The Ego's progression in the spirit-world
The information contained in the mediumistic communications reported in the book Spiritualism by Edmonds and Dexter often concern the conditions of existence of the conscious Ego in what the disembodied entities call the spirit-world, but which would be more correct to define spirit dimension, as it is not another planet of the physical universe in which we currently live, but, so to speak, another parallel universe. The communicating entities take for granted that upon the death of the human organism the conscious Ego, which until then had remained bound to that organism, moves into the spirit dimension without losing its own individuality and maintaining, at least in part, the memories of its earthly life. In introducing itself, Sweedenborg entity speaks in these terms: «Beyond this life, in the bright regions where dwell the spirits made perfect, are manifest the glories and attributes of God. From that region come I, and my mission is of love. My body is bright, and my soul is visible to the spirits by which it is surrounded, by reason of its congeniality with them» (page 102). The meaning of words such as spirit, soul, God, or body (referred to an inorganic entity), is taken for granted, probably based on the cultural references of that period: neither Edmonds nor Dexter ask that the meaning of these terms be better specified, with the exception – as we will see later – of the new non-physical body that entities claim to have received after leaving their human organism. As for a term like God – which we can only consider as a generic reference label to psyche's tunings more or less intensely intuited by our human mind, currently lacking the necessary resources to access such a complex reality – on page 101 Sweedenborg had made a fleeting reference to the complexity of the cosmos as a creative phenomenon, with the extraordinary number of galaxies, and therefore of stars and worlds that are part of it: already at that time the perception of the immensity of the universe, and the still embryonic knowledge of cosmic dynamics, determined a substantial modification of the idea of God, from the exclusively earthly and anthropocentric dimension, which had characterized all previous eras, to a conception that could take into account all the creative transformations – known or unknown to us humans – which have occurred and are occurring in the so-called created universe. However, later on the communicating entities never shed enough light on the complexity and difficulties that we meet in understanding the creative phenomenon and the creative energy, and often continue to refer to a personalized divinity with almost exclusively anthropomorphic features, who could possibly represent only a tiny fragment of a grandiose and for us inconceivable organizational enterprise.
To tell the truth, on page 103 we can find a naively simplified description of God as a creative energy that pervades the whole universe: «His presence fills the whole universe. Far off in the realms of space, where human eye has never fathomed, where even human thought fails to reach, beyond even the fabulous regions of Satan's resting-place, is the Divine Presence recognized in all the power and glory of the Creator's works, as it is in this little ball of yours». We can notice the weird reference, whose origin is clearly psychic, to the fabulous regions of Satan's resting place. Immediately afterwards it is stated that: «...the soul of man is a part of God himself. It lives forever, and has lived since ere the morning stars recognized the glory of the Godhead». The terms soul and spirit are often used interchangeably by the inorganic entities, but later the evolution over time of the individualized spirit is explained a little better: «...God created man with a body to conform the natural system around him, and also with a spirit to appreciate that he was created by a Spirit with whom he was eternally to dwell. The spirit which enters the body of the child on being born is the principle or germ. It has not existed previously in a sentient form, but has existed, as a principle, from the beginning» (page 108). Beyond the references to the creation of the human being in terms that recall the Bible more than our current scientific knowledge, the entity seems to mean that the spirit needs organic life to start the cognitive and evolutionary process of its existence, in the form of a conscious Ego linked to an organism: before human life the spirit exists as a spark of divine origin, but has no consciousness of its own existence. Obviously, in the light of our intellectual faculties, for something to exist it is necessary that there is a form of consciousness that recognizes its existence: in the case of the unconscious spirit we could hypothesize a cosmic or divine consciousness endowed with resources that go far beyond our human consciousness. However, in Edmonds' book we find no insight into the important question of the origin of the spirit and its unconscious existence, before it over time awakens as a conscious Ego during organic life. Instead, on page 109, we are offered some singular information regarding the sex of the soul (and of the spirit): «(The soul) grows with the body, and assumes its shape, form, appearance, and sex; and this it is which distinguishes, in my opinion, the sex of the spirit; which, if indeed emanated from one source, could not be divided into sexes, but must exist as a principle in oneness of form and substance. The development of the body, either as male or female, determines the sex of the soul; and as we pass through many transformations in our passage to heaven, that sex the body of the soul always maintains in whatever state it may exist, until it is united with the source from which it emanated». As can be seen, it is an essentially organic vision, even if progressively more and more ethereal, of the condition of existence of the spirit in its evolutionary path.
