If I’m ever going to create my future, I’m going to have to come to terms with my past.
I’ve been trying to avoid it, deny it, explain it away, make excuses for it, compensate for it, erase it, and so much more.
I’ve struggled to accept that this is the truth of my life. That this isn’t “just a phase.” It isn’t just going to disappear one day like it never happened.
I think I may have (unconsciously) thought that if I worked hard enough I would be “cured,” I’d become 100% “better”, and it would all be as if nothing had ever happened. That there would be some kind of “redemption” where I would be saved from my own damn self.
In practice what this meant was that I was working toward a model, a “goal” identity, that was completely inappropriate for me.
I wanted so badly to be normal. I would have done anything to not be so “complicated.”
The ideal future self I had in mind was so boring, so basic. So unthreatening. She was some happy, carefree, extraverted, easy going, and very chill girl (that’s why they said they wanted from me, right?).
I thought I could nip and tuck and edit away all of my humanity, become acceptable to the greater mass of society, and call it a success.
I would know I had “made it” when I was deemed normal by everyone and no one ever said anything bad about me ever again.
That was my vision for health: to completely erase myself, and finally just be what everyone else wanted me to be.
My vision now is this: I will not deny my past, I will not erase this self. I will not even try to compensate for the suffering I’ve had with some grandiose and misguided attempt to “make it all worth it.”
I will integrate my past. I will honor myself.
I will acknowledge all of the places and the people I have been, regardless of how strange or scary others find them to be.
I will speak to the truth of who I was, and how it was that I became who I am today.
One of the biggest limiting beliefs that I’ve had is the idea that I should rely on the outer environment to define me.
The idea of defining myself, for myself, has seemed an impossibility for me.
Maybe the logic was, “I can’t trust myself. My opinion is meaningless, especially when it comes to my own self.”
I felt I could only rely on other people, or on the outside world in general, as an accurate and meaningful measure of my worth.
So I spent my life running around trying to satisfy everybody else’s ideas of who I was supposed to be.
Which was an impossible task–everyone had a different plan for me, and satisfying one would inevitably upset another.
I came to understand that on some level, but I still felt compelled to keep going with it anyway (only now feeling trapped and full of despair).
Every comment, criticism or offhand remark was seized upon and picked apart for clues to my identity.
“Am I in here somewhere?” I wondered as I ruminated on every word.
“Am I okay yet?” was the even more desperate and tragic subtext below it all.
“Am I a worthwhile human being yet? Do I deserve to exist now? How about now? Now??”
It breaks my heart to look at this, and admit how I have been.
It truly is sad that I was living like this for so long.
It’s no wonder I was so miserable. Of course. Anyone would be.
I also have compassion for myself. I see exactly how I came to be this way, and I understand.
The abuse within my family was so relentless, severe and specifically targeted to keep me from having any sense of self.
Especially when younger, it was safer to remain amorphous, to just not have a self, to be mutable enough to quickly contort myself into whatever anyone else demanded.
The sooner I abandoned myself, the sooner the shame and humiliation would subside. Just give in, agree–it’s much easier that way.
I still remember the words. “Oh, well! Look at you!” and then as an aside to another family member, ”Who does she think she is??”
There were plenty of punishments for when I was bad, but the worst were the humiliations for being “too good.”
Like when my mom would hear all the good reports about me at parent-teacher conferences, she would attack, and accuse, and humiliate me.
She would say say the teacher must be stupid, because you’re fooling her… or, that it was just more evidence of my guilt; I’m lying to this poor woman, trying to fool her into believing I’m something I’m not.
“If only she knew what you were really like at home–you’re like the devil!”
This created a horrifying double bind by which I had to live: I had to be good, I had to try to be perfect to be acceptable and redeem myself; but I could NOT be good, as it then became proof of my badness, showing how manipulative and deceptive I truly was.
Any action or inaction on my part became proof of my inherent unworthiness. It was all proof of how I was undeserving, bad, a lost cause, the devil.
Mars finally stationed direct yesterday, after spending over two months retrograde.
“Mars is abrasive, courageous, alarming, bold, inciting, aggravating, confident, heated, and action-oriented. When retrograde, Mars makes us review our leadership style, our relationship to our agency, and our ability to carve our way into the world.
The weeks of Mars retrograde offered us lessons on how to turn towards our anger. Fuel for our engines when worked with consciously, rage is a righteous reaction to injustice–it’s just not a place where we can build a home. Tempers teach us what upsets us and why, when our boundaries have been crossed and how, what to demand and when.” –Chani Nicholas
All of this is true. I feel like I have learned more about these various Mars-related themes in the past two months than maybe ever before in my life up until now.
I spent almost all of the Mars retrograde period FURIOUS (and I’m actually not mad about that).
