Michael Tymn on Famous Names
Skeptics scoffed at the famous names purportedly communicating and even believers were inclined to be skeptical on this point. As Kardec came to understand, however, superior spirits, while preserving their individuality, have no need to be identified with their teachings delivered while on earth, but because humans seem to need an identity in order to fix their ideas, superior spirits who identify with the teachings of the famous personage and belong to the same “family” or “collective whole” (soul group?) may take that famous name to appease us, as it is the teaching, not the signature, that is important.
Kardec asked if taking the name of a famous personage would not be fraud. “It would be fraud on the part of a bad spirit who might want to deceive,” came the answer, “but when it is for good, God permits it to be so among spirits of the same order, because there is among them a solidarity and similarity of thought.”[i]
Kardec had earlier been warned that inferior spirits frequently borrow respectable names in order to give credence to their words. Moreover, some spirits report themselves as fictional characters. “There is always a crowd of spirits ready to speak for anything,” Kardec wrote, mentioning that one day a person took a fancy to invoke Tartufe, a fictitious character from a French play. Tartufe came immediately and talked of Orgon, of Elmire, of Damis, and of Valire, other fictitious characters in the play. “As to himself, he counterfeited the hypocrite with as much art as if Tartufe had been a real personage. Afterward, he said he was the spirit of an actor who had played that character.”[ii]
The superior spirits, Kardec was informed, “have a language always worthy, noble, elevated, with not the least tincture of triviality. They say everything with simplicity and modesty, never boast, never make a parade of their knowledge or their position among others. That of the inferior or ordinary spirit has always some reflex human passion; every expression that savors of vulgarity, self-sufficiency, arrogance, boasting, acrimony, is a characteristic indication of inferiority, or of treachery if the spirit presents himself under a respected and venerated name.”[iii]
Still, Kardec struggled with
discerning the messages and wondered if low-level spirits were attempting to
deceive him with false information.
“The purest light is that which is not obscured by any cloud; the most
precious diamond is the one without any flaw,” came the response from the spirit
claiming to be
Kardec also asked why inferior spirits were permitted to interfere in the first place. Couldn’t God or the superior spirits prevent it? “God permits it to be so to make trial of your perseverance and your judgment, and to teach you to distinguish truth from error; if you do not, it is that you are not sufficiently elevated, and still need the lessons of experience,” came the reply.[v].
But it was also pointed out to Kardec that all spirits, whatever degree of the scale they belong to, can be invoked. Their warnings had to do primarily with the imparting of higher truths and not so much with the “familiar spirits” who might communicate with loved ones left behind, even though mischievous spirits can interfere in the more mundane communication. “Spirits more bourgeois (may they excuse the expression) make the circumstances of their new existence more palpable to us,” Kardec explained what he had learned. “With them, the tie between corporeal life and spirit life is more intimate; we comprehend it better, because it touches us more nearly.. Ordinary spirits show us the practical application of the great and sublime truths of which the superior spirits teach us the theory.”[vi]