These communicating entities often express themselves as if they were elaborating speculative considerations regarding the reality in which they find themselves, instead of providing us with precise and appropriate descriptions of their world: thus we have a further confirmation of the essentially psychic origin – or contamination – of the information that reaches us through them. For example, starting on page 107 begins the description of what is presented as the evolutionary path of the disembodied spirit in the so-called spheres. Later these spheres will take the form of planes of existence belonging to dimensions other than those of the physical universe, but in these pages we get the impression that the entities refer to other worlds of our universe: «But beyond the vision of the most powerful telescope there are worlds filled with spirits whose birth is forever and ever. They know no death, and yet are organized with bodies suited to the worlds in which they live... they inhabit worlds more beautiful than the poets have painted heaven. There is no necessity of labor, for the purity of their nature renders all effort for sustenance unnecessary. The temperature is alike in every portion, so adapted to the condition of their bodies that the atmosphere confers additional beauty on their complexion... It may have been, that before this world, or the planets and bodies by which it is surrounded, were created, these world were created. I am not positive as to this, but I am impressed with the idea that our earth is one of the latest creations of God. And I am impressed, too, to say, that the inhabitants of these worlds are of a higher creation that are the inhabitants of your sphere. They are more beautiful in their proportions, more glorious in the manifestations of their souls, and have a closer affinity with God» (page 107-108). And more: «Spirits, after leaving the body, are conducted to localities adapted to the capacities and the condition of their minds, in reference to education, society, and progress. Thus, a highly educated mind... is conducted to a globe or planet adapted by its locality and formation to develop the properties of his mind to an approach nearer to the plane where the Spirit of God is most manifest in all its power and glory» (page 110-111).
A little further on (page 112), answering to Edmonds who asked if a human, once dead, could be reborn on a different planet with the body of an inhabitant of that world, Bacon entity states that: «...in proportion to his spiritual development does his spirit (once free from the body) seek that place in which he will meet with corresponding circumstances, which will assist him in accomplishing the more intense action of his mind, caused by the loss of his grosser part, or body. When he arrives the place of his residence, his body assumes the characteristics of the inhabitants of that place, whose organization is, of course, more ethereal and spiritual than if born on this earth. As spirits do not all possess the same degree of purity of nature, they, of course, must seek a like congeniality of organization, desires, and attributes. Many globes, spheres, or planets contain inhabitants of far inferior organization to man». While emphasizing, once again, the naivety with which Edmonds and Dexter welcome these revelations that have a vaguely surreal flavor – as they lack any objective evidence – relying solely on the trust they place in the discarnate entities, let us try to better understand the path of progression of the spirit as it begins to be outlined (even if at the beginning in a rather confused way) in the received communications. First of all, let's observe how the authors do not bother to better define what transfers from one dimension to another, or from one planet to another, contenting themselves with generic and obvious references to the soul or spirit by the communicating entities: yet it should be clear that the meaning of these transformations can be important for us humans only if they concern that subject that we have defined as conscious Ego, as it was formed and as it has already partly progressed along a stretch of its evolutionary path during this human life. Indeed, a transformation involving an entirely new form of identity and consciousness, stripped of any actual connection with our current life and of the memories of it – memories that we can have at least for a certain period of time – would have no meaning to our current conscious Ego, at least until it was eventually reactivated. So it is clear that when reference is made to the spirit, even in these mediumistic communications, it should be understood as the condition of the conscious Ego once it has definitively separated itself from its human organism, without however losing its own identity and some traits of its personality.
As long as the conscious Ego lives our life, bound to its organism, the experiences in which it is involved are determined by the attunements of the human psyche, and depend on: 1) from the functional needs of its organism, 2) from the various environmental and social conditions in which the organism finds itself over time, 3) by the cultural programs received and assimilated and by the reactions of the psyche induced by those programs, 4) and lastly from the possible influence of a personal spirit or other disembodied entities. It is evident that the first three of these four determining factors are necessarily extinguished with the death of the organism, which therefore represents in any case a fundamental event in relation to the possible continuation of the existence of the conscious Ego and its subsequent experiences in a spiritual environment. The continuity of the Ego's identity should however involve a transfer into the new spiritual dimension of the mental faculties – both intellectual and sensitive – which the Ego has received as a dowry and which have been used and developed by itself during its human life. Let us now see how this complex transition process is described and interpreted by the communing entities in the book by Edmonds and Dexter. First of all, it is stated again that in the spirit dimension the Ego is transferred into a social environment whose residents have a similar level of mental and spiritual evolution to its own. When Edmonds asks (page 117) why this rule is operative only in the spiritual sphere, while in our organic world the most diverse and conflicting attunements of the psyche are forced to coexist and sometimes to clash, Bacon entity replies that: «If God places all kind of good and bad spirits together on this earth, certainly the good do not seek the society of the bad, and vice versa». As can be seen, this is not an explanation, but only an observation, and not even very pertinent. The problem of the potential evolutionary capacity of a spirit when it incarnates into a human organism, and of the level to which it progresses during this life, is dealt with in a hasty way, and certainly not solved. To Edmonds' question: «Now, it is true that some spirits, on entering the embryo, are more advanced than others?», Bacon answers: «(The progress is about) the condition or state which characterized it, when born into the spirit-world, not the spirit born with the embryo. I would say, that to suppose the spirit, when first given off from God, was evil, would knock away the whole of the foundation of our teachings» (page 117).
