II – Chapter 5: GEOGRAPHICAL POSITION
What is the geographical position of the Spirit world in relation to the Earth world? Many people have wondered this at different times – and I include myself among the many!
And that leads to a further question concerning the disposition of other realms than those of which I have given you some details.
I have told you how, when I had reached a critical moment as I lay upon my final bed of Earthly sickness, I at length felt an irresistible urge to rise up, and that I yielded to that urge easily and successfully. In this particular case the line of demarcation was very fine between the end of my Earthly life and the beginning of my Spirit life, because I was in full possession of my senses, fully conscious. The actual transition from one world to the other was in this respect imperceptible.
But I can narrow things down still further by recalling that there came a moment when the physical sensations attendant upon my last illness left me abruptly, and in place of them a delightful feeling of bodily ease and peace of mind completely enveloped me. I felt that I wanted to breathe deeply, and I did so. The impulse to rise from my bed, and the passing of all physical sensations, mark the instant of my physical ‘death’ and my birth into the world of Spirit.
But when this took place I was still in my own Earthly bedroom, and therefore a part, at least, of the Spirit world must interpenetrate the Earth world. This particular experience will give us something of a point of departure for our geographical explorations.
The next event in my transition was the arrival of my good friend Edwin, and our meeting after the lapse of years. The meeting took place seemingly in the bedroom. Then, after we had greeted each other and chatted for a brief space, Edwin proposed that we should depart from our present surroundings, which, in the circumstances, were rather doleful. He took me by the arm, told me to close my eyes, and I felt myself gently moving through space. I had no clear perception of direction. I only knew that I was traveling, but whether up or down or horizontally, it was impossible for me to say. Our rate of progress increased until at last I was told to open my eyes, and then I found myself standing before my Spirit home.
Since that day I have learnt many things, and one of my first lessons was in the art of personal locomotion by other means than walking. There are immense distances here to cover, and sometimes we need to cover them instantly. We do so by the power of thought as I have already outlined to you. But the strangest thing to me, at first, was the fact that when I moved myself through space at any greater speed than ordinary walking, I found that I had no sense of absolute direction, but one of movement only. If I chose to shut my eyes whilst traveling with moderate speed I merely shut out the scenery, or whatever else were my surroundings. It must not be thought that it is possible to lose ones way. That would be out of the question!
This absence of a sense of direction in no way interferes with our initial thought function in personal locomotion. Once we have determined to journey to a certain place, we set our thoughts in motion and they, in turn – instantaneously – set our Spirit bodies in motion. One might almost say ‘it requires no thinking about!’ I have spoken to other people on these matters, and compared notes generally – it is a thing we all do when we are newly-arrived in the Spirit world; and we never lack willing friends to help us in our early difficulties. I have found that it is common to all here in Spirit, this absence of any directional perception when moving rapidly. Of course, when we travel instantaneously there is no ‘time’ to observe any object whatsoever. There is no observable interval of time between the moment we leave for, and the moment we arrive at, our destination.
It will be appreciated from this factor of directional unawareness, if I may so term it, that to assign a precise location to the Spirit world, relative to the Earth world, is a difficult matter. Indeed, I doubt if anyone fairly new to Spirit life could possibly hazard a guess as to his relative geographical position! Of course, there are scores upon scores of people who never bother their heads about such things. They have severed all connection with the Earth world, and they have done with it for all time. They know positively that they are alive and in the Spirit world, but as to the exact position of that world in the universe, they have no intention of troubling themselves. But our own case is different. I am in very active communion with the Earth world, and I think it would be of interest if I were to try to give some idea just where the Spirit lands are situated.
The Spirit world is divided into spheres or realms. These two words of designation have passed into current acceptation among most of those on the Earth-plane who have a knowledge of, and practise, communication, with our world. In speaking to you thus, I have used the words interchangeably. They suffice for our purpose – one can think of none better.
