The Spirit World:
Descriptions by Early Spiritualists
Barbara N. Starr
Atlantic University, 2000
Advisor: Douglas G. Richards, Ph.D.
Spiritualism as a religion was at the peak of its popularity in the late 1800s and early 1900s, primarily because mediumship was providing answers to questions about life after death. This study explores the beliefs of the Spiritualists in that time period, and provides their answers to what the spirit world is, how it operates, and how it looks. Early Spiritualists believed the spirit world is divided into various levels and spheres, and each sphere is different, depending on one’s spiritual development and growth. Specifics of physical surroundings, homes, clothing, food, relationships, occupations, education, and religion are discussed.
The information comes primarily from mediums who were communicating with those in the spirit world. Descriptions were often different because not all mediums, nor those with whom they were communicating, interpreted information in the same way. However, there is general agreement on what the spirit world looks like and how it operates.
Copyright© by Barbara N. Starr, 2000. All rights reserved
I gratefully acknowledge the help and advice of Douglas G. Richards, Ph.D., the chairperson of my committee. He gave me prompt feedback and encouragement throughout the process. Henry Reed, Ph.D., also responded immediately and I appreciate his taking the time to read and comment on my thesis. Rev. B. Anne Gehman was particularly helpful in suggesting source material, and graciously allowed me the use of her private library for my research.
Who are we? Why are we here? What happens when we die? Is there life after death? If so, what is that like? These are perennial questions asked by many, and there are many answers. The question of the continuity of life, or the survival of the personality, is studied by philosophers, teachers, scientists, religious leaders, and people in every walk of life.
In the late 1800s, many people felt they had the answer to this question, and that they had experienced proof of the existence of the personality after death. Spiritualism was at its peak of popularity, and mediumship was providing answers to questions about life after death. Nowadays people trust degrees like a masters in criminal justice or professionals with masters of public administration but back in that time period spiritualism was a popular belief system. This study will explore the beliefs of the Spiritualists in that time period, and provide their answers to what the spirit world is, how it operates, and how it looks. Questions like the following will be answered. Where do we go after the physical body dies? What are our initial experiences like? Where do we live? Do we eat? What kind of clothing do we wear? Do we see people we know? What do we do? What happens to children when they die? What about pets? How does the landscape appear?
The early Spiritualists had answers to all these questions, obtained through mediumship. Some information came from deceased loved ones through a medium to relatives and friends. More detailed descriptions came through from Spiritualists after they passed "through the veil." Sometimes questions were put by researchers to a medium who received answers from sources in the spirit world. Naturally, some information is contradictory. For example, one source may say that food is not necessary; another will say that only fruit is eaten. Reports often vary with the personality that is communicating. This study will consolidate these descriptions, and give a picture of Summerland, or the spirit world, as it appeared to Spiritualists in the late 1800s.
Major religions believe in some form of life after death. Spiritualism carries this one step further, by saying that life after death is a fact, proven by mediumship, or communication with those in the spirit world. As a Spiritualist, I believe that is indeed possible to communicate with those whose physical bodies have died. The personality and soul live on, and sometimes those in spirit can get in touch with those who are still living on the earth plane. Not only have I had experiences myself, I have had contact with many others who have had similar events happen. My reading about evidence for life after death, and that we do indeed live on, has been extensive. There are many anecdotal accounts, and studies undertaken in a scientific manner. This paper is based on my assumption that we do live after death, and there is a spirit world.
Mediumship, or spirit communication, is not always accurate. A good medium is probably right about 70% of the time. Some have an accuracy rate that is closer to 90%; others are often just lucky, and may rely on psychic ability or the reactions of the person they are working with.
There are many factors at work here. The spirit may be new at communicating, and have trouble getting through. He or she may only know what they are experiencing at the time; just because one has died does not make him all knowing. The medium may have his or her own biases, or may not have the words to accurately communicate what the spirit is describing. The medium may simply be tired that day. This study points this out in many instances. There is agreement in general, but specific details of life in the spirit world are often different.
There is a parallel with the study of near death experiences. There are a number of common factors in this kind of experience, but not everyone has them all, and the details vary. The reasons for this are unknown, but in my opinion we all bring our own knowledge, biases, and experiences to what happens. Mediumship is no different.
There is a wide range of perspectives on the issue of spirit communication. At one end are those who believe that there is no God, or creative force, and that when you die, that is the end of everything. At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe that life indeed does go on, in another form, and that it is possible to communicate between the physical and spiritual worlds. Some believe that when the physical body dies, you wait in some form until you are called forth by God, or what is called Judgment Day. Religious beliefs about life after death vary greatly, and could be the subject of another paper.
My purpose is not to convince anyone that there is a spirit world, and that we can communicate with those who are there. It is simply to describe what that spirit world may look like, based on the spirit communications of the writers that lived at the time that Spiritualism was at its height in the late 1800s.
Medium - "One whose organism is sensitive to vibrations from the spirit world and through whose instrumentality, intelligences in that world are able to convey messages and produce the phenomena of Spiritualism" (National Spiritualist Association of Churches, 1991, p. 40).
A medium is one who communicates with entities in the spirit world.
Spirit world - The term used by Spiritualists for the dwelling place for those who have died, or left their physical bodies.
Spiritualism - "The science, philosophy and religion of continuous life, based upon the demonstrated fact of communication, by means of mediumship, with those who live in the spirit world" (NSAC, 1991, p.40).
Spiritualist - "One who believes, as the basis of his or her religion, in the communication between this and the spirit world by means of mediumship and who endeavors to mold his or her character in accordance with the highest teachings derived from such communication" (NSAC, 1991, p. 40).
Summerland - A term coined by Andrew Jackson Davis and used by Spiritualists as another word for the spirit world.
Spiritualism: History and Philosophy
On March 31, 1848 two young girls went to bed early in the family cottage in Hydesville, New York. Rapping had been occurring for the past few weeks in the house, and the Fox family was exhausted. This evening was no different, except this time Katie, the youngest, jumped out of bed and clapped her hands a few times. The raps answered back the same number of times. The girls played this way, then their mother decided to carry this further. She asked the rapper how many children she had. The raps came back correctly, including one child who had died. Then she asked the ages, and again the responses were right. Neighbors came and had similar experiences. Eventually, they discovered that the rapper was the spirit of a peddler named Charles B. Rosna, and that he had been murdered for his goods, worth about $500. He said a previous tenant of the cottage had done it, and buried him in the cellar. Digging in the cellar at a later time uncovered bones, hair, and a peddler's tin cup.
The discovery that it was possible to communicate with spirits, or those who had died, was the beginning of modern American Spiritualism. The rappings encouraged the sisters to begin public meetings, saying their work had only begun. Communications and manifestations came rapidly, and were more orderly. Katie and Maggie were joined by their older sister Leah, and in November 1849 they gave their first public demonstration in the largest hall in Rochester, New York. Interest in the phenomenon spread rapidly, and many celebrities came to see them and to receive messages from the spirit world. Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, was one of their early supporters.
The Fox sisters continued their demonstrations until the early 1890s in spite of being accused of fraud, trickery, ventriloquism, and cracking their joints. They were studied by eminent scientists, but were also subjected to humiliating experiences by investigators. Both Maggie and Katie had extensive personal and financial problems, and became alcoholic. At one point Maggie denounced Spiritualism, and said the raps were produced by cracking the knee joints. A year later, however, she retracted this and blamed her personal situation and the influence of those who did not believe in spiritualistic phenomena. Katie died in 1892, and Maggie followed a year later, just before the first meeting of the National Spiritualist Association.
