|Death and Spirit Life According to Spiritism
DEATH. What is the definition of death?
From the medical and legal point of view, death is the irreversible cessation of life (that is, the end of spontaneous respiratory and
circulatory functions and complete absence of total cerebral function that persists for more than 30 minutes). Confronted by such
a shocking and frightening reality, since the most ancient times mankind has tried to understand what happens when one dies.
Allan Kardec opens Chapter One of Heaven and Hell with questions that have always haunted us: “It is certain
that we live, think and act; it is not less certain that we shall die. But, on leaving Earth, to what place shall we
go? What will become of us?”
“Can anything be more agonizing than the idea that we are doomed to complete and absolute destruction, that
our dearest affections, our intelligence, our knowledge so laboriously acquired, are all to be dissolved, thrown
away, and lost forever? Why should we strive to become wiser or better? Why should we restrain our passions?
Why should we exhaust ourselves working and studying, if our exertions are to bear no fruit? If, before long,
perhaps tomorrow, all that we have done is to be of no further use to us?”
However, something deep inside tells us that the end of existence cannot be
our destiny. The idea of the existence of the soul and of immortality emerged
in ancient civilizations such as the Chaldean, Egyptian and Hindu, and
occupied the mind of a number of philosophers. For example, the ideas of
Socrates and Plato about the survival of the soul can be seen in the following
excerpt: “If the soul is immaterial, then after this life it will have to go to a
world which is equally invisible and immaterial, the same way as the body
decomposes and returns to matter.” Wise men as Pythagoras, Voltaire,
Victor Hugo and others have also expressed their belief in the immortality of
the soul. Pythagoras who believed that the soul was immortal, use to say that
he himself remembered being born four times before he was born as
Pythagoras. He, as Jesus and Socrates did not leave any written work, but
the following teaching has been attributed to him “…always make judicious
and pondered choices to assure the victory of the best that lies in you: the
Spirit. Thus, when you abandon your material body and ascend into the
ether, you will be immortal, an undying god, a mortal no longer.” These ideas
show that a concept of the existence of an immortal soul was already
populating the minds of humanity.
Human beings have always had an innate intuition that death is not the end of existence, and this belief is vastly more common
than the belief that death means total destruction. In fact, those who really believe in annihilation are a very small minority. In most
of those known as freethinkers or nonbelievers there is more doubt than conviction and more fear of annihilation than they care to
But, how do we explain that those who do believe in the immortality of the soul still show a strong attachment to the
earthly life and a great fear of death?
The fear of death is a consequence of the instinct of self-preservation that is common to all living creatures. Actually, this
instinctive fear of death is another proof of God’s wisdom. Why? If it were not for the fear of dying, those who do believe in the
immortality of the soul but are not enlightened about the importance of living as means of spiritual advancement, when struck by
disillusions and despair would too often seek interruption of their terrestrial existence. Thus, the belief in the spirit life serves us
best when we begin to understand the reasons why we live and what happens to us as we enter the spirit realm.
How and when did we learn about the existence of the spirit world?
Since the dawn of civilization, we have been visited and inspired by spirits. Our
rudimentary perception of the spirit realm in the beginning originated a variety of forms
of worship and rituals that have evolved as our intellect progressively developed
throughout the times. Visual, verbal and physical manifestations of spirits established a
communication between the terrestrial and spirit worlds. However, for centuries and
centuries man remained unable to clearly comprehend the existence of spirit life,
thereby creating myths, uncertainty, confusion and even fear.
When the manifestations of the spirits began to be critically observed by Kardec using
scientific criteria, based on reproducibility, and absence of fraud and deception, the
revelations about the existence of a future life started to make sense to us. Only then
were the fragmented information and unintelligible manifestations of the spirits decoded
in a rational and enlightening form: the Spiritist Doctrine.
“It was not men who have discovered the spirit world, but the inhabitants of this world who came to describe
their new condition“ said Kardec in Heaven and Hell. Indications of life after death through communications
from the spirits have come forth all around the world. The phenomenon involving the Fox sisters in 1848, in
the United States is considered a landmark of spirit communication. More recently, a body of evidence of
life-after-death has emerged from near-death and past-life experiences, especially in the United States.
Hundreds of cases were carefully observed, recorded and examined by a number of people, including
physicians as Raymond Moody Jr., Ian Stevenson, Brian Weiss and Melvin Morse, just to mention a few.
They have conducted observations independently of religious or doctrinal beliefs, and yet clearly attest to
the existence of a very active spirit life. The striking similarities in the testimony from people who have
experienced clinical death and touched spirit life, but returned have peaked the interest of researchers, who
started studying physical and behavioral changes that occur after near-death experiences.
The first results showing changes in brain waves have recently been published, and an independent scientific project now aims to
study changes in the immune system following near-death-experiences. The journal Lancet, one of the most prestigious journals in
medicine, in 2001, published a prospective study of 334 cases of cardiac arrest in The Netherlands showing that 18% of the
patients reported near-death experiences. Upon analysis of the reported recollections from these patients, the authors themselves
posed the following question: “How could a clear consciousness outside one’s body be experienced at the moment that the brain no
longer functions during a period of clinical death with a flat EEG? Furthermore, blind people have described veridical perception
during out-of body experiences and at the time of this experience.” But, these were not the first studies to be conducted
independent of religious or philosophic ideas. Albert de Rochas (a military engineer and psychic scientist), in his book Successive
Lives, published in 1911 used magnetism to induce regression to past lives and collected observations on the wanderings of the
soul through the material and spirit worlds. He declares in chapter IV of this book that his work was done completely independent of
the ideas of the Spiritist Doctrine. Similarly, Camille Flammarion (an astronomer) in his book Death and its Mystery (1922)
developed a study on death and the survival of the soul and came to the conclusion that “The soul is independent of the material
organism and continues to live after death.” He then adds: “The conclusions achieved are the result of a my own free and
independent work, with no affiliations with creeds or religious systems.”
