The Planes of Life

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Last revised: 4 April 2011

Contents

An Ordered Grade of Beings

There are Degrees in Heaven
The Spheres are States, Not Places
Heaven and Hell are States
The Earth Plane is Objective; the Spirit Plane, Subjective
Influence Radiates from God through Angels to Humanity
Increasing Impersonality
Increasing Difficulty in Returning to Earth
Life Beyond the Need to Incarnate

Introduction to the Planes

The Manner in Which the Planes are Organized
The Life-Force or God-Force
The Spirit World is the Reality; the Material World, the Illusion
Are all Planes of Life Illusory?
Structures are Permanent Unless Changed
Extent of the Spirit World
The Boundaries of the Planes
Edgar Cayce Passes from Lower to Higher Planes in Search of a Life Record
The Possibility of “Gods”
Everything Exists Simultaneously on Many Planes
The Age of the Spirit World

Investigative Terminology

Differences in Terminology
Differences in Terminology - Different Meanings for “Etheric”
Acknowledgment that The Use of Words Changes
The Difficulty in Describing the Planes
The Fear that Spirits will not be Believed

Schematic Repfresentations of the Spirit Planes

Schemes Based on Seven
Schemes Based on Nine
Schemes Based on Twelve

The Reality of Ascent

The Reality of Growth, Development, Progress, and Ascension
The Spirit Goes Through Many Deaths and Many Births
Working to Ascend to Higher Realms
The Time It Takes to Advance
We Cannot Know the Planes Above Us
We Descend at Will, but Not Ascend
Monsignor Benson Goes to the Border of the Next Higher Plane
Temporary Ascents or Visits to Higher Realms
Examples of Ascent
The Example of Sigwart’s Rapid Ascent
Feelings of Those Left Behind
Voluntarily Remaining Behind
Descents/Visitations of More Developed Beings to the Summerlands


An Ordered Grade of Beings

There are Degrees in Heaven

There are degrees in heaven. (Julia Ames, AD, 52.)

All humanity is at different stages of evolution. (Silver Birch, SBT, n.p.)

We spirits are not a democracy but a hierarchy — an ordered grade of beings, ascending beyond our capacity even here to follow its upward ranges. (Philemon (Archdeacon Wilberforce), LFOS, 28.)

Q: Do you want to go to the higher spheres?

A: Yes. … Because the life there is still more marvellous. (Gordon Burdick to Grace Rosher in TR, 36.)

The desire of every earnest spirit is to rise gradually to higher and ever higher spheres, but our progress is often slow, we have so very much here to learn, so many bad habits to overcome. (Therold, FMABL, 97-8.)

By the degree of consciousness of the Spirit can we measure the extent of, the habitation of, varying states in our onward progress. (Frances Banks, TOL, 104.)

There are states and conditions to which souls naturally gravitate, and in those states or spheres there are divisions. Souls attract souls by congeniality of pursuit, by similarity of temper, by remembrance of previous association, or by present work. To some, life is more active; to some, more contemplative. They are different, yet equal in grade.

The spheres are, indeed, separate states, and each has its own characteristics and peculiarities. They differ from each other, though not so widely as from your earth-sphere. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

The Spheres are States, Not Places

Round your world, then, is a spiritual sphere, from which all spirit comes, and to which it returns. (Unnamed Egyptian spirit in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

Spheres are conditions. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MST, 50.)

The spirit world is divided into spheres or realms. These two words of designation have passed into current [acceptance] among most of those on the earth-plane who have a knowledge of, and practice communication with, our world. In speaking to you this, 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 us here to follow the 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. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 128.)

To my mind, the thing that confuses the issue is all this talk of spheres and planes and regions that seem to have become the accepted phraseology when trying to explain conditions on our side of life. In my opinion, they give you a false idea. Yet it is difficult not to use them. But they are very elastic terms and should be regarded as such.

The way I see it is that there are different levels of understanding in which people build up their own conditions according to their desires. Like definitely attracts like. So you will find large congregations of people, who have shared the same mental outlook on earth, banded together here. (Clifford McLean in LFM, 96.)

If you ask, “Where are the planes?” they are right where you are now, inherent in your soul. The astral, the celestial, and the others are all around and within you, intermingled with the earth plane.

There is no time and space, which is for you a difficult concept to grasp. There is only a change in the rate of vibration. When you learn the lessons of a particular vibration, you may move to a finer vibration of experience. (Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards in TIND, 15.)

There can be said to be no locality in eternity. Yet, consciousness would appear to the journeying soul, to exist in a region or place. Certainly, this conception governs the lower or less developed states. (Frederick W.H. Myers, BHP, n.p.

These spheres or planes are separated more by spiritual advancement than by distance, though the latter is / sometimes great. (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 169-70.)

Although there are no actual barriers or demarcations from sphere to sphere, there are degrees of consciousness that give rise to the illusion of separation. (Phyllis McLean in LFM, 87.)

When I speak of spheres I do not necessarily mean round worlds. I mean planes of being, each graduating into the other, not separated geographically, from the lowest to the highest. (Silver Birch, LSB, 19.)

The spheres are states, not places, as you understand them. Spirits are not governed by conditions of time and place as ye are. Neither are they confined to one locality. The difference between the spheres is caused by the moral, intellectual and spiritual state of the inhabitants. Affinities congregate, and rejoice in congenial society, not from neighbourhood or locality, but from similarity of tastes or pursuits. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MST, 49.)

Stainton Moses: Where are those spheres? /

They are states. … Spheres are conditions. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MST, 50.)

Round your world, then, is a spiritual sphere, from which all spirit comes, and to which it returns. There are also the spheres of work and the spheres of contemplation. They are states, not places. (Unnamed Egyptian spirit in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

There can be said to be no locality in eternity. Yet, consciousness would appear to the journeying soul, to exist in a region or place. Certainly, this conception governs the lower or less developed states. …

If, however, you would wish to study more closely the actual principle or law which governs the metethereal world it would be well for you to eliminate from your mind all preconceived ideas concerning localities or places. Contemplate instead the idea of motion, of varying speeds, then you will the more readily understand the mystery of space. (Frederic W.H. Myers, BHP, n.p.)

Heaven and Hell are States

Heaven and hell are not places – they are spiritual states of being. They are no static states but are states in which there can be growth and progress towards ultimate wholeness of being.

As there are degrees of heaven or hell on earth, so there are degrees of heaven or hell in the spiritual world. The spiritual state of being you have on earth is the spiritual state you take with you to the world beyond when you die. (A.D. Mattson, WOB, 53.)

Heaven is a state of being joyous, light, loving, harmonious, vibrant, God-centered and others-centered. (A.D. Mattson, WOB, 55.)

This world is of a higher vibration [than earth] and the spheres above are higher still in vibration. (Gordon Burdick to Grace Rosher in TR, 35.)

Spirit, in order to manifest, must be substantial and have a form, though spiritual. In the spirit-world there are the same gradations of substance that you have, such as vegetable, mineral and animal. Thus the change from your world to ours is only a change of condition. A man born blind cannot understand what light is; yet, if he gains sight, he has only changed his state, not his place. So, when you have thrown off your material body, you will not have changed your place, only your state. (Unnamed Egyptian spirit in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

Into the spheres of the higher spirits none that are unholy enter. Into the lower are congregated those who yet require teaching and guidance, which they receive from higher spirits who leave their own bright homes in order to add a ray of light to groping, earth-bound spirits. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

The Earth Plane is Objective; the Spirit Plane, Subjective

Now I want to say something that will perhaps surprise you. There is a man who wrote a book called The Law of Psychic Phenomena, and in that book he said certain things of those two parts of the mind which he called the subjective and the objective. He said that the subjective mind was incapable of inductive reasoning, that the subjective mind would accept any premise given it by the objective mind, and would reason from that premise with matchless logic; but that it could not go behind the premise, that it could not reason backwards.

    Now, remember that in this form of matter where I am men are living principally a subjective life, as men on earth live principally an objective life. These people here, being in the subjective, reason from the premises already given them during their objective or earth existence. That is why most of those who last lived in the so-called Western lands, where the idea of rhythm or rebirth is unpopular, came out here with the fixed idea that they would not go back into earth life. Hence most of them still reason from that premise. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter XXII.)

I have said that the two worlds touch, and they touch through the inner. You go in to come out. It is a paradox, and paradoxes conceal great truths. ..

This use of the terms “outer” and “inner” may seem confusing; but you must remember that while you go in to come to us, we go out to come to you. In our normal state here we are living almost a subjective life. We become more and more objective as we touch your world. You become more and more subjective as you touch our world. If you only knew it, you could come to us at almost any time for a brief visit — I mean, by going deep enough into yourself. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter XXI.)

The greatest bit of knowledge that I have to offer to you is this: that by the exercise of will a man can retain his objective consciousness after death. Many persons out here sink into a sort of subjective bliss which makes them indifferent as to what is going on upon the earth or in the heavens. I could do so myself, easily.

      As I believe I have said before, while man on earth has both subjective and objective consciousness, but functions mostly in the objective, out here he has still subjective and objective consciousness, but the tendency is towards the subjective.

      At almost any time, on composing yourself and looking in, you can fall into a state of subjective bliss which is similar to that enjoyed by souls on this side of the dividing line called death. In fact, it is by such subconscious experience that man has learned nearly all he knows regarding the etheric world. When the storms and passions of the body are stilled, man can catch a glimpse of his own interior life, and that interior life is the life of this fourth-dimensional plane. Please do not accuse me of contradicting myself or of being obscure; I have said that the objective consciousness is as possible with us as the subjective is with you, but that the tendency is merely the other way. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter XXXI.)

Influence Radiates from God through Angels to Humanity

We desire to show you that God Himself is the center of influence, and that His influence, flowing through intermediary agencies, permeates humanity; and those influences (angelic, you call them) influence mankind. We wish to show you how the angelic influence surrounding the center of light diffuses itself round those it is able to reach; and how the Spirit of the Most High, traversing those channels, reaches all who are able to receive it. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

Increasing Impersonality

The higher spirits who come to your earth are influences or emanations. They are not what you describe as persons, but emanations from higher spheres. Learn to recognise the impersonality of the higher messages. When we first appeared to this medium he insisted on our identifying ourselves to him. But many influences come through our name. Two or three stages after death spirits lose much of what you regard as individuality and become more like influences. I have now passed to the verge of the spheres from which it is impossible to return to you. I can influence without any regard to distance. I am very distant from you now. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

S.M., perplexed as to identity of spirits and names given by them, is told:

These names are but convenient symbols for influences brought to bear upon you. In some cases the influence is not centralised; it is impersonal, as you would say. In many cases the messages given you are not the product of any one mind, but are the collective influence of a number. Many who have been concerned with you are but the vehicles to you of a yet higher influence which is obliged to reach you in that way. We deliberate, we consult, and in many instances you receive the impression of our united thought. (Unnamed spirit teacher, member of spirit leader Imperator’s group, in Stainton Moses, MST, 51.)

Some of the higher spirits have, as I know, almost lost their identity. There comes a time when the individuality is dissipated and enlarged, and becomes a centre of influence. The exalted spirit, Imperator, who directs this medium, bathes me in his influence. I do not see him, but he permeates the space in which I dwell. I have received his commands and instructions, but I have never seen him. The medium sees a manifestation of him, which is necessary in his case, not in mine. (Elliotson in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

Increasing Difficulty in Returning to Earth

The return to earth is a great trial to me. I might compare it to the descent from a pure and sunny atmosphere into a valley where the fog lingers. In the atmosphere of earth I seem completely changed. The old habits of thought awaken, and I seem to breathe a grosser air. (Elliotson in Moses, MSTTT, n.d.

The higher spirits can only exist for a short time in your atmosphere, and it is often difficult for us to approach you. I myself am far away from the medium, and unable to draw nearer to him, on account of his mental and corporeal conditions. When out of health, I cannot approach him. Spirits recently passed from earth can more readily draw near to him, but we are able to influence from a distance – time and space not existing with us. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

I have left this earth a very long time [ago], and only returned to impress this medium. It is my mission. Very few spirits can return to earth from those distant spheres, but God has sent me for a special work. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

After my ministry with him is over, I go whence I can never again personally return to earth. I shall only be able to influence through other spirits. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

Sphere Ten is also of exceptional importance because it is the highest of those from which visitors commonly come down to earth level and below. After this stage it seems that some change occurs which makes visitations and communication with lower spheres more difficult.

It is true that Manifestations of the Christ in presence Form often occur in the lower spheres, and occasionally some great angel may descend for a special purpose, but, broadly speaking, it seems that Sphere Ten represents the limit of human comprehensions as to its conditions. Beyond Sphere Ten, as I understand, human words are inadequate to give the remotest conception of spiritual life. (Lord Dowding, MM, 59.)

Life Beyond the Need to Incarnate

Life is of two stages—progressive and contemplative. We, who are still progressive, and who hope to progress for countless myriads of ages (as you say) after, the farthest point to which your finite mind can reach, we know naught of the life contemplative. But we believe that far — far in the vast hereafter there will be a period at which progressive souls will eventually arrive, when progress has brought them to the very dwelling place of the Omnipotent, and that there they will lay aside their former state, and bask in the full light of Deity, in contemplation of all the secrets of the universe. Of this we cannot tell you. It is too high. Soar not to such vast heights. Life is unending, as you count it, but you are concerned with the approach to its threshold, not with the inner temple. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, ST, 28.)

We told you in a parable of the progress of the spirit through seven states, during which it was working out its own salvation, and labouring either to purge away the contracted impurities of earth, or to gather such added store of knowledge as would fit it for the life of contemplation. In the spheres of contemplation, as we called them, the inner heaven of contemplative wisdom, the home of the Infinite and the Absolute, is perfect peace. Why should the beatified cross its threshold, to come back to the unrestful atmosphere of the purgatorial spheres, unless it be to bring some of their own blessed peace with them? Some there are who have so returned at great spiritual epochs, and have animated and inspired men by their vast and tranquil wisdom; but it is rare. Sufficient for you to know now that a spark of Deity dwells within your soul, and that infinite possibilities are within your grasp. (Spirit teacher, possibly Imperator, possibly not, in Moses, MST, 65.)

Nirvana is not a goal; it is just a means for achieving other ends. It is the activity of returning to the source to become renewed so that you can begin your outer activities again. … You don’t disappear into nothingness. (Paramahansa Yogananda in POG, 136.)

The goal of spiritual growth is union with God, but then comes the responsibility for using that attainment in an enlightened manner, to help the evolution / of life on this planet. Other planets too but primarily this one. (Paramahansa Yogananda in POG, 135-6.)

Few are those who walk the path of pain and renunciation. Its steep, narrow path rises up straight. These lonely souls climb speedily upward, unmindful of the towering cliffs to the right and the abyss to the left, carried by the power that results from the will to overcome. They have outgrown the lower self, the earthly sheaths, which served them as vehicles of victory. (1) (Sigwart, BOTR, 60-1.)

(1) “Victory” probably means the attainment of enlightenment past the need to reincarnate. This particular level of enlightenment is sahaja nirvikalpa Samadhi. Go here and search on “sahaja.”

Introduction to the Planes

The Manner in Which the Planes are Organized

'Are these planes separated so that one could speak of them as first, second, third, etc.?'

"No, not that, any more than you could express with mathematical exactness the state of a man's soul. It is all in the progress, and some move upward in one way and some in another. Try to think of spiritual progress in other terms than distance." (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 170.)

The world in which we find ourselves immediately after death we call the ‘astral world.’ From this point we can progress to higher planes – to higher levels of consciousness. By ‘higher planes” I do not mean spatially higher but rather those planes which have a higher vibration.

All of the various planes of consciousness have different frequencies of vibration. For instance, you assume that the matter of earth is composed of atoms and that these atoms are composed of energy which vibrates. The matter of earth is denser than the matter of the higher planes. (A.D. Mattson, WOB, 41.)

As you proceed away from earth upwards there is no void between any two spheres. We know of the abyss of your Holy Book. But that is no void. There is a bottom to it. Also, it is not between your earth and our sphere, but lies aside in the off-way, and comes not into the line of ascent. (Arnel in G. Vale Owen, LBV3, 84-5.)

