1. REINCARNATION - 2. JUSTICE OF REINCARNATION
- 3. INCARNATION IN DIFFERENT WORLDS - 4. PROGRESSIVE
TRANSMIGRATION - 5. FATE OF CHILDREN AFTER
DEATH - 6. SEX IN SPIRITS -7. FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS:
FILIATION - 8. PHYSICAL AND MORAL LIKENESS
- 9. INNATE IDEAS
166. How can the soul that has not attained to perfection during the corporeal life complete the work of its purification?
"By undergoing the trial of a new existence."
-- How does the soul accomplish this new existence? Is it through its transformation as a spirit?
"The soul, in purifying itself, undoubtedly undergoes a transformation; but, in order to effect this transformation, it needs the trial of corporeal life."
-- The soul has then, many corporeal existences?
"Yes; we all have many such existences. Those who maintain the contrary wish to keep you in the same ignorance in which they are themselves."
-- It would seem to result from this statement that the soul, after having quitted one body, takes another one; in other words, that it reincarnates itself in a new body. Is it thus that this statement is to be understood?
167. What is the aim of reincarnation?
"Expiation; progressive improvement of mankind. Without this aim, where would be its justice?"
168. Is the number of corporeal existences limited, or does a spirit go on reincarnating himself forever?
"In each new existence, a spirit takes a step forwards in the path of progress; when he has stripped himself of all his impurities, he has no further need of the trials of corporeal life."
169. Is the number of incarnations the same for all spirits?
"No; he who advances quickly spares himself many trials. Nevertheless, these successive incarnations are always very numerous, for progress is almost infinite."
170. What does the spirit become after its last incarnation?
"It enters upon the state of perfect happiness, as a purified spirit."
171. What foundation is there for the doctrine of reincarnation?
"The justice of God, and revelation; for, as we have already remarked, an affectionate father always leaves a door of repentance open for his erring children. Does not reason itself tell you that it would be unjust to inflict an eternal privation of happiness on those who have not had the opportunity of improving themselves? Are not all men God's children? It is only among selfish human beings that injustice, implacable hatred, and irremissible punishments are to be found."
All spirits tend towards perfection, and are furnished by God with the means of advancement through the trials of corporeal life; but the divine justice compels them to accomplish, in new existences, that which they have not been able to do, or to complete, in a previous trial.
It would not be consistent with the justice or with the goodness of God to sentence to eternal suffering those who may have encountered obstacles to their improvement independent of their will, and resulting from the very nature of the conditions in which they found themselves placed. If the fate of mankind were irrevocably fixed after death. God would not have weighed the actions of all in the same scales, and would not have treated them with impartiality.
The doctrine of reincarnation, that is to say, the doctrine which proclaims that men have many successive existence-is the only one which answers to the idea we form to ourselves of the justice of God in regard to those who are placed, by circumstances over which they have no control, in conditions unfavorable to their moral advancement; the only one which can explain the future, and furnish us with a sound basis for our hopes, because it offers us the means of redeeming our errors through new trials. This doctrine is indicated by the teachings of reason, as well as by those of our spirit-instructors.
He who is conscious of his own inferiority derives a consoling hope from the doctrine of reincarnation. If he believes in the justice of God, he cannot hope to be placed, at once and for all eternity, on a level with those who have made a better use of life than he has done; but the knowledge that this inferiority will not exclude him forever from the supreme felicity, and that he will be able to conquer this felicity through new efforts, revives his courage and sustains his energy. Who does not regret, at the end of his career, that the experience he has acquired should have come too late to allow of his turning it to useful account? This tardily acquired experience will not be lost for him; he will profit by it in a new corporeal life.
172. Do we accomplish all our different corporeal existences upon this earth?
"Not all of them, for those existences take place in many different worlds. The world in which you now are is neither the first nor the last of these, but is one of those that are the most material, and the furthest removed from perfection."
173. Does the soul, at each new corporeal existence, pass from one world to another or can it accomplish several existences on the same globe?
"It may live many times on the same globe, if it be not sufficiently advanced to pass into a higher one."
