Friday, January 29, 2016

The Attempted Hijacking of Humankind’s Progress and the Challenges We Face in this Moral Assault from Another Realm

Progress is inevitable. From everything Spiritism has to teach us, we know that as humankind advances in acquisition of knowledge and virtue, the world we call home will also change.  From books like Kardec’s The Gospel According to Spiritism and Genesis and Genesis, we’ve learned that somewhere on the horizon is a phase of planetary evolution called “regeneration”. Aware that we’ll only achieve this degree of advancement after leaving behind that which now qualifies Earth as a “world of trials and expiations”, we’re likewise ensured that divine providence affords the mechanisms and resources to guide us on this journey of spiritual growth.

Whether consciously or not, we benefit from the tireless efforts of countless angelic beings. In seeing us through the eyes of understanding and compassion, they do everything they can to help us. As Spiritists, we find tremendous comfort and inspiration in our awareness of these invisible companions. They are, in reality, none other than human spirits like ourselves (albeit in a discarnate state); however, by fruit of their own labor they have experienced a kind of joy that can only be found through the pursuit of moral dignity. Wishing to help others achieve the same, they act with the desire and commitment to serve, thus enabling their own progress and the progress of those who benefit from their care.

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With that kind of support at hand, we might look around, then, and question why our world is still so backward. Why is there still so much unhappiness and unrest?  Why are there so many souls wandering astray, one incarnation after the next, repeatedly violating the will of the conscience and causing pain to themselves and others? 

This, too, is made clear in the explanations afforded by Spiritism. Lest we not become complacent in the inspiring knowledge of our destined future state, Spiritism also teaches us that the timing at which progressive change will take place depends on the use we make – both individually and collectively - of the free will granted to us. Thus, the voices are there to call us to good, to offer wise counsel, to lend encouragement. The invisible, back-stage actors move silently behind the scenes trying to set the stage for positive outcomes in the circumstances of our daily lives. In the end however, the thoughts we nurture and the actions we take are both of our own choosing. It is, therefore, crucial for us to understand that alongside the army of unseen benefactors willing to go to battle for our awakening, there’s also a legion of opponents bent on goals that are of an entirely opposite motive.

This may come as no surprise, for indeed, Spiritism teaches us about the potential influences from unhappy spirits, whose suggestions and vibrations we attract if we are not careful with the kind of thoughts we entertain on a regular basis.  Whether they’re strangers merely drawn to us by way of vibrational affinity or adversaries from unresolved conflicts of our past lives in the material world, these spirits can exert an influence that can likewise become progressively dangerous and harmful, eventually reaching various stages of what, in Spiritism, we call obsession.

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What may not be so readily apparent, even once one begins to study Spiritism and becomes aware of this aspect spiritual influence, is just how widespread, perverse, and organized these unhappy spirits can be in their efforts to keep others from experiencing, even from pursuing, any kind of peace or happiness. For example, we’re familiar, here in the material world, with the existence of organized crime. As such, we can understand why, given that discarnate spirits are merely the same souls who at times live out incarnate lives in the material world, we find similar behaviors (both good and bad) in both realms. As such, the organized mobilization of corruption and cruelty indeed takes place not just here, but also in the spirit world. Furthermore, the targets of its actors are not limited to fellow discarnate spirits, for the material world also suffers a tremendous impact from their morally deranged intentions.

The above, in part, is the focus of explanations shared by an instructor at an educational establishment in the spiritual realm. The instructor offered these explanations to  spirit author, André Luiz, who then narrated the encompassing conversation in the second chapter of his novel, Liberationpsychographed by the medium Francisco Cândido Xavier.  

As I read through that chapter, I could not help but be reminded of a text in the book Obsession1, written by spirit author Manoel Philomeno De Miranda and psychographed by Divado Franco, in which the author writes about the existence of “gangs” in the lower regions of the spirit world. De Miranda informs that the spirits who gain positions of "power" in these organizations, "obsess other discarnate entities like themselves, who in turn become obsessors of incarnate individuals, setting up a very complex circle of communal living, exploiting one another physically and psychically.”

