The Human Encounter With Death is the latest of many recent publications in the newly evolving field of thanatology. It is, however, a quite different kind of book—one that belongs in every library of anyone who seriously tries to understand the phenomenon we call death.
1. THE CHANGING FACE OF DEATH
Death is one of the few universal experiences of human existence. It is the most predictable event in our lives, one that is to be expected with absolute certainty. Yet the nature of death is immersed in deep mystery. Since time immemorial the fact of our mortality has stimulated human fantasy and found incredibly varied expression in the realms of religion, art, mythology, philosophy, and folklore.
At the time when he was dying, Leonardo summarized his feelings about his rich and produc- tive life by saying: "I thought I was living; I was only preparing myself to die." Rabbi Lymon, describing the death-rebirth struggle in his LSD session, paraphrased Leonardo's words: "I thought I was dying; I was only preparing myself to live."