The Spiritist Review - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1861

Allan Kardec

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Beginning of the new social year. Given at the session of April 5th, 1861

Ladies and gentlemen,

At the time when our Society initiate its fourth year I believe that a special thanks is due to the good spirits who have kindly assisted us and in particular to our spiritual President whose wise advices have helped us to avoid several dangers and whose protection allowed us to overcome the difficulties along the way, which have certainly occurred in order to test our resolve and dedication. Their benevolence – we must acknowledge – has never failed us and thanks to the current elevated spirits of the Society it has triumphed over the ill-faith of its enemies. Allow me a few retrospective observations about this subject.

Experience had showed us regrettable blanks in the bylaws of the Society, blanks that opened the door to some abuse. The Society worked around them and it is to be congratulated ever since. Is it perfect? We would not be spiritists if we proudly believed so. However, when the foundation is good and all the rest depends on the free-will than all we need is the support of the spirits so that we do not stop half-way through.

Among the most useful changes we place at the top of the list, the institution of free members, giving easier access to candidates, allowing them to be known and assessed before their effective admission as full members of the Society. Participating in all works and studies of the Society, they take advantage of all activities but since they have no administrative responsibility they cannot compromise the Society’s liability. Then comes the measure whose objective was to limit the number of attendees to the sessions, with a more strict choice of participants; then the prohibition of reading any message received outside of the Society before its prior analysis, followed by an authorization; finally, those who forewarn the Society against whoever might be a cause of disturbance or who tries to impose their views.

There are others which would be superfluous to mention and whose utility is not less important and whose fortunate results we can appreciate every day. However, if such state of affairs is understood inside the Society the same cannot be said about the outside – and there is no need to dissimulate – where we don’t count on friends only. We are criticized on several aspects and although we don’t have to worry about it considering that the maintenance of order at the Society is of our interest only, it might not be perhaps totally useless to discuss the points that are criticized because if these are founded we should definitely take them into account. Some people criticize our very restricted admission of observers. They say that if we want to make converts we need to inform the public and for that, we must open the doors to our sessions and authorize any questions and interpellations; that if we don’t admit anyone but believers there is no merit in convincing them. This is a tricky argument and if we were to achieve the supposed result by opening the doors then we would be making a mistake by not doing so. Nevertheless, the result would be the opposite and hence we don’t do that.

As a matter of fact it would be very unpleasant that the propagation of the doctrine depended on the publicity of our sessions. However large the auditorium might be it would always be very restrict, unnoticeable, when compared to the mass of the population. On another hand we know from experience that true conviction is only acquired through the study, thoughts and continual observation, and not by attending a couple of sessions, regardless of how interesting they may be. Proof of that is the fact that the number of believers who have seen nothing but who have studied and learned is huge. There is no doubt that the desire to see things is very natural and we are far from criticizing it, but we want the conditions to be adequate for people to see. That is why we say: Study first and see later, because you will understand better.

Had the skeptical given more thought to such condition they would have seen, for starters, the best guarantee of our good faith, followed by the strength of the doctrine! The biggest fear of charlatanism is to be unveiled; it fascinates the eyes and is not stupid enough to challenge intelligence that would easily discover the hidden card. Spiritism, on the contrary, does not admit any blind belief; it wants to be clear in all points; wants people to understand everything and be aware of everything. When we recommend study and meditation we are requesting the support of reason, demonstrating that the spiritist science does not fear examination, for one must understand before believing.

Since our sessions are not designed for demonstrations, its publicity would not achieve the objective and would have grave consequences. With a random crowd, carrying more curiosity than the true desire for instruction, and even further, willing to criticize and make fun of things, it would be impossible to find the necessary silence and reverence required by any serious manifestation.

A somewhat malevolent controversy mostly based on the ignorance of the most elemental principles of the science would establish endless conflicts, when dignity could then be compromised. What we actually want the observers to take away when leaving the Society is that the meeting is dignified, serious, that respects others and expects to be respected, discussing matters with serenity and moderation; that it carries out careful examination, investigating everything with the eyes of a mindful observer who seeks enlightenment, instead of the simple lightheartedness of curiosity. Furthermore, ladies and gentlemen, believe me, such opinion does better to the propaganda than if the observers had left the Society with the thought of having satisfied their curiosity, because the impressions caused by the former lead them to think and the opposite would render them more inclined to laugh than to believe.

