By the year 1848, several strange phenomena were gaining notoriety in the United States,
consisting in noises, raps and movement of objects with no apparent cause. They would happen
spontaneously, several times, with a characteristic intensity and frequency. However, it soon
became clear that these phenomena could also occur through the presence of certain people
whom were known as ''mediums''. These people could provoke the phenomena at will, making
experiments possible. Such experiments were made using tables, not because these objects are
more favorable than others, but because they were more convenient, movable, and because it
was easier to sit round them than any other furniture. In this way the rotation of tables was
achieved, and subsequently, movements in all directions; jumps, turns, fluctuations, violent
strokes etc. These phenomena were originally called 'table dancing' or 'table turning'.
Initially the facts could be perfectly explained by the action of an electric or magnetic current or
unknown kind of fluid, and such was the first formed explanation. But within a short time,
intelligent effects were recognized in them, such that the movement obeyed the will. The table
could move to the right or to the left, toward some certain person, it could stand on one or two
feet upon command, knock the ground a number of ordered times, knock regularly etc. It was
clear that the cause was not purely physical and, based upon the principle: ''To every effect a
cause is associated, to every intelligent effect there is an intelligent cause'', an intelligence was
appointed as the cause.
However, what was the nature of this intelligence? Such was the question. Initial impressions
were that it could be the reflection of the medium's intelligence or of his assistants. But
experience soon disproved this, since responses totally alien to the thought and knowledge of the
present people and even in opposition to their ideas, wills or desires were obtained. Therefore
this intelligence could only belong to an invisible being. The way to ascertain this was quite
simple: a discussion with such entity sufficed. A conventional number of knocks to signify a yes or
no answer or to designate alphabetical letters was created and, in this way, several chosen
questions obtained answers. This phenomenon was called `talking tables'. Interrogated in this
way about their nature, all the beings declared themselves to be spirits and belong to an invisible
world. As the phenomena were produced in different locations, through several different people
and observed by serious and intelligent people, it was not possible they were an illusion.
From America the phenomena spread to France and the rest of Europe, where the talking and
turning tables were the rage and became a means of entertainment in public halls. But when
people began to tire of them, they turned their attention toward other things.
However, within a short time, the phenomenon presented itself under a new aspect that remove it
from the domain of a simple curiosity. Due to space limitations all the phases can not be
described herein, therefore we will proceed to the most renown aspect which attracted the most
attention of serious people.
Before we proceed we must remark that the reality of the facts encountered many opponents.
Some of them, without taking into account the integrity and impartiality of their investigators,
would only consider the phenomena as a fraud or a clever subtlety. Those who did not admit to
anything but matter, who did not believe in the invisible world, who thought that everything finds
its end in the death of the body, the materialists, in one word, the so called strong spirits, they
moved the existence of the invisible spirits to the field of absurd tails. They considered those who
took the subject seriously as crazy, and treated them with sarcasms and mockeries. Others who
could not deny the facts and under the influence of certain ideas, considered the phenomena an
exclusive action of the devil, trying, therefore, to frighten the timid. However, today fear of the
devil has lost its popularity. In fact the subject became so popular and was portrayed in so many
ways that people got used to the idea, and many believed that this was the time to find out what it
really was. Aside from a few timorous women, the communication of the true devil's arrival was
somewhat malicious for those who had seen it only in pictures or in the theater. For many it was a
powerful impulse and they tried to rise barriers against the new ideas. By doing so they
involuntarily initiated an opposite reaction, and so became the propagators of the ideas; the
louder they cried the more efficient they were. Other critics were also unsuccessful since the
facts, carefully verified by clear reasoning, provided only denials. When their publications are
analyzed the testimony of the ignorance and the lack of serious observation of the facts are
encountered everywhere. Nowhere can one find a positive demonstration of their impossibility. All
of their argumentation are summed up by the claims: ''I do not believe, therefore, it does not exist.
All those who believe are crazy. Only we have the privilege of reason and sound judgment.'' The
number of believers resulting from the serious or comical criticisms was immense, because only
private opinions are found in them which are devoid of disproof. Let us continue with our
The communication through raps was rather slow and incomplete. It was discovered that, by
attaching a pencil to a movable object (such as a basket, a small board or a similar item, on
which the fingers could be placed), the object would begin to move and make signs. Later it was
discovered that such objects were only dispensable accessories. Experience has shown that the
spirit who acted upon a unanimated body could in the same way control the arms or the hands
and lead the pencil. Writing mediums then appeared, that is, people who could write in an
involuntary manner under the impulse of the spirits, being their interpreters and instruments.
