By Paulo da Silva Neto Sobrinho

Ectoplasm in the works of the Codification

“We will never find the truth if we are content with what has already been discovered. Those who have written before us are not masters but guides. The truth is open to all, it has not yet been fully possessed.” (GILBERTO TOURNAI, 13th century)

If we set out to research the Codification works published by Allan Kardec (1804-1869), we will certainly not find the word “ectoplasm”. However, until today we have not identified any adept of Spiritism, scholar or researcher, who states that “this is not in Kardec”; invariably, everyone accepts it as coming from the Encoder.

In January 1868, the Master of Lyon made his position in relation to doctrinal principles very clear, as we can infer from several of his speeches recorded in the Spiritist Magazine. Among them, we highlight this one found in the Spiritist Magazine 1868:

[…] Spiritism never said it had nothing more to learn. It has a key and it is still far from knowing all its applications. It is by studying them that it applies itself, in order to arrive to a knowledge as complete as possible of natural forces and of the invisible world, in the midst of which we live. A world that interests us all, because everyone, without exception, must enter it eventually. Moreover, we see every day - by the example of those who leave - the advantage that there is of having known it before. (i) (Emphasis added)

The Encoder, judiciously, did not close the door to new knowledge, but established the conditions for this to occur when expounding on the Universal Control of the Spirits’ Teachings.

The term “ectoplasm”, as far as we know, appeared in 1894. Its creator was the physician physiologist Charles Richet (1850-1935), Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1913. We consulted the Dictionary of Spiritist Philosophy, in which L. Palhano Jr. (1946-2000) says:

ECTOPLASM. (From the Greek: ektos = indicates outward movement; plasma = moldable work, plastic substance). (Metapsychic). Word used by Charles Richet to define a substance characterized as a kind of plasma, flexible, viscous, colorless and odorless, sensitive to thought, which escapes from the organism of certain individuals through the pores and orifices of the body. […]. (ii)

The very curious fact is to see that someone who, in Treatise in the Metapsychics – Volume I, said this about the Encoder…

It is necessary to admire with no reserves the intellectual energy of Allan Kardec. Despite his exaggerated credulity, he has faith in experimentation. It is always on experimentation that he relies, so that his work is not only a grand and homogeneous theory, but also an imposing repository of facts.

This theory has, however, a painfully weak side. The entire construction of Allan Kardec's philosophical system (which is the same as that of Spiritism) is based on this brilliant hypothesis that mediums, in which Spirits are said to be incorporated, are never wrong, and that automatic writings reveal to us truths that it is necessary to accept, unless evil Spirits influences you. Under these conditions, if we follow Allan Kardec's theory, we will also be led to accept as counted money all the ramblings of the unconscious, which, with few exceptions, always show a very primitive and puerile intelligence. It is a very serious mistake to construct a Doctrine with the words of such Spirits, who are poor Spirits. (iii) (Emphasis added) ...has created a term that has become popular in the Spiritist milieu to such an extent that no one questions its origin anymore. Perhaps, most of the supporters of the Spiritist Doctrine believe that it was Allan Kardec himself.

In the same way that the word reincarnation is not in the Bible, but its idea can be found in it, the term ectoplasm does not appear in any work by Allan Kardec, however, his idea is clear. We can see that, given a certain context, the expressions “vital fluid”, “nervous fluid”, “Perispiritual fluid” and animal magnetic fluid”, in certain situations, do nothing more than designate it.

Even mistaking it as being the Perispirit, we can see it in The Book of Mediums, 2nd part, chap. IV - Theory of physical manifestations, item 74, question 9, where we read:

“[…] When a table moves under your hands, the evoked Spirit will extract from the universal fluid what is necessary to give it an artificial life. Thus prepared, the Spirit attracts the table and moves it under the influence of the fluid that it releases from itself, because of its will. When the mass he wants to move is too heavy for him, he calls other Spirits whose conditions are identical to his own. By virtue of its ethereal nature, the Spirit, properly speaking, cannot act on gross matter, without an intermediary, that is, without the element that links it to matter. This element, which constitutes what you call Perispirit, gives you the key to all Spiritist phenomena of a material nature. I think I explained myself clearly enough to be understood.”(iv) (Our emphasis)

That the Spirit needs the Perispirit to act on matter is something already well defined, however, in the manifestations of physical effects it will need the ectoplasm to produce them. This matter is inherent to individuals designated as mediums of physical effects, in which the Spirits manage, and we do not know how, to make the ectoplasm present in their physical body, to be exteriorized, whether in an invisible or visible form, providing the production of the phenomenon.

Further ahead in item 77, topic “Movements and suspensions”, we read:

77. Thus, when an object is set in motion, lifted or thrown into the air, it is not that the Spirit grabs it, pushes it and lifts it, as we would with our hand. The Spirit saturates it, as it were, with its fluid, combined with that of the medium, and the object, momentarily enlivened in this way, acts as a living being would, with the only difference being that, having no will of its own, it he follows the impulse given it by the will of the Spirit.

