The view I have chosen in this book is a sort of synthesis of Swedenborg and Myers. Myers speaks of planes, while Swedenborg speaks of spheres. I use the terms sphere and plane interchangeably, higher spheres and planes being brighter and closer to God and lower spheres and planes being darker and further from God.
The composite approach I have taken is consistent with many historical and modern sources as well as biblical interpretation. Mostly, however, it’s a composite of Frederick Myer’s mid nineteenth century interpretation of the heavenly planes and Emanuel Swedenborg’s mid eighteenth century interpretation of the heavenly spheres.
The planes of Color, Flame, Light and Timelessness were not experienced by Myers himself, and appear to be beyond any form of coherent human understanding. We never receive any direct communication from these planes and therefore, planes higher than the planes of illusion can not be discussed in this book in any detail, however, they are exceedingly important because it is toward these planes that all the souls residing in lower planes eventually wish to (are destined to) evolve.
As you can see from the diagram above, the earth (which actually represents the entire material universe, stars, galaxies and all of the space in between) is simply a material sphere within a much larger spiritual milieu. The blue lines represent spiritual planes, but the number of planes represented in the diagram is not important. The point is that the spiritual world has a definite stratified structure, and the material world exists within it in a neutral, gray spiritual area.
What Myers calls “Hades”, or the second plane, I have chosen to call the transitional plane. It is represented by the single horizontal line that runs through the center of the earth in the diagram. The transitional plane is more commonly referred to as the “earth plane” or the “earth sphere”. Catholics call this plane Purgatory. I have chosen the term “transitional plane” to avoid the connotations and confusion inherent in these terms. The transitional plane (earth plane) is a spiritual plane and does not refer to the earth itself. It is simply the spiritual plane closest to our material world. The transitional plane occupies the same “space” as our material universe and invisibly interlaces with it. None of the other heavenly (or Hellish) planes make direct contact with the material world.
The heavenly planes start from just above the transitional plane in the center of the diagram, and go upward all the way until the highest heaven which I have labeled the Consciousness of God. The darker planes start from the transitional plane, and descend downward into the darkest realms which were originally labeled by Swedenborg as the Outer Darkness. The transitional plane is represented by the thin blue line in the center of the diagram that bisects the earth, but it is a hugely important part of the spiritual realm. It is the dividing line between the brighter planes above, and the darker planes below, but even more importantly, it plays a large role in our daily lives.
The transitional plane is the plane of the earthbound spirits, and it lies outside of the mainstream sequence of the spiritual realm.
Let me repeat that because it is an extremely important point. The transitional plane, most commonly called the earth plane and the plane of earthbound spirits lies OUTSIDE the mainstream sequence of Spirit. Souls can evolve within the mainstream spiritual realm, but they cannot evolve while existing on the transitional plane!!!
Unfortunately, the transitional plane lies in such close proximity to our material earth that it has become the source of the vast majority of earthly folklore about ghosts, demons, haunted houses and “poltergeists”. It is also the source of most of the information that shows up on cable TV shows about the paranormal.
The dotted white vertical arrow on the left side of the diagram illustrates the extent of the planes of illusion. These planes are where the mainstream sequence of the spiritual world begins. In order for a soul to enter the mainstream sequence where their spiritual evolution can begin, each spirit must first make the decision to exit the transitional plane. This process is often referred to as “crossing over” or “going into the light”.
I have chosen the term “planes of illusion” because the term “illusion” fairly well sums up the mechanism by which the spirits there create their own realities. When I speak of illusions, I am referring to the illusion of material objects. In fact, the perception of a material environment can persist even into the higher realms above the planes of illusion, depending on each individual soul’s particular needs at any given time. The illusion of matter is really only a crutch that helps the spirit to evolve. In the higher realms, the need for material objects evaporates entirely, and the soul can evolve quite nicely without them.
This book concentrates on the planes of illusion because these are the planes from which we receive all of our spiritual communication. Stainton Moses referred to these planes as the spheres of probation. Souls in the upper spheres are too busy concentrating on much larger matters, and generally have no desire to communicate with us.
The planes of illusion consist of the Winterlands and the Summerlands (see map above). They are separated by the transitional plane and represent the lowest “heavenly” planes within the mainstream spiritual hierarchy. Both the Winterlands and the Summerlands are where the majority of souls end up after they cross over into the mainstream sequence of spiritual life. They present varying degrees of comfort for the souls that live in them. Both regions are further subdivided into ascending levels (in the Summerlands) and descending levels (in the Winterlands) based on spiritual evolution. I will refer to these sub-levels as separate planes, because, in the words of Emanuel Swedenborg, “There are many heavens and many hells”. These are collectively the areas of the mainstream spiritual world that are in closest proximity with the plane of matter where we live.
Sources describing the spiritual levels above the planes of illusion are inconsistent. These higher planes are what Stainton Moses called the Planes of Contemplation. We don’t get much real channeled information from them, and spirits claiming to be from the higher planes are probably just lower spiritual conmen.
Most of the self-described “higher” spiritual sources tend to voice opinions consistent with the “political correctness” of their day. This, of course, varies from era to era. These putative higher spirits generally offer all sorts of heavenly advice on current political and religious doctrines that appear to be based on their own earthly beliefs. That’s why so much channeled spiritual “wisdom” sounds more like pop culture as seen on daytime TV. See chapter 19 about spirit’s lies and tall tales.
I don’t doubt that the higher spheres exist and that the conditions there are infinitely more challenging than those on the lower planes, however souls occupying these realms live in ineffable (indescribable) conditions and they would have little incentive to communicate with the spiritually infantile souls living in the world of matter. Thus, I have chosen to confine the majority of my discussion of the spiritual realm to the “lower reaches of heaven”. Information about the transitional plane and the planes of illusion is much more ubiquitous and consistent. It often comes from the souls of persons who have died within recent memory, or recent historical times, and much of the “personal” information pertaining to the spirits themselves can be confirmed by living persons or currently available records.
By the time that the spirit of Frederick Myers dictated his posthumously channeled book, The Road to Immortality to Geraldine Cummins, he had advanced beyond the planes of Illusion into the fourth plane, the plane he calls “the plane of Color”. He had dedicated much of his later life to research into the afterlife, and this book was a sort of “good bye” gift to humanity.
In The Road to Immortality, he describes the fourth plane and the planes beyond, however, his descriptions are necessarily superficial since the environments on these planes are beyond earthly description. He does, however, make it clear that as spirits progress, they cling less and less to earthly matter, creating environments with progressively finer forms until they abandon matter altogether in the highest planes. Another source I trust is Stainton Moses. His information, based on his band of controls, has the “ring of truth, (in spite of the awful hatchet job done on him by CSICOP in the pages of Wikipedia), and it is largely consistent with Frederick Myers.
There are also few accounts about existence in the hells beneath the planes of illusion and much of our information about conditions there are based on observations gleaned from the long history of ghosts, hauntings and exorcisms. Mainstream religions, especially Catholicism, have compiled centuries of information based on experiences of qualified exorcists and demonologists, and I draw on these sources as well.
Having said all this about the structure of the transitional plane and the hells below, the actual relationship of the hells to the transitional plane is still somewhat equivocal. While the transitional plane is definitely NOT a part of the vertically stratified higher celestial planes starting from the Winterlands up, the same cannot be said for its relationship with the lower planes. In some literature, the transitional plane appears to be a less negative, sort of a surface layer of the hells. Think of the hells as being a deep caldron of simmering evil souls, with some of them bubbling up to the transitional plane before sinking back down into the depths of the caldron where they belong.