Spiritism is defined as “a progressive body of knowledge which studies the nature, origin and destiny of spirits as well as their physical relationship to the world.”
Allan Kardec was born Léon-Dénizarth-Hippolyte Rivailwas at Lyons in 1804, the member of an old family of Bourg-en-Bresse. His father and grandfather were barristers of good standing and high character. Kardec was educated at the Institution of Pestalozzi, at Yverdun (Canton de Vaud). He had a passion for teaching, and devoted himself to helping his fellow students by the age of 14. He was most interested in botany and spent much of his time in the mountains in search of specimens for his herbarium.
After finishing at Yverdun, he returned to Lyons. Instead of pursuing law, he purchased a school for boys where he offered courses in Chemistry, Physics, Anatomy and Astronomy. He published many educational books in the 1830s and 40s and was a member of several learned societies.
His interest in science lead to investigations into magnetism, trance, clairvoyance and other psychic phenomena. When table-turning became popular in the 1850s, he became interested in the nature of the “spiritist” phenomena. A friend of his had two daughters who we mediums. Usually their messages were gay and lively. But when Kardec attended their seances, the conversation grew serious. He was told that “spirits of a much higher order than those who habitually communicated through the two young mediums came expressly for him, and would continue to do so, in order to enable him to fulfill an important religious mission.”
He asked the mediums to meet with him twice a week so he could question the spirits. The girls consented, and brought forth answers from the spirit world through table-rapping and planchette-writing. The replies, which were little understood by the mediums, continued for two years and became the basis for Kardec’s spiritist theory.
Kardec said to his wife, “It is a most curious thing! My conversations with the invisible intelligences have completely revolutionized my ideas and convictions.”
The spirits instructed him to write a book and publish under the pseudonym, Allan Kardec. It was entitled: Le Livre des Esprits (The Spirits’ Book). When published in 1857, it became very popular, making converts not only in France, but all over the Continent. The name of Allan Kardec became a household word.
Soon after its publication, he founded The Parisian Society of Psychologic Studies for the purpose of obtaining instructions through mediums to elucidate truth and duty. He also founded and edited a monthly magazine, entitled La Revue Spirite, Journal of Psychologic Studies. Similar associations were soon formed all over the world. Many of these published periodicals in support of the new doctrine, and all of them transmitted to the Parisian Society the most remarkable of the spirit-communications received by them.
From the materials furnished to him from around the globe, he enlarged and completed The Spirits’ Book, Revised Edition in 1857. Kardec himself would go on to edit and publish four other books through this cooperation with the spirit world before passing in 1869: The Mediums’ Book (1861), The Gospel According to Spiritism (1864), Heaven and Hell (1865), and The Genesis (1868).
Thousands visited Kardec, including many with high rank in the social, literary, artistic, and scientific worlds. The Emperor Napoleon III., who was interested in spiritist-phenomena, sent for him several times to discuss his book.
Suffering from heart disease, in 1869 Allan Kardec drew up the plan of a new spiritist organization that would carry on the work after his death. To this society, which was to be called “The Joint Stock Company for the Continuation of the Works of Allan Kardec,” he intended to bequeath the copyright of his spiritist writings and of the Revue Spirite.
On the 31st of March 1869, after he finished drawing up the constitution and rules of the society, he was seated in his usual chair at his study-table. He quickly passed from the earth to the spirit-world.