Studying the afterlife is a strange pursuit, even among those who are attracted to spiritual topics. It often feels as if I have been given a box of puzzle pieces – remnants from a dozen different puzzles – and my job is to make some kind of cohesive image of out them. I struggle in frustration to make them fit, or I rejoice when some part of the picture becomes clear. Sometimes I despair and throw everything back into the box only to sneak back to it later and pull out all of those pieces again to re-examine them, looking for fresh insight.
I have always considered the subject of life after death to be the most critical mystery of my life. The answer to this question affects everything about the way I perceive my own purpose, participate meaningfully in relationships, and respond to adversity. I’ve really never understood the ordinary person who, when asked about their beliefs in life after death, throws up their hands and says, ‘we could never know for sure what happens, so why bother thinking about it?’
I am well aware that whatever conception of life after death I might be able to piece together will be an approximation. As Rita Warren reminds Frank DeMarco (Rita’s World Volume I) “translation of multidimensional reality into 3D terms [..] is always going to have to be intuited [due to] lack of ability to bring more dimensions into representation in fewer. It can be done, in the way that perspective can seem to represent three dimensions in a drawing of two, but perspective only works if the experiencer has already seen three dimensions.” Perhaps my understanding will necessarily be limited to analogy. As Seth (Jane Roberts, Seth Speaks) has always said about religious stories of the afterlife, “They serve a purpose in giving man some plan to be followed.”
Today, I bring you yet another piece of the puzzle from which we may attempt to intuit the nature of the afterlife. The source is the inimitable Frederic W. H. Myers, co-founder and later president of the Society for Psychical Research, that intrepid group of men and women whose careful analysis, support and preservation of spiritual evidence laid the foundation for the spiritual golden age we enjoy today.
Frederic W. H. Myers is well-known for the contributions he made to psychical research during his life, especially in the area of life after death research which was the focus of his inquiry. Even after his death, Myers’ was eager to communicate his newfound knowledge of the afterlife to the surviving members of the SPR. Utilizing various mediums, Myers is implicated in a number of interesting afterlife communications, though none more fascinating to me than the book we are going to study today, The Road to Immortality. His after-death treatise on the spirit world and spiritual progression, in my opinion, is one of the most comprehensible, genuine, and fascinating tours through the spirit world that has ever been written. Before we delve into the afterlife according to Frederic Myers, a little introduction is in order.
Born 1843 in Keswick, Cumberland, England, Myers was formally educated and took up a position as a school inspector. His interest in psychical research developed after a long discussion with his friend Henry Sidgwick in 1869. Later, in 1882, the two would join a company of other notable researchers interested in studying the veracity of the burgeoning spiritualist movement and form the Society for Psychical Research.
Myers’ interest in psychical research and specifically the survival of death came at a time when religious orthodoxy was being replaced by science as the primary means for understanding the natural world. Myers, whose father was a Reverend, most certainly regarded his research as a ‘last chance’ for belief in life after death. Scientific discoveries of the time were undermining the credibility of church doctrine and casting aside old superstitions, myths and belief systems. In this new world of reason, Myers undoubtedly envisioned a future devoid of hope for life after death unless spiritual phenomena could withstand the rigors of scientific inquiry.
“If all attempts to verify scientifically the intervention of another world should be definitely proved futile, this would be a terrible blow, a mortal blow, to all our hopes of another life, as well as of traditional religion” for “it would thenceforth be very difficult for men to be persuaded, in our age of clear thinking, that what is now found to be illusion and trickery was in the past thought to be truth and revelation.” -Frederic W.H. Myers
Myers’ is most famous for his posthumous publication of Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, which is considered by many to be a foundational text of the spiritualist movement. Myers had often spoken of his desire to communicate his own survival after his death, and many believe he was successful through the cross-correspondences – messages received over decades by several mediums around the world that were non-nonsensical until they were put together, eventually, by surviving and new members of the SPR. The author attributed to the cross-correspondences was the deceased Myers himself, attempting to keep his promise of proving his own survival using a more scientifically rigorous method. The cross-correspondences are complex, controversial and fascinating, and unfortunately beyond the scope of this post. However, if you are interested in learning more about them, I will put a few resources at the end of this post.
