1. PRELUDES TO RETURN -- 2. UNION OF SOUL AND BODY: ABORTION. -- 3. MORAL AND INTELLECTUAL FACULTIES OF MANKIND. -- 4. INFLUENCE OF ORGANISM -- 5. IDIOCY AND MADNESS -- 6. INFANCY -- 7. TERRESTRIAL SYMPATHIES AND ANTIPATHIES -- 8. FORGETFULNESS OF THE PAST.
Preludes to Return
330. Do spirits foresee the epoch of their next return to corporeal life?
"They have the presentiment of that return, as a blind man feels the heat of the fire he is approaching. They know that they will be reincarnated, as you know that you will die; but without knowing when the change will occur." (166.)
-- Reincarnation, then, is a necessity of spirit-life, as death is a necessity of corporeal life?
331. Do all spirits occupy themselves beforehand with their approaching incarnation?
"There are some who never give it a thought, and who even know nothing about it; that depends on their greater or less degree of advancement. In some cases, the uncertainty in which they are left in regard to their future is a punishment."
332. Can a spirit hasten or retard the moment of his reincarnation?
"He may hasten it by the action of a strong desire; he may also put it off if he shrink from the trial awaiting him (for the cowardly and the indifferent are to be found among spirits as among men), but he cannot do so with impunity. He suffers from such delay, as the sick man suffers who shrinks from employing the remedy which alone can cure him."
333. If a spirit found himself tolerably happy in an average condition among errant spirits, could he prolong that state indefinitely?
"No, not indefinitely. The necessity of advancing is one which is felt by every spirit, sooner or later. All spirits have to ascend; it is their destiny."
334. Is the union of a given soul with a given body predestined beforehand, or is the choice of a body only made at the last moment?
"The spirit who is to animate a given body is always designated beforehand. Each spirit, on choosing the trial he elects to undergo, demands to be reincarnated; and God, who sees and knows all things, has foreseen and foreknown that such and such a soul would be united to such and such a body."
335. Is the spirit allowed to choose the body into which he will enter, or does he only choose the kind of life which is to serve for his trial?
"He may choose a body also, for the imperfections of a given body are so many trials that will aid his advancement, if he succeeds in vanquishing the obstacles thus placed in his way. This choice does not always depend on himself, but he may ask to be allowed to make it."
-- Could a spirit refuse, at the last moment, to enter into the body that had been chosen by him?
"If he refused, he would suffer much more than one who had not attempted to undergo a new trial."
336. Could it happen that a child about to be born should find no spirit willing to incarnate himself in it?
"God provides for all contingencies. Every child who is predestined to be born viable, is also predestined to have a soul. Nothing is ever created without design."
337. Is the union of a given soul with a given body ever imposed by God?
"It is sometimes imposed, as well as the different trials to be undergone by a spirit, and especially when the latter is still too backward to be able to choose wisely for himself. A spirit may be constrained, as an expiation, to unite himself with the body of a child that, by the circumstances of its birth, and the position it will have in the world, will become for him an instrument of chastisement."
338. If several spirits demanded to incarnate themselves in a body about to be born, in what way would the decision be made between them?
"In such a case, it is God who judges as to which spirit is best fitted to fulfill the destiny appointed for the child; but, as I have already told you, the spirit is designated before the instant in which he is to unite himself with the body."
339. Is the moment of incarnation accompanied by a confusion similar to that which follows the spirit's separation from the body?
"Yes, but much greater and especially much longer. At death the spirit is emancipated from the state of slavery; at birth, he re-enters it."
340. Does the moment in which he is to reincarnate himself appear to a spirit as a solemn one? Does he accomplish that act as something serious and important for him?
"He is like a traveler who embarks on a perilous voyager, and who does not know whether he may not find his death in the waves among which he is venturing."
Just as the death of the body is a sort of rebirth for the spirit, so reincarnation is for him a sort of death, or rather of exile and claustration. He quits the world of spirits for the corporeal world just as a man quits the corporeal world for the world of spirits. A spirit knows that he will be reincarnated, just as a man knows that he will die; but, like the latter, he only becomes aware of the change at the moment when it occurs. It is at this moment that the confusion produced by the change takes possession of him, as is the case with a man in the act of dying and this confusion lasts until his new existence is fully established. The commencement of reincarnation is, for the spirit, a sort of dying.
341. Is a spirit's uncertainty, in regard to the successful issue of the trials he is about to undergo in his new life, a cause of anxiety to him before his incarnation?
"Yes, of very great anxiety, since those trials will retard or hasten his advancement, according as he shall have borne them ill or well."