-- We may, then, re-appear several times upon the earth?
-- Can we come back to it after having lived in other worlds?
"Assuredly you can; you may already have lived elsewhere as upon the earth."
174. Is it necessary to live again upon this earth?
"No; but if you do not advance, you may go into a world no better than this one, or even worse."
175. Is there any advantage in coming back to inhabit this earth?
"No special advantage, unless it be the fulfillment of a mission; in that case the spirit advances, whether incarnated in this earth or elsewhere."
-- Would it not be happier to remain as a spirit?
"No, no! for we should remain stationary; and we want to advance towards God."
176. Can spirits come to this world, for the first time, after having been incarnated in other worlds?
"Yes; just as you may go into other ones. All the worlds of the universe are united by the bonds of solidarity; that which is not accomplished in one of them is accomplished in another."
-- Some of those who are now upon this earth are here, then, for the first time?
"Many of them are so; and at various degrees of advancement."
-- Is there any sign by which we can know the spirits who are here for the first time?
"Such knowledge would not be of the slightest use to you."
177. In order to arrive at the perfection and the supreme felicity which are the final aim of mankind, is it necessary for a spirit to pass through all the worlds that exist in the universe?
"No; for there are a great number of worlds of the same degree, in which a spirit would learn nothing new."
-- How, then, are we to explain the plurality of his existences upon the same globe?
"He may find himself, each time he comes back, in very different situations, which afford him the opportunity of acquiring new experience."
178. Can spirits live corporeally in a world relatively inferior to the one in which they have already lived?
"Yes; when they have to fulfill a mission in aid of progress; and in that case they joyfully accept the tribulations of such an existence, because these will furnish them with the means of advancement."
-- May this not occur also as an expiation and may not rebellious spirits be sent by God into worlds of lower degree?
"Spirits may remain stationary, but they never retrograde; those who are rebellious are punished by not advancing, and by having to recommence their misused existences under the conditions suited to their nature."
-- Who are they that are compelled to recommence the same existence?
"They who fail in the fulfillment of their mission, or in the endurance of the trial appointed to them."
179. Have all the human beings who inhabit any given world arrived at the same degree of perfection?
"No; it is in the other worlds as upon the earth; there are some who are more advanced, and others who are less so."
180. In passing from this world into another one, does a spirit retain the intelligence which he possessed in this one?
"Undoubtedly he does; intelligence is never lost. But he may not have the same means of manifesting it for that depends both on his degree of advancement and on the quality of the body he will take." (See, Influence of Organism.)
181. Have the human beings who inhabit the other worlds bodies like ours?
"They undoubtedly have bodies, because it is necessary for the spirit to be clothed with matter in order to act upon matter; but, this envelope is more or less material according to the degree of purity at which each spirit has arrived, and it is these gradations of purity that decide the different worlds through which we have to pass; for in our Father's house are many mansions, and therefore many degrees among those mansions. There are some who know this, and possess the consciousness of this fact, while upon the earth; and there are others who have no such intuition."
182. Can we obtain any exact knowledge of the physical and moral state of the different worlds?
"We, spirits, can only reply according to the degree at which you have arrived, that is to say, that we must not reveal these things to all, because some are not in the state which would enable them to understand such revelations, and would be confused by them."
In proportion as a spirit becomes purified, the body with which he clothes himself also approaches more nearly to the spirit-nature. The matter of which his body is composed is less dense he no longer crawls heavily on the surface of the ground; his bodily needs are less gross and the various living beings in those higher worlds are no longer obliged to destroy one another in order to feed themselves. A spirit incarnated in those worlds enjoys a greater degree of freedom, and possesses, in regard to objects at a distance, orders of perception of a nature unknown to us; he sees with his eyes what we see only in thought.
The purification of spirits determines the moral excellence of the corporeal beings in whom they are incarnated. The animal passions become weaker, and selfishness gives place to the sentiment of fraternity.
Thus, in worlds of higher degree than our earth, wars are unknown, because no one thinks of doing harm to his fellow-beings, and there is consequently no motive for hatred or discord. The foresight of their future, which is intuitive in the people of those worlds, and the sense of security resulting from a conscience void of remorse, cause them to look forward to death without fear, as being simply a process of transformation, the approach of which they perceive without the slightest uneasiness.
