A Traveler’s Guide to the Afterlife
Traditions and Beliefs on Death, Dying, and What Lies Beyond Mark Mirabello Inner Traditions 2016 Pb, 214pp, bib, ind, $16.95, ISBN 9781620555972 The big difference, comparing this book with many others with the word ‘afterlife’ in their titles, is that Dr Mirabello has surveyed 965 sources drawn from many cultures that have declared, discussed or promoted their particular teachings or traditions about death and an Afterlife.
This wideranging anthology comprises concise citations from a huge range of religions and philosophies (often supported by secular data (including atheistic and scientific opinions).
Mirabello manages to avoid boring the reader by judiciously selecting the only ‘important’ bits and threading them on a witty and erudite running commentary.
He sets out what each canon tells us about what it is to die and what we (including atheists) might expect post mortem. Of course, this leads to many different theories about the finality (or not) of death, infinity and eternity (upon which are predicated things like hells, heavens, deities, ghosts and souls).
In this variety there are surprising discoveries: Greek and Chinese agreement that we may already be dead or dreaming; the sheer diversity of Afterlife journey narratives; that some Afterlives do not depend upon belief, ethical conduct or even a god; a Buddhist sect that holds death is really final; the complex consequences of reincarnation and the paradoxes of karma; one Universe or many; the best way to prepare for death. He even includes guidance on out-of-body experiences and how to conduct your own séance.
Party-poopers like nihilists and materialists will find little to enjoy here, especially as they bring so little of value to this otherwise rich feast of mankind’s belief systems.
Mirabello is a pleasure to read; his edifying prose is tight and clear, making his material seem fresh. On top of which the book’s episodic style makes it eminently suitable for casual sampling.