Death, Dust & Type 4

The Holy Idea of type 4s is that of Holy Origin, which Dr David Daniels describes as “the original state of deep, complete connection to all things.” The card in the Majors to represent this idea, Death, immediately brings to mind the biblical verse, “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Returning to our origins of dust seems a little too basic for the Tarot though (ummm, and for type 4s: I see y’all! Like, dust? BASIC)


Well, I have good news for you 4, because now we can talk about Death as a cosmic surgeon and a guardian of the threshold between worlds!

So, the idea of Death as a surgeon comes from ‘Meditations on the Tarot’, a book I’ve referenced endlessly in this series on the Enneagram and the Major Arcana. It’s some wildly esoteric Hermetic Christian stuff that is TOUGH to wade through, but essentially what the author is saying is that Death comes along to amputate “sick members—‘sick’ in the sense that they have usurped a domain of existence which does not legitimately belong to them.”

WTF you may be asking. So, by ‘members’ they’re basically talking about aspects of our own identities that have run amok, that have been inflated by ego and hubris. And Death comes along with its scythe to level the field, to relieve us of these sick members. The author calls death “liberation of the machine, i.e. of all functioning”—by which they mean automatic responses, patterning....and that to me, directly says: liberation from your type structure.

In the ‘Wisdom of the Enneagram’, Riso and Hudson tell us “type 4 reveals to us the fundamental truth that our true self is not a thing with fixed attributes, it is an ever-transforming, ever-renewing process. The manifestations of our true nature are constantly arising and transforming.” Here Death becomes a gardener, helping to turn over the soil of our selves as the seasons perpetually shift. This is the understanding that Holy Origin is at once eternal but is never a fixed state.

But what of this allusion above to Death as a guardian of the threshold? I thought this was particularly interesting, because in my post on the Emperor as type 4 I referred to them as a “guardian of the existential hole” (meaning the energetic chasm at the bottom of the Enneagram), and indeed ‘Meditations’ calls the Emperor a Guardian as well. So here we have another, this time acting in the tension between the “2 worlds”, that of earth and the “vital world” (that of heaven, basically).

Death acts as surgeon because he acts as guardian. The “sick members....usurping a domain that does not belong to them”......this is Death relieving us of non-essential, ego-ic, and false parts of ourselves that we try to drag along with us as we move towards heaven, towards enlightenment, to our Origins. Death is guarding the integrity of the realm that we hope to enter, that is our right to enter, but into which we cannot carry the burden of our fixed identities.

Helen Palmer has something interesting to say about 4s that alludes to this threshold. “[4s often have] a sense of two realities: the objective world and the one behind the scenes....there is a sense of a plane of existence that is beyond ordinary reality.” But how do we get there? What can move past the scythe of Death?