558. Have spirits anything else to do but to work out their own personal amelioration?
"They cooperate in the production of the harmony of the universe by executing the volitions of God, whose ministers they are. Spirit-life is a continual occupation, but one that has nothing in common with the painful labor of the earthly life, because there is in it neither bodily fatigue, nor the anguish of bodily wants."
559. Do inferior and imperfect spirits also subserve any useful end in the universe?
"All have duties to fulfill. Does not the lowest mason concur in the building of an edifice as really as the architect?" (540.)
560. Has each spirit special attributes?
"We all have to inhabit all regions, and to acquire a knowledge of all things, by presiding successively over all the details of the universe. But, as is said in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything. Thus, one spirit is accomplishing his destiny, at the present day, in your world; another will accomplish his, or has already accomplished it, at another period, upon the earth, in the water, in the air, etc."
561. Are the functions discharged by spirits, in the economy of things, permanent on the part of each spirit, or do they constitute the exclusive attributes of certain classes?
"All spirits have to ascend all the steps of the ladder in order to attain to perfection. God, who is just, has not willed to give science to some without labor, while others only acquire it through painful effort."
Thus, among men, no one arrives at the highest degree of skill in any art, without having acquired the necessary knowledge through the practice of that art in all its degrees, from the lowest upwards.
562. Spirits of the highest order having nothing more to acquire, are they in a state of absolute repose, or have they, too, occupations?
"Can you suppose that they remain idle through eternity? Eternal idleness would be eternal torture."
-- What is the nature of their occupations?
"They receive orders directly from God, transmit them throughout the universe, and superintend their execution."
563. Are spirits incessantly occupied?
"Incessantly? yes, if it be understood that their thought is always active, for they live by thought. But you must not suppose that the occupations of spirits are similar to the material occupations of men; their activity is itself a delight, through the consciousness they have of being useful."
-- That is easily understood as regards good spirits; but is it the same in regard to inferior spirits?
"Inferior spirits have occupations suitable to their nature. Would you entrust intellectual undertakings to an ignorant laborer?"
564. Are there, among spirits, some who are idle, or who do not employ themselves in anything useful?
"Yes; but that idleness is only temporary, and depends on the development of their intelligence. Certainly, there are among spirits, as among men, some who live only for themselves; but their idleness weighs upon them, and, sooner or later, the desire to advance causes them to feel the need of activity, and they are glad to make themselves useful. We speak of spirits arrived at the point at which they possess self-consciousness and free-will; for, at their origin, they are like new-born children, and act more from instinct than from a determinate will."
565. Do spirits examine our works of art, and take an interest in them?
"They examine whatever indicates the elevation of incarnated spirits and their progress."
566. Does a spirit who has had a special occupation upon the earth, as a painter or an architect, for example, take a special interest in the labors which have formed the object of his predilections during the earthly life?
"Everything blends into one general aim. A good spirit interests himself in whatever enables him to assist other souls in rising towards God. Besides, a spirit who has been devoted to a given pursuit, in the existence in which you have known him, may have been devoted to some other in another existence; for, in order to be perfect, he must know everything. Thus, in virtue of his greater advancement, there may be no specialty for him--a fact to which I alluded in saying that everything blends into one general aim. Take note, also, that what seems sublime to you, in your backward world, would be mere child's play in worlds of greater advancement. How can you suppose that the spirits who inhabit those worlds, in which there exist arts and sciences unknown to you, could admire what, in their eyes, is only the work of a tyro?"
-- We can easily conceive that this should be the case with very advanced spirits; but our question referred to more commonplace spirits, to those who have not yet raised themselves above terrestrial ideas.
"With them it is different; their mental outlook is narrower, and they may admire what you yourselves admire."
567. Do spirits ever take part in our occupations and pleasures?
"Commonplace spirits, as you call them, do so; they are incessantly about you, and take, in all you do, a part which is sometimes a very active one, according to their nature; and it is necessary that they should do so, in order to push men on in the different walks of life, and to excite or moderate their passions."
