Death and the Afterlife: A Chronological Journey from Cremation to Quantum Resurrection ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
Death and what comes after have fascinated people for as long as people have existed. When we die, are we cast into a dark oblivion, or do our personalities survive in another place? Are we rewarded for our good deeds and punished for our bad deeds? Will we be born again in another body? Do heaven and hell exist? Where do we go if we’re not good enough for heaven and not bad enough for hell?
Death and the Afterlife will not answer any of these questions, but it is a book that deals with a wide range of topics associated with the science and sociology of death, dying and the afterlife, including such fascinating topics as vampires, zombies, euthanasia, embalming, executions, seances, reincarnation, resurrection, sin eaters, death masks, transhumanism, brain death, near-death experiences, electronic voice phenomena, quantum immortality, thanatourism (visiting sites of suffering and death such as Nazi death camps), death of the universe, and many other topics.
Each entry is only one page long, accompanied by an appropriate painting or drawing on the opposing (left-hand) page. At the end of the book is a list of references that might be consulted for further reading.
Did you know:
- Certain cultures, going back to the Neolithic Age (13,000 years ago), practiced what was known as “sky burial.” This means that the bodies of the deceased were cut into small pieces, including the bones, and left out on a ledge or hilltop for scavenger birds to carry away.
- Before Napoleon Bonaparte’s death in 1821 at the age of 51, he insisted that an autopsy be performed on his body, the results of which, he believed, would help his son. He was found, during autopsy, to have stomach cancer.
- Since 1960, the number of autopsies has declined because doctors are afraid of medical malpractice suits.
- During the 17th and 18th centuries, “plague doctors,” who often weren’t doctors at all, wore frightening “beak masks.” The idea was to fill the beak of the mask with aromatic spices or fragrant perfumes, which were thought to prevent the wearer from breathing the plague in through the nose or mouth.
- Walking Corpse Syndrome (WCS) is a mental disorder in which the sufferer believes he is dead, but still living, or that some of his organs have been removed.
- During the 18th century, fear of premature burial (burial of somebody who wasn’t really dead) led to the rise of “safety coffins,” equipped with air pipes and bells. (Make sure I’m dead first.)
- In the 13th century, the bubonic plague, originating in Asia, swept through Europe, killing roughly two-thirds of the population. The plague, the greatest biomedical disaster in human history, was still causing problems in Europe five hundred years later.
- Experiments show that the soul contained in a person’s body weighs seven-tenths (0.7) of an ounce. This weight was arrived at by weighing tuberculosis victims at the moment of death and comparing it with the weight before death.
- Ondine’s curse is a mental disorder in which a person forgets to breathe while sleeping and dies. It’s named after a water nymph from folklore who is cursed with having to remember to breathe.
- French painter James Tissot in 1890 painted a famous painting called What Our Lord Saw from the Cross. It is the artist’s vision of what Christ might have seen from the cross while being crucified.
- While Joseph-Ignace Guillotine did not invent the guillotine (decapitation device), as many people have been led to believe, he promoted its use as a humane method of execution in France in the 1790s. “My machine will take off a head in a twinkling,” Dr. Guillotine stated, “and the victim will feel nothing but a refreshing coolness.”
- Saint Vincent Pallotti (1795-1850) was an Italian saint who helped the poor in Rome. When his body was exhumed a hundred years after his death, it was found to show no signs of decay, a sign of true holiness.
Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp