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Spiritism or Kardecism is a reincarnationist and spiritualist doctrine established in France in the mid-19th century by writer and educator Allan Kardec (a.k.a. Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail). It explains, from a Christian perspective,[1][2] the cycle by which a spirit supposedly returns to material existence after the death of the old body in which it dwelled, as well as the evolution it undergoes during this process. The concept also interacts with philosophical and scientific conceptions of the relationship between the physical and the moral.[3] Kardecism emerged as a new religious movement[4][3] out of spiritualism, the notions and practices associated with spiritual communication disseminated throughout North America and Europe since the 1850s.[3]

Kardec coined the term spiritism in 1857[5][6] and defined it as "the doctrine founded on the existence, manifestations, and teachings of spirits". Although not recognized as a science,[7] Kardec claimed that spiritism combines scientific, philosophical, and religious aspects,[8][9] seeking a better understanding not only of the tangible universe but also of the universe beyond transcendence.[10][11][12] After observing and analyzing the phenomena of table-turning, a kind of seance, he was intrigued by the fact that the table could move despite lacking muscles or provide answers without having a brain. It was allegedly the very agent causing the phenomenon who responded, "It is not the table that thinks! It is us, the souls of the men who have lived on Earth."[13] Kardec then proceeded to study this and other phenomena, such as "incorporation" and mediumship.[7]

The doctrine is based on five basic works, known as the Spiritist Codification, published by Kardec between 1857 and 1868. The codification consists of The Spirits' Book, The Mediums' Book, The Gospel According to Spiritism, Heaven and Hell, and The Genesis. Additionally, there are the so-called complementary works, such as What is Spiritism?, Spiritist Review, and Posthumous Works. Its followers consider spiritism a doctrine focused on the moral improvement of humanity and believe in the existence of a single God, the possibility of useful communication with spirits through mediums, and reincarnation as a process of spiritual growth and divine justice.[14]

According to the International Spiritist Council, spiritism is present in 36 countries, with over 13 million followers,[15] being most widespread in Brazil, where it has approximately 3.8 million followers, according to the data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, and over 30 million sympathizers, according to the Brazilian Spiritist Federation.[16][15] Spiritists are also known for influencing and promoting a movement of social assistance and philanthropy.[17] The doctrine has had a strong influence on various other religious currents, such as Santería, Umbanda, and the New Age movements.[3]


The term spiritism (from Old French spiritisme; spirit 'spirit' + -isme 'doctrine') emerged as a neologism, more precisely a portmanteau, created by the French educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail (known as Allan Kardec)[10][11][18] to specifically name the body of ideas systematized by him in The Spirits' Book (1857).[19]

To designate new things, new terms are needed. This is required by the clarity of language in order to avoid the confusion inherent in the variety of meanings of the same words. The words spiritual, spiritualist, spiritualism have a well-defined meaning. To give them another meaning, to apply them to the doctrine of Spirits, would be to multiply the already numerous causes of amphibology. (...) Whoever believes to have something within themselves beyond matter, is a spiritualist. However, it does not follow that they believe in the existence of Spirits or in their communications with the visible world. Instead of using the words spiritual, spiritualism, we employ, to indicate the belief we have just referred to, the terms Spiritist and Spiritism, whose form recalls the origin and the radical sense and which, for that reason, have the advantage of being perfectly intelligible, leaving to the word spiritualism its own meaning.

However, the use of the term, whose root is common to various Western nations of Latin origin[20][21] or Anglo-Saxon, quickly led to its incorporation into everyday usage to designate everything related to the alleged communication with spirits. Thus, today the term spiritism refers to various religious and philosophical doctrines that assert the survival of spirits after the death of the body, and primarily in the possibility of communicating with them, either casually or deliberately, through evocations or spontaneously.[22]

The term Kardecism is repudiated by some followers of the doctrine who reserve the word spiritism solely for the doctrine as codified by Kardec, affirming that there are no different branches within spiritism, and they refer to believers of various currents as spiritualists.[23] These followers believe that spiritism, as a doctrinal body, is singular, making the use of the term Kardecist spiritism redundant.[24][25][26] Thus, those who adhere to the teachings codified by Kardec in the basic works (with varying degrees of tolerance for concepts that are not strictly doctrinal, such as apometry) simply identify themselves as spiritists, without the addition of Kardecist.[23] The works themselves disapprove of the use of other expressions like Kardecist, stating that the codified teachings, in their essence, are not linked to the unique figure of a man, as is the case with Christianity or Buddhism, but rather to a collective of spirits whom they believe manifested themselves through various mediums at that historical moment and were expected to continue communicating, thus keeping the doctrinal body in a constant evolutionary process. However, another portion of followers considers the use of the term Kardecism appropriate.[27]

These expressions emerged from the need of some to distinguish spiritism (as originally defined by Kardec) from Afro-Brazilian religions such as Umbanda. The latter, discriminated against and persecuted at various times in Brazilian history, began to identify themselves as spiritists (at one point with the support of the Brazilian Spiritist Federation), in an effort to legitimize and consolidate the religious movement, due to the existing proximity between certain concepts and practices of it and Kardec's spiritism.[28]

Qualification as a science

Alexander Moreira de Almeida still attempts this legitimation,[29] even calling Kardec's approach "revolutionary."[30] However, the current scientific consensus considers parapsychology a pseudoscience,[31] disregarding the alleged paranormal phenomena that underpin spiritism, such as mediumship, reincarnation, obsession, table-turning, séances, automatic writing, spiritualist art, and typology. Critics of pseudoscience even define parapsychology as a "perversion", as parapsychologists claim that science cannot be the only privileged field that is exempt from the explanations they defend.[32] Animal magnetism (mesmerism) is also present in spiritist teachings, with constant references to mesmeric concepts such as magnetic fluids.[33][34] According to this hypothesis, some people could perform healings through "fluids". However, the animal magnetism hypothesis is considered pseudoscientific, as scientists have known since the second half of the 18th century that the alleged healings were purely psychosomatic, achieved through hypnosis, without any involvement of "fluids" or animal magnetism.[35][36][37]