342. Is a spirit accompanied, at the moment of his reincarnation, by spirit-friends who come to be present at his departure from the spirit-world, as they come to receive him when he returns to it?
"That depends on the sphere which the spirit inhabits. If he belongs to a sphere in which affection reigns, spirits who love him remain with him to the last moment, encourage him, and often even follow him in his new life."
343. Is it the spirit-friends who thus follow us in our earthly life that we sometimes see in our dreams manifesting affection for us, but whose features are unknown to us?
"Yes, in very many cases; they come to visit you as you visit a prisoner in his cell."
344. At what moment is the soul united to the body?
"The union begins at the moment of conception, but is only complete at the moment of birth. From the moment of conception, the spirit designated to inhabit a given body is united to that body by a fluidic link, which becomes closer and closer up to the instant of birth; the cry then uttered by the infant announces that he is numbered among the living."
345. Is the union between the spirit and the body definitive from the moment of conception? Could the spirit, during this first period of that union, renounce inhabiting the body designed for him?
"The union between them is definitive in this sense namely, that no other spirit could replace the one who has been designated for that body. But, as the links which hold them together are at first very weak, they are easily broken, and may be severed by the will of a spirit who draws back from the trial he had chosen. But, in that case, the child does not live."
346. What becomes of a spirit, if the body he has chosen happens to die before birth?
"He chooses another body."
-- What can be the use of premature deaths?
"Such deaths are most frequently caused by the imperfections of matter."
347. What benefit can a spirit derive from his incarnation in a body which dies a few days after birth?
"In such a case, the new being's consciousness of his existence is so slightly developed that his death is of little importance. As we have told you, such deaths are often intended mainly as a trial for the parents."
348. Does a spirit know beforehand that the body he chooses has no chance of living?
"He sometimes knows it; but if he chooses it on this account, it is because he shrinks from the trial he foresees."
349. When, from any cause, a spirit has failed to accomplish a proposed incarnation, is another existence provided for him immediately?
"Not always immediately. The spirit requires time to make a new choice, unless his instantaneous reincarnation had been previously decided upon."
350. When a spirit is definitively united to an infant body, and it is thus too late for him to refuse this union does he sometimes regret the choice he has made?
"If you mean to ask whether, as a man, he may complain of the life he has to undergo, and whether he may not wish it were otherwise, I answer, Yes; but if you mean to ask whether he regrets the choice he has made, I answer, No, for he does not remember that he has made it. A spirit, when once incarnated, cannot regret a choice which he is not conscious of having made; but he may find the burden he has assumed too heavy, and, if he believes it to be beyond his strength, he may have recourse to suicide."
351. Does a spirit, in the interval between conception and birth, enjoy the use of all his faculties?
"He does so more or less according to the various periods of gestation; for he is not yet incarnated in his new body, but only attached to it. From the instant of conception confusion begins to take possession of the spirit, who is thus made aware that the moment has come for him to enter upon a new existence; and this confusion becomes more and more dense until the period of birth. In the interval between these two terms, his state is nearly that of an incarnated spirit during the sleep of the body. In proportions as the moment of birth approaches, his ideas become effaced, together with his remembrance of the past, of which, when once he has entered upon corporeal life, he is no longer conscious. But this remembrance comes back to him little by little when he has returned to the spirit-world."
352. Does the spirit, at the moment of birth, recover the plenitude of his faculties?
"No; they are gradually developed with the growth of his organs. The corporeal life is for him a new existence; he has to learn the use of his bodily instruments. His ideas come back to him little by little, as in the case of a man who, waking out of slumber, should find himself in a different situation from that in which he was before he fell asleep."
353. The union of the spirit and the body not being completely and definitively consummated until birth has taken place can the fetus be considered as having a soul?
"The spirit who is to animate it exists, as it were, outside of it; strictly speaking, therefore, it has no soul, since the incarnation of the latter is only in course of being effected; but it is linked to the soul which it is to have."
354. What is the nature of intra-uterine life?
"That of the plant which vegetates. The fetus, however, lives with vegetable and animal life, to which the union of a soul with the child-body at birth adds spiritual life."
355. Are there, as is indicated by science, children so constituted that they cannot live, and if so, for what purpose ore they produced?
"That often happens. Such births are permitted as a trial, either for the parents or for the spirit appointed to animate it."
356. Are there, among still-born children, some who were never intended for the incarnation of a spirit?
"Yes, there are some who never had a spirit assigned to them, for whom nothing was to be done. In such a case, it is simply as a trial for the parents that the child arrives."
-- Can a being of this nature come to its term?
"Yes, sometimes; but it does not live."
-- Every child that survives its birth has, then, necessarily a spirit incarnated in it?
