Such, then, is the work of death—the separation of the soul from the body. Putting out of the question fates and fortuitous circumstances, it has been, according to men’s views, distinguished in a twofold form—the ordinary and the extraordinary. The ordinary they ascribe to nature, exercising its quiet influence in the case of each individual decease; the extraordinary is said to be contrary to nature, happening in every violent death. As for our own views, indeed, we know what was man’s origin, and we boldly assert and persistently maintain that death happens not by way of natural consequence to man, but owing to a fault and defect which is not itself natural; although it is easy enough, no doubt, to apply the term natural to faults and circumstances which seem to have been (though from the emergence of an external cause1792) inseparable to us from our very birth. If man had been directly appointed to die as the condition of his creation, then of course death must be imputed to nature. Now, that he was not thus appointed to die, is proved by the very law which made his condition depend on a warning, and death result from man’s arbitrary choice. Indeed, if he had not sinned, he certainly would not have died. That cannot be nature which happens by the exercise of volition after an alternative has been proposed to it, and not by necessity—the result of an inflexible and unalterable condition. Consequently, although death has various issues, inasmuch as its causes are manifold, we cannot say that the easiest death is so gentle as not to happen by violence (to our nature). The very law which produces death, simple though it be, is yet violence. How can it be otherwise, when so close a companionship of soul and body, so inseparable a growth together from their very conception of two sister substances, is sundered and divided? For although a man may breathe his last for joy, like the Spartan Chilon, while embracing his son who had just conquered in the Olympic games; or for glory, like the Athenian Clidemus, while receiving a crown of gold for the excellence of his historical writings; or in a dream, like Plato; or in a fit of laughter, like Publius Crassus,—yet death is much too violent, coming as it does upon us by strange and alien means, expelling the soul by a method all its own, calling on us to die at a moment when one might live a jocund life in joy and honour, in peace and pleasure. That is still a violence to ships: although far away from the Capharean rocks, assailed by no storms, without a billow to shatter them, with favouring gale, in gliding course, with merry crews, they founder amidst entire security, suddenly, owing to some internal shock. Not dissimilar are the shipwrecks of life,—the issues of even a tranquil death. It matters not whether the vessel of the human body goes with unbroken timbers or shattered with storms, if the navigation of the soul be overthrown.
A Treatise on The Soul