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Summerland is a Spiritualist term referring to a paradisal after-death state. It first appeared in 1845 in the published automatic writings of the youthful Andrew Jackson Davis, the "Poughkeepsie Seer." One of several concentric spherical planes surrounding the earth, the Summerland is the habitation of spirits of good will. Descriptions by mediumistic communicators present the deceased as living a harmonious, quasi-physical life amid supernally beautiful houses, lecture halls, music, gardens, meadows, trees, lakes, streams, and animals. Like other spheres, the Summerland is a product of the minds of its inhabitants. A basic principle of Spiritualism is that "like attracts like"; thus deceased persons who are attuned to beauty, love, and learning are drawn together, and singly or in concert they create these delights, which appear to be altogether concrete. A spirit residing in this sphere may communicate with the living for their benefit; likewise, living persons while out-of-body may upon occasion visit the Summerland.

It is clear that the conceptions of Eden, Paradise, and Heaven from the Christian tradition have informed the Summerland. However, the latter has distinctive features, among them the ideas of halls of learning, of reunited families having their own homes, and of the spirits of infants being raised to maturity by nurturant adult spirits. Some of these ideas appear in the earlier writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, and in fact Davis reported that while he was entranced, Swedenborg dictated the material to him. Interestingly, William James reported that entranced persons unexposed to Spiritualist tradition will in many cases speak like Spiritualist communicators in the name of the deceased, describing the Summerland. Similar narratives are found among twentieth-century Near-Death experiencers.

See alsoNear-Death Experience; Spiritualism.


Davis, Andrew Jackson. The Principles of Nature. 1845.

James, William. The Principles of Psychology, vol. I. 1955.

Gracia Fay EllwoodRobert Ellwood