Historical Context of Spiritism (part 1)

From Dogmatism to Rational Spiritualism

From Dogmatism to Materialism

No science, culture or branch of knowledge can be well understood out the context that led to its rise and development. This would not be different for Spiritism, a science with philosophical implications that emerged in the complex context of the 19th century. It is critical, then, that we explore basic elements of the cultural context, particularly in France, preceding the appearance of Spiritism. It is also important to study key personalities that prepared the way for its establishment. This, per se, can be the task of a lifetime and I have no intention to extinguish the topic or even address it comprehensively, but simply present basic elements that allow for a better understanding of Spiritism. From the theorists and concepts here presented, those interested in deepening their understanding on the topic should have enough elements for doing so.

I would like to mention that the multiple lectures and books from Brazilian Spiritist researcher Paulo Henrique de Figueiredo were, unquestionably, key references and source of inspiration for the development of this chapter. His profound understanding of the Spiritist Science, including the context of its emergence and dialogues it maintains with other preceding and contemporary sciences, are truly remarkable.

To my knowledge, all religions, from the remote past to present times, are structured on heteronomous grounds characterized by strict moral codes imposed through punishments and rewards and adopting the principle of degradation of souls. This seems to be the case even if the original message did not intend to found a new religion [see note 1 at end of this section]. According to religious traditions, the human being is not in condition to question the logical coherence of their moral dogmas and rituals, but is expected to follow them blindly, even if conflicted deep within. Figueiredo summarizes it as noted below:

“In the Old Testament, the genesis of humanity is symbolized by the figures of Adam and Eve, who were rebuked by the error of eating the forbidden fruit and punished with the expulsion of paradise, childbirth with pain, mortality; transmitting the original sin to all of their offspring, according to the interpretation of the clergy. According to this tradition, to escape from eternal damnation, one must blindly submit to the will of God. These so-called divine laws are external to the individual. In this conception, the greatest human virtue would be obedience. The moral values ​​of this hornbook are conditioning, sin and punishment, subjection and reward, submission and blind faith.

In the reincarnationist doctrines of the East, the mythology is different, but the inherent values ​​are the same. In their narratives, originally the soul is good as God’s creation, but on becoming tarnished by sin caused by disobedience and the mistakes committed; they determine reincarnation as punishment, receiving the penalty of living as animals, insects, women or outcasts, as the seriousness of the offense.” (Figueiredo, 2016)

In addition, later in the same chapter, he adds:

“According to these myths, the simpler, poorer and harder the individual, the more guilty and sinful he would have been in the past. He should walk with his head bowed, suffer his condemnation in silence, submissive to divine mercy, as slaves of thought. This fanciful depiction of the working human mass was of direct interest to the powerful, wealthy and noble priests. These ancestral ideas were perpetuated by tradition as supernatural divine revelations.” (Figueiredo, 2016)

To some degree, the use of shame and guilt is still largely employed by not only religions but a number of other political and ideological schools of thought in contemporary times. It is also true that some of the individuals who consider themselves religious do not subscribe to the entirety of their religion’s theology and precepts. However, this does not affect the moral basis of the religion itself as an objective entity.

From a global population of 7.3 billion people in 2015, 2.3 billion were Christians, 1.8 billion were Muslims, 1.1 billion were Hindu and another 1 billion affiliated to other religions [see note 2 at end of this section]. Regardless of possible considerations that could be made against polling all religions in four major groups, we must notice that the sum obtained is an astonishing 6.2 billion people, or 89.9% of the world’s population. This is the power of religion to this date! This is how heteronomous our morality, and therefore ethics, is on a global scale.

