For this crossing you are required above all to renounce everything that you consider "riches" in this stream of life, but which in reality are automatically and slavishly acquired habits.
In other words, you have to die to everything that makes up your ordinary life. It is just this death that is spoken of in all religions. This is the meaning of the saying which has reached us from remote antiquity, "Without death no resurrection," or in other words, "If you do not die, you will not be raised from the dead. "
Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, G. I Gurdjieff, pgs 1129-1130
It's possible to develop an organic capacity for sensing one's own death.
Our life and our death are directly related, and belong to one another. It’s impossible to separate them; and yet they exist in relative separation within our psyche, because we love life and are functionally unable to conceive of our own death as anything except a theory. We live; and that is all we want to know. This is in its own way a rightful form of selectivity; of course life loves life, because this is the way that love and life ought to manifest together. Love flows into life and creates life; this is where Being emerges from, and all of creation participates in it.
Yet all of creation inevitably includes death, which is an enormous force that drives life forward in every instant and particular. It would be impossible for life to exist if it did not have death within it. Immortality would create a static force that’s contradictory to life. Life has a purpose; it has a function. And it cannot fulfill its function without death.
In order to understand this better, we need to understand that life, as an idea, exists in and emanates from a higher realm that transcends all the organic material instances of life as we know it. Of course this is what I might call highfalutin’ thinking, that is, thinking along very lofty and inaccessible premises; but it is true. The idea of life, what it represents, is larger than life itself as we encounter it. It has a sacred quality because it emanates as one of the principles of the universe. It is one of the great names of God, and closely related to the absolute Himself, since He is all life and all love.
The principles of cosmological evolution create a requirement for death, which must be present at each complete turn of the wheel. It represents hope; it represents regeneration and rebirth. Just as Christ said we cannot put new wine in old bottles, we must die to ourselves in order to receive the force from a higher level. This is an ancient idea; and although the idea of physical death is terrifying to us, when we think about dying to our old self or our old ideas, we accept it, because we understand that if we wish to grow, some old parts of us which misunderstand or are damaged will have to die in order to make room for the new parts.
Death and love go together hand-in-hand throughout life. I can feel the love for all of the ones I know who have died; they have not left, they live here in my heart. In a certain abstract way, which is related to a sensation of the astral level, all of the Being that has ever existed is also here in my heart and finds its expression through me. I become responsible to every being that has ever lived, every life that has ever taken place — anywhere, even perhaps in other galaxies — because I am a representative of life and must strive to manifest in all of its meaning, all of its glory, all of its truth. Anything I do to degrade that or dishonor the sacred action of life itself is against life. So perhaps, if I don't sense my life wholly enough and understand its relationship to death, I am already beginning to dishonor the sacred nature of life. It is all too easy for me to "live" and in doing so to go against life by dishonoring its sacred principles.
We have an organic tool in us that is meant to help us sense life in a very practical, deep, and immensely material way. That tool is called sensation. Yet I'm not using this word in the ordinary sense of sensation; I'm referring to a much deeper level of vibration that can awaken within every cell in the body. I've often referred to this as the organic sensation of being, but lately I have decided it is meaningful to refer to it as the molecular sensation of being, because it is tied not to a cellular but a molecular awareness of being. The cellular awareness of Being is one level of the sensation, but it is not deep enough. It must go deeper, always deeper.
If I come into relationship with this tool of molecular sensation, I sense myself as an aggregation of life itself; I sense that life arises at a level much lower than me, and that I become a summary of its nature, not a singular expression, but a collective awareness. I am not made of a single creature; my being consists of an uncountable number of creatures, every molecule being a creature, a creation, that builds into this form called life. This is not a theoretical idea, but a very practical way of living that can bring me back to the ground floor and the facts of my existence, instead of the heady psycho-spiritual thoughts I like to engage with.
And it brings me closer to the question of death, which needs to be examined further.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.