domingo, 14 de fevereiro de 2010

Heaven and Hell


1. It is certain that we live, think, and act; it is no less certain that we shall die. But, on quitting the
earth, whither shall we go? What will become of us? Shall we be better off, or shall we be worse off? Shall we
continue to exist, or shall we cease to exist? “To be, or not to be,” is the alternative presented to us; it will be for
always, or not at all; it will be everything, or nothing; we shall live on eternally, or we shall cease to live, once
and forever. The alternative is well worth the consideration.
Every one feels the need of living, of loving, of being happy. Announce, to one who believes himself to
be at the point of death, that his life is to be prolonged, that the hour of death is delayed—announce to him,
moreover, that he is going to be happier than he has ever been—and his heart will beat high with joy and hope.
But to what end does the human heart thus instinctively aspire after happiness, if a breath suffices to scatter its
Can anything be more agonizing that the idea that we are doomed to utter and absolute destruction, that
our dearest affections, our intelligence, our knowledge so laboriously acquired, are all to be dissolved, thrown
away, and lost forever? Why should we strive to become wiser or better? Why should we lay any restraint on
our passions? Why should we weary ourselves with effort and study, if our exertions are to bear no fruit? If,
erelong, perhaps tomorrow, all that we have done is to be of no further use to us? Were such really our doom,
the lot of mankind would be a thousand times worse than that of the brutes; for the brute lives thoroughly in the
present, in the gratification of its bodily appetites, with no torturing anxiety, no tormenting aspiration, to impair
its enjoyment of the passing hour. But a secret and invincible intuition tells us that such cannot be our destiny.
2. The belief in annihilation necessarily leads a man to concentrate all his thoughts on his present life;
for what, in fact, could be more illogical than to trouble ourselves about a future which we do not believe will
have any existence? And as he whose attention is thus exclusively directed to his present life naturally places his
own interest above that of others, this belief is the most powerful stimulant to selfishness, and he who holds it is
perfectly consistent with himself in saying: “Let us get the greatest possible amount of enjoyment out of this
world while we are in it; let us secure all the pleasures which the present can offer, seeing that, after death,
everything will be over with us; and let us hasten to make sure of our own enjoyment, for we know not how
long our life may last.” Such as one is, moreover, equally consistent in arriving at this further conclusion—most
dangerous to the well being of society—“Let us make sure of our enjoyment, no matter by what means; let our
motto be: ‘Each for himself;’ the good things of life are the prize of the most adroit.”
If some few are restrained, by respect for public opinion, from carrying out this program to its full
extent, what restraint is there for those who stand in no such awe of their neighbors? Who regard human law as a
tyranny that is exercised only over those who are sufficiently wanting in cleverness to bring themselves within
its reach, and who consequently apply all their ingenuity to evading alike its requirements and its penalties? If
any doctrine merits the qualifications of pernicious and anti-social, it is assuredly that of annihilation, because it
destroys the sentiments of solidarity and fraternity, sole basis of the social relations…

(Heaven and hell – Allan Kardec)

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