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Near-death experiences often describe a tunnel of light to which the soul is magically drawn.

Jenseits (as a noun ) is a term that has been used in German since the beginning of modernity to denote a "different reality" which, according to mythical , religious and in some places esoteric ideas, is beyond natural reality and can only be perceived in a state of being that is not understood by natural sciences . In contrast to this is the “this world ” as the totality of the phenomena that can be perceived in the state of being of natural reality and that obey the laws of nature. The hereafter is also counted as part of the “ heavenly ”, sometimes also the “ supernatural ”. This assumes a difference between natural reality, “ God's reality ” or “supernatural reality”, with the ambiguous term “natural” being used as a synonym for “this world”.


"Beyond" can be understood in a local sense (for example as a certain place where one or more gods and / or various spiritual beings such as the souls of the deceased live, possibly also souls of the not yet born ) or also temporal or " have untimely meaning. In terms of time / untimely, it means "beyond (transient) nature-life" ( life after death ) and / or "beyond (earthly) time" ( eternity , timeless existence).

The area of ​​the hereafter is localized differently in the various myths and religions. It can be about certain inaccessible or difficult to access “supernatural” places on earth ( mountains , caves, forests or other taboo areas and shrines that are considered sacred ). According to some traditions, the afterlife or a part of it is in a non-natural underworld , an underground realm of the dead , according to others in heaven , whereby the term “heaven” can be understood concretely or metaphorically . In some teachings it is pointed out that the hereafter can also be experienced inside the person or the soul (sometimes expressed metaphorically in the “heart”) and is therefore also there. In this way the spatial concept of the hereafter is supplemented or replaced by another, according to which the hereafter also represents a mental state in a reality other than the natural reality.

Religious ideas about the hereafter

Prehistoric times and ethnic religions

The oldest archaeologically verifiable or at least based on the archaeological findings probable conceptions of the afterlife are assumed to be in the burial culture. Grave goods (weapons, food, jewelry) indicate that the bereaved expected the buried person to continue to live in an afterlife in which he would continue to have earthly needs. The effort that was made in some places in prehistoric times in furnishing the grave may explain that the ideas of the afterlife and expectations of a life after death already played an important role in the world of perception at that time.

Sources for ideas about the afterlife in ethnic religions include reports on shamanic journeys to the afterlife .

Old Egypt

Over the millennia there have been very different ideas about the hereafter. Of the associated cults, the death cults were of great importance in connection with the falcon god Horus , which have occasionally mixed with Osiris cults. In the area of ​​the latter, priest astronomers also played an important role, on the one hand in the cultic timing, on the other hand in the orientation of tombs.


The Hinduism contains a highly complex Beyond image. The Vedic religion had a paradise (land of the fathers) ready for all those who sacrifice. Since the wealthy had more funds for offerings, they could afford more sacrifices and thus received a better place in the hereafter. The social differences of this world were thus maintained in the land of the fathers. Later, next to the world of the gods of the immortals, a paternal world of the immortals, subject to the cycle of reincarnations , was added . Numerous hells replaced one another, making the true hereafter the distant ultimate goal. Hindus see moksha , the release from the cycle of rebirth ( samsara ), as the ultimate goal. While there are notions of heaven that a person with good karma can enjoy after the body dies, it is temporary. The myths also describe different hells for evildoers, whereby it is assumed that no wrong, however serious, could have an eternal effect. The individual inevitably comes back to earth and the cycle from birth to birth continues until final salvation.


The Buddhism takes in India on prevailing belief room idea of rebirth and thus does not see its conclusion finite goal in reaching a divine world or Paradise, in which the individual could occur after death. The reason for this is that any conditioned form of existence, however enjoyable it may be, is ultimately viewed as transitory and therefore cannot give absolute fulfillment. Rather, a detachment from the cycle of dependent arising ( pratityasamutpada ) of birth and death is sought. This liberation is nirvana , which is described as the end of all suffering.

