17. Spiritism teaches us the mode of union between Spirit and matter through incarnation.
The Spirit, due to its spiritual essence is an unlimited abstract being, which can have no direct action upon matter. An intermediary is necessary to it. This intermediary is the fluidic envelope which makes in some sort an integral part of the Spirit, a semi-material envelope, connecting matter with spirit by its ethereal nature. Like all matter, it is drawn from the universal cosmic fluid, which is submitted by this circumstance to a special modification. This envelope, designated perispirit, from an abstract being, makes of the spirit a concrete, defined being, seized by thought. It renders it apt to act over tangible matter the same as all imponderable fluids, which every one knows are the most potent forces.
The perispiritual fluid is, then, the bond between spirit and matter. During its union with the body it is the vehicle for transmitting thought to different parts of the organism, which acts under the impulsion of will; it also transmits to the spirit the sensation caused by external agents. Its conducting wires are the nerves which are used, as in telegraphing, when the electric fluid has metallic wire for conductor.
18. When the spirit must incarnate in a human body in process of formation, a fluidic connection, which is none other than an expansion of the perispirit, attaches it to the germ toward which it finds itself attracted by an irresistible force from the moment of conception. By measure, as the germ unfolds, the connection shortens. Under the influence of the vital material principle of the germ, the perispirit, which possesses certain properties of matter, is united molecule by molecule with the forming body; whence one can say that the Spirit, through the perispirit, takes root in the germ, like a plant in the Earth. When the germ is entirely developed, the union is complete, and then it is born into outward life.
By contrary effect this union of the perispirit and flesh, which was accomplished under influence of the vital principle of the germ, when the principle ceases to act in consequence of the decay of the body, death is the result. The union which was only maintained by an active force ceases when the force ceases to act; then the perispirit detaches itself molecule by molecule, as it was united, and the Spirit is rendered free. It is then not the departure of the Spirit which causes the death of the body, but the death of the body which causes the departure of the Spirit.
Therefore, instants after death the integration of the spirit is complete; in fact, its faculties acquire a greater perspicuity, whereas the principle of life is extinguished in the body. This is by itself an evident proof that the vital principle and the spiritual principle are two different things.
19. Spiritism teaches us by the fact that it introduces to our observation the phenomena accompanying this separation. It is sometimes rapid, easy, gentle, and insensible. At other times it is very slow, laborious, horribly painful, according to the moral state of the spirit, and can endure for months.
20. A particular phenomenon equally signalized by observation always accompanies the incarnation of the Spirit. As soon as the latter is seized by the connecting fluid which joins it to the germ, trouble comes to it. This trouble increases by measure as the connection is shortened, and in the last moments the Spirit loses all consciousness of itself, in a way rendering it never a conscious witness of its birth. At the moment when the infant breathes, the Spirit begins to recover it faculties, which are developed according as the organs which must serve for their manifestation are formed and consolidated.
21. But at the same time the Spirit recovers its consciousness, it loses the remembrance of its past without losing the faculties, qualities, and aptitudes of anterior existences, aptitudes which momentarily remained in a latent state, and which, in resuming their activity, come to aid it, and make it more and better than it was before. It gives new birth to anterior work; it is for it a new starting point, a new ladder to climb, a new field of endeavor. Here again is manifested the goodness of the Creator; for the remembrance of a past often painful or humiliating, adding itself to the bitterness of a new existence, would trouble and detain man. He remembers only that which he has learned, because that is useful to him. If sometimes he preserves a vague recollection of past events, it is like the remembrance of a fugitive dream. He is then a new man, however ancient his Spirit may be; he marches over new fields aided by that which he has acquired. When he re-enters the spiritual life, his past is unrolled before his eyes, and he judges if he has well or ill employed his time.
22. There is no destruction of continuity in spirit-life, notwithstanding forgetfulness of a past. The Spirit is always his individual self before, during and after incarnation; incarnation being only a special phase of his existence. This forgetfulness has only place during the life of exterior relations. During sleep, the spirit partially disengages itself from fleshly bonds, is rendered free, and in spiritual life remembers itself. Its spiritual sight is not then so much obscured by matter.
