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The Myth of Er is
a tale in Greek mythology about a man who died on a battlefield and returned to
life nine days later, recounting what happened in the afterlife. The word
“myth” was used in the ancient Greek sense, meaning account, rather
than the present-day meaning.
Er was a
man who died during a battle, and along with the souls of the other combatants,
he was led to a magnificent place that had four doors; two into and out of the
sky, and two into and out of the earth. There were judges who decided which
path each soul should follow depending on the life they had led on Earth. The
good ones were told to go to the sky, while the bad ones were led into the
earth. From the sky exit, souls that appeared clean came out, telling of a
place that filled them with incredible feelings. The souls that emerged from
the earth exit were dirty and were talking about the misery and the
difficulties they faced for punishment of what they had done while alive. Some
souls however, those of murderers and other criminals, were not allowed to exit
the earth and remained trapped forever.

Er was
told that he would not be judged and that he should remain there in order to
see the whole procedure and report it back to mankind. Seven days later, they
were all led to another place where there was the Spindle of Necessity.
Necessity or Ananke was
primordial goddess
and personification of fate. There, the souls were given a lottery number, and
based on that, each of them was told to ask what their next life should be. The
first soul, having travelled through the sky in the previous area, decided to
become a dictator; when that happened, though, he didn’t realise that he was
destined to eat his own children because of his actions. Er realised that the
souls that had travelled through the sky and had not lived the punishment of
the other path, often chose bad things for their next lives, while the opposite
happened for the souls that had been punished.
Once the
souls chose their next life, they were led under the throne of Necessity to the
River Lethe (Forgetfulness),
where they were told to drink in order to forget their previous lives. That
night, when each soul fell asleep, they were sent to new bodies to lead their
new lives. Er’s soul did not go through all of this and did not drink from the
River Lethe,
thus remembering everything he had experienced. When he woke up, he returned to
his old body which had not decomposed during that period, but he found himself
on the funeral pyre that his fellow soldiers had started. They saved him from
the flames and he managed to recount his experience in the afterlife.
The myth
was used by Socrates to show that the choices people make have an impact on the
afterlife, and that those who pretend to be pious but are false in their souls
will be eventually punished in the next life.

Source: Greek Mythology

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