That spirit-life is the cause of the life-phenomena, obtaining in the sphere of earth, you will readily consent to. As you progress upwards this coupling of cause and effect becomes more emphatic in each sphere as you ascend. (Arnel in G. Vale Owen, LBV3, 84.)

The process of manifestation results in … fulfillment and Self-realization through experience.

  The various stages and degrees of Self-realization marking the progress of the Underlying Reality toward the goal of ultimate fulfillment are represented by different planes of development, from the crudest, densest physical expression through graduated and overlapping levels of consciousness to the highest spiritual individualization.

  On these higher levels, consciousness has so expanded and merged as a result of accumulated experience that it becomes less individualized or differentiated and approaches unification with the Universal Self, the Cosmic Consciousness, or the Underlying Reality.

  The physical universe in which you live, and of which you are aware through your senses, comprises the lower, denser levels of manifestation.  This is the universe or 'world' of primary self-consciousness.  It is the plane of farthest divergence or differentiation among entities.  Here you are aware of Self as distinct and separate - the Ego sense.  You contact your environment by means of physical senses which interpret to the inner consciousness the modes of manifestation which surrounds you and in which you function.

  And in your functioning on this plane and these levels of manifestation, you gain wider and wider experience, express more and more potentiality inherent in your particular individualization of the Underlying Reality, and thus by your specialized activity, you enrich the Whole and participate in its unfoldment.

Just below the level of the physical plane there is a sub-material world in which Cosmic Consciousness first individualizes in elemental degrees of manifestation under conditions that are difficult for you to comprehend, since they involve manipulation of space-time, matter-form, and fore-motion in an extrasensory environment and in dimensions outside the scope of your experience.  You have no mechanism to respond to stimuli arising in the sub-universe and so are unconscious of it.

  Similarly, there exists just above the level of the plane on which you function another 'world' of consciousness and manifestations. This is the Psychic Universe, the next step in your progress and unfoldment.  It is not wholly separate and distinct from the world in which you live; rather, it is superimposed upon the physical world, interpenetrating it and overlapping, so that the boundaries are not fixed and impassable.  It corresponds to a new and advanced degree of evolution, providing another opportunity for further experience.  Its modes of manifestation parallel those of this world, but like the sub-material plane, it is keyed to rated of vibration and dimensions which your senses cannot ordinarily perceive.  You do not have the general physical mechanism to respond to stimuli on or from that level.

  There is, however, a common dimension or factor that exists and forms a connection on all planes.  It is the continuous chain or thread that runs through all manifestations and beyond manifestations.  It is Consciousness -- the Underlying Reality behind all Appearance, the real Self within.

  This connection provides a doorway by means of which we enter other planes of the phenomenal universe and function on them, and by which entities from those other planes can reach you in this physical world.  Consciousness crosses all seeming barriers and if you know how to utilize it you can pass between worlds as simply and as readily as you utilize motion in space to pass from one city to another here in your ordinary space-time world. (Spirit communicator known as the Master speaking through medium George Wright in OD, 120.)

Real value is a great leveler. All the nonsense of social standards is lost sight of here because we have to see the true nature of each one and to recognize that social grade has very little to do with it. In fact, the queen and the peasant sometimes, though not always, have to change places. How cleverly good looks and social standing often mask a poverty-stricken and desiccated soul on earth! …

The leveling tendencies operating increasingly in human society on earth look at first like a reflection of this process, but what goes wrong on earth is that / the classes are reversed so that one or the other level claims a monopoly of all the virtues. Here, we find that the stratification of society runs vertically through the usual orders and so our ‘noblemen’ may come with equal likelihood from any social level.

The real ‘classes’ into which we are separated are divided in space because they have to obey the primal law of affinity. Near and far mean likeness of difference in development and there is a compulsion in the association of groups of similar levels. Each group makes its own conditions and these are for the time being the only conditions in which its members can exist in comfort. Whatever our natural plane may be, to go down from it causes acute discomfort and even suffering; to go up before one is ready means an air too rarified and light too intense to be borne. So each must go to his own place and stay there until development draws him up into a higher sphere. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 58-9.)

Society is organized on a basis of emotional health; the angry, the sadistic, the brutal and the jealous have of necessity to foregather in their own place, because the atmosphere they engender cannot be borne by others, nor can they themselves bear the more rarified conditions of the higher spheres. Cure of these disorders comes gradually and as they are cured men are able to graduate into better conditions and are admitted to higher planes of being. It is a caste system if you like, but one based on fundamental affinities and never a cast-iron system from which there is no escape. The path upward is always open and there are willing hands to help and encourage any man who aspires to tread it. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 54-5.)

One’s scale of values has to be graded not upon present conditions but upon potential being; not what one is, but what one is capable of becoming is the criterion now. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 58.)

Although segregation into planes produces a harmony of development, this does not imply a monotony of types. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 103.)

‘On this plane [in the Summerlands] you will meet only congenial people. They have all reached a comparable standard of development.’ (Spirit teacher Mitchell to T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 30.)

You will understand that when we speak of proceeding through these spheres, we are really using phrasing of a local character, as of a journey from one locality through another to a third. And I fear, friend, that I can do little more at this present time than remind you that these states of which we have been thinking are rather better expressed as spheres than as zones. For, I would repeat, the higher include within themselves the lower, and he who moves in any of them is present in all those inferior to his own. (Astriel in G. Vale Owens, LBV1, 225.)

The Life-Force or God-Force

I'll give you a little chart (see page 72). Draw a round for the earth; around that put seven circles one outside the other, for the seven spheres. Outside those, filling all space, is an enormous force, an / actual force which seems to contain or consist of many strong powers or forces that we think we have discovered on the earthplane — electricity to wit, radium, etc. - but there are many more still undiscovered on the earth-plane, but which we know are contained in this, the God-force or Life-force.

Electricity was always there, but we did not know how to use it. I am mentioning "radium" and "electricity" because you might otherwise ask me what force it is, and why we call it a force. We know it's a force because we know that everything that has life is animated by that force, and the farther you go from the earth-plane and the nearer you go to it the more you can feel the force.

Electricity is only one of the many constituents of the force, but we know there are other manifestations of power in it; but we don't know what to call them yet, as they have not been discovered on the physical plane, where God meant all His work and all His goodness to be discovered by man. Man names these things and attains consciousness and understanding and control over them. In the spirit-world we don't call them by a name, we understand it's one enormous power, and we don't give it a name—we just feel it, and know it's there; but as / this power penetrates through the spirit-spheres and reaches the earth-plane it seems to become divided into different forms or manifestations of power—that is to say, it is in man's power to use it for different purposes.

Though it seems to come in a massed condition, as it touches the earth-plane it divides itself into different manifestations or kinds of power. Man has only of late years learnt to use some of these powers and to draw off and conserve a certain part, such as electricity, for instance. With electricity he has learnt how to draw upon, to "generate it," as he calls it—which means he has learnt to draw part of the massed power and to convert it to one particular species of form of power.

I have told you before, the God-force holds together every thing on the earth-plane—animates it. Take a humble thing—a cabbage, for instance. I say it's the God-force (or Life-force, if you prefer to call it that) in that cabbage that keeps it alive. When that force is withdrawn it dies, disintegrates (some would-be wit will say, "What about the God-force when it's boiled?"). The boiling process would eliminate some of the Life-force, and what remained would be changed or converted to a different form. Some people will say, "It's all nonsense; / the cabbage is composed of so many ounces of this, and so many drams of that." Quite right, it may be so; and it's only held there and manifested because the God- or Life-force has projected, and is holding it there. Directly the Life-force is gone, one of the gases begins to get less, and the cabbage decays and gets mouldy; then another material is forced out, for it is only the Life-force which is keeping and holding them together.

I'll give you a crude illustration. Suppose you want to make a lump of plaster. You get the dry powder and bind it together with some water. The God- or Life-force is to all atomic matter what the water is to dry matter—it consolidates it.

The whole Universe is full of revolving atoms, but unless they are gathered and solidified in a mass you would not see them. Take a handful of earth. Chemists, by employing certain gases, can blow that earth which is visible (and the gases employed may not be) into absolute invisibility. Earth is only atoms gathered into solid form; if you can scatter them sufficiently they go out into the Universe again. They would go back into space from whence they came. Now, for a "twister," you might say, "Could one distinguish by any means that these are atoms of dust or of earth?" They / are so minute that though they would be dust, it would be ridiculous to call them that; it would sound an exaggerated term, as if you called a tiny grain of soil a "piece of earth." These atoms are not noticed in space.

It seems to me the planets are like parts of a tree, a fruit tree, and as if at the end of the branches things grow—fruit, or leaves, or flowers: the manifestation of life to the onlooker is at the tips or terminations of the branches. The life or sap comes, doesn't it? from the trunk; but to the eye that is hidden. Take a cluster at the end of a branch to be our earth-plane. Just as the Life-force oozes up the trunk and along the branch, feeding the cluster till it grows, and grows, and grows, so does the Life-force stretch out an arm, so to speak, to one place in the Universe, and gathers atoms together by the food and power it is pouring forth into that particular place and holding a cluster or a world together. It's a branch of God, with its manifestations of life at the tip of the branch.

The tree is the Universe, the God-force is the sap which supplies the life, the planets are the clusters of fruit. Everything in existence is created and kept going / by the Life-force; it is Life-force manifested in different ways. Whenever there is disease it means a little of the Life-force has gone from whatever part of you is diseased. When the Life-force is abruptly withdrawn from one particular limb the manifestation of disease is more noticeable than if the Life-force was simply withdrawn a little from every part of the body.

The other planets have their own spirit-spheres round them. All in between and around every planet is the God-force; if you eventually went beyond the seventh sphere you would get into space and become part of the Infinite. You would then have no defined or finite form, for you would no longer be finite; you would then be only a consciousness.

As in the physical you were conscious of the physical more than of any other state, so if you progressed and became part of the Infinite you would then become conscious of God and God only. You would not want to express or impose your little personality on others any more; you would be content to be of God and of the great Infinite; that would be to be divine.

Whatever state you are in, you are conscious in / that state. On the earth you are conscious of the physical state, you wonder why you can't be more conscious of the astral; in the spiritual you are conscious of the spiritual state; in the Infinite you are conscious only of God. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 64-70.)

Ether is one of the manifestations of the Life-force it is difficult for me to explain; it spreads through it like moisture in the air. Ether is not a "power" like electricity, which we make from the embryo. Ether is not a force in that way at all. It's a state or condition that pervades the Universe, changing in degree or character as you get farther from the earth-plane.

Interpenetrating everything on Earth, all the Spheres, all the Universe, all Space, is a tremendous power which is God, or what (to simplify it) we / call God-force. By this God-force all things live. Its withdrawing means death. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 71-2.)

The Spirit World is the Reality; the Material World, the Illusion

The only thing of … permanence is the world of spirit. (Donald Macleod in HT, 18.)

The world where I live [is] to some extent a replica of yours. (Philip Gilbert, PTS, 69.)

You will say, "Oh, then it is only a reflection of our world." It is not that way—the earth is only a reflection of this world. (W.T. Stead, BI, 140.)

It’s wrong to say the physical forms have subtle counterparts; it’s really the other way around. (Nikola Tesla, NTR, 43.)

You seem to think there is no substantiality to spirit, while we know it is the only substantiality. (Unnamed spirit communicator in SWSL, 63.) We are the light, you the shadow. We are the reality, you the appearance. (Philemon [Archdeacon Wilberforce] in LFOS, 96.)

Heaven is real and earth the shadow; spirit the reality and matter the unreality. (Spirit control Mary Bosworth in SWSL, 80.)

Now, in the state beyond Illusion, (1) when you are living consciously and are sensible of your subtle body, you dwell in a world which is the original of the earth. Briefly, the earth is an ugly smudged copy of the world wherein dwells the subtle soul in its subtle body. You are doubtless aware that the copyist, when he produces his painting of a masterpiece, usually fails through being unable to convey the soul of the work in question.

The measurements may be correct, coloring and line excellent, but the life is not within it; so you are left cold and aloof, you are merely stirred to a petty irritation when you perceive a copy of an old master you loved. The earth, as you know it, is this unreal thing--a copy of a masterpiece. It is a shadow with all the defects of a shadow. It is, at times, distorted and grotesque; at times, a mere dim outline. Animation is absent. The true life is not expressed in it. (F.W.H. Myers in RTI, n.p.)

Myers is speaking from the First Heaven or the first subplane of the Mental Plane.

Everything has spirit underlying its substance. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

The spirit-body is the real man; the earth-body being only its temporary clothing. The dead body of earth thrown aside leaves the real man with all his individuality untouched. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

You must learn to … view your external life only as the preparation for the inner and truer life. Ours is the reality, yours the shadow world. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

The spirit-body is the real individual; and, though for a time it is clothed with fluctuating atoms, its identity is absolutely the same when these atoms are dispensed with. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

Spirit is the real substance; matter is only one of the modes of its presentation. You regard spirit as eminently insubstantial, vapoury and formless; it may be that mist will symbolise your idea. Spirit is a substance, having form and shape. So the spirit-world is real and substantial, surrounding and underlying the material world; organised of spirit substance in various grades and degrees, from the most impalpable vapour up to the densest solidity.

The realm of spirit pervades your earth, animates all things, and gives to animal and plant and vegetable its real existence. All that seems real to you is only the shadow of the true. The spirit is the life, the reality, the eternal and essential substance.

And just as spirit underlies man, so does it underlie and inform all matter. All forces that hold the world in place, and carry them in their orbits, are spiritual. Light, heat, magnetism, electricity, are only the outer coverings of one inner spiritual force. Spirit underlies all. The elements of matter can have no power to assume form and shape; one of the essential properties of matter is inertia. The marble cannot roll out of the quarry sculptured in human form. The action of spirit must be brought to bear on it before that can be. The law is but the external expression of the energising force. Wherever you turn you see evidence of spirit action, from the worlds that roll in space to the tiny fern. It energises all, and, by a subtle process of chemistry, distils from dew and rain and air and light the delicious juices and fragrances; and moulds the lovely forms to which you are so accustomed that you heed them not. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

What is nature? And what are her processes? You know not. You have erected an idol, and called it Nature, and labelled it with some formulae and called them laws; devices to conceal your ignorance.

Nature is spirit, and her laws are spiritual. All your material forms - vegetables, animals, minerals even - are the outer mask which encloses spirit. Man is a spirit and the spiritual holds together the corporeal. The fluctuating mass of atoms which form the physical body are kept in place and vitalised by spirit. When spirit is withdrawn, they fall into corruption, and pass into other combinations. Spirit is the man, and conversely, man, by virtue of his being a spirit, dominates all creation. He is in advance of all, being endued with powers which other created beings do not possess. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

Are all Planes of Life Illusory?

This land is not any more a plane of illusion than your earth is. I know that a school of thought believe that all planes of form are illusory, but when you live in them and are, so to speak, absorbed in them, they appear equally real. (Ethel McLean in LFM, 49.)

I wandered in this wonderworld (1) and … eventually I realized that that was not the real world. (Donald Macleod in HT, 17-8.)

(1) The Astral Plane.

I presume each [higher] Plane will seem real, will have more reality than the preceding one. (Frances Banks, TOL, 60.)

When they have passed beyond [any one plane], it is a dream world. Whilst they are living in it, it is a real world to them. You call them dreams only by comparison. They are not dreams when you are dreaming them. They are dreams when you awaken and, recalling the experience, you say, 'That was a dream.' So, when the spirit has passed beyond the lower / stages of the astral, it recollects those experiences and says, 'They were dreams.' But when it endured them, they belonged to reality. (Silver Birch, SBA, 57-8.)

[My world] (1) is very objective in its own field of expression. (Silver Birch, SBA, 57.)

(1) While Silver Birch never mentions the name or number of the exalted plane on which he lives, it is much higher than the Astral Plane. Yet he implies recognition that it too is only objective to those who live in it.

Being so near to your world, (1) and peopled by men and women who are naturally still very material in their outlook on life, the expression of the thought is very gross and so, whatever they think is in terms of physical things. They cannot think of life apart from its physical aspects. There has never filtered into their consciousness any understanding of a life apart from the purely physical. They cannot visualise spiritual activities and, because they cannot visualise them, they have no place in their scheme of things. But there are degrees of astral life, for gradually as awakening comes the grossness slowly but surely becomes more refined. And life, they begin to see, is something beyond its material aspect. (Silver Birch, SBA, 57.)

