HEAVEN AND HELL
The Divine Justice Vindicated in the Plurality of Existence
The passage from the earthly life to spirit-life, future rewards and punishments, angels and devils, etc.
Followed by numerous examples of the state of the soul, during and after death.
BEING THE PRACTICAL CONFIRMATION OF "THE SPIRITS' BOOK"
BY Allan Kardec
Translated from the Sixtieth Thousand - By Anna Blackwell [London: Trubner & Co., Ludgate Hill - 1878]
Part First - Doctrine
1. The term heaven is employed, in a general sense, to designate the boundless expanse of space which surrounds the earth, and, more especially, the part of that expanse which is above our horizon. The Latin name for that space, cœlum (derived from the Greek coilos, hollow, concave), was given to it by the Ancients, because heaven, or the sky, appeared to them to be an immense concavity. The Ancients believed in the existence of several "heavens," placed one above the other, composed of a solid, transparent matter, and forming a succession of hollow, concentric spheres, in the center of which, immovable, stood the earth. These spheres, turning round the earth, carried with them the stars which were placed within their several circuits.
This belief, due to the paucity of astronomic knowledge, was the basis of the various theogonies which represented those concentric "heavens," thus superposed on one another, as localizations of progressively increasing degrees of beatitude, the topmost one being the region of supreme felicity. According to the general opinion, there were seven of these "heavens"; hence the saying, "To be in the seventh heaven," as the expression of the most perfect happiness. The Mohammedans admit nine "heavens," in each of which the happiness of the true believer is successively increased. The astronomer Ptolemy (who lived in Alexandria, in the second century of the Christian era), counted eleven of these "heavens"; the uppermost being syled "The Empyrean" (from the Greek word, pur, or pyr, fire), on account of the brilliant light with which it was supposed to be filled; and the term is still employed as the poetic designation of the realm of eternal glory. Christian Theology assumes the existence of three "heavens"; the first is the region of the terrestrial atmosphere and the clouds; the second is the space in which the stars perform their revolutions; the third, above the region occupied by the stars, is the dwelling-place of the Most High, the abode of the elect, who behold the Almighty "face to face." It is in accordance with this classification that St. Paul is said to have been "caught up into the third heaven."
2. These different doctrines, respecting the abode of the Blessed, are based on two erroneous assumptions, viz.: - 1, that the earth is the center of the universe; and 2, that the region of stars is limited. And it is beyond the imaginary limit thus assigned to the starry region, that all those doctrines have placed the blissful realm which is supposed to be the dwelling-place of the Almighty. But what a strange anomaly is that which relegates to the outskirts of creation the Author and Ruler of all that is, instead of assigning to Him, at least, a position in the center of the universe, whence His thought might radiate in all directions!
3. Physical science, with the inexorable logic of facts and observation, has carried its torch into the depths of the expanse of space around us, and has shown the emptiness of all these theories. The earth has been proved to be, not the pivot of the universe, but one of the smallest of the bodies that circle through immensity, and our sun itself is not known to be only the center of our planetary system; every star that shines in the boundless expanse of the sky is ascertained to be itself a sun, the center of a system of dependent worlds; and the innumerable system thus revealed to us as moving in an orderly inter-dependence throughout the boundless regions of infinity, are found to be separated by distances incommensurable by our thought, though, to our eye, they seem almost to touch one another. In this view of the universe, governed by eternal laws which proclaim the wisdom and omnipotence of the Creator, the earth is seen to be only an almost imperceptible speck, a mere member of one of the pettiest of the solar systems yet known to science, and one of the least favored - as regards its physical characteristics and its adaptation to human life - of the planets of the minute system to which it belongs. Such being the case, the question naturally arises as to why the Almighty should have made it the sole seat of life, the sole habitation of the most favored of His creatures? Everything, on the contrary, tends to show that life is everywhere, and that the human family is as infinite as the universe. Science has proved the existence of worlds similar to ours; and as God cannot be supposed to have made anything without a purpose, He must necessarily have peopled those worlds with beings capable of administering them.
4. Man's opinions are always proportioned to his knowledge; and the discovery of the constitution of the world around him, like all the other great discoveries of the human mind, has necessarily given a new direction to his ideas. It was inevitable that, his primitive creeds should undergo considerable modification; "heaven" has been ousted from its former place, for the region of stars, being boundless, can no longer be assigned as its locality. Where, then, is "heaven"? To this question, none of the religions of the world can furnish an answer.
This problem, of which all other theories are unable to supply the solution, is solved by Spiritism, which shows us the true nature and destiny of man.