"What would it be if such were not the case? It would not be a human being."
357. What are, for a spirit, the consequences of abortion?
"It is an existence that is null, and must be commenced over again."
358. Is artificial abortion a crime, no matter at what period of gestation it may be produced?
"Every transgression of the law of God is a crime. The mother, or any other, who takes the life of an unborn child, is necessarily criminal; for, by so doing, a soul is prevented from undergoing the trial of which the body thus destroyed was to have been the instrument."
359. In cases in which the life of the mother would be endangered by the birth of the child, is it a crime to sacrifice the child in order to save the mother?
"It is better to sacrifice the being whose existence is not yet complete than the being whose existence is complete."
360. Is it rational to treat the fetus with the same respect as the body of a child that has lived?
"In the one, as in the other, you should recognize the will and the handiwork of God, and these are always to be respected."
361. Whence has man his moral qualities, good or bad?
"They are those of the spirit who is incarnated in him. The purer is that spirit, the more decidedly is the man inclined to goodness."
-- It would seem, then, that a good man is the incarnation of a good spirit, and a vicious man that of a bad spirit?
"Yes; but you should rather say 'of an imperfect spirit,' otherwise it might be supposed that there are spirits who will always remain bad, what you call devils."
362. What is the character of the individuals in whom light and foolish spirits are incarnated?
"They are hare-brained, prankish, and sometimes mischievous."
363. Have spirits any passions that do not belong to humanity?
"No; if they had, they would communicate them to you."
364. Is it one and the same spirit that gives a man both his moral and his intellectual qualities?
"Certainly it is the same. A man has not two spirits in him."
365. How is it that some men, who are very intelligent, which shows that they have in them a spirit of considerable advancement, are also extremely vicious?
"It is because the spirit incarnated in a man is not sufficiently purified, and the man yields to the influence of other spirits still worse than himself. The upward progress of a spirit is accomplished by slow degrees; but this progress does not take place simultaneously in all directions. At one period of his career he may advance in knowledge, at another in morality."
366. What is to be thought of the opinion according to which a man's various intellectual and moral faculties are the product of so many different spirits incarnated in him, and each possessing a special aptitude?
"The absurdity of such an opinion becomes evident on a moment's reflection. Each spirit is destined to possess all possible aptitudes; but, in order to progress, he must possess one sole and unitary will. If a man were an amalgam of different spirits, this unitary will would not exist, and he would possess no individuality, because, at his death, all the spirits would fly off in different directions, like birds escaped from a cage. Men often complain of not comprehending certain things, and yet how ingenious they are in multiplying difficulties, while they have within reach the simplest and most natural of explanations! Such an opinion is but another instance of the way in which men so often take the effect for the cause. It does for man what the pagans did for God. They believed in the existence of as many gods as there are phenomena in the universe; but, even among them, the more sensible ones only saw in those phenomena a variety of effects having for their cause one and the same God."
The physical and moral worlds offer us, in regard to this subject, numerous points of comparison. While the attention of mankind was confined to the appearance of natural phenomena, they believed in the existence of many kinds of matter. In the present day, it is seen that all those phenomena, however varied, may very probably be merely the result of modifications of a single elementary matter. The various faculties of a human being are manifestations of one and the same cause, which is the soul or spirit incarnated in him, and not of several souls just as the different sounds of an organ are the product of one and the same air, and not of as many sorts of air as there are sounds. According to the theory in question, when a man acquires or loses aptitudes or tendencies, such modifications would be the result of the coming or going of a corresponding number of the spirits conjoined with him, which would make of him a multiple being without individuality, and, consequently, without responsibility. This theory, moreover, is disproved by the numerous manifestations of spirits which conclusively demonstrate their personality and their identity.
367. Does a spirit, in uniting itself with a body, identify itself with matter?
"Matter is only the envelope of the spirit, as clothing is the envelope of the body. A spirit, in uniting himself with a body, retains the attributes of his spiritual nature."
368. Does a spirit exercise his faculties in full freedom after his union with a body?
"The exercise of faculties depends on the organs which serve them for instruments. Their exercise is weakened by the grossness of matter."
-- It would appear, then, that the material envelope is an obstacle to the free manifestation of a spirit's faculties, as the opacity of ground glass is an obstacle to the free emission of light?
"Yes, an obstacle which is exceedingly opaque."
The action exercised upon a spirit by the gross matter of his body may also be compared to that of muddy water, impeding the movements of the objects plunged into it.
369. Is the free exercise of a spirit's faculties subordinated, during his incarnation, to the development of his corporeal organs?
