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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The moral crisis (by Leon Denis) and the Spiritist answer


The present hour is a time of crisis and renewal. The world is in fermentation, corruption is in the ascendant: the mighty shadow spreads and the peril is great, but behind the shadow we perceive the light, and behind the peril, salvation. Society cannot perish: if it bears within it the germs of decomposition, there likewise are those of transformation and redemption. Decomposition confirms death, but it also heralds the new birth. It is the prelude of another life.

And whence will proceed this light, this salvation, this redemption? Surely not from the Church, which is incapable of regenerating the human mind. Not from science, which cares neither for conscience nor for character, but only for that which concerns the senses: devotion, virtue, justice, love all that enters into the making of noble characters and wholesome societies - none of these appertain to the domain of the senses.

That the moral level should be raised, that the two streams of superstition and skepticism, which terminate in a sea of sterility, may be checked, a fresh conception of life and of the universe is indispensable. One which, based upon the study of nature and conscience, upon the observation of facts and the principles of reason, may at last determine the aim of our life and regulate our onward progression. What we require is a belief which affords an incentive for improvement, a moral sanction and a strong conviction as to our ultimate fate.

But this conception and this teaching we already have: and daily are they becoming better known. Above the din of the disputes, above the divergences of philosophical schools, a voice has made itself heard - the voice of the Dead. The Dead have revealed themselves from beyond the grave, more alive than when they stood amongst us in the flesh. In the light of their revelations the veil has fallen, which hid from us the future life. Their precepts will conciliate all conflicting creeds, and will cause a new flame to arise from the ashes of the past. In the philosophy of Spiritism, we find again that secret doctrine which ran like a golden vein through the quartz of the ages, but renovated and now cleansed of its dross. Its shattered remnants have been gathered and bound together by a powerful cement, and even now frame an edifice vast enough to accommodate all nations and all civilizations. That the strength of its foundations might be beyond suspicion, the new edifice has been erected upon the rock of direct experience and constantly renewed faith. Thanks to it, the certainty of immortality is being made manifest to all men, together with the innumerable existence and the unceasing progress that await us in the successive cycles of eternity.

Such doctrine is bound to transform all the nations and classes of the world: conveying light where all is dark: melting, with its heat, the icy selfishness that lies at the heart of man: revealing to all men the laws that unite them with the bonds of a close solidarity. Its unification will be compounded of peace and harmony. Through it we shall learn the act with one heart and with one mind. Conscious of his strength, man will be able to advance with an assured tread towards his splendid destiny.

Leon Denis. From "Here and Hereafter", First Part, "The Moral Crisis". Translated by George Fleurot. Willian Rider and Son Limited. 2nd Edition. 1910.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Principles of spiritual healing 1: introduction

Fig 1 Jesus raises the daughter of Jairus. Gustave Doré (1832-1883).
In a sequence of several short texts, we will introduce and discuss here several aspects related to "spiritual healing" from the spiritist point of view. The subject is surely relevant, given the complex nature of healing process and the perspective of new treatments. In this introductory post, we will present some of the recent findings in the field and the piritist interpretation of them, emphasizing the multiple sides of the phenomenon.

One should first give precise meaning to the words used to the notion of "healing" and "spiritual". The word "spiritual" is linked to "spirit" - in fact it is rooted in this word. The notion of spirit many times is in opposition to "matter" or the material part of the human being. Surely, if there is any recovery and it involves the body, "spiritual healing" can only refer to the process of obtaining the cure without the use of any material help, in a "spiritual way". Sometimes one also hears about "spirit healing" which seems to emphasize the spirit nature of the healing process. However, if there is a cure, it must involves certain material transformations, that is, they end up related to the body. Therefore, there must have a link, a channel or way between the purely "mental" or "spirit" side to the bodily "stuff". Understand this way or mechanism is presently one of the most challenging tasks, since it involves the so-called "mind-body" interaction problem to which Spiritism may contribute. 

