Allan Kardec

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Theory of Foreknowledge
1. How is it possible to obtain a knowledge of the future? One comprehends how to predict events which are a consequence of the present state of things, but not of those which have no connection with this, and still less of which are attributed to chance. Future things, they say, do not exist. They are still in nothingness. How then can one know that they will come? The examples of verified predictions are, however, numerous enough, from whence it is necessary to conclude it is a phenomenon of which we have not the key; for there is no effect without a cause. It is this cause we are seeking; and it is Spiritism, the key to so many mysteries, which will furnish it to us. Moreover, we will show that the fact of the predictions themselves is not obtained by a departure from the natural laws.

Let us take, as a comparison, an example in common things, which will aid us to make the principle which we have to develop better understood.

2. Let us suppose a man placed upon a high mountain, and considering the vast extent of the plain. In this situation the distance of a league, or three miles, will be a very short distance seemingly and he will easily embrace with a glance of the eye all the undulations of the Earth from commencement to the end of the route. The traveler who follows this route for the first time knows that by marching he will arrive at the end. There is a simple foreknowledge of the consequence of his march; but the unevenness of the route, the ascents and descents, the rivers to cross, the woods to traverse, the precipices from which he may fall, the places where thieves may be stationed to waylay him, the inns where he will be able to repose – all this is independent of his personal knowledge. It is for him the unknown, the future, because his sight extends not beyond the little circle which surrounds him. As to the continuance of it, he measures it by the time that it takes him to go from one point to another of the route. Take away from him the knowledge of the data of the route, and his knowledge of its continuance is effaced. For the man who is on the mountain, and who follows with the eye of the traveler, all this is the present. Let us suppose that he comes down, and says to the traveler, “At such a moment you will encounter such a thing; you will be attacked and delivered.” He will predict the future to him; for it is the future to the pedestrian, but the present to the man of the mountain.

3. If we depart now from the circle of things purely material, and if we enter by thought into the domain of spiritual life, we will see this phenomenon produced upon a grander scale. The dematerialized spirits are like the man of the mountain. Space and duration of time are to them no more; but the extent and penetration of their sight are in proportion to their purification and to their elevation in the spiritual hierarchy. They are in connection with inferior spirits, like the man armed with a powerful telescope beside him who has only his eyes to see with. With the latter their view is circumscribed, not only because it can only with difficulty go far away from the globe to which they are attached, but because the coarseness of their perispirit veils distant things, as the fog does for the eyes of the body.

One understands then that, according to the degree of perfection to which a spirit has attained, it can foretell the events of a period of a few years; for what is a century in the presence of infinitude? The events do not successively unroll themselves like the incidents on the route of the traveler. He sees simultaneously the commencement and the end of the period.
All the events, which in this period are the future for the man of the Earth, are for him the present. He will be able to tell us with certitude: such a thing will happen at this epoch, because he sees this thing, as the man of the mountain sees that which awaits the traveler on his route. If he does not inform him of it, it is because the knowledge of the future would be hurtful to the man; it might trammel his free will; it might paralyze him in the work which he must accomplish for his progress. The good and the evil which await him, being unknown to him, are the trial for him.

If such a faculty, even in a limited state, can be one of the attributes of the creature, to what a degree of power must it not be elevated in the Creator, who embraces infinitude? For him time does not exist; the commencement and the end of worlds are the present. In this immense panorama, what is the duration of the life of a man, of a generation, of a people?

4. However, as man must concur in the general progress, and as certain events must result from his cooperation, he can be useful in certain cases if he has a knowledge of these events, in order that he may prepare the way for them, and hold himself ready to act when the right moment comes. That is the reason God permits sometimes a corner of the veil to be lifted; but it is always for a useful object, and never to satisfy a vain curiosity. This mission can then be given not to all spirits; for there are some who know the future no better than men, but to some spirits sufficiently advanced for that. Now, it is well to observe that this kind of revelation is always made spontaneously, and never, or very rarely at least, in response to a direct demand.