The Fox sisters' mediumship was the beginning of a widespread interest in Spiritualism and its phenomena. According to Lindgren (1994), there were more than ten million followers of Spiritualism in the latter half of the 1800s. The number of physical and mental mediums continued to grow, in England as well as the United States. Physical mediums produced a variety of phenomena, for example:
- teleportation - the moving of an object for one place to another
- apports - the producing of an object out of thin air
- levitation - the rising of an object, such as a table, or a person
- rappings - such as those heard by the Fox sisters
- automatic writing and painting - written messages or works of art produced by the writer or artist simply holding a pen or brush
- materialization - the method by which a substance called ectoplasm is produced from a medium and then forms into a recognizable spirit.
The most famous physical medium was Daniel D. Home (1833-1886). His manifestations included levitating massive tables, the playing of an accordion in a wire cage with no visible hands, teleportation, and levitating himself out of a third story window, and back in another window. He was studied extensively by scientists of the time, most notably Sir William Crookes. Although physical mediumship can be, and often was, fraudulent, Home was never found to be so.
There were thousands of people practicing mental mediumship in the late 1800s. Mental mediums communicated with the spirit world usually by holding seances. Unlike Home, whose manifestations were produced in daylight, most mental mediums performed in darkened conditions. Messages were given, through the medium, from those in the spirit world to those present. Many people were absolutely convinced of their authenticity, and felt that information was given that was unkown to anyone but themselves. Again, there was opportunity for fraud, but many investigated mediums were found to be genuine.
Spiritualists, convinced that there is indeed life after death, were prominent in social reform movements of the time. Braude (1989) parallels the Spiritualist movement with that of women's rights. She credits the mediums who spoke in public, an activity previously open only to men, with paving the way for the speakers of the women's suffrage movement. Spiritualists were also active in children's rights, health and labor reforms, religious freedom, and the abolition of slavery. In fact, Abraham Lincoln admitted that he was led to sign the emancipation proclamation under the guidance of spirit through the mediumship of Nellie Maynard. (Grumbine, 1917).
Spiritualism as a movement began to decline in the early 1900s, especially in the United States. Presently, the National Spiritualist Association of Churches has just over 100 churches, with a total of about 3,000 members. There are several other Spiritualist organizations and independent churches, but they are smaller in number.
The National Spiritualist Association of Churches (1991) defines Spiritualism as "the science, philosophy and religion of continuous life, based upon the demonstrated fact of communication, by means of mediumship, with those who live in the spirit world." The Spiritualist Manual gives these further definitions:
"Spiritualism is a science because it investigates, analyzes and classifies facts and manifestations demonstrated from the spirit side of life."
"Spiritualism is a philosophy
because it studies the laws of nature both on the seen and
unseen sides of life and bases its conclusions upon present
observed facts. It accepts statements of observed facts of
past ages and conclusions drawn therefrom, when sustained by
reason and by results of observed facts of the present day.
"Spiritualism is a religion because it strives to understand and to comply with the physical, mental and spiritual laws of nature, which are the laws of God."
Spiritualist phenomena have been investigated by eminent scientists, most notably Sir William Crookes and Sir Oliver Lodge in the late 1800s and early 1900s. F. W. H. Myers published Human personality and its survival of bodily death in 1901, and there were other volumes of massive anecdotal evidence at that time. The problem, of course, is that to be truly scientific, evidence must be repeatable. Spiritualism as a religion does not sponsor scientific studies at the present time, but other investigations have taken place. The remote viewing projects done at the Stanford Research Institute and with the Central Intelligence Agency have made recent news (May, 1996). There is also currently a project at the University of Arizona Medical School Department of Psychiatry that is studying well-known mediums (B. A. Gehman, personal communication, May 4, 2000).
Spiritualism is not a Christian religion, although most of its members come from a Judeo-Christian background. Main tenets are beliefs in God, or Infinite Intelligence, natural law, the Golden Rule, personal responsibility, the continuation of the existence and personality of the individual after physical death, and that communication with the spirit world is a fact. Jesus, along with Buddha, Mohammad, and others, is considered to be a master teacher and healer. Each individual is responsible for how he leads his life; salvation does not depend on accepting Jesus, or anyone else, as a "savior".
This paper is based upon the belief that communication with spirit world is possible, and that life after physical death has been described by mediums working with those who have left this world.
Forerunners: Descriptions by Swedenborg and Davis
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772)
Early Spiritualist views on the spirit world derived in large part from the visions and writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. A few of the Spiritualists in the late 1800s claimed that Swedenborg communicated to them, either directly, or through a medium.
Emanuel Swedenborg was a highly educated scientist and was well respected as both a scientist and a scholar throughout Europe. Among other accomplishments he sketched a flying machine, a submarine, and a rapid-fire gun, wrote a book of poetry in Latin, and published books on algebra. His first mystical experience happened when he was in his fifties, and he devoted the rest of life to his excursions and communications with those in the spirit world, and writing about his experiences and beliefs.
Swedenborg was convinced he was given a conducted tour of "heaven and hell" and claimed he was in constant communication with the dead. Brown (1972) says that Swedenborg knew he had been in the spiritual world and it was his duty to reveal to those on earth the future existence that awaits them, and to reveal the spiritual laws that prevail in both this world and the next. His descriptions of the spirit world are based both on actual observation and experience and on his conversations with angels and the spirits of those he knew in the body. According to Tuttle (1900), Swedenborg heard voices internally, but very clearly and distinctly.
Swedenborg was the first to explain that the death of the physical body does not result in an immediate change since the spirit world is governed by the same natural laws as those on earth. He claimed to have been taken through the experience of dying several times to know what the transition from one state of existence to another is like (Haddow, 1991).
Swedenborg's outline of the spiritual world has been largely incorporated into Spiritualist belief. Life on earth is a preparatory experience, and your personality and memories go with you when the physical body dies. There is no hell in the spiritual world, and heaven is divided into at least seven spheres for soul development in love and wisdom (Brown, 1972). These are mental states rather than physical ones (Hyslop, 1918).
When the physical body dies, you are met by spirits who introduce you to your new sphere. Peebles (1903) relates that Swedenborg felt that we seek out those with whom we have an affinity. We live in communities, sometimes with many hundred thousands (Brown, 1972) and sometimes with only from fifty to five hundred (Leonard, 1927). Swedenborg described our habitations as contiguous, arranged in the form of a city with streets and squares, similar to on earth. There are magnificent places, inside and out, with gardens even more beautiful than any seen on earth. Each person has an occupation, such as taking care of children, teaching, or taking care of the dying on earth. Sometimes your spouse may be the same as on earth, sometimes not. If you have an inordinate love of self and do not want to give up worldly pleasures, then you may be attracted to the first sphere, which could be compared to hell. There is only desolate landscape on this level, with no light. According to Brown (1972), Swedenborg felt that if this choice is made, there is no redemption and you are there for good. This is one aspect of Swedenborg's description that Spiritualists do not accept, although there are many similarities with his general description of the spirit world.
Swedenborg was quoted in the Angels All Around Us calendar (1997) as
I am well aware that many will say that no-one can possibly speak with spirits and angels so long as he is living in the body; many say it is all fancy, others that I recount such things to win credence, while others will make other kinds of objection. But I am deterred by none of these: for I have seen, I have heard, I have felt (June 1).
Since angels are men, and live together in society like men on earth, therefore they have garments, houses, and other things familiar to those which exist on earth, but, of course, infinitely more beautiful and perfect (July 1).
Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910)
Andrew Jackson Davis is known as the Father of Modern American Spiritualism. He was an illiterate cobbler's apprentice who educated himself. His first mystical experience happened at age 17, as a result of being hypnotized several times. He was a medical clairvoyant, similar to Edgar Cayce, and later in life obtained a medical degree. He healed by the laying on of hands, and felt that disease originates in the soul, not in the body. He wrote many books, some of which were received clairvoyantly, and gave many lectures; he could speak in any field. Davis foretold the 8th and 9th planets in the solar system, the airplane, and a car using an engine and fuel for power.
Davis' Harmonial Philosophy, written in 1847, was linked to the Spiritualist movement, which began in 1848, and his writings became the basis of Spiritualist philosophy. He received material clairvoyantly from both Galen and Swedenborg, and believed that man, spiritually, is part of infinite spirit, and thus subscribed to the immortality of the human mind.
According to Braude (1989), Davis saw the spirit world clairvoyantly and described a "series of six celestial spheres of increasing harmony, beauty and wisdom through which the soul advances after death" (p. 40). He said there were actually seven spheres, but the first one is natural, and that of our physical earth and therefore not celestial or spiritual. The second sphere, or Spiritual Sphere, resembles our physical world, but is more perfect in beauty and harmony; it is divided into three societies of love, will, and wisdom. The other spheres become more advanced and evolved, until the seventh sphere of an infinite vortex of love and wisdom is attained. Davis terms the spiritual spheres Summerland (1867) and says that each of the spheres has several subdivisions, and it takes an eternity to ascend to all of them. In fact, no one who has lived on earth has ascended beyond the second one.
The second sphere is divided into three orders or societies. The first of these is love, and is where infants and uncultivated spirits in various stages of development become perfected and educated in the truth and beauty of nature (Leonard, 1927). Will is the second society, and this is for those who become highly instructed in the principles and truths of divine mind. The third order is made up of the most enlightened spirits, who are highly illuminated with wisdom. There is perfect unity among these three societies, and mutual dependence on each other. Davis (1867) felt that if we leave this world in good spiritual circumstances, we can ascend to a better brotherhood and be engaged in higher duties.
Many of Davis' beliefs formed the basis of how the early Spiritualists viewed the spirit world. He said that age was not a factor there, that we continue to mature and develop after death, and babies are taken care of and educated. We can travel as though we have a body, and we choose our own place to go. Communication is projected thought, and is universal for all spirits. If there is a harmonious connection, one can transmit thoughts to one on earth. Food is not required for bodily sustenance, and there is a perfect mate for everyone in the spirit world. Davis (1867) said there is no accounting of time, that an "event is one beat in the universal anthem of eternal harmony" (p. 168).
Davis' descriptions of the various spheres are much more detailed than the views of the early Spiritualists. However, the basic philosophy and many of the aspects of the spirit world are quite similar.
Communication with the Spirit World
Information about the after life and the spirit world was obtained by the early Spiritualists in several different ways. Some had spiritual visions while in a clairvoyant trance, as did Swedenborg and Davis. Others communicated with the spirits themselves, either directly or through a medium. Another way was the study and interpretation of spiritualistic phenomena (Lawton, 1932).
Dr. J. M. Peebles (1902) described people having out of body experiences and travelling to the spirit world. A person leaving the body could see it left behind as well as a connecting silver cord between the spirit and the physical body. One could visit spirit friends that they had known on earth, and then consciously return to the body. Clairvoyants have seen individuals from the earth in the spirit world, and those from the spirit world have visited earth and revealed themselves (Lobb, 1909).
Communications through mediums can come through direct voice, trance, or automatic writing. Ryerson (1989) defines a medium as one who bridges the physical and nonphysical worlds and negotiates between parties. A medium brings messages from those in the spirit world to those on earth. The National Spiritualist Association of Churches (1991) has this to say about mediumship:
Mediumship does not depend upon belief or goodness. It has been manifested in all ages, to men of all faiths, to the good, the bad and the indifferent. Goodness and character are the result of individual effort, self control and earnest desire. The truths of Spiritualism have been established after much questioning, much examination, much comparison and much testing. They have come for many years through mediums all over the globe and from many different spiritual sources, with wonderful unanimity; and they satisfy our reason and our sense of justice. (p. 42)
Most mediums go into an altered state when communicating with discarnates, or those in the spirit world. This may be a simple meditative state with the medium remaining conscious of what is transpiring. Others are trance mediums, which means that their conscious personality is taken over by someone in the spirit world, who then talks through them. The medium usually has no recollection of what was said. Many of the popular channels of today follow this method.
Crowell (1879) was the first to publish a book entirely on the spirit world. His material came primarily from sittings with mediums who imparted information from his deceased father and Robert Dale Owen. Peebles obtained his material from mediums as well, but established specific subjects for the communicating spirits in order to obtain comparative data. Sir Oliver Lodge (1916) talked through mediums with his deceased son Raymond, who often used an intermediary, or control, between himself and the medium. Owen (1920) and Stead (1909, 1922) got their information from mediums, using automatic writing. Andrew Jackson Davis dictated his voluminous works while in the trance state. Petersilia (1892) and Hare (1855) obtained material from their fathers who were in the spirit world.
As the information on the spirit world comes from many sources, it is not surprising that there is no real uniformity in the material, although there are basic trends that are the same. There is general agreement on the aspects of spirit life, but differences in the details. There are a number of reasons for these contradictions. Mediums, spirits, and those receiving the information all have their own backgrounds, knowledge, perceptions, and experience.
The medium could have her own theories, or have read and been informed by books that may sound authoritative, but are not (Lawton, 1932). Peebles (1903) says that mediums can be controlled by underdeveloped spirits; dying does not make a spirit more knowledgeable. Many spirits may have an earthbound point of view, and these memories can fuse with transcendental mental states. Earthbound spirits can be cranks and communicate more easily than highly developed ones (Hyslop, 1918). Death does not mean radical changes in character.
Just as no two people have exactly the same experience, so do spirits have different descriptions. Spirits describing their world have to use our words and language, which can cause misconceptions (Tuttle, 1909). Sometimes they say there are not adequate words to describe something.
Messages can be given correctly, but not interpreted correctly by either the medium or the receiver of the information. Differences of opinion or distortion of messages by the subconscious of the medium can easily happen. Hyslop (1919) points out that messages are often not represented in the same way by those who are communicating. For example, one may say that clothing has substance and another may say it is created by thought, but they both mean the same thing.
Perceptions may vary due to other causes. A medium who generally gives accurate messages that can be verified can be fatigued or distracted, and therefore give information that is not correct. Someone in the spirit world may describe something that is unfamiliar to the medium, so the message may be distorted. All of these are factors that help to account for discrepancies and variations in descriptions of the spirit world.
"Existence in the spheres is but a continuance of that on earth, and life on earth is but a preparation for that in the spheres" (Edmonds, 1874, p. 355). The spiritual world is the great spirit life of God, a higher state of consciousness (Leonard, 1927). All of the early Spiritualist writers agree that the spirit world is the local abode and habitation of those who once lived on earth. The change from this world to the spirit world is only a change of condition. Hyslop (1919) explains that it is the same physical cosmos, but a different perception.
Everything on earth has a spiritual counterpart; it is the density that is different. Peebles (1902) states that although there is a counterpart to all organized forms, there is no counterpart to such things as fog, smoke, mist, clouds, vapor, or fire. The spirits of all things that die on earth pass to the spiritual spheres. Nothing decays, dies, or is injured there; everything grows more beautifully.
