|Sleep and Death carrying away Sarpedon of Lycia, by Füssli, Johann Heinrich|
You people, dismayed by fear of icy death, why are you terrified by the Styx, by shadows and empty names, the stuff of poets’ tales, by the dangers of a world that doesn’t exist? Our bodies, whether destroyed by the ﬂames of the funeral pyre, or by slow decay, do not feel any suffering. Our souls are immortal and are ever received into new homes, where they live and dwell, when they have left their previous abode. All things change, but nothing dies (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 153-9, and 165).
By now, we are very aware that, in an animaterialistic worldview, all matter is dynamic and full of activity. The Soul that infuses each of us is the same Soul that infuses the entire universe. It is no less a part of us than it is a part of our vast, infinite cosmos. Soul stands as the Metaxy, the bridge to the divine for all animaterial creatures. We build our soul-houses by daily becoming more aware of Soul. This comes by learning to think mythologically and utilizing imagination instead of focusing on Aristotelian logic. Nature is our classroom in which Soul has many things to show us. All forms in Nature are symbols for us to assimilate until they permeate our animaterial bodies.
It is an insult to Soul to believe all of this activity, this dynamism, just ceases at the point of death. For what is it to die, except that we pass from one form to another? It is Ego that deceives us into thinking we will pass into a state of final annihilation, or that we will escape to a Shanghai-La mode of existence somewhere in the clouds.
It is a great mystery what occurs after death, but, for thousands of years, humanity has believed in some form of reincarnation. I would say it occurs thusly: a person who has been engaged in the business of Soul-making has striven for many years to become more aware of Soul. This person “dies,” with a great deal of Soul-consciousness, but the soul-house, which I believe is inherent in the animaterial structure of the body, gets redistributed in the universe. Thus, the awareness of Soul continues to grow, albeit in another animaterial form. From this, it may be deduced that there is an element of time involved, whereby such awareness grows to a point of overabundance. Perhaps this is where an idea of linearity may be inserted into the cosmic scheme of things.
Some cultures call sleeping “the little death.” Sleep and death are closely intertwined in Greek mythology.
Sleep and death are brothers, according to the old Greek proverb. However, they are not merely brothers, born of the same fabric of human consciousness, but are in all verity one, identical. Death is a perfect sleep, with its interim awakenings of a kind, such as in the devachan, and a full human awakening in the succeeding reincarnation. Sleep is an imperfect fulfillment of death, nature’s prophecy of the future death. Nightly we sleep, and therefore nightly we partially die. Indeed, one may go still farther and say that sleep and death and all the various processes and realizations of initiation are but different phases or operations of consciousness, varied forms of the same fundamental thing. Sleep is largely an automatic functioning of the human consciousness; death is the same, but in immensely greater degree, and is a necessary habit of the consciousness in order that it may gain for the psychological part of the constitution a resting and an assimilation of experience ( Sleep and Death are Brothers, by G. de Purucker).
Sleep is preparing us, nightly, for the death experience. 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 nightly 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 night by night. Within us, there are laborers toiling, hammering, nailing, constructing, tearing down, rebuilding. This is an ongoing phenomenon, night after night, year after year. We do not begin to “get our house in order” at the point of death, but at birth.
Death 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 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. Memento Mori.
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