From Divine Spark to Free Will and Beyond

Based on article originally published in Portuguese by Paulo Henrique de Figueiredo at: http://revolucaoespirita.com.br/livre-arbitrio-espiritos-superiores. Translated to English and adapted by Rodolfo de Oliveira.

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St. Augustine  officially converted to Christianity on the year 386, when he became a priest in Milan, Italy. After living quietly in a farm, with relatives and some disciples, he suffered with the death of his mother caused by a fulminating disease. While awaiting the arrival of the ship that would take him back to his native land, which currently corresponds to the geographic location of Algeria, North Africa, he wrote the book “De libero arbitrio” (The free will). The concept of “free will”, which in the future would become a fundamental term of the Spiritist doctrine, was then born.

Augustine had in mind his own experience of life, a contrast between a youth filled with earthly excesses, particularly with women and night life; and now his dedication to the life of a monk. He pondered about the fundamental cause of evil. This was for him a key point of meditation.

At first, the manicheist hypothesis seduced him. An ancient idea, born from Zoroaster’s thoughts in the Arab world.  There would be two great forces, one for good and the other for evil, competing in the universe for supremacy and influence. But this current of thought was considered a heresy, false teaching, being opposed fiercely by Augustine himself.

In this period of history the doctrine of the church was in formation, and there was no place for diverse debates and opinion. The aim  was to establish undeniable dogmas. The problem of evil, hence, posed some fundamental points than ought to be observed. Firstly, God cannot be the creator of evil as this would contradict his infinite goodness. Secondly, evil couldn’t be an opposing force either, a power capable of putting at risk the divine supremacy in the universe. The whole of the understanding of reality cannot contain contradictions that would erode it, destroying its logic.

In his work, Augustine established that evil must proceed from the choice of man; a wrongful choice, different from the determination of the divine good – therefore evil. The cause of sin, then, lies in the free will of people, which is the potential to choose. Liberty, in turn, is the right choice. That is the difference between free will and liberty in his book.

The goods to which people are exposed in the world can be divided between superior goods, which are the virtues, and inferior goods, which are the pleasures of the body. Something’s are intermediary, middle goods, so to speak. Free will, for instance, was in this middle category. Augustine built a logic to classify the experiences of human beings, considering it as a union of two substances: the soul and the body.

When we are under divine grace, Augustine proposes, our choice is oriented to the higher goods, hence the good and the happiness, and later the divine rewards. This is the condition of liberty. On the other hand, when we act without grace, we choose inferior goods, exercising free will, and thus creating sin, the cause of misfortunes, sufferings and eternal punishment.

A millennium and a half later, the teachings of superior spirits, in the dialogues with Allan Kardec and other spiritist researchers, led them to a new explanation, adequate to modern times. The key point to comprehend the new understanding is that Augustine analyzed the issue considering that human life is one, and in it will be resolved its destiny. He also believed, as most of the ancient world, that the soul had been created perfect by God, with all virtues, and degenerated by sin. For the church, every human being is born with original sin, degenerating its essence.

Spiritism, however, was founded when mankind lived the awakening of a new era, determined by freedom of thought and freedom from systems and dogmas. It was not believed that the world would be destroyed by God to give way to paradise. Instead, it was believed that united and determined, it would be possible to regenerate humanity, creating a new world, in the path of happiness. The means would be education and acts of duty, which was the determined use of reason and free will. People choose only what they understand, so free will is subordinated to the use of reason. This is the fundamental importance of education in transforming humanity according to rational spiritualists, free-thinkers of the XIX century.

Society, studying morality independent of religious dogmas, was identifying a new place for free will, now associated with rational thought. But other doubts took place in the debate. Physical pleasures being also “good”, why would their pursuit be an evil? Nature could not oppose divine laws, after all God created both the material and the moral worlds. God would not establish a contradiction, a trap, a trick to submit humankind to error by deception. Pleasure is a natural impulse, everyone feels it, even animals.

