Saving The World:
An Analysis of Season Six's Finale
Paul F. McDonald - June 26 2002
If all roads do truly lead to Joseph Campbell, there's no reason why we shouldn't just go ahead and start there to begin with.
Once while he was travelling in Southwest India, Campbell heard about a wise man called Sri Atmananda in Trivandrum, and decided to pay him a visit. He had been hiking around for awhile by then, and had heard far too much about "maya" and how one has to deny the world and reject life to be spiritual and all this kind of thing. So when he finally sought audience with this holy man and is invited to go in and speak to him, he already knew just the question he was going to ask. He inquired how that - if everything in the universe is truly divine as described in the Vedas and the Upanishads - how can anyone living in the world say "no" to anything that life offers? Sri Atmananda replied that for Campbell and himself, the answer must be "yes."
Some time later, the holy man's students told Campbell that their master had said he was on the very threshold of enlightenment. In all probability, he had not crossed the threshold yet because he still had to frame the concept of affirmation not in life, but in words. This brings us to season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where the answer "yes" in regards to what life offered did not come easily at all.
"The goal is ride with godlike composure on the full rush of energy, like Dionysus riding the leopard, without being torn to pieces." - Joseph Campbell
There is a saying often related by DT Suzuki, one of the foremost transmitters of Zen Buddhism to the West, which basically states that he who attains "satori," or enlightenment, goes to hell as straight as an arrow.
In previous essays, I gleefully linked Buffy's epiphany in "The Gift" to "satori," with no knowledge of the above saying. However, it fits in very nicely. The season begins with Buffy dead. She is brought back to the land of the living by magic, her friends unwittingly tearing her out of a realm that she described as heaven. After such an experience, Buffy finds life back in Sunnydale almost unbearable, even as she feels that she's not really there at all. She experiences a profound disconnect with all of her friends, and even her sister Dawn. Her Watcher Giles goes back to England, leaving her feeling even more adrift. The only solace she finds is in sleeping with Spike, once her big nemesis. Over the course of the season, she has to deal with everything from working a minimum wage job to almost losing her mind to insanity.
The other members of the Scooby Gang do not come off so well either. Paralyzed by the failings of his own parents, Xander ends up leaving his bride Anya at the altar. As a result, she takes an offer to become a vengeance demon once again. Dawn is feeling depressed and neglected, and has taken up shoplifting in a desperate bid for attention. Spike finds himself unable to deal with his demon side, even with the help of the chip that keeps him from feeding off humans, and very nearly rapes Buffy. He leaves Sunnydale in horror of his own actions. Tara, the one beacon of light and compassion throughout all this is senselessly killed by a stray bullet from Warren, the head of a group of high-tech crime nerds called The Trio. The once wall-flowery Willow emerges as the real big bad of the season, surrendering to her addiction to magic and finally killing her lover's murderer in a most gruesome fashion.
There is a perfect description of what life on the Hellmouth looks like at the end of season six, and it comes from one of Alan Watts' more famous works, "The Way of Zen." He talks of a world filled with "human beings suffering and perishing from their very attempts to save themselves," and this particularly relates to Willow, who comes to the conclusion that the most efficient way to save the world is just to destroy it once and for all. On a quite immediate level, the problems here are really spiritual ones, particularly Buffy's. By her own admission, she may not understand "theology" and "dimensions," but she nevertheless finds herself paralyzed by memories of her blissful tenure in heaven.
Religions east and west alike have all produced their fair share of life-denying, world-hating saints, the schism growing more severe the greater the break that exists between what is classified spiritual and what is classified material. After tasting the ecstasy of a transcendent heaven dimension, Buffy too takes one look at the world she has returned and declares that "this is hell." This is a deep problem that many mystics - those who have penetrated the ultimate mystery and achieved union with the divine - have faced. Many have been unable to come back to the world of everyday experience, and some who have tried have had their psyches ripped apart upon re-entry. After this, one can only retreat into depression or even become comatose.
This dilemma is described in a rather concrete way by Colin Wilson, whom I have cited before. In "Poetry and Mysticism," he defines it as the "Bombard problem." He tells the story of Alain Bombard, a Frenchman who set out to cross the Atlantic Ocean in nothing but a small rubber dinghy. For a long while, he lived off of only plankton and the juices of fish. When a passing ship came by, he was picked up by it and ate a good hot meal. The trouble began when he tried to return to his old spartan diet on his own boat. After tasting solid foods, he spent days vomiting up the plankton and fish juices he had been eating all along. This is very analogous to one who feasts on mystical awareness and then pukes when they try to go back to digesting the banality of everyday life.
