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Obtainable proofs of identity - Distinguishing between good and evil spirits - Questions on the nature and identity of spirits.

Obtainable proofs of identity.

255. Few questions are more controverted among spiritists, than that of the identity of spirits; because, in point of fact, spirits do not bring us any absolute and irrefragable proof of their identity, and often appropriate to themselves names which are not theirs. For this reason, the question of identity is, next to obsession, the greatest difficulty of practical spiritism; although it must be borne in mind that, in many cases, absolute identity is only a secondary matter, of little real importance. It is especially difficult, and, in some Cases, impossible, to establish the identity of the spirits of personages who lived in ancient times; in regard to these we are reduced to an appreciation based on moral and intellectual considerations, judging of them as we judge of men by their thoughts and their language. For example; if a spirit presenting himself under the name of Plato should say foolish or childish things, it would be very plain that he could not be Plato; but if on the contrary, all that he said were worthy of Plato, and what the spirit of Plato would have no motive for disapproving, there would be, at least, a moral probability of his being Plato himself; although we should have no absolute proof of this. It is especially in cases of this kind that absolute identity is but a secondary question, because if what a spirit says is worthy of the spirit "'hose name he takes, the name itself is of little importance. It will doubtless be objected that a spirit who assumes a false name, even though he only says excellent things, none the less commits a fraud by so doing, and therefore cannot be a good spirit. The reply to this objection requires an appreciation of various delicate shades not easily distinguished, but which we must nevertheless endeavor to render appreciable by the reader.

256. In proportion as spirits become purified and thereby raise themselves to higher and higher degrees of the spirit-hierarchy, the distinctive characteristics of their personality are merged, so to say, in the uniformity of their perfection, although they none the less retain their personal individuality. This remark applies to those who have attained to the rank of "Superior Spirits," and, still more, to those who have reached the yet higher rank of "Pure Spirits." To spirits who have attained these degrees of elevation, the name they bore on earth, in any one of the thousands of ephemeral corporeal existences through which they may have passed, is a very insignificant matter. It is to be remarked, still farther, that spirits are attracted to one another by similarity of qualities; and that they are thus led to form themselves into sympathetic groups or families, all the members of which, in their intercourse with us, may take the name of any one of them who may happen to be known to its. On the other hand, if we consider the immense number of spirits who, since the beginning of time, must have reached the highest spirit-ranks, and if we compare these with the very small number of those who have left a great name behind them on the earth, we see that, among the superior spirits who may be able to communicate with us, the names of the greater number of them must necessarily be unknown to us; but, as we need names, in order to fix our ideas in regard to the spirits who communicate with us, they take the name of some personage in the past, whose character most resembles their own, in order to fix our ideas in regard to them. It is for this reason that our guardian-angels so frequently take the name of some one whom we especially venerate, and for whom we feel especial sympathy. It follows from this fact, that, if any one's guardian-angel gives himself the name of Saint Peter, for example, it is by no means certain that he is the Apostle so named; it may be he, or it may be a spirit totally unknown to us, but belonging to the family of spirits to which the Apostle Peter belongs; and it follows, still farther, that, under whatever name we invoke our guardian-angel, he will come at our call, because it is our thought that attracts him, while he is altogether indifferent as to the name we give him.

It is the same whenever a superior spirit communicates spontaneously under any well-known name, for we can have no proof that he is really the spirit of the personage whose name he takes; but, if he says nothing inconsistent with the elevated character of that personage, the presumption may be considered to be in favor of the reality of the identity claimed; and at all events, if he be not the very spirit he claims to be, we may be sure that he is a spirit of the same degree; and, in that case, he may probably have been sent by him. To sum up; the question of names in regard to communications of a general character, is of secondary importance; for, in many cases, the name assumed by a spirit may be considered as a simple indication of the rank he occupies in the spirit hierarchy, or of the category of spirits to which he belongs.

