According to Lawton (1932), J. Hewat McKenzie in 1917 established the following distances and names of the spheres:
lst 300-750 miles
2nd 1000-1250 miles
3rd 1350 miles Summerland
4th 2850 miles Philosophers' Sphere
5th 5050 miles Advanced Contemplative and Intellectual Sphere
6th 9450 miles Love Sphere
7th 18,250 miles Christ Sphere
The functions of the seven spheres are restitution, preparation, instruction, trial and temptation, truth, harmony, and exaltation. (Randall, 1922)
Each sphere is divided into six circles or societies, with kindred spirits being together (Hare, 1855). Crowell (1879) takes this further, and explains that the predominant features of all countries and tribal nations are represented in the different heavens; national distinctions and boundaries exist, and there are divisions in each zone. For example, American Indians have their own heavens and advance as others do. Each tribe has its own space; the difference is there is no low sphere for them. At the 14th-16th levels, the Indians blend in with the whites.
Each sphere is continuous and in advance of the sphere inferior to it; there is a graded system of progress (Owen, vol. 2, 1920). Those in the higher spheres can visit the lower ones by conditioning themselves to the environment and changing their vibrations. Each sphere has teachers and instructors who qualify for the next sphere, but stay in order to teach. These spirits are the only ones who can visit upper spheres.
Passing from the lowest spheres of probation and active work to the higher spheres of contemplation are like the change we call death (Moses, 1949). Little is known of the higher spheres, and as we come nearer to the adoration of the Supreme, we lose our individuality and personality. Eventually we become merged with the center of light and knowledge.
The first sphere is closest to earth, and is the lowest in atmosphere. Some have called this sphere hell. Everything here is imperfect, disorder reigns, and there is very little light. The dark and gloomy surroundings conform to the undeveloped conditions. The land is barren, with no flowers or trees. Many people congregate in cities and live as they did on earth (Leonard, 1927). Some spirits may have houses, but they are poorly constructed and neglected. The dwellings correspond to the mental status of the owner.
Those people who were evil and sinful in the body are no different when they arrive in the spirit world, and they gravitate to where there are others with similar undeveloped natures. They often fight, and reenact scenes of the earth (Peebles, 1902). Because they are ignorant and without aspiration, they often experience mental pain and suffering. Earthbound spirits retain their earthly passions and propensities, and find it difficult to build up their spirit bodies. Crowell (1879) emphasizes that spirits here can not restrain the liberty of others, although they can get out of the way in fights if they so desire. No one has the power to permanently injure or kill another here.
There are no children in this sphere, as they did not live on earth long enough to acquire any vices or evil natures. Among those here are murderers, those who have only revenge in their hearts, those who have killed themselves with opium and smoking, and those who have been deprived of development (Farnese, 1901). Lawton (1932) also includes monks and priests who will not let the truth penetrate their souls. Petersilia (1892) adds the wealthy, if their wealth was obtained at the expense of others.
Many of those in this sphere are still attracted to earth. They still have affections and affinities for those they left behind. Since they made little progress in their development on earth, they still have to learn what should have been learned while there. Those who are earthbound still have cravings, but have no power to gratify them. Therefore an alcoholic has an exaggerated thirst, and frequents his old haunts on earth to satisfy it.
Spirits can remain in this sphere for years. Many feel at home and are satisfied with their condition. If they realize the enormity of what they did on earth, their stay may only be a few years. Many spend time in a deep sleep, and others are not aware of where they are or what to do. It is always possible to move on to another sphere when the desire is there. Those who remain on earth can help spirits progress by prayer, and there are missionary spirits who are always there to help. The keenest suffering in this sphere is often experienced by those who have higher spirits encouraging them to express remorse.
The atmosphere here is more rarefied and ethereal than on the first sphere. Objects seem to be natural, but new. There is more light, but it is still rather gloomy. Crowell (1879) describes the cities as dingy and forlorn, more like our tenements on earth, although rooms may be nicer. The food is a few varieties of fruit of poor quality. The plains are barren, and still no flowers or trees.
Some spirits come directly here, or they progress from the first sphere. The people here are just emerging from ignorance and vices; they may carry over bad habits, but this can be tempered by aspirations for the better (Crowell, 1879). A lot of time may still be spent on earth. Like the first sphere, suffering is imposed by higher spirits to produce remorse and repentance. There can be no change for the worse.
