Allan Kardec

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First Formation of Living Beings – Vital Principle – Abiogenesis – Spontaneous Generation – Scale of Material Beings – Man.

First Formation of Living Beings

1. There was a time when animals did not exist, and also a time when they began to appear. Each species appeared as soon as the Earth acquired the conditions necessary to its existence; this we positively know. But how were the first individuals of each species formed? A first couple must have been formed. Many beings have sprung from them; but this first couple, whence did they spring? This is one of the mysteries of the beginning, about which one can form only hypothesis. If science cannot yet completely solve the problem, it can at least put us on the way to a solution.

2. The first question presenting itself is this: has each animal species sprung from a single first couple, or have many couples been created simultaneously in different places?

This last supposition is the most probable. One can even call it a result of observation. Accordingly, studies of the geological layers indicate the presence of the same species in great quantities — in terrains of identical formation — on points of the globe very distant from one another. Such generalized and somewhat contemporaneous multiplication would have been impossible with one single primitive type.

Moreover, the life of an individual, above all that of a growing child, is submitted to so many uncertainties, that an entire species would be endangered without a plurality of primitive types, which would not be in accordance with divine foresight. Besides, if one type has been able to form itself upon a certain point, there is no reason why it should not be formed in many places by the same cause.

All concur then in proving that there has been a simultaneous and multiple creation of the first couples of each animal and vegetable species.

3. The knowledge of the formation of the first living beings can be deduced by analogy from the same law, by means of which have been formed and are forming every day inorganic bodies. According as one studies the laws of nature, one sees the machinery which at first sight appears so complicated, become simplified, and blend into the great law of unit, which presides over the entire work of creation. One will comprehend it better if one will notice the formation of inorganic bodies, which is the first stage of it.

4. In chemistry are found a certain number of elementary substances, such as: —oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, chlorine, iodine, fluoride, sulfur, phosphorus, and all the metals. By their combination they form compound bodies: — the oxides, acids, alkalize, salts, and innumerable varieties resulting from combinations of these.

By the combination of two bodies, in order to form a third, a particular concurrence of circumstances is exacted, — either a determined degree of heat, dryness or humidity, movement or repose, or an electric current, etc. If these conditions do not exist, the combination does not take place.

5. When there is combination, the bodies composing it lose their characteristic properties, whilst the composition resulting from it possesses new ones, different from those of the first. It is thus, for example, that oxygen and hydrogen, which are invisible gases, being chemically combined, form water, which is liquid, solid or vaporous according to temperature. Water, properly speaking, is no more oxygen and hydrogen, but a new body. This water decomposed, the two gases, becoming again free, recover their properties and are no more water. The same quantity of water can thus be decomposed and recomposed ad infinitum.

6. The composition and decomposition of bodies take place according to the degree of affinity that the elementary principles possess for one another. The formation of water, for example, results from the reciprocal affinity of oxygen and hydrogen but, if one places in contact with the water a body having a greater affinity for oxygen than for hydrogen, the water is decomposed; the oxygen is absorbed, the hydrogen liberated, and there is no more water.

7. Compound bodies are always formed in definite proportions; that is to say, by the combination of a quantity determined by the constituent principles. Thus, in order to form water, one part of oxygen is needed and two of hydrogen. If you mix two volumes of hydrogen with more than one of oxygen, then cause them to unite, the hydrogen would only unite with one volume of oxygen; but, if in other conditions there are two parts of oxygen combined with two of hydrogen, in place of water, the dentoxide of hydrogen is obtained, — a corrosive liquid, formed, however, of the same elements as water, but in another proportion.

8. Such is, in few words, the law which presides at the formation of all natural bodies. The innumerable variety of these bodies is the result of a very small number of elementary principles combined in different proportions.

Thus oxygen, combined in certain proportions with sulfur, carbon, and phosphorus, forms carbonic, sulfuric, and phosphoric acids. Oxygen and iron form the oxide of iron, or rust; oxygen and lead, both inoffensive, give place to the oxides of lead, such as litharge, white lead, and red lead, which are poisonous. Oxygen, with metals called calcium, sodium, potassium, forms limestone, soda, and potassium. Limestone, united with carbonic acid, forms the carbonites of limestone, or calcareous stones, such as marble, chalk, building stones, the stalactites of grottos. United with sulfuric acid, it forms the sulfate of limestone, or plaster and alabaster; with phosphoric acid, the phosphate of limestone. The solid base of bones, hydrogen, and chlorine form hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid and soda form the hydrochloride of soda, or marine salt.

