Spiritism

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This article is about Spiritism. For the similar movements prominent in most English-speaking countries, see Spiritualism.
Allan Kardec, his wife Amélie Boudet and The Spirits' Book.

Spiritism is a spiritualistic doctrine codified in the 19th century by the French educator Allan Kardec, proposed to the study of "the nature, origin, and destiny of spirits, and their relation with the corporeal world".[1] Spiritism soon spread to other countries, having today 35 countries represented in the International Spiritist Council.[2][unreliable source?]

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 maleficent influence on the physical world.[3]

The term first appeared in Kardec's book, The Spirits' Book, which sought to distinguish Spiritism from spiritualism.[1]

Spiritism has influenced a social movement of healing centers, charity institutions and hospitals involving millions of people in dozens of countries, most of them in Brazil.[1]

Origins[edit]

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, Waldo Vieira, Alexandr Aksakov, William Crookes, Oliver Lodge, Albert de Rochas, and Amalia Domingo Soler. It attempts to expand on the teachings of Jesus.[citation needed] Kardec's research was influenced by the Fox sisters and the use of talking boards.[citation needed] Interest in Mesmerism also contributed to early Spiritism.[citation needed]

Swedenborg[edit]

Main article: Emanuel Swedenborg
Emanuel Swedenborg, 75, holding the manuscript of Apocalypsis Revelata (1766).

Emanuel Swedenborg (January 29, 1688 – March 29, 1772) was a 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 God, the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal the doctrines of his second coming. Swedenborg wrote 14 works about spiritualism, most of which were published during his lifetime.

Fox sisters[edit]

Main article: Fox sisters
Fox sisters, left to right: Margaret, Kate, Leah

Sisters Catherine (1838–92), Leah (1814–90) and Margaret (1836–93) Fox played an important role in the development of Spiritism. The daughters of David and Margaret Fox, they were residents of Hydesville, New York. In 1848, the family began to hear unexplained rapping sounds.[citation needed] Kate and Margaret 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.[citation needed]

Skeptics suspected this was deception and fraud, and sister Margaret 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.[citation needed]

Talking boards[edit]

Main article: Table-turning

After the news of the Fox sisters came to France, people became more interested in what was sometimes termed the "Spiritual Telegraph".[citation needed] In its early form, a table spun with the "energy" from the spirits present by means of human channeling.[citation needed] As the process was too slow and cumbersome, the talking board was devised, supposedly from a suggestion by the spirits themselves.[citation needed]

Early examples of talking boards were baskets attached to a pointed object—usually a pencil—that spun under the hands of the mediums, to point at letters printed on cards scattered around, or engraved on, the table. Such devices were called corbeille à bec ("basket with a beak").[citation needed]

A typical séance using a talking board had people seated at a round table, with feet resting on the chairs' supports and hands on the table top or, later, on the talking board itself.[citation needed] The energy channeled from the spirits[citation needed] through their hands made the board spin around and find letters which were written down by a scribe to form words.[citation needed] The system was an early, and less effective, precursor of the Ouija boards that later became so popular.

Allan Kardec first became interested in spiritualism when he learned of the Fox sisters,[citation needed] but his ideas about Spiritism were based on his experiences with talking boards.[citation needed] Some of the earlier parts of his Spirits' Book were channeled this way.[citation needed]

Franz Mesmer[edit]

Main article: Franz Mesmer
Franz Anton Mesmer

Franz Anton Mesmer (May 23, 1734 – March 5, 1815) discovered what he called magnétisme animal (animal magnetism),[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Spiritism incorporated various concepts from Mesmerism.[citation needed] Among them, faith healing and the energization of water to be used as a medicine.[citation needed]

Difference from spiritualism[edit]

Although there are many similarities, Spiritism differs from spiritualism in a number of ways,[citation needed] particularly regarding the goal of spiritual perfection and the manner by which the followers of each practice their beliefs.[citation needed]

Spiritism teaches reincarnation or rebirth into human life after death,[citation needed] distinguishing it from Spiritualism.[citation needed][clarification needed] According to Spiritist doctrine, reincarnation explains the moral and intellectual differences among men.[clarification needed][citation needed] It also provides the path to moral and intellectual perfection by redeeming for his mistakes and increasing his knowledge in successive lives.[citation needed] For this reason, Spiritism does not accept rebirth in animals[citation needed] as this would be retrogressive.[citation needed]

In What Is Spiritism?, Kardec calls spiritism a science dedicated to the relationship between incorporeal beings (spirits) and human beings.[citation needed] Thus, some spiritists see themselves as not adhering to a religion, but to a philosophical doctrine with a scientific fulcrum and moral grounds.[citation needed] However, many spiritists see no conflict in embracing it as a religion as well.[citation needed]