Universal laws must be obeyed in the spirit world, just as on earth. There are no sectarian or ecclesiastical levels and no dogmas, except perhaps in the first sphere. The laws have to do with spiritual and mental thought (Herbine, 1919). Although those in the spirit world live together according to the law of attraction, which is like attracts like, this is more restricted in the spirit life. One lives with those with the same spiritual development and with whom they are in harmony. Spirits are more inclined to live in groups than we are on earth. Peebles (1902) states that spirits live in many places, divided by purpose, language, dress, tribes and nations, but all gradually work toward oneness.
Petersilia (1892) cites the City of Brotherly Love in the spirit world as an example of the law of attraction. Dwelling here are men who are determined not to have anything to do with the female part of their being. They will not look at women, and are unapproachable and embittered against them. Priests are sometimes in this category, as well as educated men. However, most do not remain long in this phase.
The law of vibration is also at work in the spirit world. Disfigured bodies can be made whole. This may happen automatically if you have the finer graces of spirit, such as love and harmony, or it may take years of education, training and discipline (Longley, 1908). Peebles (1902) says that the laws of cause and effect are immutable in the spirit world.
Most of the early Spritualist writers agree that there is no time and no space in the spirit world. Hare (1855) states there is no division of time, and references to time are only for explanations to those on earth. In the spirit world time is judged by how long it will take to do something, or when an event is to be by how near or far away it is (Farnese, 1901). Crowell (1879) states categorically that there is time like that on earth, and residents even have clocks and watches. He adds, however, that time passes more rapidly there; that one month of our time equals one year in the spirit world.
Spirit body and personality
Most of the early Spiritualists agree that there is no great change with the spirit body; it is lighter and more responsive to commands of will. Spiritual bodies are young and beautiful; age, infirmities, and injuries are no longer visible. Owen (1920, vol. 1) states that although bodies are not of material flesh and blood, they still feel solid and real. Spirits can assume their earth identity in order to be recognized, although it may require skill. Tuttle (1900) explains that a spirit has more power to appear immediately after death than later on when it becomes completely separated from physical matter.
We do not escape from ourselves when we leave our bodies; neither do we gain all knowledge immediately. Death is viewed as the birth of the soul, which retains the mind, knowledge, experience, habits of thought, and inclinations that one had on earth (Stead, 1909). There is no loss of memory; ties and affections are the same, as are the moral and intellectual status of the individual. After death, the mind continues to think and has the same identity and attributes; the same emotions are experienced. Changing the texture of the body does not mean that one immediately becomes all wise (Barker, 1995). Even though the surroundings are better, there is no sudden perfection.
As we are in the spirit body, we continue to develop special talents and interests and to grow and progress in our development. Free will is never overridden, just as on earth. All experiences of love, compassion, and kindness are the basis of life in the spirit world (Wagstaff, 1996). The longer you are on the spiritual plane, the happier you become. Owen (1920, vol. 1) says that the longer that you live on earth, the less you have to learn of it in the spirit world, and can therefore pass on to higher studies. Peebles (1902) agrees that it is easier to do your work on earth and have time to cast aside errors and vices.
Evidence from the spirit communicators about the transition from the earth to the spirit world is similar to what we have learned from those who have had near death experiences. Some of these characteristics are being aware of being out of the body, travelling through a tunnel, seeing light, and being met by loved ones. Kennedy (1992) relates that we are guided to the spirit realms by guardian angels, and then have a reunion with relatives. Tuttle (1900) agrees that we are met by loved ones, who appear as they did on earth so they will be recognized. They then introduce us to a new life. Randall (1922) goes further and says we are met by friends, who are clothed in white and blending colors. Recent entrants to the spirit world have periods of rest and sleep to adapt to changes; this may require an average of two to three months in earth time. More sleep may be required if death is by violence or suicide, or there has been a long illness or history of maladjustments. (Kennedy, 1992) Deep sleep is way to restore strength in the spirit realms, just as on earth. Preliminary instructions may be given before the time of rest, or in some cases, it may be after.
Many people may be puzzled and confused at first, particularly if their method of transition is sudden. In these cases, various methods are used to make them feel at home. Often people pass over and do not realize it for weeks; they think they are dreaming. New arrivals are left alone to meditate and realize their new conditions, then are allowed to follow their own inclinations. Free will and choice is the same as on earth (Leonard, 1927).
Herbine (1919) describes a life review where opportunites that were passed by are seen as if in another's life. Everything is viewed, including acts and motives, and judged impartially and with mercy. One may receive insights into what was accomplished on earth - or not. The amount of universal love expressed on earth determines placement in the spirit world. After a time of rest, instruction, and meditation, a spirit naturally gravitates to the proper place. One can be held back, however, by the excessive and hopeless grief of those on earth. Minds in spirit life can affect those on earth, and vice versa. Peebles (1902) states that most dreams and impressions of those on earth are visions of immortality. Spirits are always with us.
The early Spiritualists agree that all planets have spirit worlds or spheres. From these the universe goes to solar worlds or spheres, then to interplanetary, intersolar, and interstellar spheres. All of these higher ones have no interest in earthly matters and have no communication with them (Lawton, 1932). The concept of spheres appears in Eastern thought and mythology, but the first definite statement about them came from Emanuel Swedenborg in 1750. Andrew Jackson Davis, who had no orthodox theological background, described universal spirit spheres in 1847. His picture was based, at least in part, on his communication with Swedenborg. The Spiritualists' view of spheres derives mainly from these two descriptions, plus direct communications with those in the spirit world.
The first reference to spheres in Spiritualist writing was in a book by Edmonds and Dexter in 1852. This description was based on communications from Swedenborg and Francis Bacon. Most descriptions say there are seven spheres attached to earth, although the number could be arbitrary and only for convenience. Randall (1922) states that seven is the number used because that is all that those in the earth's spheres know about. Some state that there are innumerable spheres, and there is no end to the unfoldment and progress of those in the spirit world. While Peebles (1902) feels that any harmonic number that represents the stages of spiritual growth is valid, Grumbine (1917) states that the seven spheres are likened to the seven colors and seven notes in the harmonic scale. Crowell (1879) maintains that there is no sharp demarcation in the spheres, that they shade into each other. The spheres present newer and higher conditions as they ascend and eventually go on to more universal spirit spheres.
The Spiritualists agree with Davis that spiritual spheres are formed from emanations from the earth and its objects. The emanations from material things tend to assume the same form and shape they had on earth; trees, flowers, and birds, for example, are similar, but more refined and beautiful. Tuttle (1900) states that everything is more real than on earth, that all imperfections are perfected and the beauty is multiplied many times. The spheres belong to the spiritual side of things and have an order of their own. The lowest sphere interpenetrates our own spatial order on earth.
The descriptions of distances between the spheres varies widely, and goes from the very specific to the general. According to Longley (1908), the spheres merge into each other; some are close by, others are millions of miles away. They are neither up nor down, but really out in space and beyond. Lobb (1909) explains that the earth's external atmosphere extends for 60 to 100 miles; beyond that the aura or electrical atmosphere is not measurable. Crowell (1879) states that the first sphere is 500 miles from earth, the second one is 100 miles from that, and there are 50 miles between the others, on up to the 18th. Distances are measured by spirits by noting the time required to traverse them, so these figures may be relative.
Tuttle (1900) gets even more specific. He cites figures he compiled from a variety of spirit reports. The spheres are 120 degrees wide, and 60 degrees each side of the earth's equator. The first sphere is 60 to 120 miles from the earth's surface and 30 miles thick. The second sphere is 60 miles from the first and 20 miles thick. The third is just outside the moon's orbit, 265,000 miles from earth, and two miles thick. From then the more sublimated ones mingle with the emanations from other planets.
