Afterlife and Reincarnation Part 4 Heaven or Elsewhere

An explanation of the beliefs different religions have about the afterlife and reincarnation, the views on heaven or elsewhere outside the earth.

Afterlife and Reincarnation

2Bii/iii--a heaven or hell for the spirit. In many cases there is not much difference between those beliefs which expect a future physical body and those which hold out for an entirely nonphysical afterlife. In Christianity, adherents to both ideas may attend the same church, either unaware or uncaring of the difference between them. Some of those holding to a solely spiritual future feel that ultimately they will become a part of a greater whole, will blend in, so to speak, with God. This is a more Eastern idea. However, apart from the Christians who believe in the immediate saving grace of Christ, most accept that the average man or woman is not yet worthy to blend with or be a companion to the Ultimate. This problem is overcome in a variety of ways.

2Biv--the soul has an opportunity to develop further. Some Christians feel that, except for those who are beyond saving, they will go to purgatory. There they will be purged of their sins before moving on up to heaven. Spiritualists (who may or may not also be Christian) expect a variety of nonphysical planes, through which they will work their way upward toward the Ultimate, gradually developing and improving themselves as they go. The lower of these planes can also interact with the living (3), which forms the whole basis of spiritualism and mediumship. Occasionally a spirit will be so involved with earthly things that he will be unable or unwilling to start on this upward journey, and will remain earthbound--the spiritualist explanation for ghosts.

3Bi--the spirit remains here. To some cultures ghosts are a permanent fact of life. The dead, though no longer visible, remain active participants in community activities, to be consulted, fed, included in rituals, and propitiated at every turn. Some tribes in South America regard all such spirits as hostile, and the entire life of every individual is directed toward trying to propitiate or fend off the attack of a host of malign, though invisible, beings. The result is a rigid, ritualized, and fear-pervaded existence offeting little opportunity for mental or spiritual development since any changes in the status quo might infuriate the spirits even more.

In Africa the spirits are usually more reasonable, becoming angry only when given cause. Frequently they are believed to stay in spirit form for only a time, after which they will again be reincarnated. The belief is also held by some shamanistic cults, and young children may be routinely examined for birthmarks or other signs which might indicate who they were in their last lifetime.

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