Spirits busy themselves with the things of this world in proportion to their elevation or their inferiority. The higher Spirits have, undoubtedly, the power of looking into the minutest details of earthly things; but they only do so when it will be useful to progress. Spirits of lower rank attribute to such things a degree of importance proportioned to their remembrances of the earthly life, and to the earthly ideas which are not yet extinct in their memory.
568. When spirits are charged with a mission, do they accomplish it in the state of erraticity, or in the state of incarnation?
"They may be charged with a mission in either state. There are wandering spirits to whom such missions furnish much occupation."
569. What are the missions with which wandering spirits may be charged?
"They are so varied that it would be impossible to describe them; and there are some of them that you could not comprehend. Spirits execute the volitions of God, and you are not able to penetrate all His designs."
The missions of spirits have always good for their object. Whether in the spirit-state, or as men, they are charged to help forward the progress of humanity, of peoples, or of individuals, within a range of ideas more or less extensive, more or less special, to pave the way for certain events, to superintend the accomplishment of certain things. The missions of some spirits are of narrower scope, and may be said to be personal, or even local as the helping of the sick, the dying, the afflicted to watch over those of whom they become the guides and protectors, and to guide them by their counsels or by the wholesome thoughts they suggest. It may be said that there are as many sorts of spirit-missions as there are sorts of interests to watch over, whether in the physical world or in the moral world. And each spirit advances in proportion to the fidelity with which he accomplishes his task.
570. Do spirits always comprehend the designs they are charged to execute?
"No; some of them are mere blind instruments, but others fully understand the aim they are working out."
571. Is it only elevated spirits who have missions to fulfill?
"The importance of a mission is always proportioned to the capacities and elevation of the spirit who is charged with it; but the courier who conveys a dispatch fulfils a mission, though one which is not that of the general."
572. Is a spirit's mission imposed upon him, or does it depend on his own will?
"He asks for it, and is rejoiced to obtain it."
-- May the same mission be demanded by several spirits?
"Yes, there are often several candidates for the same mission, but they are not all accepted."
573. In what does the mission of incarnated spirits consists?
"In instructing men, and aiding their advancement; and in ameliorating their institutions by direct, material means. These missions are more or less general and important; but he who tills the ground accomplishes a mission as really as he who governs or instructs. Everything in nature is linked together; and each spirit, while purifying himself by his incarnation, concurs, under the human form, to the accomplishment of the Providential plans. Each of you has a mission, because each of you can be useful in some way or other."
574. What can be the mission of those who, in this life, are willfully idle?
"It is true that there are human beings who live only for them selves, and who do not make themselves useful in any way. They are much to be pitied, for they will have to expiate their voluntary inutility by severe sufferings, and their chastisement often begins even in their present existence, through their weariness and disgust of life."
-- Since they had the freedom of choice, why did they choose a life which could not be of any use to them?
"Among spirits, as among men, there are lazy ones who shrink from a life of labor. God lets them take their own way; they will learn, by and by, and to their cost, the bad effects of their uselessness, and will then eagerly demand to be allowed to make up for lost time. It may be, also, that they had chosen a more useful life; but have subsequently recoiled from the trial, and allowed themselves to be misled by the suggestions of spirits who encourage them in their inactivity."
575. The common occupations of everyday life appear to us to be duties rather than missions, properly so called. A mission according to the idea we attach to this word, is characterized by an importance less exclusive, and especially less personal. From this point of view, have can we ascertain that a man has really a mission upon this earth?
"By the greatness of the results he accomplishes, and the progress he causes to be made by his fellow-men."
576. Are those who have received an important mission predestined thereto before their birth, and are they aware of it?
"Yes, in some cases; but, more often, they are not aware of it. They are only vaguely conscious of an aim in coming upon the earth; their mission reveals itself to them gradually, after their birth, through the action of circumstances. God leads them on into the road which they are to take for the accomplishment of His designs."
