New life emerges from the ashes of death, as seeds that germinate in the soil, nurtured by decaying organic matter. We see this reflected in the macrocosm in the explosive death of a star. Some stars explode at the end of their lives, becoming supernovae in a huge release of energy and light that can outshine entire galaxies. Elements that formed within the star and some that formed in the heat of its explosion are propelled long distances into interstellar space, becoming the building blocks for entire worlds to form, like our own.
In life, we experience “little deaths” on a microcosmic level that have the same potential to release large amounts of life energy. When we let go of something that is no longer serving our higher purpose, ie. the profanities of our lesser, egoic personalities that we've acquired through a lifetime of conditioning, we release the energy that we need to transform into a new state of being.
This painting, The Death of the Profane, oil on canvas (2015), is a mandala that invites us to face our own mortality. Gazing into it like a mirror, our awareness is elevated to the upper chakras, the etheric centers of Vishuddha (throat), Ajna (third eye), and Sahasrara (crown). This meditation is a temporary separation from the earthy centers of the heart, solar plexus, sacral, and root. These lower centers are four in number, relating to the earth element, and correspond to the corruptible metals of copper, iron, tin, and lead, respectively. While these lower centers are integral to the experience of life and embodiment, in this meditation we make a conscious decision to open ourselves up to the higher realms to establish a firm connection with our Soul, which we may then begin integrating into the body. In this act, we detach from the “profane” aspects of our life that restrict us to the lower elemental realms. While ultimately we come to learn that there is no difference between the sacred and profane, between life and death, for a time we must differentiate in order to understand the full spectrum of who and what we are.
This intentional limitation that we impose on ourselves is a kind of death. We shed our old skin and awaken to the truth of our eternal being, which is like a spiritual fertilization into the dark matter of death that gives birth to the unification of mind, body, and soul. Anytime we consciously let go of an outworn pattern in our lives, we experience a “little death.” There is a period of time for grieving, while the new pattern emerges into being. Just like the supernova, there is a release of energy that occurs, providing the elements we need to form a new relationship to life.
The raven ascends to heaven, and heaven descends into the body through the nape of the neck, moving through the throat chakra, which is governed by Mercury, to reach the lower chakras and penetrate the material world. Mercury, the Roman messenger of the gods, resides between the upper and lower chakras to convey information from the Above to the Below. This merging of heaven and earth, seen in the interlaced triangles of Fire (up) and Water (down), is possible because the polarities of the Sun and Moon have come to a balanced state. Until we have learned to reconcile our opposites, the gates of heaven will remain closed to us.
Physical death is the ultimate transformation and journey into the unknown—we can’t know what will happen, but we can prepare ourselves for the experience by recognizing death as a part of life. There are many “little deaths” that we experience throughout our life, and even throughout the day. We could say that the ending of any experience is a sort of death, whether that’s the end of your cup of coffee or the end of a relationship. It is an experience that you were having, that is no more. There is a definitive before and after, but the experience itself is continuous and does not end. The cycle is unbroken, forming a continuous ring that encapsulates our experience, which is always in the present moment. Bodies and forms change, but the energy underlying their existence remains and is simply transformed into something new.