Stairways to heaven

The essays in this anthology are loosely linked around the topic of death and afterlife, but there is no dialogue between the various points of view presented. The editor notes that there is a gap “between the philosophers . . . and the storytellers, theologians, and poets,” and adds: “We miss the presence of a thinker like Paul Tillich” who could build a bridge between these groups.

Lacking a Tillich to do the job, I will try to comment on a book that ranges from a light-hearted survey of myths in which mortality is preferred to endless eternity (Wendy Doniger’s article) to a serious study of Locke and Spinoza (Aaron Garrett’s). Only two essays are paired: an appreciative account of Buddhist teachings about death and the afterlife by Malcolm Eckel and a somewhat superficial critique of Buddhist no-self doctrines by Brian Jorgensen.


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