The case, however, is altogether different when a spirit of inferior rank assumes an honored name to gain credit for his statements, a substitution that frequently occurs, and against which we cannot be too much on our guard; for it is by means of these borrowed names, and with the aid of fascination, that system-building spirits, with more conceit than knowledge, seek to disseminate the most erroneous ideas. The question of identity, as we have said, is of little importance in regard to teachings of a general nature; for spirits of high degree may substitute themselves for one another, without any practical inconvenience for us, because they form a collective whole, whose individual members, with few exceptions, are completely unknown to us. What interests us is not their personal individuality, but the quality of their teachings; and if those teachings are good, it matters little whether he who gives them calls himself Peter or Paul, for we judge him by his quality and not by his name while, on the other hand, inferior communications are no more rendered acceptable by being made under the assumption of venerated names, than bad wine can be changed into good by the addition of a fine brand. But it is otherwise in regard to communications purporting to come from those whom we have loved; because, in such cases, it is precisely the individuality, the personality, of the communicating spirit that constitutes for us their interest and worth; and it is therefore with reason that, in regard to all such communications, we make a point of ascertaining, as far as such ascertainment is possible, whether the spirit who responds to our call is really the one with whom we desire to enter into relation.

257. In regard to this point, we have to remark that identity is much more easily established in the case of spirits of our own day, whose character and characteristics are known to us; for it is precisely by these characteristics, which they have not yet had time to throw off, that we are enabled to recognize them, and they, therefore, constitute one of the surest signs of identity. But it must not be forgotten that a spirit, in quitting his earthly body, does not entirely lose the sensitiveness which he felt in the earthly life; we usually find, when questions are addressed to him on a subject, or in a manner, which would not have been permitted by him when in the flesh, that he refuses to answer, or goes away. It cannot therefore be too clearly borne in mind that, in seeking to obtain proof of the identity of a disincarnate spirit, we should abstain from everything that could wound or offend him, as carefully as we should do in regard to spirits in the flesh.

258. But while disincarnate spirits generally refuse to answer indiscreet questions, such as we should scruple to put to persons in our present life, they frequently give spontaneous and unquestionable proof of their identity, by their language, by the use of words habitually employed by them, or by recalling events of their life, known to those to whom they come, but unknown to the rest of the company. Proofs of identity are often furnished, too, by many little corroborating circumstances and indications that did not appear at the first attempt of the spirit to communicate with us, but that present themselves gradually, in the Course of successive sittings. It is therefore well to wait for the proofs of identity that the spirit may be able to give us, rather than to attempt to force them from him; attentively observing, meanwhile, all the indications for or against his identity that may result from the nature of the manifestations themselves (See 70).

259. A method of assuring ourselves of the identity of a spirit that is sometimes employed with success, when the Communicating spirit is suspected of having assumed a name which is not his, consists in demanding of him to affirm, in the name of the Almighty, that he is really the spirit he declares himself to be. Though some lying spirits will brave even this test, a great number of those who do not scruple to use a borrowed name recoil from the commission of a sacrilege; and, after having written "I affirm, in the name of;"- will stop writing, make vague, unmeaning scratches on the paper, or tear it; or will break, or throw down, the pencil. A confirmed hypocrite will sometimes elude the question by a mental reservation, and will write, for example: "I certify that I am speaking the truth;" or he will perhaps write "I affirm in the name of God, that it is really I who am speaking," etc. But as remarked above, there are many who are less scrupulous, and who will swear to anything. One of these put himself in communication with a medium, stating that he was "God;" and the medium. feeling himself immensely honored by such a favor, unhesitatingly believed him. This spirit, evoked by us, did not dare to persist in such an imposture, but said: "I am not God; but I am His son." "Do you mean to say, then, that you are Jesus? But that would hardly seem probable; for Jesus is too high to resort to a subterfuge. Do you dare to affirm, in the name of God, that you are Christ?" - "I do not say that I am Jesus;" replied the silly impostor, I call myself God's son, because I am one of His creatures." We may safely conclude that the refusal of a spirit to affirm his identity in the name of God is always a proof that the name he has assumed is a false one; but we must bear in mind that even the affirmation of identity in the name of God is only, and in some cases, a presumption of its being true, and by no means an absolute proof of it.

260. We may also include, among the presumptive evidences of identity, the similarity of writing, signature, turns of expression, and other personal peculiarities; but, to say nothing of the fact that it is not given to every medium to obtain these similitudes, it must be remembered that they are not always of themselves a sufficient guarantee of identity; for there are mimics, sharpers, and forgers, in the world of spirits as well as in this one. Similarity of writing etc., considered as a proof of identity, is only valuable as a presumption, and when strengthened by accompanying circumstances. It is the same with all the physical signs that some persons regard as talismans not to be imitated by lying spirits. For spirits who dare to commit perjury in the name of God, or to counterfeit a signature, to physical sign can be an obstacle. The best of all proofs of identity is found in the language and tenor of the communications, and in the fortuitous circumstances by which the manifestations are accompanied.

