|“Death and the Gravedigger” by Carlos Schwabe, 1890s|
Death is change, transformation, passing from one state to another. In
the Perennial Philosophy, as Leibniz (and later Aldous Huxley) called
it, death is closely associated with esoteric initiation into the Higher
Mysteries. Plutarch wrote
At first there is wandering, and
wearisome roaming, and fearful traveling through darkness with no end to
be found. Then there is every sort of terror, shuddering and trembling
and perspiring and being alarmed. But after this a marvelous light
appears, and open places and meadows await, with voices and dances and
the solemnities of sacred utterances and holy visions. In that place one
walks about at will, now perfect and initiated and free, and wearing a
crown, one celebrates religious rites, and joins with pure and pious
people. Such a person looks over the uninitiated and unpurified crowd of
people living here, who are packed together and trample each other in
deep mud and murk, but who hold onto their evil things on account of
their fear of death, because they do not believe in the good things that
are in the other world. — Quoted in Stobaeus, Anthology 4.52.49
Even the Greek words for death and initiation (teleutan and teleisthai) closely resemble each other. This is no accident.
What it is about initiation into the Mysteries that is akin to death?
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