WHAT ARE SPIRITS?
Introduction | Definition | Origin | Physical Nature | Perispirit
Part 1 of 2
The spirits clothed in physical bodies constitute living human beings, inhabiting the visible, corporeal/material world, and they are referred to as incarnate spirits. Freed from those bodies, they inhabit the spiritual or invisible world, and they are referred to as discarnate spirits. In understanding what spirits are and how they operate, in both the material and spiritual worlds, it is important to understand that the spirit has a semi-material envelope called the perispirit. The following excerpt from Allan Kardec's book, "What is Spiritism?" helps to explain this concept:
When the soul is united to the body during life, it has a double covering. One is heavy, gross and destructible ̶ the material body. The other is fluid, light, and indestructible ̶ the perispirit╣.
There are, then, three essential elements in man:
When the material body is worn out and can no longer function, the spirit abandons it just as the tree sheds its bark and the snake its skin. In short, it abandons the body as one would a garment that is no longer useful. This is what we call death. Death comes only to the bodily covering abandoned by the soul. The soul retains its fluidic body or perispirit.
Bodily death frees the spirit from the bond that confined it to the earth and caused it to suffer. Once freed of that burden, but still retaining the ethereal body, the spirit is able to travel through space with the speed of thought.
The soul, perispirit, and material body together constitute man; the soul and perispirit, separated from the body, constitute the spirit.
Note: The soul is thus one single entity, while the spirit is a double entity and man a triple entity. It would be more exact to use the word soul to designate the intelligent principle and the term spirit to designate the semi-material being formed from the union of that principle with the fluidic body. But because the intelligent principle cannot be conceived separated from the material, and the perispirit cannot be conceived without the animation of the intelligent principle, the words soul and spirit are used interchangeably.
╣ Editor's note: This perispirit accompanies the soul even when freed from the material body.