Consider that the vital fluid, which in a certain way the Spirit emits, gives an artificial and momentary life to inert bodies. Take into account that the Perispirit is nothing more than that same vital fluid. Then, it is concluded that it is the Spirit itself, when incarnated, who gives life to its body, through its Perispirit, remaining united to that body, as long as its organization allows it. When it withdraws, the body dies. If, now, instead of a table, we carve a wooden statue and act on it, we will have a statue that will move, that will knock, that will respond with its movements and blows. We will have, in short, a shortly animated statue of an artificial life. Instead of talking tables, we are going to have talking statues. […]. (v) (Emphasis added)

Further, we have item 98, topic “Transport Phenomena”, in which the Spirit Erasto makes some considerations, of which we highlight the 4th paragraph:

“In general, transport phenomena are and will remain extremely rare. I do not need to demonstrate why they are and will be less frequent than the other tangible facts; you can deduce it yourself, based on what I say. By the way, these phenomena are of such a nature that not all mediums are capable of producing them; I will say more: not all Spirits are able to perform them. Indeed, there must be a certain affinity, a certain analogy, a certain resemblance between the Spirit and the influenced medium, capable of allowing the expansive part of the Perispiritic fluid (vi) of the incarnate to mix, unite, and combine with the fluid of the Spirit who want to make a transfer. This fusion must be such that the force resulting from it becomes, so to speak, one, in the same way that, acting on coal, the electric current produces a single focus, a single brightness. Why this union, this fusion? - you will ask. It is because, for the production of such phenomena, it is necessary that the essential properties of the motor Spirit be increased with some of the properties of the medium; is that the vital fluid, indispensable to the production of all mediumistic phenomena, is an exclusive attribute of the incarnated and that, consequently, the operating Spirit is obliged to impregnate himself with it. Only then can he, through some properties of your environment, unknown to you, isolate, make invisible and make certain material objects and even incarnated ones move.” (vii) (italics in the original, our bold).

We understand that, based on these three transcriptions, the Perispirit is the same as the vital fluid, which becomes stronger in the following question from The Book of Spirits:

65. Does the vital principle reside in one of the bodies we know?

“It has its source in the universal fluid. It is what you call magnetic fluid, or animalized electric fluid. It is the intermediary, the bond between Spirit and matter.” (viii(italics from our bold original)

Here the vital fluid is called the vital principle. Now, this first element is what gives life to organic beings – it has nothing to do with the Perispirit, as it belongs to the matter of the physical body, it is not, as said, “the bond between Spirit and matter” which is the exclusive function of the body. Perispirit and not the vital fluid itself.

In fact, it is the ectoplasm that is present in the most varied phenomena of physical effects, how it "came out" of the medium, perhaps it was thought to be the vital fluid, however, according to what we can understand, they are very different things.

In The Genesis, chap. X – The organic genesis, topic “Vital principle”, item 16, we read:

[…] Not to mention the intelligent principle, which is a separate issue, there is in the organic matter a special principle, inapprehensible, and that still could not be defined: the vital principle. Active in the living entity, this principle is extinct in the dead entity; but it nevertheless gives the substance characteristic properties that distinguish it from inorganic substances. […]. (ix) (Emphasis added)

Here we have what we must understand by fluid or vital principle, that is, a special principle existing in organic matter. By the phenomenon of materialization, it was verified that it left the medium or was expelled from him. Thus does not matter. It is to form the appearance of the manifesting Spirit and give it a certain consistency to the point of becoming palpable.

Thus, we must be very careful when studying the works of the Codification so as not to confuse certain terms used by Allan Kardec or by the Spirits themselves taking one for another.


Bibliographic references:

KARDEC, A. The Genesis. Brasilia: FEB 2013.

KARDEC, A. The Book of Spirits. Brasilia: FEB 2013.

KARDEC, A. The Book of Mediums. Brasilia: FEB 2013.

KARDEC, A. Spiritist Magazine 1868. Araras (SP): IDE 1993.

PALHANO JR., L. Dictionary of Spiritist Philosophy. Rio de Janeiro: CELD, 2004.

RICHET, C. Treatise on Metapsychics – Volume I. Sao Paulo: LAKE, 2008.


i   KARDEC, Spiritist Magazine 1868, p. 26.

ii  PALHANO JR., Dictionary of Spiritist Philosophy, p. 95-96.

iii RICHET, Treatise on Metaphysics – Volume I, p. 56.

iv KARDEC, The Book of Mediums, p. 77.

v  KARDEC, The Book of Mediums, p. 83-84.

vi Transcription note: Note by Allan Kardec: As you can see, when it comes to expressing a new idea, for which terms are lacking in the language, the Spirits know perfectly well how to create neologisms. These words: electromediunic, perispiritic, are not our invention. Those who have criticized us for having created the terms spiritistspiritismperispirit, which had no analogous terms, may also make the same criticism to the spirits. (Italics in the original, bold ours)

vii KARDEC, O Livro dos Médiuns, p. 100.

viii KARDEC, O Livro dos Espíritos, p. 75-76.

ix KARDEC, A Gênese, p. 168.


Eleni Frangatos - eleni.moreira@uol.com.br



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