Kardec, Allan (1804–1869)
The father of Spiritism, the French variation of Spiritualism,
distinguished primarily by its acceptance of reincarnaKapila
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
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tion. Kardec’s birth name was Hypolyte Léon Denizard Rivail.
The pseudonym originated in mediumistic communications.
Both Allan and Kardec were said to have been his names in previous
incarnations. He was born on October 3, 1804, at Lyon
and studied at Yverdun, Switzerland, eventually becoming a
doctor of medicine.
The story of his first investigations into spirit manifestations
is somewhat obscure. Le Livre des Esprits (The Spirits’ Book),
which expounds a new theory of human life and destiny, was
published in 1856. According to an article by Alexander Aksakof
in The Spiritualist in 1875, the book was based on trance
communications received through Celina Bequet, a professional
somnambulist. For family reasons she took the name Celina
Japhet and, controlled by the spirits of her grandfather, M.
Hahnemann, and Franz Mesmer, gave out medical advice
under this name. In her automatic scripts the spirits communicated
the doctrine of reincarnation.
In 1857 Le Livre des Esprits was issued in a revised form and
later was published in more than 20 editions. It became the recognized
textbook of Spiritistic philosophy in France. It has
been translated into many different languages and has had an
enormous influence in Brazil, where Kardec has been commemorated
on postage stamps, and has an estimated 3,000
temples.
Spiritism differs from Spiritualism in that it is built on the
main tenet that spiritual progress is effected by a series of compulsory
reincarnations. Kardec became so dogmatic on this
point that he always disparaged physical mediumship in which
the objective phenomena did not bear out his doctrine. He encouraged
automatic writing, where there was less danger of
contradiction stemming from the psychological influence of
preconceived ideas. As a consequence, experimental psychical
research was retarded for many years in France.
Several French physical mediums were never mentioned in
La Revue Spirite, the monthly magazine Kardec founded in
1858. Nor did the Society of Psychologic Studies, of which he
was president, devote attention to them. C. Brédif, a heralded
physical medium, acquired celebrity only in St. Petersburg.
Kardec even ignored the important mediumship of D. D.
Home after the medium declared himself to be against reincarnation.
Kardec died March 31, 1869, in Paris.
In England, Anna Blackwell was the most prominent exponent
of Kardec’s philosophy. She translated his books into English
and helped get them published. In 1881 a three-volume
work, The Four Gospels, about the esoteric aspect of the Gospels,
was published in London.
Sources
Kardec, Allan. Le Ciel et L’Enfer ou la justice divine selon le
Spiritisme. 1865. Translated as Heaven and Hell, or the Divine Justice
Vindicated in the Plurality of Existences. N.p., 1878.
———. Collection of Selected Prayers. New York Stadium,
1975.
———. L’Evangile selon le Spiritisme. 1864. Translated as The
Gospel According to Spiritism. London Headquarters Publishing,
1987.
———. Le Livre des Mediums. Translated by Emma E. Wood
as The Book of Mediums. Reprint, New York Samuel Weiser,
1970.
———. The Spirits’ Book. Translated by Anna Blackwell. Reprint,
S˜ao Paulo, Brazil Livraria Allan Kardec Editora, 1972.
Randi, James. ‘‘Allan Kardec,’’ An Encyclopedia of Claims,
Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. New York St.
Martin’s Press, 1995.