9. All these combinations, and thousands of others, are artificially obtained on a small scale in chemical laboratories. They are operated on a large scale in the grand laboratory of nature.

The Earth, in its beginning, did not contain these combinations of matter, but only their constituent elements in a state of volatility. When the calcareous and other soils became after a long time stony, they had been deposited on its surface. They did not at first exist as formations, but in the air were found in a gaseous state. These substances, precipitated by the effect of cold under the sway of favoring circumstances, have been combined according to the degree of their molecular affinity. It is then that the different varieties of carbonates and sulfates, etc., have been formed, — at first in a state of dissolution in the water, then deposited on the surface of the soil.

Let us suppose that by some cause the Earth should return to its primitive incandescent state; all that we see would decompose; the elements would separate; all fusible substances would melt; all those which were volatile would return to a state of volatility; after which a second cooling process would lead to a new precipitation, and the ancient combinations would form anew.

10. These considerations prove how necessary is chemistry to give us an intelligent idea of Genesis. Before the knowledge of the laws of molecular affinity, it was impossible to comprehend the formation of the Earth. This science has thrown an entirely new light upon the question, as astronomy and geology have done upon other points of view.

11. In the formation of solid bodies, one of the most remarkable phenomena is that of crystallization, which consists of the regular form which certain substances appropriate in their passage from the liquid or gaseous state to a solid condition. This form, which varies according to the nature of the substance, is generally that of geometrical solids, such as the prism, the rhomboid, cube, and pyramid. Everyone has seen the crystals of sugar candy, — rock crystals, or crystallized silica, which are prisms with six sides terminated by a pyramid equally hexagonal. The diamond is pure carbon, or crystallized coal. The designs which are produced upon window-panes in winter are due to the crystallization of the vapor from water under the form of prismatic needles.

The regular disposition of the crystals belongs to the particular form of the molecules of each body. These infinitely small particles occupy, nevertheless, a certain space, have been drawn toward one another by molecular attraction; they are arranged and in juxtaposition to one another, according to the exigency of form, in such a way that each one takes its place around the nucleus, or first center of attraction, and forms a symmetrical whole.

Crystallization only operates under the empire of certain favorable circumstances, without which it cannot take place. A right degree of temperature with repose is an essential condition. Too much heat, keeping the molecules separated, would prevent condensation; and, as agitation is opposed to their symmetrical arrangement, they would form only a confused and irregular mass under its influence, which is consequently not crystallization in the true sense of the word.

12. The law which presides at the formation of minerals leads naturally to the formation of organic bodies.

Chemical analysis shows us that all vegetable and animal substances are composed of the same elements as inorganic bodies. Of these elements those which play the principal role are: oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon; the others are only accessory to them. As in the mineral kingdom, the difference of proportion in the combination of these elements produces all varieties of organic substances and their various properties: such as, muscles, bone, blood, bile, nerves, cerebral matter, and fat among animals; and sap, wood, leaves, fruits, essences, oils, and resins in the vegetable kingdom. Thus no special body enters into the composition of animals and plants which is not also found in the mineral kingdom. *

*The following table of analysis of a few substances shows the difference of properties resulting solely in the difference in the proportions of the constituent elements in 100 parts: —

























Oil of nuts















13. A few common examples will show the transformations which take place in the kingdom of organic beings by the modification of the constituent element alone.

In the juice of the grape is found neither wine nor alcohol, but simply water and sugar. When this juice has arrived at maturity, and is placed in favorable circumstances, fermentation is produced. In this process a portion of the sugar is decomposed. Oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon are separated, and combined in the required proportions to form alcohol. By drinking the grape-juice when it is first formed, one does not drink alcohol, as it does not yet exist therein; thus, the alcohol is formed from the constituent parts of water and sugar existent therein, without adding or taking away one single molecule.

In bread and vegetables that we eat, there is certainly neither flesh, blood, bone, bile, nor cerebral matter; yet these articles of food produce them by decomposing and recomposing in the labor of digestion, and produce these different substances solely by the transmutation of their constitutive elements.

