ALLAN KARDEC (Hyppolite-Léon-Denizard Rivail). Founder of the Doctrine known as Spiritism, born in Lyon on October 3rd in 1804, originating in Bourg en Bresse, of the Ain department. Although son and grandson of lawyers, and from an old family that distinguished itself in the magistracy and the tribunals, he did not pursue a career in this field; he dedicated himself early on to the study of science and philosophy. A student of Pestalozzi, in Switzerland, he became one of the eminent disciples of this celebrated pedagogue, and one of the propagators of his educational system, which exercised great influence on the educational reform in France and Germany. It was in this school that the ideas which were to place him later on in the class of men of progress and free thinkers were developed.
Born in the catholic religion, but raised in a protestant nation, the acts of intolerance which he suffered regarding this caused him to conceive, from the age of fifteen, the idea of a religious reform, in which he worked in silence for several years, with the aim to attain the unification of beliefs; but the indispensable element to the solution of this great problem was missing.
Spiritism came later on to provide him this missing element and imprint a special direction to his works. Around 1850, when regarding the manifestation of spirits, Allan Kardec plunged himself into persistent observations concerning these phenomena, and dedicated himself mainly to deduce the philosophical consequences from it. He distinctly saw primarily the principle of new natural laws: the ones which rule the relations of the visible world and the invisible world; he recognized in the action of the latter one of the forces of nature, whose knowledge should shine a light on a quantity of problems considered insoluble, and he understood its reach from a scientific, social, and religious point of view. His seminal works regarding this subject are: The Spirits’ Book, for the philosophical portion, which its first edition was released on April 18th of 1857; The Mediums’ Book, for the experimental and scientific portion (January of 1861); The Gospel according to Spiritism, for the moral portion (April of 1864); Heaven and Hell, or the Justice of God according to Spiritism (August of 1865); the Spiritist Magazine, journal of psychological studies, a monthly collection which began on January 1st of 1858. He founded in Paris, on April 1st of 1858, the first Spiritist society regularly constituted with the name Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies, whose exclusive objective is the study of all that can contribute to the progress of this new science.
Allan Kardec defends himself of having written something regarding the influence of preconceived or systematic ideals; a man of a cool and calm character, he observed the phenomena and deduced the laws which govern them; he was the first to provide a theory to these laws and form a methodical and regular body. Demonstrating that the falsely qualified facts of the supernatural are subject to laws, he places them in the order of natural phenomena and with this he demolishes the last refuge of the wonderful and one of the elements of superstition. During the first few years which concerned Spiritist phenomena these manifestations were more an object of curiosity than a subject of serious meditations; The Spirits’ Book caused it to be considered from an entirely different aspect; therefore the turning tables were abandoned, which were only a prelude, and adhered itself to the body of a Doctrine that encompasses all of the questions pertinent to mankind.
From the arrival of The Spirits’ Book arose the true foundation of Spiritism, which, hitherto, possessed only uncoordinated sparse elements, and whose reach could not be comprehended by the entire world; from this moment on the doctrine also contained the attention of serious men and thus quickly developed. In a few years these ideas found innumerous adherents in all classes of society and in all countries. This unprecedented success is owed without a doubt to the sympathy with which these ideas were received, but it is also due in great part to its clarity, which is one of the distinctive characters of Allan Kardec’s writings.
There is no unshakable faith besides that one which can go face to face with reason in all ages of mankind. A base is necessary for faith, and this base is the perfect intelligence of what should be believed; it is not enough to see to believe, it must above all be understood.
Abstaining from abstract metaphysical formulas, the author knew how to place it within reach of the whole world and for it to be read without fatigue, an essential condition for the vulgarization of an idea. Regarding all controversial points, its argumentation, of a concrete logic, offers little occasion for refutation, and predisposes conviction. The material proofs that Spiritism gives of the existence of the soul and of the future life tend towards the destruction of materialistic and pantheistic ideas. One of the most fertile principles of this Doctrine, which arises from the foregoing, is of the plurality of existences, already foretold by ancient and modern philosophers, and recently by Jean Reynaud, Charles Fourier, Eugene Sue and others; but it remains in a state of hypothesis and a system, while Spiritism demonstrates its reality, and proves that this is one of the essential attributes of mankind. From this principle follows the solution to all apparent anomalies of human life, of all intellectual inequalities, moral and social; in this way man knows where he comes from, where he is going, for what end is he on earth, and why he suffers. Innate ideas explain themselves through the knowledge acquired in previous lives; the ascendant march of the peoples and of mankind, through the men of past times that return after having progressed; the sympathies and antipathies, through the nature of previous relations; these relations, which connect the great human family of all eras, provide the very base of the natural laws, and no longer a theory, to the great principles of fraternity, equality, liberty and of universal solidarity. Beyond this, it touches directly upon religion, for the plurality of existences being the proof of the soul’s progress, this radically destroys the dogma of hell and eternal condemnation, incompatible with this progress; with this obsolete dogma the innumerous abuses which originated from them fall apart. Instead of the principle: Without the church there is no salvation, which sustains the division and animosity between different sects, and which causes so much bloodshed, Spiritism has as its maxim: Without charity there is no salvation, that is, equality of all men before God, tolerance, freedom of conscience and mutual benevolence. Instead of blind faith which annihilates freedom of thought, he says: There is no unshakable faith besides that one which can go face to face with reason in all ages of mankind. A base is necessary for faith, and this base is the perfect intelligence of what should be believed; it is not enough to see to believe, it must above all be understood. Blind faith no longer belongs to this century; well, the cause of the largest number of nonbelievers today is precisely the dogma of blind faith, because it wants to impose itself, and it demands the renunciation of one of the most precious faculties of man: logic and freewill. (The Gospel according to Spiritism.) The Spiritist doctrine, as it is enunciated in the works of Allan Kardec, contains within it the elements of a complete transformation of ideas, and the transformation of ideas forcefully brings those of society. From this point of view it deserves the attention of every men of progress. Already extending its influence to all civilized nations, it gives considerate importance to the personality of its founder, and it all seems to predict that, maybe in a near future, he will be labeled as one of reformers of the 19th century.
Source: Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel, par Maurice Lachâtre, Docks de la Librairie, 38 – Paris, 1866 & IPEAK.com.br (Instituto de Pesquisas Espíritas Allan Kardec)