The duration of a lifetime, in the different worlds, appears to be proportionate to the degree of moral and physical superiority of each world and this is perfectly consonant with reason. The less material is the body, the less subject is it to the vicissitudes which disorganize it; the purer the spirit, the less subject is it to the passions which undermine and destroy it. This correspondence between moral and physical conditions is a proof of the beneficence of providential law, even in worlds of low degree; as the duration of the suffering which is the characteristic of life in those worlds is thus rendered proportionally shorter.
183. In passing from one world to another, does the spirit pass through a new infancy?
"Infancy is, in all worlds, a necessary transition; but it is not, in all of them, so stupid as it in yours."
184. Has a spirit the choice of the new world which he is to inhabit?
"Not always; but he can make his demand, and it may be granted, but only if he has deserved it; for the various worlds are only accessible to spirits according to the degree of their elevation."
-- If a spirit make no such demand, what is it that decides as to the world in which he will be reincarnated?
"The degree of his elevation."
185. Is the physical and moral state of the living beings of each globe always the same?
"No; worlds, like the beings that live in them, are subject to the law of progress. All have begun, like yours, by being in a state of inferiority; and the earth will undergo a transformation similar to that which has been accomplished by the others. It will become a terrestrial paradise, when the men by whom it is inhabited have become good."
The races which now people the earth will gradually disappear, and will be succeeded by others more and more perfect. Those transformed races will succeed the races now upon the earth, as these have succeeded earlier races, still more gross than the present ones.
186. Are there worlds in which the spirit, ceasing to inhabit a material body, has no longer any other envelope than the perispirit?
"Yes, and this envelope itself becomes so etherealised that, for you, it is as though it did not exist. This is the state of the fully purified spirits."
-- It would seem, from this statement, that there is no clearly marked line of demarcation between the state of the latter incarnations and that of pure spirit?
"No such demarcation exists. The difference between them growing gradually less and less, they blend into one another as the darkness of night melts into the dawn."
187. Is the substance of the perispirit the same in all globes?
"No; it is more or less ethereal. On passing from one world to another, a spirit clothes himself with the matter proper to each, changing his envelope with the rapidity of lightning."
188. Do the pure spirits inhabit special worlds, or are they in universal space without being attached to any particular globe?
"The pure spirits inhabit certain worlds, but they are not confined to them as men are confined to the earth; they possess, in a higher degree than any others, the power of instantaneous locomotion, which is equivalent to ubiquity."
According to the statements of spirits, the earth, as regards the physical and moral qualities of its inhabitants, is one of the least advanced of all the globes of our solar system. Mars is stated to be at a point even lower than that of the earth, and Jupiter to be greatly superior to the earth in every respect. The sun is not a world inhabited by corporeal beings, but is a place of meeting for the spirits of a higher order who, from thence, send out the radiations of their thought towards the other worlds of our solar system, which they govern through the instrumentality of spirits of a less elevated degree, to whom they transmit their action by the intermediary of the universal fluid. As regards its physical constitution, the sun would appear to be a focus of electricity; and all the other suns seem to be identical with ours in nature and function.
The size of planets, and their distance from the sun, have no necessary relation with their degree of advancement for Venus is said to be more advanced than the earth, and Saturn is declared to be less advanced than Jupiter.
