There exists a strand of thought which runs through almost every beleif system known to man, and has been
inextricably intertwinned with religious practice since the first crude rituals that mankind performed. It is at the very
centre of what science fiction writer Aldous Huxley called the perrenial philosophy - the underlying foundations of truth
upon which all religions are based and which is present within all modern religions in some manner. It can be found in Christ
on the cross and in dusty tomes of Jewish Qabalah, it is present in Zen and in the way of the sword, it can be discerned in
western philosophy, science and modern myth just as much as it can be found in the bloody act of Seppuku in which an ancient
Samuri spills his own entrails on the temple floor; it is everywhere - in Hinduism, Islam - everywhere. That single
unifying strand of thought that I am referring to is the cult of death worship - the worship of death itself, of what it represents,
the worship of the God of the dead and of dead ancesters; the cult of everything death.
Going right back to the beginning the first evidence of religious activity in our early ancestors was the
burial of the dead and the rituals surrounding it, and this link between death and religion has persisted through the ages
and right up to this day.
Given that this is a martial arts website I can think of no better starting place in our consideration of
this ancient thought form than the fanatical Samuri Warriors of ancient China. Take a few moments to think about their way
of life, and their way of thought and being. These were people who truly embraced death. Not only were they courageous
in battle to the point of having no regard for their own lives, but actually embraced death in many other ways. The most famous
of these is the ritual suicide called seppuku. Seppukku was performed by order of the master as a way of regaining honour
lost through incorrect behaviour, but it was also performed in other circumstances. Many Samuri committed this ritual suicide
when their master died, or if they found themselved unable to repay a favour done to them, or if they made a trivial mistake,
or for many other seemingly trivial reasons they would actually choose to end their lives. And this can not be entirely explained
by their fanatical devotion to their masters - such incredible devotion could not have been so common place without some deep
reason other than duty and indoctrination.Death was a way of life to the Samuri.
In Hagakure, a book of Samuri teachings and sayings it is written that 'The way of the Samuri is found in
death...If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead,
he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.' To me this is
the most succinct expression in all of history of that stream of thought which I have called the cult of death
To put it as simply as I possibly can, and to do it some injustice in doing so - the way of the body, of
the material universe, of our lives on earth is inherently antithetical to the way of spirit, the way of our father in heaven,
the God of the dead.
As the devil is wont to say 'Boy, your soul better belong to Jesus, because your ass belongs to me!'
The second part of this article will look at the philosophical foundations and implications of the cult of
death worship and some of its manifestations throughout history. For now I will leave you with one more quote from Hagakure:
'If a warrior is not unattached to life and death, he will be of no use whatsoever. The saying that "all
abilities come from one mind" sounds as though it has to do with sentient matters, but it is in fact a matter of being unnatached
to life and death. With such non-attachment one can accomplish any feat. Martial arts and the like are related to this insofar
as they can lead to the Way (Tao).'