Dr Peck's theological and religious leaning comes through quite strongly in his advise on how we should approach death. It is as if he too was searching for a way to the ultimate stage of acceptance.
The second half of the book draws a parallel between living and dying and Dr Peck discusses what it means to do both well and in communion with God or one's deepest self (soul) for secularists. There are stages that we go through in any situation of trouble or crisis and it applies to dying too. (Kubler-Ross stages of learning)
Dr Peck puts forth that human beings are meant to continue learning and developing, most often we stop learning because we do not get pass the denial stage. The soul he believes, is not created to stagnate 'why would God not only create us but continue to nurture us unless we were developable. Unless God desired our development, our learning?' This he feels is the meaning of life.
Dying gives us the opportunity for learning and soul development. By opting for Euthanasia however we are denying the meaning of human existence and attempting to 'escape the reason for our being', 'it shortchanges ourselves.' In his experience with dying individuals, the final stage of Acceptance appears to lead one to an ethereal awareness of self, they seem to emanate 'light that embraces their company', no sadness is experienced.
When we are depressed, the healing of depression requires that there be (existential)l suffering. When we seek out answers to our troubled feelings, we come out on the other side with learning and wisdom on a higher plane. Interestingly he says sometimes the solution could mean there is no solution, we accept that and move on. Dr Peck describes that to arrive at enlightenment we need to recognise our shortcomings and give up 'things of the ego' - arrogance, excessive competitiveness, need for self-esteem, righteousness etc. We need to identify it and realise we 'can give it up' and do it. It is about making a choice to continue learning, to develop the inner being and thus we should continue to live until we cannot.
Death of the ego or letting go can be painful. Dr Peck likens these episodes of working at depression to 'little deaths'. One of these characteristics is the 'need to be in control'. Certain forms of Euthanasia or assisted suicides is motivated by this need to control our exit from life. But Dr Peck maintains that it is not up to us to decide when. In such cases that need (ego), means forgoing cooperation with the Creator and forgoing the ultimate enlightenment of 'emptying ourselves'. The relief of suffering at the expense of hastening death is acceptable as opposed to shortening life to avoid facing death. Extreme pain and suffering without viable relief is the influencing factor and timing is not of our choosing.
In the final part of the book part 3, Dr Peck discusses different ways to handle terminal illness, their aftercare and suggests methods and counseling for individual medical contexts and also proposes pastoral advisors for meeting the needs of the soul.
"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
I believe there is a close parallel in religious writings that many of us can identify with - 'to die in order to live'.
I am finished with the book but not really done with it (if you know what I mean).