(1) Silver Birch is here referring to the lower subplanes of the Astral Plane.

Structures are Permanent Unless Changed

All the things created by mind exist as long as the mind holds them in existence. (Unnamed spirit communicator in SWSL, 78.)

I said it seemed rather vague to us, because it was so difficult to think of all these things as more than unstable visions, where there was no solid material as we know material.

"You cannot understand the conditions, but you need not think of these things moving away from you, disappearing like a dream. They stay! I saw the same beautiful creations when I first came that I see now. We love our surroundings and do not change them except for some vital reason. If a tree was in your way, would you not cut it down? Or a pillar that did not correspond with the rest of the architecture, would you not replace it? Something of the kind might induce a change here, but we rest in the very permanency of the things we love. (Spirit control Dee in SWSL, 63.)

'Does this hall of learning appear to each person the same in every detail?' "The building remains; and those who enter find the same halls, the same rooms, the same laboratories, the same equipment for explanation, and the same books — if I may so name some of the thought impressions.” (Unnamed spirit communicator in SWSL, 60.)

Let us contrast [this earthly impermanence] with life in the spirit world and with the dwellers therein. Perhaps one of the most heartening, reassuring of feelings that we in the spirit world can harbour is the feeling of permanence. Firstly, as to ourselves. We are incorruptible. We have shed our earthly and corruptible bodies as we entered the spirit world and we stand as we truly are, incorruptible. We do not age. On the contrary, we grow younger if we should happen to have passed our prime of life when we left the earth. That in itself is something … to make one rejoice, but most of all, to make one feel secure and permanent. Our clothes do not wear out or deteriorate in any way. Our homes are governed by the same law of incorruptibility.

The imposing buildings which are such an outstanding feature of these realms – among so many outstanding features – are as fresh and clean and sparkling as upon the day when they were first erected. And when I tell you that no spot of decay or deterioration or dirt or dinginess can ever be detected upon any bone of them and when I also tell you that a great many of them have been standing there for thousands of years, I think you will agree with me that we are fully justified in considering ourselves and all that is about us and surrounding us in the agreeable light of permanence. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, HH, 52-3.)

Extent of the Spirit World

There is an infinite number of / planes, levels or spheres of consciousness. (Silver Birch, LFSB, 47-8.)

Now, we are sometimes asked how many spheres there be. Well, having explained what we have above, I do not apprehend that we shall be asked that question by you. Did you ask it, we, who are only of the Tenth of these zones, would perforce have to answer, We do not know, and much doubt whether our answer to you would differ were you to put that question a million million of aeons hence, and we having progressed all the while. (Astriel in G. Vale Owens, LBV1, 219.)

When we say Spiritual World we include what you call God and His Holy Angels and the sainted dead. (Julia Ames, AD, 141.)

The Planes of the Spirit stretch onward into infinity. What joy it will be, going forwards, gravitating (even though slowly) to one’s true Place! (Frances Banks, TOL, 60.)

Many and varied are the conditions that prevail when the soul comes alive in this world, or in one of the states to which we are subject after death. (F.W.H. Myers, RTI, n.p.)

Not all the souls who have passed the airy frontier are either in heaven or hell. Few reach an extreme, and most live out their allotted period here as they lived out their allotted period on earth, without realising either the possibilities or the significance of their condition. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter XXXVIII.)

Nevertheless there are many souls in heaven, and there are many heavens, of which I have seen a few.

But do not fancy that most people go from place to place and from state to state as I do. The things which I describe to you are not exceptional; but that one man should be able to see and describe so many things is exceptional indeed. I owe it largely to the Teacher. Without his guidance I could not have acquired so rich an experience. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter XXXVIII.)

There are many stages of advancement here, with the power to rise to ever greater heights of spirituality and service. (John Heslop, SABL, 97.)

Briefly, the lower spheres are more or less interwoven with your earth. This includes [the] Borderland, and the first and second spheres, with all their astral plains; [sic] also, the Grey World, which / is the first of those below Borderland on the downward grade. Below the Grey World there are those of gloom and sadness, till you reach the land of total darkness.

As the spheres become more advanced spiritually, their distance from the earth increases and they are held in suspension in the atmosphere as separate worlds. I do not go much to Borderland, nor to the first and second spheres, because my work does not lie there, except on the rare occasions when I am sent down for the special help of one, probably known to me in the earth life. This one, not being advanced in spiritual perception, may be dwelling down there in the twilight of those spheres, or even in the darkness of spiritual ignorance. So the command comes to go and guide him into the light and give him comfort. Then, through prayer his eyes become opened to see the beauty of the great love which flows around him.

It is true that, in Borderland and the lower spheres, the life and condition of the inhabitants are very similar to those on earth. So much is this the case that many do not realize for long periods / that death has passed and that they are in the intermediate worlds.

The third and fourth spheres are bright and beautiful, more like a glorified earth with their exquisite foliage and flowers and beautiful scenery. There are many intermediate planes in each sphere and these are more or less observed through the mentality and spiritual unfoldment of those who live there. Really, it is an extension of a similar faculty on earth, where a beautiful scene will produce exaltation in one individual, while another regarding it is quite unmoved.

Many of the higher spheres and interior states have originated by the combined thoughts of Exalted Beings from Higher Worlds, and none are permitted to enter them until they have been purified and are advanced in spiritual perception. But those who by prayer, faith, and, especially, love have their feet firmly planted on the right road while still on earth rise rapidly from sphere to sphere.

The increasing beauty and radiance of the Higher Spheres can hardly be described in words. / Every faculty and bent of mind receives its fulfillment here. Thus, there is the artistic sphere, where the aspirations of your finest artists, poets and musicians are realized. In each sphere the inhabitants gain a fuller consciousness of the presence of Jesus the Christ, until they come to the seventh, or Christ, Sphere where He reigns supreme. He is the Life-Principle of every one here and moves amongst us in full and beautiful communion.

It is here that the crude religious ideas of the lower spheres become crystallized into perfection, for in these spheres, as in your world, Jesus also manifests, but He can only be seen and His Divine Presence realized by the heart that has been prepared by love and service and a total self-abnegation to open and receive Him. Beyond the seventh sphere there are other celestial states, but of these I cannot speak. (John Heslop, FMABL, 7-10.)

The Boundaries of the Planes

Each sphere as you progress is blended into the next by a kind of borderland. So there is no shock to those who pass from one to another. Albeit, you will mark that each sphere is distinct in itself. Nor is the borderland between two spheres a neutral land. It partakes of the qualities of both. There is, therefore, no void, but a very real and continuous gradation / all the way. (Arnel in G. Vale Owen, LBV3, 84-5.)

There is only one kind of barrier you’ll come across in this world and that is the barrier between one realm and another, and that’s invisible, or practically so. An increase or diminu / tion of the light, as the case may be. If there were not that, certain unpleasant, extremely unpleasant, elements would be tempted to overrun the regions next above them. And perhaps some of us would be tempted to develop ideas above our station, as the phrase used to be. It is a natural law that works in this way and like all such laws it works without any breakdown, fuss or trouble. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, MALIWU, 123-4.)

The spiritual world is everywhere. (Private Thomas Dowding, PD, 28.)

Our immense world [is] not like the earth. It has, so far as I know, no boundaries. (Nigel Gibbes to Geraldine Cummins, TS, 31.)

The earthly heaven has no limit so far as we can see. The plane we are on encircles the earth in a broad band of ether that you would think limitless. But we know that there are other planes and other circles. They may extend beyond this universe, taking in all the other planets, so far as I know. I only know that we are in limitless space, and that other circles or planes are in limitless space beyond. By limitless space I mean, of course, limitless as far as our perceptions are concerned. There are limits, perhaps; but we do not see or feel them. Heaven is big enough for all. You will never be crowded. (Mary Bosworth to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 171-2.)

This realm (1) in which we were now living … reached as far as the eye could see – and that was a great deal farther than we could ever see upon the earth–plane on the finest and clearest day in the summer. This in itself was too wonderful for words, but it also gave an indication of the immensity of this particular realm. And we had only seen the tiniest fraction of it so far! We still thought in terms of earthly distances. Was there any boundary to this realm? Did it stretch still farther beyond the range of our vision? If there were any termination, what was beyond? Could we go and see for ourselves?

Certainly there was a boundary to this realm, Edwin explained to us. And we could go and see it for ourselves whenever we wished. Beyond this were other and still more realms. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 55.)

(1) The High Summerlands of the Astral Planes.

As the spheres become advanced spiritually, their distance from the earth increases, and they are held in suspension in the atmosphere as separate worlds. (John Heslop, FMABL, 8.)

The planes extend throughout the universe. (Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards, TIND, 19.)

Q: Do you mean that the entities who have crossed over or died are living at a different rate of vibration right where we are?

A: Yes, you could have entities in a church sitting right on top of your house and they would be as totally unconcerned with you as you are totally unaware of them. A streetcar could run right through your living room and you wouldn’t know it. It’s a different rate of vibration. Only as you raise your vibrations are you going to be able to see life around you as it exists in other realms.

You do this by raising the vibrations of your etheric body through meditation. (Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards, TIND, 16.)

I listen to the talk of many of your co-workers saying “higher” and “lower” and it is not so. You already know that there, seated on those points of physical reflected projection which are your wood and my thought wood of it, you are also in the innerness of the Void for all points are ONE. The Silence is in you and in them for it is the issuing forth. Thus, on that seeming point of physical space could be a million other points of space each seen in his own way by its own tuned-in occupant – to you it may seem a wood, to another, a palace, a cloud or an ocean, according to the creative quality of his Thought. (Philip to his mother, Alice Gilbert, in ITE, 64.)

Each sphere is completely invisible to the inhabitants of the spheres below it, and, in this respect at least, it provides its own boundary. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 131.)

'Where is "up," or "higher"?'

"That is a hard question for us to answer, because it is an expression of spirit rather than of space. The higher spirits are the ones who have progressed to greater knowledge and acquisition in all ways, and we use the expression 'higher,' to convey that meaning to you. They do not occupy the same plane that we do.” “You may call it 'out' in space, or 'up,' as you choose; for it is a condition rather than a position. Yet they occupy a different position in the great surrounding space, and they are more etherealized, and would not easily come to the denser atmosphere of this lower plane." (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 18.)

Edgar Cayce Passes from Lower to Higher Planes in Search of a Life Record

I see myself as a tiny dot out of my physical body, which lies inert before me. I find myself oppressed by darkness and there is a feeling of terrific loneliness. Suddenly, I am conscious of a white beam of light. As this tiny dot, I move upward following the light, knowing that I must follow it or be lost.

As I move along this path of light I gradually become conscious of various levels upon which there is movement. Upon the first levels there are vague, horrible shapes, grotesque forms such as one sees in nightmares. Passing on, there begin to appear on either side misshapen forms of human beings with some part of the body magnified. Again there is change and I become conscious of gray-hooded forms moving downward. Gradually, these become lighter in color.

Then the direction changes and these forms move upward and the color of the robes grows rapidly lighter. Next, there begin to appear on either side vague outlines of houses, walls, trees, etc., but everything is motionless. As I pass on, there is more light and movement in what appear to be normal cities and towns. With the growth of movement I become conscious of sounds, at first indistinct rumblings, then music, laughter, and singing of birds. There is more and more light, the colors become very beautiful, and there is the sound of wonderful music. The houses are left behind, ahead there is only a blending of sound and color. Quite suddenly I come upon a hall of records. It is a hall without walls, without ceiling, but I am conscious of seeing an old man who hands me a large book, a record of the individual for whom I seek information. (Edgar Cayce, Reading 294-19 Report File, on Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E., downloaded from http://www.edgarcayce.org/about_ec/cayce_on/akashic/.)

I would like to state here that working with past life material is very interesting. I could not get into the Akashic records by myself. The material that came through me was brought by a being who was initiated into the Akashic records and who lived on the invisible side of things. My own inner being could not have gone into the Akashic records. I go into them now, yes, but it’s a different situation as you know.

Generally speaking, physical people do not have direct access to the Akashic records. Of course, they can go into their own records – that is, the records of their own past lifetimes. But it’s sometimes more difficult for them to do even that, depending on how psychic they are. (Edgar Cayce in PP, 43.)

The Possibility of “Gods”

I know that the heavenly bodies have souls and are spirits as men have and are. These are the great planetary spirits. The star-beings are really spirits of the nature of the sun-spirit — celestial beings. There are also inter-planetary beings and inter-stellar spirits. The macrocosm, no less than the microcosm, is infinite—infinitely great, infinitely minute. (Philemon [Archdeacon Wilberforce], LFOS, 19-20.)

I have been told that there are also planetary beings, planetary gods, though I have never had the honour of conscious communion with one of them. If a planetary being is so far beyond the daring of my approach, how should I comport myself in approaching the God of gods? …

I have been told that the guardian spirit of this planet Earth evolved himself into a god of tremendous power and responsibility in bygone cycles of existence. To him who has ever used a microscope the idea need not be appalling. The infinitely small and the infinitely great are the tail and head of the Eternal Serpent. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter .)

Accompanied by the Teacher, I have stood face to face with some of the older gods. Had I come out here with a superior contempt for all gods save my own, I should hardly have been granted that privilege; for the gods are as exclusive as they are inclusive, and they only reveal themselves to those who can see them as they are.

Does this open the door to polytheism, or other dreaded isms? An ism is only a word. Facts are. The day is past when men were burned at the stake for having had a vision of the wrong god. But even now I would hesitate to tell all that I have learned about the gods, though I can tell you much.

    Take, for instance, the god whom the Romans called Neptune. Did you fancy that he was only a poetic creation of the old myth-makers? He was something more than that. He was supposed to rule the ocean. Now, what could be more orderly or inevitable than that the work of controlling the elements and the floods should be assumed by, and the work parcelled out among, those able to perform it? We hear much of the laws of Nature. Who enforces them? The term "natural law" is in every man’s mouth, but the Law has executors in heaven as on earth.

Who do you fancy will be the gods of the future cycles of existence? Will they not be those who in this cycle of planetary life have raised themselves above the mortal? Will they not be the strongest and most sublime among the present spirits of men? Even the gods must have their resting period, and those in office now would doubtless wish to be supplanted. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter XL.)

Everything Exists Simultaneously on Many Planes

Even a chair has an existence all the way “up” – not physically, of course, but as the basic idea behind the chair. Incidentally, on the plane where the basic idea of the chair has its existence, it is as concrete as the chair on the physical plane. It exists in the terms of that plane. One could “walk through” the basic idea of that chair, but the idea itself is a reality. How often is it said that thoughts are things? When one lives on the inner planes, it becomes apparent that thoughts really are things. (Stewart Edward White in PP, 215.)

The astral plane is the place where most of the subconscious exists and the subconscious colors everything you see and do and think. So all your childhood associations and other memories of chairs would affect the way [this] chair would look on the astral plane. Your associations would be projected onto the astral chair and become part of it. (Stewart Edward White in PP, 216-7.)

The Age of the Spirit World

The most one could say, … as to the age of the spirit world is that it existed before the earth world. That we know from high sources. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 34.)

Investigative Terminology

Differences in Terminology

We have our subject ready to hand, friend, and we ask you to give us your mind, in order that we may tell you of an incident which lately happened in the sphere where we often take our stand in order that we may supervise a work which is there toward.

It is the erection of a temple-like building…. When we had settled on the design of it, we went to the place already chosen where it should stand. That place was a plateau between the lower / and the higher lands of Sphere Five. Note you that we here in these messages follow the line which Zabdiel laid down in the numbering of the Spheres. Others sometimes adopt that method, and others again form another of their own. But you are familiar, more or less, with this way, and so we use it. And it is, moreover, a more convenient system of gradation than some others, which are often rather complicated, or else too general. My lord Zabdiel chose a kind of mean, and so let it stand here and now. (Arnel in G. Vale Owen, LBV3, 59-60.)

Now I no longer have an astral body…. To borrow David’s terms, the astral body stays with the spirit until he is ready to leave the “vestibule.” (1) In occult terms, I suppose you would say that I am using my mental body. (Stewart Edward White in PP, 203.)

