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definitions - Spiritism

spiritism (n.)

1.concern with things of the spirit

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Merriam Webster

SpiritismSpir"it*ism (?), n. Spiritualsm.

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Spiritism

                   

Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is a religion whose beliefs and practices are based on the works of Allan Kardec and others. Formed in France in the 19th century, it soon spread to other countries, but today the only country where it has a significant number of adherents is Brazil.

  Origins and geographic distribution

Spiritism is based on the five books of the Spiritist Codification written by French educator Hypolite Léon Denizard Rivail under the pseudonym Allan Kardec reporting séances in which he observed a series of phenomena that he attributed to incorporeal intelligence (spirits). His work was later extended by writers like Leon Denis, Jean-Baptiste Roustaing, Arthur Conan Doyle, Camille Flammarion, Gabriel Delanne, Ernesto Bozzano, Chico Xavier, Divaldo Pereira Franco, Waldo Vieira, Johannes Greber[1][unreliable source?] and others.

Spiritism has adherents in many countries throughout the world, including Spain, United States, Canada,[2] Japan, Germany, France, England, Argentina, Portugal and especially in American countries such as Cuba, Jamaica, and Brazil, which has among the largest proportion and greatest number of followers.[3]

  Claims of philosophy and science status

The fundamental principles of Spiritism, enunciated by Allan Kardec in his seminal work The Spirits Book, are: (i) A belief in the existence of spirits - non-physical beings that live in the invisible or spirit world - and (ii) the possibility of communication between these spirits and living people through mediumship. There is a clear difference between the terms "Spiritism" and "Spiritualism":

Although there are many similarities between the two, they differ in some fundamental aspects, particularly regarding man's quest toward spiritual perfection and the manner by which the followers of each practice their beliefs.

Spiritism teaches reincarnation or rebirth into human life after death. This basically distinguishes Spiritism from Spiritualism. According to the Spiritist doctrine, reincarnation explains the moral and intellectual differences among men. It also provides the path to man's moral and intellectual perfection by amending for his mistakes and increasing his knowledge in successive lives. For this reason Spiritism does not accept rebirth in animals as this would be retrogressive.

Finally, unlike Spiritualism, Spiritism is not a religious sect but a philosophy or a way of life by which its followers live by. Its followers have no priests or ministers and do not follow any religious rituals in their meetings. They also do not call their places of meetings as churches, and instead call them by various names such as centers, society or association. Their activities consist mainly of studying the Spiritist doctrine, applying spiritual healing to the sick and organizing charitable missions.

Kardec reaffirmed that on the cover of his "The Spirit's Book". Another author in the Spiritualist movement, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle included a chapter[4] about Spiritism in his book "History of Spiritualism" confirming that Spiritism is Spiritualist (but not vice-versa). As consequence, many Spiritualist works are widely accepted in Spiritism, particularly the works of scientists Sir William Crookes,[5] and Sir Oliver Lodge[citation needed]. Such works are more accepted in anglo-Saxon spiritist communities than in Latin-American ones, though.

In countries like Brazil the movement had spread and became widely accepted, mostly due to Chico Xavier's works. Today the official spiritist community has about 20 million adepts, though due to local syncretism, it is accepted and somehow practiced by three times as many across the country.

Allan Kardec refers to Spiritism in What is Spiritism? as a science dedicated to the relationship between incorporeal beings (spirits) and human beings. Thus, some spiritists see themselves as not adhering to a religion, but to a philosophical doctrine with a scientific fulcrum and moral grounds. On the other hand, many spiritists don't see any problem about embracing it as a religion as well.

The Spiritist moral principles are in agreement with the ones taught by Jesus (according to Kardec[6]). Other moral examples like Francis of Assisi, Paul the Apostle, Buddha and Gandhi are also sometimes considered by the spiritists. Spiritist philosophical inquiry is concerned with the study of moral aspects in the context of an eternal life in spiritual evolution through reincarnation, a process believers hold as revealed by Spirits. Sympathetic research on Spiritism by scientists can be found in the works of Sir William Crookes.

  Beliefs

Spiritism blends together notions taken from Christianity, Positivism and Platonism.