Here too one gets the impression that the communicating entity is expressing its own opinion, without having a true knowledge of how things really are. The observation that the spirit emanating from God cannot be evil is apparently sensible, but the problem arises from the fact that the term God is used indifferently both to designate the energy which infuses an infinite, absolute and unconditional love into creation, as it is recognized and felt by the conscious Ego at the end of its spiritual evolutionary path, and to indicate the mysterious source whose transformations over time have given rise to our organisms and to the environmental conditions in which they live, as well as as to the bipolar dynamics of the human psyche and the cultural programs with which it influences and determines our social interactions. Evil as pain, as well as organic pleasure, obviously spring from the same source, and it is undeniable that there are humans whose Ego shows an inclination to obtain what is perceived as an advantage – that is, in some way, a source of pleasure – through actions that cause pain and suffering to others. Furthermore, not a few humans feel the need to pass on to their fellowmen, and even to those to whom they feel emotionally connected, the heritage of the sufferings they themselves had to endure. To attribute the cause of this process marked by bipolar and conflictual psyche's dynamics to a God full of love is naive, illusory and incorrect. The communicating entities are right when they maintain that the evolutionary path of the conscious Ego can truly begin when it, freed from the constraints of the human organism, begins to live in a spiritual or disembodied form: however, they are forced to admit that the starting level of this spiritual path differs from one individual to another, according to the degree of evolution reached by each Ego in the course of its human life. This exposition has the merit of establishing that the evolutionary path of the Ego towards the Spirit – which still takes place over time, at least in its initial stages – is in any case one of improvement, in the sense that every spiritual Ego can only progress along its own path, regardless of its starting level. Therefore neither coercive or punitive measures, nor backward involutions are required, in relation to the evil by which a certain conscious Ego has let itself be involved during its human life, identifying with the dynamics of its own psyche. On the other hand, it is not explained to us which of the factors determining the involvement of the conscious Ego in the positive or negative dynamics of the human psyche substantially influences the Ego's spiritual quality and the consequent starting level of its existence in the spirit dimension. We must recognize that, according to this vision, human life represents in any case a sieve for establishing the quality of individual spirits when – awakened from their unconscious state through the transformation into a conscious Ego – they have to deal with the dynamics of the human psyche: evidently the steadiness of product quality is not ensured, so to speak, by the manufacturing process.
On page 145 we can find a glorious description of the final destination of the evolutionary path of the spiritual Ego, which Sweedenborg entity relates by hearsay, since he too, apparently, still has a long way to go to reach that dimension: «Now we are told the glory, the beauty of this sphere, is beyond the comprehension of spirit; that the full flow of spirit is curbed by no material barriers, but gushes forth in one spontaneous stream of love and wisdom; that the land is delightful. because here all the laws of God work together so harmoniously, that every spirit-thought is in unison: that all the affections, desires, will-power, and the action of the spirit are controlled by the earnest wish to do every thing according to the will and the law of the great source; that spirit, free from material bonds, is manifest as spirit, as an intelligence, seizing fron every object around the very germ of thought before its utterance; that here, too, does the spirit-concentration emanate, and is sent throughout the earth to control the evil direction which material connection produces. We are told, too, that there is speciality in spirit, that each one retains the peculiar attributes of his nature, so changed by progression, so altered by its upward course, that it has become a god itself, gifted with an intelligence which is capable of exercising the influence just mentioned. Now that the spirit in its passage through the spheres retains intact the connections formed on earth, I believe does prove true in many, very many cases». If we abstract from time, and consider this picture as the final destination of the path determined by the force of attraction (which we could perhaps compare to gravity force active in our physical universe) which attracts every spiritual Ego towards the Spirit, it is evident how all spirits, freed from the bipolar dynamics of the human psyche, are on the same level, even if it is stated that each retains some of its own peculiar features. However we are used to living in the time, which conditions the way we perceive reality both during our human life and in the subsequent stages of the existence of the spiritual Ego, at least according to what the entities that communicate through Dexter claim. We can also note the mention of evil, as the effect of the attraction produced on the Ego by the negative polarity of the psyche due to its connection with matter, that is, with its human organism. This implies a new form of bipolarity between two energy forms separated by time, at least in relation to the perception by the conscious Ego of its own evolutionary path, both in its human form and, possibly, in its spiritual form. At the end of its journey through time, the spiritual Ego accesses the dimension of Spirit, whose energy is perceived as eternal, infinite, absolute, unconditional and all-encompassing love towards every aspect of a creation that is perfectly harmonious and free from any conflicting and evil contamination. At the beginning, instead, the conscious Ego forms and develops within the organism to which it is bound, under the energetic domination of the human psyche – bipolar in its essence – with which it begins to deal with during this life, until the death of its own organism. Time therefore becomes the fundamental medium through which every conscious Ego is destined to complete that more or less long journey which, regardless of the initial conditions, will lead it to the final goal, connecting – through the evolution of consciousness – two separate and different energy dimensions.
