Life After Death Beliefs Throughout History

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The concept of an afterlife is nothing new. Since the earliest days, humans have been seeking answers about the final frontier beyond the grave.

Beliefs in Life After Death in Egyptian History

Egyptians saw life in stages beginning at birth, then adolescence, maturity, old age and death, but death was not regarded as an end. It was merely a change to another type of existence–a transitional state that led to an afterlife. The way to a heavenly afterlife, however, consisted first of a dangerous journey through a treacherous underworld.

Artists Who Depict Life After Death

Throughout time, many philosophers, poets, and artists have illustrated their beliefs about life after death. It can be inferred from Plato’s writings that he believed in life before birth and life after death. He regarded the body as a temporary vehicle for the soul and death as just a separation of the soul from the prison of the body.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare describes the afterlife as a journey to a undiscovered place: “The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns.”

The famous Romanic English poet William Wordsworth alluded to life after death. He believed that children are more capable of seeing a divine existence through nature, but as they grow older, their connection to a heavenly existence diminishes.

In Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” Wordsworth writes, “There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, / The earth, and every common sight, / To me did seem / Apparell’d in celestial light.” He also points to life after death when he writes, “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: / The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, / Hath had elsewhere its setting, / And cometh from afar.”


Life After DeathPlato and Life After Death

For centuries, people have reported having near death experiences, and many reported experiencing some kind of afterlife after dying temporarily and then returning back to life. Even Plato who lived from 428 to 348 BC wrote in Book X of The Republic about the myth of Er, a Greek soldier who had a near death experience.

Er went to war. After a fierce battle with many casualties, he was presumed dead, along with many other soldiers. When the bodies were collected, Er was placed on the funeral pyre to be burned, but his body revived. He said he had been on a journey in the afterlife. He joined other spirits in a place where there were tunnels from earth to the afterlife. He saw divine beings judge departed souls for things they had done during their mortal lives. Instead of being judged, Er was sent back to earth to tell others about the afterlife.

Evidence of Life After DeathSimilarities Among Near Death Experiences

Throughout history there has been no absolute proof of life after death. Much life after death evidence comes from recent case studies of people who have had near death experiences.

What’s compelling about NDEs as evidence for life after death is their striking similarities. Dr. Raymond A. Moody Jr., M.D. has studied NDEs for several years. He coined the term “near-death experience” in the 1970s. In his book Life After Life, Moody states that while no two NDEs are exactly the same, most share at least eight of the following 15 characteristics:

  1. Ineffability. Many who have a NDE state it is very difficult to find the words to describe the experience.
  2. Hearing the News. NDEers hear doctors or someone pronounce them dead.
  3. Feelings of Peace and Quiet. Many report feeling extremely peaceful. They also experience  quietness and solitude.
  4. The Noise. Many say they hear unusual sounds at the beginning of their NDE like a buzzing or ringing tone.
  5. The Dark Tunnel. Many experience moving quickly through a dark tunnel.
  6. Out of the Body. Many have an out of body experience where they see their physical body from above.
  7. Meeting Others. Usually early in their NDE, people report meeting others they knew or didn’t know who where there to help them through the transition to death.
  8. The Being of Light. Moody states this is the most incredible element and the one thing that has the most profound effect. The being of light usually emits comforting unconditional love.
  9. The Review. Many experience a review of their earthly life. It’s not judgmental. It’s more educational, and it helps them understand the importance of loving others.
  10. The Border or Limit. Many come across a border or limit such as a fence, water, or a door.
  11. Coming Back. Most people do not want to return to their bodies.
  12. Telling Others. Most feel uneasy about sharing their experiences with others.
  13. Effects on Lives. Many report their NDE has changed their lives for the better.
  14. New Views of Death. Many are not fearful about dying anymore.
  15. Corroboration. Many times people return and can relate stories of what happened and even specific conversations others had during their NDE.

Death-Bed Visions

Death-bed visions are another occurrence that suggest there is life after death. Many times the dying state they can see angles or guardians coming to greet them and help them cross over from this life to the afterlife. Deathbed Vision

Like near-death experiences, death-bed visions have occurred throughout history but have only recently drawn attention from the scientific community.

Is There Life After Death?

If you’re looking for evidence of life after death, one of the best books is Evidence of the Afterlife by Jeffrey Long, M. D.

For more about life after death stories online and in books, click here. If you are interested in hearing real stories from people about NDEs, check out these YouTube videos.

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