L. H. D. Rivail (1803-1869) a doctor of medicine who became celebrated under the pseudonym Allan Kardec coined the word "spiritism" to delineate clearly his teachings from traditional Spiritualism, which was recognized among others by Camille Flammarion, a famous French astronomer and author, who said "spiritism is not a religion but a science".
This philosophy is distinct from spiritualism as it is built on the main tenet that spiritual progress is effected by a series of compulsory reincarnations. According to Arthur Conan Doyle, most British Spiritualists of the early 20th century were indifferent to the doctrine of reincarnation, few supported it, while a significant minority were opposed, since it had never been mentioned by spirits contacted in séance
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.
In April 18, 1857 Rivail (signing himself "Allan Kardec") published his first book on Spiritism, The Spirits' Book, comprising a series of 1,019 questions exploring matters concerning the nature of spirits, the spirit world, and the relations between the spirit world and the material world based on trance communications received through Mlle. Celina Bequet, a professional somnambulist (hypnotist) who, for family reasons, took the name of Celina Japhet and, controlled by her grandfather, M. Hahnemann, and Franz Anton Mesmer, gave medical advice.
This was followed by a series of other books, like The Book on Mediums and The Gospel According to Spiritism which achieved enormous popularity in his own lifetime, and by a periodical, the Revue Spirite, which Kardec published until his death.
After the death of Allan Kardec Spiritism continued to spread and was internationally famous. Many well educated people from Europe and the United States embraced Spiritism as a logical explanation of reality, including themes related to transcendence, such as God and afterlife.
Thousands of Spiritist centres were founded throughout Europe, North America and, especially, Brazil and the Spiritist principles were so much disseminated in some countries that Spiritism was considered for inclusion in regular school and college programmes in Europe.
Spiritism has influenced Brazilian syncretisms like Umbanda, Christian Rationalism, Union of the Vegetal and Valley of Dawn, all of them often claiming the name formally or informally. According to the last IBGE census dataBrazil, 4 million people declare themselves "Kardecist Spiritists", , making Brazil the largest Spiritist country in the world.
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" www.febnet.org.br (site in Brazilian Portuguese).