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Spiritism (Portuguese: espiritismo) is a religion, now mostly known and followed in Brazil, that combines elements of Christianity and spiritualism. It began in the 1850s with French author and teacher Allan Kardec (1804–1869), who claimed to have talked to spirits at séances and received guidance from them. Kardec wrote five books detailing the Spiritist Doctrine. Another important name in Spiritism was Brazilian medium Chico Xavier (1910–2002), known for his prolific bibliography of over four hundred books, all of which he claimed to have been actually dictated to him by spirits; Xavier is also the subject of some criticism.

According to 2020 data, approximately 3% of Brazilians are Spiritists.[1]

Outside Brazil, Spiritism has some small presence. It is influential in Cao Đài, a Vietnamese spiritualist religion started in 1926 by three mediums who claimed to have received messages that identified Kardec as a prophet.


Alan Kardec

Allan Kardec (1804–1869), a 19th-century French educator and writer, can be considered the founder of Spiritism, but Spiritists actually identify him only as the codifier or "organizer" or their religion. Kardec claimed to have systematically studied spirit mediums and communicated with high-order spirits through them. Upon observing popular paranormal phenomena at the time such as table-turningWikipedia, he first considered several mundane explanations, including fraud, hallucination and unconscious mental activity, but ultimately concluded that personalities that had survived death were the most probable source of at least some mediumistic communications.

Kardec wrote the five books known as the Spiritist Codification, namely:

  • The Spirits BookWikipedia (1857) — Kardec supposedly makes a number of philosophical and religious questions (originally over 500; over 1,000 in a later edition) to a group of high-order spirits and receives answers from them
  • The Book on MediumsWikipedia (1861) — Teaches the path to mediumship
  • The Gospel According to SpiritismWikipedia (1864) — Relates Spiritism to the teachings of Jesus
  • Heaven and HellWikipedia (1865) — Teaches that both "Heaven" (happiness in the afterlife) and "Hell" (punishment in the afterlife) are misconcepts and that the destiny of spirits after their death is not absolute
  • The Genesis According to SpiritismWikipedia (1868) — Tries to reconcile science and religion and develops a series of important scientific and philosophical topics

After Kardec's death in 1869, Spiritism in France was mostly carried out by Léon DenisWikipedia, Gabriel DelanneWikipedia, and Camille FlammarionWikipedia.


  • Every living being is a spirit that progresses through successive lives in a constant process of evolution. Thus, all animals, plants, microbes, etc. are spirits in earlier stages of evolution. (Unlike fundamentalist Christianity, Spiritism does not deny biological evolution.)
  • The goal of a spirit in the human stage is to develop itself both morally and intellectually (which is symbolically represented by raising two angelical wings) and to detach itself from excessive sensual desires and pleasures. The human stage is itself a very long one, and this explains why people are smart and dumb, kind and evil, etc.: a spirit reincarnates numerous times as a human, developing its morality and intelligence in the process.
    • Those who evolve both "wings" enough progress to further stages on spiritual realms other than Earth. In the vast Spiritist literature, very little is said about those superior post-human angelical realms because they would be largely incomprehensible to us. Spiritual evolution continues infinitely towards God.
  • In the human stage, there is a period in-between incarnations called erraticity, which is the spirit's "real life". There are many different spiritual places that one's soul can go to after life, including bright spiritual colonies in the sky (for good people) and dark realms (for bad people). The Brazilian movie Astral City: A Spiritual Journey,Wikipedia based on one of Xavier's books, exemplifies those. The stay in these places may be very long, but is never eternal. There is no such thing as eternal damnation. The soul will eventually reincarnate on Earth or go somewhere else.
  • Most elements and events of peoples' lives are premeditated by themselves before birth, a memory that disappears after incarnation. This explains why people are born different (diseased and healthy, richer and poorer, etc.): one may deliberately choose to have an easier or harder life to achieve certain goals, or be "paying" for something bad they did in previous incarnations. Very short lives may be compensations for someone who ended someone else's life at an earlier stage. Suicide, considered one of the worst acts in Spiritism, is one of the few things that are never premeditated, but always a personal and spontaneous choice.
  • Jesus is thus not the Son of God who came to save humanity from perpetual doom, but rather an extremely advanced spirit who descended to a stage infinitely earlier than his in order to bring humans a message of love and teach them the right path to evolution, but ended up being revered as a godly figure.
    • Jesus was the second of three revelations of the same message of love to humanity. The first was Moses, who spoke in terms of commandments and laws prohibiting evil acts so that the people of his time would understand, and the third being Spiritism, which brought the message in a clear and complete form to the modern world.
  • Although there is no such thing as sin, doing evil, being vengeful, or being attached to material things adds "weight" to one's soul. For example, addiction to drugs or sexual depravation (either homosexual or heterosexual, of which Spiritism makes no distinction) is a sign of backwardness. Genuine love, forgiveness, and detachment, on the other hand, are signs of advancement.
  • Less advanced spirits, due to immorality or material attachment, may stay on Earth after death. They will often choose to "vampirize" the sensations of people who are consuming drugs, or negatively influence human relations, so they are often called "obsessors". Good spirits may occasionally appear and try to bring them to the good side, but it is ultimately their decision to stay.

Spiritism and atheism[edit]

Divaldo Franco, another major figure in Brazilian Spiritism, has stated: "I have more respect towards a virtuous atheist than a hypocrite religious person".[2] Some Spiritists believe that atheists who do good are superior to religious people who do the same, because, unlike them, they do so without expecting any post-mortem spiritual rewards, so they are the only ones acting unselfishly.

Some characters in Chico Xavier's books are atheists, most notably the physician André Luiz in the famous book Nosso Lar, on which the aforementioned film is based.

The Brazilian journalist Marcel Souto Major, a convicted atheist, has written extensively about Spiritism, a religion he deeply admires because of its moral messages despite not believing in its metaphysical teachings.[3]