577. When a man does anything useful, is it always in virtue of an anterior and predestined mission, or may he receive a mission not previously foreseen?
"Everything a man does is not the result of a predestined mission; he is often the instrument of a spirit who makes use of him in order to procure the execution of something he considers useful. For example:-A spirit thinks it would be useful to publish a book which he would write himself if he were incarnated. He seeks out the writer who will be the fittest to comprehend and develop his idea; he suggests to him the plan of the work, and directs him in its execution in such a case, the man did not come into the world with the mission of doing this work. It is the same in regard to various works of art or scientific discoveries. During the sleep of his body, the incarnated spirit communicates directly with the spirit in erraticity, and the two take counsel together for the carrying out of their undertaking."
578. May spirit fail in his mission through his own fault?
"Yes; if he is not of a high degree of elevation."
-- What, for him, are the consequences of such a failure?
"He is obliged to begin his task over again; this is his punishment. And, besides, he will have to undergo the consequences of the mischiefs caused by his failure."
579. Since it is from God that each spirit receives his mission, how can God have entrusted an important mission, one of general interest, to a spirit capable of failing in its discharge?
"Does not God foresee whether His general will be victorious or vanquished? Be sure that He foresees all things, and that the carrying out of His plans, when they are important, is never confided to those who will leave their work half done. The whole difficulty lies, for you, in the foreknowledge of the future which God possesses, but which you cannot understand."
580. When a spirit has incarnated himself for the accomplishment of a mission, does he feel the same anxiety in regard to it as the spirit whose mission has been undertaken as a trial?
"No; for he has the results of experience to guide him."
581. The men who enlighten the human race by their genius have certainly a mission; but there are among them many who make mistakes, and who, along with important truths, spread abroad serious errors. In what way should we regard their mission?
"As having been falsified by themselves. They are unequal to the task they have undertaken. In judging of them, however, you must take into account the circumstances in which they have been placed. Men of genius have had to speak according to their time; and teachings which appear erroneous or puerile, in the light of a later epoch, may have been sufficient for the epoch at which they were given."
582. Can paternity be considered a mission?
"It is undeniably a mission; and also a most serious duty, the responsibilities of which will exercise a more important influence upon his future than a man is apt to suppose. God has placed the child under the tutelage of his parents, in order that they should direct his steps into the path of rectitude; and he has facilitated their task by giving to the child a frail and delicate organization, that renders him accessible to new impressions. But there are many parents who take more pains to train the trees in their gardens, and to make them bring forth a large crop of fine fruit, than to train the character of their child. If the latter succumbs through their fault, they will bear the punishment of their unfaithfulness; and the sufferings of the child in a future life will come home to them, because they have not done their part towards helping him forward on the road to happiness."
583. If a child goes wrong, notwithstanding the care of his parents, are they responsible?
"No; but the more vicious the disposition of the child, and the heavier their task, the greater will be their reward if they succeed in drawing him away from the evil road."
-- If a child becomes a good man, despite the negligence or bad example of his parents, do the latter obtain any benefit therefrom?
"God is just."
584. What can be the mission of the conqueror whose only aim is the satisfaction of his ambition, and who, in order to attain that end, does not shrink from inflicting the calamities he brings in his train?
"He is generally only an instrument used by God for the accomplishment of His designs; and these calamities are sometimes a means of making a people advance more rapidly."
-- The good that may result from these passing calamities is foreign to him who has been the instrument in producing them, since he had only proposed to himself a personal aim; will he, nevertheless, profit by that result?
"Each is rewarded according to his works, the good he has wished to do, and the uprightness of his intentions."
Spirits, while incarnated, have occupations inherent in the nature of their corporeal existence. In the state of erraticity, or of dematerialization, their occupations are proportioned to their degree of advancement. Some of them journey from world to world, acquiring instruction, and preparing for a new incarnation. Others, more advanced, devote themselves to the cause of progress by directing the course of events, and suggesting propitious ideas they assist the men of genius who help forward the advancement of the human race.
