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The Fear of Death, appropriation – possession, and their transcendence PDF Print E-mail
Life – Consciousness

B than common 240In theory, religions have 'conquered' death. None of them, however, has conquered the fear of death. Of course, there are certain individuals in the religious life who are an exception to this.
In theory, the sciences have conquered life and its mystery by its reduction to a materialist absolute, and they have promised, in this way, to expand its limits, with a nod in the direction of probability of immortality. But they have not conquered the fear of death.

Man still feels like an 'ego' and a subject of reference. And with his imperial 'phantom' as his basis, he legitimates an empire 'instituted in the imagination' with his idols. Thus the fear of death remains dominant.
Man - as a tragic hero guilty of hubris  - does not want to register the bounds of his form and behaves somewhat as if immortal in form, but without, deep down, even for a moment, ceasing to fear death. Under the sway of this indirectified duration and domination of the fear of death, he produces, unrestrained, idols of a counterfeit duration. He indirectifies himself and diffuses consciousness into apprehensions and roles which render it experientially defective and foolish.

Nevertheless, man and mankind arm their imagination with an 'independence' as a falsified reality, as in the case of Edmund in Shakespeare's King Lear:
"Thou, nature, art my goddess. To thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in plague of custom and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me"[1]

This, however, is not going to allow us to escape from the deeper causes and actual facts. Imaginary consensual entrenchment has made the economic and political field dominant and historically autonomous. But the political and economic are definitive because the bio-ecological or natural are definitive. Thus, the depth of definiteness will become increasingly apparent, without there being discounts as to the necessities for changes and governance at every other level of definiteness. History is, in the end, an anthropological, evolutionary phenomenon, and a review of it in one area only or in tectonic shallows is profoundly blind and, by its reflective light, limited]. Thus the vicious circle of history is perpetuated. The dialectic of definiteness will become more apparent if, for example, we study 'possession' at its source and its development as a regulatory institution in the imagination.

The 'phantom' of ownership in natural science and religion
Possession in natural science exists only as an identification of matter in space of matter or as a fold in curled-up space-time, or as a one- dimensional string dynamic. In any event, matter does not exist as possession of a functional content except as the sphere of a divine referentiality, totally unexplored for us, non-comprehensible conceptually and experimentally for the time being. This ontological character of matter, its non-proprietorial character, is little by little becoming realised in a scientific understanding of it. In earlier times, only symbolic forms in religions and mythologies or animist and shamanist conventions retained this approach.

Anthropological and folklore survivals which reach as far as the biological hypostasis - whether partially depersonalised or personalist - such as the Bushman's placating of the soul of his prey, in the latter case, and the offer, in the Arctic, of the spouse, in the former, draw attention indirectly to needs to transcend possession of what is living.

The recognition, symbolically, of the body by Francis of Assisi as 'brother' to that of the ass conveys a similar way of looking at the familiar or bearing body, as rendered in Nikos Kazantzakis's wonderful work Il Poverello di Dio. Similarly, dualist or - ontologically - monist philosophical and religious approaches speak of the burdened differentness of matter and the evolutionary expendability of the relationship between spirit - soul - mind with the body and desire, and draw attention, in a disconnected, passion-free, and detached perspective, to the relation between Self and non-Self, or the Bearer, where the Bearer is identified in alchemy to the 'Spirit of the Earth', or the 'pool of life'.
Of course, unlike science, which regards matter as an issue of nanomechanics and cosmology, as lifeless, all these other approaches allude to a perspective of mystery and initiation, in using terms such as 'living stones', 'the philosopher's stone', etc.

However, modern science, which may, as a refractive cosmic idol of the consciousness be as impermanent as the science of Newton, manifests inexorable existential nihilism as to the temporal horizon of identification of man. However, this nihilism is not even accepted psychologically by the scientists themselves, because it would lead to an ultimate thermodynamic dissolution of any life at all - even the scientific life. They work psychologically with a minimal or - at least - doubtful certainty of immortality and living being and consciousness.

There have been many methodological critiques in the scientific analytical and reductionist review. A considerable number of these have been undertaken by the members of the scientific community itself. We shall not, however, linger over these disputes. But we shall retain the shared approach as to the 'ontologically zero existence of possession', and as to how 'possession' is a dependence-generating and parasitical 'phantom' in the apprehension of the Self, which has, as an algorithm, vast anthropological and cultural impacts.

The genesis of the sense of possession
But what was it which gave birth and accords such a mania to the tendency to possession? First and foremost, the sense of possession develops over the consciousness, and, consequently, in the sense of the subject or self. This possession bears the title of 'ego'. Non-possession over the consciousness is not easily possible to apprehend, unless the consciousness has been exceptionally exercised ontologically and psychologically.

Such an approach could be cultivated only through a profound awareness and the symbolic metaphor of the 'paradox of the actor'. The actor successfully performs - albeit partially - an identification with a self and with a role, which is not himself. He appropriates another persona, and becomes a theatrical possessor of another self and role.

