From Pat Deveney's database:
Revue Spirite, La.
La Revue Spirite (together with its offspring and congeners) is truly a phenomenon as it approaches its 150th year of publication, but a phenomenon that strikes non-French (or -Portuguese or -Spanish) readers as peculiar and certainly at odds with what would have expected from a knowledge of contemporary American "spiritualism." In fact, the journal was (and is) not "spiritualist" at all, but "spiritist"—that is, devoted to the teachings received from the spirits by "Allan Kardec" (Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail, October 3, 1804-March 31 1869). Kardec chose the term because, to his mind, the word "spiritualism" was merely the opposite of "materialism" (akin to idealism), while "spiritism" specifically evoked the reality of intercourse with the spirits of the dead. Kardec was a teacher of socialist tendencies who became interested in spiritualism in 1854 and brought to his new interest a degree of organization that spiritualism had lacked before. Kardec was never a medium himself, and relied initially on the the planchette communications of the daughters of a M. Baudin and the communications of Celina Bequet (who called herself Celina Japhet) who was entranced by M. Roustan. Kardec formalized a procedure of interrogating the spirits on the basis of prepared questions and of categorizing and organizing the responses given. His Book of Spirits (1857) set out the teachings received, and the Book of Mediums (1861) laid out the methods of developing mediums and, in detail, of holding seances. Both have been in print in a variety of languages ever since, along with Kardec's other books. The reform-minded and socialistic nature of the teachings of Kardec's spirits has been seen as the reason that spiritism in French-speaking Europe was predominantly a working-class phenomenon, but the distinctions between spiritism and spiritualism are deeper than that, and in any case most spiritualists were "reformers" of one stripe or another. To the contemporary English- and German-speaking spiritualists, the chief divide separating spiritism from spiritualism was the former's insistence on reincarnation (a doctrine with antecedents in French socialism), but the divide continued (and continues) even after reincarnation had become a staple in England and America through the influence of Theosophy and other orientalist strains generally in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Spiritism was above all "scientific," and saw in the properly obtained teachings of the spirits the perfect rational resolution to the problems confronting the world, but it achieved this scientific result through a degree of control, exclusion and repression that shocked the non-spiritists, though it was obviously more congenial to those of a nineteenth-century Catholic background, since spiritism early on settled on the "doctrine" embodied in the almost sacred writings of Kardec and in the first twelve volumes of the Revue Spirite (those published before his death). Variant teachings, those received from "wild spirits" and conflicting with the canon of revelation in Kardec's works, were excluded by definition and the purity of the teaching was ensured even after the movement had spread beyond Paris by the requirement that seances begin with a reading of selections from Kardec's writings and that questions to mediums be approved in advance by the group's leaders. The journal in April 1866 (111-116), for example, in discussing a proposed "Independent Journal of Spiritism," rejected the notion out of hand: "What is independent spiritism? Independent of what? . . . It is spiritism freed not only from the instruction of the spirits, but of all direction or personal supremacy, from all subordination to the instructions of a chief . . . ." This censorious approach led the journal to ignore almost completely its contemporary La Revue Spiritualiste (a "spiritualist" journal, as its name indicates) even though both were published in Paris.