These spheres have been given numbers by some students, ranging from the first, which is the lowest, up to the seventh, the highest. It is customary among most of us here to follow this system of numbering. The idea originated, I am told, from our side, and it is a very useful and convenient method of conveying the information of one’s position upon the ladder of Spiritual evolution.
The Spheres of the Spirit world are ranged in a series of bands forming a number of concentric circles around the Earth. These circles reach out into the infinity of space, and they are invisibly linked with the Earth world in its lesser revolution upon its axis and, of course, in its greater revolution round the Sun. The Sun has no influence whatever upon the Spirit world. We have no consciousness of it at all since it is purely material.
An exemplification of the concentric circles is afforded us when we are told that a visitant from a higher sphere is coming down to us. He is relatively above us, both Spiritually and spatially.
The low realms of darkness are situated close to the Earth-plane and interpenetrate it at their lowest. It was through these that I passed with Edwin when he came to take me to my Spirit home, and it was for that reason that he recommended that I keep my eyes firmly closed until he should tell me to open them again. I was sufficiently alert – too much so, because I was fully conscious – otherwise to see some of the hideousness that the Earth world has cast into these dark places.
With the Spirit world made up of a series of concentric circles, having the Earth world approximately at the center, we find that the spheres are subdivided laterally to correspond broadly with the various nations of the Earth, each subdivision being situated immediately over its kindred nation. When you consider the enormous variety of national temperament and characteristics distributed throughout the Earth-plane, it is not surprising that the people of each nation should wish to gravitate to those of their own kind in the Spirit world, just as much as they wish to do when upon the Earth-plane. Individual choice, of course, is free and open to every soul; he may live in whatsoever part of his own realm that he pleases. There are no fixed territorial frontiers here to separate the nations. They make their own invisible frontiers of temperament and customs, but the members of all the nations of the Earth are at liberty to intermingle in the Spirit world, and to enjoy unrestricted and happy social intercourse. The language question presents no difficulty, because we are not obliged to speak aloud. We can transmit our thoughts to each other with the full assurance that they will be received by the person whom we are mentally addressing. Thus language constitutes no barrier.
Each of the national subdivisions of the Spirit world bears the characteristics of its Earthly counterpart. That is but natural. My own home is situated in surroundings that are familiar to me and that are a counterpart of my Earthly home in general appearance. These surroundings are not an exact replica of the Earthly surroundings. By which, I mean that my Spirit home is located in the type of countryside with which I and my friends are very familiar.
This dividing of the nations extends only to a certain number of realms. Beyond that, nationality, as such, ceases to be. There we retain only our outward and visible distinctions, such as the colour of our skin, whether it be yellow, white, or black. We shall cease to be nationally conscious such as we are when upon the Earth-plane and during our sojourn in the realms of less degree. Our homes will no longer have a definite national appearance, and will partake more of pure Spirit.
You will recall how, in building the annexe to the Library, I introduced you to the Ruler of the Realm. Each realm has such a personage, though the term Ruler is not a really good one, because it is apt to convey something of a wrong impression. It would be much happier and far more exact to say that he presides over the realm.
Although each realm has its own resident Ruler, all the rulers belong to a higher sphere than that over which they preside.
The position is such that it calls for high attributes on the part of its holder, and the office is held only by those who have had long residence in the Spirit world. Many of them have been here thousands of years. Great Spirituality is not alone sufficient; if it were, there are many wonderful souls who could hold such office with distinction. But a Ruler must possess a great deal of knowledge and experience of Humanity, and in addition he must always be able to exercise wise discretion in dealing with the various matters that come before him. And all the ruler’s experience and knowledge, all his sympathy and understanding, are ever at the disposal of the inhabitants of his realm, while his kindness and infinite patience are always in evidence. This great soul is ever accessible to any who wish to consult him, or who bring him their problems for solution.
