Afterlife Mysteries

Humankind's obsession with the unknown and the unexplained begins with the greatest question of all: Do humans survive physical death? And if so, are they born again? The mystery of what lies on the other side of death has given birth to humankind's magic, mysticisms, religions, and all the diverse creatures of Light and Darkness that populate the mysterious regions in between.

Mediums and Mystics

Throughout history, certain men and women have claimed that they can speak to the deceased on the other side and relay messages to those who yearn for such confirmation that there is life after death. In this chapter, the colorful and controversial lives of such mystics and mediums will be examined and their philosophies, techniques, and spiritual tools identified.

Religious Phenomena

This chapter will explore a number of the phenomena that surround a great variety of religious beliefs, from the veneration of sacred objects to the expectation of miracles, from the power of prayer to heal to the judgment of ecclesiastical tribunals to cause suffering.

Secret Societies

Many people have a deep-seated belief that they could more easily obtain power, wealth, and prestige if they could only be made privy to certain secrets for success that are possessed by mysterious societies that choose to keep their methods hidden from the larger society. Throughout the centuries, such secret societies have taunted outsiders with their forbidden knowledge and, on occasion, frightened or even assassinated those whose persistence in seeking access to their mysteries were unwelcome.

Magic and Sorcery

The earliest traces of magical practice are found in the European caves of the Paleolithic Age, c. 50,000 B.C.E., in which it seems clear that early humans sought by supernatural means to placate the spirits of the animals they killed for food, to dispel the restless spirits of the humans they had slain in territorial disputes, and to bring peace to the spirits of their deceased tribal kin. Throughout the evolving centuries to the present day, humankind continues to seek magical means of improving its lot in life, providing order to the chaos of the physical world, and winning the favor of the inhabitants of the unseen world.

Prophecy and Divination

Since the beginning of human history, men and women have sought out glimpses into the future. Soothsayers and seers have attempted to predict the destiny of their clients by interpreting signs in the entrails of animals, the movements of the stars in the heavens, the reflections in a crystal ball, the spread of a deck of cards, and even messages from the dead. All of these ancient practices are still utilized today by prophets and diviners who seek to answer the demands of those who wish foreknowledge of their earthly destiny.

Objects of Mystery and Power

An object of mystery and power can be an everyday object that an individual believes brings good luck or fortune, ranging from an item of clothing that was worn when some great personal success was achieved, to an antique necklace passed on from generation to generation by a revered member of the family tree. In addition to such items of personal significance, individuals prize objects that reportedly brought victory or good fortune to heroes of long ago. Still others search for mysterious relics imbued with supernatural attributes that have accomplished miracles so that such powers might be theirs.

Places of Mystery and Power

This chapter visits many sites sacred to world religions, examines the theories of lost civilizations, and evaluates places that harbor ancient my steries—both legendary and real.

Ghosts and Phantoms

There is not a single culture on planet Earth that does not have its ghost stories. Paleolithic cave paintings depicting the human body surviving physical death indicate that this belief is many thousands of years old. In this chapter the universality of accounts of the manifestation of ghostly entities is explored.

Mysterious Creatures

Stone Age humans feared "monsters" that emerged from the darkness. Saber-toothed tigers stalked them; cave bears mauled them, and rival hominid species struggled against them for survival. Ancient night-terrors surface in the dreams and imaginations of present-day humans, and sometimes the monsters turn out to be real.

Mysteries of the Mind

Throughout the centuries, philosophers, poets, prophets, and scientists wondered who humans really are. Many believe the greatest adventure is available to those who wish to explore the mysteries of the mind—the miracle of consciousness, the enigma of dreams, and the mind beyond the physical bodies.

Superstitions, Strange Customs, Taboos, and Urban Legends

Out of the fears and feelings of helplessness, there arose accounts of personal rituals of survival. Superstitions and religions evolved into accepted rules for appropriate human behavior (customs) and forbidden behavior (taboos). Many of these societal customs, and religious and cultural taboos, are perpetuated in the urban legends of today.

Invaders from Outer Space

Are humans alone in the universe? Throughout history, humankind's religions have probed the unknown to provide an answer to what occurs after death, and its sciences have attempted to scan the cosmos for clues to the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the stars.