Now, moral heteronomy is not a particularity of religions. The materialistic philosophies of the 19th century, adorned of scientific pretentions and emerging during the French Revolution as a strong reaction against the dogmatic control of the universities by the Catholic Church, were also of heteronomous nature. France, the intellectual capital of the world at the time, departed from the domination of the Church and its excessive dogmatism to fall into another excess, that of materialism.  It was in this context that theorists inspired by the legacy of John Lock (social contract and empiricism), René Descartes (cartesianism and mechanism) and Thomas Hobbes (social contract and “Homo homini lupus est” or “A man is a wolf to another man”), among others, attempted to conceive new philosophies able to inspire a new order of social organization under radically different grounds that those previously imposed by the Church. Among them are Auguste Comte (positivism), Helvetius (utilitarism), Condillac and Volney are some examples. Although their theories were at times ridiculously flawed, as it will be demonstrated, their ideological legacy still permeates the modern sciences of our days. It is in fact this legacy of historical excesses that must be corrected before spirituality and sciences can walk hand on hand:

“According to Auguste Comte, for example, the great masses of workers and all women did not possess the proper development of their brains and were thus organically prevented by the nature of making adequate use of reason, and should submit to the command of a minority, an elite of men furnished by a privileged nervous system capable of making them scientists, leaders, commanders of the ignoble mass. These delusional fantasies of Comtian positivism were well accepted in his time. Similar ideas dominated the following centuries and still persist.” (Figueiredo, 2016)

“Q. What is man in the savage state? A. A brutal, ignorant animal, a wicked and ferocious beast.

Q. Is he happy in that state? A. No; for he only feels momentary sensations, which are habitually of violent wants which he cannot satisfy, since he is ignorant by nature, and weak by being isolated from his race.

Q. Is he free? A. No; he is the most abject slave that exists; for his life depends on everything that surrounds him: he is not free to eat when hungry, to rest when tired, to warm himself when cold; he is every instant in danger of perishing; wherefore nature offers but fortuitous examples of such beings; and we see that all the efforts of the human species, since its origin, sorely tends to emerge from that violent state by the pressing necessity of self-preservation.

Q. But does not this necessity of preservation engender in individual’s egotism, that is to say self-love ? and is not egotism contrary to the social state? A. No; for if by egotism you mean a propensity to hurt our neighbor, it is no longer self-love, but the hatred of others. Self-love, taken in its true sense, not only is not contrary to society, but is its firmest support, by the necessity we lie under of not injuring others, lest in return they should injure us. 

Thus man’s preservation, and the unfolding of his faculties, directed towards this end, teach the true law of nature in the production of the human being; and it is from this essential principle that are derived, are referred, and in its scale are weighed, all ideas of good and evil, of vice and virtue, of just and unjust, of truth or error, of lawful or forbidden, on which is founded the morality of individual, or of social man.” (Volney, 1789)

For some of the fathers of materialism, the poor and unlearned individual was evil and selfish by nature; similarly to a ferocious animal. While religions, considering the idea of degeneration of souls, pointed out poverty and other hardships as conditions imposed by God as punishment, the materialistic philosophers of the 19th century saw them as the result of inherent inferiority and vice; finally concluding, for instance, that excessive kindness creates ungratefulness. Morality, they thought, comes down to self-preservation and the concepts of good and evil are confounded with those of physical pain and pleasure. Happiness, in this context, is understood as the result of maximizing pleasure; and if pleasure should be maximized, then it is natural that some individuals must suffer to provide pleasure to others. All is fair in search for power and fortune as morality is reduced to amorality and the human being is extirpated of all of which gives it a human status.

“Q. How does the law of nature prescribe the practice of good and virtue, and forbid that of evil and vice? A. By the advantages resulting from the practice of good and virtue for the preservation of our body, and by the losses which result to our existence from the practice of evil and vice. (…)

Q. Does the law of nature prescribe to do good to others beyond the bounds of reason and measure? A. No; for it is a sure way of leading them to ingratitude. Such is the force of sentiment and justice implanted in the heart of man, that he is not even grateful for benefits conferred without discretion. There is only one measure with them, and that is to be just.” (Volney, 1789)

Those ideologies paved the way to social competition and multiple forms of prejudice, segregation and discrimination that marked our recent world history and demonstrates that even when apparently not influenced by religious dogmas, ideas of coercion, submission and passivity (that it, a heteronomous morality) were and remain to some degree present in our culture. If in this text we are particularly interested on the French context, it is natural and obvious that those schools of thought were not limited to France, but developed internationally. Hence, it is not by accident that the world is as it is nowadays. It is also not for god’s determination. The external context simply reflects the internal context of our humanity, still awakening for the advent of moral autonomy, fraternity and voluntary cooperation.