Are these morally debased spirits some sort of diabolic beings apart from the community of souls that you and I are a part of?  No, they are merely human spirits whose lamentable choices over the course of multiple lifetimes have lead them so far into the abyss of hopelessness and despair, accompanied by ruminating thoughts of resentment and the like, that they literally cannot fathom any other reality. And though progress is not some privilege that they’ve relinquished for all of eternity, they will not even begin the long road of redemption until they tire enough of their own circumstances to become open to the rescue support that is always there in the waiting.

Comments from the mentioned instructor to André Luiz help to explain these spirits’ current state. He informs André:

Incapable of going straight from the grave to heaven, the children of despair organize themselves into vast colonies of hate and moral misery, fighting amongst themselves for control of the earth. Like us, they possess a large, invaluable intellectual patrimony, and, as fallen angels of Science, they seek, above all, the debasement of the divine processes that guide planetary evolution.

Entrenched in the dark passions that flog their consciences, spirits whose minds are crystallized in rebelliousness try in vain to undermine the Divine Harmony, creating cysts of inferior life on the earth. They know countless ways to disturb, hurt, obscure, and destroy. They enslave the beneficent services of reincarnation in great expiatory sectors and make use of agents of discord against every embodiment of sublime purposes for which God designed our actions.[…]

Few [among incarnates] understand that death is just a modification of one’s body and fewer still are those – even the most learned religious individuals – who are wise enough to live in the physical vessel according to the superior principles they have espoused.[…]

Imperfect spirits that we still are, we follow those with whom we are attuned and we reap the rewards of ascent and victory, or the damages of descent and failure, controlled as we are by intelligences that are stronger than ours and who stay at our side in the progressive or depressive zone in which we have put ourselves.[…]

Fallen souls […], no matter who they are, do not comprise a spiritual race sentenced to languish in a demonic state of madness forever as part of the discarnate collectivity, in a completely senseless condition. No, they comingle with the terrestrial multitudes and have a strong influence on many homes and administrations. The fundamental interest of the most intelligent ones is to keep the world distracted and in the dark by encouraging ignorance and selfishness, postponing indefinitely the arrival of the Kingdom of God.

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As I read this text and reflected on both the extent of such activity and the challenges it presents for Earth’s progress given the influence on this material world, I was not only reminded of the text from Manoel Philomeno De Miranda.  Something else that came to mind is a completely different and otherwise unrelated (and non-Spiritist) book that I’ve recently been exposed to, entitled Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy2.  This book presents a disturbingly eye-opening view on current practices in smuggling and illicit trade (of all kinds imaginable), outlining just how widespread this growing, global phenomena of alarming consequences really is.  It was actually a set of interesting parallels between certain details of this book and the above concepts from Spiritist literature that inspired the title for this blog post.

A particular irony came to my mind as I read Illicit. As we all know, there are individuals and corporations, worldwide, that, whether for the sake of legal obedience or by their own moral standards, are making efforts to ensure compliance with laws and codes of conduct. The latter are intended to maintain order, establish justice, and protect people and the living world around us. Meanwhile, however, in parallel, we find a myriad of persons and entities across the globe who collaborate with one another in complete disregard for any laws or even for the moral consequences of their illicit commercial activity. As he suggests with such a title, the author of Illicit proposes that the smugglers, traffickers, and copycats are hijacking our global economy (not to mention the dignity and safety of human lives, in many cases). Reading André Luis’ text, I was reminded of that irony as I thought about the efforts that many individuals are making to live morally dignified lives, backed by the extensive support humankind receives from the spiritual realm, and, meanwhile, the juxtaposition of all this noble activity with the unfortunate determination of those unhappy “spiritual gangsters” to impede our achievement of happiness and peace.   

Another shared concept that struck me was that of a deep intertwining of two co-existing worlds. The author of Illicit, for example, made very clear the presence of a deep penetration of the illicit trade activity within the movement, mechanisms, and commercial infrastructure of legal global commerce and everyday life. Likewise, along the innumerable points touched by the networks of illicit trade, we are all (governments, citizens, financial institutions) impacted in some way and are likewise involved, willingly or unwillingly, to some degree. 

