The English word "spirit" comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning
"breath" (compare spiritus
asper), but also "soul, courage,
vigor", ultimately from a PIE
root *(s)peis- ("to blow").
In the Vulgate, the Latin word translates
Greek (pietµa), pneuma (Hebrew
(numrah) ruah), as opposed to anima,
translating psykhe. The word was
loaned into Middle English via Old
French espirit in the 13th century.
In India Prana means breath.
The distinction between soul and
spirit became current in Judeo-Christian
terminology (e.g. Greek. psykhe
vs. pneuma, Latin anima vs. spiritus,
Hebrew ruach vs. neshama or nephesh;
in Hebrew neshama from the root
NSHM or breath.)
Spiritual possession is a concept
of supernatural and/or superstitious
belief systems whereby gods, daemons,
demons, animas, or other disincarnate
entities may temporarily take control
of a human body, resulting in noticeable
changes in behaviour. The concept
of spiritual possession exists in
many contemporary religions and
can also be seen in the mythology
and folklore of many cultures.
Types of possession
While not all belief systems consider
spirits to be purely good or evil,
the term demonic possession is commonly
used when the spirit is perceived
as malignant (a demon), whereas
incorporation or channelling may
be used in the case of benign spirits.
Other terms applied to spiritual
possession include being ridden,
being tied down, Get Happy, and
Baptism with the Holy Spirit. "Godforming"
is a term often associated with
these beliefs; however, it is fundamentally
different. Godforming is the possessing
of the qualities of an archetypal
deity, and has nothing to do with
worship. It is rather the "possessing"
of the nature of the described deity,
and not the deity itself. Generally,
no belief in the deity being "godformed"
is necessary to the practice.
Channelling is the claimed receipt
of information or commands by a
person functioning as a medium or
channel for a spirit or other source.
This often involves a séance,
or a process of invocation such
as "drawing down the moon".
Some forms of channeling appear
to involve spiritual possession,
as the medium's voice or body may
appear to be under the direct control
of the channelled spiritual being,
but some maintain that channeling
and possession are distinct. In
Spiritism the channeling (in its
manifold types) is seen as a process,
which can be either good or bad
to the medium, while possession
(which they term obsession) is seen
as inherently bad, though often
benign. Spiritists also reject the
term channeling. Traditional religions
such as Vodoun and Santeria define
possession as a neutral thing, but
as specifically positive when it
involves being "ridden"
by a deity or respected ancestor.
In this context, channelling is
seen as distinct from possession
as channelling may only involve
repeating the voices one hears in
one's head, whereas possession involves
complete loss of control to the
outside entity, with the possessed
person only returning to consciousness
later with no memory of what happened
while the spirit controlled their
body and voice.
The concept is quite old and widespread
in the history of religion. The
concept was popularised in the West
by Helena Blavatsky the founder
of theosophy. The claim is also
made by many other Spiritualist
religions, such as Kardecism.
According to the religious scholar
Wouter Hanegraaff, the difference
between channeling and spiritism
is that the first conveys extensive
philosophical and religious messages
and belief systems, not just short
messages from the deceased or other
Brazilian psychic surgeons, such
as José Arigó, claim
to work as channels for deceased
Pneumatology is the
study of spiritual beings and phenomena,
especially the interactions between
humans and God. Pneuma is Greek
for "breath", which metaphorically
describes a non-material being or
influence. World Book Dictionary
defines pneumatology as "1.
Theology the doctrine of the Holy
Spirit. 2. The doctrine of spirits
or spiritual beings, in the 1600s
considered a branch of metaphysics.
3. pneumatics. 4. Obsolete word
Spiritism is a philosophical doctrine
akin to Spiritualism, established
in France in the mid nineteenth
century, which has become a sort
of religious movement. Like Spiritualists,
Spiritists believe in the survival
of the souls after death and the
importance of eventual communications
received from them, but the two
movements claim to be different.
Allan Kardec (1804-1869). Founder
of SpiritismSpiritism is based on
books written by French educator
Hypolite Léon Denizard Rivail
under the pseudonym Allan Kardec
reporting séances in which
he believed to be conversing with
incorporeal spirits. His assumption
was neither original nor uncommon,
as such beliefs had numerous followers
then (among them many scientists
and philosophers) and séances
were carried on very often by his
contemporaries, though usually for
recreational purposes. His work
was later extended by writers like
Léon Dénis, Arthur
Conan Doyle, Camille Flammarion,
Ernesto Bozzano, Chico Xavier, Waldo
Vieira and others.
