What’s the goal of Spiritism as a philosophy? It might be an odd question, but it was certainly one on the minds of the early Spiritists like Allan Kardec. As a both a philosophical movement and “science” (as the early members would come to call it) Spiritism sought to ultimately prove the existence of an afterlife to those who might not believe, or redefine the definition of the afterlife for those still held in the grip of overbearing religious traditions. Most of these proofs came in the form of seances where mediums would channel certain spirits in order for the assembled group to gain some sort of new knowledge from the session. Much of this knowledge consisted of details and assurances about the afterlife, the role of spirits, the purpose of life, etc. Occasionally, as with the many channeled passages found in Kardec’s works, these spirits might also provide essential philosophical or scientific details that could then be incorporated into the body of Spiritist knowledge. But was that really the point? What that all? Well, I think it’s difficult to look at early Spiritism as providing what we might call a “spiritual path”. Kardec himself was mostly concerned with getting ordinary interested readers to a point where they truly believed in the spirit world, and had at least a working knowledge of how they might be able to interact and learn from that world. For most that would be enough, but for others he does provide ways of then becoming involved in a sort of “work” among the spirits.
For the Ordinary Citizen
For everyday folks working in the spirit world might not be something to be desired or even encouraged. People tend to not want to see ghosts, after all. And like Kardec says in The Mediums’ Book, “It would be as inconvenient to find oneself incessantly in the
presence of spirits, as to see the air which environs us, or the myriads of microscopic
animals around us and upon us.” That is to say, constantly being in the presence of the spirit world while not a professional spirit worker, would be overwhelming at best. Therefore, Kardec and other Spiritists give ordinary people (meaning people not called to the position of medium) a way to still connect with the Spiritist philosophy as a way of life.
Spiritism as a philosophy seeks to connect individuals with the spirit world without creating “superstitions” or “superstitious behavior”. Kardec himself was constantly reiterating that a belief in spirits should in no way create certain ritual acts or superstitions. People should neither have an affinity for or aversion to the spirit world. Interaction with that other side should be as natural as breathing or walking. It should come to a person in a mild and even pleasant way. This idea was a departure from older Spiritualist beliefs that viewed humankind as being pulled between the forces of the dead, angels, and demons. Kardec encourages budding Spiritists to not be afraid of the spirit world, but rather ask questions, ask a lot of questions. In fact, most of what makes up the real world application of Spiritism is asking questions of spirits. Kardec discouraged exorcisms or other magical formulas, saying they were useless and only made spirits laugh, but he did encourage talking and questioning. In fact, in The Mediums’ Book he cites a story where a particularly loud spirit was disturbing a local family. After enduring the annoyance for a while, the family decided to take action. They were encouraged to seek the council of a conjurer, or an exorcist, but instead they took matters into their own hands. Whenever the rapping in the walls would sound, one member, who was a Spiritist himself, would laugh and yell, “Is that all? Surely you can do better?” and the spirit would rap even louder. This exchange continued until the entire family started to laugh and challenge the spirit to do other things as well, like move object, or open doors, until all of a sudden the raps stopped completely and never began again. The spirit was believed to have been annoyed by the requests and simply left or fell silent. Now, some might challenge this story, and of course I have my doubts with most spirit noises, but more than all of these details, the story relates the important Spiritist idea that spirits still have qualities that we can relate to, but without a body they need not be feared like one would fear an actual person making a ruckus in your home. This fear that many of the spirit workers at the time were causing was one of the main things Kardec and his colleagues wanted to dispel. This fear causes people to shut down around spirits, when in reality they might be able to help them, or they might help themselves through contact with say a departed loved one. When the fear is set aside, one is able to better focus on the full picture of what is going on. Fear causes people to become terrified of ghosts, and terrified by the idea that they too will one day die. For the ordinary citizen, the philosophy of Spiritism offered (and still offers) an alternative to the idea of nothingness after death, as well as the Heaven/Hell dichotomy they were so used to. It says nothing of rituals, rites, or necessary dogma, but simply gives a method whereby individuals might continue the relationships they had with loved ones now departed, and rest assured that they themselves are on a forward trek towards wisdom and happiness.
