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belief that the human personality continues to exist after death and can communicate with the living through the agency of a medium or psychic. The advocates of spiritism argue that death merely means a change of wavelength for those who die, and the medium is said to be able to receive radiations, frequencies, or vibrations that cannot be sensed by an ordinary person. Communication from the spirit world manifests itself in psychical phenomena (e.g., telepathy, clairvoyance, trance speaking, and apparitions) and in physical phenomena (e.g., levitation, automatic writing, and poltergeist and ectoplasmic activities). Ectoplasm is the mysterious visible substance in which the forces of the "other world" materialize. Closely related to the concept of the ectoplasm is the aura, a colored emanation that supposedly surrounds all individuals and that can be perceived by the medium. By noting variations in the hues of a person's aura, the medium is able to describe his personality, needs, and illnesses. The shriveling of the aura is considered a sign of an impending death. In what is known as solar plexus voice mediumship, a spirit appears to speak through a medium's body. Modern spiritism in the United States dates from the activities of the Fox sistersFox sisters,
family of American spiritualists including Margaret, 1836–93, Leah, 1814–90, and Catherine, 1841–92. In 1848, Margaret and Catherine claimed to hear mysterious rappings in their Arcadia, N.Y., home.
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 in 1848. Such notable figures as Andrew Jackson Davis, Daniel Dunglas Home, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and Arthur Conan Doyle later became widely known spiritualists. The Society for Psychical Research has carried on investigations with some phenomena, mainly in connection with telepathy and apparitions, in hopes of finding scientific explanations for various spiritualistic occurrences (see parapsychologyparapsychology,
study of mental phenomena not explainable by accepted principles of science. The organized, scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena began with the foundation (1882) of the Society for Psychical Research in London.
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See A. F. Schrenck von Notzing, Phenomena of Materialization (1920); Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, History of Spiritualism (1926); Sir Oliver Lodge, Phantom Walls (1930); S. E. White, The Unobstructed Universe (repr. 1959); G. K. Nelson, Spiritualism and Society (1969); S. Brown, The Heyday of Spiritualism (1970).

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Spiritism; Spiritist

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Spiritism is the French form of Spiritualism that was developed and promoted by Allan Kardec (Leon-Denizard-Hippolyte Rivail—1804–1869).

Kardec was a member of the Society of Magnetism, which led to his investigation of somnambulism, trance, clairvoyance, and similar phenomena. In 1850, the phenomenon of table tipping came to France. Kardec recognized it as an important step in the communication between the worlds of the living and the dead. However, he was not himself a medium and so had to rely on others for all of his information. He was encouraged by the spirits to publish his findings. The title given to his first book of spirit teachings (again on the advice of the spirits themselves) was Le Livre des Esprits or The Spirits’ Book (1857). The book sold extremely well throughout France and across the Continent. From later material, Kardec published The Mediums’ Book (1861), which came to rank right alongside its precursor.

One of the teachings received by Kardec was the acknowledgement of reincarnation as a fact. This was—as it still is, with Spiritualists—a controversial subject. Kardec made a point of publishing only views that agreed with his acceptance of reincarnation. He also dismissed such things as physical mediumship, totally ignoring such famous physical mediums as Daniel Dunglas Home, for example, because Home did not believe in reincarnation.

Over the years Kardec’s influence faded in his native France but flourished in South America—especially Brazil—and, to a lesser extent, in the Philippines. Kardec had adopted the terms “Spiritism” and “Spiritist” for his version of Spiritualism. These terms were used in South America along with the term “Kardecism” (Kardecismo). Today in Brazil there are Kardecist/Spiritist psychiatric hospitals in operation and fully accepted. The Instituto Brasileiro de Pesquisas Psicobiofisic, or the Brazilian Institute of Psycho-Biophysical Research, collects and studies Spiritist works. It was founded in 1963 by Hernani Andrade.

According to Guy Lion Playfair (The Flying Cow, 1975), “Members of Kardecist centres tend to come from the upper and middle classes, and they may be federal and state deputies, city mayors, police chiefs, surgeons, lawyers, bank managers, engineers, doctors—in fact, members of any profession you care to name.” He also makes the point that Spiritists may also be Spiritualists but the reverse may not be true. Playfair said, “Followers of umbanda and candomblé may loosely be termed Spiritists as well, but when a Brazilian declares himself to be an espírita, he means that he is a believer in Kardecist Spiritism.”


Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen: The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts On File, 1992
Kardec, Allen: The Spirits’ Book. (1857) New York: Studium, 1980
Playfair, Guy Lion: The Flying Cow: Research into Paranormal Phenomena in the World’s Most Psychic Country. London: Souvenir Press, 1975
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
It is, however, quite clear, as is evident from the essay entitled Spiritism and spiritists (1869), that Brownson believed in the existence of a spiritual world and in the reality of superhuman agencies that humans are incapable of perceiving.
Over the course of the twentieth century, such Spiritist esoteric beliefs as evolutionary reincarnation have been used first by members of the Puerto Rican elite in their plans for modernization, and then successively undermined as anti-modern superstition, reframed as a Puerto Rican "folk" practices of brujeria and curanderismo.
In both Barrancas and Santiago city I met specialists who treated clients with a mixture of Vodu practices taught to them by their Haitian fathers and Spiritist philosophies cherished by their Cuban mothers.
CooperRiis is not connected with the spiritist movement, nor is the international Soteria movement, offering gentle in-patient treatment for schizophrenia, or the American Residential Treatment Association "safe homes" for the mentally ill.
In the same vein, Spiritists regard Christ as a highly enlightened being who achieved this state after undergoing several incarnations.
They contributed to lessening of concubinage, and their influence kept Protestants and spiritists from taking hold in the barrios.
While he makes it clear enough that these leaders never closed the deal on their claims to authority, we learn little of the experiences or agendas of female mediums, working-class male mediums, or the mass of seance-goers, and we learn more about how spiritist doctrines and rituals were intended than how they were received.
This includes quite different sorts of religions, for example Spiritists 82,288,290), Jehovah's Witnesses (1,104,886 members) and the African-syncretistic religions (525,013 members).
Betteredge, the butler-narrator in Wilkie Collins's Moonstone, consults Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe much in the way that New Age spiritists consult the I-Ching, as a guide to future actions in difficult circumstances.
In April 2003, legal representatives of Umbanda and Candomble spiritist groups sued two Christian Evangelicals for violating the "hate crime" law by distributing evangelistic tracts that allegedly disparaged Iemanja, an African deity, and for proselytizing spiritists at their annual festival in Praia Grande.