We have seen how in some NDEs this transition into the Spirit dimension can happen in a relatively short time, also because it is almost always associated with a very different perception of time than the one we are used to in the ordinary state of consciousness determined by the functioning of our human mind. Instead Sweedenborg and Bacon entities tell us about a journey in successive stages, in each of which the Ego stays for a more or less long period of time, refining its own consciousness, exercising its intellectual faculties, and progressively distilling – so to speak – its spiritual essence, until it reaches the highest levels of the Spirit dimension: «...progressing, until they shall have passed beyond these spheres, and enter the glorious mansions of what may be called heaven. But they scarce lose their material organization, sublimated it is true, by every ascending step as they rise in the circle of their progress, till at last materiality is swallowed up in spirituality, and they either become incorporated in the whole of the First Cause, or exist as I have said» (page 146). We shall shortly examine the revelations of these disembodied entities concerning the existence in the sphere in which they dwell, which – it seems – is only slightly higher than that of our organic life, and is still contaminated by some dynamics of the human psyche, provided that such contaminations are not caused by the attunements of Dexter's or Edmonds' psyche: some of these revelations seem naive and weird to me, due to their affinity with the dynamics relating to the functioning of the human organism, in a dimension in which the spiritual Ego should already be definitively free from any organic form. Indeed, it is recognized that the process of death concerns only the transition from our present organic life to the level of spiritual existence to which the Ego is destined at the end of it. To Edmonds' question: «What do you mean by saying that "death is the first and last struggle where there is pain?"», Sweedenborg answers: «...there is no other death in the passage through the spheres... Death of the body is probably accompanied with pain, and when the spirit passes through the death of the spheres, it is rather a state of unconsciousness than death» (page 217). And again: «(Spirits) never die; but as they progress they leave their gross part from sphere to sphere, and are never entirely divested of matter, even when they arrive at those spheres where the spirit of God is made manifest. The change is progression, and progressive, and they never die but once, though the last change from the spheres to the bright abode is more of a change than the passage from sphere to sphere» (page 280).
The Ego's life in the otherworldly spheres
Let us now examine the information obtained by Edmonds and Dexter regarding the existence of the disembodied Ego in those dimensions, progressively more and more spiritual, which are generically defined as spheres. As I have already observed, we cannot attribute any objective validity to such information, since we are unable to verify it during our organic life, but at least let us see whether it has an intrinsic coherence and whether we can take it into account as more or less reasonable hypotheses. In the history of spiritualism, there are many descriptions obtained through different mediums of the life conditions and experiences of the disembodied Ego in the various dimensions of the afterlife, and often they show differences that make them irreconcilable and unreliable: in general they are imbued with elements that can be traced back to the bipolar dynamics of the human psyche, and in this respect they cannot be considered as valid evidence of the Spirit dimension, which is such precisely because it is completely free and alien from any bipolarity. The information obtained by Edmonds and Dexter is therefore examined not because it is better or more significant than others (in this respect all of us humans are free to follow, if we want, the orientations and inclinations that the attunements of our psyche suggest to us), but as an example of how, in the initial phase of spiritualism, intelligent, capable and well educated persons addressed, even critically, the questions relating to the persistence of the existence of the conscious Ego after death. In fact, one should not believe that the two authors of Spiritualism quietly bought up whatever the entities communicated to them: they often ask for explanations regarding certain statements in the face of which they feel perplexed, and are not always satisfied with the non-exhaustive answers obtained. Not infrequently, however, they do not want to push their criticisms beyond a certain limit, showing that they have towards these discarnate entities the trust and respect that are attributed to an authority recognized as higher. The awakening of the conscious Ego in the spiritual dimension in which it finds itself after death is described in a rather conventional way: «But when awakening from this sleep of death, and opening his eyes to the world into which his spirit was ushered, how strange his thoughts, how marvelous the sensations which rush through his brain with lightning rapidity!... The spirit bond which connected it to matter is severed, the link of life is broken, the spirit freed is disengaging itself from its earthly trammels. There lies the body stretched in death. How unlike the spirit which is floating over it, still unconscious, still unable to think, but just born into the life of the spheres» (page 155). Obviously, the reference to the brain is imprecise, and is used in relation to mental activity.
