|Death on a Pale Horse – J.M.W. Turner|
Sooner or later the hero travels to the Land of the Dead, the shadow realm… seeking secret knowledge. What world is this of half light, and half truths, and half remembered things, where those who used to walk with us are now but phantoms of their former selves? Memories, I say. Not of the deceased alone, but of the departed, the unreachable ones, those who have passed away either in mind or in body or in spirit. And the only form they have now is that which the hero imparts to them by his rememberance.
There can be no satisfaction gained here; the elixir will not be obtained. For when we question those who reside here, we merely question ourselves, our memory, the simulacrum of those who have passed far and strange away from us, and who are out of ear shot. And what can we tell ourselves about what those who are not here might think? Nothing… and what is more, when we speak with them (in our thoughts), we become as them… faded and wan and little more than a ghost of what we once were when life was all about. This is the meaning of the hero passing yonder. And what is the secret knowledge that he seeks? What balm? Just this, that he too is a ghost haunting someone else’s dark dream. It is the death wish, the desire to be remembered; but with that also, to be as faded as these pale reflections and less than alive.