The direct cause of rebirth in the cycle of existence ( saṃsāra ) is a mind driven by desire, thirst. The basis for the emergence of desire is ignorance: the ignorance of the actual nature of the world or the circumstances (Pali: dhammas ). As long as these “defilements” condition the mind, a rebirth ultimately marked by suffering or the impossibility of finding ultimate fulfillment (Pali: dukkha ) ensues. In contrast to other ideas widespread in the Indian subcontinent, Buddhism dispenses with metaphysical speculations regarding any kind of soul or a non-material substance inherent in humans (or living beings in general) that would persist from rebirth to rebirth, to finally get salvation. In the early writings of the Pali Canon, the Buddha avoided formulating such philosophies on the grounds that they would merely involve his audience in a web of thought constructs, which was not conducive to liberation. Neither clinging to the idea of ​​a self nor mentally grasping the idea of ​​a not-self can give man the peace he longed for. It is important to detach oneself from thought constructs about the nature of the world in order to see things as they are: transitory ( anicca ), not the self ( anatta ) and ultimately not fulfilling (or painful - dukkha ). What the “self” is not, the Buddha tirelessly explains in order to resolve false ideas about it, namely all empirically detectable conditions and phenomena, including the aggregates that constitute human experience (Sanskrit: skandha , Pali: khandha ).

The model of the not-self (Sanskrit: anatman ; Pali: anatta ) in connection with rebirth, which is characteristic of Buddhism, is illustrated in a well-known doctrinal discussion between the monk Nagasena and the Hellenistic king Menandros (see Milindapañha ). When asked whether a reborn is the same or different from the deceased, the answer is: “Neither the same nor another.” Rather, Nagasena says, rebirth is like the light of an oil lamp that lasts one night burns. It could not be said that the flame in the morning was identical to that of the evening before, nor was it completely different. All that could be determined was that the morning is dependent on that of the evening before. That means, conditioned by this flame (or this person) the next one comes to appear (or the rebirth). One moment of consciousness conditions the next without there having to be an immutable, permanent substance in this process. And this also applies to rebirth: the last moment of consciousness of one life determines the first moment of the next.

In general, all Buddhist traditions know the three-tier world, which is divided into six realms, in which beings are born. The first of these three layers is mainly characterized by desire ( kāmadhātu ) and includes the worlds of the hell beings, the hungry spirits ( preta ), the animals, the people, the asura beings and part of the divine worlds. Rebirth in these worlds is conditioned by a state of mind conditioned by desire, anger, and delusion. The second layer "houses" divine beings whose existence does not allow any desires to appear, but which are characterized by a manifest form ( rūpadhātu ). In the third layer, the formless ( arūpadhātu ), there are divine beings , whose existence is particularly subtle and therefore not characterized by manifest forms. Birth in the last two “layers” is conditioned by a mind that, through stable concentration and certain forms of meditation, is free from crude desire, but could not achieve final liberation. Since these states are conditioned and therefore transitory, they are ultimately not desirable from a Buddhist point of view.

The Mahāyāna -Buddhismus knows a variety of Buddha shapes or forms, which in each case certain regions (see Pure Land ) are assigned. Among them, the "realm of joy" of Buddha Amitabha is particularly noteworthy, as ordinary, non-enlightened beings can also get there. The prerequisite for this is an unshakable faith and a spiritual focus on this Buddha at the moment of death. But this area is not an end goal in itself either, but it is viewed as the perfect environment for the rapid attainment of enlightenment. Some schools of Buddhism focus their religious practices solely on Buddha Amitabha and his Pure Land.

From a philosophical point of view, the Mahāyāna tradition is also in contrast to the theory of Theravada . The duality of world cycle ( Saṃsāra ) and Nirvāṇa is completely canceled out in the philosophy of Madhyamaka . Freedom from the conditioned, nirvāṇa, which initially represents the stated goal of Buddhist practice, is no longer located beyond the conditioned world, the saṃsāra. Rather, it is possible to achieve this goal by realizing the very nature of everything. This nature is called Śūnyatā (voidness), but this is not to be understood as nihilism . Rather, it is the realization of this ultimate nature of things, beyond Conditional emergence and conceptually comprehensible categories such as being or non-being (see. Law of the excluded ), which leads to true liberation.

In the Buddhist worldview, rebirth is an endless continuum of states of consciousness , which are divided into bardos .

