The Spirits' Book (Le Livre des Esprits in original French) is part of the Spiritist Codification, and is regarded as one of the five fundamental works of Spiritism. It was published by the French educator Allan Kardec on April 18, 1857. It was the first and remains the most important spiritist book, because it addresses in first hand all questions developed subsequently by Allan Kardec.
The book is structured as a collection of questions regarding the origin of the spirits, the purpose of the life, the order of the universe, evil and good and the afterlife. Its answers, according to Kardec, were given to him by a group of spirits who identified themselves as "The Spirit of Truth", whom with he communicated with in several Spiritist sessions during the 1850s. Kardec, who considered himself an "organizer" rather than an author, grouped the questions and their answers by theme, occasionally including lengthier digressions the spirits had dictated to him on specific subjects, some signed by philosophers such as Augustine of Hippo and Thomas of Aquino and writers including Voltaire.
Allan Kardec is the pen name of the French teacher and educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail (Lyon, October 3, 1804 – Paris, March 31, 1869). He is known today as the systematizer of Spiritism for which he laid the foundation with the five books of the Spiritist Codification.
Early life Rivail was born in Lyon in 1804. He was a disciple and collaborator of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and a teacher of 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.
He was already in his early 50s 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."
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 Spiritists writings separate from his work, basically books for high school students.
On April 18, 1857 Rivail (signing himself "Allan Kardec") published his first book on Spiritism, The Spirits' Book, comprising a series of 1,018 answered questions [n 1] 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 by a periodical, the Revue Spirite, which Kardec published until his death. Kardec thus produced the books that form the Spiritist Codification.
Allan Kardec coined the word "spiritism" and followed pseudo-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".