AFTER DEATH by Sukie Miller


Mapping the Journey
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 Sound bites of ethnic beliefs and data from sessions with the author's psychotherapy clients are the material for this attempt to talk about what happens to us after death. Miller, founder and director of the Institute for the Study of the Afterdeath, sees herself as going beyond Elizabeth KÅbler-Ross's theory of the dying process and Raymond Moody's study of near-death experience by posing the question of what actually follows death. She hopes to improve on the usual American diet of denial and bromides as she introduces the reader to funeral customs and post-mortem scenarios envisioned by groups in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Tibet, and West Africa. Miller is especially interested in the Afro-Brazilian Candomble religion and its cult of the Egun, or ancestral spirits, known as ``the living dead''; she believes that the spirits visited her while she was enduring a very high fever in her Manhattan apartment. The vignettes presented here are too brief for real discussion, and Miller does not explain her rationale for choosing them. Nor does she tell us what lies behind the persistent use of her neologism ``afterdeath.'' The reader is thus left with the impression that the author is insinuating an agenda rather than discussing it openly. Miller divides the ``afterdeath'' process into four stages: waiting, judgment, possibility, and return. This, together with her dismissive treatment of Islamic and Christian cultures, seems to beg the whole question of rebirth as a quasi-universal folk belief. Although Miller sometimes speaks of her vignettes as simply cultural data, she nevertheless treats them as veridical descriptions of life beyond the grave, without any apparent awareness of the logical problems this poses. Patchy and poorly thought through. Better to read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. (Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection)

Pub Date: April 10th, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-82236-9
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1997


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