EARTHLY JOYS AND SORROWS
1. HAPPINESS AND UNHAPPINESS -- 2. LOSS OF THOSE WE DEATH -- 3. WEARINESS OF LIFE; SUICIDE. AFFECTIONS -- 4. ANTIPATHETIC UNIONS -- 5. FEAR OF LOVE -- 6. DISAPPOINTMENTS; INGRATITUDE; BLIGHTED
Happiness and Unhappiness.
920. Is it possible for man to enjoy perfect happiness upon the earth?
"No; for corporeal life has been appointed to him either as a trial or an expiation; but it depends upon himself to lighten the evils of his lot, and to render it as happy as life can be upon the earth."
921. We can conceive that man will be happy upon the earth when the human race shall have been transformed; but, meanwhile, is it possible for each man to ensure for himself a moderate amount of happiness?
"Man is more often the artisan of his own unhappiness. If he obeyed the law of God, he would not only spare himself much sorrow, but would also procure for himself all the felicity that is compatible with the grossness of earthly existence."He who is perfectly sure that the future life is a reality regards his corporeal life as being merely a traveler's momentary halt in a wayside inn, and easily consoles himself for the passing annoyances of a journey which is bringing him to a new and happier position, that will be all the more satisfactory in proportion to the completeness of the preparations he has made for entering upon it.
We are punished, even in the present life, for our infraction of the laws of corporeal existence, by the sufferings which are the result of that infraction and of our own excesses. If we trace what we call our earthly ills back to their origin, we shall find them to be, for the most part, the result of a first deviation from the straight road. This deviation caused us to enter upon a wrong path, and each subsequent step brought us more and more deeply into trouble.
922. Earthly happiness is relative to the position of each person; what suffices for the happiness of one would be misfortune for another. Is there, nevertheless, a common standard of happiness for all men?
"As regards material existence, it is the possession of the necessities of life; as regards moral existence, it is a good conscience and the belief in a future state."
923. Does not that which is a superfluity for one become a necessary of life for another and vice versa, according to differences of position?
"Yes, according to your material ideas, your prejudices, your ambition, and all your absurd notions that you will gradually get rid of as you come to understand the truth of things. Undoubtedly, he who, having possessed an income of thousands, becomes reduced to as many hundreds, looks upon himself as being very unfortunate, because he can no longer cut so great a figure in the world, maintain what he calls his rank, keep horses, carriages, and lackeys, and gratify all his tastes and passions. He appears to himself to lack the very necessities of life; but is he really so much to be pitied while, beside him, so many others are dying of cold and hunger, and have not even where to lay their head? He who is wise compares himself with what is below him, never with what is above him, unless it be to raise his soul towards the Infinite." (715.)
924. There are misfortunes which come upon men independently of their own conduct, and that befall even the most upright. Is there no way of preserving one's self from them?
"Such misfortunes must be borne with resignation and without murmuring, if you would progress; but you may always derive consolation from the hope of a happier future, provided you do what is needed to obtain it."
925. Why does God so often bestow the gifts of fortune on men who do not appear to have deserved such a favor?
"Wealth appears to be a favor to those who see only the present, but you must remember that fortune is often a more dangerous trial than poverty." (814 et seq.)
926. Does not civilization, by creating new wants, become the source of new afflictions?
"The ills, of your world are proportional to the factitious wants that you create for yourselves. He who is able to set bounds to his desires, and to see without envy what is above him, spares himself many of the disappointments of the earthly life. The richest of men is he who has the fewest needs.
"You envy the enjoyments of those who appear to you to be the favorites of fortune, but do you know what is in store for so many of them? If they use their wealth only for themselves, they are selfish, and, in that case, a terrible reverse awaits them. Instead of envying, you should pity them. God sometimes permits the wicked to prosper, but his prosperity is, not to be envied, for he will pay for it with weeping and gnashing of teeth. If a righteous man undergoes misfortune, it is a trial from which, being bravely borne, he will reap a rich reward. Remember the words of Jesus: 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.'"
927. Superfluities are certainly not indispensable to happiness, but it is otherwise in regard to the necessities of life. Is it not, then, really a misfortune to be deprived of these?
