THE MEDIUMS' BOOK.
PART FIRST—PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS.
Allan Kardec, 1861
DO SPIRITS EXIST?
1. Doubt concerning the existence of spirits arises from ignorance of their real nature. People usually imagine spirits to be something apart from the rest of creation, and the reality of whose existence has not been proved. Many think of them as imaginary beings, known to them only through the fantastic tales of their childhood, and regard their authenticity much as they would that of the personages of a romance. Without stopping to inquire whether those tales, divested of absurd accessories, may not have some foundation of truth, they see only their absurdities; and not giving themselves the trouble to peel off the bitter husk in order to get at the kernel, they reject the whole, just as others, shocked at certain abuses in religion, confound the whole subject in the same reprobation.
Whatever ideas we may hold in regard to spirits, the belief in their existence is necessarily founded on that of the existence of an intelligent principle distinct from matter; this belief is therefore incompatible with an absolute negation of such a principle.
We assume then, as the ground-work of our belief, the existence, survival, and individuality of the soul, of which spiritualism is the theoretic and doctrinal demonstration, and spiritism the practical proof. Let us then, for a moment, leave out of sight the fact of spirit-manifestations, properly so called, and let us see to what conclusions we are led by inductive reasoning.
2. If we admit the existence of the soul and its individuality after death, we must necessarily also admit, 1st, that it is of a nature different from that of the body, since, when separated from the body, it enters upon a phase of existence distinct from the destiny of the body ; 2d, that the soul retains, after death, its individuality and self-consciousness, and the capacity of feeling happiness and unhappiness, as otherwise it would be an inert being, and its existence would be equivalent to non-existence. These points being admitted, it follows that the soul goes somewhere; but what becomes of it, and whither does it go? According to the ordinary belief it goes to heaven or to hell; but where is heaven, and where is hell? People used formerly to say that heaven was “up on high", and hell, " down below"; but what is "up", and what is "down", in the universe, since we have learned that the earth is round, and that, through the movement of all the stellar bodies, what is “up" now, will be "down" twelve hours hence, and this throughout the immeasurable extent of infinite space? It is true that, by "below", we may likewise understand the "deep places of the earth"; but what has become of those “deep places", since geologists have begun to dig into the interior of the globe?
What has become of those concentric spheres called the " heaven of fire”, the "heaven of stars", etc., since we have found out that the earth is not the centre of the universe, and that our sun is only one of the countless myriads of suns which shine in space, and each of which is the centre of a planetary system of its own? Where is now the earth's importance, lost as it is in this immensity? and by what unjustifiable privilege shall we assume that thisimperceptible grain of sand, distinguished neither by its bulk, its position, nor any peculiarity of attribute, is the only sphere peopled by intelligent creatures? Reason refuses to admit such an inutility of infinitude; and common sense declares that all the other worlds of the universe must be inhabited, and that, being inhabited, they, too, must furnish their contingent to the realm of souls.
But what, it may next be asked, becomes of the souls thus multiplied to infinity by the theory of the plurality of worlds, now that astronomy and geology have annihilated their ancient habitations?
To this question we reply that, the doctrine which formerly localized souls being opposed to the data of modern science, another and more logical doctrine assigns to them, as their domain, not any fixed and circumscribed localities, but universal space itself, which is thus. seen to be one grand system, in the midst of which we live, which environs as unceasingly, and touches us at every point. Is there anything inadmissible in such a theory, anything repugnant to our reason? Assuredly not; on the contrary, our reason tells us that it cannot be otherwise. But, it may next be asked, what becomes of the doctrine of future rewards and punishments, if we rob them of their special localities? In replying to this objection, we must pause to remark that incredulity, in regard to those rewards and punishments, is ordinarily provoked by the fact of their being presented under inadmissible conditions; and that, if—instead of such conditions, we assume that souls carry their happiness or their misery in themselves, that their lot is always determined by their moral state, that the union of good and sympathetic souls is a source of felicity, and that, according to their degree of purity, is their power of penetrating discerning things that are still dark to souls of lower degree—all difficulties disappear, and the grand idea of our continuous existence becomes comprehensible and acceptable. Let us assume, still farther, that the degree of soul's elevation depends on the efforts it makes for its amelioration during series of existences that serve as the means and tests of its progressive purification, that “angels" are only the souls of men who have attained to the highest degree of excellence; that all can attain to that degree by effort and determination; that those who have attained to that degree are God's messengers, charged to superintend the execution of His designs throughout the universe, and finding their happiness in these glorious mission, and we surely attribute to the idea of our future felicity an end more useful and more attractive than that of a perpetual state of contemplation which would be only a perpetual state of inutility. Let us assume, yet farther, that "demons" also are no other than the souls of wicked men, not yet purified, but who have the power to purify themselves like the others, and it must surely be admitted that such a theory is more in conformity with the justice and goodness of God than the assumption that they were created for evil, and predestined to a perpetuity of misery. Is there, we ask, in such a theory, anything opposed to reason, anything, in a word, that the most rigorous logic, or plain common sense, can find any difficulty in admitting?
The souls, then, that people space, are what we call Spirits: and Spirits are nothing but the souls of men stripped of their envelope of gross terrestrial matter. If Spirits were beings apart from ourselves, their existence would be merely hypothetical; but, if we admit that souls exist, we must also admit that spirits are nothing else than souls, and, if we admit that universal space is peopled by souls, we must equally admit that spirits are everywhere. We cannot deny the existence of spirits without denying the existence of souls.