After his death in 1901, a torrent of communications was submitted by mediums claiming to channel the spirit of Frederic Myers. The SPR investigated and found some to be clear frauds, fabrications or unconscious constructs of Myers’ personality and beliefs. Sir Oliver Lodge, fellow SPR member and friend of Myers examined such communications and determined that the views expressed would have been considered contradictory to his friend’s views and opinions.
It was Irish medium Geraldine Cummins (1890-1969) who was given the nod by Lodge as producing genuine communications by Myers. Lodge claimed to have received independent verification through another medium as to the authenticity of the communication and felt that the ideas expressed were consistent with Myers’ personality. The first work published in 1932 through Geraldine Cummins was titled The Road to Immortality. Myers explores the nature of the multidimensional afterlife as well as the soul’s progression through each of seven planes. Oliver Lodge himself penned the forward where he spoke of his appraisal for Cummins’ work: “I believe this to be a genuine attempt to convey approximately true ideas, through an amanuensis of reasonable education, characterized by ready willingness for devoted service, and of transparent honesty.”
The Road to Immortality – The Seven Spiritual Planes
The afterlife has commonly been described as multidimensional, or layered, in spiritual communications with positive spiritual progression toward higher, more sublime planes and regression downward toward more dense, drab and downright hellish planes. Myers describes the afterlife in terms of seven planes beginning with the physical experience on earth, and each level thereafter becoming progressively less earth-like and less material as one ascends. While the seven-plane configuration is common in spiritual literature, I’ve also seen the afterlife described as consisting of anywhere from only three planes, to twenty-one planes to an infinite continuum with planes and sub-planes too numerous to count. In my opinion, attempting to objectively divide the spirit world into dimensions, levels or planes is kind of like that old paradox about measuring a coastline. It really just depends on your perspective.
Myers refers to these planes as “an itinerary, of the journey of the soul’. The names given to each of the planes are his own creation; a way to convey the character and purpose of the soul’s journey.
(1) The Plane of Matter
(2) Hades or the Intermediate State
(3) The Plane of Illusion
(4) The Plane of Color
(5) The Plane of Flame
(6) The Plane of Light
(7) Out Yonder, Timelessness
The first plane, is of course, the familiar experience of living on the earth, or another similarly dense planet. Myers claims that there are many planets in the universe consisting of dense matter, which would all qualify as an experience on the first plane. More need not be said of the first plane, for we are all intimately familiar with life in a physical body, for better or for worse.
The Second Plane – Hades, or the Intermediate State
After our physical death, according to Myers, we move into the second plane, which Myers confusingly calls ‘Hades’. Myers asks us to avoid the negative connotations associated with the name, for this is no hellish domain. It is an intermediate plane; a temporary stop-over designed for healing and regeneration. Interestingly, Myers makes note of the fact that souls are not always conscious of their time in the second plane, a curious fact that I have noticed in other spiritual communications. A spirit communicator, describing the process of their own death, will often describe leaving their body and viewing their deathbed environment, then describe a period of unconsciousness, sleep or a gap in their memory before they ‘wake up’ in the afterlife proper, with their friends and relatives around to greet them.
Hades is a term which corresponds with the astral plane. Immediately on the dissolution of the body there comes a brief period of seeming disintegration, a temporary dislocation of those parts which make you one..[…] I died in Italy, a land I loved, and I was very weary at the time of my passing. For me, Hades was a place of rest, a place of half-lights and drowsy peace. As a man wins strength from a long deep sleep, so did I gather that spiritual and intellectual force I needed during the time I abode in Hades. According to his nature and make-up every traveller from the earth is affected in a different or varying manner by this place or state on the frontiers of two lives, on the borders of two worlds (Cummins, p. 9).
Although descriptions of the intermediate healing plane are common enough in many spirit communications, the most prominent description of this realm belongs to Sister Francis Banks in a book written through medium Helen Greaves called Testimony of Light. As Myers pointed out, each person will experience the intermediate plane differently, according to his or her experience. Francis, having lived her life as a nun, woke up after her death in a kind of Catholic Rest Home run almost entirely by sisters of the faith, many whom she had known in life. Francis resided at this rest home during her own convalescence and after her healing was complete, decided to remain there to assist other new arrivals. Here’s how Francis describes the moment she awoke at the Rest Home after her physical death it in Testimony of Light:
After the change was over and I was free of my earthly ‘covering’, I “woke up” here in this hospital of the Rest Home. My room had no walls and the sunlight seemed to flow over one all the time. I opened my eyes… of I came back to consciousness…and there was Mother Florence just as she used to be and as I had remembered her for so many years. She took my hand. She said, “so you have arrived safely?” but I must have been very weary, for I can remember little more. I think I slept again (Greaves, page 13).
