The Riddle of Death? The final solution is not the answer, but rather what is the question?
Gott ist tot, Azsacra Zarathustra reminds us. But is Death? And how does one riddle Death, for is not Death itself a God? Indeed can a God die? Perhaps that is Zarathustra’s final riddle.
If God is Life, then to fully encapsulate infinity and the full paradox of the cosmos, God must also encompass Death. Hints of this are found in every spiritual tradition. When Arjuna asks to see Krishna’s form in the Bhagavad Gita of the Mahabharata, it is as beautiful as it is terrible. Similarly, Kali and Shiva also have multiple forms and a myriad of aspects to represent that in their totality, they are infinite. Even in monotheistic traditions, the face of God is often hidden or veiled, so that the final mystery of the omniscient is not revealed, because the paradox of the ultimate form of the numinous is that of the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The concept of the infinite cannot be grasped by the finite; the undisciplined mind is shattered into a thousand fragments once it beholds the true face of God.
Thus, the riddling of Death is the ultimate Holy Yes to Life, for in truth they are one and the same, and those who wish to walk the path towards the Ubermensch must necessarilty transcend the duality of the ‘two-in-one’, where logic coils through time and space like a Mobius continuum. Traditionally, this dance with Death is performed atop the yawning Nietzschean Abyss, where we encounter a figure who will pose a quest or a query to the aspiring hero, and always there is a trick or riddle which awaits him. Perseus for example, must severe the head of the Gorgon, but how can he do this without looking at her? Hercules must perform 12 laborious tasks. Nor are heroines spared, for Psyche is also faced with a list of seemingly impossible tasks to atone for her curiosity. To accept the challenge of the quests, one must not only master the event, one must also accept the element of trickery and solve the riddle ― an incorrect answer of course, means Death. If Death speaks in riddles, then to successfully ‘riddle’ Death, one temporarily at least, surpasses Death. To ‘riddle Death’ is the ultimate prize, the secret that is another quest itself…for if Death is unto Life as Life is unto God, then is not Death also omniscient?
To riddle Death, one must first understand Death. It is for this reason that certain Asian Traditions meditate on the nature of death and mortality. The flesh is mortal; all life is moribund, destined to wither and perish. Death is thus an excellent tool to destroy the ego, and to remind humans of their ultimate place in the universe, where humanity is dust in the eyes of the Gods, and humbled before the prospect of eternity.
We see this here:
So: at first Gott ist todt/God dead [as an Inevitable Sacrifice when Transition into Over-God!], then Gott ist Tod/God is Death [par excellence: He isjust Who continuously Annihilates Himself as the Spirit to Break!], then Uber-Gott ist irber-Tod/Over-God is Over-Death ltself! God!
Death is linked to the concept of God, of all Gods, for as Schopenhauer believed, an essential aspect of all true spiritual traditions is explaining Death and the dying process to the living.
But the stages of Death are just another link in Zarathustra’s mercilessly riddling of mortality. All is for Nought. It is a mandatory requirement that any form of superior gnosis, or knowledge of God requires recognition of our own mortality and the realisation that human anthropocentricism is just an illusion ― the universe will continue, long after our species breathes its last. This is not nihilism of the pessimistic variety, but rather awareness of Emptiness. And it is this that drives one to consciously seek to embrace the Holy Yes to Life, and live it at ones fullest capacity.
This is not just the emptiness of Death, it is the Emptiness of Enlightenment. The final severance with the world of mortals that opens the path to the dharmakaya and the Clear Light of which Naropa spoke, that enables one to see the world as it is, devoid of the illusionary trappings of the flesh and the maya of the senses. For just as God incorporates Death to be whole, so to does the Devil and the daughters of Mara which are the senses. As above, so too below.
Nihilism here takes on a different meaning ― it is an active Emptiness, not a defeat, but a victory ― the conquest of mind over body, the ascetic’s great defeat of materialism that provides one with the pure, true sight of the seer. It is the Enlightenment attained by Arjuna on the battlefield of kṣatriya-dharma which rejects the karma-phala, and it is the sight of the Buddha when the Great Chain of Dependent Origination is perceived, that takes ones back to the first, primal cause. It is the ouroboros which devours itself in the cycle of Time, the Death of Death itself, and the Eternal Return of which Nietzsche spoke. It is Nothing and Everything in the eternal paradox of Life and Death, reflected in the smile of the ever-shrouded maiden of Truth, which no man, save the philosopher dares unveil. Truth, in the moment of Eternity, is the beauty of endless Life and the horror of infinite Death.
Even in popular culture we find the riddles of Death. In the series Game of Thrones, Arya Stark, in her training at the Temple is endlessly riddled ― over and over she is asked her identity ― and fails to become ‘No One’. In Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal, the lead character plays a game of chess with Death, and it is revealed that any game with Death, is one not easily won. To take the game to Death ― this is even more perilous.
In Azsacra Zarathustra’s philosophy, the meaning and riddling is deliberately esoteric. Once one successfully riddles Death, they overcome Death ― the understanding of Time, entropy and mortality is the prize, the freedom from the ego, samsara, and the maya of the senses ― one understands emptiness, the concept of shunya, of Nothing. This is also the Buddha’s secret, for what is the First Cause, the first link in the Chain of Dependent Origination? It is the divine spark of Creation, from Nothing. Only the subconscious can truly perceive this transformation, and this is the seat of the Will, as Nietzsche learnt from his studies of Dionysus and his consequential correction of Schopenhauer. The Will is subconscious, and the ultimate Will to Power is formed when the self/ego is ‘killed’ or an-nihil-ated. This is the final Freedom of the Over-Man, for if all the world and he are Nothing, then they are united in Emptiness and all is revealed at the zero point of consciousness, where the End and the Beginning converge into one, and Death becomes Life.
Gwendolyn Taunton is a writer and graphic designer currently inhabiting rural Australia. In a previous existence she was a web developer under the command of politicians and university professors but has developed a sense of autonomy and is now self-employed.
Gwendolyn is an eclectic entity who likes to write on a variety of topics ranging from the indigenous religions of Europe though to South East Asia, philosophy, and very occasionally horror fiction and prose. She is currently working on her first non-edited book Tantric Traditions (to be published in late 2015).
In her spare time Gwendolyn has an amateur interest in herpetology and can be found taking photos of Australian (and occasionally exotic) snakes, crocodiles, and lizards.
Her books include:
Mimir ― Journal of North European Traditions
Kratos: The Hellenic Tradition
Mythos: The Myths and Tales of H.P. Lovecraft & Robert E. Howard
Tantric Traditions (Forthcoming)
Ashton Wylie Award for Literary Excellence 2009
Gwendolyn currently resides in Australia, where she exists as a reclusive author in a quiet life of solitude close to the rain forest and the coastline. The majority of her time is spent reading, writing, updating scores of websites, listening to music, creating art, and looking after her immediate family and many animal companions. From time to time she also engages in social media, leaving behind one line pithy statements and other oddities to confirm that she does in fact have a corporeal existence. Gwendolyn also enjoys the following: sarcasm and black humour.