By Allan Kardec
FOR new ideas new words are needed, in order to secure clearness of language by avoiding the confusion inseparable from the employment of the same term for expressing different meanings. The words spiritual, spiritualist, spiritualism, have a definite acceptation; to give them a new one, in order to apply them to the doctrine set forth by spirits, would be to multiply the causes of amphibology, already so numerous.
Strictly speaking, Spiritualism is the opposite of Materialism; every one is a Spiritualist who believes that there is in him something more than matter, but it does not follow that he believes in the existence of spirits, or in their communication with the visible world. Instead, therefore, of the words SPIRITUAL SPIRITUALISM, we employ, to designate this latter belief, the words SPIRITIST, SPIRITISM, which, by their form, indicate their origin and radical meaning, and have thus the advantage of being perfectly intelligible; and we reserve the words spiritualism, spiritualist, for the expression of the meaning attached to them by common acceptation. We say, then, that the fundamental principle of the spiritist theory, or Spiritism, is the relation of the material world with spirits, or the beings of the invisible world ; and we designate the adherents of the spiritist theory as spiritists.
In a special sense, “THE SPIRITS’ BOOK” contains the doctrine or theory of spiritism; in a general sense, it appertains to the spiritualist school, of which it presents one of the phases. It is for this reason that we have inscribed the words Spiritualist Philosophy on its title-page.
There is another word of which it is equally necessary to define the meaning, because it is the keystone of every system of morality, and also because, owing to the lack of a precise definition, it has been made the subject of innumerable controversies; we refer to the word soul. The divergence of opinion concerning the nature of the soul is a result of the variety of meanings attached to this word. A perfect language, in which every idea had its own special term, would save a vast deal of discussion; for, in that case, misunderstanding would be impossible. Some writers define the soul as being the principle of organic life, having no existence of its own, and ceasing with the life of the body. According to this purely Materialistic belief, the soul is an effect, and not a cause.
Others consider the soul as being the principle of intelligence, the universal agent, of which each being absorbs a portion. According to them, there is, in the entire universe, only one soul, which distributes sparks of itself among all intelligent beings during their life ; each spark, after the death of the being it has animated, returning to the common source, and blending again with the general whole, as brooks and rivers return to the ocean from which they were produced. This opinion differs from the preceding one, inasmuch as, according to the latter hypothesis, there is in us something more than matter, something that remains in existence after our death; but, practically, it is much as though nothing remained of us, since, no longer possessing individuality, we should retain no consciousness of our identity. According to this hypothesis, the universal soul is God, and each being is a portion of the
Divinity. It is a species of Pantheism.
According to others, again, the soul is a moral being, distinct, independent of matter, and preserving its individuality after death. This acceptation of the word soul is certainly the one most generally received; because, under one name or another, the idea of a being that survives the body is found as an instinctive belief, and independently of all teaching, among all nations, whatever their degree of civilisation. This doctrine, according to which the soul is a cause and not an effect, is that of the spiritualists.
Without discussing the value of these opinions, and considering the subject merely under its philological aspect, we say that these three applications of the word soul constitute three distinct ideas, each of which demands a different term. “Soul” has, therefore, a triple meaning, and is employed by each school according to the special meaning it attributes to that word. In order to avoid the confusion naturally resulting from the use of the same word to express three different ideas, it would he necessary to confine the word to one of these three ideas; it would not matter to which, provided the choice were clearly understood. We think it more natural to take it in its most common acceptation; and for this reason we employ the word SOUL to indicate the immaterial and individual being which resides in us, and survives the body. Even if this being did not really exist, and were only a product of the imagination, a specific term would still be needed to designate it.
For want of such a term for each of the other ideas now loosely understood by the word soul, we employ the term vital principle to designate the material and organic life which, whatever may be its source, is common to all living creatures, from the plant to man. As life can exist without the thinking faculty, the vital principle is something distinct from independent of it. The word vitality would not express the same idea. According to some, the vital principle is a property of matter; an effect produced wherever matter is found under certain given conditions; while, in the opinion of the greater number of thinkers, it resides in a special fluid, universally diffused, and of which each being absorbs and assimilates a portion during life, as inert bodies absorb light; the vital principle being identical with the vital fluid, which is generally regarded as being the same as the animalised electric fluid, designated also as the magnetic fluid, the nervous fluid, etc.
