1. ORIGIN AND NATURE OF SPIRIT - 2. PRIMITIVE AND
NORMAL WORLD - 3. FORM AND UBIQUITY OF SPIRITS
- 4. THE PERISPIRIT - 5. DIFFERENT ORDERS OF SPIRITS
- 6. SPIRIT-HIERARCHY - 7. PROGRESSION OF SPIRITS
- 8. ANGELS AND DEMONS
Origin and Nature of Spirits
76. What definition can be given of spirits?
"Spirits may be defined as the intelligent beings of the creation. They constitute the population of the universe, in contradistinction to the forms of the material world."
NOTE. The word spirit is here employed to designate the individuality of extra-corporeal beings, and not the universal intelligent element.
77. Are spirits beings distinct from the Deity, or are they only emanations from or portions of the Deity, and called, for that reason, "sons" or "children" of God?
"Spirits are the work of God, just as a machine is the work of the mechanician who made it: the machine is the man's work, but it is not the man. You know that when a man has made a fine or useful thing, he calls it his 'child'-his 'creation.' It is thus with us in relation to God. We are His children in this sense, because we are His work."
78. Have spirits had a beginning, or have they existed, like God, from all eternity?
"If spirits had not had a beginning, they would be equal with God; whereas they are His creation, and subject to His will. That God has existed from all eternity is incontestable; but as to when and how He created us, we know nothing. You may say that we have had no beginning in this sense, that, God being eternal, He must have incessantly created. But as to when and how each of us was made, this, I repeat, is known to no one. It is the great mystery."
79. Since there are two general elements in the universe, namely, the intelligent element and the material element, would it be correct to say that spirits are formed from the intelligent element as inert bodies are formed from the material element?
"It is evident that such is the case. Spirits are the individualization of the intelligent principle, as bodies are the individualization of the material principle. It is the epoch and mode of this formation that are unknown to us."
80. Is the creation of spirits always going on, or did it only take place at the beginning of time?
"It is always going on, that is to say, God has never ceased to create."
81. Are spirits formed spontaneously, or do they proceed from one another?
"God creates them as He creates all other creatures, by His will. But we must again repeat that their origin is a mystery."
82. Is it correct to say that spirits are immaterial?
"How is it possible to define a thing in regard to which no terms of comparison exist, and which your language is incompetent to express? Can one who is born blind define light? 'Immaterial' is not the right word; 'incorporeal' would be nearer the truth, for you must understand that a spirit, being a creation, must be something real. Spirit is quintessentialised matter, but matter existing in a state which has no analogue within the circle of your comprehension, and so ethereal that it could not be perceived by your senses."
We say that spirits are immaterial, because their essence differs from everything that we know under the name of "matter." A nation of blind people would have no terms for expressing light and its effects. One who is born blind imagines that the only modes of perception are hearing, smell, taste, and touch: he does not comprehend the other ideas that would be given him by the sense of sight which he lacks. So, in regard to the essence of superhuman beings, we are really blind. We can only define them by means of comparisons that are necessarily imperfect or by an effort of our imagination.
83. Is there an end to the duration of spirits? We can understand that the principle from which they emanate should be eternal; but what we desire to know is, whether their individuality has a term, and whether, after a given lapse of time, longer or shorter, the element from which they are formed is not disseminated, does not return to the mass from which they were produced, as is the case with material bodies? It is difficult to understand that what has had a beginning should not also have an end.
"There are many things that you do not understand, because your intelligence is limited; but that is no reason for rejecting them. The child does not understand all that is understood by its father, nor does an ignorant man understand all that is understood by a learned one. We tell you that the existence of spirits has no end; that is all we can say on the subject at present."
84. Do spirits constitute a world apart from that which we see?
"Yes; the world of spirits or incorporeal intelligences."
85. Which of the two, the spirit-world or the corporeal world, is the principal one in the order of the universe?
"The spirit-world. It is pre-existent to, and survives, everything else."
86. Might the corporeal world never have existed, or cease to exist, without changing the essentiality of the spirit-world?
"Yes; they are independent of each other, and yet their correlation is incessant, for they react incessantly upon each other."
87. Do spirits occupy a determinate and circumscribed region in space?
"Spirits are everywhere; the infinitudes of space are peopled with them in infinite numbers. Unperceived by you, they are incessantly beside you, observing and acting upon you; for spirits are one of the powers of Nature, and are the instruments employed by God for the accomplishment of His providential designs. But all spirits do not go everywhere; there are regions of which the entrance is interdicted to those who are less advanced."