In many ways, this is not unlike the operations carried out by criminals of the spirit world, who use sophisticated networks to disseminate the object of their own trafficking activity: moral degradation. They too, infiltrate our world (in both spiritual and material dimensions) with their horrifying effects, using some of the same fundamental mechanisms that facilitate the noble work of loving souls. Through the law of affinity, mediumistic influence, the manipulation of spiritual energies, and other spiritual “tools”, these delinquent souls “smuggle” their disruptive ideas, energies, and influence into our minds, our homes, and our lives.

It is argued in Illicit  that we will not make any progress in combatting illicit trade practices if we see them only as “underground”, “black market”, and “offshore” operations. A different mentality and understanding is required because we cannot afford to imagine all this as being somehow apart from everything else. Similarly, in order to combat the dreadful influence of morally and mentally ill, discarnate spirits, we cannot view the lower vibratory zones where they’re found as being a hell that exists somewhere else and that has no involvement with the material realm we inhabit. It is critical for us to understand the mutual influence of the spiritual and material realms and to recognize the ways in which we determine the types of influences that we attract (good or bad) as well as the relationships we establish.

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At the level of undertaking described in the above-mentioned Spiritist texts, such orchestrated efforts to impede progress collectively become an assault on our planet as a whole. 

The methods of attack are the same ones we refer to when we talk about obsession in discussions focused on individuals or groups of individuals. Still, the extent of organization behind the impact that ultimately and directly reaches us as incarnate beings only reinforces the need for awareness and protection.

Spiritist knowledge is so relevant and so desperately needed. The reasons do include but go far beyond the understanding that death does not exist, the awareness that we can communicate with the spirit realm, or the knowledge that reincarnation is a reality. Even more important are the implications of such realities and what they mean for us in terms of our own responsibilities.

Knowing that there is life beyond the grave is comforting when we think about our loved ones and other benevolent spirits who support us in our worthy intentions. However, it’s also alarming when we consider that there are ill-willed spirits who can pursue a connection with us in order to cause us harm. As a result, with the further understanding that our own thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors open the doorway to the influences we receive, we realize just how important it is to nourish our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Along similar lines, reincarnation is a fascinating phenomenon to study and reflect on. However, studying about the justice of reincarnation and the ways that natural laws facilitate our long term attainment of true happiness actually gives us a new appreciation for the difficulties we endure. Furthermore, by understanding the multi-incarnation dramas that can play out until an established conflict is overcome, we perceive our relationships in a new way; we begin to see others with more compassion, and we recognize the true value of understanding and forgiveness, both for healing wounds from prior incarnations as well as in preventing the disastrous carryover of today’s conflicts, meaning into the spiritual realm (after death) or beyond (into a future incarnation). We also believe in the need to pray for our transgressors as well as those whom we ourselves have transgressed.

Finally, Spiritism never fails to remind us about our duties toward one another as children of God.  As such, De Miranda writes (though Franco’s mediumship):
Every obsessor […] is a brother of ours in the spiritual rearguard, where most of us have also been in the past. They need compassion and mercy, prayer and positive thoughts from all who are devoted to rescue work. We must offer them the opportunity for renewal and point out to them the luminous road they must travel, guided by the light of their spiritual discernment, in order to free themselves from the suffering through which they atone for their past errors.

Spiritism teaches us not to see or treat even malicious spirits as the enemy, with teachings that provide all the explanation behind such guidance. And, for example, you will find at Spiritist Centers special mediumistic sessions held specifically for the purposes of treating cases of obsession. Dedicated and trained incarnate Spiritist workers collaborate with discarnate partners in the spiritual realm and use the resource of mediumship to console and counsel suffering spirits who are often times involved in obsessive ties with one or more incarnate individuals.

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Knowledge is, indeed, power, and it is an invaluable start when it comes to addressing issues concerning spiritual obsession and the existence of “organized crime” in the spiritual dimension. Even still, without action, knowledge alone is powerless to be of any good. Therefore, let it be clear that although progress is inevitable, the pathway we take to achieve it is ours to carve out. 

