About two pounds of your body dies every day, and the millions of dead bodies which are in that two pounds would kill your live body if you took them back into your metabolism again. Have you ever thought of that? Great cities must have great sanitation departments to guard against just that. Have you ever thought that your every inbreath charges you with power to live, and every outbreath is death? That means that you are perpetually living and dying thirty or forty times a minute. Have you ever thought that the water you drink, the air you breathe, and the food you eat, comes from the dead and decaying body of this planet, and that every living body which dies and is returned to the earth, recharges the earth with renewed life? You probably have never given this a thought.”
Walter Bowman Russell
Try to do a little research on major philosophical, religious, occult and spiritual traditions and find out – what role does a phenomenon of death play in them? Is it a minor, secondary, background theme or one of the recurring, core, underlying themes? Although it may not be apparent at first glance, I would propose that awareness of inevitability of coming of death is a historical unlocking of Pandora’s Box that opened human’s eyes to the mysteries of life in it contained. In other words, awareness of being destined to die may have, in fact, led to awareness of being alive.
One of the courious aspects of eastern spirituality is a certain emphasis on dissolution of individualistic traits like ego, desires, attachments and possessions as well as on qualities of passivity, non-resistance, non-aversion and asceticism. In this context, death may appear as the ultimate revelation and liberation, because all the troubles of life follow from addiction and ties to the illusion of phenomenal world and the very fact that one is born means that one is not enlightened and bound to suffering. Especially intriguing is a concept of nirvana – निर्वाण. It literally translates as ”blown out” or ”extinguished”. Nirvana can thus be thought of as a ‘dissolution of oneself to merge with absolute’. Individualistic traits have to be sacrifized in the process as they are the exact things which brought the suffering to the existence.
Death is an important theme in Martin Heidegger’s ”fundamental ontology”:
According to Heidegger, the human being must understand that he or she is a “being toward death” ( Being and Time ). “As soon as man comes to life,” he says, “he is at once old enough to die”. Therefore the awareness and acceptance of death is a requirement for authentic existence. Heidegger refers to the inauthentic self as the “they-self.” This is the self that is influenced by the crowd or the “they,” rather than by its own unique potentialities. The they-self sees death as a subject producing “cowardly fear, a sign of insecurity” and therefore a fit topic to be avoided. Avoidance of death can be achieved by an evasion technique Heidegger refers to as the “constant tranquilization about death.” In so doing, the they-self “does not permit us the courage for anxiety in the face of death” and promotes instead an “untroubled indifference” about death. What is the proper attitude toward one’s death? Heidegger rejects the cowardly fear proposed by the they-self. The only proper mood, he argues, when one comes “face-to-face” with the “nothing” that death reveals, is a courageous “anxiety”. This anxiety or dread, as the scholar Michael Gelven points out, is different from fear in that fear attaches to some actual object, while anxiety focuses on freedom and possibility. Only such a mood, says Heidegger, will bring about an “impassioned freedom towards death “. Heidegger’s reflections on death, therefore, are not obsessions with morbidity. Nor does he offer a religious hope of life after death. Rather, healthy anxiety about death provides courageous awareness and acceptance of death, and of one’s finitude.”
The criteria which have been bestowed on the “true being” of things are the criteria of not-being, of naught.”
Why is this reference interesting? It points to the fact that such supernatural being is equivalent to not-being, nothing or might we say, death. As I wrote in one of my previous posts – in one way or another, nothingness is a major key to the mystery of the universe and I would like to add here that God as defined by Walter Bowman Russell ( whose quotation you can find near the beginning of this post ) is specially connected to nothing or zero or death or what could be termed ”negative life”, and as for brief introduction to this topic refer to my post ( The fundamental all-pervading rhythm of the universe according to the forgotten visionary – Walter Russell Bowman ). According to this view, ”death is eternal life”. By the way, as you may have allready realized, death is massively important problem for every major religion in this world for it is most a profound puzzle.
If you have doubts about how crucial role death plays in religion, take a look at this biblical passage:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
You see, even if you want to enter the heaven, you must first die. Therefore, it might be said that death is the gateway to both the mystery of life as well as to ”better afterlife” or enlightenment or liberation or union with absolute. You must either dissapear in absolute reality or be born anew, ressurected by God.
The secret societes are well aware of the deep meaning that death holds and are embracing it in some enigmatic manners:
Terror Management Theory
The terror refered to in terror management theory (TMT) is that which is brought on by the awareness of the inevitible death of the self. According to TMT, the anxiety caused by mortality is a major motivator behind many human behaviors and cognitions, including self-esteem, ethno/religio-centrism, and even love. ( from Psychology Today )
Find more elaborated overview here:
The problem of heroics is the central one of human life, that it goes deeper into human nature than anything else because it is based on organismic narcissism and on the child’s need for self-esteem as the condition for his life. Society itself is a codified hero system, which means that society everywhere is a living myth of the significance of human life, a defiant creation of meaning.”
When I was watching a movie ”The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” for the first time years ago, one of the moments that got stuck in my memory ever since was the scene in which Arwen was warned by Elrond about Aragorn’s mortality and that she should not choose a path of a mortal in order to remain close to him while sacrifizing her longevity in effect. I knew there would come a day, when I will get back to this scene with more serious considerations and experiences and I think this is that day, and this post is a means of this comeback.
If Aragorn survives this war, you will still be parted. If Sauron is defeated, and Aragorn made king and all that you hope for comes true, you will still have to taste the bitterness of mortality. Whether by the sword or the slow decay of time, Aragorn will die. And there will be no comfort for you. No comfort to ease the pain of his passing. He will come to death, an image of the splendour of the kings of men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world. But you, my daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt, as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Here you will dwell, bound to your grief, under the fading trees, until all the world is changed and the long years of your life are utterly spent. Arwen, there is nothing for you here… only death.”
( Elrond warning Arwen in ”The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” )
This is the part that got stuck in my memory and now is the time for some afterward reflections. Could it be that without death, life is unnoticed, unexamined, non-interesting, meaningless, wonderless, too ordinary to treasure, steal, define and fight for? Could it even be that without death, life is not possible and these two could never occur separately? Could it be possible to ever conquer death and would it turn out to be a worthwhile and beneficial achievement, after all?
I have decided long time ago that heaven, as it is often visually portrayed, could indeed be quite boring and senseless, that death has very much to do with life as these two always go hand in hand and I tend to be very careful about possibility of conquering death, because I think immortality would ultimately be an exclusive elitist technology and that is because of my belief that for any organism to live, another one has to die ( anything is dying for something other to be living ) – this meaning you cannot replace dying parts of body through the food if there is nothing that produces that food. Meanwhile, the rate of human population growth cannot forever continue to exceed zero.
What do you think? Is death a blessing or rather a curse?