'The Spirits Book' (1857), written by Allan Kardec, is widely regarded as the most important piece of writing in the 'Spiritist' canon. It is the first in a series of five books that Kardec wrote that are collectively known as the 'Spiritist Codification'. Although the other four books; 'The Medium's Book', 'The Gospel According to Spiritism', 'Heaven and Hell' and 'The Genesis According to Spiritism' are of great importance to the Spiritist movement it is 'The Spirits Book' that lays out the doctrine of the belief system. The Spiritist movement was founded by Allen Kardec and although its…mehr
'The Spirits Book' (1857), written by Allan Kardec, is widely regarded as the most important piece of writing in the 'Spiritist' canon. It is the first in a series of five books that Kardec wrote that are collectively known as the 'Spiritist Codification'. Although the other four books; 'The Medium's Book', 'The Gospel According to Spiritism', 'Heaven and Hell' and 'The Genesis According to Spiritism' are of great importance to the Spiritist movement it is 'The Spirits Book' that lays out the doctrine of the belief system. The Spiritist movement was founded by Allen Kardec and although its roots lay in Spiritualism there are differences in belief. The most important of these differences is the Spiritist belief in reincarnation. Although some Spiritualists believe in reincarnation and some do not, all Spiritists consider it as a basic truth of their ideology. In the 1850's, whilst investigating the afterlife, Kardec communicated in séances with a collection of spirits named 'The Spirit of Truth' who discussed many important topics such as life after death, good and evil, the universe and the origin of spirits, amongst others. 'The Spirit of Truth' counted many of history's great thinkers amongst its number such as Thomas of Aquino, Voltaire and Augustine of Hippo. Over time and after several sessions with the group Kardec had gathered enough information to convince him of life after death and he was compelled to spread the teachings of 'The Spirit of Truth'. He 'codified' their comments and listed them as answers to questions and this is the content of 'The Spirits Book'. The subjects that Kardec discusses, via 'The Spirit of Truth', laid down the foundations for the Spiritist philosophy and all of the concepts that would become, and still are, key to the movement's thinking have their genesis in the book. The belief that there is one Supreme Being, God, who created everything in the universe, is postulated. According to the text the Devil does not exist and Jesus is a messenger of God. Although the book does not refer to Jesus as the son of God and no mention is made of the 'immaculate conception' he is considered God's perfect messenger and his teachings are to be adhered to. Reincarnation and the survival of the soul after death are vital beliefs and it is stated that it is through reincarnation that lessons are learnt that can be taken into the next life and that every life moves the soul closer to perfection. According to the book man is made up of three separate elements; the body, the spirit and the spiritual body. One's spirit also predates the matter of the universe and will outlast it. After the publication of 'The Spirits Book' Kardec's Spiritist doctrine began to take root, firstly in France from where it spread throughout Europe and found its way to North America. Most significant, however, was the reaction to Spiritism in South America. In Brazil the Spiritist movement swept across the nation and it is still one of the country's main religions to this day with millions of Kardec's followers from Brazil visiting his tombstone in Paris every year.
The figure-head of the Spiritist movement, Allan Kardec, was born Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail on October 3rd, 1804, in Lyon, France. He came from a long line of lawyers and legal professionals and was expected to follow suit but broke with family tradition to explore his interests in philosophy and the sciences.
Hippolyte finished his studies in Switzerland where he became an acolyte and colleague of the famed educational maverick Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. By the time he had finished his education Rivail had quite a collection of qualifications and skills such as Bachelor of the Arts degrees in science and letters and a doctorate in medicine. He was also fluent in Spanish, German, Italian and English and all of the talents and honours he had acquired made him an ideal collaborator for Pestalozzi. Hippolyte's work with Pestalozzi helped to lay the foundations for the teaching model in schools in France and Germany.
He was a member of many scientific societies and wrote extensively on various subjects and one of his papers, 'Which System of Study Is Most Harmonious with the Needs of the Time?', lead to his induction in the Royal Academy of Arras. Rivail's interests in science expanded beyond conventional studies and by the early 1850's he had taken an interest in Franz Mesmer's theory of 'animal magnetism'.
Mesmer's theory was all the rage in the upper reaches of society and so was the phenomenon of 'spirit tapping'. Spirit tapping had become very popular in France and the USA and it involved the apparent unaided movement of objects by spirit forces to answer questions by tapping out noises on surfaces with the amount of knocks translating to numbers of the alphabet. Such widespread fascination in the incidents piqued the interest of Rivail and so he decided to investigate the strange goings on.
He attended his first séance in the May of 1855 and recorded his thoughts on this initial exposure to the phenomenon:
"These meetings provided me with my first opportunity for serious studies of the subject that later led to the Spiritist Doctrine-study filled less with revelation and more with systematic observation. As to any new subject, I applied rigorous method to the investigation: avoiding preconceived notions, I observed attentively, compared observations, and deduced the consequences. I tried to identify the causes of the phenomena by linking the facts logically, and I did not accept an explanation as valid unless it could resolve all the difficulties of the question. This was the way I had always, from the age of fifteen or sixteen, proceeded in my scientific investigations. I understood from the beginning the gravity of the exploration I was undertaking. I foresaw in those phenomena, the key to the solution of problems so obscure and so disputed, both in the past and in the future, which I had searched for all my life; the phenomena posed a complete revolution in ideas and beliefs. It was necessary, therefore, to act not lightly, but rather with circumspection, to be positive rather than idealistic, so as not to be carried away by illusions."
During the many séances he attended Kardec communicated with a collection of entities that called themselves 'The Spirit of Truth'. The group talked about many lofty subjects such as life after death, good and evil, the universe and the origin of spirits, amongst others. Thomas of Aquino, Voltaire and Augustine of Hippo all came through in the sessions and after a number of séances with the group Revail decided there was enough proof to convince him that there was life after death. Sensing that his revelation wasn't meant just for him he decided to spread the message and 'codified' the Spirit of Truth's teachings and...
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