Afterlife: Wisdom Hidden in Plain Sight

Afterlife: Wisdom Hidden in Plain Sight

Laura Duhan-Kaplan speaking about "The Afterlife Journey: Kabbalistic Guidelines for Death Preparation" at Vancouver School of TheologyThe Afterlife: Hidden Wisdom

The afterlife.

That’s what I’ve been researching for the past month.

“How can you research the afterlife?” you’re wondering. “Only dead people have firsthand experience.”

Turns out, though, a lot of data is available.

Accounts of the afterlife in key Jewish texts.  Great literature reviews of those texts by Simcha Paull Raphael. Kabbalah’s theory of four worlds of consciousness. Jewish rituals of mourning, said to help souls of mourners and also those they grieve. Dreams and visions of family or friends who have died. The entire traditional program of Jewish ethical and spiritual development.

Line them up and be amazed. “How could I have missed it?” you may say. “Information about the afterlife has been hiding in plain sight!”

Wisdom for This Life

Maybe you find the whole thing silly. “There’s no such thing as an eternal soul,” you say. “Only the human spirit, found in embodied consciousness.”

Keep reading anyway.

Because the human spirit may be bigger than you imagine. Embodied consciousness is more complex.

Isn’t that the main point of teachings about life after life? There’s more to the soul than we think. More depth, courage, integrity and accountability waiting to be revealed. And thus, a great deal to learn about living wisely right now.

Or so I believe! And so I’ve written in the chapter-length summary of my research: The Afterlife Journey, Kabbalistic Guidelines for Death PreparationIt’s just a draft. But please, feel free to read it. You’ll find a little Kabbalah, Jung, Plato, phenomenology, liturgy, and anthropology. Plus reports on my experiences as a mourner. Complete with dreams and visions!

Spiritual Perspectives on Death and Dying

You won’t be the first readers.

So far, I shared the ideas at VST’s inter-religious conference “Spiritual Perspectives on Death and Dying.” There, university students, theologians, spiritual caregivers and energy healers came together.

For three days, we talked about health care, experienced music, analyzed sacred text, studied culture, reflected on loved ones, and explored our own wishes for death care. Want to learn more? Email me!

But first: accept the invitation to read my paper! Then, please let me know what you think.

  1. Thanks Laura, I have been studying 2nd temple Judaism from which Christianity emerged lately and find it interesting how much evolution occurred and has occurred in both religions.
    I will study your paper intently. After all I have now reached the stage in my life when the Cancer has overtaken me and I need to prepare. But ecumenical as I am I find that the Kabbalah has a lot to teach about the realm hidden in plain sight. It’s no wonder Isaac Newton studied it when the plague hit Britain.
    I’ll let you know the results of my study…

    1. Thank you, Vernon. All blessings to you as you deal with health care systems, family systems, and your deepest internal systems. Please let me know your thoughts on the paper.

  2. Yes. Love of wisdom and spiritual practice is in a sense dying before you die.

    1. Thank you, Gregory. You said it beautifully and succinctly.

  3. >>>
    Turns out, though, a lot of data is available.

    That depends on what you mean by "data" !

    Someone recently wrote a book "proving" the existence of an afterlife. The evidence:

    . . . He, himself, had a "near-death experience", was dead for a while, and then returned to life.

    There are lots of those stories, but the sample is biased:

    . . . We don't hear the experiences (or lack thereof) of people who _don't_ return to life.

    I'm sure the "white light" is great, while it lasts. I'm not sure that it doesn't fade to black.

    However, I've just printed a copy of your paper. My mind is not closed.

    . Charles

    1. Thanks, Charles! That’s two of the questions raised by my paper. Did I “hear from” people who didn’t return to life? What counts as data?

  4. Just read your paper, thank you for an educational read. I have a close friend who has just been moved into palliative care. Your paper explained to me why my friend is so peaceful, calm, steadfast and prepared to die — not exactly “ready” because of course she would like to live longer here on earth. But she has accepted, with so much peace and strength, the likelihood of an earlier death than she had wanted. She has a “developed” soul, as I think you described in your paper. Her life has been devoted to caring for others, including sponsoring, mentoring and assisting 10 World Vision children with more than just money. Her elevated soul makes it easier for her to leave us, I guess.
    The one matter I don’t agree with in your paper is the following phrase on page 16, regarding the soul finding its way to tzror hachayim, to be re-incarnated, in God’s continuous work of creation, where you state that upon reincarnation, the soul”forgets all the wisdom it gained in its life before and after death. ” I am no theological scholar so forgive my disagreement – I have nothing to back it up but my instinct and a little observation about human behaviour. They tell me that some souls are born on earth as ‘old souls’ who do remember the lessons, sometimes harsh ones, they learned in earlier lives. My hope about reincarnation is that we get another chance for “do-overs” so that based on our earlier errors, our soul remembers to do better the next life (lives) around.
    But..what do I really know, about anything? The answer is: Nothing!
    So thanks again for a great read.

    1. Heather, thank you for this beautiful comment. All blessings to you and your friend. You’ve written a beautiful tribute to her.

      I don’t know if the stories about reincarnation are literal and, if they are, how much personal consciousness we retain; on that point I’m just recounting what I’ve read and heard. And I totally understand your hope. It’s a wonderful expression of soul-work in progress!

  5. Beautiful and really personally meaningful overview/ intro to wisdom in plain site for the beyond. For me the most concrete part of the wisdom in plain site is that out 4 worlds consciousness/aura life energy is both within and surrounding the body, ultimately connected with Hai HaOlmim the Life of the Worlds.

    1. Thank you, Jeff, for this wonderful comment. Yes, I like that image you offer very much – life energy or psyche all around us.

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