Spiritism is a spiritualistic philosophy and religion codified in the 19th century by the French educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, under the pen name Allan Kardec; it proposed the study of "the nature, origin, and destiny of spirits, and their relation with the corporeal world".
Spiritism postulates that humans are essentially immortal spirits that temporarily inhabit physical bodies for several necessary incarnations to attain moral and intellectual improvement. It also asserts that spirits, through passive or active mediumship, may have beneficent or malevolent influence on the physical world.
Spiritism has influenced a social movement of healing centers, charity institutions and hospitals involving millions of people in dozens of countries, with the greatest number of adherents in Brazil. Spiritism was also very influential in the new Vietnamese religion called Cao Đài or Caodaism, born in 1926 after three spirit mediums received messages that identified Allan Kardec as a prophet of a new universal religion.
Spiritism is based on the five books of the Spiritist Codification written by French educator Hypolite Léon Denizard Rivail under the pseudonym Allan Kardec, in which he reported observations of phenomena at séances that he attributed to incorporeal intelligence (spirits). His work was later extended by writers such as Léon Denis, Gabriel Delanne, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ernesto Bozzano, Gustav Geley, Chico Xavier, Divaldo Pereira Franco, Emídio Brasileiro, Alexandr Aksakov, William Crookes, Oliver Lodge, Albert de Rochas, and Amalia Domingo Soler. Kardec's research was influenced by the Fox sisters and the use of talking boards. Interest in Mesmerism also contributed to early Spiritism.
Emanuel Swedenborg (January 29, 1688 – March 29, 1772) was a Lutheran Swedish scientist, philosopher, seer, and theologian. Swedenborg had a prolific career as an inventor and scientist. At 56, he claimed to have experienced visions of the spiritual world and talked with angels, devils, and spirits by visiting heaven and hell. He claimed he was directed by the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal the doctrines of his second coming.
Swedenborg, however, warned against seeking contact with spirits. In his work Apocalypse Explained, #1182.4, he wrote, "Many persons believe that man can be taught by the Lord by means of spirits speaking with him. But those who believe this, and desire to do so, are not aware that it is associated with danger to their souls." See also Heaven and Hell #249
Nevertheless, Swedenborg is often cited by Spiritists as a major precursor for their beliefs.
Sisters Catherine (1838–92), Leah (1814–90) and Margaretta (1836–93) Fox played an important role in the development of Modern Spiritualism. The daughters of John and Margaret Fox, they were residents of Hydesville, New York. In 1848, the family began to hear unexplained rapping sounds. Kate and Maggie conducted channeling sessions in an attempt to contact the presumed spiritual entity creating the sounds, and claimed contact with the spirit of a peddler who was allegedly murdered and buried beneath the house. A skeleton later found in the basement seemed to confirm this. The Fox girls became instant celebrities. They demonstrated their communication with the spirit by using taps and knocks, automatic writing or psychography, and later even voice communication, as the spirit took control of one of the girls.
Skeptics suspected this was deception and fraud, and sister Margaretta eventually confessed to using her toe-joints to produce the sound. Although she later recanted this confession, she and her sister Catherine were widely considered discredited, and died in poverty. Nonetheless, belief in the ability to communicate with the dead grew rapidly, becoming a religious movement called Spiritualism, which contributed significantly to Kardec's ideas.
After the news of the Fox sisters came to France, people became more interested in what was sometimes termed the "Spiritual Telegraph". Planchette, the precursor of the pencil-less Ouija boards, simplified the writing process which achieved widespread popularity in America and Europe.
Franz Anton Mesmer (May 23, 1734 – March 5, 1815) discovered what he called magnétisme animal (animal magnetism), which became known as mesmerism. The evolution of Mesmer's ideas and practices led Scottish surgeon James Braid (1795–1860) to develop hypnotism in 1841.
Although there are many similarities, Spiritism differs from spiritualism in a number of ways.
In What Is Spiritism?, Kardec calls spiritism a science dedicated to the relationship between incorporeal beings (spirits) and human beings. Thus, some Spiritists see themselves as not adhering to a religion, but to a philosophical doctrine with a scientific fulcrum and moral grounds.