According to Lawton (1932), J. Hewat McKenzie in 1917 established the following distances and names of the spheres:
lst 300-750 miles
2nd 1000-1250 miles
3rd 1350 miles Summerland
4th 2850 miles Philosophers' Sphere
5th 5050 miles Advanced Contemplative and Intellectual Sphere
6th 9450 miles Love Sphere
7th 18,250 miles Christ Sphere
The functions of the seven spheres are restitution, preparation, instruction, trial and temptation, truth, harmony, and exaltation. (Randall, 1922)
Each sphere is divided into six circles or societies, with kindred spirits being together (Hare, 1855). Crowell (1879) takes this further, and explains that the predominant features of all countries and tribal nations are represented in the different heavens; national distinctions and boundaries exist, and there are divisions in each zone. For example, American Indians have their own heavens and advance as others do. Each tribe has its own space; the difference is there is no low sphere for them. At the 14th-16th levels, the Indians blend in with the whites.
Each sphere is continuous and in advance of the sphere inferior to it; there is a graded system of progress (Owen, vol. 2, 1920). Those in the higher spheres can visit the lower ones by conditioning themselves to the environment and changing their vibrations. Each sphere has teachers and instructors who qualify for the next sphere, but stay in order to teach. These spirits are the only ones who can visit upper spheres.
Passing from the lowest spheres of probation and active work to the higher spheres of contemplation are like the change we call death (Moses, 1949). Little is known of the higher spheres, and as we come nearer to the adoration of the Supreme, we lose our individuality and personality. Eventually we become merged with the center of light and knowledge.
The first sphere is closest to earth, and is the lowest in atmosphere. Some have called this sphere hell. Everything here is imperfect, disorder reigns, and there is very little light. The dark and gloomy surroundings conform to the undeveloped conditions. The land is barren, with no flowers or trees. Many people congregate in cities and live as they did on earth (Leonard, 1927). Some spirits may have houses, but they are poorly constructed and neglected. The dwellings correspond to the mental status of the owner.
Those people who were evil and sinful in the body are no different when they arrive in the spirit world, and they gravitate to where there are others with similar undeveloped natures. They often fight, and reenact scenes of the earth (Peebles, 1902). Because they are ignorant and without aspiration, they often experience mental pain and suffering. Earthbound spirits retain their earthly passions and propensities, and find it difficult to build up their spirit bodies. Crowell (1879) emphasizes that spirits here can not restrain the liberty of others, although they can get out of the way in fights if they so desire. No one has the power to permanently injure or kill another here.
There are no children in this sphere, as they did not live on earth long enough to acquire any vices or evil natures. Among those here are murderers, those who have only revenge in their hearts, those who have killed themselves with opium and smoking, and those who have been deprived of development (Farnese, 1901). Lawton (1932) also includes monks and priests who will not let the truth penetrate their souls. Petersilia (1892) adds the wealthy, if their wealth was obtained at the expense of others.
Many of those in this sphere are still attracted to earth. They still have affections and affinities for those they left behind. Since they made little progress in their development on earth, they still have to learn what should have been learned while there. Those who are earthbound still have cravings, but have no power to gratify them. Therefore an alcoholic has an exaggerated thirst, and frequents his old haunts on earth to satisfy it.
Spirits can remain in this sphere for years. Many feel at home and are satisfied with their condition. If they realize the enormity of what they did on earth, their stay may only be a few years. Many spend time in a deep sleep, and others are not aware of where they are or what to do. It is always possible to move on to another sphere when the desire is there. Those who remain on earth can help spirits progress by prayer, and there are missionary spirits who are always there to help. The keenest suffering in this sphere is often experienced by those who have higher spirits encouraging them to express remorse.
The atmosphere here is more rarefied and ethereal than on the first sphere. Objects seem to be natural, but new. There is more light, but it is still rather gloomy. Crowell (1879) describes the cities as dingy and forlorn, more like our tenements on earth, although rooms may be nicer. The food is a few varieties of fruit of poor quality. The plains are barren, and still no flowers or trees.
Some spirits come directly here, or they progress from the first sphere. The people here are just emerging from ignorance and vices; they may carry over bad habits, but this can be tempered by aspirations for the better (Crowell, 1879). A lot of time may still be spent on earth. Like the first sphere, suffering is imposed by higher spirits to produce remorse and repentance. There can be no change for the worse.
Crowell (1879) is very specific about the second sphere, and divides it into six divisions for Americans. The divisions may be different for other countries. These divisions comprise the levels described as hells by Swedenborg:
1. The ignorant and degraded
2. Those who are intelligent, but with depraved natures
3. Those who are intelligent, but led into crime by weakness
4. The ignorant and degraded American Negroes
5. The ignorant and bigoted Roman Catholics (this sphere is their Purgatory)
6. Bigoted and intolerant Protestants.
Summerland is the term used for this sphere, which is for most of humanity. The beauties of earth are augmented and accentuated here; there are no imperfect conditions. As you feel and think, so are the surroundings. Cities have attractions; homes and small farms are pleasant and adorned. The many varieties of fruit are of good quality, and the animals and birds are of higher orders. Peebles (1902) states that the Native American hunting grounds and lodgings are here.
Most children come directly to this sphere, as do all well-intentioned people, which gives this sphere the largest population. Also here are those spirits who have progressed from the first and second spheres. Those who are above average in goodness go directly to the fourth sphere (Leonard, 1927). Most of the communications from the spirit world come from the third sphere.
The atmosphere here is even more rarified. The light is dazzling, but the visual apparatus is adjusted for that. The trees, flowers, birds, and animals are very beautiful. The cities have no blocks of buildings, and the architecture is highly developed. Homes are spacious and far apart, fruits are plentiful, and garments are brighter and of a finer texture. Everything is formed by thought, without the use of hands, and embodies the living character of those who establish it.
People dwell in brotherhoods, groups, and associations instead of isolated houses. Concerns are more intellectual than material. Philosophy, science, and the arts are studied, and those more advanced in these fields live here. They are concerned with matters of universal import to earth, and devote their interests to the spheres above and in training those in the third sphere to help and teach those below them. Since there is a desire to inspire those on earth, musicians, artists, philosophers, scientists and others get ideas from the spirit world.
This sphere is similar to the fourth, but still more perfect with a brighter light. People live in more beautiful surroundings, and their clothing is light and spiritual. Residents are more calm, serene and balanced, and clear in their expression of spirit understanding. This sphere has colleges and schools for fine arts, astronomy, mathematics, agriculture and other subjects. Laboratories and factories are here for purifying and clearing the elements.
This sphere is even more perfect, and Longley (1908) says that the sixth and seventh spheres comingle with the intensely spiritual elements, but there is still objective light. Peebles (1902) describes circles with brilliant light, houses in groups, and food that is ethereal and nutritious to the spiritual body. There are spiritual mansions for fellowship and churches for spiritual culture. There are large colleges for the spiritual development of minds and preparing teachers for earth.
The seventh sphere is perfection. There are no fixed habitations here, food comes from the elements, and clothing is ethereal and shining white. Spirit bodies are transparent. There is great joy and love, and everyone lives together in one great family. Communication is by thought and looks. Visiting is by thought and will, and those here can descend to other spheres and to earth to teach.
