The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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In their latest April 13th edition, the journal The Universe brings an article authored by Abbot Chesnel, in which the problem of Spiritism is extensively discussed. We would have left it without an answer as done to so many others to which we gave no importance, had it been one of those gross diatribes from their authors revealing the most absolute ignorance about the subject.

We have the satisfaction of acknowledging that the article by Abbot Chesnel was written in a completely different way. By the moderation and convenience of the language he deserves an answer, even more so since the article contains a serious mistake and may give a false idea of Spiritism as a whole, as well as impact the character and objective of the Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies.

Below is the transcript of the original article:

“Everybody knows the spiritualism of Mr. Cousin that is based on the philosophy destined to gradually replace religion. Under the same title, we have today a body of revealed doctrines that gradually becomes complete. It is a really simple cult but of wonderful efficacy as it would allow the devotees to be in a real sensitive and almost permanent communication with the supernatural world.”

“Such a cult has periodical meetings, initiated by the evocation of a canonized saint. As soon as the faithful attest the presence of St. Louis, King of France, they ask him to prohibit the entry of the evil spirits in the temple, then reading the minutes of the previous meeting. Then, invited by the President, a medium is called to the podium, near the Secretary in charge of annotating the questions addressed by one of the experts and the answers given by the evoked spirit. The assembly intensely watches the scene of necromancy, sometimes very lengthy, and once the session is over people leave more convinced than ever about the truths of spiritualism. During the interval between two sessions members do not forget to keep in close but private contact with the spirits who are more accessible or dear to them. There are many mediums and almost no secret in the other life which the mediums don’t end up by penetrating.”

“Once revealed to the faithful, those secrets are no longer kept away from the public. The Spiritist Review published every month and with regularity, does not deny subscription to the profane and to whoever may wish to be able to acquire the books containing the revealing texts, with their authentic comments.”

“We would be led to believe that a religion that consists uniquely in the evocation of the dead would be very hostile to the Catholic Church which has always prohibited the practice of witchcraft. But such petty feelings, however natural they may seem, are strange to the hearts of the spiritualists, as they say. They are worthy of the message of the Gospel and its Author. They acknowledge that Jesus lived, acted, spoke and suf- fered as told by our four Evangelists. The Evangelical Doctrine is true but that revelation, of which Jesus was the instrument, far from exclud- ing progress, must be completed. Spiritualism is what is going to give the Gospels the missing robust interpretation and the complementation waited for eighteen centuries.”

“Besides, who can establish limits to the progress of Christianity as taught, interpreted and developed as it is by the souls not bonded to mat- ter, strange to the Earthly passions, to our human interests and prejudic- es? The infinite itself unfolds before us. Well, infinite is boundless and all indications are that the revelation of infinite will proceed uninterrupted. As the centuries move on, revelations will be added to revelations with their endless mysteries, whose extension and profundity seem to increase since they are freed from the obscurity which surrounded them up until now.”

“Thus, spiritualism is a religion since it places us in an intimate rela- tionship with the infinite, broadening Christianity even further; it is eas- ily recognized as the most elevated, the purest and most perfect religious form, from past to present. However, boosting Christianity is a difficult task that cannot be accomplished without removing the barriers behind which it remains entrenched. The rationalists respect no wall. Less ardent and better informed, the spiritualists only find two barriers whose rupture seems indispensable to them: the authority of the Catholic Church and the dogma of the eternal penalties.”

“Is this life the only trial that the individual has to endure? Will the tree forever remain where it has fallen? Is the state of the soul, after death, definitive, irrevocable and eternal? No, answers the spiritualist necro- mancy. Nothing ends with death. Everything restarts. Death is a starting point of a new incarnation, of a new life, a new experience.”

“According to the German pantheism, God is not the being but the eternal being to be. However God may be, the human being has no other destiny to the Parisian spiritualists but the progressive or regressive state, according to the merits and works. The moral or religious law has a true sanction in the other lives, where the good ones are rewarded and the bad ones punished but for a more or less lengthy period of time, of years or centuries, but not for the whole eternity.”

“Would spiritualism be the mystical form of mistake envisaged by the theologian Mr. Jean Reynaud? Perhaps!”

“Would it be possible to go further and say that between Mr. Reynaud and the new sectaries there is a closer connection than that of an identity of doctrines? Maybe still. But such question, due to a lack of sound infor- mation, will not be definitely resolved here.”

“What is important, much more than the relationship or the he- retical alliances of Mr. Jean Reynaud, is the confusion of ideas whose manifestation is the progress of spiritualism; ignorance with respect to religion is what allows so much extravaganza; the frivolity with which really distinguished people accept such revelations from the other world, having no merit whatsoever, even that of the novelty.”

“It is necessary to go back to Pythagoras and to the Egyptian priests to discover the origins of the contemporary spiritualism. We will find them by browsing the archives of the animal magnetism.”