"Those organs are the soul's instruments for the manifestation of its faculties; that manifestation is, therefore, necessarily subordinated to the degree of development and perfection of those organs, as the perfection of a piece of manual work depends on the goodness of the tool employed."
370. May we, from the influence of the corporeal organs, infer a connection between the development of the cerebral organs and that of the moral and intellectual faculties?
"Do not confound effect and cause. A spirit always possesses the faculties that belong to him; but you must remember that it is not the organs that give the faculties, but the faculties that incite to the development of the organs."
-- According to this view of the subject the diversity of aptitudes in each man depends solely on the state of his spirit?
"To say that it does so 'solely,' would not be altogether correct. The qualities of the incarnated spirit are, undoubtedly, the determining principle of those aptitudes; but allowance must be made for the influence of matter, which hinders every man, more or less, in the exercise of the faculties inherent in his soul."
A spirit, in incarnating himself, brings with him certain characterial predispositions therefore, if we admit the existence, for each of these, of a special organ in the brain, the development of the cerebral organs is seen to be an effect, and not a cause. If his faculties were a result of his bodily organs, man would be a mere machine, without free-will, and would not be responsible for his actions. Moreover, if such were the case, we should be forced to admit that the greatest geniuses-men of science, poets, artists--are only such because a lucky chance has given them certain special organs whence it would follow, still further, that, but for the chance--acquisition of those organs, they would not have been geniuses, and that the stupidest of men might have been a Newton, a Virgil, or a Raphael, if he had been provided with certain organs a supposition still more flagrantly absurd, if we attempt to apply it to the explanation of the moral qualities. For, according to this system, Saint Vincent de Paul, had he been gifted by nature with such and such an organ, might have been a scoundrel and the greatest scoundrel alive, had he only been gifted with an organ of an opposite nature, might have been a Saint Vincent de Paul. If, on the contrary, we admit that our special organs, supposing such to exist, are an effect and not a cause, that they are developed by the exercise of the faculties to which they correspond, as muscles are developed by movement, we arrive at a theory which is certainly not irrational. Let us employ an illustration equally conclusive and commonplace. By certain physiognomic signs we recognize a man who is addicted to drink. Is it those signs that make him a drunkard, or is it his drunkenness that produces those signs? It may be safely asserted that our organs are a consequence of our faculties.
371. Is there any foundation for the common belief that the souls of idiots are of a nature inferior to those of others?
"No; they have a human soul, which is often more intelligent than you suppose, and which suffers acutely from the insufficiency of its means of communication, as the dumb man suffers from his inability to speak."
372. What is the aim of Providence in creating beings so ill-treated by nature as idiots?
"Idiots are incarnations of spirits who are undergoing punishment, and who suffer from the constraint they experience, and from their inability to manifest themselves by means of organs which are undeveloped, or out of order."
-- Then it is not correct to say that organs are without influence upon faculties?
"We have never said that organs are without influence. They have very great influence on the manifestation of faculties, but they do not give faculties; there is just the difference. A skilful player will not make good music with a bad instrument, but that will not prevent his being a good player."
It is necessary to distinguish between the normal state and the pathologic state. In the normal state, the moral strength of an incarnated spirit enables him to triumph over the obstacles which are placed in his way by matter; but there are cases in which matter opposes a resistance so powerful that the manifestations of the spirit incarnated in it are hindered or changed from what he intended, as in idiocy and madness. These cases are pathologic and as the soul, in such states, is not in the enjoyment of its full liberty, human law itself exempts such persons from the responsibility of their actions.
373. What merit can there be in the existence of beings who, like idiots, can do neither good nor evil, and therefore cannot progress?
"Such an existence is imposed as an expiation of the abuse which a spirit has made of certain faculties; it constitutes a pause in his career."
-- The body of an idiot may, then, contain a spirit that has animated a man of genius in a preceding existence?
"Yes; genius sometimes becomes a scourge when it is abused."
Intellectual superiority is not always accompanied by an equal degree of moral superiority, and the greatest geniuses may have much to expiate. For this reason, they often have to undergo an existence inferior to the one they have previously accomplished, which is a cause of suffering for them the hindrances to the manifestation of his faculties thus imposed upon a spirit being like chains that fetter the movements of a vigorous man. The idiot may be said to be lame in the brain, as the halt is lame in the legs, and the blind, in the eyes.
374. Is the idiot, in the spirit-state, conscious of his mental condition?
"Yes; very often. He comprehends that the chains which hinder his action are a trial and an expiation."