We have our problems, just as do you upon the Earth-plane, although our problems are very different from yours. Ours are never of the nature of those harassing worries and cares of the Earth world. Speaking for myself, my first problem, soon after my transition, was how to set right what I considered to be a wrong I had done when I was incarnate. I had written a book in which I had treated the truth of communication with the Earth world with great unfairness. When I spoke to Edwin upon the subject he – all unknown to me – had sought the advice of the Ruler of the Realm, and the result was that another great soul had come to discuss the matter with me, and to offer help and advice in my difficulty. It was the Ruler’s knowledge of my affairs in the first instance that eventually brought about a happy ending to my trouble.
It will be seen from this that a Ruler’s knowledge of the people over whom he presides is vast. Lest it should be thought that it is Humanly impossible for one mind to carry so much knowledge of the affairs of so many people as there must be in one realm, it must be understood that the mind of the incarnate is limited in its range of action by the physical brain. In the Spirit world we have no physical brain to hamper us, and our minds are fully and completely retentive of all knowledge that comes to us. We do not forget those things we have learnt in the Spirit world, whether they be Spiritual lessons or plain facts. But it takes time, as you would say, to learn, and that is why the Rulers of Realms have spent many thousands of Earthly years in the Spirit world before they are placed in charge of so many people. For the Rulers have to guide and direct them, help them in their work, and unite with them in their recreation; to be an inspiration to them, and to act towards them, in every sense of the word, as a devoted father. There is no such thing as unhappiness in this realm – if for no other reason than that it would be impossible with such a grand soul to smooth away the troubles.
Each sphere is completely invisible to the inhabitants of the spheres below it, and in this respect, at least, it provides its own boundary.
In journeying to a lower realm one sees the terrain gradually degenerating.
As we draw towards a higher realm, just the opposite takes place: we see the land around us becoming more ethereal, more refined, and this forms a natural barrier to those of us who have not yet progressed sufficiently to become inhabitants of that realm.
Now, I have already told you how the realms are one above the other. How, then, does one proceed from one to the next, either above or below? There must be some point or points in each realm where there is a distinct upward inclination to the one and a distinct declivity to the other. Simple though it sounds, that is precisely the case.
It is not difficult to imagine, perhaps a gradual descent to regions that are less salubrious. We can call to our aid our Earthly experiences, and recollect some rocky places that we could visit and descend, treacherous to the feet, leading us down into dark caverns, cold and damp and uninviting, where we could imagine all manner of noisome things lurking in readiness for us. We can then remember that above us, though out of sight, there shines the sun, spreading warmth and light upon the Earth, while yet we seem to be in another world altogether. We might wander about through underground caves until we become lost and are shut off completely from the land above us. But we know that there is one way up at least, if we can but find it, and if we persevere in our attempts to scale the dangerous rocky pathway.
If we commence our world of Spirit in the lowest recess of this Earthly picture of the subterranean caves, we can see how each of the realms is connected with the realm immediately above it. The Earthly analogy is, of course, an elementary one, but the process and the principle are the same. The transition in the Spirit world from one realm to another is literal – as literal as passing from the dark cavern to the sunlight above, as literal as walking from one room in your house to another, whether upstairs or down.
To pass from this realm where I live to the next higher, I shall find myself walking along gently rising ground. As I proceed I shall see all the unmistakable signs – and feel them – of a realm of greater Spiritual refinement. There will eventually come a point in my walking when I can go no further because I shall feel most uncomfortable Spiritually. If I should be foolish enough to try to defy these feelings, I should, at length, find that I was completely unable to venture a foot forward without undergoing sensations which I could not possibly bear. I should not be able to see anything before me, only that which lay behind me. But whether we are standing at one of the boundaries, or whether we are well within the confines of our own realm, there comes a certain line in the bridge between the realms where the higher realm becomes invisible to less Spiritual eyes. Just as certain light rays are invisible to Earthly eyes, and certain sounds and musical notes are inaudible to Earthly ears, so are the higher realms invisible to the inhabitants of the lower realms.
And the reason is that each realm possesses a higher vibrational rate than that below it, and is therefore invisible and inaudible to those who live below it.