The newborn spirit is almost immediately welcomed by other friendly spirits who take care of it, inform it about its new condition and help it settle into the new dimension: «...it opens its eyes to the unspeakable glories of a new world. Then all the spirits whose lives are pure, whose mission being accomplished toward it, now take it by the hand, and bid it look around, and behold the things which are old have become new... Think, too, that it is divested of all the contrivances which in life so circumscribed its mental action, and that its freed spirit can now quaff deep of the intoxicating draughts of joy unspeakable that are presented to it on all sides» (page 156). The new state of the spiritual Ego is outlined in a very general way: «After the (spirit) friends have taken charge of them for a while, they remain under their teaching for a time, not sermons or doctrines, but a sort of history of what is before them, and then they are left to the true manifestations of their nature. Now, if good and pure, if their minds desire the high and holy, if, in simple language, they wish to ascend, their affinities are their guide. They can not mistake. They are irresistibly impelled to go forward to the place where they meet with all the circumstances and conditions which conform to their desires or the wants of their nature» (ibid). After observing how spirits – contrary to what happens to us humans – cannot hide their thoughts or desires, Sweedenborg entity begins to describe the constitution of what could be called the spirit's organism: in fact, strange as it may seem, Sweedenborg attributes to every spirit a kind of more or less material body, whose consistency becomes more and more spiritual as the Ego progresses in its ascent towards the higher spheres. «Now spirits possess a material nature, and this nature or form in some is so gross, that it is almost subject to laws as imperative as those on earth... Their material nature is under influences which require obedience, and though there is none of the physical suffering you have, yet there is as much material necessity and absolute want in proportion to the grossness of their nature as there possibly can be in your material world» (page 157). This description of the spirit's condition is not convincing at all: the main reason why we humans have to provide for the needs of our body is given by the sufferings by which our conscious Ego risks being afflicted in case these needs are not adequately satisfied. It is not understood why a spiritual Ego – even if associated with an organic form, but free from all suffering – should be subjected to necessities of a physical kind which it cannot escape, unless you want to consider it as a mere automaton: otherwise, we might indeed think that the satisfaction of these needs gives it joy and pleasure.
These needs of the organism associated with the spiritual Ego are repeated various times, always in a humanized and unconvincing form: «We eat and drink the fruits and vegetables of the countries where we reside... for as long as matter exists, it cannot maintain itself without support from some external source. And then if we eat, there must be someone to grow the food, for the climates do not always produce spontaneously food for all. But this is a matter of choice who shall labor, and we all, in our neighborhoods, take turn in so doing, and thus all do their duty to themselves and others. Most frequently spirits associate together in neighborhoods or communities, composed of members varying from fifty to five hundred, and while the absorbing topics of progression and purity, of development and affection, occupy our minds mostly, yet the usual duties of material life are just as incumbent on us as with you, always modified by our organization and the circumstances in which we are situated, and the place where our affinities direct us» (page 157). This seems more like the description of one of those egalitarian and utopian communities that formed with a certain frequency at that time in the United States, and that managed to survive for a few years – amidst many difficulties – and then dissolve. Afterwards the topic is resumed – again by Sweedenborg – in a somewhat different form: «Now, we eat, and drink, and sleep, but these absolute necessities of organic life are not performed in the same way as on earth... When the spirit has ascended to the higher spheres, it casts off, as a garment, the grosser part of its body, and, consequently, the spirit distinct is the governing principle of its existence... and sometimes such spirits scarcely eat once a week, and only when the demands of the material part of their combination require support from food. If the spirit has pain, it arises from some violation of the organic parts of its body; and as there is less of matter, there is less of pain... and the nearer to earth spirits reside, the more are they influenced by causes affecting matter belonging to earth... I never saw a spirit sick in body, but I have seen spirits suffering from a kind of pain. They hunger, they thirst, but only as they are mixed up with matter in a greater or less proportion. And the farther they advance, the more refined they become» (page 278). Regardless of whether we find this description interesting or convincing, the picture presented to us is rather clear: after the death of its human organism, the conscious Ego continues to have experiences determined by the union between its spirit and a new organism of a physical type, which becomes less and less material with each passage to a higher sphere.
The constitution of this new organism, in a certain sense still physical, even if made of a more rarefied matter, is described by Sweedenborg in a vague and confused way – as usual – answering Edmond's questions, who was obviously eager to know more: «...(it is) a body composed of new materials, refined and sublimated, but still entirely material... It does not take the materials from the old body, but it is a new creation, as instant of life as was the corporeal germ when it vitalized the embryo in utero... the spirit when leaving the body leaves it for another probably ready for it. Even spirits do not see the process» (page 167). We can always notice a certain ambivalence between what is sometimes perceived by us as an evanescent or ghostly form of a spirit (Edmonds in fact believed he had seen the spirit of one of his relatives separate from the body at the moment of death and take on a new form), and the organism with which the spirit should live in its own sphere, separate from ours: eventually, the communicating entity gets away with openly declaring its ignorance regarding the process of formation of these presumed bodies and their constitution. When Edmonds asks for some clarification on the materials of which new organisms are composed, the answer is: «When you reflect that matter is the same, existing through all time, your question is answered» (page 178). The topic of the new organism to which the spirit connects in the sphere in which it will have to dwell is resumed on page 196: «The spirit does not lay in its spirit-form; but as soon as the death is over, it passes into a new organization, into a new body created from matter, but so pure in comparison to its old body, that even its beauty and refinement occupy no small portion of its first examination». The communicating entity (Sweedenborg) then raises by himself the objection that can be advanced against a ready-made body, kept aside and waiting to be put on, so to speak, by a newly arrived spirit in that dimension: the process of formation and development of our human body is in fact a dynamic one, and passes through various stages, while this new body with which the spirit is clothed is presented to us as static and permanent, that is, not composed of living matter. As usual, the question is dismissed by saying that we are not able to understand what happens in the spirit dimension: «...it may be answered, that when every thing on your earth is measured by the standard of what exists on that earth, it is no criterion by which to judge of cause and effect in the spirit-land. And again, your ideas of creation are so circumscribed by the diminutive little earth you occupy, that there is no great wonder that your conclusions should be of no great magnitude either» (ibid). This way of (not) reasoning, typical of those who would like to convince without being able to give adequate and in-depth explanations of what they are stating, is found in a large part of mediumistic communications.