[Note 1] For further clarifications on this matter, I would like to use Jesus as an example. As I understand it, the man who said “(…) then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) was encouraging others to find the moral law within themselves and through this liberating experience express themselves according to the principles of  intellectual and moral autonomy – such as freedom, fraternity and cooperation. Finding the truth within is quite different from finding the truth in an external table. One is autonomous and the other is heteronomous. I plan to write further about this topic in a future article, presenting additional biblical passages that indicates, if well interpreted, that Jesus discoursed about and encouraged the development of the intellectual and moral autonomy. It is because the moral law was not and still is not well understood that his last words were “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34).

[Note 2] Statistics obtained from Pew Research Center. [Online] [Cited: 09 30, 2018.] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/05/christians-remain-worlds-largest-religious-group-but-they-are-declining-in-europe/.

The Appearance of Rational Spiritualism

It was also in the context of this deep materialism that followed the Catholic control of the universities that a number of Professors in the area of Human Sciences decided to try a third path; that of studying morality according to the liberating ideas of Rousseau and Kant. Thinkers such as Royer-Collard, Maine de Biran, Victor Cousin, Theodore Jouffroy and Paul Janet produced a new philosophy, based on the concept of education for freedom and moral autonomy and taught it on French universities such as Sorbonne.

“Morality consists not only in the actions themselves, but especially in the motives of our actions. An outward morality, wholly of habit and imitation, is not yet the true morality. Morality must needs be accompanied by conscience and reflection. So viewed, moral science is a necessary element of a sound education, and the higher its principles the more the conscience is raised and refined.

We have just seen that neither pleasure nor usefulness is the legitimate and supreme object of human life. We are certainly permitted to seek pleasure, since nature invites us to it; but we should not make it the aim of life. We are also permitted, and even sometimes commanded, to seek what is useful, since reason demands we see to our self-preservation. But, above pleasure and utility, there is another aim, a higher aim, the real object of human life. This higher and final aim is what we call, according to circumstances, the good, the honest, and the just.” (Janet, 1884)

Those scientists quickly identified moral elements that distinguished humankind and challenged the points of views of the materialists. They designed a new school of thought that studied ethics from a rational spiritualist perspective. In a way, they can be understood as finding a good balance between science and spirituality, for instance, conceiving the existence of the soul not from a theological standpoint, but through reasoning and scientific exploration.

“We judge ourselves according to the principles of action we recognize. The man who loses in gambling may be troubled and regret his imprudence; but he who is conscious of having cheated in gambling (though he won thereby) must despise himself if he judges himself from the standpoint of moral law. This law must therefore be something else than the principle of personal happiness. For, to be able to say to one’s self, “I am a villain, though I have filled my purse,” requires another principle than that by which one congratulates himself, saying, “I am a prudent man, for I have filled my cash-box.” (Janet, 1884)

 Compare, for instance, the excerpt below with those from Volney presented earlier:

“Morality being, as we have said, the science of the good, the first question that presents itself is: What is good?

If we are to believe the first impulses of nature, which instinctively urge us towards the agreeable and cause us to repel all that is painful, the answer to the preceding question would not be difficult; we should have but to reply: ‘Good is what makes us happy; good is pleasure.’

One can, without doubt, affirm that morality teaches us to be happy, and puts us on the way to true happiness. But it is not, as one might believe, in obeying that blind law of nature which inclines us towards pleasure, that we shall be truly happy. The road morality points out is less easy, but surer.

Some very simple reflections will suffice to show us that it cannot be said absolutely that pleasure is the good and pain the bad. Experience and reasoning easily demonstrate the falsity of this opinion.

