[L]ove reaches its apogee and attains its own potentialities only... when it itself is recollection of something that exceeds any possibility of gratification in the finite realm.... In letting go of himself, man does not surrender to the purely "irrational." He surrenders to the healing darkness of his own divine origin. --Josef Pieper
The next thing I'd like to discuss about the Death card is Tomberg's account of what we symbolize (↑) and (↓). Both arrows are necessary for spiritual development, and various forms of heresy emphasize one to the exclusion of the other -- which is like emphasizing inspiration over expiration. It just won't work. In fact, it will eventually kill you.
Pieper: one would "be barring the healing of the soul from the fatalities which afflict it; for only those who can abandon rational self-control and autarchy, and who know how to 'lose their wits,' are able to experience such healing and purification."
Emphasis on (↑) alone leads to the construction of a "Tower of Babel," or purely manmode ladder to God. Emphasis on (↓) alone leads to the fatalism of, say, the Islamic world or of progressive historicism, or to any form of radical predestination that removes human will -- or freedom -- from the equation.
Not to resort immediately to Godwin's Law, but I'm reading this superb biography of Hitler, and it is all over the purely (↑) nature of his "project."
Indeed, Mein Kampf, of course, means My Struggle; it is the exertion of raw will because, in the end, will is all there is. Biological existence itself is a battle of wills, with only one winner. No compromise is possible. Either one is the hammer or one is the anvil:
"Politics are the conduct and course of historical struggle for the life of peoples.... It is an iron principle.... The aim of these struggles is the assertion of existence.... The weaker one falls so that the strong one gains life." This amounts to death -- or an infrahuman existence -- over real human life.
Tomberg makes the interesting point that the way of Christianity promises not just Life over Death, but Life over life -- a merely horizontal life. More generally, one might say that the point of Christianity is the victory of the vertical over the horizontal, not a temporary pseudo-victory of horizontal over horizontal. Rather, it is ultimately the victory "of radiation over crystallization."
Which reminds me of the narrator's last line of the film Sunset Boulevard: Life, which can be strangely merciful, had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung to so desperately had enfolded her... ["Enfoldment" here is synonymous with crystallization, because both exclude inspiration and involve states of spiritual asphyxiation.]
Now that I think about it, the film is all about crystallization, or about death in life. For that is what Norma is: a breathing corpse, a living death, a monster. She no longer radiates as a living star, but is a dying star from which no light escapes.
The film is even narrated by a dead man, who shares Death's sardonic insights with the audience:
"There's nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you're trying to be twenty-five." "You don't yell at a sleepwalker -- he may fall and break his neck... she was still sleepwalking along the giddy heights of a lost career." "How could she breathe in that house full of Norma Desmonds? Around every corner, Norma Desmonds... more Norma Desmonds... and still more Norma Desmonds."
Trying to stop the aging process doesn't really make one younger. Rather, it turns one into a slightly more flexible corpse:
The dead primate at the beginning of SB -- like the one depicted above -- is highly symbolic, for that is what a human being is in the absence of the Divine, just a fleabit peanut Monkey Man. Of the chimp's final rusting place, Norma says, "I'd like the coffin to be white, and I want it specially lined with satin. White... or pink. Maybe red! Bright flaming red! Let's make it gay!"
Even the name: Sunset Boulevard. Not only does it convey the dying of the light, but in case you don't live here, Sunset Boulevard starts in the filthy bowelries of downtown Los Angeles, makes its way through offaluent Beverly Hills, and then comes to a noxious end in the contaminated waters off Santa Monica beach.
So, let us follow Tomberg's advice, and "no longer seek amongst the dead for he who is living, and above all let us not seek for immortal Life in the domain of death."
The spiritual ascent is everywhere the same, and always consists of purification, illumination, and union; or rejection, aspiration, and surrender. "This is the eternal way, and no one can invent or find another."
Yes, as Tomberg says, one can divide & subdivide it "into thirty-three stages -- or even into ninety-nine," but it always comes back to that same dynamic and interlocking trinity that takes place on a moment-by-moment basis, for purification is both illumination -- or consciousness of a Divine reality -- and union with the Divine Will.
Likewise, illumination is purification of the intellect and union with the Divine Mind. And union is a purified heart, which is now the center of one's thought and being.
Or, to turn it around, "a non-illuminated gnostic would not be a gnostic, but rather an 'oddball'; a non-illuminated mage would be only a sorceror; and a non-illuminated philosopher would be either a complete skeptic or an amateur at 'intellectual play.'"
And a non-illuminated and impure gnostic-tyrant of the left brings the gifts of hell to earth.
Human nature is so placed within its plane of existence that it remains essentially open to the sphere of the divine. Man is so constituted that, on the one hand, he can be thrown out of the autonomous independence of his thinking by inspiration, which comes to him as a sudden, unpredictable force from from outside.
On the other hand, this very abandonment of critical sovereignty may bring him an abundance of insight, of light, of truth, of illumination as to the nature of reality which would otherwise remain completely out of his reach. For we are dealing not with self-governing human genius, but with something bestowed by another, a higher, a divine power. --Josef Pieper, Enthusiasm & Divine Madness