(1) Usually the term “vestibule” is used to refer to the Near-Earth Plane, but White uses the term here to refer to the Astral Plane. Here is an example of the more limited use of the term “vestibule” from Raymond Lodge: “The purpose of the time spent in the vestibule is to give the transition from the outer planes to the inner planes more continuity. … In the transition at the time of death, the vestibule experience permits you to continue your patterns of thought about life and afterlife – until you begin to see that these beliefs are all made out of tissue paper and smoke, as it were. … The vestibule is a period in which a person who has recently died gets used to being just a spirit.” (SOLR, 68.)

“Lower astral” (you know, my dear, these are all earthy ways of trying to give a name to conditions here). (Philip Gilbert in PTS, 31.)

Our Spheres are built of and formed in Ether, therefore you can call them "Spiritual" or "Etheric" planes as you like. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 62.)

Kâmaloka, the place of desire, is the name given [by Theosophists] to the conditions of intermediate life on the astral plane. (1) (Annie Besant, AW, 64n.)

(1) Intermediate between the Earth and the Astral Plane (i.e., synonymous with the term “Borderlands”) or intermediate between the lower Astral and the Mental Plane, we do not know.

The third and fourth regions of the Kâmalokic world (1) differ but little from the second, and might also be described as etherialised copies of it, the fourth being more refined than the third, but the general characteristics of the three subdivisions being very similar. …

Spiritual illumination does not come from Kâmaloka. (Annie Besant, AW, 109-10.)

(1) In this passage, Besant seems to extend the range of the term “Kamaloka” to cover the whole of the Astral Plane.

The astral life, which the man has made for himself either miserable or comparatively joyous, corresponds to what Christians call purgatory. (1) (Charles Leadbeater, TT, 65.)

(1) While “purgatory,” in the strict sense of the word, is usually considered to be the Borderlands, here Leadbeater associates “purgatory” with the whole of the Astral Plane.

In each higher sphere, the inhabitants gain a fuller consciousness of the presence of Jesus the Christ, until they come to the seventh, or Christ-Sphere, where He reigns supreme. He is the Life-Principle of everyone here and moves amongst us in full and beautiful communion. (John Heslop, FMABL, 9-10.)

(1) However, note that Lord Dowding, relying on “Imperator” (the prophet Malachi), says that the Christ Sphere is above the Fourteenth Sphere! “The highest-numbered sphere where conditions are at all known is the Fourteenth and somewhere beyond this is the ‘Christ Sphere.’” (1) (Lord Dowding, MM, 59-60.)

"We use plane to express groups or circles interested in the same kind of work, and we use it also to express a higher sphere. (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 170.)

Q: Why do not all spirits define the soul in the same way?

A: All spirits are not equally enlightened in regard to these matters.  Some spirits are still so little advanced intellectually as to be incapable of understanding abstract ideas; they are like children in your world.  Other spirits are full of false learning, and make a vain parade of words in order to impose their authority upon those who listen to them.  They, also, resemble too many in your world. 

And besides, even spirits who are really enlightened may express themselves in terms which appear to be different, but which, at bottom, mean the same thing, especially in regard to matters which your language is incapable of expressing clearly, and which can only be spoken of to you by means of figures and comparisons that you mistake for literal statements of fact. (Unnamed spirit communicator to Allan Kardek in WASTAK, n.p.)

Differences in Terminology - Different Meanings for “Etheric”

My body as I exist on that Spiritual or Etheric plane is a spiritual or etheric body, just as my physical body was termed "physical" when I was functioning in the physical plane. We derive the name of the body from the plane we are on; "physical" body for physical plane, "astral" body for astral, and "etheric" body for etheric plane. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 62.)

Our Sphere is in the Ether, resting on the Ether, not on or near the earth-plane, or interpenetrating the earth as some people think.

Our Spheres are built of and formed in Ether, therefore you can call them "Spiritual" or "Etheric" planes as you like. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 62.)

Our bodies here are not made of ether; we call them that as they are the bodies in which we manifest on the "Etheric" Sphere.

Your physical bodies are walking about on a physical plane; they are of the earth earthy. Though you call them "physical" they do not look like the earth really; they look like a thing apart. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 62.) When I refer to the etheric plane, I am referring to the uppermost and most subtle aspects of the physical plane. Physical particles and physical motion still exist at this level. (1) (Nikola Tesla, NTR, 53.)

(1) The word “etheric” is used differently by different spirits. It could be that Tesla is here referring to the Borderlands, but it is difficult to know.

The etheric body is the soul. The soul is energy. There are layers within the soul because you have many astral bodies, or energy bodies, which you shed the higher you go spiritually. (Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards, TIND, 16.)

The etheric is the high physical plane, as you call it. It’s not really terribly much of the aura; it’s the little skin-clinging aura that most people see. (1) (Edgar Cayce in PP, 68.)

(1) Note the difference in the way Philip Gilbert uses the term “etheric,” below, from the way Edgar Cayce uses it, above.

You sometimes get into a spin over the words ‘astral’ and ‘etheric’ – what is the difference? In the way I use them, to you, they denote a different quality. ‘Etheric’ describes the type of make-up, as you might say, a chair is wood. It is the unseen part of the physical vehicle. ‘Astral’ is a stage of development. It denotes the illusion world which is spun from the thought web of higher sphere existence. It is the great school house, where is learnt the creative power of thought – its actual objective creativeness, but it is mainly of emotional thought. Beyond it comes reality. (Philip Gilbert, PTS, xxv.)

Acknowledgment that The Use of Words Changes

Telepathy, hypnotism, and the whole spectrum of animal magnetism are functions of the astral plane. (I know we used the word “astral” in the early days [of the Theosophical Society] to mean something else; the words have gotten changed around.) (H.P. Blavatsky, BR, 38-9.)

The Difficulty in Describing the Planes

The astral world is part of the world of spirit. It is one life in many varying grades, from the lower reaches to the highest stages. It is not divided into watertight compartments. We have to give you terms that you can understand. (Silver Birch, SBA, 58.)

The realm or sphere which is my natural habitat has a radiance and a translucence that you cannot understand, clogged as you are by matter. (Silver Birch, PSB, 23.)

Whenever we try to explain our world of spirit, which is freed from the limitations of your world, with its restrictions of time and space, we always have difficulty. The lower cannot grasp the higher, the finite cannot include the infinite, the lesser cannot hold the greater, but only by striving can you increase your capacity to understand. (Silver Birch, SBA, 58.)

We cannot give a perfect description of this life; there are many things which we know are past your comprehension. (Spirit Control Mary Bosworth to Charlotte E. Dresser, LHH, 93.)

Now, we feel that we have, laboured this theme over long and should cease further endeavour to put into the little wineglass of earth knowledge and wisdom to understand the vintage of these wide vineyards of the heavens. (Astriel in G. Vale Owens, LBV1, 225.)

There never has been and never will be an incarnate or discarnate being who has complete and certain knowledge of the realm of "Divine Things." For, even if he were capable of expressing the whole truth, yet he may not utter it for there is no language created by finite minds which can convey a clear and whole conception of God and universal life. (Frederic W.H. Myers, BHP, n.p.)

Q. When you went away did you go to that land you have described?

P. I went to that realm of love and light. (1) It is useless to repeat my attempt at description. But I went further. … All attempts at describing the ultra-earth spheres and states leave a sense of unsubstantiality and unreality. Therefore I refrain. (Philemon [Archdeacon Wilberforce] in LFOS, 96.)

(1) From other indications in his book, I am assuming that Archdeacon Wilberforce is referring to the First Heaven.

We are puzzled how to get over to earth life the beauty and harmony of this one. (William James in SRE, 18.)

What you call a fourth dimension does exist here, in a way, and that hinders us in describing it adequately. (G. Vale Owen’s mother in LBV1, 40.)

[I] was on the next plane and I can give very few details. Words do not convey what we are able to accept mentally, through vibration. (Father Andrew Glazewski in AL, 88.)

I went to that realm of love and light. It is useless to repeat my attempt at description. … All attempts at describing the ultra-earth spheres and states leave a sense of unsubstantiality and unreality. Therefore I refrain. (Philemon [Archdeacon Wilberforce] in LFOS, 96.)

I know you sometimes find it very difficult to follow my explanations, and I find it difficult to explain, for our experiences are limited, and language is limited and is inadequate to express spiritual things. It is like trying to explain the glories of a splendid sunset to a man who was born blind. After all, we can only judge things by past impressions, and when these are lacking we can only believe, if we are willing to accept them, through faith the evidence of things unseen. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 41.)

I understand why spirits don't return and give more about the "make-up" of the spirit-world in a scientific way. There is so much that is so difficult to put into words at all, especially to have to imprint on another person (who is still in the limitation of the physical body—the medium) that which to us is a great shining light—the truth. We feel it, we move in it, we breathe it; but it's too great and / vast a thing to explain in an hour or so, for no sooner do I start to explain one phase, than I find it leads me to have to explain another, and then another, and so on. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 70-1.)

We are apt to do this with all things beyond our physical sphere. I told you we have atmosphere here. Just as we visualize God, and yet we know He is more than we can visualize, so much finer and greater, so is the atmosphere of the spirit-sphere to the atmosphere of the earth-plane; you cannot visualize it with a finite mind. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 73.)

As to the questions we put to [Dr. G., who had recently progressed one plane], they were at first mainly to do with the conditions of his new life and he did his best to describe them to us. He had the same difficulty in conveying the differences to us as I have in making our conditions clear to an earth intelligence. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 84.)

I have heard much comment, so doubtless have you, on the fact that spirits, when they return to communicate with their friends, say, as a rule, so little about their celestial life. The reason is, I fancy, that they despair of making themselves understood should they attempt to describe their existence, which is so different from that of earth. …

A great poet once declared that there was no thought or feeling which could not be expressed in words. Perhaps he has changed his mind by this time, after being out here some sixty years. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter XLIX.)

Ye cannot picture the beauties of our spheres; the [graceful] odours, the lovely flowers, the scenes of gladsome delight that surround us. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MST, 49.)

We can no more tell you of our life than you can convey to a deaf and dumb and blind man the true notions of your world. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MST, 49.)

Beyond the seventh sphere there are other celestial states, but of these I cannot speak. (John Heslop, FMABL, 10.)

In the Tenth Sphere are conditions which do not obtain in those of lower degree, least of all in your own sphere of earth.

If it were possible that I should take you now into that sphere you would not see anything at all, because your condition is not yet fitted to it. What you would see would be a mist of light, more or less intense according to what region of that sphere you were in. In the lower spheres you would see more, but not all, and what you were able to see you would not understand in every part.

Suppose you take a fish out of the water and put him in a globe and take him through a town, how, much, think you, would he firstly see, and secondly understand? I think he would see some few inches beyond the circumference of his habitat—the water, which is his natural environment. Put your face where he can see you, and then your hand instead. What would he know of these things? /

So would you be in these spheres; and only by training would you be able to energize and use your faculties therein with ease and profit. Now further, how would you, in the language of the fishes, describe to them the Abbey of Westminster, or even your own village church? If that fish were to make known to you how unreasonable you were when you told him you were hindered by his own limitations; or if he told you that he did not believe there was such a place as the church or Abbey, which you named but could not describe to him, how would you convince him that the unreason was of his own, and not of your, making? (Zabdiel in G. Vale Owen, LBV2, 76-7.)

There is another aspect of this Sacrament we will treat of at this time, but with brevity. For it were not of any use to endeavour to give you a full account of its significance in whole. You would not understand our words that we should use, and there are none of your own which would serve us. This thing reaches far beyond where tongues of earth are remembered, and is spoken of, in its inner mystery, only in those forms of language proper to the Spheres far removed in sublimity, and near that of the Christ. (Arnel in G. Vale Owen, LBV3, 92.)

The Fear that Spirits will not be Believed

Of course, I have to be very careful not to indulge in description of things which are too far divorced from acceptable earthly credence, lest you and others, Lesley, take me to be exploiting flights of fancy. Yet this, our world, so like yours in a hundred and one parallel instances, has startling differences. Startling to terrestrial eyes, that is, and even to ours, at first. (Ethel McLean in LFM, 74.)

Lesley, I am becoming very familiar with your mental thought processes. You are skeptically inclined, on occasion. I know perfectly well that they story I told you of the child playing with the lion rankles in your mind and that you think it “just a bit too pat,” as you put it. I do assure you that it was a plain statement of fact which I saw myself and again affirm the truth of it. (Ethel McLean in LFM, 70.)

I have used so many superlatives in my attempt to describe / this sphere to you that I feel you are becoming impatient with me. (Ethel McLean in LFM, 120-1.)

It is all so wonderful that people would neither understand nor believe; so I would rather tell you of the simpler things. (G. Vale Owen’s mother in LBV1, 51.)

Try to think with us as from our side the Veil. Things, you must understand, take on a very different aspect here from what they did as viewed from the earth plane, and an aspect, I fear, which to those still on earth will, in many cases at least, wear a semblance of unreality and romance. (G. Vale Owen’s mother in LBV1, 40.)

The idea of viewing things from the standpoint of a higher sphere than yours is one which should be given due weight when you read what we have already written. Otherwise you will often be mystified at the seeming incongruity in the association of ideas as we have given them. (G. Vale Owen’s mother in LBV1, 63.)

We went, as we were bidden, and found a great many people arriving from many quarters. Some came in… why do you hesitate? We are describing quite literally what we saw — chariots; call them otherwise, if you will. They were drawn by horses, and their drivers seemed to know just what to say to them, for they were not driven with reins like they are on earth, but seemed to go where the drivers willed. Some came on foot and some through space by aerial flight. No, not wings, which are not necessary. (1) (G. Vail Owen’s mother in LBV1, 40.)

(1) Vale Owen seems here to substitute his picture of the what the aerial spirits were doing for that of his mother. Earlier he appears to disbelieve her statement that the spirits came drawn in chariots.

Did you ever fancy when you had had a lovely dream that maybe an angel had kissed you in your sleep? I have seen such things

     Oh, do not be afraid of giving rein to your imagination! It is the wonderful things which are really true; the commonplace things are nearly all false. When a great thought lifts you by the hair, do not cling hold of the solid earth. Let go. He whom an inspiration seizes might even — if he dared to trust his vision — behold the Beautiful Being (1) face to face, as I have. When flying through the air one’s sight is keen. If one goes fast and high enough, one may behold the inconceivable. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter XLI.)

(1) The “Beautiful Being” is the name Judge Hatch gives to an angel who has taken on the role of guiding the latter.

As far as my description of these realms is concerned, you need not be afraid that it is all too good to be true. To you who are still incarnate it may seem that it is impossible of attainment. To us, it is our everyday life. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, HH, 82-3.)

There are many who will query and possibly reject these communications. Be not discouraged. The seeds have been sown and the harvest of understanding, be it great or small, will enrich the lives of many on your earth. (Brother of Light in LFM, 95.)

Schematic Representations of the Spirit Planes

Schemes Based on Seven

Ed. Note that, though the communicators below offer schemes that feature seven planes, few schemes are comparable.

I am informed [that] almost everyone here is used to the Theosophical set of labels. (Stewart Edward White in PP, 213.)

There are seven planes of existence and each plane is more positive than the one below it. (Mike Swain, FMW, 77.)

Imperator described the earth as the seventh sphere, with six below it, seven above (spheres of work and probation: progressive spheres) and seven beyond (spheres of contemplation). (Stainton Moses in MST, 17.)

The passage from the highest of the seven spheres of probation, to the lowest of the seven spheres of contemplation, is a change analogous to what you know as death. (1) We hear little beyond, though we know that the blessed ones who dwell there have power to help and guide us even as we watch over you. But we know nothing by experimental knowledge of their work, save that they are occupied with nearer views of the Divine perfection, in closer contemplation of the causes of things, and in nearer adoration of the Supreme.

We are far from that blissful state. We have our work yet to do; and in doing it we find our delight. It is necessary for you to remember that spirits speak according to their experience and knowledge. Some who are asked abstruse questions give replies according to the measure of their knowledge, and are in error. But do not, therefore, blame them. We believe that we state what is accurate when we say that your earth is the highest of seven spheres; that there are succeeding the earthlife seven spheres of active work, and succeeding these, seven spheres of Divine contemplation. But each sphere has many states. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, ST, 34.)

(1) This “death” is probably not what has been called in this book the “Second Death,” but an event that happens at a much more advanced level.

