One of the dangers of life after death is that you may be reincarnated on Earth, which may be the worst possible thing that could happen in the 21st century. Odds are you’ll be born into the impoverished majority, exposed and defenseless on a planet being ravaged by heat and fire.
What to do in the afterworld to prevent such a calamity? Just imagine arriving in the next world—you look around, and realize things are a bit weird. You reach in your pocket for your Smartphone; it should be possible to Google your way around. But no! You have no pocket and you have no Smartphone.
Without some kind of guide book, or map, one could get lost in the afterworld. So are there any guide books to the afterlife? Well, sort of. You could try Dante’s tour book of the afterworld. You could descend into Homer’s Hades and eavesdrop on Achilles rail against the misery of the afterlife. Traditional religions can’t resist touting the moral necessity of the most fiendish punishments. If that’s all there is, it might be rational to pray for extinction.
On the other hand, I believe in the possibility of the afterworld being fun after all, and maybe even quite ecstatic. Still, there is the problem that we’re completely unprepared for the trip.
There is one afterlife guidebook that C. G. Jung liked, The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I recommend it to anybody interested in the psychology of the next world. According to Tibetan teaching, at the time of death one encounters a great light, just as in many near-death experiences a being of light is encountered. But this bright beginning may be misleading, and things are likely to go downhill after that first seductive blast.
The most important practical message from the Tibetan Book of the Dead: we must recognize that all the demons and angels we see in the next world are projections of our own mental life. The light that lures us on and casts a spell upon us, and all the dark and fearful monsters, are our projections. To see this is a big step toward freedom.
The teaching applies to the experience of the living also--we project the contents of our psyches on people and the world around us. The idea is that the more practiced we are in recognizing how we are painting the world with the colors of our own psyche, the more likely we’ll see how we’re painting the next world when we get there.
The afterlife may be inherently destabilizing, except perhaps for the enlightened and saintly elites who have mastered their inner forces and know how to manipulate their postmortem worlds, like artists who do riffs on melodies and visual motifs.
For most of us, the afterlife might simply turn out to be more miserable that life. There’s another way we can imagine the dangers of the afterlife. In the liberation of consciousness at death, the subconscious memories of our lives may flood and send us through hells of recrimination, brooding, and obsessing on what might have been--and that could be a long purgatory.
On the bright side, purgatory could one day end and the disembodied mind might then figure out ways to have some fun in heaven. One possibility would be to figure out how to make love with bodiless souls. True, we might acquire astral bodies in the next world. This could be challenging. I can imagine some poor souls going crazy with frustration because ‘love’ at the higher frequencies is impossible for them.
I think life after death may be very boring for some people. And for people who die in the 21st century, many will suffer because they won’t have their Smartphones, their computers, or their sex organs. I think I know what happens next, at least if the Tibetan Book of the Dead is right. The bored, restless and maladjusted in the next world become peeping toms and janes; they spy on living folk making love to each other, they get turned on, and that's how they get sucked back into the world via reincarnation.
Anyway, I think we should reckon on some of the dangers before we get too worked up over the prospect of the next world.