I said that our sessions are not for demonstration but if we did that to educate and convince the neophytes, everything would take place in an ambient of seriousness and reverence, as in our ordinary sessions. Controversy would still exist but orderly, instructive rather than tumultuous, and whoever showed a non-civil behavior would be excluded; the focus would not be lost and the discussion would be helpful to everyone. That is what we will probably do one day. People may ask why we don’t do that earlier in the interest of propagation of science. For a simple reason: we wanted to proceed with prudence and not like the careless who are more impatient than thoughtful. Before instructing others we wanted to instruct ourselves. We want to base the teachings on an overwhelming mass of facts and observations and not on a few isolated experiments, superficially and lightheartedly observed. Every science forcibly meets facts in the beginning that seem contradictory and only a detailed and thorough study may demonstrate their connection. It was the common law of those facts that we sought in order to show an as broad as possible range, allowing minimal margin for contradiction. It was with that objective that we collected facts, heard and examined them in their inner most details, discussed and commented them with exemption, without enthusiasm. That is how we uncovered the remarkable links between all parts of this vast science that touches the greatest interests of humanity. That was, ladies and gentlemen, the objective of our works, objective that is perfectly characterized by the simple title that we adopted at The Society of Spiritist Studies.

We meet with the objective of instructing ourselves, and not with that of entertainment. Since we don’t seek entertainment we don’t want to entertain others and that is why we only want to have serious observers around, instead of having curious ones who might expect to find spectacles here.

Spiritism is a science and as any other science one does not learn it jokingly. Besides, it would be a lack of respect to take the souls that left our world by objects of distraction; speculate about their presence and intervention would be unrighteous and profane.

These thoughts address the criticism of some people when they say that we go back to well-known facts and don’t always seek new things. At this point in time it is difficult that the facts don’t permeate in the same circle; people forget that facts as important as those that may affect the future of humanity cannot achieve the status of absolute truth but through a large number of observations.

It would be levity to formulate a law only based on a few examples. A serious and prudent person is more circumspect; something must be seen not once but many times. That is why we don’t back up before the monotony of repetitions, since the confirmation results from that and sometimes instructive nuances and when contradictory facts are presented we look for their causes.

We are not in a hurry to give our opinion about the initial data, which is necessarily incomplete. We harvest when the time is right. We may be marching on a slower pace than some people would like however we march with more confidence, and we don’t get lost in a maze of systems. We may eventually know less but we know better which is preferable and we can attest what we know based on the testimony of experience.

As a matter of fact, ladies and gentlemen, you must not think that the voice of criticism against the Society comes from friends of Spiritism; that is not the case. That voice is from the adversaries who feel hurt for seeing the Society advancing calmly and with dignity even through the traps that were laid out and still are. They regret the fact that it is difficult to be accepted as a member for they would love to come here to spread disruption. That is another reason why they criticize since their circle of influence is reduced, thus they say that the scope of the matters are insignificant and unimportant because the Society abstains from discussing political and religious issues. They want to see the Society treading on the dogmatic controversy. Well, that is precisely where they betray themselves. The Society has prudently protected itself against malevolence. By hurting its pride they wanted to drag it through a dangerous path but that will never happen. Since it is only involved with questions of scientific interest it has sheltered itself against the attacks and will remain so. Through prudency, moderation and wisdom the Society reconciled the support of the true spiritists and its influence extends to overseas countries from where people aspire for the honor of membership.

Now, such tribute paid by people that only know the Society by name or by its works or by the achieved respect is a hundred times more valuable than the hastily opinion of the imprudent or the malevolent who want to push it off the cliff and would be happy if they saw it compromised. While I have the honor of heading it all my efforts will be concentrated in that direction. If I had to move away from those guidelines I would then leave it because under no circumstance would I like to have such a responsibility.

In fact, ladies and gentlemen, you are aware of the Society’s vicissitudes. Everything that happened before and after had already been announced and everything occurred as foreseen. Its enemies wanted its destruction; the spirits wanted to preserve it since they knew it was useful, and the Society was maintained and will be maintained until the time necessary to accomplish their objectives. If you have analyzed things in detail, as I did, you will not neglect the influence of a superior power that was manifested and you will understand that it all happened for the better good and for its own preservation. There will be a time when it will no longer be indispensable, as it is today. We will then see what needs to be done since the march has already been designed, given all the events.

The most dangerous enemies of the Society are not those from the outside since we can shut the door and the ears on them. The most feared enemies are the invisible ones, who can mingle with us regardless. It is up to us to demonstrate to them, as we have done so far, that they waste their time by trying to impose themselves on us. We know that their tactics is to spread separation, setting the fire of disagreement, inspiring envy, suspicion and creating trivial susceptibilities that generate hate. Let us oppose them with the barrier of charity, mutual benevolence and we will be invulnerable as much against their occult influence as against the diatribes of our incarnate enemies, who are more concerned about us than we are about them and whose names we have the merit of having never mentioned here for reasons of education and for the fact that we have more useful things to worry about. We force nobody to come to us. We welcome with respect and dedication serious persons that in good faith seek enlightenment and those are sufficient for us not to waste our time rushing after the ones who show their backs to us for futile reasons of selfishness and envy. These cannot be considered true spiritists, despite the appearances; they are perhaps spiritists that believe in facts but undoubtedly they are not spiritists who believe in the moral consequences of the facts otherwise they would show more abnegation, indulgence, moderation and less presumption of infallibility. Seeking them would be a disservice since it would reinforce in them the belief in their importance and that we could not move on without them. We should not worry about those who try to stain our images either. People who were a hundred times more worthy than us were also stained and ridiculed. We could not be privileged there; it is up to us to demonstrate by our actions that their diatribes fall in the void and their weapons will turn against themselves.

