Emanuel Swedenborg (1/29/1688 – 3/29/1772) was an eighteenth century genius and mystic who was the first “spiritualist.” It was he who first described a detailed structure for the spiritual realms that was not based on biblical scripture. His original insight led him to conclude that the spiritual world was composed of concentric spheres surrounding the sphere of God, which lies in the center. His representation is pictured below.
According to Swedenborg, the “heavens” are innermost, closer to God at the center, while the “hells” are outermost and closer to the “outer darkness.” In the outer darkness, spirits are isolated from the light of God. Note that the earth sphere stands in a gray area. This is because the earth is equally affected by both good and bad spirits.
Since Swedenborg’s day, nearly everyone has become accustomed to viewing the heavens and God on HIGHER levels while evil exists on the lower levels. This is the result of the influence of Thomas Aquinas on Christian theology and Western thought. Aquinus visualized the earth, to which heavy objects fall, as the home of “fallen” man. The “heavens above”, was the realm of God and his angels. The center of the Earth, the lowest point to which things could fall, was Hell, where the devil lives.
Frederick Myers was born in 1843, and died in 1901. He was a famous classical scholar and one of the five founders of the British Society for Psychical Research (The SPR). The founding principle of the society was to investigate the reality of psychic phenomena using scientific methods and to discover if, in fact, there is a link between psychic phenomena and a spiritual world in which the spirits of the dead could exist as conscious entities without physical bodies.
Myers spent a good portion of his early research debunking fraudulent mediums and magicians who claimed that their illusions were actually magic. Philosopher William James, his famous American compatriot and colleague, in a posthumously (after his death) channeled book, complained of the enormous number of fake mediums that he investigated who used fraudulent tricks to con ignorant clients out of their money. However, Myers and his associates also discovered a large number of genuine mediums who were never debunked, and who delivered large quantities of truthful and verifiable information about the deceased friends and relatives of their clients.
Myers’ investigations led him, over time to develop a strong belief in the existence of what we today call psi phenomena, and that mediums could present powerful evidence that extrasensory abilities were very real. However, proving that these phenomena could actually link the spirits of the dead with the living proved to be more problematic.
In some cases, he found that accurate information could be produced about a person known to a sitter who was originally thought to be dead, but later turned out to be alive. In one experiment, a sitter concentrated on a fictitious personality prior to a sitting, and then found that the medium would produce communications from that fictitious personality. This proved that these people were acting as psychics, and not mediums. They had powerful paranormal gifts, but were NOT necessarily in contact with the dead.
This, however, was not true for all people who claimed mediumship. Many appeared to be genuine mediums who consistently produced information that could not be debunked. Over years of this sort of observation, Myers eventually concluded that a spiritual world does, in fact, exist, that the human spirit continues to exist after death, and that spirits can communicate with the living using human psi facilities.
Myers wrote extensively during his life. The most famous of his written works was the very long Phantasms of the living, which contained approximately 700 anecdotes about the psychic experiences of ordinary people. His most important book written while he was alive was Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death. He is also remembered today as one of the spirit authors of the Cross Correspondences (explained in depth in chapter 23).
After his death in 1901, his spirit began the posthumous dictation of two books to a famous medium (never debunked) named Geraldine Cummins who channeled spirits through automatic writing. The first, and most famous was The Road to Immortality, written in 1932, thirty -one years after Myer’s death.
Geraldine Cummins was a famous medium known for her integrity and the accuracy of her psychic insights. She lived and worked in the early twentieth century. Both Myers and his channel, Geraldine Cummins have a history of integrity and were honest searchers for spiritual truth during their lifetimes. Cummins never knew Myers during his lifetime, and The Road to Immortality was written through her hand 31 years after Myers’ death. Even though Cummins knew next to nothing about Myers, her channeled prose accurately reflected his personality, and was authenticated by people who knew him personally including the famous physicist Sir Oliver Lodge who was a close personal friend of Myers. Lodge and others vouched for the accuracy of style and the similarities of personality demonstrated by the channeled commentator to that of Myers himself.
In The Road to Immortality, Myers names seven planes of the spiritual world, and for completeness, I will also name them here.
(1) The Plane of Matter.
(2) Hades or the Intermediate State.
(3) The Plane of illusions.
(4) The Plane of color.
(5) The Plane of Flame.
(6) The Plane of Light.
(7) Out Yonder, Timelessness.
In The Road to Immortality, Myers discusses the various spiritual planes that he experienced or learned about after his death. The first plane is the material universe including the earth and everything on it.
He called the second plane “Hades”, but in spite of its connotations, he does NOT equate Hades to Hell. “Hades”, as Myers uses the term translates into what we call the “earth plane” or the “plane of earthbound spirits”. This plane is of immense importance to those of us still living on this earth, and it will be discussed in much more detail in the next chapter.
The third plane is what Myers called the “plane of illusion.” The plane of illusion contains, in the words of Emanuel Swedenborg, “many heavens” and “many hells.” Each heaven or Hell is populated with spirits who produce their own environment through the resources of their own imaginations. That’s why they are called the planes of illusion.