Another author in the Spiritualist movement, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included a chapter about Spiritism in his book History of Spiritualism, in which he states that Spiritism is Spiritualist, but not vice versa. As a consequence, many Spiritualist works are widely accepted in Spiritism, particularly the works of 19th-century physicists William Crookes and Oliver Lodge.
The basic doctrine of Spiritism ("the Codification") is defined in five of Allan Kardec's books:
Kardec also wrote a brief introductory pamphlet (What Is Spiritism?) and was the most frequent contributor to the Spiritist Review. His essays and articles were posthumously collected into the Posthumous Works.
As defined in The Spirits' Book, the main principles of spiritism are:
According to Kardec, the Spiritist moral principles are in agreement with those taught by Jesus. Other individuals such as Francis of Assisi, Paul the Apostle, Buddha and Gandhi are also sometimes considered by the Spiritists. Spiritist philosophical inquiry is concerned with the study of moral aspects in the context of an eternal life in spiritual evolution through reincarnation, a process believers hold as revealed by Spirits. Sympathetic research on Spiritism by scientists can be found in the works of Oliver Lodge, William Crookes, William Fletcher Barrett, Albert de Rochas, Emma Bragdon, Alexander Moreira-Almeida and others.
Spiritists consider Jesus to be the greatest moral example for humankind. They believe he incarnated on earth to demonstrate the path to achieve spiritual perfection. In this way, Spiritism identifies as a form of Christianity, claiming it is based on Jesus Christ's teachings, despite having an interpretation that differs from those held by mainstream Christian denominations. The Gospels are studied and interpreted in Spiritism; it asserts that some of Jesus' words and actions are clarified in the light of the spiritual phenomena (presented as law of nature, and not as something miraculous).
Spiritists assert that communication between the spiritual world and the material world happens all the time, to varying degrees. They believe that some people barely sense what the spirits tell them in an entirely instinctive way, and are not aware about their influence. In contrast, they believe that mediums have these natural abilities highly developed, and are able to communicate with spirits and interact with them visually or audibly, or through writing (known by Kardecists as psychography or automatic writing).(See The Book of Mediums by Allan Kardec Chapters X to XIII)
Kardec's works do not establish any rituals or formal practices. Instead, the doctrine suggests that followers adhere to some principles common to all religions. The religious experience within spiritism is, therefore, largely informal.
The most important types of practices within Spiritism are:
Spiritist associations have various degrees of formality, with some groups having local, regional, national or international scope. Local organizations are usually called Spiritist centres or Spiritist societies. Regional and national organizations are called federations, such as the Federação Espírita Brasileira and the Federación Espírita Española; international organizations are called unions, such as the Union Spirite Française et Francophone. Spiritist centres (especially in Brazil) are often active book publishers and promoters of Esperanto.
For many of its followers, the description of Spiritism is three-fold: science, for its studies on the mechanisms of mediumship; philosophy, for its theories on the origin, meaning and importance of life; and religion, for its guidance on Christian behavior which will bring spiritual and moral evolution to mankind. Spiritism is not considered a religion by some of its followers because it does not endorse formal adoration, require regular frequency or formal membership. However, the mainstream scientific community does not accept Spiritism as scientific, and its belief system fits within the definition of religion.
Spiritism has adherents in many countries, including Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Jamaica, Japan, Portugal, Spain, United States, and particularly in Latin American countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, which has the largest proportion and greatest number of followers. The largest Spiritist group in Asia are the Vietnamese followers of Cao Đài or Caodaists, who formed a new religion building on the legacy of Allan Kardec in 1926 in Saigon and Tây Ninh in what was then French Indochina
In Brazil, the movement has become widely accepted, largely due to Chico Xavier's works. The official Spiritist community there has about 20 million adepts, although some elements of spiritism are more broadly accepted and practiced in various ways by three times as many people across the country. Some statistics suggest an adherence to Spiritist practices by 40 million people in Brazil.