261. It will doubtless be said, that, if a spirit can imitate a signature, he can as easily imitate the language of the person whose name he assumes. This is true; and we have met with spirits who not only assumed the name of Christ, but who imitated the evangelical style and lavished at random the well-known phrase, "Verily, verily, I say unto you;" but when, instead of Christ's grand utterances, we find ridiculous puerilities, we must be thoroughly "fascinated" to be taken in by pretensions so hollow.

The style of a speaker or writer may be imitated by inferior spirits, but not the thought; ignorance can never imitate knowledge, nor vice, virtue; and, in all such attempted impersonations, the tip of the asinine ear is sure to peep out. Nevertheless, in order to distinguish between truth and falsehood, the medium and the evoker must employ all their perspicacity. They must understand that perverse spirits are capable of anything and everything; and that, the higher the name assumed by a spirit, the more suspicious should we be of his veracity. How many mediums have received false and ridiculous communications, made under the pretended sanction of the most venerated names!

Good and Evil Spirits.

262. If the identity of a spirit is, in many cases, only a secondary question of no great importance, the distinction between good and evil spirits can never be unimportant; for, although their individuality may, under certain circumstances, be indifferent to us, such can never be the case in regard to their quality, because it is their quality alone that can give us the measure of the confidence we should accord to them, whatever may be the name they assume.

263. As previously remarked, we must judge of spirits as we judge of men, by their language. Supposing a man receives twenty letters from persons unknown to him; by their style, by the thoughts conveyed in them, and by a multitude of other indications, lie will distinguish those which are written by educated persons from those which come from ignorant ones; he will see, by the peculiarities of each letter, whether its writer is well or ill-bred, whether he is shallow or profound, whether he is proud, serious, frivolous, or sentimental. It is just the same with spirits; we must regard them as correspondents, or interlocutors, whom we have never seen, and ask ourselves what we should think of the knowledge and general character of men who should express themselves in the same way. We may lay it down as an invariable rule, admitting of no exception, that the language of spirits is always in, accordance with the degree of their elevation. The communications of really superior spirits are not only excellent, but are always couched in simple and dignified language; and therefore the use of low and unsuitable language, by a spirit, always indicates inferiority on his part, no matter how good may be the intentions implied in it. We need hardly add, that any grossness of language, as of thought, is conclusive proof of a corresponding grossness in the nature of the communicating spirit. The language of a communication always shows its origin, whether by the nature of the thought conveyed, or by the form in which it is given; so that, whenever a spirit tries to deceive us by a pretended superiority, we have only to converse with him a little, in order to appraise him at his true value.

264. Kindness and benevolence are also essential attributes of purified spirits; they have no hatred, either for men or for other spirits; they pity the weaknesses of those who are below them, and, though they criticize their errors, they always do so with moderation, and without bitterness or animosity. If we admit that really good spirits can only desire the good of others, and can only give utterance to kind and noble sentiments, we must necessarily conclude that language, evidencing a want of kindness or nobility, cannot emanate from a good spirit.

265. Intelligence is far from being a sure sign of moral superiority; for intelligence and morality do not always go hand in hand. One spirit may be good and kind-hearted with scanty knowledge; while another may be intelligent and learned, and yet be very little advanced in morality.

People generally seem to suppose that, by questioning the spirit of a man who has been learned in some specialty on earth, they are more sure of getting at the truth in regard to it; but this supposition, though it seems a reasonable one, is not always correct. Experience shows us that scientific men as well as other people, and especially those who have not long left the earth, are still swayed by the prejudices of their terrestrial life, and that they do not immediately get rid of the ideas they have cherished, and which may have lent a halo to their names. It may even happen that, being thus under the influence of their former ideas and theoretic systems, they see less clearly than we are apt to suppose. We are far from laying down this principle as a rule; we only say that such cases have been met with, and that, consequently, a man's having possessed scientific knowledge during his human life is not always a proof of his wisdom as a spirit.

