“There is an image, found on a tablet from the Minoan culture in Crete of some four thousand years ago.
On one side of the tablet is a drawing of a person walking, then of a person lying down, apparently dead, and a small birdlike figurine, which probably represents the soul.
On the other side are a caterpillar, a chrysalis, and a butterfly.
There is no way to determine the tablet’s original intent; to my mind, however, it seems to be depicting precisely that dramatic change.
For the caterpillar, changing into a butterfly is exactly the same as dying is for humans.
In other words, the caterpillar cannot imagine life as a butterfly.
When the caterpillar goes into the chrysalis, it dies; in a sense, it ceases to exist as a caterpillar.
When it reemerges, it is the same caterpillar that reemerges—and yet it is not the same. It is entirely different; it has an entirely different life, an entirely different existence.
Neither of the two stages is understood by the other.
Not only is the caterpillar unable to imagine life as a butterfly, the butterfly does not know its life as a caterpillar at all, even though the caterpillar has begotten it.
That image—whether the Minoan stone intended it as such, or it is just my interpretation—is a rudimentary portrayal of what happens at death.
From Simple Words by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz