Preparing for Death as the Capstone of the Individuation Process

Preparing for Death as the Capstone of the Individuation Process

A capstone is the top stone of a structure or wall, or the crowning achievement or final stroke.  Here is a primal example of a capstone, the last dream that C.G. Jung was able to communicate to his followers, three days before his death:  A great round stone was engraved with the words:  “And this shall be a sign unto you of wholeness and oneness.”  The stone was an important symbol for Jung because it represented the ultimate goal of the alchemists, the lapis, a symbol of the Self.  To Jung it showed that his work in this life was complete, his life’s work had reached its culmination, his final stroke.

Jung had been preparing for his death for a long time.  His own personal psychological work as well as his professional work with analysands led him to this deeply held position:

Like a projectile flying to its goal, life ends in death.  Even its ascent and its zenith are only steps and means to this goal.  This paradoxical formula is no more than a logical deduction from the fact that life strives toward a goal and is determined by an aim.  I do not believe that I am guilty here of playing with syllogisms.  We grant aim and purpose to the ascent of life, why not to the descent?  The birth of a human being is pregnant with meaning, why not death?  For twenty years and more the growing man is being prepared for the complete unfolding of his individual nature, why should not the older man [or woman] prepare himself [or herself] twenty years or more for his death?  Of course, with the zenith one has obviously reached something, one is it and has it.  But what is attained with death?  (The Soul and Death, CW8, paragraph 803)  Emphasis added.  Bracketed material added.

In order to avoid the danger of psychological inflation, spiritual development must be grounded in the activities and responsibilities of every day life.

Together we will examine carefully what it means to prepare for death, using one particular approach to individuation as a framework for our time together.  By exploring preparations for death in terms of sensation, feeling, thinking and intuition, the four psychological functions according to Jung, we will move toward realizing wholeness and away from one-sidedness.  Here is a sample of what we will encounter together:

Sensation:  the reality based aspects of preparing for death including, for example, wills (such as living and professional), health proxies, and burial or cremation prearrangements.  How do you want to die?

Feeling:  unfinished business with colleagues, friends, and family; relations with groups, organizations, and the collective; legacies.  What do you value, what can you let go of?

Thinking:  thoughts about life and death.  Reflections about the meaning of life and death.  How could your death be meaningful for you?

Intuition:  the mystery of life, the mystery of death.   Origins and destinations as reflected in dreams, active imaginations and spiritual musings.  What is your myth about death and dying?

Life and death are two sides of the same coin so that understanding its place in the life cycle and preparing for death is an integral part of living life fully and becoming whole, which is the core of the individuation process.  The goal of this program is to think creatively and together about the place of death in our lives and how we might anticipate meeting it.


Dr. Seth Isaiah Rubin, Ph.D.