text and photo © Jonathan Zap
Conscious reflection on the past can deepen the soul and even provide revelations of great value for the present and future. On the other hand, returning to the past obsessively out of emotional addiction can be a massive, massive draining of vitality needed for full engagement with the present. The past is not fixed or irrevocable. Memories are continually revised. Also, occurrences in the present or future can drastically alter the meaning of the past. For example, let’s say someone has a life phase of intense alcoholism in their past. In one timeline that phase is consistent with a general downwardly spiraling life path. In another timeline the person learns from that phase and uses the wisdom gained from encountering darkness to counsel others who are similarly afflicted. The meaning of the alcoholic phase is drastically altered based on what comes after, and this is one of the ways in which the past is mutable. Even neurologically, when memories are recalled they are always reinterpreted based on current values and point of view. The memory is an artifact of the past that, like an antique, has a resonance with the past but exists in the present where it can be re-experienced and re-interpreted.
The past is still alive, but like the present or future, how we relate to it determines whether it inspires or entraps us. Consider this a propitious time to heal your relationship to the past.
Adhesions and the Timelines of the Unconscious
For those of you willing to read more, a key to healing your past is to employ what I call “interpretive magic.” If, for example, events from your past were interpreted from a victim point of view in the past, it may be extremely empowering to reinterpret them as empowering lessons that helped you to learn what you needed to know to be the person you are now and to move toward the person you are becoming. Here are some thoughts on interpretive magic:
It is a common and limiting assumption that only one interpretation of an event or situation is correct. But the phenomenal world is rarely, so cut and dried. Interpretation may often be more usefully regarded as a choice rather than flattened into what is believed to be the single correct answer. For example, I recently had to send in my laptop, my only computer, for repairs. Due to some improbable mishaps it had to be sent in two more times and the problem that should have taken days to fix has taken weeks. An extremely reasonable and plausible interpretation is that I have been meaninglessly inconvenienced due to mechanical forces beyond my control. An alternate interpretation is that the improbable mishaps were “meant to happen,” and that I needed space to open up from a long period of laborious editing I was doing. Which of these interpretations is most likely? The first explanation would seem to pass that classic test of logic, Occam’s Razor, that would have us prefer the simplest, least fancy explanation that accounts for all the facts. By contrast the “meant to happen” point of view is often used in ways that seem glib and reeking with sentimental rationalization. Mysterious forces, or the principle of synchronicity, would have to be employed to justify this interpretation, and that means that this hypothesis is significantly fancier than the first. But in some cases of interpretation, likelihood and strict rules of logic are not the most useful aspects when choosing amongst possible interpretations.
In the case of the improbably prolonged laptop repair, I recognized both interpretations as potentially valid. Instead of deciding which of these interpretations was “right,” I recognized that it was much more useful for me to choose the interpretation that I intuitively preferred. When I tried on the first interpretation — the mechanical forces beyond my control interpretation — I found that it did nothing for me except increase stress and a sense of helpless frustration. I could feel my blood pressure rising and my jaw clenching and realized that this interpretation had adverse effects on both my body and psyche. The second interpretation provided a sense of space opening up, a sense of serendipity and unexpected possibilities. By choosing the second interpretation, I entered a different timeline than I would have entered if I had chosen the first interpretation. I decided to read a couple of books on a certain subject that I probably wouldn’t have had time to read if I had access to my laptop. These two books were accompanied by some parallel realizations of my own, and this led to a huge, life-changing breakthrough in an area of my life that I had struggled with for decades. In this case, choosing the interpretation that felt more empowering and life affirming seemed to lead to a much more positive outcome.
The act of consciously choosing an interpretation of an event or situation is an example of what I call interpretive magic. The creative interpretation of life elements is not merely a matter of passive perception. Once you realize you have the right to interpret and reinterpret certain elements you usually need to act on the new interpretation to establish the timeline it opens up. For example, the person who created the artifact in the photograph recognized that they had the choice to merge elements of the Rastifari religion and Star Wars. Recognizing that they had such a choice led to the creative actions of impaling a Star Wars Imperial Walker on rebar and painting it in Rastifari colors. The opposite of interpretative magic is fundamentalism or orthodoxy of any kind where one’s right to interpret or reinterpret might be regarded as sacrilege or heresy. I have found that many people who are not overt fundamentalists fall for a similar delusion that I call the “museum curator fallacy.” Such people view everything, especially things found in nature, as sacred and never to be touched or interfered with. Such museum curator types often have a hands-off attitude toward people, especially if they are from an exotic culture, as if they were members of a Star Trek away team with an overly orthodox interpretation of the Prime Directive. Intruding their will on anything seems to them like a sacrilege and an interference with a divine plan. They don’t seem to recognize that they were incarnated as human beings, the most interventionist organisms that we know of, an attribute that is as much a part of nature as everything else.
On the other hand, there are cases where interpretive magic should not be applied. For example, when trying to solve a homicide there is probably only one correct answer to the question: “Who was the shooter?” Scientific methodology and interpretive magic should obviously not be mixed. If you need to create a falsifiable conclusion and test it, you don’t want to apply interpretive magic. While you may be justified in reinterpreting your personal history to transform victim consciousness, if you did this to collective history your reinterpretation should be based on evidence not politically convenient revisionism, etc.
Arnold Toynbee, the great historian who studied the lifecycle of civilizations, concluded that a civilization was in decline when it no longer had a ruling mythology. Your personal mythology is the aggregation of your significant choices of interpretation. Keep your interpretive choices creative and life-affirming so that you have a healthy personal mythology. If you don’t have a positive ruling mythology then your life will be in decline.
Consider the occurrence of this card a propitious time to boldly and creatively apply interpretative magic to some area or areas of your life.