375. When a man is mad, what is the state of his spirit?
"A spirit, in the state of freedom, receives his impressions directly, and exerts his action directly upon matter; but when incarnated, he is in an altogether different condition, and compelled to act only through the instrumentality of special organs. If some or all of those organs are injured, his actions or his impressions, as far as those organs are concerned, are interrupted. If he loses his eyes, he becomes blind; if he loses his hearing, he becomes deaf; and so on. Suppose that the organ which presides over the manifestations of intelligence and of will is partially or entirely weakened or modified in its action, and you will easily understand that the spirit, having at his service only organs that are incomplete or diverted from their proper action, must experience a functional perturbation of which he is perfectly conscious, but is not able to arrest the course."
-- It is then always the body, and not the spirit, that is disorganized?
"Yes; but you must not forget that, just as a spirit acts upon matter, matter, to a certain extent, reacts upon him; and that he may therefore find himself, for the time being, subjected to the influence of the false impressions consequent on the vitiated state of his organs of perception and of action. And it may happen, when this mental aberration has continued for a long time, that the repetition of the same perverted action may exercise upon a spirit an influence from which he is only delivered after his complete separation from all material impressions."
376. How is it that madness sometimes leads to suicide?
"In such cases, the spirit suffers from the constraint which he feels, and from his inability to manifest himself freely; and he therefore seeks death as a means of breaking his chains."
377. Does the spirit of a madman continue to feel, after death, the derangement from which he suffered in his corporeal life?
"He may continue to feel it for some time after death, until he is completely freed from matter; just as a man, on waking, continues to feel, for some little time, the confusion in which he has been plunged by sleep."
378. How can brain-disease act upon a spirit after his death?
"It is an effect of remembrance, which weighs like a burden upon the spirit; and as he was not aware of all that took place during his madness, he always needs a certain amount of time for recovering the hang of his ideas. It is for this reason that the continuance of his uneasiness after death is always proportioned to the longer or shorter continuance of the corporeal insanity from which he has previously suffered. A spirit, when freed from the body, still feels, for a longer or shorter time, the impression of the links that united him with it."
379. Is the spirit who animates the body of a child as developed as that of an adult?
"He may be more so, if, before reincarnating himself, he had progressed farther; it is only the imperfection of his organs that prevents him from manifesting himself. He acts according to the state of the instrument by which alone, when incarnated, he can manifest himself."
380. During the infancy of his body, and without reference to the obstacle opposed to his free manifestation by the imperfection of his organs, does a spirit think as a child, or as an adult?
"While he remains a child, it is evident that his organs of thought, not being developed, cannot give him all the intuition of an adult; his range of intellect is therefore only narrow, until increasing age has ripened his reason. The confusion which accompanies incarnation does not cease, all at once, at the moment of birth; it its only dissipated gradually with the development of the bodily organs."
The observation of a fact of human life furnishes us with a confirmation of the preceding reply, namely, that the dreams of childhood have not the character of those of adult age. Their object is almost always childish a characteristic indication of the nature of a spirit's thoughts during the infancy of his organs.
381. At the death of a child, does its spirit at once regain his former vigor?
"He should do so, since he is freed from his fleshly envelope; but, in point of fact, he only regains his former lucidity when the separation is complete, that is to say, when there is no longer any connection between the spirit and the body."
382. Does the incarnated spirit suffer, during the state of childhood, from the constraint imposed on him by the imperfections of his organs?
"No; that state is a necessity. It is a part of the ordination of nature, and of the providential plan. It constitutes a time of repose for the spirit."
383. What is, the use, for a spirit, of passing through the state of infancy?
"The aim of incarnation is the improvement of the spirit subjected to it; and a spirit is more accessible during childhood to the impressions he receives, and which may conduce to his advancement-the end to which all those who are entrusted with his education should contribute."
384. Why is it that the infant's first utterances are those of weeping?
"It is in order to excite the mother's interest on his behalf, and to ensure to him the care he needs. Can you not understand that if a child, before he is able to speak, uttered only cries of joy, those around him would trouble themselves very little about his wants? In all these arrangements admire the wisdom of Providence."
385. Whence comes the change which occurs in the character of the young on the approach of manhood: is it the spirit that becomes modified?
"The spirit, regaining possession of himself, shows himself such as he was before his incarnation.
"You know not the secrets hidden under the seeming innocence of children. You know neither what they are, nor what they have been, nor what they will be; and nevertheless you love and cherish them as though they were a part of yourselves, and to such a degree, that the love of a mother for her children is reputed to be the greatest love that one being can have for another. Whence comes the sweet affection, the tender benevolence, that even strangers feel for a child? Do you know its origin? No; but I will now explain it to you.