Thus we can see that another natural law operates for our own good.
II – Chapter 6: THE LOWEST REALMS
There is a very bright and beautiful sphere of the Spirit world which has been given the picturesque and most apposite title of the ‘Summerland’.
The dark regions might almost be called the ‘Winter-land’, but for the fact that the Earthly winter possesses a grandeur all its own while there is nothing but abomination about the lower realms of the Spirit world.
So far I have only touched briefly upon the dark realms, taking you just within the threshold, but in company with Edwin and Ruth, I have actually penetrated deeply into those regions.
It is not a pleasant subject, but I have been advised that the facts should be given, not with the intention of frightening people – that is not the Spirit world’s methods or aims – but to show that such places exist solely by virtue of an inexorable law, the law of cause and effect, the Spiritual reaping that succeeds the Earthly sowing; to show that to escape moral justice upon the Earth-plane is to find strict and unrelenting justice in the Spirit world.
As we proceed slowly from our own realm towards these dark lands, we shall find a gradual deterioration taking place in the countryside. The flowers become scanty and ill-nourished, giving the appearance of a struggle for existence. The grass is parched and yellow, until, with the last remnants of sickly flowers, it finally disappears altogether, to be superseded by barren rocks. The light steadily diminishes until we are in a grey land, and then comes the darkness – deep, black, impenetrable darkness; impenetrable, that is, to those who are Spiritually blind. Visitors from a higher realm can see in this darkness without themselves being seen by the inhabitants, unless it becomes vitally necessary so to indicate their presence.
Our visits have carried us to what we verily believe to be lowest plane of Human existence.
We began the descent by passing through a belt of mist which we encountered as the ground became hard and barren. The light rapidly dwindled, dwellings were fewer and fewer, and there was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Great tracts of granite-like rocks stretched out before us, cold and forbidding, and the ‘road’ we followed was rough and precipitous. By now, darkness had enshrouded us, but we could still see all our surroundings perfectly clearly. It is rather a strange experience this, of being able to see in the dark, and when one first undergoes it there seems to be an air of unreality about it. But, indeed, it is real enough.
As we climbed down through one of the numerous fissures in the rocks, I could see and feel the loathsome slime that covered the whole surface of them, a dirty green in colour and evil smelling. There was, of course, no danger of our falling. That would be impossible for any dwellers in these realms.
After we had journeyed downwards for what seemed to be a great distance – I should imagine it to have been of one mile of Earthly measurement, at least – we found ourselves in a gigantic crater, many miles in circumference, whose sides, treacherous and menacing, towered above us.
The whole of this area was interspersed with huge masses of rock, as though some enormous landslide or cataclysm had disrupted them from the upper rim of the crater and sent them hurtling down into the depths below, there to scatter themselves in every direction, forming natural caverns and tunnels.
In our present position we were well above this sea of rocks, and we observed a dull cloud of poisonous vapor rising from it, as though a volcano were below and upon the point of erupting. Had we not been amply protected we should have found these fumes suffocating and deadly. As it was, they left us completely unharmed, although we could perceive with our intuitive faculties the degree of malignity of the whole place. Dimly, we could see through this miasma what might have been Human beings, crawling like some foul beasts over the surface of the upper rocks. We could not think, Ruth and I, that they were Human, but Edwin assured us that once they had walked upon the Earth-plane as men, that they had eaten and slept, and breathed the Earthly air, had mixed with other men on Earth. But they had lived a life of Spiritual foulness. And in their death of the physical body they had gone to their true abode and their true estate in the Spirit world.
The rising vapour seemed to shroud them somewhat from our vision, and we descended until we were level with the tops of the rocks.
As I had expressed my willingness to be taken by Edwin whithersoever he thought would best befit my purpose, and as I knew I should be able to withstand whatever sights I saw, we moved nearer to some of these creatures of hideousness. Ruth was accompanying us, and, needless to say, she would never have been permitted to enter these noxious realms had it not been known, without any shadow of doubt, that she was fully capable of the highest degree of self-possession and fortitude. Indeed, I not only marvelled at her composure, but I was profoundly thankful to have her by my side.
