LIFE IN THE MATERIAL WORLD
Developing Body, Emerging Spirit |
Forgetfulness of the Past
Necessity of Material Life | The Meaning of our Suffering | Moments of Liberation
The Meaning of our Suffering
Suffering is an inevitable part of life in the material world. Spiritism helps us to understand the causes of suffering and how we should respond in order to benefit from it.
There are two kinds of suffering on Earth. The first kind of suffering is that which has its cause in the present-day life. In fact, if we look carefully, we will realize that this accounts for the greater number of our problems. The root causes of such suffering stem from our own faults, for example: our pride, selfishness, arrogance, or thoughtlessness; our lack of discipline or perseverance; our lack of tolerance, patience, and charitableness.
Through our own poor choices, bad conduct, and unhealthy attitudes, we become, as Kardec says, "the architects of our own troubles." As a result, individuals suffer, families suffer, and consequently, societies suffer. When we are experiencing moments of disappointment and loss, a careful study of the situation and of our own conscience will often lead us to the conclusion that if a particular choice of action in the past had only been different, the situation of the present moment would also be a different one.
The other kind of suffering stems from causes in a previous life, usually the consequence of a prior wrong-doing(s) or poor choice(s). Every action has its consequence, and thus, every infraction of natural law will bring a corresponding repercussion, whereby our present-day suffering can be related to the pain and problems we once brought to others. Sometimes, the consequences of our actions are felt in the same lifetime and serve as a warning, which, if heeded, will lead us to change a particular attitude or behavior and make amends with someone we have wronged. Often times, however, we do not acknowledge such warnings, or we come to recognize our errors when it's too late and our time has run out. In other cases, we complete that very lifetime without yet feeling the consequences of our actions; by law however, we must eventually experience them. In either case, we're always given the chance to make up for lost time and to correct our mistakes through the opportunity of another incarnation.
Through our forgetfulness of the past, however, we do not remember what we have done in a previous life, whereby many of life's hardships appear to be, as Kardec says╣, "completely outside our control, as if they were entirely the force of destiny", and we haven't done anything in this life to deserve them, nor could we have done anything to avoid them or change them. These are the kinds of hardships that arise from events of a former incarnation. Kardec writes, "If we can't find the wrong-doing in this life, it must have taken place in the previous one."╣
It is important to point out that not every case of suffering indicates a previous wrongdoing. Sometimes, before incarnating, spirits who are at an appropriate level of advancement request such experiences as a form of trial to help in their purification and to accelerate their progress. Still, as Kardec points out, the need for such trials and purification indicates imperfection. These cases can usually be recognized by the calm and resigned mindset with which the spirit undergoes the trial, asking only that God may give them the strength and patience to handle the difficulty calmly. Unlike these spirits, those whose suffer the consequence of a wrongdoing often react with moaning and protest, resistance, and sometimes contempt toward God. In the latter case, such despair and complaint causes us to waste valuable opportunities for growth, and we risk having to start over once again. Understanding the existence and implications of our multiple lives is important, then, for it gives us the motivation to react to our trials with a calm resignation and to view them "as opportunities to correct wrongs of the past and to heal our spirit", which is the only path to spiritual purification.
To read more on this subject, check out Chapter 5 of "The Gospel As Explained By The Spiritist Doctrine."
╣ In "The Gospel As Explained by the Spiritist Doctrine", items 59-60