  1. Pleasure is not always a good, and in certain circumstances, it may even become a real evil; and, vice versa, pain is not always an evil, and it may even become a great good. Thus we see, on the one hand, that the pleasures of intemperance bring with them sickness, the loss of health and reason, shortening of life. The pleasures of idleness bring poverty, uselessness, the contempt of men. The pleasures of vengeance and of crime carry with them chastisement, remorse, etc. Conversely, again, we see the most painful troubles and trials bringing with them evident good. The amputation of a limb saves our life;
  2. It must be added that among the pleasures there are some that are low, degrading, vulgar; for example, the pleasures of drunkenness; others, again, that are noble and generous, as the heroism of the soldier. Among the pleasures of man, there are some he has in common with the beasts, and others that are peculiar to him alone. Shall we put the one kind and the other on the same level? Assuredly not.
  3. There are pleasures very keen, which, however, are fleeting, and soon pass away, as the pleasures of the passions; others which are durable and continuous, as those of health, security, domestic comfort, and the respect of mankind. Shall we sacrifice life-long pleasures to pleasures that last but an hour?
  4. Other pleasures are very great, but equally uncertain, and dependent on chance; as, for instance, the pleasures of ambition or the pleasures of the gaming-table; others, again, calmer and less intoxicating, but surer, as the pleasures of the family circle. Pleasures may then be compared in regard to certainty, purity, durability, intensity, etc. Experience teaches that we should not seek pleasures without distinction and choice; that we should use our reason and compare them; that we should sacrifice an uncertain and fleeting present to a durable future; prefer the simple and peaceful pleasures, free from regrets, to the tumultuous and dangerous pleasures of the passions, etc.; in a word, sacrifice the agreeable to the useful.” (Janet, 1884)


“Whilst man feels himself bound by his conscience to seek the right, he is impelled by his nature to seek pleasure. When he enjoys pleasure without any admixture of pain, he is happy; and the highest degree of possible pleasure with the least degree of possible pain is happiness. Now, experience shows that happiness is not always in harmony with virtue, and that pleasure does not necessarily accompany right doing. And yet we find such a separation unjust; and we believe in a natural and legitimate connection between pleasure and right, pain and wrong.

Pleasure, considered as the consequence of well-doing, is called recompense; and pain, considered as the legitimate consequence of evil, is called punishment. When a man has done well he thinks, and all other men think, that he has a right to a recompense. When he has done ill they think the contrary, and he himself thinks also that he must atone for his wrong-doing by a chastisement. This principle, by virtue of which we declare a moral agent deserving of happiness or unhappiness according to his good or bad actions, is called the principle of merit and demerit.” (Janet, 1884)

The liberating and moralizing ideas of the Rational Spiritualist researchers gained ample public support and raised questions of moral character that was later further developed by Spiritism. This is because Allan Kardec, when studying spiritual communications, used their work to design the questions asked to the spiritst. Therefore, when reasoning could not progress, such as explaining the link between body and soul or studying what happens to this soul after the degradation of the physical body, the spirits could offer answers and those answers constituted theories that could then be analyzed for coherence and consistency. If the Rational Spiritualism brought a spark of humanity to a dark time of history, Spiritism reconnected humanity with the divine, shedding new light to the human understanding of its own nature and the cosmos. Existential questions could then be explored through a remarkably new and untapped perspective.

It is only after understanding the French context of the 19th century that we can properly understand the following comment:

“It was in these extremely favorable circumstances that Spiritism arrived; earlier, it would have shocked against the all-powerful materialism; in an even precedent time, it would have been silenced by blind fanaticism. It emerged at a time when the spiritualistic reaction, provoked by the very excesses of materialism, empowered all spirits.” (Kardec, 1863)

Nevertheless, the period around the 19th century was not limited to agitations in the realm of philosophy. The endurance of all branches of human knowledge was tested. Paulo Henrique de Figueiredo explains that at the same time of the French revolution, two great visionaries, realizing the collapse of the millenarian medicine of the time, considering diseases as organic degeneration or invasion of the evil in the body, developed the foundations for a true revolution of the medical sciences, which remains to be developed to its full potential.

