A grand survey of the world’s death and afterlife traditions throughout history
• Examines beliefs from many different cultures on the soul, heaven, hell, and reincarnation; instructions for accessing the different worlds of the afterlife; how one may become a god; and how ethics and the afterlife may not be connected
• Explores techniques to communicate with the dead, including séance instructions
• Includes an extensive bibliography of more than 900 sources from around the world
Drawing on death and afterlife traditions from cultures around the world, Mark Mirabello explores the many forms of existence beyond death and each tradition’s instructions to access the afterlife. He examines beliefs on the soul, heaven, hell, and reincarnation and wisdom from Books of the Dead such as the Book of Going Forth by Day from Egypt, the Katha Upanishad from India, the Bardo Thodol from Tibet, the Golden Orphic Tablets from Greece, Lieh Tzu from China, and Heaven and its Wonders and Hell from Things Heard and Seen from 18th-century Europe.
Considering the question “What is Death?” Mirabello provides answers from a wide range of ancient and modern thinkers, including scientist Nicholas Maxwell, the seer Emanuel Swedenborg, 1st-century Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, and Greek philosopher Euripides, who opined that we may already be dead and only dreaming we are alive. He explores the trek of the soul through life and death with firsthand accounts of the death journey and notes that what is perceived as death here may actually be life somewhere else. He reveals how, in many traditions, ethics and the afterlife are not connected and how an afterlife is possible even without a god or a soul. Sharing evidence that consciousness is not simply a product of the brain, he offers a strong rebuttal to nihilists, materialists, and the Lokayata philosophical school of India who believe in the “finality” of death. He explains how specters and ghosts are produced and offers techniques to communicate with the dead as well as instructions for an out-of-body experience and the complete procedure for a séance.
With an extensive bibliography of more than 900 sources, this guide offers comprehensive information on afterlife beliefs from the vast majority of cultures around the world and throughout historya veritable “traveler’s guide” to the afterlife.
|Publisher:||Inner Traditions/Bear & Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Mark Mirabello, Ph.D., is a professor of history at Shawnee State University in Ohio and a former visiting professor of history at Nizhny Novgorod University in Russia. He has appeared on Ancient Aliens and America’s Book of Secrets on the History Channel as well as in the documentary The Kingdom of Survival. He is the author of The Odin Brotherhood, Handbook for Rebels and Outlaws, and the Pulitzer-nominated novella The Cannibal Within. He received his master’s from the University of Virginia and his doctorate from the University of Glasgow. He lives in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Read an Excerpt
How to Enter Other Worlds
Like corn, a man ripens and falls to the ground; like corn, he springs up again in his season.
Nothing dies forever.
This section contains information“skeleton keys”to enter other worlds.
When different traditions give different instructions, do not despair. According to Eastern sages, the same truth looks different from several viewpoints.665
Come Back from Your Bones
As Professor Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) pointed out, a characteristic belief of hunting cultures is that living things can be reborn from their skeletons.261,266
The Eskimo, for example, leave the skull of a bear they have killed face down at the place the bear was slain. This, they believe, allows it to be reborn.147 For the same reason, American Indians from the Pacific Northwest put salmon bones back in water.441
For people in planting cultures, the dead body, including the bones, disintegrate and germinate into something else. For the hunter, in contrast, one part of the body, the bone, becomes the “undestroyed base” from which the individual is “magically reconstructed.”139
Procreate a Son
In many traditions, having a son is essential to the well-being of a man and his deceased ancestors.218
According to the Konde people in Africa, a man will return as a frog if his family line ends with him.9
The Artareya Brahmana, a Hindu text, says “By means of a son have fathers always crossed over the deep darkness, since he was born as their self from their self.”120
Gradually Become a Spirit
The Houailou people, a Melanesian group, see life as a process of “becoming spirit.” As we grow older, we shed “humanness” and take on the character of spirits.837
Live 8,400,000 Aeons and Then Start Again
Makkhali Gosala (born 484 BC), an ascetic teacher of ancient India, taught that all souls must run through a fixed number of inevitable births during the normal course of their evolution. These births occur over 8,400,000 aeons.63,261
This natural biological activity, said Professor Heinrich Robert Zimmer, “cannot be hurried by means of virtue and asceticism, or delayed because of vice; the process takes place in its own good time.”963
According to Gosala, we begin as a living atom, with only the sense of touch. As we progress, we gain more senses and higher mental faculties and we pass through various types of vegetable life, lower and higher animals, and then human level, and even seven lives as gods.63,200
After all of these existences, release simply happens. The process is automatic and requires no effort from us.261,63,200
And then, in endless time, the process repeats, from the beginning.279
Open Your Mind
The Jains speak of Jnanavarniyaknowledge-obstructing karmagenerated by the refusal to learn, by closing the mind, spreading false or one-sided information, ridiculing those who pursue knowledge, and advocating fanatical and prejudiced opinions.715
Study all knowledgereflect on all ideasand you will rise to higher levels in the process of rebirth.
