The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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Everyone will, without exception, sooner or later, reach the fatal term of their lives. No force can take-away from us this requirement and it should be viewed as very positive. Oftentimes the concerns about the

world deviate our thoughts from what happens beyond the grave, but when the supreme moment comes, only a few do not wonder what they will become, since the idea of leaving their lives behind, without the pos- sibility of coming back, does not sit well. Indeed, who could face with in- difference the idea of an absolute and eternal separation from everything that was cherished? Who could fearlessly see, opening before their eyes, the immense abyss of emptiness, in which all their faculties and hopes would forever vanish?

“What? After me, it is the void; nothing more than emptiness; ev- erything irremediably vanished? A few days more and the reminiscence will disappear from the memories of those that outlived me; soon no traces of my passage on this Earth; even the good things that I had done will be forgotten by the ungrateful who I have helped, and nothing to compensate for all that; no perspective but to have my body devoured by worms?!”

Such a materialistic image of the end, painted by a spirit who had nourished those thoughts, doesn’t that represent something horrifying and catastrophic? Religion teaches us that it cannot be so and reason re- inforces that fact. But that vague and undefined future existence contains nothing that can satisfy our love for the positive things. That is what generates doubts in so many minds.

Be it, we have a soul! But what is our soul? Does it have a form and an appearance? Is it a limited or an undefined being? Some say that it is the breath of God; others that it is a spark; others still that it is part of a great whole, the principle of life and intelligence. Nevertheless, what can we con- clude from it all? Some still say that the soul is immaterial. But an immate- rial thing could not have defined proportions. It represents nothing to us.

Religion also teaches us that we will be happy or unhappy according to the good or bad deeds that we may have practiced. But what is such happiness, waiting for us by God’s side? Will it be beatitude, an eternal contemplation, without other objective but to sing praises to the Creator? Are the flames of hell a reality or a fiction? The Church itself understands it in the latter meaning; but what are the sufferings? Where is the place of torment? In one word, what is it that is seen or done in this world that waits for us in the next? There is a saying that nobody has returned to give us advice. This is a mistake and that is precisely the mission of Spiritism, enlightening us about such a future, allowing us, so to speak, to touch and see it, not by reasoning but by facts.

Thanks to the spiritist communications it is no longer a presump- tion or a probability, about which each person gives wings to imagination and the poets beautify with their fictions or fulfill it with deceiving al- legoric images. It is the reality that presents itself to us, since it is them, the very beings of beyond the grave who come to describe their situation and talk to us about what they are doing, thus allowing us to observe all events of their new life, then showing us the inevitable fate that waits for us, according to our merits and demerits. Would there be anything anti- religious in this? Much to the contrary since the incredulous finds faith in that and the tepid a renovation of their fervor and confidence. Spiritism is then the most powerful ally of religion. And if that is the case it is be- cause God allows so, allowing it to animate our vacillating hopes and to redirect us to the good path, through the perspective of the future that looms ahead of us.

The conversations from beyond the grave that we publish; the de- scriptions contained about the situation of the spirits who speak with us, revealing their penalties, their joys and affairs; these are an animated pic- ture of the spirits’ life, and it is in the variety of subjects that we can find the analogies most interesting to us. Let us try to summarize that picture.

Let us initially consider the soul when leaving this world, and let us see what happens in that transmigration. Having the vital forces been extin- guished, the spirit detaches from the body at the moment when the organ- ic life ceases. The separation, however, is not abrupt and instantaneous. It sometimes starts before the complete cessation of life and it is not always finished at the time of death. We know that between the spirit and the body there is a semi-material link that forms the first envelope. It is that link that does not break suddenly. While it persists, the spirit remains in a state of perturbation, comparable to the one that follows our waking up. The spirit frequently even doubting its own death; feels that it still exists, sees itself and does not understand that it can live without its body, from which it is now separated. The bonds that still attach the spirit to mat- ter make it accessible to certain sensations that are mistaken as physical sensations. The spirit only recognizes itself when completely free. Up until then it does not understand its situation. The duration of such a state of perturbation, as we have said on other occasions, is very variable: it can be of a few hours as well as a few months, but it is rare the case in which after a few days the spirit does not recognize itself, more or less well. However, since everything is strange and unknown, the spirit requires a certain time to become familiarized with the new way of seeing things.

