Abrahamic

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the largest Abrahamic religions. The Baha'i Faith is sometimes included. Smaller Abrahamic religions include Samaritanism, Yazidi, Druzes, Mandeans, Rastafari and the Babi Faith.

 


 

Judaism

Jewish beliefs on what happens after death vary across time and sects.

Resurrection and reincarnation, Garden of Eden, Heaven and Gehinom (a place of spiritual purification rather than punishment) can be featured. The Torah (written c. 3000 BP) emphasizes more immediate and concrete consequences for good or bad behavior and less focus on the afterlife. Some scholars relate that belief in afterlife came in more recent times with the writing of the Talmud (started c. 1800 years ago and completed c. 1500 years ago).

The Jewish faith believes each person has two souls - the Nefesh HaBehamit soul is a separate instance for each life and is concerned with selfish and earthly interests. The Nefesh Elokit is concerned with spiritual development and the divine rather than the self. The latter is timeless and is given a tour of the Garden of Eden and Gehinom (also referred to as Gehenna) prior to descending into life on earth. This tour is meant to teach the soul how it needs to focus on balancing the more selfish Nefesh HaBehamit.

Resurrection will happen in the messianic age - referred to as the World to Come or Olam Ha-Ba, although this term also refers to the afterlife. Each Nefesh HaBehamit's physical body will be resurrected as well as the Nefesh Elokit.

As the afterlife, Olam Ha-Ba is the world to come for any virtuous person's soul - gentile or Jew. The soul is brought for judgment after death and may spend a time in Gehinom to be purified before proceeding to the World to Come. Gehinom is said to be a place of discomfort fitting the sins and that most souls will be purified here in less than 11 months.

Reincarnation is a feature alluded to in the Torah and in earlier Judaism, Kabbalah and Zohar (classical mystic aspects). There is reference to reincarnation into forms other than humans, but most feature reincarnation as a necessity for those souls not yet evolved enough in the divine to merit entry into the World to Come. The concept of Reincarnation is not mentioned in the Talmud and it is only in the past 500 years or so that Reincarnation has been given more open exposure.

There are references to sinners being cut off from their people (spiritual excision or "kareit") where the soul loses its place in the World to Come. Some believe the very evil will have their soul extinguished forever.

Note: The Jewish Reform movement rejects resurrection. Non-Kabbalist rabbis reject the concept of reincarnation.

 


 

Kabbalah Jewish Mysticism

Kabbalah is said to predate Judaism and other Abrahamic religions. Some see it as parallel to Judaism. Conflicting information exists perhaps because in the past it was hidden by the Kabbalists and taught only to the few who had developed certain inner qualities. It has become more open in recent years and is subject to various interpretations and sects.

Kabbalah is concerned primarily with the metaphysical with a focus on understanding Godliness and the "upper forces" and how they are involved in creating the world we know. It is a deeper study for those already well-versed in the Talmud and Torah.

Contrary to classical Jewish beliefs, Kabbalists believed souls transmigrate through many lifetimes. This process is known as gilgul and is said to follow a pattern; great wise men were gilgulim of past wise men. Folk beliefs had good and pure persons reincarnated as fish.

 


 

Christianity

Christian beliefs are that the soul goes to Heaven if the person was good in life and to Hell if they lived a bad or evil life. In some cases, the soul undergoes cleansing in purgatory before proceeding to heaven. Heaven is a kind of Paradise, whereas Hell is a place of punishment. Purgatory is also a place of punishment, but to a lesser extent than Hell.

Limbo, although not an official component of Christian afterlife, is considered by some denominations be on the edge of Heaven or Hell in an intermediate state.

The word limbo does not occur in the Bible, however, western theologians of the middle ages described Hell with four parts: Hell of the Damned, Purgatory, Limbo of the Patriarchs and Limbo of the Infants. From Limbo of the Patriarchs, admittance to Heaven is possible only through the intervention of Jesus Christ. Limbo of the Infants, although not officially defined by the Church, is considered more permanent, but theories regard it as a state of maximum natural happiness.

Heaven in Christianity is said to be a union with God and a state of supernatural happiness. Mainstream Christian organized religion rejects the universal salvation concept, holding that only some will eventually enter Heaven.