Others incarnate themselves again with a mission of progress.
Others take under their care individuals, families, societies, cities, countries, and peoples, and become their guardian-angels, protecting genie, and familiar spirits.
Others, again, preside over the phenomena of nature, of which they are the immediate agents. The great mass of spirits of lower rank busy themselves with our occupations, and take part in our amusements.
Impure and imperfect spirits await, in sufferings and anguish, the moment when it shall please God to furnish them with the means of advancing. If they do harm, it is through spite against the happiness which they are not yet able to share.
1. MINERALS AND PLANTS -- 2. ANIMALS AND MEN -- 3. METEMPSYCHOSIS.
Minerals and Plants.
585. WHAT do you think of the division of the natural world into three reigns, the mineral, vegetable, and animal, to which some naturalists add a fourth class, namely, the human species; or that other division of the world into two classes, namely, the organic and the inorganic? Which of these divisions is to be preferred?
"They are all good; as to which is best, that depends on your point of view. From the point of view of matter, there are only inorganic and organic beings; from the moral point of view, there are evidently four degrees."
These four degrees are, in fact, distinguished by well-marked characteristics, although their extremes seem to blend into each other. Inert matter, which constitutes the mineral reign, possesses only mechanical force; plants, composed of inert matter, are endowed with vitality animals, composed of inert matter, and endowed with vitality, have also a sort of instinctive intelligence, limited in its scope, but giving them the consciousness of their existence and of their individuality man, possessing all that is found in plants and animals, is raised above all the other classes by special intelligence, without fixed limits, which gives him the consciousness of his future, the perception of extra-material things, and the knowledge of God.
586. Are plants conscious of their existence?
"No; they do not think; they have only organic life."
587. Do plants feel sensations? Do they suffer when they are mutilated?
"Plants receive the physical impressions which act upon matter, but they have no perceptions; consequently they do not feel pain."
588. Is the force which attracts plants towards each other independent of their will?
"Yes; for they do not think. It is a mechanical force of matter that acts upon matter; they could not resist it."
589. Some plants, as, for instance, the mimosa and the dionea, have movements which give evidence of their possessing great sensitiveness, and, in some cases, a sort of will, as in the case of the latter, whose lobes seize the fly that lights on it, in order to suck its juices, and even seem to set a snare for it, in order to kill it. Are these plants endowed with the faculty of thought? Have they a will, and do they form in intermediate class between the vegetable and animal natures? Are they points of transition from the one to the other?
"Everything in nature is transition, from the very fact that everything is different, and that everything, nevertheless, is linked together. Plants do not think, and have consequently no will. The oyster that opens its shell, and all the zoophytes, do not think; they have only a blind natural instinct."
The human organism furnishes us with examples of similar movements that take place without any participation of the will, as in the organs of digestion and circulation the pylorus closes itself at the contact of certain substances, as though to refuse them passage. It must be the same with the sensitive plant, the movements of which do not necessarily imply perception, and, still less, will.
590. Is there not, in plants, an instinct of self-preservation which leads them to seek what may be useful to them, and to avoid what would do them harm?
"You may call it, if you will, a sort of instinct: that depends on the extension you give to the word; but it is purely mechanical. When, in chemical operations, you see two bodies unite together, it is because they suit one another, that is to say, there is an affinity between them; but you do not call that instinct."
591. In worlds of higher degree, are the plants, like the other beings, of a more perfect nature?
"Everything in those worlds is more perfect; but the plants are always plants, as the animals are always animals, and as the men are always men."
592. If we compare man with the animals in reference to intelligence, it seems difficult to draw a line of demarcation between them; for some animals are, in this respect, notoriously superior to some men. Is it possible to establish such a line of demarcation with any precision?
