The Spiritist Method of Study & How to Advance Spiritism Today

NASA_child_bubble_exploration-615x290

Introduction

In this text, we will study what is the Spiritist Science, its Method of research and how it applies to your belief systems and your possible contributions to the emergence of spirituality free from dogmas and mysticism on Earth. In this process, we hope it will become clear that the antagonism between science and spirituality is only apparent. In our view, such antagonism stems from two factors: 1. The formal sciences reluctance to consider the existence of non-physical dimensions of nature and life, albeit sizable sum of evidence supports this idea. 2. Spiritualist and religious people’s reluctance to question and test their paradigms, entering the real of rational faith instead of blind faith. Both are trapped in their own dogmas and egoistic beliefs. Both are not prepared for the new millennia. So, if you also seek a solution for this dilemma, this text is also for you!

We live at a time when scientific research in fields such as quantum physics indicates the observer’s mind affects the result of the experiment (influence of mind over matter) and theoretical physicists work with models that predict the existence of perhaps even eleven dimensions. We live at a time when psychosomatic illnesses, physical imbalances caused by unhealthy states of mind, are seriously studied and acknowledged by at least part of the medical community. In this context, it becomes illogical, if not irrational, to continue to advocate the reduction of nature to only three dimensions of space and one dimension of time. Likewise, it is inappropriate for this modern humanity, equipped with research methods sufficiently advanced to demystify many of the mystical beliefs of the past, to continue to practice faith without reason. In fact, both science and spirituality reside together in the minds and hearts of the human beings ready for the new millennium. It is primarily for them that we write this text as only they would be able to live and appreciate Spiritism to its full potential. So, let’s start with what is Spiritism!

Spiritism is defined by its founder, Allan Kardec, as “the science that studies the origin, the nature and the destination of the spirits, as well as its relation with the corporeal world. It is at the same time a science of observation and a philosophy of moral consequences.” Compare it with a modern definition of science, such as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of an object through observation and experiment” and it becomes obvious that two elements are essential for anything that aims to be designated as science: The object and the method of study of such object, which obviously must be adequate to the nature of such object. So, if pipettes are appropriate for the study of chemistry and scalpels to the study of medical anatomy, what are the instruments appropriate for the study of the spirit? Is it impossible to scientifically study realities not observed by our five basic senses? Allan Kardec did not see this impossibility and designed the Spiritist Science applying reasoning and adapted scientific methodologies to study spiritual phenomena and the ideas proposed by multiple spirits. However, before we delve into his Method, let’s clarify a few points about Spiritism itself as to avoid possible misconceptions about it.

“Spiritism is the new Science that comes to reveal to men, through indisputable proofs, the existence and nature of the spiritual world and its relationship with the corporeal world. It shows to us no longer as a super natural thing but, on the contrary, as one of the living and restlessly acting forces of nature, like the source of an immense number of phenomena hitherto misunderstood and thus thrown to the domain of fantastic and marvelous.” (Allan Kardec, The Gospel According to Spiritism, Chap. I, item 5.)

“Spiritism is, no doubt, a Science of observation, but it is perhaps even more a Science of reasoning and reason is the only means that can make it progress and triumph over certain resistances. Such fact is only contested if it is not understood. The explanation removes all of its marvelous character, referring it to the general laws of nature.” (Allan Kardec, The Spiritist Magazine, 1859)

“Spiritism is not a new religion as some people pretend it to be because they don’t know it, or a new sect that is formed by taking advantage of older ones. It is a purely moral doctrine with no dogmas and that allows each person the entire freedom of religion since it imposes none.” (Allan Kardec, The Spiritist Magazine – October 1861)

The Spiritist Method

Kardec was not a typical man of science. Like many of the great personalities who have revolutionized the world throughout history, he allied a rational and curious personality completed by a seemingly incorruptible character. He was not adept to any particular spiritualist line of thought, but a scientist seeking to gain scientific understanding of allegedly spiritual phenomena occurring with certain frequency in multiple parts of the globe (and only for this reason attracting his attention, or curiosity). As an ethical scientist, he remained neutral, observing the phenomena itself as the object of study and drawing conclusions only after careful consideration of relevant facts. Anyone who impartially read his books – especially The Mediums’ Book – would come to this same conclusion. This is important to note because he didn’t resort of science as a way to prove his own points, a practice unfortunately common to scientists and spiritualists. In fact, Kardec’s studies changed to a large degree his own ideas.

