& Textual Conventions

"It has been responsibly urged that honest and undoctored records of actual subjective experience will ultimately enable philosophers to systematise posthumous existence in their general scheme of the universe." - Sir Oliver Lodge, 1919

The Afterlife Guide is an attempt to bring before the public eye a representative sampling of descriptions of the worlds that humans should expect to encounter after departing this one via death's door. The Afterlife Guide is not designed to prove, or even to offer evidence for, the existence of an afterlife. If you are not convinced of the Survival of the human personality beyond the demise of the physical body, you are urged to study the cases presented in the Survival Top 40 section of this website. Only those viewers familiar with highly evidential cases such as are described therein are likely to understand and benefit from the descriptions quoted in this Afterlife Guide.

The descriptions are taken mostly from statements made by the spirits residing in other realms who have managed to communicate with us by impressing the minds of those especially sensitive people generally known as mediums or channels. In addition, a few of the descriptions come from memories uncovered by hypnotically regressing people to the time before their birth.

At best, this is a most difficult undertaking; perhaps, as some have suggested, an impossible one. For one thing, the number of potential sources is not precisely known but certainly large enough to be intimidating. For another, the structure of the afterlife realms is, at best, complex and could be incomprehensible. And then, we are faced with the task of drawing parallels between statements made in different eras by spirits at different levels having different purposes attempting to communicate via the most imperfect mechanisms of mediums who possess equally varied faculties.

Nor should the spirits themselves be granted equal authority to one another. As one spirit communicated back in the early 1850s:

"All spirits are not equally enlightened in regard to these matters. Some spirits are still so little advanced intellectually as to be incapable of understanding abstract ideas; they are like children in your world. Other spirits are full of false learning, and make a vain parade of words in order to impose their authority upon those who listen to them. They, also, resemble too many in your world. And besides, even spirits who are really enlightened may express themselves in terms which appear to be different, but which, at bottom, mean the same thing, especially in regard to matters which your language is incapable of expressing clearly, and which can only he spoken of to you by means of figures and comparisons that you mistake for literal statements of fact."

For all these reasons, the reader is well advised to avoid taking any single statement as literal truth and to rely, instead, on gleaning consensus from what appears to be the majority view on each topic, while recognizing that divergent views may be equally correct from different perspectives and assumptions. In some cases, the uncommon perspective may even offer a key for comprehending otherwise perplexing statements.

Those sources which, in the personal opinion of the compiler, might be judged as the more authoritative (but not necessarily the most concordant) have been signified with a diamond [ ♦ ] on the source list. In like manner, those sources that include the fullest descriptions of the afterlife are marked with a club [ ♣ ]; those that are the more analytical are marked with a spade [ ♠ ]; and those that are the most endearing with a heart [ ♥ ].

The compiler has been on-guard not to make selections based on his personal views. Nevertheless, no human is without bias, and some of its effects are bound to creep into any such compilation. For this and other reasons, this guide is not an end in itself, but is intended to be a reference, a source of inspiration, and a gateway to other literature on the subject.

Current Conundrums

Consensus is instructive but not necessarily absolute. Although agreements are widely apparent, three issues are highlighted by stark disagreement. These are: the age of souls, the structure of the spirit body, and reincarnation. The varying views on the latter two can be most likely understood as the result of spirits speaking from their own experience in different levels having different characteristics.

Regarding the structure of post-physical bodies, if we accept the consensus that we have many bodies encased one within another in the manner of Russian nesting dolls, then it might be concluded that the outer bodies are cellular or fibrous, and the inner, more spiritual, bodies are unitary or atomic. Thus, as a soul advances from one level to the next, it sheds the outermost layer and is seen from the outside as more unitary and less cellular than its previous façade. On the other hand, the "nesting-dolls" concept would seem to demand that astral bodies in the shape of fully formed humans be somehow squeezed into tiny fetuses or newborn infants. This adds weight to the position taken by some spirits that the astral body is developed as the physical body grows and the mind develops. This astral body is then the vehicle for the soul in the next world, but it is abandoned when a soul either reincarnates to another physical body or "dies" to a higher level of existence.

As for reincarnation, which many spirits take for granted and discuss at length while others claim does not happen at all, such diversity is easily explained by taking the position that not all realms have terminals from which souls can depart for a return trip to Earth. A few spirits muddy the reincarnational waters by postulating oversouls or group souls, but it is very hard to conceive of how these would explain why hypnotic regressions to past lives can have such salubrious effects on the health and mental well-being of subjects. Being as we Earthlings have such a vague notion of what an individual soul actually is, perhaps it is best to postpone consideration of oversouls until we are in a position to know more.

