What is Spiritism?

Spiritism as defined by Allan Kardec is truly a remarkable science able to aid the serious student on holistic and spiritualist disciplines to sort out opinions from facts and challenge dogma, blind faith, mysticism and taboos. Kardec was a remarkable scientist who conducted his studies of spiritual phenomena with rare lucidity, open mind and rationality. His studies are of strong influence to me and that’s why I decided to put out my own short version of  “What is Spiritism”. I hope you like it!

 “Spiritism is not a new religion as some people pretend it to be because they don’t know it, or a new sect that is formed by taking advantage of older ones. It is a purely moral doctrine with no dogmas and that allows each person the entire freedom of religion since it imposes none. A demonstration of that is the fact that its most enthusiastic followers are among the most devoted Catholics as among Protestant, Jews and Muslims.

Spiritism has never advised anyone to change religion or sacrifice their beliefs. It does not really belong to any religion or better still, it is present in all of them.”

(Allan Kardec, The Spiritist Review – October 1861)

 Allan Kardec & the Dawn of Spiritism

Allan Kardec (1804-1869) was an earnest intellectual Frenchman, a professor of languages, physics, anatomy, and mathematics, dedicated to improving public education. Like many of his contemporaries in Paris in the 1850s, he became interested in the phenomena of turning tables, initially not attributing it to spirit communication.

With the discipline of an academic and applying scientific methodology he explored the phenomena of turning tables Kardec raised and discussed most, if not all, of the main hypotheses that were later put forth in psychology, psychiatry, and parapsychology to explain mediumship: fraud, hallucinations, a new physical force, unconscious mental activity, extra-sensory perception (including telepathy, clairvoyance, and super -psi), discarnate spirits, and several other theories. However, he stated that, before accepting a spiritual or paranormal cause for some phenomena, it would be necessary first to test if ordinary material causes could explain it.

After convinced of the veracity of spirit communications and using the same scientific rigor, he then studied the spirit communications themselves. He designed over one thousand questions concerning the nature and mechanisms of spirit communications, reason for human life on earth, general aspects of the spiritual realm and the mechanisms of spiritual evolution. He asked those questions to a variety of mediums, all unknown to each other, and diligently collected the answers received; noting the ones that were equally answered by all mediums. He noticed that those “common” answers created a comprehensive and rational philosophy of life – that he named “Spiritism”. In that sense, Kardec did not create Spiritism, the spirits did. He simply organized and validated their communications.

“Spirit and matter are the two elements, or forces, governing the universe… Spiritism, in demonstrating the existence of the spiritual world and its relations with the material world, provides the key to a multitude of hitherto unknown phenomena, which have been considered as inadmissible by a certain class of thinkers.” (Allan Kardec, Genesis.)

“Until now, the study of the spiritual principle, considered as belonging to metaphysics, has been purely speculative and theoretical; but in Spiritism it is treated as entirely experimental. In mediumship, currently more developed, generalized, and better studied, mankind has found a new observation tool. Mediumship is, with respect to the spiritual world, what a telescope is for the astronomical world, and the microscope for the microscopic world, helping us to explore, study, and— we might say— eyewitness the relationships of the spiritual world with the corporeal world. In the mediumistic phenomena, we can observe the intelligent being separately from the material being.” (Allan Kardec, Genesis.)

Kardec, despite being a contemporary of positivism, developed epistemological and methodological guidelines for his investigation that are in several aspects in line with later developments in philosophy of science throughout the 20th century. He advocated, and actually used, research methods appropriate to the subject matter he was interested in investigating, namely, the spiritual element. Thus, for instance, he pointed out the relevance of well-attested reports of spontaneous cases, in contrast with a misplaced attempt to mimicking physics, which, in many cases, appeals to quantitative measurements and laboratory experiments. Kardec also stressed that just collecting experimental data is not enough to make a science, for which it is essential to develop a comprehensive, logically consistent theory. In his pioneering exploration of the new field, he succeeded in allying a sense of rigor to a salutary openness to the novel. (Allan Kardec, What is Spiritism?; Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Allan Kardec and the development of a research program in psychic experiences. Proceedings of the Parapsychological Association & Society for Psychical Research Convention. Winchester, UK. pp.136-151.)

