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The Modern Book of the Dead: A Revolutionary Perspective on Death, the Soul, and What Really Happens in the Life to Come Hardcover – February 14, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A fascinating, impassioned hybrid of memoir and divine supposition.”
(Kirkus Reviews)

"A brilliant and absorbing exploration of our ideas about death and the afterlife, that brings much thought, insight, and personal reflection to an area of experience we too often avoid examining. Some might consider this morbid - mistakenly, I'd say - but it prepares the reader for the one spiritual adventure none of us will miss, and can even make us look forward to it." (Gary Lachman)

"The Modern Book of the Dead is a treasure trove of insight into the Afterlife, and its consistency over millennia. Ptolemy Tompkins has delivered a remarkable synthesis of this crucially important reality that is fundamental to comprehending our existence." (Eben Alexander, MD, author of Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey through the Afterlife (2012))

About the Author

Ptolemy Tompkins has been an in-house editor at Guideposts and Angels on Earth magazines and is the author of four books. His writing has been featured in Beliefnet.com, Harper’s, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in New York.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Book Club Edition edition (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145161652X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451616521
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,006,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas Carroll on April 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
He takes a little while in the first ~70-80 pages to lay out some history and get some important background information out of the way, but after that I thought it got really interesting. Not that the first part of the book isn't, but it gets more insightful after that.

I didn't expect to learn anything new from this book, but I did. I would read this if you have any spiritual questions or inclinations at all. This book is no-nonsense, it's not pretentious, it's not "new-agey", and yet it isn't overly scientific (in a materialistic sense).

The author does his best to carve out a modern approach to the question of what happens after we die, what our role in life is, what life is, etc. I expected him to come to a conclusion, certainly, but I did not expect to agree with what he said, or to take it to heart. I thought it would be just another belief, just another theory, lacking objectivity or a 'ring of truth' to it. And, I was totally wrong! He brings fresh insights to the table backed up by real historical figures, many of whom we are already familiar with, which really helps (Socrates, Plato, T.S. Elliot, among others).

I'm blown away, I'll never sell this book or give it away, just recommend it up and down.

Seriously, I've done a good amount of 'spiritual' reading over the last 5ish years, and this is a TRIUMPH.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'd like to both support this book and respond to the 'garbage' rating by one of the reviewers. The latter first: it is clear that the hypercritical reviewer did not read the book in its entirety, and was most likely out to simply bash a book for reasons we can only guess at. Let me be clear; the book is not perfect, but it is not, by any means, a 'new age' bit of fluff. In addition, its premise is not to simply talk about reincarnation as though it were the only subject at hand, but place in within a larger conceptual structure. It is, in fact, well researched, thoughtfully written, and author Tompkins always gives a caveat about the information he is talking about. He never says: "This is it". That he relies on some information from mediumistic sources may put some people off; I myself am moderately skeptical about this avenue, but have had to admit, after some recent events that I am privy to, that it might hold more resources than I (or others) had originally believed. Crookall, the British researcher that is the source for some of the book's data, was a trained scientist and a rigorous researcher. If anyone wishes to delve further into how some of the 'outre' sources of after life data are arrived at, I recommend reading some of his books. In general, all of the arguments and discussions that Tompkins goes into are, of necessity, brief, and require further investigation. Part of the problems run into by this and related kinds of books are actually a function of the nature of language itself, and how language restricts, creates or filters concepts and categories that we bandy about without much thought. The major thrust that Tompkins is interested in is correlating various disciplines, research sources and scientific theory (quantum etc.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put this book down. I am an avid reader and have read another book by Ptolemy called The Beaten Path, which I made my friends read at the time.

I read about a book a day, and most books contain within their pages one or maybe two, or maybe NO original ideas. This book is worth about 1000 such books, especially since the author has waded through enormous amounts of material that I had never heard of, to bring us some quite significant cultural news. The book brilliantly attempts to uncover an underlying "Cosmic Narrative" that humanity (perhaps in concert with beings from beyond the physical veil) has been developing at the leading edge of evolving consciousness. Tompkins contrasts Eastern and Western spiritual thinking in a way that I found quite unusual - managing to find the contribution of each and a synthesis of both unfolding. He sneers back at those who sneer at anything that hints of "new age" - as I always ask snobby Buddhists and scholarly male pundits on matters of consciousness, "What, do you want the old age back?" He shows how the trends of thought have led us away from fairly undeniable evidence of "life after death" (as it's called), by emphasizing the cookish aspects and marginalizing the serious research that has been done.

I'm the daughter of 2 physicists who became an Eastern monk in my 20s and then moved into an amalgam of understanding quite similar to Ptolemy's evolutionary perspective. I spend a lot of time trying to explain these nuances to my clients and students and am delighted to have another of his books to recommend, and thus save myself a lot of work. [...]

Unfortunately, Ptolemy isn't into self-promotion (check out his sparse website!) and this book may not get the reads it deserves, but if you're lucky enough to stumble across it here, order 3 copies!
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Format: Hardcover
I give this book 5 stars. I agree with the other 5-star commentaries. As editor of 'Guideposts' magazine, Ptolemy Tompkins developed a writing style that is succinct and yet information-intense. In this book he proposes a concept of the afterlife that he calls "Imaginal Reality".
Using his extensive reviews of traditional spiritual beliefs, he concludes that now is the time when all individual spiritual traditions are crashing into one another, creating a situation in which believers in all the different world's faiths are being forced to rewrite their missions without compromising their core integrity. He proposes a unified theory of tolerance for others' beliefs without the denials & condemnations, and an optimistic view of where mankind is headed.
Do not let negative reviews keep you from reading this book! If nothing else, get it at your library! I did & I liked it so much that I ended up buying it & adding it to my personal library.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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