Spiritism is a set of beliefs that acknowledges and examines the afterlife world, believes in existence of ghosts and souls. Christian spiritism combines theory and doctrine with proof. Allan Kardec is considered to be the founder of spiritism; his books published in 1857-1868 are the foundation of spiritist learning.
Spiritism was popular mainly in the second half of the 19th century, mainly within Anglo-Saxon countries. After the first wave of interest in this doctrine subsided, there was a slight decline and a new wave of interest in spiritism in the period following WWI. Renowned supporters of spiritism include e.g. writer and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In its present form, spiritism is most spread mainly in the countries of South America, especially in Brazil.
In the Czech Republic, spiritism has spread and become popular mainly in the region of Podkrkonoší, in Nová Paka, Jilemnice and other places. The most significant spiritist personality in the Czech Republic was Karel Sezemský.
Allan Kardec – Founder of Spiritism
Kardec was born in Lyon, France, in 1804. His family tradition predestined him to become a clerk or a lawyer. However, that did not happen as his interest in philosophy and natural sciences prevailed. He studied in France and in Switzerland; he worked in the field of medicine and settled in Paris. Until then, he lived and operated under his family name Rivail; he only accepted the name Allan Kardec on the basis of one of spiritist séances.
He gathered the information that he acquired during these séances and published them under his new name in a book called "The Spirits' Book". In 1858, he also established a magazine on spiritism and related affairs - Revue Spirite. This magazine has subsequently become the most significant source of information on spiritism not only in France, but also in other countries. He also contacted other media in the world and information they provided him were gradually published in books "The Mediums' Book", "The Gospel According to Spiritism", "The Genesis According to Spiritism" and "Heaven and Hell". Other authors spiritism relies upon are e.g. Cammile Flammarion, Chico Xavier, Andre Luiz and others.
Spiritism does not order or command what is good and suitable to believe. Spiritism supporters do not have to follow books on this doctrine; it is a set of guidelines but it does not force anything on anybody. Our understanding of the world and life is completely to our own individual experiences and knowledge.
Certain forms of communication and establishing a link with the spiritual world are known to mankind throughout its whole existence. Spiritual beings, ghosts or angels have been visiting humanity since the time immemorial to pass their wisdom, knowledge and advice to them.
Spiritism: What or Who Are Spirits?
Spirits are beings aware of their existence, they are individual and autonomous. Although spirits are incorporeal creatures, they make man and their physical vessel more alive. A spirit gives predestination, consciousness, desire and want. If such an entity leaves the physical body, this body loses all its previous abilities and only becomes immobile matter succumbing to degradation, while the spirit becomes a free spirit and brings along all feelings and perceptions it experienced during its lifetime. After death, each spirits goes to where it belongs based on its previous deeds. Behaviour and character of a person shape the spirit in the astral world, that is why we meet pure, moral and magnificent beings as well as evil, unaware and similar creatures when we seek to encounter spirits. Spirits of victims of suicide and homicide leave for the afterlife with great pains.
Animism is not unified or coherent around the world. It is close to spiritism by its belief in the existence of souls. In an animist society, there is always a person who has the ability to communicate with spirits and other similar beings. Animism is based on the belief that everything on Earth is alive, that man is linked with nature and that some things cannot be done with any punishment or consequences. Animists believe that souls of the dead continue to exist and therefore they treat their dead with utmost respect. However, this doctrine does not believe in salvation of the soul, it does not strive to live without sin in the living world - it merely strives to survive.
Spiritism in the Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic, spiritism spread mainly in the region below the Krkonoše Mountains and one of its major representatives in our lands is Karel Sezemský. Spiritism is based on a doctrine that the spirit of an individual also survives after the death of the physical body. Modern spiritism originated in USA. Calling spirits was only a fad at first, but later it became a manifestation of a religious wave and spread into Europe.