266. By submitting all spirit-communications to a scrupulous examination, and by scrutinizing and analyzing the ideas and expressions of spirits as we do in judging the literary work of men, by rejecting everything that runs counter to reason and common sense, everything in contradiction with the character of the spirit who claims to be manifesting, we discourage deceptive spirits, who take themselves off when they find that they cannot deceive us. We repeat it; this method is the only one by which we can distinguish between the Communications of good and of inferior spirits, but it is infallible; for no communication from the latter can stand the test of rigorous examination. Good spirits are never offended by such examination; on the contrary, they advise it, because they have nothing to fear from scrutiny. It is only bad spirits who take scrutiny amiss, and who try to dissuade us from making it, because they are sure to be losers by it; their dissuasion, therefore, proves their inferiority. Here is a piece of advice on this point given by Saint Louis: -

"Whatever may be the confidence legitimately inspired in your mind by the spirits who preside at your meetings, you must never fail to exercise your judgement in regard to every communication that you receive, and must never neglect, when any point appears obscure, suspicious, or doubtful, to ask for the necessary explanations in regard to it."

267. We may sum up the methods of ascertaining the quality of spirits as follows: -

1. Common sense is the sole criterion by which to ascertain the quality of spirits and the value of their communications. Any other criterion, though given by spirits for the attainment of this object, is absurd, and cannot have been suggested by spirits of superior elevation.

2. Spirits are to be judged of by their language and actions; the latter being the sentiments they inspire and the counsels they give.

3. It being admitted that good spirits cannot say or do anything but what is good, it follows that nothing evil can proceed from a good spirit.

4. The language of superior spirits is always dignified, noble, elevated, and free from the least admixture of triviality; they express themselves with simplicity and modesty; they never make a parade of their learning, nor boast of their position in the spirit-world. The language of inferior or commonplace spirits always shows some trace of human passions; every expression indicating ignorance, vulgarity, self-sufficiency, arrogance, boastfulness, or acrimony, is a characteristic of inferiority, and also of fraud, if the spirit has presented himself under an honored or venerated name.

5. While carefully scrutinizing the style of spirit-communications, we must also examine their meaning, weighing their statements coolly, patiently, and without prejudice. If these are illogical, unreasonable, and unwise, there can be no doubt as to the inferiority of their authors, whatever may be the names assumed by them.

6. The language of elevated spirits is always the same, in meaning, if not in form. Their thoughts are the same, whatever may be the time and place of their transmission; their communications are more or less developed, according to circumstances, needs, and facilities of communication; but they are never contradictory. If two communications, bearing the same name, are opposed to each other, one of them is evidently apocryphal, and the true one will be that in which NOTHING is in contradiction with the known character of its signer. If; for example, of two communications signed Vincent de Paul, one inculcated union and charity, and the other aimed at producing discord, no man in his senses could hesitate as to which would be the genuine one and which the sham.

7. Good spirits only state what they know; they are silent, or confess their ignorance, in regard to subjects with which they are unacquainted. Bad spirits talk boldly of everything, regardless of truth. Every scientific heresy, every theory opposed to common sense, betokens fraud on the part of the spirit who is communicating, if he claims to be of high degree.

8. We may also recognize inferior spirits by their random predictions of future events, and their minute assertions in regard to pretended facts of which we know nothing. Good spirits sometimes give us a hint or a presentiment of future events, when some useful end is to be gained by so doing; but they never, or rarely, give minute details or fix dates; the announcement of some given event, as being destined to occur at a given period, is usually a hoax.

9. Superior spirits express themselves simply and concisely, and their communications are clear, intelligible, and easily understood; they say much in a few words, for every word they employ has its meaning. Inferior and shallow spirits, on the contrary, often endeavor to disguise their poverty of ideas under a pompous and inflated style, and are often pretentious, ridiculous, or obscure, while trying to appear profound.

10. Good spirits never command, never assume airs of authority; they give us counsel, and, if we do not attend to them, they retire. Evil spirits are imperious; they give orders, try to make us obey them, and persist in staying even when bidden to go away. Every spirit who assumes a tone of command betrays his inferiority. Evil spirits are exclusive and absolute in their Opinions, and pretend that they alone speak the truth. They demand a blind credence, and never appeal to reason, because they know that reason would unmask their pretensions.

