This is the chapter “La Morte” from Dio e il Poeta by Guido De Giorgio; this is the first of two parts. The influence of neoplatonism is obvious. De Giorgio has several excellent turns of phrase; I hope I have done them justice.
There is an interruption, a withdrawal, a fracture: Death. Universal, necessary, conclusive, that everyone knows, everyone is present at it, it is continuous, hammering, unforeseen. It gleans madly, one could say disorderly, most times against justice, with a cruelty that often offends the petty human calculation that does not know and overlooks the mysteries of divine justice and rails and springs against the hard law of necessity, as if God were imperfection, casualism, vindictiveness, and not intelligence, perfection of justice and above all of mercy, of love! They do not think that everything is measured, ordered, foreseen in creation but in a sphere and an abundance that passes beyond common human discernment, beyond every egoistic partialism, every eudemonistic calculation. They do not think that one dies because one must die, that human existence without death would be folly, desperation, pure and simple impossibility. If death did not exist men would pray to God for it, as a liberating escape, as a flight that finally interrupts the existential desperation derived from the taedium Vitae, from the disgust of life.
What is death in reality? It is the abandonment of form, of the visible, of sensory concreteness and the passage to something that is unknown, i.e., that which cannot be made precise, fixed, defined. In the human, no one can assert or deny what we will be when we no longer will be and men could conjecture nothing without the Sacred Scripture that—in every religion—speaks above all of death and of that which begins when terrestrial existence terminates. One should say instead that all the religious dynamic puts death in the first place as the limit-point for the intelligence of the divine and the attainment of true wisdom, that which leads to God. The various philosophies, instead—with the vacuity that characterizes them—disregards death, as if it did not exist, as if it fell into the ambit of an experience too common to be considered important, as if its necessity were the indicator of fatalism of becoming, universal recurrence, that it does not depend on the human will, that it is not explained, and is only accepted, coasts along, ignoring it. Yet it a culminating point in the evolution of man that he is viciously split from it with a hurling into the void, the terrible abyss of what is not known and is feared to be known.
Why does Religion make death almost the center of the true vision that man must have of life? The answer is simple: because only religion sees after death, sees what follows earthly existence and puts men on guard and admonishes and orients them to this existence in accordance with the necessity of death. To live thinking of death, to always comport oneself in life in view of the end and only in respect to this abrupt void that suddenly spreads wide in front of our soul, our only soul since the corporeal shell is separated and motionless forever and is returned to the earth.
The “force” no longer exists, the pneumatic-psychic-somatic unity is ruptured and what remains can, furthermore, constitute a shadow that begins the voyage of eternity. The detachment will not be rescinded: in the first days the soul of the dead will desire to return to the immobile skin and will roam ravenous around the cadaver then, after every attempt to take back possession of the corpse is rendered useless, he will being his judgment, his examination and—according to a traditions of the Orient—he is placed facing a great light, in front of which most will close their eyes. His destiny depends on the degree of light that the soul is able to support. The symbolism is obvious: the light is the divine truth and the degree of splendor is the level at which the soul stopped on earth, hence the judgment by which the soul will be fixed for eternity.
The value of prayers and funereal rites that sustain and help to passing over is immense, they serve to facilitate the escape to give the soul in pain the strength necessary in order not to be extinguished, to not lose consciousness of himself, to not let himself go to the vertigo of the void. It seems that the whole cohort of the Saints and archangels is invoked to salvation and it makes the crown of the soul that abandoned the body and that remains fearful, without a home. Only the Saints and the Just who are already dead in life do not fear the detachment but instead wait for it with joy because the flight toward God is more certain.
Sanctity is above all the experience of the voluntary death through the realization of the divine and the certain flight of the soul in the formless void. In order to do that the Saint already has prepared himself, by this earth, the wings in order to not be afraid of the void and to be freed in the immensity of the “world without people”. Whoever, while still in life, has habituated himself to the detachment of the soul from the body, who has glimpsed his naked transience from the contemplative height, who lives of the soul, does not fear death and once this happened, he is “placed” in the order of the spirits who are assigned to him by the Divine Will and that he himself had chosen on earth renouncing every vain desire of choice to conform to the will of Heaven.