5. This mission can equally be given to certain men in this manner:

He, to whom is confided the care of revealing a concealed fact, can receive in his ignorance, the inspiration of the spirits who know it, and then he transmits it mechanically, without rendering an account of them to himself. It is known besides that either during sleep, in a waking state, or in the ecstasies of second sight, the soul leaves the body, and is possessed in a greater or less degree with the faculties of the free spirit. If he is an advanced spirit, if he has, above all, like the prophets, received a special mission for this effect, he enjoys, in the moments of emancipation of the soul, the faculty of embracing by himself a greater or less extent of time, and sees as present the events of this period. He can then reveal them at the same instant, or preserve the memory of them for his awakening. If these events must remain a secret, he will lose the remembrance of them, or there will remain with him only a vague intuition of them sufficient to guide him.

6. Thus is this faculty seen developed on providential occasions, in imminent dangers, in great calamities, in revolutions; and the greater numbers of sects which have been persecuted have had numbers of prophets. Thus inspired by these visions, great captains are seen resolutely marching towards the enemy with a certitude of victory, that men of genius, like Christopher Columbus, for example, have pursued an object, predicting the moment when they will attain it. The reason for this is, they have seen this object accomplished in prophetic vision.

The gift of prophecy is then no more supernatural than a multitude of other phenomena. It is based upon the properties of the soul, and the law of connection between the spiritual and material worlds, which Spiritism has come to explain.

This theory of foresight does not solve, perhaps, in an absolutely correct manner, all cases which can be presented as revelations of the future; but one cannot deny that it is based on a truly fundamental principle.

7. Frequently, the person gifted with a faculty capable of foreseeing the future, either in ecstasy or in a somnambulistic state sees the events as if they were being drawn on a picture. The idea of a photograph of the thought could also explain this occurrence. Let us suppose an event is in the thought of a spirit responsible for its accomplishment, or in the thought of those whose acts should provoke them. Such thought, upon crossing the space, as sound crosses the air, can form an image which is visible by the clairvoyant. However, because its accomplishment can be either hastened or delayed depending upon the circumstances, he sees the facts without being able to determine the moment of its accomplishment. Perhaps this thought could be only a projection, a desire, which could not be translated into reality. Hence, we have the frequent errors regarding facts and dates in such previsions (Chap. XIV, from item n° 13 on).

8. In order to comprehend spiritual things – that is to say, to form as distinct an idea as that we make of a landscape before our eyes – there truly fails us a sense, exactly as the necessary sense is wanting to the blind man to comprehend the effects of light, of colors, and of sight, without contact with them. Thus it is only by an effort of the imagination we attain to it, and by the aid of comparisons drawn from familiar things. But some material things can give only very imperfect ideas of spiritual ones. On this account it is best not to take the comparisons which have been drawn too literally, and believe, for example, that the spirit is held at such an elevation as has been stated in one comparison, or that they are obliged to be upon mountains, or above the clouds, in order to see into time and space.

This faculty is inherent to a state of spiritualization or of dematerialization: that is to say, that spiritualization produces an effect which can be compared, though very imperfectly, with that view of the whole which a man has on the mountain-top. The object of this comparison was simply to show that some events, which are in the future to some, are in the present for others, and thus can be predicted which does not imply that the effect is produced in the same manner.

In order to enjoy this perception it is not necessary that the spirit should transport himself to any point in space whatever. He who is on Earth at our side can possess it in its plentitude as well as if he were a thousand miles away, although we see nothing beyond the horizon of our material vision. Sight, with spirits, not being produced in the same manner or with the same elements as with man, their visual horizon is entirely different; this is something that we have not the sense to conceive. The spirit beside the incarnated one is a person with good eyes beside a blind man.

9. It is also necessary to figure to one’s self that this perception is not limited by extent of space, but that it comprehends penetration in all things. It is, we repeat, an inherent faculty proportioned to the state of dematerialization. This faculty is weakened by incarnation, but not completely deadened, because the soul has not been enclosed in the body as in a box. The incarnated being possesses it, although in a lesser degree than when free from matter; it is this that gives to some men a penetrating power, which is totally lacking in others, greater justice in a moral point of view, and a quicker comprehension of things beyond the material world.

