Travel in the Spiritual Worlds
A Spiritualist's View of After-death States
Spiritualism as a movement became popular in America with the Fox sisters in the mid 1800's when they encountered a spirit that rapped in a code that they could interpret. They began communicating with the spirit of a dead peddler who had been murdered in their family home in upstate New York. In the late 1800s in Britain, groups such as the Theosophical Society began making efforts to combine Eastern and Western religions into a syncretism or blending of religious ideas. They also practiced mediumship and communicated with spirits. Spiritualists developed abilities to talk to the dead on one hand and to ascended masters or spiritual adepts on the other. Spiritualism continued to gain popularity and was most widely practiced during and after World War I. So many people had loved ones who died in the war that there was a great need to feel the dead were happy and well even though they died in the midst of the suffering and madness of that war.
Anyone who has attended a spiritualist church or group will be familiar with the basic formula where the dead interact with the living using a medium or spiritualist minister as a kind of communications relay station. The medium communicates with a dead person, and passes the information on to the person the spirit wishes to contact. This formula appears to have changed little in the past one hundred years.
This description of spiritualists necessarily involves some generalizations, and we will not here attempt to discuss the channeling of spiritual teachers such as Kuth Hoomi, Seth, and Emmanuel but only the communication with ghosts and dead individuals. The spiritualist's basic view of the afterlife is one where the dead are able to watch the living from a distance, and often want to offer advice to living friends and relatives about how to solve their earthly problems. They also offer encouragement to the living about the certainty of an afterlife that is largely pleasant and satisfying, and in doing so contradict claims about the extremes of heaven and hell described in mainstream Christianity.
Spiritualism can even be viewed as a concrete alternative to Christianity because the spirits purport to offer direct evidence of an afterlife by telling the audience facts about individuals in the audience that are unknown to the spiritualist and the rest of the audience. The target individual then confirms the facts to be correct and the audience concludes that the dead are indeed speaking. If the information is wrong or irrelevant (does not apply to the target individual), the spiritualist has various excuses about how or why the information got garbled.
The spiritualist's approach usually requires no faith in God or Christ though some churches wed the two very different systems of Christianity and Spiritualism in a strange admixture of often contradictory ideas (most spiritualists believe in reincarnation). There is also no need of attaining salvation to escape hell in the afterlife. This statement that there should be no fear of hell in the afterlife generally applies to the average person who has not committed egregious evil acts during life. And even such evil doers will not experience torment eternally but will eventually move beyond it.
One fundamental tenet of these groups is the well-known maxim attributed to the ancient Hermetic philosopher Hermes Trismegistos that is commonly phrased "As above, so below". In the context of the afterlife, the statement can be interpreted to mean that earthly life (below) is basically a reflection of the afterlife (above). The two are different only in subtle ways. It also means that the "lower" earthly reality is derived from the higher reality, and that changes in the state of mind of the individual (in the mind or "above" world) can have direct bearing on future events in the physical or "below" world. This opens up the whole area of positive or magical thinking where our thoughts and attitudes are believed to ultimately create the world we live in. Spirit (or spirits) can also influence matter in a different way as in the case where the dead interact with the living to give knowledge and advice that can be channeled by a spiritualist medium.
The curious and surprising thing about communications with the dead is that despite their increase in telepathic skills, they seem to know very little about the workings of universe. Their vision and interests appear to be quite limited. They behave in some ways like tribal ancestors, and are often helpful and interested in the welfare of living friends and relatives. However, the quality of the counsel they offer seldom reaches the level of a "Dear Abby" advice column in a daily newspaper. The spirits, for instance, advise grandchildren or former spouses to go to the doctor and have a checkup, or to stop fighting with other relatives, or to leave a job where they are unfulfilled and find a new one.
Those who are convinced that the medium is actually in contact with the dead in the spirit world conclude that death is not the end, and that they will survive dying to enter into a comforting and familiar afterlife when their body is laid to rest. This is how spiritualism competes effectively with Christianity, which attempts to convince people of their immortality by pointing to Jesus' promise that the dead will rise again. The spiritualist, however, will survive death without having faith in Christ and without living what is normally considered to be a religious life.
Generally, the dead seem to be quite limited, sometimes discontent, and mostly concerned with the kinds of things that where important to them while on earth. They seem to be basically as conventional and narrow in the afterlife as they were while alive. One explanation for this is that the dead are simply "shell personalities" and the soul has actually gone on to a different place (heaven or rebirth), and this accounts for the lack of creativity and limited perception of the dead. This opinion caused a rift between the spiritualist groups and many Theosophists who believed in the shell theory and therefore devalued communication with the dead therefore preferred to talk only to "ascended masters".
But if we look specifically at the spiritualist's approach, their view of the afterlife is in some ways more disturbing than the Tibetan Buddhist view because at least the Buddhist view offers a change in consciousness and an opportunity to meet spiritual beings. Similarly, Christianity offers the extremes of heaven and hell, and therefore predicts a radical change in consciousness in the afterlife when compared to the spiritualist's provincial view of the afterlife.
One possibility is that it is the limitations of the spiritualist who cannot understand and communicate the level of consciousness of the spirits that is the problem. Another is that the audience would be alienated by beings who are too far above their state of consciousness. The spirits therefore avoid speaking about certain elements of their experience in order not to lose their audience. Both could explain the lack of spiritual insight and low level of consciousness of the dead.
However, if one attempts to work with the raw data and takes the information at face value, one must conclude after examining the concerns and goals of the dead in these spiritualist groups that learning spiritual travel during life is very important. Without such spiritual knowledge, the opportunities for exploration in the afterlife appear to be negligible. Expanding one's consciousness using spiritual travel techniques during life will likely carry over to the world of the afterlife because one world is said to closely parallel and mimic the other. Spiritual travel skills developed during life will therefore allow for expanded vision in the afterlife hopefully providing the increase in freedom and awareness that will make the afterlife more worth living. Knowledge of spiritual travel may help avoid the trap of an afterlife that closely resembles our lives on earth.
The tradition of spiritualism has two very important results with respect to death. First, it provides comfort to the grieving who have lost loved ones by providing a world view that shows they still exist and it even provides a means of contacting them. It shows that they can watch our activities, and even read our thoughts. We can therefore think about them and they can be aware of it. The dead and the living are connected and contacting them through a spiritualist or medium is not required. This can be very comforting to those who have lost loved ones. The power of this connection can be seen in older traditional cultures such as China, India, and Bali where ancestors are respected, and this kind of connection with and reverence for the dead is an important element of life and society.
Second, spiritualism makes death less fearful because death does not mean a severing of relationship with those that are loved. Death is no longer the fear of losing everything since a connection with the living can be maintained. The spirit following death can even continue to help and guide the living though in ways that are different from what was done while he or she was alive.
The spiritualist tradition truly has some positive sides when looked at from the point of view of a living, dying, or dead soul.
Spiritualist groups address important spiritual issues involving life and death. However they usually avoid discussions of deeper issues involving ultimate questions about God, creation, the existance of evil, and of man's place in the universe.
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