by Mike Kay
In the ancient world, there existed a far different understanding of the nature of life than that which is popular today. The Hellenes in particular recognized a fact concerning the finite span of individual lives. It was fully evident that life required power to bring it to its end. Life simply could not, of its own accord, bring upon itself its own conclusion.
Seers had long observed this power in action. Artists depicted this force as a beautiful man with wings, Thanatos the God of Death.
The motif of the beautiful man with wings is a familiar one in modern Judeo-Christian society. Few question it or give it much thought. What they don’t know is that the beautiful man with wings, the form of all their angels, derives from Death himself.
Certainty in life is and always has been in short supply, yet the certainty of death is more powerful than all the striving of mankind. Death alone is this irreconcilable might, thus it is no surprise that the religious complex appropriated the image of death for their political purposes.
Death as a force that shapes the foundation of this world of things is a given in ancient thought. The impermanence and changeability of existence were keenly observed. The making of the world was understood as a continually recurring process, not as a static result of impersonal laws or the one-time whim of a god.
Death, therefore, was intrinsic to any interplay of forces, whose dynamic exchange resulted in an establishment or state that became a foundation for life to flourish and find its own destiny. The paradox is such that what appears most stable, most real, and most tangible is the most out of reach.
The identification of death as its own force is almost universally abandoned in modern thought, existing now only in the realm of folklore and fantasy, that region of myth and emotion that is largely immune to the efforts of society to control it. Here, death is still personified as the Grim Reaper, a figure represented everywhere from Graphic novels to Tarot cards, and clearly understood despite a complete lack of religious or philosophical support.
One could argue that the Grim Reaper is none other than mankind’s need to put a face on death, the effort to place unfathomable death within a context to reduce its’ awe and power, to make death into a concept, a personality, an examinable object. Such an argument ignores the reality that from ancient times, mankind understood death as a force that acted upon life. The Grim Reaper is that force, Thanatos, reduced in scope if not intensity to thrive in an Abrahamic world.
Studies of the subconscious, as it is called, that repository of memory and the meeting place of archetypes, make it clear that human experience stretches across vast spans of time. A couple of thousand years is but momentary, and Thanatos has a presence there, despite the best efforts of the rulers of society to change this for their own purposes with mathematics and church bells.
Perhaps the best example of attempting to change this perception lies in the advancement of peaceful death as an attainable ideal. Peaceful death is a modern creation, one which arises from the fantasies of religion devoid of truth, modern mythology in its truest modern sense, one where the fierce struggle and the fear are somehow mitigated by a sense of ultimate helplessness, and a conviction the life was lead to please a jealous god.
The Chaldean Oracles declare that those severed most violently and swiftly from life are indeed blessed. Examples abound of those who were otherwise disposed of; Democritus died in ultimate agony and pain. Plotinus was bereft, as his best apprentice arrived far too late to receive his transmission, a simple farewell was all that was left. Perhaps the most deserving death was that of Stalin, who howled in the worst imaginable throes for 18 hours, before finally succumbing to the inevitable. Genuine death, vs. the modern fantasy, is one where life is finally, irrevocably overcome.
In modern parlance, myth is defined as fiction, despite the tireless efforts of Joseph Campbell. True myth is itself a form of thought, a cognitive method through which important events are committed to memory, and the journey of a people is preserved for future generations. Myth thus provides a sense of meaning and explanations for events beyond one’s control.
However, the modern purveyors of thought have never had respect for this faculty. The effort to “correct” it seemed to be at their command. Myth became as it is wrongly perceived today, as some form of fiction to soothe children. In rushed religion and science, eager to grab the reins of control and the result is the fantasy of a peaceful death, with an abrogated and regressive opinion regarding an essential human function.
Modern mythology, the modern fiction of peaceful death, is useful only when it comes to understanding the current suite of hopes, fears, and crushing ignorance that typifies life in modern society today. Doubtless, modern fictions regarding death result from an entirely meaningless concept of life, devoid of any reality yet fanatically loyal to modern ideologies such as materialism.
Fantasies of peaceful death are allayed by the realities revealed through the policies and programs of such as Hospice, which come equipped with a veritable war chest of opiates to combat the often violent and wild thrashing of limbs, ear-splitting shrieks, and the impact of vacant, terrified stares that accompany the death experience. Hospice nurses, in moments of candor, confess that the death of the subject often arrives to the family as a sense of relief, as the suffering comes to an end.