88. Have souls a determinate, circumscribed, and unvarying form?
"Not for eyes such as yours; but, for us, they have a form though one only to be vaguely imagined by you as a flame a gleam, or an ethereal spark."
-- Is this flame or spark of any color?
"If you could see it, it would appear to you to vary from a dull gray to the brilliancy of the ruby, according to the degree of the spirit's purity."
Genie are usually represented with a flame or a star above their foreheads-a sort of allegorical allusion to the essential nature of spirits. The flame or star is placed upon the head because the head is the seat of intelligence.
89. Do spirits employ any time in transporting themselves through space?
"Yes; but their motion is as rapid as that of thought."
-- Is not thought the movement of the soul itself, a transportation of the soul itself to the place or the object thought of by it?
"Wherever the thought is, there the soul is, since it is the soul that thinks. Thought is an attribute."
90. When a spirit travels from one place to another, is he conscious of the distance he traverses and of the extent of space through which he passes; or is he suddenly transported to the place to which he wishes to go?
"A spirit can travel in either way. He can, if he will, take cognizance of the distance he passes through, or he can rid himself entirely of the sense of distance. This depends on the spirit's will, and also on his degree of purity."
91. Does matter constitute an obstacle to the movement of a spirit?
"No; spirits pass through everything; the air, the earth, water, fire even, are equally accessible to them."
92. Have spirits the gift of ubiquity? In other words, can a spirit divide itself, or exist at several points of space at the same time?
"There can be no division of any given spirit; but every spirit is a center which radiates in all directions, and it is thus that a spirit may appear to be in several places at once. The sun is only one body, yet it radiates in all directions, and sends out its rays to great distances; but it is not divided."
-- Have all spirits the same power of radiation?
"There is a great difference between them in this respect: it depends on the degree of their purity."
Each spirit is an indivisible unity, but each spirit has the power of extending his thought on all aides without thereby dividing himself. It is only in this sense that the gift of ubiquity attributed to spirits is to be understood. It is thus that a spark sends out its brightness far and wide, and may be perceived from every point of the horizon. It is thus, also, that a man, without changing his place, and without dividing himself, may transmit orders, signals, etc., to many distant points in many different directions.
93. Is the spirit, properly so called, without a covering, or is it, as some declare, surrounded by a substance of some kind?
"The spirit is enveloped in a substance which would appear to you as mere vapor, but which, nevertheless, appears very gross to us, thought it is sufficiently vaporous to allow the spirit to float in the atmosphere, and to transport himself through space at pleasure."
As the germ of a fruit is surrounded by the perisperm so the spirit, properly so called, is surrounded by an envelope which, by analogy, may be designated as the perispirit.
94. Whence does the spirit draw its semi-material envelope?
"From the universal fluid of each globe. For this reason the perispirit is not the same in all globes. In passing from one globe to another, the spirit changes its envelope as you change a garment."
-- When spirits who inhabit worlds of a higher degree than ours come among us, are they obliged to take on a grosser order of perispirit?
"Yes; they are obliged to clothe themselves with your matter in order to be able to enter your world."
95. Does the semi-material envelope of the spirit assume determinate forms, and can it become perceptible for us?
"Yes; it can assume any form that the spirit may choose to give to it. It is thus that a spirit is able sometimes to make himself visible to you, whether in dreams or in your waking state, and can take a form that may be visible, and even palpable, for your senses."
96. Are all spirits equal or does there exist among them a hierarchy of ranks?
"They are of different degrees according to the degree of purification to which they have attained."
97. Is there a fixed number of order or degrees of purification among spirits?
"The number of such orders is unlimited, because there is nothing like a barrier or line of demarcation between the different degrees of elevation; and, therefore, as there are no fixed or arbitrary divisions among spirits, the number of orders may be increased or diminished according to the point of view from which they are considered. Nevertheless, if we consider the general characteristics of spirits, we may reduce them to three principal orders or degrees "We may place in the first or highest rank those who have reached the degree of relative perfection which constitutes what may be called 'pure spirits.' We may place in the second rank those who have reached the middle of the ascensional ladder, those who have achieved the degree of purification in which aspiration after perfection has become the ruling desire. We may place in the third or lowest rank all those imperfect spirits who are still on the lower rungs of the ladder. They are characterized by ignorance, the love of evil, and all the low passions that retard their progress upwards."
