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Each person who has lost a close friend or relative has doubtlessly reflected on the issue whether the life after death exists. Being timely nowadays, the answer to this question stays disputable and depends on consciousness and religious beliefs of people. Even though there exists a number of atheists in the era of new technologies, there are good reasons to refer to hundreds of previous generations, who became convinced that the soul of a person is immortal centuries after centuries. Mainly, this feature is common for all ancient religions. In some cultures, the afterworld is the prototype of the real one and shows the life development according to the laws that are similar to those that exist on the earth. However, the majority of cultures endow it with the features that are unnatural for the real worldly life. The studies of life after death represent amazing coincidences among cultures separated geographically and historically. For each person, the beliefs in life after death depend on the religious views. For me, the Christian views instilled since childhood are the closest. Nevertheless, this paper is aimed to show that there are numerous threads that unify the religious views of different cultures and bring people to the same idea that death is not the end, but the way to get the existence transformed to a different level.
The repetition of various motives is notable throughout Egyptian, Hebrew, early Greek, Christian, and Islamic cultures. Moreover, the existence of the lodgment for all godly souls beyond life in Heaven or above in the sky appears in various modulations. Christianity offers Heaven as a kingdom, where the angels and the saints indicate the presence of God. The Islamic Paradise is called Jannah and has much in common with the Christian Heaven. The symbols of the same paradise conception unify the Hebrew representation of a kingdom with the Ancient Greek images of celestial spheres and spiritual route. Apart from that, the images of a paradise or the Garden of Eden are based on the myth about the Golden Age and Adam and Eve’s story (Segal 160). In this case, the symbols include some geographical locations, the features of the wilderness, golden walls and emerald roads. For Hebrews, life after death is different than the one before it. It is located in a peaceful garden and includes no food, drink, reproduction, trade, envy, enmity or competition (Segal 67). The Heaven was the place, where the best spirits could travel. However, the main difference of the Hebrew beliefs is that they believe “people are souls” instead of having them (Segal 144). The Hebrews may have been deeply influenced by Egyptians. They believed that the bodies achieve a transformed angelic state. However, Egyptians divided the soul into “ka” and “ba” parts, both of which dwelt in the Fields of Aaru as the analogue to Heaven. The Ancient Greeks believed that the souls of the dead travel to the Elysian Fields situated on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean, on the edge of the world. This place should have a perfect climate with no rain, snow or strong wind. The fruitful soil should bear honey-sweet fruit three times a year. According to all of the descriptions, a common thing for all of the paradise analogues is that it gives complete freedom from the materialistic terrestrial bonds, brings happiness and peace to pure souls.
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The representations of hell or purgatory places are also common among cultures. The main idea is that hell is the place, where human souls are martyrized and tortured after death. For Hebrew, such place is called Sheol and looks like a titanic hole or town rounded with walls and is called “the land of Oblivion” or “the land of silence” (Segal 135). In this place, they live in darkness, covered with dust, forgotten by God and everyone else. In addition, Gehenna is the far valley filled with fire that makes the sinners suffer. In contrast to the other analogues of Hell, Sheol has a day off each Saturday of the week. In such a way, Shabbos becomes an essential day of abstention from work even in hell. The image of Hell for Christians includes the hierarchy of the malicious dickens that torture the sinners with excruciations, heat and stifling. As in all other cultures, Hell is situated deeply under the ground. The entrance to it is hidden in the darkest forests and volcanoes. The open Leviathan jaws should lead to this scaring place. The Greek subterranean Hades is also the place of the desolated gloom. As well as Sheol and Christian Hell it is forgotten by God (Segal 111). This place is located under the ground or in the furthest East and is separated from the world of the alive with Sticks River. One more analogue of hell for the ancient Greeks is Tartar, a bottomless abyss aimed to torture those, who have abused Zeus personally. The common underground place for the sinners of Islamic culture was Jahannam that should have seven groups of sinners behind seven gates. The same as in the abovementioned analogues of Hell, the tortures in Jahannam were connected with fire, abyss, etc.
To sum it up, it is obvious that the cultures that seem different from each other have a common basic idea about the immortality of the human soul. All religions have their analogues for some common notions that include heaven, hell and judgment as the motives that are very close to one another. Finally, it is important to remember that many of the cultural evidences show that life on earth is the one that predetermines the existence of the soul after death.
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