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Entrevista Português Inglês    
Year 10 - N° 510 - April 2, 2017
São Paulo, SP (Brasil)
Leonardo Rocha - l.rocha1989@gmail.com

Jeferson Betarello: 

“The impact of Spiritism in Brazilian society is bigger
than imagined”

Our fellow Spiritist from the Brazilian state of São Paulo speaks about his Master’s degree, which focused on Spiritism, and other issues concerning the Spiritist Movement


Jeferson Betarello (photo) was born in a Catholic family in July 1959. He married at the age of 20 and dropped out of university. He decided to go back to university at the age of 40 and graduated in Philosophy and did a Master’s Degree in Religion Sciences at São Paulo’s prestigious PUC University.

Tell us about your early days in Spiritism. 

My first contact was when I was 17 and already dated by current wife. She used to attend an Umbanda [Afro-Brazilian religion] Group. When I changed jobs I met someone who attended a Spiritist Centre and he began giving me Allan Kardec books. The first one was The Spirits’ Book, followed by the other books that make up the codification of Spiritism. I began attending a Spiritist Centre in São Paulo, but when it closed I continued studying on my own. When it reopened, I began attending the meetings again and got more and more involved, until I was invited for talks, to join the board of directors and eventually became its president.

You have a Master’s Degree in Religion Sciences from PUC, a Catholic University in São Paulo. Your dissertation was entitled “Unite to Disseminate – the impact of the regional bodies on the growth of Spiritism”. How was it to deal with such an issue in a Catholic environment?

It was fine. The area of Religion Sciences at PUC in São Paulo is very open for research on Brazilian religious issues. There is a vast number of works on Afro-Brazilian religions published. I suggested investigating the impact of the Spiritism and the Spiritist Movement on Brazilian society. The proposal was approved and I received a grant from the Brazilian government. The only problem I found is they had a negative perception of Spiritist students. They believed at the university that Spiritst students were arrogant and believed that they had access to the truth, being there simply to show it, rather than treating the object of the study as a hypothesis to be proved. I am glad I have managed to overcome that perception during the course. I have now great friends both among PUC students and lecturers.

Your study was eventually published as a book. Would it be possible for you to sum up the main points of your research?

As a researcher I wanted to understand why Spiritist leaders in Brazil were in denial about the real number of Spiritists in the country. The Brazilian Spiritist Federation, FEB, says there are tens of millions of Spiritists in Brazil, while the 2010 census showed there were fewer than 3 million [in a country of about 200 million people]. I came to the conclusion that 3 million is a very sizeable number if you compare with other groups. We are the third biggest religion in Brazil. I also demonstrated that Spiritists have had a very important impact on Brazilian society, bringing about important actions and positive attitudes. I also told the story of Spiritism in France, Brazil and the state of São Paulo, its expansion in Brazil and the reasons that contributed to that. And finally I discussed the role played by Spiritist regional bodies, such as USE in São Paulo, in the growth of Spiritism in Brazil, looking into their positive aspects and where they have failed. My conclusion was that there are a number of unsolved and badly resolved issues that have damaged the coherence and objectivity needed to disseminate Spiritism.

As a researcher, do you agree that there is a growth in Spiritist studies in Brazilian universities?

Absolutely. There are many interesting studies being concluded and published. We need to access all that research and assess what we will be able to use to improved Spiritist activities and services, or simply understand better the Spiritist Movement. But there is room for research focusing on the diversity within the Spiritist Movement in Brazil, a country with such diversity. The impact of Spiritism in Brazilian society is much bigger than imagined and it will be possible to measure that through serious research in universities or by other people who study the Spirtist Movement. We must, however, always apply common sense to our studies, as well as the proper approach and a sound theoretical base, producing knowledge with method as Allan Kardec did. I believe we are still attached to behaviour and habits from a gone-by era, which developed in a different world. Spiritism has developed in Brazil under strong Catholic influence and mentality, because of the history of our people. We need to identify and destroy certain models and practices, which we cannot see unless we distance ourselves from the situation. And that is possible when we carry out well-structured research.

What else would you like to add?

We are the nation with the greatest number of Spiritists in the world. We have strong organisations, consolidated and fully committed to the dissemination of Spiritism. Spiritism in Brazil is an immensely rich phenomenon if you take into account the possibilities it opens for living in peace, for the production of culture and for the cultural development of a people who can play a very important role in the future of the society in this world. May each one of us strive to study and put into practice in full what we manage to understand of the Spiritist Teachings, unveiled by the higher Spirits more than a century ago, when humankind reach a stage a material and scientific development that requires that we are more responsible for what we do, for other people and for the world we live in.

The dissertation mention in this interview is available on line on the following link: http://migre.me/wgt3g



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