According to Joseph McCabe, citing the claims of Arthur Conan Doyle about scientists confirming the alleged spiritual phenomena for 30 years, the mediums deceived the researchers. He considers that these deceptions led to the arrogant language of spiritualist literature.[38]

An article published in the British skeptical magazine The Skeptic also criticizes Spiritism for its association with ufology, parapsychology, animal magnetism, and other pseudosciences.[39][40]

Qualification as Christian

Kardec taught that "the teaching of the Spirits is eminently Christian."[41] In Posthumous Works, it is stated that Spiritism is "the only truly Christian tradition." Spiritist writers such as José Reis Chaves and Severino Celestino da Silva also claim that reincarnation was part of early Christianity until it was condemned by the Second Council of Constantinople.[42][43] This controversial thesis was popularized even earlier by Leslie Weatherhead but has also been questioned based on statements from the Church Fathers and the lack of references to reincarnation during that Council.[44] Agnostic scholar Bart D. Ehrman claims that evidence that early Christians believed in reincarnation is scant.[45] Christian theologian Norman Geisler claims that there is no evidence of reincarnation in the Bible. According to him, the famous text in John 9:2-3 reflects the rabbinic belief in prenatal sins, according to which a fetus could commit sin before birth, but not at reincarnation. He also dismisses other texts generally cited in support of reincarnation.[46]

The qualification of Spiritism itself as Christian has also generated controversy. Dr. Antônio Flávio Pierucci, professor at the Department of Sociology at the University of São Paulo (USP) and scholar of Brazilian religiosity, is one of those who affirm that Spiritism is "not a Christian religion."[47] There are no historical Christian doctrines within Spiritism, present in its main branches, such as the Trinity, the physical resurrection of Jesus, the inspiration of the Bible, and redemption. Due to these differences, many scholars consider it a form of neo-Christianity.[47] However, Spiritist writers argue that Spiritism is Christian because it promotes the teaching of loving one's neighbor.[3][4]


Main articles: Spiritualism and Timeline of Spiritism

Early observations

Main article: Modern spiritualism

Mediumship sessions of Daniel Dunglas Home in the 19th century

According to followers and sympathizers of Spiritist doctrine, mediumistic phenomena is universal and has always existed, including abundant accounts in the Bible.[a] Among others, Spiritists cite biblical mediumistic examples, such as Moses' prohibition of "consulting the dead", which would be evidence of the Jewish belief in this possibility, since something unrealizable is not prohibited;[48] the consultation of Saul, the first king of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, with the Witch of Endor, in 1 Samuel 28, who sees and hears the disembodied spirit of Samuel, the last of the judges of Israel and the first of the prophets recorded in the history of his people; and the communication of Jesus with Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor in the Transfiguration of Jesus (9).[49]

Ancient philosophy also provides examples: in Plato's Dialogues, he speaks about the daimon or genius that accompanied Socrates.[50][51]

Many Spiritists adopt March 31, 1848 (the beginning of the mediumistic events at the residence of the Fox sisters in Hydesville, USA) as the initial milestone of modern mediumistic manifestations, allegedly more ostensive and frequent than ever before, which led many researchers to delve into such phenomena.[52]

Allan Kardec

Main article: Allan Kardec

Allan Kardec, portrait from L'Illustration, 10 March 1869

During the 19th century, there was a great wave of manifestations of mediumship in the United States and Europe.[53][54] These manifestations consisted mainly of strange noises, knocks on furniture, and objects that moved or floated without any apparent cause, as in the case of "table-turning". The supposed case of the Fox sisters in the United States stood out in the late 1840s.[55][56]

The true Spiritist is not the one who believes in the manifestations, but the one who benefits from the teachings given by the Spirits. Belief is of no use if it does not make one take a step forward on the path of progress and make one better towards their neighbor.

— Allan Kardec; Spiritism in its Simplest Expression.[57]

Regarding his background, Kardec was a disciple of Pestalozzi and a member of various academic societies.[58] His main intention as a Spiritist was to provide some support to human spirituality at a time when science was advancing rapidly and religions were losing more and more followers. Kardec believed he had found a new way of thinking about reality that would bring together, in a balanced way, the rising science and the declining religion. He analyzed accounts of numerous mediumistic occurrences spread throughout Europe and the United States, unifying the information he interpreted in order to codify this type of practice and the teachings transmitted.[55]

Let us prove to them that, thanks to the teachings of those they call demons, we understand the sublime morality of the Gospel, which is summed up in the love of God and our fellow men, and in universal charity. Let us embrace all of humanity, without distinction of worship, race, origin, and, even more so, family, wealth, and social status. Let them know that our God, the God of the Spiritists, is not a cruel and vengeful tyrant who punishes a moment of folly with eternal torments, but a good and merciful father who watches over his wayward children with constant solicitude, seeking to draw them to himself through a series of tests designed to cleanse them of all impurities.