From the spiritist viewpoint, since life is eternal and the body is only a cloth - which is permanently dispensed after death - the real cure is a process attached to the spirit nature of human beings. Therefore, one can speak about the "true remedy" as a process which starts during the incarnate period but may only terminate after death. In fact, death may be part of the healing process from the viewpoint of the spirit life - hence the existence of terminal diseases. In this respect, to understand the true state of health one should also understand the hidden reason behind the existence of diseases affecting humans. According to the spirits, they are caused by deep unbalances in the human soul. Hence, although many physical causes may be identified as associated to a given body malfunction,  there will only be true cure after important transformations take place in the human spirit so as to render it "clean" from the conditions leading to the disease state. However, this is not the whole story. According to the spirits, in many situations, before reincarnation, the spirit asks for certain diseases in its future life in order to avoid the repetition of past mistakes: 
Before reincarnation, in the possession of full understanding as spirits, we analyzed the susceptible points of our souls and pleaded the issuing of physical hindrances at proper time in our own favor to immunize ourselves against the repetition of past mistakes we are still attached to. (Emmanuel, "Leis do Amor", F. C. Xavier, medium)
The law of "cause and effect" applied to the soul must be thoroughly investigated in order to fully understand the reason behind the occurrence of diseases. In fact, the very condition of an incarnate in this planet is a sign of our still imperfect nature as spirits (spirits say these imperfections are all related to the way we relate to ourselves, to God and our incarnate fellow). Otherwise, we should already had gained access to the superior worlds where diseases are not known - at least as they are on Earth. As a first conclusion, we should never miss this important point: my transitory life is just a brief moment in my true spirit existence and the diseases offer me important temporal opportunities of improvement of my soul

First works
fig. 2 "La Revue Spirite", or "Spiritist Magazine"
founded by Allan Kardec, discussed the existence
of healing mediums in its March 1860 issue..

Having said that, it is also appropriate to say that people can be attain cure of the body right now, both by undertaking the many treatments science has discovered by medicine and through "spiritual healing" as well. This is not in contradiction to what was written before. It is simply the end tip of the improvement process, when the body no longer reflects the spirit unbalances because the soul is now straightened. The time is now ripe for the ful recovery because we are worthy of it. The existence of "non physical" process of healing was discussed by Allan Kardec already in 1860 in the "Revue Spirite" (in the March issue, 1) under the title "Un médium guérisseur" ("A healing medium"). Part of the teachings put forward by the spirits to Kardec about "healing mediums" can be read in "The Book on Mediums" (2), Chapter 14, "Of mediums", when Kardec presents the many types of mediums. In Paragraph 175, one can read:
We shall say only that this kind of mediumship consists principally in the gift possessed by some persons of healing by the simple touch, by the look, even by the gesture, without the help of any medication. It will, doubtless, be said, that it is nothing but magnetism. It is evident the magnetic fluid here plays a great part; but this phenomenon is carefully examined, it is easily seen that there is something more (2).
The word in italics "magnetism" is of considerable importance here in order to understand Kardec's statement. This word has nothing to do with "magnetism" in the physical sense, the property of natural or artificial magnets. To understand this word in Kardec's context, we should go back to F. A. Mesmer (1734-1815) who coined the expression "animal magnetism" (3) as analogue to "natural magnetism" to explain the many cures obtained by him (4). The idea is that a kind of fluid - called magnetic fluid - was exchanged between healer and the ill person. Since Mesmer theory had considerable influence at the time, it was natural to Kardec to adopt it - it was in fact accepted by many influential scholars. Later, Mesmer ideas were academically surpassed by the alternative idea of hypnosis which came as a kind of "official" explanation to the healing mystery.

Fig. 3 Illustration from Baron Du Potet's 1863 work 
on "mesmerism" depicting the idea of magnetic
 "effluvia" from healer to the patient as a possible 
explanation of healing process.
However, how much hypnotism can explain the many cures obtained by spiritual healers around the world today is a measure of the magnitude of the the mistake of associating Mesmer's achievements with a purely hypnotic action. Surely Mesmer's flamboyant and theatrical personality did not contributed to his fame among scholars who were jealous of his miracles. Mainstream medicine today denies the existence of spiritual healing in much the same way it denied Mesmer's works in the past. In any way,  the presence of a kind of "invisible matter" exchanged between healer and the ill is still a useful principle and has survived in our days in the many references to a kind of "healing energy" responsible for the cures as we will see in a future post. 