5. With the aid of the knowledge thus derived, we have ascertained that man is a compound being, consisting of a body and a spirit; that the spirit is the principal element of this compound existence, its reasoning and intelligent element; and that the body is merely a material envelope which is temporarily assumed by the spirit for the accomplishment of his mission upon the earth and the execution of the labors that are necessary for his advancement. The body, worn out, is destroyed, and the spirit outlives its destruction. Without the spirit, the body is only a mass of inert matter, like an instrument deprived of the arm which made it act. Without the body, the spirit is still itself; that is to say, the essential element of the compound being called man, viz., life and intelligence. On quitting his material envelope, the spirits returns to the spirit-world, which he had quited in order to incarnate himself in a corporeal body.
There is, then, the corporeal world, composed of spirits incarnated in corporeal bodies, and the spirit-world, composed of spirits who have put off their corporeal body. The beings of the corporeal world, in virtue of their material envelope, are attached to the earth or to some similar globe; the spirit-world is everywhere, around us and in space, and has no boundaries or limits of any kind. In virtue of the fluidic nature of their body envelope, the beings who compose that world, instead of creeping laboriously upon the ground, transport themselves through space with the rapidity of thought. The death of the body is the rupture of the bonds which held them captive.
6. Spirits are created simple and ignorant, but with the aptitude of acquiring all knowledge, and for progressing in every direction, through the exercise of their free will. Through the progress achieved by them, they acquire new knowledge, new faculties, new perceptions, and, as a consequence of these, new enjoyments unknown to spirits of less advancement; they see, hear, feel, and comprehend, what more backward spirits can neither see, hear, feel, nor comprehend. The happiness of each spirit is in proportion to the amount of progress accomplished by him; so that, of two spirits, one may be more or less happy than the other, simply as a consequence of his greater or less degree of moral and intellectual advancement, and this, without their being in two different places. They may be close to one another, and yet one of them may be in utter darkness, while the other is in the midst of resplendent light; just as a blind man and one who sees may be in the same place, and yet the former will be unconscious of the splendors seen by the latter, who perceives the objects which are invisible for the former. The happiness and unhappiness of spirits being inherent in the qualities possessed by them, they find that happiness or unhappiness wherever they may be, on the surface of the earth, in the midst of incarnates, or in space.
A common-place comparison will render this difference of situation more comprehensible. If, of two men who are at a concert, one is a trained musician possessing a good ear for music, while the other knows nothing of music and has only a defective ear, the first will derive enjoyment from the concert, while the other will remain unmoved, simply because one of them perceives and understands what makes no impression upon the perceptions of the other. It is thus with all the enjoyments experienced by spirits, those enjoyments being proportioned to their aptitude for perceiving them.The spirit-world is full of splendors, harmonies, and sensations that spirits of low degree, who are still under the influence of materiality, do not perceive, and which are only perceptible, and accessible, to spirits of greater purity.
7. Progress, among spirits, is only achieved as the fruit of their own labor; but, as they have their free will, they labor more or less actively for their own advancement, according to their will; they thus hasten or retard their own progress, and, consequently, their own happiness. While some of them advance quickly, others stagnate for long ages in the lower ranks. Thus, spirits are always the artisans of their own situation, whether happy or unhappy, conformable with the words of Christ, "each according to his works." A spirit who remains behind has, therefore, only himself to thank for his backwardness; in the same way, he who advances has all the merit of his advancement, and the happiness he has conquered appears to him all the greater in consequence.
Perfect felicity is the lot only of the spirits who have attained to perfect purity, in other words, of those whom we designate as Pure Spirits. ¹ Happiness is only obtained by spirits in proportion as they progress in intelligence and morality. Intellectual progress and moral progress are rarely achieved together, and at the same time; but what a spirit fails to accomplish in one lifetime he accomplishes in another, so that his advancement in each of those two branches of progress is equalized in the long run. It is for this reason that we so often find highly intelligent men who are but slightly advanced in morality, and vice versa.
¹ see "The Spirits' Book," p. 38, et seq.
Part Second - Examples
The 3rd of January 1857, Msgr. Sibour, Archbishop of Paris, on coming out of the church of St. Stephen-of the- Mount, in Paris, was stabbed by a young priest named Verger, who was sentenced to death, and executed, on the 30th January. Up to the moment of his death, Verger showed neither regret nor repentance for his crime. Evoked on the day of his execution, he gave the following replies:
Q. (Evocation.) - A. I am still retained in my body.
Q. Is not your soul entirely free from your body?
A. No... I am afraid... I don't know... Wait until I can see myself... I am not dead, am I?
Q. Do you repent of what you have done?
A. I did wrong to kill; but I was driven to it by my temper; which cannot put up with humiliations... you will evoke me another time.
