What is Spiritism?

Allan Kardec

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22. Having accepted the existence, survival and individuality of the soul, Spiritism is left to answer one principal question: Are communicationsbetweensoulsandthelivingpossibleiThis possibility is a result of experience. Once the exchange between the visible and invisible worlds has been established as a fact, and once the nature, cause and means of this exchange is understood, a whole new field opens up to observation and is the key to a multitude of problems; at the same time, it is a powerful moralizing element since it puts an end to any doubts regarding the future.

23. In many people's minds, what sheds doubt on the possibility of communicating with the dead is the mistaken idea regarding the state of the soul after death. The soul is usually imagined to be a breath, a vaporous being, or something vague that can only be understood by means of thought; or something that evaporates and goes off to who knows where, to such a far away place that it is hard to understand how it could return to the earth. If, to the contrary, we consider its union with a fluidic, semi-material body, with which it forms a physical, individual being, its communications with the living hold nothing incompatible with reason.

24. Since the visible world lives in the midst of the invisible world and is in constant contact with it, it follows that these two react incessantly upon each other; that, since there are human beings, there are spirits too, and that if the latter have the ability to manifest themselves, then they must have done so in all ages and amongst all cultures. However, as of late, spirit manifestations have increased substantially, and have taken on a greater character of authenticity. It was in the designs of Providence to put an end to the scourge of disbelief and materialism by means of obvious proofs, enabling those who have left the earth behind to come and attest to their existence, and to reveal their happy or unhappy condition to us.

25. The communications between the visible and invisible worlds may be secretive or open, spontaneous or induced.

Spirits act upon humans secretively through the thoughts they suggest to them and through certain influences; they act openly through effects discernible to the senses.

Spontaneous manifestations occur unexpectedly and fortuitously. Quite often, they occur to persons unfamiliar with Spiritist ideas, and who, for that very reason, cannot understand them; consequently, they attribute them to supernatural causes. Manifestations that are induced occur by means of certain individuals endowed with special faculties for producing such effects, and who are designated by the name mediums.


26. Spirits can manifest in many different ways: by means of sight, hearing, touch, noises, movements of objects, writing, drawing, music, etc.

27. Spirits sometimes manifest spontaneously through noises and raps, which are frequently their way of attesting to their presence and calling attention to themselves - just like someone knocking on a door to let those inside know someone is there. There are spirits who do not limit themselves to causing moderate noises, but who go so far as to produce a racket that sounds like dinnerware breaking, doors opening and closing, or furniture being overturned. Some even cause real trouble and damage.


28. Although invisible to us in its normal state, the perispirit is ethereal matter, nonetheless. In certain cases, the spirit can undergo a sort of molecular modification that renders it visible and even tangible; this is how apparitions are produced. This phenomenon is no more extraordinary than steam, which is invisible when it is extremely rarified, but which becomes visible when it is condensed.


Spirits who make themselves visible nearly always appear as they did while alive so that they can be recognized.


29. The ongoing and widespread sighting of spirits is extremely rare, but isolated apparitions are quite frequent, especially at the time of death. The liberated spirit seems to be in a rush to see its relatives and friends again, as if to advise them that it has just left the earth and to tell them that it is still alive. Any person can delve into his or her memories and see how many authentic incidents of this type - unperceived at the time - have occurred not only at night during sleep, but in broad daylight while wide awake. Formerly, such incidents would have been considered supernatural and extraordinary, and attributed to magic and sorcery; today, disbelievers attribute them to imagination. However, since Spiritist science has provided the key to them, we know how they are produced and that they are not outside the order of natural phenomena.

30. It was with the help of its perispirit that the spirit used to act upon its physical body; it is with this same fluid that it continues to manifest itself by acting upon inert matter, producing noises and moving tables and other objects, which it lifts, knocks down or carries about. There is nothing surprising about this phenomenon if we consider the fact that the most powerful motors use the most rarified and even imponderable fluids such as air, steam or electricity.

It is also with the help of its perispirit that the spirit enables a medium to write, speak or draw. Not having a tangible body to act ostensibly when it wants to manifest, it uses the medium's body and borrows its organs, with which it acts as if it were its own body by means of the fluidic emanation it pours out over the medium.

31. It is by this same means that the spirit acts upon the table in the phenomenon known as the turning or talking tables, whether to cause them to move with no specific purpose in mind, or whether to produce intelligent raps to spell out the letters of the alphabet in order to form words and sentences. This is called typtology. In this phenomenon, the table is merely an instrument that the spirit uses in the same way that it uses a pencil in order to write. It endows the table with momentary life by means of the fluid that penetrates it; however, the spirit does not become part of the table. Emotional persons who see a being who used to be dear to them manifest and thus hug the table act foolishly because it is exactly as if they were hugging a baton that a friend was using to produce raps. The same applies to those who talk directly to the table as if the spirit were contained within the wood itself, or as if the wood had become the spirit.

When communications occur by this means, the spirit must be represented not as if it were within, the table, but beside it, with the same appearance it had when alive and the way it would be seen at that moment if it could make itself visible. The same applies to written communications: the spirit should be thought of as being at the mediums side, guiding the hand or transmitting its thought via a fluidic current.

