See A. F. Schrenck von Notzing, Phenomena of Materialization (1920); Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, History of Spiritualism (1926); Sir Oliver Lodge, Phantom Walls (1930); S. E. White, The Unobstructed Universe (repr. 1959); G. K. Nelson, Spiritualism and Society (1969); S. Brown, The Heyday of Spiritualism (1970).
Spiritism, or French spiritualism, is based on books written by French educator Hypolite Léon Denizard Rivail under the pseudonym Allan Kardec reporting séances in which he observed a series of phenomena that could be only attributed to incorporeal intelligence (spirits). His assumption of spirit communication was validated by many contemporaries, among them many scientists and philosophers who attended séances and studied the phenomena. His work was later extended by writers like Leon Denis, Arthur Conan Doyle, Camille Flammarion, Ernesto Bozzano, Chico Xavier, Divaldo Pereira Franco, Waldo Vieira, Johannes Greber and others.
Spiritism has adherents in many countries throughout the world, including Spain, United States, Japan, Germany, France, England, Argentina, Portugal and especially Brazil, which has the largest proportion and the greatest number of followers.
Spiritism began as part of the Spiritualist movement that emerged in the mid 1800s. In its broad sense, Spiritualism is any philosophical or religious movement that opposes materialism . In its narrower sense, it is any movement that believes that spirit entities exist and that human beings can engage in spirit communication and mediumship. Therefore, Spiritism is Spiritualist. Spiritualist Churches, however, differ from Spiritist groups or Churches (see below) in that Spiritualism as a religious denomination doesn't stress Reincarnation as a basic tenet of belief (some Spiritualists believe in Reincarnation and some don't, whereas Spiritists believe in Reincarnation as a basic tenet of their belief system)
Kardec reaffirmed that on the cover of his groundbreaking work "The Spirit's Book". Another famous author in the Spiritualist movement, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included a chapter about Spiritism in his book "History of Spiritualism" confirming that Spiritism is Spiritualist (but not vice-versa). As consequence, many Spiritualist works are widely accepted in Spiritism, particularly the works of scientists Sir William Crookes, Sir Oliver Lodge and other intellectuals.
In the early 20th century, the broad Spiritualist movement faded and the surviving ones in America and England reorganized themselves in a religious movement, incorporating many aspects of a church organization (mass, pastoral leadership, chants, donation baskets). In the USA the name Spiritualism has sometimes been used to address this group only.
In 1911, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a School which had its basis on spiritism was born. Its founder, Joaquin Trincado Matheo, conceived a spiritism far beyond from a simple practice, but as a life philosophy. His thesis was that as certain as we all have spirit, spirit is essence of life, therefore spirit is the basic and essential part of human life. To spread its philosophy, Joaquin Trincado founded EMECU, Escuela Magnetico Espiritual de la Comuna Universal (Spiritual Magnetical School of Universal Commune), a school which would have the purpose of propagating his philosophy through time. Mainly stablished through america and Spain, It makes high emphasis that spiritism is not spiritualism, which are different terms to different points of view.
The religious aspects of Spiritism include praying to God, the ultimate causal principle/source of all things and beings. In the Spiritism, the concept of God does not need to be seen as a religious belief, but can be perceived as a natural and somewhat necessary hypothesis within the Spiritist paradigm in order to explain the good and interconnected nature of all human beings.
Making an anology to science, the conception of God is not unlike current scientific paradigms of cosmology: According to current scientific theories, the Big Bang is conjectured as the causal origin of the Universe, and yet the Big Bang per se is the moment where physical laws as we know break down. Therefore it is impossible for science to completely describe what the Big Bang is in the current paradigm, although some characteristics may be inferred from the Universe we see today, for example, from uniformity of the Cosmic Microwave Background. In the same way, Spiritist doctrine conjecture God as the causal origin of the soul/spirit that is immaterial in its essence, not causally related to the Big Bang. Spiritism does not define what God is, but simply describes some of its attributes which have been observed in Nature and in the inlimited power of human beings to achieve the highest levels of altruism, love and compassion.
