|Doctrines|| ||Espíritas (spiritists) believe that God is the principle of everything. God created the universe that is constituted of spirit and matter, and therefore, of two worlds: the visible and the invisible one. The spirits, who are immortal elements, were created imperfect, so that they could achieve perfection. In the search for perfection and following an evolutionary law, very much like the Hindu doctrine of karma, the spirits incarnate, disincarnate and reincarnate in the material world. Because spirits follow an evolutionary law, there are higher spirits (spirits closer to the spiritual world and considered good), and there are the lower spirits (spirits that are still close to earthly concerns and are considered evil). Nevertheless all spirits can achieve perfection. Communication between the spirits and humankind is done through mediums.|
Spiritists believe that so far there have been three major revelations to humankind. The first is the Old testament, the second is the new testament, and the third is the spiritists' law that is found in the five books written by Allan Kardec.
The aim of spiritism is the search for spiritual and physical health that can be achieved by practicing charity, studying books considered sacred or important by the movement, receiving and giving spiritual energy, communicating to the spirits. In their meetings, they concentrate basically in the propagation of the doctrine, the teaching doctrine to the spirits that manifest themselves in the meetings, and in the physical and spiritual treatment of believers, as well as in answer to the believers' questions.
Most of these activities take place in the spiritist centre. The centres are generally not very big. Sometimes they are in a home. One way or the other, they tend to be a sober place. Spiritists do not have ceremonies such as baptism, wedding, funeral, etc. The most that might happen will be prayers, but not a proper ritual.
|History|| ||Spiritism was developed by Hippolyte Leon Dénizard Rivail, a French man that adopted the name of a Celt poet -Allan Kardec. According to Allan Kardec, he elaborated his system based on a dialogue he had with "superior spirits". From this dialogue he wrote five books in which he presented his basic doctrines. |
Spiritism was introduced into Brazil at the end of the nineteenth century. In Brazil, the rather scientific tendency gave room to a more religious understanding, despite the claim that spiritism is a philosophy, a science and a religion.
It is not possible to talk about one Spiritist institution. Despite the fact that there is a Brazilian Spiritist federation, and many other Spiritist federations, there is not one organ imposing rules. Each group is free to interpret the doctrine according to their understanding of the books that are written by spiritists, provide it is a serious reading. Reading is a very important activity as it is one of the ways of overcoming ignorance. Reading is also a way of uniting all these groups.
The Spiritist movement is very much concerned with charity, education, and science. Because of this they own homes, nurseries, hospitals, press, cultural institutes, research laboratories, centres.
In Brazil, kardecism has sometimes, together with some afro-Brazilian cults given rise to a more popular version of "spiritism". It is often associated with Macumba, or Umbanda, and mostly called "baixo espiritismo" (lower spiritism). However, the lower spiritism is not recognized by spiritists as part of their religion.
|Symbols|| ||Spiritists do not attach great importance to symbols, there is however, in the "Spirits' Book" -written by Allan Kardec- a recommendation to use the vine-branch at the beginning of the book as an emblem of the work of God. According to this recommendation, in the vine-branch all the material elements that symbolizes the body and spirit are present: "the stem represents the body; the juice, the spirit; the fruit, the union of body and spirit. Man's labour calls forth the latent qualities of the juice; the labour of the body develops, through the knowledge thus acquired, the latent powers of the soul.|
|Adherents|| ||Because it allows a connection between their doctrine and science, it is a religion composed basically by middle class followers. |
| ||Although the centres are autonomous, they are assembled in unions that are assembled in federations that are linked to the "Conselho Federativo Nacional" (national federate council) in Brasília -Brazil. The "Conselho Federativo Nacional" is presided by the "Brazilian Spiritist Federation"|