Allan Kardec was a pseudonym of the French teacher and educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail (October 3rd, 1804 – March 31st, 1869). He is known today as the systematizer of Spiritism – he thoroughly investigated the paranormal phenomena occuring at that time, posing questions for the spirits through mediums and channelers.
Through this investigation we have the five central books which form the basis of the Spiritst doctrine – The Spirits' Book, The Gospel according to Spiritism, The Mediums' Book, The Genesis, and Heaven and Hell.
Rivail was born in Lyon, France, in 1804. Rivail was a disciple and collaborator of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and a teacher in courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, physiology, comparative anatomy and French in Paris. For one of his research papers, he was inducted in 1831 into the Royal Academy of Arras. He organized and taught free courses for the underprivileged.
On February 1832 he married Amélie Gabrielle Boudet.
He was already in his early fifties when he became interested in the wildly popular phenomenon of spirit-tapping. At the time, strange phenomena attributed to the action of spirits were reported in many different places, most notably in the U.S. and France, attracting the attention of high society. The first such phenomena were at best frivolous and entertaining, featuring objects that moved or "tapped" under what was said to be spirit control. In some cases, this was alleged to be a type of communication: the supposed spirits answered questions by controlling the movements of objects so as to pick out letters to form words, or simply indicate "yes" or "no."
At the time, Franz Mesmer's theory of animal magnetism was popular in the upper reaches of society. When confronted with the phenomena described, some researchers, including Rivail, pointed out that animal magnetism might explain them. Rivail, however, after personally seeing a demonstration, quickly dismissed the animal-magnetism hypothesis as being insufficient to completely explain all the facts observed (see Chapters VIII and XIV in the The Mediums' Book). Rivail was determined to understand exactly what was causing the physical effects popularly attributed to spirits.
As a teacher with some scientific background (he had never attended a university), Rivail decided to do his own research. Not being a medium himself, he compiled a list of questions and began working with mediums and channelers to pose them to spirits. Soon the quality of the allegedly communication with spirits appeared to improve.
Rivail used the name "Allan Kardec" allegedly after a spirit identified as Zefiro, whom he had been communicating with, told him about a previous incarnation of his as a Druid by that name. Rivail liked the name and decided to use it to keep his Spiritist writings separate from his own work, basically books for high school students.
In April 18, 1857 Rivail (signing himself "Allan Kardec") published his first book on Spiritism, The Spirits' Book, comprising a series of 1,019 questions exploring matters concerning the nature of spirits, the spirit world, and the relations between the spirit world and the material world. This was followed by a series of other books, like The Book on Mediums and The Gospel According to Spiritism, and a periodical, the Revue Spirite, which Kardec published until his death.
Allan Kardec coined the word "spiritism" and followed modern scientific methods in its study, which was recognized among others by Camille Flammarion, a famous French astronomer and author, who said "spiritism is not a religion but a science".
Having died due to aneurysm, Kardec is buried at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise, Paris, France.
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