— Allan Kardec, "Journal of Psychological Studies", Revista Espírita, p. 18, January 1863[59]


Parisian salon with people practicing three variations of table-turning using a ring, a table, and a hat.[60] (L'Illustration, Histoire de la semaine, May 14, 1853).[60]

Main article: Table-turning

Main article: Ideomotor effect

The first manifestations of table-turning observed by Kardec involved tables lifting and knocking, using one of their legs, a determined number of knocks to respond yes or no, as agreed upon, to a proposed question.[61][62]

Despite the belief that supposed spirits or geniuses were moving the tables, Michael Faraday's scientific experiments published in 1853 showed that the movements were caused by the ideomotor effect and dismissed paranormal explanations for the phenomenon of table-turning.[63] The ideomotor effect also causes the movements observed in the so-called ouija board and the "cup game",[64] in which participants involuntarily move markers over letters and numbers and also attribute the movements to supposed spirits or geniuses.[65]

Analyzing these phenomena, Kardec concluded that there was nothing convincing about this method for skeptics because they could believe in an effect of electricity, whose properties were little known to the science of that time. Methods were then used to obtain more elaborate responses through the letters of the alphabet: the table knocking a certain number of times would correspond to the sequential number of each letter, thus forming words and sentences in response to the proposed questions.[66] Kardec concluded that the precision of the answers and their correlation with the questions could not be attributed to chance.[50] He also questioned the possibility of a muscular hypothesis (such as the ideomotor effect) being the cause of all the alleged movements and messages of the table-turning or other mechanical productions.[67][68][69] The mysterious being who responded in this way, when questioned about its nature, declared that it was a spirit or genius, gave its name, and provided various information about itself. Eventually, the phenomenon decreased in popularity and became anecdotal.[70]

Victor Hugo, during his exile on the island of Jersey (1851–1855), participated in numerous table-turning sessions with his friend Auguste Vacquerie and came to believe that he had made contact with deceased spirits, including his daughter Léopoldine (who had died by drowning) and great writers such as Shakespeare, Dante, Racine, and Molière.[71][72] Faced with experiences with table-turning, Hugo converted to spiritualism, and in 1867 called for science to pay attention to and take seriously the phenomena of table-turning:

The table that turns or speaks has been greatly ridiculed. Let us speak plainly. This mockery is unjustifiable. To replace examination with contempt is convenient but unscientific. We believe that the elementary duty of Science is to verify all phenomena because if Science ignores them, it has no right to laugh at them. A wise person who laughs at what is possible is very close to being an idiot. Let us be reverent before the possible, whose limits no one knows; let us be attentive and serious in the presence of the superhuman, from which we come and to which we are heading.[50][73]



"To be born, to die, to be reborn yet again, and to constantly progress, such is the law", in French on Kardec's tomb.

Born in the 19th century, on April 18, 1857, with the publication of The Spirits' Book, Spiritism was structured based on alleged dialogues established with disembodied spirits that, by manifesting through mediums, expounded on scientific, religious, and philosophical topics from the perspective of Christian morality, that is, with the principle of love for one's neighbor, bringing to light new perspectives on various subjects of great philosophical and theological relevance. Thus, one of the basic precepts of Spiritism was established, which is the importance of charity, (Motto: Outside of charity, there is no salvation),[74] understood as benevolence towards all, indulgence towards the imperfections of others, and forgiveness of offenses.[75]

The Spiritist doctrine aims to establish a dialogue between science, philosophy, and religion, with the goal of obtaining an original form that is both more comprehensive and profound, in order to better understand reality.[12][76] Kardec synthesizes the concept with the famous phrase: "Unshakable faith is only the one that can confront reason face to face in all epochs of humanity."[77]

According to the Spiritist philosopher Herculano Pires, "Spiritist Philosophy, as Kardec said, generically belongs to what we usually call Spiritualist Philosophy because its view of the Universe is not limited to Matter but extends to Spirit, which it considers as the cause of everything we perceive in the material plane. Embracing in its cosmological interpretation Spiritist Science and resulting in Spiritist Religion, Spiritist Philosophy encompasses the entire doctrine."[57][76]

Main foundations

Chart depicting spiritual evolution, according to the perspective of Spiritist Doctrine.

The Spiritist doctrine, in general, is based on the following points (principles):[78]

Additionally, secondary characteristics can be mentioned:[87]


Spiritism does not have an official symbol and prioritizes a denotative language. However, the vine branch depicted in The Spirits' Book – the only engraving used by Kardec in the Spiritist Codification – is considered by the doctrine as the perfect metaphorical image of the relationship between the spirit and the human body, due to this passage:[94]

You shall place at the head of the book the vine branch that we have drawn for you, for it is the emblem of the work of the Creator. All the material principles that can best represent the body and the spirit are contained in it. The body is the vine branch, the spirit is the liquor, the soul or the spirit linked to matter is the grape. Man refines the spirit through work, and you know that it is only through the work of the body that the Spirit acquires knowledge.

— Preface of The Spirits' Book.


Basic works

Main article: Spiritist basic works

Below are some of the main works published by Allan Kardec:[95]

Publication of The Spirits' Book from 1860 in Paris
Publication of the book What Is Spiritism? from 1868 in Paris

The work The Spirits' Book was published in 1857 and contains the fundamental principles of Spiritist Doctrine.[96] The Mediums' Book, or Guide for Mediums and Invokers, was published in 1861 and discusses the experimental and investigative nature of Spiritism, seen as a theoretical and methodological tool to understand a "new order of phenomena" that had never been considered by scientific knowledge: the so-called spiritist or mediumistic phenomena, which were believed to be caused by the intervention of spirits in physical reality.[97]

The book The Gospel According to Spiritism, published in 1864, evaluates the canonical gospels from the perspective of Spiritist Doctrine, addressing the application of Christian moral principles and religious matters such as the practice of worship, prayer, and charity with special attention.[98]

The work Heaven and Hell, or Divine Justice According to Spiritism, was published in 1865 and consists of two parts: in the first part, Kardec critically examines philosophical contradictions and inconsistencies with scientific knowledge, which he believes can be overcome through Spiritist paradigm of reasoned faith.[99] Topics covered include: causes of the fear of death, why Spiritists do not fear death, heaven, the Christian hell imitated from the pagan one, limbo, purgatory, doctrine of eternal punishments, penal code of the afterlife, angels, the origin of the belief in demons.[100] The second part contains dozens of dialogues that purportedly took place between Kardec and various spirits, in which they recount their impressions from the afterlife.[101]

The book The Genesis According to Spiritism, published in 1868, addresses various philosophical and scientific questions, such as the creation of the universe, the formation of worlds, the emergence of the spirit, and the nature of so-called miracles, according to the Spiritist paradigm of understanding reality.[102]