The very moment when one of them sees the end of the bondage, through the breakdown of the links that attached it to the body, that moment is solemn. When entering into the world of the spirits friends who come to greet it, as if returning from a long journey, welcome it. If the journey was fortunate, that is, if the time of exile was employed in a productive way for the spirit, and it has elevated itself in the hierarchy of the world of the spirits, they congratulate it. The spirit meets its acquain- tances, mingles with those who love it and with whom it sympathizes, and thus its new existence truly begins. The semi-material envelope of the spirit constitutes a kind of body, of a definite and limited form, analogous to that of the physical body. But that semi-material body does not have our organs and cannot feel our impressions. Nevertheless, it can perceive everything that we perceive: light, sounds, smells, etc. These sensations are not less real, although they have nothing of material; they are even clearer, more precise, subtler, since they get to the spirit without interme- diaries, not passing through the filter of the organs that attenuate them. The faculty of perception is inherent to the spirit; it is an attribute of the whole being. The sensations get to them from all sides and not through circumscribed channels. Talking about the vision, a spirit once said: “It is a faculty of the spirit and not of the body. You see through the eyes how- ever it is not the eyes that see but the spirit.”

Due to the conformation of our organs, we need certain vehicles for the sensations. That is why we need the light to see the objects and the air to transmit the sounds. Such vehicles become useless once we no longer bear the intermediaries that make them indispensable. Thus, as a con- sequence, the spirit sees without the need of our light and hears without the need of the vibrations of the air. That is why there is no obscurity to the spirit. Nevertheless, the permanent and undefined sensations, how- ever pleasant they may be, would become tiresome with time, in case they could not be blocked. Hence the spirit has the faculty of suspending them. The spirit can stop seeing, hearing, feeling this or that at will, and consequently, does not see nor hear or feel but only what is desired. Such a faculty is relative to the spirit’s superiority, since there are things that the inferior spirits cannot avoid, thus the reason why their situation becomes painful.

In the beginning the spirit does not understand such a new way of feeling, only gradually becoming aware of that over time. Those whose intelligence is limited do not absolutely understand it and would feel great difficulty in expressing it, exactly like among us the ignorant sees and moves not knowing how or why.

Such impossibility of understanding what is beyond their reach, add- ed to the jester, the usual companion of ignorance, is the source of absurd theories given by certain spirits that would lead us to mistakes, if we ac- cepted it without control and if we were not assured by the means offered by experience and by the habit of talking to them, with respect to the degree of trust that they deserve.

There are sensations whose source is the actual state of our organs. Well, the needs that are inherent to the body no longer exist since the body is no more. Hence the spirit does not experience fatigue, or the need for resting or feeding, since there is no loss to recover. The spirit is not taken ill by any of our diseases. The needs of the body determine social needs that are inexistent to the spirit. Therefore, there is no more busi- ness concerns, disagreements, the thousand and one tribulations of the world and the torments we face to attend our needs or the superfluous in life. They feel sorry for our endeavor towards futilities. However, the happier the elevated spirits, the more the inferior spirits suffer, but such sufferings are mainly anguish that, although not material, are no less difficult. They have all the passions and desires that they had when alive (we refer to the inferior spirits) and their punishment is that of not being able to satisfy them. It is a torture considered eternal to them, since their inferiority does not allow them to see the end, which again is a source of punishment.

The articulate word is a necessity of our organization. Since the spirits no longer need the vibrations of the sound to reach their ears, they under- stand each other through the transmission of thought, as we sometimes understand one another through the looks in our eyes. However, the spir- its make noise. We know that they can act upon matter and that matter transmits the sound to us. That is how they make themselves understood, be it through knocks or screams that break in the air. But they do that to reach us and not one another. We will return to this subject in a special article in which we will deal with the faculty of the hearing mediums.

While we painfully drag our material and heavy body on Earth, like the condemned prisoner in chains, the body of the spirits, vaporous and ethereal, tirelessly moves from one place to the other; it tears space with the speed of thought, penetrating everything, not finding any material obstacle.

The spirits see everything that we see and even more clearly than we do. More than that, they see what our limited senses cannot see. Since they penetrate matter they can discover things that matter hides from our vision.

As a result, the spirits are not vague and undefined beings, as from the abstract definitions of the soul mentioned above. They are real beings, determined, constrained, that enjoy all of our faculties and others that are unknown to us, as those are inherent to their nature. They have the faculties of their peculiar matter and constitute the invisible world that populates space, incessantly surrounding and nudging us. Let us suppose for a moment that the material veil that hides them from our eyes is lifted. We would see ourselves surrounded by a crowd of beings who come and go, agitating around us and observing us, in the same way that we would do if we were taking part in an assembly of blind people. We are the blind ones to the spirits and they are the ones who can see.

We said that the spirits sometimes need to recognize themselves when entering into their new life; that everything is strange and unknown to them. The question that follows is how can that be, considering that the spirit has already had other corporeal existences? Those existences were separated by time intervals in which the spirit inhabited the world of the spirits. Then, such a world should not be unknown, considering that it is not the first time that the spirit sees it.