The Revue Spirite before Kardec's death strongly discouraged the sort of phenomenalistic approach that predominated in American spiritualist journals. In May 1863, for example, it discussed La Table Parlante, a pre-Kardecist French journal that had featured the phenomena of mediumship, and condemned it outright. "We have futilely reviewed it looking for something to include in our Revue; everything we might have used would be considered puerile and without interest today. If this journal had not ceased appearing . . . it could only have survived by placing itself on the plane of the progress of science, and, if it appeared today in the same condition as formerly, it wouldn't have 50 subscribers. Spiritists are far more numerous now than then, it is true—enlightened, and seeking a more substantial teaching." (157-158)
To some extent this disdainful approach to phenomena was curtailed under Kardec's successor and ignored by his followers in other countries, such as Antonio Torres-Solanot y Casas, the director of El Criterio Espiritista and other journals. On Kardec's death in 1869, the movement faced a crisis triggered by lack of a leader and by conflicts over the disposition of the considerable income derived from Kardec's works. The latter problem was resolved by incorporating an entity capitalized at 40,000 francs (40 shares of 1,000 francs each), presumably with Kardec's widow retaining some financial control. Pierre-Gaetan Leymarie (1817-1901), a medium who had been involved with the Revue Spirite since its beginning, was chosen as editor in chief—a position he held until his death more than thirty years later (when the editorship was assumed by his wife, Marina). Leymarie, while preserving the purity of Kardec's doctrine, spiced up the Revue Spirite with more accounts of "phenomena," and was far more open about the socialist teachings of the spirits (Leymarie was a socialist, secularist and anticlerical and had been exiled for "republican" proclivities after the failed coup d’etat of 1857—he spent the time in Brazil), and very actively promoted spiritism to the public. In the early 1870s, Leymarie had teamed up with Edouard Isidore Buguet (1840- ), a photographer, and Firman, an American medium, to promote "spirit photographs." The price ranged from 20 to 4,000 francs. Leymarie's role, apparently, was to advertise the new enterprise, and he featured the photographs in the Revue Spirite and sent them to the leading spiritualist journals with his glowing recommendations. See "French Photographs," Banner of Light 35/13 (June 27, 1875): 1. This venture came undone after a raid on Buguet's studio turned up dummies and photographs of likely-looking "spirit" heads, suitable for double exposing. Leymarie and Buguet were sentenced to a year in jail, together with a substantial fine, and Firman received six months. The spiritualists of the world united in condemning the trial, and Leymarie always proclaimed his innocence, though at very least, he was foolish to support so unreservedly Buguet's powers. G.L. Ditson, reviewing Leymmarie's wife's Proces des Spirites quoted tellingly the testimony of one of the witnesses at the trial, that Leymarie was "not a cheat, but an imbecile." Ditson, "Proces des Spirites, Edite par Madame P.G. Laymarie," Banner of Light 37/23 (September 4, 1875): 1. Buguet jumped bail and fled to Belgium, Firman went on to become a well-thought of materializing medium (paid, allegedly, $12,000 a year for his services by Count de Bullet), and Leymarie managed to escape serving his year’s sentence and returned to his work at the Revue Spirite, apparently without a qualm being expressed in the world of the spiritists—though D.D. Home voiced his reservations. Madame H.P. Blavatsky, who had known Leymarie from her days in Paris in 1873, defended him wholeheartedly, blaming the Jesuits for his problems, and Leymarie returned the favor in his journal with significant contributions on and about her and her new society. Her own proposed journal in Cairo, La Revue Spirite du Caire, from its title was undoubtedly to be patterned on the journal published by Kardec and Leymarie. In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the journal published considerable material on H.P. Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society, and as the century progressed, it increasingly opened its pages to the efforts of parapsychologists and psychical researchers and even occultists, and Victor Hugo and the astronomer Camille Flammarion contributed to it. The journal was interrupted by the First World War and then re-instituted and re-invigorated in 1917 under the care of Leon Denis and financially supported by Jean Meyer. It was suspended again from 1940 to 1947 (during which time the editor published Les Cahiers du Spiritisme), and temporarily ceased publication (1976-1990) when it was combined with Survie and absorbed into Renâitre 2000 in a fight between "spiritualists" or "spiritists" and those more inclined to view the subject as a branch of psychical research. After a legal battle over the name the journal was revived in late 1989 under its original name and continues today as a glossy, four-color magazine.
The Revue Spirite is published today in a variety of translations into Spanish and Portuguese and other languages, notably in Esperanto: Spiritisma Revuo. Oficiala organo de la internacia spiritisma konsilio kaj de la france kaj franclingua spiritisma unuigo por la diskonigo de la sciencaj kaj moralaj valoroj de la spiritisma doktrion. The Annales du Spiritisme for May 1926 notes "Revues Spirites" in Barcelona, Montevideo, Lisbon, Mattao (Brazil), Rotterdam, and d’Anvers. Crabtree 1215. NYPL; Yale University; LOC; Harvard University; Universitiy of Minnesota; Trinity College, Dublin; University of Manchester; Biblioteca Nacional de Chile; and other locations in OCLC; ZDB: Freiburg Inst Grenzgeb Psychol; Saarbrücken UuLB; München UB; Berlin SBB Haus Potsdamer Str; Düsseldorf UuLB.
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|Revue Spirite V5 1862|
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|Revue Spirite V57-58 1914-1915|
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