Unlike spiritualism, Spiritism is not a religious sect but a philosophy or a way of life.[citation needed] They have no priests or ministers and do not follow any religious rituals in their meetings.[citation needed] Their activities consist mainly of studying the Spiritist doctrine, applying spiritual healing to the sick, and organizing charitable missions.[citation needed]

Another author in the Spiritualist movement, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included a chapter[4] about Spiritism in his book History of Spiritualism, in which he states that Spiritism is Spiritualist, but not vice-versa.[citation needed] As a consequence, many Spiritualist works are widely accepted in Spiritism, particularly the works of 19th century physicists William Crookes[5] and Oliver Lodge.[6] Such works are more accepted in Anglo-Saxon spiritist communities than by those in Latin-America.[citation needed]

Beliefs[edit]

Spiritist Codification[edit]

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.

Fundamental principles[edit]

As defined in The Spirits' Book, the main principles of spiritism are:

  • "God is the Supreme Intelligence-First Cause of all things."[7]
  • "God is eternal, immutable, immaterial, unique, all powerful, sovereignly just and good."[8]
  • "A spirit is not an abstract, undefined being, only to be conceived of by our thought; it is a real, circumscribed being, which, in certain cases, is appreciable by the senses of sight, hearing, and touch."[8]
  • "All Spirits are destined to attain perfection by passing through the different degrees of the spirit-hierarchy. This amelioration is effected by incarnation, which is imposed on some of them as an expiation, and on others as a mission. Material life is a trial which they have to undergo many times until they have attained to absolute perfection"[9]
  • "A spirit's successive corporeal existences are always progressive, and never retrograde; but the rapidity of our progress depends on the efforts we make to arrive at the perfection."[9]
  • "The soul possessed its own individuality before its incarnation; it preserves that individuality after its separation from the body."[9]
  • "On its re-entrance into the spirit world, the soul again finds there all those whom it has known upon the earth, and all its former existences eventually come back to its memory, with the remembrance of all the good and of all the evil which it has done in them."[9]
  • "Spirits exert an incessant action upon the moral world, and even upon the physical world; they act both upon matter and upon thought, and constitute one of the powers of nature, the efficient cause of many classes of phenomena hitherto unexplained or misinterpreted."[9]
  • "Spirits are incessantly in relation with men. The good spirits try to lead us into the right road, sustain us under the trials of life, and aid us to bear them with courage and resignation; the bad ones tempt us to evil: it is a pleasure for them to see us fall, and to make us like themselves."[10]
  • "The moral teaching of the higher spirits may be summed up, like that of Christ, in the gospel maxim, 'Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you;' that is to say, do good to all, and wrong no one. This principle of action furnishes mankind with a rule of conduct of universal application, from the smallest matters to the greatest."[11]

According to Kardec, the Spiritist moral principles are in agreement with those taught by Jesus.[12] Other individuals such as Francis of Assisi, Paul the Apostle, Buddha and Gandhi are also sometimes considered[clarification needed] by the spiritists.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] Sympathetic research on Spiritism by scientists[weasel words] can be found in the works of Oliver Lodge, William Crookes, William Fletcher Barrett, Albert de Rochas, Emma Bragdon, Alexander Moreira-Almeida and others.[citation needed]

Basic tenets[edit]

The five chief points of the doctrine are:[13][14]

  1. There is a God, defined as "The Supreme Intelligence and Primary Cause of everything";
  2. There are Spirits, all of whom are created simple and ignorant, but owning the power to gradually perfect themselves;
  3. The natural method of this perfection process is reincarnation, through which the Spirit faces countless different situations, problems and obstacles, and needs to learn how to deal with them;
  4. As part of Nature, Spirits can naturally communicate with living people, as well as interfere in their lives;
  5. Many planets in the universe are inhabited.