Thenceforth the communications had no limits, and the exchange of thoughts was as fast and
easy as among the living. It was a vast field opened to exploration, the discovery of a new world:
the world of the invisible, very much the same as the microscope has unveiled the world of the
Who are these spirits? What is their role in the Universe? What is their reason for communicating
with the mortals? Such were the first questions demanding explanation. The spirits soon revealed
that they were not apart from creation, but were instead the very souls of those who had lived on
the earth or on other worlds. After having left their corporeal envelopes, they populate an fly
through the space. There was no room for doubt when friends and relatives were recognized
among them, furnishing proofs of their existence when interrogated. They came to demonstrate
that death was only for their bodies, that their souls or spirits continue to live, that they are very
near us, that they can see us very much like when they were alive. They kindly watch over those
whom they loved and whose memories very much please them.
In general we make a completely false idea of the spirits. They are not abstract or vague beings
as many would imagine. Also they are not a glaring radiance or a spark, but are rather very real,
having their own individuality and definite form. We can have a approximate idea of them
according to the following explanation:
There are three essential things in human beings:
The soul or the spirit, the intelligent principle where the thoughts, will and moral sense
The body, the material envelope, weighty and rough. The body enables the spirit relate
with the material world.
The perispirit, the light fluidic envelope, which is the intermediary bound between the
spirit and the body.
When the exterior covering is threadbare and can no more work, the spirit get rid of it, like the fruit
liberates itself from the shell or as one forsake a clothing which is no longer useful. That is what
we call death.
Therefore, death is simply the destruction of the crude shell of the spirit; only the body dies, not
the spirit. During life, the spirit is somewhat limited by the material links of matter to which it is
bounded. These limits can many times neutralize its faculties, and the body's death liberates it
from such bounds setting it free (like the butterfly from its cocoon). But the spirit gives up only the
material body, keeping the perispirit which is a kind of ethereal body, vaporous and very subtle to
us. It has the human form which seems to be the standard one. In its normal state, the perispirit is
invisible, but the spirit can make certain changes upon it so as to render it temporarily visible or
able to be touched, similar to what happens to condensed vapor. In this manner, the spirits can
sometimes appear to us during apparitions. By using the perispirit, the spirit can act upon matter
and produce the several phenomena of raps, movements, writing etc.
Raps and movements are a way for the spirits to testify their presence and to call our attention,
like a person may do to make others notice him. Some of them do not limit themselves to make
moderate noises, but instead produce a row of breaking dishes, of opening and closing doors or
Through knocks and combined movements they are able to express their thoughts, but writing,
which they prefer, offers them the most complete, convenient and fastest way. As they can make
marks, so they also can lead the hands to drawn, write music or play a piece in a musical
instrument. In few words, because they lack physical bodies, they use a medium to manifest
themselves to the human in a sensible way.
The spirits can also manifests themselves in several other ways, including through vision and
audition. Certain people called hearing mediums, have the capacity to listen to spirits and they
can, therefore, talk to them. Others, the seeing mediums can see them. The spirits which
generally manifest themselves visually appear in the same way as when they were alive,
although in a vaporous way. On other occasions, this form is so similar to a living being that it
appears to be almost a complete delusion. They haven sometimes been taken to be flesh and
blood humans which people talked to and shook hands without even suspecting they were spirits,
except for their later sudden disappearance.
The permanent and general capacity to see spirits is rare, but individual apparitions specially at
the moment of death, are very common. The released spirit seems to hurry to see its relatives
and friends again, as if it wished to show them that it has just left the earth but wants to tell them
it is still alive.
By gathering individual recollection, many authentic but until then unnoticed facts can be
considered as having happened not only at night during sleep, but during the day in the most
complete state of wakefulness. In the past, these facts were considered as marvelous and
supernatural and were placed in the domain of wizardry and witchcraft. Today, however, the
incredulous attribute them to imagination and we, since the spiritist science has given us the key,
know how to produce them and that they do not leave from the normal phenomenological order.