An issue not so easily reconciled is the matter of the age of souls. While many sources speak of young souls and old souls, the training of infant souls, and the constant creation of souls (even the birthing of souls); other sources are adamant that all souls were created at the beginning of time and are, therefore, equally old. Those of us who have yet to progress beyond the physical realm would much prefer the former concept to be true; else we'd be faced with the fact that we who are still inhabiting the lowest realm must be some of the slowest developing spirits in the universe. A possible solution to this age conundrum may lie in the recognition that each human soul is a part - a very tiny part, to be sure - of the Almighty Creator. Its essence must be as old as the Creator, therefore, in the same manner that a freshly falling raindrop can rightly be said to be as old as the oceans from which it came.

There is one claim, emphatically stated by many spirits, that is nevertheless purely speculative; that is the claim that all souls are eternal. No one, not even God, could possibly know that.

The Geography of the Afterlife

Both incarnate and discarnate authors have given varying names to different realms (or dimensions, or levels, or planes, or frequencies) of the non-physical universe. Some of these are heaven, hell, Hades, astral, etheric, mental, causal, and celestial. Other sources classify the realms by numbering them — generally one through seven - although not all agree on what numbers signify what realms. For the purpose of sorting statements into topics under the "Destinations" category of this Afterlife Guide, we employ three simple divisions: Lower, Middle, and Higher. If the physical Earth is numbered one, then the Lower Realm would be number two. The Middle Realms would then be three, four, and perhaps five, leaving the label "Higher Realms" to designate the sixth and seventh. Whether there is actually a strict demarcation between realms is a matter of some disagreement.

Any statement concerning the Lower and Higher Realms will be found in the topic so named (i.e.T3,3 and T3,5). The topic labeled Middle Realms (T3,4) is limited to statements concerning the general quality of experiences therein; this is because virtually every other subject and category in the Guide concerns only the Middle Realms. There are two reasons for this. First, the Middle Realms are the likely destination of the vast majority of our readers. Second, and most critically, because those spirits who supply the information contained herein almost exclusively limit their travelogues to the Middle Realms.

Deciphering descriptions of the Higher Realms is especially tricky. Just as a child about to leave pre-school may have a good idea of what awaits in kindergarten but no comprehension of the trials of med school, so speculating about the nature of the highest reaches of the multiverse will likely prove as unproductive as it is unnecessary — although it can be an intriguing diversion.

When trying to comprehend the structure of the spirit realms, it could be useful to ponder how they might have come into being. It seems logical that, rather than the entire system making its appearance simultaneously, it would have developed in stages. The question is: Did the universe accrete from the center outward, that is from the more spiritual to the more physical, or did it progress from the lower to the higher, or were the levels created in some other order? Other than pointing out that the Creator had to exist prior to His creations, there is no way we could discern the answer as regards the higher realms, which are hidden from incarnate souls; nevertheless, something might be inferred from the relation between the lower two realms which, for purposes of this explanation, we shall refer to as the physical and the astral. (Here we ignore the purgatorial realm number two, typically described as transitional.)

According to most spirit communicators who venture an opinion, the astral is independent of the physical. Also, they say that those on the astral are more advanced in knowledge than those on the physical. Some even claim that the physical is a reflection of the astral and that the astral is, therefore, "more real" than the physical. From all that, it seems safe to assume that the astral was populated prior to the existence of the physical. But, by whom, and from whence?

Pure Speculation

One answer that seems to fit the revelations is that newly created souls were first deployed to one of the Middle Realms (collectively known as Summerland). From there, they could progress to higher levels. Summerland, however, may have turned out to be so enjoyable that souls sometimes lacked motivation to learn and develop, so a similar realm was created — one notch lower —wherein thoughts were not so readily converted to things and strife and unpleasantness could be experienced. The result is that now Summerland serves as both a vacation resort where a soul can relax and play, and as an adult education center where learning and growth are possible but slow. Those souls motivated to develop quicker can return as often as they wish to the tougher school and somewhat less halcyon vacation spot of physical life.

Those readers who enjoy this sort of speculating might also wish to consider what Summerland was like for its first residents. Today, we hear of wondrous vistas dotted with imposing temples, crystalline mountains and sparkling rivers, palatial homes and lush vegetation; but, we are told, these marvels were created by the joint mental efforts of current and prior residents. What, then, did this realm look like when the first spirits came to reside there?