The souls of many persons well known on this earth are said to be reincarnated in Jupiter, one of the worlds nearest to perfection; and much surprise has been felt on hearing it stated that persons who, when here, were not supposed to merit such a favor, should have been admitted into so advanced a globe. But there is nothing in this fact that need surprise us, if we consider, first, that certain spirits who have inhabited this planet may have been sent hither in fulfillment of a mission which, to our eyes, did not seem to place them in the foremost rank secondly, that they may have had, between their lives here and in Jupiter, intermediary existences in which they have advanced; and thirdly, that there are innumerable degrees of development in that world as in this one, and that there may be as much difference between these degrees as there is, amongst us, between the savage and the civilized man. It no more follows that a spirit is on a level with the most advanced beings of Jupiter because he inhabits that planet than it follows that an ignoramus is on a level with a philosopher because he inhabits the same town. The conditions of longevity, also, are as various in other worlds as they are on our earth and no comparison can be established between the ages of those who inhabit them. A person who had died some years previously, on being evoked, stated that he had been incarnated for six months in a world the name of which is unknown to us. Being questioned as to his age in that world, he replied, "that is a point which I am unable to decide; because, in the first place, we do not count time in the same way as you do, and, in the next place, our mode of existence is not the same as yours. Our development is much more rapid in this world; for, although it is only six of your months since I came here, I may say that, as regards intelligence, I am about what one usually is at the age of thirty in your earth."
A great number of similar replies have been given by other spirits; and these statements contain nothing improbable. Do we not see upon our earth a host of animals that acquire their normal development in the course of a few months? Why should not men do the same in other spheres? And it is to be remarked, moreover, that the degree of development acquired by a man at the age of thirty upon the earth may be only a sort of infancy in comparison with what he is destined to arrive at in worlds of higher degree. Short-sighted indeed are they who look upon our present selves as being in all respects the normal type of creation: and to suppose that there can be no other modes of existence than our present one, is, in soothe, a strange narrowing of our idea of the possibilities of the divine action.
189. Does the spirit enjoy the plenitude of his faculties from the beginning of his formation?
"No; for the spirit, like the man, has his infancy. Spirits at their origin have only an instinctive existence, and have scarcely any consciousness of themselves or of their acts; it is only little by little that their intelligence is developed."
190. What is the state of the soul at its first incarnation?
"A state analogous to that of infancy, considered in its relation to a human life. Its intelligence is only beginning to unfold itself; it may be said to be essaying to live."
191. Are the souls of our savages souls in a state of infancy?
"Of relative infancy; but they are souls that have already accomplished a certain amount of development, for they have passions."
-- Passions, then, are a sign of development?
"Of development, yes, but not of perfection. They are a sign of activity, and of the consciousness of the me; while, on the contrary, in the primitive state of the soul, intelligence and vitality exist only as germs."
The life of a spirit in his totality goes through successive phases similar to those of a corporeal lifetime. He passes gradually from the embryonic state to that of infancy, and arrives, through a succession of periods, at the adult state, which is that of his perfection, with this difference, however, that it is not subject either to decrepitude or to decline, like the corporeal life that the life of a spirit, though it has had a beginning, will have no end; that he takes what appears from our point of view to be an immense length of time in passing from the state of spirit-infancy to the attainment of his complete development; and that he accomplishes this progression, not in one and the same sphere, but by passing through different worlds. The life of a spirit is thus composed of a series of corporeal existences, each of which affords him an opportunity of progress; as each of his corporeal existences is composed of a series of days, in each of which he acquires a new increment of experience and of knowledge. But just as in a human lifetime there are days which bear no fruit, so in the life of a spirit there are corporeal existences which are barren of profitable result, because he has failed to make a right use of them.
192. Is it possible for us, by leading a perfect life in our present existence, to overleap all the intervening steps of the ascent, and thus to arrive at the state of pure spirits, without passing through the intermediate degrees?
"No; for what a man imagines to be perfect is very far from perfection; there are qualities which are entirely unknown to him, and which he could not now be made to comprehend. He may be as perfect as it is possible for his terrestrial nature to be; but he will still be very far from the true and absolute perfection. It is just as with the child, who, however precocious he may be, must necessarily pass through youth to reach adult life; or as the sick man, who must pass through convalescence before arriving at the complete recovery of his health. And besides, a spirit must advance in knowledge as well as in morality; if he has advanced in only one of these directions, he will have to advance equally in the other, in order to reach the top of the ladder of perfection. But it is nonetheless certain that the more a man advances in his present life the shorter and the less painful will be the trials he will have to undergo in his subsequent existences."
-- Can a man, at least, insure for himself, after his present life, a future existence less full of bitterness than this one?