The central tenet of Spiritist doctrine is the belief in spiritual life. From this perspective, the spirit is eternal, and evolves through a series of incarnations in the material world.[citation needed] It asserts that life in the material world is a short-term stage, where the spirit has the opportunity to learn and develop its potential.[citation needed] Reincarnation is considered the process where the spirit, once free in the spiritual world, comes back to the world for further learning.[citation needed]

Spiritist views of Jesus[edit]

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.[citation needed] In this way, Spiritism identifies as a form of Christianity, claiming it is based on Jesus Christ's teachings,[citation needed] despite having an interpretation that differs from those held by mainstream Christian denominations. The Gospels are studied and interpreted in Spiritism;[citation needed] 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).[citation needed]

Spiritual evolution[edit]

Spiritist doctrine stresses the importance of spiritual evolution.[citation needed] According to this view, humanity is destined for perfection,[citation needed] and there are other planets hosting more advanced life forms and happier societies, where the spirit has the chance to keep evolving both in the moral and intellectual sense.[citation needed] Later spiritist writers have claimed humanity cannot detect more advanced life forms on other planets because they are living in a slightly different plane,[citation needed] in the same way the spiritual plane is superimposed over this plane.[citation needed][clarification needed]

Mediumship[edit]

Spiritists assert that communication between the spiritual world and the material world happens all the time, to varying degrees[clarification needed].[citation needed] 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).[citation needed]

Spiritist practice[edit]

Main article: Spiritist practice

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.[citation needed]

Meetings[edit]

The most important types of practices within Spiritism are:[citation needed]

  • Regular meetings—with a regular schedule, usually on evenings, two or three times a week. They involve a short lecture followed by some interactive participation of the attendees. These meetings are open to anyone;
  • Medium meetings—usually held after a regular meeting, only those deemed prepared or "in need" are expected to attend;
  • Youth and children's meetings—once a week, usually on Saturday afternoons or Sunday mornings; the Spiritist equivalent to Protestant Christian Sunday schools;
  • Healing;
  • Lectures—longer, in-depth lectures to a broader audience on subjects thought to be "of general interest", sometimes at theatres or ballrooms, often given by guest speakers;
  • Special meetings—séances held discretely, intended to conduct some worthy work;
  • Spiritist week and book fairs.

Organization[edit]

Main article: Spiritist centre

Spiritist associations have various degrees of formality, with some groups having local, regional, national or international scope.[citation needed] Local organizations are usually called Spiritist centres or Spiritist societies. Regional and national organizations are called federations[citation needed], such as the Federação Espírita Brasileira[15] and the Federación Espírita Española;[16] international organizations are called unions[citation needed], such as the Union Spirite Française et Francophone.[17] Spiritist centres (especially in Brazil) are often active book publishers and promoters of Esperanto.[citation needed][clarification needed]

For many of its followers, the description of Spiritism is three-fold:[citation needed] 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.[18]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Spiritism has adherents in many countries, including Argentina, Canada, England, France, Germany, Jamaica, Japan, Portugal, Spain, United States, and particularly in Latin American countries such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, which has the largest proportion and greatest number of followers.[19]

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,[citation needed] although some elements of spiritism are more broadly accepted and practiced in various ways by three times as many people across the country.[citation needed] Some statistics[weasel words] suggest an adherence to Spiritist practices by 40 million people in Brazil.[20]

Criticisms[edit]

Before World War I[edit]

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.

Later, a new source of criticism came from Occultist movements such as the Theosophical Society, a competing new religion,[citation needed] which saw the Spiritist explanations as too simple or even naïve.[21]

Interwar period[edit]

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.[22]

Post–World War II[edit]

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".[citation needed]

In Brazil, Catholic priests Carlos Kloppenburg and Oscar 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,[23] 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.[24] Brazilian Spiritist, Hernani Guimarães Andrade, has in turn written rebuttals to these criticisms.[23]

Scientific skeptics also frequently target Spiritism in books, media appearances, and online forums, identifying it as a pseudoscience.

Chico Xavier[edit]

Main article: Chico Xavier
Monument to Chico Xavier in Chico Xavier Square, Pedro Leopoldo City.

Chico_Xavier (April 2, 1910 – June 30, 2002) was a popular spiritist medium and philanthropist in Brazil's spiritism movement who wrote more than 450 books and about 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.[25][26][27]

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.[citation needed] One of his most famous,[citation needed] The Astral City, which details one experience after dying.[citation needed]

Xavier appeared on Brazilian television several times, contributing to the rise of spiritism in Brazil.[citation needed]

Popular culture[edit]

The following works contain concepts related to spiritist beliefs:

Films[edit]

  • Chico Xavier, Brazilian film, casting Nelson Xavier and Ângelo Antônio. A box office success in Brazil, it tells the story of Brazilian medium Chico Xavier.
  • Nosso lar, (literally "Our Home", but distributed under the title Astral City: A Spiritual Journey internationally) is a 2010 Brazilian film directed by Wagner de Assis, based on the novel of the same name by Chico Xavier about spiritual life after death.[28]

Soap operas[edit]

In Brazil, a number of soap operas have plots incorporating Spiritism.

