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Review Response to Ellwood.

Jan 18, 1995 02:14 PM
by Arthur Paul Patterson

I just finished reading this month's quest magazine and had the
following response to Robert Ellwood's article.  The members of
the group know that I am new to Theosophy so if I make poor
assumptions please point these out.  I have ask a group of
friends of mine to read the article and respond to it as well, so
this review of a review is written for them and for the Theos-l
group.  My hope is that this post will perk your interest to read
the original I think it is a very hopeful and reflective article
and recommend it heartily.  Here's my response:

Ellwood, Robert.  "The Denial of Death".  Quest Magazine: Winter
1994 Vol.7.No.4., pp.58-63 &79

Because I am unfamiliar with Theosophy as a philosophy, I had to
read this article over at least twice in a serious furrowed
browed manner.  In the end, I think the effort was well worth it.
Every once and a while an author comes along and says what you
have been trying to articulate for years but hadn't the language
nor the patience to put together.  Ellwoods concerns, while in
many respects much more sophisticated than my own, are my
concerns as they relate the momentous topic of death and

I have performed and attended several funerals in my life and I
have been aware that what is uttered there as of great importance
not only to the close kin but to all of us as we see the waxed
doll candour of the deceased.  I can not keep the image of the
Egyptian god who weights the heart of dead out of my mind as I
hear the words spoken.  Each word is either full and authentic or
a mere shallow canting of superficial ideology.  Words spoken at
death, like the life of the deceased him or herself, have a deep
legacy.  They either contribute to life or fall fallow on the
ground or on the ears of dull listeners.  Ellwood's words on
death add weight to the souls of those who hear them.

Ellwood warns us of "spiritual materialism" when speaking of
death.  I have heard words spoken that reflect this shallow view.
I have heard how a young person will enjoy track after-death, or
how an elderly person will have their body renewed in death so
that they could return to the glory days of youth.  Such talk is
meant to be comforting but in the end, as Ellwood points out,
these word of death are dangerously egocentric and do not sustain
anyone spiritually.  Projection of our small ego on the ultimate
source and destiny of our life is as devastating and destructive
as thinking that we are at the center of the living world we

Ellwood's description on the other hand offers us authenticity
and hope.  The authenticity is the actual chance to mourn and
grieve a "once in a universe" opportunity of relating to an
embodied individual.  Because the small ego has actually died,
and its desires and attachments are beginning even as we grieve
to be diluted in the forgetful waters of Kamolka - we can
remember and treasure that short uniqueness, that friend or
family member who we loved.  What a wonderful human opportunity!
That opportunity is stolen when death is denied.

For those of us alive, we are offered hope as we consider that
even though death is the absolute end of our small egocentric
selves; our choices, beliefs and loves can move beyond time and
space limitations, and emerge as significant predicates of the
future.  Regardless of the word spinning mythologies we wrap the
great event Death in, there is a future.  Ellwood reminds us that
what we do with all our limitation now in the dying flesh affects
for better or worst the nature of that future.  We contribute to
the greatness that created us as well as those who share the
future together with us.  This view of death as real dignifies
our humble human efforts and our home searching longing that
leads to a new future.

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