Another interesting description of these healing spaces comes from Hugh Benson, who visits such a place during a ‘tour’ of the afterlife. In Benson’s experience, described in Life in the World Unseen through medium Anthony Borgia, the healing of souls is contained in a ‘stately building’ built in the classical style, two to three stories high and open on all sides. There is a shaft of blue light which descends into the building which Benson supposes is a ‘healing ray’. He notes, most interestingly, that the souls are all asleep, and would not awaken until the process of healing was completed. Here is how Benson describes the scene as an on-looker:
This great ray was the downpouring of life – a healing ray – send to those who had already passed here, but who were not yet awake. When they were fully restored to spiritual health, there would be a splendid awakening, and they would be introduced to their new land. I noticed that there were quite a number of people seated upon the grass in the grounds, or walking about. They were relatives of those who were undergoing treatment within the hall of rest, and those whose awakening was imminent. Although, doubtless, they could have been summoned upon the instant when necessary, yet, hollowing their old earthly instance, they preferred to wait close at hand for the happy moment. They were all supremely joyful, and very excited, as could be seen by the expression on their faces and many were the friendly smiles we received as we walked among them (Borgia, p. 24).
As mentioned, the second plane, realm or stage that we pass through after death is temporary. We find our first (and for the vast majority of us, our last) realm of permanent residence in the vast, earth-like realm of the third plane, which Myers names as ‘The Plane of Illusion’.
The Third Plane – The Plane of Illusion
The third plane is described as dimension distinctively earth-like in appearance, and within close proximity to the earth itself (not in terms of space as we know it, but on a vibratory level). It is the most populated of the afterlife dimensions, and where the majority of earth souls will spend their time between incarnations. Communication between earth and the spirit world is easiest from this near-earth dimension, therefore it is the most well-described of any afterlife dimension. This plane is variously called ‘heaven’, ‘summerland’, ‘nirvana’, the devachanic plane, or just ‘the spirit world’, and it is exactly what you’d expect: the best, most beautiful version of earth you could imagine. When souls describe spending their time in the afterlife swimming in crystalline lakes, living in beautiful homes ringed by the most fantastic gardens, playing games, enjoying art and music, and generally recreating the kind of earthly life they could never have enjoyed on earth, they are describing the wonders of the third plane.
During the period passed on the astral plane the soul sloughs the astral shape and enters into the etheric body within which he resides as long as he chooses to dwell in Illusionland, that reflection of reflections, that dream of the earth personality. Peace and content prevail so long as he remains within its borders. […] Picture it for a moment: you live in surroundings that resemble those you knew on earth. You are, it is true, freed from money worries, freed from the need to earn your daily bread. Your etheric body is nourished by light which is not the light of the sun. It is possessed also of energy and life. It does not suffer pain, nor is it subjected to struggle of any kind (p. 10).
You might be wondering why Myers would name this ‘the plane of illusion’ when it is often described as quite physical in appearance and experience, with grass, trees, sunlight, buildings and everything else one might expect from a solid environment. Well, Myers isn’t describing the physical quality of the third plane here, but the purpose. Myers himself was perceptive enough to see the third plane for what it is: a self-created analogue of the earth for those spirits who would be uncomfortable or unprepared with anything more abstract. For souls who come through death completely unprepared, the third plane is like a kindergarten; a safe place for guides and teachers to (re)introduce souls to their spiritual heritage. For the slightly more prepared soul, the third plane may be a stop-over; a ‘club med’ for those on the way to the learning or teaching spheres. For all, the third plane is a place where souls are permitted to enjoy everything that they may have been denied on earth until they are sated by the sheer overabundance of it all.
“We have everything that pertains to beauty, either of dress or scenery or gems or anything else. Make no mistake! Your world has nothing to compare with the beauty of this!”