By means of this example we can intuitively perceive the fundamental disconnection of the consciousness and the self from the play-acting possessiveness which develops 'within us'. The dissolution of this theatre of deception is the beginning of the Logos, in terms of constant duration, diachronicity, and the transcendence of the sense of Time in this experience.
We have arrived, again, at a sui generis factor of play-acting deviation and conversion into a possession of the consciousness and the self.
This factor is Time, which is expressed by and with the functional polymerisation of life, as well as by the sense of the transposition of the conception of being and self on to sets of facts and percepts.

The deviation of the conception into percepts and set of facts is virtually zero ontologically, since what is the object of knowledge in the shape of form [ the existence of all forms] proves to be an evanescent, a developing mortality, with minimal substantive impact. The collapse of the self-deception of identification with set of facts or percepts is prevented only by the concept and the intuitive simulation of substance and an organicity - composed of particles - of forms and relations. This intuitive simulation of the concept of substance as unaltering - and corresponding to the perceived form - gives rise to the illusion as to an imaginary dynamic identification of the 'ego' or appropriation of the form, and thus the self-deception of an indirect immortality is encouraged. When a person appropriates the form, and through this, the substance, which is seen in the imagination as immortal, as if it were unaltering and lifeless, he indirectly acquires its attributes, and becomes immortal in the imagination, in a field of intellectual and experiential underdevelopment.

Thus possession is interwoven with a fundamental error as to substance, Time, life, and death. The materialistic empiricist approach works in favour of this error, as does the simplistic version of metaphysics. If we regard the fear of death as interwoven with the instinct for self-preservation, we can conclude that the development of primitive skills in working with tools originated in man's counterbalancing invocation and intellectual attraction and drawing upon resources within his natural survival and evolution.

In this way, new horizons for the transfer of bio-social, family, herd, and hunting power in the psychological and bio-ecological economy of scale in the form of appropriation in work and trade opened up. This starts out from the flock of the nomadic society and its products, extends to the land and its produce, and passes through animals as helpers and guards to animals for food and work, with the escalating enslavement - direct or indirect - of man when the conditions of demand for different degrees of appropriation and commodification of a relatively intelligent workforce and the potential for handling tools were created.

Thus, behind all the anthropological, cultural, and historical itinerary followed by economic 'civilisation' and alienation, the fear of death was virtually unavoidable.

'Our' brain is accustomed to regard as existent and real, first and foremost, what is tangible and visible. This habit has been interwoven with the concept of substance. Even more particularly, the concept of substance is bound up with the tangibility of corporeality, which is a rough and relatively undifferentiated or monotonous feeling in its empirical result. All this certainty as to its objectivity collapsed as a reliable model in the twentieth century.

Nevertheless, the brain's sensory and conceptual pre-conception remains, with the sensory preference being transferred to intellectual 'authority' and exclusivity or, else, the lure exerted by the concept  of substance and of objectivity, in its rough and simplistic version, which ignores, for example, the more transcendent experiential self-referentiality of the consciousness as that is gradually opened up in the phenomenology of Husserl. The concept of substance, in dependence upon those of the moment and of the void, usually operates as a reductionist or analytical simplification which precludes an apprehension of the existence of the non-tangible and non-visible. Our brain is habituated to the perceptibility of form and the intellectual binding of the apprehension of existence to this, by means of the concept of substance.

Even in the case of the non-perceived realities of science, an approach of simulation operates, by means of complex, tangible, and visible paradigms. No other aspect of understanding which would be isomorphic with and interpretatively parallel with the 'objective' world-theory is yet possible. We would note, of course, that fantasy does not constitute a real solution. It declares, in its lack of systemic credibility, the fact that the consciousness is troubled by the total lack of self-referentiality and its tying down to the senses and the predictable superstructures of knowledge, apprehension, and identification. But the strange thing is that this intellectual, and usually subconscious, authority of the concept the substance, 'without beginning' or referentiality, functions and is used as a schizoid starting-point for the realisation of obsessive phantoms on terms of authority in 'our' life and in history.

In this way, a 'Planetic Lodger' has been shaped and given expression by mankind as a neoplastic barbarism and as another aspect of civilisation and of the evolution of the 'noosphere'. Thus possession, while it seems to be our freedom, is none other than the form taken by the prison cell of our separateness.

This strange dialectic dynamic is now linked with a monstrous cultural, psychological, and mechanical form of living and history which demands, for its counterbalancing, an equally gigantic transcendent - in terms of evolution - consciousness and self-awareness, of a collective dynamic (without narcissistic 'over-simplifications' - conceptual, existential, and spiritual concerning transcendence and consciousness). Otherwise, our past, as causation, will function as an abysmal 'black hole' which swallows us up like a Titanic, cannibal and vampire.

We are the victims of a dualist separatism based upon the dualism of the imagings of substance and the void, and upon the superstructure of the image of the 'ego' in the space-time competitive insecurity of survival.