Complementary works

The book What Is Spiritism?, published in 1859, serves as an introductory and didactic work on Spiritism.[103]

The periodical Revue Spirite (in Portuguese, Spiritist Review), dedicated exclusively to Spiritism-related topics, was founded by Kardec and directed by him until his death in 1869. It has had the participation of several prominent figures in the doctrine and is currently published quarterly.[104]

The work Posthumous Works, published posthumously in January 1890 by the directors of the Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies, is a compilation of unpublished writings by Kardec, with annotations about the behind-the-scenes of the creation of the doctrine, aiding its understanding.[105]

Relationship with other segments of society


Scientific method and "spiritual science"

The scientific investigation of the facts and causes of alleged mediumistic phenomena is the subject of intense study, mainly within the pseudoscience[106] of parapsychology.[107][108] Scientific investigations on mediumship and other "spiritual phenomena" advocated by Spiritism have taken place/take place even within the academic setting,[109][110][111] but although many scientists, including renowned ones,[112][113] have claimed to have provided evidence for the existence of such phenomena in their research through the scientific method, the existence of spirits is neither established nor proven.

Although not considered science in the strict sense due to being supported by philosophical and religious pillars, spiritist phenomena have been and still are the subject of study for a significant number of researchers (notably physicians and parapsychologists)[112][114][115][116][117] around the world. Among them, many have claimed to have strong evidence to corroborate several of the spiritist principles in a manner closely related to strict scientific standards.[112][113][118][119]

Many scientists and intellectuals have dedicated themselves to investigations of mediumship and its implications for the mind–body relationship, including: Kardec, Alfred Russel Wallace, Alexandre Aksakof, Cesare Lombroso, Camille Flammarion, Carl Jung, Cesare Lombroso, Charles Richet, Gabriel Delanne, Frederic Myers, Hans Eysenck, Henri Bergson, Ian Stevenson, J. J. Thomson, J. B. Rhine, James H. Hyslop, Johann K. F. Zöllner, Lord Rayleigh, Marie Curie, Oliver Lodge, Pierre Curie, Pierre Janet, Théodore Flournoy, William Crookes, William James, and William McDougall.[120][121]


Further information: Spiritual healing and Past life regression therapy

André Luiz Spiritist Hospital in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais

In terms of medicine, individuals with symptoms such as hearing or seeing spirits have been previously identified as having mental disorders, but with updates to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), medicine now recognizes that these symptoms do not necessarily have pathological causes.[122]

The ICD in its tenth revision, ICD-10, includes under its item F.44.3 the so-called "Trance and possession states", defined as: "Disorders characterized by a transient loss of consciousness of one's own identity, associated with a perfect preservation of awareness of the environment." However, it explicitly states in the following clause: "Only involuntary and unwanted trance states should be included here, excluding those situations admitted in the cultural or religious context of the subject."[123]

In this sense, a distinction is made between the normal state of trance – for example, hypnosis, no longer considered an illness – and dissociative psychotic disorder, a psychiatric pathology. This item also excludes, among others, schizophrenia. The ICD also makes it clear that the trance states believed by spiritualists to originate from "spiritual possession" - common in religious environments - are not covered by the aforementioned item F.44.3 and are not considered pathological. Although the ICD explicitly recognizes such trance states by excluding them, it also does not attribute any trance to "spirits" as a cause, even though some spiritualist proponents insist otherwise.[124][better source needed]

The term "possession" in the aforementioned ICD item refers to states of excessive agitation, aggression, or even fury. Considering this meaning, the full reading of the associated item clearly implies the non-recognition of the "spiritual" cause (see clause). Another argument in favor of the initial assertion comes from the fact that the recognition of such a cause by the World Health Organization would require its compulsory inclusion in the ICD, as well as the need for specific treatment or monitoring, since these states of "possession" are readily recognized, first and foremost, by spiritualists themselves as situations often detrimental to the health of the "possessed" and requiring immediate "spiritual" treatment or accompaniment, which, according to their beliefs, is certainly provided by the respective groups or religious authorities qualified within their temples or meeting places. However, the World Health Organization has not defined, established, or even considered such treatments or accompaniments.[124][125][126]

Dr. Adolfo Bezerra de Menezes Cavalcanti

The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) included a warning against the mistaken interpretation of spiritual or religious experiences as mental disorders and distinguished, from mental disorders, another category of problems classified as "other conditions that may be a focus of clinical attention," including a specific subcategory called "spiritual or religious problems," to guide healthcare professionals in diagnosing and treating some potential non-pathological problems of patients.[127]

Recognizing the influence of the "state of mind" on health and well-being,[128] notable scientific institutions such as the World Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, and Royal College of Psychiatrists have sections dedicated to the relationship between health and spirituality.[128]

The relationship between Spiritism itself and medicine is profound, as evidenced by its presence in many spiritist books and the existence of the International Spiritist Medical Association, which brings together medical-spiritist associations from various countries.[129] Spiritism constitutes a vast international movement of charity and healthcare institutions, as evidenced mainly by the existence of such associations, numerous hospitals and spiritist centers, and a notable promotion of psychiatry and homeopathy.[130][131]

Dr. Adolfo Bezerra de Menezes, a spiritist and physician, wrote the classic book A Loucura sob Novo Prisma (Insanity from a New Perspective), seeking to relate the issue of mental disorders to Spiritism and promote the application of more effective treatment methods in the field of mental health.[132]

Currently, psychiatrist and parapsychologist Alexander Moreira-Almeida, coordinator of the "Section on Spirituality, Religiosity, and Psychiatry" of the World Psychiatric Association, is one of the leading figures in the scientific study of the relationship between health and spiritual experiences, especially mediumship.[121][133][134]

