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Determinism and fatality

By:Triago Bernardes - [email protected]
Date: Fri,31 Oct 2008
Submitter:Elsa Rossi
Views:10919

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We present in this issue the topic #79 from the Systematized Study of the Spiritist Doctrine, that is being presented weekly, according to the programme elaborated by the Brazilian Spiritist Federation (FEB), structured in 6 modules and 147 topics.

If the reader uses this program for a study group, we suggest that questions proposed be discussed freely before the reading of the text that follows. If you would like to study alone, we ask you to try to answer the questions at first and only then read the text that follows. The answer key can be found at the end of the lesson.

Questions
1. Does Spiritism accept the so-called absolute determinism?
2. Is there any difference between determinism and fatality?
3. Related to the topic above, what were Socrates’ and Plato’s opinion?
4. As for free-will and determinism, what does Spiritism teach us?
5. How can we understand, according to Spiritism, expressions like: “The accident that victimized the youngster was a fatality”? Is there fatality after all?

Absolute determinism is not taught by Spiritism

1. There is no other fatality than that which results from the determination of each spirit, on incarnating himself, to undergo such and such trials. By choosing those trials he makes for himself a sort of destiny which is the natural consequence of the situation in which he has chosen to place himself. I speak now of physical trials only: for, as regards moral trials and temptations, a spirit always preserves his freedom of choice between good and evil, and is always able to yield or to resist. Even for those who seem to be chased by fatality, the causes of their vicissitudes, if not in the present, have their origin in the past, in previous existences.

2. It’s important, first of all, not make confusion between determinism and fatality. Determinism is a philosophical system which denies the man the freedom of speech, that is, according to his will. This system is currently represented by materialists and positivists of all schools; but it’s curious to note that its origin is found in the religious scholastic, which rigorously subordinated to the influence of the Divine Providence the determination of will. O The materialistic determinism, as a religious one, denying free-will, suppresses, in consequence, the responsibility of the person.

3. The ideology of determinism comes from far away. In Greek mythology, we find the Parcae conception: creatures that wove the web of destiny, in which was gathered the human race, and couldn’t get out of there. For the first Greek thinkers, the fate of people was closely linked to the belief of the absolute power of the forces of the Universe. The fate of man would be, according to this thought, determined by them; the person, impotent before them, should only obey them.

4 .For Pythagoras and his followers, nature of the Universe would be formed in a way to determine the fate of people. The secrets of their luck would be hidden in numbers and can only be unveiled if its meaning is understood. Understanding the meaning of numbers would be, thus, fundamental to the comprehension of human fate.

5. Heraclitus taught that the cosmic process obeys determined laws. Every change would be according to a fixed and immutable law, Law which is the basic principle of the world, and man would be completely subjected to it. Heraclitus referred to this Law or principle calling it, sometimes, destiny; other times, justice.

Kant proposed free-will as necessary for the moral man

6. Who first looked to get man away from the idea of an inexorable fate were the Greek philosophers called Sophist. According to them, man could not be attached to a process or to laws he could not get away from. It was for them impossible that man could not exercise effect on their own fate. Socrates didn’t accept such dominance either. For him, knowledge would be the supreme thing. Reaching knowledge, the man would do right; without knowledge, man would do wrong. Besides this conception, Socrates also understood that the man could, by knowledge, have a certain influence on his fate on Earth and future life.

7. Plato defended freedom. The man – Plato proposed – can overcome and do so the challenges of the world. Though a creature of the Divine creator, he can lead his life in way that living it with a spirit of justice and sensibleness. Aristotle also believed in the freedom of man. According to him, the moral was not an immutable thing, but free choice: man can do right and wrong things.

8. Other Greek philosophers who came in later either believed or not in determinism. Epicurus, for example, didn’t consider the man a puppet of inexorable forces; free-will was important. The Stoics thought differently, as they understood the world as a result of fixed and immutable laws.

9. The religious Greek thinkers conceived of a relative freedom of man. Philo believed that incarnation of the soul was a fall, a partial loss of freedom he had before incarnation. Plotinus also believed in the original freedom, it means, the body is a prison and the soul linked to the body is kept imprisoned, it is not free. The early Christian thinkers, mainly the Apologists, believed in a man basically free and understood that his fall was due to the connection to the body. Pelagius said that God conceived freedom to man so that he could choose between good and evil, inside of free-will.

10. Closer to our times, while Espinosa was totally determinist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau understood that the man was free, not a marionette of natural laws, but a soul that fights to live according to the freedom he has. Kant also proposed free-will as necessary for the moral man.