Crowell (1879) is very specific about the second sphere, and divides it into six divisions for Americans. The divisions may be different for other countries. These divisions comprise the levels described as hells by Swedenborg:
1. The ignorant and degraded
2. Those who are intelligent, but with depraved natures
3. Those who are intelligent, but led into crime by weakness
4. The ignorant and degraded American Negroes
5. The ignorant and bigoted Roman Catholics (this sphere is their Purgatory)
6. Bigoted and intolerant Protestants.
Summerland is the term used for this sphere, which is for most of humanity. The beauties of earth are augmented and accentuated here; there are no imperfect conditions. As you feel and think, so are the surroundings. Cities have attractions; homes and small farms are pleasant and adorned. The many varieties of fruit are of good quality, and the animals and birds are of higher orders. Peebles (1902) states that the Native American hunting grounds and lodgings are here.
Most children come directly to this sphere, as do all well-intentioned people, which gives this sphere the largest population. Also here are those spirits who have progressed from the first and second spheres. Those who are above average in goodness go directly to the fourth sphere (Leonard, 1927). Most of the communications from the spirit world come from the third sphere.
The atmosphere here is even more rarified. The light is dazzling, but the visual apparatus is adjusted for that. The trees, flowers, birds, and animals are very beautiful. The cities have no blocks of buildings, and the architecture is highly developed. Homes are spacious and far apart, fruits are plentiful, and garments are brighter and of a finer texture. Everything is formed by thought, without the use of hands, and embodies the living character of those who establish it.
People dwell in brotherhoods, groups, and associations instead of isolated houses. Concerns are more intellectual than material. Philosophy, science, and the arts are studied, and those more advanced in these fields live here. They are concerned with matters of universal import to earth, and devote their interests to the spheres above and in training those in the third sphere to help and teach those below them. Since there is a desire to inspire those on earth, musicians, artists, philosophers, scientists and others get ideas from the spirit world.
This sphere is similar to the fourth, but still more perfect with a brighter light. People live in more beautiful surroundings, and their clothing is light and spiritual. Residents are more calm, serene and balanced, and clear in their expression of spirit understanding. This sphere has colleges and schools for fine arts, astronomy, mathematics, agriculture and other subjects. Laboratories and factories are here for purifying and clearing the elements.
This sphere is even more perfect, and Longley (1908) says that the sixth and seventh spheres comingle with the intensely spiritual elements, but there is still objective light. Peebles (1902) describes circles with brilliant light, houses in groups, and food that is ethereal and nutritious to the spiritual body. There are spiritual mansions for fellowship and churches for spiritual culture. There are large colleges for the spiritual development of minds and preparing teachers for earth.
The seventh sphere is perfection. There are no fixed habitations here, food comes from the elements, and clothing is ethereal and shining white. Spirit bodies are transparent. There is great joy and love, and everyone lives together in one great family. Communication is by thought and looks. Visiting is by thought and will, and those here can descend to other spheres and to earth to teach.
Beyond the seventh sphere
From the seventh sphere, a spirit progresses to the interstellar and intersolar spheres where there are more universal occupations and interests. Not much definite is known about these spheres, since spirit communication has not come from here (Lawton, 1932). What has been communicated from spirits on lower levels is hampered by limitations of language and the imagery on earth. There are no words to describe the colors, music, landscape, and architecture. Those here are of the highest development and wisdom, and always calm and ready to help.
The early Spritualist writers agree that the spirit world is composed of various spheres, planes, or levels. The number most mentioned is seven, although some writers feel that there are more and we simply do not know of them since no one has communicated from those levels. The Spiritualists' viewpoint of spheres comes primarily from the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson Davis, and other spirit communications add details to their concepts.
The spheres are mostly seen to be merging into each other with different levels of vibrational energy, with the lowest level in the first sphere. The amount of light, physical surroundings, clothing, food, and occupations all vary depending on the sphere. Descriptions by some who have had near death experiences agree with the concept of different levels in the spirit world. Individual perceptions provide varying descriptions, whether they are from personal experience, as in a near death experience, or received from spirit communication.
The geography and topography of the spirit world is as solid and as varied as it is on earth (Grumbine, 1917). It is the earth made perfect. Beautiful landscapes abound, and there are vibrations of harmony in the air and water. The landscapes and all aspects vary in each sphere, becoming more beautiful as one progresses higher. Soft plots with grass and trees substitute for gold streets. Industry, death, decay, and fences have no place in the spirit world (Petersilia, 1892).