— Spirit World and Spirit Life, Charlotte Dresser, 1922
For the devout who anticipate nothing less after death than what their earthly religion has promised, the third plane also delivers. This is the land of a million heavens. Since we are all guided by our beliefs, every religion has their book-stated afterlife here, and those staunchly religious souls can experience the ceremony of judgement with Saint Peter, or cross the bridge to the pleasure gardens of Allah if they wish. This is a world of earthly dreams; created, molded, and sustained by the inhabitants. Conscious and unconscious desires are projected outward into the environment where it is enjoyed by all souls attracted to them. Suffice to say, there are both positive and negative manifestations of this characteristic. Those with certain perversions and evil predilections are drawn together in less savory areas to indulge themselves until they evolve beyond those dark desires.
For those familiar with the out-of-body reports by William Buhlman (Adventures Beyond the Body, etc), you may recognize Buhlman’s description of the ‘consensus realities’ of the lower afterlife dimensions. For souls who have not yet developed the ability to use the power of their own thought for creative purposes, these areas are the least malleable of the many afterlife dimensions, changing slowly over time as the wants and needs of the large residency evolves. According to frequent astral traveler Jurgan Ziewe (Vistas of Infinity), the third plane now has cafes and strip clubs, as appalling as that may sound to those who prefer their afterlife to be pristine and holy.
Understand, however, that in Illusionland you do not consciously create your surroundings through an act of thought. Your emotional desires, your deeper mind manufacture these without your being actually aware of the process. For still you are the individualized soul caught within the limitations of your earthly self and caught also within the fine etheric body which now is yours (Cummins, p. 12).
For most of us, ‘Illusionland’ sounds just about perfect. There is no need to suffer the aches and ailments of the physical body; no need for food or warmth or shelter. There is no requirement to work to sustain oneself in a harsh world. There is no need of money to purchase material goods, nor want of company, or entertainment, or relaxation. After a long, difficult life, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would ever tire of life on the third plane.
And yet, in all of that abundance, lies the very reason why souls eventually grow restless and yearn for some challenge or progress. To put it bluntly, it becomes boring. The religious begin to question the point of their endless worshiping. Those indulging themselves in the illusion of luxury begin to grow weary of it. Even those who have passed their time on the third plane living quietly in the gorgeous facsimile of a quaint countryside cottage with their beloved friends and family begin to look out at the endless perfection and wonder ‘what comes next?’
Is it indeed as if you lived in a pond, and soon you weary of the limitations of that calm unruffled sheet of water. You yearn for struggle, effort, ecstasy; you long for wide horizons. The call of the road has come to you again. In short, you are anxious to make further progress either up or down (pp. 10-11)
Myers further illustrates this eventual restlessness by using the example of a fictional character he names ‘Tom Jones’ who lived a very ordinary life and died in the England of the turn of the century. At first, Jones is delighted to acquire all that he could not possess in life, and yet he too becomes over-satisfied and ready for a new challenge.
Tom Jones, who represents the unthinking man in the street, will desire a glorified brick villa in a glorified Brighton. So he finds himself the proud possessor of that twentieth-century atrocity. He naturally gravitates towards his acquaintances, all those who were of a like mind. On earth he longed for a superior brand of cigar. He can have the experience ad nauseam of smoking this brand. He wanted to play golf, so he plays golf. But he is merely dreaming all the time or, rather, living within the fantasy created by his strongest desires on earth. After a while this life of pleasure ceases to amuse and content him. Then he begins to think and long for the unknown, long for a new life. He is at last prepared to make the leap in evolution and this cloudy dream vanishes (Cummins p. 18).
At this point, according to Myers, a soul has two choices. The first option is to be reborn on earth or another planet to challenge oneself in the intense joys and pain of physical life. The second option is to stay in the spirit world, but begin preparing for spiritual progression into the higher planes.
Life on earth isn’t easy, so you might wonder why anyone should choose another incarnation over staying in the spirit world. Myers, like many other spirit teachers, explains that life on a physical planet by virtue of the unique challenges it presents, accelerates learning and hastens our progress. One can progress in the spirit world, but the progress is far slower and less intense. I suppose that means we should all be quite proud of ourselves for our courage. According to Dr. Michael Newton (Journey of Souls, Destiny of Souls) not all souls can handle a physical incarnation; many never make the attempt.