The answer of the rational spiritualists, who dominated the moral sciences in Kardec’s time, was brilliant, as Paul Janet explains it in his Elementary Treatise of Philosophy (1879): “Pleasures are good, but they are not the principle of good.” It’s an idea to think about carefully! The materialists who regards pleasure as the fundamental impulse of good are confusing things. Pleasure is a natural good, for it leads human beings to their self-preservation, as well as the species. However, it is not the principle of moral good. The individual acts for the moral good when he freely and rationally chooses what is best for all, based on the moral laws present in its consciousness. Interesting, solves a lot, but does not explain everything properly.

An even better solution lies in spiritism. According to Kardec, spiritism is a complement to rational spiritualism, which was a dominant philosophical movement in the university of its time. The spirits teach, solving the question, that the soul is a progressive, evolving being, elaborating its potentials in three phases of its existence: soul (or spirit), intellect-moral and finally co-creator. Let’s explain this better.

The animistic phase goes from the atom to the higher animal. In this period, the spiritual principle is developed naturally by the impulse of the pleasures and pains, then governed by the instincts and passions, elaborating itself through the evolution of species. It passes through trillions of lives, experiencing the mineral, vegetable and animal states, without ever being conscious of this trajectory.

Then comes the human life, when the intellectual-moral evolution occurs. The soul, at this stage, begins simple and unlearned, that is, without morality and intelligence. In the first few lives, not much change is affected, Kardec explains, continuing the spirit under the infallible command of the instincts. After hundreds or thousands of lives, reason starts to bring forth the understanding. Only then does free will develop the capacity for rational choice, that is, with an understanding of the options. Only then the spirit becomes responsible for both the mistakes made and the progress made. It is important to stress: According to Spiritism, free will is a capacity that the spirit achieves progressively, sustained by reason.

 Finally, when the spirit awakens its virtues and overcomes all imperfections contracted over time, it begins to assume missions in the universe. It assists other spirits overcome their difficulties; become the protector spirit of someone; help a family, a group, a nation, a planet. It can then participate in the creation and evolution of the species of a planet, then acquire responsibilities to an entire solar systems, then galaxies and so forth. The co-creative spirits assist God in the establishment of universal harmony, voluntarily and cooperatively.

The reality of free will, thus understood, shows all its logic and purpose in divine creation. All developed spirits have come to this condition by their dedicated effort in thousands of lives, conquering each of their virtues, and overcoming any imperfection they may have experienced in their past. Like them, we are forgers of our own destinies and ability to act in the good.

We have already overcome the almost endless animistic evolution in the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms. We have overcome the thousands of first lives aimed solely to awaken intelligence and free will. We now must make use of these instruments of the soul to overcome attachments and imperfections, facing the challenges of life, and awakening the qualities that will be the tools to act in the universe in favor of universal harmony, our reason for being and source of true happiness.

 

Reincarnation – Past Lives of Camilo Castelo Branco

Camilo Branco was a famous Portuguese author who lived in Portugal in the 19th century, he committed suicide in 1890. Communicating with the medium Yvonne Pereira, Camilo told his story. Part of hi…

Source: Reincarnation – Past Lives of Camilo Castelo Branco

Brazilian Mediums Shed Light on Brain Activity During a Trance State

Originally posted by www.newswise.com on 14-Nov-2012 10:00 AM EST. 

Source Newsroom: Thomas Jefferson University

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Newswise — (PHILADELPHIA) – Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil analyzed the cerebral blood flow (CBF) of Brazilian mediums during the practice of psychography, described as a form of writing whereby a deceased person or spirit is believed to write through the medium’s hand. The new research revealed intriguing findings of decreased brain activity during the mediums’ dissociative state which generated complex written content. Their findings will appear in the November 16th edition of the online journal PLOS ONE at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0049360.