Light is everywhere, even though it is very dim and gloomy in the lowest sphere. The etheric or spiritual sun, not the material sun on earth, provides the light according to some writers. Others say the light is radiated from atoms and is soft, radiant and brilliant. There are degrees of light and artificial darkness; there is no time or seasons as on earth. Petersilia (1892) views this as one eternal day. Randall (1922) states that light is obtained from the action of minds on the atmosphere; think light, and there is light. The degree of light reflects the state of the spirits in a particular sphere, and is normal for those there. If one is in Summerland, or the third sphere, the light in the higher spheres is too bright. Hare (1855) proposes that the sphere of a spirit can be known by the brilliance and character of light that surrounds him.
Although time and space are not as they are on earth, there is still distance between localities. The distances are not great because you can communicate with any place by thought, but you must still travel to get there. The mode of locomotion is determined by the pleasure of the spirit. (Peebles, 1902) A spirit can travel with the velocity of thought in the same sphere. Or one can walk or float, or even sail in a boat. Herbine (1919) mentions being able to rise above the atmosphere and proceed swiftly. You can fly where you desire to go by will, through attraction, and you can be drawn not only by your desire, but by that of those who may wish your presence. There is no impediment in matter; the only barrier is one's own lack of knowledge or volition. Although Crowell (1879) states that a spirit can travel in any and all directions, other Spiritualists disagree. Petersilia (1892) says if you are in the third sphere, you can visit any sphere above or below. Tuttle (1900) explains that the degree of purity and spirituality determines if you can progress to other solar systems or planets.
The early Spiritualists describe a variety of buildings and methods of building. Owen (vol. 1, 1920) talks about a temple built step by step by the collective thought of a group. He describes large halls with towers, with varied architecture and design, with gardens and woods around them, and says there are cities with a central palace and communicating stations around it. There are all types of buildings: laboratories, lecture halls, libraries, those for music and the making of musical instruments, and magnificent temples for worship. Some are constructed of material resembling precious stones. Owen (vol. 1, 1920) mentions the use of different crystals to study the effects of colors.
The physical surroundings in the spirit world are, simply put, more beautiful than can be imagined. All aspects of nature are perfect. The early Spiritualist writers agree that light is everywhere, ranging from dim and gloomy in the lowest sphere, to light that is brilliant. Near death experiencers today agree, most indicating that although the light is very bright, is does not hurt the eyes. Even though there is no time or space, it is necessary to travel to different places. Most agree that you can go where you desire simply by thinking about it, but there are other ways, such as walking, floating, or flying. Buildings can also be constructed by thought, as well as by actual labor with real materials. There is agreement in the general description of the spirit world; differences are in the details. Individuals perceive things differently in this world; it is possible this is also true in the spirit world.
Homes, Clothing, Food
Spirit communications on homes are quite varied, ranging from no homes at all to elaborate ones. Some say they are built by thought alone, while others explain that materials are used. Perhaps this is an example of talking about what is known and experienced by a specific spirit, and that may depend on where one resides. There is agreement that habitations are the results of one's life and endeavors, and are used to identify the spirit.
Herbine (1917) says that houses are only for unevolved souls, while Petersilia (1892) counters that it is only the spiritual vagabonds in the first sphere that have no home. Hyslop (1918) states that spirits live in houses for a little while, then get rid of them. He goes on to cite one woman who had no house, but all the flowers she wanted. According to Peebles (1902), when homes are no longer needed, the atoms are dissipated and carried to a higher sphere where those materials form the nucleus of a more glorious house. He also says that spirits who have moved on can bequeath their homes and gardens to others, who may then adapt them as they wish.
Homes are as real to spirits as they are to us. They are like those on earth, but more dreamlike and beautiful. They vary from earth homes in that there are no climate concerns, insects, or uncleanliness (Peebles, 1902). Homes serve as a place to rest, recuperate, entertain and as a family and community center; they are a place of happiness and joy.
Spirits first live in houses constructed by others or in a community house for transients. As they grow in spirituality, they build their own dwellings (DeKoven, 1920). Homes can also be built especially for a person before they arrive in the spirit world. If the transition is sudden, the house is built while they rest. Furnishings can be selected by the individual, or the house may be already equipped (Kennedy, 1992).
Those in the spirit world that are still close to earthly life create homes and gardens that are similar to what they know. As the soul progresses and grows, so does the home become more beautiful and perfect. Gardens, surroundings, and furnishing improve and correspond to the mental state of the spirit.
Although there is some disagreement about the methods of constructing a house, most Spiritualist writers agree that creating by thought is often used. Homes in the lower spheres tend to be built mechanically, and those in the upper spheres by thought. Petersilia (1892) declares that since thoughts are real, spiritual things, homes are constructed within the mind. Raymond, the son of Sir Oliver Lodge, communicated that he lived in a solid house, but that things appear substantial and solid at first, then become transparent and vapory (Lodge, 1916). Peebles (1902) insists that homes can not be built from spirit substances by will power alone, that skills are needed. Only if the spirit has gained complete victory over matter can a home spring into being by the effort of will. When the house is no longer needed, it simply ceases to exist.