"Children are beings sent by God into new existences, and, in order that they may not be able to reproach Him with having been unduly severe to them, He gives them all the external appearances of innocence; even in the case of a child of the worst possible nature, its misdeeds are covered by its unconsciousness of the quality of its acts. This apparent innocence does not constitute for children any real superiority over what they previously were; it is merely the image of what they ought to be, and, if they are not such, it will be on themselves alone that the punishment will fall.
"But it is not merely for themselves that God has given to children this appearance of innocence; it is given to them also, and especially, in view of their parents, whose love is so necessary to them in their weakness: for this love would be greatly diminished by the sight of a harsh or cross-grained nature, whereas, believing their children to be good and gentle, they give them all their affection, and surround them with the most minute and delicate care. But, when children no longer need this protection, this assistance, which has been given them during fifteen or twenty years, their real character and individuality reappears in all its nudity. He who is really good remains good; but, even then, his character reveals many traits and shades that were hidden during his earlier years.
"You see that God's ways are always for the best; and that, for the pure in heart, they are easily explicable.
"Get it well into your minds that the spirit of the child who is born among you may have come from a world in which he has acquired habits totally different from yours; how would it be possible for this new being, coming among you with passions, inclinations, tastes, entirely opposed to yours, to accommodate himself to your world, if be came among you in any other way than in that which has been ordained by God, that is to say, by passing through the sieve of infancy? It is through this sifting process of infancy that all the thoughts, all the characteristics, all the varieties of beings engendered by the crowd of worlds in which creatures pursue the work of growth, are eventually mingled. And you, also, on dying, find yourselves in a sort of infancy, and in the midst of a new family of brothers; and in your new non-terrestrial existence you are ignorant of the habits, manners, relations of a world which is new to you, and you find it difficult to express yourselves in a language which you are not accustomed to employ, a language more living than is your thought today. (319.)
"Childhood possesses yet another utility. Spirits only enter into corporeal life in order to effect their improvement, their self-amelioration. The weakness of corporeal youth tends to render them more pliable, more amenable to the counsels of those whose experience should aid their progress. It is thus that evil tendencies are repressed, and faulty characters are gradually reformed; and this repression and reformation constitute the duty confided by God to those who assume the parental relation, a sacred mission of which parents will have to render a solemn account to Him.
"You see, therefore, that childhood is not only useful, necessary, indispensable, but that it is, moreover, the natural result of the laws which God has established, and which govern the universe.
386. Could two beings, who have already known and loved each other, meet again and recognize one another, in another corporeal existence?
"They could not recognize one another; but they might be attracted to each other. The attraction resulting from the ties of a former existence is often the cause of the most intimate affectional unions of a subsequent existence. It often happens in your world that two persons are drawn together by circumstances which appear to be merely fortuitous, but which are really due to the attraction exercised upon one another by two spirits who are unconsciously seeking each other amidst the crowds by whom they are surrounded."
-- Would it not be more agreeable for them to recognize each other?
"Not always; the remembrance of past existences would be attended with greater disadvantages than you suppose. After death they would recognize one another, and would then remember the periods they had passed together." (392.)
387. Is sympathy always the result of anterior acquaintanceship?
"No; two spirits who are in harmony naturally seek one another, without their having been previously acquainted with each other as men."
388. May it not be that the meetings which sometimes take place between two persons, and which are attributed to chance, are really due to the action of some sort of sympathetic relationship?
"There are, among thinking beings, orders of relationship with which you are not yet acquainted. Magnetism is the pilot of the science that will enable you to understand them at a future period."
389. What is the cause of the instinctive repulsion sometimes excited in us by persons whom we see for the first time?
"The latent antipathy of two spirits who divine each other's nature, and recognize one another, without the need of speaking together."
390. Is instinctive antipathy always the sign of an evil nature on the part of one or both of the parties who feel it?
"Two spirits are not necessarily evil because they are not sympathetic; for antipathy may spring from a want of similarity in their way of thinking. But in proportion as they ascend, these shades of difference are effaced, and their antipathy disappears."
391. Does the antipathy of two persons take its first beginning on the part of the better or the worse one of the two?
"It may begin simultaneously on the part of both; but, in such a case, its causes and effects are different. A bad spirit feels antipathy against whoever is able to judge and to unmask him. On seeing such a person for the first time, he knows that he will be disapproved by him; his repulsion changes into hatred or jealousy, and inspires him with the desire of doing harm to the object of his antipathy. A good spirit feels repulsion for a had one, because he knows that he will not be understood by him, and that they do not share the same sentiments; but, strong in his own superiority, he feels neither hatred nor jealousy towards him, and contents himself with avoiding and pitying him."
