The afterlife is the proposed continued existence of the soul, spirit or mind of a being after physical death. The major views on the afterlife derive from religion, esotericism and metaphysics. In many popular views, this continued existence often takes place in a spiritual or immaterial realm. Deceased persons are usually believed to go to a specific realm or plane of existence after death, determined by their actions during life.
In metaphysical models, theists generally believe some sort of afterlife awaits people when they die. Atheists generally do not believe that there is an afterlife. Members of some generally non theistic religions such as Buddhism, tend to believe in an afterlife but without reference to God.
Many religions, whether they believe in the soul’s existence in another world like Christianity, Islam and many pagan belief systems, or in reincarnation like many forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, believe that one’s status in the afterlife is a reward or punishment for their conduct during life.
An afterlife concept that is found among Hindus, Rosicrucians, Spiritists, and Wiccans is reincarnation, as evolving humans life after life in the physical world, that is, acquiring a superior grade of consciousness and altruism by means of successive reincarnations. This succession is conceived to lead toward an eventual liberation or spiritual rebirth as spiritual beings.
Some practitioners of eastern religions follow a different concept called metempsychosis which purposes that human beings can transmigrate into animals, vegetables, or even minerals. One consequence of the Hindu and Spiritist beliefs is that our current lives are also an afterlife. According to those beliefs, events in our current life are consequences of actions taken in previous lives, or Karma.
Some Neopagans believe in personal reincarnation, whereas some believe that the energy of one’s soul reintegrates with a continuum of such energy which is recycled into other living things as they are born.
Many Wiccans, though not all, profess a belief in an afterlife called the Summerland, a peaceful and sunny place where the souls of the newly dead are sent. Here, souls rest, recuperate from life, and reflect on the experiences they had during their lives. After a period of rest, the souls are reincarnated, and the memory of their previous lives is erased.
The book In the Light of Truth, offers new insight concerning the process of reincarnation. The human spirit is understood to have repeated earth lives and experiences all of which are necessary for its eventual return to the spiritual realm. There, man began his journey as an unconscious spirit seed. Urged by his wish for self consciousness, he descended into the world of matter to gain experiences essential for his development, just as a seed falls to the earth in order to grow and mature. As a single earth life cannot provide the full range of experiences, a human spirit generally reincarnates many times upon the earth among different peoples and cultures.
Christian Science teaches that the after death state consists of a form of spiritual development whereby the experience of the deceased is in proportion to their ability to avail of the unlimited love of God. Consequently, a person dying in a state of sin would experience God’s love as suffering, while someone who passed on in a state of spiritualized consciousness would experience a corresponding level of happiness.
There is no concept of eternal punishment in Christian Science. Hell and heaven are both states of thought that correspond to the presence, or absence, of self centredness that characterise the individual undergoing the experience of death. A person who seems to die does not go anywhere. One simply adjusts to another level of consciousness which is inaccessible to those they have left behind.
The ultimate, and inevitable, goal of all of us is the experience of divine love. Death is not necessary for the experience of heaven. It can be experienced here and now to the extent that one’s thought is elevated to a spiritual level. Indeed, Christian Science teaches that death itself is an illusion, and that it will be ultimately conquered through good.