Karel Sezemský was a writer and publisher in Nová Paka and one of the main leaders and organizers of Czech spiritists, he was also an editor of Spiritistická knihovna (Spiritists' Library).. Karel Sezemský's parents were Czech, but he was born in Styria and went to a vocational school there. He first encountered spiritism during his stay in Prague where he came to learn a bit about the spiritism doctrine during his work. At first, he was refused in the spiritists' circle Na poříčí in Prague, but he begins to write in 1897 and becomes an editor of the magazine called "Posel záhrobí" (Harbinger of Afterlife) in 1900. The magazine was published with no breaks until 1939. After Sezemský got married, he moved to the region of Podkrkonoší where he started to organize spiritists from local villages and more isolated farms.
In 1907, he bought land between forests behind Štikov where he built a house together with Josef Čivný. The house is still called "Na Duchárně" (House of Spirits) today. It was here that Sezemský wrote most of his works. He wanted to establish a spiritist farm at this place, however this idea proved to be premature and he never followed through with it. He kept establishing new contacts with spiritist circles in Austria, France, Yugoslavia and Germany. Karel Sezemský was not a political person and he even refused to participate in military service; he spent some time in jail for this refusal in the Austrian-Hungarian period. He was an abstinent, a non-smoker and vegetarian. After he sold the house "Na Duchárně", he operated in Nová Paka. However, local district office issued prohibition of spiritist events and séances in 1904. Despite all prohibitions, persecution and sanction, spiritism was gaining popularity. In 1910, a Musem of Spiritism was opened in Nová Paka and in 1918 even a theatre play was staged. It was called Na Prahu Věčnosti (On the Verge of Eternity) and it followed spiritist topics.
At the time of the First Republic, Karel Sezemský continued to further develop his publicist and lecture activities in his homeland and abroad. He visited his beloved France where he explored the French countryside and Paris. He met some compatriots who followed his magazines and books. He also visited the spiritist house of Allan Kardec, the founder of spiritism, an astronomical observatory, and even the house and tomb of Flamarion the astrologer. After he returned, his medical condition started to deteriorate and so his work at the publishing house was taken over by his family members who had been working and helping around the publishing house with Sezemský earlier as well. Karel Sezemský died at the age 77. Many spiritists from many various places attended the funeral. After his death, Sezemský's wife led the publishing house, but not for too long. The upcoming period of occupation was not favourable towards spiritism; the publishing house closes in 1939 and in 1941, Gestapo confiscated all written documents on spiritism. Shortly after these events, Mrs. Sezemská dies as well.
Karel Sezemský's significance consisted mainly in his authorial and publishing work. We can categorize his works into two basic groups of topics. The first part is purely spiritist, e.g. "How to Establish a Spiritist Circle" and "Modern Spiritism". The second part are documents striving to inform on other related spiritual doctrines and on various phenomena associated with spiritism. These books are called "Healing Through Magnetism" and "Hypnotism and Suggestion". Sezemský did not only write about these phenomena theoretically, he even practised some of the described procedures. His significance for development of spiritism also lies in his organizational abilities. He attended the first spiritists' convention in 1895 in Prague and he became an active participant in all such events. He cooperated in the establishment of the Fraternal Association of Czech and Slovak Spiritists in 1912, he even designed their logo. He attempted to found a spiritist community. Spiritism continued to spread all over our country, but also around Austria, Germany, Yugoslavia, France and USA.
Séances and Calling Ghosts
Calling spirits as such is not a part of spiritism as we know it today. Various information suggests that this procedure is closely linked with spiritism. In terms of magic, it is one of the most dangerous rituals ever.
There are many methods and processes to call spirits. Some people use ouiji boards where spirits point to individual letters and thus answer questions. Another possible method is using a candle flame or a key hanging on a piece of thread as a pendulum or an actual pendulum. All these methods have one thing in common. Spirits manifest themselves through some kind of object; they never show themselves or speak for themselves. Usually, people at such a séance sit in a circle and hold hands. In other spiritual séances, a so called medium can be present to establish a connection with the spirit who then communicates through the medium.