Spiritism has adherents in many
countries throughout the world,
including Spain, USA, Japan and
Brazil -- the one with the largest
proportion and the greatest numbers
The Book on Mediums or Mediums
and Evokers' Handbook (a.k.a. The
Mediums' Book —Le Livre des
Médiums, in French), is a
book by Allan Kardec published in
1861, second of the five Fundamental
Works of Spiritism — the spiritualist
philosophy Kardec had been publishing
— being the tome in which
the experimental and investigative
features of the doctrine were presented,
explained and taught.
In his introduction to The Spirits
Book (the first volume of the Spiritist
Codification series) Allan Kardec
claimed to have coined the term
"Spiritism" to name the
movement he was initiating because
"new things deserve new names".
However, similarly to the word daemon
used to designate supernatural beings
and spirits and had no negative
connotation in Greek mythology,
the word Spiritism was appropriated
by conservative christians to designate
their prejudicial interpretation
of different movements and religions
that practiced mediumship. Nevertheless,
confusion with syncretic religions
is less common today, as the followers
of such creeds tend to emphasize
their proper names. Examples of
religions that were often called
"Spiritism" in the past
are Candomblé, Umbanda, Cao
Dai, Santería, Quimbanda,
Santo Daime and a host of shamanic
Regarding Spiritualism, the confusion
is more common, even now, as the
two movements were very close since
the beginning. As a proper noun,
Spiritualism is a religious movement,
prominent from the 1840s to the
1920s, found primarily in English-speaking
countries. Some authors, like Camille
Flammarion and Arthur Conan Doyle
wrote books that are accepted by
both groups. Spiritists usually
include in the list of famous followers
people like Sir William Crookes
or the medium Daniel Dunglas Home,
who were actually related to Spiritualism.
Nevertheless, the two movements
have drifted apart over the years
and since the very beginning Spiritists
rejected the term "Spiritualism"
on the grounds that it is a generic
term for the belief in an immortal
Spiritualism (in English) as a
common noun (uncapitalised) is a
largely obsolete term for animism
and other religious practices involving
the invocation of spiritual beings,
The Book on Mediums repeats, develops
and extends into detail some broad
concepts about Spirits found in
the Spirits' Book. It also introduces
some new ones.
Perispirit: The Perispirit, a semi-material
envelope (or body) which is the
link between pure spirit and pure
matter. Such envelope is called
Perispirit (from Greek, meaning
Outer Spirit or Around the Spirit)
and is renewed each time a spirit
reincarnates. The perispirit has
roughly the same appearance of the
spirits' last incarnation and is
what we actually see in apparitions.
Serfdom in the Spirit World: Lower
spirits, especially those in penance
are often hired by higher spirits
as their apprentices or even serfs.
Weak spirits of low morals may be
even enslaved by strong, evil others,
especially if they were enemies
The cause of Poltergeists: The
perturbation popularly named poltergeist
is caused by an evil or clueless
spirit taking advantage of an untrained
natural medium. If the medium learns
how to control his/her powers he
will not be disturbed by it. Sometimes
the medium loses his/her powers
Mind over matter: Spirits are capable
of moving, transporting, dematerialising
and rematerialising inanimate objects,
with the help of mediums. Instrument
or Medium?: Throughout the book
Kardec used both terms interchangeably,
but he prefers to use instrument
instead of medium when he is supposedly
talking to purported spirits.
Sleep is the emancipation of the
mind: While we are asleep our spirit
loosens its ties to matter and wanders
the spiritual world. Because of
it, it is theoretically possible
-- although uncommon -- to see the
spirit of a living person as an
Sometimes it is just an illusion:
Kardec admits that often people
who report apparitions or poltergeist
are victims of delusion, hallucination
or are just lying.
The spiritual world is a mirror
of the material world, except for
the lower spirits (for whom it is
something not unlike hell) or the
higher ones (for whom it is ideal,
Haunted houses are haunted all
the time, not only at night: But
it is much easier to hear and to
see spirits when it is quiet and
Because spirits are of varied degrees
of knowledge and morality, their
communications are also diverse,
ranging from inane, stupid, common-place,
common sense, elevated but lacking
originality to name a few. Only
a small portion of the communications
are worth keeping record of.
Mediumship is a term used mostly
in Spiritualism to denote the ability
of a person (the medium) to produce
psychic phenomena of a mental or
physical nature. The term is usually
used to denote a person who is thought
to be able to facilitate communication
with spirits of the deceased or
other non-corporeal entities, either
by going into a trance and allowing
a spirit to use their body, or by
using extrasensory perception to
relay messages from the spirits.