Not only the mind perceives, but it remembers that which it has been seen in a spiritual state; and this remembrance is like a picture traced on its thoughts. In incarnation it sees but vaguely, as through a veil; in a liberated state, it sees and conceives clearly. The principle of sight is not outside itself, but within it: thus there is no need of our exterior light. By moral development the circle of our ideas and conception is enlarged. By the gradual dematerialization of the perispirit the latter is purified of the coarse elements which affect the delicacy of the perceptions, whence it is easy to comprehend that the extension of all the faculties follow spiritual progress.

10. It is the degree of extension of the spiritual faculties which, in incarnation, render it more or less apt to conceive of spiritual things. At the same time this aptitude is not the necessary consequence of the development of intelligence; common science does not give it. Thus we see men of great learning as blind in spiritual things as others are in material ones; they are stubborn in regard to spiritual things, because they do not understand them. The reason for which is, their progress in this respect is not yet accomplished; whilst one sees persons of an inferior intelligence and knowledge grasp them with the greatest facility, which proves that the latter have obtained the necessary preliminary intuition of it. It is with them a retrospective remembrance of that which they have seen and known either as a wandering spirit, or in their anterior existences, as others have the intuition of languages and sciences which they have possessed.

11. As to the future of Spiritism, the spirits are unanimous in affirming the near triumph of it, notwithstanding the opposition it receives. This foresight comes easy to them, firstly, because that its propagation is their own personal work. Concurring in the movement or directing it, they know, consequently, what they must do. Secondly, it is sufficient for them to know that it is within a short time, and in this period they see upon the way the powerful auxiliaries which God raises up for them, and which will not be tardy in manifesting themselves.

Without being discarnated spirits, let the Spiritists carry themselves by thought thirty years in advance of this time, to the bosom of the generation which is now being educated by it; let them from that point consider what is taking place today; follow this main spring of action, and they will see those who think they are called to overturn it worn out in their vain endeavors. They will see them gradually disappear from the scene, while this tree, constantly increasing in magnitude, will take deeper root each day.

12. The common events of private life are nearly always governed by the different traits of character manifested by each individual. Some will succeed according to his capacities, his knowledge of things, his energy and perseverance, while another will fail by want of these traits; whilst we can truly say that each one is the “architect of his own future,” which is never submitted to a blind fatality independent of his personal supervision. Knowing the character of an individual, one can easily predict for him his future.

13. The events which touch upon the general interests of humanity are regulated by Providence. When God designs a thing to be accomplished, it will be done in one way or another. Men concur in its execution; but no one is indispensable to it; otherwise God himself would be at the mercy of His creatures. If he, to whom the mission is entrusted fails to execute it, another is entrusted with the charge of it. There is not an unaccomplished mission. Man is always free to fulfill that which has been confided to him, and which he has voluntarily accepted. If he does not perform it, he loses its reward, and he assumes the responsibility of delays, which can be caused by his negligence or bad desire. If he becomes an obstacle to its accomplishment, God can cast him down with a breath.

14. The final result of an event can then be certain, because that it is in the designs of God; but, as most frequently the details and mode of execution are subordinate to circumstances and to the free will of men, the ways and means of doing it can be uncertain. The spirits can give us a general idea of its future accomplishment, if it is necessary that we be foretold of it; but in order to particularize in regard to it, giving date and place, a knowledge in advance of the determination of such and such individuals would be necessary. Now, if this determination is not yet in his mind, according to that which it will be, it can hasten or delay the announcement, thereby changing the secondary means of action, but all ending in the same result. Thus spirits can, judging from existing circumstance, predict that a war is more or less near, that it is inevitable, without being able to predict the day when it will commence, nor the detailed incidents which can be changed by the will of men.

