There are those who, through an aberration of the intellect, can see nothing in organized beings but the action of matter, and attribute to this action alt the phenomena of existence. They have seen, in the human body, only the action of an electrical machine they have studied the mechanism of life only in the play of the bodily organ”‘; they have Often seen life extinguished by the rupture of a filament, and they have seen nothing but this filament. They have looked to see whether anything stilt remained, and as they have found nothing but matter that has become inert, as they have neither seen the soul escape from the body nor been able to take hold of it, they have concluded that everything is reducible to the properties of matter, and that death is consequently the annihilation of all thought. A melancholy conclusion, if such were really the case for, were it so, good and evil would be alike devoid of aim every man would be justified in thinking only of himself, and in subordinating every other consideration to the satisfaction of his material instincts. Thus all social ties would be broken, and the holiest affections would be destroyed forever. Happily for mankind, these ideas are far from being general. Their area may even be said to be a narrow one, limited to the scope of invidious opinions; for nowhere have they been erected into a system of doctrine. A state of society founded on such a basis would contain within itself the seeds of its own dissolution; and its members would tear each other to pieces like so many ferocious beasts of prey.
Man has an intuitive belief that, for him, everything does not end with the life of his body; he has a horror of annihilation. No matter how obstinately men may have set themselves against the idea of a future life, there are very few who, on the approach of death, do not anxiously ask themselves what is going to become of them for the thought of bidding an eternal adieu to life is appalling to the stoutest heart. Who, indeed could look with indifference on the prospect of an absolute and eternal separation from all that he has loved? Who, without terror, could behold, yawning beneath him, the bottomless abyss of nothingness in which all his faculties and aspirations are to be swallowed up forever? Who could calmly say to himself, “After my death there will be nothing for me but the void of annihilation; all will be ended. A few days hence, all memory of me will have been blotted out from the remembrance of those who survive me, and the earth itself will retain no trace of my passage. Even the good that I have done will be forgotten by the ungrateful mortals whom I have benefited. And there is nothing to compensate me for all this loss, no other prospect, beyond this ruin, than that of my body devoured by worms!”
Is there not something horrible in such a picture, something that sends an icy chill through the heart? Religion teaches us that such cannot be our destiny; and reason confirms the teachings of religion. But the vague, indefinite assurance of a future existence, Which is all that is given us either by religion or by reason, cannot satisfy our natural desire for some positive proof in a matter of such paramount importance for us and it is just the lack of such proof, In regard to a future life, that, In so many cases, engenders doubt as to Its reality.
“Admitting that we have a soul,” many very naturally ask, “what is our soul? Has it a form, an appearance of any kind? is it a limited being, Or is it something undefined and impersonal? Some say that it is ‘a breath of God:’ Others, that it is a spark’ others, again, declare it to be ‘part of the Great Whole, the principle of life and of Intelligence.’ But what do we learn from these statements? What is the good of our possessing a soul, if our soul is to be merged in immensity like a drop of water in the ocean? Is not the loss of our individuality equivalent, so far as we are concerned, to annihilation? The soul is said to be immaterial; but that which is immaterial can have no defined proportions, and therefore can have no reality for us. Religion also teaches that we shall be happy, or unhappy, according to the good or the evil we have done; but of what nature are the happiness or unhappiness thus promised us in another life? Is that happiness a state of beatitude in the bosom of God, an external contemplation, with no other employment than that of singing the praises of the Creator? And the flames of hell are they a reality or a figure of speech? The Church itself attributes to them a figurative meaning but of what nature are the sufferings thus figuratively shadowed forth? And where is the scene of those sufferings? In short, what shall we be, what shall we do, what shall we see, in that other world which is said to await us all?”
No one, it is averred, has ever come back to give us an account of that world. But this statement is erroneous: and the mission of Spiritism is precisely to enlighten us in regard to the future which awaits us to enable us, within certain limits, to see and to touch it, not merely as a deduction of our reason, but through the evidence of facts. Thanks to the communications made to us by the people of that other world, the latter is no longer a mere presumption, a probability, which each one pictures to himself according to his own fancy, which poets embellish with fictitious and allegorical images that serve only to deceive us it is that other world itself, in its reality, which is now brought before us, for it is the beings of the life beyond the grave who come to us, who describe to us the situations in which they find themselves, who tell us what they are doing, who allow us to become, so to say, the spectators of the details of their new order of life, and who thus show us the inevitable fate which Is reserved for each of us according to our merits or our misdeeds.
Is there anything anti-religious in such a demonstration? Assuredly not since it furnishes unbelievers with a ground of belief, and inspires lukewarm believers with renewed fervor and confidence.
Spiritism is thus seen to be the most powerful auxiliary of religion. And, if it be such, it must be acknowledged to exist by the permission of God, for the purpose of giving new strength to our wavering convictions, and thus of leading us back into the right road by the prospect of our future happiness.
From the Spirit’s Book by Allan Kardec, Chapter II. Materialism.