The 10 mediums—five less expert and five experienced—were injected with a radioactive tracer to capture their brain activity during normal writing and during the practice of psychography which involves the subject entering a trance-like state. The subjects were scanned using SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) to highlight the areas of the brain that are active and inactive during the practice.

“Spiritual experiences affect cerebral activity, this is known. But, the cerebral response to mediumship, the practice of supposedly being in communication with, or under the control of the spirit of a deceased person, has received little scientific attention, and from now on new studies should be conducted,” says Andrew Newberg, MD, director of Research at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine and a nationally-known expert on spirituality and the brain, who collaborated with Julio F. P. Peres, Clinical Psychologist, PhD in Neuroscience and Behavior, Institute of Psychology at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, and colleagues on the research.

The mediums ranged from 15 to 47 years of automatic writing experience, performing up to 18 psychographies per month. All were right-handed, in good mental health, and not currently using any psychiatric drugs. All reported that during the study, they were able to reach their usual trance-like state during the psychography task and were in their regular state of consciousness during the control task.

The researchers found that the experienced psychographers showed lower levels of activity in the left hippocampus (limbic system), right superior temporal gyrus, and the frontal lobe regions of the left anterior cingulate and right precentral gyrus during psychography compared to their normal (non-trance) writing. The frontal lobe areas are associated with reasoning, planning, generating language, movement, and problem solving, perhaps reflecting an absence of focus, self-awareness and consciousness during psychography, the researchers hypothesize.

Less expert psychographers showed just the opposite—increased levels of CBF in the same frontal areas during psychography compared to normal writing. The difference was significant compared to the experienced mediums. This finding may be related to their more purposeful attempt at performing the psychography. The absence of current mental disorders in the groups is in line with current evidence that dissociative experiences are common in the general population and not necessarily related to mental disorders, especially in religious/spiritual groups. Further research should address criteria for distinguishing between healthy and pathological dissociative expressions in the scope of mediumship.

The writing samples produced were also analyzed and it was found that the complexity scores for the psychographed content were higher than those for the control writing across the board. In particular, the more experienced mediums showed higher complexity scores, which typically would require more activity in the frontal and temporal lobes, but this was not the case. Content produced during psychographies involved ethical principles, the importance of spirituality, and bringing together science and spirituality.

Several possible hypotheses for these many differences have been considered. One speculation is that as frontal lobe activity decreases, the areas of the brain that support mediumistic writing are further disinhibited (similar to alcohol or drug use) so that the overall complexity can increase. In a similar manner, improvisational music performance is associated with lower levels of frontal lobe activity which allows for more creative activity. However, improvisational music performance and alcohol/drug consumption states are quite peculiar and distinct from psychography. “While the exact reason is at this point elusive, our study suggests there are neurophysiological correlates of this state,” says Newberg.

“This first-ever neuroscientific evaluation of mediumistic trance states reveals some exciting data to improve our understanding of the mind and its relationship with the brain. These findings deserve further investigation both in terms of replication and explanatory hypotheses,” states Newberg.

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Thomas Jefferson University
Thomas Jefferson University (TJU), the largest freestanding academic medical center in Philadelphia, is nationally renowned for medical and health sciences education and innovative research. Founded in 1824, TJU includes Jefferson Medical College (JMC), one of the largest private medical schools in the country and ranked among the nation’s best medical schools by U.S. News & World Report, and the Jefferson Schools of Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions, Population Health and the College of Graduate Studies. Jefferson University Physicians is TJU’s multi-specialty physician practice consisting of the full-time faculty of JMC. Thomas Jefferson University partners with its clinical affiliate, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals.

Demystifying Sleep Paralysis

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If you haven’t had the experience commonly called sleep paralysis, it is certain that someone you know have – just ask a few people around you and you’ll realize it is more common than you thought. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) stated that ‘‘40%–50% of normal sleepers report having had isolated episodes of sleep paralysis at least once during their lifetime’’.