You know well that the whole existence is steadily progressive or retrogressive. The spirit incarnated in your world settles for itself its position after it has been freed from the body, by the deeds done in the body. According as they have been good or evil, they cause it to gravitate to a higher or lower sphere, or to a higher or lower state in the sphere for which it is fitted. When the place is settled it comes to pass that those who are entrusted with the mission educate it, and purge away false notions, and lead it to ponder on former sins, and so to desire to remedy their consequences. This is the first step in progress. The purification continues until the spirit has been so far cleansed as to rise into a higher state, and there again the process is continued until the spheres of purification are passed, and the spirit, refined and purified, rises into the spheres of education. There further knowledge is instilled; the soul is refined and made fit to shake off still more of the material, and to undergo a further process of sublimation. And this continues until the material is entirely purged away, and the spirit is fitted to enter into the spheres of contemplation. Then we lose sight of it. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

We told you in a parable of the progress of the spirit through seven states, during which it was working out its own salvation, and labouring either to purge away the contracted impurities of earth, or to gather such added store of knowledge as would fit it for the life of contemplation. In the spheres of contemplation, as we called them, the inner heaven of contemplative wisdom, the home of the Infinite and the Absolute, is perfect peace. Why should the beatified cross its threshold, to come back to the unrestful atmosphere of the purgatorial spheres, unless it be to bring some of their own blessed peace with them? Some there are who have so returned at great spiritual epochs, and have animated and inspired men by their vast and tranquil wisdom; but it is rare. Sufficient for you to know now that a spark of Deity dwells within your soul, and that infinite possibilities are within your grasp. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

My teaching comes from my great Master, (Elijah) whom I see face to face, and he has his teaching from his great Master. (1) I cannot yet enter into the spheres of Contemplation, but my Master descends to me, and has given me this mission. We are all links in a great chain which extends even to the Most High. (Spirit Teacher Imperator [Malachi] in Moses, MST, 10.)

(1) Elijah’s teacher is Moses. See ST, 187.

Spirit is in itself eternal. We will speak of it first before it reaches your earth. It had a prior existence in the spheres which underlie, surround and control your world. All spirit finds its home in space till it takes upon it a body of flesh. Spirit is developed through various processes up to the time of incarnation. It becomes a microcosm, a representative of that divinity of which it enshrines a spark, and thus it becomes powerful over matter. One of the properties of matter is inertia. It can do nothing. It is governed and animated by spirit, which spirit is individualised when incarnated.

Round your world, then, is a spiritual sphere, from which all spirit comes, and to which it returns. There are also the spheres of work and the spheres of contemplation. They are states, not places. The seven spheres of work are around your earth, and through them each incarnated spirit passes. The atmosphere of spirit that surrounds your world is the spiritual world. You dwell in it, although you know it not. It is similar to your world, only more beautiful and sublimated.

Spirit, in order to manifest, must be substantial and have a form, though spiritual. In the spirit-world there are the same gradations of substance that you have, such as vegetable, mineral and animal. Thus the change from your world to ours is only a change of condition. A man born blind cannot understand what light is; yet, if he gains sight, he has only changed his state, not his place. So, when you have thrown off your material body, you will not have changed your place, only your state. (Unnamed Egyptian spirit in Moses, MSTTT, n.p.)

I have described the spiritual world as consisting of seven planes, of seven stages in the journey of the soul. I should, perhaps, have called these planes "seven levels of consciousness," but the word "plane" is of a popular character so I deliberately chose it in order to convey my conception of eternity. (Frederic W.H. Myers, BHP, n.p.)

The following statement is an index, or rather an itinerary, of the journey of the soul. (1) The Plane of Matter. (2) Hades or the Intermediate State. (3) The Plane of Illusion. (4) The Plane of Color. (5) The Plane of Flame. (6) The Plane of Light. (7) Out Yonder, Timelessness. (F.W.H. Myers in RTI, n.p.)

I have suggested that there are seven levels of consciousness. I have named them as follows: (1) The Plane of Earth. (2) The Intermediate Plane (Hades). (3) The Plane of Illusion (The Immediate World after Death). (4) The Plane of Color (The World of Eidos). (5) The Plane of Flame (The World of Helios). (6) The Plane of Light. (7) Out Yonder, Timelessness. (F.W.H. Myers in BHP, n.p.)

There are seven levels within each plane, including the earth plane. (Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards in TIND, 17.)

There are seven planes, or vibratory rates, and within each are seven more levels. If you ask, “Where are the planes?” they are right where you are now, inherent in your soul. The astral, the celestial, and the others are all around and within you, intermingled with the earth plane.

There is no time and space, which is for you a difficult concept to grasp. There is only a change in the rate of vibration. When you learn the lessons of a particular vibration, you may move to a finer vibration of experience. (Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards in TIND, 15.)

Because these planes [above the celestial] are a higher frequency and an interdimensional reality, you would be unable to understand what they are from your present perspective on the earth plane. Knowledge must be gained in a highly advanced meditative state. (Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards in TIND, 17.)

The spirit world is divided into spheres or realms. These two words of designation have passed into current [acceptance] among most of those on the earth-plane who have a knowledge of, and practice communication with, our world. …

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 us here to follow the 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. …

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. …

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. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 128-9.)

In the first place, the statement that 'heaven is all about you,' is correct to a certain extent, for spirits of the lower circles come and go freely through the earth's atmosphere. But it is not the real abiding place of any spirit who realizes where he is. It is in the farthest limits of the atmosphere that the heavenly lands begin.

  We always speak of it as a sphere, and this is a proper designation in a way, in that it surrounds the earth at a fairly uniform distance. But in another sense this does not fully express the conditions. We will have some difficulty here in making you understand just how this spirit land is placed. It is not the inside of a hollow shell, nor is it the outside of a sphere. It is more nearly described as consisting of various regions,—you might almost call them countries. Their extent is impossible to convey to you, because distance is such a relative term. We will have to make a general statement and say that these regions are thousands of miles in extent. They are not like islands in the sky, and yet how else can I describe them? I know I am indefinite, but I am doing the best I can.

  It is in these regions or countries that spirits of the lower plane have their homes. They are not replicas of any portion of the earth, for we have no cities. Some times the homes are not far apart, but there are no congested sections. There is room and to spare for everyone, and always will be.

  If you were to attempt to explore these countries by any means at your command, you would sail about in many directions to find the various places. And if you desired to stop and investigate any one of them, you would find each one very extensive. But you must keep in mind that distance means nothing to us. It is possible to encircle the entire lower planes in a few seconds of earth time; although it is customary to use a rather slower speed than that.

  We do not think of these various places as being separated, for we make no attempt to move any distance except through space. We have clairvoyant vision of nearly everything, but it is all under our control. We see comparatively little of our surroundings except as we experience a desire to view them.

  If we wish to go to any place, it is only a question of desire and will power, and we are almost immediately at the place we had in mind.

It is a vague picture I am drawing, no doubt. It is not a vague country, I assure you. It is more real to us than even the earth with its mountains and oceans.

  There are other spheres beyond these lower regions. Few of us have actual knowledge of them, except by descriptions given by the few visitors from them, and from messengers who are trained to go to and fro. It is said that they grow more and more ethereal, and soon are beyond the ken of any with whom we communicate.

  In making journeys to other planets, we no doubt go by them, but we cannot see them any more than you can see our sphere. It is all a question of advancement, and acquirement of higher senses, a knowledge of the more ethereal conditions.

  We are told that some communicators mention the spheres by numbers. It is true that there are circles of advancement here on this lower plane, but it is difficult to understand why they are numbered when communicating. It may show a little the extent of the advancement, but I assure you we do not have them ticketed. It is easy to fall into the suggestions given by earthly inquirers, and many seem to have done so. (Unnamed Chinese philosopher in LHH, 270-2.)

I'll give you a little chart…. Draw a round [circle] for the earth; around that put seven circles one outside the other, for the seven spheres. Outside those, filling all space, is an enormous force, an actual force which seems to contain or consist of many strong powers or forces that we think we have discovered on the earthplane — electricity to wit, radium [i.e., radiation], etc.; but there are many more still undiscovered on the earth-plane, but which we know are contained in this, the God-force or Life-force. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 71.)

All in between and around every planet is the God-force; if you eventually went beyond the seventh sphere you would get into space and become part of the Infinite. You would then have no defined or finite form, for you would no longer be finite; you would then be only a consciousness.

As in the physical you were conscious of the physical more than of any other state, so if you progressed and became part of the Infinite you would then become conscious of God and God only. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 76.)

There is something substantial about my spirit-body. Suppose I had to leave the third Plane and to go to the fifth, sixth, or seventh Plane (for good I mean, not for a visit). I know then my entire etheric body would undergo a change: the atoms would be of a still lighter kind, because the nearer I go to the God-force, or Life-force, the more actual Life-force there is running through my body and holding those atoms together. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 69.)

Formlessness: this, my child, is an attribute of the source only, in its ultimate expression from whence none who have merged therein have yet returned in form. It is beyond the peaks of silence and the sea of desire – beyond things, yet ceaselessly expressed in them. (The Unknown Teacher in PTS, 41.)

Consider God in the light of the "Great Headmaster" this time. The different spheres are the different classes or forms in His school; the seventh is the highest. The pupils there are very advanced, and in consequence learn a good deal from the Headmaster Himself; they are sufficiently educated to appreciate and understand His teaching. Those in the sixth are instructed by teachers from the seventh, / and so on down the different spheres, the pupils in each being taught according to their development and requirements. The source of knowledge is one and the same, only it is suited by the teachers to the various grades and degrees. The earth is the most elementary. Certain spirits (of whom I am one), who are required for special work, are sent to the higher spheres from the third for particular teaching. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CSB, 47-8.)

Schemes Based on Nine

There are nine planes of spirit, dominated by the high spiritual powers. (Donald Macleod in HT, 12.)

Schemes Based on Twelve

I have heard the spheres divided differently by different spirit teachers, and it is not very important that they should be all divided by the same standard, since these divisions are very similar to mapping out a country where the boundaries melt so imperceptibly into one another that it is not very essential to have the limits defined with perfect exactitude, since the changes in the countries and the people will of themselves mark their different states as you progress on your journey. Thus, then, some will tell you there are seven spheres and that the seventh means the heaven spoken of in the Bible; others say there are twelve spheres; others again extend the number.

Each sphere is, however, divided into circles, usually twelve to a sphere, though here again some spirits will reckon them differently, just as your standards of measurement on earth differ in different countries, yet the thing they measure remains the same. For myself, I have been used to count that there are seven spheres above the earth and seven below it -- using the terms above and below as signifying the nearness to, or distance from, the great central sun of our solar system, the nearest point of attraction towards that sun being considered to be our highest point of attainment (while in the limits of the earth spheres), and the farthest away being regarded as our lowest or most degraded sphere.

Each sphere, then, being subdivided into twelve circles, which are blended so closely into each other that you appear to pass almost insensibly from one to the other. I had hitherto been in what is called the earth plane, which like a great broad belt circles around the earth and permeates its atmosphere. This earth plane may be said to comprehend within its bounds the first of the seven spheres above and the first of those below the earth, and is used commonly in describing the habitations of those spirits who are said to be earth-bound in a greater or less degree because they are not able to sink below the earth attractions nor to free themselves from its influences. (A. Farnese, WSL, http://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/wsl/wsl14.htm.)

The Reality of Ascent

The Reality of Growth, Development, Progress, and Ascension

For the most part, we dwell in each state or world during the time we are attached to the appearances that constitute that world. … However, I would urge that no fixed rule should be applied to our sojourn in each world or state. (F.W.H. Myers, BHP, n.p.)

You experience the level to which you have learned to attune your consciousness. When you learn the lessons of a particular vibration, you may move to a finer vibration of experience. (Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards in TIND, 15.)

As you advance beyond [one plane], you leave it behind. As the spirit qualifies itself, by growth, progress and evolution, so it naturally passes to the next stage of spirit life. (Silver Birch, SBA, 57.)

You do not climb from one sphere into another; you grow, you evolve. The lower gives way to the higher. You 'die' and are born again and again. (Silver Birch, SBA, 58.)

May you so live now that hereafter you may pass easily through the intermediary spheres, without pain, to the realms of joy. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MST, 7.)

We know that our stay on any one plane is temporary and, however our estimate of time may compare with the earth calendar, this notion of progress from plane to plane as development justifies it is common knowledge here. There is room for much speculation and difference of opinion as to ultimate ends, of course. Much of the thought of higher spheres is open to those who care to know, but there are many here who are satisfied to enjoy the easy satisfactions of their care-free lives without speculating upon any further development. In general, I think that those who have the farthest to go are most concerned with the journey. As I have said before, among thoughtful people at the university [here] much study is given to the progress of the human spirit, its ascent of the planes, and its probable return to earth when purification is complete. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 122.)

Growth of spirit as well as development of soul are essential whether here or there. We are the ones who must put forth the effort to grow. Nothing will grow in our behalf. That is why I would have you picture each of us as God, for you and we are gods who decide whether we grow or remain as embryos. (Arthur Ford in WB, 17.)

I feel myself growing out of myself in a certain fashion. My adopted characteristics are becoming too small and cramped to contain my new growth and development, and I will move on most certainly to larger psychological quarters. It is not only the physical body we outlive, but the psychological house we have chosen. First after death we add new rooms and suites to accommodate our greater experience, but it is soon obvious that the entire structure has had its day. We must move out of it completely. (William James, ADJ, 159.)

I do not know when I will finish this composition, but I will suddenly know that I had added my last comments, written my last words as a tenant of my present psychological manse, and will then move into the larger framework of myself which I feel is being constructed. (William James, ADJ, 160.)

Already, under the guidance of my guardians, I have passed through the first sphere, where are gathered those who are bound to earth by the affections or are unable to rise as yet. There I saw some whom I had known in the body and learned from them, and from others, much that I needed to know. My work will be of a similar sort till I reach my appointed sphere. (Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Winchester in AD, 86.)

Here we at least know by personal experience that there are higher strata and higher still: people like the Chief, for instance. … They look as if they were made of radium. We rarely see them but now and then one appears, to inspire us. (Philip Gilbert in PTS, 45.)

'What constitutes a 'higher plane?'

"I think you will understand it better as a sort of higher grade, like college after high school. It is a different plane or sphere or space where those of a certain degree of advancement can remain for a time.

"These spheres or planes are separated more by spiritual advancement than by distance, though the latter is / sometimes great. We ascend as we grow, or we remain to teach others. But it is all normal, and like the different grades of advancement in college or school, if I may use the comparison. “Each grade has its peculiar work or degree of advancement, not set by any rule except that of congeniality." (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 169-70.)

The Spirit Goes Through Many Deaths and Many Births

There are many deaths and many births. (Silver Birch, SBA, 57.)

You do not lose the astral body in quite the same way that you lose the material body. It becomes rarefied, it becomes refined, as the lower drops away. That is its death, for death really means transformation, resurrection, the rising of the higher out of the lower. (Silver Birch, SBA, 58.)

The spirit-body, after leaving the earth-spheres, enters upon a course of purification, in process of which it passes through many changes analogous to death. Even as from the earth-body is eliminated a body more refined than it, but not dissimilar from it: so, from it again when the spirit has advanced sufficiently, is eliminated a more refined body; and so on, till the process of refinement has fitted it to enter the spheres of contemplation.

At each successive stage the spirit accretes to itself a similar body, and throws aside one which has become unsuited to it. Hence each change of state is accompanied by one somewhat analogous to death.

Immediately on its release from the body, the spirit gathers a new body from its new surroundings, and is clothed with a refined substance like to the flesh it has cast off. The spirit is always encased in a body of matter, as you would say; but matter impalpable to your senses, though as perceptible to us as is the grossest material substance to yours. (Doctor [Athenodorus] in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

Working to Ascend to Higher Realms

We have no illusions about ourselves and know jolly well that the job we are doing (1) is as much for our own benefit as it is for those we are trying to help. (Clifford McLean in LFM, 99.)

(1) Clifford is working with souls on the Stony Plane.

It is not as easy to progress as you may imagine. We have to study for advancement as students there study for the higher grades. We can choose any circle on any plane on which we dwell and remain there as long as we wish." (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 170.)

We in this beautiful realm of light are all working for our spiritual advancement. It is not restricted to those who live in the dark regions. The people who inhabit the magnificent spheres above this wherein I dwell are all moving forward and upward in their triumphant progressional march. It never ceases and spiritual progress is the birthright of every single soul. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, HH, 19.)