"Yes, undoubtedly, he can abridge the length and the difficulties of the road. It is only he who does not care to advance that remains always at the same point."
193. Can a man in his new existences descend to a lower point than that which he has already reached?
"As regards his social position, yes; but not as regards his degree of progress as a spirit."
194. Can the soul of a good man, in a new incarnation, animate the body of a scoundrel?
"No; because a spirit cannot degenerate."
-- Can the soul of a bad man become the soul of a good man?
"Yes, if he has repented; and, in that case, his new incarnation is the reward of his efforts at amendment."
The line of march of all spirits is always progressive, never retrograde. They raise themselves gradually in the hierarchy of existence they never descend from the rank at which they have once arrived. In the course of their different corporeal existences they may descend in rank as men, but not as spirits. Thus the soul of one who has been at the pinnacle of earthly power may, in a subsequent incarnation, animate the humblest day-laborer, and vice versa; for the elevation of ranks among men is often in the inverse ratio of that of the moral sentiments. Herod was a king, and Jesus, a carpenter.
195. Might not the certainty of being able to improve one's self in a future existence lead some persons to persist in evil courses, through knowing that they will always be able to amend at some later period?
"He who could make such a calculation would have no real belief in anything; and such an one would not be any more restrained by the idea of incurring eternal punishment, because his reason would reject that idea, which leads to every sort of unbelief. An imperfect spirit, it is true, might reason in that way during his corporeal life; but when he is freed from his material body, he thinks very differently; for he soon perceives that he has made a great mistake in his calculations, and this perception causes him to carry an opposite sentiment into his next incarnation. It is thus that progress is accomplished; and it is thus also that you have upon the earth some men who are farther advanced than others, because some possess experience that the others have not yet acquired, but that will be gradually acquired by them. It depends upon each spirit to hasten his own advancement or to retard it indefinitely."
The man who has an unsatisfactory position desires to change it as soon as possible. He who is convinced that the tribulations of the present life are the consequences of his own imperfections will seek to insure for himself a new existence of a less painful character and this conviction will draw him away from the wrong road much more effectually than the threat of eternal flames, which he does not believe in.
196. As spirits can only be ameliorated by undergoing the tribulations of corporeal existence, it would seem to follow that the material life is a sort of sieve or strainer, by which the beings of the spirit-world are obliged to pass in order to arrive at perfection?
"Yes; that is the case. They improve themselves under the trials of corporeal life by avoiding evil, and by practising what is good. But it is only through many successive incarnations or purifications that they succeed, after a lapse of time which is longer or shorter according to the amount of effort put forth by them, in reaching the goal towards which they tend."
-- Is it the body that influences the spirit for its amelioration or is it the spirit that influences the body?
"Your spirit is everything; your body is a garment that rots, and nothing more."
A material image of the various degrees of purification of the soul is furnished by the juice of the grape. It contains the liquid called spirit or alcohol, but weakened by the presence of various foreign elements which change its nature, so that it is only brought to a state of absolute purity after several distillations, at each of which it is cleared of some portion of its impurity. The still represents the corporeal body into which the spirit enters for its purification the foreign elements represent the imperfections from which the perispirit is gradually freed, in proportion as the spirit approaches the state of relative perfection.
197. Is the spirit of a child who dies in infancy as advanced as that of an adult?
"He is sometimes much more so; for he may previously have lived longer and acquired more experience, especially if he be a spirit who has already made considerable progress."
-- The spirit of a child may, then, be more advanced than that of his father?
"That is very frequently the case. Do you not often see examples of this superiority in your world?"
198. In the case of a child who has died in infancy, and without having been able to do evil, does his spirit belong to the higher degrees of the spirit-hierarchy?
"If he has done no evil, he has also done nothing good; and God does not exonerate him from the trials which he has to undergo. If such a spirit belongs to a high degree, it is not because he was a child, but because he had achieved that degree of advancement as the result of his previous existences."
199. Why is it that life is so often cut short in childhood?
"The duration of the life of a child may be, for the spirit thus incarnated, the complement of an existence interrupted before its appointed term; and his death is often a trial or an expiation for his parents."