In a general way, all the characters are facing something like this, only perhaps not as acutely as Buffy. The theme of season six has been "oh grow up," and that by its very definition involves change and uncertainty. There is something that all the characters have to leave behind, whether it's Xander who has to go beyond his troubled upbringing, or Spike who has to win his soul back and give up his vampire ways once and for all, or Willow who has to let go of Tara after her pointless death. The problem becomes how to live in such an environment, one in which everything is always going to pieces and falling apart, one in which life is an utter mess that will never, ever be straightened out.
"This is really a simple problem of what we now call cybernetics, the science of control. Mechanically and logically it is easy to see that any system approaching perfect self-control is also approaching perfect self-frustration." - Alan Watts
The responses offered up to this problem of existence come in many varied forms in season six. When the world is looked at from a purely egoistic stand point, it is something that needs to be controlled as soon as possible, so the only question that remains is how best to dominate it.
It is very telling that in "Bargaining," when Giles chastises Willow for not getting the Buffybot running properly again, she confidently states, "I will therefore fix it." Working on the Buffybot all summer no doubt gave Willow - who was already a science whiz - a very Cartesian mindset. Out of such a psychology comes the view that the universe is something one is standing apart from, and thus something that one can then reach back in and successfully rearrange to meet their needs. It reduces everything to a series of Newtonian billiard balls, in which life becomes a shoving match, and whoever shoves the hardest wins. Willow is motivated all year to fix things. First, she fixes Buffy by bringing her back from the grave. Then she fixes Tara by casting a spell on her. Then she fixes Warren by killing him. And finally, she nearly fixes the world by destroying it. Fixing things often inflicts great damage on them, particularly when a mechanical mindset is attached to a universe that isn't a machine.
This is a rudimentary point, but one often lost in its sheer obviousness. As Watts points out in "The Way of Zen," when something is made of parts, like an engine, it is constructed from the outside in. In other words, an external force of some kind comes along and puts it together with separate pieces. On the other hand, things that grow - things that are alive - form from the inside out. When a flower blooms, no one has to come along with nuts and bolts and screw on the individual petals - to try to do so would tear the flower to pieces. So when life is seen from the viewpoint of cybernetics, all the little elements become parts, and with that, become isolated and needed to be controlled. All the stress is on the subject-object paradigm, with the universe and the things in it being the objects.
In contrast to this, the Chinese word for nature is "tzu-jan," which can be loosely translated, "of-itself-so," or even "self-so-ing." This is the idea that the philosophy of the Tao was founded on. In its essence, nature is spontaneous as opposed to the mechanical, which is very purposeful. After all, there is no "ulterior motive" to the way a tree grows. It just grows of itself. And it works only when it isn't forced. Water doesn't have to attend seminars to know how to flow down an embankment, and a ripe apple doesn't have to go to college to know when to fall off the tree. Even Carl Sagan noted in "Cosmos" that if the process of digesting food had to be filtered through a self-conscious intellect, and every enzyme had to be purposefully directed, one would starve to death. Nature doesn't work like that, and coming out of nature, neither do human beings.
The sort of control that the various characters achieve over nature is not really possible, but even when the impossible is achieved, the funny thing is, they don't want it. Then we get the situation of the April-bot in season five, the quintessential "perfect girl" that Warren has designed - only once he has her programmed to satisfy his every whim, he doesn't want her anymore. What he wants is Katrina, a real human being, someone who does not bore him with continuity, and someone who is capable of being spontaneous. Of course, once she rejects him he uses a magical device to make her his slave, and he's back to where he started with his programmed April-bot. Unfortunately, Katrina is accidentally killed, and makes the final transition from what Joseph Campbell called a "thou" to an "it." So the whole realm of cybernetics that Watts was talking about must be recognized for the self-defeating double-bind that it is. Life becomes lifeless when it is processed in binary language, when it is reduced to a series of ones and zeroes. The symbolism very much speaks for itself.