"A man is really unfortunate only when deprived of what is necessary to life and to bodily health. If this privation be the result of his own misconduct, he has only himself to blame for it; if it be the fault of others, a heavy responsibility will rest with those who have caused it."
928. By our special aptitudes, God evidently shows to each of us our special vocation. Are not many of the ills of life attributable to our not following that vocation?
"Yes. It often happens that parents, through pride or avarice, force their children from the path traced out for them by nature; but they will be held responsible for the results of this misdirection."
-- You would then approve of the son of some high personage making himself a cobbler, for instance, if he were endowed with a natural aptitude for cobbling?
"You must not go off into absurdities and exaggerations. Civilization has its necessities. Why should the son of a man occupying a high position make himself a cobbler, if able to do something more important? Such an one might always make himself useful, according to the measure of his faculties, without running counter to common sense. For instance, if he were not fitted to make a good lawyer, he might be a good engineer, a mechanician, etc."The placing of people in positions for which they are naturally unfit is assuredly one of the most frequent causes of failure and disappointment.
Want of aptitude for the career on which one has entered is an inexhaustible source of reverses; and as he who has thus failed in one career in often prevented by pride from seeking a resource in some humbler avocation, he is often tempted to commit suicide in order to escape what he regards as a humiliation; whereas, if a sound moral education had raised him above the stupid prejudices of pride, he would have been at no loss to obtain the means of subsistence.
929. There are persons who, being utterly without resources, though surrounded by abundance, have no other prospect than starvation. What course should they take under such circumstances? Ought they to allow themselves to die of hunger?
"No one should ever admit into his mind the idea of allowing himself to die of hunger; a man could always find the means of obtaining food if pride did not interpose itself between want and work. It has often been said that 'No work is dishonorable if honestly done;' but this is one of the aphorisms that each man is more prompt to apply to his neighbor than to himself."
930. It is evident that, were it not for the social prejudices by which we allow ourselves to be swayed, a man would always be able to find some sort of work that would enable him to gain a living, even though he thus took a humbler position; but among those who have no such prejudices, or who put them aside, are there not some who are really unable to provide for their wants, through illness, or through other circumstances independent of their will?
"In a society organized according to the law of Christ, no one would die of hunger."Were society organized with wisdom and forethought, no one could lack the necessities of life unless through his own fault; but a man's faults themselves are often the result of the circumstances in which he finds himself placed. When men shall have advanced sufficiently to practice the law of God, they will not only be better intrinsically and as individuals, but will organize their social relations on a basis of justice and charity. (793.)
931. Why is it that, in our world, the classes that suffer are so much more numerous than those that are prosperous?
"None of you are perfectly happy, and what the world regards as prosperity often hides the most poignant sorrows. Suffering is everywhere. However, by way of replying to the thought which prompted your question, I answer, that what you call the suffering classes are the most numerous, because the earth is a place of expiation. When mankind shall have made it the sojourn of goodness and of good spirits, there will be no more unhappiness in the earth, which will then be a terrestrial paradise for all its inhabitants."
932. How is it that, in this world, the wicked so often have power over the good?
"That is a consequence of the weakness of the good. The wicked are intriguing and audacious, the good are often timid. When the latter shall be determined to have the upper hand they will have it."
933. Men are often the artisans of their own worldly sufferings; are they also the artisans of their moral sufferings?
"Even more so; for their worldly sufferings are often independent of their action; but it is wounded pride, disappointed ambition, the anxieties of avarice, envy, jealousy, all the passions, in short, that constitute the torments of the soul.
"Envy and jealousy! Happy are they who know not those two gnawing worms! Where envy and jealousy exist, there can be no calm, no repose. Before him who is the slave of those passions, the objects of his longings, of his hatreds, of his anger, stand like so many phantoms, pursuing him without respite, even in his sleep. The envious and jealous are always in a fever. Is such a state a desirable one? Can you not understand that, with such passions, man creates for himself the most terrible tortures, and that the earth really becomes a hell for him?"Many of our colloquial expressions present vivid pictures of the effects of the different passions. We say, "puffed up with pride;" "dying with envy," "bursting with spite;" "devoured by jealousy;" etc.; pictures that are only too true to their originals. In many cases, these evil passions have no determinate object. There are persons, for instance, who are naturally jealous of everyone who rises, of everything that oversteps the common line, even when their own interest is in no way concerned, and simply because they are not able to command a similar success. Every manifestation of superiority on the part of others is regarded by them as an offence to themselves; for the jealousy of mediocrity would always, if it could, bring everyone down to its own level.