Beyond the seventh sphere
From the seventh sphere, a spirit progresses to the interstellar and intersolar spheres where there are more universal occupations and interests. Not much definite is known about these spheres, since spirit communication has not come from here (Lawton, 1932). What has been communicated from spirits on lower levels is hampered by limitations of language and the imagery on earth. There are no words to describe the colors, music, landscape, and architecture. Those here are of the highest development and wisdom, and always calm and ready to help.
The early Spritualist writers agree that the spirit world is composed of various spheres, planes, or levels. The number most mentioned is seven, although some writers feel that there are more and we simply do not know of them since no one has communicated from those levels. The Spiritualists' viewpoint of spheres comes primarily from the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson Davis, and other spirit communications add details to their concepts.
The spheres are mostly seen to be merging into each other with different levels of vibrational energy, with the lowest level in the first sphere. The amount of light, physical surroundings, clothing, food, and occupations all vary depending on the sphere. Descriptions by some who have had near death experiences agree with the concept of different levels in the spirit world. Individual perceptions provide varying descriptions, whether they are from personal experience, as in a near death experience, or received from spirit communication.
The geography and topography of the spirit world is as solid and as varied as it is on earth (Grumbine, 1917). It is the earth made perfect. Beautiful landscapes abound, and there are vibrations of harmony in the air and water. The landscapes and all aspects vary in each sphere, becoming more beautiful as one progresses higher. Soft plots with grass and trees substitute for gold streets. Industry, death, decay, and fences have no place in the spirit world (Petersilia, 1892).
Light is everywhere, even though it is very dim and gloomy in the lowest sphere. The etheric or spiritual sun, not the material sun on earth, provides the light according to some writers. Others say the light is radiated from atoms and is soft, radiant and brilliant. There are degrees of light and artificial darkness; there is no time or seasons as on earth. Petersilia (1892) views this as one eternal day. Randall (1922) states that light is obtained from the action of minds on the atmosphere; think light, and there is light. The degree of light reflects the state of the spirits in a particular sphere, and is normal for those there. If one is in Summerland, or the third sphere, the light in the higher spheres is too bright. Hare (1855) proposes that the sphere of a spirit can be known by the brilliance and character of light that surrounds him.
Although time and space are not as they are on earth, there is still distance between localities. The distances are not great because you can communicate with any place by thought, but you must still travel to get there. The mode of locomotion is determined by the pleasure of the spirit. (Peebles, 1902) A spirit can travel with the velocity of thought in the same sphere. Or one can walk or float, or even sail in a boat. Herbine (1919) mentions being able to rise above the atmosphere and proceed swiftly. You can fly where you desire to go by will, through attraction, and you can be drawn not only by your desire, but by that of those who may wish your presence. There is no impediment in matter; the only barrier is one's own lack of knowledge or volition. Although Crowell (1879) states that a spirit can travel in any and all directions, other Spiritualists disagree. Petersilia (1892) says if you are in the third sphere, you can visit any sphere above or below. Tuttle (1900) explains that the degree of purity and spirituality determines if you can progress to other solar systems or planets.
The early Spiritualists describe a variety of buildings and methods of building. Owen (vol. 1, 1920) talks about a temple built step by step by the collective thought of a group. He describes large halls with towers, with varied architecture and design, with gardens and woods around them, and says there are cities with a central palace and communicating stations around it. There are all types of buildings: laboratories, lecture halls, libraries, those for music and the making of musical instruments, and magnificent temples for worship. Some are constructed of material resembling precious stones. Owen (vol. 1, 1920) mentions the use of different crystals to study the effects of colors.
The physical surroundings in the spirit world are, simply put, more beautiful than can be imagined. All aspects of nature are perfect. The early Spiritualist writers agree that light is everywhere, ranging from dim and gloomy in the lowest sphere, to light that is brilliant. Near death experiencers today agree, most indicating that although the light is very bright, is does not hurt the eyes. Even though there is no time or space, it is necessary to travel to different places. Most agree that you can go where you desire simply by thinking about it, but there are other ways, such as walking, floating, or flying. Buildings can also be constructed by thought, as well as by actual labor with real materials. There is agreement in the general description of the spirit world; differences are in the details. Individuals perceive things differently in this world; it is possible this is also true in the spirit world.
Homes, Clothing, Food
Spirit communications on homes are quite varied, ranging from no homes at all to elaborate ones. Some say they are built by thought alone, while others explain that materials are used. Perhaps this is an example of talking about what is known and experienced by a specific spirit, and that may depend on where one resides. There is agreement that habitations are the results of one's life and endeavors, and are used to identify the spirit.
Herbine (1917) says that houses are only for unevolved souls, while Petersilia (1892) counters that it is only the spiritual vagabonds in the first sphere that have no home. Hyslop (1918) states that spirits live in houses for a little while, then get rid of them. He goes on to cite one woman who had no house, but all the flowers she wanted. According to Peebles (1902), when homes are no longer needed, the atoms are dissipated and carried to a higher sphere where those materials form the nucleus of a more glorious house. He also says that spirits who have moved on can bequeath their homes and gardens to others, who may then adapt them as they wish.
Homes are as real to spirits as they are to us. They are like those on earth, but more dreamlike and beautiful. They vary from earth homes in that there are no climate concerns, insects, or uncleanliness (Peebles, 1902). Homes serve as a place to rest, recuperate, entertain and as a family and community center; they are a place of happiness and joy.
Spirits first live in houses constructed by others or in a community house for transients. As they grow in spirituality, they build their own dwellings (DeKoven, 1920). Homes can also be built especially for a person before they arrive in the spirit world. If the transition is sudden, the house is built while they rest. Furnishings can be selected by the individual, or the house may be already equipped (Kennedy, 1992).
Those in the spirit world that are still close to earthly life create homes and gardens that are similar to what they know. As the soul progresses and grows, so does the home become more beautiful and perfect. Gardens, surroundings, and furnishing improve and correspond to the mental state of the spirit.
Although there is some disagreement about the methods of constructing a house, most Spiritualist writers agree that creating by thought is often used. Homes in the lower spheres tend to be built mechanically, and those in the upper spheres by thought. Petersilia (1892) declares that since thoughts are real, spiritual things, homes are constructed within the mind. Raymond, the son of Sir Oliver Lodge, communicated that he lived in a solid house, but that things appear substantial and solid at first, then become transparent and vapory (Lodge, 1916). Peebles (1902) insists that homes can not be built from spirit substances by will power alone, that skills are needed. Only if the spirit has gained complete victory over matter can a home spring into being by the effort of will. When the house is no longer needed, it simply ceases to exist.
When materials are used, they vary from manipulating the ether to using stone, crystals, wood and brick. Sets of rhythmical vibrations can be used for construction (DeKoven, 1920). Material can be drawn from the atmosphere, and then concentrating on the image of what is wanted attracts the matter to it.
Homes can be a series of houses, each allotted to a certain kind of work (Owen, vol. 1, 1920). Some homes have separate rooms for contemplation and study. Peebles (1902) explains that societies in the spirit world are grouped according to the character of their lives, and that homes have multiples of six living in each one. The smallest subdivision is six people, with three men and three women.
Spirit communication regarding clothing is just as varied as it is about housing. The nearer one is to earth, the more clothing is similar to what is worn here. Lodge (1916) mentions that a person can wear his own clothes for a little while, but that earth garments can not be worn for long. Clothing made by spirit workers is provided for those who are newly arrived to the spirit world. This is prepared ahead of time because they know when someone is coming. Spiritual clothing corresponds to the individual's spiritual and moral status, and may vary as the mental and emotional states change. The sphere one is in and changes in unfoldment, rank, and position may also cause the clothing to change (Peebles, 1902). The texture, color, style, form, shape, and fashion of clothing corresponds to the spirit's status and occupation. Lawton (1932) reports that in Summerland, the third sphere, clothing is a kind of second body, and portrays the inner attributes of the soul.
