In this age of intellectual emancipation and of liberty of conscience the right of examination belongs to all the world; and the Scriptures are no more the holy ark upon which one fears to lay a finger in the expectation of being crushed thereby. In regard to special necessary knowledge, without contesting that of the theologians, all brilliant as were they of the Middle Ages, and particularly the fathers of the Church, they were not, however, strong enough to condemn as heresy the movement of the earth and belief in the antipodes; but, from all known periods of the world's formation till the present time, they have thrown the anathema at every new revelation.
Men have not been able to explain the Scriptures by the exclusive aid of that knowledge which they (mixed with false or uncertain ideas) possessed concerning the laws of nature, revealed later by science: that is the reason why theologians themselves have really mistaken the sense of certain words and facts in the Gospel. Determined, at any price, to find the confirmation of a preconceived thought, they remained always in the same groove, without ever changing their point of view, in such a manner that saw only that which they wished to see. Wise theologians as they were, they could not comprehend facts depending upon laws of which they knew nothing. But who could judge between the diverse and often contradictory interpretations given outside of theology? In the future logic and good sense, men, more and more enlightened, according as new facts and new laws will be revealed, will learn how to distinguish Utopian systems from those based upon reality. Now science has revealed certain laws. Spiritism brings others also to light. Collectively they are indispensable to the correct understanding of the sacred texts of all religions, - those of Confucius and Buddha equally with those of Christianity. As to theology, it cannot know how to judiciously plead an exception for the contradictions of science, since it is not always in accord with itself. Spiritism, taking its starting-point at the words of Christ, as Christ has taken his from Moses, is a direct consequence of his doctrine.
To vague ideas of the future life it adds a revelation of the existence of the invisible world which surrounds us, and peoples all space; and, poising belief there, it gives it a body, a consistence, a reality in thought. It defines the connection between the soul and the body, and raises the veil which conceals from men the mysteries of life and death. By Spiritism man knows whence he comes, where he is capable of going, why he is upon the earth, why he suffers temporarily, and can see, above all, the justice of God. He learns that souls progress unceasingly through a series of progressive existences until they shall have attained to that degree of perfection in which God only reigns. He learns that all souls, having the same starting-point, are created equal, with the same opportunity to progress in virtue of their own free will; that all are of the same essence, and that there is between them only a difference of accomplished progress; that all have the same destiny, and will attain the same end more or less promptly according to their labor and desire to progress. He learns that there are no disinherited ones, no lost souls, neither one more favored than another; that God has not created some favored ones who are excused from the labor which is imposed upon others to facilitate their progression; that there are no creatures perpetually condemned to unhappiness and suffering; that those designated under the name of demons are spirits yet undeveloped and imperfect, who do wrong in the world of spirits as they did here upon the earth, but who will advance and ameliorate their condition; that the angels are not beings distinct from the rest of creation, but spirits who have attained that height through the same earthly sufferings and temptations as others undergo; that thus there are not multiplied creations of different classes among intelligent humanity, but that all creation springs from the great law of unity which rules the universe, and that all beings gravitate towards a common end, which is perfection, without one being favored at the expense of others, all holding the thread of their destiny in their own hands.
By the communications that man can now establish with those who have left the earth, he receives not only the material proof of the existence and individuality of the soul, but he comprehends the solidarity which joins the living and the dead in this world, and those of this world with those of other worlds. He knows their situation in the world of spirits; he follows them in their migrations; he can testify of their joys and troubles; he knows why they are happy or unhappy, and the end which awaits all, according to the good or evil they accomplished. These communications introduce him to a future life, which he can observe in all its phases and conditions. The future is no more a vague hope; it is a positive fact, a mathematical certitude. Thus he has no more fear of death; it is for him a deliverance, the gate of true life. By the study of Spiritualism, one learns that happiness or unhappiness in the spiritual life is experienced according to the degree of perfection or imperfection one has obtained; that each one suffers the direct and natural consequences of his own faults; that these consequences endure as long as the cause which has produced them; that thus the culprit would suffer eternally if he persisted eternally in his fault, but that suffering ceases with repentance and reparation. Now, as our joy and sorrow are within our own grasp, each one can, by virtue of his free will, prolong or abridge his sufferings, as the invalid suffers from his excesses as long as he indulges in them. If reason repels, as incompatible with the goodness of God, the idea of everlasting punishment, perpetual and absolute, often inflicted for one fault alone, - the tortures of hell, which no repentance, however ardent or sincere, can lessen, - it acknowledges this distributive impartial justice which is extended to all; never shutting the door of return to goodness, and extending unceasingly the helping hand to the shipwrecked one, instead of allowing him to sink without aid into the abyss. The plurality of existences, of which Christ has taught, though merely touching upon it, as with many other principles of his doctrine, is one of the most important laws revealed by Spiritism, - for this reason, that it reveals the necessity and reality of progress. By this law can be explained all the apparent anomalies which human life presents, - its differences of social position; the premature deaths, which, without reincarnation, would render abridged lives useless for souls; the inequality of intellectual and moral aptitudes, owing to the antiquity of the spirit, who has lived a longer or a shorter time, and who, being reborn, brings into requisition the knowledge of anterior existences. With the doctrine of the creation of a soul at every birth, one falls necessarily into the belief in beings favored of God. Men are strangers to one another. Nothing unites firmly; the ties of family are purely physical. They are not solidarities of a past in which they did not exist. With this springs nonentity after death. All relations of life cease; there are no unions for the future. By reincarnation they form solidarities of the past and the future, their connection perpetuating itself in the spiritual and material world. Goodness has an objective existence, while there is no reversal of inevitable consequences.
