Incredulity in regard to spirit-communication, when not the result of systematic opposition from selfish motives, has almost always its source in an imperfect acquaintance with the facts of the case; which, however, does not prevent a good many persons from attempting to settle the question as though they were perfectly familiar with it. It is possible to be very clever, very learned, and yet to lack clearness of judgement; and a belief in one’s own infallibility is the surest sign of the existence of this defect. Many persons, too, regard spirit manifestations as being only a matter of curiosity. Let us hope that the reading of this book will show them that the wonderful phenomena in question are something else than a pastime.
Spiritism consists of two parts: one of these, the experimental, deals with the subject of the manifestations in general; the other, the philosophic, deals with the class of manifestations denoting intelligence. Whoever has only observed the former is in the position of one whose knowledge of physics, limited to experiments of an amusing nature, does not extend to the fundamental principles of that science. Spiritist philosophy consists of teachings imparted by spirits, and the knowledge thus conveyed is of a character far too serious to be mastered without serious and persevering attention. If the present book had no other result than to show the serious nature of the subject, and to induce inquirers to approach it in this spirit, it would be sufficiently important; and we should rejoice to have been chosen for the accomplishment of a work in regard to which we take no credit to ourselves, the principles it contains not being of our own creating, and whatever honour it may obtain being entirely due to the spirits by whom it has been dictated. We hope that it will achieve yet another result-viz., that of serving as a guide to those who are desirous of enlightenment, by showing them the grand and sublime end of individual and social progress to which the teachings of Spiritism directly tend, and by pointing out to them the road by which alone that end can be reached.
Let us wind up these introductory remarks with one concluding observation. Astronomers, in sounding the depths of the sky, discovered seemingly vacant spaces not in accordance with the general laws that govern the distribution of the heavenly bodies and they therefore conjectured that those spaces were occupied by globes that had escaped their observation. On the other hand, they observed certain effects the cause of which was unknown to them; and they said to themselves, “In such a region of space there must be a world, for otherwise there would be a void that ought not to exist; and the effects we have observed imply the presence in that seeming void of such a world as their cause.” Reasoning, then, from those effects to their cause they calculated the elements of the globe whose presence they had inferred, and facts subsequently justified their inference. Let us apply the same mode of reasoning to another order of ideas. If we observe the series of beings, we find that they form a continuous chain from brute matter to man. But between man and God, who is the alpha and omega of all things, what an immense hiatus! Is it reasonable to suppose that the links of the chain stop short with man, that he can vault, without transition, over the distance which separates him from the Infinite? Reason shows us that between man and God there must be other links, just as it showed the astronomers that between the worlds then known to them there must be other worlds as yet unknown to them. What system of philosophy has filled this hiatus? Spiritism shows that it is filled with the beings of all the ranks of the invisible world, and that these beings are no other than the spirits of men who have reached the successive degrees that lead up to perfection; and all things are thus seen to be linked together from one end of the chain to the other. Let those who deny the existence of spirits tell us what are the occupants of the immensity of space which spirits declare to be occupied by them; and let those who scoff at the idea of spirit-teachings give us a nobler idea than is given by those teachings of the handiwork of God, a more convincing demonstration of His goodness and His power.
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– Download the other basic books of Spiritism here (.pdf format). All of the books are on public domain.