éternités, visions de l’au-delà


visions of the Beyond

Permanent course

“Where are we going?” What happens to the body and spirit after death is a universal human question.

This exhibition looks at the subject by comparing our contemporary questions with those of civilizations from various eras, including Amerindian, African, Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Peruvian, and Iron Age (Koban) cultures. The transparency of the exhibition design - the various sections of the trail are separated by metal mashrabiya, perforated according to the positions of the stars and distant twinkling galaxies, symbols of the beyond - echoes various practices that suggest a permeable boundary separating life and death.

The exhibition route


Passages between two worlds

While human societies make a distinction between the visible and the invisible, they allow for the possibility of exchanges between these two worlds. Guardian or evil spirits are believed to be able to influence the world of the living. To begin the experience, visitors are greeted with a figure that is common to North American Indian, African and Inuit cultures: the intercessor. A shaman or ancestor, this person is the point of contact between the world of the living and that of the spirits and the dead. Objects are made in order to communicate with the spirits, as well as to honour or guard against them.

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passage deux mondes

The contemporary relationship with death

Like a pause during the visitors’ experience, cocoon seats, placed beneath a well-lit dome, invite visitors to ask questions about the meaning of death in today's societies.

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rapport mort

The materiality of death

Subsequent sections of the experience compare the funerary practices of Egyptian, Peruvian and Caucasian cultures. Exhibits of human remains, grave goods and the three types of graves, displayed as they were discovered, reveal the materiality of death.

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matérialité mort

Giving meaning to death

The experience ends with two motifs to reflect on, like two propositions of the relationship with death. On one side, the Buddhist Parinirvana offers a peaceful vision, in which death is the supreme achievement for any believer. On the other, the Western vanitas invites us to consider the fragility of our condition and the impermanence of human existence.

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sens mort
Scientific committee
  • Roland Bacon, astrophysicist
  • Élisabeth de Fontenay, philosopher and essayist
  • Pierre Gibert, critic and historian of religions
  • Pascal Picq, palaeoanthropologist
  • Pierre Thomas, geologist
Continue the visit

Émile Guimet Gallery

Galerie Émile Guimet