In theosophy, working as a medium - someone who intentionally connects with specific spirits that have passed away - is seen as a distraction from true spiritual growth, and detrimental to all parties involved. This belief stems from the idea that the medium should instead be focusing on personal spiritual development rather than communicating with the dead, who should in turn, be left to make their way. In this context, we might struggle with the concept of death and the unknown, grappling with grief and the uncertainty of our loved ones' well-being after they have passed, and now unable to seek reassurance through standard(ish) means.
Grief often brings about a fear of death itself, as we are confronted with the harsh reality that our love for someone is not enough to keep them with us. This realisation makes us more aware of our lack of control over life and the uncertainty of the future. It's no surprise that a bereavement sends us tumbling down into a spiral of existential despair and deep, anxious unease. It is essential to explore and understand the nature of this particular fear that death brings up, in order to release the pain and confusion surrounding death.
There are two primary factors contribute to our fear of death;
First, our culture is heavily influenced by Abrahamic religions, and most particularly Christianity, with its emphasis on the idea of judgement, leading to either Heaven or Hell. This fear of eternal suffering after death has been used as a tool for control and oppression in colonial forms of Christianity for literally thousands of years and is still used every day in America. Recognising this influence is crucial in understanding our fear of death.
Second, is the fear of nothingness or oblivion. This fear arises from the idea that our consciousness may continue after death and after all that we know is gone, leaving us to experience nothingness. In other words, we fear being conscious in a state of complete desolation. It is important to remember that the concept of nothingness can only be experienced if our consciousness survives the death process.
However, if our consciousness ceases to exist after death, there would be nothing to fear. The fear of oblivion, then, is rooted in the possibility of being in a situation where we are alone with our consciousness. Really then, a fear of death is often either a fear of eternal suffering (thanks Christianity!) or a fear of being alone with The Self.
The concept of nothingness has been explored extensively throughout history, and it is important to remember that the word "nothing" means no-thing. In the context of our understanding of the world, it is a space devoid of materiality or being. The perception of nothingness is, unfortunately, often synonymous with evil, chaos, and suffering - concepts heavily influenced by, you guessed it, colonial Christianity. Add darkness to the mix and we have a pretty accurate venn diagram of the things we are taught to hate. But this viewpoint is relatively modern, and there are numerous ancient ideas and concepts that offer alternative perspectives on nothingness.
One such alternative concept is the Korē (H O Ra), which is derived from ancient Greek philosophy. Plato describes the Korē as the space that gives a place for being. It is not a location or geography, but a fertile ground of infinite possibility, a womb-like space where everything must transition through in order to be born. This idea is deeply connected to the Platonic idea of the microcosm reflecting the macrocosm, where the dark, hidden liminal space between experiences of consciousness is mirrored throughout the natural world.
When we consider our fear of death and falling into the abyss, we must first consciously remove generations of conditioning that associate darkness and the abyss with evil and suffering.
Instead, we can view the Korē as a liminal space between experiences of consciousness in the material world, a space of pure potentiality where that which will be is given the opportunity to become.
There are various philosophical traditions that have engaged with this concept of nothingness or the Korē. For instance, Plato describes it as a formless interval, a space of pure potentiality with no form, yet not without consciousness, meaning, or energy. Energy, as we understand it, cannot be destroyed, only transformed. This idea can provide some comfort when we experience the death of a loved one.
Heidegger, another (stale, pale, male) philosopher, describes the Korē as a clearing, a space where being itself takes place. Derrida, following in Heidegger and Plato's footsteps, refers to it as a radical nothingness that gives place for being. All of these philosophers have focused on the question of nothingness and reached similar conclusions: energy cannot be destroyed, only changed; and there is a space beyond our material world where anything that could be is generated.
People who have had near-death experiences consistently describe a sense of being pulled towards a space that feels like home, a place of familiarity and safety. This experience seems to contradict the fear of falling into nothingness, instead suggesting a journey towards everything.
It is important to identify and examine our fears of death, as these fears may be rooted in deep-seated cultural or personal beliefs. By challenging these beliefs and exploring alternative perspectives on nothingness, we can begin to create a personal understanding of death that allows us to feel less terrified of the unknown.
Maybe addressing the fear of death means recognising that you are much more than your current self – you are everything. This ties into the idea that each of us is a fragment of the Divine.
Our job is to show up in the fullness of ourselves and give shape and form to that divine aspect. When we die, that essence isn't lost; it's just reunited with everything that is.
Getting rid of that fear might be about understanding that it's possibly rooted in a belief that you're not everything, when in fact, you are everything.