Who is Allan Kardec?
Background and Education of Rivail  |  Rivail, the Intellect, Writer, and Educator |
Rivail Begins His Study of Spiritual Phenomena   |  Rivail Becomes Kardec

Rivail Becomes Allan Kardec & Publishes the Basic Works of Spiritism

On April 30th, 1856, a medium in Rivail’s study group, received, from the spirits, the first indications of his mission.  His spirit guide, Zefiro, revealed to him the task that lay ahead, i.e., that Rivail would publish a book with the teachings and revelations given by the spirits, that the book would be titled Le Livre des Espirits (The Spirits’ Book), and that he would publish it under the pen name of Allan Kardec, a name that he was told he used in a previous existence when he was a druidic priest, living in the town of Gail, where Zefiro also resided.

 Rivail himself said that with that revelation, the meetings at the Brudins’ home, as well as the collections of messages sent to him, began to take on a new meaning and purpose.  He said, “I proposed, therefore, to resolve the problems in philosophy, psychology, and the nature of the invisible world that interested me.  I arrived at each session with a series of questions prepared and methodically proposed; they were answered in a logical manner, with precision and depth.  From that moment, the meetings began to have a very different character, and some of the attendees were serious people who took a lively interest in the work.  If I happened to be absent from a  session, the excitement was dampened; futile questions had lost their charm for the majority of attendees.  At the beginning, I had in mind only my own task.  Later, when I saw that everything formed a whole and took on the proportion of a doctrine, I decided to publish the proceedings of the meetings for everyone’s edification.  When the results were developed and completed, they formed the basis of The Spirits’ Book."   

The Spirits’ Book was completed in 1857, after Rivail studied additional messages from more than ten mediums for outside confirmation of the communications already received, as well as answers to some issues that he felt required further explanation. 


The book was very successful from its initial publication.  In 1858,  Rivail published a second edition with revisions, corrections, and additions.  In the same year, he founded “The Parisian Society for Spiritist Studies” and began publication of the monthly journal called Revue Spirite.  

Following the publication of the Spirits’ Book,  Rivail spent the remaining years of his life completing the codification of Spiritism and disseminating its teachings.  He spread the word through many lectures on Spiritism and its philosophy, making several exhaustive journeys, at his own expense, to take the teachings to as many people as possible.  Over the course of the next 10 years, he published The Medium’s Book, The Gospel as Explained by the Spiritist Doctrine, Heaven and Hell, and Genesis, completing the codification of the Spiritist body of work. Kardec’s wife would later help to release Posthumous Works, an additional collection of Kardec’s work, yet unpublished at the time of his death. 


Throughout the course of the years in which Kardec dedicated himself to Spiritism, he underwent much suffering in the hands of his opponents, including the Church and Church supporters, as well as others acting independently, who subjected him to acts of mockery, criticism, ridiculous accusations, hate, jealousy, and ingratitude, even, in some cases, from individuals he had trusted.  In 1861, during the Spanish Inquisition, the Bishop ordered the burning of 300 Spiritist books, despite Kardec’s protest.  The constant struggle and amount of work involved left him fatigued and took a toll on his health. But this was all foreseen, for even before the publication of the Spirits’ Book, Kardec was warned by the spirits that he would confront all these struggles.  These warnings were all true, as confirmed by Kardec himself in an essay he wrote ten years later.  During this time, he knew no peace, but he never gave up because he strongly believed in the seriousness and importance of his work, and he kept his faith in God, as well as in the spirits that guided and assisted him. 

The time for Kardec’s passage to the Spiritual World came in 1869.  Duncan writes, “On March 31st, 1869, having just finished drawing up the constitution and rules of a new society that he planned to form, while seated in his usual chair at his study-table in the Rue Sainte Anne, in the act of tying up a bundle of papers, his busy life was suddenly brought to an end.  The passing from Earth into the Spiritual World was instantaneous, a peaceful falling asleep - a fitting end to a life well-lived.  But although the physical man is no longer with us, he lives on in Spirit, continuing his work by inspiring, stimulating and encouraging us to continue our search for knowledge.”  


Kardec, Allan. Christian Spiritism (a compilation of two Kardec books: " Spiritism Reduced to Its Simplest Expression" and "What is Spiritism").  Trans. Allan Kardec Educational Society (translated from original French editions, published 1860 and 1859, respectively). Philadelphia, PA. Allan Kardec Educational Society. 1985. 189-198.

Kardec, Allan. "Translator's Preface." The Gospel  Explained By The Spiritist Doctrine.  Trans. Janet Duncan (translated from 3rd edition in French). Essex, England. Allan Kardec Publishing Limited. 1993. IX-XII.

Barbosa, Pedro Franco. "Primordios do Espiritismo." [Origins of Spiritism] Espiritismo Basico [Basic Spiritism]. 3rd ed. Rio de Janeiro-RJ, Brazil: Federação Espírita Brasileira [Brazilian Spiritist Federation]. 1987. 49-58.

Kardec, Allan. "Chapter Title" Obras Póstumas [Posthumous Works]. 8th ed. Trans. Salvador Gentile. Ed (of translation). Elias Barbosa. (translated from 6th edition in French). Araras-SP, Brazil. Instituto de Difusão Espírita [Institute for Spiritist Dissemination].1993. 256-262.

Brochure, "Welcome To Spiritism". Kardecian Spiritist Federation of Florida.