However this may be, one fact is certain, for it is proved by observation, viz., that organic
beings possess in themselves a force which, so long as it exists, produces the phenomena of
life ; that physical life is common to all organic beings, and is independent of intelligence and
thought; that intelligence and thought are faculties peculiar to certain organic species; and,
lastly, that, among the organic species endowed with intelligence and thought, there is one
which is endowed with a special moral sense that gives it an incontestable superiority over
the others, viz., human species.
It is evident that, being employed according to various acceptations, the term soul does not exclude either Materialism or Pantheism. Spiritualists themselves understand the term soul according to one or other of the first two definitions, without denying the distinct immaterial being, to which, in that case it would give some other name. This word, therefore, is not the representative of an opinion; it is a Protean term, defined by each after his own fashion, and thus giving rise to interminable disputes.
We might also avoid confusion, even while employing the word soul in the three senses defined above, by adding to it some qualifying term that should specify the point of view from which we consider it, or the mode in which we apply it. It would be, in that case, a generic word, representing at once the principles of material life, of intelligence, and of the moral faculty, each of which would be distinguished by an attribute, as is done, for example, with the word gas, by adding the words hydrogen, oxygen, etc. Thus we might say-and it would, perhaps, be the best plan to adopt-vital soul for the principle of material life, intellectual soul for the principle of intelligence, and spiritual soul for the principle of our individuality after death ; in which case the vital soul would be common to all organic beings, plants, animals, and men ; the intellectual soul would be the peculiar property of animals and men ; and the spiritual soul would belong to men only.
We have thought it all the more important to be explicit in regard to this point, because the spiritist theory is naturally based on the existence in us of a being independent of matter, and that survives the body. As the word soul will frequently recur in the course of this work, it was necessary to define the meaning we attach to it, in order to avoid all misunderstanding. We now come to the principal object of this preliminary explanation.
Spiritist doctrine, like all new theories, has its Supporters and its opponents. We will endeavour to reply to some of the objections of the latter, by examining the worth of the reasons on which they are based, without, however, pretending to be able to convince everybody, but addressing ourselves to those who, without prejudices or preconceived ideas, are sincerely and honestly desirous of arriving at the truth; and will prove to them that those objections are the result of a too hasty conclusion in regard to facts imperfectly observed.
Of the facts referred to, the one first observed was the movement of objects, popularly called
“table-turning.” This phenomenon, first observed in America (or rather, renewed in that
country, for history proves it to have been produced in the most remote ages of antiquity),
was attended with various strange accompaniments, such as unusual noises, raps produced
without any ostensible cause, etc. From America this phenomenon spread rapidly over
Europe and the rest of the world. It was met at first with incredulity; but the movements were
produced by so many experimenters, that it soon became impossible to doubt its reality.
If the phenomenon in question had been limited to the movement of inert objects, it might
have been possible to explain it by some purely physical cause. We are far from knowing all
the secret agencies of nature, or all the properties of those which are known to us. Electricity,
moreover, is not only multiplying, day by day, the resources it offers to mankind but appears
to be about to irradiate science with a new light. It seemed, therefore, by no means impossible
that electricity, modified by certain circumstances, or some other unknown agent, might be
the cause of these movements. The fact that the presence of several persons increased the
intensity of the action appeared to strengthen this supposition; for the union of these might
not ineptly be regarded as constituting a battery, of which the power was in proportion to the
number of its elements.
That the movement of the tables should be circular was in 110 way surprising, for the circular
movements is of frequent occurrence in nature. All the stars move in circles; and it therefore
seemed to be possible that in the movement of the tables we had a reflex on a small scale of
the movement of the universe; or that some cause, hitherto unknown, might produce,
accidentally, and, in regard to small objects, a current analogous to that which impels the
worlds of the universe in their orbits.
But the movement in question was not always circular. It was often irregular, disorderly; the
object moved was sometimes violently shaken, overthrown, carried about in various
directions, and, in contravention of all known laws of statics, lifted from the ground and held
up in the air. Still in all this, there was nothing that might not be explained by the force of
some invisible physical agent. Du we not see electricity overthrow buildings, uproot trees and hurl to considerable distances the heaviest bodies, attracting or repelling, as the case may be?
