Thoughts of the afterlife enter the minds of every single person on the planet at one time or another. What waits for us beyond death? What can we expect to happen to our souls? Our belief in the afterlife is an essential part of our identity and even those who don’t profess a belief in a higher being still have their firmly held beliefs of what happens to the energy of the body even if it is nothing more than that energy dispersing back into the universe.  Read more about life, death and the afterlife here:

the Afterlife

World Religions and the Afterlife

All the religions of the world, ancient and current, have had a belief in the afterlife. There tend to be two common models of the afterlife: the heaven and hell model or the reincarnation model. The heaven and hell model describes two places souls may go after the physical body has passed on. One is a higher place, a holy paradise where the souls of people who have met varying standards of ‘goodness’ or ‘faith’ go to rejoice in their afterlife. The other is a hell or low place, often seen as a place of agony and torment, for souls who have not met the standards for goodness put in place by their religion. It is interesting to note that both heaven and hell do have a place in the reincarnation religions as ‘holding zones’ for souls while they wait for their next opportunity to live. Additionally, some religions few the afterlife as nothing more than a neutral place located beneath the earth.

Those who believe in a reincarnation afterlife believe that after each death of our physical body our soul is reborn into a new incarnation. The religions that believe in reincarnation are primarily eastern: Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, and each has a different belief in how the souls are reincarnated and how it is they can end the cycle of reincarnation.

Ancient Religions and Death

In the ancient religions, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Nordic, the afterlife was an incredible important part of the journey of their soul and these cultures spent their lives working towards preparation for their time in the afterlife. Egyptians believed that upon passing their soul would move to the Kingdom of the Dead where they would have to work to repay Osiris before they could work through the trials of the afterlife and arrive in the Hall of Two Truths where their heart would be weighed against the feather of truth and justice. If they had lived a righteous life they would be permitted to pass on. In Greek and Roman religion the goal was not to be forced to linger in Hades but to cross the River Styx and be judged and ultimately sent to Elysium. If you were evil you were judged and sent to Tartarus, however if you were just a normal person who had no great sin but also no great purity you were left to the Asphodel fields. If you were more bad than good, but not quite bad enough to earn the tortures of Tartarus then you were sent to the fields of punishment. Ancient Nordic beliefs were much the same. Half of the warriors who died in battle joined Odin in Valhalla, the other Freyja in a meadow known as Folkvangr. Those who simply lived were sent to The Covered Hall or Hel, and those who were wicked were sent to The Dark or Niflhel.

Our belief in an afterlife is something that is ingrained in our very beings from the earliest times of man as far back as the first recorded religions.