In the Bardo Thödröl the intermediate states between death and rebirth are described: the bardo of dharmata ( chongyi-bardo ) and the bardo of becoming ( sipa-bardo ). The Bardo of Becoming takes according to Tibetan teachings symbolic to 49 days. Depending on the karma, the spirit of the deceased mostly wanders around confused and frightened before it can enter a new rebirth. During this time, rituals are often performed for the deceased to facilitate this transition. Advanced practitioners of certain forms of meditation should be able to use the moment of death or subsequent states for their practice in order to attain ultimate enlightenment (Buddhahood). In these exercises, which come from Tantric Buddhism ( Vajrayana ), the meditations practiced during one's lifetime are to be applied at the right time in order to recognize the true nature of one's own mind undisguised. This knowledge then leads directly to liberation.

The Zen Buddhism rejects an afterlife.


In Daoism a multitude of ideas about otherworldly realms were developed. In Shangqing Daoism in particular, these also play a role in religious practice.


Judaism never developed a clear idea of what happens after death . On the contrary, two main doctrines have developed which refer to an indefinite number of references in the Tanach .

  1. One doctrine assumes the resurrection of the dead. As a result, the person dies body and soul and goes to Sheol , but is revived and physically resurrected in the messianic time ( Dan 12.2  EU ; Sanhedrin 10.1). The notion of a resurrection of the dead developed in post-exilic Judaism ( Diaspora , Babylonian exile ). In the Jewish apocalyptic this idea was further expanded to include a resurrection in connection with a judgment of God over the world. This resurrection, in Jewish terms, meant a physical resurrection - either the physical resurrection of all people or the physical resurrection of those included in Israel's covenant with God. The fate of the individual receded into this collective view, but was included in it. The Pharisees of Jesus' day affirmed belief in a resurrection; they rejected the ruling priesthood (predominantly from the group of Sadducees who collaborated with the Roman occupation forces).
  2. The other Jewish doctrine assumes that the pure soul, unsullied through birth, life and death, returns to God again pure. It is based on the immortality of the soul and on the fact that it continues to live after death independently of the body ( Shabbat 152b, Prov 12.28  EU ). The ruling priesthood (predominantly from the Sadducees group ), collaborating with the Roman occupation at the time of Jesus, rejected the carnal resurrection.
  3. Furthermore, there is a mixture of these two doctrines to the following, that the soul survives the death of man and continues to live up to the messianic time and finally reunites with the body and arises bodily.

In Kabbalah , Jewish mysticism , reincarnation is a divine punishment. This serves to bring the soul to perfection in a new body. In parts of Hasidism and other currents within Orthodox Judaism , variants of reincarnation are also represented on the margins of the teachings today . There are three areas in Jewish eschatology:

  • Life of the soul after death
  • Resurrection of the dead
  • Believe in the Messiah


The Christianity is the hereafter as untimely reality is, in the earthly for his own death, the perfect become communion with God , Jesus Christ and all Risen is given ( see also eschatology and sky ). However, the New Testament describes it rather like a parable and with the exception of the Revelation of John holds back on details. Christianity believes in the resurrection from the dead. The soul receives instead of the earthly, corruptible body a celestial body (see, eg. As Mt 17.2  EU , 1 Cor 15  EU ). It emphasizes the (last) judgment, which corresponds to a divorce in heaven and hell. The concept of hell is controversial in Christianity (see there). Mediators in the form of the Holy Spirit or angels and saints can establish contact in the hereafter and this world. Purgatory, which was also later controversial, was of particular importance in the Middle Ages (see, for example: Dante , Divine Comedy ).

According to the New Testament, it is only possible for people up to childhood to go directly to the kingdom of heaven in the event of their earthly death ( Mt 19.14  EU , Mk 10.14  EU ), adults need the forgiveness of their sins in the grace of God: For example, in the parable of the eye of a needle , Jesus speaks of the fact that a camel can slip through the eye of a needle rather than a rich man (meaning: not following him) entering the kingdom of heaven ( Mk 10.23–25  EU and 10.28–30 EU ). This is only possible through the forgiveness and grace of God himself: when the disciples were frightened because of this parable, Jesus added: “It is impossible with (meaning: adult) people, but not with God; for everything is possible with God. ”( Mk 10: 26-27  EU ) The official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on the hereafter is laid down in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in particular . The official teaching of the New Apostolic Church on this topic can be read here: Dormant being of the New Apostolic Church .

Various older images of life after earthly death are still present in the Christian popular conception. One of them describes the hereafter as that place which the soul reaches directly in heavenly form. The this world, in which the soul lives in the natural body, is therefore only one of three areas (this world, the hereafter or the kingdom of heaven) into which a person can reach. Purified souls are accordingly led from the hereafter by angels into the kingdom of heaven, the other souls remain in the hereafter until their mental state has matured for heaven - although this cannot be inferred from the Bible; There it can generally be found in agreement: Kingdom of Heaven = the hereafter, everyone can see God and get into the kingdom of heaven who has lived in earthly life as a righteous person (before God) and who has believed in his own inherent love for God as a motivation for earthly actions.

According to many ideas, God's judgment is waiting for every adult in the hereafter , in which through forgiveness and grace the biblical weeds (synonym for all one's own sins during earthly lifetime) are separated from the wheat (synonym for all one's own righteous or good deeds) and burned (see Mt 13 : 24-30  EU ). Only the human being redeemed in this way arrives in a new, heavenly form in God's eternal paradise.


After death , the Muslims in the grave are interrogated by the angels Munkar and Nakīr in Barzach . Only with the last judgment does the assignment to the paradise Janna or the hell Jahannam take place . Joys and torments are described several times in the Koran , a detailed description can be found in Sura 56 .

The redeemed, for example, sit “on precious carpets”, receive delicious food, are served by “beautiful, untouched beings” and get “every wish fulfilled”. They eat from golden plates, drink "wine that does not go to the head", "do not have to hear a lie" and nothing forbidden will be in paradise. Clear streams of water flow through paradise, which is home to lush gardens.

The damned, on the other hand, suffer terrible torments. The Hell "rears up with rage" over the "infidels." The rejected are "stung by scorpions whose sting can be felt for another forty years". As food they are given bitter herbs and "thistles that do not satisfy hunger" and "their drink is cloudy water". There is a deafening scream "like that of a camel from Bactria ". The particularly pain-sensitive area between the earlobe and the shoulder becomes “as big as a mountain” so that it offers the agony more surface to attack.


According to the Baha'i belief , every human being has an immortal soul . The body is seen as their tool. Life in this world is destined to develop spiritual skills that are needed for life in the hereafter. Virtues such as love for one's neighbor, gratitude, trust in God, humility and patience are considered spiritual abilities . The “finest jewelry for the Baha people” is trustworthiness.

The hereafter is above space and time and eludes any human imagination. Death is considered the day on which a person has to answer for his deeds. Nevertheless, the dying need not fear death and can trust in the grace of the merciful God. It is also a day of joy, the “liberation of the soul from the cage of the body”, a day of reunification with God, the “sufficient, the healer and enduring”.

The Baha'i believe that the dying person will recognize the souls of family members and friends who have passed away. The dying man can sometimes catch a glimpse of the hereafter in his last hours. The hereafter is also considered to be the place where the humble believer will be allowed to enter the presence of the manifestations of God (such as Jesus, Buddha, the Bab and Bahāʾullāh).

The Baha'i holiest book , the Kitab-i-Aqdas , gives instructions for the burial ceremony. The most important part of the funeral service is the prescribed prayer for the dead of Bahāʾullāh .

Rejection of the distinction between this world and the hereafter

Monistic worldviews and philosophical systems, which only trace one existence-reality in a single (natural) reality back to a single principle, reject the distinction between this world and the hereafter, at least insofar as it implicitly or explicitly implies the idea of ​​two opposing basic principles or substances is included.

As a religion without Church and without certain concept of God see free Religious the world as a whole, without being split in this world and the hereafter. The Free Religious Congregation Berlin has put this two-line line by congregation member Roth above the cemetery park:

Make life good and good here,
there is no hereafter, no resurrection.

Parapsychology and esotericism

According to the esoteric traditions of different cultures, man has a multitude of “physical carriers”, differentiated according to the degree of their “density”, of which the earthly body is only one. The “ subtle bodies” (especially the “ astral body ”) are viewed as beyond, since they are supposed to outlast earthly existence. In occultism it is claimed that with the help of these carriers “ journeys to the hereafter” (see astral journey ) can be undertaken. The various traditions on this topic were combined in theosophy to form a unified teaching. The parapsychology has as its object to examine allegations relevant scientific, if they do not escape an inspection principle.

