RE: AS I LAY DYING --- A CRITICAL ANALYSIS (by Ubaka Victor JSC)
The article, ‘As I Lay Dying’ by Joshua Omenga is an attempt to capture the state of mind of an average religious person in the hour of death, but I must warn that the article has great connections to religion, the doctrine of Life Hereafter, the state of a soul, whether conscious or unconscious in the hereafter. Around this subject is the entire thought woven. Although, the doctrinal posture taken in this article influences in great measure my analysis, appreciating this piece from that point will be too deep a thought to convey, being a complex spiritual subject the truth of which lies in recorded Scriptures. I will approach the analysis from the persona's disillusionment with religion and the vanity of man's sojourn in the present life.
When we consider the implication of lines 1-14, we understand that man's existence, toils, cares, choices, achievements, labour and devotion amount to nothing when death is set to strike. Why does the persona on that account believe everything? He does so because of his belief that in death his once conscious existence becomes nothingness and so not only does he dread this state of non-existence, he is negatively fascinated by the mystery that lies behind the curtain of Life. In looking at religion principally, a vanity in the persona's estimation, it appears to be a fact from the persona's position that a religious devotee and his opposite figure end up in the same state and by virtue of that it matters not which road both may have taken or travelled, whether good or evil, and that the only abiding truth is that both end in death which in his perception equals nonexistence. The persona strongly implies that he deserves something spiritually promising than the unbeliever and as such death for both renders his‘labour in the affairs of religion’ vanity.
The lines, ‘Now I see clearly the…road taken and the road not taken lead in this inevitable hour lead to one end...’, reveal a self-examination of the persona's choices in life (both good and evil) and the startling insight that he gains in his dying moment, which is that irrespective of the path taken to arrive at those choices, death plays down the consequences whether of punishment or reward. The persona proceeds to question the voice of his conscience in the lines: ‘wherefore is that voice that in life warns man of making bad decisions? Is this not the fruition of it all? this narrow end at which all life's journeys converge?’ and mocks the moral and spiritual function of the Conscience on the human mind, thus, the 'conscientization' process by which the human mind is guided on the path of good is worthless if at the end of making him a religious and moral bigot he is destined to end at the ‘narrow end at which all life's journey converge.’
In the lines: ‘Oh Child, do not wet my deathbed...weep instead for your life’, the persona's intention is clear but he goes on to enjoin his offspring to learn from his ‘unvarying tale’ so that the ‘mist’ of sentiments may clear from their eyes to enable them grasp the truth early enough that all life's end is the same.
He buttresses his position by reminiscing the activities of his life which in his perception mean nothing in the hour in which the knowledge of past deeds accounts for nothing.
The lines: ‘when I shall close my eyes to all affairs, sensation and knowings (sic)’, capture the doctrinal issues and controversy of the subject and establishes clearly the persona's belief in the state of man's soul in Hereafter, which is that the soul of man is unconscious and non-existent, being utterly devoid of knowledge and sensation. He continues to lament the experience of being dead by comparing the uselessness of the memories held for him by his children when in actual reality he will be devoid of these memories.
On that position, the persona questions the Biblical allusion to Psalms 127 "CHILDREN ARE AN HERITAGE OF THE LORD". Although the phrase, "ETERNAL HERITAGE", does not exist in recorded Scripture, nevertheless, the persona alludes to that chapter of Psalms incorrectly to question the testimony of David.
The lines: ‘these children which this closing night will erase their memory from my head’, still underlines the persona's belief but it goes further to claim that all knowledge, deed, devotion will be erased from his consciousness (the Seat of Intelligence) in his soul. Whether this belief has any Biblical foundation is another discourse on its own and of which elevated minds can grasp the truth of Consciousness or Unconsciousness in the Hereafter.
The piece contains very strong sentiments on the futility of Life, wisdom, religion, acquisition in the hour of death; it vigorously concludes ‘ALL IS LIE...’, there's no difference between the brute and the sage because their end is in death.
The Persona moves to attack religion for making nonsense of labour and devotion to religion in a crucial time when he is to pass on to the great beyond. In the succeeding lines, he denies religion and its place in a moral society and upholds a humanist philosophy built on the altar of POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. In other words, morality, immorality, evil, and good are all nothing but temporal subjective choices which should never have been sold to humanity as IDEALS.
The implication then is: the standard to measure society's global outlook changes, the notion of good and evil is systematically eroded and that notion is to be seen from the prism of 'individualism'.