"'The mind is its own place, and can make a hell of heaven, or a heaven of hell'." - John Milton
There is another manifestation of this kind of frenzied scrambling for control in season six, and the parallel between the two is quite apparent. Both the Scooby Gang and the Trio use magic, and like cybernetics, it can operate from the viewpoint that one is outside one's world and detached from one's experiences. When it does, the consequences are very much the same. The whole thing is in microcosm in "Older and Far Away," when Dawn accidentally makes a wish to a vengeance demon. A spell is cast, and Buffy and her friends all wind up literally trapped in their own house, physically unable to open the front door. This magic tries to make life an object, a thing, and one that must subsequently be clung to, controlled, and manipulated at every possible turn. Dawn's stealing is also metaphoric of the same thing, for it treats the universe as if it were some kind of enemy compound to be looted at every given opportunity.
The mythologist James Frazer spoke of the magical stage of religious development, and while he believed it had been replaced by a more scientific worldview, the kind of transactional mentality it evokes is still very much with us. Magic by any other name is still magic, whether it be casting spells or saying prayers. So hypnotized by words, human beings still try to turn outward and do the same to the universe, enchanting it with language until it gives them what is desired. This is not unlike trying to stop someone from drowning by describing the water they're sinking in. It again leads to a view of the universe as something completely alien and objectified, and the only way a lonely ego can cope with such a scenario is to blow itself up into a monster, very much like Willow does in "Villians."
"The universe is sacred. Do you think you can improve it?" - Lao Tzu
With the death of Tara, Willow completely allows herself to be consumed with dark magic, and sets out on a path of destruction. This point has been brought up earlier in the season, but this basically stems from Willow's complete disregard for the laws of nature. It seems worth pointing out that Goethe - among others - described the laws of nature not as commandments or rules of conduct, but rather as a description of how things are. In other words, even as one tries to flaunt them, they are actually fulfilling them. There's not only no short cut and easy way of "getting around" them, it's simply impossible, the mother of all double binds. That's why magic has to rely so much on incantations and such. The Taoist sage Chuang-Tzu described how the mind of the sage is like a mirror, meaning that it reflects the universe as it is, not as it is talked about in many of the misguided attempts to alter it.
Yet there is still a problem, and it has already been outlined - life is pain, and it's always falling apart. That is the first of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism. What the second truth has to do with is the fact that struggling to get away from that pain - or to try to fix it - is usually much worse than the pain itself. In "The Wisdom of Insecurity," Watts writes that "Struggle as we may, 'fixing' will never make sense of change," anymore than desert can make sense of the sea. The proclaimation that all life is suffering, or "dukkha," really means life as it is all too often lived, rather than life in its essential character. This is what is meant by being caught in the wheel of "samsara," with its never-ending cycles of death and rebirth. As Watts writes, it is to live in "circles which go nowhere faster and faster." It is the failing to accept the impermanence of all things, and to see that the very transitory nature of life is the very thing that makes it alive.
As both Willow and Dawn figure out, the more secure and fixed things get, the more dessicated and insipid they become. It's like living in nothing but a world of memories, memories which can never be life itself, rather only mental corpses of it. The more secure they strive to make their situations, the more separate they feel from them, and so it goes. A world of permanence would be the world of being magically trapped in a house and forever unable to leave. It brings out the truth in that old axiom about being careful for what you wish for. But just as the the anti-venom for some of the most toxic snake bites often comes out of the venom itself, so this problem contains its own solution.
"To feel that life is meaningless unless 'I' can be permanent is like having fallen desperately in love with an inch." - Alan Watts
In the strictest sense, then, the problem of life can only be solved in the living of it. There's no way to say that without sounding trite, but if one is always fortifying their defenses against life, one can never actually experience it. This is brought to light in the great scene with Buffy and Dawn fighting side-by-side down in the massive hole left by Willow's fireball. As everyone tries to protect Dawn, she suffers very much from isolation. As Buffy finally admits, she got it so wrong - she doesn't want to protect her sister from the world, but rather wants to show it to her. The metaphor of vampires also evokes this, for when one's appearance and development is arrested - when the very changes of life are stopped in their flow - one becomes the "living dead." In real life, the two concepts are of course antithetical.
