WHAT is the geographical position of the spirit world in relation to the earth world? Many people have wondered this at different times--and I include myself among the many!
And that leads to a further question concerning the disposition of other realms than those of which I have given you some details
I have told you how, when I had reached a critical moment a I lay upon my final bed of earthly sickness, I at length felt an irresistible urge to rise up, and that I yielded to that urge easily and successfully. In this particular case the line of demarcation was very fine between the end of my earthly life and the beginning of my spirit life, because I was in full possession of my senses, fully conscious. The actual transition from one world to the other was in this respect imperceptible.
But I can narrow things down still further by recalling that there came a moment when the physical sensations attendant upon my last illness left me abruptly, and in place of them a delightful feeling of bodily case and peace of mind completely enveloped me. I felt that I wanted to breathe deeply, and I did so. The impulse to rise from my bed, and the passing of all physical sensations, mark the instant of my physical 'death' and my birth into the world of spirit.
But when this took place I was still in my own earthly bedroom, and therefore a part, at least, of the spirit world must interpenetrate the earth world. This particular experience will give something of a point of departure for our geographical explorations.
The next event in my transition was the arrival of my good friend Edwin, and our meeting after the lapse of years. The meeting took place seemingly in the bedroom. Then, after we had greeted each other and chatted for a brief space, Edwin proposed that we should depart from our present surroundings, which, in the circumstances, were rather doleful. He took me by the arm, told me to close my eyes, and I felt myself gently moving through space. I had no clear perception of direction. I only knew that I was traveling, but whether up or down or horizontally, it was impossible for me to say. Our rate of progress increased until at last I was told to open my eyes, and then I found myself standing before my spirit home.
Since that day I have learnt many things, and one of my first lessons was in the art of personal locomotion by other means than walking. There are immense distances here to cover, and sometimes we need to cover then instantly. We do so by the power of thought as I have already outlined to you. But the strangest thing to me, at first, was the fact that when I moved myself through space at any greater speed than ordinary walking. I found that I had no sense of absolute direction, but one of movement only. If I chose to shut my eyes whilst traveling with moderate speed I merely shut out the scenery, or whatever else were my surroundings. It must not be thought that it is possible to lose ones way. That would be out of the question!
This absence of a sense of direction in no way interferes with our initial thought function in personal locomotion. Once we have determined to journey to a certain place, we set our thoughts in motion and they, in turn--instantaneously set our spirit bodies in motion. One might almost say 'it requires no thinking about!' I have spoken to other people on these matters, and compared notes generally--it is a thing we all do when we are newly-arrived in the spirit world; and we never lack willing friends to help us in our early difficulties. I have found that it is common to all here in spirit, this absence of any directional perception when moving rapidly. Of course, when we travel instantaneously there is no 'time' to observe any object whatsoever. There is no observable interval of time between the moment we leave for, and the moment we arrive at, our destination.
It will be appreciated from this factor of directional unawareness, if I may so term it, that to assign a precise location to the spirit world, relative to the earth world, is a difficult matter. Indeed, I doubt if anyone fairly new to spirit life could possibly hazard a guess as to his relative geographical position! Of course, there are scores upon scores of people who never bother their heads about such things. They have severed all connection with the earth world, and they have done with it for all time. They know positively that they are alive and in the spirit world, but as to the exact position of that world in the universe, they have no intention of troubling themselves. But our own case is different. I am in very active communion with the earth world, and I think it would be of interest if I were to try to give some idea just where the spirit lands are situated.
The spirit world is divided into spheres or realms. These two words of designation have passed into current acceptation among most of those on the earth-plane who have a knowledge of and practice, communication, with our world. In speaking to you thus, I have used the words interchangeably. They suffice for our purpose--one can think of none better.
These spheres have been given numbers by some students, ranging from the first, which is the lowest, up to the seventh, the highest. It is customary among most of us here to follow this system of numbering. The idea originated, I am told, from our side, and it is a very useful and convenient method of conveying the information of one's position upon the ladder of spiritual evolution.
The spheres of the spirit world are ranged in a series of bands forming a number of concentric circles around the earth. These circles reach out into the infinity of space, and they are invisibly linked with the earth world in its lesser revolution upon its axis and, of course, in its greater revolution round the sun. The sun has no influence whatever upon the spirit world. We have no consciousness of it at all since it is purely material.
An exemplification of the concentric circles is afforded us when we are told that a visitant from a higher sphere is coming down to us. He is relatively above us, spiritually and spatially.
The low realms of darkness are situated close to the earth-plane and interpenetrate it at their lowest. It was through these that I passed with Edwin when he came to take me to my spirit home, and it was for that reason that he recommended that I keep my eyes firmly closed until he should tell me to open them again I was sufficiently alert--too much so, because I was fully conscious--otherwise to see some of the hideousness that the earth world has cast into these dark places.
With the spirit world made up of a series of concentric circles, having the earth world approximately at the center, we find that the spheres are subdivided laterally to correspond broadly with the various nations of the earth, each subdivision being situated immediately over its kindred nation. When you consider the enormous variety of national temperament and characteristics distributed throughout the earth-plane, it is not surprising that the people of each nation should wish to gravitate to those of their own kind in the spirit world, just as much as they wish to do when upon the earth-plane. Individual choice, of course, is free and open to every soul; he may live in whatsoever part of his own realm that he pleases. There are no fixed territorial frontiers here to separate the nations. They make their own invisible frontiers of temperament and customs, but the members of all the nations of the earth are at liberty to intermingle in the spirit world, and to enjoy unrestricted and happy social intercourse. The language question presents no difficulty, because we are not obliged to speak aloud. We can transmit our thoughts to each other with the full assurance that they will be received by the person whom we are mentally addressing. Thus language constitutes no barrier.
