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In between walking the dog, matching up the unpaired socks, traipsing round the supermarket and numerous other unremarkable but necessary tasks of the past few weeks, I’ve been brooding more than usual on the meaning of life. Not just this one, but the next one – the whole big ‘continuity’ picture.
Be honest, now – have you ever had the odd heretical thought that it doesn’t all quite add up? And, like me, felt a twinge of guilt for indulging in such subversive mental meanderings? Well, hang the guilt – I’m a Spiritualist and I’m supposed to think out of the box.
So here’s what bothers me:
We Spiritualists operate on the basis that life for every human soul is never-ending – a continuous eternal journey of spiritual progress and evolution. We muddle through the hard times on the ultimately positive premise that the soul grows through the facing of challenges and adversities, overcoming the various obstacles, small and large, that inevitably drop into the waters of our lives, causing anything from ripples to great big tidal waves.
As Maurice Barbanell’s guide Silver Birch said: “You must recognise that this [mental and spiritual evolution] is an endless process in your world and in the whole universe . . . so go on making mistakes, learning from them and getting better spiritually all the time.”
From this it seems clear that our responses to the problems and challenges that face us on a daily basis in this life are what enable the soul to learn and progress. And if that’s the case, as I believe it is, presumably those challenging opportunities for progression must continue until a state of near-perfection is achieved, which is unlikely to be accomplished in this blink-of-an-eye earthly life.
But the wise Silver Birch also said: “We must win you by evidence, by reason, by intelligence, by affection and by co-operation.” He explicitly encourages us, then, to use our reason and intelligence, and reasoning inevitably involves questioning, whether of ourselves or others.
So my question is: Can the spirit world really be the idyllic and blissful place that so many spirit communicators have described?
Anthony Borgia, who apparently received the text for his book Life in the World Unseen through clairaudient communications from his friend in spirit, Monsignor Hugh Benson, paints a picture of a serene, magnificent and, yes, homely world, pretty much like this one but without the hassle and strife and pain.
For instance: “What I saw was my old home that I had lived in upon the earth-plane; my old home, but with a difference. It was improved in a way that I had not been able to do to its earthly counterpart. The house itself was rejuvenated, as it seemed to me from a first glance, rather than restored, but it was the gardens around it that attracted my attention more fully.”
The friend who, we are told, is giving Benson a guided tour of his new spirit surroundings, tells him that “both the house and the garden . . . were the harvest I had reaped for myself during my earth life. Having earned the right to possess them, I had built them with the aid of generous souls who spend their life in the spirit world performing such deeds of kindness and service to others.”
Can all this be for real? Same house, presumably same relationships, same pet, all mentioned in numerous other communications? I do accept that there will be reunion in the spirit world with those we have loved and lost, both human and animal. But does that mean we continue life exactly as we left off here? That makes no sense to me.
Where are the soul challenges in the tried and tested and totally familiar? I’m back with Silver Birch: “It is easy to love those you love. There is no virtue, no saintliness in that. But to love those you do not love, that is the attribute of an evolved soul.”
Another problem I have is that so many communicators have indicated we will retain our individual identity in the spirit world – same personality, same looks (but apparently reverting to a more youthful appearance, so minus wrinkles, cellulite and grey hair) – while other communicators maintain that the purpose/goal of existence is to perfect the soul to such an extent that we must lose that individuality in order to become one with the source of all life.
On the ‘appearance’ point, suppose we don’t want to be sans wrinkles? For some they are a badge indicating wisdom gained through a long life well lived. And what is all this returning youthfulness about anyway?
We spend much of our earthly life in an absurdly image-conscious culture that glorifies a youthful face and body, bombarding us daily with adverts for an unimaginably huge range of cosmetics intended to reduce wrinkles, smooth the skin, make the teeth whiter, tighten a sagging jawline, cover up grey hair, etc, to say nothing of cosmetic surgeons who become seriously rich by specialising in supposedly age-defying operations.
Tell me, please, that we’re not destined to end up in an equally superficial afterlife where outward image is still worshipped, as it is by so many here, and where personal vanity is encouraged! What next? Spirit beauty contests, perhaps?
I’m genuinely confused by all this cosy, unchallenging familiarity. Can it really be that we just coast along in the same old domestic bliss (if, of course, we were fortunate enough to have it in this world), with the same family and friends, all under a cloudless sky where flowers never fade? To be honest, after I’ve arrived, settled in and luxuriated for a while in a world free from the ever unpredictable British weather, I think I’ll be bored stiff.
But have I misunderstood this fairy tale scenario?
There may be a hint from Silver Birch:
“What you must appreciate is that to you matter is solid and tangible, and spirit is shadowy and insubstantial. In our world spirit is the reality, tangible, and matter is shadowy and insubstantial. You do not have any of the apparatus to make you speak because you do not have to speak.
“All our communication is done by thought. We send our thoughts to one another and we are able to communicate as a result. Thought is a reality in our world. Everything that exists is created out of thought. And thus you can have whatever you deem necessary for as long as you want or need it.
“We have oceans, seas, mountains, lakes, and flowers, plants, trees, animals and birds. We have beauty of the kind that you cannot appreciate until you come to our world. It would be the exception to find in our world anyone evolved to some maturity who would hanker after the world of matter.
“Another advantage is that we do not have the problems that confront you. We do not have to buy provisions, or clothes. We do not have to pay for houses etc. All these exist in our world. You earn what you possess by your good deeds whilst on earth and in the spirit world.”
But even this explanation has its problems. As a friend of mine observed: “That suggests that if I like mountains and you like desert, we’ll never meet! So perhaps on the Other Side we all live in our own little worlds of thought (like teenagers playing games on mobile phones!) until such time as we say, ‘Bu**er this, I’m off to Earth for a bit of excitement!’ It also means we should take with a pinch of salt any descriptions we are given of the next world because they are no more than a personal opinion, or a personal creation, of the communicator.”
The bottom line, of course, is that we won’t know what the other world is like until we get there, which we all surely will. In the meantime, it’s a fascinating subject to explore and I’d love to hear your views on what you think it might be like.