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Questions Answered Extempore by Miss Emma Hardinge 1866

 

Question 1

 

CAN you assist us to comprehend the statement of Swedenborg, that in the spiritual world are neither time nor space, with reference to the accounts which he gives of its scenery, history, institutions, and occupations?

 

Answer

 

THESE questions, as we view them, may be resolved into one, for we deem that the main point to be considered is the question concerning time and space. The occupations of the spirit-world, as detailed by the Swedish seer, would necessarily involve the idea, both of time for their performance, and of space for what is represented to his vision, as the scenery of the spirit-world. We must first recur to some of the positions assumed when last we met, and again attempt to define time and space as they are familiar to yourselves. Time on earth is nothing but a succession of periods, during which certain changes in matter are taking place. The chief divisions of time known to you upon this planet, are necessarily regulated by its movements, with reference to other bodies in space. The chief of these movements are the revolution of the planet upon its axis, and its annual revolution round the sun. The first movement, namely, the revolution of the planet on its axis, necessarily involves the relations which the sun and the earth occupy towards each other. In a former address I presumed to offer my hypothesis concerning the origin of light, and claimed that it was the result of a galvanic action which takes place between the atmosphere of the sun and that of the earth - that the result of the attrition of the atoms (for material atoms they are which compose the atmospheres of these two bodies in space) produces a change which first elaborates heat, and next luminosity, or such a change in the atoms as causes them to give off the quality called light. I think the production of light is mainly due to the energetic action which goes on between the solar fluid and the emanations or vapours of the earth, and that their galvanic action upon each other is the cause both of heat and light. Nay even more, I think it will be ultimately shewn in chemistry, that it is this action which produces the abundance of nitrogen, of which so large a part exists in combination with oxygen in atmospheric air; hence that the presence of nitrogen and the quality (peculiar to atmosphere in a state of action)


 

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called light, are both due to galvanism effected between the sun and that part of the earth’s surface exposed to the sun’s immediate influence - hence light is the state which exists in atmosphere when the sun’s rays are acting upon a certain portion of the earth. Darkness or absence of light is the result when that action is no longer going on; hence, the division of the periods when the sun and earth are related to each other into days and nights, marked by the alternations of light and darkness; hence also, time is but a definition of the periods of change which the sun and the earth sustain towards each other, and such periods as defining more accurately those changes, are divided into hours, and these again into minutes and seconds. Again, the changes which take place between the sun and the earth, produced by the inclination of the earth’s axis, and requiring to effect them longer periods than days and nights, are called seasons, whilst the annual revolution of the earth around the sun is termed a year.

 

Now, we will shew you how purely special, and peculiar only to the relations sustained between bodies in space like the sun and the earth, are those subdivisions of period called time. Take for example the subdivisions of time even upon your own planet, in the difference between the equatorial and the arctic regions. In the latter you find that the day, instead of being something over 24 hours is little less than six months and the night rather over the same period. When discovery arrives at that point for which John Franklin and his western martyrs have laid down their mortal lives in the bitterest form of death ever endured by man; when you arrive at that point to which the finger of inspiration is still directing man, the actual polar point of the earth (not alone its magnetic pole) night and day will cease altogether. In the vast area of ether, where the free and unshadowed beams of the sun, produced as I have claimed by its galvanic action with the earth, shall pour forth without intervention or remission by any of the changes which operate only in sections alternately exposed to, and turned from the sun, then and there even upon this earth you will perceive that there is literally neither night nor day, and hence no time. Thus, except in certain portions even of this planet time does not exist except as a mere technical arrangement by which you mark the various changes which material bodies are ever undergoing, you might as well attempt to claim that time exists because there must be certain periods for the growth and development of mineral forms, for the precipitation of the atoms of matter into metallic veins, or into the growth of trees, or the blossoming of flowers. Periods are required to effect all these changes; periods are occupied in every change incident to the growth and decay of material forms, but as these periods vary with the peculiarities of every form and substance, so they cannot constitute arbitrary and fixed divisions of time in eternity. Were it possible, however, to classify periods, thus infinitely varied, into time upon this planet, such an arrangement could not subsist in any other body in space. For instance, the revolution of the satellite Mercury around the sun, would give it equivalent to a year and 87 of our days; that of Venus 224 of earth’s days, and as every other known body in space exhibits varieties equally marked in proportion to distances, weight, velocity, and other incidental causes, the periods which mark time upon one planet would be totally inapplicable to all others. Hence if time depends upon the movements of material bodies and is only regulated by these, and these are as I have shown, infinitely various, it is evident that no arbitrary division of eternity into fixed periods called time exists. Precisely the same definitions apply to space which is simply the ether in which material forms effect their changes, but which though boundless, is so filled with life and being, ranging