The term channalling is used in
New Age belief for this type of
mediumship. Some mediums (or the
spirits working with them) are also
said to be able to produce physical
paranormal phenomena such as materilizations
of spirits, apports of objects,
There are different types of mediums,
as many as the different types of
phenomena spirits can produce. A
few mediums can produce more than
one type of phenomenon, in that
those who see/hear cannot produce
physical effects, those who write
cannot see, and so on. The most
common types are: physical effects,
seer, hearer, psychographer, sensitive,
incorporative (talkative), sleepwalking,
healer and intuitive.
To Conduct A Real Seance
During the course of the séance,
the medium would speak under
the apparent ... The séance,
or sitting, is led by a person
known as a medium who will
CHANNELING: MEDIUMS CONTACTING
THE DEAD IN THE 21ST CENTURY
The word séance comes
from the French word for 'seat',
'session', from Old French
seoir, 'to sit.' In English,
the word came to be used specifically
for a meeting of people to
receive spiritualistic messages.
Ouija Board is one
of the most popular methods
of spirit communication among
the curious and initiates
in the world of paranormal
investigation. The name –
is derived from the French
and German words for “yes”
– oui and ja. Although
distributed in many different
types, today the most recognizable
Ouija board consists of a
flat board with the letters
of the alphabet, a series
of numbers, some punctuation
marks, and the words “yes,”
“no,” and “goodbye”
printed on it.
Mediumship can be tiring, painful
or even downright dangerous to the
health of the body or of the mind.
Most mediums are under the risk
of being overwhelmed by evil spirits
and made their puppets. The only
way to prevent this is to lead a
Kardec's technique for perfecting
psychographic mediumship is strikingly
similar to what most creative writing
teachers tell their students.
No medium can produce phenomena
at will, but only when some spirit
is willing to.
Animals are mediums too: they can
see spirits, hear them or even be
haunted by them.
A large amount of the evil that
exists in the world is the work
of lower evil spirits that obsess
the minds of the weak of will.
The Fox Sisters
Sisters Catherine (1838–92),
Leah (1814–90) and Margaret
(1836–93) Fox played an important
role in the creation of Spiritualism.
The daughters of David and Margaret
Fox, they were residents of Hydesville,
New York. In 1848, the family began
to hear unexplained rapping sounds.
Kate and Margaret conducted channeling
sessions in an attempt to contact
the presumed spiritual entity creating
the sounds, and claimed contact
with the spirit of a peddler who
was allegedly murdered and buried
beneath the house. A skeleton later
found in the basement seemed to
confirm this. The Fox girls became
instant celebrities. They demonstrated
their communication with the spirit
by using taps and knocks, automatic
writing, and later even voice communication,
as the spirit took control of one
of the girls.
The Fox Sisters.
From left to right: Margaret, Kate,
In 1848, the two younger
sisters – Kate and Margaret
– were living in a house in
Hydesville, a village near Rochester,
New York with their parents. The
house had some prior reputation
for being haunted, but it wasn't
until late March that the family
began to be frightened by unexplained
sounds that at times sounded like
knocking, and at other times like
the moving of furniture. During
the night of March 31, Kate challenged
the invisible noise-maker to repeat
the snaps of her fingers. It did.
It was asked to rap out the ages
of the girls. It did. The neighbours
were called in, and over the course
of the next few days a type of code
was developed where raps could signify
yes or no in response to a question,
or be used to indicate a letter
of the alphabet. The entity creating
the sounds claimed to be the spirit
of a pedlar named Charles B. Rosma,
who had been murdered five years
earlier and buried in the cellar.
The neighbours dug up the cellar
and found a few pieces of bone,
but it wasn't until 1904 that a
skeleton was found, buried in the
cellar wall. No missing person named
Charles B. Rosma was ever identified.
The Fox girls became famous, and
attracted imitators, or perhaps
encouraged people who previously
had hidden their gifts. At any rate,
during the following few years,
hundreds of persons would claim
the ability to communicate with
Skeptics suspected this was nothing
but clever deception and fraud.
Indeed, sister Margaret eventually
confessed to using her toe-joints
to produce the sound. And although
she later recanted this confession,
both her and her sister Catherine
were widely considered discredited,
and died in poverty. Nonetheless,
belief in the ability to communicate
with the dead grew rapidly, becoming
a religious movement called Spiritualism,
and contributing greatly to Kardec's
Types of mediumship
There are several distinct types
of mediumship. Mental mediumship
is defined as communication of spirits
with a medium by telepathy having
received the communication, the
medium then passes on the information.