In accordance with its scientific approach, in Spiritism, prayer is not a rote ritual, since no specific words or prayers matter, but only the quality of a person's thoughts and intentions matters. This concept is in accordance with three decades of experiments have been validating the power of thoughts. Remarkably, are said to have shown that the power of thoughts and prayers is multiplied in group gatherings; an idea also in agreement with Spiritist studies and practice.
The Spiritist moral principles are in agreement with the ones taught by prominent figures like Jesus, Francis of Assisi, Paul the Apostle, Buddha or Gandhi and are, therefore, universal. The philosophical side is concerned with the study of the moral aspects in the context of living an eternal life in spiritual evolution through processes of reincarnations, as revealed by a multitude of Spirits and indicated by a multitude of researches. The scientific inclinations of the Spiritist paradigm can be found in the works of Sir William Crookes, Ernesto Bozzano, the Society for Psychical Research, William James, Charles Richet (Medicine Nobel Prize), Prof. Ian Stevenson 's group at University of Virginia , and Prof. G. Schwartz at University of Arizona, among many others. A good account of the early works can be found in.
The main characteristics of Spiritist movement is the emphasis on the study and investigation of the Spiritist Doctrine in its triple aspects, scientific, philosophical and moral.
Spiritism fulfills the role of the Consoler that was promised to mankind by Jesus (which interprets the Consoler as being a doctrine, not a person) to "reestablish all things in their truer meaning", since as a Science, Spiritism is in search of the truth of our spiritual nature, not biased by one person/prophet opinion only. Spiritism does not have believers, since everybody is invited to question its principles and it does not seek to convert any believers from other religions. There is an exception to this statement, however. The National Spiritist Church of Alberta located in the country of Canada is a government-recognized religious denomination and it has a registered and official membership.
(né Swedberg) (January 29, 1688 – March 29, 1772) was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, seer, and theologian. Swedenborg had a prolific career as an inventor and scientist. Then at age fifty-six he entered into a spiritual phase of his life, where he experienced visions of the spiritual world and claimed to have talked with angels, devils, and spirits by visiting heaven and hell. He claimed of being directed by God, the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal the doctrines of His second coming.
From 1747 until his death in 1772 he lived in Stockholm, Holland and London. During these 25 years he wrote 14 works of a spiritual nature of which most were published during his lifetime. Throughout this period he was befriended by many people who regarded him as a kind and warm-hearted man. Many people disbelieved in his visions; based on what they had heard, they drew the conclusions that he had lost his mind or had a vivid imagination. But they refrained from ridiculing him in his presence. Those who talked with him understood that he was devoted to his beliefs. He never argued matters of religion, and if obliged to defend himself he usually did it with gentleness and in a few words.
Sisters Catherine (1838–92), Leah (1814–90) and Margaret (1836–93) Fox played an important role in the creation of Spiritualism. The daughters of David and Margaret Fox, they were residents of Hydesville, New York. In 1848, the family began to hear unexplained rapping sounds. 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, and later even voice communication, as the spirit took control of one of the girls.
Skeptics suspected this was nothing but clever deception and fraud. Indeed, sister Margaret eventually confessed to using her toe-joints to produce the sound. And although she later recanted this confession, both 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, and contributing greatly to Kardec's ideas.
Just after the news of the Fox affair came to France, people became even more interested in what was sometimes termed the "Spiritual Telegraph". In the beginning, a table spun with the "energy" from the spirits present by means of human channeling (hence the term medium). But, as the process was too slow and cumbersome, a new one was devised, supposedly from a suggestion by the spirits themselves: the talking board.
Early examples of talking boards were baskets attached to a pointy object 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"). The pointy object was usually a pencil.
Talking boards were tricky to set up and to operate. A typical séance using a talking board saw people sitting at a round table, feet resting on the chairs' supports and hands on the table top or, later, on the talking board itself. The energy channeled from the spirits through their hands made the board spin around and find letters which, once written down by a scribe, would form intelligible words, phrases, and sentences. The system was an early, and less effective, precursor of the Ouija boards that later became so popular.