Textual Conventions

The great majority of statements herein are direct quotes from discarnate spirits and are enclosed in double quote marks. If a question from the original source precedes the statement, it is printed in italics. Words or phrases added by the compiler to clarify meaning are placed in brackets [ ]. Statements from hypnotherapists or other non-discarnates are simply printed without quote marks.

Each statement is preceded by a number indicating the source (book or article) and page within that source where the quote begins. If the page number is multi-part [xx/yy], the quote is a composite of statements made on two non-sequential pages. Page numbers preceded by a tilde [~] are approximate; the exact number not being available on the e-version consulted. Words or phrases left out of quotes for reasons of succinctness are identified by ellipsis […]. On rare occasions, the order of phrases has been rearranged for clarity; these are separated by a tilde [~].

A Welcoming Statement

"From where the mellow light is constantly shedding its mild rays over the whole landscape; where, too, the brilliant tints of that gorgeous brightness which emanates from the spheres beyond illumines the blue space above with the sparkling radiance of a brightness greater than the sun; where the gentle breeze wafts the fragrance of a perfume, richer far than the odors or spices of Eastern fable; where the balmy atmosphere clothes each object with a purity surpassing man's comprehension; where each hill and valley is so beautifully laid out and fashioned in exact correspondence, that the whole landscape seems redolent in beauty of proportion and comparison; where spirits dwell and build their houses amid clustering bowers of roses, and under the shade of the spreading tree, near the bank of some murmuring waterfall, or deep secluded in the bosom of some lovely vale; where the carol of a thousand birds wakes up each echo to the clear tones of nature's music, or fills the air with the glad notes of joyous incense; where grand and magnificent structures are erected, and temples fashioned in all the chaste proportions of true beauty; where, when the duties or labor of the time are over, thousands, aye, thousands upon thousands of glad and happy spirits float in this gorgeous and yet mellow light, or walk in these shady bowers, or mingle in happy intercourse by the side of some gurgling fountain, whose sparkling waters bathe a bank of flowers, or glide peacefully through a grassy plain; where every heart is earnest in its desires to know more and more of the true properties of that wondrous mind with which they are gifted; where every emotion is one of love, and every aspiration to make that love felt; where there are none of the strifes and cares of mortality, and none of the sacrifices of future happiness for present pleasure or profit; where the soul stands out in its proper guise, and meets the response of thought for thought; where the God who made this vast creation, whose immensity man has not the power even to imagine, is worshiped by the works of his hands; and where the spirit communes with its Creator through its own manifestations, come I."
[Greeting from the spirit of Emmanuel Swedenborg via the hand of George T. Dexter in Spiritualism, p.241, 1853.]

Subject • Category Menu

Click on any bulleted item.

The Transition - T

    • Sensations & Emotions - T1

    • Location - T2

    • Destinations - T3

    • Arriving/Awakening - T4

    • Greeters & Guides - T5

    • Review & Judgement - T6

Conditions/Environment - C

    • Physicality/Realness - C1

    • Light & Climate - C2

    • Landscape & Vegetation - C3

    • Buildings & Infrastructure - C4

    • Time - C5

    • Technology - C6

Particular Populations - P

    • Children & Infants - P1

    • Stillbirths & Abortions - P2

    • Aliens/Non-Earthlings - P3

    • Pets & Animals - P4

    • Angelic Beings - P5

    • Suicides - P6

Mind & Body - B

     • Character & Emotions - B1

     • Memory & Knowledge - B2

     • Structure & Functions - B3

     • Appearance & Clothing - B4

     • Food & Drugs - B5

     • Rest & Sleep - B6

Operating/Functioning - F

    • Communicating - F1

    • Traveling - F2

    • Creating & Controlling - F3

Social Aspects - S

     • Gender & Sexuality - S1

     • Personal Relations - S2

     • Race & Ethnicity - S3

     • Status & Competition -S4

     • Government & Authority - S5

     • Trade & Money - S6

Activities - A

    • Religion & Morality - A1

   •  Work & Study - A2

    • Entertainment & Art - A3

    • Sports & Games - A4

    • Gatherings & Celebrations- A5

    • Leisure & Hobbies - A6

Relation to Material Realm - R

     • Awareness of - R1

     • Communicating with - R2

     • Attraction to - R3

     • Ability to Affect - R4

     • How Affected by Us - R5

Soul Development - D

    • Birth/Creation - D1

    • Oversouls & Groups - D2

    • Choosing the Physical - D3

    • Reincarnation - D4

    • Advancement/Progress - D5

    • Apotheosis - D6

Source Materials

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