  Basic books

The basic doctrine of Spiritism ("the Codification") is defined in five books written and published by Allan Kardec during his life:

  1. The Spirits' Book—Defines the guidelines of the doctrine, covering points like God, Spirit, Universe, Man, Society, Culture, Morals and Religion.
  2. The Mediums' Book—Details the mechanics of the spiritual world, the processes involved in channeling spirits, techniques to be developed by mediums, etc.
  3. The Gospel According to Spiritism—Comments on the Gospels, highlighting passages that, according to Kardec, would show the ethical fundamentals shared by all religious and philosophical systems. This may be the first religious book to acknowledge the existence of life elsewhere in the Universe, based on Jesus' saying "The houses in the realm of my father are many" (John, 14, 1-3). It brings light for a better understanding of previous Christian texts, where it´s necessary, and complementary acknowledge at the moment in time that humanity has the necessary development and prepare to understand it.
  4. Heaven and Hell—A didactic series of interviews with spirits of deceased people intending to establish a correlation between the lives they lead and their conditions in the beyond.
  5. The Genesis According to Spiritism—Tries to reconcile religion and science, dealing with the three major points of friction between the two: the origin of the universe (and of life, as a consequence) and the concepts of miracle and premonition.

Kardec also wrote a brief introductory pamphlet (What is Spiritism?) and was the most frequent contributor to the Spiritist Review. His essays and articles would be posthumously collected into the aptly named tome Posthumous Works.

  Basic tenets

The five chief points of the doctrine are:

  1. There is a God, defined as "The Supreme Intelligence and Primary Cause of everything";
  2. There are Spirits, all of whom are created simple and ignorant, but owning the power to gradually perfect themselves;
  3. The natural method of this perfection process is reincarnation, through which the Spirit faces countless different situations, problems and obstacles, and needs to learn how to deal with them;
  4. As part of Nature, Spirits can naturally communicate with living people, as well as interfere in their lives;
  5. Many planets in the universe are inhabited.

The central tenet of Spiritist doctrine is the belief in spiritual life. The spirit is eternal, and evolves through a series of incarnations in the material world. The true life is the spiritual one; life in the material world is just a short-termed stage, where the spirit has the opportunity to learn and develop its potentials. Reincarnation is the process where the spirit, once free in the spiritual world, comes back to the world for further learning.

  Beliefs about Jesus

Jesus, according to Spiritism, is the greatest moral example for humankind, is deemed to have incarnated here to show us, through his example, the path that we have to take to achieve our own spiritual perfection. Therefore, Spiritism claims to be a Christian doctrine, claiming it is based on Jesus Christ's teachings, despite of having a different interpretation for them. The Gospels are reinterpreted in Spiritism; some of the words of Christ or his actions are clarified in the light of the spiritual phenomena (presented as law of nature, and not as something miraculous).

  Evolution and karma

Spiritist doctrine stresses the importance of spiritual evolution. According to this view, humanity is destined for perfection; there are other planets hosting more advanced life forms and happier societies, where the spirit has the chance to keep evolving both in the moral and intellectual sense. Although not clear from Kardec's works, later spiritist writers elaborated on this point further, claiming humanity cannot detect more advanced life forms on other planets, as they are living in a slightly different plane, in the same way the spiritual plane is superimposed over this plane.

  Mediumship

The communication between the spiritual world and the material world happen all the time, but to various degrees. Some people barely sense what the spirits tell them in an entirely instinctive way, and are not aware about their influence, while others have greater cognizance of their guidance. The so-called mediums have these natural abilities highly developed, and are able to communicate with the spirits and interact with them by several means: listening, seeing, or writing through spiritual command (also known by Kardecists as psychography or automatic writing). Direct manipulation of physical objects by spirits is not possible; for it to happen the spirits need the help (voluntary or not) of mediums with particular abilities for physical effects.

  Psychography

Psychography is a technique for "channeling" written messages from what is believed to be a disembodied spirit. The usual approach to psychography is to relate it to a special ability, innate or developed, called medianimity.

  Types of psychography

The most extensive treatise on psychography is Allan Kardec's Mediums' Book, one of the works comprised in the Spiritist Codification. Kardec recognises two basic types of psychography: indirect and direct.

  Indirect psychography

This type of psychography depends on a material device, like an Ouija board, operated by one or more persons. This type is cumbersome and not useful for large communications, frequently producing gibberish.

