Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Objective Sense of Death

Dec. 8, I was giving a visual presentation on the roots of yoga to a class of future yoga instructors.

After we finished reviewing the material,  one of the members of the class—a young woman who clearly felt an inner anguish that was driving her question in a much-deeper-than-ordinary way—asked me how we square the difficult questions about life with our metaphysical philosophies, which seem to promise everything— except, perhaps, comfort.

When I asked her what was really bothering her, it turned out it was death. Her father had died when she was quite young; and this raised very difficult inner questions.

She fears death; and this struck close enough to home. Not only did I used to fear death, my sister died two years ago, and it has forced me to examine the question from an inner and outer perspective in much more depth than any theories can address.

Nonetheless, perhaps, we find the theories are what we discuss.

I answered her by explaining some of what death means from a theoretical point of view; and I've written enough about that here for readers to poke around and find more than enough of that kind of material.

Yet it wasn't enough, was it?

What intrigues me more about the matter is that in being, there's an organic relationship to death; and this can't really be explained by any theories.

Being knows death. It isn't just a premise; death is included in Being as part of the background radiation, the fundamental field of inquiry from which all consciousness conducts its investigations. One cannot become aware of one's self from an inner point of view, from the point of view of the organic sense of Being, without developing a cellular connection to one's Being and one's body; and one can't have that sensation without knowing, intrinsically, that death is an unavoidable part of the condition. So in Being, one begins from death; and it isn't a negative proposition, not in the least, because it includes itself truthfully within life. I suppose this sounds obscure; and indeed, as an intellectual proposition, it's very nearly impossible to understand. It's only with a physical connection that it can begin to manifest in such a way.

The body knows its own mortality. When Gurdjieff suggested, at the end of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, that the only hope for humanity consisted in man becoming perpetually aware of his own mortality, he was actually referring to the state of inward transformation that brings the body, the feeling, and the mind into this new and objective relationship where we sense death in an entire new way: not as a disaster to be feared, but as a proper condition of life.

One might say that under such influences, we realize we are already dead. This is to be understood in the sense that we are inevitably headed towards death; there is no single instant of this life that does not irrevocably include death as a part of its Being. When that death takes place seems in some ways irrelevant; it's a given.

The emotional mind, if it senses death properly (and this is not given by default, even if the organic sense of Being is awakened) does not sense it egoistically. The fear of death arises strictly from egoism, although our unconscious state renders these roots quite opaque. But the feelings can know the presence of death from a deeper place that carries a current deriving directly from the sorrow of the Lord.

Death is ever with us as a friend, if we only knew it.

But the inner relationship needs to change in order to see that.


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