-- What becomes of the spirit of a child who dies in infancy?
"He recommences a new existence."
If man had but a single existence, and if, after this existence, his future state were fixed for all eternity, by what standard of merit could eternal felicity be adjudged to that half of the human race which dies in childhood, and by what would it be exonerated from the conditions of progress, often so painful, imposed on the other half? Such an ordering could not be reconciled with the justice of God. Through the reincarnation of spirits the most absolute justice is equally meted out to all. The possibilities of the future are open to all, without exception, and without favor to any. Those who are the last to arrive have only themselves to blame for the delay. Each man must merit happiness by his own right action, as he has to bear the consequences of his own wrong-doing.
It is, moreover, most irrational to consider childhood as a normal state of innocence. Do we not see children endowed with the vilest instincts at an age at which even the most vicious surroundings cannot have begun to exercise any influence upon them? Do we not see many who seem to bring with them at birth cunning, falseness, perfidy, and even the instincts of thieving and murder, and this in spite of the good examples by which they are surrounded? Human law absolves them from their misdeeds, because it regards them as having acted without discernment and it is right in doing so, for they really act instinctively rather than from deliberate intent. But whence proceed the instinctual differences observable in children of the same age, brought up amidst the same conditions, and subjected to the same influences? Whence comes this precocious perversity, if not from the inferiority of the spirit himself, since education has had nothing to do with producing it? Those who are vicious are so because their spirit has made less progress and, that being the case, each will have to suffer the consequences of his inferiority, not on account of his wrong-doing as a child, but as the result of his evil courses in his former existences. And thus the action of providential law is the same for each, and the justice of God reaches equally to all.
200. Have spirits sex?
"Not as you understand sex; for sex, in that sense, depends on the corporeal organization. Love and sympathy exist among them, but founded on similarity of sentiments."
201. Can a spirit, who has animated the body of a man, animate the body of a woman in a new existence, and vice versa?
"Yes; the same spirits animate men and women."
202. Does a spirit, when existing in the spirit-world, prefer to be incarnated as a man or as a woman?
"That is a point in regard to which a spirit is indifferent, and which is always decided in view of the trials which he has to undergo in his new corporeal life."
Spirits incarnate themselves as men or as women, because they are of no sex and, as it is necessary for them to develop themselves in every direction, both sexes, as well as every variety of social position, furnish them with special trials and duties, and with the opportunity of acquiring experience. A spirit who had always incarnated itself as a man would be only known by men, and vice versa.
203. Do parents transmit to their children a part of their soul, or do they only give them the animal life to which another soul afterwards adds the moral life?
"The animal life only is given by the parents, for the soul is indivisible. A stupid father may have clever children, and vice versa."
204. As we have had many existences, do our relationships extend beyond our present existence?
"It cannot be otherwise. The succession of their corporeal existences establishes among spirits a variety of relationships which date back from their former existences; and these relationships are often the cause of the sympathies or antipathies which you sometimes feel towards persons whom you seem to meet for the first time."
205. The doctrine of reincarnation appears, to some minds, to destroy family ties, by carrying them back to periods anterior to our present existence.
"It extends those ties, but it does not destroy them; on the contrary, the conviction that the relationships of the present life are based upon anterior affections renders the ties between members of the same family less precarious. It makes the duties of fraternity even more imperative, because in your neighbor, or in your servant, may be incarnated some spirit who has formerly been united to you by the closest ties of consanguinity or of affection."
-- It nevertheless diminishes the importance which many persons attach to their ancestry, since we may have had for our father a spirit who has belonged to a different race, or who has lived in a different social position?
"That is true; but this importance is usually founded on pride: for what most people honor in their ancestors is title, rank, and fortune. Many a one, who would blush to have an honest shoemaker for his grandfather, boasts of his descent from some debauchee of noble birth. But, no matter what men may say or do, they will not prevent things from going on according to the divine ordering; for God has not regulated the laws of nature to meet the demands of human vanity."
206. If there be no filiation among the spirits successively incarnated as the descendants of the same family, does it follow that it is absurd to honor the memory of one's ancestors?
