What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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Visitor - To start with, why was it necessary to create the new terms Spiritist and Spiritism to replace spiritualist and spiritualism, which are part ofeveryday speech and well understood by everybody? I understand that some view these new terms as barbarisms.

A.K. - The word spiritualist has had a well-defined acceptation for a long time. The Academy defines it in this way: a SPIRITUALIST is someone whose doctrine is contrary to materialism. All religions are necessarily based on spiritualism. Whoever believes that there is something within us besides matter is a spiritualist; however, that does not imply a belief in spirits or their manifestations. How would you distinguish such a person from one who does believe? You would have to say something like: A spiritualist is someone who might or might not believe in spirits. For new things, new terms are needed if one wants to avoid misunderstandings. If I had classified my REVUE as being spiritualist, I would not have been clear about its purpose, since I could very well have not said one word about spirits without contradicting the title; in fact, I could have been against them altogether. Some time ago I read in a periodical an article of philosophical content stating that the author had written it from a spiritualist point of view. However, those who believe in spirits would have been particularly disappointed, if, in trusting that description, they had looked for the slightest confirmation of their own ideas. Therefore, if I adopted the terms Spiritist and Spiritism, it was because they unequivocally express ideas related to spirits. Every Spiritist is necessarily a spiritualist, but not all spiritualists are Spiritists. Even if spirits were a mere fancy, it would still be useful to have special terms for matters related to them since terminology is needed as much for erroneous ideas as for correct ones.

Furthermore, these terms are no more barbaric than those that the arts, sciences and industry create each day. They are surely no more improper than those Gall coined for this nomenclature of the faculties, such as: secretiviness, amativeness, combativeness, alimentiveness, adhesiveness, etc. There are persons who, due to their argumentative nature, criticize anything that they, themselves, have not come up with and thus want to put on airs of opposition to it. Those who insist on such petty squabbles prove only one thing: the shallowness of their ideas. Attacking with such trifles merely shows that they are short on good arguments.

Spiritualism and spiritualist are English words used in the United States ever since spirit manifestations first appeared; at first, and. for some time thereafter, they were also used in France. However, as soon as the terms Spiritist and Spiritism appeared, their usefulness was understood and they were immediately accepted by the public. Nowadays, their use is so established that even those who at first opposed them and proclaimed them to be barbarisms do not use any others. The sermons and pastoral letters that lash out against Spiritism and Spiritists would not have been able to cast their anathemas against spiritualism and spiritualists without bringing confusion to the issue.

Barbarisms or not, the terms Spiritism and Spiritist have entered everyday usage and all the languages of Europe. They are the only ones used in all publications — pro or con - in every country. They are the backbone of the new sciences nomenclature. In order to express the special phenomena of this science, special terms were needed. Spiritism now has its own nomenclature, just as chemistry has its own.

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