Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Wikipedia.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Based on information obtained by mediums through contact with spirits, the spirit world has been described as having seven spheres. Although there is some contradictory information, generally the first sphere is seen as the realm of “gross and ignorant” spirits, and that it is gloomy and desolate there. The thought is that such an atmosphere will bring about a desire to move on. The second sphere has scenery as natural as that on earth, and has harmony, love and kindness. The higher spheres cannot be seen by those on the lower levels and information about them can only be obtained from those spirits who make a point of visiting the lower levels. However, it is believed that there is much about the higher levels that is simply beyond the comprehension of those on the lower levels and cannot, therefore, be adequately described. According to Nandor Fodor, it is said that “beyond the spheres are the supernal heavens of boundless extent. This is the ultimate abode of the glorified and blest.”

Hudson Tuttle, in Arcana of Spiritualism (1876), views these different areas as zones or levels, rather than spheres specifically. He claims that they are 120 degrees wide, in other words they extend for 60 degrees on each side of the equator. Tuttle said, “Whether spirits can pass to other globes depends on their degree of refinement. While some are very pure and ethereal, others are gross and unrefined. The sensualist, the depraved debauchee, in many instances, are so gross that gravity chains them to the earth’s surface as it does man. They are denser than the spirit ether, and hence have weight, and cannot rise from the earth. Others, who are more spiritual, can only rise to the first sphere; while others, still more refined, pass at will through the universal ocean of ether, visiting other globes and solar systems.”

The first trance reference to spheres was made by Frederica Hauffe (1801–1829), who was known as the “Seeress of Prevorst.” She also drew diagrams of the spheres. Many other mediums have produced information about the spheres; much of it contradictory. Geraldine Cummins, in her book The Road to Immortality (supposedly dictated by the spirit of the then deceased Frederick W. H. Myers), gives the “Chart of Existence” which shows the journey of the soul. The seven spheres are listed as,

  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

“Between each plane,” the spirit said, “or new chapter in experience, there is existence in Hades, or in an intermediate state, when the soul reviews his (or her) past experiences and makes his choice, deciding whether he will go up or down the ladder of consciousness.”

Emanuel Swedenborg’s descriptions of the world beyond death included details of a number of spheres, “representing various shades of luminosity and happiness.” Swedenborg said that in these spheres the scenery and conditions of this present plane were closely reproduced; there were houses and temples, halls for assemblies, and palaces for rulers. Possibly because his views were tinged by his theological background, he spoke of angels and devils, though he did say that both such were the spirits of those who had previously lived on earth and were either highly developed souls or undeveloped souls. He gave many views of the afterlife, all in great detail. Many of his ideas have been absorbed into Spiritualist beliefs.


Buckland, Raymond: Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 2004
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
Shepard, Leslie A: Encyclopedia of Occultism &Parapsychology. New York: Avon Books, 1978
Spiricon see Meek, George W.
References in classic literature ?
We must suppose the Melipona to arrange her cells in level layers, as she already does her cylindrical cells; and we must further suppose, and this is the greatest difficulty, that she can somehow judge accurately at what distance to stand from her fellow-labourers when several are making their spheres; but she is already so far enabled to judge of distance, that she always describes her spheres so as to intersect largely; and then she unites the points of intersection by perfectly flat surfaces.
From the experiment of the ridge of vermilion wax, we can clearly see that if the bees were to build for themselves a thin wall of wax, they could make their cells of the proper shape, by standing at the proper distance from each other, by excavating at the same rate, and by endeavouring to make equal spherical hollows, but never allowing the spheres to break into each other.
We see how important a part excavation plays in the construction of the cells; but it would be a great error to suppose that the bees cannot build up a rough wall of wax in the proper position--that is, along the plane of intersection between two adjoining spheres. I have several specimens showing clearly that they can do this.
The work of construction seems to be a sort of balance struck between many bees, all instinctively standing at the same relative distance from each other, all trying to sweep equal spheres, and then building up, or leaving ungnawed, the planes of intersection between these spheres.
It suffices that the bees should be enabled to stand at their proper relative distances from each other and from the walls of the last completed cells, and then, by striking imaginary spheres, they can build up a wall intermediate between two adjoining spheres; but, as far as I have seen, they never gnaw away and finish off the angles of a cell till a large part both of that cell and of the adjoining cells has been built.
Nay, he replied, that has been already disproven; if difference in faculty implies difference in the sphere or subject matter, and if, as we were saying, opinion and knowledge are distinct faculties, then the sphere of knowledge and of opinion cannot be the same.
Instantly the entire sphere burst into a mighty whispering, sharp with protest, almost twanging goldenly, if a whisper could possibly be considered to twang, rising higher, sinking deeper, the two extremes of the registry of sound threatening to complete the circle and coalesce into the bull-mouthed thundering he had so often heard beyond the taboo distance.
Like a battering ram, this king-post could be driven end-onward against the mighty red-iridescent sphere.
Of one thing he was certain: No drop of red dew shaken from the lion-mane of some sun in torment, was the sounding sphere. It was of design, not chance, and it contained the speech and wisdom of the stars.
Undoubtedly, since so much could be enclosed in so little a thing as the foundation stone of a public building, this enormous sphere should contain vast histories, profounds of research achieved beyond man's wildest guesses, laws and formulae that, easily mastered, would make man's life on earth, individual and collective, spring up from its present mire to inconceivable heights of purity and power.
Every gesture, every word, and even the silence of those with whom she came in contact, implied, and often expressed, that she was banished, and as much alone as if she inhabited another sphere, or communicated with the common nature by other organs and senses than the rest of human kind.
Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.