On December 20, 2008, at about 6:20 pm, Continental Flight 1404 (Denver to Houston) made an emergency landing at Denver International Airport. Under normal conditions, it would have been just another plane crash where 113 lives were in danger, and it would have nothing to do with me. But this time, it was different.
It is not that I live just a few miles west of Denver International Airport. I do, but that is not what makes this airplane failure important. I was not onboard, nor do I know anyone who was. I do have a friend flying in on Monday, but that is not it either.
No what makes Continental Flight 1404 important to me is what I was doing at the time. I was writing the rough draft of an article on a Tarot card, the Lightning Blasted Tower.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Tarot, the Lightning Blasted Tower is one of the twenty-two Major Arcana; its appearance in a reading often indicates a disaster or loss.
I know that my working on an article about the Lightning Blasted Tower was merely a coincidence. I know that the ping, the touch of guilt, that I feel is just a natural human reaction. I know that it is just a symptom of magical thinking. I know that I had nothing to do with the emergency landing of Flight 1404.
But it is coincidences like this that led primitive humanity to believe in superstitions and magic. It is coincidences like this that made our ancestors fear sorcerers and witches. And it is coincidences like this, which will fill me with anxiety the next time I encounter the Blasted Tower in a Tarot reading.
Yes, I receive and give Tarot readings. I am a member of a Golden Dawn lodge. But Golden Dawn and its sister Order, the Builders of the Adytum, view the Tarot more as a tool of spiritual development than just a lowly fortune telling device.
For me, the Blasted Tower is already laced with planes crashing. I was in a Tarot study group when September 11th happened. The card that we studied right after the disaster (the very next weekend) was the Blasted Tower. It was an attempt to come to grasps with the tragedy, to come to grasps with that senseless act of terrorism.
So my reaction was primed when I turned on the television and saw the news. I was primed for something bad to happen. After all, that is the traditional meaning of the Blasted Tower. But the guilt I felt is misplaced; for in reality, I had nothing to do with the incident.
As human beings, we are hard-wired for magical thinking. Each of us while growing up went though a stage where it snowed because we did not want to go to school and our parents were fighting because we were bad. As adults, we hopefully outgrow it; magical thinking is a symptom of several mental disorders.
Magical thinking can make us feel responsible for events that we had nothing to do with. Magical thinking is the result of associating something with an event and believing that it is the cause of it.
But even knowing that I had nothing to do with the emergency landing of Flight 1404, the next time I look at the Blasted Tower, a little voice will whisper “What if…”