392. Why does the incarnated spirit lose the remembrance of his past?
"Man cannot, and may not, know everything; God, in His wisdom, has so ordained. Without the veil which hides certain things from his view, man would be dazzled, like one who passes suddenly from darkness to light. Through the forgetfulness of his past a man is more fully himself."
393. How can a man be responsible for deeds, and atone for faults, of which he has no remembrance? How can he profit by the experience acquired in existences which he has forgotten? We could understand that the tribulations of life might be a lesson for him if he remembered the wrong-doing which has brought them upon him; but if he forgets his former existences, each new existence is, for him, as though it were his first, and thus the work is always to be begun over again. How is this to be reconciled with the justice of God?
"With each new existence a spirit becomes more intelligent, and better able to distinguish between good and evil. Where would be his freedom if he remembered all his past? When a spirit reenters his primitive life (the spirit-life), his whole past unrolls itself before him. He sees the faults which he has committed, and which are the cause of his suffering, and he also sees what would have prevented him from committing them; he comprehends the justice of the situation which is assigned to him, and he then seeks out the new existence that may serve to repair the mistakes of the one which has just passed away. He demands new trials analogous to those in which he has failed, or which he considers likely to aid his advancement; and he demands of the spirits who are his superiors to aid him in the new task he is about to undertake, for he knows that the spirit who will be appointed as his guide in that new existence will endeavor to make him cure himself of his faults by giving him a sort of intuition of those he has committed in the past. This intuition is the evil thought, the criminal desire, which often come to you, and which you instinctively resist, attributing your resistance to the principles you have received from your parents, while it is due in reality to the voice of your conscience; and that voice is the reminiscence of your past, warning you not to fall again into the faults you have already committed. He who, having entered upon a new existence, undergoes its trials with fortitude, and resists its temptations to wrong-doing, rises in the hierarchy of spirits, and takes a higher place when he returns into the normal life."
If we have not an exact remembrance, during our corporeal life, of what we have been, and of the good or evil we have done, in our preceding existences, we have the intuition of our past, of which we have a reminiscence in the instinctive tendencies that our conscience, which is the desire we have conceived to avoid committing our past faults in the future, warns us to resist.
394. In worlds more advanced than ours, where the human race is not a prey to our physical wants and infirmities, do men understand that they are better off than we are? Happiness is usually relative; it is felt to be such by comparison with a state that is less happy. As some of those worlds, though better than ours, have not reached perfection, the men by whom they are inhabited must have their own troubles and annoyances. Among us, the rich man, although he has not to endure the physical privations that torture the poor, is nonetheless a prey to tribulations of other kinds that embitter his life. What I ask is, whether the inhabitants of those worlds do not consider themselves to be just as unhappy, according to their standard of happiness, as we consider ourselves to be according to ours; and whether they do not, like us, complain of their fate, not having the remembrance of an inferior existence to serve them as a standard of comparison?
"To this question two different answers must be given. There are some worlds among those of which you speak the inhabitants of which have a very clear and exact remembrance of their past existences, and therefore can and do appreciate the happiness which God permits them to enjoy. But there are others, of which the inhabitants, though placed, as you say, in better conditions than yours, are, nevertheless, subject to great annoyances, and even to much unhappiness, and who do not appreciate the more favorable conditions of their life, because they have no remembrance of a state still more unhappy. But if they do not rightly appreciate those conditions as men, they appreciate them more justly on their return to the spirit-world."
Is there not, in the forgetfulness of our past existences, and especially when they have been painful, a striking proof of the wisdom and beneficence of Providential arrangements? It is only in worlds of higher advancement, and when the remembrance of our painful existences in the past is nothing more to us than the shadowy remembrance of an unpleasant dream, that those existences are allowed to present themselves to our memory. Would not the painfulness of present suffering, in worlds of low degree, be greatly aggravated by the remembrance of all the miseries we may have had to undergo in the past? These considerations should lead us to conclude that whatever has been appointed by God is for the best, and that it is not our province to find fault with His works, nor to decide upon the way in which He ought to have regulated the universe.
The remembrance of our former personality would be attended, in our present existence, with many very serious disadvantages. In some cases, it would cause us cruel humiliation in others, it might incite us to pride and vanity in all cases, it would be a hindrance to the action of our free-will. God gives us for our amelioration just what is necessary and sufficient to that end, namely, the voice of our conscience and our instinctive tendencies. He keeps from us what would be for us a source of injury. Moreover, if we retained the remembrance of our own former personalities and doings, we should also remember those of other people a kind of knowledge that would necessarily exercise a disastrous influence upon our social relations. Not always having reason to be proud of our past, it is evidently better for us that a veil should be thrown over it. And these considerations are in perfect accordance with the statements of spirits in regard to the existence of higher worlds than ours. In those worlds, in which moral excellence reigns, there is nothing painful in the remembrance of the past, and therefore the inhabitants of those happier worlds remember their preceding existence as we remember today what we did yesterday. As to the sojourns they may have made in worlds of lower degree, it is no more to them, as we have already said, than the remembrance of a disagreeable dream.