For the greater part of men instead, death is a leap, a fearful leap into a bottomless abyss, a laceration, a shout, a falling without knowing how or where one falls, the tragic epilog of a sterile life, and a life without a reason. Even if these men adhered tepidly, superfluously to a Religion in which they did not truly believe, who accepted it as a norm transmitted secularly, as an inert formula, a dead weight, a useless heredity, and difficult to access.
To a life not sanctified by prayer, by thought of God, by the gaze of the heart gathered in Him who alone is true, to a human, only human, life, there follows a poor death, the death of those taken by the throat by the cruel bite of necessity. They have no excuse: on the one hand human reason alone is sufficient to make them glimpse the necessity of a higher, divine Order that justifies the cruelty, the insanity, the enormity of our earthly existence, always hoping but never reaching, a rejoicing, a thinking about the void, a construction that is abandoned forever, a love to be what we will never again see, a hooking on walls that fall on us with us but beyond common reason, they have the Religion that extends a hand, supports, explains the precariousness of this world in view of another which invites us with songs of hope, expectation, joy.
Religion aims at everyone, it has hope wisdom, strength for everyone, it has its rites, its prayers, it extends a very valid hand to all, from birth to death, it has an exercise of ministry that dispense the word of God in order to understand what does not need instruction, study, quality of criticism, only the will to participate, the will to believe, the will to hear, the will to recognize, suffice. To understand does not count, is not important, is not worthwhile: it is enough to feel, to love, to give oneself: in the night darker than ignorance, the most alive stars shine, the holiest wisdom is offered, the most resolute certainty, because the things of God are so different from the human, just as sacred wisdom is different from the profane. For the things of God only love, only faith, only the gift of oneself to the Truth is demanded, the Good, Love that everyone believes, that everybody supports, that is lowered to everybody, who gives himself to all, who runs, gallops, flies, rises up, gives himself in.
To refuse the help of Religion means to blaspheme against intelligence, reason, light, it means to dehumanize, to descend to the level of the brute, the filthy beast, stone, to have a heart of stone, cor lapideum, insensible both to what is in life and to what is beyond life. They are the men who don’t even know they are men, who believe, by rejecting and disdaining Religion, they are elevating themselves to a rigorously higher vision of life, they who collect only the more infantile detritus, refuse, and illusion, admitting the real existence of matter which is less real, denying being to spirit which is more real, without which there is nothing that is.
The illusory materiality of matter is sufficiently proved by the miracle that breaks its laws, that is a fracture, a suspension in the realm of necessity that it annuls the most rigorous laws temporarily and subverts any certainty of causal link, definition, norm. This and nothing else is the reason for the miracle, to show men like lightening, through twinklings, that matter is an illusions if its laws can be violated, even if only for a few instants. They are warnings, rebukes, that the Lord throws to men of good will because they see, they understand, they put judgment, they become aware that outside appearances there is a reality that they don’t know, but it is not to be denied outside of their ignorance, if the best men, those equipped with sacred science, affirm its existence. Miracles are for those who do not believe, do not see, do not want to hear the word of the wisdom of God. The miracle in an instant beats down the illusory structure, falls through material matrix, makes redeeming action pass through it that it gives back to God what is of God, showing that from God who is Spirit, nothing can come that is not spirit and that materiality is not other than the illusory condensation of spirit that is denied and is hidden because the world is the mask of God and it is opposite to Him just as, in some way, the mirror is opposite to the image because it is reflected in it. If matter truly exists, the miracle would not be possible, but especially the liberation of the material yoke of those men would not be possible, who not only deny, but actively supplant the cohesive laws of terrestrial nature, living supernaturally in the same nature, penetrating the impenetrable, dissolving the ordinary, solidifying the subtle, crossing the uncrossable mountain, and annulling temporarily the iron web of necessity. Whoever does not want to be convinced of this remains in his error where Death, the tardy revealer, surprised him.