images.jpg

 

“Tell me not, in mournful numbers, life

is but an empty dream! For the soul is

dead that slumbers, and things are

not what they seem. Life is real! Life is

earnest! And the grave is not its goal.

Dust thou art; to dust returnest was not

spoken of the soul.”

 

—HenryWadsworth Longfellow

 

 

THE EGO DIES, BUT THE SPIRIT LIVES ON

Doesn’t this vision of death that says when the ego dies

the spirit lives on reinforce the incorrect notion that they are

separate?

I like what James Hillman in The Force of Character49

had to say about death and aging. He suggested that when

we substitute “leaving for dying and …preparing for aging,

then what we go through in our last years is preparation for

departure.”

He didn’t like this idea because he thought that to focus

in this way was to distract a person from life. He wanted to

focus not on what is leaving this world and goes on to some

metaphysical reality, but on what is left behind—the character

images and “force of character” that is left in the lives of the

living. He sees these images as sometimes independent voices

that continue to inspire and advise. In this way, the death of the

body does not mean that the character of he who lived in that

body has ever left. He or she is still here in memories, and not

just the fond recall associated with the person who has died,

but the fact that memories that impact and interact with those

whose bodies are still functional.

 

“When we are dead, seek not our tomb in

the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.”

— Rumi’s tomb, the Tomb of Mavlanain

Konya, Turkey

 

I agree with Hillman when he implies that this idea of the

soul leaving the body (ego) behind only serves to reinforce the

concept that there is a dichotomy, a separation between body

and soul. Just because the body has left does not mean that ego

has left. I would go even further and say that the soul hasn’t

gone anywhere either in that, as essence, there is no other

place to go. This essence continues to advise those who are

still living. Every thought or image of them interacts with your

thoughts and has impact.

Though I may like the idea that the character images of

those who have died continue to interact with me, I miss the

physical character and my relationship with it. It’s hard to have

a dynamic relationship with a memory; it’s so one-sided. In this

idea, the influence of the dead may live on, but the soul and its

projected ego representative with all its flaws and brilliance has

moved on too, leaving a rather poor two-dimensional substitute.

Better than nothing, I guess, especially for a melancholy junkie

like me.

_____________________________________________

*I’ve explored death in dreams in a a number of postings over the years e.g.,

March 9, 2017

October 3, 2018

January 18, 2018

 

 

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