In the Philippines, there is the Union Espiritista Cristiana de Filipinas, Incorporada (Union of Christian Spiritists in the Philippines, Inc.), which was founded at the turn of the 1900s and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1905. The religious organization, which uses human mediums to communicate with spirits that have already attained purity or divinity for moral and spiritual guidance, has tens of thousands of members and worship centers in many parts of the country, mostly in Northern Luzon, Central Luzon and the National Capital Region. Its motto: "Towards God through wisdom and love." Its doctrine: "Without charity (good deed), there is no possible salvation." It uses the Holy Bible as the basis of its teachings, supplemented by messages from divine spirits.
Since its early development, Spiritism has attracted criticism. Kardec's own introductory book on Spiritism, What is Spiritism?, published only two years after The Spirits' Book, includes a hypothetical discussion between him and three idealized critics, "The Critic", "The Skeptic", and "The Priest", summing up much of the criticism Spiritism has received. The broad areas of criticism relate to charlatanism, pseudoscience, heresy, witchcraft, and Satanism. Until his death, Kardec continued to address these issues in various books and in his periodical, the Revue Spirite.
During the interwar period a new form of criticism of Spiritism developed. René Guénon's influential book The Spiritist Fallacy criticized both the more general concepts of Spiritualism, which he considered to be a superficial mix of moralism and spiritual materialism, as well as Spiritism's specific contributions, such as its belief in what he saw as a post-Cartesian, modernist concept of reincarnation distinct from and opposed to its two western predecessors, metempsychosis and transmigration.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2117) states that "Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it".
In Brazil, Catholic priests Carlos Kloppenburg and Óscar González-Quevedo, among others, have written extensively against Spiritism from both a doctrinal and parapsychological perspective. Quevedo, in particular, has sought to show that Spiritism's claims of being a science are invalid. In addition to writing books on the subject, he has also hosted television programs debunking supposed paranormal phenomena, most recently in a series that ran in 2000 on Globo's news program, Fantástico. Brazilian Spiritist, Hernani Guimarães Andrade, has in turn written rebuttals to these criticisms.
Chico Xavier (April 2, 1910 – June 30, 2002) was a popular Spiritist medium and philanthropist in Brazil's spiritism movement who wrote more than 490 books and over 10,000 letters to family members of deceased people, ostensibly using psychography. His books sold millions of copies, all of which had their proceeds donated to charity. They purportedly included poetry, novels, and even scientific treatises, some of which are considered by Brazilian Spiritist followers to be fundamental for the comprehension of the practical and theoretical aspects of Allan Kardec's doctrine. One of his most famous books, The Astral City, details one experience after dying. The book became a movie in 2010 available in multiple languages in addition to over 15 other movies.
The following works contain concepts related to Spiritist beliefs:
In Brazil, a number of soap operas have plots incorporating Spiritism.
In my eyes, Allan Kardec and Flammarion, Andrew Jackson Davis and Judge Edmonds, are but schoolboys just trying to spell their A B C and sorely blundering sometimes.
For a list of writings by Allan Kardec see his biographic article.
