Although Spiritism also teaches the immortality of the soul and communication of the living with the dead, it differs from Spiritualism in its philosophy and practices.
Perhaps two of the leading spiritual groups in the world today that propagate the teaching about the continuity of life after death – and offer proof by communicating with the dead – are Spiritism and Spiritualism. But 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.
Brief History of Spiritism
Spiritism originated in France with the publication in 1857 of Le Livre des Esprits or The Spirits Book. The book was written by a French educator named Hippolyte Léon Dénizard Rivail under the pen name Allan Kardec. The book is said to be a collection of answers from highly intelligent spirit beings based on several questions painstakingly prepared by Kardec, and deals about spirits, the spiritual world, existence of God, relation between the spirit and material world, man’s destiny, morality and spiritual laws.
The publication of the The Spirits Book became an instant success in Europe and attracted many followers. Two years after its publication, Kardec formed the Parisian Society for Spiritist Studies which became a center for the study and practice of the Spiritist doctrine.
Kardec would later write Heaven and Hell, Genesis, Gospel According to Spiritism and Mediums’ Book – which would become, together with the The Spirits Book, the codification of the Spiritist doctrine. The translation of these books in several languages propagated Spiritism and attracted worldwide adherents to its teachings.
Definition and Philosophy of Spiritism
According to the Gospel According to Spiritism, Spiritism is the new science which has come to reveal to mankind by means of irrefutable proof the existence and nature of the spiritual world and its relation with the physical world. Spiritists, or followers of Spiritism, believe that death is not the end of life and man continues to live as a spirit being who can communicate with those living in this world. After death man retains his character and qualities in the spirit world. This knowledge makes man rearrange his values and priorities in life by becoming less materialistic and tending more toward spirituality.
Spiritists abide by the moral teachings of Jesus Christ as contained in the Gospels. Rather than seeing Jesus as a savior of humanity from its sins, they see him as an example of moral perfection to be emulated. Spiritism teaches that man is solely responsible for his conduct, be they good or bad.
Distinctions from Spiritualism
Spiritism also 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.
Spiritist groups are organized under the banner of the International Spiritist Council, which is based in Brazil.
Kardec, Allan. The Spirits Book (as Translated by Anna Blackwell). Rio de Janeiro: Federacao Espirita Brasileira, 1996.
Kardec, Allan. The Gospel According to Spiritism (as Translated by J.A. Duncan). Great Britain: The Headquarters Publishing Co., Ltd., 1987.
Spiritualism. June 29, 2009.
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