Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, also known as Allan Kardec, was born on October 3rd, 1804 in Lyon, France. He was a very respected and well-known French educator of the 19th century. He received his education at the Pestalozzi Institute in Yverdon, Switzerland, where he graduated in Letters and Sciences. Rivail became an acolyte and colleague of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. His work with Pestalozzi helped lay the foundations for the teaching model used in schools in France. Rivail worked as a teacher, educational writer, and translator.
He was a member of several scholarly societies, including the Historical Institute of Paris (Institut Historique), Society of Natural Sciences of France (Société des Sciences Naturelles de France), Society for the Encouragement of National Industry (Société d'Encouragement pour l'Industrie Nationale), and The Royal Academy of Arras (Académie d'Arras, Société Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Arts). He organized and taught free courses for the underprivileged.
In 1834, he married Amelie Gabrielle Boudet, who was also a teacher and writer. She was very supportive of her husband’s work throughout her life. Together they wrote and submitted a proposal for the reform of the educational system to the French Legislative Chamber.
How Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail became Allan Kardec…
In 1854, Rivail started investigating the strange and mysterious phenomena of turning tables and spirit-tapping, which was said to occur during séances as evidence of spirits contact. Despite his initial skepticism, he was determined to understand what was causing them. He quickly realized the significance and the serious aspects of those phenomena.
As part of his investigation, Rivail systematically and analytically posed questions to the invisible entities regarding all aspects of life, using different mediums. Other fellow researchers asked him to organize, arrange and compile numerous Spirit communications which they had collected.
For two years, he scrutinized all communications, and then he remarked to Madame Rivail:
“It is a most curious thing! My conversations with the invisible 'intelligences' have completely revolutionized my ideas and convictions. The instructions thus transmitted constitute an entirely new theory of human life, duty, and destiny, that appears to me to be perfectly rational and coherent, admirably lucid and consoling, and intensely interesting. I have a great mind to publish these conversations in a book; for it seems to me that what interests me so deeply might very likely prove interesting to others." - The Spirits’ Book
When the idea of publishing this material was submitted to the Spirits, they replied:
"To the book...You will give, as being our work rather than yours, the title Le Livre des Esprits (The Spirits' Book). You shall not publish it under your own name but under the pseudonym ALLAN KARDEC. [Zéfiro, a spiritual guide, revealed this was his name in a previous incarnation in the Gaul.] Keep your own name Rivail for your own books already published, but take and keep the name we have now given you for the book you are about to publish under our orders and, in general, for all the work that you will have to do to fulfill the mission which, as we have already told you, has been confided to you by Providence, and which will gradually open before you as you proceed in it under our guidance.” - The Spirits’ Book
The Spirits’ Book was first published in April 1857. As foretold by the communicating Spirits, other books followed. This collection contains the foundation of Spiritism. These are:
The Spirits’ Book (Spiritist Philosophy and Principles)
The Mediums' Book (A practical dissertation on Spirit manifestation and evocations)
The Gospel According to Spiritism (The Gospel's moral teachings explained)
Heaven and Hell (Proof of the Divine Justice in the Plurality of Existences)
Genesis (Miracles and Prophecies explained through Science)
In 1858, Allan Kardec founded the first Spiritist society, under the name of “Société Parisienne d'Etudes Spirites” (The Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies). He also founded and edited, until his death, a monthly magazine entitled “La Revue Spirite” (The Spiritist Magazine).
Allan Kardec died due to an aneurysm on March 31st, 1869 in Paris. He is buried at the Père-Lachaise Cemetery. People from all over the world visit his grave, which is reputed to be one of the most flowered there.
At the top part of his burial chamber this sentence is written:
“Naitre, mourir, renaitre encore et progresser sans cesse, telle est la loi.”
("To be born, to die, be born again and constantly progress; that is the Law.”)
After her husband’s death, Madame Rivail continued their work at the Parisian Society of Spiritist Studies and helped guarantee the publication of the Spiritist Magazine. Due to her efforts to consolidate and disseminate Spiritism, she became known as the "First Great Lady of Spiritism".