The passing of things is unbearably painful only so long as one is clinging to them. And clinging in the sense of strangling someone to help them breathe. This is called in Pali "trishna," and is thought of in Buddhist traditions as the root of suffering. After all, it is an enormous relief when one finally figures out they do not have to single-handedly manage the universe. When one can really let go, experience is free and open and can never seem emaciated. The universe is not a dead artifact to be controlled, for it holds itself up by its own spontaneity in much more style and grace than any amount of grim self-importance could produce. When one sees how interdependent things really are, nothing can be made an object of for the same reason one can't directly see the back of one's own head. When all the desperate attempts at controlling life have exhausted themselves, a relationship can be entered in to with it. And with great surprise, one will find that the mountain they thought they had been struggling to climb had in fact been doing half the work all the time by holding them up.
"Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion - which I would define as unconditional love - is central to a Jedi's life." - Anakin Skywalker
Unable to see the self-defeating nature of her own rampage, Willow decides in "Grave" that the only real way to save the world is just to destroy it once and for all.
Her magic addiction has been dealt with in numerous ways. The Scoobies tried to help her get it under control, but she didn't recover until she nearly gets Dawn killed. The only thing that does save her in the end is Xander's unconditional love, love not based on what she does or how she acts. In other words, love not based on a scorecard. Many have argued that tough love is the way to go in such scenarios. Everyone has heard it many times - love the sinner, and hate the sin. But only to a self-conscious mind divided against itself does this make sense. The bad thing is, in sheer language, tortured nonsense like this almost seems sound. In reality, however, where one is not separate from their experience, such logic simply cannot be applied. It's like saying - love the sinning, and hate the sinning, which of course is saying nothing at all. People who promote tough love are doing little else than insisting on drawing square circles.
It's interesting that when she's tearing down both Buffy and Dawn at Rack's place, Willow starts refering to herself in the third person. That is the divided mind in fine form. We see that she even goes so far as to fight Buffy hand-to-hand, and then gets in a magic duel with Giles. The more opposition they offer her, the more oppositional she gets. It's not until Giles doses her with a bit of humanity that she finds her way back to her true self. Unable to bear all the suffering she feels, she still goes out to resurrect a demonic temple, and tries to use its effigy to suck the life out of the world. She would have no doubt succeeded, but Xander shows up and gives her just what she needs.
Xander saves the world, and the message is made clear that the only way to do so is just to live in it. He is the most human of all the characters in a way, having no super-powers to speak of, and being essentially the "zeppo" of the group. Though the humanity part is what is being emphasized, the parallels with Christ are easy enough to find. Xander makes reference to being a carpenter; he loves his enemies; and he quite literally "turns the other cheek" as Willow lashes out at him again and again with magic. Even though she's about to do something apocalyptic and evil, he simply says, "Hey, I still wanna hang."
It is easy to sound sappy when talking about unconditional love, but the theme is very important here. When Xander says he loves "crayon-breaky Willow" and "evil-veiny Willow," he is not dividing her up and making distinctions. Usually in such a crisis, a hero will come on and tell the villian to set their "good side" up to do war against their "bad side," or something like that, but Xander doesn't do that. He's not weighing her faults against her merits. In his own words, it simply "doesn't matter." So that is finally unconditional love - love that embraces the whole regardless. And in humanizing her again, he humanizes the world.
"When one sees eternity in things that pass away and infinity in finite things, then one has pure knowledge. But if one merely sees the diversity of things, with their divisions and limitations, then one has impure knowledge. And if one selfishly sees a thing as it if were everything, independent of the one and the many, then one is in the darkness of ignorance." - Bhagavad Gita
Willow is sent spiraling out of control by the death of Tara, and it is important to remember that she was very much a lifeline for Buffy as well. Tara is so accepting of Buffy's relationship of Spike even though she didn't actually "come back wrong" that it no doubt helped her to come to terms with it as well. Willow talks to Warren about her being the "light," and how she was taken away not only from her personally, but also from the world at large. This is a telling statement. Much discussion has been had regarding the name "Tara." Whether intentional or not, it can be linked with the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who is frequently depicted as a male, but one flanked by two female figures called "taras." Much as a farmer would strew hay for his horses to eat, so do taras strew mercy out for the whole world.