The rappings and other unusual noises, supposing them to be due to something else than the
dilatation of the wood, or other accidental cause, might very well be produced by an
accumulation of the mysterious fluid; for does not electricity produce the loudest sounds?
Up to this point everything might be considered as belonging to the domain of physics and
physiology. Without going beyond this circle of ideas, the learned might have found in the
phenomenon referred to matter well worthy of serious study. Why was this not done? It is
painful to be obliged to make the confession, but the neglect of the scientific world was due
to causes that add one more proof to the many already given of the frivolity of the human
mind. In the first place, the non-glamour of the object which mainly served as the basis of the
earliest experimentations had something to do with this disdain. What an influence, in regard
to even the most serious matters, is often exerted by a mere word! Without reflecting that the
movement referred to might be communicated to any object, the idea of tables became
associated with it in the general mind, doubtless because a table, being the most convenient
object upon which to experiment, and also because people can place themselves round a table
more conveniently than round any other piece of furniture, was generally employed in the
experiments referred to. But men who pride themselves on their mental superiority are
sometimes so puerile as to warrant the suspicion that a good many keen and cultivated minds
may have considered it beneath them to take any notice of what was commonly known as “the
dance of tables.” If the phenomenon observed by Galvani had been made known by some
unlearned person, and dubbed with some absurd nickname, it would probably have been
consigned to the lumber-room, along with the divining-rod; for where is the scientist who
would not in that case have regarded it as derogatory to occupy himself with the dance of
A few men of superior intellect, however, being modest enough to admit that nature might
not have revealed to them all her secrets, conscientiously endeavoured to see into the matter
for themselves; but the phenomena not having always responded to their attempts, and not
being always produced at their pleasure, and according to their methods of experimenting,
they arrived at an adverse conclusion in regard to them. The tables, however, despite that conclusion,
continued to turn; and we may say of them, with Galileo, “Nevertheless, they move!” We may
assert, still further, that the facts alluded to have been multiplied to such an extent that they
have become naturalised among us, so that opinions are now only divided as to their nature.
And here let us ask whether the fact that these phenomena are not always produced in exactly
the same way, and according to the wishes and requirements of each individual observer, can
be reasonably regarded as constituting an argument against their reality? Are not the
phenomena of electricity and chemistry subordinated to certain conditions, and should we be
right in denying their reality because they do not occur when those conditions are not present?
Is it strange, then, that certain conditions should be necessary to the production of the
phenomenon of the movement of objects by the human fluid, or that it should not occur when
the observer, placing himself at his own individual point of view, insists on producing it at his
own pleasure, or in subjecting it to the laws of phenomena already known, without
considering that a new order of facts may, and indeed must, result from the action of laws
equally new to us? Now, in order to arrive at a knowledge of such laws, it is necessary to
study the circumstances under which those facts are produced; and such a study can only be
made through long-sustained and attentive observation.
“But,” it is often objected, “there is evident trickery in some of the occurrences referred to.”
To this objection we reply, in the first place, by asking whether the objectors are quite sure
that what they have taken for trickery may not be simply an order of facts which they are not
yet able to account for, as was the case with the peasant who mistook the experiments of a
learned professor of physics for the tricks of a clever conjuror? But even admitting that there
has been trickery in some cases, is that a reason for denying the reality of facts? Must we
deny the reality of physics because certain conjurors give themselves the title of physicists?
Moreover, the character of the persons concerned in these manifestations should be taken into
account, and the interest they may have in deceiving. Would they do so by way of a joke? A
joke may amuse for a moment, but a mystification, if kept up too long, would become as
wearisome to the mystifier as to the mystified. Besides, a mystification carried on from one end of the earth to the other, and among the most serious, honourable, and enlightened people, would be at least as extraordinary as the phenomena in question.
If the phenomena we are considering had been limited to the movement of objects, they
would have remained, as we have already remarked, within the domain of physical science;
but so far was this from being the case, that they speedily proved to be only the forerunners of
facts of a character still more extraordinary. For it was soon found that the impulsion
communicated to inert objects was not the mere product of a blind mechanical force, but that
it revealed the action of an intelligent cause, a discovery that opened up a new field of
observation, and promised a solution of many mysterious problems. Are these movements
due to an intelligent power? Such was the question first to be answered. If such a power
exists, what is it? What is its nature? What its origin? Is it superhuman? Such were the
secondary questions which naturally grew out of that first one.
