2. Jesus announced there a truth which passed into a proverb, which, from the beginning of time has been true as now, and to which one can still add: “That no one is a prophet during life.”
In the present acceptation of this maxim, it is understood to be the credit which a man enjoys among his own people, and among those in whose midst he lives, by the confidence in his superior knowledge and intelligence with which he inspires them. If there are some exceptions, they are rare; and in all cases they are never absolute. The principle of this truth is a natural consequence of human weakness, and can be explained thus:
The habit of seeing them from infancy up, in the common circumstances of life, establishes between men a sort of material equality which makes one often refuse to recognize a moral superiority in him of whom one has been the companion and comrade, who has sprung from the same place, and of whom one has seen the first weakness. Pride suffers from the superiority which one is obliged to submit to. Whoever is educated above the common level is always a motive for jealousy and envy. Those who feel themselves unable to attain to his height must perforce try to lower him by slander and calumny. They cry out against him so much the louder as they see themselves inferior to him, believing by so doing to aggrandize themselves, and eclipse him, by the noise they make. Such has been, and such will be, the history of humanity as long as men will not comprehend their spiritual nature, and will not enlarge their moral horizon. This is also a prejudice characteristic of narrow-minded and common spirits who yield to all this in their selfishness.
On the other hand, they make generally of men whom they do not know personally, only by their mind, an ideal which increases by distance, time, and place. They nearly despoil them of humanity. It seems to them that they must not speak or feel like the rest of the world, that their language and thoughts must constantly be at the height of sublimity, without thinking that the mind cannot be incessantly strained and in a perpetual state of excitability. In the daily contact of private life they see too many men who live for the greater part of the material plane, in whom is nothing to distinguish them from the common man. The man who lives on the material plane, who impresses the senses, eclipses nearly always the spiritual one, who interests the spirit. From afar one only sees the lightning of genius; nearer, they see the spirit at rest.
After death, the comparison existing no more, the spiritual part of man alone is left; and he appears so much the grander as the remembrance of the corporeal man has been put farther away. That is the reason why men, who have marked their passage upon the Earth by works of real value, have been better appreciated after death than in life. They have been judged with more impartiality, because, the envious and jealous having disappeared, personal antagonisms exist no more. Posterity is a disinterested judge, which appreciates the work of the spirit, – accepts it without blind enthusiasm if it is good, and rejects it without hatred if it is bad. A separation from the individuality that has produced it has taken place.
Jesus suffered the more from the consequences of this principle, inherent in human nature, because he lived among people who were much unenlightened, and among men who lived entirely upon the material plane. His compatriots saw in him only the son of the carpenter, the brother of men as ignorant as themselves; and they demanded why he could be superior to them, and where he obtained the right to censure them. Therefore, seeing his words had less power over his own people, who despised him, than over strangers, he went to preach among those who would listen to him, and give him that sympathy which he needed.
One can judge somewhat of the feelings which his relatives entertained of his action by reading the account where his mother, accompanied by his brothers, came into an assembly where he was, and tried to induce him to go home with them, accusing him of being deranged in mind (Mark, 3: 20, 21, and 31-35; “The Gospel According to Spiritism,” chap. 14).
Thus on one side priests and Pharisees accused Jesus of being influenced by evil spirits, and on the other he was accused of insanity by his nearest relatives. Is this not the same treatment that Spiritists receive in our day? And must they complain if they are not better treated by their fellow-citizens than Jesus was? That which was not astonishing among an ignorant people two thousand years ago is more so now in this nineteenth century of a more advanced civilization.