“Since the XVIII century, necromancy represented an important role in the practice of magnetism. Several years before hearing about the rap- ping spirits of America, certain French magnetizers obtained the confir- mation of the doctrines condemned by the Church, as they said, from the mouth of the dead or the demons, and specially the mistakes of Origen relative to the future conversion of the bad angels and the outcasts.”

“It is also necessary to say that the spiritualist medium, while exer- cising his functions, is not much different from the subject in the hands of the magnetizer, and the circle which surrounds the revelations of the former does not go even beyond what blurs the vision of the latter.”

“The teachings obtained by public curiosity about private matters, through necromancy, generally do not teach anything that is not already known. The answer of the spiritualist medium is obscure in points that our own personal research could not clarify; it is clear and precise in those that are well-known to us; it remains quiet with respect to every- thing which escapes our studies and efforts. In one word, as it seems the medium has a magnetic vision of our soul, but does not uncover any- thing already written there. Such interpretation, apparently very simple, is however subjected to several difficulties. In fact, it presupposes that one soul may be able to read what is in the deepest of another soul, with- out the support of signs and independently of the will of someone who would become an open and perfectly readable book to the first who shows up. Well, the good and bad angels do not naturally enjoy such privilege among themselves in their mutual relationships or with us. It is only God who can immediately penetrate and scrutinize the inner souls of the most stubbornly shut to God’s light.”

“If the so called strangest spiritualist facts are authentic, it is then necessary to resort to other principles to explain them. We generally for- get that the facts refer to an issue that strongly concerns the heart or the intelligence; which has led to extensive research and about which we fre- quently speak outside of the spiritualist environment. Under such condi- tions, which should not be neglected, certain knowledge of things which are of our own interest does not go beyond the natural limits of the spirits’ power.”

“At any rate, the spectacle offered to us these days is nothing more than an evolution of magnetism, struggling to become a religion.”

“Under the dogmatic and polemic format given by Mr. Jean Reynaud, the new religion incurred in the condemnation of the Périgueux Council, whose authority, as everybody remembers, was gravely denied by the culprit.”

“Given the mystic format that it now takes place in Paris, it deserves to be investigated, at least as a sign of the current times in which we live. Spiritualism has attracted a number of people, among which there are some distinctly well known around the world. The power of seduction that the spiritualism exerts; its slow but uninterrupted progress, witnessed by trustworthy people; the boasted pretensions; the problems it presents; the harm it can cause to the souls, all those are, no doubt, many listed reasons to attract the attention of Catholics. Let us be careful in not at- tributing more importance to the new sect than it deserves. Nevertheless, in order to avoid the exaggeration which amplifies everything, let us not be tricked by the denial of all things.”

Nolite omni spiritui credere, sed probate spiritus si ex Deo sint, quo- niam multi pseudoprophetae prodierunt in mundum. I John, 4:1.”

L’Abbé François Chesnel

Mr. Abbot,

Your article published in L’Univers, with respect to Spiritism,

contains several mistakes which need to be rectified and, no doubt, are originated from an incomplete study of the subject. In order to refute them all it would be necessary to refer to the basis, to all points of the theory, as well as to the facts that substanti- ate them. I do not intend to do here and will limit to the main points.

You were right by saying that the spiritist ideas have attracted a certain number of people, among which some are distinctly known in the world. This fact, whose truthfulness goes much beyond your imagination, undeniably deserves the attention of serious people, since so many celebrities known for their notable intelligence, knowledge and social positions do not fall in love with an idea which has no foundation. The natural conclusion is that there must be something concrete here to assess.

You will certainly object that certain doctrines, religions, and social activities have found followers lately in the heart of the in- tellectual aristocracy. This situation has not spared them from ridicule. Thus, people of intelligence may be dragged by utopias.

In response I will say that the utopias are short lived. Reason will prevail, sooner or later. That is what is going to happen to Spiritism, if proven a utopia. However, if it is the truth, it will then triumph over every opposition and sarcasm, and I will even say, over all persecutions, if these still belong to our century, and the detractors will waste their time. Whatever the price, the oppo- nents will have to accept it, as so many other things were accepted against the protests that were raised in the name of reason. Is Spiritism true? The future will tell. It seems, however, that there is already an announcement; such is the speed of propagation of these ideas. Also carefully notice that it is not within the ignorant and illiterate classes that the acknowledgment takes place. It is, on the contrary, among the educated people.

It is still important to consider that all philosophical doc- trines are the work of people, whose ideals are more or less grandi- ose, more or less just. They all have a leader uniting all those who share the same principle.

