BORN IN Lyon, France, on October 3, 1804, of a traditional family,
greatly distinguished in the legal profession and court system, Allan
Kardec (Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail) did not pursue these careers.
From his youth, he was inclined toward the studies of science and of
Educated in the renown School of Pestalozzi, in Yverdun (Switzerland), he
became one of that celebrated teacher’s most eminent pupils and one of the
most zealous propagandists of the Educational system that exercised a
great influence in the reform of the Educational system in France and in
Endowed with a notable intelligence, he was drawn to teaching, due to his
character and his special aptitudes. At fourteen, he had already started
to teach what he had previously studied, to some of his schoolmates, who
had assimilated less than he. It was at that school that the ideas
originated, which would later categorize him in the class of the
progressive and free-thinkers individuals of the day.
Although he had been born under the influence of the Catholic religion, he
was educated in a Protestant country. The acts of intolerance that he
witnessed under these circumstances, led him at an early age to conceive
of the idea of a religious reformation, in which he labored silently for
many years with the ultimate aim of achieving the unification of the
faiths. He lacked, however, the indispensable element for the solution to
that immense problem.
Spiritism came to light, at this time, to imprint in his mind the
particular direction for future undertakings.
As soon as he completed his studies, he returned to France. Being
thoroughly knowledgeable in the German language, he translated into German
a variety of works on education and on morals and, what is uniquely
characteristic of him, the works of Fénelon that had seduced him in an
He was a member of several societies, one of which the Royal Academy of
Arras, that, in the competition of 1831, awarded him notable recognition
on the following subject: Which is a system of study more harmonious with
the needs of the time?
From 1835 to 1840, he established, in his home, at Sèvres street, free
study courses on Chemistry, Physics, Anatomy, Astronomy, etc., an
accomplishment worthy of commendation at any time, but, above all, at this
time in which only a few illuminated minds dared to follow that path.
Always concerned with making the educational system more appealing and
interesting, he invented the ingenious method of teaching to count and a
mnemonic picture of the History of France, with the objective of fixating
in the memory, the dates of major events and discoveries that illuminated
Among his numerous works to foster education, we will mention the
following: Proposed Plan for the improvement of Public Instruction
(1828); A practical and theoretical study of Arithmetic, according to
the methods of Pestalozzi, for the use of teachers and mothers (1824);
Classic French Grammar (1831); A Manual of the Examination for
the titles of capacity; Rational solutions to the subjects and problems in
Arithmetic and in Geometry (1846); Grammatical Catechism of the
French Language (1848); Program for the regular courses of
Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Physiology, which he taught in Lyceum
Polimático; Normal dictations of the examinations of the Municipality
and of Sorbonne, followed by Special Dictations regarding
Orthographic Difficulties (1849), an accomplishment highly regarded at
the time of its launching and from which new editions are still been
It can be seen that even before Spiritism had become popularized Allan
Kardec through his Celtic pseudonym, had already become well known,
through the varied nature of his accomplishments in the educational
system. His works always had the objective of illuminating the masses and
of uniting them better to their respective families and countries.
About the year 1855, the spotlight focused on the subject of the
manifestations of the Spirits, and Allan Kardec became dedicated to
persevering on the observations of that phenomenon, and cogitating mainly
in deducing its philosophical consequences. He could see, at once, that
these phenomena were the beginning of new natural laws: the ones that
govern the relationships between the visible and the invisible world. He
recognized, in the action of the invisible world, one of the forces of
Nature, whose knowledge would throw light on the immense problems that
until then had been considered insoluble, and he understood its reach,
under the religious point of view.
His main works written on this subject are: The Spirit’s Book,
concerning the philosophical part of the doctrine, and whose first edition
appeared on April 18th, 1857; The Mediums’ Book, concerning the
experimental and scientific aspect (January of 1861); The Gospel
according to Spiritism, concerning moral and ethics (April of 1864);
Heaven and Hell, or The Justice of God according to Spiritism
(August of 1865); Genesis, the Miracles and Predictions According to
Spiritism (January of 1868); Revue Spirite, a monthly newspaper
of psychological studies, that had begun on January 1st, 1858. On April
1st, 1858 he founded the first Spiritist Society regularly constituted,
under the denomination of “Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies,” whose
deliberate objective was the study of whatever could contribute toward the
fostering of this new science. Allan Kardec defended himself with total
foundation, for having written something under the influence of
preconceived or systematic ideas. As an individual with a cool calm
nature, he observed the facts and from his observations deduced the laws
that govern them. He was the first one to present the theory regarding
such facts and to organize them into a doctrinal body, methodical and
He demonstrated that the facts, which previously had erroneously been
considered supernatural, were actually subject to the universal laws. He
classified them under the phenomena of Nature, thereby eliminating the
last refuge of the wonder and one of the elements of superstition.
During the first years of the introduction of the spiritist phenomena,
they were considered more an object of curiosity than of serious
meditation. The Spirit’s Book caused the subject to be considered
under a totally different aspect. The turning tables that had merely been
a prelude were discarded, and people started to pay greater attention to
the doctrine, that embraces all the subjects of interest for Humanity.
The date of the launching of The Spirit’s Book, was the foundation
of Spiritism, which until then, had only counted on scattered elements,
without coordination, and whose reach most people could not understand.
Starting from that moment, the doctrine attracted the attention of the
serious-minded people and took a rapid development. In few years, those
ideas overtook numerous followers in all social circles around the world.
