Interpretation of Story
As has been discussed in previous issues, the crux of narrative therapy and medicine relies highly on the idea of myth stories. These stories, passed down from generations, have survived the crucible of time because of their potency to teach humans how to properly live in the world in which we find ourselves in. But just as there are many stories of which we can recount from civilizations spanning the globe, there too, are many interpretations of these stories as well. And often times, these interpretations can be skewed, distorted, and in most cases, the stories can be taken at face value in a literal representation. And this is sometimes where the problem lies. As Joseph Campbell states in The Hero With a Thousand Faces, “Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. When a civilization beings to reinterpret mythology in this way, the life goes out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two perspectives is dissolved.” This is a dangerous phenomenon and one that is prevalent throughout modern thinking. As an example, let us examine the stories found in the Bible regarding Jesus. This may be a delicate topic to delve into for some but regardless lets examine who he was and what he did from a mythological, psychological and hero-story perspective.
As the story of which we are all familiar with goes, Jesus, accepting his mantle as the savior, took onto himself the sins of the world, sacrificed his worldly body in a public execution, rose from his grave and saved humanity in doing so. This short outline gives a small glimpse into the complexity of what is being portrayed here. But, what exactly does this all mean? From a literal perspective, Jesus knew he was the Son of God and gladly sacrificed his body in order to show the world and his followers the power he possessed and the power they in turn possessed if they gave themselves over to his teachings and the way of God. He promised the people a wonderful afterlife of which we could all attain if we were to follow his way. This interpretation, while beautiful and well-meaning, can also be seen as lacking from a psychological standpoint. In fact, this story of Jesus and the actions he undertook can be seen throughout many cultures and civilizations from around the world and across time. But why?
The answer lies in the power of the truth found in this story. The first part, the taking on of the sins of the world is a complicated issue. From a psychological reading this means truly to understand the pain, the violence and the ability to use them as weapons on others as can be seen throughout our bloody history. By accepting the sins of the world, Jesus, being the archetypal hero, understands he is capable of every vicious and malicious act that humans have done throughout time. He sees in himself the power to do such acts, but rather, he chooses not to. He is accepting the mantle of destruction, but instead using his power in the form of creation. And by doing so, he is living as an example of using his power for good, to help others.
After his acceptance as the savior he is then mistrusted and sentenced to death by crucifixion. The idea of being placed on a cross is also of note. Before he is set on the hill, Jesus is tasked with carrying the instrument of his own demise. And not only that, he is beaten and berated along the road. This is a not-so-subtle reminder to carry your own cross, your own burden, and your own suffering in your life. Befriend it, make amends with it, and make sure not to give it to anyone else. Because your suffering is your own. And not only that, it is important for your unique life. It is through your suffering, your burdens, that you will find salvation. This is what Jesus does, he carries his cross the peak of the mountain, the place of closer proximity to God, the apex of his story. As well as his death.
The death here might be a literal death, but for this interpretation it is seen only as a metaphorical one. Once we have been granted the power of awakened consciousness and we are tasked with moving forward in our lives, many parts of our old selves die. They fall off and leave our psyche. This can result in many bouts with pain and a certain self-torture. We may find ourselves crying and feeling lost in our world and in our bodies. The parts of ourselves that do not serve us cry out and we cry along with them. We are placed into the underworld shrouded in darkness. In the case of Jesus, he is placed into a cold, stone tomb with a giant boulder pushed in front of the cave door.
But this is not the end. Once we have delved into the underworld, the darkness, the pain of a metaphorical death, and have transcended the lessons of which we are given by this opportunity, we are, as the popular mythological saying goes, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Just as Jesus ascended into heaven, body and soul, so do we ascend to a new level in our lives once we have accepted our power, used it for good, killed off the parts of our consciousness and awareness that weren't serving us, and transcended the pain which comes from change. We are gifted with lessons and wisdom of which we are now expected to share with others who are unaware of this path or unwilling to hear the call. And that is the most important lesson of all. If we can share with each other what we have learned, how we are to act and live properly as human beings sharing this planet, then and only then, are we one step closer to finding heaven on Earth.
That is the truest teaching of Jesus and the stories found in the Bible. They were crafted many years ago to teach others how to act properly and by doing so, how to attain a life worth living. Whether Jesus truly existed, whether he truly was executed, and whether he truly ascended into heaven body and soul is of little consequence. The story about him, the lessons it portrays, and the knowledge it possesses is true. And that is the truth we must hang onto.