"Our ideas about death define how we live our lives."
— Dag Hammarskjold
The fear of death (in you or others) is a sometimes hidden, potent force affecting personality and behavior in strange and varied ways. To compensate for this fear, some will seek to control others, objects, money, the appearance of youth, etc., in vain, hollow attempts to stave off the fragility of corporeal incarnation. The fear of death can warp the perception of time, body, money, property, ambition, relationship, power and probably any other human attributes that can be named.
Western culture is in denial of death and encourages us to think we can cheat it through dieting, plastic surgery, cosmetics, exercise, romantic adventures, exciting purchases, and so forth. The fear of death seems to be located in the ego, whereas the Self
, aware that it did not begin at birth, perceives death as change, not annihilation. The ego may view death as an emergency, but for the Self
it may be an emergence. Death is a guaranteed portal, an event horizon, an opportunity to step across the threshold. We cheat ourselves by viewing it negatively or denying its inexorable approach. Tolkien called the desire to avoid aging, "premature immortality," and in his mythology humans were considered more blessed than the elves because their corporeal incarnation had a definite time limit. I can't cheat death, nor would I want to.
When I was very young, my fear of death was quite intense, but numerous out-of-body experiences caused the fear to vanish. I experienced that not only could my awareness exist outside of my body, it could also be incredibly enhanced by the separation. The view of death as possible annihilation was replaced by a deep intuition of death as an orgasmic portal.
Many people brought up in a culture of fundamentalist materialism (also called "scientism") have a bleak view of death. One friend described it as, "It's just lights out and that's it." That friend seemed to pursue physical fitness as a hedge against the inevitable and inexorable approach of death.
A careful study of near-death experience findings should be enough to convince an open-minded skeptic that death is an event horizon, not a pit of oblivion. The position of neurological materialism, the belief that consciousness is an epiphenomenon or secondary effect of biochemical process in the brain, is resoundingly and definitively contradicted by NDE findings. Consciousness does not reside in the brain, and electrical activity in the brain is not a prerequisite for consciousness.* (see example of NDE evidence below)
The fear of death is often a function of a life not fully lived, of aliveness rejected or neglected in the present. The fear of death may be a fear of the comprehensive life review that so many near-death experiencers report, a fear of being accountable for a life not fully lived, of a life misused and of harm done to others. Some visionaries say that the soul may travel on from death, but this survival is not guaranteed. Those who have led dissolute, fragmented lives may not have enough of a center to hold together and may disintegrate at death.
To paraphrase FDR, "There is nothing to fear but the fear of death itself."
Depending on the position of the card, the death element may mean that you are in a phase where an aspect of your old identity may need to die and be reborn. Death means transformation. You may be experiencing some form of necessary ego death. What the ego views as emergency, for the soul may be an emergence.
Then, death, so call'd, is but old matter dress'd
In some new figure, and a vary'd vest:
Thus all things are but alter'd, nothing dies;
And here, and there the' unbody'd spirit flies.
— Roman poet Ovid in Metamorphoses
"What you have perishes; what you are survives beyond time and space." — Death Notice
"When the clock strikes me, the powers of being will prevail over the powers that be." — Saul Williams
"On__________Jonathan Zap won his long struggle with mortality by dying." (My future epitaph)