Should we decide to forego another physical life and choose to stay in the spirit world, we can begin training in one of many lines of work. Some are naturally attracted to the sciences and help promote new discoveries in the spirit world and with their colleagues on earth, whom they impress through dreams and sudden inspiration. Others are drawn to the arts, or the many healing positions, or the care of children who left earth while young. Many souls train to become spirit guides, spiritual teachers, or a sub-specialty of spiritual guidance: those who assist the lonely, wandering spirits obsessed by earthly concerns or trauma. The ways a soul can progress through serving others is endless, and all require that a soul is willing to work selflessly for the good and improvement of the whole. As one progresses into the higher spheres, the canvas becomes reality itself. The soul leaves behind the need for form and matter and they delve into the deepest regions of consciousness itself. The final destination, according to Myers, is merging with source itself; joining the imagination of God.
Myers, who states that he is now living in the fourth plane, gives us some idea of what each of these stages is like, though lest you think that a soul can reach the final plane rather quickly, Myers is quick to remind us that only “one or two pass out yonder during the lifetime of the earth.”
I remarked before that when souls reached to the higher rungs of the ladder they became merged in the unifying Spirit, and might at last journey out Yonder, enter into the Mystery of God. In so doing they slough form and no longer express themselves in an outward appearance. But those spirits who pass out Yonder do not dwell in ecstatic contemplation as does the sage or the Yogi, they are, though formless, in contact with the whole of the material universe: an incredible activity of a spiritual and intellectual kind is theirs. For now they share in the timeless Mystery; now they are in the true Nirvana, in the highest Christian Heaven; they know and experience the alpha and omega of the material universe. The chronicle of all planetary life, the history of the earth from the beginning to the end are theirs. Truly they are not merely heirs, they have become inheritors, in deed and in truth, of eternal life. You are, as you climb the long ladder of consciousness, a sum in arithmetic. When you pass out Yonder you become the Whole (p. 22).
The Fourth Plane – The Plane of Color
In this many-coloured region the form vibrates with extreme intensity, for now mind expresses itself more directly in form: so that we can hear the thoughts of other souls. At first only one at a time may break upon that hearing. But after a while we become sensible of the fact that we may hear the thoughts of several souls, each apart and distinct from the other. We dwell in a world of appearances in some respects similar to the earth. Only all this vast region of appearances is gigantic in conception, terrifying and exquisite according to the manner in which it presents itself to the Soul-man. It is far more fluidic, less apparently solid than earth surroundings. This many-coloured world is nourished by light and life in a greater purity, vibrates at an unimaginable speed. The souls, who dwell within the first zone, realise that with increased consciousness they have gained a far greater sensitivity. […]
You will understand, therefore, that pain and pleasure, joy and despair are once more experienced. Again, however, they differ greatly from the earthly conception of them; they are of a finer quality, of an intellectualised character. Mightier is their inspiration, more profound the despair they arouse, inconceivable the bliss they stir within the deeps of your being. On this luminiferous plane the struggle increases in intensity, the efforts expended are beyond the measure of earthly experience. But the results of such labour, of such intellectualised and spiritualised toil and battle also transcend the most superb emotion in the life of man. In brief, all experience is refined, heightened, intensified, and the actual zest of living is increased immeasurably (p. 25-26).
Myers’ experience in the higher planes is more mental than physical, as he adjusts to a greater sensitivity of thought and emotion. The thoughts and emotions of individual souls are more transparent to each other, which forms the first steps in the journey away from abject individuality and toward membership of a group-soul in the fourth and fifth planes.
When I was on earth I belonged to a group-soul, but its branches and the spirit—which might be compared to the roots—were in the invisible. Now, if you would understand psychic evolution, this group-soul must be studied and understood. For instance, it explains many of the difficulties that people will assure you can be removed only by the doctrine of reincarnation. You may think my statement frivolous, but the fact that we do appear on earth to be paying for the sins of another life is, in a certain sense, true. It was our life, and yet not our life. In other words, a soul belonging to the group of which I am a part lived that previous life which built up for me the framework of my earthly life, lived it before I had passed through the gates of birth (p. 29).