23. Regarding humanity at the lowest rung of the intellectual ladder with the most undeveloped savages, one wonders if this is not the starting-point of the human soul.
According to the opinion of some spiritualist philosophers, the intelligent principle, distinct from the material, is individualized and elaborated by passing through the different degrees of animal life. It is there that the soul tries life and first develops its faculties by exercise; this would be, so to say, its time of incubation. Arrived at the degree of development comporting with this state, it receives special faculties, which constitute the human soul; there would thus be a spiritual affiliation, as there is a corporeal one.
This system, founded upon the grand law of unity, which presides in all creation, has much to commend it. It is agreeable to the justice and goodness of the Creator. It gives an issue, an object, a destiny to animals which are no more disinherited beings, but find in the future reserved to them a compensation for their sufferings. That which constitutes spiritual man is not his origin, but the special attributes with which he is endowed at his entrance into humanity, attributes which transform and make of him a distinct being, as the delicious fruit is distinct from the bitter root whence it sprang. Because he had passed through the experience of animality, man would be no less a man. He would be no more an animal than the fruit is a root, as the wise man not the fetus by which he has made his debut into the world.
But this system raises numerous questions, for which there is no more an opportunity of discussing whys and wherefores than of examining the different hypothesis which have been made on this subject. Without then searching again for the origin of the soul, and the vicissitudes through which it has been able to pass, we take it at entrance into humanity, at the point where, endowed with moral sense and free will, it commences to realize the responsibility of its acts.
24. The necessity for the incarnated spirit to provide for the nourishment of the body, for its security and well-being, the constraint of applying its faculties in research, in exercising and developing them, renders its union with matter useful for its advancement; that is why incarnation is a necessity. Besides, by the intelligent work it accomplishes to its profit over matter, it aids in the transformation and material progress of the globe it inhabits; thus, by progressing itself, it concurs with the work of the Creator, of whom it is the agent.
25. But the incarnation of the spirit is neither constant nor perpetual; it is only transitory. In leaving a body it does not take another instantaneously. During a greater or less considerable lapse of time, it lives the spiritual life, which is its normal life, in such a way that the sum of the time passed in the different incarnations is small, compared to that it passes in the free spiritual state.
In the interval between incarnations the spirit progresses in this sense, that he puts to profit for his advancement the knowledge and experience acquired during material life. He examines that which he has done during his terrestrial sojourn, passes in review that which he has learned, recognizes his faults, arranges his plans, forms resolutions with which he expects to guide himself in a new existence by striving to do better. Thus each existence is a step in advance in the way of progress, a sort of school of application.
26. Incarnation is not then normally a punishment for the spirit, as some have thought it, but an inherent condition and a means of progress (“Heaven and Hell,” by Allan Kardec, chap. III, from item n° 8 on).
By measure, as the spirit progresses morally, he dematerializes himself; that is to say, that preserving himself from the influence of matter, he purifies himself, his life becomes spiritualized, his faculties and perceptions are extended, his happiness is by reason of accomplished progress. But, as he acts by virtue of his free will, he can, by negligence or bad desire, hold up his advancement. He prolongs, therefore, the duration of his material incarnations, which become then for him a punishment, since by his own fault he remains in the inferior ranks, obliged to recommence the same task. It depends then upon the spirit to abridge by its work of self-purification the duration of the period of its incarnations.
27. The material progress of a globe follows the moral progress of its inhabitants. Now, as the creation of worlds and spirits is incessant, as the latter progress with greater or less rapidity by reason of their free will, the result is, that there are some worlds of considerable antiquity, at different degrees of spiritual and physical advancement, where incarnation is more or less material, and where, consequently, the work for the spirit is more or less rude. At this point of view the Earth is one of the least advanced. Peopled by spirits relatively inferior, corporeal life is more painful than on many other worlds. On some planets things are still less developed. There life is more painful still than upon this Earth; and for the inhabitants of such worlds this Earth would be relatively a happy world.