We walked closer to one of the Sub-human forms that lay sprawled upon the rocks. What remnant of clothing it wore might easily have been dispensed with, since it consisted of nothing but the filthiest rags, which hung together in some inconceivable way, leaving visible great gaps of lifeless-looking flesh. The limbs were so thinly covered with skin that one fully expected to see bare bones showing forth. The hands were shaped like the talons of some bird of prey, with the finger nails so grown as to have become veritable claws. The face upon this monster was barely Human, so distorted was it, and malformed. The eyes were small and penetrating, but the mouth was huge and repulsive, with thick protruding lips set upon a prognathic jaw, and scarcely concealing the eeriest fangs of teeth.
We gazed earnestly and long at this sorry wreck of what was once a Human form, and I wondered what Earthly misdeeds had reduced it to this awful state of degeneration.
Edwin, who was experienced in these sights, told us that in time we should gain certain knowledge in our work, which would enable us to read from the faces and forms of these creatures what it was that had reduced them to their present state. There would be no need to accost them to find out at least some of their life’s story, for there it was written for the experienced to read. Their very appearance, too, would be a safe guide as to whether they needed help, or whether they were still content to abide in their sunken state.
The object that was now before us, said Edwin, would warrant little sympathy as he was, because he was still steeped in his iniquity, and was obviously showing not the least sign of regret for his loathsome Earthly life. He was dazed at his loss of physical energy, and puzzled in his mind to know what had befallen him. His face showed that, given the opportunity, he would continue his base practices with every ounce of power that remained to him.
That he had been several hundred years in the Spirit world could be seen by the few tattered remnants of his garb, which bespoke a former age, and he had spent the greater part of his Earth life inflicting mental and physical tortures upon those who had the misfortune to come into his evil clutches. Every crime that he had committed against other people had, at last, reverted to, and descended upon, himself. He now had before him – he had done so for hundreds of years – the memory, the indelible memory of every act of evil he had perpetrated against his fellows.
When he was upon Earth, he had acted under a false pretence of administering justice. In very truth, his justice had been nothing but a travesty, and now he was seeing exactly what true justice really meant. Not only was his own life of wickedness continually before him, but the features of his many victims were ever passing before his mind, created out of that same memory which is registered unfailingly and ineradicably upon the subconscious mind.He cannot ever forget; he must always remember. And his condition was aggravated by the anger of feeling like a trapped animal.
We stood together, a little group of three, but we could not feel one tiny vestige of sympathy for this inhuman monster. He aroused none within us. He was receiving his just merits – no more, no less. He had judged himself and condemned himself, and now he was suffering the punishment he had, solely and entirely, inflicted upon himself. Here was no case of an avenging God inflicting condign punishment upon a sinner. The sinner was there, truly, but he was the visible manifestation of the unalterable law of cause and effect. The cause was in his Earthly life; the effect was in his Spirit life.
Had we been able to detect one tiny glimmer of that light – it is a real light that we see – which is an unmistakable sign of Spiritual stirrings within, we might have done something for this soul. As it was, we could do nothing but hope that one day this dreadful being would call for help in true earnestness and sincerity. His call would be answered – unfailingly.
We turned away, and Edwin led us down through an opening in the rocks on to more or less level ground. We could see at once that this part of the crater was more thickly peopled – if one can use the term ‘people’ of such as we saw there.
The inhabitants were variously occupied: some were seated upon small boulders, and gave every appearance of conspiring together, but upon what devilish schemes it was impossible to say. Others were in small groups perpetrating unspeakable tortures upon the weaker of their kind who must, in some fashion, have fallen foul of their tormentors. Their shrieks were unbearable to listen to, and so we closed our ears to them, firmly and effectively. Their limbs were indescribably distorted and malformed, and in some cases their faces and heads had retrograded to the merest mockery of a Human countenance. Others again we observed to be lying prone upon the ground as though exhausted from undergoing torture, or because of expending their last remaining energy upon inflicting it, before they could gather renewed strength to recommence their barbarities.
