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This is a psychological and historical exploration of belief in a spirit world, imperceptible to the senses, as a pervasive and deeply rooted characteristic of religion. Belief in a spirit world, and a blissful or agonizing afterlife, is one of the most pervasive and deeply rooted characteristics of religion. This volume offers a wide ranging exploration of this basic religious theme. Most of the case studies are drawn from Jewish and Christian tradition, providing in depth coverage of Judaism and Christianity from late Antiquity through the Medieval period. There are also examples from Islamic, Japanese, and Chinese traditions for a comparative perspective with Western traditions. Several chapters deal with the formative period of Jewish and Christian apocalypticism, which is concerned not only with the end of the physical world but also with the eternal heavenly world. These chapters are also important for illustrating the development of mysticism in Western traditions. The most distinctive aspect of this book is that it does not deal with antiquity alone, but juxtaposes the historical essays with a survey of modern day, near death experiences. It raises issues of fundamental importance for the psychology of religion as well as for its history.
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