Those who are familiar with Frank DeMarco’s Rita’s World series may want to consider referring back to the ‘strands’ theory that Rita Warren, speaking from a level analogous to plane 4, uses to describe the relationship of a singular soul’s experience as it relates both to past life ‘strands’ and the future group-soul that each ‘strand’ makes up. Both Myers and Warren are quick to assure us that our individual experiences, personality and memories are not lost; we simply share our portion of experience with others that make up the same larger oversoul (to borrow a term from Jane Roberts), and gain the experiences of others so that more profound understanding is had by all members.
Men and women may not care to accept these statements of mine. They long either for an indestructible individuality in the Hereafter or for a kind of spiritual swoon in the life of God. You will perceive in my analysis of the group-soul that we are individuals and members of one whole. And when you come to the Fourth, and more particularly to the Fifth stage, you will realise how fine and beautiful is this brotherhood within the one being; how it deepens and intensifies existence; how it destroys the cold selfishness so necessary to an earth life, where one living creature must continually destroy another’s manifestation in matter in order to maintain its physical life (Cummins, p. 31).
The Fifth Plane – The Plane of Flame
As Myers claims to dwell in the fourth plane, he admits his knowledge of the fifth, sixth, and seventh plane is not complete and difficult to translate into language. His description of the progression of the soul through these ethereal dimensions are nonetheless fascinating, even if we find them do find them difficult to conceptualize.
“There comes a time when the soul who dwells on the Fourth plane of life prepares for the incident of death. This death does not resemble the death of man. At this particular point in evolution the soul has perfect and absolute control of form, of his appearance, of his eidolon or living ghost. This is the last veil between him and a conception of existence without form. He must free himself before he can go up another rung of the ladder, and freedom can only come through the deliberate process called “The Breaking of the Image.” It is the farewell to appearance, to form as a necessity, to colour, to feeling as a certainty, as a condition of life. Again the soul enters into unconsciousness; and when he is born into the Fifth stage he has cast from him certain attributes that were his when he still inhabited the Image; for his soul was, in part, that Shape of Light he has now discarded […] While he abides in this Fifth plane experience is manifold, is a multiplication, loses, in a sense, its apparent oneness. He lives indeed a life that seems to burn like a flame. It is a time of severe discipline, of vastly increased intellectual feeling, of great limitations, of boundless freedoms, of the glimpsing of infinite horizons. “Swoons of contemplation, agonies of dreaming,” states in which all lucid thought lies fallow, states in which the intense feverish activities of all the passionate existence of his comrade souls flame through his being. He is thus all the time becoming more and more merged with the Unifying Spirit (pp. 34-35)”
This state on the Fifth plane may be imagined but not understood or conceived by a man’s mind. To the travelling soul the purpose of his existence will seem to be, at last, revealed. He tastes of Heaven and yet the revelation of the last mystery still tarries, still awaits the completion of the design of which he is a part (p. 35).
Myers also tells us that fifth plane is where the group soul is perfected, and no member of this union may ascend to the sixth plane until all members have progressed to the fifth. More progressed members of the group soul spend a long time at this level, awaiting the rest of the group to join them. Often, they provide guidance and assistance to the fledgling members of their group, as they strive and struggle through their incarnations and challenges. Perhaps this is the ‘higher self’ that we so often hear mentioned by spiritual teachers?
The Sixth Plane – The Plane of White Light
Of the sixth plane, Myers has so little detail to share that his chapter is a scant five paragraphs long. And yet, what he describes is the ascension into pure consciousness; nearly incomprehensible to us form-addicted creatures on earth.
Now, on this level of consciousness pure reason reigns supreme. Emotion and passion, as known to men, are absent. White light represents the perfect equanimity of pure thought. Such equanimity becomes the possession of the souls who enter this last rich kingdom of experience. They bear with them the wisdom of form, the incalculable secret wisdom, gathered only through limitation, harvested from numberless years, garnered from lives passed in myriad forms. Knowledge of good and evil and of what lies beyond good and evil now belongs to them. They are lords of life, for they have conquered. They are capable of living now without form, of existing as white light, as the pure thought of their Creator. They have joined the Immortals. The purpose of the Sixth plane of being might be described as “the assimilation of the many-in-one,” the unifying of all those mind-units I have called souls, within the spirit. When this aim has been achieved, the spirit which contains this strange individualized life passes out Yonder and enters into the Mystery, thereby fulfilling the final purpose, the evolution of the Supreme Mind (p. 38).