28. When the spirits have acquired over a world the degree of progress comporting with the state of that world, they quit it in order to dwell upon another more advanced, where they acquire new knowledge, and so on in succession until incarnation, in a material body, being no longer of use to them, they live exclusively in the spiritual life, where they still progress in other ways and by other means. Arrived at the culminant point of progress, they enjoy supreme felicity. Admitted into the counsels of the Almighty, they have his thought, and become his messengers, his ministers for the government of worlds, having under their charge spirits of various degrees of advancement.
Thus all spirits, incarnated or discarnated, of whatever degree of the hierarchy to which they belong, from the lowest to the highest, have their attributions in the great mechanism of the universe. All are useful to the whole; at the same time they are useful to themselves. To the least advanced is incumbent a material task, a simple maneuver, at first unconscious, then gradually intelligent. Everywhere there is activity in the spiritual world; nowhere is there useless idleness.
The collective body of Spirits is, in a manner, the soul of the universe; it is the spiritual element which acts over all and through all, under the impulsion of the divine thought. Without this element, there is only inert matter, without object, without intelligence, without other motor power than material forces, which leave a crowd of insoluble problems. By the action of the individual spiritual element, all has an object, a reason for being; all explains itself; that is why, without spirituality, one is hurled against insurmountable difficulties.
29. When the Earth is found in climatic condition suited to the existence of the human species, spirits come to be incarnated there. Where did they come from? Whether these spirits may have been created at such moments or whether they may have come completely formed from space, from other worlds, or from the Earth itself, their presence on it, occurring from a certain epoch is a fact, as before them there existed only animals. They were covered with bodies suitable to their special needs and aptitudes, which physiologically pertained to animalism. Under their influence, and by the exercise of their faculties, their bodies were modified and perfected. This is what observation has proved. Leaving aside the question of origin, unsolved till now, and considering the Spirit, not at his point of origin but at the moment the first germs of free will and moral sense were manifested, we see him carrying out his humanitarian role, without concerning ourselves with the ambient in which he spent his infancy or his incubation period. Despite the analogy of his physical garment with those of the animals, due to his intellectual and moral faculties, which characterize his spirit, we will know how to differentiate him from the animal, just as we can distinguish a rustic man from a civilized when they are both wearing the same garments.
30. Although, the first who came must have been very undeveloped, and were therefore enveloped in very imperfect bodies, there must have been between them appreciable difference in character and aptitude. Similar spirits are naturally grouped by analogy and sympathy. The Earth has thus been peopled with different categories of spirits, more or less desirous of or rebellious against progress. Bodies receiving the imprint of the character of the spirit, and these bodies reproducing themselves by reason of their respective type, the result are different races physically and morally (n° 11). Similar spirits, continuing to incarnate themselves by preference among their own kind, have perpetuated a distinctive moral and physical character among races and nations, who do not lose them except by the fusion and progress of spirits. (“Revue Spirite,” July, 1860, p. 198: Phrenology and Physiognomy.”)
31. One can compare the spirits who have come to people the Earth to troops of emigrants of diverse origin who came to establish themselves on a virgin soil. They find there wood and stone with which to make habitations, and each one gives to his own a special seal, according to the degree of his knowledge and ingenuity. They group themselves by reason of analogy, of origin, and taste. These groups end in time by forming tribes, then nations, each having its own customs and characters.
32. Progress has not then been uniform among all the human species. The most intelligent races have naturally advanced before others, without counting Spirits newly born into the spiritual life who, having come to incarnate themselves on Earth among the first arrivals, render the differences in progress more sensible. It would be impossible, indeed, to give the same antiquity of creation to savages, scarcely distinct from monkeys, as to the Chinese, and still less to civilized Europeans.
These spirits of savages however belong also to humanity. They will attain some day the level of their elders; but this will certainly not be in the bodies of the same physical race, improper to certain intellectual and moral development. When the instrument will no more be en rapport with their development, they will emigrate from this place, in order to incarnate themselves in one of a superior character, and so on in succession until they have conquered all the terrestrial grades; after which they will quit the Earth to pass into worlds more and more advanced. (“Revue Spirite,” April, 1862, p. 97: “Perfection of the Black Race”).