Thus, in the lines: ‘shun the voice that tells you to love good; shun the voice that tells you to live evil; shun all voice but yours...", the persona vigorously enthrones an ULTRA-LIBERALIST PHILOSOPHY similar to the phrase famously associated with 33rd degree order freemason, Aleister Crowley: "DO WHAT THOU WILT".
In the same vein, the line ‘Choose that life you will and live it’ reinforces the position that every behaviour, idea, policy, decision, theory, action, or knowledge is justified on the basis of POLITICAL CORRECTNESS and individualism and for which nothing must be condemned as good or bad, with the result being that social order, moral and religious PRESCRIPTIVISM that sustain the fabric of society be decimated.
His frustration mixed with fears leads him to not only ask God for insight into this ‘inexplicable journey of his embarkation’ but also to doubt the very existence of God.
This latest thought-induced frustration may reveal the spuriousness of his prayer for guidance on the authority of the fact that in the preceding lines his eventual conclusion of the subject matter is expressed thus: "ALL IS LIE...ALL THE THINGS YOU HOLD SACRED ARE NIHIL...HOW CLEARLY I SEE ALL THINGS NOW".
The persona continues on a pattern of self-abnegation, questioning God on the concept of Spirit-essence which he resolutely believes is an incomprehensible abstraction. He argues in other words that he not only EARNS HIS SALVATION (the labour in affairs of religion) but also that the process by which God confers righteousness (self-denial and penance) are unjustified and in his estimation makes no sense as a choice if he is to please God. This realization is very crucial in that the disillusionment with even God is complete. Having reached its climax, he goes on to infer that following God in a religious system is a blind decision and that he rues the opportunity to turn back the hands of the clock and retrace the ‘road not taken’ for according to him ‘I cannot turn back and follow a different route’. His regrets continue: ‘one may plan and PRAY and still come to the same abysmal end.’
In the course of the analysis, I stumbled on a particular Biblical allusion to an end-time PROPHETIC EVENT called RAPTURE of which the persona alludes strictly to the Rapture apportioned for DEAD SAINTS otherwise known as the RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD IN THE HOUR OF THE TRUMPETS BLARING.
The persona questions the logistics of that prophetic event. The unbelieving Persona requests the preservation of his PHYSICAL BODY in the resurrection and cares not that his Soul; his Spirit essence, be damned. Apart from considering the hypocrisy of the request, there’s a fundamental misconception responsible for the persona's warped understanding of the word ‘BEING’ seeing that he equates the physical body without the soul to the BEING of Man.
The word BEING refers to ESSENCE, EXISTENCE or anything material or immaterial that can be conceived as existing. In other words, when we speak of a material being, we refer to a physical entity with the ingredient of LIFE, the consummate unity of soul and body. Thus, a cadaver cannot properly be referred to as ‘being’ having lost the quality of LIFE, hence the words ‘body, remains and corpse’ exist in vocabularies to capture that thought.
The persona goes on to reject a purified version of his soul to preserve his old imperfect self and still dreams of immortality which only purified souls can enjoy, for nothing unworthy can walk with God.
The succeeding lines as we consider their immense significance reveal a STAGGERING DISCOVERY by the Persona.
The lines: ‘I look but I cannot see, I listen but I cannot hear, I touch but I cannot feel; everything is melting away, nothing remains but this chasmic feel’ strongly suggest that the Persona is encountering a NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE which brings him to a point where he can be properly described as DEAD. In his uncertainty, he appeals to a Higher Intelligence for revelatory insights into what he is to face in the hereafter.
One thing is clear: the miserable state of the persona's soul is characterized by frustration, fear, rebellion, unbelief and distrust.
As his Soul leaves his body, his spirit-essence feels lighter as it gradually ‘melts away’ from the physical body. It is very crucial that we determine precisely the point of the persona's death to enable us appreciate the staggering discovery as we will see in the final analysis.
The lines ‘I look but I cannot see, listen but cannot hear, touch but cannot feel’ identifies exactly the point of death and his arrival into the realm of the Afterlife.
On a religious plane, the whole concept of retribution in the hereafter is denied when the soul of man is thrown into nothingness and can suffer no punishment or reap any reward for choices taken in mortal life. And upon adopting this truth – ‘choose that life you will, live it’, there will be no regrets in the hour of death as nothing will count in the end but annihilation of body, soul, and knowledge. In in other words, it will not have mattered if one lived according to the dictates of religion because in the final analysis death ends all.
