Death and the Real I

If we keep the image of death constantly in our minds, we will appreciate with bitter regret the value of each lost day.

Dark Dream

I was driving on the highway at night, paying close attention to the traffic. A cop car ahead of me, a few cars in the lanes to my left. I accidentally turned off my headlights but could not turn them back on. Suddenly, the entire highway was pitch black. I continued to drive, unable to see anything ahead. The brakes did not work, yet the car was accelerating. I was weaving in and out, all the time thinking that I would crash into something. I speculated on what crash would occur while continuing to drive.

The ambiguity was clear. Was I heading into the darkness of death? Or was I being guided by unknown forces?

In Chapter V of Gnosis Book 1, Boris Mouravieff includes a meditation on death, which comprised three exercises. The I of the Personality gives little thought to its own death. Mouravieff explains:

All man can imagine in this respect is to evoke the image of his own corpse: he can never exclude from this representation the observer who contemplates this image.

Only the Real I can contemplate one’s death. While the ego looks for the light, the Real I faces the darkness. In most cases, it takes a major event, a boundary situations, to get the ego to face its own annihilation. Examples are: fright, guilt, finality, and suffering.

Exercise 1: remembrance of death

Death is the only real and unique event which happens to us without fail. In other words, constantly bearing in mind the idea of death approaching nearer every day is a concrete means of facing an implacable reality — before which all the joys and all the worries of the Personality fade. It is thus that one learns that in effect: ‘all is vanity and torments of the mind.’

It is insufficient to read this exercise; rather, one must actually do it. The timing is good. In the USA, people decorate their lawns with images of death. Walk around the neighborhood and contemplate the skulls. It is better than candy.

This week: pray for the dead and visit a cemetary.

Exercise 2: The narrow road leading to Life

This is done by introducing a continuous and permanent attachment between the Personality and the passive Real ‘I’, so as to render the presence of the latter constant in the field of action of the Personality. Then, with time and according to the intensity of efforts, the situation can undergo a complete change: the more the Real I – like the grain of mustard seed – takes root in the mental life which was until then dominated by the Personality, the more the latter is subjected, little by little, to the will of the judge. Identifying himself with it, man will rediscover his Real ‘I’ in all its integrity and permanence. For him, life then loses its factitious character, to become logical and factual.

Train the ego, or false I, to become aware of the Real I. The ego lies to himself; it sugarcoats his life. The Real I judges rightly, which the ego dislikes. Ultimately, the goal is for the ego to become passive to the Real I. Learn to distinguish between the speech of the ego and the Real I.

When a person speaks, it is generally easy to distinguish whether his records are playing or whether he speaks from some deeper part of himself. In the latter case, he uses a pictorial, rustic and sometimes awkward language; in the former he speaks in a singing tone of voice.

Exercise 3: The philosopher’s stone

The permanent link which must be introduced between the Personality and the real ‘I’ is esoteric Knowledge.  The knowledge and know-how that it permits us to acquire represent the philosophers’ stone of the medieval mystics. They are capable of provoking in man the transmutation to which he aspires.

Read the best material rather than wild speculations or useless opinions.


  • Constantly bear in mind the idea of your own death
  • Make the real I the master of the I of the Personality
  • Acquire esoteric knowledge

Leaving the I of the Personality Behind

the petty bourgeois is spiritless[.] … Devoid of imagination, as the petty bourgeois always is, he lives within a certain orbit of trivial experiences as to how things come about, what is possible, what usually happens, no matter whether he is a tapster or a prime minister. This is the way the petty bourgeois has lost himself and God. ~ Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

I leave a personal note, for better or worse. This is the end point of an exchange with my best friend from high school

Can’t deny that this has been a tough recovery, but getting stronger each and every day. I don’t have the Sox to root for, but at least I could hate on the Yankees.

I was on the “list” less than a month; there has to be an angel somewhere watching over me. I’m meeting people who have been on the list for a few years. Many have died waiting. And it is a real blessing that I avoided dialysis. It sounds pretty bad.

Lying in bed in the hospital for 10 days changes perspective. I got to watch too much TV. Didn’t realize how godawful the shows are. I cared for none of the gossip, the opinions, etc. Thinking back, our education in Stoneham was based on excellence. I’ve naively believed that was the path to success for too long. But the level of discourse in this country is abominable. Why can’t anyone speak grammatically correct English anymore? The past participle has gone missing. For some reason the distinction between fewer/less and amount/number really annoys me.

I’ve spent a lifetime in self-study. I know science, philosophy, mathematics, history, religions, political theory. Certainly, much more than any of the talking heads on TV. Truly disappointing to listen to journalists and politicians. It’s amazing how this country can continue to hold together, given the psychopathy and ignorance of elected leaders.

On the other hand, medical technology has absolutely amazed me. In that field, excellence still counts. And everyone wants to rag on the drug companies. I’d be dead without the pharmaceuticals that they have created.

Life was good when I was a young introvert, I had my own thoughts to entertain me. Engaging the world as an adult has been mixed. For a variety of reasons, I ended up with a more interesting life than I could have ever expected. I’ve experienced so many people that I can barely relate to people whose life experiences are little more than a series of repetitions of the same boring day after day.  I’ve been intimate with dozens of women. Who could have anticipated that, given I was so afraid of girls in high school? And the suburban middle class don’t realize how different the personalities of CEOs and other leaders are from those in their limited and constricted circles. People prefer the lies they tell themselves because the real world is so awful. One lives for those brief moments when joy and beauty suddenly appear.

One thought on “Death and the Real I

  1. Your dream reminds me of the dark night of the senses that St. John of the Cross wrote about. The gift on the other side of that “night” erupts in the last sentence of your writing, concerning the moments when joy and beauty suddenly appear. I am so glad you made it through such a difficult medical and spiritual challenge.

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