It was time for me to feel it. I was late to the game here. I had a lifetime’s worth of rage I was suppressing, and it was destroying me.
There were a million things that I should have been mad about, but couldn’t even see. I couldn’t allow myself to do so. I wasn’t “allowed” to be mad, ever.
I’m still not “allowed,” but fuck it, I’m going to go ahead and be mad, anyway.
My anger was the missing key. My rightful rage granted me access to everything else. It opened the doors to clear knowing in a way that nothing ever has before.
It’s been uncomfortable as hell, but still, I am grateful for it. I have seen more and grown more in the past two months that I would have imagined was possible for me.
About a year ago, I started working with a Reiki healer for the first time, due to some challenges I was experiencing with my health.
During these sessions, I began having a series of visions that were ultimately instrumental in healing deep-rooted issues (some of them even addressing trauma experienced in past lifetimes.
I wanted to begin sharing these visions with you here.
First, I’d like to explain what I mean by “vision.”
I’d describe the experience of the visions I’ve had as a kind of altered state of consciousness. The closest thing I can compare it to is simply a dream, but there were some important differences.
For one, although I was relaxed, I was still fully awake and alert, able to open my eyes and move if I wanted to.
Like in most dreams, I did not have control over the contents of these visions. I experienced them as being “given” to me by something beyond myself (or at least, beyond my conscious, ego self).
Unlike lucid dreaming, where you can influence the object and events which you’d like to appear in your dream world, I had far less control.
It was as if all I had was a remote control, where I could slow down, move on to the next scene, and even go deeper into a particular scene or object. The content of what I saw, however, was not up to me to determine.
I had my first session in August of 2020, and my first experience was fairly simple. This was a distance healing, and I later found the in-person sessions to be far more intense.
At the start of the session, I put everything down and lay on my bed in a quiet room, with eyes closed and an intention to be as receptive to the energy as possible.
Not long after, I began to see in the darkness behind closed eyes what appeared to be shifting shades of colored light. It was more like the emptiness of the dark void was a piece of black or dark gray paper being painted with light watercolors.
The blackness remained, but there was a new overtone, a shading that was not present earlier. These colors started out on the violet end of the spectrum down to red, as my healer worked with my energy body from the crown of my head to the root chakra.
After several more minutes, I started to see more concrete images appear in my field of awareness. I began to sense all the blocked areas within me, places where there was stuck energy, the result of long years of denial and suppressed emotions.
The stuck areas appeared to me like old, dusty scrolls of parchment covered in illegibly scribbled symbols, written ages ago by the hands of men who never knew me, men who had long since died, men who did not matter.
As I felt light come into contact with the stuck energy, I saw the parchment burst into brilliant orange flames. These flames consumed the paper, devouring the scratches of ink, nullifying all that was ever thought or written by false authorities of times past.
Where once there had been records of false philosophies, now, there was only ashes. From the ashes of this all-consuming fire, I saw the tendrils of vines sprout and grow to cover the charred earth. The vibrant green of these vines soon gave way to the blooming of lavish white roses, bursting with life and vitality, almost overwhelming in their rich aliveness.
I could feel myself being renewed by the cleansing breath of the flames as they coursed through my body. The fresh vitality unfolding in the roses which bloomed within assured me with hope of a new life to come.
Most tarot decks in use today, including the Rider-Waite, contain a standard number of 78 cards, which is then split into two sections: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.
The word “arcana” itself means “a deep or profound secret.” It is thought that each of these cards contains symbolic imagery revealing a powerful hidden meaning. These cards are meant to convey, through a pictorial language, the secret mysteries of the universe and our place within it.
The Major Arcana contains 22 cards, numbered from 0 to 21, all of which go beyond the more common, quotidian concerns represented in the 56 cards of the Minor to touch on the archetypal dimensions of our spiritual development.
Furthermore, we can look to the Major Arcana not simply as a set of 22 isolated archetypal ideas, but rather, as a mythic or heroic journey, one that each of us may choose to undertake as a route to greater self-knowledge and realization.
We can start by turning our attention to the first of these cards, The Fool. It is interesting to note that although this is the first of the series, it does not carry the numeral 1, but 0.
As we will see in greater detail in our next post dedicated to this card, the Fool likely carries the number 0 because it is representative of pure potential. As a symbol of the unmanifest, the Fool contains all possibilities within himself.
In some sense, the Fool exists outside of the trajectory represented by cards 1 through 21 of the Major Arcana. We can even think of the Fool as being the hero of the Major Arcana’s series of transformations. For it is the Fool which takes a leap of faith, from a place of unrealized potential into a life of action and consequence.
In fact, there are many commentators who have even called this series of 22 cards “The Fool’s Journey.” It is wise to keep in mind, however, that this is not merely a story about the Tarot’s naive protagonist. It is not the tale of a character in a land far from us; it is in fact our story, describing a journey each of us must go on as individuals on our way to greater awareness and self-actualization.