98. Have spirits of the second order only the aspiration after perfection; have they also the power to achieve it?
"They have that power in degrees proportionate to the degree of purification at which they have severally arrived. Some of them are distinguished by their scientific knowledge, others by their wisdom and their kindness; but all of them have still to undergo the discipline of trial through temptation and suffering."
99. Are all spirits of the third order essentially bad?
"No. Some of them are inactive and neutral, not doing either good or evil; others, on the contrary, take pleasure in evil, and are delighted when they find an opportunity of doing wrong. Others, again, are frivolous, foolish, fantastic, mischievous rather than wicked, tricky rather than positively malicious; amusing themselves by mystifying the human beings on whom they are able to act, and causing them various petty annoyances for their own diversion."
100. Preliminary Observations.--The classification of spirits is based upon the degree of their advancement, upon the qualities which they have acquired, and upon the imperfections from which they have still to free themselves. This classification, however, is by no means absolute. It is only in its totality that the character of each category is distinctly marked, for each category merges in the one above it by imperceptible gradations, the peculiarities of the successive categories shading off into one another at their extremities, as is the case in the various reigns of nature, in the colors of the rainbow, in the phases of a human life. Spirits may, therefore, be divided into a number of classes more or less considerable, according to the point of view from which we consider the subject. It is in this matter as in all other systems of scientific classification. The systems adopted may be more or less complete, more or less rational, more or less convenient for the understanding; but, whatever may be their form, they change nothing in regard to the facts of the science which employs them. That the answers of spirits, when questioned on this point, should vary as to the number of the categories into which they are divided is, therefore, a matter of no practical importance. Too much weight has been attributed to this apparent contradiction by those who forget that disincarnate intelligences attach no importance whatever to mere conventionalities. For them, the meaning of a statement is the only important point about it. They leave to us the question of its form, the choice of terms and of classification,-in a word, all that belongs to the making of systems.
Another thing that should never be lost sight of is the fact that there are among spirits, as well as among men, some who are very ignorant, and that we cannot be too much on our guard against a tendency to believe that all spirits know everything simply because they are spirits. The work of classification demands method, analysis, and a thorough knowledge of the subject investigated. But those who, in the spirit-world, possess only a small amount of knowledge, are as incompetent as are ignorant human beings to embrace the whole of any subject or to formulate a system. They have no idea, or but a very imperfect one, of any sort of classification. All spirits superior to themselves appear to them to be of the highest order; for they are as incapable of discriminating the various shades of knowledge, capacity, and morality by which they are distinguished, as one of our savages would be to discriminate the various characteristics of civilized men. And even those who are capable of this discrimination may vary, in their appreciation of details, according to their special point of view, especially in regard to a matter which, from its very nature, has nothing fixed or absolute about it. Linnaeus, Jussieu, Tournefort, have each their special system of classification, but the nature of botany has not been changed by this diversity of system among botanists. The latter have not invented either plants or their characteristics; they have merely observed certain analogies, according to which they have formed certain groups or classes. We have proceeded in the same way. We have not invented either spirits or their characteristics. We have seen and observed them, we have judged them by their own words and acts, and we have classed them by order of similitude, basing our classification on the data furnished by themselves.
The higher spirits generally admit the existence of three principal categories, or main divisions, among the people of the other world. In the lowest of these, at the bottom of the ladder, are the imperfect spirits who are characterized by the predominance of the instincts of materiality over the moral nature, and by the propensity to evil. Those of the second degree are characterized by the predominance of the moral nature over the material instincts, and by the desire of good. They constitute the category of good spirits. The first or highest category consists of those who have reached the state of pure spirits, and have thus attained to the supreme degree of perfection imaginable by us.
This division of spirits into three well-marked categories appears to us to be perfectly rational; and, having arrived at this general classification, it only remained for us to bring out, through a sufficient number of subdivisions, the principal shades of the three great spirit-categories thus established. And this we have done with the aid of the spirits themselves, whose friendly instructions have never failed us in the carrying out of the work upon which we have been led to enter.