In the seed of a tree there is neither wood, leaves, flowers, nor fruit; and it is a puerile error to believe that the entire tree, in a microscopic form, is found in the seed. There is not even in this seed the quantity of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon necessary to form a leaf of the tree. The seed encloses a germ which comes to light when, the necessary conditions are found. This germ grows by aid of the juices it draws from the Earth, and the gas that it inhales from the air. These juices, which are neither wood, leaves, flowers, nor fruit, by infiltrating themselves into the plant, form sap, as food with animals makes blood. This sap, carried by the circulation into all parts of the vegetable, according as it is submitted to a special elaboration, is transformed into wood, leaves, and fruits, as blood is transformed into flesh, bones, bile, etc.; and, although these are always the same elements, — oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon, — they are diversely combined.

14. The different combinations of the elements for the formation of mineral, vegetable and animal substances can then be formed only under propitious circumstances. Outside of these circumstances the elementary principles are in a sort of inertia; but, as soon as conditions are favorable, a work of elaboration commences. The molecules begin to move: they act, approach, and are drawn toward one another, and separate by virtue of the law of affinity, and by their multiple combinations compose the infinite variety of substances. If these conditions cease, the work is suddenly arrested, to recommence so soon as conditions are again furnished. Thus vegetation is active, retards, ceases, and resumes action under the power of heat, light, humidity, cold, and dryness; as some plants prosper in one climate or soil, and perish in another.

15. That which took place from the beginning is daily taking place under our eyes; for the laws of nature are always the same since the constituent elements of organic and inorganic beings are identical.

As we continually see them under the empire of certain circumstances form stones, flowers, and fruits, one can conclude that the bodies of the first living beings were formed as the first stones, — by the reunion of elementary molecules by virtue of the law of affinity, according as the conditions of vitality of the globe have been propitious to this or that species.

The similitude of form and color in the reproduction of individuals of each species can be compared to the similitude of form of each species of crystal. The molecules, being in juxtaposition under the dominion of the same law, produce an analogous whole.

Vital Principle

16. Though we say that plants and animals are formed of the same constituents as minerals, it is necessary to understand this statement in a purely material sense, as it has reference only to the body.

Without speaking of the intelligent principle, which is a question by itself, there is in organic matter a special indiscernible principle, which has never yet been defined: it is the vital principle. This principle, which is active in living beings, though extinct in beings deprived of life by death, nevertheless gives to them characteristic properties, distinguishing them from inorganic substances. Chemistry, which decomposes and recomposes the greater part of inorganic bodies, has power to decompose organic bodies, but has never known to reconstruct even a dead leaf, which is a conclusive proof that there is something in one which does not exist in the other.

17. Is the vital principle something distinct, having a separate existence before it enters the systematic unity of the generative element? Or is it only a particular state, one of the modifications of the universal cosmic fluid, which has become the principle of life, as light, fire, heat, electricity? It is in this last sense that the question is solved by the communications connected with this subject (chap. VI, “General Uranography”).

But, whatever the opinion be concerning the nature of the vital principle, we know it exists as we see the effects of it. One can then admit logically that, in forming themselves from it, organic beings have assimilated the vital principle necessary to their existence as immortal beings; or, if one wishes to say that this principle has been developed in each individual through a combination of elements under the rule of certain circumstances, one sees heat, light, and electricity develop themselves.

18. Oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon, in combining themselves without the vital principle, form only a mineral or inorganic body. The vital principle, modifying the molecular constitution of this body, gives to it special properties. In place of a mineral molecule is found a molecule of organic matter.

The activity of the vital principle is sustained during life by the action of the organs, as is heat by the rotary movement of a wheel. As this action ceases with death, the vital principle is extinguished, as heat is when the wheel ceases to turn. But the effect produced upon the molecular state of the body by the vital principle lives after its extinction, just as the carbonization of wood continues after the extinction of heat. In the analysis of organic bodies, chemistry finds again the constituent elements, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon; but it cannot reconstruct them, because the cause exists no more: and thus the effect cannot be reproduced, although it can reconstruct a stone.

