Piérart, Z. J.

Piérart, Z. J. (?–1878)

(pop culture)

French psychical researcher on vampirism Z. J. Piérart emerged into prominence in the 1850s as spiritualism swept across France. Under the leadership of Alan Kardec, French spiritualism became the first branch of the movement to accept reincarnation as part of its belief system. Piérart became the leader of the smaller opposition group of spiritualists that did not accept the idea. A professor at the College of Maubeuge, he founded a spiritualist journal, La Revue Spiritualiste, in 1858.

Piérart’s rejection of reincarnation led directly to his consideration of vampires. Spiritualists in general had argued against reincarnation as they claimed to be in contact with the spirits of the dead—even those who had been dead for many years—an impossibility if the spirit had been reincarnated and lost its former earthly identity.

Piérart became interested in the problem of psychic attack. In a series of articles, he proposed a theory of psychic vampirism suggesting that vampires were the astral bodies (the ghostly double of the spiritual body that spiritualists had proposed as an essential component of each person and one cause of ghostly apparitions of the dead) of either incarcerated individuals or the dead that were revitalizing themselves on the living. He first proposed the idea that the astral body was forcefully ejected from the body of a person buried alive, and that it vampirized the living to nourish the body in the tomb.

While Piérart’s theories had some predecessors, especially sixteenth-century Paracelsus, his work pioneered modern psychical concern with the phenomenon of vampirism. It opened the discussion of the possibility of a paranormal draining of an individual’s energy by a spiritual agent. It would later be further developed by Theosophist Franz Hartmann.

Piérart’s work also preceded the development of psychical research as a science and his work was soon superseded by more detailed considerations of the nature of ghosts and theories of astral (body) projection. In 1873, Piérart’s journal was suppressed by the French government responding to clerical pressure against spiritualism. He spent his last years as the secretary to Baron du Potet de Sennevoy, who had pioneered research on animal magnetism.

Sources:

Melton, J. Gordon, ed. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. 5th ed. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 2001.
Rogo, Scott. “In-depth Analysis of the Vampire Legend.” Fate 21, 9 (September 1968): 70–7.
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