With the aid of the following table it will be easy for us to determine the rank and degree of superiority or inferiority of the spirits with whom we may enter into communication, and, consequently, the degree of esteem and confidence to which they are entitled. The power of determining these points may be said to constitute the key to spiritist investigation; for it alone, by enlightening us in regard to the intellectual and moral inequalities of spirits, can explain the anomalies presented by spirit-communications. We have, however, to remark that spirits do not, in all cases, belong exclusively to such and such a class. Their progress in knowledge and purity being only accomplished gradually, and often, for a time, more in the one than in the other, they may unite the characteristics of several subdivisions; a point which is easily settled by observing their language and their acts.
101. General Characteristics.--Predominant influence of matter over spirit. Propensity to evil. Ignorance, pride, selfishness, and all the evil passions which result from these.
They have the intuition of the existence of God, but they have no comprehension of Him.
They are not all of them thoroughly bad; in many of them there is more of frivolity, want of reasoning power, and love of mischief, than of downright wickedness. Some of them do neither good nor evil; but the very fact that they do no good denotes their inferiority. Others, on the contrary, take pleasure in evil, and are gratified when they find an opportunity of doing wrong.
Among spirits of this order, a certain amount of intelligence is often allied with malice and the love of mischief; but, whatever may be their intellectual development, their ideas are wanting in elevation, and their sentiments are more or less abject.
Their knowledge of the things of the spirit-world is narrow, and the little they know about them is confused with the ideas and prejudices of the corporeal life. They can give only false and incomplete notions of the spirit-world; but the attentive observer may always find in their communications, however imperfect, the confirmation of the great truths proclaimed by spirits of the higher orders.
Their character is revealed by their language. Every spirit who, in his communications, betrays an evil intention, may be ranged in the third order; consequently every evil thought suggested to our mind comes to us from a spirit of that order.
They see the happiness enjoyed by good spirits, and this sight causes them perpetual torment; for they experience all the agonies produced by envy and jealousy.
They preserve the remembrance and the perception of the sufferings of corporeal life; and this impression is often more painful than the reality. They suffer, in fact, both from the ills they have themselves endured, and from those which they have caused to be endured by others. And as these sufferings endure for a very long time, they believe themselves to be destined to suffer forever. God, for their punishment, wills that they should believe this.
They may be subdivided into five principal classes:--
102. Tenth Class--Impure Spirits.--They are inclined to evil, and make it the object o£ all their thoughts and activities. As spirits, they give to men perfidious counsels, stir up discord and distrust, and assume every sort of mask in order the more effectually to deceive. They beset those whose character is weak enough to lead them to yield to their suggestions, and whom they thus draw aside from the path of progress, rejoicing when they are to retard their advancement by causing them to succumb under the appointed trials of the corporeal life Spirits of this class may be recognized by their language, for the employment of coarse or trivial expressions by spirits, as by men, is always an indication of moral, if not of intellectual, inferiority. Their communications show the baseness of their inclinations; and though they may try to impose upon us by speaking with an appearance of reason and propriety, they are unable to keep up that false appearance, and end by betraying their real quality.
Certain nations have made of them infernal deities; others designate them by the name of demons, evil genie evil spirits.
The human beings in whom they are incarnated are addicted to all the vices engendered by vile and degrading passions-sensuality, cruelty, roguery, hypocrisy, cupidity, avarice. They do evil for its own sake, without any definite motive; and, from hatred to all that is good, they generally choose their victims from among honest and worthy people. They are the pests of humanity, to whatever rank of society they belong; and the varnish of a civilized education is ineffectual to cure or to hide their degrading defects.
103. Ninth Class--Frivolous Spirits.--They are ignorant, mischievous, unreasonable, and addicted to mockery. They meddle with everything, and reply to every question without paying any attention to truth. They delight in causing petty annoyances, in raising false hopes of petty joys, in misleading people by mystifications and trickery. The spirits vulgarly called hobgoblins, will-o'-the-wisps, gnomes, etc., belong to this class. They are under the orders of spirits of a higher category, who make use of them as we do of servants.
In their communications with men their language is often witty and facetious, but shallow. They are quick to seize the oddities and absurdities of men and things, on which they comment with sarcastic sharpness. If they borrow distinguished names, as they are fond of doing, it is rather for the fun of the thing than from any intention to deceive by so doing.