The earliest manifestations of intelligence were made by means of the legs of tables, that
moved up and down, striking a given number of times, and replying in this way by “yes” or
“no” to the questions asked. Even here, it must be confessed, there was nothing very
convincing for the incredulous, as these apparent answers might be an effect of chance. But
fuller replies were soon obtained, the object in motion striking a number of blows
corresponding to the number of each letter of the alphabet, so that words and sentences began
to be produced in reply to the questions propounded. The correctness of these replies, their
correlation with the questions asked, excited astonishment. The mysterious being who gave
these replies, when questioned as to its nature, declared itself to be a “spirit” or “genius,” gave
itself a name, and stated various particulars about itself. This is a circumstance of noteworthy
importance, for it proves that no one suggested the idea of spirits as an explanation of the
phenomenon, but that the phenomenon gave this explanation of itself. Hypotheses are often
framed, in the positive sciences, to serve as a basis of argument; but such was not the case in
The mode of communication furnished by the alphabet being tedious and inconvenient, the invisible agent (a point worthy of note) suggested another, by advising the fitting of a pencil to a small basket. This basket, placed upon a sheet of paper, was set in motion by the same occult power that moved the tables; but, instead of obeying a simple and regular movement of rotation, the pencil traced letters that formed words, sentences, and entire discourses, filling many pages, treating of the deepest questions of
philosophy, morality, metaphysics, psychology, etc., and as rapidly as though written by the hand.
This suggestion was made simultaneously in America, in France, and in various other
countries. It was made in the following terms, in Paris, on the 10th of June 1853, to one of the
most fervent partisans of the new phenomena-one who, from the year 1849, had been busily
engaged in the evocation of spirits:-” Fetch the little basket from the next room; fasten a
pencil to it; place it upon a sheet of paper; put your fingers on the edge of the basket.” This
having been done, the basket, a few moments afterwards, began to move, and the pencil
wrote, quite legibly, this sentence -“I expressly forbid your repeating to any one what I have
just told you. The next time I write, I shall do it better.”
The object to which the pencil is attached being merely an instrument, its nature and form are
of no importance, convenience being the only point to be considered. The instrument known
as the planchette has since been generally adopted.
The basket, or planchette, will only move under the influence of certain persons gifted with a
special power or faculty, who are called mediums,-that is to say, go-betweens, or
intermediaries between spirits and men. The conditions which give this power depend on
causes, physical and moral, that are as yet but imperfectly understood, for mediums are of all
ages, of both sexes, and of every degree of intellectual development. The faculty of
mediumship, moreover, is developed by exercise.
It was next perceived that the basket and the planchette only formed, in reality, an appendix
to the hand. The medium, therefore, now held the pencil in his hand, and found that he was
made to write under an impulsion independent of his will, and often with an almost feverish
rapidity. In this way the communications were not only made more quickly, but also became
more easy and more complete. At the present day, this method is the one most frequently
employed, the number of persons endowed with the aptitude of involuntary writing being
very considerable, and constantly increasing. Experience gradually made known many other
varieties of the mediumistic faculty, and it was found that communications could be received
through speech, hearing, sight, touch, etc., and even through the direct writing of the spirits
themselves,-that is to say, without the help of the medium’s band, or of the pencil.
This fact established, an essential point still remained to be ascertained, viz., the nature of the
medium’s action, and the share taken by him, mechanically and morally, in the obtaining of
the replies. Two points of the highest importance, and that could not escape the notice of the
attentive observer, sufficed to settle the question. The first of these is the way in which the
basket moves under the influence of the medium, through the mere laying of his fingers on its
edges, and in such a manner that it would be impossible for him to guide it in any direction
whatever. This impossibility becomes still more evident when two or three persons place
their fingers at the same time on the same basket, for a truly phenomenal concordance of
movements and of thoughts would be required between them, in order to produce, on the part
of each, the same reply to the question asked. And this difficulty is increased by the fact that
the writing often changes completely with each spirit who communicates, and that, whenever
a given spirit communicates, the same writing re-appears. In such cases, the medium would
have to train himself to change his handwriting an indefinite number of times, and would also
have to remember the particular writing of each spirit.
