GOOD AND EVIL
Source of goodness and wickedness – Instinct and Intelligence – Destruction of
living beings by one another.
Source of goodness and wickedness
1. God being the origin of all things, and his nature being all wisdom, justice and
goodness, all which proceeds from him, must be imbued with these attributes; for that which is
infinitely wise, just, and good, can produce nothing unreasonable, wicked, or wrong. The
wickedness which we observe cannot then be derived from him.
2. If wickedness was the province of a special being who is called Satan, he must be
either equal to God, and for all eternity as powerful, or he must be his inferior.
In the first case, there would be two rival powers in constant contention, each one seeking
to overthrow the work of the other, and constantly thwarting each other. This hypothesis is
irreconcilable with that unity of purpose which reveals itself in the arrangement of the Universe.
In the second case this being, being inferior to God, would be subordinate to him. Not
being able to exist for all eternity like him, without being his equal, he would have had a
commencement. If he has been created, God must have been his creator. Thus God would have
created a bad spirit, which is impossible if he be infinite goodness. (See “Heaven and Hell”
chap. X, “The Demons”)
3. However, evil exists, and it has a cause.
Evils are of many kinds; there are firstly, physical and moral evils, then the evils that men
can evade, and those that are independent of human will. Among the latter are classed the
Man, whose faculties are limited, cannot compass or understand all the designs of the
Creator. He studies things at the point of view of his personality by artificial interests, and by
conditions that he has created, and which are not in the order of nature. That is why he finds
oftentimes wrong and injustice in that which he would know to be just and admirable if he
could see its cause, its end and definite results. In seeking the reason for being and utility of
everything, he will surely discover that all bears the imprint of infinite wisdom, and he will bow
before the wise power even in things which he fails to comprehend.
4. Man has received a share of intelligence by which he can avert, or at least greatly
palliate the effects of all natural plagues. The more knowledge he acquires, the farther he
advances in civilization, the less disastrous these plagues will be. With a wisely provident social
organization he will be able to neutralize the consequences of them, and in time, evade them
entirely. Thus for these plagues which annoy us now, but which have their use in the general
order of nature, God has given to men, in the faculties by which he has endowed his mind, the
means of paralyzing their effects in the future.
It is thus that he renders healthy insalubrious countries; that he destroys pestilential
miasmas; that he fertilizes waste lands and applies himself to preserve them from inundation;
that he constructs healthier habitations, stronger to resist winds so necessary for the purification
of the atmosphere; that he is sheltered from the inclemency of the weather. It is thus that
necessity has created science by the aid of which he improves the condition of the habitable
parts of the globe, and augments the general well-being.
5. The evils to which men are exposed by ignorance are a stimulant for the exercise of
their intelligence, for all their moral and physical faculties, by inducing them to seek for means
to shelter themselves from them. If man had nothing to fear, no necessity would incline him to
seek for anything better: he would become benumbed in the inactivity of his mind; he would
invent nothing and discover nothing. Pain and suffering are incentives which spur men onward,
in the march of progress.
6. But the most numerous evils are those which men create by their own vices, - those
which spring from their pride, from their selfishness, from their ambition, from their cupidity,
from their excess in all things. Hence the cause of wars, calamities, dissensions, injustice,
oppression of the feeble by the strong, and of the greater part of diseases.
God has established laws full of wisdom, which are only for the good of men. All that is
necessary to man’s welfare is his obedience to them. His way is traced out for him by his
conscience. The divine law is engraved upon his heart. Moreover, God reminds him incessantly
by his messiahs and prophets, by all incarnates who have received the mission of enlightening
him, of moralizing him, of improving his condition, and in these latter days by the multitude of
discarnates who manifest on all sides, - if man conformed himself rigorously to the divine laws,
he would evade, without doubt, the severest evils, and would live happily upon the Earth. If he
doesn’t obey them, it is by virtue of his free will; and he must submit himself to the
consequences. (“The Gospel According to Spiritism,” Chap. 5, items 4, 5, and 6)
7. But God, full of goodness, has placed the remedy by the side of evil; that is to say, he
brings good out of its opposite. There comes a time where an excess of moral wickedness
becomes intolerable, and makes man realize the need of a change of life. Instructed by
experience, he is impelled to seek a remedy in goodness, always by the effect of his free will.