"Assuredly not; for one ought to rejoice in belonging to a family in which elevated spirits have been incarnated. Although spirits do not proceed from one another, their affection for those who are related to them by family-ties is nonetheless real; for they are often led to incarnate themselves in such and such a family by pre-existing causes of sympathy, and by the influence of attractions due to relationships contracted in anterior lives. But you may be very sure that the spirits of your ancestors are in no way gratified by the honors you pay to their memory from a sentiment of pride. Their merits, however great they may have been, can only add to your deserts by stimulating your efforts to follow the good examples they may have given you; and it is only through this emulation of their good qualities that your remembrance can become for them not only agreeable but useful also."
207. Parents often transmit physical resemblance to their children; do they also transmit to them moral resemblance?
"No; because they have different souls or spirits. The body proceeds from the body, but the spirit does not proceed from any other spirit. Between the descendants of the same race there is no other relationship than that of consanguinity."
-- What is the cause of the moral resemblance that sometimes exists between parents and children?
"The attractive influence of moral sympathy, which brings together spirits who are animated by similar sentiments and tendencies."
208. Are the spirits of the parents without influence upon the spirit of their child after its birth?
"They exercise, on the contrary, a very great influence upon it. As we have already told you, spirits are made to conduce to one another's progress. To the spirits of the parents is confided the mission of developing those of their children by the training they give to them; it is a task which is appointed to them, and which they cannot without guilt fail to fulfill."
209. How is it that good and virtuous parents often give birth to children of perverse and evil nature? In other words, how is it that the good qualities of the parents do not always attract to them, through sympathy, a good spirit to animate their child?
"A wicked spirit may ask to be allowed to have virtuous parents, in the hope that their counsels may help him to amend his ways; and God often confides such an one to the care of virtuous persons, in order that he may be benefited by their affection and care."
210. Can parents, by their intentions and their prayers, attract a good spirit into the body of their child, instead of an inferior spirit?
"No; but they can improve the spirit of the child whom they have brought into the world, and is confided to them for that purpose. It is their duty to do this; but bad children are often sent as a trial for the improvement of the parents also."
211. What is the cause of the similarity of character so often existing among brothers, especially between twins?
"The sympathy of two spirits who are attracted by the similarity of their sentiments, and who are happy to be together."
212. In children whose bodies are joined together, and who have some of their organs in common, are there two spirits, that is to say, two souls?
"Yes; but their resemblance to one another often makes them seem to you as though there were but one."
213. Since spirits incarnate themselves in twins from sympathy whence comes the aversion that is sometimes felt by twins for one another?
"It is not a rule that only sympathetic spirits are incarnated as twins. Bad spirits may have been brought into this relation by their desire to struggle against each other on the stage of corporeal life."
214. In what way should we interpret the stories of children fighting in their mother's womb?
"As a figurative representation of their hatred to one another, which, to indicate its inveteracy, is made to date from before their birth. You rarely make sufficient allowance for the figurative and poetic element in certain statements."
215. What is the cause of the distinctive character which we observe in each people?
"Spirits constitute different families, formed by the similarity of their tendencies, which are more or less purified according to their elevation. Each people is a great family formed by the assembling together of sympathetic spirits. The tendency of the members of these families to unite together is the source of the resemblance which constitutes the distinctive character of each people. Do you suppose that good and benevolent spirits would seek to incarnate themselves among a rude and brutal people? No; spirits sympathies with masses of men as they sympathies with individuals. They go to the region of the earth with which they are most in harmony."
216. Does a spirit, in his new existence, retain any traces of the moral character of his former existences?
"Yes, he may do so; but, as he improves, he changes. His social position, also, may be greatly changed in his successive lives. If, having been a master in one existence, he becomes a slave in another, his tastes will be altogether different, and it would be difficult for you to recognize him. A spirit being the same in his various incarnations, there may be certain analogies between the manifestations of character in his successive lives; but these manifestations will, nevertheless, be modified by the change of conditions and habits incident to each of his new corporeal existences, until, through the ameliorations thus gradually effected, his character has been completely changed, he who was proud and cruel becoming humble and humane through repentance and effort."
