Spiritism: Outline of the Spirits’ Teachings
Translated into English by A. L. Xavier Jr. and Carol de Macedo. Based on the essay “O Espiritismo em sua mais simples expressão” by A. Kardec, 2nd ed., FEESP (1989).
The below was written by Allan Kardec in the 1860s, giving his personal outline of the Spirits’ teachings which are the bases of the Spiritist codification.
1. God is the supreme intelligence, the first cause of all the things. God is eternal, infinite, unique, immaterial, all-powerful, sovereignly just and good. He has to be infinite in all his perfections since, if we could suppose imperfectness of even one of his attributes, he would not be God.
2. God created matter which constitutes the worlds. He also created intelligent beings called spirits which are in charge of these worlds according to the creation’s immutable laws. Such laws are perfect by nature. By improving themselves the spirits approach God.
3. Strictly speaking the spirit is the intelligent principle, its deepest nature is unknown. It is immaterial to us because it bears no resemblance to what we call matter.
4. The spirits are individual beings housed in a weightless and ethereal envelope called perispirit, a kind of fluid body similar in form to the human’s body. They inhabit the space and fly quickly through it. The spirits constitute the invisible world.
5. The spirit’s origin and way of creation are unknown, we only known that they are created simple and ignorant, that is, without knowledge of good and evil. However they are equally capable to everything since God, in his justice, could not free some from the work reserved for others in order to reach perfection. Initially they remain in a kind of infancy, without their own will and perfect consciousness of their existence.
6. When ideas and free-will are developed in the spirits, God tells them: ”You can reckon on supreme happiness provided that you acquire the lacking knowledge and fulfill the duties I impose upon you. You should work for your upgrading, that is your aim and you will reach it by following the laws sculpted on you own consciences”. As consequence of their free-will some spirits take the shortest route which is the good while others take the longest one which is the evil.
7. God did not create the evil. He established the laws which are always good because he is good. The spirits would have been completely happy had they faithfully observed the law since the beginning. But, being free to make choices, the spirits have not properly obeyed them so that evil come as a consequence of this unwillingness. One can then say that good corresponds to everything which is in accordance with God’s law while evil is everything which opposes it.
8. In order to cooperate in the material worlds as agents of a divine power, the spirits temporarily have a material body. By the work required in their corporeal lives, the spirits improve their intelligence and, by observing God’s law, they acquire the merits which will lead them to eternal happiness.
9. The incarnation was not initially imposed on the spirits as a punishment. It is rather necessary for the spirits’ improvement and for the fulfillment of God’s works. Everyone has to submit to it, no matter if one takes the evil or the good path. Only those who take the good path will improve quickly, they do not delay to arrive at the end in less painful conditions.
10. Imbodied spirits constitute the humanity. It is not restricted to the earth only but instead it inhabits all the worlds in space.
11. Human soul is an imbodied spirit. In order to help humans, God has given them the animals whose intelligence and character are according to their needs.
12. The spirit’s improvement is a consequence of its own effort. It can not acquire all the intellectual and moral qualities which will bring it to the end in only one existence. It reaches its goal through a series of several lives. In each one of them the spirit walks a little further in the path of progress.
13. In each corporeal existence the spirit has to fulfill a mission proportional to its degree of development. The rougher and harder it is, the greater the spirit’s merit in fulfilling it. Each existence is, therefore, a test which leads the spirit to the end. It depends on the spirit’s will to shorten it, by working harder for its moral improvement, in much the same way a laborer’s will shortens the number of his working days.
14. When an existence is poorly used, the spirit does not profit from it, and it has to begin again a new life under more or less painful conditions, as consequence of the spirit’s unwillingness and bad will. In the same sense, in our life, we may be obliged to do tomorrow what was left to do yesterday and do again what was not well done.
15. Spiritual life is the normal spirit’s life: it is eternal. Corporeal life is transitory and it is just a moment in eternity.
16. During the intervals of its lives, the spirit is errant. This state has no definite duration. In it the spirit is happy or sad according to the good or bad use of its previous life. The spirit studies the causes which quickened or delayed its progress, and takes proper decisions which it will try to put into practice in its next incarnation. It also chooses the most adequate tests for its improvement. Sometimes, however, the spirit makes a mistake and falls, not fulfilling as a human being the decisions it has taken as a spirit.
17. The guilty spirit is punished through moral sufferings in the spirit world and physical penalties during its corporeal life. Its afflictions are consequence of its faults, that is, of its violation of God’s law. These sorrows constitute both an atonement for the past and a test for the future. In this way the proud can have a life of humiliations, the tyrant a servant life and the wealthy oppressor an incarnation in misery.
18. There are proper worlds to the several spirit’s advancement degrees, in which life exists under different conditions. The less advanced the spirit is, the weightier and more material is its body. In so far as the spirit purifies itself, it goes to morally and physically superior worlds. The earth is not the first nor the last of these worlds but only one of the less developed ones.
19. The guilty spirits are incarnated in less advanced worlds where they atone for their faults through material life difficulties. These worlds constitute the true purgatory. It depends on the spirit to get out of them working on its moral progress. The earth is a world of this kind.
20. Being sovereignly just and good, God does not punish his creatures to endless penalties as a consequence of their limited mistakes. He provides correction and evil repair for them at any moment. God forgives but also waits for regret, repair and return to good in such a way that punishment is proportional to the spirit’s insistence in the evil. Consequently penalties would be eternal only for those who forever remained on the evil side. As soon as a sigh of regret appears in the guilty heart, God holds out his mercy. Therefore, eternal punishments should be understood in relative sense only and not in an absolute one.