When he enters the better path, it is by the influence of his own desire, and because he
recognizes the inconveniences of the other way. This necessity is a compulsion to improve
himself morally, in view of being happier. This brings with it the natural consequence of
bettering his material condition also (see item n°5).
8. One can say that evil is the absence of good, as cold is the absence of heat. Wickedness
is no more a distinct attribute than cold is a special fluid. One is the negative of the other.
Where good exists not, there is necessarily evil. Not to do wickedly is already the
commencement of good. God desires only good; from man only comes evil. If there were in the
universe a being charged with evil, man would not be able to evade him; but man, having the
cause of wrong-doing within HIMSELF, having at the same time his free-will, and for his guide
the divine laws, he can avoid it if he desires to do so.
Let us take a common fact as a comparison. A landowner knows that at the extremity of
his field is a dangerous place, and those who might venture there would be wounded, or perish.
What means does he employ to prevent accidents? He places near the place a notice forbidding
people to pass there on account of danger. Such is the law: it is wise and provident. If not
withstanding the warning, an imprudent person pays no heed, and passes beyond it, thereby
injuring himself, whom can he blame if not himself?
Thus it is with all evils; man could evade them if he would obey the divine laws. God, for
example, has placed a limit to the gratification of wants: man is warned by satiety. If he passes
beyond this limit, he does it voluntarily. The illness, infirmities, and death, which may be the
consequence of it, are then occasioned by his own fault, and not that of God.
9. Wickedness being the result of imperfections of man and man being created by God,
will they not say that God had at least created, if not evil, the cause of evil? If he had made man
perfect, evil would not exist.
If man had been created perfect, he would be carried by fate in the way of goodness.
Now, by virtue of his free will, he is carried by fate neither to the good nor bad; God having
decreed that he should submit to the law of progress, and that this progress should be fruit of his
own labor, in order that he should have the merit of it, as well as be responsible for his evil
deeds, which he can always avoid by the use of his will. The question then is to know what is in
man the source of propensity to evil.*
* The error consists in presuming that the soul leaves the hands of the Creator already in a state of perfection, whereas it is the opposite: God wants our perfection to be the result of our own labor, through a gradual purification of the Spirit. He further wishes the soul - which is endowed with free will - to be able to choose between good and evil, and that its final goals should be attained at the price of activity, and by resisting evil. If He had created the soul as perfect as Himself, by securing its eternal beatitude right from his hands, he would have created it not after his image, but after his own self. (Bonnamy, “The Reason of Spiritism,” chapter VI).
10. If one studies all the passions, and even all vices, one sees that they have their origin
in the instinct of self-preservation. This instinct is strongest with animals, and with primitive
men, who approached nearest the animal existence. It governed them entirely, because they had
not the moral sense for a counterpoise, having not been born into the intellectual life. The
instinct is weakened in proportion as intelligence is developed, because the latter rules matter.
The spirit is destined for the spiritual life: but in the first phases of its corporeal existence
it has only material needs to satisfy; and to this end the exercise of the passions is a necessity
for the preservation of the species and of the individual, materially speaking. But, passed
beyond this period, he has other needs, - needs at first partly moral and partly material, then
exclusively moral. It is then that the spirit rules matter. If he throws of the yoke, he advances on
his providential way; he approaches his final destiny. If on the contrary, he allows himself to be
ruled by the senses, he is held back on his upward progress by assimilating himself with the
brute. In this situation that which was formerly good, because it was a necessity of his nature,
becomes an evil, not only because it is no more a necessity, but because it has become hurtful to
his spiritual well-being. Similarly, that which is considered a good quality in a child becomes an
imperfection in the adult. Evil is thus relative, and the responsibility therefore proportionate to
the degree of advancement.