There is a story told in "The Joseph Campbell Companion" that is well worth relaying here. Kuan-yin is a personification of the compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Realizing that many people in the rural parts of China have never heard of enlightenment, Kuan-yin transforms into a beautiful young girl. Travelling to a small village, she shows up everyday to sell fish, and many of the men become enchanted with her. They all want to marry her, but she tells them she can only marry one of them. In order to narrow the playing field, she tells them to memorize the Sutra of the Compassionate Kuan-yi, and if they do, she will consider them as suitors. Some of the men do, some of them don't. The next day, though, she sees that there are still too many men, so she tells them to interpret the sutra. She comes back the following day, and there are only a handful of men left. She finally tells them that she will only marry the man who actually experiences the sutra. Only one man actually does so, and when she finds him standing outside the village, she leads him to her home by a bend in the river. He follows her to it, but when he gets inside, she is gone. He follows her footprints out of the empty house down to the river, but she has completely disappeared. Then the illumination finally comes that everything is she - the river, the sun reflecting on it, the reeds, and even the wind blowing the reeds. Freed from "samsara," the peace and bliss of "nirvana" was then made known to him.
Perhaps this is very much the same kind of thing with Tara. She had come to be so idolized by the various characters - and maybe even the audience - perhaps she had to be destroyed and taken away to show that she is still there.
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in his very nature God, did not consider Godhood something to be clung to, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross." - Philippians 2:5-8
In a way, we're back to Buffy and the Bombard Problem. The spiritual issues she has to deal with are very much like the secular ones everyone else has to face, just a little bit more theological than existential. Back on earth, she describes heaven to Spike in "After Life." She tells him that "nothing had form," and that "time didn't mean anything," and how she felt "warm" and "loved," content in the knowledge that everyone she cared about was all right. In stark contrast to this, life on the Hellmouth is "bright" and "hard" and "violent." The only way she initially sees out of this is deluding herself into believing that she came back wrong, and then recklessly throwing herself into a very sexual relationship with Spike.
To again put an Eastern spin on this to better help interpret it, the essence of many Hindu and Buddhist doctrines is to be found in all the talk about "emptiness" and so on. In particular, Indian philosophy speaks of "maya" and the delusion that come with it, and some Vedantists regard the world as illusion and nothingness. It takes some time to figure out that all this traditionally negative language is being used to say something relatively positive. When various texts speak of forms as having "no-self" or "no-reality," what is really meant is that they have none of this independent of themselves. This is why there are a lot of images in the East of the universe being depicted as a large net of gems, where everything reflects everything else. Interdependence brings with it all this talk of "non-dual" reality and the like because it recognizes that it is convention to compartmentalize and divide things. It is again realizing the impermanence of all things, but not dwelling on it in a morbid way, rather using it to bring about the realization that if the world was not flowing and fluxing and changing, it would be mummified.
Certainly, this kind of philosophy has been used to justify extreme asceticism, and some of the early criticism that Buddhism is marked by a running away from life and a stubborn refusal to affirm the world is not completely inaccurate. Even though the West recieved Eastern religious-philosophy in some of its highest forms to begin with, it likewise exists on the crude folk levels of superstition and literalism, much like our own Christianity. Yet neither necessarily need to exist there, and when interpreted they are all overflowing with a plethora of rich ideas and insights. Alan Watts is one such interpreter, and he regards the sayings about how all the world is mental-functions, or mental-products, as meaning the way the world is described or translated into thought. So "maya," the veil of illusion, is simply the way things are labelled up. When possession is regarded as a bad thing, this is so because all the universe is fundamentally one process, and there is ultimately no one to possess or be possessed. Watts writes in "The Way of Zen" about the one who obtains "moksha," or liberation, in the East - "He sees the same world we see; but he does not mark it off, measure it, divide it in the same way." When Arjuna finally sees Krishna at the end of the Indian epic, the "Bhagavad Gita," that is precisely what he is experiencing. Time and space suddenly become without limit. So in the end, all that these disciplines are about are helping one to recognize the reality of the situation.
It's fascinating, for when the principle of non-duality is finally carried to its reasonable conclusion, it brings with it a solution to the Bombard Problem. This happened in Buddhism with the outgrowth of the Mahayana school. It differs from the traditional Pali Canon in many important ways. Once the "arhans," or the "worthy ones" who obtained liberation, completely left the world of "samsara" for the world of "nirvana," never to return. In the Mahayana sects, figures that we've already discussed began to emerge, and they were known as "Bodhisattvas" - literally translated "awakened beings." Unlike the "arhans," they came back to the world after attaining "nirvana," their compassion moving them to return and remain until all beings become enlightened. Or better yet, finally realizing that they already are.
