SUICIDE & THE SOUL
July 20, 2017
I saw that Chester Bennington just committed suicide. Admittedly, he was not on my radar until I saw that he sang at Chris Cornell's funeral last month. I followed a link to see that they had performed together on a song once. He was obviously incredibly talented. As his suicide was reported, I read a link to a thoughtful letter he had written to Chris Cornell when he heard about his death. He chose to hang himself on Chris Cornell's birthday.
Suicide is a complicated subject, obviously. There's no accounting for the mindset of a person who chooses to take their own life. But there is a mythology associated with it, that everyone who makes that decision is living by, and that mythology is that your entire experience is your ego. James Hillman writes extensively about this in Suicide and the Soul. The impetus to suicide is a psychological and mythological desire for rebirth, to be freed of the current state of suffering and all its' causes into an entirely different state. It is the desire for an ultimate kind of transformation that is a big part of being human, and it is possible without killing oneself. What desires to die is present state of the ego, which can at times seem unbearable. But the ego is a fiction composed of memory, history, conditioned emotional states and patterned thinking. Throw in trauma, abuse, neglect or any number of experiences of suffering and very difficult state can be created.
But there is a way out. The first step is being honest about how one is suffering. That's the catalyst of transformation. Understanding that the experience of suicidal thoughts rise up from the depths of the psyche, from the primordial underworld that draws no distinction between physical life and death. From the places we pretend are not part of our everyday experience. There, the daylight world of the ego and its' creations and preferences are not meaningful or given domain over our primordial depths. Whatever has been assembled in the daylight world of the ego, may or may not be recognized by the primordial as meaningful today, even if it has been in the past. Whether that be wealth, a thriving career, a family, or public status. The primordial will give state its opinion about how life is being lived. Its voice will be heard, and it may call for an overthrow of the ego's dominant state, so that a new paradigm can rule consciousness. That is the suicidal urge. Making it literal, is the ultimate tragedy.
What has to be recognized is that that there is no other life, or other world where this transformation can take place. It takes place here, and it takes place now, or it does not take place at all. The primordial depths within each of us reach beyond space and time, and beyond life and death. They precede this life, follow this life, and are interwoven through this very life. There is no state of transformation available in death, that is not available in life. If there is a transformation in death, it is the involuntary lifting of the veil of the ego, as the apparatus that has housed it falls away. A brain, a body, a nervous system all die, but the consciousness that was anchored to these things floats away from them, no longer fettered by the historical conditioning of physical experience. But this transformation can happen in life as well, if one is willing to experience oneself freed from the repetitive narrative of family, history, culture and emotional conditioning. In fact, it is transformation, not accomplishment that the primordial seeks from everyone. If accomplishment is a by product of this transformation, all the better.
The suicidal urge can be an enormous opportunity for transformation, or it can literally be a dead end. If it is felt, enormous changes must be made. Not little changes, enormous changes. It must be faced head on. Life must be looked at as a malleable experience where the only traps are self created, and if one has created a life that has trapped them, they can discover in its blueprints, bridges to another life. Perhaps a life with different priorities, or a different vocation, different values, and different peers. But a life nonetheless, not death, where the initial transformations are passive.
Death is a constant presence in human life. Carl Jung once said that death surrounds life like the night surrounds the day. It occurs all the time during our lives, and is constantly rearing its head. The deaths of loved ones, the deaths of people we know, the deaths of relationships, the deaths of epochs of our lives and ultimately physical death. It is not to be feared. The urge to suicide is an awareness of a kind of death. It is the knowledge that the life we are living no longer reflects our primordial depths, and they are calling for a change, and we must become something or someone else.
Metanoia is my favorite word. It is a Greek word meaning transformation of consciousness. Literally it means one's consciousness changes so profoundly that it can't recognize its former problems as problems, or recognize the dominant state of consciousness that created those problems. The urge to suicide represents the call for metanoia. It is an admission that the present ego is no longer an appropriate ambassador for the primordial in this life. It has become outdated and and is no longer aligned with the desires of the primordial. A new ego, built atop new foundations must be constructed to replace it. The old ego is..... a dying King. Let the king die, and all hail the new King.