According to Kardec, we should be “on guard against the exaggeration from both credulity and skepticism” (Allan Kardec, Genesis). He stressed that we should be very careful in attributing to metaphysical or spiritual causes several phenomena that are unusual or that we do not understand. It is this rigor in using a rational and investigatory approach to spirituality that often distinguishes Spiritism from many other religious and spiritual disciplines, allowing the emergence of a non-dogmatic practice of spirituality.

“It is never too much to insist on this point so we are on guard against the effects of the imagination, and often fear. When an extraordinary phenomenon is produced – we repeat – the first thought must be that it has a natural cause since it is the most frequent and most likely.” (Allan Kardec, Spiritist Magazine – March 1860, Spontaneous Physical Manifestations – The Baker of Bieppe. )

What Is Spiritism?

Spiritism, thus, is at the same time a Science of observation and a philosophical Doctrine that deals with the nature, origin and destiny of spirits, as well as their relationship with the corporeal world. As a practical Science it consists in the relationships established between us and the spirits and as a philosophy it encompasses all moral consequences derived from those very relationships.

Spiritists follow the moral teachings of Jesus as contained in the Gospels. However, rather than seeing Jesus as a savior of humanity from its sins, spiritists see him as an example of moral conduct to follow, not “transferring”, so to speak, the moral responsibility of our actions to others. Spiritism teaches that man is solely responsible for his conduct, be they good or bad.

“What Spiritism adds to the Christian moral is the knowledge of the principles governing the relationships between alive and dead men, thus completing the vague notions he gave of the soul, its past and future. It thereby grounds the Christian doctrine on the very laws of nature (…) Charity and fraternity he before did by pure sense of duty, now he does it by conviction and does it better”. (Allan Kardec, Genesis.)

Spiritists strive to constantly promote inner reform, in other words, to improve themselves. True spiritists take full responsibility for their own development and the consequences of their actions or their failure to act. Spiritists are often well-educated free thinkers that by no means can be constrained by religious or any other specific doctrinal code. Spiritists are often curious individuals that venture with open mind (but rational and critical) to understand the mysteries of the universe and the human role as part of this creation. Although having the christian-moral as a guide, spiritists seek to understand the universal spiritual truths behind the teachings of the divine master, revealed only to those who have ears to ear and eyes to see. Beyond the many human interpretations of his words lives the essence of his message of love, justice and light. It is this essence that true spiritists try to learn and live; it is this essence that unite us all in a single humanity.

The Spiritist Codification as established by Allan Kardec includes:

  • “The Spirits’ Book”,
  • “The Mediums’ Book”,
  • “The Gospel According to Spiritism”,
  • “Heaven and Hell”, and
  • “The Genesis”.

There are many resources on the Internet that discuss and explain the foundations of Spiritism. I have attempted to summarize in this post some of its basic aspects and principles, including what it is not. In any case, the links below may be helpful to gather additional information.

And if reading isn’t your thing, use the following external resources for videos.

Still wants more? Try these additional resources:




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“Spiritism is, no doubt, a Science of observation but, perhaps, it is even more a Science of reasoning, and reason is the only means that can make it progress and triumph over certain resistances. Such fact is only contested because it is not understood. That is why we see every day creatures that have seen nothing and believe, just because they understand whereas others saw and don’t believe because they don’t understand. Making Spiritism walk the path of reason, we make it acceptable by those who wish to know the why and how of everything, and their number is high in this century, since blind belief is no longer in our customs. Well, had we only indicated the route we would have the conscience of having contributed to the progress of this new Science, object of our constant studies.” (Allan Kardec, Spiritist Magazine – August 1859, Furniture from beyond the grave).

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“Spiritism is the new Science that comes to reveal to men, through indisputable proofs, the existence and nature of the spiritual world and its relationship with the corporeal world. It shows to us no longer as a super natural thing but, on the contrary, as one of the living and restlessly acting forces of nature, like the source of an immense number of phenomena hitherto misunderstood and thus thrown to the domain of fantastic and marvelous. It is to these relationships that Christ refers to in multiple situations yielding much of his teachings remained unintelligible or falsely interpreted. Spiritism is the key with which everything is easily explained.” (Allan Kardec, The Gospel According to Spiritism, Chap. I, item 5.)

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Spiritism proclaims freedom of thought as a natural law; calls it to his followers, in the same way for everyone. It respects all sincere faiths and requests reciprocity. From freedom of thought derives the right to self-examination in matters of faith. Spiritism rejects any form of blind faith, because they require men to surrender their own reason; it considers rootless all faiths imposed: Unshakable faith is only one which can confront reason face to face in all epochs of humanity. (Allan Kardec, Posthumous Works.)