  • "A Viagem" (The Journey), produced in 1976/77 by Tupi TV, involving mediumship, death, obsession, reincarnation, etc. It was remade by Globo TV in 1994.[citation needed]
  • "Alma Gêmea" (Soulmate), produced in 2005/06 by Rede Globo, tells of a woman who dies and is reborn to find her soulmate again.[citation needed]
  • "O Profeta" (The Prophet), produced in 1977/78 by Tupi TV and remade by Globo TV (2006/07), included spiritism as one of the philosophies trying to explain the main character's gifts, including being able to predict the future.[citation needed]
  • "Duas Caras" (Two-Face), aired by Rede Globo in 2007/8, includes a character named Ezekiel, who is a born-again Christian challenged by manifestations of his mediumship.
  • "Escrito nas Estrelas" (Written in the Stars), ongoing as of July 2010, includes various spiritist themes including reincarnation, spirit evolution, and mediumship.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Moreira-Almeida, Alexander (2008). Allan Kardec and the development of a research program in psychic experiences. Proceedings of the Parapsychological Association & Society for Psychical Research Convention. Winchester, UK.
  2. ^ International Spiritist Council, Members website.
  3. ^ Lucchetti G, Daher JC Jr, Iandoli D Jr, Gonçalves JP, Lucchetti AL. Historical and cultural aspects of the pineal gland: comparison between the theories provided by Spiritism in the 1940s and the current scientific evidence.. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2013;34(8):745-55. Indexed on PubMed.
  4. ^ Arthur Conan Doyle. (1926). The History of Spiritualism. New York: G.H. Doran, Co
  5. ^ William Crookes. (1874). Researches on the Phenomena of Spiritualism. Burns, London
  6. ^ Oliver Lodge. (1930). The Reality of a Spiritual World. E. Benn
  7. ^ Allan Kardec: The Spirits' Book, page 63.
  8. ^ a b Allan Kardec: The Spirits' Book, page 32.
  9. ^ a b c d e Allan Kardec: The Spirits' Book, page 33.
  10. ^ Allan Kardec: The Spirits' Book, page 33, 34.
  11. ^ Allan Kardec: The Spirits' Book, page 35.
  12. ^ Kardec, Allan, The Gospel Explained by the Spiritist Doctrine ISBN 0-9649907-6-8
  13. ^ A. T. Schofield. (2003) Modern Spiritism: Its Science and Religion. Kessinger Publishing
  14. ^ Lewis Spence. (2003). Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. Kessinger Publishing
  15. ^ FEB - Federação Espírita Brasileira - 2
  16. ^ Federación Espírita Española - Espiritismo
  17. ^ Redirection en htm
  18. ^ Jonathan Smith. (2009). Pseudoscience and Extraordinary Claims of the Paranormal: A Critical Thinker's Toolkit. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1405181228
  19. ^ David Hess. Spirits and Scientists: Ideology, Spiritism, and Brazilian Culture, Pennsylvania State Univ Press, 1991
  20. ^ Kardec's Spiritism: Home for Healing and Spiritual Evolution - Emma Bragdon, PhD
  21. ^ Blavatsky, H. P. (1875-02-16). "Letter to Prof. Hiram Corson". Some Unpublished Letters of H. P. Blavatsky. Theosophical University Press Online Edition. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 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. 
  22. ^ Guénon, René (2004-06-25) [1923]. The Spiritist Fallacy. Collected Works of René Guénon. trans. Alvin Moore, Jr. and Rama P. Coomaraswamy. Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis Books. ISBN 0-900588-71-3. 
  23. ^ a b Machado, Dr. Fátima Regina. "Parapsicologia no Brasil: Entre a cruz e a mesa branca" (in Portuguese). Ceticismo Aberto. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  24. ^ Guerrero, Cesar (2000-01-17). "Quevedo, o Mr. M de batina". IstoÉ Gente (in Portuguese). Editora Três. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  25. ^ Playfair, Guy Lyon. Chico Xavier, Medium of the Century. Roundtable Publishing, 2010, ISBN 0-9564493-1-X
  26. ^ Langellier JP. Un homme insignifiant. Le Monde, 12/05/2010.
  27. ^ Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Scientific research on mediumship and mind-brain relationship: reviewing the evidence (In Portuguese). Rev. psiquiatr. clín. vol.40 no.6 São Paulo 2013.
  28. ^ "Astral City: A Spiritual Journey". IMDB. 

External links[edit]

Books[edit]

Groups and societies[edit]

Skeptical views[edit]

  • Channeling - at the Skeptics' Dictionary;
  • Medium - at the Skeptics' Dictionary;