SHIP OF DEATH
I decided to make the DEATH card another mandala for the following reasons:
1. I wanted people to be drawn to meditate on DEATH. Self included of course. To paint a concept is pure meditation.
2. It was a fitting metaphor for my perception of DEATH as a portal, a window, a tunnel into the light (the Ground Luminosity of the Tibetans, the rising sun of the traditional tarot).
3. I like painting mandalas, and the shape of the scorpions seemed very suggestive of one. I’ll probably continue to paint mandalas wherever I see the opportunity. They seem like a perfect device for the tarot.
The Ship of Death is a poem by DH Lawrence, who is my chief guiding spirit, a great 20th century priest in the guise of an author.
“Oh build your ship of death, oh build it!
for you will need it.
For the voyage of oblivion awaits you. ”
So this is my Ship of Death…powered by a Mandala wheel at the centre of which is my own personal vanishing point. The Tibetan Book of the Dead describes this portal as “the luminous splendour of the colourless light of emptiness”, which it says is “your own true self”. The task of meditating on one’s death and thus coming to terms with it is crucial to facing this experience without fear, and so liberating oneself from the wheel of suffering. Of all the tragic ignorance in the world none is more destructive than the denial of death. That is what the crying eyes are expressing, not grief at our inevitable departure but sorrow at the hellish state of suffering the denial of death causes. This blind fear not only blights the moment of death but the whole life of a person. You have to learn how to die before you can learn how to live.
FEAR OF DEATH IS THE ROOT OF ALL SLAVERY.
This is why I refuse to sugar coat or avoid the issue. People need to be confronted with it. Drawing this card obviously doesn’t mean you are going to die straight away, but it will happen eventually, and maybe it’s a sign that you need to contemplate that fact. I think in many ways it is the most important card of the Tarot.
I very much love the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima and he writes very wisely and eloquently on death in On Hagakure (a discussion of the famous Samurai manual).
“Suppressed the Death Impulse Must Explode Eventually.”
Which always speaks to me of the pathological self destructive tendencies of modern man. What you deny always possesses you.
“There can be no escaping the inevitability of death on every level. Modern humanity is in deep denial about the psychological importance of acknowledging and accepting death. “Calculating Man” does not understand the value of anything which does not appear to directly benefit him on a material superficial level. ”
I typed this DH Lawrence quote up a while ago, while I was doing my researches…so I might as well add it here:
“When I want to move, I remember death, how it is ultimate and inevitable, and pure. Then I am free to move properly in life. It’s like a man who wants to think, going and standing in front of a window. The space purifies ones’ soul. And death is a window to me, with the darkness outside. And when I stand there, looking out, then the world and its active life seems only like a roomful of racket and light behind me, where I am taking part for a time, but not staying for long. It does not contain me and confine me. When I stand peacefully looking out on death, what is true in my soul disengages itself and is free and clear and untrammeled, I know what to do, I am sure, and free, and glad. Then I can turn into the world again”…
…”Remembering death, I know the life of the world as it is now is not living, it is a bad process of dying. And what we must live for is a new world of life. It doesn’t matter when we die, so long as we live fulfilling the deepest desire that is in us. And a life which is a denial of the deepest desire is much worse than any death, it is a sheer lie.”
“If one accepts death and knows that nothing can take us away from that, one has the freedom and strength to live in truth, putting down the lies that pretend they own our living. But one must have the pure knowledge of death behind one, before one has really faith to tackle life and falsity. Being sure in death I am strong in life. And so, in life, and in all the world of man, I have no master, save the deepest desire of my own soul, in which death and life are one.”
Women in Love