“These visionaries, Franz Anton Mesmer and Samuel Hahnemann, creators of the sciences of animal magnetism and homeopathy, brought to the cure the concept of autonomy, considering the disease as a disturbance of organic harmony and the recovery of health as a natural effort of the animal economy, sponsored by the vis medicatrix naturae.

According to these two medical sciences, the body recovers its health by the vital force that animates it, stimulated by the artificial disease induced by the homeopathic medicines or the magnetic pass. Both theories have the same conceptual basis, still poorly understood today.” (Figueiredo, 2016)

From those two visionaries, one went to history as a mystical lunatic and the other is still resisted by our pharmacological Western medical sciences. In fact, despite wide evidence of positive results, homeopathy seems to be looked down and, as far as I can tell, not seriously researched, as its theoretical foundation does not seem to fit the idea of man as a purely physical entity.

“The discovery and development of homeopathic medicine is credited to Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a brilliant German physician. Because of his disillusionment and dissatisfaction with the medical approaches of his day, he developed a system of treatment based on the unique principle of “like cures like” (…)

On the basis of the Law of Similars, Hahnemann began to empirically treat patients. (…) In the course of his medical research he made yet another discovery. After experimenting with diluting the remedies given to patients, he was surprised to find that the greater the dilution, the more effective the medication!! The process of repeated dilution seemed to make the remedies more potent. Hahnemann referred to this technique as “potentization.” Very dilute solutions of homeopathic substance were used to coat tablets of milk sugar, which could then be ingested by patients. So dilute were his homeopathic remedies that in many of the medicines given, there was not a single molecule of the original herb present! Hahnemann’s observation of greater efficacy from increasingly weaker concentrations would certainly contradict many of the accepted principles of dose-related effects in pharmacokinetics!” (Gerber, 2001)

Homeopathy, as well as other so-called vibrational medicine varieties challenge some of our scientific dogmas and point out to the human being as a multidimensional entity. This topic will be further developed later.

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” ( World Health Organization, 2018)


“Homeopathic medicine, on the other hand, deals indirectly with the chemistry and structure of the physical body by dealing directly with substance and energies at the next, and more subtle, level. It must be classed as a subjective medicine at this time for the following reasons:

1) It deals with energy that can be strongly perturbed by the mental and emotional activity of individuals, and 2) there has not been any diagnostic equipment available to support the homeopathic physician’s hypothesis.

Both theoretical structure and an experimental laboratory for studying subtle energies are essential ingredients for the generation of a correct scientific foundation for homeopathy.” (Gerber, 2001)

Allan Kardec & the Dawn of Spiritism

Allan Kardec (Hyppolite-Léon-Denizard Rivail), 1804-1869 was an earnest intellectual Frenchman, a professor of languages, physics, anatomy, and mathematics, dedicated to improving public education.

“Although son and grandson of lawyers and of an old family, distinguished in the magistrature and courts, he did not follow that career; he soon dedicated to the study of Sciences and Philosophy. Pupil of Pestalozzi, in Switzerland, he becomes one of the eminent disciples of that célèbre pedagogue, and one of the propagators of his educational system, which exerted great influence in the reformation of studies in France and Germany. It was in that school that he developed the ideas which would later place him in the class of men of progress and free thinkers.” (IPEAK)

“Educated in the renown School of Pestalozzi, in Yverdun (Switzerland), he became one of that celebrated teacher’s most eminent pupils and one of the most zealous propagandists of the Educational system that exercised a great influence in the reform of the Educational system in France and in Germany.

Endowed with a notable intelligence, he was drawn to teaching, due to his character and his special aptitudes. At fourteen, he had already started to teach what he had previously studied, to some of his schoolmates, who had assimilated less than him. It was at that school that the ideas originated, which would later categorize him in the class of the progressive and free-thinkers individuals of the day.” ( SGNY)

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 strange phenomenon such as noises, raps and turning tables with no apparent cause that seemed to be getting common in France as well as other parts of the world, striking public curiosity and awareness.

