Allan Kardec's "The Spirits' Book"
Allan Kardec, the nom de plume of H. Leon Denizard Rivail, was a French educator and philosopher born in Lyon in 1804. In 1854 Rivail first heard of the mysterious "rapping" phenomena that had taken America and Europe by storm. Despite his initial skepticism, he was convinced by close friends to attend an experimental meeting where he was able to witness such occurrences firsthand. His intellectual curiosity and scientific instincts told him that there had to be a rational explanation for these phenomena. Consequently, he began soon afterwards to conduct investigations of his own. Eventually he was approached by a group of fellow-researchers who asked him to organize a set of fifty notebooks containing transcripts and journals of numerous spirit communications. Using the same logical rigor that he had applied to his work in education and science, Rivail set out to study this material. In the meantime, he supplemented the transcripts with philosophical and scientific questions, which he posed to different channels (mediums) in different countries. The answers were compared, analyzed, and organized into the present book, which was first published in 1857.
The original english translation of this book, published in the late 1800's, is available for viewing on-line.
Creating a new version
In 1982 the U.S. Allan Kardec Educational Society recognized that the unconventional sentence structure and terminology used in the original English text made it a hard book to read, "at times obfuscating Kardec's flawless logic and the guides' superb discernment and wisdom". They commenced a comprehensive new translation, published in 1996, which can be ordered on the internet here or by mail at the AKES addresses given on their website. The product is an amazingly comprehensive treatise, written primarily by channeled spirit sources, that is remarkably consistent with the other information sources described on this website. The book is written in the form of spirit responses to each of over 1000 questions. It transcends any doctrine and can simply be regarded as a set of spiritual truths which are enduring over centuries. No serious study of the Afterlife should fail to include this book.
Key Spiritual points
The book concludes with the following summary of the most important points provided by the spirits:
God is eternal, immutable, immaterial, unique, all-powerful, sovereignly just and good.
God created the universe, which comprehends all beings, animate and inanimate, material and immaterial.
Physical beings constitute the visible or incarnate world; non-physical beings constitute the invisible or spiritual world, i.e., the spirit-world.
The spirit-world is the normal, original, eternal world; it is pre-existent to and survives everything else.
This physical world is secondary. It could cease to exist, or even never have existed at all, and that would not affect the essence of the spirit-world.
Spirits temporarily assume a perishable physical body, the death of which restores them to liberty.
Among the different kinds of physical beings on Earth, God has chosen the human species for the incarnation of spirits who have arrived at a certain degree of development. This characteristic gives the human species an ethical and intellectual advantage over other living species.
The soul is an incarnate spirit, the body its material envelope.
Human beings consist of the following: 1) a body, or physical being, similar to that belonging to animals and animated by the same vital principle; 2) a soul, an immaterial spirit incarnated in the body; 3) an intermediate link which unites the soul and body.
Human beings have, accordingly, two natures: animal and spiritual. Through the body, humans participate in the nature of animals, with which they share instincts. Through the soul, they participate in the nature of the spirits.
A link, known as the perispirit (or spiritual body), unites the body and the spirit. It is a semi-material envelope, as opposed to the fully material envelope of the body. At death, the spirit sheds the physical body, the grosser of the two, but preserves the perispirit or spiritual body. The perispirit constitutes, then, an ethereal body that the spirit can render visible, or even tangible, as in the case of spirit-sightings.
A spirit is not, therefore, an abstract being, a concept of thought. Rather, it is a real and well-defined entity that in certain situations, can be perceived by sight, hearing, and touch.
Spirits belong to different orders; they are not equals either in power, intelligence, knowledge, or ethical excellence. Those in the highest order are distinguished by purity, knowledge and love of goodness--they are the so-called "angels" or "pure spirits". The others are relatively more distant from this perfection. Those in the lower orders are inclined to most of our human feelings and may still take pleasure in wrong-doing. Among them are those who are neither very good nor very bad, but have malicious, mischievous or irksome natures. These might be classed as giddy and foolish spirits.
Spirits do not belong perpetually to the same order. They are destined to attain perfection and, as they do so, progress up through the different orders. This advancement is achieved through incarnations, which are undertaken either as special missions or as trials leading to purification. Physical life is an experience spirits must undergo many times before reaching this goal. These lives can be understood as cleansing exercises from each of which spirits generally emerge in a more purified state.
On leaving the body, the soul returns to the spirit-world, where it exists as a free-spirit (i.e., free from the limitations of the physical world) and where it will stay for an indeterminate time until it enters a new incarnation.
Spirits have many incarnations. From this we can conclude that we have all had many existences, and will have many others on Earth and elsewhere.