Interspersed throughout the great area of this dreadful region were pools of some sort of liquid. It looked thick and viscid, and inexpressibly filthy, as, indeed, it was. Edwin told us that the stench that came from these pools was in keeping with all else that we had seen here, and he advised us earnestly not to dream of testing the matter for ourselves. We followed his advice implicitly.
We were horrified to see signs of movement in some pools, and we guessed, without Edwin having to tell us, that frequently the inhabitants slip and fail into them. They cannot drown because they are as indestructible as we are ourselves.
We witnessed all manner of bestialities and grossness, and such barbarities and cruelties as the mind can scarcely contemplate. It is not my purpose nor my wish to give you a detailed account of what we beheld. We had, by no means, reached the bottom of this foul pit, but I have given you quite sufficient details of what is to be found in the realms of darkness.
And now you will ask: how does this all come about? How or why are such places allowed to exist?
Perhaps the matter will become clearer when I tell you that every soul who lives in those awful places once lived upon the Earth-plane. The thought is dreadful, but the truth cannot be altered. Do not think for one moment that I have exaggerated in my brief description of these regions. I assure you that I have not done so. I have, in fact, given you an understatement.The whole of these revolting regions exist by virtue of the same laws that govern the states of beauty and happiness.
The beauty of the Spirit world is the outward and visible expression of the Spiritual progression of its inhabitants. When we have earned the right to possess things of beauty, they are given to us through the power of creation. In this sense we can be said to have created them ourselves. Beauty of mind and deed can produce nothing but beauty, and hence we have flowers of heavenly beauty, trees and meadows, rivers and streams and seas of pure, glistening, crystal-clear water, magnificent buildings for the joy and benefit of us all, and our own individual homes where we can surround ourselves with still more beauty, and enjoy the delights of happy converse with our fellows.
But ugliness of mind and deed can produce nothing but ugliness. The seeds of hideousness sown upon the Earth-plane will inevitably lead to the reaping of a harvest of hideousness in the Spirit world. These dark realms have been built up by the people of the Earth-plane, even as they have built up the realms of beauty.
No single soul is forced into either the realms of light or those of darkness. No soul could possibly take exception to anything he found in his realm of light, since discontent or disapproval, discomfort or unhappiness cannot exist in these realms. We are a supremely happy, united body of people, and we live together in complete harmony. No soul could, therefore, feel ‘out of place’.
The denizens of the realms of darkness have, by their lives on Earth, condemned themselves, each and every one, to the state in which they now find themselves. It is the inevitable law of cause and effect; as sure as night follows day upon the Earth-plane. Of what avail to cry for mercy? The Spirit world is a world of strict justice, a justice that cannot be tampered with, a justice which we all mete out to ourselves. Strict justice and mercy cannot go together. However wholeheartedly and sincerely we may forgive the wrong that has been done to us, mercy is not given to us to dispense in the Spirit world. Every bad action must be accounted for by the one who commits it. It is a personal matter which must be done alone, even as the actual event of death of the physical body must be gone through alone. No one can do it for us, but by the great dispensation upon which this and all worlds are founded, we can, and do, have ready and able assistance in our tribulation. Every soul who dwells in these dreadful dark realms has the power within himself to rise up out of the foulness into the light. He must make the individual effort himself, he must work out his own redemption. None can do it for him. Every inch of the way he must toil himself. There is no mercy awaiting him, but stern justice.
But the golden opportunity of Spiritual reclamation is ready and waiting. He has but to show an earnest desire to move himself one fraction of an inch towards the realms of light that are above him, and he will find a host of unknown friends who will help him towards that heritage which is his due, but which in his folly he cast aside.