“By the year 1848, several strange phenomena were gaining notoriety in the United States, consisting in noises, raps and movement of objects with no apparent cause. They would happen spontaneously, several times, with a characteristic intensity and frequency.  However, it soon became clear that these phenomena could also occur through the presence of certain people whom were known as ”mediums”.  These people could provoke the phenomena at will, making experiments possible. Such experiments were made using tables, not because these objects are more favorable than others, but because they were more convenient, movable, and because it was easier to sit around them than any other furniture. In this way the rotation of tables was achieved, and subsequently, movements in all directions: jumps, turns, fluctuations, violent strokes etc. These phenomena were originally called ‘table dancing’ or ‘table turning’.

Initially the facts could be perfectly explained by the action of an electric or magnetic current or unknown kind of fluid, and such was the first formed explanation. But within a short time, intelligent effects were recognized in them, such that the movement obeyed the will. The table could move to the right or to the left, toward some certain person, it could stand on one or two feet upon command, knock the ground a number of ordered times, knock regularly, etc. It was clear that the cause was not purely physical and, based upon the principle: ”To every effect a cause is associated, to every intelligent effect there is an intelligent cause”, an intelligence was appointed as the cause.

However, what was the nature of this intelligence? Such was the question. Initial impressions were that it could be the reflection of the medium’s intelligence or of his assistants. But experience soon disproved this, since responses totally alien to the thought and knowledge of the present people and even in opposition to their ideas, wills or desires were obtained. Therefore this intelligence could only belong to an invisible being. The way to ascertain this was quite simple: a discussion with such entity sufficed. A conventional number of knocks to signify a yes or no answer or to designate alphabetical letters was created and, in this way, several chosen questions obtained answers. This phenomenon was called `talking tables’. Interrogated in this way about their nature, all the beings declared themselves to be spirits and belong to an invisible world. As the phenomena were produced in different locations, through several different people and observed by serious and intelligent people, it was not possible they were an illusion.

From America the phenomena spread to France and the rest of Europe, where the talking and turning tables were the rage and became a means of entertainment in public halls. But when people began to tire of them, they turned their attention toward other things.

However, within a short time, the phenomenon presented itself under a new aspect that remove it from the domain of a simple curiosity. Due to space limitations all the phases can not be described herein, therefore we will proceed to the most renown aspect which attracted the most attention of serious people.” (SGNY)

Kardec was one of the first scholars to propose a scientific investigation of allegedly psychic or spiritual phenomena and it is surprising that his remarkably rich research work is still not well known in certain parts of the world. He 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.

“It did not take long for the phenomenon to present itself under a new aspect, moving away from the domain of simple curiosity. The limits of this summary do not allow us to describe all of its phases; we move on, without transition, to what it offers of more characteristic, particularly drawing the attention of serious persons.

We initially say that the reality of the phenomenon found many contradictors; some, not taking into account the honor and uninterested of the experimenters, did not see anything more than a clever and deceitful game. Those that do not admit anything beyond matter, that only believe in the visible world, that think that everything dies with the body, the materialists, in one word; those who consider themselves strong spirits, rejected the idea of the invisible spirits as something from the field of the absurd fables; they called mad all those who took it seriously, throwing sarcasm and mockery at them.

Others, incapable of denying the facts, and prejudiced by certain ideas, attributed the phenomenon to the exclusive influence of the devil, thus trying to scare the timid away. Nowadays, however, the fear of the devil has significantly lost its ground; they spoke so much about him, painting him with so many different colors that people got used to the idea and many thought that it would be a good occasion to see how the devil really looked like. This resulted in, apart from a small number of scared women, the announcement of the arrival of the true devil which had something of a thrill to those who had only seen it in paintings and theathers; to many it was a powerful stimulus, so that those that tried to impose a barrier to the new ideas acted against their own objectives and became, unwillingly, agents of promotion and the more they screamed the more efficient they were.