  Direct psychography

Direct psychography is the most conventional type, in which a person, the medium, writes under the alleged influence of the spirit. It is called "direct" because the relationship between the medium(s) and the spirit is not by means of any mechanical device.

This type depends on medianimity alone and is subdivided into five subtypes, depending on how the spirit's message is committed to paper:

  Mechanical psychography

In which the spirit takes control of the medium's arm and writes independently from his awareness (the medium may pass the time paying attention to something else while his arm writes autonomously). Considered to be the most reliable and extraordinary type. Communications thus obtained are thought to be completely free from the interference of the medium's conscience.

  Semi-mechanical psychography

In which the medium writes keeps relative control of his limb, but still feels a foreign influence on its movement. Unlike mechanical psychography, the medium knows all that is being written and can stop to rest or to turn the page whenever he sees fit. Reliability is almost as high as in mechanical psychography. Chico Xavier was purportedly this type of medium.

  Intuitive psychography

In which the spirit communicates with the inner self of the medium (subconscious), resulting in him writing what is on his mind, though it is something different from what the medium would normally think. Sentences come formed, but the medium can amend them with richer vocabulary or a better syntax before writing them down. This is the most common type, but is less reliable and is usually marred by the interference of the medium's conscience.

  Inspirational psychography

In which the medium receives vague notions in his mind, which he will write in his own words. This type of psychography is very difficult to tell apart from the regular thinking process, especially in people with a literary talent (a careless analysis would have most writers fall into this category).

  Spiritist practice

Kardec's works do not establish any rituals or formal practices. Instead, the doctrine suggests that followers adhere to some principles regarded as common to all religions. The religious experience within spiritism is, therefore, largely informal. The exception to this is The National Spiritist Church of Alberta. This Church (which is fully recognized by the government as a religious denomination) has a Holy Communion Worship Service and a Marriage Ceremony in addition to the more standard Kardecist study groups.

  Meetings

The most important types of practices within Spiritism are:

  • Regular Meetings - with a regular schedule, usually on evenings, two or three times a week. They involve a short lecture on some subject followed by some interactive participation of the attendants. These meetings are open to anyone.
  • Medium Meetings - usually held after a regular meeting, only those deemed prepared or "in need" of it are expected to attend.
  • Youth and Children's Meetings - once a week, usually on Saturday afternoons or Sunday mornings, are the Spiritist equivalent to Christian Sunday schools.
  • Healing
  • Lectures - longer, in-depth lectures on subjects thought to be "of general interest" which are held on larger rooms, sometimes at theatres or ballrooms, so that more people can attend. Lecturers are often invited from far away centers.
  • Special Meetings - special séances held in relative discretion which try to conduct some worthy work on behalf of those in need
  • Spiritist Week and Book fairs.
  • Church Services (in the case of The National Spiritist Church of Alberta - in Canada)

  Organization

Spiritism is not seen as a religion by some of its followers because it doesn't endorse formal adoration, require regular frequency or formal membership and claims not to be opposed to science, instead trying to harmonize with it. There are exceptions, though, as in the country of Canada, where The National Spiritist Church of Alberta is a government-recognized religious denomination. For a large part of its followers, the description of Spiritism is three-fold: science, for its studies on the mechanisms of mediumship; philosophy, for its theories on the origin, meaning and importance of life; and religion, for its guidance on a Christian behavior which will bring spiritual and moral evolution to mankind. It should be noted, though, that there's no acceptance to Spiritism in mainstream science and that its belief system fits with the definition of religion (that doesn't include regular frequency, membership, formal adoration).[citation needed]

Spiritism is practiced in different types of associations (including a Church format in Canada) formal or not, which can have local, regional, national or international scope.

Local organizations are usually called Spiritist centres or Spiritist societies. Regional and national organizations are called "federations", as the Federação Espírita Brasileira[7] and the Federación Espírita Española,[8] while international organizations are termed "unions", such as the Union Spirite Française et Francophone.[9]

Spiritist centres (or Church in Canada) (especially in Brazil) are also often active book publishers and promoters of Esperanto.