Who is the author of Spiritism? Who has envisaged such a theory, right or wrong? It is true that it was necessary to coordi- nate, formulate and explain it. But who has conceived the initial idea? Nobody did. Or even better, everybody, since everybody could see and those who did not see was because they did not want to see or wanted to see it their own way, not breaking the circle of their preconceived ideas, what led them to see and judge poorly. Spiritism derives from observations that can be carried out by everyone, observations which are the privilege of nobody, thus explaining its propagation. Spiritism is not the result of any individual system, a circumstance that distinguishes it from all other philosophical doctrines.

Those revelations from the other world, you say, don’t even have the merit of novelty. Would merit demand novelty? Who has ever declared that Spiritism is a modern discovery? Those com- munications, as a consequence of nature and produced by the will of God, are part of the immutable laws with which God governs the world. Consequently, they must have existed since the hu- man being exists on Earth. That is why we find it in the remotest antiquity, among all peoples, both in their profane as well as in their sacred history. The ancestry and universality of such a be- lief are arguments in its favor. The conclusion that this would be unfavorable to the doctrine is, before anything else, lack of logic.

You then say that the faculty of the mediums is not much dif- ferent from that of the subjects in the hands of the magnetizers, or in other words, of the somnambulist. Let us even admit that there is a perfect identity. What would be the cause of that remarkable somnambulistic clairvoyance, which finds no obstacle in matter or distance, and that occurs without the support of the organs of vision? Wouldn’t that be the most patent demonstration of the existence and individuality of the soul, the axle of religion?

If I were a clergyman and wanted to give a sermon, prov- ing that there is something in us more than the body, I would undeniably demonstrate it through the phenomena of natural or artificial somnambulism. If mediumship is nothing but a variety of somnambulism, its effects are not less worthy of observation. I would find in them an additional proof in favor of my thesis and would use it as a new weapon against atheism and materialism.

All of our faculties are the works of God. The greater and the more wonderful they are, the more they attest God’s power and benevolence.

As for myself who has carried out special studies about som- nambulism for thirty five years; who has considered somnam- bulism as a not less profound faculty than so many others of mediumship, I assure you, as everyone else who does not pass judgment by just analyzing one face of the problem, that the me- dium is endowed by a particular faculty which does not allow it to be confused with that of the somnambulist and that the complete independence of the medium’s thought is demonstrated by facts of ample evidence to anyone who is properly positioned with the required conditions to observe with impartiality.

Abstractions are made by direct written communications. Has a somnambulist ever made a single thought come out of an inert body? Which one has ever produced visible and even tan- gible apparitions? Which one has ever been able to maintain a heavy body suspended in the air without a supporting point? Was it through a somnambulistic effect that a medium can draw the portrait of a young lady, deceased eighteen months prior, who the medium had never met before and whose picture was recognized by her father who was present at my house, fifteen days ago, in the presence of twenty eye witnesses? Would it be through an ef- fect of somnambulism that a table accurately responds to framed questions and even to mental questions? We can certainly admit that the medium was magnetized. It would be difficult to believe that the table, however, was somnambulistic.

You say that the medium cannot speak with clarity unless it is about known things. How to explain the following fact and hundreds of others of the same kind, that have happened multiple times and of my personal knowledge?

One of my friends, an excellent psychographic medium, en- quiries a spirit about a person with whom he had lost contact for over fifteen years, asking if that person would still be alive. “Yes”, responded the spirit: “the person is still alive, living in Paris, num- ber... street...” My friend goes there and finds the person at the indicated address.

Is it an illusion? Could it be that his own thought had sug- gested such an answer? If in certain cases the answer may coincide with the thought, would that be rational to conclude that it is a general law?

In that respect, as with everything else, the hasty judgments are always dangerous, for they can be refuted by facts that were not analyzed.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Abbot, my intention is not to provide a course in Spiritism here, nor to discuss if it is right or wrong. As it has already been said, it would be sufficient to remind you about several facts that I have mentioned in the Spiritist Review as well as the explanations given in my many texts.

I then come to the part of your article, Your Most Reverend, which seems most important to me.

You gave the title to your article: “A New Religion in Paris”. Supposing that this would really be the character of Spiritism, you would have made there your first mistake, since Spiritism is far from been circumscribed to Paris. It counts on millions of adepts spread in all five continents, and Paris was not its primitive focus.

Second, is Spiritism a religion? It is easy to demonstrate the opposite.

Spiritism is based on the existence of an invisible world, formed by incorporeal beings that inhabit space, and who are not but the souls of those who lived on Earth or in other worlds, where they have left their material envelopes. We gave those be- ings the name, or even better, they gave themselves the name of spirits. These beings surround us continuously, exerting a power- ful influence onto human beings, despite people’s will. They play a very active role in the moral world, and to a certain degree, in the physical world. Thus, Spiritism belongs to nature and one can say that, from a certain point of view, Spiritism is a force of nature, like electricity is another and the universal gravitation is a third one.