All passions have thus their providential utility; if not so, God has made some things
intrinsically useless and hurtful. It is only abuse which constitutes the evil, and man abuses by
virtue of his free-will. At length, awakened to the knowledge of his own share in it, he chooses
freely between the good and the bad.
Instinct and Intelligence
11. What is the difference between instinct and intelligence? Where does one end and the
other commence? Is instinct a rudimental intelligence or a distinct faculty, - an exclusive
attribute of matter?
Instinct is occult power which incites organic beings to spontaneous and involuntary acts
in relation to their conservation. In instinctive acts there is neither reflection, contrivance, nor
premeditation. Thus the plant seeks air, turns itself towards the light, directs its roots towards water and the nutritious soil; the flower opens and closes its petals by turns, according to its
needs; climbing plants wind themselves around supports, or cling to them by their tendrils. It is
by instinct that animals are apprised of that which is useful or injurious to them, that they are
directed, according to the season, towards propitious climates; that they construct, without
preliminary lessons, with more or less art, according to species, soft places of rest and of shelter
for their progeny, machinery by which they snare their prey by which they are nourished, that
they handle dexterously weapons of defense with which they are provided; that the sexes are
brought together, that the mother produces offspring, and that the little ones seek her breast for
nourishment. With man instinct rules at the outset of life. It is by instinct the infant makes his
first movements, that he seizes his nourishment, that he cries to express his wants, that he
imitates the sound of the voice, that he tries to speak and to walk. With the adult, even, certain
acts are instinctive: such are spontaneous movements to escape a danger, to remove one’s self
from peril, to maintain one’s equilibrium; such are, also, the blinking of the eyelids to temper
the brilliance of the light, the mechanical opening of the mouth to breath, etc.
12. Intelligence is revealed by voluntary, reflective, premeditated, united actions,
according to the fitness of circumstances. It is incontestably an exclusive attribute of the soul.
All mechanical action is instinctive; that which denotes reflection and contrivance is
intelligent. One is free; the other is not.
Instinct is a sure guide which never deceives; intelligence, solely because it is
unrestrained, is sometimes subject to error.
If the instinctive action has not the character of the intelligent one, it reveals,
nevertheless, an intelligent cause, essentially provident. If one admits that instinct has its source
in matter, it is necessary, also, to admit that matter is intelligent, - surely wiser and more
foreseeing than the soul, since instinct does not deceive, whilst intelligence does.
If one considers instinct to be rudimental intelligence, why is it, in certain cases, superior
to reasoning intelligence - that it makes possible the execution of things that the latter cannot
If it is the attribute of a special spiritual principle, what becomes of this principle? When
instinct is effaced, this principle must also be destroyed. If animals are only endowed with
instinct, their future is without issue; their sufferings have no compensation. This would be in
conformity with neither the justice, nor the goodness of God. (Chap. II, n°19).
13. According to another system, instinct and intelligence have one and the same
principle alone. Having arrived at a certain degree of development, this principle, which at first
had only the qualities of instinct, is subject to a transformation which imparts to its free
If this were true, for the intelligent man who loses his ability to reason, and is guided
exclusively by instinct, his intelligence would regress to its primitive state; and, upon
recovering his ability to reason, his instinct would, once again, turn back into the state of
intelligence; this cycle would repeat itself, alternatively, for each bout of rage encountered. This
is not admissible.