104. Eighth Class--Spirits who Pretend to more Science than they Possess.--Their knowledge is often considerable, but they imagine themselves to know a good deal more than they know in reality. Having made a certain amount of progress from various points of view, their language has an air of gravity that may easily give a false impression as to their capacities and enlightenment; but their ideas are generally nothing more than the reflection of the prejudices and false reasoning of their terrestrial life. Their statements contain a mixture of truths and absurdities, in the midst of which traces of presumption, pride, jealousy, and obstinacy, from which they have not yet freed themselves, are abundantly perceptible.
105. Seventh Class--Neutral Spirits.--They are not sufficiently advanced to take an active part in doing good, nor are they bad enough to be active in doing wrong. They incline sometimes to the one, sometimes to the other; and do not rise above the ordinary level of humanity, either in point of morality or of intelligence. They are strongly attached to the things of this world, whose gross satisfactions they regret.
106. Sixth Class--Noisy and Boisterous Spirits.--Spirits of this kind do not, strictly speaking, form a distinct class in virtue of their personal qualities; they may belong to all the classes of the third order. They often manifest their presence by the production of phenomena perceptible by the senses, such as raps, the movement and abnormal displacing of solid bodies, the agitation of the air, etc. They appear to be, more than any other class of spirits, attached to matter; they seem to be the principal agents in determining the vicissitudes of the elements of the globe, and to act upon the air, water, fire, and the various bodies in the entrails of the earth. Whenever these phenomena present a character of intention and intelligence, it is impossible to attribute them to a mere fortuitous and physical cause. All spirits are able to produce physical phenomena; but spirits of elevated degree usually leave them to those of a lower order, more apt for action upon matter than for the things of intelligence, and, when they judge it to be useful to produce physical manifestations, employ spirits of subaltern degree as their auxiliaries.
107. General Characteristics.--Predominance of spirit over matter; desire of excellence. Their qualities and their power for good are proportionate to the degree at which they have arrived. Some of them possess scientific knowledge, others have acquired wisdom and charity; the more advanced among them combine knowledge with moral excellence. Not being yet completely dematerialized, they preserve the traces of their corporeal existence, more or less strongly marked, according to their rank-traces which are seen either in their mode of expressing themselves, in their habits, or even, in some cases, in the characteristic eccentricities and hobbies still retained by them. But for these weaknesses and imperfections they would be able to pass into the category of spirits of the first order.
They have acquired the comprehension of the idea of God and of infinity, and already share the felicity of the higher spheres. They find their happiness both in the accomplishment of good and in the prevention of evil. The affection by which they are united affords them ineffable delight, troubled neither by envy, remorse nor any other of the evil passions which make the torment of spirits of lower degree; but they have still to undergo the discipline of trial until they have completed the work of their purification.
As spirits, they infuse good and noble thoughts into the minds of men, turn them from the path of evil, protect those whose course of life renders them worthy of their aid, and neutralize by their suggestions, the influence of lower spirits on the minds of those who do not willingly yield to the evil counsels of the latter.
The human beings in whom they are incarnated are upright and benevolent; they are actuated neither by pride, selfishness, nor ambition; they feel neither hatred, rancor, envy, nor jealousy, and do good for its own sake.
To this order belong the spirits commonly designated in the popular beliefs by the names of good genie protecting genie, good spirits. In periods of ignorance and superstition, men have regarded them as beneficent divinities. They may be divided into four principal groups:-
108. Fifth Class--Benevolent Spirits.--Their dominant quality is kindness. They take pleasure in rendering service to men and in protecting them, but their knowledge is somewhat narrow. They have progressed in morality rather than in intelligence.
109. Fourth Class--Learned Spirits.--They are specially distinguished by the extent of their knowledge. They are less interested in moral questions than in scientific investigation, for which they have a greater aptitude; but their scientific studies are always prosecuted with a view to practical utility, and they are entirely free from the base passions common to spirits of the lower degrees of advancement.
110. Third Class--Wise Spirits.--The most elevated moral qualities form their distinctive characteristics. Without having arrived at the possession of unlimited knowledge, they have reached a development of intellectual capacity that enables them to judge correctly of men and of things.
111. Second Class--High Spirits.--They unite, in a very high degree, scientific knowledge, wisdom, and goodness. Their language, inspired only by the purest benevolence, is always noble and elevated, often sublime. Their superiority renders them more apt than any others to impart to us just and true ideas in relation to the incorporeal world, within the limits of the knowledge permitted to mankind. They willingly enter into communication with those who seek for truth in simplicity and sincerity, and who are sufficiently freed from the bonds of materiality to be capable of understanding it; but they turn from those whose inquiries are prompted only by curiosity, or who are drawn away from the path of rectitude by the attractions of materiality.