Divine law will ensure that, with time, we will eventually climb to reach the peak of spiritual progress. However, our own choices over the span of countless incarnations will determine how windy our course at times may become and how deep the valleys we travel through may get before we finally rise and make our way to the top. If we disregard the compass of our conscience and we descend into those valleys, we will encounter the kind of company that inhabits the corresponding zones of the lower spiritual realms.

To combat these negative influences, we must continue to study and disseminate Spiritism, where we find eye-opening knowledge about these realities of spiritual life. Even more important is that we put Spiritism’s teachings into practice. This is necessary in order liberate ourselves from the binding threads of bitterness and unrest sown through the conflicts of our past. Furthermore, it is the way in which we will effectively protect ourselves today, while ensuring our gradual progress toward the true happiness of tomorrow.

Thank you for reading!
Blessings to all, today and always

1 De Miranda, Manoel Philomeno [spirit Author], Franco, Divaldo P. [Medium]. 1980 Obsession. (translation of "Grilhoes Partidos). Trans. Donato Ely J. and Miranda, Herminio C. Salvador, Ba, Brazil. Centro Espirita "Caminho da Redenção". 15-16.
2 Mosés, Naím. 2005. Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy. New York: Anchor Books.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Like "A Fly On the Wall" of Heaven

Viewing Our World Through André Luiz and Chico Xavier’s Spiritist Novels: the “Life in the Spirit World” series

We often say that books, novels in particular, have an incredible way of transporting us to other times and places. Together with our imagination, novels allow us to be elsewhere, observing and taking in sights and sounds that we may not otherwise ever have a chance to experience.

What if we were talking about a true story novel and the “place” we were transported to was the spirit world, where we could watch the lives of others play out from the perspective of an invisible observer able to see a scene taking place in both the spiritual and material dimensions?  In witnessing the many ways that the two realms interact with one another, we’d learn more about these exchanges that continuously happen all around us even though we are largely unaware of them as we go about our daily lives.  Through revealing details about the spiritual past of the novel’s incarnate characters’, we could gain unique insight into the motives behind the actions they took as the story unfolded, and we could learn more about the ways that discarnate sprits (from enemies to guardians) both perceive and influence those actions. We could also observe more about what goes in the spirit world itself and discover what life is like in the discarnate state.

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All of this is exactly what we find in the “Life in the Spirit World” series of novels written by spirit author André Luiz, through the psychography of the medium Francisco Cândido Xavier. I, for one, am a huge fan of these books. André Luiz’s novels remind me of that expression about being “a fly on the wall”, in other words sitting quietly somewhere and observing everything going on without being noticed - just taking it all in.

It is, of course, very important to study the fundamentals of Spiritist teachings, through books like those of Allan Kardec, Léon Denis, and others. These books nourish our personal reservoirs of knowledge and inspiration, sharing truly enlightening concepts and incredibly moving words that inspire courage and hope. However, like the student who first reads about theory in a text book and then goes into the lab or the field to observe the object of study in action, we have so much to learn from André’s novels which serve as a perfect complement to those foundational, Spiritist books. 

Page by page, the editions from André’s “Life in the Spirit World” series take us on unique learning expeditions in which the Spiritist concepts come to life. In fact, it is often the journeys of André Luiz, himself, that become narrated by way of his novels. As readers we get to accompany him and learn right along with him. 

Below you will find a description of each of the books available in English (at the time of this post) and other related resources that I encourage you to check out.

The "Life In The Spirit World” series of novels.
- by Andre Luiz (spirit author) and Chico Xavier (medium)

The following are descriptions of those from this series that have been translated to English. Descriptions are as found on the back cover of each.