"Your philosophers are far from being agreed upon this point. Some of them will have it that man is an animal; others are equally sure that the animal is a man. They are all wrong. Man is a being apart, who sometimes sinks himself very low, or who may raise himself very high. As regards his physical nature, man is like the animals, and less well provided for than many of them; for nature has given to them all that man is obliged to invent with the aid of his intelligence for his needs and his preservation. His body is subject to destruction, like that of the animals; but his spirit has a destiny that he alone can understand, because he alone is completely free. Poor human beings who debase yourselves below the brutes! do you not know how to distinguish yourselves from them? Recognize the superiority of man by his possessing the notion of the existence of God."
593. Can the animals be said to act only from instinct?
"That, again, is a mere theory. It is very true that instinct predominates in the greater number of animals; but do you not see some of them act with a determinate will? This is intelligence, but of narrow range."
It is impossible to deny that some animals give evidence of possessing, besides instinct, the power of performing compound acts which denote the will to act in a determinate direction, and according to circumstances. Consequently, there is in them a sort of intelligence, but the exercise of which is mainly concentrated on the means of satisfying their physical needs, and providing for their own preservation. There is, among them, no progress, no amelioration no matter what the art that we admire in their labors, what they formerly did, that they do today neither better nor worse, according to constant forms and unvarying proportions. The young bird isolated from the rest of its species nonetheless builds its nest on the same model, without having been taught. If some of the animals are susceptible of a certain amount of education, their intellectual development, always restricted within narrow limits, is due to the action of man upon a flexible nature, for they themselves have no power of progressing but that artificial development is ephemeral and purely individual, for the animal, when left again to himself, speedily returns within the limits traced out for it by nature.
594. Have animals a language?
"If you mean a language formed of words and syllables, no; but if you mean a method of communication among themselves, yes. They say much more to one another than you suppose; but their language is limited, like their ideas, to their bodily wants."
-- There are animals who have no voice; have they no language?
"They understand one another by other means. Have men no other method of communicating with one another than by speech? And the dumb, what do you say of them? The animals, being endowed with the life of relation, have means of giving one another information, and of expressing the sensations they feel. Do you suppose that fishes have no understanding among themselves? Man has not the exclusive privilege of language; but that of the animals is instinctive and limited to the scope of their wants and ideas, while that of man is perfectible, and lends itself to all the conceptions of his intelligence."
It is evident that fishes, emigrating in masses, like the swallows that follow the guide that leads them, must have the means of giving one another information, of arriving at a common understanding, and of concerting measures of general interest. It may be that they are gifted with a sense of vision sufficiently acute to allow of their distinguishing signs made by them to one another, or the water may serve them as a vehicle for the transmission of certain vibrations. It is evident that they must have some means, whatever these may be, of comprehending one another, like all other animals that have no voice, and that nevertheless perform actions in common. Should it, then, be deemed strange that spirits are able to communicate among themselves without having recourse to articulate speech? (282.)
595. Have animals free-will in regard to their actions?
"They are not the mere machines you suppose them to be; but their freedom of action is limited to their wants, and cannot be compared to that of man. Being far inferior to him, they have not the same duties. Their freedom is restricted to the acts of their material life."
596. Whence comes the aptitude of certain animals to mutate human speech, and why is this aptitude found among birds, rather, for instance, than among apes, whose conformation has so more analogy to that of man?
"That aptitude results from a particular conformation of the vocal organs, seconded by the instinct of imitation. The ape imitates man's gestures; some birds imitate his voice."
597. Since the animals have an intelligence which gives them a certain degree of freedom of action, is there, in them, a principle independent of matter?
"Yes; and that survives their body."
-- Is this principle a soul, like that of man?
"It is a soul, if you like to call it so; that depends on the meaning you attach to this word. But it is inferior to that of man. There is, between the soul of the animals and that of man, as great a difference as there is between the soul of man and God."
598. Does the soul of the animals preserve, after death, its individuality and its self-consciousness?
"It preserves its individuality, but not the consciousness of its me. The life of intelligence remains latent in them."
599. Has the soul of the beasts the choice of incarnating itself in one kind of animal rather than in another?
"No; it does not possess free-will."