The process of the Ego's transition from our earthly organic dimension (sometimes defined as the first sphere) to the spiritual dimension in which it will have to dwell (generally identified with the second sphere), coinciding with the death of the human organism, is so described on page 195: «What the last sensations of the dying may be, perhaps it will ever be impossible to know... the mind seems to acquire, even in death, a new property – that of observing the many circumstances which are taking place in the world to which the spirit goes – and I believe that this new property gives it the power of assisting the spirit to see the form of friends, and the light which always surrounds a good spirit; and, I am confident, facts bear me out in this assertion. When, then, one is dying, his spirit passing out of the old body as out of a shell, often indistinctly beholds the form of men and women around it. It sometimes, too, beholds the shadowy outline of some parts of the second sphere, and thus the expressions which we often hear may readily be accounted for. The last idea, or tangible sensation to the dying – I mean to the dying who retains his senses – is, perhaps, anguish at parting from friends, and a sort of strange expectancy at what he is to witness after death. I am inclined to agree with an idea often advanced by one of you, that, for the most part, the dying lose al fear of death. The near approach of the spirit to the borders of that sphere into which it is about entering, acts upon the mortal dread of death as a soother and quieter of its previous apprehension. It is a sort of an amalgamation of feeling, a kind of mingling of spirit-land with earth, and it tranquilizes the soul in its last conflict with this state of its bodily organization». I have quoted this long passage in its entirety both to note the supposition form with which this information is given – underlined by expressions such as it will ever be impossible to know, I believe, I am confident, I am inclined to agree – and to consider that the death of our human organisms can occur at any age and in very different ways from one case to another, while one has the impression that the communicating entity is referring only to a standard model, so to speak, of transition. It is then explained how, after a period of more or less intense numbing of consciousness, the Ego is helped to awaken and settle in the new dimension by friendly spirits who have come to help it: «Well, the soul has waked up in a new body and on a new earth. It has recognized friends and kindred, and has learned, that it has passed from death to life. Now commences the history of the life of that spirit» (page 196).
This information, the reliability of which everyone is free to evaluate as they see fit, are however quite clear in outlining the spirit's evolutionary path, and substantially differ from other information obtained in the following decades, through various other mediums. Sweedenborg and Bacon entities argue that human life consists in the formation and development of an organism, which gives rise to a conscious Ego that allows an individual spirit to pass from a condition of potential existence – devoid of any form of consciousness – to a condition in which, by exerting his influence on the Ego, it can become aware of its own existence and personal qualities. After the process of the death of its own organism, which is experienced by the Ego in one of the various forms in which it occurs, the Ego becomes a spirit and continues to exist in a new dimension through a more or less material organism already preformed and suited to such life. The spiritual Ego does not lose awareness of its personal identity, and retains the memory of at least some of the experiences of its previous earthly life, but it proceeds along its evolutionary path towards an increasingly spiritual condition, dwelling for a more or less long time in one sphere and passing – when it feels the need – to a higher sphere, in any case without ever having to go back to a lower level. This is what the spiritual path defined as progression consists of. It seems to me that there is a certain coherence in this vision, which has the merit of always ensuring to every spirit conditions of existence in continual improvement, as it gradually advances from the more or less evolved initial state to which it is transferred after the death of its organism. We will see later how these communicating entities address two fundamental issues: the fate of the spirits of those who die prematurely, even in childhood, and that of those whose conscious Ego, in the course of the human adventure, felt attracted by the tunings of the psyche's negative polarity, identifying with them and causing harm and suffering to other humans.
