To Sleep Perchance to Dream; To Die Perchance to Wake (11.21.11)
This is another chapter that has a lot of ideas I've covered in previous posts, so I'll try not to be too deathly repetitive.
How do we think about death? One of the reasons it is difficult to think about, is that it is such a concrete fact -- just a big black wall over the subjective horizon. What do we really know about death? What can we say about it that isn't merely an abstract idea or dead metaphor?
At first blush, it seems that death is one of those existential parameters that the mind can never contain, but rather, contains us -- like time or sexuality. Perhaps this is one more reason why those two are closely linked (sex and death, out of which emerges their baby, knowledge).
In fact, if we didn't sexually reproduce, we wouldn't die, at least for any biological reason. Rather, we would live endlessly, except that it would be a horizontal endlessness, which is not to be confused with eternity (which is outside time). And without the boundary of death, we couldn't know nothing, which is the beginning of knowledge. Animals can only know something, but even then, they don't know that they know. Only man can know that he knows nothing, and therefore potentially everything.
UF says that it is this latter form of a purely biological pseudo-eternal life that the serpent promises when he tells Adam and Eve that "you shall not die." Thus, technically he wasn't lying, because a vertical lie may well be a horizontal truth, as our scientistic jester never stops teaching us. Although perhaps he finally has, since he hasn't commented in several days.
In my book, I wrote of the extreme unlikelihood that anything resembling human intelligence could ever have evolved elsewhere, for it is not just a matter of evolving "big brains." Far from it. Look at Noam Chomsky.
Rather, humanness emerges specifically because of the trimorphic situation of an immature and incomplete nervous system in dynamic rapport with an "empathic" mother and "protecting" father (and when I speak of "mother" and "father," I am doing so from the infant's archetypal perspective, wherein early empathy becomes mother, or is directed into that a priori archetype; in this view, mother emerges from baby, and then father from mother -- more on which below).
UF writes of the connection between, on the one hand, sleeping, forgetting, and death; and on the other, waking, remembering, and life. For example, psychoanalysis has long posited the idea that chronic insomnia can result from an inability to die to the day. You live your day, and then must let it go in the death of sleep. So many people cannot "let the day go." Instead, it intrudes upon their peaceful death, persecuting and tormenting them. Then, even worse, they dream -- or more often have nightmares -- by day.
For other people, they cannot die to the unconscious because of the monsters that lie there in in wait. This is a routine result of a traumatic childhood, of things that happened to them -- and more commonly, what didn't happen to them, in the form of a secure and "containing" relationship with the mother. For these individuals, they cannot "rest in peace," because their dream life is like a continuous horror movie, a "living death."
For that is what a monster is, isn't it -- a conflation of the categories of life and death? During Holloween week they showed all of the classic monster movies on TMC, and they all share this feature of living death or death living: Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy. Perhaps this gives us a clue about death, i.e, that it is not so much the opposite of life, but a perverse or depraved form of it. You might say that Christmas celebrates life amidst death, while Halloween "celebrates" death in life. Probably no coincidence that the holiday has become much more popular with the increasing secularization of our culture, i.e., the death culture. It does nothing for me.
In fact, I remember reading a book -- here it is, Vampires, Burial, and Death -- that explains that most funeral rites evolved around concerns about making certain that the dead stayed that way -- that the corpse is not merely dead, but really most sincerely dead. (The book takes an academic and positivistic approach, so it's of limited usefulness except for the historical trivia, which is at times nevertheless fascinating.)
So, to sleep is to forget the day and awaken to the world of the Dreamer: "One forgets, one goes to sleep, and one dies." In turn, "One remembers, one awakes, and one is born."
In a previous post, I have discussed the idea that from a developmental perspective, one may turn Genesis on its head and see the infant-Adam as the creator of God and everything else.
In fact, from a certain perspective, this is how it must be, and to the extent that you fail to understand this distinction, you may well fail to appreciate the difference between God and infantile omnipotence. Not only is this conflation commonplace, but it might even be the norm. Certainly the Islamist god is indistinguishable from an enraged baby, while the infantile dreams of the left are suspiciously similar to those conjured by the omnipotent gods of the nursery.
Looked at in this way, the discovery of Adam and Eve -- or a Mother and Father separate from the baby -- is an insult to the baby's omnipotence. How dare Mommy and Daddy exist separate from my magical wishes! Therefore the baby-god banishes them from the infantile paradise, where the infant restores his "oneness with God." No coincidence therefore that the way back to paradise is blocked by a coterie of babies with flaming swords. (I should acknowledge that this idea was playgiarized from Grotstein. But I think I won't, for he is an insult to my omnipotence.)
To fall asleep is not just to give up everything, but to do so in the faith that everything will somehow be cleansed and transformed when we are reincarnated and reborn in the morning. So sleep has a sort of "digestive" or metabolic property; which must mean that death and forgetting do as well.
And in fact, one doesn't have to comb very far through the esoteric literature to discover this idea, that the initial postmortem state is very much analogous to the metabolic function of dreaming, except that it will range over our entire life, so that whatever was "inessential" is consigned to the flames, while what is essential lives in eternity. In any event, know that your life is being dreamt by forces far greater than yourself, and not just at night.
This could be an extremely lengthy sidetrack, so I think I'll just mention it briefly, but this is the whole point of Finnegans Wake, which is like a dream of all human history within the ultimate Dreamer (wake is a play on words, meaning the wake of death and the a-wake of resurrection and the Dreamer). Here's how Joseph Campbell expressed it:
"Finnegans Wake is a mighty allegory of the fall and resurrection of mankind. It is a strange book, a compound of fable, symphony, and nightmare -- a monstrous enigma beckoning imperiously from the shadowy pits of sleep. Its mechanics resemble those of the dream, a dream which has freed the author from the necessities of common logic and has enabled him to compress all periods of history, all phases of individual and racial development, into a circular design, of which every part is beginning, middle and end.... Joyce presents, develops, amplifies and recondenses nothing more nor less than the eternal dynamic implicit in birth, death, conflict, death, and resurrection."
Well, we didn't get very far into this chapter, did we? Time to die to the dreamer and awaken to the day. To be continued....
O Death, you old mahahasamadhi, show us your secret mannascrypt, your Divine Cosmodeity. Take us before and beyond this womentary maninfestation, reveal not the horizontal but our inmost upmost vertical bigending --The Book of Petey