11. Good spirits never flatter; they approve what is right, but always with moderation: evil spirits overwhelm us with exaggerated praise; they contrive to stimulate pride and vanity, even while ostensibly preaching humility; and they rarely fail to exalt the personal importance of those whom they seek to ensnare.

12. Superior spirits are above formalities and trifles. Only commonplace spirits attach importance to petty details, incompatible with really elevated ideas. Every petty prescription is a certain mark of inferiority on the part of a spirit, whatever may be the name he assumes.

13. The assumption of eccentric and ridiculous names by spirits is always to be distrusted, and those who assume them may always be set down as trying to impose on our credulity; it would be absurd to regard such extravagances with respect.

14. We must be equally on our guard when spirits present themselves under names held in high respect or veneration, for it is especially in such cases that critical examination is necessary; respected and venerated names being too often only a mask intended to deceive us as to the real quality of the spirits by whom they are assumed. By borrowing great names, inferior spirits often seek to flatter a medium's vanity; and they then lead him on to regrettable absurdities.

15. Good spirits are scrupulous of giving us advice in regard to our action in the affairs of our daily life, and only do so for the attainment of some serious and useful end. We must never act upon any spirit-advice, unless the advice thus given is entirely approved of by our reason and judgement; in all such cases, we should carefully reflect before following any such advice, or we may expose ourselves to very disagreeable and even dangerous hoaxings.

16. Good spirits may also be recognized by their prudent reserve in regard to all that could compromise individuals; to unveil evil is repugnant to them, while foolish and malicious spirits delight in bringing it into view. While good spirits endeavor to extenuate, and exhort to indulgence, evil ones exaggerate, blame, and excite discord by perfidious insinuations.

17. Good spirits only prescribe what is good; no counsel which is not in strict conformity with the purest evangelical charity can proceed from them.

18. Good spirits never make statements that are not in perfect accordance with reason; every suggestion which is opposed to common sense, or to the laws of nature, betrays the inferiority of its origin, and is consequently not to be trusted.

19. Spirits who are evil, or merely imperfect, betray themselves also by physical indications which cannot be mistaken. Their action on the medium is sometimes violent, producing in him a feverish or convulsive agitation, or causing him to make abrupt and jerking motions; results which offer a marked contrast to the calmness and gentleness produced by the action of good spirits.

20. Imperfect spirits frequently take advantage of the means of Communication at their disposal for giving perfidious counsels, excite distrust and animosity against those whom they dislike, and direct their animated diversions especially against those who are able to detect their inferiority. They seek out the weak in order to lead them astray; employing, by turns, sophistry, sarcasm, abuse, and even physical violence, as proof of their occult power; they do their utmost to turn them from the path of truth.

21. The spirits of men who have busied themselves with one single idea or pursuit during their earthly life often remain, for long periods, under the sway of their terrestrial ideas, and retain many of the prejudices, predilections, and even manias, of their earthly life; a fact easily seen in their manifestations.

22. The knowledge of which some spirits ostentatiously boast is no proof of their real superiority; the unvarying purity of their moral sentiments is the only proof of their elevation.

23. We cannot arrive at truth simply by questioning a spirit. In the first place, we must know to whom we are addressing our questions; for inferior spirits, no matter how ignorant they may be, are often quick to reply, even in regard to the most serious subjects, in spite of their ignorance. Moreover, even if the spirit who replies was learned in earthly science, while in the corporeal life, it does not follow that he is possessed of high scientific knowledge in the world of spirits. It is only through moral purity that a spirit draws nearer to God, and thus extends the circle of his knowledge.

24. The pleasantry of superior spirits is often subtle and keen, but never undignified. The satire of spirits of lower degree, who, without being rude, are sometimes fond of bantering, is often both sharp and perfectly to the point.

25. By a careful study of the characteristics of the spirits who present themselves, especially as regards their morality, we ascertain their nature, and the degree of confidence we may safely place in them. People who habitually make use of their common sense are rarely deceived, in regard to spirits, as in regard to men.

26. In order to judge of spirits, as in order to judge of men, we must have learned to judge ourselves. Many persons take their own personal opinions as the sole standard of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood, and condemn whatever contradicts their way of looking at things, their ideas, and the theories they have invented or adopted. Such persons are evidently deficient in the rectitude of judgement which is the first condition of a sound appreciation of any subject, but they are not aware of their deficiency, this defect being the one in regard to which illusion is the most frequent and tenacious.