Other religions

There is no consensus among Spiritists as to whether Spiritism is a religion or not, despite the doctrine being classified as a religion in demographic surveys. This is due to the triple aspect of Spiritism, which allows it to be classified as a doctrine that aligns "science-philosophy-religion".[135][136] In the preamble of the book O Que É o Espiritismo? (What is Spiritism?), Kardec states that "Spiritism is, at the same time, a science of observation and a philosophical doctrine. As a practical science, it consists of the relations established between us and the Spirits; as a philosophy, it encompasses all the moral consequences that emanate from these same relations." Some still contest the religious aspect of Spiritism; however, in the book published by its codifier, titled O Espiritismo na sua mais simples expressão (Spiritism in its simplest expression),[9] he clearly asserts: "From a religious point of view, Spiritism is based on the fundamental truths of all religions: God, the soul, immortality, rewards and punishments in the afterlife, but it is independent of any particular cult. Its goal is to prove to those who deny or doubt that the soul exists, that it survives the body, and that it experiences, after death, the consequences of the good and evil deeds committed during corporeal life: the goal of all religions."[57] Kardec also clarifies that Spiritism is a religion in the Opening Address of the Annual Commemorative Session of the Day of the Dead (Society of Paris, November 1, 1868), where he states:

If that is the case, you may ask, is Spiritism a religion? Well, yes, undoubtedly, gentlemen! In the philosophical sense, Spiritism is a religion, and we take pride in it because it is the doctrine that establishes the bonds of fraternity and communion of thoughts, not on a mere convention, but on more solid foundations: the very laws of Nature.

— Kardec[137]

At the International Spiritist Congress held in Paris in 1925, there was a proposal to remove the religious aspect from Spiritism, but the important French Spiritist philosopher Léon Denis opposed it with tenacity, even in his already weak physical condition of health.[50] According to Denis, Spiritism was not the "religion of the future" but rather the "future of religions".[138]

On the other hand, the Spiritist Doctrine affirms respect for all religions and doctrines, values all efforts for the practice of good, and claims to work for fraternity and peace among all peoples and all men,[139] although it firmly rejects, it must be reiterated, fundamental dogmas of other monotheistic religions. In the case of Christianity, the fundamental dogmas that stand out are the divinity of Christ, the Holy Trinity, salvation or justification by grace (more than by individual works or efforts), and the existence and importance of the Church as a spiritual entity, not just human.[140]


Further information: Perspective of Spiritism on Jesus

Christianisme et Spiritisme (Christianity and Spiritism), a book from 1898 by the philosopher Léon Denis, which links Christian morality and the moral laws of Spiritism
Official Catholic book opposing spiritualism (1921)

The Spiritist doctrine adopts Christian morality[b] despite its differentiated theological conceptions. According to Spiritists, the name given to the followers of Spiritism, Jesus Christ is the most elevated spirit to have ever incarnated on Earth.[84]

Spiritists (a widely used translation during the early decades of the 20th century for the French neologism spirite) or Spiritists consider themselves Christians and attribute to Spiritist doctrine the character of a Christian doctrine since they consider themselves followers of the moral teachings of Jesus. Spiritists base their defense of the Christian character of Spiritist doctrine on the fact that Allan Kardec argued that Christian morality, free from the dogmas of faith associated with it, would be the closest thing to a divine and rational code of ethics that humans possess. Spiritists argue that the dogmas were elaborated over the centuries by the Catholic Church and therefore it is not necessary to follow them to be a Christian. Furthermore, item 625 of The Spirits' Book states that Jesus is the greatest moral example available to humanity, although Spiritism denies any genuinely divine nature to him.[141]

Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes are nine teachings that Jesus delivered in the Sermon on the Mount, according to the New Testament (12). For Spiritism, these teachings are of great importance, and they will now be presented from the Spiritist perspective.

Matthew 5. According to Spiritism, Jesus promises the kingdom of heaven to the simple and humble, referring to the moral qualities of the individual.[142]

10. According to Spiritism, only in the afterlife can the compensations that Jesus promises to the afflicted on Earth be fulfilled. Faith in the future can console and instill patience in the spirit that endures the various terrestrial anomalies with calmness and resignation. However, it does not justify the causes of the diversity of evils, inequalities between vice and virtue, deformities, and natural disasters. The vicissitudes of life can be divided into two parts according to the Spiritist perspective: some have their explanations in the present life, while others are found outside of this life. This latter cause, in the Spiritist view, is explained by the plurality of existences in which the incarnated spirit pays for the evils it has committed in previous lives.[143]

The purity of the heart resembles the principle of simplicity and humility, excluding all ideas of pride and selfishness. According to Spiritism, the emblem of purity that Jesus takes in relation to children should not be taken literally, "Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it'" (Mark 10:13-15). The spirit of the child, not yet able to manifest its tendencies towards evil, represents momentarily the image of innocence and purity resembling pure spirits. However, the actions [good or bad] taken by the spirit before incarnating gradually reflect in its behavior as an incarnated spirit. Therefore, as the incarnated spirit develops its physical structure, it also develops its psychic structure, which exhibits behavioral characteristics corresponding to the real conduct of the spirit itself.[144]

Matthew 5. According to Spiritism, Jesus makes meekness, moderation, gentleness, affability, and patience a law.[145]

Mercy consists of forgiving offenses, and for Spiritism, the sacrifice that pleases God the most is reconciliation with adversaries, as stated in Matthew 5:23-24.[146]

According to Spiritism, all Christian morality is summarized in this axiom:

Outside of charity, there is no salvation.