After having thanked in the beginning the spirits that assist us we must not forget their interpreters for their service, some of them with such dedication and complacence that are never dismissed. We cannot pay them back but with only the testimony of our satisfaction. The world of the spirits waits for them and their every devotion is compensated in proportion to the lack of self-interest, humility and abnegation.

Summarizing, ladies and gentlemen, in the last year our works progressed with perfect regularity, interrupted by nothing. A large number of facts of the highest interest were reported, explained and commented; very important questions were solved; all cases that were exposed to our eyes through the evocations, every investigation that we carried out came to confirm the principles of the science and strengthen our beliefs; several communications of incontestable superiority were obtained through several mediums; from the province and from abroad we received some remarkable communications, not only demonstrating how much Spiritism is spreading but also how seriously it is seen everywhere. There is no doubt that this is a result for which we must feel happy but there is another one not less pleasing which in fact had been predicted since the beginning: it is the unity established in the theory of the Doctrine as we study and better understand it. In every communication that comes to us from outside we find the confirmation of the principles taught by the spirits, and since the majority of people who send them are unknown to us one cannot say that they suffer our influence.

The very principle of reincarnation that had found many contradictors in the beginning because it was not understood is now accepted by the force of evidence and because every thoughtful person acknowledges in that principle the only possible solution to a large number of problems of religious and moral philosophy. Without reincarnation we were held up at every step. It is all chaos and confusion. With reincarnation everything is explained in the most rational way. If that principle still finds some adversaries, more systematic than logical, their number is quite limited. Now, who has invented it? There is no doubt that it was neither you nor I. It was taught to us and we accepted it. That is all that we did. Only a few systems survived out of the many that appeared in the beginning and we can even say that their rare followers are among those who pass judgment after the first impression and frequently according to preventions and preconceived ideas. However, it is now obvious that anyone who takes the burden of doing an in-depth investigation of all questions and assesses cold-bloodedly without prevention and particularly without a systematic denial is inexorably dragged towards the fundamental and prevailing theory by both reason as well as by logic and we can even say in all corners of the world.

The Society, ladies and gentlemen, has not achieved all that alone. Nonetheless, and without vanity, I believe the Society may claim a small part of that. Its moral influence is greater than thought and that is precisely why it has never veered off from the pre-designed line of moderation. It is a fact that the Society is exclusively dedicated to the study, not allowing to be carried away by the self-serving passions that loom around it; that it does so very seriously as any scientific assembly must do; that it pursues its objective unblemished by any intrigue, throwing stones to no one, not even collecting those that are thrown against it. That is undoubtedly the main cause of credit and consideration that the Society enjoys and from which it may feel proud and that gives certain weight to its opinion. Through our efforts, ladies and gentlemen, out of prudence and with the spirit of union that must reign among the true spiritists, let us continue to show that the principles embraced by us are not dead letters and that we preach as much by theory as by example. If our Doctrine contains numerous repetitions, the reason is the fact that people find it more rational than the others. I doubt that the same would happen had we professed the doctrine of the exclusive intervention of the devil and the demons in the spiritist manifestations, doctrine that is totally ridicule today, exciting more curiosity than fear, but on some intrepid people who will soon acknowledge their uselessness.

As it is professed today, the Spiritist Doctrine has amplitude scope that encompasses all questions of morality. It suffices all aspirations and one can say the most demanding reason by anyone willing to study it and who is not dominated by prejudices. It does not suffer from the petty restrictions of certain philosophies; broaden the circle of ideas to infinity and nobody is capable of elevating their own thoughts above that, thus extracting man from the sphere of selfishness where some tried to confine him. Finally, it is supported by the immutable principles of religion of which it is a blatant demonstration. That is undoubtedly what conquers so many educated followers in all countries, and what will make it prevail in a not so distant time, and that despite the adversaries who in their majority are more motivated by interest than conviction. Its fast advancement since it entered the serious philosophical path is a safe guarantor of the future that is reserved and that is announced all over the world, as you know. Hence, let your enemies speak and act. They are powerless against God’s will since nothing happens without his permission and as an enlightened clergyman said recently: “If such things happen it is because God allows for the revival of the faith that is fading away in the darkness of materialism.”

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