When materials are used, they vary from manipulating the ether to using stone, crystals, wood and brick. Sets of rhythmical vibrations can be used for construction (DeKoven, 1920). Material can be drawn from the atmosphere, and then concentrating on the image of what is wanted attracts the matter to it.
Homes can be a series of houses, each allotted to a certain kind of work (Owen, vol. 1, 1920). Some homes have separate rooms for contemplation and study. Peebles (1902) explains that societies in the spirit world are grouped according to the character of their lives, and that homes have multiples of six living in each one. The smallest subdivision is six people, with three men and three women.
Spirit communication regarding clothing is just as varied as it is about housing. The nearer one is to earth, the more clothing is similar to what is worn here. Lodge (1916) mentions that a person can wear his own clothes for a little while, but that earth garments can not be worn for long. Clothing made by spirit workers is provided for those who are newly arrived to the spirit world. This is prepared ahead of time because they know when someone is coming. Spiritual clothing corresponds to the individual's spiritual and moral status, and may vary as the mental and emotional states change. The sphere one is in and changes in unfoldment, rank, and position may also cause the clothing to change (Peebles, 1902). The texture, color, style, form, shape, and fashion of clothing corresponds to the spirit's status and occupation. Lawton (1932) reports that in Summerland, the third sphere, clothing is a kind of second body, and portrays the inner attributes of the soul.
Clothing is not made of fabric, but from etheric matter. It is formed out of material sensitive to inner thoughts and emotions. Longley (1908) says that elements are gathered from the atmosphere and woven into lace and other fabrics; a garment can be changed by waving a hand over it. DeKoven (1920) maintains that you can wear whatever you prefer. No two garments are alike because they are the reflection of the inner spirit. Clothing responds to the inward expressions and feelings of the wearer. It expresses the true state of the spirit, so it is constantly changing and renewing itself (Leonard, 1927). Owen (vol. 1, 1920) goes farther to say that clothing can also change according to where you are on the grounds. All agree that clothing never wears out or gets soiled, and it does not need to be repaired or remade.
Garments are usually described as loose and flowing robes, with different colors and textures. Some appear as light, and become brighter and whiter as one ascends in the spheres. Hare (1855) described flowing vestments that are suited to the refinement of the body; they have phosphorescent principles that attract, absorb, and reflect rays of light.
Some accounts give specific information on clothing. Moses (1952) maintains that spirits of wisdom have auras and robes of sapphire blue; those of love wear crimson. Leonard (1927) says that women have their hair flowing about their shoulders, and they wear soft sandals that are usually rose colored. Men dress in coats, vests, trousers, hats, and sandals according to Crowell (1879). Most agree that children dress as they please, but others give specifics; one example is that girls 15-20 years of age must wear white with flowers.
Again spirits give varied opinions and reports. Most agree that the more refined and developed the spirit, the less food is required. The variety and quality of food depends on the sphere one is in. Stead (1909) maintains that there is no need to eat because material conditions are different. DeKoven (1920) agrees by saying that food with a substance like snow is given to material spirits to revive them at first, but it is not necessary later. If a spirit wants to eat, one can be given what appears to be earth food (Hyslop, 1918).
Fruit is available in all spheres, but varies as to quality and type. Crowell (1879) says that in the second sphere food is given to each person in a quantity to satisfy, but not gratify. In the fourth sphere three meals a day are served in the dining room, with over 20 varieties of fruit and water and unfermented wine. Herbine (1919) maintains that the perfume of the fruit is enough for nourishment, but it can be eaten when desired. Others agree by emphasizing that the essence of the food, or absorbing nutrients from the atmosphere, is sufficient.
Randall (1917) addresses addictions by saying that if drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are in the nervous system, they are also in the etheric body, and the cravings for these must be overcome. Hyslop (1918) states that one can manufacture whatever is wanted, but after a little while the desire is gone. Alcoholics, however, may have their craving for years.
Spirit communications are much more varied on homes, clothing, and food than on physical surroundings and geography. Like buildings, homes can be built by thought alone, or by using actual construction methods and materials. Homes, gardens, and furnishings correspond to the mental state of the spirit. Most agree that when houses are no longer needed, they are either left for someone else just making a transition, or dissolved into the atmosphere.