The foregoing directions are derived from experience and from spirit-teachings; we will complete them by giving the answers of spirits to questions addressed to them, by us, in reference to the most important points previously touched upon.

268. Questions as to the nature and identity of spirits.

[kardec asks for clarifications from a trusted spirit guide]

1. By what signs can we distinguish the superiority or inferiority of spirits?

"By their language; just as you distinguish a hair-brained man from a sensible one. We have already said that superior spirits never contradict themselves, and only say what is good; they have no other desire than good; it is the aim of all their thoughts and actions. Inferior spirits are still under the influence of earthly ideas; their discourse betrays their ignorance and imperfection. Superiority of knowledge, and calmness of judgement, are the exclusive apanage of superior spirits."

2. Is the scientific knowledge possessed by a spirit always a sign of his elevation?

"No, for if he is still under the influence of matter, he will have retained your vices and your prejudices. There are people in your world who are excessively proud and jealous; do you suppose that they lose these faults directly, on quitting it? No; there remains with them, after their departure from your world, especially in the case of those whose passions were strong, a kind of atmosphere which envelops them, and keeps all those bad things in them just as they were before."

"Spirits who are partially advanced are even more to be dreaded than those who are simply bad, because they often combine intelligence with craftiness and pride. By their partial knowledge, they impose on the unsuspecting and the ignorant, who unhesitatingly accept their false and deceptive theories; and, although these errors cannot eventually prevail against the truth, they none the less do harm for a time, for they fill many mediums with false ideas, and thus impede the progress of spiritism. Enlightened spiritists, as well as mediums, should do their utmost to separate truth from falsehood."

3. Many protecting spirits designate themselves by the name of saints or other known personages; what are we to conclude in regard to this point?

"All the saints and other personages whose names are known to you would fail to furnish a protector for every man. There are, among spirits, comparatively few whose names are known on earth, for which reason, spirits frequently decline to give any name at all; but as you always want a name, they sometimes, to satisfy you, take some name that you already know and respect."

4. Should not this borrowing of names be regarded as a fraud?

"It would be such if done by an evil spirit as a means of deception; but when it is done by good spirits for a good purpose, it is permitted among spirits of the same order, because there is, among them, solidarity and similarity of thought."

5. So, then, when a protecting spirit calls himself Saint Paul, for example, it is not certain that he is the soul of that apostle?

"Certainly not; for there are thousands of persons who have been told that their guardian-angel is Saint Paul, or some other well-known personage; but what does it matter to you, if your spirit-protector is of the same rank and character as Saint Paul? As I said just now, you want a name; and spirits therefore take one by which they may be evoked and recognized by you, just as you take baptismal names to distinguish you from the other members of your family. They might take the names of the archangels, Raphael, Michael, etc., without its being of any consequence. "Besides, the more elevated a spirit is, the wider does his radiation extend; so that a protecting spirit of high rank may really have many thousands of incarnates under his guardianship. You, upon the earth, have lawyers who take charge of the affairs of hundreds of families; why should spirits of high degree be less able to take the moral direction of men, than are your lawyers, to look after your worldly interest?"

6. Why do the spirits who communicate with us so frequently assume the name of saints?

"They identify themselves with the mental habits of those to whom they speak, and take the names which are most likely to impress each man according to his belief."

7. Do superior spirits, when evoked, always come in person, or do they, as some persons suppose, send proxies charged to transmit their thoughts?

"They come in person when they are able to do so; but, it unable, they send a proxy."

8. Is the proxy always sufficiently enlightened to answer as well as the spirit who sends him would have done?

"Superior spirits always choose, as their proxies, those who are able to represent them truly. Besides, the higher spirits are, the more intimately are they united in thought; for them, personality is therefore comparatively indifferent, and it ought to be so with you. Do you imagine that there are no other spirits capable of giving you valuable instruction than those whose names are known upon the earth? You are all too prone to fancy yourselves the sole denizens of the universe, and to see nothing beyond the limits of your little world You are too much like savages who, never having quitted their island, suppose it to be the whole of the world."