Let us now see how is described the existence in the second sphere, which appears to be the most common destination of the conscious Ego after it has separated from its human organism: «Now, in the second sphere, there are many places or planets occupied by spirits, and it goes to one or the other in obedience to this law (of affinity), and there remains until it is ushered into the sphere above. It finds the land or earth which it inhabits organized like your own, requiring labor to develop its resources, and that it is incumbent on it to labor for its own good as well as others. And here lat me say, that, in the spheres, labor is substantially the first fealty demanded in any community of any person who may claim to be a member. It is the great characteristic of the spirit-land, and is recognized as of God» (page 197). I have already pointed out the naivety of this contamination, attributable to the human psyche, for which work is understood not as a free activity based on the interest of the spiritual Ego for knowledge, for creativity or for the various forms of interaction with other spirits, but still as a necessity determined by environmental conditions, in relation to the needs of a hypothetical organism which should by now be free from any form of suffering. The fact that a reference is made to many places or planets (that is, worlds) within this second sphere indicates a further subdivision, on which no other information is provided. It is true that, if we consider our physical universe as the first sphere, we can hypothesize that even within it there are many other worlds on which life forms could have developed about which we know absolutely nothing. Anyway, the entity that communicates through Dexter continues to describe an environment very similar to that of our Earth, in which the spirit still has to provide for the needs of its organism, even if for different reasons from those we are used to in this life: «...the new spirit often finds it necessary to shelter its body from the sun or storm; not because it gives it pain, or that it would induce sickness or disease to expose its body to all the variations of temperature, but that its pleasures are enhanced by its compliance with all the laws of nature; and to expose the body to cold or wet, with its organization not entirely freed from all admixture of earth, would diminish the real pleasure it would receive from shelter or protection. Consequently, it erects its habitations, and clothes its body, and looks out for the means of sustaining its strength, or, rather, of providing for its appetite. Learn, also, that the laws of nature, in their application to the material body of the spirit, are so properly appreciated by the spirit, that while a violation would not produce disease or pain, yet the spirit who neglects or refuses compliance is degraded, as a punishment for such infraction of what it knows to be right. And this is not inflicted by any tribunal, but take place as a natural consequent; the spirit sinks lower and lower, till its density bears it to the places below the earth» (ibid).
It is even embarrassing to have to highlight the puerile absurdity of these statements, which are not only in stark contrast to other mediumistic communications, but contradict the very principle of the spirit progression, as it had been explained by the same entities. There is no sound reason for this supposed extension of the laws of nature to a hypothetical organism whose constitution is not explained and whose vital needs are so ambivalently described. It happens quite often that in the various mediumistic communications relating to a possible continuation of the existence of the conscious Ego in an otherworldly dimension, contaminations of the human psyche are found that are certainly not very convincing, and sometimes even absurd: the fascination exerted on us by the various extraordinary, enigmatic and inexplicable physical phenomena that these same inorganic entities are able to produce through mediums cannot and should not lead us to believe everything that is revealed or taught by them, when it is indigestible for our intellectual faculties, even while taking into account the limits of our mind. In Judge Edmonds' case, the entities often insist on the truth of what they reveal about the existence in the spirit dimensions: «It is not for the purpose of showing to the world that spirits can confer with man... but it is for the purpose of showing you the truths of your spirit-life, after the spirit has left the body, that we leave our high estate and the blissful life of the spheres, and come to earth to teach you» (page 353). Even this reference to an almost physical shift from the higher spheres to the lower planes of our world leaves us somewhat perplexed. The path of progression is then reiterated in these terms: «You desire that you may, step by step, ascend from one condition to another, leaving behind you the evils and errors of your material nature... Your spirits long for the time when you may wander among the beautiful scenes of the spirit-world, when you may drink up from every object around the truths of nature and of God; when filled with joy inexpressible you may give utterance to thoughts which reach the intense desire for perfection; when divested of every thing impure, the spirit sees in spirit the eternal essence freed from all admixture with earth; when not a thought, not a desire, shall bring back its earthly connection; but filled with love and inspired with wisdom, it lays its grasp even on the footstool of the throne of God, and claims possession as its birthright!» (page 354).
The information provided about the conditions of existence in spirit communities reflects, often in an archaic and almost fairy-tale way, those of our human life: «...the climate they live in is exactly adapted to the condition of their organization, and having but comparatively little of matter to protect, they feel none of the changes of climate, which are very rare. There is no money, and the land is subdivided into communities or neighborhoods, and in them the land is also again laid out in parcels for each to till for the benefit of all. The government is patriarchal, and the head of a sphere is a spirit invisible, who communicates his wishes to those higher spirits by absolute oral statements, or by impression» (page 279). Although the entities sometimes seem to attribute great importance to the information about the existence in the spirit dimension that they communicate, in fact this information is vague, naive, confused and unreliable. According to what Bacon says to Edmonds and Dexter (page 134), «...our teachings on the habits, life, condition, and circumstances of the spirit after death we consider of the most vital importance properly to be communicated, and after months of preparation we have brought you two together to go hand in hand in this labor of truth». However, the results of this operation do not seem to us particularly smart: Judge Edmonds appears to believe these revelations, probably because they conform to certain tunings of his psyche. Yet, having frequented various mediums, he had already been able to ascertain and had publicly pointed out the substantial and sometimes irreconcilable differences found between mediumistic communications. The fact that these communications were obtained through Dexter's automatic writing – with the modalities that we have previously illustrated – can lead us to think that Dexter's own mental system operated unconsciously, through his brain, to present in written form dreamy and imaginary representations, on the true origin of which Dexter's conscious Ego was kept completely in the dark. However we are aware of many other cases in which communications are obtained when the medium is in a full trance, and in ways incompatible not only with the normal functioning of the human brain, but also with any form of altered functioning which nevertheless must take into account the laws of physics: we can mention, for example, the cases of communications obtained by direct voice, by direct writing, or verbally by materialized entities. In an attempt to explain these phenomena, one must anyway hypothesize the intervention of alien energies with respect to those that control mental activity in our human dimension.