This conclusion captures the decimation of religion’s influence on the people's choices as PRINCIPAL ESCHATOLOGICAL DOCTRINES lose their hold on devotees of religion.
When we consider the lines: ‘what dreams I will encounter in this eternal sleep I do not know’, the persona starkly contradicts himself and his belief by implying that the state of death is akin to eternal sleep. Whether this phrase is literal or metaphorical will facilitate a deeper understanding of the persona's belief regarding its consistency.
The lines: ‘I hear the Voice’, we are forced to ask a material question: Is the Persona hearing a voice after death when he believes that there is no sensation or knowledge in death? Or better yet: is he having a Near-Death Experience which of course is a reasonable consequence of his religious inclinations in his mortal life. The latter view seems more plausible but we find out almost immediately that the persona uses this 'vision' to discredit his entire religious experience, labour and sacrifice to God.
He chides the whole concept of righteous living in return for eternal reward in the lines: ‘but what is religion when I close my eyes...the living who hope to reap the reward of their devotion when they are dead? Whose then is God – the dead who will not have him or the living who will die for Him...’
Now we examine the first-hand experience of the persona in this other realm: on arriving on the other side, the persona carefully describes the sensation to be one of ‘peace, ineffable bliss’ and a floating soul in vast space. There are strong reasons to suggest that the persona is thoroughly confused as he struggles to comprehend this staggering discovery vis-à-vis his belief that there is no knowledge, sensation, or consciousness in the afterlife.
When the Persona describes himself as an ‘unfeeling being’, his falsehood is all the more annoying as an unfeeling being cannot experience ineffable bliss, peace and even see a dazzling luminary.
The lines: ‘I strain for this ethereal sight’ authoritatively indicates that the persona retains all qualities of his consciousness (the five senses) and of which the physical body is designed by God to enable the soul interact in a material environment.
Now we are faced with resolving the persona's dilemma, and so we ask the question: How can we reconcile the persona's beliefs with what he actually discovered in the afterlife?
The only explanation to this is that the persona's belief which operated as enlightenment in the hour of death is nothing but a HUGE LIE.
It is quite funny that the persona retains the sense of taste even though it would not be out of place to know what he is tasting. The discovery in the spirit realm exposes the grand hoax that the persona has sustained until now.
The lines: ‘around me they circle, no they are me, but there's no me’, furnish great occasion for the poet's confusion to be manifest as he questions and doubts even his own existence.
Omenga, through the instrumentality of the persona, has pulled a grand hoax although momentarily as this analysis exposes the objective truth that the human soul exist and is conscious after death. There are vindications to that effect with recorded Scripture being the only Authoritative source of all Absolute truth: the biblical account of Saul, Samuel, and the Witch of Endor; the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man and Jesus' descent into Hell to preach to spirits of dead saints (from Adam to the thief on the cross) prior to his crucifixion.
My projection is further vindicated when we consider that the persona's soul represented by the word "I" continues to exist even after death (see the stunning number of times "I" appears in the last 30 lines).
The last line: ‘Ah, this...where...may I...O?cr...h...’ is a failed attempt by the persona to suggest that at this point the soul goes into unconsciousness or nothingness. We have seen before now that this cannot be true as the persona believes that at death, consciousness ceases for the soul.
In conclusion, the analysis reveals a grand hoax thoroughly woven around a very warped perception of Consciousness in the afterlife. Joshua Omenga, through the persona, paints a very false picture of the concept; his inconsistencies are masterfully hidden in philosophical poise and can only be detected by a very perceptive and analytical mind, even though we must give him credit for vicariously pulling such feat.
Outside of the analytical implications of this piece, Omenga reflects in this piece the thought process of a religious bigot so to speak who is disdained by the fact that all life, whether brute or sage, is destined to end in the same manner and consequence for which he questions everything sacred, including challenging God by His existence to justify his religious labour in the end; this 'haughtiness' is exemplified when he scorns a purified soul in favour of his old imperfect self and dares to dream of immortality on his terms.
He masterminds a great LIE which he himself is not thoroughly convinced of in the end as he questions his belief in the face of that staggering discovery – ‘but there is no me’.
In the final analysis, this is an attempt to capture the persona's utter disillusionment with religion in the hour of death and reveals a staggering discovery in the afterlife: that his disappointment was a self-orchestrated hoax at the expense of his eternal destiny, a truth which the persona desperately seeks to deny even in death.