The other critics were not more successful because they could only oppose to the attested facts their categorical reasoning with denials. Read what they wrote and you shall find proofs of ignorance and lack of serious observation of the facts everywhere, and nowhere will you find a peremptory demonstration of its impossibility.  Their whole argumentation is summarized as this: “I don’t believe, thus it does not exist; every one that believes is crazy and it is only us that have the privilege of reason and common sense”. The number of followers of the serious or burlesque criticism is incalculable, because one can only find personal opinions in all of them, empty of contrary proofs. Let us carry on with our argumentation.

The communications through raps were slow and incomplete; it was soon recognized that by adapting a pencil to a mobile object: basket, planchette or another way on which one would place their fingers, that object would move, tracing characters. Later it was realized that such objects were purely accessories which could be dismissed; experience demonstrated that the spirit, that acted upon an inert body, voluntarily leading it, could also act upon an arm or a hand, to lead the pencil. We then had the writing mediums, or persons that would right involuntarily, under the impulse of the spirits, of whom they could be instruments and interpreters.

Since then the communications no longer had limits, and the exchange of thoughts could take place with the same speed and development as among the living creatures. It was a vast open field for exploration, the discovery of a new world: the world of the invisible, like the microscope had made it possible to discover the world of the infinitely small.

What are these spirits? What is their role in the Universe? What is the objective of their communication with us mortals? Such were the first questions that were necessary to solve. It was soon found out, from them, that they were not separated beings from the creation, but the very souls of those who lived on Earth or in other worlds; that those souls, after having left their corporeal involucre, inhabit and occupy the space. There was no possibility of doubt when, among them, one could recognize friends and relatives, with whom they could establish a conversation; when they came to bring proofs of their existence, demonstrating that death for them only happened to the body, that their souls or spirits continued to live, watching and observing us as when they were alive, surrounding the loved ones with solicitude, and whose memory is a sweet satisfaction to them.” (IPEAK)

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.” (Kardec, 1868)

“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.” (Kardec, 1868)

An interesting detail to cover at this point is regarding the reasons that led professor Hyppolite-Léon-Denizard Rivail to adopt the pseudonymous of Allan Kardec. Being a known and celebrated personality in the field of education, professor Rivail was concerned about the potential impacts that the publication of books regarding Spiritism could have on his academic career.

“Among his numerous works to foster education, we will mention the following: Proposed Plan for the Improvement of Public Instruction (1828); A practical and theoretical study of Arithmetic, according to the methods of Pestalozzi, for the use of teachers and mothers (1824); Classic French Grammar (1831); A Manual of the Examination for the titles of capacity; Rational solutions to the subjects and problems in Arithmetic and in Geometry (1846); Grammatical Catechism of the French Language (1848); Program for the regular courses of Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Physiology, which he taught in Lyceum Polimático; Normal dictations of the examinations of the Municipality and of Sorbonne, followed by Special Dictations regarding Orthographic Difficulties (1849), an accomplishment highly regarded at the time of its launching and from which new editions are still been published today.” ( SGNY)


“Being thoroughly knowledgeable in the German language, he translated into German a variety of works on education and on morals and, what is uniquely characteristic of him, the works of Fénelon that had seduced him in an intriguing way.

 He was a member of several societies, one of which the Royal Academy of Arras that, in the competition of 1831, awarded him notable recognition on the following subject: Which is a system of study more harmonious with the needs of the time? “ (KSSF)

 After consulting the spirits about it, they instructed him to publish Spiritist books under the pseudonym, Allan Kardec – which was his name in a former incarnation among the Druids.

(To be continued…)


Works Cited

SGNY. SGNY – Allan Kardec. Spiritist Group of New York. [Online] [Cited: 10 03, 2018.] http://www.sgny.org/biographies/allan-kardec/.

World Health Organization. 2018. [Online] 09 25, 2018. http://www.who.int/suggestions/faq/en/.

Figueiredo, Paulo Henrique de. 2016. Revolução Espírita: A teoria esquecida de Allan Kardec. São Paulo, SP : Editora MAAT, 2016.

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