As we have seen, sometimes this interaction between the attunements of the human psyche and the information relating to a dimension that should be beyond the range of action of the psyche is highlighted by the same entities. Bacon continues by saying: «We will explain; but after all, your own judgment is to be your guide under all circumstances» (page 134). If on the one hand this affirmation constitutes a recognition of the importance of the intellectual faculties of human mind, on the other it relativizes the value and reliability of the information that is transmitted to us by mediumistic means regarding a dimension that we cannot directly know, and on which the communicating entities themselves prove to have somewhat vague and confused ideas. For example, here is what Sweedenborg has to say about the dimensions in which spirits should dwell: «Spheres or circles, as I understand them, mean locations in circles or orbits of globes where spirits go. In the earlier days of these manifestations, there were many forced interpretations given to statements made by spirits, which often assumed the color of the belief of the individual, not from design, but from impression, and consequently often a blend of truth with error was the result. Now, I know that spirits go to other planets. The soul is a Cosmopolite amid the eternity of worlds. And is it strange that it should select an abiding-place where it can be most happy?» (page 123). No, it doesn't seem strange to us, but it is not explained whether the reference is to other planets of our physical universe (as requested by the sitter who asked the question to which the entity is answering), or to other worlds belonging to the spirit dimension. When they speak, in a generic way, of the worlds belonging to the spheres that spirits can visit, entities never clarify whether those are physical worlds that the spirit can experience with a suitable organism (as happens for us on this Earth), or worlds belonging to a spiritual dimension, directly accessible to spirits through the perception system at their disposal. Also with regard to our world, again on the basis of what is stated by the communicating entities, one sometimes gets the impression that spirits can see, perceive and know what is happening here, while other times it seems that they are able to perceive, more or less confusedly, only the sensations and thoughts elaborated by the mind of the medium or the sitters. For instance, Bacon says: «...when I am with you, and your whole system is passive, I can read it, but not distinctly, I mean not every thought, but enough to understand their direction and the subject» (page 124).
On page 174 Sweedenborg entity describes the environment of the sixth sphere, to which it was destined. After saying that he was welcomed into a community of chosen spirits, made up mostly of those who had been his relatives and friends during his earthly life, he continues as follows: «The air was pure, and the whole heavens were bright and clear beyond all comparison. I saw no difference in the sky, exept its brightness and purity; and on looking abroad on the earth, I could detect no difference in its appearance from our earth, exept in the heavenly beauty and harmony in the arrangement of the landscape... The trees, the rocks and mountains, the flowers and birds, the gushing torrents and the murmuring rivulets, the oceans and rivers, man, woman, and child, all passed before me, so far excelling every thing I had conceived or imagined in the beauty of form, in the glorious demonstrations of their nature...». In this idealized environment, yet still similar to terrestrial landscapes, the spirits carry out their activities: «We occupy earth – tangible, positive earth – as much as your earth; but the advanced state of both spirit and locality renders it unnecessary for us to labor much to obtain food for the support of our bodies. Then, again, the earth brings forth spontaneously most of the food required for our bodies. And I would say, the advanced spirits do not require as much food as those who are below them. Their bodies, in every sphere to which they are elevated, lose a portion of their grossness, and as they are more refined, they become more like the spirit itself» (page 175). As can be seen, while passing from the second to the sixth sphere, the environment described remains substantially the same, similar to some nice landscapes of our world, with at most some difference in what we could define as the degree of purity, harmony and beauty: the needs of the presumed organisms with which the spirits would continue to be endowed become progressively less binding as they progress towards the higher spheres, even if they remain qualitatively similar to those of our human organism. The influence of the human psyche in these representations of the spirit dimension is highlighted by the communicating entity itself: «Thus when comparing the condition of things, your mind can the more readily perceive what is the state of those worlds fashioned for the residence of spirits, whose minds, filled with knowledge, and incited only by the strong feeling of love and adoration of God, are placed there to live, to inhabit that earth, and to form just such connections and associations as the same spirit did on earth» (page 176).