Death and the individual: or struggling over Maggie

The death of Margaret Thatcher has given me much pause for thought. More so in some ways than the death of Osama bin Laden, as detailed here.

Clement Attlee :)

In the political sphere Thatcher’s actions and social policies stand as one of the greatest tragedies within recent UK history (and by extension elsewhere). She oversaw and led a profound change in government orientation that damaged irrevocably the post war social transformation led by the great Clement Attlee. Her successive governments paved the way for the Labour jettisoning of its remaining socialist ideology and the rise of New Labour, which I personally loathe as much as any of Maggie’s policies.

I do not need to catalogue here the damage she caused.  Suffice to say many, many people did not like her at all, at all. They lost jobs, family members, houses, and community – all thanks to her policies. The glee surrounding her demise and death, mostly in the UK but also across the globe, was seen by many as entirely appropriate and well deserved. A not insignificant number of folk also cursed her spirit and wished her ill in the otherworld. The odd neo-Pagan even made an exception in Maggie’s case and  resorted to Christian concepts of eternal suffering.

The (de)merits of flexible theology aside, I am very uncomfortable in wishing any ill will to the dead, iron-hearted conservative politicians included. There are two simple reasons for this. Firstly, dying is not an easy thing. At all. We are stripped bare and our regular everyday ‘self’, accustomed as it is to embodied existence, can get in a right pickle. One of the aims of depth spiritual practice by ourselves before death, and by others on our behalf after death, is to help avoid the many pitfalls the recently dead are likely to stumble into. The dead need help, not abuse.

Not everyone hated Maggie

Secondly, and most importantly, when we die, we die. That is, the personality self, the lower identification of my being as ‘Peregrin Wildoak’ will cease to exist. It has been built upon, re-created and reinforced everyday by worldly activity and interaction with other folk. Yet it has no intrinsic existence. Heck, even a good spot of LSD or depth meditation will show this. Let alone not having a brain or a body or endocrines or people asking, “hey, Peregrin – how’s it going?”

Different post-mortem theologies posit a different time frame for this process, but all, apart from the exoteric religious traditions, assert it occurs in some fashion. (Oh, and apart from some death fearing esoteric folk who want to somehow live on forever as a personality and practice all sorts of rites in a vain effort to ensure this.)

So really, sending curses after someone has died is like trying to hit them in the gob with a pea-shooter from the pier as they sail away into the sunset. They can no longer be cursed as they no longer exist in the same form. Heaping abuse on the dead for how they were in their lives is missing the point and missing the target (which exists no more).

This process of personality death, the stripping away of all whom we are and have been, is why one reason death is so often referred to as the ‘great leveller’. In the case of Margaret Thatcher this idea is eloquently elucidated in this Guardian article by Giles Fraser, from which we quote:

He illustrated the point with reference to the funerals of Habsburg royalty. As the funeral procession approached the closed doors of the Imperial chapel in Vienna, a voice from inside would ask, “who is it?”. The grand chamberlain would read out a long list of grand titles. The voice from the church then replied: “We know him not.” The chamberlain would try again, with a shortened version, and received the same reply. Finally, the chamberlain knocks on the door. Again comes the question, “who is it?”, and this time, eschewing all pomp and ceremony, he answers: “A sinner in need of God’s mercy.” “Him we know; enter,” comes the reply.

Adepts of the RR et AC and other ceremonial magical folk will recognize the motif here, as the same essential process occurs ritually within a number of adept initiations. The personality self, with its identifications, pride and belief in its own existence, is refused entry into the higher states. It simply cannot enter and must undergo its own death. This ritual mimicry hopefully induces an authentic and corresponding inner experience, and the adept genuinely forever knows death:

There are two deaths by which men die, the greater and the lesser. The death of the body, and the death of initiation. And of these two, the death of the body is the lesser. – Dion Fortune.

In either case, the death process pares us back to the bare essentials and we cease to exist as before. Many (to me) unknown folk died on the same day as Margaret Thatcher. They, like her, will soon no longer exist as a personality, as a person. They, like her, will live on now only in memories – some good, and some bad. Their true essence, like Thatcher’s, is of one removed from ultimate union with the One, as we all are. And it is this essential quality, shared by both living and dead, which has the potential to unite us and span the worlds. Holding on to hate and anger limits this potential, as it is only actualised by the presence of love – not personal, endearment love, but universal love for the essence of the beloved dead. The death of Margaret Thatcher, seeing her now as all living humans will one day be, reduced to essence, devoid of herself and on the Dark Road, is an opportunity – as is everyone’s death – for us to realise that, as the Song of Solomon puts it, “love is a strong as death.” Thanks :)

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2 comments

  1. The great shame of Margaret Thatcher’s death is that it didn’t occur the same alleged way as Edward II. I hear you about the powerlessness of sending a curse after someone who’s dead. That’s the key point though; when hated figures like her are alive it’s not like you can do much as an individual against them. When safely stashed in the grave, it’s of great comfort to wish them ill, spit on their name, take a shit on their grave etc. Spite is massively underrated as a warming security against the bleak existential reality of life.

  2. Frater QucD · April 18, 2013

    Fantastic! Thank you for providing much-needed perspective.

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