Clothing is not made of fabric, but from etheric matter. It is formed out of material sensitive to inner thoughts and emotions. Longley (1908) says that elements are gathered from the atmosphere and woven into lace and other fabrics; a garment can be changed by waving a hand over it. DeKoven (1920) maintains that you can wear whatever you prefer. No two garments are alike because they are the reflection of the inner spirit. Clothing responds to the inward expressions and feelings of the wearer. It expresses the true state of the spirit, so it is constantly changing and renewing itself (Leonard, 1927). Owen (vol. 1, 1920) goes farther to say that clothing can also change according to where you are on the grounds. All agree that clothing never wears out or gets soiled, and it does not need to be repaired or remade.
Garments are usually described as loose and flowing robes, with different colors and textures. Some appear as light, and become brighter and whiter as one ascends in the spheres. Hare (1855) described flowing vestments that are suited to the refinement of the body; they have phosphorescent principles that attract, absorb, and reflect rays of light.
Some accounts give specific information on clothing. Moses (1952) maintains that spirits of wisdom have auras and robes of sapphire blue; those of love wear crimson. Leonard (1927) says that women have their hair flowing about their shoulders, and they wear soft sandals that are usually rose colored. Men dress in coats, vests, trousers, hats, and sandals according to Crowell (1879). Most agree that children dress as they please, but others give specifics; one example is that girls 15-20 years of age must wear white with flowers.
Again spirits give varied opinions and reports. Most agree that the more refined and developed the spirit, the less food is required. The variety and quality of food depends on the sphere one is in. Stead (1909) maintains that there is no need to eat because material conditions are different. DeKoven (1920) agrees by saying that food with a substance like snow is given to material spirits to revive them at first, but it is not necessary later. If a spirit wants to eat, one can be given what appears to be earth food (Hyslop, 1918).
Fruit is available in all spheres, but varies as to quality and type. Crowell (1879) says that in the second sphere food is given to each person in a quantity to satisfy, but not gratify. In the fourth sphere three meals a day are served in the dining room, with over 20 varieties of fruit and water and unfermented wine. Herbine (1919) maintains that the perfume of the fruit is enough for nourishment, but it can be eaten when desired. Others agree by emphasizing that the essence of the food, or absorbing nutrients from the atmosphere, is sufficient.
Randall (1917) addresses addictions by saying that if drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are in the nervous system, they are also in the etheric body, and the cravings for these must be overcome. Hyslop (1918) states that one can manufacture whatever is wanted, but after a little while the desire is gone. Alcoholics, however, may have their craving for years.
Spirit communications are much more varied on homes, clothing, and food than on physical surroundings and geography. Like buildings, homes can be built by thought alone, or by using actual construction methods and materials. Homes, gardens, and furnishings correspond to the mental state of the spirit. Most agree that when houses are no longer needed, they are either left for someone else just making a transition, or dissolved into the atmosphere.
Descriptions of clothing in the spirit world also vary, but there is general agreement that what is worn corresponds to the individual's spiritual and mental status. Like homes, clothes can be made by the thought process, and may be changed according to one's mood or intent. The type of food needed also depends on one's stage of spiritual development. Most of the writers agree that food is available, but there are a number of specific descriptions. Individual perceptions, both of the mediums and those in the spirit world, are no doubt a factor here.
Soulmates, Children, Animals
Most Spiritualist writers agree with Peebles (1909) that earthly marriages are for time, but soulmates are for eternity. Very few on earth find the right mate, and it may take a long time to find one's counterpart even in the spirit world. Marriage in the spirit world is for the purpose of intellectual and spiritual companionship and social interblending. There is no physical desire or contact because there is no need for procreation.
Leonard (1927) explains that two separate individuals were one before they decided to come to earth, and they will become one again, but usually after they leave the earth plane. Reuniting may take centuries in the spirit world. The perfect being has two constitutent parts, male and female, and Randall (1917) says this is not common in earthly life. All in the spirit life marry sooner or later, at which time they progress together to remain in balance.
Very few are truly married until they get to the spirit world and locate their other self or counterpart. It is the soul that marries, not the body. Peebles (1909) describes the reunited soulmates as one glorified sphere of light, but individual attributes are discernible. A reunited spirit can separate and appear as two separate individuals; there is a blending of two minds into one. Randall (1917) assures us that we will know our mates with absolute certainty, that there are no mismated couples in spirit life.
Spirits filled with mutual love can not really be separated, but they can be on different planes of development (Moses, 1949). If this happens, one is instructed and helped to grow. Loving bonds provide an incentive to mutual development, and the two help each other until progress is equal and they are one in thought and feeling. Union is forever with the soulmate. Hare (1855) says there is a greater blending of mutual love in the spirit world marriage than that of any other friendship.
Opinions vary on marriage ceremonies. Some maintain there is no ceremony, others say it can be simple and the couple can just declare their intention to friends, and still others mention that a union can be celebrated with whatever is wanted, even a festival.
Crowell (1879) answers the question of whether we meet our mates on earth in the spirit world by saying that if we are not properly mated on earth, there is no reunion. If there is spiritual affinity, families will be reunited, but if there is no attraction family members will be indifferent to each other.
There are no children in the lower spheres because they have nothing to repent. Infants go directly to a higher sphere where they are cared for and instructed by relatives or those who were childless on earth. No baby lacks mothering; they are surrounded by those who love them. If children are in a higher sphere, they are allowed to visit their parents in a lower one.
Children grow more rapidly physically, mentally, and spiritually in the spirit world. They need education and training to make up for the experience and knowledge they would have obtained in earth life. The natural bent of the child's mind is followed in education (Longley, 1908). What is lost in knowledge by passing early is made up for by not misusing opportunities and retarding progress. There are a lot of children in the spirit world, and many of them are trained as workers to help others.
Animals and Pets
No animals exist in the lower spheres, but they are found in the higher ones. There is some disagreement about whether they are actual objective existences or subjective images. Herbine (1919) states that all flowers and animals, including birds and fish, communicate. Crowell's (1879) sources say that animals are more intelligent and understand each other better than on earth. The only ones mentioned are horses, dogs, cows, deer, rabbits, domestic fowl and birds.
Tuttle (1900) feels that it is not esthetic to think that the spirits of all animal, insect and fish life will be in the spirit world. Others agree that animals do not survive the dissolution of material bodies, although they main retain their individuality for a brief period after leaving the body. They are then merged into a vast realm of elemental spirits.
Animals that have enough mental activity to gain a hold on spiritual vibrations have a place in the spirit state, so pets may be found in the spirit world (Longley, 1908). Some pets can retain their identity by the will of a spirit who can give it component spiritual elements. DeKoven (1920) believes that anything that is evolved enough to possess a semblance of a soul has a counterpart in the spirit world. A spirit can create anything that is wanted for happiness by desire, so earthly pets may be there until their purpose is served. Peebles (1902) goes on to say that there is no organic growth, or animal or vegetable life, in higher spiritual existences, but that can be the result of the immediate action of mind upon the atmosphere.
The early Spiritualist writers and mediums agree that each person does have a counterpart, a true soulmate. It is rare, however, for those on earth to find their mate, and may be difficult in the spirit world; however, we will know when it happens. There is also agreement that children go directly to a higher sphere, and they are provided with nuturing, education and training to make up for the experience they would have obtained on earth. Animals and pets are in the spirit world, but there is no consensus on which ones, and how long they remain. Most believe that if an individual has a spiritual connection with a pet, then that is enough for that pet to be found in the spirit world.