With belief in reincarnation, the prejudices of races and castes fall dead, since the same spirit can be reborn rich or poor, lord or beggar, master or subordinate, free or enslaved, man or woman. Of all the arguments brought against the injustice of servitude and slavery, against the subjection of the weaker to the rule of the stronger, there is no one of them which expresses so logically the reason therefor as the law of reincarnation. If, then, reincarnation is found upon a law of nature which is the source of universal brotherhood, it is based upon the same law as that of the equality of social rights and of freedom. Physically, some men are born inferior and subordinate; but, spiritually, all are free and equal. Therefore it is a duty to treat inferiors with goodness, benevolence, and humanity. He who is in a lower earthly position today may have been once our equal or our superior, perhaps a relation or a friend; and we may become in our turn the subordinate of him whom we command. Take away from man the free, independent spirit surviving matter, and you make of him an organized machine, without will or responsibility, without other rein than the civil law, simply an intelligent animal. Expecting nothing after death, nothing hinders him from augmenting the joys of the present. If he suffers, he has in perspective only despair and nonentity for refuge. With certainty of a future, of seeing again those whom he has loved, of encountering again those who he has offended, all his ideas change. Had Spiritism only drawn man from the sad doubt of a future life, it would have done more for his moral amelioration than all the disciplinary laws which have bridled him sometimes, but changed him never. Without preexistence of the soul, the doctrine of original sin is not only irreconcilable with the justice of God, who would render all men responsible for the fault of one, but is senseless; while the penalty cannot be justifiable, because the soul did not exist at the epoch where it is pretended its responsibility commenced. With preexistence and reincarnation man carries into his re-embodiment the germ of his past imperfections, the defects of which he has not been cured, which betray themselves in his native instincts, in his propensities for this or that vice. It is his veritable original sin, to the consequences of which he is naturally submitted, but with this capital difference, that he carries the burden of his own faults, and not that of the fault of another; and this difference at one and the same time consoles, encourages, and honors sovereign equity, each separate existence offering to man the means of making reparation for sins committed, and of progress either by overcoming some imperfection, or by acquiring some fresh knowledge, until he becomes sufficiently purified to have no more need of earthly experience, when he will live exclusively a glorious, eternal life of spirit. For the same reason, he who has progressed morally carries into re-embodiment his moral qualities with him, just as he who has progressed intellectually carries his intelligent ideas with him. The former is identified with goodness, which he practices without effort, without calculation; that is to say, without thinking about it. While he who is obliged to combat low tendencies is always in a battle with them. The first is already conqueror, the second on the way to victory. There is, then, original virtue, as there is original knowledge, and original sin, or more correctly, imperfection. Experimental Spiritism has studied the properties of spiritual fluids, and their action upon matter. It has demonstrated the existence of a fluidic body, in which the ancients had a partial belief, designated by St. Paul under the name of "spiritual body;" that is to say, the gaseous body of the soul, which remains after the destruction of the material body. It is known today that this envelope is inseparable from the soul; that it is one of the constituent elements of a human being; that it is the vehicle for the transmission of thought; and that during earthly life it serves as a connection between spirit and matter. This spiritual body plays such an important part in the organism and in a multitude of productions, that there needs to be allied to physiology and psychology the study of its properties, of the spiritual fluids, and of the physiological attributes of the soul. This opens new horizons to science, and gives the key to a great number of unknown phenomena, the laws which rule them being until now unknown. Phenomena are denied by Materialism because they are linked with Spiritism, and, because called by another name than miracles or supernatural occurrences, are ignored by those of supernatural belief. Among others are the phenomena of double sight, visions of objects at a distance, natural and artificial somnambulism, psychic effects of catalepsy and lethargy, prescience, presentiments, apparitions, transfigurations, the transmission of thought, fascination, instantaneous cures, obsessions and possessions, etc. In demonstrating that these phenomena repose upon laws as natural as the electrical phenomena, and that there exist normal conditions in which they can be reproduced, Spiritism destroys the empire of the marvelous and supernatural, and consequently the source of the greater part of superstition. If it founds a belief in the possibility of certain things regarded by some as chimerical, it precludes one from believing in others of which it has demonstrated the impossibility and irrationality.
Source: The Spiritist Messenger, Year 12, Number 99, September, 2008