Trance mediumship is defined as
a spirit taking over the body of
the medium, sometimes to such a
degree that the medium is unconscious.
Physical mediumship is defined as
manipulation of energies and energy
systems by spirits, using the energy
or ectoplasm released by a medium.
A spirit who communicates with
a medium, either verbally or visually,
is known as a spirit communicator.
A spirit who uses a medium to manipulate
energy or energy systems is called
a spirit operator.
Mental mediumship involves communication
between spirits and the medium.
The medium mentally "hears",
"sees", and feels messages
from spirits, which he then relays
to the recipient(s) of the message.
When a medium is doing a "reading"
for a particular person, that person
is know as the sitter.
Psychic senses used by mental mediums
are sometimes defined differently
in spiritualism than in other paranormal
fields. Clairvoyance, for instance,
is often used by spiritualists to
include seeing spirits and visions
instilled by spirits ,
whereas the Parapsychological Association
as information derived directly
from an external physical source.
definitions of psychic senses:
Clairvoyance or "Clear Seeing",
is the ability to see anything which
is not physically present, such
as objects, animals or people. This
sight occurs "in the mind’s
eye", and some mediums say
that this is their normal vision
state. Others say that they must
train their minds with such practices
as meditation in order to achieve
this ability, and that assistance
from spiritual helpers is often
Some clairvoyant mediums can see
a spirit as though the spirit has
a physical body. They see the bodily
form as if it were physically present.
Other mediums see the spirit in
their mind's eye, or it appears
as a movie or a television programme
or a still picture like a photograph
in their mind.
Clairaudience or "Clear Hearing",
is usually defined as the ability
to hear the voices or thoughts of
spirits. Some Mediums hear as though
they are listening to a person talking
to them on the outside of their
head, as though the Spirit is next
to or near to the Medium, and other
Mediums hear the voices in their
minds as a verbal thought.
Clairsentience or "Clear Sensing",
is the ability to have an impression
of what a spirit wants to communicate,
or to feel sensations instilled
by a spirit.
In clairsentinence or "Clear
Feeling", the medium takes
on the ailments of a spirit, feeling
the same physical problem the spirit
person before they died.
Clairalience or "Clear Smelling"
is the ability to smell a spirit.
For example, a medium may smell
the pipe tobacco of a person who
smoked during life.
Clairgustance or "Clear Tasting",
is the ability to receive taste
impressions from a spirit.
Claircognizance or "Clear
Knowing", is the ability to
know something without receiving
it through normal or psychic senses.
It is a feeling of "just knowing".
Often, a medium will have the feeling
that a message or situation is "right"
Trance mediumship is often seen
as a form of mental mediumship.
Some mediums remain conscious during
this communication period, while
others go into a trance, wherein
a spirit uses the medium's body
to communicate. Part trance mediums
are aware during the period of communication,
while full trance mediums pass into
an unconscious state in which their
physical and mental processes are
completely controlled by the spirit
In the 1860s and 1870s, trance
mediums were among the most popular
of lecturer-entertainers, many delivering
passionate speeches on abolitionism
and women's rights.
According to spiritualists, physical
mediumship involves such manifistations
as loud raps and noises, voices,
materilized objects, apports, and
materialized spirit bodies or body
parts such as hands, and levitation.
The medium is used as source of
power and substance for such spirit
manifestations. The power or substance
taken from the medium is called
Ouija and Talking
Just after the news
of the Fox affair came to France,
people became even more interested
in what was sometimes termed the
In the beginning, a table spun
with the "energy" from
the spirits present by means of
human chaneling (hence the term
medium). But, as the process was
too slow and cumbersome, a new
one was devised, supposedly from
a suggestion by the spirits themselves:
the talking board.
Early examples of talking boards
were baskets attached to a pointy
object that spun under the hands
of the mediums, to point at letters
printed on cards scattered around,
or engraved on, the table. Such
devices were called corbeille
à bec ("basket with
a beak"). The pointy object
was usually a pencil.
Talking boards were tricky to
set up and to operate. A typical
séance using a talking
board saw people sitting at a
round table, feet resting on the
chairs' supports and hands on
the table top or, later, on the
talking board itself. The energy
channeled from the spirits through
their hands made the board spin
around and find letters which,
once written down by a scribe,
would form intelligible words,
phrases, and sentences. The system
was an early, and less effective,
precursor of the Ouija boards
that later became so popular.
Allan Kardec first became interested
in Spiritism when he learned of
the Fox sisters, but his first
contact with what would become
the doctrine was by means of talking
boards. Some of the earlier parts
of his Spirits' Book were channeled
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