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Spiritism

Spiritism

A general term for the belief that the spirits or souls of the dead communicate with the living through a medium or psychically sensitive individual. The term has been used with two quite different meanings in the twentieth century. In conservative Christian circles it is often used as a derogatory term to describe Spiritualism in anticult literature. It is also used as the designation of the followers of the particular Spiritualist teachings of Allan Kardec (1804-1869), a French medium who also had immense influence on the development of Spiritualism in Spain, Portugal, and South America (especially Brazil ). Kardec's thought was distinctive from British and American Spiritualism in the nineteenth century by its advocacy of belief in reincarnation.

Prior to his adoption of Spiritualist beliefs in about 1862, Kardec had been an exponent of animal magnetism and phrenology. He based his new teachings on spirit revelations received through clairvoyants, and so popular were these teachings that they rapidly spread over the Continent. In Britain, however, Spiritism obtained little hold, its only prominent exponent being Anna Blackwell, who endeavored without success to establish the doctrine of reincarnation.

Spiritism and Spiritualism should not be confused, since the adherents of each section were opposed to the tenets of the other. Even in France, where Spiritism obtained the strongest footing, there was a distinct Spiritualist party reluctant to accept the doctrine of reincarnation.

Kardec's Spiritism flourished in nineteenth-century France, and is today well established in South America, especially Brazil, where it is estimated that there are now some four million Spiritists. In contemporary South American Spiritism there is a noticeable tendency to blur formal distinctions between Spiritism and Spiritualism, particularly in Brazil, where all kinds of physical phenomena are manifest, including psychic surgery. The Spiritism of Kardec discouraged such physical medium-ship as materialization in favor of automatic writing, believing this to be a more direct and unambiguous contact with departed spirits.

Modern Brazilian Spiritists also make a distinction between ordinary automatic writing (escrita automotica ), which might involve the medium's own subconscious, and psicografia (dictation from a spirit entity).

Sources:

Kardec, Allan. Experimental Spiritism: The Mediums' Book. London, 1876.

. The Spirits' Book. London, 1875.

Playfair, Guy Lyon. The Flying Cow: Research Into Paranormal Phenomena in the World's Most Psychic Country. London: Souvenir Press, 1975. Reprinted as The Unknown Power. New York: Pocket Books, 1975. Reprint, London: Panther paperback, 1977.

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spiritism

spiritism or spiritualism, belief that the human personality continues to exist after death and can communicate with the living through the agency of a medium or psychic. The advocates of spiritism argue that death merely means a change of wavelength for those who die, and the medium is said to be able to receive radiations, frequencies, or vibrations that cannot be sensed by an ordinary person. Communication from the spirit world manifests itself in psychical phenomena (e.g., telepathy, clairvoyance, trance speaking, and apparitions) and in physical phenomena (e.g., levitation, automatic writing, and poltergeist and ectoplasmic activities). Ectoplasm is the mysterious visible substance in which the forces of the "other world" materialize. Closely related to the concept of the ectoplasm is the aura, a colored emanation that supposedly surrounds all individuals and that can be perceived by the medium. By noting variations in the hues of a person's aura, the medium is able to describe his personality, needs, and illnesses. The shriveling of the aura is considered a sign of an impending death. In what is known as solar plexus voice mediumship, a spirit appears to speak through a medium's body. Modern spiritism in the United States dates from the activities of the Fox sisters in 1848. Such notable figures as Andrew Jackson Davis, Daniel Dunglas Home, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and Arthur Conan Doyle later became widely known spiritualists. The Society for Psychical Research has carried on investigations with some phenomena, mainly in connection with telepathy and apparitions, in hopes of finding scientific explanations for various spiritualistic occurrences (see parapsychology).

See A. F. Schrenck von Notzing, Phenomena of Materialization (1920); Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, History of Spiritualism (1926); Sir Oliver Lodge, Phantom Walls (1930); S. E. White, The Unobstructed Universe (repr. 1959); G. K. Nelson, Spiritualism and Society (1969); S. Brown, The Heyday of Spiritualism (1970).

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