As Kardec states in Genesis, Chapter One: “Spiritism and Science complement each other. Science without
Spiritism finds itself utterly powerless to explain certain phenomena by laws of matter alone, while Spiritism
without science would lack support and analysis.” Later, in 1916, Einstein would say: “Science without religion is
lame. Religion without science is blind.”
Researchers using scientific methodology have therefore established this fact: Death does not exist!
In fact, life lies in the Spirit and is a continuous process of alternating existence in the material world with that in
the spirit world. Leon Denis in his book Here and Hereafter (1897), states: “There is no better analogy for the
phenomenon of death than that of the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to butterfly. Man lies in a cocoon that
death disintegrates. The spirit after death returns to the spirit life, which follows corporeal life as day follows
night.” This analogy is also used in the book Advancement in Two Worlds, (by the spirit Andre Luiz, received
through automatic writing by Francisco Xavier & Waldo Vieira, 1958). In the process of complete metamorphosis
typical of insects such as butterflies, a caterpillar comes out of the egg, grows and after reaching maturity
progressively slows its activity and stops feeding. Intestines and muscle movements become quiescent and the
caterpillar, now as a pupa, seeks protection in the soil or in a plant. Its salivary gland secretion as silk threads
mixed with soil or plant particles forms the cocoon that protects the pupa as its organs undergo complete
transformation and adaptation for a new form of life. When the process of metamorphosis is completed, a graceful
and vibrant butterfly emerges from the cocoon and flies away. But in question number 158 of The Spirits’ Book,
Kardec asks whether the example of the caterpillar that encapsulates itself in a cocoon, and finally comes out in a
radiant existence gives us an adequate idea of our terrestrial life, the body in the grave and our new existence.
The Spirits answer: “It is only a scanty idea. The analogy is good, but it shouldn’t be taken literally.” The image of
a butterfly gives us a sense of beauty, lightness and happiness and we have learned that this is not always the
case. Through all means of communication, spirits manifest a wide gradation of happiness and unhappiness. We’
ve learned that happiness or unhappiness in the spirit world is a mere consequence of the degree of
advancement or of imperfection of that spirit, and that there is no eternal punishment. Through their own
observations, some scientists who were once skeptical now have come to the conclusion that our future in the
spirit life is a consequence of our own acts in the material life – a topic that was extensively studied by Kardec and
compiled in his book Heaven and Hell.
|Death is not the end -- Isn’t this statement contrary to the scientific and legal definition of death?
No. That definition says nothing about the spirit. It is entirely in regard to the material body, as science has not yet acknowledged
the existence of the spirit. Kardec in his enlightening words said: “It is the knowledge of the nature and details of life in the
spirit world that enables Spiritists to see death with calmness and gives serenity to the last moments upon the Earth. What
sustains a Spiritist is not a mere hope, but certainty, as a Spiritist knows that the future life is a continuation of the present
one, only under more favorable conditions.”
Death, according to the Spiritist Doctrine, is only a process of transition from the material to the spirit world, when the
organic life ends in the human body. The spirit goes on carrying all the experiences and knowledge so far acquired,
because true life resides in the spirit and not in the body.
1. Britton, W.B.; Bootzin, R.R. – Near-Death Experiences and the Temporal Lobe. Psychol. Sci. 15(4):254-258, 2004.
2. Denis, L. – Depois da Morte (After Death), translated by João Lourenço de Souza, 17º ed., Federação Espírita Brasileira, Brasília, DF, Brazil, 1897.
3. Flammarion, C – A Morte e o seu Mistério (Life and its Mystery), Vol. III: Depois da Morte (After Death), 3rd ed., Federação Espírita Brasileira, Brasília,
DF, Brazil, 1939.
4. Kardec, A. - Heaven and Hell, translated by Anna Blackwell, revised by the Spiritist Alliance for Books, 1st ed., Ed. Paulo de Tarso, Goiania, GO, Brazil,
5. Kardec, A. – Genesis, translation revised by the Spiritist Alliance for Books, 1st ed., Ed. Paulo de Tarso, Goiania, GO, Brazil, 2003.
6. Kardec, A. – The Spirits’ Book, 2nd ed., Allan Kardec Educational Society, Philadelphia, PA, USA, 2003.
7. Rochas, A. – As Vidas Sucessivas (Successive Lives), translated by Márcia Jotha, Publicações Lachâtre, 1st ed., Bragança Paulista, SP, Brasil, 2002.
8. van Lommel, P.; van Wees, R.; Meyers, V.; Elfferch, I. – Near Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands.
Lancet, 358:2039-2045, 2001.
9. Xavier, F. C. and Vieira, W. (spirit André Luiz) – Evolução em Dois Mundos (Advancement in Two Worlds), 11º ed., Federação Espírita Brasileira,
Brasília, DF, Brazil, 1958.
• The enlightened Spirits for the inspiration as I prepared this text
• Vanderlei Marques, Ily Reis and José M. Silva for content review
• Dr. Donald F. Sellitti for editorial review
* SONIA DOI,
Professional background: MD, PhD, currently occupying a position of Associate
Professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, Maryland
Spiritism background: familiar with Spiritism since childhood, began studying
Spiritism in a systematic manner in 1990 together with a group that latter founded the
Allan Kardec Spiritist Society of Maryland. Currently occupying the position of Doctrinal
Director of the AKSS of Maryland.
|© 2005 Spiritist Society of Baltimore.
All rights reserved.