Incidentally, intelligence and instinct are frequently present, side-by-side, in the same
action. For instance, upon walking a man’s legs move in an instinctive way; mechanically, he
places one foot before the other, without thinking of it. However, when he wants to accelerate
or lessen his pace, lift up his foot, or deviate it in order to avoid an obstacle, there is calculation
and combination involved; he acts here with a deliberate purpose. The involuntary impulsion of
the movement is the instinctive act; whereas the calculated direction of the movement is the
intelligent act. A carnivorous animal is compelled by its instinct to gain nourishment from meat;
but the precautions it takes, its foresight of possible eventualities - which varies according to the
circumstances - in order to capture his prey, are acts of intelligence.
14. Yet, a last hypothesis, which, however, is perfectly allied to unity of principle springs
from the essential provident character of instinct, and agrees with that which Spiritism teaches
us concerning the connection between the spiritual and the corporeal world.
One knows now that discarnated spirits have the mission of watching over incarnated
ones, of whom they are the guides and protectors; that they surround them with their fluidic
effluvia; that man acts often in an unconscious manner under the influence of these effluvia.
One knows, besides, that instinct itself, which produces actions without the aid of reason,
predominates in children and in general with those persons whose intellect is feeble. Now,
according to this hypothesis, instinct can neither be an attribute of the soul nor of matter. It does
not belong properly to any living being, but must be the effect of the direct action of invisible
protectors who supply the deficiency to imperfect intelligence by inciting them to necessarily
unconscious actions for the preservation of life. It is like the leading-string by which one
supports the infant learning to walk; and, in the same manner, as one discontinues gradually the
use of the string in order that he may learn to stand without help, the spirit-protectors leave their
protégées to themselves when the latter can be guided by their own intelligence.
Thus, instinct, far from being the product of a rudimental and imperfect intelligence, is
ever the result of an unknown power in the plenitude of its strength supplying knowledge to a
feebler understanding, impressing the latter to act unconsciously for his own good in a way
impossible to him were it not for this impression; or it may be that a being of riper information,
becoming temporarily trammeled in the use of his powers, - the first takes place with man in his
infancy, the second in cases of idiocy and mental affections.
It has passed into a proverb that there is a God for children, fools and drunkards; for
children, fools, and drunkards are always kept from harm. This belief is truer than one would
think. This God is none other than the spirit-protector who watches over the one incapable of
protecting himself by his own reason.
15. In this set of ideas one must go still farther; for this theory, however rational it may
be, does not solve the difficulties of the question.
If one observes the effects of instinct, one remarks, in the first place, a unity of view, and,
as a whole, a certainty of results which ceases to exist when instinct is displaced by free
intelligence. Moreover, in the appropriation of instinctive faculties, so certain and so constant in
the needs of every creature, one recognizes a profound wisdom. This unity of sight could not
exist without a unity of thought. Consequently, by the multiplicity of acting causes, or by
following the progress which is always accomplished by individual intelligences, there is
between them a diversity of operation and of will wholly incompatible with this so perfectly
harmonious a unity produced since the beginning of time, and in all places with a regularity and
mathematical precision never at fault. This uniformity in the result of instinctive faculties is a
fact which forcibly implies unity of cause. If this cause were inherent in every individuality,
there would be as many varieties of instincts as of individuals from the plant to man. A general
uniform and constant effect must have a general uniform cause. An effect revealing wisdom and
providence must result from a wise and provident cause. A wise and provident cause being
necessarily intelligent, cannot be exclusively material.
As we find not in created beings, incarnated or discarnated, the necessary qualities to
produce such a result, it is necessary to go higher, - that is, to the Creator himself. The reader is
referred to the explanation given of the means whereby one can conceive of providential action
(chap. II, n°24). If one imagines all beings permeated with the divine effluence, severely
intelligent, he will comprehend the provident wisdom and unity of sight which presides in all
the instinctive movements conducing to good of each individual. This solicitude is so much the
more active as the individual has fewer resources within himself, due to his possession of
intelligence. This is why it shows itself in a greater and more absolute degree in animals than in
In the light of this theory one understands that instinct is always a sure guide; the
maternal instinct, the noblest of all; that which materialism lowers to the level of attractive
forces of matter, finds itself re-enthroned and ennobled. Reason readily perceives that it is not
desirable that it should be delivered over to the capricious action of that intelligence known as
free will. Through the maternal organism God himself watches over his newly born creatures.