For a large part of Christian religions, reincarnation is considered inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible, resurrection, the concept of salvation, and eternal damnation.[147][148] They cite the passage from the apostle Paul that determines the state of all humanity after death: "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment..."[149]

However, according to Spiritism, reincarnation was confused with the term resurrection, which literally means "return to life," resulting in various causes of ambiguity. The belief that man could come back to life is ancient and was part of Jewish doctrines, but it was not determined in what way this fact would occur since they only had vague and incomplete notions about the soul and its connection to the body.[150] According to some Spiritist followers, the apostle Paul in the aforementioned passage unveils the doubt regarding resurrection and dispels the belief in the return of the spirit to a body that is already dead to die a second time in it, especially when the elements of organic matter are already dispersed and absorbed by time, as all men die only once in each bodily existence.[151][152] They further affirm that the "judgment" refers to the individual state (not collective) that follows the death of the body (erraticity).[153] Although it does not deeply resolve the problem of ambiguity, several biblical passages emphasize reincarnation, according to Spiritism, such as Job 14[e][154]

Law of Progress

The Final Judgment represents, according to Spiritism, the process of the "Regeneration of Humanity", in which the Earth will undergo a gradual physical and moral transformation, separating the spirits who wish to follow the path of good from those who remain in evil — an event symbolized in the Parable of the Judgment of the Nations in Matthew 25,[155] and in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13.[156][157] However, this disintegration will not cause the "imperfect spirits" to remain eternally in suffering, a situation similar to that found in Luke 15,[158][159] because everything in the universe is destined for the law of progress.[160]


Main article: Mediumship

Judeo-Christian religions believe that with the Law given to Moses in the Old Testament, God had prohibited ancient Israel from communicating with the world of spirits and using "supernatural" powers granted by them. "...there shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead" (necromancy).[161] They also claim that this prohibition was confirmed in the New Testament through references in the Gospels and the book of Acts of the Apostles to "unclean spirits." The apostle Paul's statement asserts that whoever practices sorcery (or witchcraft, as the Greek term used is pharmakeia) "…shall not inherit the kingdom of God."[162]

The stance of Spiritist Doctrine proposes that biblical texts be critically evaluated when genuinely original, taking into account their symbolic level, considering the vocabulary resources and figures of speech available at the time and in subsequent translations.[163] Furthermore, it suggests that the spiritual context of the people of that time should be taken into account. According to Emmanuel (spirit), in a psychographic message through Xavier, the interchange with the deceased, during Moses' time, was made "with excessively crude and inferior material," and therefore, did not adequately accommodate mediumistic communication.[164]


See also: Spiritist centre

Brazilian Spiritist Federation

Main article: Brazilian Spiritist Federation

Headquarters of the Brazilian Spiritist Federation in Brasília

The Brazilian Spiritist Federation is a public utility entity[165] founded on January 2, 1884, in Rio de Janeiro. It is a civil, religious, educational, cultural, and philanthropic society whose purpose is the study, practice, and dissemination of Spiritism in all its aspects, based on the works of Allan Kardec's Codification and the canonical Gospels.[166]

International Spiritist Council

Main article: International Spiritist Council

The International Spiritist Council (ISC) is an organization resulting from the union of representative associations of national Spiritist movements and currently has 35 associated countries. It was constituted on November 28, 1992, in Madrid, Spain. Its objectives are the promotion of fraternal union among Spiritist institutions in all countries and the unification of the worldwide Spiritist movement; the promotion of the study and dissemination of Spiritist Doctrine in its three basic aspects: scientific, philosophical, and religious; and the promotion of the practice of material and moral charity as taught by Spiritist Doctrine. The main event organized by the ISC is the World Spiritist Congress, held every three years.[167]

Pan-American Spiritist Confederation

Main article: Pan-American Spiritist Confederation

The Pan-American Spiritist Confederation, founded on October 5, 1946, in Argentina, is an international institution that mainly brings together Spiritists from Latin America. CEPA has adherent and affiliated institutions in various countries and defends a secular view of Spiritism. The organization takes controversial positions among Spiritists, such as the dissociation between the doctrine and Christianity and the need to update Spiritism in light of science. Since October 13, 2000, the headquarters of CEPA has been in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul. CEPA's activities in Brazil are primarily carried out through events promoted by adherent institutions, such as the Forum of Free Thinking Spiritists and the Brazilian Symposium on Spiritist Thought.[168]


Allan Kardec Festival in São Paulo

From 1857, the year of the release of The Spirits' Book, to 1869, the year of Kardec's death, Spiritism gained 7 million followers.[169] According to data from 2005, Spiritism has about 13 million followers worldwide,[15] and according to data from 2010, Brazil – the country with the most followers[170] – has about 3.8 million Spiritists.[171][172] The International Spiritist Council (CEI) has 36 member countries.[173] Another international Spiritist organization, the Pan American Spiritist Confederation, brings together Spiritist institutions and delegates from 13 countries.[174][175][176]


Main article: History of Spiritism in Brazil

I Congresso de Mocidades Espíritas do Brasil (First Congress of Spiritist Youth in Brazil), 1948
Classroom for initiating children into Spiritism in Boa Ventura, Paraíba
A Spiritist center in Santa Catarina, Brazil

Spiritism arrived in Brazil in 1865 according to the Brazilian Spiritist Federation (FEB), although there are differing opinions on this matter.[177] as reported below:

Although since 1853 the country's newspapers already reported family gatherings for the production of phenomenons of mediumship, the Spiritism codified by Allan Kardec only arrived in Brazil around 1860 with the first copies of The Spirits' Book. It was in the year 1860 that the first Spiritist book published in Brazil appeared: Os Tempos são chegados ("The Times Have Come"), by French professor Casimir Lieutuad, a pioneering work that paved the way for the introduction of Spiritism in Brazil.[178]

— Anuário Espírita 2006

Through Bezerra de Menezes[179] and Chico Xavier,[180] Spiritism had the opportunity to become popular throughout the country, spreading its teachings across a large part of the Brazilian territory. Brazil is the country with the largest number of Spiritists worldwide.[181] However, in the 19th century, the penal code of 1890 even banned the practice of Spiritism in Brazil and punished those who practiced the "crime" with up to 6 months in prison. Although socially tolerated, especially after the actions of the Brazilian Spiritist Federation (FEB) in the first decades of the 20th century, the practice ceased to be officially prohibited only with the promulgation of the penal code of 1940.[182][183] The FEB congregates approximately ten thousand Spiritist institutions,[184] spread across all regions of the country. There are also several Brazilian Spiritist associations for specific professions, such as the Brazilian Medical-Spiritist Association, Brazilian Association of Spiritist Psychologists, Brazilian Association of Spiritist Judges, Brazilian Association of Spiritist Artists, and Crusade of Spiritist Military.[50]