Much of the unhappiness of human life is a result of the undue importance attached by man to the things of this world; vanity, disappointed ambition, and cupidity, make up no small part of his troubles. If he placed his aims beyond the narrow circle of his outer life, if he raised his thoughts towards the infinitude that is his destiny, the vicissitudes of human existence would seem to him as petty and puerile as the broken toy over the loss of which the child weeps so bitterly.
He who finds his happiness only in the satisfaction of pride and of gross material appetites is unhappy when he cannot satisfy them; while he who asks for no superfluities is happy under circumstances that would be deemed calamitous by others.
We are now speaking of civilized people, for the savage, having fewer wants, has not the same incitements to envy and anxiety; his way of looking at things is altogether different. In the civilized state, man reasons upon and analyses his unhappiness, and is therefore all the more painfully affected by it; but he may also reason upon and analyze the means of consolation within his reach. This consolation is furnished him by Christianity, which gives him the hope of a better future, and by Spiritism, which gives him the certainty of that future.
Loss of Those We Love.
934. Is not the loss of those who are dear to us a legitimate source of sorrow, seeing that this loss is both irreparable and independent of our action?
"This cause of sorrow, which acts alike upon rich and poor, is the common law of humanity, for it is either a trial or an expiation; but you have the consolation of holding communication with your friends through the means already possessed by you, while awaiting other means that will be more direct, and more accessible to your senses."
935. What is to be thought of the opinion which regards communication with those who are beyond the grave as a profanation?
"There can be no profanation where there is reverent concentration of thought and sympathy, and when the evocation is made with fitting respect; and the proof of this is found in the fact the spirits who love you take pleasure in coming to you; they rejoice in being remembered by you, and in being able to converse with you. But there would be profanation in this communication if carried on in a spirit of frivolity."The possibility of entering into communication with spirits is most consoling, since it gives us the means of holding converse with those of our relatives and friends who have quitted the earthly life before us. By our evocation, we draw them nearer to us they come to our side, hear us, and reply to us there is, so to say, no longer any separation between them and us. They aid us with their counsels, and assure us of the pleasure afforded them by our remembrance. It is a satisfaction for us to know that they are happy, to learn from themselves the details of their new existence, and to acquire the certainty of our rejoining them in our turn.
936. What effect has the inconsolable sorrow of survivors upon the spirits who are the object of that sorrow?
"A spirit is touched by the remembrance and regrets of those he has loved; but a persistent and unreasonable sorrow affects him painfully, because he sees, in this excessive grief, a want of faith in the future and confidence in God, and, consequently, an obstacle to the advancement of the mourner, and, perhaps, to their reunion."A spirit, when disincarnated, being happier than he was upon the earth, to regret his change of life is to regret his being happy. Two friends are prisoners, shut up in the same dungeon both of them are some day to be set at liberty, but one of them obtains his deliverance before the other. Would it be kind on the part of him who remains in prison to regret that his friend has been set at liberty before him? Would there not be on his part more selfishness than affection in wishing his friend to remain in captivity and suffering as long as himself? It is the same with two persons who love one another upon the earth; he who quits it first is the first delivered; and the other ought to rejoice in his deliverance, while awaiting with patience the moment when he shall he delivered in his turn.
We may illustrate this subject by another comparison. You have a friend whose situation, while remaining near you, is a painful one; his health or his interests require that he should go to another country, where he will be better off in every respect. He will no longer be near you at every moment, but you will still be in correspondence with him; the separation between you will be only in your daily life. Should you grieve for his removal, since it is for his good?
By the evident proofs which it gives us of the reality of the future life, and of the presence about us and the continued affection and solicitude of those we have loved, as well as by the relations which it enables us to keep up with them. Spiritism offers us the most effectual consolation under the greatest and most painful of earthly sorrows; it does away with solitude and separation, for it shows us that the most isolated of human beings is always surrounded by a host of friends, with whom he can hold affectionate converse.