395. Can we obtain any revelations respecting our former existences?
"Not in all cases. There are, however, many who know who they have been and what they have done. If it were permitted to them to speak openly, they would make curious revelations about the past."
396. Some persons believe themselves to have a vague remembrance of an unknown past, which comes before them like the fugitive image of a dream that one vainly endeavors to recall. Is this belief only an illusion?
"It is sometimes real, but it is often an illusion to be guarded against; for it may be merely the effect of an excited imagination."
397. In corporeal existences of a more elevated nature than ours, is the reminiscence of our anterior existences more exact?
"Yes; in proportion as the body is less material, the spirit incarnated in it remembers them more clearly. The remembrance of the past is always clearer in those who inhabit worlds of a higher order."
398. A man's instinctive tendencies being a reflex of his past, does it follow that, by studying those tendencies, he can ascertain what are the faults he has formerly committed?
"Undoubtedly he can do so up to a certain point; but he would also have to take account of the improvement which may have been effected in his spirit, and of the resolutions taken by him in the state of erraticity. His present existence may he very much better than his preceding one."
-- Might it be worse? that is to say, might a man commit, in a subsequent existence, faults which he had not committed in the preceding one?
"That depends on his advancement. If he were unable to resist temptation, he might be drawn into new faults as a consequence of the situation chosen by him; but such faults must be considered as indicating a state which is stationary rather than retrograde, for a spirit may advance or remain stationary, but he never goes back."
399. The vicissitudes of corporeal life being at once an expiation of the faults of the past and lessons for the future, can we, from the nature of those vicissitudes, infer the character of our preceding existence?
"You can do so very frequently, since the nature of the punishment incurred always corresponds to that of the fault committed. Nevertheless, it would not do to consider this as being an absolute rule. The instinctive tendencies furnish a more certain indication; for the trials undergone by a spirit are as much for the future as for the past."
When a spirit has reached the end of the term assigned by Providence to his errant life, he chooses for himself the trials which he determines to undergo in order to hasten his progress, that is to say, the kind of existence which he believes will be most likely to furnish him with the means of advancing and the trials of this new existence always correspond to the faults which he has to expiate. If he triumphs in this new struggle, he rises in grade; if he succumbs, he has to try again.
A spirit always possesses free-will. It is in virtue of this free-will that he chooses, when in the spirit-state, the trials he elects to undergo in the corporeal life, and that he deliberates, when in the incarnate state whether he will do, or not do, and chooses between good and evil. To deny a man's free-will will would be to reduce him to a machine.
When a spirit has re-entered corporeal life, he experiences a temporary forgetfulness of his former existences, as though these were hidden from him by a veil. Sometimes, however, he preserves a vague consciousness of them, and they may, under certain circumstances, be revealed to him; but this only occurs as a result of the decision of higher spirits, who make that revelation spontaneously for some useful end, and never for the gratification of idle curiosity.
A spirit's future existences cannot, in any case, be revealed to him during the corporeal life, because they will depend on the manner in which he accomplishes his present existence, and on his own ulterior choice. Temporary forgetfulness of the faults he has committed is no obstacle to a spirit's improvement for if he has not a precise remembrance of them, the knowledge he had of them in the state of erraticity, and the desire he then conceived to repair them, guide him intuitively, and inspire him with the intention of resisting the evil tendency. This intention is the voice of his conscience, and is seconded by the spirits who assist him, if he gives heed to the suggestions with which they inspire him.
Although a man does not know exactly what may have been his acts in his former existences, he always knows the kind of faults of which he has been guilty, and what has been his ruling characteristic. He has only to study himself, and he will know what he has been, not by what he is, but by his tendencies. The vicissitudes of corporeal life are both an expiation of faults in the past, and trials designed to render us better for the future. They purify and elevate, provided we hear them resignedly and unrepiningly. The nature of the vicissitudes and trials that we have to undergo may also enlighten us in regard to what we have been end what we have done, just as we infer the crimes of which a convict has been guilty from the penalty inflicted on him by the law. Thus, he who has sinned through pride will be punished by the humiliations of an inferior position the self-indulgent and avaricious, by poverty the hard-hearted, by the seventies he will undergo the tyrant, by slavery a bad son, by the ingratitude of his children the idle, by subjection to hard and incessant labor, and so on.