There is an eternal cycle of the two and the axis - two extreme points tied together by a central axis that spins, thereby creating the cycles of life, death, existance, seasons, time, and so on.
Within our own lives there is a cycle as well, one less recognized and yet instantly recognized when we see one of its symbols - the phoenix.
The one thing that everyone immediately understands when they hear the word Phoenix is the idea of dying in a fire and then being reborn from the ashes. Even when the phoenix itself is not involved, there are many other archetypes and mythological figures who share this same characteristic - two immediate examples are Hercules and Jesus.
The rebirth of Jesus is extremely well known - he was crucified and rose again three days later, in a form not well described but nonetheless described as different from his physical body. Yet he had a special spiritual body that enabled him to interact here on earth after his death, so he did have a body, but it was a body that was God-like (or part of God).
Hercules died by burning - his wife had soaked his vest in poison that when Hercules put it on burned his skin, and even attached to his skin so that in removing the vest he also removed skin. Two alternate ideas state that he either tore off all of his human flesh leaving only his godly self, or that he died from his wounds and was raised (as promised) as a God by Zeus.
The cycle is of carnal birth and death, which are one and the same, and spiritual birth. Carnal birth and carnal death are the same - they are flip sides of the same coin. We continually move through one into the other, until spiritual rebirth happens. It is a smaller cycle within the greater cycle, just as all things reflect along the scale from minute to mighty, layered within themselves.
Carnal birth equates to death of the soul - and when it says that those who do not ascend to God will die, this is what is meant. So long as the soul is imprisoned in a physical body, it is bound and blinded, its wings clipped. This is death because it is not life - the soul cannot move (in its sense of movement, not ours), it cannot speak or see or even breathe. It lies malnurished within us, waiting for the day it is released and can once again be a part of the all.
We, the beings that we are, have a unique place in all of this. We have the capability to do anything we wish - free will - but it is only through relinquishing that will to the all that we can free our souls.
To be as plain as possible about the meaning, our conciousness - the "us" - must choose to set itself aside so that the soul can take over the focus of our being. When this happens, we begin to return the power to the soul that it lost by being trapped within our body.
This can be frightening, as the unconcious part of the mind, which thinks it is the soul, wants us to focus on it instead. It reacts to the soul with fear because of it's own desire to exist. There will be anxiety, paranoia, the feeling of coming too close to something too big for us to handle, and the overwhelming feeling that we need to turn to something concrete like a book or a spiritual leader or a religion. If the fear takes enough hold of us, we can potentially close ourselves off to the idea completely - and circumvent its attempts to appear in our life in every way possible.
This is truely what hell is. Locking ourselves into the physical world because we are afraid of what might happen if we let go -
Letting go is the only way to truely be free.
It is only in allowing ourselves to burn, to be crucified (even encouraging it by carrying our own cross), to be hurt, to be poor, to be weak, that we can experience the true rock of strength, compassion and love that is hiding deep within us. We would appear dead to the world before we could be reraised to the spirit. A person in this state would, in fact, not be dead. They would be like a catepillar within its coccoon - transmutating into a more beautiful form, one that can fly and create awe in others. Why do we all love butterflies and dragonflies so? Because they are a reminder of who and what we really are, a reminder that some day we'll burst forth from the coccoon and fly as well.
When we want to be as the phoenix, to burn away the unneccessary parts of our being to leave only the pure and crystalized beauty within, we must take it upon ourselves to do so.
There is no hero going to come along and save us - we must each be our own hero. We must give up everything (it does not need to be all at once, and it does take time). Give away all that we own, let go of the security which comes from jobs, homes, cars, phones, internet, etc. Let go of the relationships you are clinging to, walk away from the people that you know, explore solitude at length. It is ok to give everything up - it is something which is stated repeatedly in the bible, yet no one seems to hear the words. If you trust in God, have faith, and don't struggle or fight to keep anything to yourself, you will be provided for. If you fight and struggle, then what you are trying to keep will be taken away. It is that simple, and you already experience it every day. At the times you decide to leave things in God's hands, they are taken care of. When you try to protect yourself and your things, disasters small and large can strike to take them away.
This is especially true of money - how many times do we get extra, by gift or promotion or bonus, and immediately have an emergency that takes most of it away? It is the balance which causes this, and you cannot fight the balance. Those who manage to seem as if they have more than they need may keep the money or things, but will find themselves facing much greater hardships in terms of comfort, happiness, and spirit.
To conclude this long and meandering post, the catepillar must give up a comfortable, complacent and safe life of munching on leaves until he is fat and seem to die in order to transform into the stunning butterfly. There is always the risk that the catepillar, by being still, bound, and blind could be eaten or die, but he takes that risk because it is worth it considering what he could become.
We too must give up the comfortable and "safe" life and walk through the fire in order to gain our wings, to become a part of the kingdom of God, to find a life eternal that removes us from the cycle of carnal life and carnal death.
To be alive.