The second point referred to is the character of the replies given, which are often, and
especially when the questions asked are of an abstract or scientific nature, notoriously beyond
the scope of the knowledge, and even of the intellectual capacity, of the medium, who,
moreover, is frequently unaware of what he is made to write, since the reply, like the question
asked, may be couched in a language of which he is ignorant, or the question may even be
asked mentally. It often happens, too, that the basket, or the medium, is made to write
spontaneously, without any question having been propounded, and upon some subject
The replies thus given, and the messages thus transmitted, are sometimes marked by such
sagacity, profundity, and appropriateness, and convey thoughts so elevated, so sublime, that
they can only emanate from a superior intelligence, imbued with the purest morality; at other
times, they are so vapid, frivolous, and even trivial, that they cannot be supposed to emanate
from the same source. This diversity of language can only be explained by the diversity of the
intelligences who thus manifest themselves. Do these intelligences reside in the human race,
or are they beyond the pale of humanity? Such is the next point to be cleared up, and of which
the complete explanation will be found in the present work, such as it has been given by the
The facts referred to, as being of an order beyond our usual circle of observation, do not occur
mysteriously, but in broad daylight, so that every one can see them and ascertain their reality;
they are not the privilege of a single individual, but are obtained by tens of thousands of
persons every day at pleasure. These effects have necessarily a cause; and as they reveal the
action of an intelligence and a will, they are evidently beyond the domain of merely physical
Many theories have been broached in relation to this subject; these we shall presently
examine, and shall then be able to decide whether they can account for all the facts now
occurring. Let us, meanwhile, assume the existence of beings distinct from the human race,
since such is the explanation given of themselves by the intelligences thus revealed to us, and
let us see what they say to us.
The beings who thus enter into communication with us designate themselves, as we have
said, by the name of spirits or genie, and as having belonged, in many cases at least, to men
who have lived upon the earth. They say that they constitute the spiritual world, as we, during
our earthly life, constitute the corporeal world.
We will now briefly sum up the most important points of the doctrine which they have
transmitted to us, in order to reply more easily to the objections of the incredulous.
“God is eternal, immutable, immaterial, unique, all-powerful, sovereignly just and good.
“He has created the universe, which comprehends all beings, animate and inanimate, material
“The material beings constitute the visible or corporeal world, and the immaterial beings
constitute the invisible or spiritual world, that is to say, the spirit-world, or world of spirits.
“The spirit-world is the normal, primitive, eternal world, pre-existent to, and surviving,
“The corporeal world is only secondary; it might cease to exist, or never have existed, without
changing the essentiality of the spiritual world.
“Spirits temporarily assume a perishable material envelope, the destruction of which, by
death, restores them to liberty.
“Among the different species of corporeal beings, God has chosen the human species for the
incarnation of spirits arrived at a certain degree of development; it is this which gives it a
moral and intellectual superiority to all the others.
“The soul is an incarnated spirit, whose body is only its envelope.
“There are in man three things -(1.) The body, or material being, analogous to the animals,
and animated by the same vital principle; (2.) The soul, or immaterial being, a spirit
incarnated in the body; (3.) The link which unites the soul and the body, a principle
intermediary between matter and spirit.
“Man has thus two natures.: by his body he participates in the nature of the animals, of which
it has the instincts; by his soul, he participates in the nature of spirits.
“The link, or perispirit, which unites the body and the spirit, is a sort of semi-material
envelope. Death is the destruction of the material body, which is the grossest of man’s two
envelopes; but the spirit preserves his other envelope, viz., the perispirit, which constitutes
for him an ethereal body, invisible to us in its normal state, but which he can render
occasionally visible, and even tangible, as is the case in apparitions.
“A spirit, therefore, is not an abstract, undefined being, only to be conceived of by our
thought; it is a real, circumscribed being, which, in certain cases, is appreciable by the senses
of sight, hearing, and touch.