We are often impatient under the tribulations of life; they seem to us so intolerable that we cannot believe it to be possible for us to bear up under them; and yet, if we have borne them with courage, if we have been able to silence our murmurings, we shall rejoice to have undergone them, when we have finished our earthly career, as the patient rejoices, when convalescent, to have resigned himself to the painful course of treatment that has cured him of his malady.
Disappointments, Ingratitude, Blighted Affections.
937. Are not the disappointments that are caused by ingratitude, and by the fragility of earthly friendships, also a source of bitterness of the human heart?
"Yes; but we teach you to feel pity for the ungrateful, and for faithless friends; their unkindness will do more harm to themselves than to you. Ingratitude comes of selfishness; and he who is selfish will meet, sooner or later, with hearts as hard as his own has been. Think of all those who have done more good than you have done, who are more worthy than you are, and whose kindness has been repaid with ingratitude. Remember that Jesus himself, during his life, was scoffed at, despised, and treated as a knave and an impostor; and do not be surprised that you should be treated in the same way. Let the consciousness of the good you have done be your recompense in your present life, and do not trouble yourself about those to whom you have done it. Ingratitude serves to test your persistence in doing good; it will be counted to you hereafter, and those who have been unmindful of your kindness will be punished, and all the more severely, the greater has been their ingratitude."
938. Are not the disappointments caused by ingratitude calculated to harden the heart and render it unfeeling?
"It would be wrong to let them do so; for the generous man is always glad to have done good. He knows that, if those whom he has benefited do not remember his kindness in the present life, they will remember it in a future one, and will then feel shame and remorse for their ingratitude."
-- But this knowledge will not prevent him from being acutely pained by ingratitude in the present life; might not this pain lead him to think that he would be happier if he possessed less sensibility?
"Yes; if he preferred a selfish happiness; but that sort of happiness is a very pitiable one. Let such a man try to understand that the ungrateful friends who desert him are unworthy of his friendship, and that he has been mistaken in his estimate of them, and he will no longer regret their loss. Their place will by and by be filled by others who are better able to understand him. You should pity those from whom you have received ill-treatment that you have not deserved, for a heavy retribution will overtake them; but you should not allow yourselves to be painfully affected by their misconduct. Your indifference to their ill-treatment will place you above them."Nature has implanted in man the need of loving of being loved. One of the greatest enjoyments accorded to him upon the earth is the meeting with hearts that sympathize with his own. This sympathy gives him a foretaste of the happiness that awaits him in the world of perfected spirits, where all is love and kindness a happiness that is refused to the selfish.
939. Since spirits who are sympathetic to one another are spontaneously attracted to each other, how is it that, among incarnated spirits, the love is often only on one side; that the most sincere affection is met with indifference or even with repulsion; and that, moreover, the liveliest affection of two persons for one another may be changed into dislike, and even into hatred?
"Such a contrariety of feeling is a punishment, but only a passing one. Besides, how many are there who imagine themselves to be desperately in love with each other, because they judge one another from appearances only, but who, when obliged to live together, soon discover that their affection was nothing more than a passing caprice? It is not enough to be taken with some one who pleases you, and whom you imagine to be gifted with all sorts of good qualities; it is only by living together that you can ascertain the worth of the appearances that have captivated you. On the other hand, how many of those unions that seem, at first, as though they never could become sympathetic, grow, in time, into a tender and lasting affection, founded upon the esteem that has been developed between the parties by a better and more complete acquaintance with each other's good qualities? You must not forget that it is the spirit which loves, and not the body, and that, when the illusion of corporeal attractions is dissipated, the spirit perceives the real quality of the union into which it has entered.
"There are two kinds of affection--that of the body, and that of the soul, and these are often mistaken for one another. The affection of the soul, when pure and sympathetic, is lasting; that of the body is perishable this is why those who fancied that they loved each with an eternal affection often detest one another when their illusion has vanished."
940. Is not the lack of sympathy between persons destined to live together also a source of sorrow, and one that is all the more bitter because it poisons an entire existence?
"Very bitter it is, undoubtedly; but it is usually a misfortune of your own causing. In the first place, your laws are in fault; for how can you suppose that those who dislike one another can be intended by God to live together? In the next place, you yourselves are to blame, for you often seek, in those unions, the satisfaction of your pride and ambition rather than the happiness of a mutual affection; and, in such cases, you undergo the natural consequences of your prejudices."