Nosso Lar

“Nosso Lar is the name of the spiritist colony that the spirit Andre Luiz introduces in the first book of his acclaimed series.
In a compelling narrative, the author tells us of his impressions and discoveries about life in the spirit world, acting as a sort of journalist who records his own experiences as they occur.
Andre Luiz unveils to us an exciting world, filled with life and activity, and which is organized in an exemplary way. It is a place where discarnate spirits go through a recovery stage and a spiritual educational process supervised by high order spirits.
Nosso Lar enables us to get a glimpse of the spirit world that awaits us after we leave our physical bodies.”
- in publication of translation © 2010 by the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, authorized edition printed in 2010 by Edicei of America. [original title in Portuguese, Nosso Lar, 1944] 

The Messengers
 “This book reveals that physical death unveils a spirit life that ever-evolving. In fifty-one chapters, it describes the experiences of a number of spirits who reincarnated with preplanned endeavors needed for their personal spiritual growth.
Additionally, it deals with subjects such as: home Gospel worship, the benefits of practicing the good, carelessness regarding one’s spiritual obligations, and the fear of death. The spirit author focuses on the service opportunities for mediums, warning them about the need to practice on a personal level what they learn in order to avoid returning to the spirit world without having fulfilled the duties they assumed before reincarnating.”
- in publication of translation © 2008 by the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, as published in 2008 by the International Spiritist Council. [original title in Portuguese, Os Mensageiros, 1944]
Missionaries of the Light
“In this volume, Andre Luiz unveils the secrets of reincarnation, revealing the task of missionary spirits in charge of the rebirth process.
The spirit author affirms that physical death is not the end.  He also stresses the importance of self-effort in the struggle for self-empowerment.
In twenty chapters, he talks about his continued learning experience in the spirit world, the perispirit as a living body that molds the material cells, reincarnation guided by high order spirits, and the different aspects of mediumistic manifestations.
Missionaries of the Light teachers that Divine Providence always grants people new arenas of work through the incessant renewal of life by means of reincarnation.”
- in publication of translation © 2009 by the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, as published in 2009 by the International Spiritist Council. [original title in Portuguese, Missionarios da Luz, 1945]

Workers of the Life Eternal
 “Five people, who devoted their entire lives to the practice of good, are at the end of their physical existences. Due to their merit, they have the help of a spirit rescue team. The spirit Andre Luiz tells about his experience as a member of such a team. This is an enthralling narrative that reveals details of the tasks performed by spirits at the moment of the death of the physical body.
In this book, Andre Luiz confirms the principles revealed by the Spiritist Doctrine regarding the existence of the spirit world, where discarnate spirits dwell, living a new life while preparing to return once again to the earthly journey.
‘…Death does not extinguish friendly cooperation, mutual support, comforting intercession or the evolutionary endeavor.  The vibratory dimensions of the universe are infinite as are the worlds that populate the immensity of space.’'

- in publication of translation © 2008 y the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, as published in 2008 by the International Spiritist Council. [original title in Portuguese, Trabalhadores da Vida Eterna, 1946]

In the Greater World
 “In this volume, Andre Luiz focuses on aspects of life in the spirit world and the communication between discarnates and incarnates, especially during the sleep of the physical body.
The spirit author explains the causes of mental disturbances and presents their respective spiritual treatments.
In the form of a novel, he also analyzes topics such as abortion, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and Downs Syndrome and highlights the immediate rescue given by invisible workers to those who need help in order to avoid - as far as possible – madness, suicide and extreme moral disasters."

- in publication of translation © 2010 by the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, as published in 2010 by the International Spiritist Council. [original title in Portuguese, No Mundo Maior, 1947]

 “In this compelling narrative, Andre Luiz emphasizes the work of high order spirits in the effort to convert the spirit Gregario to the Good, an effort that culminates with the unforgettable reencounter with his mother – herself a highly evolved spirit –wherein he surrenders to the irresistible call of Love.

The book also contains information on how unhappy spirits act as they try to involve incarnates in their wiles.
The spirit author tells of the intercession of high order spirits on behalf of human beings, demonstrating the divine compassion that grants to all the blessed opportunity to free themselves by means of study, labor and persevering service in the practice of the Good.'"

- in publication of translation © 2013 y the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, authorized edition printed in 2013 by Edicei of America. [original title in Portuguese, Libertação, 1949]

Between Heaven and Earth
 “This is a novel that offers information about the relationship that exists in the activities of the spirit on the two planes of life.
Renewing his interest in our inner improvement, Andre Luiz tells the moving story of Amaro, Zulmira, Odila, and other characters, recounting the events of their previous lives from the time of Brazil’s War with Paraguay (1864-1870) through the days of old Rio de Janeiro (early 1900s).