600. As the soul of the animal survives its body, is it, after death, in a state of erraticity, like that of man?
"It is in a sort of erraticity, because it is not united to a body; but it is not an errant spirit. The errant spirit is a being who thinks and acts of his own free-will; but the soul of the animal has not the same faculty, for it is his self-consciousness which is the principal attribute of the spirit. The soul of the animal is classed after its death, by the spirits charged with that work, and almost immediately utilized; it has not the leisure to enter into connection with other creatures."
601. Do animals follow a law of progress like men?
"Yes; and it is for this reason that, in the higher worlds in which men are further advanced, the animals are more advanced also, and possess more developed means of communication. But they are always inferior to man, and subject to him; they are, for him, intelligent servitors."
There is nothing unreasonable in this statement. Suppose that our most intelligent animals, the dog, the elephant, the horse, were furnished with a bodily conformation appropriate to manual labor, what could they not do under the direction of man?
602. Do animals progress, like man, through the action of their will, or through the force of things?
"Through the force of things; this is why there is, for them, no expiation."
603. Have the animals, in the higher worlds, a knowledge of God?
"No; man is a god for them, as spirits were formerly gods for men."
604. The animals, even the advanced ones of the higher worlds, being always inferior to man, it would seem as though God had created intellectual beings condemned to a perpetual inferiority such an arrangement does not appear to be in accordance with the unity of design and of progress discernible in all His works.
"Everything in nature is linked together by an enchaining which your intellect cannot yet seize; and things apparently the most discrepant have points of contact at the comprehension of which man will never arrive in his actual state. He may obtain a glimmering of them through an effort of his intelligence; but it is only when that intelligence shall have acquired its full development, and shall have freed itself from the prejudices of pride and of ignorance, that he will be able to see clearly into the work of God; until then, his narrowness of thought causes him to look at every thing from a low and petty point of view. Know that God cannot contradict Himself, and that everything in nature is harmonized by the action of general laws that never deviate from the sublime wisdom of the Creator."
-- Intelligence, then, is a common property, and a point of contact, between the soul of the beast and that of man?
"Yes, but the animals have only the intelligence of material life; in man, intelligence gives moral life."
605. If we consider all the points of contact that exist between man and the animals, does it not seem as though man possessed two souls, namely, an animal soul and a spiritual soul, and that, if he had not the latter, he might still live, but as a brute; in other words, that the animal is a being similar to man, minus the spiritual soul? From which it would follow that the good and bad instincts of man result from the predominance of one or other of these two souls.
"No; man has not two souls; but the body has its instincts resulting from the sensation of its organs. There is in him only a double nature--the animal nature and the spiritual nature. By his body he participates in the nature of the animals and their instincts; by his soul he participates in the nature of spirits."
-- Thus, besides his own imperfection, which he has to get rid of, a spirit has also to struggle against the influence of matter?
"Yes, the lower a spirit's degree of advancement, the closer are the bonds which united him with matter. Do you not see that it must necessarily be so? No; man has not two souls: the soul is always one in a single being. The soul of the animal and that of man are distinct from one another, so that the soul of the one cannot animate the body created for the other. But if man have not an animal soul, placing him, by its passions, on a level with the animals, he has his body, which often drags him down to them; for his body is a being that is endowed with vitality, and that has its instincts, but unintelligent, and limited to the care of its own preservation."
A spirit, in incarnating himself in a human body, brings to it the intellectual and moral principle that renders it superior to the animals. The two natures in man constitute for him two distinct sources of passions; one set of passions springing from the instincts of his animal nature, and the other set being due to the impurities of the spirit of which he is the incarnation, and which are in sympathy with the grossness of the animal appetites. A spirit, as he becomes purified, frees himself gradually from the influence of matter. While under that influence, he approaches the nature of the brutes when delivered from that influence, he raises himself towards his true destination.
606. Whence do the animals derive the intelligent principle that constitutes the particular kind of soul with which they are endowed?
"From the universal intelligent element."