Allan Kardec (French: [kaʁdɛk]) is the pen name of the French educator, translator and author Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail ([ʁivɑj]; 3 October 1804 – 31 March 1869). He is the author of the five books known as the Spiritist Codification, and is the founder of Spiritism.Automatic writing
Automatic writing or psychography is a claimed psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words purportedly arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source. Scientists and skeptics consider automatic writing to be the result of the ideomotor effect and even proponents of automatic writing admit it has been the source of innumerable cases of self-delusion. Automatic writing is not the same thing as free writing.Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu
Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu (Romanian pronunciation: [boɡˈdan petriˈt͡ʃejku haʃˈdew] (listen) 26 February 1838 – 7 September [O.S. 25 August] 1907) was a Romanian writer and philologist, who pioneered many branches of Romanian philology and history.Carlos María de Heredia
Carlos María de Heredia (1872-1951) was a Mexican magician and Jesuit priest.Chico Xavier
Chico Xavier (Portuguese: [ˈʃiku ʃɐviˈɛʁ]) or Francisco Cândido Xavier, born Francisco de Paula Cândido ([fɾɐ̃ˈsisku dʒi ˈpawlɐ ˈkɐ̃dʒidu], April 2, 1910 – June 30, 2002), was a popular philanthropist and medium in Spiritism. During a period of 60 years he wrote over 490 books and several thousand letters claiming to use a process known as "psychography and after his death many dozens of books were issued based on old letters and manuscripts which gradually became public bringing the total number of books up to 496".The books written by Chico covered a vast range of topics from religion, philosophy, historical romances and novels, Portuguese Literature, poetry, and science, as well as thousands of letters intended to inform, console and uplift the families of deceased persons during his psychographic sessions. His books sold an estimated 50 million copies and the revenue generated by it was totally channeled into charity work.Xavier was born in the city of Pedro Leopoldo, State of Minas Gerais and is popularly known as "Chico Xavier" (Chico is the Portuguese nickname for Francisco). Xavier called his spiritual guide Emmanuel, who according to Xavier, lived in ancient Rome as Senator Publius Lentulus, was reincarnated in Spain as Father Damien, and later as a professor at the Sorbonne.Xavier claimed he was a channel for the work of the spirits and that he was not able to produce any miracle such as healing people. He often mentioned he could not contact a deceased person unless the spirit was willing to be contacted. His appearances on TV talk shows in the late 1960s and early 1970s helped to establish Spiritism Doctrine as one of the major philosophies professed in Brazil with more than 5 million followers. Xavier's popularity remained unchanged in Brazil throughout his life. Despite his health problems he kept working up to his death, on June 30, 2002 in Uberaba. In 2010, a movie biography entitled Chico Xavier was released in Brazil. Directed by Daniel Filho, the film dramatized Xavier's life.On October 3, 2012, the SBT television TV show O Maior Brasileiro de Todos os Tempos named Chico Xavier "The Greatest Brazilian of all time", based on a viewer-supported survey.Ghost
In folklore, a ghost (sometimes known as an apparition, haunt, phantom, poltergeist, shade, specter or spectre, spirit, spook, and wraith) is the soul or spirit of a dead person or animal that can appear to the living. In ghostlore, descriptions of ghosts vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to realistic, lifelike visions. The deliberate attempt to contact the spirit of a deceased person is known as necromancy, or in spiritism as a séance.
The belief in the existence of an afterlife, as well as manifestations of the spirits of the dead, is widespread, dating back to animism or ancestor worship in pre-literate cultures. Certain religious practices—funeral rites, exorcisms, and some practices of spiritualism and ritual magic—are specifically designed to rest the spirits of the dead. Ghosts are generally described as solitary, human-like essences, though stories of ghostly armies and the ghosts of animals rather than humans have also been recounted. They are believed to haunt particular locations, objects, or people they were associated with in life. According to a 2009 study by the Pew Research Center, 18% of Americans say they have seen a ghost.The overwhelming consensus of science is that ghosts do not exist. Their existence is impossible to falsify, and ghost hunting has been classified as pseudoscience. Despite centuries of investigation, there is no scientific evidence that any location is inhabited by spirits of the dead.Heaven and Hell (Kardec book)
Heaven and Hell (French: Le Ciel et l'Enfer) is an 1865 book by Allan Kardec, the fourth tome of the fundamental works of Spiritism. Its name was intentionally taken from a previous book by Emanuel Swedenborg, it was also subtitled "Divine Justice According to Spiritism".
It is divided into two parts named "The Doctrine" and "The Examples".
The first part explains the different view Spiritism has on the subject, stating that both "Heaven" (happiness in the afterlife) and "Hell" (punishment in the afterlife) are misconcepts, that the state of the spirits after their death is not definitive and that there is always hope, even for the crudest criminal. This is also where Kardec explains in detail why and how "good people" are doomed to suffer and why one should not take one's own life.
The second part is a series of interviews with spirits of deceased people, thus exemplifying the working truth of the doctrine previously detailed. Most of the examples cited are of people now long-forgotten and have become quite useless. The books are most cherished, however, for the profound morality expressed in the first part.