3. All this, it is true, is only a theory, though one that is more rational than other theories; but it is something to possess a theory that is not in contradiction with reason or science, and if, moreover, this theory is corroborated by facts, it must be admitted that our position has the double sanction of reason and experience. Such corroborating facts we assert to be furnished by the phenomena of spirit manifestation, which constitute the irrefragable proofs of the existence and the survival of the soul. With many persons, however, belief ends here; they readily admit the existence of souls, and consequently that of spirits, but they deny the possibility of holding communication with them, because, they say, immaterial beings cannot act upon matter. This denial proceeds from ignorance of the real nature of spirits, about which the world in general holds exceedingly false ideas, erroneously regarding them as abstract beings, as something vague and indefinite; which is a great mistake.
Let us, in the first place, consider the spirit in reference to its union with the body. The spirit is the principal being, because it is that which thinks, and which survives the body, the latter being only an envelope, a vestment, of gross matter, that the spirit throws off when it is worn out; but, besides this material envelope, the spirit has a second envelope, which is semi-material, and which unites it to the first; at death, the spirit casts off the first, but retains the second, to which we give the name of perispirit.
This semi-material envelope, which has the human form, constitutes, for the spirit, a vaporous, fluidic body, which, though invisible to us in its 180% state, nevertheless possesses some of the properties of matter. A spirit is therefore not a mathematical point, an abstraction, but is a real being, limited and circumscribed, and lacking only the qualities of visibility and palpability to show its resemblance to human beings. Why then should it not act on matter? Is it because its body is fluidic? But is it not among the most rarified fluids, those which we call “imponderable", as electricity, for example, that man finds his most powerful motors? Does not imponderable light exercise a chemical action on ponderable matter? We do not understand the precise nature of the perispirit; but, supposing it to be formed of electrical matter, or of something else equally subtle, why should it not have the same property of action as electricity, when under the direction of a will?
4. The existence of the soul and the existence of God, as consequences of each other, being the basis of the edifice of Spiritism, it is necessary, before entering on the discussion of this subject, to ascertain whether our reader admits that basis. If to the questions:—
Do you believe in God?
Do you believe you have a soul?
Do you believe in the survival of the soul after death?
he responds with a negative, or even if he simply says :— "I do not know; I should be glad if it were so, but do not feel sure of it" (a reply that would be usually equivalent to a polite negation, disguised under a gentler form to avoid wounding what he may regard as respectable prejudices), it would be as useless to continue our present argument with such a one, as it would be to demonstrate the properties of light to a blind man who did not believe in the existence of light; because, spirit-manifestations being neither more nor less than effects of the soul's peculiar qualities, it would be useless to reason thereupon with one who denies the soul's existence, and who would require a totally different line of argument from that of the present work. We therefore take it for granted that those who read this book admit the existence and survival of the soul; and if this basis be admitted, not as a mere probability, but as an acknowledged and incontestable fact, the existence of spirits follows as a natural consequence.
5. There still remains the question whether spirits can communicate with men; in other words, whether they can exchange thoughts with us? But why should they not do so? What is a man, if not a spirit imprisoned in a body? And why should not a free spirit be able to hold converse with a spirit in prison, just as a free man can converse with another who is bound in chains? If you admit the survival of the soul, is it rational not to admit the survival of the soul's affections? Since souls are everywhere, is it not natural to believe that the soul of one who has loved us during life should come near to us, should desire to communicate with us, and should, for that purpose, make use of the means in his power for doing so? Did not his soul, during his earth-life, act upon the matter of which his body was composed? Was it not his soul that directed the movements of his body? Why then, after death, if in sympathy with another spirit still bound to an earthly body, should he not borrow an earthly body in order to manifest his thoughts, just as a dumb man makes use of a man who can speak to express his wishes?
6. But let us leave out of sight, for the moment, the phenomena which, for us, render this fact incontestable, and let us admit its reality simply as a hypothesis; and considering the question from this point of view, let us ask the incredulous to prove to us, not by mere negation—for their personal opinion is no law—but by arguments based on reason, that such communications can not take place. We will place ourselves on their own ground; and, since they insist on judging of spiritist facts by the laws of matter, we invite them to draw, from the arsenal of physical science, some demonstration, mathematical, chemical, or physiological, and to prove by a plus b (always, however, keeping in mind the principle acknowledged, viz., that of the existence and survival of the soul),—
1st. That the being who thinks in us during life will no longer think after death;
2d. That, if it thinks, it will not think of those whom it has loved;
3d. That, if it thinks of those whom it has loved, it will not desire to communicate with them;
4th. That, if it has the power of being everywhere, it will not have the power of visiting us;
5th. That, if it can visit us, it will not have the power of communicating with us;
6th. That it will not be able to act upon inert matter by means of its fluidic envelope;
7th. That, if able to act upon inert matter, it will not be able to act upon an animated being;
8th. That, if able to act upon an animated being, it will not direct his hand, and make it write;
9th. That, being able to guide a human hand in writing, it will not be able to answer questions, and transmit its own thoughts to the questioner.
When the adversaries of Spiritism shall have proved all this, by reasoning as incontrovertible as that by which Galileo proved that the sun does not turn round the earth, we will admit that their doubts are founded. But as, up to the present time, their whole argument may be summed up in words such as these: "I do not believe these things, therefore they are impossible”, they will doubtless tell us that it is for us to prove the reality of the manifestations; to which we reply, that we prove them both by facts and by reasoning, and that, if they admit neither the one nor the other, if they deny even what they see themselves, it is for them to prove that our reasoning is false, and that the facts we adduce are impossible.