Do what thou wilt shal be the whole of the Law.
To an Adept, the whole business of life and death should be easy to understand, or so I thought. I’d be clear about what survived, if anything, and what perished, and could assert my clarity to anyone who asked.
The reality is much more complicated, and I usually view these things from two or three levels at once. One level is convinced that the actuality of existence is invisible yet perceptible, and that there’s a stratum of things that underlies and survives the comings and goings of the world of manifestation. Another level is perpetually doubting, and doesn’t respond well to challenges of its conviction. And there are shades of grey, albeit not a full fifty, between those two poles. Yet whenever I really dig in and try to disprove the ineffable to myself in favour of the transitory, something cancels out the skepticism.
Kato was ailing for some months, and became really frail a few weeks ago. He was twelve years old, a good age for a large dog, and it was clearly his time. Workmen fixing one of the houses on the shared property where I live were asked to dig a grave for him out of the hard soil a few weeks ago, and it was waiting for him.
He was a hairless Mexican Xoloitzcuintli, an unbecoming breed at first glimpse, though beautifully proportioned. No lapdog was Kato: he wouldn’t suck up to anyone. He was a rogue – a food-thief, an escape artist, and a true free spirit. I couldn’t help but love him, especially since he usually responded to me with indifference outside of feeding time, or when the house he lived in was being cleaned or fixed up, and he needed a temporary refuge in my place. He was one of the most Thelemic dogs I’ve ever met.
He stopped eating on Sunday, and last night his breathing was laboured. This morning, I went to check on him, and though I could hear him breathing raspily, at first I couldn’t see him. The life was ebbing from him, and while his skeleton was the same size it had been the night before (and he’d truly become skeletal since the start of December), it was as if there was nothing there. My neighbour opined he’d be gone in a few hours, and it was less than that. By 9.45, I was carrying his corpse up to the grave.
Any warm-blooded animal is an incredibly complex creature. I noticed years ago how, as my own body aged, it had a seemingly endless array of sub-systems that could malfunction or deteriorate – vision, sensitivity in general, joint and muscle flexibility, gums that recede, or control over memory … Yet we keep on keeping on, and it’s a long time before we hit the point where the personal self becomes unrecognisable. There’s always an option between retaining serenity and just getting pissed off and scared, even if most of us enact both these at various times, and while the serenity still has a look-in, we remain being ourselves.
Some people will say that dying is a perpetual aspect of living, but that over-simplifies the matter. There are phases and stages of life and of fading out, but there is a definite point when dying positively takes over. Kato was clearly dying when I last stroked his body this morning, and he was strikingly not-alive when I carried him to the grave. My sense-perceptions here were entirely separate from personal shock or grief. A body really is a ‘dead weight,’ and is entirely different to a living one. This once-a-dog was scarcely reminiscent of the living animal who would cadge bites of my lunch until a few days ago. There was far more missing than a lack of volitional movement, and to deny this would be to deny any other evidence of the outer world.
Creationists love to stress how life is based on entirely different criteria to any other phenomenon explored by science. While I embrace the notion of evolution, I concede the point. Organic life is not simply an agglomeration of chemical processes, nor is consciousness a by-product of them. To say either is so would be to deny any data I have ever observed about a dying person or animal; or, for that matter, a conventionally living one. Something fundamental is gone from a body that has recently died, and ignoring that fact, or twisting my own report of it, would be dishonest. There is a living creature, which is animated by something beyond chemical reactions, and there is a dead one, which is entirely an object of catabolic processes.
Kato, the actual being, is gone, and he left the meat-part of himself behind. The two were linked, but sharply distinct. And I can’t imagine being convinced otherwise, even if my tedious, habitual skeptic-self says I should be.
Love is the law, love under will,