We all start out like the Fool, inexperienced and filled with boundless optimism, dazzled by the seemingly infinite options which glitter like stars on the horizons of our futures.
Each of us, like the Fool, takes a similar leap of faith into what is to come. As we move forward in time, each of us makes choices, acting on decisions that lead us through certain doors, decisions which simultaneously will close certain others.
Some sources, such as modern mystery school Builders of the Adytum and noted author Rachel Pollack, divide the Major Arcana into three distinct series containing seven cards each. Each series of seven represents three distinct stages or levels of experience and development: the conscious, the subconscious, and the superconscious.
Cards 1 through 7 describe our journey through the first stage of our conscious development. This first set of seven depicts the archetypal influences and developmental milestones we must master and achieve in order to be effective in the outer world of material achievement.
In the next set, cards 8 through 14 represent a turning inwards, where we must come face to face with elements of our subconscious minds and integrate them into our being to achieve further wholeness. We come into contact with what has as of yet remained latent beneath the surface of our daily experience.
“True, whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself….
The meeting with oneself is, at first, the meeting with one’s own shadow. The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty….
It is the world of water, where all life floats in suspension; where the realm of the sympathetic system, the soul of everything living, begins….
All those who have had an experience like that mentioned in the dream know that the treasure lies in the depths of the water and will try to salvage it.” — from C.G. Jung CW 9
Here, we must face the primal, chaotic life energies that constitute our subconsciousness. This experience can be deeply shocking and even terrifying, especially for a culture as unprepared to deal with these deep and powerful currents of psychic energy as the hyper-rational, patriarchal capitalist culture of today.
Finally, the last set of cards numbered 15 through 21 show the development of what both B.O.T.A. and Pollack describe as “superconsciousness”, or what some might call the transpersonal level of psyche. This level transcends the purely personal experience to encompass a union with the spiritual, universal and archetypal level of existence. In this stage, we move beyond our personal, individual life stories and connect with the mystery of the infinite, that which is greater than ourselves.
“We know that the mask of the unconscious is not rigid–it reflects the face we turn towards it. Hostility lends it a threatening aspect, friendliness softens its features.”
–from C.G. Jung CW 12
It is here where we come into contact with what we might call cosmic consciousness. This is a level of development reserved to those who are brave and willing enough to take a leap of faith into the vast unknown.
It is interesting to note that the great majority of the human figures represented in these 22 cards are displayed in static, unmoving positions, almost as if they were posing for a portrait.
Only two cards portray figures in movement: Key 0, the Fool, and Key 21, the World.
This is likely meant to suggest a certain similarity between what is represented by the Fool and the World. Indeed, we find that the symbolic imagery represented in the World portrays our experience when we find that we have successfully traversed the various tests, challenges, and opportunities for growth shown in each of the previous cards of the Major Arcana.
Having integrated all of these lessons, we arrive at the World, liberated from our previous patterns, our illusions, and our limitations. We have freed ourselves from any inner restrictions and defense mechanisms, much of which had arisen as attempts to protect our ego from the incursions of a seemingly dangerous outer world.
When this happens, we find ourselves once again in a state of pure openness to the world, where we can experience a true receptivity and responsiveness to our experience as it arises moment-by-moment.
This is a state very similar to that of the Fool. Once again, we find that we are open to the fullness and totality of the world around us, at one with our environment and all that is. We have come full circle to once again embody pure potential and limitless possibility.
However, this state is in many ways much more powerful. Arriving at the World, we have gained the capacity to combine the wisdom of experience with a child-like sense of wonder, awe and joy. We are able to move beyond dualistic concepts and achieve union with what is beyond ourselves.
The purpose of this transcendent spiritual union with the Divine is not to escape our material and embodied physical existence, but to transform it. We are meant to use our higher spiritual consciousness in service of the mundane.
In true alchemical fashion, the purpose of this spiritual ascension is to bring what is gained above back down to perfect the world below.
“It rises from the Earth to Heaven, and descends again to Earth,
Thereby combining within it the powers of both the Above and the Below.”
–The Emerald Table
As we have seen, Major Arcana of the Tarot provides a profound symbolic representation of the soul’s journey from innocence to awareness. Although the Tarot is indeed a dynamic and powerful tool for divination, it is far more than that. The Tarot contains a profound message of transformation and redemption for those who have eyes to see it. We can use it as a tool for study, for quiet reflection, or for meditation on the archetypal principles underlying each of these 22 cards. If we can bring an attitude of intention, openness and receptivity to our work with these cards, the Tarot can be one of our best guides on the often labyrinthine journey of return to our highest selves.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”