There is an inadvertent cruelty and lack of compassion to the modern fiction of the peaceful death. The perpetrators of the fraud espouse a position that brings contempt to those who believe in it, for those in the clutches of end of-life. It is as though the trials of death lay bare the foolishness of their claim of peaceful death, exposing their ignorance and devastating their poorly propped-up faith. If not this, then of what else can they trust? Such is the nature of political ideologies that masquerade as spiritual truth.
In the end, the demand for peaceful death establishes a condition of anti-preparation for death. It is a puerile fiction from the banality of modern life, an artifice constructed from an overwhelming obsession with commoditization, self-absorption, and a pernicious ever-present deception that is fundamental to the fraud inherent in modern life.
Into the essential reality of forces, states, and hypostases the dying are irrevocably thrown. Stripped of all protections, lies, and fantasies, all artificial props fail. The true depths of unimagined cosmic forces are revealed. The maelstroms of primal energies are laid bare through a cacophony of chaotic colors. Once occluded, the depths of the inner psyche are made available through the great struggle, even to the dying themselves. Nothing is hidden. Nothing is forgotten. Death reveals all.
So it is that the realities of death are indifferent to the fantasies of life. Life, by itself is unequipped to come to terms with death. The focus of life is the obsession with itself. Devoid of any meaning or purpose, life hurls forward, heedless and crowned by urges onto which it bestows the quality of gods. Life overflows with an endless insatiable demand for itself, a pressing instinct that leaves it blind and defenseless before its hidden eternal struggle with death.
Life is unaware of the fact that individually it is set to succumb to the cold grip of death, while collectively it can triumph simply by recognizing its own urge towards itself, the most powerful of all urges, to continue come what may.
Death is the realm of the hidden mystery intrinsic to life. Death guards the secrets that are impenetrable to any standard waking consciousness. Death holds the gifts that make a life journey effective. So it has always been that the efforts to come to any worthwhile conclusions regarding life have always looked to death.
Modern thought, regressive as it proves to be, demands as much distance from death as is possible. This avoidance strategy only strengthens ignorance, creating ever more fertile soil for the planting of false narratives. Thus the modern mind cultivates a kind of stupefying terror, guaranteed to exacerbate the suffering of the dying. The ancestral thought of pre-Christian times never so separated the struggle of life from the presence of death. Similarly, any mystical exploration into the mysteries of life requires direct involvement with death.
Nietzsche, for all his brilliance and candor, savaged Platonism as a cowardly retreat from the harsh amoral reality of life. He concluded that the goals and direction of life are geared towards exercising the full potential of that life. However true this is when viewed from its own perspective, it utterly fails when plunged into the impenetrable ocean of death, that deep and vast key to our ultimate destiny.
Where then, does this leave mankind?
He has no concepts, no measurements, no comparisons that allow a valid extension of his living faculties into the realm of death. Most turn to religion, yet attempts to do so-especially through the politically obsessed Abrahamic, require a truncation of faculties and a suspension of disbelief so powerful that it would make a Hollywood producer proud.
What you can take home with you is a deep understanding that death transforms life, and this dynamic is impossible to contain, imbued with unbelievable revelations, and absolutely total.
The Night that moved silently into the alpine forest was electric. An invisible but palpable edge informed all perception, bringing an intensity, a sparkling clarity upon which death moved through the land.
No modern thought contaminated the purity of the night. A more ancient, more genuine energetic danced across the boughs and the starry sky. No modern assumptions dulled the sharpness of the world with their self-indulgent fascinations. There was no time for overfed fantasies in the breath of the world. No modern myth flung itself into the jaws of the night. No narrative arranged by the usual suspects kept from public view withstood the reality. The primal awareness of countless forms participated in the vibrating energetic, forms that engaged in their required tasks, some for the last time.
Death was present in the Owls’ talons and the Bears’ canines. Death whispered to the foraging ungulates, and the marmot scrambling across the field. Be ready, was all he said.
The shining stars carved the towering forms of mighty Ponderosa and Fir out of the darkness. The great white trail of the Milky Way spanned the sky. The struggles of life and death went unnoticed and unobserved by the masses plastered to their TV screens far away.
Few would ever know the electric night that fires all the neurons of life. They would never taste the intensity of life as defined by clear, ever-present death. They would not comprehend the need to remove the focus from their personal dysfunction, in order to participate in a world so real as to be beyond words.
