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Page last updated at 06:17 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 07:17 UK
Life after life after life after death

Sunrise in Florida

From a greeting at the pearly gates to the smorgasbord at Valhalla, every culture has its own idea of the afterlife. But just how many forms can the post-mortal moment take?

US neuroscientist and author David Eagleman has written a work of fiction which imagines 40 different afterlives.

From finding out God is the size of a bacteria, to discovering you were a 10 dimensional being having a holiday in three dimensions, the "equally improbable" short stories are intended to "serve as lenses onto our own lives".

You can read five extracts from Sum: Forty Tales From the Afterlives below, and let us know your own stories of the afterlife at the bottom of the page .

A man enjoys a snooze next to his bicycle on a park bench

"In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together.

You spend two months driving the street in front of your house, seven months having sex. You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes. For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet.

You take all your pain at once, all twenty-seven intense hours of it. Bones break, cars crash, skin is cut, babies are born. Once you make it through, it's agony-free for the rest of your afterlife."

A work of art at the 2008 Folkestone Triennial

"There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

So you wait in this lobby until the third death. There are long tables with coffee, tea, and cookies; you can help yourself. There are people here from all around the world, and with a little effort you can strike up convivial small talk. Just be aware that your conversation may be interrupted at any moment by the Callers, who broadcast your new friend's name to indicate that there will never again be another remembrance of him by anyone on the Earth. Your friend slumps, face like a shattered and reglued plate, saddened even though the Callers tell him kindly that he's off to a better place. No one knows where that better place is or what it offers, because no one exiting through that door has returned to tell us."

John Cleese sitting at a desk on the beach from 'now for something completely different' sketch

"First you notice there are many blunders: the good are going to Hell and the bad to Heaven. When you approach the woman at the front desk to inquire, you find she is recalcitrant and insolent. She tells you to go to line number seven, where you will fill out a complaint form and turn it in to desk number thirty-two. As you wait in line and strike up a conversation with the woman behind you, you discover that the afterlife was long ago given over to committees."

Binary code

"As the happy result of a free-market capitalist society, we are finally able to determine our own hereafter. It has become privatized and computerized. For a reasonable price, you can download your consciousness into a computer to live forever in a virtual world. In this way, you can rage against the dying of the light by choosing an afterlife that is fast, furious, and spicy—the crystallization of your fantasies. You can predefine your lovers, maximize your sexual allure, zoom around electric pumping cities in your choice of a dozen Porsches. You get firmer muscles, a perfect complexion, and a flat washboard belly. Innumerable virgins cheerfully await your arrival. Cell phones and jet packs are standard issue. Sizzling cocktail parties run around the clock."

Lucy Davenport as Mary Shelley in a dramatised documentary

"When you arrive in the afterlife, you find that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley sits on a throne. She is cared for and protected by a covey of angels.

After some questioning, you discover that God's favorite book is Shelley's Frankenstein. He sits up at night with a worn copy of the book clutched in His mighty hands, alternately reading the book and staring reflectively into the night sky.

Like Victor Frankenstein, God considers Himself a medical doctor, a biologist without parallel, and He has a deep, painful relationship with any story about the creation of life. He has much to say about bringing animation to the unanimated. Very few of His creatures had thought deeply about the challenges of creation, and it relieved Him a little of the loneliness of His position when Mary wrote her book."

Tell us your afterlife stories using the form below.

Biological science assumes that carbon matter is the primary stuff of life, that the brain is the source of consciousness What prophets tell us is that we are eternal consciousness, beings of a radiation structure. That the primary stuff of life is not built of carbon molecules but vibrates at the much higher frequencies of radiation.

We are fallen beings inhabiting a condensed fallen world, comprising a mere 4% of the mass of creation, that has been ejected from our true homeland due to a revolt. The revealed information is compatible with scientific evidence, it simply contradicts the belief standpoint of secular scientists, biologists in particular.
Keith Hall, Maidenhead, England

I have always been intrigued that various religions 'know' what happens. As they can't all be absolutely correct, you cannot trust any one person who 'believes' something to be correct. As a result, my view for many years has been it could be absolutely nothing , a man on a throne with a white beard, or probably something in between.

When you die you get put into the ground, decay and turn to hummus ;-)
David Lawton, via Twitter

But as I have no way of knowing this side of the grave I don't see much point in worrying too much about it., I shall just wait and find out in due course , hopefully not too soon!
Malcolm Hunt, St.Johns, Surrey

The hardest thing for the ego is to consider the billions of years before you existed and the eternity after you cease to exist. Tales of after lives are just comforters.
Alastair Rae, United Kingdom

Matter never dies. It reforms ad infinitum. When we die our spiritual matter goes back into the primordial soup.
Euphrosene Labon, via Twitter

God has allowed man to go to the moon but denied man the ability to look around the corner after death. So what does happen to man's soul?. I believe that man's soul is his voice. This is a God-given DNA, since we instantly recognise peoples voices on earth why should they not be recognised in the afterlife?

Experiments show that by weighing a person's body just before death, it becomes marginally lighter at the time of death. It is at this time that the person's soul departs on its journey to heaven. Conversely, weighing animals at the time of death shows that they do not get lighter nor do they have a voice and perhaps not a soul.
Jeremy Mackay-Lewis, Crossgar, County Down

What happens after death? To adapt Auden on Yeats, I'll become my admirers.
Dave Weeden, via Twitter

If there is an afterlife, you may very well have the opportunity to contemplate what you did with this life.
Robert Werner, Manchester, UK

You cease to be alive. You are dead. Decomposed. Like a rock or the air or sea.
Chris Street, Bournemouth

Nothing, of course. Same as before you are born.
Nick Jones, via Twitter

Nathan Nelson, via Twitter

You get re-cycled. To such an extent that some of the atoms in you could have been in Elvis.
Paul Newport, via Twitter

Regarding the Professor's comments this morning about the afterlife, it is an axiom that no one knows what the afterlife consists of. St Paul experienced a vision akin to the after life and in his description he was lost for words.

For ordinary common mortals the very definition of faith means that we trust that through the teachings of the Bible - old and new Testament - that an afterlife exists and we wait in hope and love depending on the Word of God to bring us there.
Kempson Brigid Laura, London UK

You cease to exist. Make the most of this life and don't waste this one worrying about 'after it'.
Alex Kavanagh, via Twitter

This is a reminder of a lecture given by Stephan Hoeller, the Gnostic teacher, called 'Beyond Fundamentalism and Secularism'. He goes on about a middle way, too. It's fun to speculate about the afterlife, but things are different when it's real - such as when your husband has just been killed in Afghanistan. Hmm.
Connor Fox , Manchester, UK

Read Larkin's "Aubade" The sure extinction that we travel to ..and shall be lost in always...not to be here not to be anywhere - and soon etc. The issue is anxiety - about both being and non-being. To deflect it we cling to certainty in a world where uncertainty is a key "given".

We feel lost without a sense of belonging and - linked - identity; thus we can easily be compliant with those whose work is to maintain social cohesion, which is good in essence but can be manipulated.

We have split knowing into two sides - which I would call 'comprehension' and 'apprehension' - and then pretended to comprehend what we can only apprehend, leading to false assurance and certainty - the extreme of which is dogma, which then invites "I am right, you are wrong" positioning and conflict. Conviction is disguised anxiety. To be is to be anxious. Accept it.
Hugh Hetherington, Sandwich, UK

In what way is a 'possibilian' any different to a secularist?
Safdar Shah, Birmingham, UK

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