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“Spiritism is a moral Doctrine that fortifies the religious sentiments in general and applies to all religions. That feeling belongs to all and to none in particular. Hence it does not tell anybody to change it. Leave to each one the freedom to adore God at each ones taste and to observe the practices dictated by conscience, since God takes more the intention than the fact into account. Go then, each to the temple of your cult and thus prove that you are calumniated when said to have no piety.” (Allan Kardec, Spiritist Magazine – January 1862, answer to the message of new year’s eve from the Spiritists of Lyon.)

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“Spiritism is called upon to clarify the world but requires a certain time to progress. It has existed since the beginning of creation but was known only to a few persons since in general the masses are not very much interested in meditating about Spiritual questions. Today, with the support of this pure Doctrine, there will be a new light. God, who does not wish to leave the creature in ignorance, allows that the more elevated spirits come to help, to balance the spirits of darkness that tend to loom over the world.

Human pride obscures reason and leads it to make many mistakes. Kind and simple spirits are needed to communicate the light and mitigate all evils. Courage! Do carry on with this task that pleases God, because it is useful to His greatest glory and great benefits shall result from that for the salvation of the souls.” (Allan Kardec, Spiritist Magazine – April 1860.)

What Spiritism Is Not

Spiritism differs from all known religions, by demonstrating the logic of its teachings through scientific studies and experiments, and by presenting a philosophy that is also based on experimentation and observation. Spiritism does not intend to negate or demolish those faiths which came before it, and instead recognizes their necessity for a great part of Humanity, as humanity’s evolution takes place slowly yet inevitably.

“Spiritism is not a personal design or the result of a preconceived system. It is the result of thousands of observations on all parts of the world which were converged to a center that has collected and coordinated them. All its constituent principles, without exception, are deducted from experience. Experience always preceded the theory.” (Allan Kardec, Posthumous Works.)

Spiritism does not embrace dogmas, rituals, symbols, or organized clergy hierarchy and does not adopt any of the following as part of its meetings or practices:

  • special adornments, vestments or other clothing;
  • the use of talismans [inscribed charms], amulets [good luck objects/charms], miraculous prayers, scapulars, or any other similar objects or things;
  • use of incense, myrrh, smoke or other substances that produce smoke;
  • use of alters, images, adorns, candles, or any other objects that would aid in the attraction of the public;
  • horoscope reading, card reading, fortune-telling, astrology and kinds of predictions
    extravagant rituals or stagings designed to impress the public;
  • consumption of any alcoholic beverages;
  • hymns or songs in exotic or antiquated languages;
  • dances, processions, and other similar acts;
  • activities and practices that answer to material or dissolute interests;
  • payment for any type of favor o assistance given to another.

The Most Basic Spiritist Teachings

  • God is the Supreme Intelligence on the Universe, Creator of all things. God is eternal, immutable, immaterial, unique, omnipotent, supremely just and good.
  • Jesus Christ is the guide and model for all humankind. The Doctrine He taught and exemplified is the most pure expression of God’s Law.
  • The morality of Christ, as contained in the Gospels, is the pathway for the secure progress of all human beings.  Its practice is the solution for all human problems and the objective to be attained by Humankind.
  • Beside the physical world inhabited by incarnate Spirits, there is a much bigger and complex one, occupied by the Spirits.
  • Within our Universe there are many other inhabited worlds, with beings at different degrees of evolution: some equal, others more or less evolved than human beings.
  • The Spirits are the intelligent beings of creation. They constitute the world of the Spirits, which pre-exists and outlives everything.
  • Spirits are created simple and ignorant. They evolve intellectually and morally, passing from a lower order to a higher one, until they attain perfection, where they will enjoy unalterable bliss.
  • Spirits preserve their individuality before, during, and after each incarnation.
  • The Spirits’ relationships with human beings are constant and have always existed. The Good Spirits attract us towards goodness, sustain us in life’s trials, and help us bear them with courage and resignation.  The Imperfect Spirits induce us towards error.
  • Human Beings are given, as a Natural Law, the free will to act, but they must always answer for the consequences of their actions.
  • Prayer is an act of adoration for God. It is found in the natural law and is the result of an innate sentiment in every Human Being, just as the idea of the existence of the Creator is innate.

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