There has never been a period of human history when so much information has been available on the topic of life after death. And yet, mainstream science has no serious interest; and neither has mainstream religion. The unshackled popular mind, however, is open to the possibilities.
For a moment, let’s assume that the great traditions and modern research are correct, and that there is indeed a continuity of consciousness, unbreakable by bodily death. Not everyone is necessarily thrilled at the afterlife prospect. If you dropped ironclad evidence in their lap, many will turn tail and run. So maybe there’s reason to fear life after death.
One of the dangers of life after death is that you may be reincarnated on Earth, maybe the worst 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 climate cataclysm.
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 after-world. So are there guidebooks we can consult in advance? You could try Dante’s tour book of the after-world. 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 a great trip after all, maybe even quite ecstatic. Still, there’s the problem that we’re completely unprepared to make the move.
There is one afterlife guidebook that C. G. Jung liked, The Tibetan Book of the Dead. I recommend it if you’re interested in the next world. According to Tibetan teaching, at death one encounters a great light, just as reported in many near-death experiences. But this bright beginning may be misleading for things are likely to go downhill after that.
The most important message from the Tibetan Book of the Dead: recognize that the demons and angels we see in the next world are projections of our own minds. The light that casts a spell on us, and all the dark and fearful monsters, are parts of ourselves, only externalized.
This Tibetan teaching applies to the experience of living also; we project the contents of our psyches on people and the world around us all the time. If I’m in a bad mood, the smile of a child might appear sinister. If I’m in a gay, expansive mood, I see the extraordinary in the ordinary. So for this life as well as our possible next life, the more practiced at recognizing how we’re painting the world with our own minds, the better.
The afterlife may be inherently destabilizing, except perhaps for the enlightened and saintly elites who have mastered their inner forces and know how to deal with the postmortem environment.
For many, perhaps, afterlife might turn out to be more miserable than embodied life. Consider another way to 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 we did or might have done. Working through it all would be purgatory.
On the bright side, purgatory should end, and the mind will figure out ways to explore and enjoy its new mode of being. Switching dimensions has to be a major learning experience. For example, I assume there will be sex in the afterlife, but it might not be easy. After all, how indeed are we to manage making love with another with our bodiless souls? True, we might acquire astral bodies in the next world, but that could be problematic. I can imagine some poor souls going crazy with frustration because ‘love’ at the higher frequencies turns out to be very difficult 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, and get turned on. 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 a next world. Nobody knows for sure what happens to us on arrival. Some of us may be hauled off to something really nasty. There is no reason to believe that the laws of the next world are democratic.