-- The intelligence of man and of the animals emanates, then, from one and the same principle?
"Undoubtedly; but, in man, it has received an elaboration which raises it above that which animates the brute.".
607. You have stated that the soul of man, at its origin, is in a state analogous to that of human infancy, that its intelligence is only beginning to unfold itself, and that it is essaying to live (190.); where does the soul accomplish this earliest phase of its career?
"In a series of existences which precede the period of development that you call humanity."
-- The soul would seem, then, to have been the intelligent principle of the inferior orders of the creation?
"Have we not said that everything in nature is linked together and tends to unity? It is in those beings, of which you are very far from knowing all, that the intelligent principle is elaborated, is gradually individualized, and made ready to live, as we have said, through its subjection to a sort of preparatory process, like that of germination, on the conclusion of which that principle undergoes a transformation and becomes spirit. It is then that the period of humanity commences for each spirit with the sense of futurity, the power of distinguishing between good and evil, and the responsibility of his actions; just as, after the period of infancy comes that of childhood, then youth, adolescence, and ripened manhood. Is the greatest genius humiliated by having been a shapeless fetus in his mother's womb? If anything ought to humiliate him, it is his lowness in the scale of being, and his powerlessness to sound the depths of the divine designs and the wisdom of the laws that regulate the harmonies of the universe. Recognize the greatness of God in this admirable harmony that establishes solidarity between everything in nature. To think that God could have made anything without a purpose, and have created intelligent beings without a future, would be to blaspheme His goodness, which extends over all His creatures."
-- Does this period of humanity commence upon our earth?
"The earth is not the starting-point of the earliest phase of human incarnation; the human period commences, in general, in worlds still lower than yours. This, however, is not an absolute rule; and it may happen that a spirit, at his entrance upon the human phase, may be fitted to live upon the earth. Such a case, however, though possible, is infrequent; and would be an exception to the general rule."
608. Has a man's spirit, after death, any consciousness of the existences that have preceded his entrance upon the human period?
"No; for it is only with this period that his life, as a spirit, has begun for him. He can scarcely recall his earliest existences as a man; just as a man no longer remembers the earliest days of his infancy, and still less the time he passed in his mother's womb. This is why spirits tell you that they do not know how they began." (78.)
609. Does a spirit, when once he has entered upon the human period, retain any traces of what he has previously been, that is to say, of the state in which he was in what may be called the ante-human period?
"That depends on the distance which separates the two periods, and the amount of progress accomplished. During a few generations, there may be a reflex, more or less distinct, of the primitive state, for nothing in nature takes place through an abrupt transition, and there are always links which unite the extremities of the chain of beings or of events; but those traces disappear with the development of free-will. The first steps of progress are accomplished slowly, because they are not yet seconded by the will; they are accomplished more rapidly in proportion as the spirit acquires a more perfect consciousness of himself."
610. The spirits who have said that man is a being apart from the rest of creation are, then, mistaken?
"No, but the question had not been developed; and besides, there are things that can only be known at their appointed time. Man is, in reality, a being apart, for he has faculties that distinguish him from all others, and he has another destiny. The human species is the one which God has chosen for the incarnation of the beings that are capable of knowing Him."
611. Is not the common origin of the intellectual principle of living beings a consecration of the doctrine of the metempsychosis?
"Two things may have the same origin, and yet not resemble one another at a later period. Who could recognize the tree, with its leaves, flowers, and fruit, in the shapeless germ contained in the seed from which it has issued? From the moment when the principle of intelligence has reached the necessary degree of development for becoming spirit, and for entering upon the human phase, it has no longer any connection with its primitive state, and is no more the soul of the beasts than the tree is the seed. In man, there is no longer anything of the animal but his body, and the passions which are the joint product of his body and of the instinct of self-preservation inherent in matter. It cannot, therefore, be said that such and such a man is the incarnation of such and such an animal; and consequently the doctrine of the metempsychosis, as commonly understood, is not true."