When, under exceptional circumstances, they incarnate themselves in this earth, it is always for the accomplishment of a mission of progress; and they thus show us the highest type of perfection to which we can aspire in the present world.
112. General Characteristics.--The influence of matter null; a superiority, both intellectual and moral, so absolute as to constitute what, in comparison with the spirits of all the other orders, may be termed perfection.
113. First and only Class.--They have passed up through every degree of the scale of progress, and have freed themselves from all the impurities of materiality. Having attained the sum of perfection of which created beings are susceptible, they have no longer to undergo either trials or expiations. Being no longer subject to reincarnation in perishable bodies, they enter on the life of eternity in the immediate presence of God. They are in the enjoyment of a beatitude which is unalterable, because they are no longer subject to the wants or vicissitudes of material life; but this beatitude is not the monotonous idleness of perpetual contemplation. They are the messengers and ministers of God, the executors of His orders in the maintenance of universal harmony. They exercise a sovereign command over all spirits inferior to themselves, aid them in accomplishing the work of their purification, and assign to each of them a mission proportioned to the progress already made by them. To assist men in their distresses, to excite them to the love of good or to the expiation of the faults which keep them back on the road to the supreme felicity, are for them congenial occupations. They are sometimes spoken of as angels, archangels, or seraphim.
They can, when they choose to do so, enter into communication with men; but presumptuous indeed would he be who should pretend to have them at his orders.
114. Are spirits good or bad by nature, or are they the same spirits made better through their own efforts?
"The same spirits made better through their own efforts. In growing better they pass from a lower to a higher order."
115. Are some spirits created good and others created bad?
"God has created all spirits in a state of simplicity and ignorance, that is to say, without knowledge. He has given to each of them a mission, with a view to enlighten them and to make them gradually arrive at perfection through the knowledge of the truth, and thus to bring them nearer and nearer to Himself. This perfection is, for them, the condition of eternal and unalloyed happiness. Spirits acquire knowledge by passing through the trials imposed on them by God. Some of them accept these trials with submission, and arrive more quickly at the aim of their destiny others undergo them with murmuring, and thus remain, through their own fault, at a distance from the perfection and the felicity promised to them."
-- According to this statement, it would appear that spirits, at their origin, are like children, ignorant and without experience, but acquiring, little by little, the knowledge which they lack, by passing through the different phases of human life?
"Yes; the comparison is correct. The child, if rebellious, remains ignorant and faulty; he profits more or less according to his docility. But the life of man has a term; whereas that of spirits stretches out into infinity."
116. Do any spirits remain forever in the lower ranks?
"No; all become perfect. They change in course of time, however long may be the process of amendment; for, as we have already said, a just and merciful parent cannot condemn his children to eternal banishment. Can you suppose that God, so great, so good, so just, is less kind than you are?"
117. Does it depend on the spirits themselves to hasten their progress towards perfection?
"Certainly; they reach the goal more or less quickly according to the strength of their desire and the degree of their submission to the will of God. Does not a docile child learn faster than one who is obstinate and idle?"
118. Can spirits degenerate?
"No; in proportion as they advance, they understand what has retarded their progress. When a spirit has finished with any given trial, he has learned the lesson of that trial, and never forgets it. He may remain stationary; but be never degenerates."
119. Could God exonerate spirits from the trials which they have to undergo in order to reach the highest rank?
"If they had been created perfect, they would not have merited the enjoyment of the benefits of that perfection. Where would be the merit without the struggle? Besides, the inequality which exists between spirits is necessary to the development of their personality; and, moreover, the mission which each spirit accomplishes at each step of his progress is an element of the providential plan for ensuring the harmony of the universe."
Since, in social life, all men may reach the highest posts, we might as well ask why the sovereign of a country does not make a general of each of his soldiers, why all subaltern functionaries are not made heads of departments, why all scholars are not schoolmasters. But there is this difference between the life of the social and the spirit worlds, namely, that the first is limited, and does not afford to every one the possibility of raising himself to the highest rank whereas the second is unlimited, and ensures to every one the possibility of attaining to supreme degree.
