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Afterlife: A History of Life After Death

Afterlife: A History of Life After Death
Philip C. Almond

  • Hardback | Not defined | £25.00

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For in that sleep of death what dreams may come? The end of life has never meant the extinction of hope. People perpetually have yearned for, and often been terrified by, continuance beyond the horizon of mortality. Ranging across time and space, Philip Almond here takes his readers on a remarkable journey to worlds both of torment and delight. He travels to the banks of the Styx, where Charon the grizzled boatman ferries a departing spirit across the river only if a gold obol is first placed for payment on the tongue of its corpse. He transports us to the legendary Isles of the Blessed, walks the hallowed ground of the Elysian Fields and plumbs the murky depths of Tartarus, primordial dungeon of the Titans. The pitiable souls of the damned are seen to clog the soot-filled caverns of Lucifer even as the elect ascend to Paradise. Including medieval fears for the fate of those consumed by cannibals, early modern ideas about the Last Day and modern scientific explorations of the domains of the dead, this first full treatment of the afterlife in Western thought evokes many rich imaginings of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and Limbo.

Author Info

Philip C Almond is Emeritus Professor of Religion in the University of Queensland. His previous books include The Witches of Warboys: An Extraordinary Story of Sorcery, Sadism and Satanic Possession (2008), England's First Demonologist: Reginald Scot and 'The Discoverie of Witchcraft' (2011, paperback 2014), The Lancashire Witches: A Chronicle of Sorcery and Death on Pendle Hill (2012), and The Devil: A New Biography (2014), all published by I.B.Tauris.


‘As is true of all his previous books, Philip Almond's Afterlife is thoughtful, perceptive, inquiring, accurate, wide-ranging, clear and engagingly written. It is a fine follow-up to his earlier biography of the Devil.’
Jeffrey Burton Russell, Emeritus Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of A History of Heaven and Paradise Mislaid

‘Philip Almond’s cultural history of the afterlife is a fascinating - and frequently disturbing - journey through the Western imagination: its dreams, desires, fears and hopes. Erudite, lucid, ranging the while from Plato to Madame Blavatsky and from Dante’s portrayals of Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise to Hal Lindsey’s apocalyptic scenarios, the book draws us into an exhilarating current of eschatologies and final things that challenge any secular ideology because of their abiding relevance. Staring at death and finitude, humankind aspires to and tries to picture post-mortem conditions: a perennial occupation that cannot be erased. It is who we are. In his engaging book Almond offers us a roadmap to self-understanding.’
Graham Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Oxford

‘In this concise and accessible account of the afterlife in the imagination of the Christian West, Philip Almond takes the reader on a remarkable journey. It begins with Patroclus’ poignant appeal to Achilles, as his shade melts from his friend’s embrace, and ends with Ursula Le Guin’s Dry Land, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and the evolutionary eschatology of Teilhard de Chardin. As we progress through the centuries, wrestling with the conceptual problems of post-mortem life – will our bodies as well as our souls enjoy paradise? what exactly is the soul? and what is the relation between time and eternity? – we marvel at the tenacity that has compelled human beings in all cultures to insist on this seemingly impossible idea. As Almond argues from the outset, our quest for the afterlife is rooted in the conviction that our existence must have some ultimate significance and our ineradicable desire that the ubiquitous injustice that we witness in our earthly lives be righted in the hereafter.’ 
Karen Armstrong, bestselling author of The Case for God: What Religion Really Means and Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence

‘Philip Almond's new book is a welcome and readable reminder that belief in life after death is not one simple set of convictions but a range of hopes and conceptions, including both the sophisticated and the simple, engaging in diverse ways with diverse models of what human life essentially is.’ 
Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and former Archbishop of Canterbury


Alex Wright, Executive Editor at I.B.Tauris, talked to Philip Almond on the I.B.Tauris blog about Afterlife: A History of Life After Death. Click here to read the interview.

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781784534967
Publication Date: 29 May 2016
Number of Pages: 288
Height: 216
Width: 135
Illustrations: 40 integrated bw

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