Man is not fatally led into evil

11. So far we have seen the main ideas of the followers and non-followers of determinism, a divergence that still persists in our days. Sp

iritism, however, says that there is no fatalism, a determinism that leads the life of man. Constraints at his free-will are from debts contracted in previous existences that need to be paid. Without accepting reincarnation is difficult to understand it.

12. From Spiritist teachings, we can say that man is subordinated to a relative free-will, which is expanded through evolutional process, and to a relative determinism, due to mistakes made in the past and that must be corrected and repaired. Reincarnation nullifies, then, the idea that might be a contradiction between free-will and determinism and offers us the bridge that is bound to connect each other, in a way that they don’t crash in the conjectures of the intellect.

13. The question of free-will may be thus summed up: Man is not fatally led into evil; the acts he accomplishes are not written down beforehand; the crimes he commits are not the result of any decree of destiny. He may have chosen, as trial and as expiation, an existence in which, through the surroundings amidst which he is placed, or the circumstances that supervene, he will be tempted to do wrong; but he always remains free to do or not to do.

14. Fatality, as commonly understood, supposes an anterior and irrevocable ordaining of all the events of human life, whatever their degree of importance. On the other hand, fatality is not a mere empty word; it really exists in regard to the position occupied by each man upon the earth and the part which he plays in it, as a consequence of the kind of existence previously made choice of by his spirit, as trial, expiation, or mission, for, in virtue of that choice, he is necessarily subjected to the vicissitudes of the existence he has chosen, and to all the tendencies, good or bad, inherent in it; but fatality ceases at this point, for it depends on his will to yield, or not to yield, to those tendencies. The details of events are subordinated to the circumstances to which man himself gives rise by his action, and in regard to which he may be influenced by the good or bad thoughts suggested to him by spirits.

15. There is a fatality, then, in the events which occur independently of our action, because they are the consequence of the choice of our existence made by our spirit in the other life; but there can be no fatality in the results of those events, because we are often able to modify their results by our own prudence. There is no fatality in regard to the acts of our moral life. It is clear, however, that from the choice that is made by the Spirit is taking into account the commands of the Law of cause and, occasion in which determined situations can be included in the so-called reincarnation program, looking to expiation and reparation of faults previously committed by the reincarnating.

1. Does Spiritism accept the so-called absolute determinism?
A.: There is no other fatality than that which results from the determination of each spirit, on incarnating himself, to undergo such and such trials.

2. Is there any difference between determinism and fatality?
A.: Yes. Determinism is a philosophical system which denies the man the freedom of speech, that is, according to his will. This system is currently represented by materialists and positivists of all schools; but it’s curious to note that its origin is found in the religious scholastic, which rigorously subordinated to the influence of the Divine Providence the determination of will. O The materialistic determinism, as a religious one, denying free-will, suppresses, in consequence, the responsibility of the person.

3. Related to the topic above, what were Socrates’ and Plato’s opinion?
A.: Who first looked to get man away from the idea of an inexorable fate were the Greek philosophers called Sophist. According to them, man could not be attached to a process or to laws he could not get away from. It was for them impossible that man could not exercise effect on their own fate. Socrates didn’t accept such dominance either. For him, knowledge would be the supreme thing. Reaching knowledge, the man would do right; without knowledge, man would do wrong. Besides this conception, Socrates also understood that the man could, by knowledge, have a certain influence on his fate on Earth and future life.

4. As for free-will and determinism, what does Spiritism teach us?

A.: Spiritism, however, says that there is no fatalism, a determinism that leads the life of man. Constraints at his free-will are from debts contracted in previous existences that need to be paid. Without accepting reincarnation is difficult to understand it.

5. How can we understand, according to Spiritism, expressions like: “The accident that victimized the youngster was a fatality”? Is there fatality after all?
A.: There is a fatality, then, in the events which occur independently of our action, because they are the consequence of the choice of our existence made by our spirit in the other life; but there can be no fatality in the results of those events, because we are often able to modify their results by our own prudence. There is no fatality in regard to the acts of our moral life. It is clear, however, that from the choice that is made by the Spirit is taking into account the commands of the Law of cause and, occasion in which determined situations can be included in the so-called reincarnation program, looking to expiation and reparation of faults previously committed by the reincarnating.

Bibliography:
The Spirits’ Book, by Allan Kardec, questions 851 and 872.
The Problem of Being, Destiny and Pain, by Leon Denis, p. 345.
Emmanuel’s thought, by Martins Peralva, p. 202.
Basic Teachings of Great Philosophers, by S. E. Frost Jr., translation by Leônidas Gontijo de Carvalho, Ed. Cultrix, pp. 137 - 149.
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