The ancient Egyptians believed that the soul went on to the kingdom of the dead, known as the Duat. To get there, it faced demons and fierce animals, finally arriving at the Hall of Two Truths, where its heart was weighed against the feather of truth and justice. If the heart was heavier, the soul was devoured by the crocodile-headed goddess Ammut. If it was lighter, it would travel on to rejoin loved ones, live in a comfortable house, have plenty to eat and drink, and enjoy constant sun and a cool breeze.
For the ancient Greeks, the afterlife was not so rosy. Greek souls ended up either in Hades, a cold, damp and dark realm guarded by the three-headed hound Cerberus, or Tartarus, where monsters and wicked humans were imprisoned for eternity. On the other hand, the Elysian Fields were a paradise reserved only for very good or distinguished people.
The Jewish people of Old Testament times believed that the dead went to an underworld
called Sheol where they slept forever, knowing neither pleasure and reward, nor pain and punishment. This view eventually changed. The Book of Enoch, a religious text dated to the 2nd century BPE, describes Sheol as being divided into four sections:
– One where the saints await judgement day.
– One where moderately good people await their reward.
– A third where the wicked are punished and also await judgement day.
– A last, where the wicked are tormented for eternity.
According to the Buddhists’ Tibetan Book of the Dead, souls wander for up to 100 days in an intermediary bardo state, after which they either go on to the ultimate peace of Nirvana, or are reborn to new earthly lives through the process of reincarnation.
The Roman Catholic Church indoctrinated the concepts of a heavenly paradise, a fiery hell, and purgatory, a temporary resting place where souls undergo remedial punishment for minor sins before being admitted to heaven.
With the advances in modern medical care, the near-death experience has complicated the subject of life after death. Dr. Raymond A. Moody Jr., author of the ground-breaking 1975 book, Life After Life, and like-minded researchers have found that people revived after clinical death often describe several of the following events:
– The sensation of floating, seeing and hearing everything going on around their body.
– Passing through a dark tunnel where the sound of wind or even music may be heard.
– Ascending toward a light at the end of the darkness.
– Being greeted by deceased loved ones, a guide, religious figure or being of light.
– Being shown a life review.
– Experiencing a pleasant, heaven-like place or – rarely – a fearful, hell-like place.
– An increased interest in the meaning of life, and a loss of their fear of death.
If you have had a near-death experience, Halloween Forevermore would love to hear from you!