“I applied the experimental method to this science [Spiritism], not accepting preconceived theories. I observed carefully, compared and deduced consequences. By the deduction and chaining of the facts, I sought to raise from effects to causes, not admitting an explanation as valuable unless it could solve all the difficulties of the matter. That is how I always proceeded in my previous works since the age of 15.

I soon understood the seriousness of the task I was about to undertake, and saw on those phenomena the key to the so obscure and controversial problem of the past and the future of humankind, to which a solution I lived searching to find. It was therefore a complete revolution in the ideas and beliefs of the world. Hence, it was necessary to proceed with circumspection and not careless, to be positive and not idealistic, as not to let myself be led by illusions.” (Allan Kardec, Posthumous Works)

In developing his Spiritist studies, Kardec proceeded in the same way our “conventional” scientific studies are carried out, adopting a Method that allowed for a rigorous analysis of the reproduction of the phenomena, the logic of the theories proposed and their coherence with what can be objectively observed and with other concepts already proposed and verified. Kardec’s Method, in its thoroughness and simplicity, we venture to say, is probably the most revolutionary aspect of the doctrine itself, since most spiritual ideas proposed by Spiritism were already raised by other fields of human knowledge. Kardec, however, understood well the nature of spirit communications as an object of study and the pitfalls that the lack of a method of study could bring to Spiritist studies.

“One of the first results that I gathered from my observations was that the spirits, being nothing more than the souls of men, possessed neither the full wisdom nor the integral science; That their knowledge was confined to the degree of advance they had obtained, and that their opinion had only the value of a personal opinion. Recognized from the beginning, this truth preserved me from the grave choice to believe in the infallibility of the spirits and prevented me from formulating premature theories, based on what had been said by one or some of them.” (Allan Kardec, Posthumous Works)

If no spirit is infallible and a method of science to study Spiritism should be considered, it is of utmost importance that we explore the Spiritist Method in more detail – and that we ask whether we are preserving its considerations to date. According to J. Herculano Pires, the Spiritist Method can be summarized by:

  1. Selection of unsuspecting medium collaborators, both from a moral standpoint, and from the purity of faculties and spiritual assistance.

  2. Control of communicating Spirits, through the coherence of their communications and the content of their language.
  3. A rigorous analysis of the communications, from the logical point of view, as well as their confrontation with demonstrated scientific truths, putting aside all that cannot be logically justified.
  4. Universal consensus, that is, concordance of the various communications, given by different mediums, at the same time and in several places, on the same subject.

 

Now, let’s see if we can identify the various elements of this Method in action through Kardec’s own description of his Method applied to the analysis of the concept of reincarnation, offered by the spirits themselves:

“We repeat what we have already said about it, that when we were taught the doctrine of the reincarnation by the spirits it was so far off from our thoughts that we had envisioned a completely different system about the antecedents of the soul, system that is in fact shared by several people. Regarding this subject the doctrine of the spirits has surprised us. We go further: it contradicted us, since it knocked our own ideas down. Hence, it is far from being a reflection of those ideas. That is not all. We did not give in at the first clash. We fought back; defended our opinion; raised objections and only surrendered before the evidence and when we noticed the insufficiency of our system to solve all questions related to this issue”. (Allan Kardec, The Spiritist Magazine, 1858)

Kardec himself was initially contrary to the idea of reincarnation. The concept proposed by the spirits forced him to consider two mutually exclusive paradigms, which he analyzed in light of reason:

“If we do not accept the plurality of corporeal existences, it would be necessary to accept that the soul is created at the same time the physical body is being formed since from two, one is correct: either the soul that animates the body at time of birth has already lived before, or it has not. Between those two hypotheses there is no middle ground; Now, from the second hypothesis, that which defends the soul did not live before, a multitude of unsolvable problems arise”. (Allan Kardec, The Spiritist Magazine, 1862)

Among the “problems” faced when rejecting Reincarnation, Kardec pointed out:

  1. Why does the soul show so diverse aptitudes and independent from the ideas acquired by education?
  2. Where does the super-normal aptitudes towards Science and Art, in children of early age come from, while others remain mediocre or inferior their whole life?
  3. Where do the innate ideas that some present and others don’t, come from?
  4. Where do premature instincts of vices or virtues; innate feelings of dignity or inferiority, in certain children come from, contrasting with the environment where they were born?
  5. Abstraction made of education, why certain men are so more advanced than others?
  6. Why are there savages and civilized men? If you take a tribal man in his diapers and educate him in the best colleges, will you turn him into a Laplace or Newton?