Allan Kardec first became interested in Spiritism when he learned of the Fox sisters, but his first contact with what would become the doctrine was by means of talking boards. Some of the earlier parts of his Spirits' Book were channeled this way.
Franz Anton Mesmer (May 23, 1734 – March 5, 1815) discovered what he called magnétism animal (animal magnetism) and others often called mesmerism. The evolution of Mesmer's ideas and practices led James Braid (1795-1860) to develop hypnosis in 1842.
Spiritism incorporated and kept some practices inspired or directly taken from Mesmerism. Among them, the healing touch, still in Europe, and the "energization" of water to be used as a medicine for spirit and body.
The basic doctrine of Spiritism ("the Codification") is defined in five books written and published by Allan Kardec during his life:
Kardec also wrote a brief introductory pamphlet (What is Spiritism?) and was the most frequent contributor to the Spiritist Review. His essays and articles would be posthumously collected into the aptly-named tome Posthumous Works.
The five chief points of the doctrine are:
The central tenet of Spiritist doctrine is the belief in spiritual life. The spirit is eternal, and evolves through a series of incarnations in the material world. The true life is the spiritual one; life in the material world is just a short-termed stage, where the spirit has the opportunity to learn and develop its potentials. Reincarnation is the process where the spirit, once free in the spiritual world, comes back to the world for further learning.
The most important types of practices within Spiritism are:
Spiritism is practiced in different types of associations (including a Church format in Canada) formal or not, which can have local, regional, national or international scope.
Local organizations are usually called Spiritist centres or Spiritist societies. Regional and national organizations are called "federations", as the Federação Espírita Brasileira and the Federación Espírita Española , while international organizations are termed "unions", such as the Union Spirite Française et Francophone .
Spiritist centres (or Church in Canada) (especially in Brazil) are also often active book publishers and promoters of Esperanto.
Spiritism shares its roots with many other religions and denominations, mainly Christianity and Western traditions. It is unknown the extent of the influence of Hinduism, Buddhism and Shamanism over the doctrinal aspects of Spiritism, as set by Allan Kardec because the mentions of such religions are sparse in all his works. Kardec, however, acknowledges the influence of Socrates, Plato, Jesus and Francisco of Assis; as well as the religious tradition of Greek and Roman Paganism.
Medium - a medium helps a District Attorney solve crimes.
Ghost Whisperer - a medium helps spirits with 'unfinished business' 'cross over'.
Spiritism began attracting criticisms almost immediately once formulated. Kardec's own introductory book on Spiritism, What is Spiritism?, published only two years after The Spirits Book, includes a long dialogue between his persona and three idealized critics, "The Critic", "The Skeptic", and "The Priest", which as a whole summed up most of the criticism Spiritism has received since then: of being charlatanism, pseudoscience, heresy, anti-Catholic, witchcraft, and/or a form of Satanism. In further books and articles published in his periodical, the Revue Spirite, Kardec kept addressing these and other criticisms until his death in 1869.
The interwar period saw the development of a new form of criticism towards Spiritism: René Guénon's influential book The Spiritist Fallacy, which 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 that is distinct from and opposed to its two western predecessors, metempsychosis and transmigration.
In Brazil, Catholic priests Dom Carlos José Boaventura Kloppenburg and Oscar González Quevedo, among others, have since the 1960s written extensively against Spiritism from both a doctrinal and parapsychologic perspective. Quevedo, in particular, has dedicated himself to show that Parapsychology that Spiritism's claims of being a science are invalid, having not only written books on the subject but also hosted paranormal debunking shows on television, the most recent of which a series that ran in 2000 on Globo's hugely popular Sunday prime time news show Fantástico. Brazilian Spiritists, such as Dr. Hernani Guimarães Andrade, have in turn written rebuttals to these criticisms.
Scientific skeptics also target Spiritism frequently in books, media appearances, and online forums, accusing it of being a pseudoscience. The ex-spiritist and medium Waldo Vieira, accepting this criticism but not the idea that it cannot become a science, left Spiritism to start a new, Spiritist-inspired movement called Projectiology.