In its preface, Emmanuel assures us that “the basic pictures of the narrative are intimately familiar to us”, such as family dysfunctions, the torment of jealousy, and the daily struggle for moral progress.

Each page of Between Heaven and Earth discloses new knowledge and emotions.'

- in publication of translation © 2011 by the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, as published in 2011 by the International Spiritist Council. [original title in Portuguese, Entre O Ceu E A Terra, 1954] 

In the Realms of Mediumship
“In this book, André Luiz analyzes the various aspects of mediumship, emphasizing the efforts of mediums faithful to the spiritual mandate received prior to their reincarnation.  He also warns of the risks involved in the poor interchange between the two worlds. 
The book talks about trance, somnambulism, possession, clairvoyance, the out-of-body experience, fascination, psychometry and the mediumship of physical effect, among others.
It is a technical study of great relevance, which discloses the ways in which Spirits act during the intricate process of communication with the incarnates.  It relays concepts of spirituality, received from enlightened mentors, contained in explanations of philosophical, scientific and evangelical nature, indispensable to those who dedicate themselves to the study of mediumship."

- in publication of translation © 2011 by the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, as published in 2011 by the International Spiritist Council. [original title in Portuguese, Nos Dominios da Mediunidade, 1955]

Action and Reaction 
"In this volume you will find a description of the lower regions of the spirit realm and the suffering to which the guilty conscience is subject after the death of the physical body.
Andre Luiz presents studies of real-life cases and offers guidance regarding paying one’s spiritual debts, the law of cause and effect, preparations for reincarnation, collective expiations, and the value of prayer.
The spirit author shows that the possibilities of our current existence are connected to our actions in past existences, just as our actions of today will condition our possibilities in the future."

- in publication of translation © 2010 by the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, as published in 2010 by the International Spiritist Council. [original title in Portuguese, Ação e Reação, 1956]

Sex and Destiny
 “What effects will the sexual experiences and conduct of incarnates have on the immortal spirits in their future life, their destiny?
Rich in detail, the books by Andre Luiz depict the spirit world: how spirits live, their habits and the relations of cause and effect that influence the evolutionary trajectory both of incarnates and discarnates, delineating their life, their destiny.

In this book, readers will find the answers to their questions about human sexual relationships and their implications for the future life of the immortal spirit, enabling it to ‘learn by using the library of experience.’
Sex and destiny, love and conscience, freedom and commitment, guilt and redemption, home and reincarnation are the topics of this book born in the forge of everyday reality.'

- in publication of translation © 2013 by the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, authorized edition printed in 2013 by Edicei of America. [original title in Portuguese, Sexo e Destino, 1963]

And Life Goes On
“This book presents a description of the human being after disincarnation and demonstrates that, in the Beyond, the mental state of spirits directly impacts their existence there.

 In 26 chapters, it tells the story of real characters who receive the help of spirit friends upon disincarnating. These friends encourage them to renew themselves spiritually through study and work in order to prepare to review and untangle the meaning of the lives they have just finished, thereby enabling them to pursue a more constructive course of behavior for their future.”

- in publication of translation © 2009 by the Brazilian Spiritist Federation, as published in 2011 (2nd ed.) by the International Spiritist Council. [original title in Portuguese, E A Vida Continua, 1968]

More about the author, André Luiz, in this page we have dedicated to him and to this series of books on the Explore Spiritism website

More about the medium, Francisco Cândido Xavier, also known as Chico Xavier:

Excellent, short YouTube video

Full length movie, Chico Xavier, on YouTube


The movie Astral City on the book Nosso Lar

My talk based on the book And Life Goes On

Thank you for reading!

Blessings to all, today and always

Thursday, January 14, 2016

How the "Hell" Could Eternal Punishment Actually Exist?

The idea of a physical place we can be sent to for an eternity of suffering or any other state of everlasting anguish, especially as a punishment of some kind, is one of the issues that bothered me most in my past struggles with religion.  For the life of me, I could not see how this was even believable.  I could not understand how a loving and just God would allow for (or create) such a reality, even if we were taught how to avoid it; plus, if I might add, the teachings on the latter were not without sources of further head scratching.

