Here is the second installment of our look back at Chicago’s Religio-Philosophical Journal, one of America’s leading spiritualist periodicals published during the second half of the nineteenth century. The questions and answers below are once again taken from the newspaper’s popular “Communications from the Inner Life” column that featured transcriptions of séance conversations with spirits who wished to give the living a better understanding of typical activities in the afterlife.
[Part I is here]
[10/7/1865] QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. Q. Is it generally known in that part of the Spirit Land, where the presiding spirits of this circle are, that Spirits can come here and find means to communicate with their friends who are yet in earth life? A. It is known—not only known there, but it is generally known in the Spirit Land. Those who inhabit the Spirit Land seek every opportunity to communicate to friends on earth. Persons on the earth plane can judge of the anxiety of Spirits to communicate by their own feelings. Some are anxious to communicate to friends, and some are restless, and want to come back on that account; and some, who have been in Spirit Life a long time, want to come back and visit friends, as you do in earth life, want to visit friends you have long been absent from.
….A lady [in the circle] said—If spirits know all that transpires here, I should not want them to come back. I do not think it would add to their happiness. Spirit replied—If spirits knew all that transpires here, you would not want them to come back. Aye! If they were here with you they would know in part what transpired concerning you. They would pass with you through the lights and shades of life, and as they would enjoy the light, they would also feel sad in the shade; but if they could see ahead, and see the light that was to come out of the shade, they would then enjoy the shade.
Q. Can spirits look beyond all such shades and always see a light beyond? A. When a lady plants a flower garden, she does not mourn over the darkness that surrounds the seed planted, but looks beyond to the beautiful flower. And as they can look beyond and see the beautiful flower, so we can look beyond the shade and see the light.
Q. Do spirits who die with a long, lingering disease feel as strong, on entering the spirit world, as one who dies in full health and strength? A. The condition of the one who dies with a lingering fit of sickness is better than that of one who dies suddenly.
Q. Please assign the reasons. A. It is like sending a person to school. The person who is sick a long time is better prepared for the change.
Q. Wherein is he better prepared by sickness? A. Because when we are prepared for a journey before starting, all is right; when not, all is confusion.
[11/4/1865] QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. Q. Are there lakes, rivers, seas and oceans, in the spirit land corresponding to the same on earth? A. As the spirit land is an outgrowth of the earthplane, corresponding in every particular, you will very readily see that we have lakes, rivers, seas and oceans in the spirit land.
Q. Do such rivers, lakes, seas and oceans abound with living creatures, as in earthly waters? A. Yes; but not gross material creatures, but such as correspond with the spiritual plane of life. To us they are as natural as living creatures are to you.
Q. If I understand correctly the location of rivers, lakes, seas and oceans in the spirit land, they are an outgrowth of those on the material plane, and consequently are immediately above and around them, as the aroma or perfume of a flower is an emanation from the flower? Please explain this matter fully. A. Your question is an answer in itself. Previous questions and answers that have been published in the Journal informed you that the spiritual plane corresponds in every particular to the material plane you occupy, but in a more refined and beautiful condition.
[2/17/1866] QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. [Excerpt] Q. Is not premature death, in reference to spirit life, like unto premature birth in reference to earth life? A. We cannot admit there is premature death. We hold that all things are in accordance with the desire and will of the pervading power that governs all; and not seeing or knowing everything that is necessary for the development of the life principle of each human soul, it is not well to say that its death is premature. The condition in the spirit world may be better for it than longer continuance on the material plane of life.
Q. Why is it that Ben Franklin, and other celebrities, purport to Influence so many mediums? A. A vast number of spirits wishing to communicate, assume such names, hoping thereby to gain attention. Many spirits at the present time assume the name of Abraham Lincoln, and ere long his name will be as common as Ben Franklin’s. Many spirits think their communications will be more satisfactory with a distinguished name attached to them.
[Continued in Part III]