Gnosticism

Gnostics believe humankind was created by Demiurge, a god with physical form and a divine spark within. Salvation is in enlightenment through knowledge. Once supreme knowledge is attained, one's own divine spark is released from the physical body to merge with God and to move to Demiurge's Garden of Delights. Until then, the divine spark is concealed and at death the divine spark is transferred to a new body to continue the search for true knowledge.

Unenlightened souls are reincarnated over and over and, in both life and death, live in an illusory world until they achieve gnosis by acquiring spiritual knowledge of their origin and where they must go.

The Holy Grail of Health, by Steve Koulouris

 


 

Islam

One's level of comfort in the grave relates directly to the strength of one's faith (Iman) in Allah as the one Supreme Being and almighty creator.

Faith is demonstrated by worship of Allah, including being kind to all life on earth - human beings, animals, bugs, trees and plants. If one does not practice good deeds, one-s Iman withers away. The more good deeds done in life, the deeper one-s Iman. Reciting Glory be to Allah ("SubahannAllah") over and over again also contributes. The deeper one's Iman, the more comfortable one's time will be in the grave where they await resurrection. In a sense, one will receive a taste of their ultimate destiny in the level of suffering or peace they experience in the grave.

In Islam, heaven or Paradise is Jannah and Hell is Jahannam. The concept of Paradise parallel's that of Christianity, but with a focus on luxury and sex.

Islam teaches that the purpose of life on earth is as a test to determine one's afterlife - either punishment in Jahannam or paradise in Jannah. There are seven heavens in paradise, which is described as a beautiful garden, a place of physical and spiritual pleasures with gorgeous mansions, exquisite food and drink, and virgin companions ("houris"). Hell has seven doors leading to seven levels of fires - the more severe ones sins, the more severe the level.

Muslims believe the soul continues to exist in the grave after death until a day of judgment when the world will be destroyed and Allah will resurrect the dead. The Qur'an describes this day as travelling on a narrow bridge over Hell to get to Paradise. Weighted by bad deeds, some will fall to Jahannam forever. There are two exceptions: Those that fought in God's cause are brought straight to Jannah and Islam's enemies go directly to Hell after death.

All humans will be judged on this day and be divided into the destinations of Jahannam or Jannah. There are various divergences at this point as to whether the outcome is eternal. Allah can be merciful and deliver some people from hell into paradise. Alternatively, Hell is viewed as a place where souls are purified or taught until they progress and can advance into heaven. Some believe only Muslims may have these opportunities and all others will remain.

Ahmadiyya

Ahmadi Muslims believe the afterlife, whether in heaven or hell, is spiritual rather than material. The goal for the soul is perpetual advancement to higher and higher spiritual stages. Even a period in hell is meant to be a place of redemption along this path - the fire of hell is said to be the fire of life's sins meant to purge the evil of those deeds. As one becomes more spiritual and selfless, when forgiveness is second nature and carnal desires are no longer important, it is said a soul within the soul takes shape and peace at heart and contentment is found.

Sufi

Barzakh is anything that separates two things and for the Sufi is said to be an intermediate realm connecting the earthly and spiritual worlds and populated by both spirits and corporeal bodies. Some term it a dream world where one is in both death and life. It is said to be luminous and simple - a world of the spirits - but also where spirits are able to assume forms from the earthly world.

 


 

Baha'i Faith

Deeply tied to the purpose of life on earth and the soul. The soul is everlasting and carries a unique character from one life to the next. The soul is a focal point for our human qualities - love, compassion, courage, fear, faith. When the physical body dies, the soul is freed into the spiritual world the Baha'i view as an extension of our physical universe.

The human life on earth provides a venue to develop the soul - a workshop where one can continue to develop and perfect qualities needed to progress spiritually. Between each life, the soul continues its spiritual development. Heaven is seen as a state close to God and Hell a place far from God. Each cycle of life and afterlife is a consequence of the prior stage and one's efforts to develop spiritually following the path of the Manifestations of God.

There is no description of the actual nature of the spiritual world or afterlife beyond it being an extension of the earthly world. Baha'u'llah writes, "The nature of the soul after death can never be described."