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Spirit Hierarchy

How Spirits Are Distinguished

Preliminary Observations

Under this section are the 3 classifications of spirits outlined in detail.

The classification of spirits is based on their degree of advancement, the qualities they have acquired, and the imperfections from which they still have to free themselves. But this classification is by no means absolute, as no single category displays a clear-cut expression except as a group. From one degree to the next, the transition is gradual, with distinctions blending together on the boundaries, much like the colors of the rainbow, or even like the different phases of human life. Thus, we may establish a larger or smaller number of classes, according to the vantage point from which we consider the matter.


The same applies to all systems of scientific classification; those systems may be more or less complete, more or less reasonable, or more or less convenient for the intellect. Whatever they may be, however, it does not change the underlying science. The spirits questioned about this matter may therefore have given a varying number of categories, without that representing any problem. Some people have objected to this apparent contradiction, without considering that the spirits do not give any importance to what is a mere convention. For them, thought is everything; they leave the form to us, along with the choice of terminology, the categories - in short, the systems.


We should further add another consideration that must never be ignored, namely, that among spirits as among men, there are some who are deeply ignorant. We must therefore always be on our guard against the tendency to believe that they ought to know everything simply because they are spirits. Any categorization requires method, and in-depth analysis and knowledge of the subject. Now, in the spirit world, those with limited knowledge are, much as among men, ignorant and therefore unable to see the forest for the trees, or to formulate any type of system. They can only imperfectly know or understand any classification. To them, all spirits who are above them belong to the first order, because they cannot distinguish their differences in knowledge, ability, and morality, just as primitive man would be unable to make any distinction among civilized individuals.


Even those who may be capable of formulating a system can vary in the details according to their own point of view, especially when a division has nothing absolute about it. Linnaeus, Jessieu, and Tornefort had each their own method, but botany did not change because of it; they invented neither plants nor their characteristics, but merely observed the existing common traits, from which they were able to establish groups  or classes. That is precisely how we have proceeded: we invented neither spirits nor their characteristics; we have watched and observed, analyzing their discourse and action, then categorized them according to their similarities, taking into account the data they themselves furnished us.


Spirits generally acknowledge three main categories or large divisions. In the last category, at the bottom of the ladder, are the imperfect spirits, characterized by the predominance of matter over spirit, and propensity for evil. Those of the second category are characterized by the predominance of the spirit over matter and their desire for the good; they are the good spirits. Finally, the first category includes the pure spirits, who have reached the highest degree of perfection.


This division seems to us perfectly rational and presents well-defined characteristics, leaving us only to distinguish, through a sufficient number of subcategories, the main nuances of each group. That is what we did with assistance of the spirits, whose benevolent instructions have never failed us.


With the aid of the following outline, it will be easy to determine the order and degree of superiority or inferiority of the spirits with whom we may communicate, and consequently, the degree of trust and regard they deserve. In a way, this represents the key to spiritist science, because it alone can explain the anomalies that sometimes exist in spirit communications, by shedding light on the intellectual and moral inequalities of spirits. however, we should note that spirits may not belong exclusively to a given class. Their progress being gradual, often occurring in one area more than another, they may display characteristics of more than one category, something which is easy to assess through their language and acts.

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General Characteristics

General Characteristics. Predominant influence of matter over spirit. Propension to evil, ignorance, pride, selfishness, and all the evil passions which result from these.

They have the intuition of the existence of God, but they have no comprehension of Him. They are not all of them thoroughly bad; in many of them there is more of frivolity, want of reasoning power, and love of mischief, than of downright wickedness. Some of them do neither good nor evil; but the very fact that they do no good denotes their inferiority. Others, on the contrary, take pleasure in evil, and are gratified when they find an opportunity of doing wrong.

Among spirits of this order, a certain amount of intelligence is often allied with malice and the love of mischief; but, whatever may be their intellectual development, their ideas are wanting in elevation, and their sentiments are more or less abject.

Their knowledge of the things of the spirit-world is narrow, and the little they know about them is confused with the ideas and prejudices of the corporeal life. They can give only false and incomplete notions of the spirit-world; but the attentive observer may always find in their communications, however imperfect, the confirmation of the great truths proclaimed by spirits of the higher orders.

Their character is revealed by their language. Every spirit who, in his communications, betrays an evil intention, may be ranked in the third order; consequently every evil thought suggested to our mind comes to us from a spirit of that order.

They see the happiness enjoyed by good spirits, and this sight causes them perpetual torment; for they experience all the agonies produced by envy and jealousy.

They preserve the remembrance and the perception of the sufferings of corporeal life; and this impression is often more painful than the reality. They suffer, in fact, both from the ills they have themselves endured, and from those which they have caused


They may be subdivided into five principal classes: 

Tenth Class- Impure Spirits

They are inclined to evil, and make it the object of all their thoughts and activities. They beset those whose character is weak enough to lead them to yield to their suggestions, and whom they thus draw aside from the path of progress, rejoicing when they are to retard their advancement by causing them to succumb under the appointed trials of the corporeal life.