Only by finding a task which seems peculiarly my own can I would out my salvation at this difficult stage. [Mitchell, my guide] counsels patience and a quiet persistence in meeting and co-operating with others until I find my own path. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 65.)

Edwin … proposed that perhaps I would like to join him in his work, which was principally concerned with taking in hand newly-arrived souls whose religious beliefs were the same as we had held upon earth, but who, unlike ourselves, were unable as yet to realize the truth of the change they had made, and of the unreality of so much of their religion. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 76.)

Stainton Moses: Did you ever know a case of a spirit, lately passed over, going to the seventh sphere in a few years?

Never. It may not be. It is deceptive throughout. Flee such. (Unnamed spirit teacher in MST, 60.)

Many teachers have come to us from higher planes, brought by Mary to tell us about life and conditions, in answer to our questions. One of these teachers said:

"We wish to tell you of the life of the spirit as it progresses from plane to plane. For the grades of spiritual evolution are infinite in number. We will begin with life on the plane next above our own, where higher science is taught, and where many are trying to find answers to problems that confront intelligence there. Life on other planets, with their varying conditions, is one of these problems.

"You do not know the laws of life on the more ethereal planes. You do not know the teachings nor the occupations, and it is these that we wish to bring to you. We will begin with the ethics of the higher life."

'Would they not still be love and service?'

"Yes, but love and service are expressed by different activities. Life on the higher plane is like this, only more spiritualized; just as this plane is like earth life only more ethereal. The higher plane expresses love /and service still, but in higher degree and in more spiritualized activities. These activities may extend to other planets or to other universes. We go to higher planes when we choose, and we go to other planes below us to teach them these higher truths, if they wish. All sciences are taught here:—history, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, biology, and many sciences that the earth has no knowledge of as yet.

"I belong to a higher plane, but I can move to those still higher in pursuit of knowledge, and return to my own plane to teach that knowledge. We are more free as we ascend, and visit many planes far higher than the one we especially inhabit and call our home. But at first, the earthborn mortals would only be confused, like a stranger in a strange city with unaccustomed manners and habits. The freedom of moving to other planes is therefore confined to those already advanced." (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 172-3.)

There are many spheres to be experienced for all expansion of understanding creates a plane within a plane. You also have a diversity of communities and nations, each subscribing to a particular way of life according to desires yet all inhabiting the same planet. We, on this side, are surrounded by other communities, some less and some more advanced than ourselves. Yet we are on the same vibratory level and can move freely amongst each other. (Jim McLean in LFM, 115.)

To achieve entry to a higher sphere, the aid of one of the inhabitants must be enlisted for the laws that govern their lives are not yet fully understood by us. We must be conducted and guided by them. Invitations are freely given and eagerly accepted. (Jim McLean in LFM, 115.)

The Time It Takes to Advance

Often our progress from plane to plane is slow, especially as we move into the higher planes. (Donald Macleod in HT, 17.)

No soul coming here from earth’s limitations, however advanced it may be in spiritual truth, is able to stand the stepped-up vibrations or the translucent Light of [the] High Planes [such as Jesus went to]. … Did not the Master Himself take three days before, as He said, “I ascend to my Father”? These cryptic words are much more understandable and translatable even from this plane of the Astral than they could possibly be from the earth level consciousness. (Frances Banks, TOL, 53.)

Father Joseph tells me that some souls settle down in one stage for years … even centuries! While others persist in their former earth surroundings for ages! (Frances Banks, TOL, 64.)

There may be some who progress quickly, but not many. I should say that most people stay on the first plane of experience (1) as long as or longer than the normal span of earth life. One has so much to learn that it would not be possible to move on too soon. One just wouldn’t be properly equipped for a higher kind of life until one was trained for it here. (Gordon Burdick to Grace Rosher, TR, 36.)

(1) It is not easy to say where “the first plane of experience” might be.

In this world, time doesn’t count. Those who came here a long time ago may be no further advanced spiritually than more recent arrivals. It takes what would be centuries of your earth time to become sufficiently advanced spiritually to move on to a higher sphere. (Gordon Burdick in TR, 103.)

[The earth plane is the hardest] for it is here that you take all of the knowledge, the training, the teaching that you were given when you were out of the body and bring it back and put it into practical application in the body. It’s very difficult to be loving, kind, gentle, and forever giving when you find yourself around people who are not of the same caliber. It’s easy on our side and this is why many souls will incarnate when they really don’t need to, because it would take a thousand years out of the body to do what you could do in one short sixty or eighty-year life period on the earth plane. So many will choose to incarnate to speed it up, but it is more difficult because you don’t have the awareness you have when you are on the other side. (Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards, TIND, 9.)

It takes many, many hundreds of years on the other side to gain … knowledge [of God and the nature of existence]. Men must gain it in the body to be open to it from the other side. (Unnamed spiritual teacher to Betty Bethards in TIND, 11-2.)

Bad characters in history are still, many of them, in the lower planes where the evil ones go. (Gordon Burdick in TR, 104.)

In this world where I now find myself, one of the strangest of my discoveries was this. There were spirits here utterly "unprogressed," although they had been "dead," as you count, fifty, in one case nearly one hundred, years. They were holding "views," theological teachings, abandoned when I was a lad. And another wildly perplexing fact was that some "atheists," who had been here only a few years, have become the leaders and teachers even of such as myself. (Philemon [Archdeacon Wilberforce], LFOS, 4.)

Time doesn’t enter into this as it does in physical growth, of course. Some people here change rapidly and some hardly change at all. It is the desire to go forward that counts. (Harry Dodd in Paul Beard, LO, 128.)

'Some one has said that thirty years was the longest time spent on one plane?'

"'Some one' was wrong, as a great many 'some ones' are wrong, when trying to describe the spirit world. (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 170.)

We can all stay as long as we wish in any circle, or any plane, or any sphere. (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 170.)

We Cannot Know the Planes Above Us

We have to ask the masters about the other planes of spirit, as we have no conception of the planes of spirit above us, although we have remembrances of the planes of spirit below us. (Donald Macleod in HT, 17.)

Should a man try to live in that rarified spiritual air [of a higher plane than Lawrence occupies] who carried still in his being the uncleansed stains of earth his sufferings would be terrible, as intense as the joy of which he would be capable when he is cleansed of them. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 86.)

Q: Are all spirits reciprocally accessible to one another? A: The good go everywhere, as it is necessary that they should do, in order to bring their influence to bear upon the evil-minded.  But the regions inhabited by them are inaccessible to inferior spirits, so that the latter cannot trouble those happy abodes by the introduction of evil passions. (Unnamed spirit communicator to Allan Kardek in WASTAK, n.p.)

Each sphere is completely invisible to the inhabitants of the spheres below it. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 131.)

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. …

If we commence our world of spirit in the lowest recess of [what might be on earth something like] subterranean caves, we can see how each of the realms is connected with the realm immediately above it. … The transition in the spirit world from one realm to another is literal – as literal as passing from [a] 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 musical sounds 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. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 132-3.)

We Descend at Will, but Not Ascend

The sphere or plane on which you exist in our world contains individuals at the same stage of spiritual development as you are. You can’t go higher spiritually until you are ready. You can go lower, as many of us do to perform missionary work among the unenlightened beings in the lower spheres. (Silver Birch, LSB, 19.)

When I am in the tenth of these zones, my cognizance is limited, more or less, by that Tenth zone as to its outer or superior boundary. I may, on occasion and by permission, visit the Eleventh zone, or even go higher; but residence in those higher zones is not permitted me.

On the other hand, the zones inferior to the Tenth are not impossible to me; for the zone in which I dwell, being a sphere, includes within itself, even geometrically considered, all the nine inferior spheres. (Astriel in G. Vale Owens, LBV1, 216.)

First as to the name "Tenth Sphere." That is what we name it by way of brevity. But in every sphere other spheres are found to touch it. What we will call the Tenth is the dominant note: but the harmony of the spheres is one and blended. For this reason a man may aspire to that above him, and is lifted up by reason of the contact of that higher zone interpenetrating his own.

But also, having progressed to, let us say, the Seventh, he is initiate into all those spheres below, through which he has passed. Thus, as others come down to him, so he can go down to others, so he conditions himself always according to that sphere into which he goes. And he may from his own sphere reach forth his power to those in the spheres below. This we continually do, even from our own projecting our cognisance, and power to aid, into the earth / for those with whom we have established contact. We do not always leave our own home when we help you; but on occasion we do so, as necessity compels. (Zabdiel in G. Vale Owen, LBV2, 156-7.)

I do not believe that I could stand, for long, the intense Light and Glory of these Higher Planes. My soul is not yet strong enough. (Mother Florence in Frances Banks, TOL, 113.)

You always can go down, or be with those below you, but you can never go up. This must be earned. (Unnamed spirit teacher through Betty Bethards, TIND, 28.)

The worlds above us are even richer in light and happiness. If I go up there (and I can) I find it too bright; the light hurts my eyes. And the vibrations are so refined that I can’t respond to them! So I reverse gear and return to this world – which suits me just fine!

The planes below this one are denser, dimmer planes. If I go down to them, it becomes murkier and murkier until it is so creepy that I scoot back to where I belong! (Mike Swain in FMW, 24.)

This world is the right one for me at this stage of my development; but, as my vibrations get more refined, I shall be able to visit the higher planes with ease. One day, I may even find that a higher plane suits me better than the one I’m in. We all progress this way. As we grow in spirit, we ascend to the next plane; the two processes work hand-in-glove. (Mike Swain in FMW, 25.)

The only ones cut off from us are those below, unless we seek them. Our beloved can always come down to us, however far they have ascended. The more progressed, the more surely. (Philemon [Archdeacon Wilberforce], LFOS, 5.)

I have not seen R. B., (1) as yet. I sent him flowers and a greeting, but I did not see him. … His grandparents met him. He will see me when the time comes. He is getting well and reconciled. He is in more beautiful surroundings than I am. (2) R.'s inner spirit was rebellious and bitter that a young life like his should have been cut off without visible, tangible reason. (Philemon [Archdeacon Wilberforce], LFOS, 7.)

(1) R.B. is a mutual friend who died young of cancer.
(2) R.B. has gone to a higher realm than Philemon inhabits.

One cannot rise much higher because one loses consciousness. Accompanied by someone of greater development, one can go farther afield; but, if one goes much higher than one’s own awareness, a dreamy state comes on and nothing registers clearly. I was taken traveling in this way so that I would understand it.

One’s awareness grows as one develops – quite naturally as a child becomes an adult in time. One grows mentally and spiritually. (Harry Dodd in Paul Beard, LO, 128.)

Life on the higher planes is more ethereal than here, and all conditions are more ethereal. Coming to this plane from a higher one is a little like descending from an altitude where the air is light, to a lowland where the air is dense. Like a life accustomed to the rarefied air of mountain tops, descending into deep pits of the earth, where the air is too heavy for them to breathe. (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 18.)

Each group makes its own conditions and these are for the time being the only conditions in which its members can exist in comfort. Whatever our natural plane may be, to go down from it causes acute discomfort and even suffering; to go up before one is ready means an air too rarified and light too intense to be borne. So each must go to his own place and stay there until development draws him up into a higher sphere. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 58-9.)

All places are not open to us here. There are many realms where we are not able to enter except in very special circumstances, or only if our progression permits. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 23.)

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. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson’s friend Edwin to Benson, LIWU, 131-2.)

At the border of the higher realms there is no need for such sentinels [as at the lower realms] to keep others from crossing, because the natural law prevents it. When those of a lower realm travel to a higher, it is always by authority, either vested in the traveler, or in some other person of a higher sphere, who will act as an escort. In the former case, such authority takes the form of symbols or signs that are given to the holder, who will always and upon every occasion receive – even unasked – every assistance he may need. Many of these symbols have the power in themselves of preserving the traveler from the overwhelming effects of the higher spiritual atmosphere. The latter would not damage the soul, of course, but a soul thus unprepared would find itself in much the same situation as upon earth when one emerges into brilliant sunlight after a prolonged stay in complete darkness.

But as in the case of earthly sunshine one can, after a suitable lapse of time, become again perfectly at ease in the normal bright light, it is not so in the case of the higher realms. There is no such adaptability there. The ‘blinding’ effect will be continuous to one of a lower state. But with a perfect dispensation, means are provided so that the visiting soul shall undergo no spiritual discomfort or unhappiness. And that is just what one would expect, since such visits are made for happy reasons, and not as tests of spiritual stamina and endurance. When it is necessary to make a journey to even higher spheres, it then becomes imperative, in many cases, that an inhabitant of those realms should, as it were, throw a cloak over his charge, in just the same way as Edwin, upon a lower scale, threw his protecting arms about is when we journeyed to the lower sphere. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 62-3.)

When we have visited higher realms for a period, however long or short, we have only glimpsed the greater perfection of those realms. We can see that things are immensely purer in all ways, the colours, the musical sounds, the flowers and forests and woods; the rivers and streams; and, lastly, the people themselves, all are more rarified. But those of us who have been so fortunate as to have visited a higher state never on any account feel dissatisfied with our own estate upon returning to our own realms. Dissatisfaction does not come by visual comparison of our present realm with higher realms. There are other causes for that…. As far as my description of these realms is concerned, you need not be afraid that it is all too good to be true. To you who are still incarnate it may seem that it is impossible of attainment. To us, it is our everyday life. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, HH, 82-3.)

Monsignor Benson Goes to the Border of the Next Higher Plane

We traversed the distance [between our own realm and the one above ours] that we were unable to observe the gradual alteration in our surroundings. Otherwise we should have seen the country taking on a higher degree of etheralization, a greater intensification of color and brightness, observable not only in the physical features of the realm, but also in the spirit raiment of those whose homes approximated the more closely to the border. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 62.)

We found ourselves upon grassland, but with a striking difference. The turf upon which we were walking was infinitely softer than that of the interior of [our] realm. The green of the verdure was even brighter than we had thought possible. The flowers were growing in still greater profusion, and the intensity of color, of perfume, and of health-giving power transcended anything we had encountered. The very air seemed to be imbued with rainbow tints. …

Just as we had been heavy with chill and oppression at the borderline of the dark spheres, so were we now warmed and filled with such an elation that we were almost silent in wonderment. As we moved along, bathed in radiance, we felt such a spiritual exaltation that Edwin’s description of the visitations of personages from the higher realms at once came to mind, and I almost knew what to expect when I should be fortunate enough to witness such a visitation. Standing here, one had the overwhelming desire to strive for that progression that would entitle one to inhabit one of the lovely houses [I saw around me], and to qualify for the honor of serving one of the dwellers in this higher sphere at whose gateway we were standing.

We walked a little way forward, but we could proceed no farther. There were no visible barriers, but we felt that we could not breathe if we went onward. The whole atmosphere was becoming so much the more rarified the farther we penetrated, that in the end we were bound to retrace our steps on to our own ground.

I could see many souls dressed in the most tenuous of garments, the soft colors of which seemed hardly to belong to them but to float about the fabric of their robes – if fabric one could call it. Those of them who came sufficiently near smiled to us with such a friendly greeting that we knew we were not in any way intruding, and some waved their hands to us. My friend told us that they were aware of our purpose there, and for that reason they would not approach us. They would allow us to enjoy our experience by ourselves, and quietly to absorb the beauties and splendor of this wonderful borderland. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 61.)

Temporary Ascents or Visits to Higher Realms

I have been to the next plane, but only on a visit. It was quite familiar but more beautiful. (Gordon Burdick to Grace Rosher, TR, 36.)

[Leo Radyer] then pronounced a blessing…. We immediately found ourselves in another world. Leo assured us that there was nothing magical about it. All that had happened was that our vibrations had been raised and equalized with the vibration of the sphere of consciousness we were now viewing. … I had not thought it possible that grass, flowers and trees could be more beautiful than those in the sphere in which we dwelt. … Each flower, shrub and plant shimmered with light, the range of their colours being impossible to describe. It seemed as if we had entered into the very soul quality of all that was around us. I could not believe that they were solid to the touch. (Ethel McLean in LFM, 119.)

