Myths of the afterlife journeys

The first evidence of a journey in the afterlife in ancient literature is probably that of Er, narrated by Plato (427-347 BC) more than two thousand years ago. In Book 10 of his Republic, he tells the story of a soldier (Er), who was killed in battle and then came back to life:

He [Er] said that when he left his body he travelled in company with many others till they came to a wonderful place, where there were, close to each other, two gaping chasms in the earth, and opposite and above them two other chasms in the sky. Between the chasms sat Judges, who, having delivered judgement, ordered the just to take the right-hand road that led up to the sky, and fastened the badge of their judgement in front of them, while they ordered the unjust, who carried the badges of all that they had done behind them, to take the left-hand road that led downwards. When Er came before them, they said that he was to be a messenger to men about the other world, and ordered him to listen to and watch all that went on in that place.

(Plato 1925: 394)

Similarly, Eastern thought has been no less drawn into the belief that some can experience an afterlife. A classic example is The Tibetan Book of the Dead, where the Bardo state (or the intermediate state between life and death) describes the nature of the 'mind' immediately after death. Another less popular example, but despite this, a no less interesting one, is the myth of creation of the Japanese islands, which will be narrated in Chapter 3.

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