We also believe that the spirits, just because they are spirits, should not be understood to have
supreme knowledge and wisdom; this is a mistaken understanding that experience did not delay
to prove. Among the spirit communications, there are those which are rich in sublime profundity,
eloquence, wisdom and morals and reflect only good and benevolence. Others, however, are
extremely vulgar, futile, trivial and even rough. Through these messages the spirits reveal their
most perverted instincts. It is clear that they can not come from the same source and that, if there
are good spirits, there are also bad ones. Since the spirits are only the very souls of the human,
they can not turn into perfect beings after leaving their bodies. They keep the imperfections of
their corporeal lives until final improvement. Therefore, in their messages, we see all degrees of
goodness and badness, of wisdom and ignorance.
The spirits are generally happy to communicate and are very satisfied to know that they were not
forgotten. They gladly describe their impressions after leaving the earth, their new situation, the
origin of their happiness and suffering in their new world. Some are happy, others are unhappy,
suffering terrible torments according to the way in which they lived and the good or bad use they
made of their lives. By watching them in all phases of their new lives, paying attention to the
positions they occupied on earth, their types of death, their characters and behaviors as human
beings, we can come to a sufficiently accurate, if not complete, knowledge of the invisible world.
Such knowledge enables us the explanation of our future state and to foresee the happy or sad
destiny that waits for us there.
The instructions given by high level spirit regarding every subject of interest to humankind and
their answers regarding the proposed questions were carefully gathered and organized. Together
they constitute a whole science, a moral and philosophical doctrine called Spiritism. Spiritism is,
therefore, the doctrine founded upon the existence, manifestations and teachings of the spirits.
This doctrine is fully exposed in The Spirit's Book with regard to its philosophical aspect. Its
practical and experimental aspect is contained in The Medium's Book, while the moral aspect is
contained in The Gospel according to Spiritism. Through the analysis we make here, one can
access the variety, extension and importance of the subjects covered by the doctrine.
As we have seen, Spiritism had its beginning in the common phenomena of the turning tables.
But since facts speak more to the eyes than to the intellect, giving rise more to curiosity than to
feelings, the interest in the them disappears with curiosity in face of the lack of any sensible
explanation. The situation changed when a theory came to explain cause, when it was realized
that an entire moral doctrine sprang from those dancing tables with which so many had such a
happy time for a short while. This doctrine speaks to the soul; it dissipates the distress of doubts
and satisfies the desire for a complete explanation of the future of mankind that was previously
left in the vacuum. Serious people received the new teachings as a helpful doctrine and, since
then, instead of declining, it quickly spread. Within a few years it encountered support worldwide,
especially among enlightened people. The number of supporters increases daily and one can say
that today Spiritism has obtained its ''right of citizenship''. It is founded on bases which challenge
the effort of its opponents who are more or less interested in its denial. The proof is that the
attacks and criticisms could not delay its march for even a moment. Its opponents could never
explain this simple fact. For the Spiritists, if it continues to propagate in spite of its criticism, it is
because Spiritism is good and the way of its reasoning is better than of its opponents.
Spiritism, however, is not a modern discovery. The facts and principles upon which it is based
were lost in the night of the times, since one can find its tracks in the beliefs of all people, in all
religions and in the majority of sacred and profane writers. But such facts neither were properly
considered nor their consequences completely deduced, they were instead interpreted according
to the superstitious ideas of the ignorant.
In fact, Spiritism is founded on the existence of the spirits. As the spirits are only the souls of
people and since there were always people, Spiritism could not have invented or created the
spirits. If the souls or spirits can manifest themselves to the living, this is a natural fact that,
therefore, has always been so since the beginning of time. Therefore in any place or time one can
find proofs of such intense manifestations, especially in the Biblical texts
The logical explanation of the facts, the more complete knowledge of the spirit nature, of their role
and way of action, the revelation of our future state and finally the gathering of these facts into a
scientific and doctrinal body are, however, modern. The ancient knew its principles, while modern
man knows its details. In past times the study of these phenomena was a privilege within certain
castes and were revealed only to their initiates. In the middle ages, those who ostensibly dealt
with them were considered warlocks and were therefore burned at the stakes. But today, there is
no longer any mystery, no one burns anyone, everything happens clearly and everyone is free to
learn and practice Spiritism, since there are mediums everywhere
The very doctrine that the spirits teach today is not new. It can be found in fragments of the
greatest philosophers from India, Egypt and Greece, and entirely in the teachings of Christ. What
is then the goal of Spiritism? It came to give new testimonies, to point out, using facts, unknown
or not well understood truths and to re-establish, in its true sense, misinterpreted ones.