21. When spirits incarnate they bring together everything acquired in their past lives. For these reason people instinctively exhibit special skills, good or bad tendencies which seem innate. Bad inborn inclinations represent the spirit’s imperfection traces from which the spirit has not still liberated itself. They are also signs of past faults the spirit has committed. This is the true sense of the original sin. In each existence the spirit must wash itself out from such impurities.
22. The human capacity to forget previous lives reflects God’s grace in so much as he, in his goodness, makes humans unaware of painful memories. In each new life, the human being encounters exactly what he has made up for himself, that is the state from which he has to depart. He knows his present defects and knows that they are the result of his former lives. He comes to conclusions regarding the evil he has committed and this is enough for him to work and correct himself. If he no longer has these past imperfections, he does not need to consider them any longer and his current mistakes are enough to worry about.
23. If the soul does not exist before birth then it is created together with the body. Assuming this reasoning, the soul would have no relation with those which came before it. How could then God, who is sovereignly just and good, blame it for the mistakes of the human gender’s father by blemishing it with an original sin the soul did not commit ? One can give original sin a logical explanation everyone can understand if one says that, through rebirth, the soul holds signs of its previous life imperfections, that it suffers now exactly the result of its past mistakes, that it is responsible for its acts.
24. The variety of moral and intellectual inborn aptitudes shows that the soul lived already. The idea of the soul being created together with the body disagrees with God’s goodness since God would then have made some souls more advanced than others. Why does one then see wild and civilized, good and bad, intelligent and foolish people ? Everything is otherwise easily explained if one supposes that some, by living more than others, are therefore more advanced.
25. If the present life were the only one and if it were the soul’s only opportunity to decide on its eternal destiny, what would then be the fate of children who die very early ? If these children have done neither good nor bad, they should deserve neither reward nor punishment. Following Christ’s words, if each one is rewarded according to his works, these children have no right to an angel’s happiness and yet they should not be refused a reward. On the contrary there are no exceptions if one admits they have several lives and that they can do in a new existence what they could not in a past short one.
26. By the same reasoning what would be the fate of cretins and idiots ? As they are unaware of good and evil, they are not responsible for their acts. Would God be just and good if he had created stupid souls and preordain them with no rewards to a miserable life ? On the contrary, if one says that the cretin or the idiot are souls tightly bounded to unsuitable bodies which can not fully manifest their thoughts, then everything is again according to God’s justice.
27. In its successive incarnations the spirit little by little loses its impurities and improves itself through work until the end of its corporeal lives. Then the spirit belongs to the pure spirit or angel order, and fully enjoy God’s complete life and endless unshakable happiness.
28. As good father, God does not leave people to themselves during their earth atonements, but offers them instead their guides. These are firstly the protecting spirits or guardian angels which watch over people and try to make them follow the good way. Secondly there are the great incarnated spirits which sometimes appear on earth in order to illuminate human paths and make humanity walk forward. Even if God inscribed his law on human mind, he makes it even more explicit. Moses came first, but his law spoke only about earthly life, its passing punishments and rewards and were adapted to the people of his time. Then Christ came to complete Moses with a more elevated teaching: plurality of lives, spiritual life and moral punishments and rewards. Moses led through fear while Christ through love and charity.
29.The present and well understood Spiritism adds the evidence to the theory for unbelievers, it demonstrates the future by obvious facts, it says in clear and unmistakable terms what Christ said in parables. Spiritism explains unknown and misinterpreted truths, reveals the existence of the invisible or spirit world and initiates people in the secrets of future life. It also combats materialism which is a rebellion against God’s power. Finally Spiritism comes to establish the reign of humanity’s charity and fraternity announced by Christ. Moses plowed, Christ sowed and Spiritism has came to harvest.
30. Spiritism is not a new light but a brighter one since it appeared in all parts on the world through those who have lived. By making clear what was hidden, Spiritism gives an end to false interpretations and will unite all humanity under the same belief, since there is only one God whose laws are the same for all. Finally Spiritism represents the time predicted by Christ and the prophets.
31. The evils with which humans are afflicted on earth are caused by selfishness, vanity and all bad passions. People become unhappy and punish themselves by the contact with their vices. Let charity and humbleness substitute selfishness and pride and they no longer will injure themselves, they will respect each one rights and harmony and peace will reign among them.
32. But how can selfishness and vanity be destroyed since these feelings seems so innate to the human heart? Selfishness and vanity are in human heart because humans are spirits which have been on the path of evil since the beginning and which, therefore, are exiled on earth as punishment for their vices, their original sin to which many have not renounced yet. Through Spiritism, God has came to make the last plea for the practice of the lessons taught by Christ: the law of love and charity.
33.Since the time for the earth to became home to peace and happiness has arrived, God does not wish that bad spirits continue to disturb it at the sacrifice of the good ones. Consequently bad spirits will have to leave earth: they will atone their heartlessness on less developed worlds where they will work again on their improvement during several, more painful and less happy lives than those on earth.
These spirits will also constitute a newer and more enlightened race whose duties will be to take progress to the less developed beings living on such worlds. They will only go to a better world when they deserve it and will continue there until they are completely refined. If the earth represents a purgatory to these spirits, these new worlds will be their hell, but a hell with ever existing hope.
34. While the outlawed generation will quickly disappear, a new one will arise whose beliefs will be founded upon Christian Spiritism. We are witnessing an operating transition, a prelude to a moral renewal labeled by Spiritism’s arrival.