612. Can a spirit which has animated a human body be incarnated in an animal?
"No; for such an incarnation would be a retrogradation; and a spirit never retrogrades. The river does not flow back to is source." (118.)
613. However erroneous, may be the idea attached to the doctrine of the metempsychosis, may not that doctrine be a result of an intuitive reminiscence of the different existences of man?
"That intuitive reminiscence is seen in this belief as in many others; but, like the greater part of his intuitive ideas, man has perverted it."
The doctrine of the metempsychosis would be true if by that word were understood the progression of the soul from a lower state to a higher state, in which it acquires the new development that will transform its nature; but it is false when understood as meaning that any animal can transmigrate directly into a man, and a man into an animal, which would imply the idea of a retrogradation or of a fusion. The fact that fusion is not possible between corporeal beings of two different species is an indication of their being of degrees that are not assailable, and that such must be the case, also, with the spirits that animate them. If the same spirit could animate them alternately, it would imply the existence, between them, of an identity that would manifest itself by the possibility of corporeal reproduction. Reincarnation, as now taught by spirits, is founded, on the contrary, upon the ascensional movement of nature and upon the progression of man in his own species, which detracts nothing from his dignity. What really degrades man is the evil use he makes of the faculties which God has given him for his advancement. And, at all events, the antiquity and universality of the doctrine of the metempsychosis, and the number of eminent men who have professed it, proves that the principle of reincarnation has its roots in nature itself; a fact which, so far from diminishing the probability of its truth, must be regarded as constituting a weighty argument in its favor.
The starting-point of spirit is one of those questions which have reference to the origin of things, and to the secret designs of God. It is not given to man to comprehend them completely, and he can only form, in regard to them, suppositions and theoretic systems, more or less probable. Spirits themselves are far from knowing everything; and may also have, in regard to what they do not know, individual opinions more or less in harmony with fact.
It is thus, for example, that all spirits do not think alike in reference to the relations which exist between man and the animals. According to some, spirit only arrives at the human period after having been elaborated and individualized in the different degrees of the lower beings of the creation. According to others, the spirit of man has always belonged to the human race, without passing through the ascensional degrees of the animal world. The first of these theories has the advantage of giving an aim to the future of animals, which are thus seen to form the earliest links in the chain of thinking beings; the second theory is more consonant with the dignity of man, and may be summed up as follows:-
The different species of animals do not proceed intellectually from one another by road of progression. Thus the spirit of the oyster does not become successively that of the fish, the bird, the quadruped, and the quadruped. Each species is a fixed type, physically and morally, each individual of which draws, from the universal source of being, the sum of the intelligent principle which is necessary to it according to the nature of its organs and the work it has to accomplish in the phenomena of nature, and which it restores to the general mass of that principle at its death. Those of worlds more advanced than ours (188.) are also distinct races, that are fitted to the needs of those worlds, and to the degree of advancement of the men of whom they are the auxiliaries, but that do not proceed, spiritually, from those of the earth. It is not the same with man. It is evident that, physically, he forms a link in the chain of living beings; but there is, morally, a solution of continuity between the animals and him; for man alone possesses the soul, or spirit, the divine spark, which gives him the moral sense and the extended vision which are wanting in the animals; and this soul, spirit, spark, is, in him, the principal being, pre-existent to, and surviving, his body, and thus preserving his individuality. What is the origin of spirit? What its starting-point? Is it formed by the individualizing of the intelligent principle? This is a mystery which it would be useless to attempt to penetrate, and in regard to which, as we have said, we can do no more than build up theories. What is certain, what is indicated alike by reason and by experience, is the survival of each spirit and the persistence of his individuality after death, his faculty of progressing, the happiness or unhappiness of his next state of being, according to his advancement or his backwardness in the path of purification, and all the moral consequences which flow from this certainty, as for the mysterious kinship which exists between man and the animals, that we repeat, is God's secret, like many other matters the knowledge of which, at this time, is of little importance to our advancement, and upon which it would be useless to insist.