This is a scintillating volume on the mythologies of the afterlife in the world religions from various eras. "Tales of Lights and Shadows" offers a fresh approach to the traditional mythology and literature of the afterlife, centering on tensions and polarities in the afterlife concepts: bright vs. dismal, heaven vs. reincarnation, theocentric vs. anthropocentric heaven, etc. Presenting examples from virtually all the world's religious cultures past and present, this fascinating book puts the concepts clearly in the context of the worldview and social issues of that society. Robert Ellwood depicts the many rich mythologies of the afterlife from the ancient Mesopotamians, Japanese, Greeks of the Homeric era, to Christian views of heaven or the Buddhist western paradise. He explores views of the concept of reincarnation as well as the arduous preparation for the afterlife that must be taken in some traditions. Ellwood concludes by looking at the way varying views of the afterlife influence religious and even secular culture, and how in turn culture can influence the popular heavens and hells of the time and place.
Robert Ellwood was Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California from 1967 until his retirement in 1997. He is author or editor of over 25 books, including textbooks in world religions and religious studies, histories, and works on spirituality.
Introduction; 1. In That Good Night, What Dreams May Come?: Taking Afterlife Seriously vs. Virtual Disbelief or Unconcern; 2. The Hunger and the Happy Fields of the Dead: Gloomy views of the Afterlife vs. Bright, Happy Pictures; 3. The Several Homelands of the Heart: Abodes of the Soul; 4. Grottoes of Earth and Heaven: Immortality Here and There; 5. Circling Paths, Endless Journey: Reincarnation on this Earth vs. Eternal Life in a Heavenly Realm; 6. God or Garden of Delights?: Is Heaven Theocentric or Anthropocentric?; 7. Progress or Perfection?: Does One Grow Spiritually in Heaven?; 8. Ghostly Fear and Love: The Dread of Ancestral Spirits vs. Respect and Honor; 9. On the Long March: Community and Religious Solidarity vs. Individual Reward and Punishment; 10. Amazing Grace: The Difficult vs. the Easy Path; 11. The End of Days: Linear and Cyclical Time; 12. Havens for Heroes: Ordinary vs. Extraordinary Destinies after Death; 13. The One and the Many: Individual Afterlife Destinies vs. Union with God; 14. Conclusion: Afterlife and Culture; Bibliography; Index.