Catherine Wolff’s “Beyond: How Humankind Thinks About Heaven” looks at visions of the afterlife

After two years of the pandemic, now with the Omicron variant rising, Catherine Wolff has released an encouraging book, “Beyond: How Humankind Thinks About Heaven,” on how Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and even ancient religions frame a vision of the afterlife. 

“It was clear that they were thinking that people were going somewhere,” explains Wolff, adding that the idea of the afterlife goes as far back as the Neanderthals era, where people put things like tools or seeds in graves, decorating the bodies.

When it comes to religion, Wolff, who spent five to six years researching her book, emphasizes that it is very real to believers, who rely on artifacts, art, literature, and historical records of visions and religious and moral teachings. 

Still, these mentioned elements, determined by time and culture, are inconclusive to some. In the chapter Beyond Time-Space, Wolff shares non-religious people’s experiences with spiritual out-of-body exploration and offers some explanations.

“So it kind of depends on what you, yourself, as a reader, bring to the book. Because the way the reader thinks is going to make them have a little different take on the book.”

For this reason, the author prefers to let the reader decide if her book is fiction or non-fiction: “it is your call!”

Throughout her life, Wolff, a resident of San Francisco, has been a high school teacher, a therapist and addictions counselor, a chaplain at Stanford University, and now a writer, meeting people from all religious and cultural backgrounds. 

“I’m lucky because there are several universities around here and I was able to interview professors who told me what were the good books to start with on various religions,” She said.  

The book contains interviews with about three dozen believers who shared their perspectives of heaven.

“What I’m finding is that heaven is one way of thinking about life beyond. And when I’m running into people from Eastern religions or people who aren’t religious but still think there’s some sort of life out there, they just think in very different ways,” she added. 

Wolff says writing this book was a gift, which gave her a much bigger family and, as she puts it, “A deep sense of belonging to the faith of all who keep watching, who glimpse beyond. 

As a result, she said she gained “a much stronger sense of death as a passage that it’s not the end. It makes it much less frightening.” and it is her hope to share it with the world.

You can buy the book on Amazon or at local retailers.

Nicole Ardila is a Colombian-American student majoring in digital journalism at FIU. She's currently an opinion writer for PantherNOW and strives to become a photojournalist and travel/lifestyle writer in the future.