In The Next World: Extraordinary Experiences of the Afterlife (White Crow Books, 2022), historian of religions Gregory Shushan explores the relationships between extraordinary experiences and beliefs in life after death. He first shows how throughout history and around the world, near-death experiences have influenced ideas about the afterlife. Shushan also takes a deep dive into the problem of similarities and differences between NDE accounts. Not only do they vary widely, but so does a culture’s way of responding to them and integrating them into their belief systems.

In this book, Shushan also compares NDEs with accounts of shamanic spirit journeys to afterlife realms, intermission states between reincarnations from people who remember past lives, and descriptions of otherworlds by souls of the dead communicating through mediums. Accounts of all these phenomena bear striking similarities to NDEs, though they also have significant differences. Examining them each in relation to the other results in a kind of reciprocal illumination in which each type of extraordinary experience sheds light on the other.

Tiatemsu Longkumer is a Ph.D. scholar working on ‘Anthropology of Religion’ at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong: India.

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