What is Spiritism?

Spiritism is, at once, a science, a philosophy, and a religion. The science of Spiritism studies the existence and nature of spirits, which are nothing more than the immortal souls of men, created by God.The philosophy, which was derived from a serious study of information received in communications with discarnate spirits, deals with the details of spirit life and the journey of evolution through the process of reincarnation. A natural consequence of that philosophy is the understanding of the role we play in our own spiritual evolution, which is ultimately achieved through the efforts we make to grow, both morally and intellectually. Spiritism helps us to understand the natural laws that govern that process of evolution. From a moral perspective, we follow the teachings and examples of Jesus Christ, as our model and guide.The religious aspect stems from the moral ties between ourselves, and others, and the direction that Spiritism leads us, toward God, our creator, by helping us to understand life and by teaching us, ultimately, how to develop the ability to love, in the greatest sense of the word.

It reveals new and more profound concepts with respect to God, the universe, mankind, the spirits and the laws which govern life.Even more, it reveals what we are, from where we have originated, to where we shall go, and the cause of our pains and sufferings.Spiritism touches on all areas of human knowledge, of all activities and the behavior of Human Beings.

What does it reveal?

What does it teach?

God is the supreme intelligence and primary cause of all things. God is eternal, immutable, unique, omnipotent, supremely just and good.

The universe is a creation of God. It encompasses all beings, whether they be rational or irrational, animate or inanimate, material or immaterial.

All the laws of nature are diviine laws because God is their author. They cover both the physics and moral laws.

Spiritism can and should be studied, analyzed and put into practice in all fundamental aspects of life, such as: science, philosophy, religion, ethics, morality, education and social life.

All practical Spiritism (mediumship, dissemination, fraternal assistance) is free of any charge, which follows the Gospel principle that we must "give for free what we receive for free". 

Spiritism is practiced without rites or rituals, adhering to the Christian principle that God should be adored in spirit and truth.There is no ministry within Spiritism, neither does it adopt or use in its meetings or in its practices any of the following: special vestments, alcoholic beverages, incense, tobacco, altars, banners, candles, processions, talismans, amulets, sacraments, the making of promises and the paying of penances, horoscopes, fortune telling with cards or sea shells, pyramids, crystals, or any other form of cultism.Spiritism does not impose its principles. It invites all those who are interested in exploring its teachings to submit them to the test of reason before accepting them.Mediumship, which permits the communication of the spirits with man, is a gift anyone can have, regardless of the belief system they may choose to follow. Spiritist mediumship is only that which is practiced based upon the principles of Spiritism and within Christian morality.

Spiritism respects all religions, values all efforts towards the practice of goodness and recognizes that "a true person of goodness is one who fulfils the laws of justice, love and charity in their purest forms." 

Source: Explore Spiritism

Practicing Spiritism

Fundamentals of Spiritism 

  • Existence of God

  • Immortality of the Soul

  • Reencarnation

  • Mediumship

  • Plurality of Inhabited Worlds 

The information below is a brief list of the most fundamental concepts of the spiritist codification. 

God is the supreme intelligence, first cause of all things. 

God is eternal, immutable, immaterial, unique, omnipotent, supremely just and good. 

The Universe is God's creation. It encompasses all rational and non-rational beings, both animate and inanimate, material and immaterial. 

In addition to the corporeal world inhabited by incarnate Spirits, which are Human Beings, there exists the spiritual world, inhabited by discarnate Spirits.

The information below was written by Allan Kardec in the 1860s, giving his personal outline of the Spirits' teachings which are the bases of the Spiritist codification.

1. God is the supreme intelligence, the first cause of all the things. God is eternal, infinite, unique, immaterial, all-powerful, sovereignly just and good. He has to be infinite in all his perfections since, if we could suppose imperfectness of even one of his attributes, he would not be God. 

2. God created matter which constitutes the worlds. He also created intelligent beings called spirits which are in charge of these worlds according to the creation's immutable laws. Such laws are perfect by nature. By improving themselves the spirits approach God. 

3. Strictly speaking the spirit is the intelligent principle, its deepest nature is unknown. It is immaterial to us because it bears no resemblance to what we call matter. 

4. The spirits are individual beings housed in a weightless and ethereal envelope called perispirit, a kind of fluid body similar in form to the human's body. They inhabit the space and fly quickly through it. The spirits constitute the invisible world. 

5. The spirit's origin and way of creation are unknown, we only known that they are created simple and ignorant, that is, without knowledge of good and evil. However they are equally capable to everything since God, in his justice, could not free some from the work reserved for others in order to reach perfection. Initially they remain in a kind of infancy, without their own will and perfect consciousness of their existence. 

6. When ideas and free-will are developed in the spirits, God tells them: "You can reckon on supreme happiness provided that you acquire the lacking knowledge and fulfill the duties I impose upon you. You should work for your upgrading, that is your aim and you will reach it by following the laws sculpted on you own consciences". As consequence of their free-will some spirits take the shortest route which is the good while others take the longest one which is the evil. 

7. God did not create the evil. He established the laws which are always good because he is good. The spirits would have been completely happy had they faithfully observed the law since the beginning. But, being free to make choices, the spirits have not properly obeyed them so that evil come as a consequence of this unwillingness. One can then say that good corresponds to everything which is in accordance with God's law while evil is everything which opposes it. 

8. In order to cooperate in the material worlds as agents of a divine power, the spirits temporarily have a material body. By the work required in their corporeal lives, the spirits improve their intelligence and, by observing God's law, they acquire the merits which will lead them to eternal happiness. 

9. The incarnation was not initially imposed on the spirits as a punishment. It is rather necessary for the spirits' improvement and for the fulfillment of God's works. Everyone has to submit to it, no matter if one takes the evil or the good path. Only those who take the good path will improve quickly, they do not delay to arrive at the end in less painful conditions. 

10. Imbodied spirits constitute the humanity. It is not restricted to the earth only but instead it inhabits all the worlds in space. 

11. Human soul is an imbodied spirit. In order to help humans, God has given them the animals whose intelligence and character are according to their needs. 

12. The spirit's improvement is a consequence of its own effort. It can not acquire all the intellectual and moral qualities which will bring it to the end in only one existence. It reaches its goal through a series of several lives. In each one of them the spirit walks a little further in the path of progress. 

13. In each corporeal existence the spirit has to fulfill a mission proportional to its degree of development. The rougher and harder it is, the greater the spirit's merit in fulfilling it. Each existence is, therefore, a test which leads the spirit to the end. It depends on the spirit's will to shorten it, by working harder for its moral improvement, in much the same way a laborer's will shortens the number of his working days. 

14. When an existence is poorly used, the spirit does not profit from it, and it has to begin again a new life under more or less painful conditions, as consequence of the spirit's unwillingness and bad will. In the same sense, in our life, we may be obliged to do tomorrow what was left to do yesterday and do again what was not well done. 

15. Spiritual life is the normal spirit's life: it is eternal. Corporeal life is transitory and it is just a moment in eternity. 

16. During the intervals of its lives, the spirit is errant. This state has no definite duration. In it the spirit is happy or sad according to the good or bad use of its previous life. The spirit studies the causes which quickened or delayed its progress, and takes proper decisions which it will try to put into practice in its next incarnation. It also chooses the most adequate tests for its improvement. Sometimes, however, the spirit makes a mistake and falls, not fulfilling as a human being the decisions it has taken as a spirit. 

17. The guilty spirit is punished through moral sufferings in the spirit world and physical penalties during its corporeal life. Its afflictions are consequence of its faults, that is, of its violation of God's law. These sorrows constitute both an atonement for the past and a test for the future. In this way the proud can have a life of humiliations, the tyrant a servant life and the wealthy oppressor an incarnation in misery. 

18. There are proper worlds to the several spirit's advancement degrees, in which life exists under different conditions. The less advanced the spirit is, the weightier and more material is its body. In so far as the spirit purifies itself, it goes to morally and physically superior worlds. The earth is not the first nor the last of these worlds but only one of the less developed ones. 

19. The guilty spirits are incarnated in less advanced worlds where they atone for their faults through material life difficulties. These worlds constitute the true purgatory. It depends on the spirit to get out of them working on its moral progress. The earth is a world of this kind. 

20. Being sovereignly just and good, God does not punish his creatures to endless penalties as a consequence of their limited mistakes. He provides correction and evil repair for them at any moment. God forgives but also waits for regret, repair and return to good in such a way that punishment is proportional to the spirit's insistence in the evil. Consequently penalties would be eternal only for those who forever remained on the evil side. As soon as a sigh of regret appears in the guilty heart, God holds out his mercy. Therefore, eternal punishments should be understood in relative sense only and not in an absolute one. 

21. When spirits incarnate they bring together everything acquired in their past lives. For these reason people instinctively exhibit special skills, good or bad tendencies which seem innate. Bad inborn inclinations represent the spirit's imperfection traces from which the spirit has not still liberated itself. They are also signs of past faults the spirit has committed. This is the true sense of the original sin. In each existence the spirit must wash itself out from such impurities. 

22. The human capacity to forget previous lives reflects God's grace in so much as he, in his goodness, makes humans unaware of painful memories. In each new life, the human being encounters exactly what he has made up for himself, that is the state from which he has to depart. He knows his present defects and knows that they are the result of his former lives. He comes to conclusions regarding the evil he has committed and this is enough for him to work and correct himself. If he no longer has these past imperfections, he does not need to consider them any longer and his current mistakes are enough to worry about. 

23. If the soul does not exist before birth then it is created together with the body. Assuming this reasoning, the soul would have no relation with those which came before it. How could then God, who is sovereignly just and good, blame it for the mistakes of the human gender's father by blemishing it with an original sin the soul did not commit ? One can give original sin a logical explanation everyone can understand if one says that, through rebirth, the soul holds signs of its previous life imperfections, that it suffers now exactly the result of its past mistakes, that it is responsible for its acts. 

24. The variety of moral and intellectual inborn aptitudes shows that the soul lived already. The idea of the soul being created together with the body disagrees with God's goodness since God would then have made some souls more advanced than others. Why does one then see wild and civilized, good and bad, intelligent and foolish people ? Everything is otherwise easily explained if one supposes that some, by living more than others, are therefore more advanced. 

25. If the present life were the only one and if it were the soul's only opportunity to decide on its eternal destiny, what would then be the fate of children who die very early ? If these children have done neither good nor bad, they should deserve neither reward nor punishment. Following Christ's words, if each one is rewarded according to his works, these children have no right to an angel's happiness and yet they should not be refused a reward. On the contrary there are no exceptions if one admits they have several lives and that they can do in a new existence what they could not in a past short one. 

26. By the same reasoning what would be the fate of cretins and idiots ? As they are unaware of good and evil, they are not responsible for their acts. Would God be just and good if he had created stupid souls and preordain them with no rewards to a miserable life ? On the contrary, if one says that the cretin or the idiot are souls tightly bounded to unsuitable bodies which can not fully manifest their thoughts, then everything is again according to God's justice. 

27. In its successive incarnations the spirit little by little loses its impurities and improves itself through work until the end of its corporeal lives. Then the spirit belongs to the pure spirit or angel order, and fully enjoy God's complete life and endless unshakable happiness. 

28. As good father, God does not leave people to themselves during their earth atonements, but offers them instead their guides. These are firstly the protecting spirits or guardian angels which watch over people and try to make them follow the good way. Secondly there are the great incarnated spirits which sometimes appear on earth in order to illuminate human paths and make humanity walk forward. Even if God inscribed his law on human mind, he makes it even more explicit. Moses came first, but his law spoke only about earthly life, its passing punishments and rewards and were adapted to the people of his time. Then Christ came to complete Moses with a more elevated teaching: plurality of lives, spiritual life and moral punishments and rewards. Moses led through fear while Christ through love and charity. 

29.The present and well understood Spiritism adds the evidence to the theory for unbelievers, it demonstrates the future by obvious facts, it says in clear and unmistakable terms what Christ said in parables. Spiritism explains unknown and misinterpreted truths, reveals the existence of the invisible or spirit world and initiates people in the secrets of future life. It also combats materialism which is a rebellion against God's power. Finally Spiritism comes to establish the reign of humanity's charity and fraternity announced by Christ. Moses plowed, Christ sowed and Spiritism has came to harvest. 

30. Spiritism is not a new light but a brighter one since it appeared in all parts on the world through those who have lived. By making clear what was hidden, Spiritism gives an end to false interpretations and will unite all humanity under the same belief, since there is only one God whose laws are the same for all. Finally Spiritism represents the time predicted by Christ and the prophets. 

31. The evils with which humans are afflicted on earth are caused by selfishness, vanity and all bad passions. People become unhappy and punish themselves by the contact with their vices. Let charity and humbleness substitute selfishness and pride and they no longer will injure themselves, they will respect each one rights and harmony and peace will reign among them. 

32. But how can selfishness and vanity be destroyed since these feelings seems so innate to the human heart? Selfishness and vanity are in human heart because humans are spirits which have been on the path of evil since the beginning and which, therefore, are exiled on earth as punishment for their vices, their original sin to which many have not renounced yet. Through Spiritism, God has came to make the last plea for the practice of the lessons taught by Christ: the law of love and charity. 

33. Since the time for the earth to became home to peace and happiness has arrived, God does not wish that bad spirits continue to disturb it at the sacrifice of the good ones. Consequently bad spirits will have to leave earth: they will atone their heartlessness on less developed worlds where they will work again on their improvement during several, more painful and less happy lives than those on earth. These spirits will also constitute a newer and more enlightened race whose duties will be to take progress to the less developed beings living on such worlds. They will only go to a better world when they deserve it and will continue there until they are completely refined. If the earth represents a purgatory to these spirits, these new worlds will be their hell, but a hell with ever existing hope. 

34. While the outlawed generation will quickly disappear, a new one will arise whose beliefs will be founded upon Christian Spiritism. We are witnessing an operating transition, a prelude to a moral renewal labeled by Spiritism's arrival.

Translated to English by A. L. Xavier Jr. and Carol de Macedo. Based on the essay "O Espiritismo em sua mais simples expressão" by A. Kardec, 2nd ed., FEESP (1989). 

Source: The Spiritist Group of New York.




Spiritist Teachings

History of Spiritism 


Precursors to The Codification of Spiritism

Developments leading directly to Kardec's research were the famous Fox sisters and the phenomenon of the Talking boards. Interest in Mesmerism also contributed to the early Spiritist practice.

SWEDENBORG 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. 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

THE FOX SISTERS: 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.

TALKING BOARDS: 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.

FRANZ MESMER: 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.


Allan Kardec was born Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail in Lyon, France, in October of 1804. From an affluent family, the young Rivail at the age 10 was sent to Switzerland to study in one of the most prestigious schools in Europe at that time, the Yverdon Institute, led by Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, a renowned pedagogue and educational reformer. Pestalozzi’s pedagogy, whose goal was to develop in his pupils their academic and practical skills as well as a social awareness and their ability to love and selfishlessly do good to others (summarized as Head, Heart and Hands), had a profound and lasting impact on the young Rivail. After graduation, he returned to Paris and devoted most of his life to education. He was a teacher and author of many publications, among others, A Plan for the Improvement of Public Instruction, submitted by him in 1828 to the French Legislative Chamber; A Course of Practical and Theoretic Arithmetic, on the Pestalozzian System, for the’ use of Teachers and Mothers (1829); A Classical Grammar of the French Tongue (1831); Reform plan for the examination and schools to educate young people (1847), where he emphasized  the need to offer equal opportunities of education for girls; A Manual for the use of Candidates for Examination in the Public Schools; with Explanatory Solutions of various Problems of Arithmetic and Geometry (1848). He was a member of several academic societies, among others, the Royal Society of Arras, which, in 1831, awarded him the Prize of Honor for his essay on the question, “What is the System of Study most in Harmony with the Needs of the Epoch?” For many years, inspired by his mentor Pestalozzi, Prof. Rivail gave free lectures of Math and Sciences for those who had no other means to afford them otherwise.

           In the spring of 1855, Prof. Rivail reluctantly accepted an invitation to participate in a “dancing table” experiment. Dancing or turning table was a trendy form of entertainment at that time in Europe, where a small group of people sitting around a table with the palm of their hands on top, but not necessarily touching it, enabled the table to move up in the air and down. The members of the group then asked questions that were answered by the table (allegedly by the action of spirits) according to a pre-arranged code associating the letters of the alphabet to the taps of the leg’s table on the floor.