Spiritism teaches nothing new, that is true. But is it not valuable to show, in an obvious and
irrefutable way, the existence of the soul, its survival over body's death, its immortality, its future
punishments and rewards? How many believe in such things, but only with weak and hidden
thoughts, silently wondering: ''And if it were not so?'' How many people were brought to discredit
because they were given a future which their minds could not rationally accept? Is it not
admirable, then, if the weak believer could say: "Now I am sure!", that the blind could see the
light? By facts and logic Spiritism dissipates distressing doubts and brings back faith to those who
had lost it. It unfolds the existence of the invisible world which is around us and in which we
unsuspectingly live. Through the example of the dead, Spiritism shows us our happy or sad future
condition. It explains the cause of earthly sufferings and shows us a way to soften them. Its
propagation will have as an inevitable effect the destruction of materialist doctrines which can no
longer resist to its evidence. Human beings, convinced of the greatness and importance of their
future, eternal life, draw a parallel between it and the indefiniteness of the terrestrial life which is
so short. By their thoughts they elevate themselves above ungenerous human values, and realize
the cause and reason for their sufferings, which are thereupon viewed by them with meekness
and endurance because they understand they are a way for their improvement. The example of
those who come from the beyond to describe their joys and pains, demonstrating the reality of the
future life shows, at the same time, that God's justice leaves no wickedness without punishment
and no virtue without reward. Finally, we also add that the communication of our dear departed
ones brings us a sweet consolation, showing not only that they continue to live but also that they
are less far from us than if they were in a foreign land.
Briefly stating, Spiritism softens the distress of life's sadness, calms the despair and agitation of
the soul, dissipates the uncertainties and fears of the future and eliminates suicidal feelings. At
the same time it brings happiness to those who believe in it. This is the secret of its fast
From a religious point of view, Spiritism is based on the fundamental truths of every religion: God,
the soul, immortality, future punishments and rewards. It is, however, independent of any
particular cult. Its goal is to prove to those who negate soul's existence that the soul survives after
the body, that it suffers after death the consequences of the good or evil practiced during its
corporeal life. Now then, this is common to any religion.
As a belief in the spirits, Spiritism is also not different from any religion or people, since in any
place where there were humans there will always be souls or spirits. Its manifestations are
natural to all times and descriptions can be found in all religions without exception. One can,
therefore, be a Catholic or Protestant, a Greek or a Roman, a Jew or a Muslim and yet believe in
the manifestations of the spirits and, consequently, be a Spiritist. The fact that Spiritism has
adherents from all sects is proof of this.
In a moral sense, Spiritism is essentially Christian since it merely teaches the development and
application of Christ's doctrines, which are the purest of all and whose superiority no one
contests. This proves that such doctrine is God's law and that it is for everyone.
By being independent of any cult, Spiritism prescribes none of them. It preoccupies itself with no
particular dogmas nor is it a religion since it has neither priests, pastors nor temples. It answers
those who ask if it is of any good to follow such or such practice: If your conscience asks you to
do it, do it and God always takes into account the intention. In essence: Spiritism imposes itself
on no one, it is not intended for those who have a faith or whose faith is sufficient, but rather it is
for the immense majority of unbelievers and insecure. Spiritism does not take these unbelievers
and insecure out of the Church, as they are morally apart from it already. It makes them walk
three fourths of the way; it is up to the Church to make them walk the rest.
It is true that Spiritism opposes certain beliefs such as eternal punishments, the material fire of
hell, the devil's personality, etc. However, is it not also true that such ideas, imposed as absolute
truths, have always made and continue to make unbelievers? If, by giving a rational explanation
for such dogmas, Spiritism brings back faith, is it not helping religion? As a venerable ecclesiastic
said: ''Spiritism makes one believe in something. Now, is it not better to believe in something
rather than absolutely nothing?''.
As the souls are the spirits, one can not deny the existence of the spirits without denying the
souls. If one admits to the existence of souls or spirits, the question is then reduced to its purest
expression: Can the souls of the dead communicate with the living? Spiritism proves the
affirmative by material facts. What proof can be given to the contrary? If it is so, all negations will
not impede that it continues to be, since one deals with no system or theory but with nature's law.
Now then, mankind's will is powerless before nature's law and whether one wants to or not, its
consequences must be accepted as well as human's beliefs and habits adequate themselves to