In spite of having been practiced since the most remote ancient times, the cremation (incineration of a corpse until reducing it to ashes) is a controversial subject in the opinion of the contemporary Western society. In ancient times, the practice of the cremation resulted from two different reasons: the need to bring of turn the dead warriors, so as the have their graves in their homeland, as it used to happen among the Greeks; or base on religious grounds, as it was among the Nordic, who believed that doing such they would free the Spirit from its physical structure and prevent those whose souls had left their bodies from causing harm to the living.
In Rome, perhaps due to the ritual adopted to burn the bodies of the dead soldiers, cremation became a symbol of social prestige, in such a way that the building of columbaria (1) became a profitable business. Since long the Indians and other peoples that believe in reincarnation have known that the physical body, once extinct, can no longer be inhabited by a Spirit, for that would contradict the Natural Law; therefore, the corpse can be cremated, transformed into ashes, without any traumatic process.
The works of the spiritualistic codification say nothing as for the cremation. Therefore, we believe that the problem of the incineration of the body deserves further study among us. Especially because, if for some the crematory process does not affect the Spirit, for many other, behind a defunct often hides a disturbed and suffered soul, under strange inquiries, in the tortured vigil or in the sleep filled with anguish. For such travelers of the great journey, the immediate cremation of the mortal remains will be a terrible and painful nightmare.
There are ideological currents contrary to cremation, almost always resulting from reasons of forensic nature (in the cases established in law, when it involves a violent death, due to public interest); or because of a reason of affective nature (because the family members find the incineration of the body a violence and want to preserve the mortal remains for worshiping the dead); or, also resulting from the logic of the religious order (because many people still believe in the resurrection of the body, etc.) mainly because the Church from Rome was against the act and even denied the sacrament to the cremated people. We could also add one more objection - perhaps the most serious one: the ignorance of the things of the Spirit, which persists, mostly due to infused fear, ingrained prejudice, and lack of information. (2)
Besides, the question involving cremation has sociological, juridical, psychological, ethical, and religious implications. Even because this issue refers to all people (let's remember that all of us, faced with the biological fatality, shall leave our bodies). According to a research thesis about the subject, every 70 years the planet has an many buried bodies as the quantity of currently living people, that is: in seven decades' time there will be 6 billion buried corpses.
While the advocates of the traditional funeral (inhumation) defend it for waiting for the Final Judgment and the resurrection of the physical body, those who defend the cremation affirm that the burying has sanitary and economical consequences, and, following such reasoning, explain that the cemeteries would be causing serious harms to the environment and to the quality of life of the population in general. Expert Reports attest that cemeteries contaminate the potable water that passes under them and offers serious risks to the human health in the residences nearby, besides the spring waters, which can also contaminate those who live a long way from the cemeteries.
The planet has its spatial limits, which means saying that billions and billions of buried bodies will flood the soil, invade the waters with black liquid (liquid formed from the decomposition of the bodies that attack nature, which would cause diseases), disseminating diseases and other risks about which hygienists and researchers have been concerned. On the other hand, the use of cremation would reduce the economic basic duties, such as, for example: buying a piece of land to build graves; the maintenance of the tombs; in large capitals, the lack of space to build cemeteries, etc. At least as far as our Country is concerned, we may, for the time being, remain calm, because, as reminds Chico Xavier "there is still plenty of land in Brazil and, due to that, we admit that we do not need to hastily copy customs in full disagreement with our spiritual traits". (3)
Under the spiritualistic perspective, the issue is more complex when we consider that often "the Spirit does not understand its situation; it does not believe it is dead, it feels as if it were alive. Such state lasts during the whole time there is a tie between the body and the perispirit. (4) The perispirit, disconnected from the body, tastes the feeling; but since such does not come from a limited channel, it becomes generalized. We might say that the molecular vibrations are felt all over its being, thus getting to its sensorium commune (5), which is the very Spirit, but in a different way.