In my book Changing Lives with Spiritism, I wrote a little about some of the questions that ran through my mind as I grappled with this philosophical quandary.  I asked my readers to consider the following:

“What about those who don’t adhere to the prescribed requirements for eternal happiness before this life is over? Again, we are back to the God who has somehow a limited degree of forgiveness. Furthermore, let’s understand that people are born in different places around the globe where they might never receive these teachings that advise the right way to ensure one’s “ticket to salvation”. Why would they deserve anything less than, at minimum, the same chances given to anyone else? As if these questions were not enough, we should also stop and ask ourselves this: if we are so fortunate as to deserve everlasting peace and joy, how can we truly be happy in the afterlife knowing that others, from strangers to perhaps some particular loved ones, may not be so fortunate and could instead suffer eternally?”  

From my conversations with plenty of other individuals, I know I was not alone. For plenty of people, this dogma has been a deal-breaker; this is even mentioned in The Spirits’ Book, where question and answer #941 reads1:

Q. “The worry over death is highly vexing to many people. Why such worry if they have the whole future in front of them?”

A.  “It is wrong to have such apprehension, but what do you expect? Since early on, people have been persuaded that there is a hell and a heaven, and that they will most likely go to hell because they have been taught that whatever belongs to the realm of nature is a mortal sin for the soul. Thus, when they grow up, and if they have any reason at all, they can no longer accept such a belief and become atheists or materialists. It is thus that they are led to believe that nothing exists beyond the present life. As for those who persist in their childhood belief, they fear the eternal fire that must burn them without destroying them.”

If you have ever wrestled these or similar doubts, you will understand why I was so happy to find a new understanding, one that spoke to both my mind and my heart. Ironically, in the first United States Spiritist Council symposium that I was invited to speak at, I was given the topic of “Penal Code of the Life to Come”, where I was able to explore the question of eternal punishment and share the refreshing perspective with which Spiritism has brought soothing resolution to myself and so many others.  I was thrilled at the chance to share Spiritism’s powerful message. However, I can’t stop there! I want to continue spreading this awareness because I know there are still so many others who are seeking these answers.

Spiritism teaches us about divine justice, the educational journey of spiritual evolution, and the mechanism of reincarnation that makes them both possible.  It teaches that God is love, true love, without conditions, limits, or time-stamps. No matter how far we stray from the “stairway to heaven”, true happiness is the ultimate destiny for each of us, and there is no such thing as eternal damnation.

I would like to invite you to explore more about what Spiritism has to say, so I am sharing these three resources with you:

      1. The video of my presentation given at the above-mentioned symposium.

      2.  An enlightening excerpt from Allan Kardec’s book What is Spiritism, with his comments on the Spiritist view regarding the idea of Hell, or eternal punishment.

      3. A beautiful excerpt from the book Here and Hereafter * by Spiritist author Léon Denis, in which he describes life in the spirit realm, contrasting the experiences of lesser and more advanced spirits (according to Spiritist teachings).    (*Note: This book is now also translated and published with the title “After Death”)

Check them out to discover a refreshing perspective on the question of whether eternal punishment really exists.

Thank you for reading!
Blessings to all, today and always

1See question and answer #941, from Part Four Chapter 1 in The Spirits’ Book by Allan Kardec [original title in French: Le Livre des Espirits, published in 1857 with 2nd edition in 1860], translation © 2006 by the International Spiritist Council, authorized edition printed in 2010 by Edicei of America.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Being There For Someone Who Is Grieving

"Holding Space"

I recently came across a Facebook post linking to an article in which the author offered opinions on what should and should not be said to someone who is grieving. I was interested in the subject because I think knowing how to respond can challenging. Have you ever found, when you were before someone experiencing grief, that your heart may have yearned deeply to express concern and offer comfort, but your lips struggled to form the words needed to verbalize your thoughts?