 

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from the infinitely little to the infinitely large, that it is impossible to conceive of any unoccupied portion of the boundlessness we call Infinity.

 

It is argued that no one atom of matter can fill the place occupied by another atom, hence that there must be space to bound matter. I answer that the ultimate molecule of matter called “an atom,” has never yet been discovered, nor the last point of divisibility attained. Even in the most seemingly impenetrable crystal, there are spaces filled up with gas and sublimated fluids, and in the rarest gas are spaces occupied by ether, and ether is filled with electricity or magnetism. So, as all the realm of nature known to man is charged with matter in varying degrees of rarity, we have no evidence whatever to show that such a condition as space exists at all. Assuming, however, that we might define space by the magnitude of bodies, and the room which they occupy, our definitions are as various as those which apply to time. For as all bodies vary in size, and in every substance various others combine; it would be impossible to define the exact amount of room occupied by anything. For instance, water may receive in addition other fluids, and even soluble solids, as sugar or salt, without in the least changing the bulk of the whole. Size is indefinite, and matter all pervasive throughout infinity, hence there is no rule by which to define space, even in material forms.

 

Thus the only true definitions which can be given of “time and space,” are those of being periods and places which are occupied in eternity and infinity to effect changes in material forms.

 

We now turn to a consideration of the division of places and periods in the spirit world, and we ask how they correspond. I believe that I shall be understood by those who have realised the moral transmutation of spirits in the phenomena of death, the power which it exercises as a dominant and supreme principle in being, which the laws of matter cannot touch - I shall be understood by believers in such opinions, when I say that spirit is unhindered by, and supreme over all the laws of time and space as applied to changes in matter. The laws of matter do not even analogically define those which bind spirit. Spirit is a separate existence, an entity of itself. It is at once the cause and the ultimate of being. No laws of matter, nor even of magnetism, apply to spirit. It may be that we shall never step behind the sublime mystery of the “I am” within us to comprehend ourselves; but we do know enough of the revelations that are now patent amongst us and which have been brought so tangibly to the spirit­circle as an open volume for our investigation, to realise that the spirit is independent both of time and space. And this is shewn first in the fact that there is a moral transmutation in death, by which the deeds done in the body, the motives engraved upon the soul, and the habitudes of thought, which have at last become the custom and finally the character of the soul - that all this determines the external surroundings of the inhabitants of spirit-land. If there is light within, the soul is its own source of light, and from that, as a central sun, go forth the irradiations of luminosity, that reveal, as in physical sunshine, or the splendours of an incomparable day, the grand and most glorious arcana of the nature of spirit-land. Spirit not alone gravitates to the place to which it belongs, but it carries with it the scenery and characteristics of the place itself. We might recur again and again to the deeply philosophic, yet ill understood, assurance of the Master, that “The kingdom of heaven is not to be found by observation - “Lo, here! Lo, there! - but that it is within us.” Even so are all the states in which the soul dwells. They are in fact gradations and conditions of


 

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mentality, represented in corresponding conditions of the soul’s external life, and ranging from the highest state of illumination, to the lowest of darkness. And thus that which we have loved on earth, that on which we have poured out our human magnetism, and chained our affections to, becomes actually represented in the scenery and surroundings of the spirit-world. There in the illimitable realm where time ceases and space is not, the spirit is chained and fettered to the point of its own peculiar attraction, and its memories and its loves are all externalised in representative scenery. These do not occupy space according to the boundaries which define matter. Spirit and spirit-land are so fine, and infinitely pervasive, that this very chamber is even now full of the scenery, surroundings, and inhabitants of spirit-land.