 

So, let’s now summarize how Kardec dealt with information provided by the spirits that differed from his own point of view:

  • At first, he did not accept Reincarnation as a reality.
  • The spirits presented the idea of Reincarnation as a reality.
  • Kardec initially objected and argued, defending his own paradigm and collecting arguments, evidence, facts.
  • Then, Kardec considered both hypotheses in light of all evidence collected and exhaustively dialoguing with the greatest diversity of spirits possible.
  • Finally, between the two systems, the most logical and compatible with the observable objective reality prevailed.

 

This example demonstrates well how Spiritism can be understood as a “science for spiritual studies”, based on critical reasoning and logical assessments of information obtained from multiple and independent mediums, in multiple places at different times. At this point, let us be very clear that we do not advocate Spiritism as the only possible venue to study spirituality or non-physical realities.  This text simply advocates that due to its well-developed scientific methodology, Spiritism can offer a path for those who seek peace between their scientific and rational side and their spiritualized nature. Spiritism allows for a “sorting” of concepts that can withstand critical reasoning and those that do not – allowing people to continue to live and practice their spirituality at least relatively free from fantasies, vague concepts of reality, mystical ideas and dogmatism.

To support this claim, consider that the formal sciences only made important progress after their studies were based on controlled experimental methods. Why then should not spiritualist ideas be put to the test through a similar approach, so that advances can also be made in this area of ​​human knowledge? It is clear that the methods must be adapted to suit the nature of the object of study, but, after Kardec’s legacy, how will such studies be carried forward and by whom? This is the question we must address later in this text (after proper understanding of the Spiritist Method).

In the introduction to his first book, The Spirits’ Book, Kardec also notes the comments below, which are relevant to a clear understanding of the Spiritist science and some of the criticism it receives for intending to study non-physical realities under a scientific perspective. Read it considering that some scientific truths of the recent past are often seen as delusions nowadays and some of the present fiction/dreams will be explained truths in the future. Our history involves a constant evolution, with science and spirituality, both, experiencing hits and misses.

“When science goes beyond the tangible observation of facts and attempts to evaluate and explain those facts, the field is opened up to conjecture. Each individual develops a system of his or her own and they must do their utmost to relentlessly defend it. Contradictory systems are suggested and rejected every day, one right after the other, disparaged as absurd errors, and then later proclaimed as incontestable truths. Facts are the sole criterion of our judgment, the sole argument for which there is no retort. In the absence of facts, those who are wise remain skeptical.

For subjects that have been fully explored and studied, the opinions of the educated are fairly authoritative, because their knowledge is more extensive and enlightened than that of an ordinary person. However, with respect to new facts or principles or even the unknown, their opinions should only be considered hypothetical, because they are no freer from prejudice than anyone else. One can even argue that scientists are more likely to be narrow-minded than someone else, because each of them is naturally prone to look at everything from their particular point of view. A mathematician accepts no other proof than that demonstrated by algebra, while a chemist refers everything to the action of the elements, and so on. When individuals select a specialization, they usually dedicate their entire mind and efforts to it. Beyond the scope of this field, such an individual often makes false inferences because of an insistence on treating every subject in the same manner. This is the consequence of human weakness. Therefore, while we should confidently consult a chemist in matters pertaining to analysis, a physicist with regard to electricity, or a mechanical engineer about driving forces, we must grant no more authority to their unfavorable opinion of Spiritism than we should to the opinion of an architect on a matter pertaining to music. This we must do without detracting from the respect due to their special knowledge.