  History

Spiritism shares its roots with many other religions and denominations, mainly Christianity and Western traditions. It is unknown the extent of the influence of Hinduism, Buddhism and Shamanism over the doctrinal aspects of Spiritism, as set by Allan Kardec because the mentions of such religions are sparse in all his works. Kardec, however, acknowledges the influence of Socrates and Plato, Jesus and Francis of Assisi;[citation needed].

  Precursors

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, 75, holding the manuscript of Apocalypsis Revelata (1766).

About this sound Emanuel Swedenborg ( Swedberg) (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.

  Fox sisters

  Fox sisters, left to right: Margaret, Kate, Leah

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 or psychography, 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.

Allan Kardec first became interested in Spiritism when he learned of the Fox sisters, but his first contact with what would become the doctrine was by means of talking boards. Some of the earlier parts of his Spirits' Book were channeled this way.

  Franz Mesmer

  Franz Anton Mesmer

Franz Anton Mesmer (May 23, 1734 – March 5, 1815) discovered what he called magnétisme animal (animal magnetism) and others often called mesmerism. The evolution of Mesmer's ideas and practices led Scottish surgeon James Braid (1795–1860) to develop hypnotism in 1841.

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.

  Recent history of Spiritism

  Chico Xavier

Francisco Cândido Xavier (April 2, 1910 - June 30, 2002) was a popular medium in Brazil´s spiritism movement who wrote more than 400 books and about 10 thousand letters to family members of deceased people, ostensibly using psychography. His books sold millions of copies, all of which had their proceeds entirely donated to charity.

They included books on poetry, novels, and even scientific treatises. Some of which are considered by Brazilian spiritist followers to be fundamental for the comprehension of the practical and theoretical aspects of Allan Kardec's doctrine. One of his most famous, The Astral City, which details one experience after dying, is available as a free e-book from the Spiritist Group of New York online.

Chico Xavier appeared on Brazilian television several times, contributing to the rise of spiritism in Brazil.

  Spiritism in popular culture

Despite being little known by the American population at large; many works or art contain allusions to facts, circumstances and concepts that resemble some spiritist beliefs:

  Films

  • Chico Xavier, Brazilian film, casting Nelson Xavier and Ângelo Antônio. It was a box office success in Brazil. It tells history of the most famous Brazilian medium Chico Xavier.
  • Nosso lar, Nosso Lar ("Our Home") is a 2010 Brazilian drama film directed by Wagner de Assis, based on the novel of the same name by Francisco Cândido Xavier. The film is about the spiritual life after death and our home in another world. Distributed by 20th Century Fox and with a soundtrack composed by Philip Glass.

  Soap operas

In Brazil four soap operas have used the concepts of Spiritism. Terra Nostra included a subplot of a young man obsessed by the spirit of his mother's youth lover who had been killed by his grandfather.

  • "A Viagem" (The Journey), produced in 1976/77 by the extinct Tupi TV had a complex plot involving mediumship, death, obsession, reincarnation, etc. It was remade by Globo TV in 1994.
  • "Alma Gêmea" (Soulmate), produced in 2005/06 by the Rede Globo. This soap tells the story of a woman that dies and is reborn to find her soulmate again.
  • "O Profeta" (The Prophet), produced in 1977/78 also by Tupi TV and also remade by Globo TV (2006/07) included spiritism as one of the philosophies trying to explain the main character's gifts, including being able to predict the future.
  • "Duas Caras" (Two-Face), aired by Rede Globo in 2007/8, includes a character, named Ezekiel,[10] who is a born-again Christian challenged by manifestations of his mediumship.
  • "Escrito nas Estrelas" (Written in the Stars), ongoing as of July 2010, possesses numerous spiritist themes: reincarnation, spirit evolution, and mediumship.

  Criticisms

  Before World War I

Spiritism began attracting criticisms almost immediately once formulated. Kardec's own introductory book on Spiritism, What is Spiritism?, published only two years after The Spirits Book, includes a long dialogue between his persona and three idealized critics, "The Critic", "The Skeptic", and "The Priest", which as a whole summed up most of the criticism Spiritism has received since then: of being charlatanism, pseudoscience, heresy, anti-Catholic, witchcraft, and/or a form of Satanism. In further books and articles published in his periodical, the Revue Spirite, Kardec kept addressing these and other criticisms until his death in 1869.