But with this movement back into the world, it was realized that "samsara" and "nirvana" were of course merely two sides of the same coin. They were rooted in each other, much like light and dark, or solid and space, or speech and silence. So liberation is not being forever lost in some new agey cosmic jello, but is rather this world, now, just as it is. It's not about obliterating the senses or anything of the kind. It's no longer something that must be kept at arm's length for everyone except those adhering to a monastic lifestyle, or that is totally abstracted from daily life. Most importantly, it is realized that "nirvana" is not something to be sought after with it as an end goal, for that only serves to push it away. As Watts so eloquently puts it, "That is to say, the search for nirvana implies the existence and the problem of samsara, and the quest for awakening implies that one is in the defilement with delusion. To put it another way: as soon as nirvana is made an object of desire, it becomes an element of samsara. The real nirvana cannot be desired because it cannot be concieved."
So to bring all this home, Buffy could never have been torn out of heaven, because she was never there to begin with.
"We're like the most religious show out there!" - Sarah Michelle Gellar
In the book of "Isaiah," there are many apocalyptic prophesies which all point to the final coming of a paradise, when the kingdom of heaven will be established on earth. One speaks of the time when the lion and the lamb will lie down together. Well, that's one way of looking at it, and indeed, is probably the most common way. Of course, this means paradise isn't here yet, and is a point that everyone has to struggle to. This often reduces human beings to something like little children on a long trip, continuously kicking the front seat of the car and asking "Are we there yet?" Another way of looking at it is seeing that paradise is here, right now, even when the lion is not lying down with the lamb, but rather tearing its throat out.
The end of "Grave" very much gets us to this point. When Dawn asks Buffy if her tears are "happy tears" now that the end of the world has been avoided, Buffy can only reply, "Yes, dummy." This brings with it the feeling of what G.K. Chesterton called "absurd good news." This is not seeing the cosmos at a glance nor elaborating all the particulars in it, rather it is an intuitive feel for the whole. Colin Wilson writes about it again and again, this feeling that all is perfect and that "the human inability to see this is sheer stupidity." The cosmos is suddenly transformed from dead matter to a living process.
When Buffy crawls out of the gaping, grave-like hole in the ground, she sees the old world with new eyes. She and Dawn walk into a beautiful, colorful paradise that is suddenly in full bloom. When she finally psychologically lets go of Dawn and realizes that she wants to show her the world, that is her epiphany. It's the realization that wanting to experience life while being protected from it at the same time is like wanting to go swimming without actually getting wet. Likewise, on a more metaphysical level, it is Buffy realizing that heaven is not a thing to be grasped, and that paradise is something that is lost only when it's clung to.
This is the great non-dual realization, namely that the world of form, or "rupa," is really the peace of the void, or "sunyata." The two effortlessly go together - again, like the two sides of a coin. The series often emphasizes the negative, such as the Hellmouth, but it makes moments like these shine all the brighter. This is also brought out when Xander, the nothing, the useless, the "zeppo," is the one who actually saves the world. This means that Buffy's awakening, or "bodhi," in "The Gift," is likewise evocative of her defilement, or "klesa," in "Smashed," and vice versa. Neither necessarily disavows the other, and one of the points of this season is letting Buffy realize this.
This is why it seems to me that Buffy's tenure in heaven is in fact not in another dimension, but rather in her own. It is really the only thing that makes her epiphany in "Grave" make sense. From a certain point of view, this is obvious. The world of the Hellmouth is what "maya" is all about - it's this world, and it is perfectly fitting that it is always linked with the library, with books, and with research. The world as it is referenced and categorized is the world in its profane, or even daemonic, aspect. On the other hand, the world as it is is simply the world in its sacred or heavenly aspect. This is precisely what I wrote in "The Mythic Experience" - that infinity is merely the proper experience of space, and that eternity is merely the proper experience of time. It links perfectly with what Buffy describes heaven as - namely, as being without form, and a place where time didn't mean anything. Freed from her self-conscious existence, the part that died in "The Gift," her essence experiences this directly. "Grave" was about acknowledging the fact.
Perhaps Buffy can now finally agree with Joseph Campbell when he wrote that "The return is seeing the radiance everywhere."
Osbon, Diane K, ed. "A Joseph Campbell Companion." New York: Harper Collins, 1991.