Judicious survey of current beliefs about survival after death. Wilson (The Mysterious Shroud, 1986, etc.) begins clumsily, stitching together a grab bag of funereal practices--Egyptians and Incans practiced mummification, Irish erected megaliths, Neanderthals sprinkled flowers on their corpses--to demonstrate the universality of belief in an afterlife. With this haphazard framework established, he then delivers a set of incisive, often skeptical reports on a number of currently fashionable figures and persuasions. Psychical researcher lan Stevenson, the leading American proponent of reincarnation, is pilloried for gullibility and sloppy scholarship. Doris Stokes, an immensely popular British medium, is uncloaked as a fraud. On the other hand, Wilson calls hauntings the ""most truly substantial evidence"" for survival and spins some good ghost stories to back his claim. He also accepts as veridical most accounts of near-death experience, and sees telepathy and brain research as providing further indications of a nonphysical component to the self. Unexpected blasts against abortion and euthanasia (based on accumulated evidence for the existence of a soul) add a touch of moral fervor to an otherwise evenhanded study. Hardly definitive--presumably, you'd have to be dead to really know what you're talking about--but a fairly intriguing, entertaining patchwork.