two great parties seethe the indifferent multitudes who, without either conviction or passion, love with tepidness and are economic with their pleasure. Where then is wisdom? Where then is the science of living? Nowhere at all! And this great problem would still remain to be solved if Spiritism had not come to help the researchers and demonstrate to them the relationship which exists between the body and the soul, and to tell them that as they are both reciprocally necessary, it is indispensable that both are looked after.
So then, love your soul and also look after your body which is the instrument of the soul. To pay no attention to these needs, which Nature itself indicates, is to ignore God's laws. Do not castigate your body due to failings which your free-will can induce you to commit, and for which it is just as responsible as is the badly driven horse for the accidents it causes. Perchance, will you be more perfect if by tormenting your body you do not become less selfish, less prideful and more charitable towards your neighbours? No, perfection is not to be found in this manner, but exclusively in the reformation to which you submit your Spirit. Discipline it, subjugate it and mortify it; this is the way to make it more docile to God's will, and is the one and only way which leads to perfection - GEORGES, a Protecting Spirit (Paris, 1863).