Whenever the table becomes detached from the floor and floats in the air without any means of support, the spirit does not lift it with its arms, but envelops it and penetrates it with a sort of fluidic atmosphere that neutralizes the effects of gravity, like the air in balloons and paper kites. This penetrating fluid momentarily gives the table a specifically greater lightness. When it is held to the floor, it is similar to what happens to the bell-jar from which all the air has been removed. All these comparisons are used only to demonstrate the similarity of the effects, not the complete similarity of the causes.

When the table chases someone, it is not the spirit who is doing the chasing, because it can remain peacefully in the same spot while moving the table by means of a fluidic current that enables it to move the table at will. When raps are heard within the table or somewhere else, the spirit is not beating it with its hand or with some other object; it is directing a jet of fluid that produces the effect of an electric-like jolt at the point where the noise is heard. It can change the noise, just as the sounds produced by the action of air can be changed.

Therefore, one can see that it is no more difficult for a spirit to lift a person than to lift a table, move an object from one place to another, or throw it about; these phenomena are produced according to one and the same law.

32. One can see by these few explanations that there is nothing supernatural or extraordinary about spirit manifestations. They are phenomena induced according to the law that governs the exchange between the visible and invisible worlds, a law as natural as the law of electricity, gravity, etc. Spiritism is the science that enables us to know about this law, just as mechanics enables us to know about the law of motion, and optics, the law of light. Being part of nature, spirit manifestations have been produced in all ages; once understood, the law governing them explains a series of problems that used to be considered insolvable; it is the key to a multitude of phenomena exploited and amplified by superstition.

33. Once removed from the arena of the extraordinary, these phenomena are in no way repugnant to reason, because they may be placed alongside all other natural phenomena. In the ages of ignorance, all effects whose causes were not understood were regarded as supernatural. A string of scientific discoveries narrowed the circle of the extraordinary; the knowledge of this new law has reduced it to nothing. Therefore, those who accuse Spiritism of having resuscitated the extraordinary demonstrate that they are talking about something they know nothing about.

34. Spirit manifestations are of two types: physical effects and intelligent effects, The former are material and ostensive, such as movements, noises, the carrying of objects, etc.; the latter consist in the normal permutation of thought with the help of signs, words, and especially, writing.

35. Communications received from spirits may be good or bad, correct or erroneous, profound or superficial, depending on the nature of the spirits that manifest. Those that display wisdom and knowledge are spirits that have evolved; those that display ignorance and evil qualities are little-evolved spirits, but who will evolve with time.

Spirits can only respond to things they know about, according to their advancement, and furthermore, to things they are allowed to talk about because there are things they must not reveal, since it has not yet been given to humans to know about everything.


36. Due to the diversity in the qualities and aptitudes of spirits, it is not enough simply to address any spirit available in order to receive a correct response to every question, because, on many subjects, it can give only its personal opinion, which may be right or wrong. If it is wise, it will acknowledge its ignorance about what it does not know; if it is frivolous or deceitful, it will respond to anything without any concern for the truth whatsoever; if it is proud, it will offer its idea on the matter as if it were the absolute truth. This is why the book of 1 John 4:1 states: Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are of God. Experience has proven the wisdom of this advice. Thus, it would be imprudent and thoughtless to accept everything that comes from spirits without testing it first. That is why it is crucial to understand the nature of the spirits with whom we are relating.


37. The quality of spirits may be determined by their language. The language of truly good, high order spirits is always dignified, noble, logical and lacking in contradictions; it displays wisdom, benevolence, modesty and the purest morality; it is concise and does not employ needless words. Regarding ignorant or proud low order spirits, the emptiness of their thoughts is almost always made up for by a superabundance of words. Every obviously erroneous thought, every maxim contrary to sound morality, every piece of foolish advice, every gross, trivial or just plain silly expression, and lastly, every trace of malevolence, presumptuousness or arrogance are incontestable signs of the spirit's unevolved character.

38. Low order spirits are ignorant to various degrees; their moral horizon is limited and their discernment restricted. They often have only an erroneous and incomplete idea of matters and are still under the influence of earthly preconceptions, which they sometimes assume to be true; thus, they are incapable of solving certain issues. They can lead us intentionally or unintentionally into error concerning what they themselves do not understand.

39. All low order spirits are not, therefore, downright evil; there are those who are only ignorant and frivolous; others are facetious, witty or fun-loving spirits who know how to pull off a cunning, scathing joke. Moreover, we may find in the spirit world - just as on the earth - every sort of wickedness or every degree of intellectual and moral excellence.

40. High order spirits are concerned solely with intelligent manifestations intended for our instruction. Physical or purely material manifestations are most often assigned to low order spirits, who are commonly called rapping spirits, just as amongst us, feats of physical strength are performed by manual laborers and not scholars.

41. Communicating with spirits must always be done calmly and thoughtfully; we must never lose sight of the fact that spirits are the souls of .men and women, and that it would be inappropriate to make them the object of a game or entertainment. If we owe due respect to mortal remains, we ought to have even more respect for the spirit. Frivolous and thoughtless meetings thus fail in their duty, and persons who take part in them should be mindful that they themselves may be called to the spirit world at any moment and would not look favorably on being treated with such little deference.