120. Do all spirits pass by the road of evil to arrive at good?
"Not by the road of evil, but by that of ignorance."
121. How is it that some spirits have followed the road of good, and others the road of evil?
"Have they not their free-will? God has not created any spirits bad; He has created them simple and ignorant, that is to say, possessing an equal aptitude for good and for evil. Those who become bad become so of their own free-will."
122. How can spirits, at their origin, when they have not yet acquired self-consciousness, possess freedom of choice between good and evil? Is there in them any principle, any tendency, which inclines them towards either road rather than towards the other?
"Free-will is developed in proportion as the spirit acquires the consciousness of himself. Freedom would not exist for the spirit if his choice were solicited by a cause independent of his will. The cause which determines his choice is not in him, but is exterior to him, in the influences to which he voluntarily yields in virtue of the freedom of his will. It is this choice that is represented under the grand figure of the fall of man and of original sin. Some spirits have yielded to temptation; others have withstood it."
-- Whence come the influences that act upon him?
"From the imperfect spirits, who seek to take possession of him and to dominate him, and who are happy to see him succumb. It is this temptation that is allegorically pictured as Satan."
-- Does this influence act upon a spirit only at its origin?
"It follows him through all the phases of his existence as a spirit, until he has acquired such thorough self-command that evil spirits renounce the attempt to obsess him."
123. Why has God permitted it to be possible for spirits to take the wrong road?
"The wisdom of God is shown in the freedom of choice which He leaves to every spirit, for each has thus the merit of his deeds."
124. Since there are spirits who, from the beginning, follow unswervingly the right path, and others who wander into the lowest depths of evil, there are, no doubt, many degrees of deviation between these two extremes?
"Yes, certainly; and these degrees constitute the paths of the great majority of spirits."
125. Will the spirits who have chosen the wrong road be able to reach the same degree of elevation as the others?
"Yes; but the eternities will be longer in their case."
This expression, "the eternities," must be understood as referring to the belief of spirits of inferior degree in the perpetuity their sufferings, resulting from the fact that it is not given to them to foresee the termination of those sufferings, and that this conviction of the perpetuity of the latter is renewed after every new trial to which they have succumbed.
126. Are spirits who have reached the supreme degree after wandering into the wrong road less meritorious than the others in the sight of God?
"God regards the wanderers who have returned to the right road with the same approval and the same affection as the others. They have been classed, for a time, as evil spirits, because they succumbed to the temptation of evil; but, before their fall, they were merely neutral in regard to good and evil, like all other spirits."
127. Are all spirits created equal in point of intellectual capacity?
"They are all created equal, but not knowing from whence they come; for their free-will must have its fling. They progress more or less rapidly in intelligence as in morality."
The spirits who, from the beginning, follow the right road, do not thereby attain at once to the state of perfection for, although they are free from evil tendencies, they have nonetheless to acquire the experience and the varied knowledge indispensable to their perfection. They may be compared to children who, however good their natural instincts, need to be developed and enlightened, and who cannot attain to maturity without transition. But, just as some men are good and others bad from their infancy, so some spirits are good and others bad from their beginning; with this radical difference, however, that the child possesses instincts already formed, whereas the spirit, at his formation, is neither bad nor good, but possesses all possible tendencies, and strikes out his path, in the direction of good or evil, through the action of his own free-will.
128. Do the beings whom we call angels, archangels, seraphim, form a special category of a nature different from that of other spirits?
"No; the spirits who have purified themselves from all imperfection, have reached the highest degree of the scale of progress, and united in themselves all species of perfection."
The word angel is generally supposed to imply the idea of moral perfection; but it is often applied, nevertheless, to all beings, good or bad, beyond the pale of humanity, we say, "a good angel" "a bad angel," "an angel of light," "the angel of darkness," etc. In those cases, it is synonymous with spirit or genius. It is employed here in its highest sense.
129. Have the angels passed up through all the degrees of progress?
"They have passed up through all those degrees, but with the difference which we have already mentioned. Some of them, accepting their mission without murmuring, have reached the goal more quickly; others have been longer in reaching the same goal."
130. If the opinion which admits that some beings have been created perfect and superior to all others be erroneous, how is it that this opinion is to be found in the tradition of almost every people?