According to the Brazilian Census of 2010, Brazil had about 3.8 million Spiritists.[185] The state capitals with the highest percentage of Spiritists are Florianópolis (7.3%), Porto Alegre (7.1%), Rio de Janeiro (5.9%), São Paulo (4.7%), Goiânia (4.3%), Belo Horizonte (4.0%), Campo Grande (3.6%), Recife (3.6%), Brasília (3.5%), and Cuiabá (3.5%).[186] The IBGE considers the terms kardecism and Spiritism as equivalents in its census classification.[187]

As the third-largest religious group in Brazil, Spiritists also have the highest income and education levels among social segments, according to data from the same Census. Spiritists are strongly associated with acts of charity. They maintain asylums, orphanages, schools for the underprivileged, daycares, and other institutions for assistance and social promotion in all Brazilian states.[50] Allan Kardec is a well-known and respected figure in Brazil.[188] He is the most read French author in the country, with his books selling more than 25 million copies throughout the Brazilian territory. If we count other Spiritist books, all derived from the works of Kardec, the Brazilian Spiritist publishing market surpasses 4,000 titles already published and over 100 million copies sold.[189] The Spiritist theme constitutes the most successful literary market in Brazil, with Spiritist books leading the bestseller lists in the country's main bookstores.[50][190] According to the 2010 census, Spiritism experienced significant growth from 2000 to 2010, with an increase of over 60% in followers, going from 2.3 million to 3.8 million followers,[171] with the majority of them being between 50 and 59 years old (3.1%) and having the highest literacy rate (98.6%), the highest percentage of individuals with a completed university education (31.5%), and income above 5 minimum wages (19.7%), as well as the lowest percentage of individuals with no education (1.8%) and with incomplete primary education (15.0%).[172]


After the legalization of religion in Cuba, there was a revival of Spiritism, which had been present in the Caribbean country since the 19th century.[191] According to data from the Ministry of Religions, in 2011, there were 400 Spiritist centers in Cuba, with an additional 200 being registered, making Cuba the second most Spiritist country in the world in terms of the number of centers. The Cuban Medical-Spiritist Association has the highest number of activists in the International Medical-Spiritist Association.[192]


In Spain, one of the great pioneers of Spiritism was Luis Francisco Benítez de Lugo y Benítez de Lugo, VIII Marquis of Flórida and X Lord of Algarrobo y Bormujos, who presented a bill for the official teaching of Spiritism, reading it on August 26, 1873.[193]


In the decades of 1850–1860, Spiritism reached Mexico, attracting the intellectual elite with its proposals of modernism, anticlerical reform, and liberalism of free thought. General Refugio Indalecio González translated works by Kardec, publishing El Evangelio Según el Espiritismo in Spanish in 1872 in Mexico and, under the direction of the Sociedad Espírita Central de la República Mexicana, circulated spiritist magazines.[194] Among others, there was also the initial dissemination by utopian socialist Nicolás Pizarro Suárez.[195] In 1875, attention to Spiritism became heated in Mexico City when, in a positivist reaction after publications in the press, a debate was held between materialist and spiritualist students at the Liceo Hidalgo and Teatro del Conservatorio, considered by Zenia Yébenes Escardó as "the first philosophical controversy that was considered as such in Mexico."[194][196] In addition to its academic presence, popular Spiritism emerged, incorporating indigenous practices and local cults, with a strongly present folkloric imagery in the figure of Teresa Urrea, a spiritual healer who was supported by the spiritist Lauro Aguirre.[194][197] The feminist Laureana Wright, an already renowned writer, converted to Spiritism in 1889 to promote the debate of thought and women's equality, inspired by examples of female emancipation that she observed in other countries, and started holding sessions attended by various public figures, later becoming the president of the Sociedad Espírita Central.[198] Spiritist groups emerged in various locations, and after a brief decline at the end of the 19th century, attention on Spiritism intensified in the early 20th century through press coverage after Francisco Madero, who promoted it through works he distributed, organized congresses, and, inspired by allegedly psychographed letters, published a book that promoted the Mexican Revolution, becoming the president of Mexico for a short period until he was assassinated.[194][197]



Facsimile of the birth certificate of Jean-Baptiste Roustaing, 1805.

Since the 19th century, particularly in France and Brazil, there have been conflicts of opinion among Spiritists, mistakenly referred to as "Kardecists," and the so-called "Roustainguists," regarding the acceptance or rejection of the postulates of the work The Four Gospels or Revelation of Revelation, coordinated by Jean-Baptiste Roustaing, especially concerning the genesis of Jesus' body and the spiritual fall, which would cause the first incarnation of the spirits that failed. For Spiritists who accept the Kardec-Roustaing duo, Jesus had a "fluidic" body on Earth due to being a pure spirit, and thus, the genesis of that body was by His psychomagnetic will, characterizing Him as an agene.[199]

On the other hand, Spiritists who do not accept the work The Four Gospels, coordinated by Roustaing, believe that Jesus had a material body like any other incarnated human being, and its genesis was also similar, through the fusion of sperm and ovum.[200]

Furthermore, Roustaing's The Four Gospels explains that the spirits who failed due to atheism, pride, and selfishness incarnated in primitive worlds as "fleshy cryptogams" (creeping animals resembling slugs), which represents the doctrine of metempsychosis, not accepted by Spiritism since the doctrine of reincarnation states that the Spirit only reincarnates in the human kingdom (Humanity).[201]

Christian Rationalism

Rational Christian House, Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde.