On the other hand, if you denounce books you have never read, condemn people you have never known, and reject ideas you could never understand, you will regress in the process of rebirth.
The Power of Shiva
In Skanda Purana, a wicked thief is killed by the king’s men. When a dog came to eat the thief, the dog’s nails accidentally made the mark of Shiva’s trident on his forehead. As a result, Shiva’s messengers took the thief to Shiva’s paradise.238
Such is the power of Shiva.
Shiva’s abode and paradise is Kailasa, or Swastika Mountain.481 It is open to all who worship Shiva, regardless of caste or gender.487 Although the Hindus have many afterworlds, Swastika Mountain is especially interesting because it is on Earth. The only mountain on the planet not climbed by man, no one has ever been allowed on the summit because the Hindus believe that Shiva and his paradise are there.605,296,548,481,592
The Warrior’s Death
In peaceful urban cultures, a bloody death is undesirablewe want a quiet death, in bed from old age.592
But a violent death is the treasured death of warriors. Heraclitus (circa 535-475 BC) said, “Souls slain in war are purer than those that perish with disease. They arise into wakefulness.”206
Warlike cultures also maintain that the war dead reach the next world in a more vigorous form. The people of Mangaia (Cook Islands) think “the spirits of those who die a natural death are extremely feeble and weak; whereas the spirits of those slain in battle are strong and vigorous, their bodies not having been reduced by disease.”335,308
And, since many traditions teach that the soul has the age and appearance of the dead person at the time of death, young men who die here are young men there. This belief inspired Yukio Mishima (1925–1970), a Japanese warrior, to commit suicide by seppuku. According to Mishima, a “powerful, tragic frame and sculptured muscles” are “indispensable in a romantically noble death.”823, 619
Die Giving Birth
In many cultures, death during childbirth is viewed as the female equivalent of war. Childbirth currently kills 1,400 women each day.424 On average, that exceeds the number of men killed daily in war.592
Interestingly, in the Norse Grimnismal, the lovely goddess Freyja takes half of the heroic dead, and this is probably a reference to women who die giving birth.697,272,593,529
Ovid (43 BC-AD 17/18), the great Roman writer, closed his Metamorphoses with this line: “I shall live for all eternity, immortalized by fame.”658
Fame is difficult to achieveof the billions who have died since the last Ice Age, only a small number are remembered today209but can fame conquer death?
In some traditions, fame does indeed have that power.
According to archaic Greek paganism, the dead live only as long as the living remember and honor them.738
According to Egyptian paganism, if a person’s name no longer exists, the person no longer exists.114
“To say the name of the deceased is to make him live again.”115
Table of Contents
I. Where Are We Now?
Euripides Said We May Be Already Dead
II. How to Live Forever without a God or an Immortal Soul
If Either Eternal Recurrence or Eternalism Is Correct, Scientific Skepticism May Be Groundless
III. Information for the Nihilists
A Guide for the Metaphysically Impaired
IV. Souls and Other Worlds
Some Interesting Traditions
V. The Trek of Souls
Accounts of the Death Journey
How to Enter Other Worlds
VII. Ghosts and Specters
When the Dead Are Here
VIII. Communicating with the Dead
From Necromancy to Scrying
A Quick Guide to a Good Death
The Tibetan Way of Death
How to Have an Out-of-Body Experience
A Séance Procedure to Contact the Dead