Spiritism unveils invisible worlds, as the microscope has re- vealed the world of the infinitely small, whose existence we did not suspect. Therefore, the phenomena whose source is the invis- ible world must have been produced and were produced at all times, as well covered by the history of all peoples. It was only people that in their ignorance have attributed such phenomena to causes more or less hypothetical, allowing a free path to imagina- tion in that respect, as done to all phenomena whose causes were imperfectly known.

A better observed Spiritism since its popularization comes to shed light onto a large number of problems that were unsolved or poorly solved hitherto. Its true character is then of a science and not of a religion and the proof is that it counts on people of all beliefs in its rows, people who have not renounced to their con- victions because of that: fervent Catholics who practice all duties of their cult; Protestants of all sects; Jewish, Muslims and even Buddhists and Brahmans. There is everything but materialists and atheists since these ideas are incompatible with the spiritist principles.

Hence, Spiritism is founded on general principles indepen- dent of every dogmatic question. It is true that it has moral consequences, like all philosophical sciences. Such consequences are compatible with Christianity because from all doctrines, Christianity is the most enlightened and the purest, reason why from all religious sects in the world, the Christians are the ones more capable of comprehending Spiritism in its true essence.

Spiritism then is not a religion. Otherwise it would have its cult, its temples, and its ministers.

There is no doubt that every person may transform their own beliefs into a religion and interpret the existing religions at will, but from this to the constitution of a new church there is a great distance and I believe it to be imprudent to follow such an idea.

In summary, Spiritism deals with the observation of the facts and not with the particularities of this or that belief; with the research of the causes; with the explanation that the facts may give to the known phenomena, from a moral as well as a physical point of view, not imposing any cult to its adepts, the same way that Astronomy does not impose a cult to the stars, nor the pyro- technics a cult to the fire.

Even more: as Sabianism was born from a poorly understood Astronomy, the badly understood Spiritism in ancient times was the source of Polytheism. Today, thanks to the lights of Christianity, we can assess Spiritism more appropriately. Spiritism positions us better against the wrong systems, originated by igno- rance. And religion itself can find in Spiritism the tangible proof of many truths contested by certain opinions. Thus, marching against the opinion of most philosophical sciences, one of its ef- fects is to lead back to the religious ideas those who have deviated by an exaggerated skepticism.

The Society to which you refer has its objective expressed in the title itself. The denomination Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies is not similar to any sect. It has such a diverse character that its regulations prohibit the discussion of religious questions. It is classified in the category of the scientific societies because its objective is to study and deeply analyze every phenomena result- ing from the relationship between the visible and the invisible worlds. It has its President, Secretary, Treasurer, as all societies do. It does not invite the public to its sessions in which there is no speech or any other thing that characterizes a cult. It proceeds with its activities with calm and privacy, first because it is a necessary condition to the observations and second because those who no longer live on Earth knowingly deserve respect. The Society evokes them in the name of God because it believes in God, in its omnipotence, and knows that nothing is done in this world with- out God’s permission. It opens the sessions with a general appeal to the good spirits, since it knows that there are good as well as bad spirits, thus assuring that the latter ones do not fraudulently meddle into the received communications, leading to mistakes.

What does it prove? It proves that we are not atheists. But in no way it implies that we are experts of a religion. The person who described what happens among us would be convinced had that person followed our works, particularly if not assessed so lightheartedly and perhaps with a less prejudiced and passionate spirit. Hence, the facts themselves object to the qualification of a new sect that you give to the Society, certainly for not knowing it better. You finish the article by calling the attention of Catholics to the harm Spiritism causes to the souls. If the consequences of Spiritism were the denial of God, of the soul, of its individual- ity after death, of human’s free will, of the future penalties and rewards, it would be a profoundly immoral doctrine. Far from that, Spiritism demonstrates those fundamental bases of religion by the facts and not by reasoning, foundations whose most dan- gerous enemy is materialism. Even further, by the consequences Spiritism teaches to withstand with resignation the miseries of this life; it mitigates despair and teaches people to love one another like brothers and sisters, according to the Divine precepts of Jesus. If you only knew, as I do, how many tough incredulous Spiritism has led back to the path; how many victims it has saved from suicide by the perspective of fate reserved to those who ab- breviate their lives, contrary to God’s law; how much hatred it has abated, bringing the enemies closer! Is it what you call do harm to the souls? No. You cannot think like that and it gives me pleasure to suppose that you would evaluate it differently had you only known it better. You will say that religion can do all that. Far from me to dispute it but do you believe that it would be better to those who were rebels when found Spiritism to be left in an absolute incredulity? If Spiritism has triumphed over that incre- dulity; if it presented them with clarity what was darkness before; if it made evident what was doubtful to them, where is the harm? As for myself I will say that instead of losing souls Spiritism has saved them.



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