19. We have taken as an illustration heat generated by the movement of a wheel, because it is a common effect known to all and easier to comprehend; but it had been more exact to say, that in the combination of elements needed to form organic bodies, they are developed by electricity. Organic bodies are therefore veritable electric batteries which operate to the extent that the elements composing them are in a condition to generate electricity, which is life. When these conditions are arrested, death ensues. The vital principle can be none other than a particular kind of electricity designated under the name of animal electricity, evolved during life by the action of the organs, of which the production is arrested by death owing to the cessation of this action.

Abiogenesis - Spontaneous Generation

20. One naturally asks: why have there not been formed more living beings in the same conditions as the first to appear on Earth?

The question of abiogenesis with which science is occupied today, although yet diversely decided upon, cannot fail to throw light upon this subject. The problem proposed is this: are there spontaneously formed in our day organic beings by the sole union of the constituent elements without previous germs produced by ordinary generation, i.e., without fathers or mothers?

The partisans of abiogenesis reply affirmatively, and are supported by direct observations, which seem conclusive. Others think that all living beings are reproduced by one another, and support this fact arrived at by experience, as the germs of certain vegetable and animal species, being dispersed, can preserve a latent vitality for a considerable time until circumstances are favorable to their birth. This opinion does not answer any question concerning the formation of the first parents of any species.

21. Without discussing the two systems, it is well to remark that the principle of abiogenesis can evidently be applied only to the inferior order of beings of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, to those on which life is commencing to dawn, their organisms being extremely simple and rudimentary. These are probably the first which have appeared upon the Earth, of which the generation has been spontaneous. We could thus form an idea of a permanent analogous creation to this which has taken place in the first ages of the world.

22. Why, then, could not beings of a complex organization be formed in the same manner? That these beings have not always existed is a positive fact: then they must have had a beginning. If moss, lichens, zoophytes, infusorians, intestinal worms, and others can be spontaneously produced, why is it not the same with trees, fishes, dogs, and horses?

For a time investigations rest here. The conducting thread is lost, and, until that be found, the field is open to hypothesis. It would then be imprudent and premature to give any views on the subject as absolute truths.

23. If the fact of abiogenesis is proved, however limited it may be, it is no less a capital fact, a steady beacon-light on the way to new discoveries. If complex organic beings are produced in this manner, who knows how they have obtained their origin? Who knows the secret of all transformations? When one regards the oak and the acorn, who can say if a mysterious tie does not exist between the polyp and the elephant? (n° 25). From our current state of knowledge we cannot thus far establish the theory of permanent spontaneous generation, expect as a hypothesis; however a hypothesis that will perhaps in the future take a prominent place among the incontestable scientific truths. *

*« Revue Spirite, » July 1868, page 201: Development of the Theory of Abiogenesis.

Scale of Material Beings

24. Between the vegetable and animal kingdom there are no distinctly traced boundaries. Upon the borders of the two are the zoophytes, or animal plants, of which the name indicates that they belong to both: they are the hyphen between the two.

Like animal, plants are born, live, grow, are nourished, breathe, reproduce their kind, and die. Like them they have need of light, heat, and water; if they are deprived of them, they wither and die. The absorption of vitiated air and deleterious substances poisons them. Their distinctive trait of character, the most defined, is of being attached to the soil, and, without leaving their place, drawing their nourishment from it.

The zoophyte has the exterior appearance of a plant. Like the plant it belongs to the soil, but seems to partake more of the nature of an animal. It draws its nourishment from the ambient midst.

An animal, being one degree above a zoophyte, is free to go and seek its food. Firstly, there are innumerable varieties of polyps with gelatinous bodies, without very distinct organs, and which differ from plants only by locomotion. Then come in the order of development those with organs of vital activity and instinct, — intestinal worms, mollusks, fleshly animals without bones, of which some are entirely destitute, as slugs or cuttle-fish; others are provided with shells, as snails and oysters; then shell-fish, of which the skin is invested with a hard shell, like crabs and lobsters; insects, who lead a very active life, and manifest an industrious instinct, like the ant, the bee, and the spider; a few submit themselves to a metamorphosis, as the caterpillar, which is transformed into an elegant butterfly. Then comes the order of vertebrates, — animals with a bony framework, — which comprises fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals, of which the organization is more complete.

