The Spirits’ Book by Allan Kardec
The beings who thus enter into communication with us designate themselves, as we have said, by the name of spirits or genii, 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 and immaterial.
“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, everything else.
“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: (l.) 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 teasing 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.
“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 other worlds.
“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 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 this 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 every side.
“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 themselves.
“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 instruments.
“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.
“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 communication.
“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 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-world nothing can be hidden, and that the hypocrite will there be unmasked, 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 earth.
“But they also teach us that there are no unpardonable sins, none that cannot be effaced 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.
If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Spirits’ Book by Allan Kardec. It was one of the very first books on knowledge relayed from Spirit (1857) and many consider this to be the most influential book for codifying Spiritism as a practice.
(Kardec, Allan. The Spirits’ Book: Revised Edition.)