Life and death come into the world together; the eyes and the sockets which hold them are born at the same moment. The moment I am born I am old enough to die.
As I go on living I am dying. Death is entered continuously, not just
at the moment of death as legally and medically defined. Each event in
my life makes its contribution to my death, and I build my death as I go
along day by day (Hillman, 59).
This is a most curious
statement to the literal-minded masses, but it is the most profound
truth. Death is encountered within oneself on a daily basis. We would
not know life if not for death. The goal of life is death, but death is not a telos. We build our
death-vessel day by day. Within us, there are laborers toiling,
hammering, nailing, constructing, tearing down, rebuilding. This is an ongoing phenomenon, day after day, year after year. We do not begin to “get our house in order” at the point of death, but at birth.
is not our enemy, but simply another experience of the human condition.
Where did we get this idea in Western culture that death is an enemy? The Apostle Paul bequeathed it to Christianity, influencing many later
Western thinkers. Paul said,
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:26).
As many things in the West have been cloven asunder by repressing one pole or another of reality, so too, turning away from the death experience in Christianity has resulted
in an imbalance in the human condition. This gave birth
to the Apollinian heroic ego, the quintessential archetype of Western
man. An overemphasis on light, life, joy, happiness, feeling good, etc.
has driven many to madness and destruction. Acquainting oneself with one’s impending
death is a necessity to being fully alive.
I have come to embrace the idea that Soul is the death-body I am
constructing in this life to allow me to successfully cross to the next experience.
Soul is a bridge between worlds, the intermediate place between all
polarities, the metaxy. It’s an old belief, one that is rarely discussed anymore. Plato described the idea of metaxy in his Symposium. All that I experience in this world is part of the
construction of the death-vessel, my soul. All the suffering I endure is
for the good of my death-body.
The poet, John Keats said,
Call the world if you Please “The vale of Soul-making.” Then you will find out the use of the world . . . I say ‘Soul-making‘
Soul as distinguished from an Intelligence — There may be
intelligences or sparks of the divinity in millions — but they are not
Souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself. .
. . Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to
school an Intelligence and make it a Soul?
Soul-making is the building of the death-vessel.
Hillman, James. Suicide And The Soul. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.
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