The formula is simple but hard to actually grasp. You see, we originally came from an indivisible Whole with the entire universe and all of existence. That is the primary state to which everything returns. In our human form, we create a sense of self that is separate from that primordial Wholeness. Boundaries are created they keep our individual sense apart from everything else. The thing is, Death (or Thanatos) will always work to tear down those boundaries. “Wherever there is boundary, the Thanatos of one’s deeper Nature acts, moment to moment, to remove it.”*
The Death card speaks of Thanatos and its unstoppable force of transcendence. “Such is Thanatos, and its real meaning is transcendence. Thanatos is not a force trying to reduce life to inorganic matter, or a repetition compulsion, or a homeostatic principle, or a suicidal wish. Thanatos is the power of sunyata, the power and push to transcend illusory boundaries, but it appears, to a self that will not surrender its boundaries, as a threat of literal death and physical mortality.”
Death only appears as a threat of literal death to the self that refuses to surrender its illusory boundaries. Ultimately, this card beckons us onto transcendence. “Thanatos is not the ‘drive to return to the state of inanimate existence’, but rather the drive to return the separate self to the most prior state of all, namely that of the ultimate Whole, or a Unity consciousness.”
In tarot, Death is an important card because it speaks to a fundamental aspect of our metaphysical reality, which is the constant force of nature for the necessary breakdown of separate self-sense structures . Ruled by Scorpio, Death vibrates with the water element: “In one form or another, Thanatos always arises wherever there is boundary and works for the dissolution or transcendence of that boundary, just as the natural flow of water works to undermine any dams or barriers superimposed upon it.”
We exist as separate beings within an ocean of Unity. To support such existence, we erect boundaries and work very hard to maintain them. The principle of Death is the force that comes from within ourselves to break down such barriers and return us to our primordial state of Wholeness. When the Death card appears for us, we are being nudged to awaken to the forces in our lives that may feel like closures and endings, but that in fact are simply guiding us back to our original face: undivided, unified, aware of our existence as the All.
*Wilber, Ken. “Up from Eden”