Heaven and Hell is the second most popular book among the Fundamental Works of Spiritism.Manuel de Araújo Porto-Alegre, Baron of Santo Ângelo
Manuel José de Araújo Porto-Alegre, Baron of Santo Ângelo (November 29, 1806 – December 30, 1879), was a Brazilian Romantic writer, painter, architect, diplomat and professor, considered to be one of the first Brazilian editorial cartoonists ever. He is the patron of the 32nd chair of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.Obsession (Spiritism)
Obsession, also known as spirit obsession, is a technical term within the Spiritist belief and practice defined by the author Allan Kardec as the interference of a subjugating spirit with a weaker spirit (cf. Latin obsidere, "besiege"). Although the term most commonly refers to the negative influence of the spirit of an evil deceased person on the mind or spirit of a living person, obsession can occur in either direction.
Obsession is believed by many Spiritists to be a major danger to unprepared and untrained mediums. It is also believed to be one of the most frequent causes of mental illness and criminal behaviour.Because the danger of obsession is a core belief within Spiritism, dealing with it is one of the cornerstones of Spiritist religious activity, and it is treated at Spiritist centres by means of prayer and teaching. Its centrality to Spiritist doctrine and practice is one of the marks that generally distinguishes Spiritism from both Spiritualism and the Spiritual Church Movement. However, the 19th century Spiritualist author Paschal Beverly Randolph also recognized the dangers of obsession to mediums, and claimed to have been harmed by evil spirits during his own career as a Spiritualist lecturer and trance medium.Palmelo
Palmelo is municipality in southeast Goiás state, Brazil. It is the smallest municipality in the state and the only town in Brazil where most of the inhabitants follow the religion called Spiritism.Peter Ibbetson
Peter Ibbetson is an American black-and-white drama film released in 1935 and directed by Henry Hathaway.The picture is based on a novel of the same name by George du Maurier, first published in 1891. In 1917, du Maurier's story was adapted into a very successful Broadway play starring John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Constance Collier and Laura Hope Crews. The story had also been filmed in 1921, as a silent film called Forever (1921), directed by George Fitzmaurice and starring the popular Wallace Reid. In the years that followed, a Ford Theater television Peter Ibbetson (1951) starring Richard Greene, and a Campbell Playhouse radio Peter Ibbetson (1951) directed by and starring Orson Welles were produced.This tale of a love that transcends all obstacles relates the story of two young lovers who are separated in childhood and then drawn together by destiny years later. Even though they are separated in real life because Peter is unjustly convicted of murder (it was actually self-defense), they discover they can dream themselves into each other's consciousness while asleep. In this way, they live out their life together. The transitions between reality and fantasy are captured by the cinematography of Charles Lang, as discussed in the documentary Visions of Light (1992).Religion in South America
Christianity is the main religion in South America, with Roman Catholics having the most adherents. Sizeable minorities of non-religious people and adherents of other religions are also present.Spirit world (Spiritualism)
The spirit world, according to spiritualism, is the world or realm inhabited by spirits, both good or evil of various spiritual manifestations. Whereas religion regards an inner life, the spirit world is regarded as an external environment for spirits. Although independent from the natural world, both the spirit world and the natural world are in constant interaction. Through mediumship, these worlds can consciously communicate with each other. The spirit world is sometimes described by mediums from the natural world in trance.Spiritist Codification
Spiritist Codification (or Spiritist Pentateuch) is the customary name given by spiritists to the set of books codified by Allan Kardec. The books are a compilation of questions made by Allan Kardec and answers allegedly dictated by Spirits, between the years 1857 and 1868. The series contains the fundamental details of the Spiritism movement.
The collection of the first five books, written and published by French teacher, educator and Spiritism codificator Allan Kardec, are called "The Five Fundamental Works of Spiritism". These books contain several explanations of the Spiritism Doctrine, as well as religious teachings and essays on the spirit world, mediumship, miracles, paranormal and supernatural phenomena.
Two other books were published to complement the teachings of Allan Kardec: Qu'est-Ce Le Spiritisme? ("What is Spiritism?") in 1859 and Oeuvres Posthumes ("Posthumous Works") in 1890.Spiritist centre
A Spiritist centre, also called Spiritist society or Spiritist house, is the basic unit of organisation of Spiritism, which is a distinct form of Spiritualism.