Kardec emphasizes that, "In the first moments after the death, the vision of the Spirit is always dim and obscure, and it becomes clearer as it frees itself, and it may get to the same clarity that it had in life, besides the possibility of penetrating opaque bodies". (6) That way, the person who had livid his life always in sobriety would spare himself/herself from many tribulations and would be less prone on suffering the painful feelings. Therefore, for those, who live on the Earth only for the cultivation of the practice of good deeds, in its varied forms and in the most several faiths, leaving the physical body does not mean disturbances considering their elevated conscience and their hearts of lovers of truth and love.
When questioned if those who had just left the body might suffer with the incineration of the mortal remains, Emmanuel answered: "In the cremation, it is imperative that we practice the charity with the corpses, procrastinating for more hours the action of the destruction of the material core, because, in certain way, there are always many echoes of sensibility between the Spirit that left the body and the body where the "vital tonus" extinguished in the first hours after the death, due to the fact that of the organic fluids still demanding the soul for the feelings of the material existence". (7)
Chico Xavier, in the TV show "Pinga Fogo" of the extinct Tupi TV network from the state of São Paulo, when questioned, by journalist Almir Guimarães, about the cremation of the bodies that would be then implemented in Brazil explained that: "We have already heard Emmanuel about that, and he says that the cremation is legitimate for all those who want it, as long as there is a period of at least 72 hours of wait before its occurrence in any crematory oven, which can be done with the deposit of human remains in a cold atmosphere." (8) (Our highlight) however, Richard Simonetti, in his book "Quem tem Medo da Morte" (Who is Afraid of the Death) regrets that " in the crematory ovens of the city of São Paulo, there is a wait of the legal period of 24 hours, despite the fact that the regulation allows the corpse to remain in the refrigerating chamber for the time that the family so wants". (9) In that case the period could be longer.
Spiritism does not recommend, nor does it condemns, the cremation. But, it is imperative that we practice the charity with the corpses, procrastinating for a longer time the incineration of the material core (10) because there are always many echoes of sensibility between the Spirit that left the body and the body where the "vital tonus" extinguished in the first hours after the death, due to the fact that of the organic fluids still demanding the soul for the feelings of the material existence. The impression of the leaving of the body is perceived, and there is the possibility of the appearance of psychic traumas. That way, it is recommended that the followers of the Spiritualistic Doctrine who wish to opt for the crematory process should prolong the operation for a minimum period of 72 hours after death.
(1) Building with niches for the mortuary urns
(2) The Roman Church, by an act of the Holy Office, decided to accept the cremation since 1964, starting to give the sacraments the cremated, allowing the ecclesiastical funeral rites for them. In fact, in a footnote of his "Treaty" (vol. II. P. 534), professor Justino Adriano records the following: "Jésus Hortal, commenting the new Code of Canon Law says that the discipline of the Church "about the cremation of corpses, which, for historical reasons, it was totally contrary to, was modified by the Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office from July 5, 1963 (AAS 56, 1964, pages 882-3). With the modifications introduced by the new Ritual of Funeral Rites, it is possible to carry out the Funeral Rites even in the very crematory, however preventing the scandal or danger of the religious indifferentism.
(3) Xavier, Francisco Cândido. Escultores de Almas (Scupltors of Souls), SP: CEU edition, 1987.
(4) Theoretical essay about the feelings in the spirits (chap. VI, item IV, question 257, Book of the Spirits).
(5) Sensorium commune: Latin expression which means the center of the sensations, the center of the sensibility. (Editor's note).
(6) Theoretical essay about the feelings in the spirits (chap. VI, item IV, question 257, Book of the Spirits).
(7) Xavier, Francisco Cândido. O Consolador (The Consoler), dictated by the Spirit of Emmanuel, RJ: FEB Publishing House 11th edition, 1985, page 95.
(8) The two historical interviews given by the late Francisco Cândido Xavier in the extinct Tupi TV network, channel 4, from the state of São Paulo, in 1971 and 1972, respectively, transcribed in the books Pinga Fogo com Chico Xavier (Edicel Publishing House) and Plantão de Respostas - Pinga Fogo II ( CEU Publishing House)
(9) Simonetti, Richard. Quem tem Medo da Morte (Who is Afraid of the Death), SP: CEAC publishing house, 1987.
(10) Deposition from Chico Xavier in Revista de Espiritismo.