Death is the subject of endless modern lies, such helps to promote a new slavery to the commodity world fashioned by myopic mankind. That world fails each and everyone in turn as it is shattered by the deep reality of death.
I couldn’t get past the awkwardness, of watching the slow demise. It was clear what was happening, that individual life was losing its struggle with death, as it is always destined to pass. There was nothing to say, to one who was so given to the standard explanation of things.
I noted privately that unbidden, the transition was taking a proper course, as the events of the lived life were carefully relived, evaluated, and released with a coming to terms. One who had the unconditional love of others, and their selfless dedication to the continuation of life, had the required time to complete the process of releasing that awareness.
The slow withering took a sudden turn after the final fall. Sprawled upon the floor like a rag doll, picked up and taken to hospital. Efforts were made to understand what had happened. Did they trip on their own feet? There was no obvious explanation.
The hospital discharged them, to the protests of a certain family. Nothing more, could the hospital do. Hospital is in the business of selling beds, not shepherding the dying through the end of their lives. Hospice was called in, to more weak protests before finally being accepted as the only choice.
The decline was inescapable, and those who cared prepared themselves. Even to those undergoing the process, the theft of dignity and grace is difficult to handle. It was in those final days that sustenance was refused. A chance gaze into a mirror brought only horror and despair.
The recognition of the end brought that edge to perception for the final time. Their last lucid day was a most beautiful one. They savored the sun on their face and the subtle song of wild birds. It was the last gift for all concerned, to recognize a gorgeous day and a glorious sky.
That night I slept fitfully. My dreams were filled with the chaotic colors of death, and the titanic struggle, by which death overwhelms the living. I was burdened by the terrific battle, the absolute certainty that death would occur. I spoke to no one, I said nothing. Upon awakening I waited for the news I knew I would hear.
The day was cloudy with a mad wind. The chemtrails absent the day before, played connect the dots to the clouds. Sun beamed through briefly and was obscured again. I found it impossible to do much, and it was after the sunset that the last breath was taken.
The buzz of the human world after the success of death was muted since this was fully expected. The chores were completed, in an evening quickly becoming cold and clear, with a somber resolve, when all that time as the sun tracked across its arc I felt the insistence. At the edge of awareness a plaintive call, which I noted but resisted as I tended to my tasks. Finally, a respite, a moment to myself, I sank into a chair and was almost immediately gone.
A vision had taken me to a verdant thriving place, where white aged stone ruins barely recognizable scattered amongst the slopes of rolling hills beneath a crystal clear azure sky. It was no surprise to see them there, standing once again capable and healthy with a request upon their thoughts.
They gave me a message, which I took to heart, and asked for my help to get to the doorstep. I’ve done this many times, for those who forget their journey, but never for one who so clearly requested my assistance.
A star appeared then in the depths of the heavens, a light that grew in brightness and significance. We waited together until it reached its full capacity, and then we crouched together, and with athletic force, leaped to the brilliance. We sailed through the sky, in a melancholy flight. It’s always with a mix of emotions, that the transition takes place. Landing on the threshold, they waited for me to communicate, and I explained that I had to return, but they were free to travel on.
I watched then, as they stepped through to the next level. The stars that knew them came to their side. Five stars merged into a single brilliance that filled the heavens, and it was gone. My return was without incident, and I contemplated it all without a single thought.
Later that night I met others and was wet with tears their eyes locked into mine, as they told me what they had seen. In the moment of their grief, they turned their eyes to the heavens, surprised to behold a rare falling star blazing across the twilight. They knew in their heart that it was the one they just lost, a sign of beauty, of mystery, and completion.
They cried that night until the darkness grew old, their hearts heavy, their thoughts free. Their worlds the following day were a little less full, as the tasks and chores occupied their bodies and minds. The light finally faded on their efforts as the sun vanished behind the mountain peaks. The drapes were closed, the fires kindled, and lights were switched on whilst above all the stars shone brightly in the night sky.
Mike has always lived his life on the edge, without a safety net. He is not a traditionalist, although he values tradition. He is not a social maven, although he values a functioning society. In fact anything you might think Mike is, he is not, thus he refers to himself as a nobody. His destiny has led him into the oddest of places, at the oddest of times. He is oft convinced that as in the Hymn of the Pearl, he is doomed to grope around in the dark, having forgotten who he is. His dream is remembering, and his writings are perhaps an ode to this process.