Last night I went to one of the highest Christian heavens. Perhaps I could not have gone so easily at any other time: for my heart was full of love for all men and my mind was full of the Christ idea. Often have I seen Him who is called the Saviour of men and last night I saw Him in all His beauty. … Jesus is a type of the greatest Master. He is revered by all the heavens. He grasped the Law and dared to live it, to exemplify it. (Judge David P. Hatch in LLDM, XLVIII.)

Then having finished my “welfare work” (it is difficult to say how long it takes, as time is not the same) I go for a little light relief to one of the places of instruction. I do maths or I listen to music and often, when doing that, I use it as a sort of funnel and go out into a wider space circle and increase my power so that I breathe for a while the “air” of a further plane of existence. Music is one of the “corridors” for evolving upwards. Even a very unspiritual entity can, if he comprehends music, flash upwards for a brief period, but he can’t stay there, if his whole being is not in tune. (Philip Gilbert in PTS, 33.)

We were in a luminous plain of encircling white light with faintly outlined domes and pinnacles reaching upwards into infinity. These are the thought worlds of the advanced – the creations of mind immeasurably stronger than ours. Music seemed to be emerging from each breath of air: at one moment, it was a ‘cello and we blended with it and tried to increase our power even more.

An indescribable joy was in our hearts. We seemed to be one person, yet we each perceived, heard and felt. Flecks of radiant power floated around us.

But we could not stay long, for you, tied to the earth plane, are not strong enough to breathe this air save for a brief flash. (Philip Gilbert to his mother, Alice, in PTS, 69.)

Q. When you went away did you go to that land you have described?

P. I went to that realm of love and light. (1) It is useless to repeat my attempt at description. But I went further. I left that pleasant and beauteous land, for land it is in the same sense to us as spirits as the earth is land to you incarnate beings. All attempts at describing the ultra-earth spheres and states leave a sense of unsubstantiality and unreality. Therefore I refrain. … But I did not remain long.

I speedily returned to the sphere of love and light, for I am not yet inured to existence in the ultra-etheric worlds. (Philemon [Archdeacon Wilberforce] in LFOS, 96.)

(1) I am assuming, from other evidence in his book, that this realm is the First Heaven.

The astral body is left in a state similar to sleep and the mental body is the used to enter the mental plane [for visits]. This same principle applies for all of the successively higher planes. (A.D. Mattson, WOB, 45.)

I have taken a number of trips out into the mental plane and it is most interesting. You get there before you know it whereas in the astral plane you are conscious of your going. / This is due to the difference in the rate of vibration of the two planes. For example, if you can send a thought around the world in no time at all, this can be compared to the mental plane. If you send a picture around the world, it takes longer than the thought – and this can be compared to the astral plane. In the astral body, you are slower when you are moving because you are moving through denser atmosphere – denser vibrations but not as dense as the physical world. (A.D. Mattson, WOB, 42-3.)

As I have told you, I have been permitted to go into the higher planes but am still able to return to my astral body on the astral plane. The process is similar to that experienced by man on earth when the physical body is in the sleep state and the astral body temporarily leaves the physical body to enter the astral realm, still attached to the physical body by a connecting cord of power. (A.D. Mattson, WOB, 44.)

I went with Doctor X to “visit” some of his contemporaries and his friends in another part of this new life. I suppose you would call this the Higher Planes. (1) Anyway, we found ourselves within a “medical circle” of souls. There were many souls and they radiated a joyous concentration that was catching. We found ourselves chatting away eagerly in groups.

One was there who had been a great physician, a beloved physician, when on earth; a soul whose countenance was beautiful beyond any description of mine. He radiated love and beauty. He appeared to be a Leader of this group. He spoke with Doctor X and I stood beside him, so / lifted in thought and inspiration that I felt almost exalted. Yet I knew that I could not bear the High Frequency of His vibration for long. This Leader said that soon He would have the pleasure of welcoming Doctor X on to his “staff.” I was thrilled for my new (yet old) friend. I was so happy for him. It was a moment, I felt, of supreme achievement. (Frances Banks, TOL, 48-9)

(1) Most likely the Mental Plane.

It was my most marvelous experience of this new aspect of Life. I felt filled with Light… That is the only way I can express it. But neither of us could hold this great intensity of vibration for long. We felt (so to speak) used up by this High Frequency so that presently I, for one, had the strange experience of dwindling. And then we were both back in my garden….

But we both had a taste of the beauty of the Higher Spheres and of communion with progressed souls… I felt as though I was shining. The Light stayed with me.

This is Life…. Life more abundant. (Frances Banks, TOL, 49.)

You were correct in your idea about [the Leader of the Group]. He is a very advanced soul, a Master in His own right, and a disciple of the Lord Jesus who, I have been told, lives in a Plane far beyond this. … He is an inhabitant of Planes beyond any of this medical fraternity in the Priority A Group. (Frances Banks, TOL, 53.)

Doctor X reveled in talking with his old associates, and with legendary figures of importance in the medical profession. Lister was amongst them. I was able to have a word or two with Pierre Curie, even though on earth he was a Frenchman and my French was never fluent. Language affords no difficulty over here. (Frances Banks, TOL, 64.)

You say some people think my theories "are very advanced for the third sphere." Well, darling, though I am living there, I frequently go now to the higher spheres for special instruction, for, as I told you a long time ago, I am being trained to be a teacher, and have already begun my work. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CSB, 47.) I have told you before how the body of a spirit going from the third to the higher spheres undergoes certain changes. On those occasions I have to control my conditions mentally. I am aware of a dual consciousness within myself; / part of my mind is occupied in soothing and controlling my body and maintaining the correct poise, while the spiritual part is praying, and I feel as if I were reaching up to try and touch God and to pull myself up to Him.(Claude Kelway-Bamber in CSB, 48-9.) A traveller like me who wishes to go to some particular heaven must first feel in himself what those souls feel who enjoy that heaven; then he can enter and commune with them. He could never go as a mere sight-seer. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter XLVIII.)

I felt a yearning for beauty, which is a synonym for heaven. Did I really move from my place, or did heaven come to me? I cannot say, space means so little here. For every vale without there is a vale within. We desire a place, and we are there. Perhaps the Teacher could give you a scientific explanation of this, but I cannot at the moment. And then, I want to tell you about the heaven where I was last night. It was so beautiful that the charm of it is over me still.

     I saw a double row of dark-topped trees, like cypresses, and at the end of this long avenue down which I passed was a softly diffused light. Somewhere I have read of a heaven lighted by a thousand suns, but my heaven was not like that. The light as I approached it was softer than moonlight, though clearer. Perhaps the light of the sun would shine as softly if seen through many veils of alabaster. Yet this light seemed to come from nowhere. It simply was.

     As I approached I saw two beings walking towards me, hand in hand. There was such a look of happiness on their faces as one never sees on the faces of earth. Only a spirit unconscious of time could look like that.

     I should say that these two were man and woman, save that they seemed so different from what you understand by man and woman. They did not even look at each other as they walked; the touch of the hand seemed to make them so much one, that the realisation of the eye could have added nothing to their content. Like the light which came from nowhere, they simply were.

     A little farther on I saw a group of bright-robed children dancing among flowers. Hand in hand in a ring they danced, and their garments, which were like the petals of flowers, moved with the rhythm of their dancing limbs. A great joy filled my heart. They, too, were unconscious of time, and might have been dancing there from eternity, for all I knew. But whether their gladness was of the moment or of the ages had no significance for me or for them. Like the light, and like the lovers who had passed me hand in hand, they were, and that was enough.

     I had left the avenue of cypresses and stood in a wide plain, encircled by a forest of blossoming trees. The odours of spring were on the air, and birds sang. In the centre of the plain a great circular fountain played with the waters, tossing them in the air, whence they descended in feathery spray. An atmosphere of inexpressible charm was over everything. Here and there in this circular flower-scented heaven walked angelic beings, many or most of whom must some time have been human. Two by two they walked, or in groups, smiling to themselves or at one another.

     On earth you often use the word "peace"; but compared with the peace of that place the greatest peace of earth is only turmoil. I realised that I was in one of the fairest heavens, but that I was alone there. (Judge David P. Hatch, LLDM, Letter XXXVIII.)

As we draw closer to the higher realms the particles of the soil become finer, the colors more delicate, with a hint of translucency. A greater degree of resilience is at once observable underfoot when walking upon the thresholds of these higher realms, but the resilience comes as well from the nature of the realm as from the distinct change in the ground. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 108.)

As one approaches the boundaries to the higher realms, the pavements become noticeably more translucent in character and they seem to lose some of their appearance of solidity, though, indeed, they are solid enough. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 108.)

There are other realms immeasurably more beautiful than that in which we were now happily living; realms of unsurpassing beauty into which we cannot penetrate until such time as we have earned the right to enter, either as visitors or as inhabitants. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 55.)

We have but now returned from a great council of the angels and spirits of the blessed, wherein we have taken counsel and offered up solemn adoration to the Supreme. With one accord our voices swelled in an anthem of praise, and so we received the efflux of divine aid which shall support us in the conflict. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

None below the third sphere (1) were permitted to join in our solemn service of praise and adoration. Nor were any with us but those who are joined in a mission to others. (Spirit leader Imperator in Moses, MSTSW, n.p.)

(1) I do not know whether Imperator means the third from the highest Astral Plane or perhaps the first subplane of the Mental Plane (or First Heaven).

Examples of Ascent

[Mother Florence] and our missionary were talking together on the terrace here when Mother Florence observed that her patient appeared to have gone into a deep contemplation. They remained still and silent. Mother felt a great Presence as of an Angel of Light with them; she held her soul in quiet expectation. Then the Light grew stronger about them, the air more potent, and there was a ‘feeling’ of music. Her missionary friend, she says, impulsively stirred, put out her hand and touched Mother Florence.

“Thank you and bless you all for your kind reception of me,” she whispered. …

The Light grew and multiplied about them and Mother said / that her eyes were only able to perceive the Light and nothing more. She felt herself swept upwards into enlightenment.

When her ‘spirit returned’ (those are her words), our missionary had left. She had gone to her rightful Place. Love had been translated to Higher Spheres, you see, long before intellect, as in the scientist, or skill, as with Doctor X…. What a lesson for us here and for those on earth! (Frances Banks, TOL, 63-4.)

“The Angel … came when I was resting. … You know, I think He was my Angel. I seemed to have known Him before.” …

[Jeannie] left us very quietly. One moment she was there, laughing, dancing, chattering amongst us all. Then we became aware of a Being standing beyond the shade of the trees; a Man of Light, tall, graceful with the beautiful limbs of a dancer. He stood in the Light and he held out his hand.

“Come, Jeannie,” he said. She ran to him immediately. Then she turned. Her little face was transfigured with joy.

“It’s the Messenger,” she cried. “Isn’t it wonderful! Wonderful.”

She waved to us all. “Thank you for what you have done for me. Thank you for helping me get well. Now I shall really / dance. (1) You will come to the beautiful Place to see me sometime, won’t you? Won’t you?” She put her hand with perfect trust into the hand of the Messenger. “Goodbye.”

“Farewell for a space,” we called back.

Together the two walked down the long sunlit slopes and the Light of the Messenger seemed even brighter than the Light shimmering over our gardens. Then they were gone … and I, for one, felt that we had given back a ray of sunshine to the Great Creative Sun. (Frances Banks, TOL, 95-6.)

(1) In life, twelve-year-old Jeannie had dreamed of being a dancer but had been stricken with palsy.

“There are natural periods in our time here and … I am approaching one of them. I could perhaps disregard the intimations and stay on here, but if I did so I should be perverting the pattern. So you see that even paradise may not be enjoyed for too long lest it thwart one’s proper growth. … I am growing old in this body and shall soon be done with it. Then I shall go on to explore this wonderful universe in another level.” (1) (Spirit whom Lawrence refers to as “Dr. G” discussing his approaching ascent to a higher plane in T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 76.)

(1) That level was probably the first subplane of the Mental Plane (i.e., the First Heaven).

Even as he spoke, … the illumination of his wise spirit made a glory all around him and was more convincing than many words. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 76.)

[Dr. G.] is continuing his usual work with his students and is always available to his friends but we watch the progressive concentration of his life into a glowing interior brightness. It is as though the light and warmth that normally flow out from him to bless his friends is being withdrawn and collected within so that this illumination burns through and is wasting away his outer lineaments. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 78.)

I had heard of this second death (1) and transition to the next sphere but my own development is as yet so imperfect that I had not given it any serious thought. Now it seems that I may be privileged to watch it happening to another. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 77.)

(1) I am not convinced that this event was what is formally known as the “Second Death” – which is a transition from the First to the Second Heaven. I lean rather to the view that it was a transition from one subplane of the Higher Summerlands to another subplane. On the “Second Death,” see here and here.

Death bears an aspect of gloom while one is on earth and cannot see beyond it, but now one can see that death [i.e., ascension to a higher plane] is a simple change of condition necessary for growth. As our present [spirit] body fulfils its purpose and is outworn the succeeding and more glorious form glows through it and a gradual metamorphosis begins which finishes in a period of unconsciousness and an awakening in a higher sphere. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 77.)

The end came suddenly. I called on him and was told that he was sleeping. We stood around and watched his still form and the light which waxed and waned there. In a breathtaking second the change came. The light gathered itself together and burnt itself to a keen thought of light so intense and inward that we gasped and turned aside. Then it had gone and only a wraith of our friend remained which shrank away and disappeared as we watched.

We sat speechless, absorbed in the beauty and meaning of the transition. It was long before anyone broke the silence and then one said: ‘I have heard that some time is needed for a spirit to get used to the new conditions, just as we needed time to adjust when we / first came here, so we must not expect our friend to come to us yet. I suggest that when an interval has elapsed we should meet here again and wait and hope for his coming.’ We agreed to this and went off full of thought to our various occupations. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 78-9.)

Dr. G. has kept his promise to come to us but he appeared when we were least expecting him. Some few of us were sitting quietly talking when his voice suddenly took up the parable and as we looked up, startled, we saw the outlines of a form which speedily filled in and took substance and there he was among us again. He brought with him an exalted air and we felt his presence as a spiritual baptism, a stream of pure joy absorbed hungrily by our thirst beings. Light and happiness glowed up in us too with the pleasure of heightened being. He stayed only a short time, made a characteristic remark about the “sordid fug” in which we chose to live and left us again. We knew how to interpret this; his finer being could only with difficulty / tolerate our conditions and to try to detain him would have been unkind. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 83-4.)

As to the questions we put to [Dr. G., from a distance], they were at first mainly to do with the conditions of his new life and he did his best to describe them to us. He had the same difficulty in conveying the differences to us as I have in making our conditions clear to an earth intelligence. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 84.)

In the transition from plane to plane alterations in the scope of consciousness produce baffling changes in the very framework of thought; categories of space and time are radically modified so that to an unchanged consciousness, more limited in its scope, these are almost incommunicable. His world was like ours, he said, but matter was more fluid and more easily influenced by thought. Here on this plane, as I have said before, a desire to find any person or place sets one’s feet moving in the right direction; there, Dr. G. told us, transit is swifter and more independent of the time-space factor. One’s movement is almost simul/taneous with one’s thought so that to desire to be with friends is to find oneself among them. The speed with which thought is translated into act and the lessening of material hindrances to desire is all part of the increased tempo of living and since one’s body is now far lighter and more responsive, such a speed of living feels right and natural to it.

Language is less used and thought and feeling are directly and fully apprehended. Ease in all the processes of living speeds up its rate so that even the swiftness of exchange among [Lawrence’s group] is to [Dr. G.] tedious and sluggish. Light, the concomitant of life and an index of its speed and intensity is far more keen and pure. Colour, he tells us, is less to be seen by the eye, but its essence is piercingly known by the spirit. So with all the joys of the senses; they are there in a purity of essence which makes all our slower, more outward enjoyment like a vague dream. We got here a swift glimpse of an entirely different way of sensing one’s world: by a direct and immediate spiritual awareness of its spiritual qualities. (T.E. Lawrence, PMJ, 84-5.)

The Example of Sigwart’s Rapid Ascent

I do not know how long I shall remain on this present spiritual level, (1) but I believe it will not be much longer. Then I shall step out of my present body just as you would lay aside your physical body. (Sigwart, BOTR, 9.)

(1) The Astral Plane.

Today was a great day for me! I have experienced much, have advanced by another degree, and have been admitted again into a high order to which I had belonged before but had been estranged from by my earthly incarnation. (Sigwart, BOTR, 12.)