In legal terms, Spiritist centres are ordinary non-profit associations, whose members are in charge of providing funds to run the centre itself and the various charity activities kept by it. Each centre is run by a president or one or more directors elected for a term. Spiritist centres differ from Spiritualist churches in that they are not formally organized as ecclesiastical bodies.
In addition to the legal and corporeal aspects of its existence, a Spiritist centre is also believed by its members to have an informal and incorporeal level of existence in the spirit world which comprises its patron and a series of protector spirits (which may be shared by other centres in the world).Spiritualism (beliefs)
Spiritualism is a metaphysical belief that the world is made up of at least two fundamental substances, matter and spirit. This very broad metaphysical distinction is further developed into many and various forms by the inclusion of details about what spiritual entities exist such as a soul, the afterlife, spirits of the dead, deities and mediums; as well as details about the nature of the relationship between spirit and matter. It may also refer to the philosophy, doctrine, or religion pertaining to a spiritual aspect of existence.It is also a term commonly used for various psychic or paranormal practices and beliefs recorded throughout humanity's history and in a variety of cultures.Spiritualistic traditions appear deeply rooted in shamanism and perhaps are one of the oldest forms of religion. Mediumship is a modern form of shamanism and such ideas are very much like those developed by Edward Burnett Tylor in his theory of animism, in which there are other parallel worlds to our own, though invisible to us and not accessible to us in our state. A psychic is to be one of the connecting links between these worlds. A psychic is defined as someone endowed with exceptional sensitivity to the occult dimension, who experiences visions and revelations. Some authors have stated only few individuals are said to have this capacity.Table-turning
Table-turning (also known as table-tapping, table-tipping or table-tilting) is a type of séance in which participants sit around a table, place their hands on it, and wait for rotations. The table was purportedly made to serve as a means of communicating with the spirits; the alphabet would be slowly called over and the table would tilt at the appropriate letter, thus spelling out words and sentences. The process is similar to that of a Ouija board. Scientists and skeptics consider table-turning to be the result of the ideomotor effect, or conscious trickery.The Gospel According to Spiritism
The Gospel According to Spiritism (L'Évangile Selon le Spiritisme in French), by Allan Kardec, is a book published in 1864 that relates the teachings of Jesus to Kardecist Spiritism, the moral and religious philosophy that Kardec had been publishing. It is intended to demonstrate that Spiritism clarifies and extends the most important teachings of Jesus. It is one of the five fundamental works of Kardecist Spiritism.
The book attracted a lot of reaction from the Catholic Church and was indexed (added to the List of Prohibited Books). The first edition had been titled Imitation de l'Évangile (An Imitation of the Gospels), but the third, and definitive edition (1865) had the book renamed and profusely corrected (mostly typos or supposed mistakes in channeling), edited and expanded.Umbanda
Umbanda (Portuguese pronunciation: [ũˈbɐ̃dɐ]) is a syncretic Afro-Brazilian religion that blends African traditions with Roman Catholicism, Spiritism, and Indigenous American beliefs. Although some of its beliefs and most of its practices existed in the late 19th century in almost all Brazil, it is assumed that Umbanda originated in Niterói and surrounding areas in the early 20th century, mainly due to the work of a psychic (medium), Zélio Fernandino de Moraes, who practiced Umbanda among the poor Afro-Brazilians slave descendants. Since then, Umbanda has spread across mainly southern Brazil and neighboring countries like Argentina and Uruguay.
Umbanda has many branches, each one with a different set of beliefs and practices. Some common beliefs are the existence of a Supreme Creator known as Olodumare. Other common beliefs are the existence of deities called Orixás, most of them syncretized with Catholic saints that act as divine energy and forces of nature; spirits of deceased people that counsel and guide practitioners through troubles in the material world; psychics, or mediums, who have a natural ability that can be perfected to bring messages from the spiritual world of Orixás and the guiding spirits; reincarnation and spiritual evolution through many material lives (karmic law) and the practice of charity and social fraternity.
Spiritualism and spiritism
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