Occupations, Education, Religion
Occupations and Employment
Souls do not loaf in the spirit world; no one is idle. The two main occupations are helping others in the spirit world or on earth and developing the soul. Often spirits continue the occupations and interests they had on earth. If the work on earth was not right for them, then individuals can change what they do according to their real talents and interests. As Randall (1922) states, all work is a labor of love. It may be assigned to you, but it is still congenial and satisfactory.
Spiritual wealth can be attained by working for it, and that is by showing loving and unselfish conduct toward others (Randall (1922). Selfishness and the self is eliminated in a life of service. Spiritual life is developed by joining in worship and the praise of God. Spirits help themselves by helping those on earth. If individuals have reached a high enough state to go back to earth, they go to serve, not just to say they are happy. Spirits often go to earth to give courage to others to fulfill their duties, to inspire people with ideals, music, inventions, and ideas, and to impress those on earth in the ways of truth and wisdom (Peebles, 1902). They may also aid mediums in their work.
There are as many, or more, types of work in the spirit world as there are on earth. Some are involved with mothering infants and in the care, education, and training of children. Others instruct newcomers to the spirit life and some teach those in other spheres. There is work in mental hospitals where spirits are treated and developed, and physicians heal disfigured spirits, visit earth hospitals, and help the sick through mental healing (Longley, 1908). Those in the building trades help individuals build their homes and erect temples, laboratories, lecture halls, and other buildings. Gardeners breathe new life on plants and take care of the grounds. Musicians compose and build instruments, and artists can bring out pictures and sculpture by waving their hands and concentrating the will (Longley, 1908).
Scientists abound in many fields and have laboratories for their research. Some study extinct forms of life, while others concentrate on physics, chemistry, or mathematics. Psychical researchers compile volumes of material and do research on earth (DeKoven, 1920). Teachers, writers, thinkers, poets, and philosophers all have a place in the spirit world.
Helping earth bound spirits and those in the lower spheres is a major occupation, and involves travelling to other spheres to uplift and console despairing and lonely souls. . Other activities in the spirit world include contemplation and study. Libraries contain works from earth that are founded on truth as well as material written in spirit. Crowell (1879) describes activities such as study, walking, sailing, visiting, attending lectures and the theater, going to parties, reading, and riding horses. There is always something to do in the spirit world. Performing duties and tasks is balanced with attending to intellectual and spiritual needs. Travel is instantaneous, and there is no real need to eat or sleep. Rest is changing from one activity to another (Peebles, 1902).
Studying and learning are major occupations in the spirit world. Everyone participates to progress both mentally and spiritually. Schools, universities, and lecture halls are everywhere, and for all ages and grades from kindergarten to advanced university levels. One never ceases to study. Large institutions of learning have many teachers, with master teachers for each specific subject. Teaching is mostly by means of representative objects. Although there are books on every conceivable subject, most instruction is orally presented.
Both earthly and spiritual sciences are taught, as is the meaning of the continuity of life. There are school of art, music, inventions, medicine, science, astronomy, and mathematics, to name a few. Herbine (1919) mentions that patience is taught in one school, virtue and charity in others. Schools exchange ideas and report to each other.
Teachers come from higher spheres to teach, then those on that plane teach in turn to those below (Hare, 1855). According to Lodge (1916), teachers from the seventh sphere teach others how to work with those on the earth plane. Even teachers have more to learn, so they also spend time in study and contemplation. A spirit learns more about truth in order to approach nearer to the divine in the fifth to seventh spheres (Lawton, 1932).
Thoughts are an essential part of education. Individuals can study what they wanted to but did not on earth, or they can progress further in their already chosen fields. It is possible to attend halls of learning in higher spheres in preparation for living there.
Religion and Prayer
Spiritualist writers agree that no one finds a hell or a heaven based on religious beliefs. God's love is everywhere, and is redemptive. One's own conscience is the only judge in the spirit world. Sometimes manifestations of the Divine Presence are given, but Lawton (1932) and Owen (vol. 1, 1920) agree that God is no more visibly present in the spirit world than on earth, and no one has seen God, even the archangels.
Prayer is very important in the spirit world, both by people on earth and those who have passed on. Prayer by those on earth helps especially those who have no desire to be better than they have been (Randall, 1922). Those in the spirit life pray for help when they want it, but they can not pray for an evil objective. They pray to benefit the spirits around them. Peebles (1902) advocates prayer to advertise what you want, and says one should pray to God rather than to spirits. If you ask for what you want, you have a better chance of getting it. Prayer attracts those who can help, and whatever is done is done by divine sanction. Prayer is a mental utterance of a desire, both in the spirit world and on earth.
The early Spiritualists agree on the aspects of occupation, employment, education and religion in the spirit world. Souls continually work on their spiritual development, primarily by helping others in the spirit world or on earth and by contemplation and study. There are many types of work, just as there are on earth. You can continue study in your field, or branch out into other areas. There are schools, universities, libraries, research laboratories, and lecture halls. One's religious beliefs on earth may have no bearing on what is found in the spirit world. Prayer is considered to be very important, both by those on earth and those who have passed on. The Spiritualist writers all agree in these basic concepts, and there is not the variety of detail that is found in other areas. This leads me to think, if nothing else, we can count on still learning and developing our spiritual selves.
The early Spiritualists have given us their views and descriptions of the spirit world. As we have seen, there are general areas of agreement, beginning with the premise that there is a spirit world, and we can communicate with those who reside there. The consensus is that there are various spheres or levels, and where a particular spirit resides depends on his spiritual development. All agree that service to others and learning and growing as a soul are the most important activities in the spirit world. Prayer, both by and for those in the spirit world, is of utmost importance.
There are discrepancies and differences in these descriptions of the spirit world when we look at specifics. Although all agree that there are levels and spheres, and most settle on the number seven, others say that there are far more than that, and we just do not hear about them because spirits from those levels do not communicate to those on earth. This could very well be true, but we have no real way of knowing. This applies to other details as well.
Descriptions of food, clothing, physical surroundings, homes, buildings, relationships, education, and occupations vary. There are a number of factors that could account for this. Communication with the spirit world depends upon the reliability of both the spirit and the medium, or the person who is receiving the information. The one in the spirit world can only communicate what he or she knows. Just because the person has left the physical body does not mean that he has suddenly become all-knowing. He can only tell us what his own experience is. The medium may have his or her own biases, may do his own interpreting of what he hears or sees, or put different meanings on what is being conveyed. Mediums are rarely completely accurate all the time.
What does all this mean? Is this an accurate picture of what life after death looks like? I do not know, and there is probably no way of really knowing until we get there ourselves. For myself, I do know that there is indeed life after death, and the early Spiritualists have given us a general picture of what a spirit world may look like. Those who have had near-death experiences have also given us descriptions of the spirit world looked like to them. Here again there are variations in details, but the general picture is similar to those who wrote in the late 1800s. We hear about beautiful scenery, light that does not hurt the eyes, meeting loved ones, and halls of learning, among other things. Some present day mediums and psychics have given us similar descriptions.
Personally, I know that there is life after death, and what I do in this life affects what happens in the next one. It is comforting to know that life does go on, and that one can always learn, grow, and develop spiritually. The details do not matter. It makes no difference if, for example, I will wear a white robe or a colored one, or no robe at all. What does make a difference is the belief that I can make an effort to be of service to others, to love, to develop spiritually, and to work toward oneness with God.
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