42. Another, equally important point to consider is the fact that spirits are free; they communicate when they want, with whom they want and when they are able because they have their occupations to attend to. They are not at the beck and call of anyone, no matter who they are, and no one has the right to make them come against their will or make them reveal what they must keep silent about. Consequently, no one can say for certain that a particular spirit will come upon being evoked at a set time, or respond to this or that question. To say otherwise is to display one's complete ignorance about the most basic principles of Spiritism.
Only charlatanism hasfailsafe sources.

43. Spirits are attracted out of affinity, similarity of tastes and character, and the intention of whomever desires their presence. High order spirits would no more attend a pointless meeting than a scholar would attend a meeting of thoughtless children - plain common sense says it could not be otherwise. If they sometimes attend such meetings, it is for the purpose of providing healthy counsel, combating vice or trying to lead someone onto the right path. If they are not heeded, they withdraw. It would be completely wrong to think that serious spirits could possibly enjoy responding to futilities or idle questions that display neither respect for them nor any real desire to learn, and even less to think they would come to put on a show to entertain the curious. If they did not do such things during their lifetime, they would not do so after their death.

44. Frivolous meetings result in attracting frivolous spirits who are looking for nothing else but the opportunity to deceive and mystify. For the same reason that serious individuals do not attend inconsequential gatherings, serious spirits attend only serious meetings, whose purpose is instruction and not curiosity. These are the types of meetings in which high order spirits enjoy providing their teachings.

45. The result of what we have stated so far is that in order to be worthwhile every Spiritist meeting must be serious and reverential as the number one condition. Everything must occur respectfully, religiously and honorably if its aim is to obtain the habitual concourse of good spirits. It must not be forgotten that if these same spirits were present at such meetings while incarnate, they would have been given the respect to which they are even more entitled after death.

46. It is useless to allege that certain curious, frivolous or recreational experiments would convince disbelievers; actually, just the opposite is the case. Disbelievers who are already Inclined to mock the most sacred beliefs cannot see something serious where entertainment is Involved. They cannot be led to respect something that is not: presented to them in a respectable manner; consequently, useless and frivolous meetings - those that display no order, seriousness or concentration, always leave a bad impression. What is most convincing, however, is the proof of the presence of those whose memory is dear to them. In light of their serious, solemn words and the intimate details they reveal, such disbelievers blanch and tremble with emotion. But because they have so much respect, admiration and fondness for the person

whose soul appears to them, they feel shocked and scandalized to see him or her come to a disrespectful gathering in the midst of dancing tables and the comedic performances of thoughtless spirits. Disbelievers that they are, their minds reject such an alliance between the serious and the frivolous, the religious and the profane, and that is why they label the whole thing as trickery, and often leave even less convinced than when they came.

Meetings of this nature always do more harm than good because they keep more individuals away from the Doctrine than they lead to it, not to mention the fact that they open the way for detractors to find plenty of reasons to mock them.

47. It is a mistake to make a sport of physical manifestations; if such manifestations no longer carry the weight of a philosophical teaching, they nevertheless are useful from the phenomenological point of view because they represent the ABCs of the science, to which they have provided the key. Although they are not as useful as they once were, they still help to convince certain people. Even so, order and decency should not be excluded from meetings where experiments are performed. If such experiments were always performed appropriately, they would more easily convince disbelievers and would in every respect produce better results.


48. Some people have gotten a completely mistaken idea regarding evocations. There are those who believe they involve bringing back the dead with the morbid appearance of the grave. The little we have already stated so far should be enough to correct this error. Only in novels, ghost stories and plays are the discarnate dead seen to leave their graves dressed ridiculously in their burial shrouds and rattling their bones. Spiritism, which never performs miracles, has never produced anything of the sort and has never made a dead body come back to life; once the body is in the grave, it is there forever. But the fluidic, intelligent spirit being does not remain there wrapped in its coarse envelope; it disengages from it at the moment of death, and once the separation occurs, it has nothing more in common with it.

49. Malevolent criticism is pleased to represent spirit communications as involving the outlandish and superstitious practices of magic and necromancy. If those who speak of Spiritism without knowing anything about it had gone to the trouble of studying the subject, they would have spared themselves the trouble of wasting their imagination or making allegations that serve no other purpose than proving their ignorance and ill will. For the benefit of persons unfamiliar with the Spiritist science, we will state that there are neither days, times nor places that are more propitious than others for communicating with spirits; that neither formulas, sacramental or cabalistic words are needed to evoke them; that neither training nor initiation is needed; that no use of symbol or material object, whether to attract them or to repel them, is effective, and that thought alone is sufficient; and lastly, that mediums, without leaving their normal state, receive their communications as simply and as naturally as if they were dictated by incarnate persons. Only charlatanism could employ eccentric mannerisms and add ridiculous accessories.


Evoking spirits is done in God's name with respect and concentration: this is all that is recommended to serious persons who wish to communicate with serious spirits.


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