-- But, in such cases, is there not generally an innocent victim?
"Yes, one for whom it is a heavy expiation; but the responsibility of such unhappiness will, nevertheless, be brought home to those who caused it. If the light of truth have reached the soul of the victim, faith in the future will give consolation under present suffering. But the causes of these private misfortunes will disappear in proportion as your prejudices are dissipated."
Fear of Death.
941. The fear of death causes perplexity to many persons; whence comes this fear in the case of those who believe in a future life?
"Such fear is altogether misplaced; but when people have been, in their youth, thoroughly indoctrinated into the belief that there is a hell as well as a heaven, and that they will most likely go to the former, because whatever belongs to human life is a mortal sin for the soul, they are naturally afraid, if they have retained their religious belief, of the fire that is to burn them forever without destroying them. But most of those who are thus indoctrinated in their childhood, if possessed of judgment, throw aside that belief when they grow up, and, being unable to assent to such a doctrine, become atheists or materialists; so that the natural effect of such teaching is to make them believe that there is nothing beyond this present life.
"Death has no terrors for the righteous man, because, with faith, he has the certainty of a future life; hope leads him to expect an existence happier than his present one; and charity, which has been the law of his action, gives him the assurance that, in the world which he is about to enter, he will meet with no one whose recognition he will have reason to dread." (730.)The carnally-minded man, more attracted by corporeal life than by the life of the spirit, knows only the pains and pleasures of terrestrial existence. His only happiness is in the fugitive satisfaction of his earthly desires; his mind, constantly occupied with the vicissitude, of the present life, and painfully affected by them, is tortured with perpetual anxiety. The thought of death terrifies him, because he has doubts about his future, and because he has to leave all his affections and all his hopes behind him he leaves the earth. The spiritually-minded man, who has raised himself above the factitious wants created by the passions, has, even in this lower life, enjoyments unknown to the carnally-minded. The moderation of his desires gives calmness and serenity to his spirit. Happy in the good he does, life has no disappointments for him, and its vexations pass lightly over his consciousness, without leaving upon it any painful impress.
942. Will not these counsels as to the way to be happy in the present life be considered by many persons as somewhat commonplace; will they not be looked upon as truisms; and will it not be said that, after all, the true secret of happiness is to be able to bear up under one's troubles?
"A good many people will take this view of the matter; but, of these, not a few will be like the sick man, for whom the physician prescribes dieting, but who demands to be cured without changing his habits, and while continuing the indulgences of the table that keep up his dyspepsia."
Weariness of Life -- Suicide
943. What is the cause of the weariness of life which sometimes takes possession of people without any assignable reason?
"Idleness; lack of conviction; sometimes, satiety. For him who employs his faculties in the pursuit of some useful aim in harmony with his natural aptitudes, exertion is not disagreeable; his time passes quickly in congenial occupation; and he is able to bear the vicissitudes of life with patience and resignation, because he looks forward to a more solid and lasting happiness in the future."
944. Has a man the right to dispose of his life?
"No; that right belongs to God alone. He who voluntarily commits suicide contravenes the providential ordering which sent him into the earthly life."
-- Is not suicide always voluntary?
"The madman who kills himself does not know what he is doing."
945. What is to be thought of those who commit suicide because they are sick of life?
"Fools! why did they not employ themselves in some useful work? Had they done so, life would not have been a weariness to them."
946. What is to be thought of those who resort to suicide in order to escape from the troubles and disappointments of this world?
"They are weaklings who lack courage to bear the petty annoyances of existence. God helps those who suffer bravely, but not those who have neither strength nor courage. The tribulations of life are trials or expiations; happy are those who bear them without murmuring, for great will be their reward! Unhappy, on the contrary, are those who expect their well-being from what they impiously call 'chance' or 'luck'! Chance, or luck, to borrow their own expressions, may favor them for a time; but only to make them feel, afterwards, and all the more bitterly, the emptiness of those words."
-- Will not those who have driven an unhappy fellow-creature to this deed of despair be held responsible for the consequences of their action?
"Yes; and heavy indeed will be their punishment, for they wilt have to answer for those consequences as for a murder."