9. We can understand that it should be so, in regard to any important matter; but why do elevated spirits permit inferior ones to assume their names for the purpose of misleading?

"It is by no permission of theirs that this is done; does not the same thing occur among yourselves? Those who thus deceive will be punished; you may be sure of that, and also that their punishment will be in proportion to the extent of their imposture. On the other hand, if you were not imperfect, you would have only good spirits around you, and therefore, if you are deceived, it is because you are imperfect, and for that imperfection, and consequent deception, you alone are to blame. God permits that it should be thus, in order both to test you, and to enlighten your judgement by teaching you to distinguish truth from error; if you cannot do this, it is because you are not yet sufficiently advanced, and need to learn further lessons from experience."

10. Are spirits of little advancement, but who are animated with good intentions and the desire to progress, sometimes delegated to supply the place of a superior spirit, in order to give them the opportunity of practicing the art of communication?

"This never occurs in the great spiritist centers; I mean in those whose meetings are conducted in view of general ends. The spirits "who present themselves in such centers always do so of their own accord, and some of them come as you say, to exercise themselves in communicating; and it is for this reason that many of the communications received, though good in point of morality, show intellectual inferiority on the part of their writers. Spirits are only delegated for communications of little importance, such as may be called personal."

11. Very weak spirit-communications sometimes contain a few extremely good passages; how are we to explain this anomaly, which would seem to indicate the simultaneous action of spirits of various degrees of advancement?

"Inferior or foolish spirits often take upon themselves to transmit a sentence, without much comprehension of what they are writing about. Are all who write in your world really superior people? No; good and evil spirits do not consort together; it is in the uniform goodness of a communication that the action of superior spirits is shown."

12. When spirits lead men into error, is it always done intentionally?

" No; there are well-intentioned spirits who are still ignorant, and are themselves deceived; when they have discovered their own insufficiency, they become more prudent, and restrict their statements to what they know."

13. When a spirit makes a false communication, is it always done with a malevolent intention?

" No; when not himself in error upon the subject he speaks of; a spirit may be frivolous; and may be simply amusing himself by mystifying, without any ulterior aim."

14. Since some spirits can deceive by their language, can they also assume a false appearance to the perceptions of a seeing medium?

"This is sometimes done, but it is more difficult, and is never allowed to occur except for some important object that the evil spirits themselves do not understand, being employed in such cases by higher spirits as instruments for giving a needed lesson. The seeing medium may see frivolous and lying spirits, as others hear them, or write under their influence. Frivolous spirits may take advantage of the existence of this faculty in a medium to deceive him by false appearances; but this depends upon the qualities of the medium's spirit."

15. Do good intentions suffice to preserve us from deception, or are serious inquirers also liable to be deceived?

"The more serious a man is, the less liable is he to be deceived; but every man has some weakness that may attract mocking spirits. People sometimes think themselves strong who are not so in reality; others are unconsciously influenced by pride or prejudice. You do not always take sufficient account of these conditions, which give so dangerous a handle to deceiving spirits, who know that, by flattering your vanity or your prejudices, they are pretty sure to succeed in getting hold of you."

16. Why does God permit evil spirits to communicate, and to use this permission for evil ends?

"The communications of the very worst spirits may furnish you with a lesson; it is for you to learn it, and to turn the experience to your profit. Is it not necessary for you to receive all sorts of communications, in order that you may be taught to distinguish between good and evil spirits, and also to hold up a mirror to yourselves?"

17. Can spirits, by their communications, inspire unjust suspicions, and thus set friends at variance?

"Perverse and jealous spirits can do everything that men do in the way of evil; and you must therefore be constantly on your guard against them. When superior spirits have to find fault, they do so with prudence and moderation; they never speak ill of any one; when they warn, they do so with gentleness. If; in the interest of both parties, they desire that two persons should cease to meet, they bring about some apparently fortuitous incident that will keep them apart in a natural way. Language calculated to excite trouble and distrust is always that of an evil spirit, whatever the name he assumes. You should therefore exercise the utmost circumspection in regard to anything that a spirit may say against any of you, especially if a good spirit has previously spoken well of the same party; you should also distrust yourselves and your prejudices. Accept, of spirit-communications, only what is good, generous, rational, and approved alike by your intellect and your conscience."

18. It would appear, from the facility with which evil spirits interfere with communications, that we can never be certain of the truth of any of them?