The incarnation of spirits only takes place in human beings. Spirits do not incarnate in animal form.
The chain of incarnations is always progressive. The spirit's speed of progress depends on its efforts, but it cannot regress.
The qualities of the person are a reflection of the incarnate spirit's. Consequently, a good person is the incarnation of a good spirit, and a bad person of a less advanced one.
The soul possesses its individuality before incarnating and will preserve it after the death of the body.
On returning to the spirit world, the soul meets those it has known on Earth. In addition, it gradually recalls the actions, both good and harmful, of its former lives.
An incarnate spirit is under the influence of matter. Those who surmount this influence through self-purification raise themselves nearer to the higher spheres. Those who give in to instinctual tendencies and pursue solely the gratification of physical desires are closer to the inferior realm.
Incarnated spirits live on different worlds throughout the universe.
Free (or not incarnated) spirits do not occupy a circumscribed space. They are everywhere, and both perceive and regularly associate with human beings. They constitute an invisible but active society that constantly interacts with our own.
Spirits constantly exert an influence on both the physical and ethical environments of the Earth. They constitute one of the powers of nature, since they may act equally upon matter and thought. They are the cause of many sorts of previously unexplained or misinterpreted phenomena, which may now find a compelling rationale in the Spiritist Doctrine.
Spirits constantly interrelate with human beings. The good ones inspire people to take the high road, sustain them through trials, and instill in them courage and resignation. On the other hand, the less advanced ones inculcate sordid ideas and depressive thoughts. They take pleasure in our troubles and strive to make us like themselves.
Spirit interactions with human beings can be either subtle or direct. The subtle communications happen without our awareness, generally in the form of inspiration. We need to exercise discernment, however, in distinguishing between the uplifting and the malevolent kinds. Direct exchanges occur through writing, speech, and other physical manifestations, usually with the intervention of a medium who acts as a link between the two worlds.
Spirits may communicate spontaneously or in response to human evocations. Generally speaking, all free intelligences may be evoked--from the most obscure to the most illustrious, from loved ones to enemies--regardless of the epoch in which they lived. If permitted, they may share information about their new situation, their thoughts regarding us, and any insights they feel like imparting.
Spirits move by laws of affinity. Advanced spirits take pleasure in assemblies with serious purpose, wherein members are animated by love and a sincere desire to learn and progress. Their presence repels less advanced spirits. The latter, in turn, find themselves at ease among frivolous and simple minds who come together solely out of curiosity or other harmful motives. In such assemblies nothing useful is produced. The spirits' suggestions are trifling, ill-natured, and deceptive. To make matters worse, they often borrow venerated names to impose their ideas more effectively.
It is easy to distinguish between advanced and less advanced spirits. The language of higher spirits is dignified, high-minded, and free from every trace of human passion. Their counsels breathe wisdom. Their aim is always the advancement of humanity. On the other hand, remarks by less advanced spirits make use of commonplace, sometimes coarse, language and often contain substantial inconsistencies. Although they sometimes make true and worthwhile statements, their observations are usually ethically flawed and full of false arguments. They play upon the naivety of their audience by feeding false hopes and swelling their listeners' egos. Obviously, enlightening communications can only be obtained in assemblies of a serious character where participants are united in thought and desire by the pursuit of love and truth.
The ethical teachings of the higher spirits may be summed up in the words of Christ: "Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you". In brief, do good to all and wrong no one. This principle of action furnishes humanity with a rule of conduct with universal application, from the most trivial to the most critical matters.
Enlightened intelligences teach that self-centeredness, pride and sensuality keep human beings engrossed in their animal nature. Accordingly, the person who detaches him or herself from worldly things and who practices "love thy neighbor" grows more spiritual. The spirits advise that we always serve others, as our means allow us, and that the strong and powerful owe assistance and protection to the weak. They caution that the person who misuses power to oppress his or her follow beings violates the laws of God. They also teach that in the spirit-world nothing can be hidden; that the hypocrite is unmasked and his or her wrongdoing revealed; that the unavoidable presence of those we have wronged on Earth is one of the trials we must face in the spirit world; and that the ethical state of spirits, depending on how advanced or unadvanced they are, gives rise in that world to enjoyments or suffering and regrets.
Further, they teach that there are no unpardonable faults and that there is no misdeed that cannot be redressed. Men and women find the means of redemption and progress through reincarnation. Their desire and effort set the pace of their advancement toward the ultimate aim of all--perfection.
Questions answered in book
The Spirits' Book is organized around answers to over 1000 questions relating to the afterlife. To view these questions, click here.