217. Does a man, in his different incarnations, retain any traces of the physical character of his preceding existences?
"The body is destroyed, and the new one has no connection with the old one. Nevertheless, the spirit is reflected in the body; and although the body is only matter, yet, being modeled on the capacities of the spirit, the latter impresses upon it a certain character that is more particularly visible in the face, and especially in the eyes, which have been truly declared to be the mirror of the soul, that is to say, that the face reflects the soul more especially than does the rest of the body. And this is so true that a very ugly face may please when it forms part of the envelope of a good, wise, and humane spirit; while, on the other hand, very handsome faces may cause you no pleasurable emotion, or may even excite a movement of repulsion. It might seem, at first sight, that only well-made bodies could be the envelopes of good spirits, and yet you see every day virtuous and superior men with deformed bodies. Without there being any very marked resemblance between them, the similarity of tastes and tendencies may, therefore, give what is commonly called a family-likeness to the corporeal bodies successively assumed by the same spirit."
The body with which the soul is clothed in a new incarnation not having any necessary connection with the one which it has quitted (since it may belong to quite another race), it would be absurd to infer a succession of existences from a resemblance which may be only fortuitous; but, nevertheless, the qualities of the spirit often modify the organs which serve for their manifestations, and impress upon the countenance, and even on the general manner, a distinctive stamp. It is thus that an expression of nobility and dignity may be found under the humblest exterior, while the fine clothes of the grandee are often unable to hide the baseness and ignominy of their wearer. Some persons, who have risen from the lowest position, adopt without effort the habits and manners of the higher ranks, and seem to have returned to their native element while others, notwithstanding their advantages of birth and education, always seem to be out of their proper place in refined society. How can these facts be explained unless as a reflex of what the spirit has been in his former existences?
218. Does a spirit retain, when incarnated, any trace of the perceptions he has had, and the knowledge he had acquired, in its former existences?
"There remains with him a vague remembrance, which gives him what you call innate ideas."
-- Then the theory of innate ideas is not a chimera?
"No; the knowledge acquired in each existence is not lost. A spirit, when freed from matter, always remembers what he has learned. He may, during incarnation, forget partially and for a time, but the latent intuition which he preserves of all that he has once known aids him in advancing. Were it not for this intuition of past acquisitions, he would always have to begin his education over again. A spirit, at each new existence, takes his departure from the point at which he had arrived at the close of his preceding existence."
219. If that be the case, there must be a very close connection between two successive existences?
"That connection is not always so close as you might suppose it to be; for the conditions of the two existences are often very different, and, in the interval between them, the spirit may have made considerable progress." (216.)
220. What is the origin of the extraordinary faculties of those individuals who, without any preparatory study, appear to possess intuitively certain branches of knowledge, such as languages, arithmetic, etc.?
"The vague remembrance of their past; the result of progress previously made by the soul, but of which it has no present consciousness. From what else could those intuitions be derived? The body changes, but the spirit does not change, although he changes his garment."
221. In changing our body, can we lose certain intellectual faculties, as, for instance, the taste for an art?
"Yes, if you have sullied that faculty, or made a bad use of it. Moreover, an intellectual faculty may be made to slumber during an entire existence, because the spirit wishes to exercise another faculty having no connection with the one which, in that case, remains latent, but will come again into play in a later existence."
222. Is it to a retrospective remembrance that are due the instinctive sentiment of the existence of God, and the presentiment of a future life, which appear to be natural to man, even in the savage state?
"Yes, to a remembrance which man has preserved of what he knew as a spirit before he was incarnated; but pride often stifles this sentiment."
-- Is it to this same remembrance that are due certain beliefs analogous to spiritist doctrine, which are found among every people?
"That doctrine is as old as the world, and is, therefore, to be found everywhere; a ubiquity which proves it to be true. The incarnate spirit, preserving the intuition of his state as a spirit, possesses an instinctive consciousness of the invisible world; but this intuition is often perverted by prejudices, and debased by the admixture of superstitions resulting from ignorance."