16. This theory, however, does not destroy the role of the spirit-protectors, whose
concurrence is a fact proved by experience; but it is necessary to remark, that the action of the
latter is essentially individual, that it is modified by the qualities proper to the protector and his
charge, and that it never has the uniformity and generality of instinct. God, in his wisdom,
himself conducts the blind; but he leaves to free intelligence the work of guiding clear-seeing
ones, that each may be responsible for his own acts. The mission of the spirit-protectors is a
duty voluntarily accepted, and which is for the guardian spirits a means of advancement
according to the manner in which they fulfill it.
17. All these analysis of instinct are necessarily hypothetical and no one of them is
sufficiently authentic in character to be given as a definite solution. The question will certainly
be solved some day, when many will have attained to a power of observation revealing truths
yet beyond our grasp. Until then it is necessary to submit these diverse opinions to the crucible
of reason and logic, and wait until more light breaks. The solution which approaches the nearest
to the truth will be necessarily that which harmonizes the best with the attributes of God; that is
to say, to sovereign goodness and justice (see chap. II, n° 19).
18. Instinct being an unerring guide, when spirits resort to outward intelligence in the
primary periods of their development, they are confounded sometimes by effects. There is,
however, between these two principles a difference which it is necessary to consider.
Instinct is a sure guide, and always a good one. At a given time, it may become useless,
but never hurtful. It is weakened by the predominance of intelligence.
The passions in the first expressions of the soul have this in common with instinct: they
are guided by an equally involuntary force. They are born more particularly to supply the needs
of the body, and depend more than instinct upon the organism. That which distinguishes them
above all else from instinct, is that they are individual, and do not produce, as does instinct,
general and uniform effects. We see them, on the contrary, varied in intensity of nature
according to individual development. They are useful as stimulants; that is, until the awakening
of the moral sense, which, in the case of a passive being, transforms him into a rational being.
From this moment they become not only useless, but hurtful to the development of the spirit,
whose upward progress they hold back; they are weakened by the development of reason.
19. The man who would constantly act instinctively might be very good, but would let his
intelligence sleep. He would be like a child who would not quit his leading-strings, refusing to
use his limbs. He who masters not his passions can be very intelligent, but at the same time very
impure. Instinct annihilates itself; passions are governed only by the effort of the will.
The Destruction of Living Beings by One Another
20. The reciprocal destruction of living beings by one another is a law of nature which, at
first sight, seems in no way reconcilable with the goodness of God. One asks why he has made
it necessary for them to nourish themselves by destroying each other.
For him who sees things only in a material light, whose vision is limited to the present
life, this appears indeed an imperfection in the divine plan, because they judge of divine
perfection from their point of view. Their own judgment is their measure of his wisdom, and
they think that God does not know as well as themselves. Their short-sightedness not permitting
them to judge of the whole, they do not comprehend how a real good can result from an
apparent evil. The knowledge of the spiritual principle, considered in its veritable essence and
by the grand law of unity, which constitutes the full harmony of the universe, can alone give to
man the key to this mystery, and show to him the providential wisdom and harmony precisely
where he saw only an anomaly and contradiction.
21. The true life of the animal, as well of the man, is no more in the body than it is in the
clothing; it is in the intelligent principle that pre-exists and survives the body. This principle has
need of a body in order to develop itself by the work of controlling brute matter. The body is
employed in this work, but the spirit is not thereby injured; on the contrary, it comes out of the
strife every time stronger, more lucid and more capable. What matters if the spirit changes more
or less frequently its envelope? It is no less a spirit. It is as absolutely as though a man should
renew his clothings a hundred times a year: he would still be the same man.
