Since belief isn’t a given in our society, why should we all expect the same afterlife? Choice and conditioning must pay a huge part in the outcome. Consider the following two people whose lives diverge in many ways:
Marion was born into a large Catholic family. She took Communion and was a believer until her mother died of ovarian cancer at forty. Watching her mother’s suffering killed something in Marion. She stopped believing in God’s mercy, although she hardly acknowledged this, even to herself.
When she married a man who had long ago dropped his faith, she turned to career and family, and together they achieved success. At fifty-two, she again feels the need for the faith she grew up in.
Aaron comes from a small family of nonpracticing Jews. As the only son his needs were nurtured as a child, perhaps to a fault. By age thirty, Aaron was established in a prominent Manhattan law firm, never looking back.
He married late to a woman who is also a lawyer. When he found out that his wife was cheating on him, Aaron got over his shock rapidly. He arranged a divorce settlement that benefited him as much as possible. At fifty, so far as he is aware, he hasn’t had a spiritual thought in years.
It’s obvious that these two people have led very different lives. One is a placid follower, the other a fierce competitor. One put her energy into raising a family, the other into making a career. Key words for Marion include stability, intimacy, caring, togetherness, cooperation, listening, and patience. The key words for Aaron include independence, self-reliance, competition, power, ambition, and success. When two lives are so different in so many core values, why should they anticipate the same afterlife?
Everyone’s basic choices, which have shaped their lives, begin at the level of consciousness. At this level choices aren’t simple. They depend on memory and conditioning, on culture and expectation. All these ingredients factor into what happens in the afterlife. Only some of the beliefs that make a difference center on religion. Looming much larger are the infinite other choices we make every day, for they create our personal reality.
Adapted from Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2006).