The concepts of substance and the void as they have been simplistically shaped do not permit existence to the concept of freedom and of the duration of the 'self'. They do not allow the conceptually valid identification of the 'self' with Being. The whole world and cosmos is seen as a magnification of the phantom of the 'ego', besieged completely by what is in the end a nihilistic and exterminatory mutability as to the psychological field. Being is seen as an unaltering, lifeless, and unconscious background to the process of evolution.

Ontological or spiritual insecurity not only nullifies the existential reference of freedom, but leads to a 'space-conquering', separatist appropriation of the field as a field of oblivion or flight by the fundamental fear of death and its immediate realisation.

In this way, of course, the dissolution of fear, which is always achieved by living knowledge, fails. It is not impossible, though, in spite of all the 'tragic nature' of the play-acting of our consciousness, for everything to form part of a superb, a wonderful ontological undertaking on our planetic horizon between the psychological and the physical field, between mode and being.

Nevertheless, in spite of the reflex, fateful - in terms of evolution - use of the concept of substance, there are not only paradoxes in the apprehension of this concept and of its relations, but the concept of substance itself - as we hinted at the beginning - precludes, at every level, possession from bearing its content on all the scales. Unfortunately, however, this use of the concept also precludes any evolutionary process in man’s hypostasis.

The two fundamental tendencies of consciousness within us - the first, as existential self-referentiality of the subject, and, the second, as a conceptual ontological confirmation of the apprehension - are very difficult to unify to form a synthesis, apart from the fact that both can suffer from a broad range of error. Both, in functioning, subordinate their results to a fundamental narcissism, as well as to internal and external flaws in the organ of perception. Typical, and exceptionally suspect, is the sensory and empirical apprehension of existence only in directly perceived forms. The habituation of sensory and cerebral simulation through the visibility and tangibility of existence is the basis of the error. This is starting to be partially understood by the contemporary natural, theoretical, and experimental field.

Liberation from habituation to the sense of possession of the consciousness
There have been plenty of attempts at simulatory transcendence of this tying down of the brain. However, at the same time, many of these simulations of transcendence of this habitual and reflex field of apprehension are also simplistic and with a very short lifespan psychologically, scientifically, experientially, and culturally. Thus they do not supply persuasiveness as to alternative emergences of the consciousness to the simulation of the existent. The simplistic nature of these endeavours involving apprehension and the consciousness are a displacement and often contribute to a future exacerbation of problems. But abandonment of 'self-evident' possession in the consciousness and identity is profoundly liberating and regenerative. It means the countdown for the Lernaean Hydra of separateness, of competition, and of appropriation. Such a path will always be, relatively, still at its beginning, and will be extremely promising in evolutionary terms.
The sense and the power or strength of the feeling of pain, as well as of the fear of death can be broken down to the extent that the conscious effort influences and re-orders, in the long term, the structure and functioning of the brain, while acting by neuro-hormones and at biochemical depth on the organic whole.

If we transcend this age-old causative field of flawed and imperfect individualisation - intellectualisation by the collectivisation and transcendence of the consciousness, then we shall be truly liberated in evolutionary terms as regards our anthropological field. Such a process is described by Aurobindo when he proposes, inter alia, an attitude where "nothing in the mind or in the vital or physical parts should be suffered to distort to its own use or seize for its own personal and separate satisfaction the greatness of the forces that are acting through you",[2] and as, in general, he approaches the issues in his work and in discussing the 'enigma of this world'.
There were similar descriptions of processes of liberation, in other terms, at an earlier date, such as those of Plato and many others. In the allegory of the Cave, in Plato's Republic, the following question arises:
" ... do you think our prisoners could see anything of themselves or their fellows except the shadows thrown by the fire on the wall of the cave opposite them? [ ... ]  Then think what would naturally happen to them if they were released from their bonds and cured of their delusions. Suppose one of them were let loose, and suddenly compelled to stand up and turn his head and look and walk towards the fire; all these actions would be painful and he would be too dazzled to see properly the objects of which he used to see the shadows. So if he was told that what he used to see was mere illusion and that he was now nearer reality and seeing more correctly, because he was turned towards objects that were more real, and if on top of that he were compelled to say what each of the passing objects was when it was pointed out to him, don't you think he would be at a loss, and think that what he use to see was more real than the objects now being pointed out to him?"[3]

This transition is in reality a painful course to follow, truly expressed by the so-called 'dark night of the soul', which gives rise to 'pain in the apprehension'.

[1] Shakespeare, William, King Lear [Greek translation], To Vima publications, 2009, p. 31.

[2] Sri Aurobindo, The Mother [Greek edition], publ. Pyrinos Kosmos, 2006, p. 25.

[3] Plato, Republic, Book Seven. Translation: H.D.P. Lee.

Yiannis Zisis
, writer
(11 May 2010)

 Photo from wikipedia

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