The Spiritist Review - JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDIES - 1861

Allan Kardec

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(Given on Easter Sunday, 1834 after the death of one of his friends)
We have been given a number of times in this Review, spontaneous communications from the spirit Channing that does not contradict his superiority of character and intelligence. Our readers will appreciate below some passages of his texts when alive, using fragments of one of his speeches, whose translation we owe to the kind support of one of our subscribers. Considering that his name is not much known in France we provide a short biography below as an introduction to his discourse.

William Ellery Channing was born in 1780 in Newport, Rhode-Island, New York State. His grandfather, William Ellery, signed the famous declaration of independence. Channing was educated at Harvard College, to attend the medical school but his tastes and talents drove him towards a religious career when in 1803 he became the minister of the Unitarian Chapel of Boston. He then remained in that city where he professed the Unitarian Doctrine, a protestant sect that counts on many followers in England and in the USA, at the highest social echelons. He became known for his broad and liberal views and is counted as one of the most prominent individuals in the US given his remarkable eloquence, his many publications and his philosophical depth. A self-declared follower of peace and progress he relentlessly preached against slavery and for that he initiated such a fierce war against that institution, many liberals felt his exceeding enthusiasm was harmful to his own popularity, sometimes seemingly out of place. His name granted him authority among those who fought slavery. He died in Boston at the age 62. He was replaced by Gannet as leader of the Unitarians.

“To the great majority of people, heaven is almost always a world of fantasy. It lacks substance. The idea of a world where the creatures have no dense bodies, pure spirits covered by spiritual or ethereal bodies seems fictitious to them. Something that cannot be seen or touched does not seem real to them. That is sad but not surprising for how can people, immersed in matter and its related interests, not cultivating the acquisition of knowledge about the soul and its capabilities, how can they understand a more elevated spiritual life? To the crowds, someone that clearly and happily speaks about future life and about the victory of the spirit against the corporeal decomposition is a visionary dreamer. Such skepticism about heaven and spiritual things is irrational and unphilosophical as shameful.”

“And how irrational is the imagination that there aren’t other worlds but this one and no other more elevated way of living than ours! Who can doubt, after looking at the boundless Creation, that there exist superior beings or see any irrationality in conceiving that spirits do exist in a less circumscribed way, less bounded than here on Earth, and that there is a spiritual world?”

“Those who have left us for another world must cherish an even more profound interest for this one. Their links with the ones left behind improve rather than dissolve. If the future state is a betterment of the present one; if they must grow and expand in intelligence and love, their memories, fundamental power of intelligence, must act upon the past with an ever greater energy, and every lovely affection that we enjoyed here must renew. The idea that this Earthly life would be erased from the memory of the spirit would be the same as destroying its utility; it would be the rupture of the link between the two worlds and a subversion of responsibility, otherwise how could a forgotten life be reached by punishment or reward? No. We must carry the present with us, whatever the future may be, happy or unfortunate. It is true that the good ones will build new and even stronger and more sacred bonds; however, under the expanding influence of that better world the heart will have a greater capacity to keep the previous bonds while new ones are constructed. He will keep a kind memory of his birthplace while enjoying a more mature and a happier life. If I could imagine that those who have left this world are actually dead for those who stay I would love them and honor them less. A man that forgets those left behind seems deprived of the best feelings of our human nature; and if the just in their new motherland were supposed to forget their parents on Earth; if, approaching God, they were expected to stop putting a good word for them, could we believe that such a change was beneficial to them?”

“One could ask if those in heavens not only keep a cherished memory of the ones left here on Earth but also that are aware of their present and immediate condition. I have no reason to believe that such awareness does not exist. We are used to thinking of heaven as something far away from us, but there is no proof of that. Heaven is the union, the society of spiritual beings. Can’t they populate the universe, thus carrying heaven along with them everywhere? Is it likely that those creatures are restricted, like us, by physical boundaries? Milton said:

Millions of spiritual beings walk the Earth
Both when we wake and when we sleep.”

“A new sense, a new vision could show us that the spiritual world surrounds us from all sides. But even if you suppose that heaven is far away, there is no reason to believe that its inhabitants are not close to us and we are visible to them. However, how do we understand presence? Am I not present to those of you that I cannot reach with my arm but who I can clearly see? Isn’t that in total agreement with our knowledge about nature to suppose that those in heaven, regardless of their dwellings, may have spiritual senses and organs through which they can see at a distance as easily as we can see what is near us? Our eyes can effortlessly see planets that are millions of miles away, and with the help of Science we can even see the details of their surfaces. We can even imagine a visual organ sensitive enough or an instrument sufficiently powerful to allow for the detection of inhabitants of those far away planets. Why then, those who have already entered into a more elevated stage of their existences, covered by their spiritual bodies, why wouldn’t they be able to contemplate our Earth as easily as when it was their own dwelling?”

“That can be true and it is not an abuse to think so. It could be abused. We don’t think of the dead as if they were contemplating us with a partial Earthly love. They love us more than ever, but with spiritual and renovated warmth. Their only wish is to see us worthy of reuniting with them in their place of generosity and piety. Their spiritual eyes penetrate our souls. If we were able to hear their voices it would not be a declaration of personal attachment but a lively appeal for better efforts on our side, to a firmer abnegation, to a broader charity, to a humbler patience, to a more loving obedience to God’s will. They breathe from the atmosphere of God’s benevolence and their mission now is more important than it was here.”

“You may then ask: if the dead are aware of the hardships that afflict us, would it follow that there is suffering in that blessed life? My answer is that I cannot see heaven but as a world of sympathies.

It seems to me that there isn’t anything that may attract their attention better than the misery of their brothers. But if that sympathy may yield sadness on one side, it is far from making them unhappy. In our inferior word, a selfless compassion, together with the power of lessening the suffering of others, is a guarantee of peace, frequently leading to the purest pleasures. Free from our current diseases and enlightened by a broader vision from the divine governance, such sympathy will provide more joy to the virtues of those blessed beings, and as any other source of perfection, it will increase their happiness. The friends who leave us for that other world are not among strangers; they don’t feel the loneliness of someone that has exchanged his homeland for an unknown country. The kindest human words of friendship are not even close to the scores of felicitation that await them at the entrance of that world. There the spirit counts on safer ways of revealing oneself than here. The newcomer feels surrounded by virtues and benevolence and by that intimate feeling of sympathetic spirits around him, and new bonds may be instantaneously created, stronger than those cemented by years of worldly relationships. The most intimate affections in our world are cold when compared to those among the spirits. How do they communicate? Through which language and organs? We don’t know that but we do know that as the spirit progresses it becomes easier to them to transmit their thoughts.”

“It would be a mistake to believe that the inhabitants of heaven are limited to the reciprocal communication of their ideas. Those who reach that level enter into a new state of activity, of life and endeavors. We may think of the future state as something so happy that nobody will need help there, that there is no more need for any effort and the good ones have nothing else to do but to enjoy. Truth is, however, that any activity on Earth, even the most intense, is similar to a child’s game when compared to the activity and the energy developed in that more elevated life. And that is how it must be since there is no more active principle than intelligence, beneficence, love for the truth, desire of perfection, sympathy for the sufferings and devotion to the divine works that form the widening principles of life beyond the grave. That is when the soul has total awareness of its capabilities; that the infinite truth unfolds before our eyes; when we understand that the universe is a boundless sphere of discoveries to science, to goodness and worship. Those new interests of life, which reduce the current ones to nothing, multiply forever. Hence, one must not imagine heavens as a motionless community. I envision it as a world of prodigious plans and efforts for its own betterment. I consider that as a society which has to go through successive phases of development, of virtues, power and knowledge, through the energy of its own members.”

“The celestial genius is always active, exploring the great laws of creation and the eternal principles of the spirit; unveiling beauty in the order of the universe and discovering the means of advancement for each soul. There are different degrees of intelligence, as with us here, and the most advanced spirits find happiness and progress enlightening the ones behind. The education that was initiated here continues there and a more divine philosophy than the one we learn here revealing its very essence to the spirit, stimulating his joyful efforts towards his own betterment. Heaven has a connection with the other worlds. Its inhabitants are God’s messengers in the whole creation. They have great missions to accomplish and given the progress of their endless existence, they may be entrusted with the care of other worlds.”

This speech was given in 1834. In those days there was not a word about manifestations of the spirits in North America. Hence, Channing did not know them. He would otherwise have stated that at certain points he only mentioned it as a hypothesis. Nevertheless, isn’t that remarkable that this man had foreseen with such accuracy what would only be revealed a few years later, since apart from a few exceptions, his description of future life is in perfect agreement with that revelation? The only missing point is reincarnation and if carefully examined one can see that his speech is close to that, as with the manifestations of the spirits that he remains quiet about since he did not know them. In fact he admits the spiritual world around us, among us, plentiful of solicitudes towards us, helping us to advance. From there to the direct communications there is only a step. He also states that in the celestial world there is no perpetual contemplation but activity and progress; he admits the plurality of the corporeal worlds, but more or less advanced; had he admitted that the spirits could continue their progress in those worlds and we would have the reincarnation right there. Without it the idea of progressive worlds cannot be reconciled with that of the creation of the souls at the moment of birth of the bodies, unless one can admit the creation of more or less perfect souls and then it is necessary to justify God’s preference. Isn’t it more logical to admit that if the souls of a given world are more advanced than those of another it is because they have already lived on inferior worlds? The same may be said about the inhabitants of Earth, comparing the savage to the most civilized among themselves.

In any case isn’t such a description of life after the grave for its logical deductions more accessible to the most vulgar intelligence and acceptable by the sternest reason, and isn’t that a hundred times more adequate to lead to conviction and trust in the future than the horrible and inadmissible picture of the endless tortures borrowed from the Paganism of Tartarus? Those who preach such beliefs cannot imagine the number of disbelievers that they generate and the number of recruits sent to the ranks of materialism.

Notice that Milton who was cited in the speech above has an opinion similar to Channing’s about the invisible world in our environment that is also the opinion of the modern spiritists. The fact is, that Milton, as well as Channing and many other notables, were spiritists out of pure intuition. That is why we tirelessly repeat that Spiritism is not a modern invention. It has occurred at all times because there were souls at all times and the masses have always believed in the soul. Therefore we can find fragments of this idea in a large number of old as well as modern texts, sacred and profane. Such intuition of the spiritist ideas is so general that we daily see lots of people who are not at all surprised when they hear about them for the first time. All that was missing was a formula for their belief.

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