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A Traveler's Guide to the Afterlife

Traditions and Beliefs on Death, Dying, and What Lies Beyond

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



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About The Book

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 history--a veritable “traveler’s guide” to the afterlife.




How to Enter Other Worlds

Like corn, a man ripens and falls to the ground; like corn, he springs up again in his season.
--Katha Upanishad

Nothing dies forever.
--Odin Brotherhood

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 Jnanavarniya--knowledge-obstructing karma--generated 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 knowledge--reflect on all ideas--and 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 undesirable--we 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

Acquire Fame

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 achieve--of the billions who have died since the last Ice Age, only a small number are remembered today209--but 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

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.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (October 2, 2016)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620555972

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Raves and Reviews

“People interested in the research of survival of physical death will find in A Traveler’s Guide to the Afterlife a compelling wealth of information. People who are not interested in the subject will benefit from the author’s erudition and his remarkable exploration of the sacred Eastern and Western traditions.”

– Anabela Cardoso, retired Portuguese senior career diplomat, editor in chief of the ITC Journal, and

“An extraordinary exploration of humankind’s collective wisdom about what lies on the other side of death.”

– Matthew McKay, Ph.D., author of Seeking Jordan

“What stands out in this traveler’s guide to the afterlife is how great minds throughout Earth’s history have over and over said that reincarnation, the recycling of souls, is the machinery of the universe. This book reinforces the importance of the soul in the mind-body-spirit complex that humans are; it should inspire all readers to do what they can to strengthen their soul while alive in the matter world.”

– Linda Moulton Howe, Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist and reporter and editor of Earthfile

“I have been hoping to find a resource like this for years. Mark’s book has become one of my most valuable reference tools for information on multicultural, multispiritual perspectives on death and the afterlife. The research is impeccable.”

– Rev. Terri Daniel, CT, founder of the Death Awareness Institute and The Afterlife Conference

“The suspense of death often kills us, figuratively speaking. That unknown door we all inevitably walk through stands as the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ that we all choose to ignore. In this book Mark Mirabello has accumulated the most extensive knowledge on death and the afterlife; it is enough to make a believer out of the skeptic. After reading this book you will face that unknown door with no suspense but instead a sense of wonder and excitement.”

– Jason Gregory, author of Enlightenment Now and The Science and Practice of Humility

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