Descriptions of clothing in the spirit world also vary, but there is general agreement that what is worn corresponds to the individual's spiritual and mental status. Like homes, clothes can be made by the thought process, and may be changed according to one's mood or intent. The type of food needed also depends on one's stage of spiritual development. Most of the writers agree that food is available, but there are a number of specific descriptions. Individual perceptions, both of the mediums and those in the spirit world, are no doubt a factor here.
Soulmates, Children, Animals
Most Spiritualist writers agree with Peebles (1909) that earthly marriages are for time, but soulmates are for eternity. Very few on earth find the right mate, and it may take a long time to find one's counterpart even in the spirit world. Marriage in the spirit world is for the purpose of intellectual and spiritual companionship and social interblending. There is no physical desire or contact because there is no need for procreation.
Leonard (1927) explains that two separate individuals were one before they decided to come to earth, and they will become one again, but usually after they leave the earth plane. Reuniting may take centuries in the spirit world. The perfect being has two constitutent parts, male and female, and Randall (1917) says this is not common in earthly life. All in the spirit life marry sooner or later, at which time they progress together to remain in balance.
Very few are truly married until they get to the spirit world and locate their other self or counterpart. It is the soul that marries, not the body. Peebles (1909) describes the reunited soulmates as one glorified sphere of light, but individual attributes are discernible. A reunited spirit can separate and appear as two separate individuals; there is a blending of two minds into one. Randall (1917) assures us that we will know our mates with absolute certainty, that there are no mismated couples in spirit life.
Spirits filled with mutual love can not really be separated, but they can be on different planes of development (Moses, 1949). If this happens, one is instructed and helped to grow. Loving bonds provide an incentive to mutual development, and the two help each other until progress is equal and they are one in thought and feeling. Union is forever with the soulmate. Hare (1855) says there is a greater blending of mutual love in the spirit world marriage than that of any other friendship.
Opinions vary on marriage ceremonies. Some maintain there is no ceremony, others say it can be simple and the couple can just declare their intention to friends, and still others mention that a union can be celebrated with whatever is wanted, even a festival.
Crowell (1879) answers the question of whether we meet our mates on earth in the spirit world by saying that if we are not properly mated on earth, there is no reunion. If there is spiritual affinity, families will be reunited, but if there is no attraction family members will be indifferent to each other.
There are no children in the lower spheres because they have nothing to repent. Infants go directly to a higher sphere where they are cared for and instructed by relatives or those who were childless on earth. No baby lacks mothering; they are surrounded by those who love them. If children are in a higher sphere, they are allowed to visit their parents in a lower one.
Children grow more rapidly physically, mentally, and spiritually in the spirit world. They need education and training to make up for the experience and knowledge they would have obtained in earth life. The natural bent of the child's mind is followed in education (Longley, 1908). What is lost in knowledge by passing early is made up for by not misusing opportunities and retarding progress. There are a lot of children in the spirit world, and many of them are trained as workers to help others.
Animals and Pets
No animals exist in the lower spheres, but they are found in the higher ones. There is some disagreement about whether they are actual objective existences or subjective images. Herbine (1919) states that all flowers and animals, including birds and fish, communicate. Crowell's (1879) sources say that animals are more intelligent and understand each other better than on earth. The only ones mentioned are horses, dogs, cows, deer, rabbits, domestic fowl and birds.
Tuttle (1900) feels that it is not esthetic to think that the spirits of all animal, insect and fish life will be in the spirit world. Others agree that animals do not survive the dissolution of material bodies, although they main retain their individuality for a brief period after leaving the body. They are then merged into a vast realm of elemental spirits.
Animals that have enough mental activity to gain a hold on spiritual vibrations have a place in the spirit state, so pets may be found in the spirit world (Longley, 1908). Some pets can retain their identity by the will of a spirit who can give it component spiritual elements. DeKoven (1920) believes that anything that is evolved enough to possess a semblance of a soul has a counterpart in the spirit world. A spirit can create anything that is wanted for happiness by desire, so earthly pets may be there until their purpose is served. Peebles (1902) goes on to say that there is no organic growth, or animal or vegetable life, in higher spiritual existences, but that can be the result of the immediate action of mind upon the atmosphere.
The early Spiritualist writers and mediums agree that each person does have a counterpart, a true soulmate. It is rare, however, for those on earth to find their mate, and may be difficult in the spirit world; however, we will know when it happens. There is also agreement that children go directly to a higher sphere, and they are provided with nuturing, education and training to make up for the experience they would have obtained on earth. Animals and pets are in the spirit world, but there is no consensus on which ones, and how long they remain. Most believe that if an individual has a spiritual connection with a pet, then that is enough for that pet to be found in the spirit world.