Q. Why do you want to go away?
A. I should be too much frightened if I saw him; I should fear he would do as much to me!
Q. But you have nothing to fear, since your soul is separated from your body; banish all uneasiness; it is unreasonable.
A. One can't help one's impressions! I don't know where I am... I am mad.
Q. Try to be more self-possessed.
A. I cannot be so, since I am mad... Wait... I will try to recall my lucidity.
Q. If you prayed, it would help you to recover your self-command.
A. I am afraid... I dare not pray.
Q. Pray! The mercy of God is great. We will pray with you.
A. Yes; the mercy of God is infinite; I always believed it to be so.
Q. Now, do you understand your position more clearly?
A. It is so extraordinary! I cannot yet make it out.
Q. Do you see your victim?
A. I seem to hear a voice, like his, that says, "I am not angry with you"... but that is a freak of my imagination! ... I tell you,I am mad; for I see my own body on one side and my head on the other; and yet I seem to be alive, but in space, between the earth and what you call the sky. I feel the chill of the knife falling on my neck, but that is the fear I have of dying. It seems to me that I see a number of spirits about me, looking at me with compassion; they talk to me; but I don't understand them.
Q. Is there, among those spirits, one whose presence humiliates you on account of your crime?
A. There is only one of them whom I am afraid of, it is he whom I struck.
Q. Do you remember your past lives?
A No; I am in a state of vagueness; I seem to be dreaming... another time... I must recover myself.
Q. (Three days later.) - Do you understand your position more clearly?
A. I know that I no longer belong to your world, and I am not sorry for it. I am sorry for what I did; but my spirit is now freer; I see more clearly that there is a succession of existences which give us the knowledge we need in order to become, at length, as perfect as the nature of created beings permits.
Q. Are you being punished for your crime?
A. Yes, I regret what I did, and I suffer for it.
Q. In what way are you punished?
A. I am punished by perceiving the true nature of my act, for which I beg of God to grant me forgiveness; I am punished by the consciousness of my lack of faith in God, and because I now know that we ought not to cur short the life of our brethren; I am punished by remorse for having delayed my advancement through taking the wrong road and through not having hearkened to the voice of my conscience, which told me that it was not by killing that I should attain my end; but I allowed myself to be mastered by envy and jealousy; I made a mistake, and I am sorry for it; for a man should always do his utmost to master his bad passions, and I did not do so.
Q. What do you feel when we evoke you?
A. Pleasure and fear, for I am not malicious.
Q. In what do this pleasure and fear consist?
A. The pleasure is to talk with men, and to partly atone for my fault by confessing it. The fear is something I cannot define... a sort of shame at having been a murder.
Q. Would you like to be reincarnated upon the earth?
A. Yes; I beg to be allowed to do so; and I desire to be always exposed to the danger of being killed and to be afraid of it.
Archbishop Sibour, having been evoked, assured us that he forgave his murderer and prayed for his return to rectitude. He added that, although he had been present, he had abstained from showing himself to Verger, in order not to add to his suffering; and that his fear of seeing him, which was a sign of remorse, was, in itself, a chastisement.
Q. Does the man who will commit murder know, on choosing his existence, that he will become an assassin?
A. No; he knows that, by choosing a life of struggle, he incurs thechance of killing a fellow-creature; but he does not know whether he will do so or not, for there is almost always hesitation in the murderer's mind before committing the crime.
The situation of Verger, immediately after his execution, is that of almost all of those who die a violent death. The separation of body and soul being a process that cannot be accomplished suddenly, they are stunned, so to say, and do not know whether they are dead or alive. Verger was spared the sight of the Archbishop, because it was not needed to excite his remorse; in contrary cases, murderers are incessantly haunted by the sight of their victims.
To the enormity of his crime, Verger had added the absence of repentance up to his last moment; he was consequently in the best possible state for incurring, according to the Church, the penalty of eternal damnation. And yet, no sooner has he quited the earth, than repentance awakens in his soul; he repudiates hes past and sincerely demands to be allowed to make reparation for his offense. He is not driven to repentance by the force of suffering, for he has not, as yet, had time to suffer, the change is due, solely, to the voice of his conscience, which he failed to heed during his life, but which he heeds now. Why should no account be taken of his change of feeling? Why should this change, which the Church says would have saved him from hell a few days previously, be unable to save him now? Why should God, who would have taken pity on his repentance before death, be without pity for the same repentance a few hours afterwards?
Surprise may be felt at the rapidity with with which this change sometimes occurs in the mind of a criminal who has remained hardened up to his last moment, and for whom the mere passage into the other life suffices to show him the iniquity of his course. But this sudden enlightenment is far from being general; if it were, there would be no bad spirits. Repentance is usually slow; and it is for this reason that punishment is usually long.
Obstinacy in evil, during life, is often caused by pride, which refuses to yield and to avow mistake; moreover, man is under the influence of matter, which throws a veil over his spiritual perceptions and fascinates him with false seemings. When this veil drops away from him, his mind is suddenly flooded with light, and he issobered from the intoxication of sense. A prompt return to better sentiments is always evidence of a certain amount of moral progress previously made by the spirit and awaiting only favorable conditions for asserting itself; as, on the other hand, a spirit's persistence in evil, after death, is always a sign of backwardness on his part and shows that, in him, the material instincts are still stifling the germ of goodness, and that he will have to undergo new trails that will force him, at length, into the path of amendment.