In the Brazilian city of Santos, a dissenting movement within the Spiritist movement emerged in 1910, which called itself "Rational and Scientific Christian Spiritism" and later became known as Christian rationalism, systematized by Luís de Matos and Luís Alves Tomás.[202]


In Brazil, since the second half of the 1950s, some Spiritist centers have followed the doctrine allegedly dictated by the spirit Ramatis (mainly embodied in the works psychographed by Hercílio Maes). They differ from traditional Spiritist centers due to a greater emphasis on universalism (common origin of religions) and the comparative study of Western and Eastern spiritualist religions and philosophies. It is also notable for a stronger influence of Eastern thought currents (such as Buddhism and Hinduism) and its proximity to the cosmogony of universalist spiritualism.[202]


Waldo Vieira (1932–2015) was the founder of conscientiology.

After ending the partnership with medium Chico Xavier in 1968, medium Waldo Vieira began his own research on the phenomenon called "consciential projection" (referred to as "spiritual unfolding" in Spiritism). Consequently, in 1987, he systematized the parascientific movement called Conscientiology.[203][204]

Christian Renewal

Emerging in Brazil as a dissent within the Spiritist movement since September 2002. While still following Spiritist Doctrine, it claims to do so with greater seriousness than the Brazilian movement itself, which is an argument used for its separation.[205]


Kardec's 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 addressed these issues in various books and his periodical, the Revue Spirite.

Later, the Theosophical Society, a competing new religion,[206] saw the Spiritist explanations as too simple or even naïve.[207]

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.[208]

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".[209]

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,[210] 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.[211] Brazilian Spiritist Hernani Guimarães Andrade has, in turn, written rebuttals to these criticisms.[210]

In popular culture

Spiritism has been the subject of various non-literary works, such as soap operas, series, and films.[212]

Soap operas

The Brazilian soap opera Somos Todos Irmãos (1966), produced by the extinct TV Tupi, was inspired by the spiritist novel A Vingança do Judeu psychographed by the Russian medium Vera Kryzhanovskaia.[213] The soap opera A Viagem (1975), produced by TV Tupi, was inspired by the spiritist novels Nosso Lar and E a Vida Continua... psychographed by Chico Xavier, developing a complex plot addressing concepts such as mediumship, death, spiritual obsession, reincarnation, and others. Rede Globo conceived a remake of it in 1994.[214] The soap opera O Profeta (1977), produced by the extinct TV Tupi and also with a remake conceived in 2006 by Rede Globo, portrays the main character as a medium capable of predicting the future.[215]

More recently, the productions Alma Gêmea,[215] Escrito nas Estrelas,[216] Amor Eterno Amor,[217] Além do Tempo,[218][219] and Espelho da Vida also told stories related to Spiritism.[220]


The Brazilian film Joelma 23º Andar (1979) was based on the work Somos Seis psychographed by Chico Xavier and is the first in the country with a spiritist theme, portraying the Joelma Fire tragedy, which left 179 dead and over 300 injured (February 1, 1974). Several other films followed, such as Bezerra de Menezes - O Diário de um Espírito (2006, seen by over 500,000 viewers),[221] Chico Xavier (2010, seen by about 3.5 million viewers in theaters),[221] Nosso Lar (also in 2010, seen by over 4 million viewers in theaters),[222] among others.


The series The Dead Zone (2001), produced by Lionsgate Television and CBS Paramount Network Television, addresses paranormal phenomena, near-death experience, psychometry, precognition, and retrocognition. The series is based on the novel The Dead Zone, written by Stephen King, and the film The Dead Zone directed by David Cronenberg; [223]

The series Medium (2005), produced by NBC, features a protagonist who uses her mediumship to assist a public prosecutor in solving crimes. The series is based on the life of the American medium Allison DuBois, primarily on her work Don't Kiss Them Good-Bye;[224]

The miniseries A Cura (2010), aired and produced by Rede Globo, portrays the protagonist Selton Mello as a healing medium performing spiritual surgeries;[225]

The series A Gifted Man (2011), produced by CBS, tells the story of a renowned widowed surgeon who tries to change his personality after interacting with the spirit of his deceased ex-wife.[226]

See also


  1. ^ Since ancient times, as in 1 Samuel 9 ("(Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, 'Come, let us go to the seer,' for he who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer).'"), and as a common practice, as in 24 ("The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.... Depending on the context, it was a risky practice, as illustrated in 10.
  2. ^ Léon Denis wrote: "The ideal proclaimed by the voices of the invisible world is no different from that of the founder of Christianity." René Kopp also wrote: "Spiritism will be Christian, or it will be nothing." More details on this perception can be found in O Espiritismo Cristão (Christian Spiritism).
  3. ^ The Gospel According to Spiritism. Chapter 15, Outside of Charity There Is No Salvation, The Greatest Commandment - Biblical Text - "But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (40)
  4. ^ The Gospel According to Spiritism. Chapter 15, Outside of Charity There Is No Salvation, The Necessity of Charity, according to Paul (the Apostle) - Biblical Text - "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (7 and 13)
  5. ^ The Gospel According to Spiritism. Chapter 4, No One Can See the Kingdom of God Unless Born Again, Resurrection and Reincarnation - Biblical Text - "When a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes. (Book of Job, Chapter 14, verses 10, 14) (ID. Version of the Greek Church) - Biblical Text - "But when a man dies, he is powerless; he breathes his last. Where is he? - If a man dies, can he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait, until my relief comes." (Job 14:10-14) (ID. Translation by Le Maistre de Sacy) - Biblical Text - "When a man dies, he loses all his strength; he breathes his last. Where is he? - If a man dies, shall he live again? I will wait, all the days of my struggle, until change comes."


This article has an unclear citation style. The references used may be made clearer with a different or consistent style of citation and footnoting. (January 2024) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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