The Seventh Plane – Out Yonder, Timelessness
Myers speaks of the final plane with great reverence, though we get the sense that such a state is inconceivable, even to Myers on the fourth plane. He seems slightly appalled that he is even attempting to translate this great state of being into words. “The Beyond baffles description. It is heart-breaking even to attempt to write of it.”
And since this is the last and final destination of the soul according to Myers, I feel I can only do it justice by sharing Myers’ entire description. As in the previous chapter, Myers can only devote a scant few paragraphs, but they are worth reading in their entirety.
Again the choice must be made. Is the soul prepared to make the great leap, prepared to pass wholly from time into timelessness, from an existence in form into formlessness? This is the most difficult of all questions to answer. Only a very few reply in the affirmative when first faced with it. The Seventh state might be described as the “passage from form into formlessness.” But pray do not misunderstand the term “formlessness.” I merely wish to indicate by it an existence that has no need to express itself in a shape, however tenuous, however fine.
The soul who enters that Seventh state passes into the Beyond and becomes one with God. This merging with the Idea, with the Great Source of spirit does not imply annihilation. You still exist as an individual. You are as a wave in the sea; and you have at last entered into Reality and cast from you all the illusions of appearances. But some intangible essence has been added to your spirit through its long habitation of matter, of ether the ancestor of matter, of what the scientists call empty space, though, if they but knew it, empty space is peopled with forms of an infinite fineness and variety. Actually the passage from the Sixth to the Seventh state means the flight from the material universe, from that space which is a part of it. You dwell not only outside of time but outside of the universe on this last plane of being. Yet you can be and are, in one sense, within the universe. You as part of the Whole—and by the Whole I indicate God—may be likened to the sun; your rays pervade the material universe, yet your spirit remains detached from it, reigning in the great calm of eternity. To be of the universe and to be apart from it is, possibly, the final achievement, the goal of all endeavour.
In a few brief words I have spanned existence within aeons of time, and I have endeavoured to give you a glimpse of that mystery, timelessness. When you dwell out Yonder, you, as a part of the Divine Principle in its essence, are wholly aware of the imagination of God. So you are aware of every second in time, you are aware of the whole history of the earth from Alpha to Omega. Equally all planetary existence is yours. Everything created is contained within that imagination, and you, now by reason of your immortality, know it and hold, as the earth holds a seed, the whole of life, the past, the future, all that is, all that shall be forever and forever. [..] That Spirit-man, God the Son, expressed a great truth when He said,” Many are called and few are chosen.” Only a very few pass out Yonder during the life of the earth. A certain number of souls attain to the sixth state, but remain in it or, in exceptional cases for a lofty purpose, descend again into matter. They are not strong enough to make the great leap into timelessness, they are not yet perfect (pp. 39-40).
Myers’ discussion of the soul’s progression is not unlike those described by other spiritual teachers, though Myers is, of course, putting his own spin on it. Every spirit who attempts to share their understanding and experience with earth must do so through their own fallible perspective, but the core of his teaching is sound. Where it is short on detail, especially in terms of the latter planes, Myers nevertheless presents a cohesive overview of the purpose of reality. Myers makes it quite clear that the mystery doesn’t end when we pass out of physical reality, but is far greater and more magnificent than we can even imagine.
Myers was – and still is – an afterlife researcher. His curiosity, humility and unabashed sense of awe rings clear through his words. It serves as an inspiration to me, and I hope to any who decide to take up this strange, winding path of discovery. While in this physical body, we may never have perfect knowledge about what awaits us after death. But those who have passed into the next world are certainly willing to share a glimpse of what to expect, if we have the courage and curiosity to seek it out. And slowly, but surely, that box of disjointed puzzle pieces will begin to form an image. One of hope and anticipation and the sure certainty that death is the greatest illusion of them all.
“If we can add anything to the sum of human knowledge, as regards man’s spiritual nature, our pains and our labours are worthwhile. You and I may not have the power to bring about sensational happenings, but at least we can, in our small way, help in the furtherance of the knowledge that there are vast horizons quite beyond our perception, stretching limitless into the infinite.”
-Frederic W. H. Myers
References and Recommended Reading:
The Road to Immortality by Geraldine Cummins, 1932
More about the Cross-Correspondences: