Allan Kardec - a brief biography

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Allan Kardec - a brief biography

Post by Edward on Sun May 11, 2008 9:02 pm

Allan Kardec was the pseudonym of the French teacher and educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail 1804 -1869), who is known today as the founder of Spiritism
Rivail was a disciple and collaborator of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and a teacher of mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, physiology, comparative anatomy and French in Paris. As a result of one of his research papers, he was accepted in 1831 a a member of the Royal Academy of Arras. He organized and taught free courses for the underprivileged.

He was already in his early fifties when he became interested in the wildly popular phenomenon of spirit rapping. At the time, strange phenomena attributed to the action of spirits was being reported in many different places, most notably in America and France, attracting the attention of high society. The first such phenomena were at best frivolous and entertaining, featuring objects that moved or "tapped" under what was said to be spirit control. In some cases, this was alleged to be a type of communication: the alleged spirits answered questions by controlling the movement of objects, so as to pick out letters to form words, or simply to indicate "yes" or "no."

At the time, Mesmer's theory of animal magnetism was popular in French society. When confronted with the phenomena described, some researchers, including Rivail, pointed out that animal magnetism might explain them. Rivail, however, after personally seeing a demonstration, quickly dismissed the animal magnetism hypothesis as being insufficient to explain all the facts observed (more on this in Chapters VIII and XIV of his book, The Book on Mediums). Rivail was determined to understand exactly what was causing the physical effects popularly attributed to spirits.

As a teacher with some scientific background (he had never attended a university), Rivail decided to do his own research. Not being a medium himself, he compiled a list of questions and began working with mediums and channelers to pose them to spirits. Soon, the quality of the alleged communication with spirits appeared to improve.

Rivail used the name "Allan Kardec" after a spirit identified as Zefiro, whom he had been communicating with, told him about a previous incarnation of his as a Druid by that name. Rivail liked the name and decided to use it to keep his Spiritists writings separate from his mainstream work - books for high school students.

In 1857 Rivail, signing himself "Allan Kardec," published his first book on Spiritism, The Spirits' Book, comprising a series of 1,019 questions exploring matters concerning the nature of spirits, the spirit world, and the relationship between the spirit and material worlds. This was followed by further books, including The Book of Mediums and The Gospel According to Spiritism, and by a periodical, the Revue Spirite, which Kardec published until his death.

Allan Kardec coined the word "spiritism" and followed modern scientific methods in its study, which was recognized among others by Camille Flammarion. Kardec is buried at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. The eulogy at his funeral was delivered by Flammarion.

Visitors from all over the world, especially from Brazil, where his doctrine has millions of followers, bring flowers to his grave, which is reputed to be one of the most frequently visited at the Cimetière. The body of his wife, Amélie Gabrielle Boudet, is also buried there. Above his burial chamber is written a sentence that, to all intents and purposes, has become the Spiritists' motto: Naitre, mourir, renaitre encore et progresse sans cesse, telle est la loi.

Edward


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Re: Allan Kardec - a brief biography

Post by tmmw on Sun May 11, 2008 9:29 pm

Hello Edward,

Thanks for that enlightening information about Allan Kardec. You wrote
Above his burial chamber is written a sentence that, to all intents and purposes, has become the Spiritists' motto: Naitre, mourir, renaitre encore et progresse sans cesse, telle est la loi.

I didn't know what that meant in french so I searched the translation which says:

"Being born, die, be reborn again and progress ever, this is the law. "

That is beautiful.

take care,
tmmw

tmmw


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Re: Allan Kardec - a brief biography

Post by zerdini on Mon May 12, 2008 4:45 am

There are many paradoxes in the impact that the Frenchman Allan Kardec (1804-1869) has had upon human affairs. The chief of these is that his work constitutes the only example of a modern appraisal of mediumship that has had (and continues to have) a truly obvious and major effect upon a very significant section of human society.

In his book Spirits and Scientists: Ideology, Spiritism and Brazilian Culture, anthropologist David J. Hess even cited evidence which suggests that the spirit teachings collected by Kardec were a major theoretical influence (Hess almost implies naked plagiarism) on some of the most important founders of modern psychology and psychiatry, such as Pierre Janet.

Yet, despite this, Kardec remains almost unknown or poorly understood by Spiritualists in Britain; the most common, and most fatal, error being that he was a medium himself and that the teachings were his own.
Arthur Findlay showed his own misunderstanding by dismissing Kardec in the following terms:

'In Brazil the extensive movement there has been directed by the writings of the Frenchman, Allan Kardec. He, however, influenced the thoughts of his followers more to the doctrine of reincarnation than to the belief in progress advanced by both American and British Spiritualists, and he gave mediumship little consideration.'

The fact that a third of the most important volumes of Kardec's work was published under the title of The Medium's Book may give some indication as to how wide of the mark Findlay was here.

This, together with the fact that Spiritism, like Spiritualism, observes the concept of eternal progress as a central tenet, suggests that he was unfamiliar, to say the least, with the Frenchman's work.

In fact, the only major difference between Spiritism and Spiritualism is that, in the former case, the 'doctrine' of reincarnation is a central teaching whereas, with Spiritualism, belief in reincarnation, although extremely common, is more generally diffused throughout the movement and, although the SNU is officially uncommitted either way on the issue, there are many Spiritualists who reject the concept with apparent contempt.

After two years of scrutinising the communications Rivail remarked to his wife:
'My conversations with the invisible intelligences have completely revolutionised my ideas and convictions. The instructions thus transmitted constitute an entirely new theory of human life, duty, and destiny, that appears to me to be perfectly rational and coherent, admirably lucid and consoling, and intensely interesting. I have a great mind to publish these conversations in a book; for it seems to me that what interests me so deeply might very likely prove interesting to others.

When Rivail submitted this idea to the communicators they replied:

'To the book...you will give, as being our work rather than yours, the title of Le Livre des Espirits (The Spirits' Book); and you will publish it, not under your own name, but under the pseudonym of Allan Kardec ['Kardec' was an old Breton name in his mother's family].

'Keep your own name of Rivail for your own books already published.'

zerdini


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Re: Allan Kardec - a brief biography

Post by tmmw on Mon May 12, 2008 8:58 pm

Hello Z,

Thanks for more on Allen Kardec, it is all very interesting.

In fact, the only major difference between Spiritism and Spiritualism is that, in the former case, the 'doctrine' of reincarnation is a central teaching whereas, with Spiritualism, belief in reincarnation, although extremely common, is more generally diffused throughout the movement and, although the SNU is officially uncommitted either way on the issue, there are many Spiritualists who reject the concept with apparent contempt.
I have wondered what the difference between Spiritualists and Spiritism is and that gives me a little more to think about. I really have so much to learn and try to comprehend on the subtle differences of all the branches of Spiritualism. It can be a bit confusing but well worth the effort to sort it all out.

Take care,
Lynn

tmmw


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