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Beliefs from Antiquity to Modern Times

by Geddes MacGregor

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 1-55778-396-9

 A theological Tootsie Roll pop from MacGregor (Philosophy/USC): a tasty study of beliefs about life after death, with a gooey mess at the center--the author's own decidedly unusual views on the matter. MacGregor begins breathlessly, hurtling through a number of crucial questions pertaining to the afterlife: What is the ``I''? How does mind relate to body? Are ghosts real? (He takes them ``very seriously, indeed.'') MacGregor rejects materialist objections to afterlife (logical positivism, behaviorism, etc.), lays out the three principal understandings of survival (immortality of the soul, resurrection of the body, and reincarnation), and suggests that belief or nonbelief in God is the key factor in shaping one's views about afterlife. An excellent historical survey, which extends from neolithic burials to those of the Mormons and the Bahais, has its share of arch opinions (MacGregor describes Jainism, with its hospitals for ailing rats, as a ``parody'' of Hinduism). But little prepares one for the final chapters, a dizzying blend of Western and Eastern traditions in which MacGregor locates his own tentative belief: that Earth is Purgatory, i.e., the world of spiritual growth and expiation, where a loving God (MacGregor is a firm monotheist) oversees each person's spiritual evolution through various rebirths via the laws of karma, these rebirths being in some way analogous to Judeo- Christian-Islamic teachings of bodily resurrection. Novel, to say the least--and despite the weird conclusions, a solid introduction to the subject. (Illustrations.)