“Spirits belong to different classes, and are not equal to one another either in power, in
intelligence, in knowledge, or in morality. Those of the highest order are distinguished from
those below them by their superior purity and knowledge, their nearness to God, and their love of goodness; they are “angels” or “pure spirits.” The other classes are more and more distant from this perfection; those of the lower ranks are inclined to most of our passions, hatred, envy, jealousy, pride, etc.; they take pleasure in evil. Among them are some who are neither very good nor very bad, but are teazing and troublesome rather than malicious are often mischievous and unreasonable, and may be classed as giddy and foolish spirits.
“Spirits do not belong perpetually to the same order. All are destined to attain perfection by
passing through the different degrees of the spirit-hierarchy. This amelioration is effected by
incarnation, which is imposed on some of them as an expiation, and on others as a mission.
Material life is a trial which they have to undergo many times until they have attained to
absolute perfection; it is a sort of filter, or alembic, from which they issue more or less
purified after each new incarnation.
“On quitting the body, the soul re-enters the world of spirits from which it came, and from
which it will enter upon a new material existence after a longer or shorter lapse of time,
during which its state is that of an errant or wandering spirit.¹
“Spirits having to pass through many incarnations, it follows that we have all had many
existences, and that we shall have others, more or less perfect, either upon this earth or in
“The incarnation of spirits always takes place in the human race; it would be an error to
suppose that the soul or spirit could be incarnated in the body of an animal.
“A spirit’s successive corporeal existences are always progressive, and never retrograde; but
the rapidity of our progress depends on the efforts we make to arrive at perfection.
“The qualities of the soul are those of the spirit incarnated in us; thus, a good man is the
incarnation of a good spirit, and a bad man is that of an unpurified spirit.
“The soul possessed its own individuality before its incarnation; it preserves that individuality
after its separation from the body.
“On its re-entrance into the spirit world, the soul again finds there all those whom it has
known upon the earth, and all its former existences eventually come back to its memory, with
the remembrance of all the good and of all the evil which it has done in them.
“The incarnated spirit is under the influence of matter; the man who surmounts this influence,
through the elevation and purification of his soul, raises himself nearer to the superior spirits,
among whom he will one day be classed. He who allows himself to be ruled by bad passions,
and places all his delight in the satisfaction of his gross animal appetites, brings himself
nearer to the impure spirits, by giving preponderance to his animal nature.
“Incarnated spirits inhabit the different globes of the universe.
“Spirits who are not incarnated, who are errant, do not occupy any fixed and circumscribed
region; they are everywhere, in space, and around us, seeing us, and mixing with us
incessantly; they constitute an invisible population, constantly moving and busy about us, on
“Spirits exert an incessant action upon the moral world, and even upon the physical world;
they act both upon matter and upon thought, and constitute one of the powers of nature, the
efficient cause of many classes of phenomena hitherto unexplained or misinterpreted, and of
which only the spiritist theory can give a rational explanation.
‘Spirits are incessantly in relation with men. The good spirits try to lead us into the right road,
sustain us under the trials of life, and aid us to bear them with courage and resignation; the
bad ones tempt us to evil: it is a pleasure for them to see us fall, and to make us like
“The communications of spirits with men are either occult or ostensible. Their occult
communications are made through the good or bad influence they exert on us without our
being aware of it; it is our duty to distinguish, by the exercise of our judgement, between the
good and the bad inspirations that are thus brought to bear upon us. Their ostensible
communications take place by means of writing, of speech, or of other physical
manifestations, and usually through the intermediary of the mediums who serve as their
“Spirits manifest themselves spontaneously, or in response to evocation. All spirits may be
evoked: those who have animated the most obscure of mortals, as well as those of the most
illustrious personages, and whatever the epoch at which they lived; those of our relatives, our
friends, or our enemies; and we may obtain from them, by written or by verbal
communications, counsels, information in regard to their situation beyond the grave, their thoughts in regard to us, and whatever revelations they are permitted to make to us.¹
Spirits are attracted by their sympathy with the moral quality of the parties by whom they are
evoked. Spirits of superior elevation take pleasure in meetings of a serious character,
animated by the love of goodness and the sincere desire of instruction and improvement.