"Yes; since you have your reason for judging of them. When you read a letter, you can tell, by the letter itself; whether it comes from a low ruffian or well-bred man, from a fool or a philosopher; why can you not do the same when spirits write to you? If you receive a letter from a friend at a distance, what proof have you that it is from him? 'His writing and the tenor of his letters,' you will say. But are there not forgers who imitate all sorts of writing? are there not knaves who pry into every one's affairs? and yet are there not indications in regard to which you cannot be mistaken? It is the same with regard to spirits. Imagine yourself to be reading a letter from a friend, or the work of some author; and judge all spirit-communications in the same way."

19. Could superior spirits, if they would, prevent evil ones from borrowing false names?

"Certainly they could; but the worse spirits are, the greater is their obstinacy, and they often resist the injunctions laid upon them. You must know, too, that there are persons in whom superior spirits take more interest than they do in others, and whom, when they judge it to be necessary, they protect from lies; against incarnates who are thus protected, deceptive spirits are powerless."

20. What is the motive of this partiality?

"It is not partiality but justice; good spirits interest themselves thus on behalf of those who profit by their advice, and who labor in earnest for their own amelioration. Such persons are their favorites, and are seconded by them they trouble themselves but little about those whose good resolutions end in words."

21. How is it that God permits spirits to commit sacrilege by falsely assuming venerated names?

"You might as well ask why God permits men to lie and blaspheme. Spirits, like men, can use their free will for good or for evil; and the justice of God does not fail in regard to either."

22. Are any formulas efficacious in driving away deceptive spirits?

"Formulas are materialities; an earnest thought, directed towards God, is more effectual."

23. Some spirits have said that they have the power of executing graphic signs that cannot be imitated, and by means of which their identity may be recognized with absolute certainty; is this true?

"Superior spirits have no other signs for proving their identity than the superiority of their ideas and language. Any spirit can imitate a physical sign. As to inferior spirits, they betray themselves in so many ways that you must be blind to be taken in by them."

24. Cannot deceptive spirits simulate the thought of their superiors?

"They could only counterfeit the thought of those above them as theatrical scenery counterfeits nature."

25. It is, then, easy to detect fraud by attentive observation?

"Certainly; spirits only take in those who allow themselves to be deceived. But false one; and he who does not know how to do this for himself must go to a lapidary."

26. Some persons who are weak enough to be imposed upon by pompous language, and who pay more attention to words than to ideas, take false or commonplace statements for something sublime; how are such persons, who are not even competent to judge of the works of men, to judge of those of spirits?

"When such persons are modest, they recognize their insufficiency, and do not trust to their own judgement; when they are proud, and think themselves clever, they incur the consequences of their vanity. There are persons who, though simple and but little educated, are less liable to deception than others who possess intellect and knowledge, but who are vain and self-conceited; for spirits, by flattering the passions of the latter, do just what they please with them."

27. Do evil spirits sometimes betray themselves in their communications by involuntary physical signs?

"The skilful ones do not; the unskillful ones often do. Every useless or puerile manifestation or injunction is a certain indication of inferiority; elevated spirits do nothing uselessly."

28. Many mediums distinguish between good and evil spirits by the agreeable or painful impressions they experience on their approach. Are disagreeable impressions, such as convulsive agitation or uneasiness of any kind, always a proof of the evil nature of the manifesting spirits?

"The medium feels the state of the spirit who comes to him. When a spirit is happy, he is tranquil, light-hearted, calm; when a spirit is unhappy, he is agitated and feverish, and this nervous agitation naturally affects the nervous system of the medium. It is the same with yourselves upon the earth; the good man is calm and self-possessed, the wicked man is restless and agitated."

Remark. - The nervous impressionability of different mediums varies so greatly that no absolute rule can he laid down in regard to it; and in judging of medianimic manifestations, as of everything else, we must take the circumstances of each case into account. The painful and disagreeable character of an impression is sometimes an effect of contrasting fluids; for if, when an evil spirit is manifesting, the medium sympathizes with him, he will he but slightly agitated, or not at all.

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These pages are lightly edited excerpts from The Mediums' Book: Guide for Mediums and Invocators by Allan Kardec [Leon Rivail] A download (acrobat format) of the complete volume is free.