Current Update as of July 05, 2003
Inspired by The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies
Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
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.
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.
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