          Prof. Rivail’s scientific mind scoffed the idea that tables had the capacity to think. But after attending the séance and conducting some experiments he was very impressed with the results. There was no doubt in his mind that the table did jump independently of the participants’ will and logically responded to their queries. Intrigued by the nature of the phenomenon, he participated in other meetings to continue his observations. When he asked the table how it could think without having a brain and a nervous system, the answer was that it was not the table that was thinking, but the souls of people who once lived on Earth. Surprised by this revelation, he started to ask questions in his own mind (without vocalizing them), to which the table gave proper answers. In order to avoid being deceived, he brought to the meetings questions written in a sealed envelope and unknown by any other participant. The questions were answered appropriately.

         Convinced that the table was being handled by an intelligent being, Prof. Rivail wanted to expedite the communication with it since tapping out the alphabetic code was tedious and slow. He placed a small basket on the table with a pencil attached to it. He realized that just one person in the group, with a hand on top of the basket, could make the basket move and write whole sentences. Later he found that the basket was unnecessary, and the person could directly hold the pencil and serve as the medium (or intermediary) to intermediate the communications from the intelligent sources he called spirits. He continued conducting these meetings, asking thoughtful questions in order to exploit the scientific, philosophical and religious aspects of this new reality that it was being presented to him by the spirits. In order to rule out the influence of the medium in the communications, Prof. Rivail asked the same questions through several mediums in different meetings. After two years of intensive work, asking questions, compiling and organizing the material based on the agreement and universality of the answers, and adding his commentaries, he published in 1857 The Spirit’s Book under the pseudonym of Allan Kardec. This book is the foundation of what he called Spiritism, which is a science that studies the origin, nature and destiny of spirits as well the relationships that exist between the corporeal and spiritual worlds. Kardec also wrote The Mediums' Book (1861), The Gospel According to Spiritism (1864), Heaven and Hell (1865), and The Genesis (1868). These five books together comprise the codification of Spiritism. These and other publications were written during years of methodic investigation and rigorous analysis of information obtained by many mediums and many spiritist groups in France and other countries in Europe. This exchange of information was made through the monthly journal Spiritist Review, a Journal of Psychological Studies, and the Parisian Society of Psychological Studies, both founded (and directed) by Kardec in 1858.

           Kardec was a progressive thinker with a strong sense of social justice, and a passionate educator who viewed education as an important tool to correct social imbalances. He was a self-taught person who was well versed in several subjects and a gifted writer with a deep knowledge of the French language (he also spoke fluent German and English). He was well known and well connected in the intellectual circles of Paris, and even without a university education he was a scholar who helped shaping the French educational system of his time. He firmly believed in the power of love and giving as well as in the power of reason and scientific observation.

           Kardec passed away in March of 1869 after devoting the last fourteen years of his life to the research and development of the philosophical, scientific and religious foundations of Spiritism, which brings forth a renewed vision of our true spiritual nature, our relationship with the Creator, and the strong ties of brotherhood to which we are all connected

The Codificaton of Spiritism 

            Allan Kardec wrote only five Spiritist books – but these five books serve as the foundation to Spiritism, a progressive body of knowledge that has continued to grow to near 1,000 books since Kardec first published “The Spirits’ Book” in 1857. Because they served as the starting point to Spiritism, and because they were the result of a collaboration between hundreds of intelligences in both planes of life, Spiritists often refer to Kardec’s five books as the “Spiritist Codification”. That is: as the set of works that helped organize and shape (codify) the specific spirit teachings that came to be known as Spiritism. The same rationale applies to why he used the name “Kardec” when publishing these books and why this body of knowledge was aptly named “Spiritism” and not “Kardecism” – because it is the direct result of the wisdom and kindness of enlightened spirits and not the result of the work of one sole man.

Because each book adds a different layer to Spiritist knowledge, and because as an educator Kardec employed a pedagogical approach that allows each book to stand on its own, they do not need to be read in chronological order.  No matter your preference, readers will find plenty of material in any of Kardec’s books to last them a lifetime of inquiry and reflection.If a suggestion can be made, however, it would be to include “The Spirits’ Book” in your library as a reference point even if you are starting with a different work. As the first work of the Spiritist Codification, “The Spirits’ Book” lays the foundation to much of the Spiritist content we see everywhere else.  In fact, if one looks at the structure of “The Spirits’ Book”, which is divided into four parts, one may find a clear relation to the four works that followed. Kardec, as you may soon find out, was a very structured thinker keen to make the content of the books as accessible as possible without dilluting depth of thinking.