On par with Judaism with 14.7 million adherents, we move to Spiritism with 15 million. Estimates vary with up to 40 million in Brazil alone. This discrepancy can be due to how the localized beliefs and practices are defined by the tabulators.
There are many online sources describing Spiritism. There are many parallels to the New Age movement as well. A comparison of the two topics shows many identical concepts and teachings.
Spiritism was founded in 1850 by French educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail. He wrote under the pen name Allan Kardec about the nature, origin, and destiny of spirits. He also described their relationship to the corporeal world. This perspective was derived from his observations of seances. Rather than an originator of the concepts, he is considered the “codifier” of the concepts.
Is Spiritism a religion or a secular philosophy? When I question which word to use, I go to Merriam-Webster. From there we get a broad definition of religion: “the service and worship of a god, of multiple gods, or of the supernatural”, or “a system of beliefs”. [“Religion.” Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Link. Accessed 10 Jun. 2022.]
As before we will break this religion/philosophy down into its key points.
Not a Religion: Allen Kardec posthumously said, “Spiritism is a philosophical doctrine with religion effects, as is any spiritualist philosophy, because it inevitably reaches to the roots of all religions: God, soul, and future life. But it is not a constituted religion, since it has no services, no rituals, no temples, and no one among its adherents received the title of priest or high priest.” [Source 5. Is Spiritism a religion?]
According to Brazil Selection Travel, the true adherents to Spiritism numbers at 6 million while 20 million more call themselves sympathizers. This puts Spiritism in third place in the rankings of religions in Brazil following Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. [Source]
Essence of Being: Life consists of immortal spirits that temporarily inhabit physical bodies for several necessary incarnations. Life in the material world can communicate with the spiritual world. While everyone has some sense of this communication, it is primarily through gifted individuals called mediums that cogent communication occurs.
All spirits are created simple and ignorant, but they own the power to gradually perfect themselves. The disembodied spirits may influence embodied spirits in beneficent or malevolent ways. Spirits exert an incessant action upon the moral world, acting on both matter and thought. We are led to the right road by good spirits and to evil actions by the bad spirits.
The Human Soul: The soul is the essence of each being, spiritual or material. The soul possesses its own individuality before its incarnation into the material world. It also retains its individuality after separating from the body.
The Purpose of Life: Through numerous incarnations, the spirit learns how to face countless problems and obstacles. Dealing with these problems leads to moral and intellectual improvement. Unlike other religions that believe in successive incarnations of the spirit, Spiritism believes each incarnation is progressive and never retrograde. Each incarnation brings the individual closer to a state of ultimate perfection. All individuals are encouraged to express free will. Ideas and morals should never be imposed on people. Ideas and morals should be taught so each individual can freely choose to accept or reject them.
Devotion: This is a philosophical act in Spiritism. There is a constant need to investigate the world around us through science. Making sense of these findings is philosophy. Religion, then, is applying this understanding to everyday life in order to improve ourselves and the world around us.
Prayer is also seen as a “way of expressing adoration to God. Prayer makes us better human beings.” [Source]
Character and Conduct: The higher spirits possess a moral teaching like the gospel maxim, “Do unto others as you would have others do to you.” In each incarnation, we grow closer to this ideal.
God and His Creation: God is described as “the Supreme Intelligence and Primary Cause of everything.” Therefore, all souls were created by him as unique, immortal individuals. While God is the first cause of all things, Spiritism is an evolution-affirming religion. God created all matter in the universe but its organization occurred through evolution. They believe many planets in the universe are inhabited. Goodness, right living, and perfection come from God. The spirit must choose God’s ways to ultimately achieve its own perfection. Evil is the result of choosing actions contrary to the laws of God.
Revelation: While the concepts embedded in Spiritism were codified by Allan Kardec, the revelation of knowledge is from the disembodied spirits through spiritual mediums. This may be transmitted verbally or through automatic writing. [Source]
Spiritism relies on the information contained in five books written by Allan Kardec. He is purported to have used scientific methods to question the spirits through mediums throughout Europe. He provided questions to the mediums/spirits and compared the responses from various locations. It was this information, along with personal observations, that he organized into the books. [Source]
Spiritism also uses the moral code of the Christian Bible as a source of right living.
Nature: Plants and animals evolved as commonly asserted by evolutionary science.
The State of Civilization: We are all changing from simple and ignorant to intelligent and perfect. Spirits move towards perfection through life in a physical body. Therefore, we should choose to do good to aid in that growth process.
Life After Death: Life continues forever. Once the spirit attains perfection, it is able to commune perfectly with God.
Summary: Spiritism is the belief that our material world is a proving grounds for the spirit. Each spirit has a soul that defines the individuality of a person/spirit. We can be taught by spirits to do good or to do evil. It is our free will to choose how we live our life. We will continue to be reincarnated until we achieve the point of moral perfection.
Spiritism claims to be separate from occultism. However, it does this through definition, not experience. The “spiritist.us” website uses the verb definition of occult, “to hide from sight; to conceal”. The noun according to Merriam-Webster is “something mysterious or supernatural”. In this respect, to most of us, communicating with spirits is “something mysterious or supernatural”. Utilizing the power and help of these spirits is usually associated with occult practices. Spiritism believes we are influenced by spirits and, as mentioned before, have power over the material world.
Please comment. In WordPress, I can see how many people view my posts. And I appreciate your views. I suspect many of you have web sites of your own. Do you learn from comments how to best serve your audience? That is what I hope for from you. Keep reading.