947. Can we consider as having committed suicide the man who, becoming disheartened in his struggle with adversity, allows himself to die of despair?
"Such self-abandonment is suicide; but those who had caused the crime, or might have prevented it, would be more to blame for it than the one by whom it had been committed, and the latter would therefore be judged leniently. But, nevertheless, you must not suppose that he would be entirely absolved if he had been wanting in firmness and perseverance, or had failed to make the best use of his intelligence to help himself out of his difficulties. And it would go still harder with him if he had been one of those whose intelligence is paralyzed by pride, who would blush to earn their living by manual labor, and would rather die of starvation than derogate from what they call their "social position." Is there not a hundredfold more nobleness and true dignity in bearing up against adversity, in braving the ill-natured remarks of the futile and selfish, whose goodwill is only for those who are in want of nothing, and who turn the cold shoulder to all who are in need of help? To throw away one's life on account of such people is doubly absurd, seeing that they will be perfectly indifferent to the sacrifice."
948. Is suicide as blamable, when committed in order to escape the disgrace of having done wrong, as when it is prompted by despair?
"A fault is not effaced by suicide, which, on the contrary, is a second fault added to the first. He who has had the courage to do wrong should have the courage to bear the consequences of his wrong-doing. God is the sole judge, and sometimes diminishes the penalty of wrongdoing in consideration of the circumstances which led to it."
949. Is suicide excusable when committed in order to avoid bringing disgrace on one's children or family?
"He who has recourse to such an expedient does wrong; but, as he believes his action to be for the best, God takes note of his intention, for his suicide is a self-imposed expiation; his fault is extenuated by his intention, but it is nonetheless a fault. But when you have got rid of your social prejudices and abuses, you will have no more suicides."He who takes his own life, in order to escape the disgrace of a bad action, proves that he attaches more value to the estimation of men than to that of God; for the goes back into the spirit-world laden with his iniquities, of the means of atoning for which, during his earthly life, he has thus deprived himself. God is less inexorable than men often are; He pardons those who sincerely repent, and takes account of sill our efforts to repair what we have done amiss; but nothing is repaired by suicide.
950. What is to be thought of him who makes away with himself in the hope of arriving sooner at a happier state of existence?
"Another piece of folly! Let a man do good, and he will be much more sure of reaching such a state. His suicide will delay his entrance into a better world; for he himself will ask to be allowed to come back to the earth, in order to complete the life that he has cut short in pursuit of a mistaken idea. The sanctuary of the good is never opened by a fault, no matter what may have been its motive."
951. Is not the sacrifice of one's life meritorious when it is made in order to save the lives of others, or to be useful to them?
"Incurred for such an end, it is sublime; but such a voluntary sacrifice of life is not suicide. It is the useless sacrifice that is displeasing to God, and also that which is tarnished by pride. A sacrifice is only meritorious when disinterested; if accomplished in view of a selfish end, its value is proportionally lessened in the sight of God."Every sacrifice of our interest or enjoyment made for the sake of others is supremely meritorious in the sight of God for it is the fulfilling of the law of charity. Life being, of all earthly possessions, the one to which men attach the greatest value, he who renounces it for the good of his fellow-creatures does not commit a crime he accomplishes a sacrifice. But, before accomplishing it, he should consider whether his life might not be more useful than his death.
952. Does he commit suicide who falls a victim to the excessive indulgence of passions which he knows will hasten his death, but which habit has converted into physical necessities that he is unable to control?
"He commits moral suicide. Do you not see that a man, in such a case, is trebly guilty? For he is guilty of a want of firmness, of the sin of bestiality, and of forgetfulness of God."
-- Is such a man more or less guilty than he who kills himself from despair?
"He is more guilty, because he has had time to reflect on the suicidal nature of the course he was pursuing. In the case of him who commits suicide on the spur of the moment, there is sometimes a degree of bewilderment not unallied to madness. The former will be punished much more severely than the latter; for the retributive penalties of crime are always proportioned to the consciousness of wrong-doing that accompanied its commission.
953. Is it wrong on the part of him who finds himself exposed to some terrible and inevitable death to shorten his sufferings by killing himself?
"It is always wrong not to await the moment of dissolution appointed by God. Besides, how can a man tell whether the end of his life has really come, or whether some unexpected help may not reach him at what he supposes to be his last moment?"
