A Partial History of Afterlife Beliefs
Ogilvie (Daniel M.)
Source: Ogilvie's page on Rutgers Website
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. A majority of people worldwide believe that they and all other human beings are “ensouled” and the majority of soulbelievers endorse the idea that souls are released from the body when it ceases to function. For these people, the entrance of the soul into afterlife1 existence is taken to be a fact; a lifesustaining, lifeguiding, fearreducing, mindcalming, unquestioned, reassuring, sometimes terrifying, “it’s going to happen”, fact.
  2. Given such widespread agreement regarding the importance of the soul in the “now” and in the “hereafter”, it is surprising that the topic is so rarely the source of open public conversation. Perhaps the topic is too sacred, or too personal, or too sensitive, or too controversial to become the focus of conscious attention. Another possibility is that some people are so certain about their afterlife2 beliefs that talking about them would be pointless. But that condition may be changing. As witnessed by the interest generated by a course "Ogilvie (Daniel M.) & Hamilton (Leonard W.) - Soul Beliefs: Causes and Consequences" introduced at Rutgers University in 2010, many students are ready to take the wraps off a topic that normally eludes scrutiny.
  3. A few lectures in the Soul Beliefs course deal with the topic of the onset, evolution, and diversification of afterlife3 beliefs, but up to now, no reading assignment(s) accompanied these lectures. That’s a problem when students are expected to remember and work with the substance of what is said in lectures. Words spoken in lectures come and go, but written words remain available for study and review. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to provide a “hard copy” version of some of the information covered in these afterlife4 beliefs lectures.
  4. While there is no lack of written materials on afterlife5 doctrines promoted by specific religions, and library shelves are packed with scholarly treatises on the mind/body problem, whether or not the soul is separate from the body, and other issues pertaining to afterlife6 beliefs, until now, nothing of an appropriate size exists that organizes this information and places it under one roof. But beware! The roof I have created is too small to even begin to accommodate such an enormous topic. Operating under the constraints of writing a paper of manageable length means that some (actually, many) matters of monumental importance to the history and diversity of afterlife7 beliefs are omitted. Nonetheless, I hope the paper accomplishes its intended purpose of expanding the reader’s knowledge about this fascinating topic.


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