I’m currently watching “A Christmas Carol” with Patrick Stewart on TNT. Scrooge has just been visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley, who explains that he is doomed to walk the earth and perceive those he should have helped but now cannot. He then takes Scrooge to the window to show him all the like spirits. Here’s Dickens’ description of the scene:
The apparition walked backward from him; and at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that when the spectre reached it, it was wide open. It beckoned Scrooge to approach, which he did. When they were within two paces of each other, Marley’s Ghost held up its hand, warning him to come no nearer. Scrooge stopped.
Not so much in obedience, as in surprise and fear: for on the raising of the hand, he became sensible of confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory. The spectre, after listening for a moment, joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the bleak, dark night.
Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.
The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.
I was struck watching this on TV that there may be more truth in this than even Dickens imagined. Here are some quotes about the location and nature of the spirit world, taken from a paper I co-authored some 30 years ago:
The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith.
Flesh and blood cannot go there; but flesh and bones, quickened by the Spirit of God, can. [Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938), p. 326.]
There are myriads of disembodied evil spirits — those who have long ago laid down their bodies here and in the regions round about among and around us; and they are trying to make us and our children sick, and are trying to destroy us and tempt us to evil. [Journal of Discourses (JD), 6:73; see also JD, 5:54-55]
When you lay down this tabernacle, where are you going? In to the spirtual world….Where is the spirit world? It is right here. [JD, 3:369.]
We think of the righteous and of the evil in their respective domains in the spirit world, but what of the merely neglectful? What of those of us who pass to the next world, still able to view this one but unable to help those we care (or should care) about, unable to make amends for that we should or should not have done? Some sobering food for thought. ..bruce..