Allan Kardec—Pioneer of Spiritism
By Awake! correspondent in Brazil
“I AM a Kardecist.” Time and again Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brazil hear these words as they make their house-to-house visits. Many will tell the Witnesses in a friendly way: “I read the gospel according to spiritism. You know—Allan Kardec!” Almost always a cordial and lively discussion ensues.
But who is Allan Kardec? Most English-language encyclopedias have no entry under that name, yet to countless hundreds of thousands he is a pioneer and codifier of spiritism in its modern form. His writings are accepted as expressions of supernatural powers—particularly in Brazil, where his books enjoy a wide distribution.
The Grande Enciclopédia Delta Larousse and the Enciclopédia Mirador Internacional, two well-known encyclopedias in the Portuguese language, tell us that Allan Kardec is the pseudonym of the French writer Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, who lived from 1804 to 1869. Born in Lyons, at the age of ten he was sent to be educated in Switzerland where he became a pupil of the educational reformer Pestalozzi. The year 1824 found him in Paris, where he dedicated himself to teaching activities and, in time, became a member of France’s Royal Academy of Natural Science.
In the year 1854, Rivail was introduced to a popular mid-19th century pastime: attempts to communicate with disembodied spirits. The next year, he witnessed the phenomena of revolving tables and mediumistic writing. He became convinced of the existence of a spirit realm inhabited by the immortal souls of the human dead and of the possibility of communicating with them. Unseen spirit forces wasted no time in making use of him as their instrument.
His “familiar spirit” informed him that in a previous existence, in the time of the Druids, he had lived in Gaul and that his name had then been Allan Kardec. Furthermore, the spirits announced through mediums that “the times fixed by Providence for a universal manifestation had arrived and that, as ministers of God and agents of his will, it [was] their responsibility to instruct and enlighten men, opening up a new era for the regeneration of Humanity.”
Deeply impressed by all of this, Rivail set to work to put in order a vast array of mediumistic writings supplied to him by his spiritist friends. He began to attend séances regularly, always prepared with a series of questions that were answered through mediums in a “precise, profound and logical manner.” All this material, duly “proofread” by the “Spirit of truth” acting through a medium, was published in 1857 in his first book O Livro dos Espíritos (The Book of Spirits), under the name Allan Kardec.
From the beginning, Rivail made it clear “that the Spirits, being merely the souls of men, have neither supreme knowledge nor supreme wisdom; that their intelligence depends upon the progress they have made and that their opinion is nothing more than personal opinion.” Throughout his mediumistic writings, he makes mention of superior and inferior spirits, good and bad spirits, lesser spirits, evil and rebellious spirits, wandering spirits, vulgar spirits, and mendacious spirits. These present themselves to mediums with well-known names such as Socrates, Julius Caesar, Augustine, Charlemagne, George Washington, Mozart, and Napoleon. In his book What Spiritism Is, Rivail also admits that some spirits are “liars, fraudulent, hypocrites, evil and vindictive,” and capable of uncouth language.
Why, then, should humans bother to study spiritism? Rivail answered: “To prove, materially, the existence of the spiritual world.” But this was hardly necessary. Thousands of years before Rivail, believers in the Bible have been aware of the existence of such a spiritual realm.
The God that Christians worship is the Supreme Spirit. Jesus himself said: “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Christians who serve this God wholeheartedly experience his influence in their lives and have no doubt at all of his existence. Christians are also aware of the existence of other spirits—Jesus Christ and his holy angels, angels who do the will of God.
According to the publishers of a Portuguese edition of Rivail’s book, “the part played by The Book of Spirits is that of helping all other religions to consolidate the belief in the immortality of the soul.”
But it is impossible for this claim to be correct. The Bible states that the human soul is not immortal. “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) The Bible also contains the stern warning: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.”—Ezekiel 18:4.
Who, then, were the spirits that Rivail contacted? There is only one possible answer: These spirits must belong to another part of the spirit realm—the demons. This is how the disciple Jude describes the demons: “The angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place.” (Jude 6) Yes, they are angels who rebelled against God.
Consequently, in the Law God gave to Israel, he strictly forbade the Israelites to have any contacts with mediums such as those that Rivail had. (Leviticus 19:31) The fact that their language may sometimes have been beautiful, expressing noble ideas, changes nothing. The apostle Paul warns: “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.”—2 Corinthians 11:14.
[Blurb on page 27]
Some spirits are “liars, fraudulent, hypocrites, evil and vindictive,” and capable of uncouth language
[Picture on page 26]
Allan Kardec, used by unseen spirit forces