Physical sciences are based on the properties of matter, which may be experimented upon and manipulated as desired. In contrast, phenomena created by spirits are an effect of the action of intelligent beings who have wills of their own, and who continuously show us that they are not subjected to our whims. Therefore, observations cannot be carried out in the same manner because they require special conditions and a different point of departure. Insisting on submitting them to the same methods of investigation is to insist on assuming the existence of analogies that do not in fact exist. As a result, science is incapable of determining the truth of Spiritism. It has nothing to do with it and its conclusion, whether favorable or otherwise, is of no bearing whatsoever.

Spiritism is the result of a personal conviction that scholars may hold as individuals, and is completely independent of their scientific notions. To submit the question to the decision of physical science would be the same as appointing a group of physicists and astronomers to settle the existence of the soul. Spiritism deals exclusively with the existence of the soul and its state after death. It is completely irrational to assume that someone must be a great psychologist simply because they may be a great mathematician or anatomist. When anatomists dissect a human body, they look for the soul, and, because they do not find it through the use of their scalpels, in the same way that they find a nerve, or do not see it evaporate like gas, they conclude that it does not exist. They reach this conclusion because their reasoning stems from an exclusively material point of view.

This by no means signifies that they are right and that the rest of the world is wrong. Following this line of reason, we conclude that the task of determining the truth or fallacy of Spiritism does not fall within the realm of science. When Spiritist beliefs have become widespread and accepted by the masses, which, if estimated by the speed at which they are currently being spread, is a time not very far off, the same will apply as with all new ideas that have encountered opposition. Scholars ultimately yield to the force of evidence. They will individually admit ideas that they now reject and, until that time, it would be premature to distract them from their special studies with something that is foreign to both their school of thought and field of research.

Meanwhile, those who denounce Spiritism without having a thorough understanding of the subject, and expose to ridicule those who do not submit to their way of thinking, forget that such has been done in regard to nearly every great discovery unearthed by humankind. They run the risk of being grouped among the members of the academic assembly who, in 1752, laughed at Benjamin Franklin’s paper on lightning rods and branded it worthless rubbish; or among those who caused France to miss out on the opportunity of pioneering the use of steam in shipping by labeling Robert Fulton’s plans an impracticable dream. And yet, both of these concepts not only proved to be true, but also went on to make great contributions to humanity. If those two assemblies, which included the leading minds of the world among their members, had nothing but disdain and sarcasm for ideas that they did not understand, but which were destined to revolutionize science, industry, and daily life a few years later, how may we expect that another unfamiliar subject should be met with any greater degree of respect?

The errors of some, though unfortunate for the honor of their memory, do not invalidate our esteem in regard to other matters. Common sense is not dictated by an official diploma, and there are fools both inside and outside the walls of academic institutions. We ask our adversaries to simply glance over the supporters of Spiritism and determine whether they see only uneducated and irrational individuals, or whether, despite the immense number of respectable individuals who have accepted it, Spiritism can be regarded as an old wives’ tale. In fact, their character and scientific knowledge should inspire people to think, ‘If these persons believe in this, there must be something to it.'” (Allan Kardec. The Spirits’ Book)

Before concluding this section, it is important we consider one more excerpt, this time from the article “General Control of the Spirits’ Teachings”, published by Kardec in 1864. Here it should be highlighted the importance Kardec attributed to the spontaneity of the communication in different parts of the globe and to different, independent mediums.

“The concordance in the teaching of the spirits is, therefore, the best control; but we still need that it occurs under certain conditions. The least certain of all is when a medium himself/herself interrogates several spirits on a dubious point; it is very evident that if he/she is under the dominion of an obsession, and if he/she has business with a deceiving spirit, this spirit can tell him/her the same thing under different names. There is, no more, a sufficient guarantee of the conformity which can be obtained by the mediums of a single center, because they may suffer the same influence. The only serious guarantee is in agreement that exists among spontaneous revelations, by means of a large number of strange mediums to each other, and in various countries. It is then conceived that such communications are not concerning to secondary interests, but rather to the very principles of the doctrine. Experience proves that when a new principle should receive its solution, it is taught spontaneously on different places at the same time, and in an identical way, if not in form, at least in principle. If, then, a spirit formulate an eccentric system, based solely on its ideas and out of the truth, one can be sure that this system will be circumscribed, and will fail the test of unanimity of the instructions given by all other parties, as has already occurred many times. (Allan Kardec, The Spiritist Magazine, 1864).