Later, a new source of criticism came from Occultist movements such as the Theosophical Society, a competing new religion, which saw the Spiritist explanations as too simple or even naïve.[11]

  Interwar period

The interwar period saw the development of a new form of criticism towards Spiritism: René Guénon's influential book The Spiritist Fallacy, which 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 that is distinct from and opposed to its two western predecessors, metempsychosis and transmigration.[12]

  Post–World War II

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2117) one can read that "Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it". In Brazil, Catholic priests Dom Carlos José Boaventura Kloppenburg and Oscar González Quevedo, among others, have since the 1960s written extensively against Spiritism from both a doctrinal and parapsychologic perspective. Quevedo, in particular, has dedicated himself to show that Spiritism's claims of being a science are invalid, having not only written books on the subject[13] but also hosted paranormal debunking shows on television, the most recent of which a series that ran in 2000 on Globo's hugely popular Sunday prime time news show Fantástico.[14] Brazilian Spiritists, such as Dr. Hernani Guimarães Andrade, have in turn written rebuttals to these criticisms.[13]

Scientific skeptics also target Spiritism frequently in books, media appearances, and online forums, accusing it of being a pseudoscience. The ex-spiritist and medium Waldo Vieira, accepting this criticism but not the idea that it cannot become a science, left Spiritism to start a new, Spiritist-inspired movement called Projectiology.[15]

  See also

  References

  1. ^ Johannes Greber
  2. ^ In Canada, Spiritism is an officially recognized religious denomination (unique in the world) as The National Spiritist Church of Alberta (Church #A145 registered by Department of Vital Statistics, Government of Alberta - under The Marriage Act of Alberta) with government-licensed clergy and legal authority to perform marriages.
  3. ^ David Hess. Spirits and Scientists: Ideology, Spiritism, and Brazilian Culture, Pennsylvania State Univ Press, 1991
  4. ^ DOYLE, Arthur Conan. The History of Spiritualism. New York: G.H. Doran, Co. 1926
  5. ^ CROOKES, William. Researches on the Phenomena of Spiritualism, Burns, London 1874
  6. ^ Kardec, Allan, The Gospel Explained by the Spiritist Doctrine ISBN 0-9649907-6-8
  7. ^ FEB - Federação Espírita Brasileira - 2
  8. ^ Federación Espírita Española - Espiritismo
  9. ^ Redirection en htm
  10. ^ Duas Caras - BIOGRAFIA - Ezequiel
  11. ^ Blavatsky, H. P. (1875-02-16). "Letter to Prof. Hiram Corson". Some Unpublished Letters of H. P. Blavatsky. Theosophical University Press Online Edition. http://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/corson/cors-lt1.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-23. "In my eyes, Allan Kardec and Flammarion, Andrew Jackson Davis and Judge Edmonds, are but schoolboys just trying to spell their A B C and sorely blundering sometimes." 
  12. ^ Guénon, René (2004-06-25) [1923]. The Spiritist Fallacy. Collected Works of René Guénon. trans. Alvin Moore, Jr. and Rama P. Coomaraswamy. Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis Books. ISBN 0-900588-71-3. 
  13. ^ a b Machado, Dr. Fátima Regina. "Parapsicologia no Brasil: Entre a cruz e a mesa branca" (in Portuguese). Ceticismo Aberto. http://www.ceticismoaberto.com/paranormal/parapsicologia_brasil.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  14. ^ Guerrero, Cesar (2000-01-17). "Quevedo, o Mr. M de batina" (in Portuguese). IstoÉ Gente. Editora Três. http://www.terra.com.br/istoegente/24/reportagens/rep_quevedo.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  15. ^ Stoll, Sandra Jacqueline (2002). "Religião, ciência ou auto-ajuda? trajetos do Espiritismo no Brasil" (in Portuguese). Revista de Antropologia (São Paulo, Brazil: Departamento de Antropologia FFLCH/USP) 45 (2). DOI:10.1590/S0034-77012002000200003. 

  External links

  Websites

  Books

  Groups and societies

  Skeptical views

  • Channeling - at the Skeptics' Dictionary;
  • Medium - at the Skeptics' Dictionary;

   
               

 

All translations of Spiritism


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