Their presence repels the spirits of inferior degree who find, on the contrary, free access and
freedom of action among persons of frivolous disposition, or brought together by mere
curiosity, and wherever evil instincts are to be met with. So far from obtaining from spirits,
under such circumstances, either good advice or useful information, nothing is to be expected
from them but trifling, lies, ill-natured tricks, or humbugging; for they often borrow the most
venerated names, in order the better to impose upon those with whom they are in
“It is easy to distinguish between good and bad spirits. The language of spirits of superior
elevation is constantly dignified, noble, characterised by the highest morality, free from every
trace of earthly passion; their counsels breathe the purest wisdom, and always have our
improvement and the good of mankind for their aim. The communications of spirits of lower
degree, on the contrary, are full of discrepancies, and their language is often commonplace,
and even coarse. If they sometimes say things that are good and true, they more often make
false and absurd statements, prompted by ignorance or malice. They play upon the credulity
of those who interrogate them, amusing themselves by flattering their vanity, and fooling
them with false hopes. In a word, instructive communications worthy of the name are only to
be obtained in centres of a serious character, whose members are united, by an intimate
communion of thought and desire, in the pursuit of truth and goodness.
“The moral teaching of the higher spirits may be summed up, like that of Christ, in the gospel
maxim, ‘Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you;’ that is to say, do good
to all, and wrong no one. This principle of action furnishes mankind with a rule of conduct of
universal application, from the smallest matters to the greatest.
They teach us that selfishness, pride, sensuality, are passions which bring us back towards the
animal nature, by attaching us to matter; that he who, in this lower life, detaches himself from
matter through contempt of worldly trifles, and through love of the neighbour, brings himself
back towards the spiritual nature; that we should all make ourselves useful, according to the
means which God has placed in our hands for our trial; that the strong and the powerful owe
aid and protection to the weak; and that he who misuses strength and power to oppress his
fellow-creature violates the law of God. They teach us that in the spirit-wold nothing can be
hidden, and that the hypocrite will there be un-masked, and all his wickedness unveiled; that
the presence, unavoidable and perpetual, of those whom we have wronged in the earthly life
is one of the punishments that await us in the spirit-world; and that the lower or higher state
of spirits gives rise in that other life to sufferings or to enjoyments unknown to us upon the
“But they also teach us that there are no unpardonable sins, none that cannot be efaced by
expiation. Man finds the means of accomplishing this in the different existences which permit
him to advance progressively, and according to his desire and his efforts, towards the
perfection that constitutes his ultimate aim.
Such is the sum of spiritist doctrine, as contained in the teachings given by spirits of high
degree. Let us now consider the objections that are urged against it.
Many persons regard the opposition of the learned world as constituting, if not a proof, at
least a very strong presumption of the falsity of Spiritism. We are not of those who affect
indifference in regard to the judgment of scientific men; on the contrary, we hold them in
great esteem, and should think it an honour to be of their number, but we cannot consider
their opinion as being, under all circumstances, necessarily and absolutely conclusive.
When the votaries of science go beyond the bare observation of facts, when they attempt to
appraise and to explain those facts, they enter upon the field of conjecture; each advances a
system of his own, which he does his utmost to bring into favour, and defends with might and
main. Do we not see every day the most divergent systems brought forward and rejected. one after the other; now cried down as absurd errors, and now cried up as incontestable truths? Facts are the sole criterion of reality, the sole argument that admits of no reply: in the absence of facts. the wise man suspends his judgment.
In regard to all matters that have already been fully examined, the verdict of the learned is
justly held to be authoritative, because their knowledge of them is fuller and more
enlightened than that of ordinary men; but in regard to new facts or principles, to matters
imperfectly known, their opinion can only be hypothetic, because they are no more exempt
from prejudice than other people It may even be said that scientific men are more apt to be
prejudiced than the rest of the world, because each of them is naturally inclined to look at
everything from the special point of view that has been adopted by him; the mathematician
admitting no other order of proof than that of an algebraic demonstration, the chemist
referring everything to the action of the elements, etc. When a man has made for himself a
specialty, he usually devotes his whole mind to it; beyond the scope of this specialty he often
reasons falsely, because, owing to the weakness of human reason, he insists on treating every
subject in the same way; and therefore, while we should willingly and confidently consult a
chemist in regard to a question of analysis, a physicist in regard to electricity, a mechanician
in regard to a motive power, we must be allowed, without in any way derogating from the
respect due to their special knowledge, to attach no more weight to their unfavourable
opinion of Spiritism than we should do to the judgment of an architect on a question relating
to the theory of music.