That unprecedented success took hold, without a doubt, due to the sympathy
that such ideas inspired; but, it is also largely due to the clarity with
which they were presented, which is one of the characteristics of Allan
Avoiding the abstract formulas of Metaphysics, he knew how to attract
everyone’s to read about it without becoming tiresome, which was an
essential condition to the dissemination of the idea. On all of the
controversial points, his argument, of pure logic, does not leave room for
dispute and it predisposes the conviction. The material proof that
Spiritism presents of the existence of the soul and of a future life tends
to destroy the materialistic and pantheistic ideas. One of the most
fertile principles of that doctrine is the plurality of the existences,
already foreseen by a group of ancient and modern philosophers, and,
during these last times, by João Reynaud, Carlos Fourier, Eugênio Sue and
others. The plurality of existences, however, had been maintained in a
state of hypothesis and of system, while Spiritism had demonstrated the
reality and the proofs that in this principle, one of Humanity's essential
attributes resides. From the plurality of existences derived the
explanation of all the apparent anomalies of human life, of all the
intellectual, moral and social inequalities, allowing man to know whence
he comes, where he is capable of going, why he is upon the earth, why he
suffers temporarily, and can see, above all, the justice of God.
The innate ideas displayed in a present incarnation are explained by the
knowledge previously acquired in prior lifetimes; also, the action of men
of ancient times that are relived once again explains the progress of the
individual and of Humanity; the sympathies and dislikes are naturally
going to be a result of the experiences and the nature of relationships
from previous incarnations. Those relationships, that reunite the great
human family of all times, suggests as a base, the advanced principles of
fraternity, of equality, of freedom and of universal solidarity, which are
the very laws of Nature and not mere theory.
Instead of the postulate: “Without the Church there is no Salvation, which
fosters separation and animosity between the different religious sects
that have been responsible for so much bloodshed, Spiritism has as its
emblem: Without Charity there is no Salvation, which enhances equality
among men, tolerance, freedom of conscience and mutual benevolence in the
eyes of God.
Instead of blind faith, which annuls free thinking, Spiritism says:
Unshakable faith is only that which can meet reason face to face in every
human epoch. In order to have faith a base is necessary; and, this base is
the perfect intelligence of that which one believes. To be a believer is
not enough; above all, it is imperative to comprehend. Blind faith is no
longer a part of this century. It is in fact due to the dogma of blind
faith that today we still have, such a great number of non-believers; as
it tries to impose itself by annulling one of man's most precious
abilities, that of reasoning, and of free-will.
A tireless worker, always the first to take on a task and the last one to
leave it, Allan Kardec succumbed on March 31st, 1869 . He was about to
reduce his activities and to move to another place, due to the
considerable extension of his multiple occupations. Several works which
were about finished, or that were awaiting the opportunity to come to
light, will one day demonstrate the extensive power of his concepts.
He died as he lived: working. He had suffered a heart ailment for many
years that could only have been counteracted by means of intellectual rest
and lessened physical activity. However, since he was consecrated to his
work, he refused everything that could absorb one single minute of his
time and deviate him from his favorite occupations. What happened to him
occurs to all the souls that have a strong temper: “the sheet dulled the
His body became numb and could no longer perform the services intended by
his Spirit, while his spirit remained, more and more active, more
energetic, fertile, forever enlarging the circle of its activity.
In such an unequal fight, his physical body could not subsist eternally.
An aneurism ended his life and Allan Kardec died instantaneously. That
left one less individual on Earth; but, a great name took his place among
those that had illuminated this century; a great Spirit had departed for
the Infinite, where all of those souls who he had consoled and
illuminated, were waiting impatiently for his return! Death, I was saying
not too long ago, redoubled its blows in the illustrious arrays! Whom will
it now come to set free?
He went, as so many others, to recover in Space, to seek new elements for
the recuperation of his worn-out organism due to a life of incessant
labors. He departed to be among those who would be the luminaries of the
new generation, to return shortly thereafter with them to pursue and to
conclude the task that he had left in dedicated hands.
The individual is no longer here; but his soul, will remain with us
forever. He will be a strong protector, an extra light, a tireless worker
that the phalanges of Space have incorporated. As on Earth, without
interfering with anyone, he will expound his opportune advices; he will
lessen the premature zeal of the ardent ones; he will aid the sincere and
the disinterested ones, and will stimulate the indecisive ones. He now
clearly sees everything that he had foreseen! He is no longer subject to
the uncertainties, nor to the frailties and he will share his convictions
making us reach the goal with his finger, pointing the way for us, in that
clear and precise language, that had consecrated him among the literary
The man no longer exists, we said it; however, Allan Kardec is immortal
and his memory, his works, and his Spirit will always be with those who
stand strong and vigorously wave the flag that he always respected.
An extraordinary individuality set up the task. He was the guide and the
secure port for everyone. On Earth, the work will outlive the worker. The
believers won't congregate around Allan Kardec; but rather, they will
congregate around Spiritism, just as he had structured it, and with his
advice and his influence, we will move forward, with firm steps, to the
blissful phase promised to a regenerated Humanity.
More biographies on Allan Kardec:
página de rosto da segunda edição de O Livro dos Espíritos
The Career of
'Allan Kardec' by Steve Hume
Academic books about Spiritism
Aubrée, M., & Laplantine, F. (1990). La
table, le livre et les espirits. Paris: Éditions Jean-Claude Làttes.
Hess, D. (1991). Spirits and scientists:
Ideology, spiritism and Brazilian culture. University Park, PA:
Pennsylvania State University Press.
Revue Spirite - Journal D'Études Psychologiques, 12° Année. No. 5. Mai