Here is the third 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]
[Part II is here]
[5/5/1866] QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. [Excerpt] Q. Is the man now living who will construct a machine which will take electricity or magnetism from the atmosphere without exhausting metals or acids, and make it a motive power to the extent that it will take the place of steam for that purpose; and will he use the means arising from the invention for the Spiritual cause? A. No one man will accomplish that object, if it is ever accomplished at all; but ever is an eternity—a long while. That it may be consummated remains for the future to develop. We cannot see the man who will accomplish the object which the question seems to demand. Spiritualism is something that will take care of itself—devise its own ways and means, and accomplish its own desires and objects.
Q. Will my spirit be individualized after passing from mortality to immortality? A. We would infer from the question that our brother desires to know if upon the spiritual plane of life he will be an individualized being, and retain consciousness of his individuality upon the material plane. We would say most emphatically that he will. We can speak from experience, for we once lived upon the material plane, and passed from the material to the spiritual, and we still retain our individuality, and also a perfect remembrance of our experience upon earth.
Q. Do spirits rest as well as act? A. It is hard for individuals while upon the material plane of life to make a distinction between the spirit and the covering of the spirit. The spirit is never weary. It is only that through which it manifests itself to you that becomes tired and needs rest. The spirit has a covering upon this plane of life as well as upon yours. That we should require rest would not be at all strange, for remember that we have bodies as well as you, although not like yours or those that we once had—subject to disease and change. Those were subject to change, and they passed through what you call death, wasting away by disease, but ours don’t. Bear in mind, my friend, that although we are upon the spiritual plane, yet each one of us has a form corresponding in every particular to the form that we once had; the form that we now have is given us so that we may be recognized by one another. When persons arrive at that point when, in speaking of friends that have left the material plane of life, and entered upon what they now call the spiritual, they are enabled to recognize them as individuals, then the feeling of wonder and astonishment at our manifesting ourselves to them will have passed away. When you look upon us as possessing power equal unto yourselves, then you will readily perceive that we can accomplish something while upon the spiritual as well as upon the material plane of life.
[6/9/1866] Q. What possible object can spirits have in devoting their time to mortals? A. What possible object has a mother in devoting her time and energies incessantly to her child? You answer, it is for its happiness while upon earth. So with guardian spirits. They are attracted by the innocent bud, and seeing the germ within that bud, they desire to witness its proper unfolding, and to surround it by proper conditions through which it will gradually develop into beauteous manhood or womanhood. This is their care. As there are many whose parents have not the least care, or control over their children, these need more especially the watchful and tender love of guardian spirits. They take charge of them in this life, and not only in this one, but they are among the first to greet them when they enter upon the second plane of life—the spiritual one—where, to the newborn spirit, everything Is as strange as it is at its entrance upon the material plane of life. You will agree with me in this: that a long-tried friend, one that Is true every time, is a very pleasant companion in a strange land. He is one to be with you, that you may never feel alone. One to give a word of encouragement when all seems dark. One to whisper peace when the storm is howling without. What possible object can spirits have in devoting their time to mortals? We answer that their sole object is the happiness of their charges as well as their own enjoyment, while thus attending upon them.
[6/23/1866] Q. What are the avocations of spirit life? A. The avocations of spirit life differ precisely as they do upon the material plane of life. For Instance, the artist has his work here. The physician his; not saying that he has to heal upon this plane, but as you behold the disease upon the material plane, and admit that spirits have the power to heal upon that plane, then you will see we have plenty to do….
[6/30/1866] Q. Do persons who die insane continue so after death? A. We hold, my brother, that no spirit, or that the spiritual portion of man or woman, is ever insane. Were it so, then a part of the great Principle we term God would be insane, for every being is a part of the great Positive Mind or great Spirit of life. The organism through which a spirit manifests itself often becomes so deranged by disease or other causes, that we suppose from the action of the spirit through that organism that the spirit itself most be insane. Yet when that spirit is freed from the deranged external organism, you will readily perceive that it is also relieved from its insanity.
Q. Is it a fact, as some allege, that there are spirits who roam in darkness and misery for hundreds of years? A. My friend, we are happy, extremely happy, to say that we know of no such instances. Were it possible for a spirit to remain in such darkness upon the spiritual plane, it seems to us that it would prove beyond a doubt that the spiritual plane is inferior to the material; for with the advantages that we believe every human being has, and ever has had, it would be impossible. Yet when we see individuals upon the material plane of life, that can conscientiously consign a brother or sister to eternal punishment, (and mark you, eternity is longer than one hundred years,) we do not wonder that the same spirit, after entering upon the spiritual plane of life, would conceive of and give those upon the material plane of life something almost as terrible as that punishment. When you can show us a human being that is not susceptible to an external influence, then perhaps we shall have found one that could remain in a dark and benighted condition one hundred years!
Q. Is progress natural and easy in spirit life, or Is it attended with much difficulty? A. We say that spirits upon the spiritual plane of life do not experience what we denominate a task—they do that which they are attracted to do, and that only. Then it is done easily—that which is done with a light heart, is easily done. It is not the spirit that is weary, but the organism through which the spirit has to manifest itself.
[7/18/1868] Q. Where is the home of the spirits? Is it a location like our earth? A. The Spiritual plane of existence is an outgrowth of the material one. It is right here. You deal with the material plane—we with the spiritual; both are right here. The material and spiritual are both visible to us, while the material alone is visible to you. You might as well think of going far down for the spirit world, as far up for it. The idea of going far away is derived from the theological idea of a far off heaven!