"Your world has not existed from all eternity. Long before it was called into being hosts of spirits had already attained to the supreme degree, and, therefore, the people of your earth naturally supposed those perfected spirits to have always been at the same degree of elevation."
131. Are there any demons in the usual acceptation of that term?
"If demons existed, they would be the work of God; but would it be just on the part of God to have created beings condemned eternally to evil and to misery? If demons exist, it is in your low world, and in other worlds of similar degree, that they are to be found. They are the human hypocrites who represent a just God as being cruel and vindictive, and who imagine that they make themselves agreeable to Him by the abominations they commit in His name,"
It is only in its modern acceptation that the word demon implies the idea of evil spirits, for the Greek work daimôn from which it is derived, signifies genius, intelligence, and is applied indiscriminately to all incorporeal beings, whether good or bad.
Demons or devils, according to the common acceptation of these words are supposed to be a class of beings essentially bad. If they exist, they must necessarily be, like everything else, a creation of God; but God, who is sovereignly just and good, cannot have created beings predestined to evil by their very nature, and condemned beforehand to eternal misery. If, on the contrary, they are not a creation of God, they must either have existed, like Him, from all eternity, or there must be several creators.
The first requisite of every theory is to be consistent with itself; but that which asserts the existence of demons, in the popular acceptation of the term, lacks this essential condition of theoretic soundness. It was natural that the religious belief of peoples, who, knowing nothing of the attributes of God, were backward enough to admit the existence of maleficent deities, should also admit the existence of demons; but, on the part of those who acknowledge the goodness of God to by His distinguishing quality, it is illogical and contradictory to suppose that He can have created beings doomed to evil, and destined to do evil forever, for such a supposition is the negation of His goodness. The partisans of the belief in devils appeal to the words of Christ in support of their doctrine and it is certainly not we who would contest the authority of His teachings, which we would faint see established, not merely on the lips of men, but also in their hearts. But are those partisans quite sure of the meaning attached by Him to the word "devil"? Is it not fully admitted that the allegorical form is one of the distinctive characteristics of His utterances, and that the Gospels contain many things which are not to be taken literally? To prove that such is the case, we need only quote the following passage:-
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven... Verily I say unto you. This generation shall not pass till all these things are fulfilled" (Matt. xxiv. 29, 30, 34.) Have we not seen that the form of the biblical text, in reference to the creation and movement of the earth, is contradicted by the discoveries of science? May it not be the same in regard to certain figurative expressions employed by Christ in order to adapt His teachings to the time and the scene of His mission? Christ could not have made a statement knowing it to be false. If, therefore, His sayings contain statements which appear to be contrary to reason, it is evident either that we do not understand their meaning or that we have interpreted them erroneously.
Men have done in regard to devils what they have done in regard to angels. Just as they have imagined that there are beings who were created perfect from all eternity, so they have imagined that spirits of the lower degrees were beings essentially and eternally bad. The words demon, devil, ought, therefore, to be understood as indicating impure spirits who are often no better that the imaginary beings designated by those names, but with this difference, namely, that their state of impurity and inferiority is only transitory. They are the imperfect spirits who rebel against the discipline of trial to which they are subjected, and who, therefore, have to undergo that discipline for a longer period, but who will, nevertheless, reach the goal in time, when they shall have made up their minds to do so. The words demon, devil, might accordingly be employed in this sense; but as they have come to be understood exclusively as conveying the meaning now shown to be false, their employment might lead into error by seeming to recognize the existence of beings specially created for evil.
As regards the term "Satan," it is evidently a personification of the principle of evil under an allegorical form for it is impossible to admit the existence of a being who fights against God as an independent and rival power, and whose sole business in life is to contravene His designs. As images and figures are necessary in order to strike the human imagination, men have pictured to themselves the beings of the incorporeal world under a material form, with attributes indicative of their good or bad qualities. It is thus that the ancients, wishing to personify the idea of time, represented it under the figure of an old man with a scythe and an hour-glass. To have personified it under the figure of a youth would have been contrary to common sense. The same may be said of the allegories of Fortune, Truth, etc. The moderns have represented the angels or pure spirits under the form of radiant beings with white Wings-emblem of purity Satan, with horns, claws, and the attributes of bestiality-emblems of the lowest Passions; and the vulgar, prone to understand such representations literally, have taken these allegorical embodiments of abstract ideas for real personalities, as they formerly did in regard to the allegorical personifications of the old mythology.