Each of the national subdivisions of the spirit world bears the characteristics of its earthly counterpart. That is but natural. My own home is situated in surroundings that are familiar to me and that are a counterpart of my earthly home in general appearance. These surroundings are not an exact replica of the earthly surroundings. By which, I mean that my spirit home is located in the type of countryside with which I and my friends are very familiar.
This dividing of the nations extends only to a certain number of realms. Beyond that, nationality, as such, ceases to be. There we retain only our outward and visible distinctions, such as the color of our skin, whether it be yellow, white, or black. We shall cease to be nationally conscious such as we are when upon the earth-plane and during our sojourn in the realms of less degree. Our homes will no longer have a definite national appearance, and will partake more of pure spirit.
You will recall how, in building the annexe to the library, I introduced you to the ruler of the realm. Each realm has such a personage, though the term ruler is not a really good one, because it is apt to convey something of a wrong impression. It would be much happier and far more exact to say that he presides over the realm.
Although each realm has its own resident ruler, all the rulers belong to a higher sphere than that over which they preside.
The position is such that it calls for high attributes on the part of its holder, and the office is held only by those who have had long residence in the spirit world. Many of them have been here thousands of years. Great spirituality is not alone sufficient; if it were, there are many wonderful souls who could hold such office with distinction. But a ruler must possess a great deal of knowledge and experience of humanity, and in addition he must always be able to exercise wise discretion in dealing with the various matters that come before him. And all the ruler's experience and knowledge, all his sympathy and understanding, are ever at the disposal of the inhabitants of his realm, while his kindness and infinite patience are always in evidence. This great soul is ever accessible to any who wish to consult him, or who bring him their problems for solution.
We have our problems, just as do you upon the earth-plane, although our problems are very different from yours. Ours never of the nature of those harassing worries and cares of the earth world. Speaking for myself, my first problem, soon after my transition, was how to set right what I considered to be a wrong I had done when I was incarnate. I had written a book in which I had treated the truth of communication with the earth world with great unfairness. When I spoke to Edwin upon the subject he all unknown to me--had sought the advice of the ruler of the realm, and the result was that another great soul had come to discuss the matter with me, and to offer help and advice in my difficulty. It was the ruler's knowledge of my affairs in the first instance that eventually brought about a happy ending to my trouble.
It will be seen from this that a ruler's knowledge of the People over whom he presides is vast. Lest it should be thought that it is humanly impossible for one mind to carry so much knowledge of the affairs of so many people as there must be in one realm, it must be understood that the mind of the incarnate is limited in its range of action by the physical brain. In the spirit world we have no physical brain to hamper us, and our minds are fully and completely retentive of all knowledge that comes to us. We do not forget those things we have learnt in the spirit world, whether they be spiritual lessons or plain facts. But it takes time, as you would say, to learn, and that is why the rulers of realms have spent many thousands of earthly years in the spirit world before they are placed in charge of so many people. For the rulers have to guide and direct them, help them in their work, and unite with them in their recreation; to be an inspiration to them, and to act towards them, in every sense of the word, as a devoted father. There is no such thing as unhappiness in this realm--if for no other reason than that it would be impossible with such a grand soul to smooth away the troubles.
Each sphere is completely invisible to the inhabitants of the spheres below it, and in this respect, at least, it provides its boundary.
In journeying to a lower realm one sees the terrain gradually degenerating.
As we draw towards a higher realm, just the opposite takes place: we see the land around us becoming more ethereal, more refined, and this forms a natural barrier to those of us who have not yet progressed sufficiently to become inhabitants of that realm.
Now, I have already told you how the realms are one above the other. How, then, does one proceed from one to the next, either above or below? There must be some point or points in each realm where there is a distinct upward inclination to the one and a distinct declivity to the other. Simple though it sounds, that is precisely the case.
It is not difficult to imagine, perhaps a gradual descent to regions that are less salubrious. We can call to our aid our earthly experiences, and recollect some rocky places that we could visit and descend, treacherous to the feet, leading us down into dark caverns, cold and damp and uninviting, where we could imagine all manner of noisome things lurking in readiness for us. We can then remember that above us, though out of sight, there shines the sun, spreading warmth and light upon the earth, while yet we seem to be in another world altogether. We might wander about through underground caves until we become lost and are shut off completely from the land above us. But we know that there is one way up at least, if we can but find it, and if we persevere in our attempts to scale the dangerous rocky pathway.
If we commence our world of spirit in the lowest recess of this earthly picture of the subterranean caves, we can see how each of the realms is connected with the realm immediately above it. The earthly analogy is, of course, an elementary one, but the process and the principle are the same. The transition in the spirit world from one realm to another is literal--as literal as passing from the dark cavern to the sunlight above, as literal as walking from one room in your house to another, whether upstairs or down.
To pass from this realm where I live to the next higher, I shall find myself walking along gently rising ground. As I proceed I shall see all the unmistakable signs--and feel them--of a realm of greater spiritual refinement. There will eventually come a point in my walking when I can go no further because I shall feel most uncomfortable spiritually. If I should be foolish enough to try to defy these feelings, I should, at length, find that I was completely unable to venture a foot forward without undergoing sensations which I could not possibly bear. I should not be able to see anything before me, only that which lay behind me. But whether we are standing at one of the boundaries, or whether we are well within the confines of our own realm, there comes a certain line in the bridge between the realms where the higher realm becomes invisible to less spiritual eyes. Just as certain light rays are invisible to earthly eyes, and certain sounds and musical notes are inaudible to earthly ears, so are the higher realms invisible to the inhabitants of the lower realms.
And the reason is that each realm possesses a higher vibrational rate than that below it, and is therefore invisible and inaudibly to those who live below it
Thus we can see that another natural law operates for our own good.