25. If we consider only the two opposite ends of the chain, there is no apparent analogy in these beings. However, if we go from one ring to the other, without solution of continuity, we arrive, without any sudden transition, from plants to vertebral animals. One can then understand the possibility that animals of complex organization may be no more than a transformation, or if we prefer, a gradual development, unnoticeable at first, of the immediately inferior specie and thus successively down to the most elementary primitive being. Between the acorn and the oak tree, there is a great difference; nevertheless, if we follow step by step the development of the acorn, we will arrive at the oak tree, and then we will not be surprised to see that it originated from such a small seed. If the acorn encompasses, in latency, the elements appropriate to the formation of a gigantic tree, why then won’t the same happen from the insect to the elephant? (n° 23)

From the above we conclude that there is no spontaneous generation, except for elementary organic beings; the superior species would be a product of successive transformations of these same beings, achieved as soon as atmospheric conditions were propitious for it. When each species acquired the ability to reproduce, their crossbreeding brought about innumerable varieties. Then, once the species were set in conditions of lasting vitality, who could say that the primitive germs from which they emerged did not disappear, for lack of usefulness? Who could say that our current day insect is not the same that, from transformation to transformation, produced the elephant? This would explain why there is no spontaneous generation among animals of complex organization.

Although not yet admitted as final, this theory tends evidently to prevail in Science today. It is the theory accepted by most serious observers, for being the most rational.


26. At the corporeal and purely anatomical point of view, man belongs to the mammals, from which he differs only slightly in outward form. Beyond that he is of the same chemical composition as all animals, has the same organs, functions, modes of nutrition, respiration, secretion, and reproduction. He is born, lives, and dies in the same conditions; and at his death his body is decomposed like that of all other beings. There is not in his blood, flesh, or bone, an element more or less than in those of the lower animals. Like the latter, in dying he renders to the Earth oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon, which were combined in order to form him, and go towards forming new combinations, new mineral, vegetable, and animal bodies. The analogy is so perfect that man can study his own organic functions in certain animals when experiments cannot be made with himself.

27. In the family of mammals man belongs to the two legged order of animals. Immediately below him comes animals with four legs, — the monkeys, of which a few, like the orangutan, chimpanzee, and the ape, have certain ways like men, so much so that for a long time they have been called wild men of the woods. Like him they walk erect, use a stick, and carry food to their mouths with their hands, which are characteristically human habits.

28. Although one can observe the scale of living beings at the point of view of organism, it is recognized that from the lichen to the tree, and from the zoophyte to man, there is a continuous chain elevating itself by degrees, in which all the links are joined together. Following step by step the series of beings, one can say that each species is a transformation of the species immediately below it. Since the body of man is in conditions identical with other bodies chemically and constitutionally, as he is born, lives, and dies in the same manner, he must have been formed in the same way.

29. Although it is humbling to his pride, man must be resigned to behold in his material body only the last link of animality upon the Earth. The inexorable argument of facts compels him thus to regard himself, against which all protestation is vain.

But the more the body diminishes in value in his eyes, the more the spiritual principle increases in importance. If the first puts him on a level with the brute, the second elevates him to an immeasurable height. We can see the point where the animal stops; but, we cannot see the limit to which the human spirit can attain.

30. Materialism can see by this that Spiritism, far from fearing the discoveries of science and its positivism, goes before and invites them, because it is certain that the spiritual principle, which has an existence of its own, can suffer no harm from them.

In the field of matter, Spiritism advances side by side with materialism. It admits everything the latter does, though it advances beyond the point whereat science stops. Spiritism and materialism are like two travelers going on a journey, leaving from the same point. After a certain distance, one tells the other: “I cannot go any further.” The other however proceeds and discovers a new world. Why should the first traveler say that the second traveler is crazy? Only because, upon foreseeing new horizons, one decides to surpass the limits whereat the other decided to stop? Was not Christopher Columbus labeled crazy because he believed in the existence of a world beyond the ocean? How many of these crazy and sublime people, who propelled humanity forward and to whom we now render our praises — after throwing mud at them — does History register?

Spiritism, the idiocy of the 19th century, according to those who want to remain at the shores of Earth, reveals to us a whole new world. A world which is more important to mankind than America, as not everyone can go to America, whereas all of us, without exception, go to the Spirit world — usually making numerous trips from one world to the other.

Reaching the point wherein we currently find ourselves in Genesis, materialism comes to halt, while Spiritism proceeds with its researches, in the realm of Spiritual Genesis.

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