After Lives : A Guide to Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory
New York, NY
Oxford University Press
Christianity from its earliest times taught the existence of heaven and hell as places where good and evil deeds in this life were judged, rewarded and punished. In the course of time ideas both of promised bliss and threatened woe went beyond anything than can have a purchase on human experience. Nevertheless, in their most developed form, doctrines of heaven and hell were explorations of moral psychology, as seen in their greatest imaginative expression, Dante's Divine Comedy. The present book explores and comments on ideas about post-mortem existence from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Israel, Greece and Rome, as well as in Christianity and (more briefly) Islam. Having traced the early history, growth, and refinement of these ideas over five millennia, it ends with the discordant voices of spiritualism, liberal theology, Mormonism, Evangelical Christian preachers of Rapture and Armageddon, modern Muslim apocalyptics, and Coptic visions of the Last Days. In a Prologue and an Epilogue the ironic treatment of some of these themes in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce is evoked to set them in a context of modernity.