According to some esoteric ideas, in an otherworldly area, one's own life is available to the person concerned like in a film, which one can watch again every second at will. The unfortunate look at the bad spots again and again, while the lucky ones have no need for them. After death, a tunnel opens with a bright light at the end, to which one is very strongly drawn. After passing through the tunnel, you will first meet all acquaintances, relatives and friends who have already passed away. The bright light itself is God. The people there look like in earthly life, only much more beautiful. All ailments and physical defects have disappeared. It is a completely different place from the earth. Nevertheless, the otherworldly can see back to earth and the here and now and also intervene in this life.

Practices that are now classified as esoteric, in particular “ fortune telling ” and magic , are already sharply condemned in the Tanakh , the Holy Scriptures of Judaism . Practically all world religions reject this, for example the Catechism of the Catholic Church :

"All forms of fortune-telling are to be rejected: the use of Satan and demons, necromancy or other acts that are wrongly believed to" unveil "the future. The will to power over time is hidden behind horoscopes , astrology, palmistry , interpreting omens and oracles , clairvoyance and questioning a medium. "

The Evangelical Church in Germany writes:

“Esotericism is rejected by the churches because it means occult practices, spiritualism , UFO beliefs and the like. a. m. connects. "


Experiences with near death and thus possibly the hereafter are part of research today (see also near death experience ).

Reception in literature and film



Films in which the afterlife plays a central role include:

See also


General, introductions

  • Carsten Colpe u. a .: Beyond . In: Reallexikon für Antike und Christianentum Volume 17, Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-7772-5006-6 , Sp. 246-407 (deals with ancient oriental, Greek, Roman, Jewish and Christian ideas).
  • Johannes Hemleben: Beyond. Human ideas about life after death from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to Rudolf Steiner's anthroposophy . Rowohlt 1984, ISBN 3-499-17353-0 .
  • Bernhard Lang , Colleen McDannell: Heaven. A cultural history of eternal life . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M. 1990, ISBN 3-518-11586-3 (general history of ideas about the afterlife).
  • Alan F. Segal: Life after Death. A History of the Afterlife in the Religions of the West . Doubleday, New York et al. a. 2004, ISBN 0-385-42299-7 .
  • Bernhard Lang: Heaven, Hell, Paradise. Beyond worlds from antiquity to today . CH Beck, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-406-74241-5 (Greco-Roman antiquity, Bible, Islam, Christianity).

Ancient Orient and Judaism

  • Manfred Görg: A house in the realm of the dead. Concepts of the afterlife in Israel and Egypt . Patmos-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-491-72398-1 .
  • Philip S. Johnston: Shades of Sheol. Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament . Apollos, Leicester 2002, ISBN 0-85111-266-8 .
  • Joseph S. Park: Conceptions of Afterlife in Jewish Inscriptions. With Special Reference to Pauline Literature . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2000, ISBN 3-16-147373-6 .


  • Imre Koncsik, Günter Wilhelms (Ed.): Jenseits, Evolution, Geist. Interfaces between theology and the natural sciences . Lang, Frankfurt a. M. u. a. 2003, ISBN 3-631-50861-1 ( Bamberg Theological Studies 20).
  • Walter Simonis : Resurrection and Eternal Life? The Real Origin of the Easter Faith . Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN 3-491-70345-X .
  • Stefan Schreiber u. a. (Ed.): The Hereafter. Perspectives of Christian Theology . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-534-17217-5 .


Representations from a parapsychological and esoteric point of view

Web links

Wikiquote: Beyond  - Quotes
Wiktionary: Beyond  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anton Grabner-Haider: Indian interpretations of the world . 2010. Lectures
  2. Photo: Friedhofspark Free Religious Community Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg
  3. Georges Minois : History of the future - oracles, prophecies, utopias, prognoses . Artemis & Winkler, 1998, ISBN 3-538-07072-5 , pp. 29 f . ; Ivor S. Davidson: The Birth of the Church , 2003, pp. 163-167; Wehr, pp. 32-34; Stuckrad, pp. 41-47.
  4. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church. In: 1997, accessed June 5, 2019 .
  5. Faith ABC - Esoteric. In: Retrieved May 18, 2019 .