Excerpts from “The Spirits’ Book” by Allan Kardec
Spiritualism is the opposite of materialism: he who believes that there is in him anything more than matter is a spiritualist.
It does not necessarily follow, however, that he believes in the existence of spirits or in their communication with the visible world.
Soul: Vital Principle, or Vital Fluid. The immaterial and individual being that exists within us and survives the body.
Vital Principle: The principle of the material and organic life, whatever its source may be, which is common to all living beings, from plants to humans.
The Unquestionable Truth: The organic being possesses in themselves an inner force that produces the phenomenon of life, so long as this force exists; that physical life is common to all organic beings and that it is independent of intelligence and thought; that intelligence and thought are faculties inherent to certain organic species; and finally, that among the organic species endowed with intelligent thought, there is one that is endowed with a special moral sense, giving it an incontestable superiority over the others: the human species.
Vital Soul: Common to all organic beings.
Intellectual Soul: The attribute of animals and men.
Spiritual Soul: Applies to human beings.
Summary of the Spirits’ Teachings:
- God is eternal, immutable, immaterial, unique, all-powerful, and sovereignly just and good.
- He has created the Universe, which includes all animate and inanimate, material and immaterial beings.
- The material beings constitute the visible or corporeal world, while the immaterial beings constitute the invisible or spirit world, that is to say, the world of spirits.
- The spirit world is the normal, primitive, and eternal world, preexisting and outlasting all else.
- The corporeal world is only secondary; it could cease to exist – or it might never have existed at all – without changing the essence of the spirit world.
- Spirits temporarily don a perishable material envelope, the destruction of which at death restores them to freedom.
- From among all the different species of corporeal beings, God has chosen the human species for the incarnation of spirits who have reached a certain degree of development. This endows them with a moral and intellectual superiority to all the others.
- The soul is an incarnate spirit, the body representing but its envelope.
- There are three things in man: first, the body or material being, analogous to that of animals, and animated by the same vital principle; second, the soul or immaterial being, the spirit incarnated in the body; and third, the link which unites the soul with the body, an intermediary principle between matter and spirit.
- Man has therefore two natures: by means of his body he participates in the nature of animals, sharing the same instincts; by means of his soul he participates in the nature of spirits.
- The link or perispirit that unites the body and the spirit is a type of semi-material envelope. Death destroys only the denser of the two envelopes, namely, the physical body. The spirit keeps the second envelope, the perispirit, which constitutes its ethereal body, invisible to us in its normal state, but which can be occasionally made visible – and even tangible – as happens in the phenomenon of apparitions.
- Therefore, a spirit is not an undefined, abstract entity that can only be conceived of by thought, it is a real, circumscribed being that in certain cases may become perceptible through the senses of sight, hearing, and touch.
- Spirits belong to different orders, and they are not all equal in power, intelligence, knowledge, or morality. Those of the first order are the most highly evolved spirits, distinguishable from the others by their perfection, wisdom, closeness to God, purity of feelings, and their love of the good: they are the angels or pure spirits. The other orders distance themselves from such perfection to varying degrees. The spirits of the lowest orders are inclined to most of our passions, such as hatred, envy, jealousy, pride, and so on, taking pleasure in evil. Among them there are spirits who are neither very good nor very evil, and who are usually more annoying and unruly than exactly mean, with mischief and thoughtlessness seeming to be their common trait: they are the foolish and frivolous spirits.
- Spirits do not belong to the same order forever. They all advance, going through the different degrees of the spirit hierarchy. This improvement takes place through incarnation, which is imposed on some as an expiation, and on others as a mission. Earthly life is a trial they must undergo many times, until they have reached absolute perfection. It is a kind of filter or purifier from which they emerge, to varying degrees, more advanced.
- Upon leaving the body, the soul reenters the spirit world from which it came, initiating an interval between incarnations, a period of time which may be more or less extended; once completed, the spirit starts a new material existence.
- As the spirit must go through many incarnations, it follows that we all have had many existences, and that we will still others, in which we will be more or less successful, either on Earth or on other worlds.
- The incarnation of spirits always occurs in the human species. It would be a mistake to believe that the soul or spirit could incarnate in the body of an animal.
- The successive corporeal existences of a spirit are always progressive and never retrograde, but the speed of progress depends on the efforts that are made to reach perfection.
- The qualities of the soul are those of the spirit incarnated in us. This way, a good man is the incarnation of a good spirit, while a bad man is that of a spirit of lesser advancement.