Projective catalepsy, also known as sleep paralysis, is commonly portrayed as the inability to perform voluntary movements, either at the onset of sleep (during what is known as the hypnogogic state) or upon awakening (during the hypnopompic state). In other words, the person is unable to move a single muscle, scream, speak, or react in any way during sleep paralysis. Although fully conscious, the person can’t express him/herself through the physical body.

As noted by the International Academy of Consciousness (IAC)people frequently report feeling a “presence” that is often described as malevolent, threatening, or evil, most likely as an attempt to explain why they cannot move. An intense sense of dread and terror is very common, again due to the inexplicable inability to move. This fear is absent in people who are used to the experience, such as experienced out-of-body experiencers.

Still according to the IAC, Individuals often wonder “is it serious? Is it harmful? Is it negative?” It is not, but it is often scary at first. Those who have reported experiencing sleep paralysis commonly describe being fearful of the condition, which is why the world’s cultures have various spooky interpretations of the phenomenon ranging from alien abductions to evil spirits. However, sleep paralysis is harmless and no more pathological than other naturally-occurring altered states.

But, after all, what causes it? Here we will present a simple explanation of the phenomena that can be supported by the fact that sleep paralysis is commonly associated with out-of-body experiences (OBE). In fact, the phenomena is easily demystified if we take into perspective our spiritual nature. Spirits (or our consciousness) resource of different “bodies” or vehicles of expressions depending on their availability and/or the dimension the expression is taking place. The physical body is our vehicle of expression in the physical dimension and is only the simplest and most rudimentary of such bodies. (We offered a basic study on some of those different vehicles of expression of consciousness which can be accessed HERE). Whenever it is not available due to its need to sleep, an ill state of the physical body, etc., our consciousness will express itself through another, more subtle, vehicle of expression; typically, the so-called astral body, perispirit or psychosoma. Sleep paralysis occurs when an individual becomes aware of departing from or returning to the physical body with this more subtle vehicle of expression, and at the moment at which the two bodies are not fully aligned. In this case, the individual may feel him/herself inside the body, although the physical brain won’t respond to his/her commands due to this non-alignment.

This also explain why some individuals may perceive facts taking place in the non-physical reality while having a sleep paralysis. What usually happens is that the fear felt on the onset of a sleep paralysis causes the physical body to “pull the astral body back in place” and re-establish itself as the vehicle of expression of consciousness. However, if the person having a sleep paralysis remain calm and instead concentrate in floating outside of the body and away from it, an OBE experience may take place (expression of consciousness through the astral body) with meaningful and rewarding consequences, including the first hand confirmation that we are not our physical bodies neither our consciousness is at the physical brain.

For a more complete description of the phenomena, we recommend you read the Complete Guide to Sleep Paralysis issued  and maintained by the IAC group.

References:

  • American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC: Author.
  • International Academy of Consciousness, Key Sleep Paralysis Facts From Scientific Sources, http://www.iacworld.org/sleep-paralysis-facts/ last accessed on Sept. 24, 2016.

A Point Of Nuclear Physics About The Shroud Of Turin

A study published in 1995 lead us to believe that the marks left on the Shroud of Turin, which researchs have carbon dated to be about 2000 years old, suggests something quite impressive: “that [the marks in the shroud] might originate in the spontaneous disintegration of the deuterium nuclei contained in the body of the man in it”.

Then, perhaps realizing that the honest and unbiased scientific observation might counter a positivistic logic and “common sense”, the article’s author states: “Though the first part of this hypothesis is interesting, one cannot but disagree with the disintegration, since deuterium is among the most stable nuclei in universe.( but the half-life of the bare neutron is 12,5 minutes!). Thus we must resort to another origin. The first one at hand is a phenomenon of nuclear fusion”. In other words, assuming human beings cannot disintegrate themselves spontaneously, turning their bodies into energy, something else quite significant happened to the body under the shroud… But if 2000 years ago we were far from mastering technology of nuclear fusion, what could have happened?

Share your ideas and any new facts your have learned to shed light on this mistery!