In Poughkeepsie, New York State, in 1847 an uneducated faith healer and medical seer, Andrew Jackson Davis, wrote an autobiography entitled ‘The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations’. In this book, he described his very remarkable channelling mediumship abilities which he had discovered whilst experimenting with the techniques of Franz Mesmer whose early work, entitled ‘animal magnetism’ was being modified, resulting in the discovery of ‘intentional somnambulism’ an early word used for ‘trance’. He was in touch with intellectuals in the spirit world, such as Swedenborg and Galen and he went on to write fifty books on education, health, politics, psychology and philosophy. Within a short time, in Hydesville, a local town in New York State, two young sisters, Margaret and Kate Fox reported strange knockings and rappings. These developed into a code that revealed that a peddler had been murdered and buried in the cellar of their home. An excavation revealed some bones and the previous owner of the property, Mr Bell, was accused of murder.
A Parallel Movement
In parallel to these events was a mid-nineteenth century French mediumship movement that attracted men of learning and research, such as Henri Bergson and Gabriel Marcel. Instead of using the term ‘Spiritualism’, the word ‘Spiritism’ was preferred. This word was coined by the educationalist, Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail. When Rivail was 23 years of age, he became interested in Mesmer’s trance work and in investigations that were being undertaken by other French intellectuals. In 1855 he set about researching methods of contact with the spirit realms. In 1858 he founded the Parisienne Society for Spiritist Studies and launched ‘the Spiritist Review’ publication. Due to his extensive work in this field, he became known as ‘the Father of Spiritism’ From France, Spiritism spread to many countries, including Spain, Japan, Germany, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil and the US.
The major works published by ‘Allan Kardec’ are still regarded as seminal books for the further study and practice of mediumship. All relate to morality, philosophy, mediumship, healing and science. Despite being originally published 150 years ago, the information contained within these books is still applicable for modern-day living. These are
The Spirits’ Book was published in 1857. This was the first and most important text. It uses a question and answer format and offers over a thousand questions. It covers a number of topics, such as the order of the Universe, good and evil, and the afterlife. The questions are answered by well-known spirit scholars as Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas and Voltaire. Available as a free download on this link: http://www.spiritism.jp/pdf/gospel.pdf
The Mediums’ Book was published in 1861. This is a doctrine and practice style handbook for mediums and contains advice on dealing with spirit manifestation and covers matters such as transfiguration, automatic writing, hauntings, etc. Available as free download on this link: http://www.ssbaltimore.org/PDF/Mediums.pdf
The Gospel According to Spiritism was published in 1864. It clarified and extends the teaching of Jesus. Available as a free download on this link: http://www.spiritism.jp/pdf/gospel.pdf
‘Heaven and Hell’ was published in 1865 and takes its title from Emanuel Swedenborg’s book of the same name. Its subtitle is ‘Divine Justice According to Spiritism’ and it covers the nature of morality. Available as free download on this link: http://www.ssbaltimore.org/PDF/Heaven_Hell.pdf
‘Genesis’ was the last of Kardec’s compilations, published in 1868. It reconciles science with religion by covering the theory of creation and the origin of life. It includes chapters on miracles and predictions. Available as free download on this link: http://www.ssbaltimore.org/PDF/Genesis.pdf
There are several major points of Spiritist doctrine:
There is a Supreme Intelligence, referred to as God. It is the primary cause of everything and is eternal, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent and supremely just and good.
The Universe is God’s creation and all Spirits are created simple and ignorant, but develop intellectually and morally, passing from a lower order into a higher one, and gradually reach perfection where they enjoy perpetual happiness.
The method of this evolutionary perfection is through the process of reincarnation, which provides each Spirit with many different situations, problems and obstacles. Life in the material world is but a brief stage where the Spirit has the opportunity to learn to develop spiritual disciples and potential. Spirits preserve their identity through as many incarnations as might be necessary in order to become pure. Their progress is entirely dependent on the effort each one makes to reach perfection.
It is natural for Spirits to communicate with those in Earthly life, as well as inter-react and influence. Good spirits bring about beneficial actions and help people to be courageous and resigned through spiritual trials, whereas bad spirits lead them towards error.
The communication is occurring at all times between the spiritual world and the material world. The ability to be mediums and communicate with spirits is entirely independent of the religion that the medium is born into or chooses to adopt. Jesus is offered as the greatest role model for life. It is believed He incarnated to demonstrate how to achieve spiritual perfection. His parables and teachings are reinterpreted and his words and actions are clarified. It is suggested, for instance, that when Jesus stated that he would send a ‘consoler’, that many imagined this to be a human being. With understanding from Kardec’s codified books, it is suggested that Jesus was referring to the Spiritist doctrine.
Unlike Spiritualism, which does not profess other lives, Spiritism adopted a strong belief in reincarnation and has formed a teaching of ethics and philosophy. It leans more towards channeling and uses trance mediumship and automatic writing to express messages. Any platform work is related to inspirational speaking at meetings not providing demonstrations which prove spirit survival. The difference of expressing mediumship abilities caused a separation between Spiritualism and Spiritism.
Spiritism, like other ethical religions, encouraged its believers to make this world a better place by practising spiritual values of humility, integrity, justice, responsibility and kindness which are regarded as the highest ideals to be attained and it preaches fellowship between peoples of all nations, regardless of creed, colour, cultural or social standing.
In 1982, Wendy Stokes studied with Janet Duncan who translated several Spiritist books into English. Visit: wendystokes.co.uk