Their communications show the baseness of their inclinations; and though they may try to impose upon us by speaking with an appearance of reason and propriety, they are unable to keep up that false appearance, and end by betraying their real quality.

The human beings in whom they are incarnated are addicted to all the vices engendered by vile and degrading passions – sensuality, cruelty, roguery, hypocrisy, cupidity, avarice. They do evil for its own sake, without any definite motive; and, from hatred to all that is good, they generally choose their victims from among honest and worthy people.

Ninth Class – Frivolous Spirits

They are ignorant, mischievous, unreasonable, and addicted to mockery. They are quick to seize the oddities and absurdities of men and things, on which they comment with sarcastic sharpness. If they borrow distinguished names, as they are fond of doing, it is rather for the fun of the thing than from any intention to deceive by so doing

Eighth Class – Spirits who Falsely Claim to be Authorities
Their knowledge is often considerable, but they imagine themselves to know a good deal more than they know in reality. Having made a certain amount of progress from various points of view, their language has an air of gravity that may easily give a false impression as to their capacities and enlightenment; but their ideas are generally nothing more than the reflection of the prejudices and false reasoning of their terrestrial life.

Seventh Class – Neutral Spirits

They are not sufficiently advanced to take an active part in doing good, nor are they bad enough to be active in doing wrong. They incline sometimes to the one, sometimes to the other; and do not rise above the ordinary level of humanity, either in point of morality or of intelligence. They are strongly attached to the things of this world, whose gross satisfactions they regret.

Sixth Class – Noisy and Boisterous Spirits

They often manifest their presence by the production of phenomena perceptible by the senses, such as raps, the movement and a1)normal displacing of solid bodies, the agitation of the air, etc. They appear to be, more than any other class of spirits, attached to matter; they seem to be the principal agents in determining the vicissitudes of the elements of the globe, and to act upon the air, water, fire, and the various bodies in the entrails of the earth.

General Characteristics

Predominance of spirit over matter; desire of excellence. Their qualities and their power for good are proportionate to the degree at which they have arrived. Some of them possess scientific knowledge, others have acquired wisdom and charity; the more advanced among them combine knowledge with moral excellence. Not being yet completely dematerialized, they preserve the traces of their corporeal existence, more or less strongly marked, according to their rank-traces which are seen either in their mode of expressing themselves, in their habits, or even, in some cases, in the characteristic eccentricities and hobbies still retained by them. But for these weaknesses and imperfections they would be able to pass into the category of spirits of the first order.

As spirits, they infuse good and noble thoughts into the minds of men, turn them from the path of evil, protect those whose course of life renders them worthy of their aid, and neutralize by their suggestions, the influence of lower spirits on the minds of those who do not willingly yield to the evil counsels of the latter.

Fifth Class – Benevolent Spirits

Their dominant quality is kindness. They take pleasure in rendering service to men and in protecting them, but their knowledge is somewhat narrow. They have progressed in morality rather than in intelligence.

Fourth Class – Learned Spirits

They are specially distinguished by the extent of their knowledge. They are less interested in moral questions than in scientific investigation, for which they have a greater aptitude; but their scientific studies are always prosecuted with a view to practical utility, and they are entirely free from the base passions common to spirits of the lower degrees of advancement.

Third Class – Wise Spirits

The most elevated moral qualities form their distinctive characteristics. Without having arrived at the possession of unlimited knowledge, they have reached a development of intellectual capacity that enables them to judge correctly of men and of things.

Second Class – High Spirits

They unite, in a very high degree, scientific knowledge, wisdom, and goodness. Their language, inspired only by the purest benevolence, is always noble and elevated, often sublime. Their superiority renders them more apt than any others to impart to us just and true ideas in relation to the incorporeal world, within the limits of the knowledge permitted to mankind. They willingly enter into communication with those who seek for truth in simplicity and sincerity, and who are sufficiently freed from the bonds of materiality to be capable of understanding it; but they turn from those whose inquiries are prompted only by curiosity, or who are drawn away from the path of rectitude by the attractions of materiality.

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General Characteristics

The influence of matter null; a superiority, both intellectual and moral, so absolute as to constitute what, in comparison with the spirits of all the other orders, may be termed perfection.

First and Highest Class

They have passed up through every degree of the scale of progress, and have freed themselves from all the impurities of materiality. Having attained the sum of perfection of which created beings are susceptible, they have no longer to undergo either trials or expiations. Being no longer subject to reincarnation in perishable bodies, they enter on the life of eternity in the immediate presence of God. They are in the enjoyment of a beatitude which is unalterable, because they are no longer subject to the wants or vicissitudes of material life; but this beatitude is not the monotonous idleness of perpetual contemplation. They are the messengers and ministers of God, the executors of His orders in the maintenance of universal harmony. They exercise a sovereign command over all spirits inferior to themselves, aid them in accomplishing the work of their purification, and assign to each of them a mission proportioned to the progress already made by them. To assist men in their distresses, to excite them to the love of good or to the expiation of the faults which keep them back on the road to the supreme felicity, are for them congenial occupations. They are sometimes spoken of as angels, archangels, or seraphim.

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© Article written by Allan Kardec, The Spirits' Book

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