As I first scrolled through the myriad of comments that had poured in on that post, I realized two things right away. First, most of us probably have a hard time finding those “right” words. Second, as confirmed by the overall collection of comments going in every which direction, it became clear that there really just are no right words.  Of course, it’s almost impossible to take away someone’s pain the way we wish we could, and even if we can relate and/or sympathize, we can never truly know exactly what someone else is feeling and experiencing. Aside from that is the fact that the ways in which people respond (a) to their own grief, (b) to the reactions of others to their grief, and (c) to the grief of others around them, are all very personal and vary tremendously from one individual to another.  This is understandable, given our diverse perspectives, beliefs, backgrounds, and personalities, but I guess our differences are part of what makes reaching out so hard at times, and yet the strong, human drive to comfort and console still beg us to find something to say.  

And we should make the effort to find something to say, or to do. As human beings, we should reach out to one another to show care and compassion in each other’s times of need. Those familiar with Spiritism know that this concept is emphasized within its teachings. Likewise, Spiritist literature reminds us that while charity and compassion can and do include material assistance, they are, by definition, much more inclusive than that.

Ironically, on the very same evening that I came across the above mentioned fb post, I had previously opened at “random” to a particular page in Léon Denis’ book After Death (*Note: this title was previously translated and published as Here and Hereafter), where Denis was making precisely that point about the true and complete meaning of charity, and he wrote, “There are thousands of ways to be useful, to give our brothers some assistance. Money neither dries all the tears nor cures all the wounds. There are troubles for which a sincere friendship, a lively sympathy and demonstrations of affection will do much more good to the soul than any riches.” 1

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I guess in seeing how people can feel so differently from one another upon hearing the same type of remark made in an attempt to show them solidarity, and knowing how challenging it can sometimes be to find the words I’m searching for to show someone that I care, I found it helpful to read from one commenter who said that the words she most appreciated, in her moment of grief, came from someone who simply told her: “I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I’m here for you”.  These words may not reveal all we wish to convey, but they also do not pretend that we know what the other person is going through.  Nor do they unintentionally impose with a belief that is not mutually shared. Meanwhile, if expressed with sincerity, they do show honesty, concern, and dependability. Not for all circumstances, but something to keep in mind.

What can we do, though, when we want our actions to reveal what our lips cannot convey? If the time we will spend with someone in pain goes beyond that of a passing moment, how can we use that opportunity to be supportive?  Again, this can look markedly different, depending on both who is supporting and who is being supported. However, buried within all those mentioned comments I had been scrolling through was yet another link that a particular commenter shared. The link was to a blog post that I found quite insightful, and appreciating the helpful answers that it offers to those questions, I thought it was worth sharing.

The blog post blog post is entitled "What it means to ‘hold space’ for people, plus eight tips on how to do it well.” This, coincidentally, is also how I first learned of this relatively new term of “holding space”, which apparently is actually growing in popularity.   After reading about it, I would say that “holding space” refers to a gentle and helpful approach to “being there” for someone in his or her time of grief.

In her blog post, author Heather Plett walks readers through the concept of “holding space” with very real examples taken from her own personal experience, as she describes how someone special was there to do that for her and her siblings while they dealt with their mother’s last days and moments of life in the physical world. Her narration and explanations are both moving and revealing. I found the text to be one that I will hold onto and go back to. I wanted to share it because it is precisely when we are in our most vulnerable moments that we need one another’s compassion, whereby it is equally important that we know how to show one another that kind of loving support.  

In addition to that post, and due the overwhelming interest that people took in what she first had to say on the topic, Plett also went on to write complementary, follow-up posts, including these titles:
How to hold space for yourself first
Sometimes holding space feels like doing nothing
Sometimes you have to write on the walls: Some thoughts on holding space for other people’s personal growth
On holding space when there is an imbalance of power and privilege
Leave space for others to fill your needs
You can find the links to all of them in original post.

If you are interested in learning more about “holding space” and getting suggestions for ways to be there for someone in need of your support, I highly recommend those articles.

Thank you for reading!
Blessings to all, today and always

1 from “After Death” (Chapter 47), by Léon Denis [original title in French: Aprés La Mort, published in 1889], translation published in 2015 by Centro Espirita Leon Denis (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), in partnership with the United States Spiritist Council.