For the Spirit Medium
For those individuals called to become a more active worker in the spirit world, Spiritism offers a different path than the ordinary citizen. For the medium this path encompasses three relationship areas (and more, but these are the three I like to talk about):
1: Medium and Spirit
This relationship is between the medium themselves and the spirits they encounter. Usually a budding medium will be approached by one or more what are called “guiding spirits” which are upper level entities that are naturally attracted to those with the gift of mediumship, even if the medium doesn’t yet recognize the gift within themselves. These spirits only want to help protect the medium and guide them towards fully discovering their gifts. They might be with the medium for life, or only for a little while, but the wisdom and knowledge they impart helps the medium to grow and not fall into certain “obsessions” (which will be discussed at a later time). This relationship also represents the mediums work with other spirits in the world. This often manifests as delivering messages from upper level spirits, or helping lower level spirits to “elevate” or rise through the levels of the spiritual hierarchy through counselling sessions with the medium themselves. Remember what I said earlier? A lot of the physical, real world work of Spiritism comes down to talking. Talking to our guides (helping ourselves to elevate), talking to troubled or errant spirits (helping them to elevate), or talking to our departed loved ones (helping them as well as ourselves to elevate). Talking is key and keeps the individual from falling into superstitious behavior or ritualistic repetitions. According to Kardec, humans are in a unique position in being able to help errant or lower level spirits to elevate. It’s because we are incarnate beings, and as incarnate beings we can relate to the struggles a spirit might have had in life. That’s not to say other spirits have forgotten what it’s like to be human, but there’s the belief in Spiritism that once we shed our mortal forms we all of a sudden regain knowledge of our past incarnations and what all we have learned throughout our time in the universe. This action tends to separate spirits from their intimate knowledge of specific incarnations, unless they are a higher order being. Therefore, we are better able to relate to the disembodied entities of Earth because we ourselves, at our core, are still spirits tied to this earthly abode as well. Our experience of life gives us the unique advantage of being able to help spirits learn from their mistakes and elevate.
2: Medium and Citizen
There’s an intimate bond between medium and the everyday citizen who comes looking for help. This relationship requires a great deal of trust. The medium trusts that the client is going to tell the truth, and the client trusts that the medium is also going to be truthful and not seek to take advantage of them. Unfortunately the annals of Spiritism are full of cases of frauds. They’re everywhere, as most no doubt know. These frauds, while overemphasizing the “spectacle” of the seances, have sullied the very beautiful philosophical aspects that lie underneath. It is for this reason that many automatically reject anything having to do with Spiritualism or Spiritism without even reading the material. And to be honest, I don’t blame them. But all of that aside, historically the medium has been a connection between the individual and the spirit world. For me, as a medium, I tend to not do the sort of, “How’s dead aunt Betty doing today?” readings, but I won’t say those types of session have no place. Sometimes people really do need to know how dead aunt Betty is doing in the spirit world. Most of the time my goal is to help the spirits elevate, and to help the spirit inside my client elevate as well. This most often manifests as healing sessions where I will use important information from my guides, as well as the guides around my client, to help them to heal in both spirit and body.
3: Medium and Medium
Very interesting things come out when multiple mediums get together. In my experience there tends to be an almost overwhelming amount of information that comes together all at once. It’s almost like when you’re talking with someone you’ve known your entire life and you don’t really even have to say much for the other person to understand exactly what you’re talking about. These sorts of meetings were at the birth of Spiritism, when mediums got together and shared vital information from their own guides, and verified information from others. This interaction was really at the heart of early Spiritism, and the collaboration still goes on today in many Spiritist meetings. To reduce the idea down a little, let’s take the case of stamp collecting. A group of amateur stamp collectors with a few more experienced members, or maybe even an expert or two, is bound to have an interesting time, because they all love the hobby, but it’s not going to produce the same amount of information as if you had a group consisting entirely of experts with lots of experience. These meetings are bound to move in different ways and produce a higher level of information.
For Spiritists as a Whole
For the greater community of Spiritists, the goal of our meetings or work in the world shouldn’t be about “proving” the existence of the spirits to those who don’t believe. I think this is a vital mistake that most make when they are talking about their beliefs. Of course, it’s necessary to be able to explain this philosophy in such a way that people aren’t confused, or don’t go away from the conversation really thinking ill of Spiritism, but there’s so much more to the work we need to do. At some point we have to set aside the erudite need to “prove” ourselves, and pick up with where actual healing needs to be done in the cities and spaces around us. Spiritists, whether you are an ordinary, participating member, or a spirit medium, you have a place in the world, and you have skills that are needed in helping to transform that world.