For Allan Kardec, the moral character, universality and concordance of spirit revelations confers to the Spiritist Science strength and authority. It is in the universal concord of rational and moral ideas spontaneously offered by the spirits that lies the best proof of safety of new spiritual teachings. Therefore, if adopting the same rationale, for a new concept to be admitted into the Spiritist body of Knowledge, it must be originated from teachings of multiple evolved spirits to various mediums across the world. As to identify this condition, the following criteria is proposed – offering a similar although individually conceived perspective to the criteria noted earlier on in this text and proposed by J. Herculano Pires.

  • Internal Coherence: The concept should not conflict with fundamental elements already incorporated to the Spiritist Science unless it clearly indicates a conceptual flaw admitted previously by mistake.
  • Grounded Rationality: The concept should be analyzed critically and logically in light of all observable evidence (not necessarily of material nature!).
  • Spontaneity & Universality: The concept should be obtained spontaneously by multiple and reliable mediums independent from each other and in multiple places (ideally multiple countries).
  • Verification: The concept should be verified through dialog with the greatest possible number of spirits of all degrees of advancement.

 

A Proposal for the Advancement of the Spiritist Science

The initial sections of this text were devoted to explaining the Spiritist Method and clarifying the necessary conditions that must be observed for new concepts to be assimilated into the Spiritist body of knowledge. We covered a lot of theory, and now should develop practical plans seeking to answer how Spiritism can be safely developed nowadays. Moreover, how can we, me and you – regardless of whether we are ostensible mediums, contribute to the progress of the Spiritist Science (and your spiritual development in the process)? The ideas here presented are not intended to constitute a final work proposal, but a step forward towards a further widespread practice of Spiritist studies, similar to what was maintained by Kardec at his time – and that constituted the Spiritist Science. We argue that recovering this scientific side of Spiritism protects it from natural dissolution by individual misunderstandings, misinterpretations, wrongful associations of ideas, etc. We also consider that recovering this scientific side of Spiritism allows it to continue to make safer steps forward in the human understanding of the physical and non-physical realities of the cosmos (now happening at a global scale), while ignoring it could naturally lead Spiritism to the status of a human religion and the natural consequences that it entails.

“No science exists that has come forth from a single man’s brain. All, without exception, are the result of successive observations, supported by previous observations, as in a known point, to reach the unknown. This is how the spirits proceeded, in relation to Spiritism.” (Allan Kardec, Genesis)

There was a time when religion and spirituality could be practiced through blind faith in a single book or a single person. This practice is destined to fall into shortcomings and excesses of all sorts and in our view, is not suitable for rational minds, ready to reason the causes and consequences of ideas. So, what is the spiritual practice of the awakened minds? We see it as being that of collaboration, of plurality of ideas, of humble and honest search for knowledge and inner development. This practice, however, cannot suit the flaws of character of those locked in their own pride, wishing to impose their beliefs on all and make the world cater to their needs. This practice is inadequate to those who are still constrained by sects of knowledge, closed to new paradigms and our urgent need to recycle ideas and make change. This practice is not adequate to those who do not question their own certainties. It is not adequate to those still attached to syntax rather than meaning. It is also not adequate to those who seek meaning without labor and study. This practice is for those who consciously celebrate freedom and diversity, knowing how to coexist among individuals who express opposing ideas. If alone we are tremendously limited, united we more thoroughly are able to reach the truth.

It is with this spirit of cooperation that we invite all of those inspired by this article, all of those touched by the Spiritist Science, all free thinkers and rational spiritualists to collaborate with this work. It is with the honest intention to promote progress in our understanding of the multiple dimensions of the cosmos and their intrinsic inter-dependency that we convene the rationale here exposed and it is clear to us that with the sum of additional minds this original proposal could be perfected.

