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
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
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
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
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.