-- We admit that suicide is reprehensible under ordinary circumstances, but we are supposing a case in which death is inevitable, and in which life is only shortened by a few instants?
"There is always in such a case a want of resignation and of submission to the will of the Creator."
-- What in such a case are the consequences of suicide?
"The same as in all other cases; an expiation proportioned to the gravity of the fault, according to the circumstances under which it was committed."
954. Is there guilt in the imprudence which has accidentally caused a loss of life?
"There is no guilt where there is no positive intention or consciousness of doing harm."
955. Are the women who, in some countries, voluntarily burn themselves to death with the body of their husband, to be considered as committing suicide, and have they to undergo the punishment of that crime?
"They obey the dictates of a superstitious prejudice, and, moreover, are often the victims of force rather than of their own free-will. They believe themselves to be accomplishing a duty, and such an act does not partake of the character of suicide. Their excuse is found in the moral nullity and ignorance of the greater number of them. All such barbarous and stupid customs will disappear with the development of civilization."
956. Do those persons attain the end they have in view, who, unable to bear the loss of the objects of their affection, kill themselves in the hope of rejoining them in the other life?
"In such cases the result of suicide is the opposite of what was hoped for. Instead of being reunited to the object of their affection, those who have made this sad mistake find themselves separated, and for a very long time, from the being they hoped to rejoin; for God cannot recompense, by the granting of a favor, an act which is at once a proof of moral cowardice, and an insult offered to Himself in distrusting His Providence. They will pay for their folly with sorrows still greater than those they fancied they were about to shorten, and for which they will not be compensated by the satisfaction they hoped do obtain." (934 et seq.)
957. What are in general the effects of suicide on the state of the spirit by whom it has been committed?
"The consequences of suicide vary in different cases, because the penalties it entails are always proportioned to the circumstances which, in each case, have led to its commission. The one punishment which none can escape who have committed suicide is disappointment; the rest of their punishment depends on circumstances. Some of those who have killed themselves expiate their fault at once; others do so in a new earthly life harder to bear than the one whose course they have interrupted."Observation has confirmed the statement that the consequences of suicide are not the same in all cases; but it has also shown us that some of those consequences, resulting from the sudden interruption of life, are the same in all cases of violent death. Foremost among these is the greater tenacity and consequent persistence of the link that unites the spirit and the body, which link. In nearly all such cases, is in its full strength at the moment when it is broken; whereas, when death is the result of natural causes, that link has been gradually weakened, and is often severed before life is completely extinct. The consequences of violent death are, first, the prolongation of the mental confusion which usually follows death, and, next, the illusion which causes a spirit, during a longer or shorter period, to believe himself to be still living in the earthly life. (155, 165.)
The affinity which continues to exist between the spirit and the body produces, in the case of some of those who have committed suicide, a sort of repercussion of the state of the body in the consciousness of the spirit, who is thus compelled to perceive the effects of its decomposition, and experiences therefrom a sensation of intense anguish and horror; a state which may continue as long as the life which he has interrupted ought to have lasted. This state is not a necessary result of suicide; but he who has voluntarily shortened his life can never escape the consequences of his want of courageous endurance; sooner or later, and in some way or other, he is made to expiate his fault. Thus, many spirits who had been very unhappy upon the earth have stated that they had committed suicide in their preceding existence, and that they had voluntarily submitted to new trials in order to try to bear them with more resignation. In some cases the result of suicide is a sort of connection with terrestrial matter, from which they vainly endeavor to free themselves, that they may rise to happier worlds, access to which is denied to them; in other cases it is regret for having done something useless, and from which they have reaped only disappointment.
Religion, morality, all systems of philosophy, condemn suicide as being contrary to the law of nature; all lay it down as a principle that we have no right to voluntarily shorten our life; but why have we not that right? Why are we not at liberty to put an end to our sufferings? It was reserved for Spiritism to show, by the example of those who have succumbed to that temptation, that suicide is not only a fault, as being an infraction of a moral law (a consideration of little weight with some persons), but is also a piece of stupidity, since no benefit is to be gained by it, but quite the contrary. The teachings of Spiritism in regard to this subject are not merely theoretical; for it places the facts of the case before our eyes.