Several causes contribute to the fact that those perceptions seem new, although they have already been experienced. As we said, death is always followed by a period of perturbation, but that it can be of a short duration. In that sense the spirit’s ideas are always vague and confuse; the corporeal life, to a certain extent, confuses with the life of the spirit and the spirit cannot separate them in its mind. Once the first impression is dissipated, the ideas become progressively clearer and the memory of the past gradu- ally returns, since such a memory never surges abruptly. It is only when the spirit is completely dematerialized that the past unfolds before its eyes, like a shadow that comes out of the mist. It is then that the spirit re- members its acts during its latest existence, then the existences prior to that and the various passages through the world of the spirits. Thus, it is understandable that for a certain period such world may seem new to the spirit, until it is completely recovered and thoroughly recalled the precise memories of the sensations experienced in that world.

Another, no less important, cause, however, should be added.

The state of the spirit, as a spirit, varies extraordinarily in propor- tion to their elevation and to their degree of purity. As the spirit elevates and purifies, their perceptions and sensations become more accurate; they acquire more acuity, more subtleness, and more kindness; they see, feel and understand things that they could not see, feel or understand in an inferior condition. Thus, as each existence is an opportunity of progress, the spirit is thrown into a new environment. As it has progressed, spirits of another order, whose thoughts and habits are all different, will surround it. Add the fact that such purification allows the spirit, always as spirit, to penetrate in those worlds inaccessible to the inferior spirits. The less enlightened the more limited the horizon of the spirit. The more the spirit elevates and depurates, the more that horizon amplifies and with that the circles of ideas and perceptions.

The following comparison may facilitate our understanding:
Suppose a rude, ignorant peasant, comes to Paris for the first time. Will that person be able to get to know and understand the elegant and top- notch intellectual environments of Paris? No, for the person will only get around those of the same class and the neighborhoods inhabited by them. But if in the interim between the first and the second trip that peasant has developed and acquired education and good manners, his habits and relationships will change. He will then see a new world, not at all similar to the Paris of former times.

The same happens to the spirits but not all of them experience the same degree of uncertainty. As they progress, their ideas develop and their memory sharpens up. They get previously familiarized with their new situation hence their return to the world of the spirits no longer entails any cause for admiration. They feel like they are in their own element again, and, once the first moment of perturbation is over, they reintegrate almost immediately.

That is the general situation of the spirits in a state that we call erratic- ity (errant state). But what do they do in such a state? How do they spend their time? This is of capital importance to us. They are the ones who are going to answer this, as they were the ones who gave the explanations that we have just transmitted, since none of that is the result of our imagina- tion. It is not a system that came out of our minds. We judge from what we have seen and heard.

Leaving aside any opinion relatively to Spiritism, one has to acknowl- edge that such a theory about life beyond the grave has nothing of irratio- nal. It shows a perfectly logical sequence and chain of events that would honor any philosopher.

We would be mistaken if we believed that the life of the spirit is an idle life. On the contrary, it is essentially active and all spirits talk about their occupations. Those occupations vary necessarily, according to the spirit being errant or incarnate. In the state of incarnation they are relative to the nature of the worlds they inhabit; the needs depend on the physical and moral state of those worlds, as well as the organization of the living beings. This is not what we will discuss here. We are going to talk about the errant spirits.

Among those who have already achieved a certain degree of develop- ment, some assist with the execution of God’s designs, in the great destinies of the Universe; they drive the march of events, supporting the progress of each world. Others take individuals under their protection, becoming their tutor genies and guardian angels. Follow people from birth to death, struggling to guide them through the good path. They feel happy when their efforts are rewarded with success. Some of them incarnate in inferior worlds try to accomplish missions of progress. Through their work, ex- amples, good feelings and advices, they endeavor to make some people advance in sciences and arts, others in moral. They are then voluntarily submitted to a sometimes painful corporeal life, aiming at doing good and being held accountable for the good they get done. Many still don’t have a specific assignment. They go everywhere where their presence may be useful, giving advice, inspiring good ideas and cheering up the discour- aged ones, giving strength to the weak and punishing the arrogant.

If we take into account the infinite number of worlds that populate the Universe and the incalculable number of beings that inhabit them, we will understand that the spirits have a lot to do. Such activity, however, is painless. They do it happily and without embarrassment, and their joy is in the accomplishment of their missions. Nobody thinks about an eternal idleness that would be really painful.