 

In the chemical decomposition of death, spirit quits the form it occupied, yet all the attributes of matter will be found in their integrity with the form which was the man, but which, destitute of spirit is man no more. Weigh the lifeless corpse, and nothing seems to be wanting - nothing there is lost, nothing at least that lived in what you call time, or occupied what man terms space. By this alone we find that the true man - the invisible, the spirit that has fled - has neither weight nor density, impenetrability nor divisibility, nay, nor any of the attributes of matter; but is like thought, free to come and go, and realises none of the boundaries of time, nor the obstacles of space. There are no periods of darkness or of light with the spirit, except those moral states which continue only in proportion to its own growth and development. So long as the spirit wills by its affection, or by the force of habits acquired on earth, to remain in a condition of moral darkness, the scenery and surroundings of the soul correspond thereunto. So long as the spirit is radiant with light within, yet full of aspiration for higher and better spheres its periods of residence in each, will only be determined by its fitness for progressive changes, so that time in the spheres is only known by transitions from one glory to another, and by the soul’s changes through varied spheres and different scenes. You ask how such vague and unsatisfactory ideas, (for such they seem in comparison with the laws of matter, and in consequence of your views of time and space,) are reconcilable with many of the statements of the spirit­circle that there are houses, scenes, landscapes, and even occupations in the spirit­world analogous to yours? I answer, there are all these in the spheres of earth-bound souls. The habits, thoughts and affections of the spirit, if they are still earth-centred, will reflect on all around the spirit its own peculiar aspirations, and urge the soul to run in the grooves of its earthly occupations, but only so long as that soul loves the things of earth and aspires to nothing higher: when the spirit yearns for higher spheres, its aspirations are its means of progress, and in these higher spheres, the earth scenes cease to be. Again, the arbitrary distinctions which govern matter do not apply to the spirit, for it penetrates all space and all obstacles which make up forms in space. There is nothing so fine or sublimated in matter as to afford an analogical description of spiritual substance. No material bodies, nor the laws that govern their movements, represent the nature and laws even of magnetism. How then by material analogies can you attempt to define the yet more sublimated mystery of thought? Are there hindrances or obstacles of matter to the flight of thought? Send it, if you will, speeding away to the farthest realms of being! Let it traverse the galaxy of stars, launch it into the infinite, and only suffer it to anchor round the heart of its infinite Father - there is no obstacle to hinder you. Even so of your spirit, for thought is but the external manifestation of the spirit


 

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Truly, then, there can be no time for that which defines its own periods of change, no space for that which is all unhindered by every obstacle which makes up that which you call space. It is most difficult for those who live in time and space, as defined by matter, to comprehend the boundlessness and infinitude of spiritual existence, and for the occupations of spirits, you know as much of these as the earth-bound spirits can reveal to you. More than this you could not comprehend. “You cannot leap beyond your shadow,” and were we to tell you of occupations, scenes, instruments, machines, ideas, and entities of which you have had no experience, we should place you in the position in which you would place the uninstructed savage, were you to tell him of the attributes of civilisation. In the higher spheres of spirit-land conditions exist of which you have had no experience. I can but bid you share the faith of the brave apostle, who realised that he should pass “from glory to glory,” who knew it not, but believed it because he felt the spiritual truth in his very soul, and already saw with the eye of faith, the brightness of the glory to which his mortal course was tending like a foregleam of the incomprehensible life of heaven, irradiating his earthly way. This is the only interpretation we can give you of the spheres, and though so many of its conditions are still beyond your comprehension, we may realise enough to know that the bright and better world is unhindered by the laws and obstacles of matter, and that spiritual existence is independent of the mere local and material subdivisions of eternity and infinity called on earth, and belonging to earth alone, “time and space.”

 

Question 2  January 15th, 1866