- The soul possesses its individuality before incarnating and preserves it after abandoning the body upon death.
- Upon its return to the spirit world, the soul reencounters all those whom it had known on Earth, and all of its previous lives are brought back to memory, along with the recollection of all the good and evil that was done.
- The incarnate spirit is under the influence of matter. The man who overcomes this influence by improving and purifying his soul grows closer to the good spirits, with whom he will be ranked one day. However, he who allows himself to be controlled by his base passions, and places all his enjoyment in his satisfaction of his crude appetites, brings himself closer to imperfect spirits, by yielding to the influence of his animal nature.
- Incarnate spirits populate various globes throughout the Universe.
- Discarnate spirits do not occupy any fixed and circumscribed region. They are everywhere, in space and next to us, constantly watching and interacting with us. They constitute a whole invisible population that is always active around us.
- Spirits exert a continuous action upon the mental and even upon the physical world. They act upon a matter and thought, representing one of the powers of nature, and lie at the source of a myriad of phenomena hitherto poorly or not at all explained, and which cannot find a rational solution except in Spiritism.
- The interactions between spirits and men are constant. Good spirits inspire us to do good, sustaining us in the trials of life and helping us to endure them with courage and acceptance. Evil spirits tempt us to evil: It is a pleasure for them to see us fail, mirroring their own imperfection.
- The communication between spirits and humans can be either concealed or apparent. Concealed communications occur through the good or bad influence they exert unbeknownst to us; it is upon us to use our judgement to recognize their positive or pernicious inspirations. Ostensive communications occur through writing, speech or other physical means, more commonly through mediums who operate as their instruments.
- Spirits manifest either spontaneously or by being evoked. Any spirit can be evoked, whether they have animated obscure mortals or the most illustrious personalities, regardless of when they lived. One can evoke ones relatives, friends, or enemies, and obtain – through written or verbal communications – advice, information about their situation beyond the grave, their thoughts about us, and whatever revelations they are allowed to make.
- Spirits are attracted according to their affinity with the moral attributes of the party that evokes them. Spirits of superior standing enjoy serious meetings, where love of the good and a sincere desire to learn and advance prevail. Their presence repels spirits of a lower degree, who, conversely, find unrestricted access and freedom of action over people of frivolous character or who are guided by mere curiosity, and wherever evil instincts may be found. Far from receiving either good advice or useful information from these entities, we should expect nothing but trivialities, lies, mischief, and deceit, as they frequently borrow venerable names in order to mislead us more easily.
- Distinguishing between good and evil spirits is rather straightforward. The language of spirits of a higher order is consistently dignified, noble, imbued with the highest morality, and devoid of any earthly passion. Their advice displays the most genuine wisdom and always aims for our advancement and for the good of mankind. On the other hand, the language of lower spirits is thoughtless, often commonplace and at times even obscene. Although they may sometimes say things that are good and true, more often that not they make false and absurd statements out of mischief or ignorance. They play with people’s credulity and amuse themselves at the expense of those who ask them questions, by flattering the latter’s vanity and stimulating their desires with false hopes. In short, serious communications, properly speaking, only occur in serious groups, where members are united by an intimate communion of thoughts in the pursuit of the good.
- Like that of Christ, the moral teaching of spirits of higher orders may be summed up in the Gospel maxim: “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you”, in other words, do good and not evil. In this principle man finds the universal rule of conduct for even his simplest actions.
- They teach us that selfishness, pride, and sensuality are passions that bring us closer to our animal nature, enslaving us to matter … that the man who, during his earthly stay, frees himself from the yoke of matter through the detachment from worldly futilities and through the love of his neighbor, brings himself closer to his spiritual nature … that each one of us should be useful, according to the abilities and means that God has placed in our hands for our trials … that the strong and powerful should help and protect the weak, for he who abuses his strength and power in order to oppress his fellow beings violates the law of God. Lastly, they teach us that, as nothing can be hidden in the spirit world, the hypocrite will be unmasked and all his wickedness exposed, that the inevitable and constant presence of those whom we have wronged is one of the punishments reserved for us; that our inferior or superior standing as spirits results, respectively, in afflictions or joys that are unknown to us on Earth.
- Nevertheless, they also teach us that there are no unforgivable errors, none that cannot be erased by expiation. Man can find the necessary means to atone for them in the many existences that enable him to advance, according to his will and efforts, along the path of progress toward perfection, which is his final destiny.
This is the summary of the Spirtist Doctrine as it results from the teachings of Spirits of higher order.