Proposal

The spiritual world has offered us vast material for research in the form of thousands of books, let alone uncountable letters and messages, written through independent mediums in different places and different times. Spiritism itself has now spread through multiple countries and the internet can be used to suitably and safely (considering the proper precautions) connect us across multiple geographies. All of this material, allow us to carry out extensive studies of new concepts proposed by the spirits. This work cannot be performed by anybody or any specific group alone; it belongs to all of us and should be carried out according to the principles of collaboration and charity, thought by Jesus and incorporated to the Spiritist Science from its beginnings. No one is better than everyone! Our proposal, therefore, is that individuals and groups of individuals interested in studying the Spiritist Science (particularly those interested in writing about it or teach it) identify topics of interest and conduct studies according to the Method here proposed. It is critical that we look for the harmony of the teaching and use only primary reference sources. It is only though the universal concord of rational and moral ideas spontaneously offered by the spirits that we can safety contribute to the progress of Spiritism.

Considering this, the reader will note with a simple visit to the Oregon Spiritist Society’s website (www.oregonspiritistsociety.com) that such endeavor has been started through the development of articles published in this website. Everyone is encouraged to challenge or support the ideas and concepts there proposed, indicating new reference sources and/or any new relevant facts. Everyone is invited to develop new studies and share them with this group, so we can also contribute to such studies. As this collaborative effort progresses, new interesting ideas might be uncovered and evaluated according to the Spiritist Method, so as to be either demystified or confirmed. Individual errors of judgment can hopefully be compensated by our collective voice and the Spiritist Science can be practiced and studied on a safer landscape, especially when venturing beyond the topics brilliantly covered by Allan Kardec. The goal then is to form a network of scientists of the spirit devoted to studying the spirit communications and non-physical realities utilizing the Spiritist Method as a mean to advance this Science and prevent its loss through the irresponsible sharing of seemingly good ideas that do not pass through all the scientific boundaries established by Kardec himself for the advancement of Spiritism.

Therefore, those interested in conducting Spiritist research following the general parameters noted by this text are encouraged to contact the Oregon Spiritist Society and/or submit research material for this group’s publishing consideration on its website. Articles submitted for consideration will pass through a preliminary review by the group and if needed, other external collaborators, before being published in the group’s website for further collaboration of others. In any case, collaborators can also publish research material in their own websites, blog or any other online platform and invite us to collaborate with their content material on their platform.

We would like to conclude this article asking the reader (especially those working in Spiritist centers or often representing Spiritism in some fashion): how can you be sure you are educating others correctly regarding the Spiritist Science? Are you observing the Spiritist Method when incorporating new knowledge into your own viewpoints of the Doctrine, your texts, speeches and public communications? You are responsible for what you divulge and good intention (especially after reading this article – sorry!) alone might not be good enough. What are the standards you apply to the quality of your work? It is never enough to note that in the Spiritist Magazine of 1867, the following communication was provided as a warning that the strategy of spirits devoted to slowing down the progress of Spiritism (as a way to hamper the progress of humanity) was to dissolve Spiritism from within:

“You will see the consolidation of Spiritist meetings where the confessed aim will be the support of the Doctrine and the secret purpose will be its undoing; Supposed mediums will have the command communications appropriate to their objectives; Publications that, under the cloak of Spiritism, will strive to demolish it; Doctrines that will lend some of their ideas to Spiritism, but with the goal to supplant it. This is the struggle, the real struggle to be overcome, and that will be pursued with obstinacy [by the invisible opposition of Spiritism], but out of which the strongest will be victorious.” (Allan Kardec, Spiritist Magazine, 1867)

Therefore, if not for the development of the Spiritist Science, then for its preservation – be concerned with the quality and trustworthiness of what you share. It was considering all the elements shared in this article that we developed the proposal here presented (and it is for the same reasons that the Oregon Spiritist Society have adjusted the form of the lectures and publications it issues) – however, real progress can only be achieved through collaboration. As a simple example, Chico Xavier, one of the most trusted and celebrated mediums of recent times, has reached the count of 500 books published. Who can read all of them, compare the information with what has been shared with other mediums in other geographies and languages, make a rational analysis of the material in light of reason alone as well as in light of the Spiritist Science and write about the findings? Again, Spiritism can only progress through charity and collaboration! So, let’s talk? How can we contribute to each other?

 References

  • Pires, J Herculano. Ciência Espírita, FEESP.
  • Kardec, Allan. The Spirits’ Book.
  • Kardec, Allan. The Gospel According to Spiritism.
  • Kardec, Allan.
  • Kardec, Allan. Posthumous Works.
  • Kardec, Allan. Spiritist Magazine – multiple articles from multiple years.