When one has had a few glimpses into the higher spheres, how great and glorious everything is! This is a strong incentive to advance further. (Sigwart, BOTR, 14.)

My will to know is becoming greater every day and daily I am gaining more. (Sigwart, BOTR, 15.)

I am not in the so-called “Astral Sphere” nor in the “Devachan Sphere” at present, but in a middle realm. (1) I have advanced farther in a shorter time than many others because of my interest in everything spiritual during my life on earth. (2) (Sigwart, BOTR, 28.)

(1) It is probable that Sigwart has entered the first subplane of the mental Plane or First Heaven. Passage through the Judgment and the Second Death will then bring him to the Second Heaven, which he may be characterizing as the “Devachan” proper. Some communicators and observers would include the First Heaven in the Devachan; others would not.
(2) Cf. Paul Beard: “Except possibly for a brief space for readjustment, the easy-going enjoyment of Summerland is not for eager souls of sterner temperament because its experiences would already be worthless to them. They bypass it, or, to put it more accurately, they come to the next life having already lived at a level of consciousness beyond that at which such an existence could ensnare them. It holds no necessity for them. Hence they do not meet the experience.” (LO, 92.)

I have reached a sphere where everything is easier. I am less disturbed by many things that used to confuse me. An oscillation of equanimity surrounds me. (Sigwart, BOTR, 30.)

New doors are opening for me; I may behold glorious sights. Have I not reason to be happy? … It is … satisfying to advance as quickly as possible and explore all the splendor. (Sigwart, BOTR, 32.)

You need not fear your mourning might influence me aversely. Not anymore. … I am not as sensitive to them as in the beginning. This is the advantage of continuous development. Gradually purely spiritual thoughts reach us only. Then we advance serenely, unhindered by disturbances.

You have to imagine me in a different light now because I have changed completely. (Sigwart, BOTR, 34.)

How long the process of dying lasts! I am still dying; I am divesting myself continuously of sheaths and each time I perceive more and feel differently. …

My true life has begun now; the dream condition has ended. (1) (Sigwart, BOTR, 35.)

(1) It is probable that Sigwart has passed from the First to the Second Heaven now, having passed through the Second Death.

I have overcome most of the hardships now. I have passed a test. (1) It was not easy but then the feeling of success is glorious. … The period of self-contemplation has ended. Part of my ego is still occupied with it, but for a few hours I may enjoy again the pleasures of sublime existence. (Sigwart, BOTR, 35.)

(1) Probably the Judgement, that occurs once one is established in the First Heaven.

The fetters of earth have been stripped off me. (1) (Sigwart, BOTR, 35.)

(1) Probably the Second Death, which occurs after the Judgment.

Feelings of Those Left Behind

There are no sad partings, no dispersals of pleasantly situated little communities of relations or friends by the natural procedure of spiritual progression. We do not experience that crushing, almost overwhelming depression that you can experience upon the earth at the departure of one who is greatly loved.

Even if a cherished friend has departed into higher regions and we should feel ourselves becoming saddened by the event, it must be remembered that we are in instantaneous touch with each other here. A thought sent out will bring back the absent one in a twinkling to our side, if that should be the only remedy for our desolation. But that would be an extreme case, a highly improbable eventuality, and scarcely ever to be encountered. ….

There is always movement, especially among [spirit] people. How, otherwise, could we eventually pass to the higher states if it were not so? At some time or another certain small communities of a few friends or kindred souls, who are occupying the same domicile together and working in concert, must come under the influence of the universal law of change that is one of the great elements of spirit life. But these re-groupings, with their consequent severance of earlier ties, are not terrible tragedies. They are the natural outcome of the march of progression. We must move onwards as the will to move exerts itself within us. None would hold us back, although we might elect to stay until other circumstances prevail. But you can be sure of this: we are all completely satisfied under this scheme of things; we know that no other plan would be feasible and, what is most important from the point of view of our feelings in the matter, we are supremely happy under it. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, HH, 91-2.)

Voluntarily Remaining Behind

Many of the Sisters of my former community on earth have now passed on to Higher Spheres, but dear Mother Florence remains from choice, although she too visits other planes for refreshment and, I imagine, for reward. (Frances Banks, TOL, 86.)

I feel very strongly that there is work for me to do here [on the Astral Plane], helping to break down the barriers which segregate the churches. Therefore I shall be a sojourner on this astral plane but the higher planes, where there is a unity of God-praise, will be my spiritual home. (A.D. Mattson, WOB, 43.)

Occasionally I talk to most interesting people, men who were noted on earth and left their mark there as great statesmen, scholars, poets, musicians, teachers, etc. There, of course, I should never have known them — differences of age, wealth, position, etc., would have made it impossible — but here there are no artificial barriers, and a community of interest is a sufficient bond of friendship.

You say you are surprised some of the men I mentioned have not progressed higher. Well, they could have done had they so desired, but many are anxious to help those on earth still, to see work and ideas through that they themselves originated; others have remained to help their friends through this world crisis. / …

Eventually these spirits will probably progress more quickly through this work, for as they give help to those below it is also given to them, according to their needs, by higher spirits.

The law of compensation works in this way even in your world, for there, if love is given unselfishly, generously, and wisely, it will be returned in greater measure by spirits in the higher life by thought and influence which will materialize according to the requirements of the earth-plane. (Claude Kelway-Bamber in CB, 49-50.)

It is not by any means certain that we shall take our next step in progression when it comes. If I may so express it.

There are many people to be found in these and other realms, both higher and lower, who have earned for themselves their undoubted removal into a higher sphere of spiritual life, but who prefer to remain where they are for a variety of sufficiently good reasons. For example, some of the great teachers in these realms are fully entitled to live in a higher realm, and actually possess houses in those higher states, but they have chosen to remain where they are and carry on their present form of work. This act of self-denial is itself a means of still further progression, though it is to be doubted if any such thought ever enters the head of the individual who elects to adopt this course of action.

When I say teachers, I do not mean only teachers of spiritual truths and so forth, but instructors of all kinds in the various arts and crafts of these particular realms. There are thousands of people here who are learning some for of work that is new to them…. In this case it is the work itself and the joy it brings in the service to their fellow-beings that prompts such folk to postpone their advancement of spiritual estate. One day, however, the time will come when they will betake themselves into their rightful sphere since to remain longer in a lower realm might cause them some discomfort. But they can return whenever they wish and make prolonged visits to their old friends and resume for a limited period their former tutorial occupation, needless to say, to the extreme delight of their colleagues and pupils.

It is not only teachers who postpone their permanent elevation and remain where they are, although entitled to reside in a higher realm. It is open to anyone, without exception, to do the same whenever the circumstances arise. The circumstances, in fact, are many in which this can happen. To instance one case: two people are mutually attracted while upon earth, a husband and wife, shall we say? The wife passes into the spirit world and attains to a certain sphere. Later on the husband in turn passes into spirit life, but goes to occupy a realm lower than that of his wife. But the mutual attraction still exists, and so the wife takes up her life in the lower sphere in order to be with her husband and to help him in his progression. Thus they will be enabled to advance together for all time or until such other circumstances arise as will cause a natural severance of their present ties. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, HH, 89-90.)

'Having no sin or selfishness to overcome, I should have thought [the two boys who passed over as infants] would be on a higher plane by this time?'

"They could go at any time, and they are connected with circles who are studying higher things. But their father preferred to remain near the earth-plane, and they have loved him and stayed with him." (Spirit Control Mary Bosworth to Charlotte E. Dresser, LHH, 72.)

Mary [Bosworth] and Dee could progress to higher planes if they so desired. But their love for those on earth keeps them here where they can be in touch with you. (Unnamed spirit discussing spirit controls Mary and Dee with Charlotte E. Dresser, LHH, 90.) You will not be obliged to change until you wish to do so. But neither do you need to dread the higher / spheres. As a child you would probably have dreaded the high school, though later you longed for it. And that is the way it is here. Progress is natural, following the development of the mind.

Many prefer to stay here. We find abundant opportunities for service. We are attracted to the planet we came from and prefer to stay near it for a time. All go on some time, but the time of the change is indefinite and is decided by each individual for himself, at least after a certain degree of advancement is made. (Unnamed spirit communicator to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 160-1.)

We are on the plane nearest the earth, and are more nearly in touch with human lives than the higher ones. We love our work here and can stay as long as we wish; or, we can go to a higher plane and take up new work and new studies.

But in going on we would lose our closeness to those we love, and who have not yet come over. And so we stay and wait and work and love, and try to win our earth friends into happier thoughts of life and death, as you call them; of life and progression as we call them. I had no one especially whom I loved or whom I could help; but you must remember that I came over ignorant of all that pertained to this life, and so I became interested in my work. We will go higher of course, some time, but we will have joy and companionship and work that will be congenial wherever we go. (Mary Bosworth to Charlotte Dresser, SWSL, 171.)

Descents/Visitations of More Developed Beings to the Summerlands

Ed. For more examples of divine visitations to the Astral Plane, see here. For examples of divine visitations to the Mental Plane, see here.

There are many who move about amongst us without our being aware that they are, indeed, messengers from more advanced spheres. We wonder why we have had a sudden feeling of upliftment after talking with them. (Ethel McLean in LFM, 118.)

Messengers and visitors from these higher realms of light foster a divine discontent that urges us to seek greater spiritual advancement and understanding. Thus are we … trained in the ways of our Creator. (Ethel McLean in LFM, 76.)

The people on the other planes become more and more luminous – the Old Man (1) is a mass of violet golden light. (Philip to his mother, Alice Gilbert, in PTW, 104.)

(1) Probably the Gilbert’s main control, whom Philip calls “our Chief,” also known as the “Unknown Teacher.” (See PTW, 106 and 108.)

When your eyes are opened, you too will see some of these radiant messengers, but they dare not bring to you their full glory; its brilliance is not for mortal eyes. John, at Patmos, fell before that glory as one dead. They must ever veil themselves on the rare occasions when they come to earth. (John Heslop, SABL, 54.)

Spirits grow in light and beauty as they progress in knowledge and love. The crown which you see round the head of the Chief (1) typifies his exalted state, his purity and love, his self-sacrifice and his earnest work for God. It is a crown which belongs only to the noblest and most blessed.

The spirits of wisdom are typified by their robes and auras of sapphire blue in their appearance to other spirits; the spirits of love by the crimson which typifies their self-sacrifice and devotion. (Unnamed spirit teacher, member of spirit leader Imperator’s group, in Moses, MST, 50-1.)

(1) The Chief is “Imperator,” who last incarnated as the prophet Malachi.

The inhabitants of these [higher] regions can and do descend to our level, to share their love and wisdom and encourage us with their warmth and light to seek further progress on the path of spiritual attainment. They can, on occasions, raise us to their level, taking us on brief excursions to the higher realms. They do not descend in the form of angels with wings, or pillars of flame, but walk amongst us and speak as man to man, as Jesus did when he made the / descent into matter, to bring his message of peace and goodwill to man. (Jim McLean in LFM, 114-5.)

There are plenty of more advanced souls who are doing exactly the same task on our level of understanding. (1) They in time will help us to accept advancement to an even higher level by awakening our desire to advance. To them we are still /in spiritual darkness for they have risen above form and no longer desire its manifestation in their surroundings.

We however are content to linger in our present environment in a world of familiar objects, very similar to those that appeared desirable to us while yet on earth. These surroundings are nonetheless composed of more ethereal. matter. But we still cling to landscapes, houses, bodies and that sort of thing.

Just as we can descend to the lower levels for talks with those who are prepared to listen, so they can come to us and attempt to awaken a desire for expansion of our understanding. It is a process of gradual refinement. (Clifford McLean in LFM, 99-100.)

(1) That is coming down to Clifford’s Astral Plane and rousing the inhabitants in the same missionary way that Clifford goes to the Stony Plane.

Our guides led us to a place outside the boundary of the estate of which we have already spoken, and we found that the grass-land was very extensive. It is one of those plains of Heaven where manifestations from the higher Heavens are sometimes given. The call goes forth and vast multitudes assemble, and then some of the glories of the higher spheres are manifested, as well as is possible in these lower realms. (G. Vale Owen’s mother in LBV1, 114.)

It may surprise you to know that here in these Realms of Light, we too, from time to time, hold such services as yours, and join in thanking our Father for harvest plenty. We do this by way of supplementing the thanksgiving of our brethren on earth, and also for our own uplifting. We have here no such harvests as yours, but still we have services of thanksgiving for other blessings which are to us what harvest is to you.

For instance, we thank Him for the beauty all around us and all the glories of light and love which sustain us in vigour for our work and progress, and have services of thanksgiving for such blessings as these. At such times we usually are given some Manifestation from the Higher Spheres. (G. Vale Owen’s mother in LBV1, 94.)

We do not always see those messengers who come to us from the higher spheres. They are seen by some better than by others, and are only truly and definitely visible when they so condition their bodies as to emerge into visibility. Now, if we go too far in their direction—that is, in the direction of their home—we feel an exhaustion which disables us to penetrate farther, although some are able to go farther than others. (G. Vale Owen’s mother in LBV1, 40.)

In plain words, there are other realms immeasurably more beautiful than that in which we were now happily living; realms of unsurpassing beauty into which we cannot penetrate until such time as we have earned the right to enter, either as visitors or as inhabitants. But though we may not pass into them, the glorious souls who dwell in them can come into realms of less celestial rarity, and can visit us here. … Indeed, they constantly make visitations to consult and converse with the dwellers here, to give advice and help, to give rewards and commendations. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 55.)

At certain times, too, these transcendent beings make special visitations when the whole realm is celebrating a great occasion, such, for example, as the two major earth festivals of Christmas and Easter. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 55.)

It is at [times like Christmas and Easter] that we have visitants of the higher realms to see us, perfect beings, among whom is he of whose earthly birth we are celebrating. And these beauteous souls have but to pass upon their way to fill us with such an ecstacy of spiritual exaltation as to remain with us for long after their return to their high estate. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 57.)

To those who had already witnessed … visitations [such as the one we were about to witness], [the] arrival [of the lesser figures] was at once the indication of the coming of the high personage, and we all accordingly rose to our feet. Then, before our eyes, there appeared first a light, which might almost be described as dazzling, but as we concentrated our gaze upon it we immediately became attuned to it and we felt no sensation of spiritual discomfort. In point of fact – as I discovered later – the light really became attuned to us; that is to say, it was toned down to accord with ourselves and our realm. It grew in shade to a golden hue upon the extremities, gradually brightening towards the center. And in the center there slowly took shape the form of our visitant.

As it gained in density we could see that he was a man whose appearance was that of youth – spiritual youth – but we knew that he carried with him to an unimaginable degree the three comprehensive and all-sufficing attributes of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Purity. His countenance shone with transcendental beauty; his hair was of gold, while round his head was a lustrous diadem. His raiment was of the most gossamer-like quality and it consisted of a pure white robe bordered with a deep band of gold, while from his shoulders there [descended] a mantle of the richest cerulean blue, which was fastened upon his breast with a great pink pearl. His movements were majestic as he raised his arms and sent forth a blessing upon us all. We remained standing and silent while our thoughts ascended to Him Who sent us such a glorious being. We sent our thanks and we sent our petitions. …

It is not possible for me to convey to you one fraction of the exaltation of the spirit that I felt while in the presence, though distant, of this heavenly guest. But I do know that not for long could I have remained in that temple while he was there without undergoing the almost crushing consciousness that I was low, very, very low upon the scale of spiritual evolution and progression. And yet I knew that he was sending out to me, as to us all, thoughts of encouragement, of good hope, of kindness in the very highest degree, that made me feel that I must never, never despair of attaining to the highest spiritual realm and that there was good and useful work ready for me to do in the service of man and that in the doing thereof I would have the whole of the spiritual realms behind me – as they are behind every single soul who works in the service of man.

With a final benediction upon us, this resplendent and truly regal being was gone from our sight. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 101.)

When we visited the temple in the city, and, from a distance, beheld the radiant visitor whom we had come to honor, he represented to the eye the appearance of perfect – and eternal – youth. Yet the degree of knowledge and wisdom and spirituality which he diffused [sic], and which we could feel with our minds, was almost overpoweringly great. It is the same, in varying degrees, with all those who visit us from the higher realms. (Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, LIWU, 156.)

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