15. In order to fix a time for future events, it is necessary also to take account of a circumstance inherent to the nature even of spirits.

With them time, as well as space, cannot be estimated only by aid of points of comparison or data which divides it into periods which they can count. Upon the Earth the natural division of time into days and years is marked by the rising and setting of the sun, and by the duration of the movement of translation of the Earth. The united measure of time must vary according to worlds, since the astronomical periods are different. Thus, for example, in Jupiter one day is equivalent to ten of our hours, and one year to nearly twelve of our years.

There is, then, in each world a manifest difference in computing time according to the nature of the astral revolutions which take place in it. This would make it difficult for a spirit unacquainted with our Earth to give dates. But outside of worlds these means of distinguishing time do not exist. For a spirit in space, there is for him no rising or setting of the sun marking the days, nor a periodic revolution marking the years. There is for him only duration of time and infinite space (chap. VI, from item n° 1 on). He, then, who had never come to the Earth could have no knowledge of our calculations, which besides would be useless to him. Moreover, he who had never been incarnate upon any world would have no notion of the fractions of duration of time. When a stranger spirit comes to this Earth to manifest, he cannot assign dates to events only by identifying himself with our usages, which is without doubt in his power, but that which the most frequently he judges useless to do.

16. However, the spirits which form the invisible population of our globe, where they have already lived, and still continue to remain in our midst, are naturally identified with our habits, of which they retain the remembrance in their free, wandering state. They have, then, less difficulty than the others in placing themselves at our point of view in regard to that which concerns terrestrial usages. They would therefore more easily assign a date to future events if they knew it; but, beyond that, it is not always allowed them to give data. They are hindered by this reason, that every time circumstances of detail are subordinate to the free will and eventual decision of man. The precise date really exists only when the event is accomplished.

For this reason circumstantial predictions cannot be offered as certitudes, and must be accepted only as probabilities. Then, even, they will carry with them a seal of justifiable suspicion. For this reason the truly wise spirits never give a fixed date to any event. They are limited to predict to us the issue of things which it is useful for us to know. To insist upon having fixed dates to events is to expose ourselves to the mystifications of inferior spirits, who predict what they wish without concerning themselves about the truth of it, and amuse themselves with the frights and deceptions they cause.

17. The forms generally enough employed till now for predictions makes of them veritable enigmas, often undecipherable. This mysterious and cabalistic form, of which Nostradamus offers the most complete type, give to them a certain prestige to the common eye, which attribute so much the more value as they are the more incomprehensible. By their ambiguity they end themselves to very different interpretations, in such a way that, according to the sense attributed to certain allegorical words or those of convention, the manner of computing the calculation, oddly complicated with dates, with a little patience one finds there nearly all that one desires.

Whatever it may be, one cannot deny that some are of a serious character, and are confounded by their truth. It is probable that this veiled form has had some time its use, and even its necessity.

Today circumstances are no more the same; the positivism of the century would not accommodate itself to sibylline language. Thus the predictions of our day affect no more these strange forms. Those which the spirits give have nothing mystical about them. They speak in common language, as they did when living, because they have not ceased to belong to humanity. They predict to us future things, personal or general, as this can be useful to us, according to the clear-sightedness with which they are endowed, as counselors or friends would do. Their predictions are, then, rather warnings, which take nothing away from the free will, than predictions which properly speaking, would imply an absolute fatality. There is nearly always also a motive assigned for their opinion, because they do not wish to annihilate man’s reason under a blind faith which permits them to appreciate the justice of it.

18. Contemporaneous humanity has also its prophets. More than one writer, poet, litterateur, historian, and philosopher has predicted in his writings the future march of things which is realized around us today.

This aptitude comes often, without doubt, from a rectitude of judgment which deduces logical consequences from the present; but often, also, it is the result of a special unconscious clairvoyance, or of a strange inspiration. That which these men have done in life, they can for a much stronger reason do, and with more exactitude, in the spiritual state, when the spiritual sight is no more obscured by matter.

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