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Current Update as of July 05, 2003

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Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.

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The Spirit World


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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.


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