Allan Kardec: The Spirits’ Book


The Spirits’ Book, written by the nineteenth-century Frenchman Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, under the pen name Allan Kardec, is regarded as one of the five fundamental works of Spiritism. Le livre des esprits was first published in 1857 and later underwent several revisions, resulting in more than twenty-five subsequent editions. It has been translated into forty-six languages. Rivail was impelled by the popular religious esotericism that was sweeping North America and Europe during the mid-nineteenth century. After taking a particular interest in Spiritualism, Rivail scrutinized this movement’s beliefs and practices in an effort to create a more holistic adaptation of the Spiritualist faith.

In 1855 Rivail began crafting his own version of this paranormal-based movement that he referred to as Spiritism. For Rivail, writing as Kardec, composing The Spirits’ Book was an attempt to distinguish his new version of Spiritualism from the established tradition. Therein, he...

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Illustration of a medium possessed by a spirit at a seance (Library of Congress)

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