When required by the circumstances, they form councils; deliberate about the next steps ahead, according to the events; distribute orders to the spirits that are their subordinates and then go back to wherever duty may call them. Those assemblies are more generic or more specific, depending on the importance of the issue. There is no special or circumscribed place for those gatherings. Space is the domain of the spirits. However, those meetings tend to happen in worlds that are the specific object of the spirits. The incarnate spirits who accomplish their missions in those worlds also at- tend the assemblies, according to their elevation. While the body rests they receive advice from spirits and, sometimes, receive orders related to their conduct among the incarnate. It is true that when they wake up they do not keep a very sharp memory of the events but they keep their intuition that leads them to act as if that intuition were from their own initiative.

Moving down in the hierarchy we find less elevated spirits, less puri- fied and consequently less enlightened, but not necessarily less good and who, in a more restrict sphere of activities, exercise similar functions. Instead of covering different worlds, their action is more exercised in a particular world and related to their degree of development. Their influ- ence is more individual, having things of less importance by objective.

Then comes the crowd of vulgar spirits, those who are more or less good, more or less wicked, that swarms around us. Those are slightly above humanity, whose nuances they represent and sort of reflect, since they have the same vices and virtues of those that characterize humanity. In many of them we find the same tastes, ideas and inclinations that they had when alive. Their faculties are limited, their judgment fallible like that of human beings and sometimes mistaken and loaded with prejudices.

In some others the moral sense is more developed. Even without a great superiority or acuity they judge with more criteria, sometimes even condemning what they had done or thought in their lives. As a matter of fact, there is a remarkable thing: even among the most common spirits, in general, their feelings are purer as spirits than as incarnates. The spiritual life clarifies them regarding their faults, and except on rare occasions, they bitterly regret and feel sorry for what they have done, since they suffer more or less intensely their consequences. We have seen some of these who were not better than when they were alive. We have never, however, seen them worse. The absolute hardening is very rare and only temporary, given that sooner or later they end up regretting their position. One can then say that all of them aspire for their betterment since all of them understand it as the only means of leaving their inferiority behind. Learn and be enlightened, that is their great concern so that they feel happy when they can add small missions of trust that elevate them before their own eyes.

They also have their gatherings, of greater or lesser importance, ac- cording to the nature of their thoughts. They talk to us, see us and observe everything that happens around us. They attend our meetings; take part in our games, parties and spectacles, as well as in our serious businesses.

They hear our conversations; the frivolous ones in order to have fun or laugh at us, or even still to trick us whenever they can; the others do so in order to learn; these spirits do observe people, analyze their character and do what they call a study of the customs and culture, so as to choose their future life.

We have seen the spirit at the very moment when the body is left, entering then into the new existence. We analyzed their sensations and followed the gradual development of their ideas. The initial moments are spent in the acknowledgment of oneself followed by the understanding of what is going on. In short, so to speak, the spirit tries their faculties, like the child that gradually experiences the increase in strength and thoughts. We speak about the vulgar spirits since the others, as we said, are some- how previously identified with the spiritual state, thus it is no surprise to them other than the joy of finding themselves free from the corporeal hurdles and sufferings. Many of the inferior spirits miss their Earthly life given that their situation as spirits is a hundred times worse. That is why they engage with the vision of what was delightful to them in the past. Such a vision, however, becomes a suffering since the desires they feel can no longer be satisfied.

The need for progress is general among the spirits. That is what drives them to work for their own betterment, since they understand that it is the price of their happiness. But not all of them feel such a need in the same degree, particularly in the beginning. Some even enjoy a kind of idleness, of short duration, as a matter of fact; activity soon becomes an inexorable need, then dragged by other spirits who stimulate the good feelings in them.

Then comes what one could call the scum of the spiritual world, made of all impure spirits whose only concern is wickedness. They suffer hence they wish that everyone else would suffer like them. Every sign of superiority is hateful to their envy. Hate is their essence. Since they cannot blame the spirits for that they then charge against human beings, attack- ing those who seem to be the weakest of all. Their dominant thoughts are: excite the passions; provoke disagreement; separate friends; encourage rivalries; encourage the ambitious to display their pride for the pleasure of taking them down later; spread mistakes and lies, in one word, deviate them from good.

However, why would God allow such a thing to happen? God does not have to report to us. The superior spirits tell us that the wicked spirits are trials to the good ones and that there is no virtue where there is no victory to conquer. As a matter of fact, if those malevolent spirits are here on Earth, it is here that they find echo and sympathy. May it be a reassur- ing thought that above this mud which surrounds us there are pure and benevolent beings who love us, sustain and encourage us, reaching out to us, attracting us so that we can be led to better worlds, where wickedness has no entry, as long as we do what it takes to deserve it!

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