Spirits account of the process of spiritual healing

After realizing hypnotism as a kind of "alternative explanation" put forward by scholars to explain away a phenomena originally discovered by Mesmer and reinforced by the existence of healing mediums and their associated phenomena, we can understand the explanation advanced by the spirits in Paragraph 176 of (2) on spiritual healing, (spirit answers and some original French words used by Kardec - neologisms in English -  are written in italics below). We reproduced some parts of this paragraph here given its importance and return later with some comments.
1. Can persons endowed with magnetic power (puissance magnétique) be considered as forming a variety of mediums? 
You cannot doubt it.
2. Yet the medium is an intermediary between the spirits and man; but the magnetizer (magnétiseur), drawing his strength from within himself, seems not to be the intermediary of any foreign power.  
It is an error: the magnetic power resides, doubtless, in the man; but it is augmented by the action of the spirits he calls to his aid. If you magnetize with a view to healing, for instance, and you invoke a good spirit, who interest himself in you and your patient, he augments your strength and your will;  he directs your fluid , and gives in the necessary qualities.
3. But there are very good magnetizers who do not believe in spirits. 
Do you think that spirits act only on those who believe in them? Those who magnetize for good purposes are seconded by good spirits every man who has a desire to do good undoubtedly calls them; the same as by the desire of evil, and evil intentions, he calls the evil.
4. Would he who has the power acct more efficaciously, should he believe in the intervention of spirits?
  He would do things you would look upon as miracles.
5.  Have some persons truly the gift of healing by the simple touch, without employing magnetic passes (passes magnétiques) ? 
Assuredly; have you not numerous examples of it? 
6. In this case is the magnetic action, or only influence of spirits? 
Both; these persons are veritable mediums, because they can act under the influence of spirits; but that is not to say they would be writing mediums as you would understand it.
One of the most important contributions of the spirititst teachings to the understanding of the true human nature and destiny is the role played by the spirits in the many human affairs. Accordingly, it is impossible to appreciate the phenomenon of spiritual healing without taking into account the spirits. They are not only responsible for the uncontrollable aspect of the healing process, but also by its full performance. No matter how one designates the invisible matter exchanged during the a healing session - carried out in the presence of a healer - the recovery itself is mediated by the spirits who catalyze the whole healing action.

There is a strong dependence of the healing success on the force of the illness (how serious it affects the organism), since, for certain diseases, even the ill person has the power of cure himself, as can be seen in experiments exploring the placebo effect. In the questions above, Kardec confirms the healing action of people at his time known as "magnetizers" (nowadays, this term is no longer used), but emphasizes an important element in the presence and action of the spirits, no matter the healing power. To provide such action, the healer not even need to believe in their existence, but this belief can greatly magnify the effect. The mental action exercised by the desire of attaining the cure works as a kind of "invocation" that is sufficient to call the attention of spirits and improve the process.

The idea of healing mediumship should however not be confused with intellectual mediumship, when information from the spirit world is "channelled" through a medium. However, the characterization of spiritual healing as the result of a kind of "mediumship" is legitimate given the role played by the spirits in the process. In a future post, we will search the recent literature of modern experiments using healers and find more evidence in support of a possible spirit intervention. We will also see how prayer can affect the recovery of a given disease.  

References

1 - You can the original article by Kardec in French here:

2 - See  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_on_Mediums for a short introduction to this fundamental work. Anna Blackwell translation - "The Medium's Book'"- is found here: 
The quote is acccording to Emma Wood translation: A. Kardec (1970). The Book on Mediums. Ed. Samuel Weiser, Inc. The original book in French can be read here: 

3 - For an incomplete e possibly biased account on Mesmer life see:

4 - In fact, the word "fluid" was used to describe many natural phenomena and not only magnetism. The "electric fluid" was conceived as responsible for all phenomena of electricity - including dynamic electricity, the idea of "electric current" was still in its infancy in the beginning of the XIX century. The same idea was applied to natural magnets which were viewed as possessing a kind of virtue in the form of magnetic fluid - exchanged through magnetic induction, for example, a kind of "action at distance". It was not difficult for Mesmer to conclude for the existence of a new type of fluid, this time associated to animals and human beings, carrying the "virtues of health" and which was also viewed as a kind of action at distance, as represented in Fig. 3.