By the constant spectacle of destruction, God teaches man of how little worth is the
material envelope, and excites in them the idea of the spiritual life by making them desire it as
But some will say: Could not God arrive at the same result by other means, without
obliging living beings to destroy each other? If all is wisdom in his works, we ought to suppose
that his wisdom is no more defective in this particular than in any other. If we cannot
comprehend it, it is necessary to ascribe the seeming folly to our lack of advancement. Each
time we can try to seek the reason by taking this for our watchword: God must be infinitely just
and wise. Let us, then, seek for his justice and wisdom in all things, and let us bow before that
which surpasses our understanding.
22. The first reason which presents itself for this destruction – a purely physical utility,
it is true – is this: organic bodies are supported only by the aid of organic matter. This matter
alone contains the nutritive elements necessary to their sustenance. The bodies which are
instruments of action for the intelligent principle, having need of incessant renovation,
Providence makes them serve for their mutual support. That is why beings are nourished by one
another. It is thus that body is nourished by body: but the spirit is not changed; it is only
despoiled of its envelope.*
* See “Revue Spirite” August 1864, Extinction of the Races.
23. This is outside moral considerations of a more elevated order.
The battle is necessary to the development of the spirit. It is in battle that it exercises its
faculties. He who attacks another that he may nourish himself, and he who defends himself to
preserve his life, making an assault upon intelligence, thereby augments his own intellectual
strength. As he must contend against stratagem, displaying intelligence, thereby both augment
their intellectual force. One of the two succumbs. But what is it that the stronger or more skillful
has in reality taken away from the feebler? His vestment of flesh, - nothing else. The spirit,
which is not dead, will take another body.
24. With inferior beings in creation, with those in whom the moral sense does not exist,
where instinct has not been replaced by intelligence, the struggle would have for incentive only
the satisfaction of a material necessity. Now, one of the most imperious physical needs is that of
food. They struggle, then, only to sustain life; that is to say, to seize prey, or to defend
themselves from attack, for they cannot be actuated by a more elevated object. It is in this first
period that the soul is elaborated and tried by the vicissitudes of life.
There is a period of transition where man is scarcely distinguishable from the brute. In
the first periods of his existence animal instincts rules; and the battle has still for its incentive
the satisfaction of material wants. Later, the animal instinct and moral sentiment are
counterbalanced. Then struggles are no more simply for nourishment, but for the satisfaction of
ambition, pride, and love of dominion; it is still necessary to destroy. But, accordingly as moral
sense gains ascendancy, moral sensibility becomes developed; the desire to destroy diminishes,
at length it becomes effaced and odious to him. Man has a horror of blood.
However, a struggle is always necessary to the development of the spirit. After having
arrived at a point which appears to us the culminating one, he is still far from being perfect. It is
only at the price of activity that he acquires knowledge by experience, and as he is despoiled of
the last vestiges of animality; but then the effort, no longer brutal and bloody as it formerly was,
becomes purely intellectual. Man struggles against difficulties, but no more with beings of his
* Without prejudging the consequences that one could take from this principle, we simply wanted to
show, with this explanation, that the destruction of living beings, one by another, does not, by any means,
lessen the divine wisdom, and that everything follows a sequence within the laws of nature. However, this
chain is completely void if we disregard the spiritual principle. Our constant regarding of matter alone
leads us to a multitude of unanswered questions.
The materialistic doctrines bring within them the seeds of their own destruction. For once they are faced
with their own antagonism of mankind’s aspirations of universality and its moral consequences; they will
be seen as agents of dissolution, causing them to be repelled by society. Secondly, they face their
reluctance to comprehend one’s needs to become familiar with all that is brought forth by progress.
Intellectual development leads man to search for answers. Well, as little as he may reflect, it will not take
him long to recognize the inability of materialism to explain everything. One would question if a doctrine
that upholds man’s most vital questions as enigmas could ever prevail, considering that it does not satisfy
the heart, reason, or intelligence. The progress of ideas will defeat materialism, just as it has already