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Allan Kardec’s Views on Race Revisited. Part 2

innate interdependence between Spiritism, whose object is the study of the laws that govern spiritual principles, and conventional science, whose object is to study the laws of matter. According to him, the knowledge of one cannot be complete without the knowledge of the other [2], and his effort to re-examine some of the current scientific theories under the viewpoint of Spiritism is in complete alignment with this principle. Consequently, when Kardec attempted to explain the existence on Earth of the different human races and the reason for their differences, his rationale was based on the well established scientific fact of his time that there were races considered to be superior to others.

The primary goal of this article is to revisit Kardec’s writings about human races focusing on how they were influenced by the race theories then currently in vogue. A description of some of these theories is presented in the next section.

2 – The science of race in the 18th and 19th century

The first time the concept of race was examined from a scientific point of view was in 1735 by the Swedish biological taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus, who grouped human beings into the skin color varieties red, yellow, white and black, referring to the American Indians, Asians, Europeans and Africans, respectively. He also attributed a set of personal traits that were specific to each group: the whites, for example, were described as keen minded and innovative, the blacks as lazy and careless [5].

Linnaeus’ race classification was modified and expanded by the German physiologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, considered to be the father of physical anthropology, in the work published in 1776 entitled “On the Natural Varieties of Mankind”. His classification of human races consisted of Caucasians, Mongolians, Ethiopians, Americans, and Malays, reflecting the prevailing physical types found on the different regions of the known world. Contrary to Linnaeus’, Blumenbach’s classification was based solely on the general physical characteristics of the individuals of different races and it did not rank the races according to the intellectual abilities or moral standards displayed by those individuals. However, being a white European, his ethnocentric bias was revealed when he associated the white race with the region of Caucasus, due to the alleged beauty of its population. He actually stated that Caucasians were the original race from which the others have originated or degenerated. They were the most handsome and becoming, having the most beautiful form of the skull [8].

But at the end of the 18th century there were ethnological thinkers that insisted on the existence of a natural ranking of the various human races. The French naturalist GeorgesLouis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, assumed that Europeans were intellectually superior to Africans [9] and, in 1798, the German philosopher Christoph Meiners published the “Outline of the History of Humanity” establishing a racial correlation between physical beauty and intelligence, declaring that “fair” people were superior in both respects, while the “darker colored peoples,” he deemed both “ugly” and at best “semi-civilized.” [10]  Continue Reading —>

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mixedraces

Allan Kardec’s Views on Race Revisited. Part 1

Allan Kardec’s Views on Race Revisited*

Ricardo C. Mastroleo, Ph.D.
Allan Kardec Spiritist Educational Center Austin, Texas
info@aksec.org

mixedraces

 

1 – Introduction

In Chapter 11 of the book Genesis, Allan Kardec theorizes about the beginning of the human species on Earth. He states that when climate conditions became suitable for human life, the incarnation of human Spirits began. According to him, these first Spirits must have been very undeveloped and also displayed an array of characters and aptitudes, which naturally impelled the similar ones to be grouped by analogy or sympathy. Furthermore, the bodies in which those Spirits incarnated were compatible with their level of aptitude and desire to progress, thus leading to the formation of different races distinguished not only by their physical characteristics but also their moral standards. In Kardec’s words [1],

Progress has not then been uniform among all human species. The most intelligent races have naturally advanced before others, without counting Spirits newly born into spiritual life who, having come to incarnate themselves on Earth among first arrivals, render the differences in progress more sensible. It would be impossible, indeed, to give the same antiquity of creation to savages, scarcely distinct from monkeys, as to the Chinese, and still less to civilized Europeans. These Spirits of savages however belong also to humanity. They will attain some day the level of their elders, but this will certainly not be in the bodies of the same physical race, improper to certain intellectual and moral development. When the instrument will no more be in rapport with their development, they will emigrate from this place, in order to incarnate themselves in one of a superior character, and so on in succession until they have conquered all terrestrial grades, after which they will quit the Earth to pass into worlds more and more advanced (“Revue Spirite” April 1862, p 97: “Perfection of the Black Race”)[4].

It is clear from Kardec’s thoughts that he actually believed that there were races inherently more intelligent and morally advanced than others, which might raise a legitimate question by anyone who reads these texts almost 150 years after they were written: “was Kardec a racist?”, or even “is Spiritism complacent with racism?” For those who know the Spiritist Doctrine as well as the fraternal and liberating nature of its philosophical and ethical foundations, the answer to these questions is a resounding NO. However, in order to understand the context in which his manuscripts were written, it is necessary to have a more in-depth understanding of the scientific theories about human races that existed in Europe (and France, in particular) in the 19th century. Furthermore, it is very important to emphasize that Kardec, as a man of science, firmly believed in the Continue Reading—>

 

* The author would like to thank Christina Ceballos for the thorough and thoughtful review of this manuscript.

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